Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park: Scotland’s Playground!

Most visitors to Scotland will be keen to travel the castle trail, the whisky trail or visit the many historic sites and areas or soak up the culture of the big cities. Many will be keen to immerse themselves in the highland landscapes and possibly seek out those places their ancestors came from. There is nothing wrong with these activities – many visitors will have a wonderful time exploring Scotland.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/But what about the native Scots? What do they do, where do they go for their ‘staycations’? Well, one of the most popular areas in the west of Scotland is Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. Loch Lomond lake (the largest loch in Britain by surface area) is Scotland’s premier water sports location.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Yachting, power boating, paddle boarding, kayaking, water skiing and angling (both game and coarse fishing) can be had on the loch and anglers can be sure of a varied catch with Loch Lomond fishing since Loch Lomond has more species of fish than any other loch in Scotland). And to answer a fairly common question from non-Scots, on whether the Loch Ness monster is found in Loch Lomond – the answer is no. It is said to be found in Loch Ness and you can read about that here.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Loch Lomond contains about thirty islands (a few of which are seasonally inhabited) and boat excursions are available around some of them. Balloch, a town on the southern shore of the loch, has a large marina and is the base for several boating tours which range up and down the loch. It is also the place to go for boating enthusiasts who simply wish to admire the huge range of small pleasure craft which use the marina.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Balloch is also where you will find the ‘Maid of the Loch’, a paddle steamer which used to sail Loch Lomond but is now moored at Balloch Pier whilst funds are raised to, hopefully, return it to its previous life carrying passengers and sightseers up and down the loch. In the meantime she serves as a restaurant, bar and events venue. If you’re in the area and feeling a bit peckish you could do worse than visit her.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Getting around Loch Lomond is surprisingly easy since a waterbus service runs on the loch. If you need to get from one place to another or just want to take in the views, the waterbus allows you to enjoy a relaxing journey and also have time onshore to enjoy a scenic lunch stop. Scheduled services depart from various piers and pontoons strategically placed on the loch allowing you to take in the stunning scenery at your leisure – and feel free to bring your four-legged friends along for the trip!

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Of course not everyone is into water sports but don’t despair; Loch Lomond lies within the 720-square-mile Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. Established in 2002 this was the first of Scotland’s national parks and it covers a large portion of the western part of the southern highlands. It is the fourth largest national park in the British Isles.

Included within its boundaries are many other lochs (although none as large as Loch Lomond) and no less than 21 of Scotland’s Munros (mountains over 3000 feet) one of which is Ben Lomond, Scotland’s most southerly Munro, which towers over Loch Lomond from its eastern side and, if you have the energy to reach its summit, is a magnificent viewpoint for the entire 22-mile length of the loch.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/The entire area of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park offers wonderful opportunities for outdoor adventures. Apart from the water sports there are opportunities for mountaineering, hill walking, orienteering, mountain biking and more and the range of wildlife to be seen in the park both on Loch Lomond itself or around its shores and in the wider park is astounding – the water birds alone make for spectacular sights both summer and winter.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/After visitors have indulged themselves in their favourite outdoor activities there is also the opportunity to try some indoor activities. At the southern end of the loch, close to Balloch is Loch Lomond Shores. With excellent views over the loch this upmarket shopping experience is a relaxing way to unwind after a hard day’s exploring.

The nearby Drumkinnon Tower is home to the Loch Lomond Aquarium whose 26 exhibits contain mainly native Scottish species. It features touch pools, ray tanks and a tropical ocean tunnel. Drumkinnon Tower also has a 350-seat cinema and a cafe. Don’t forget to visit the National Park Gateway Centre where lots of information about the park can be found including its history and the background into its establishment in 2002.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Loch Lomond is just a hop, skip and a jump away from Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city and the wider area of the Trossachs National Park is also easy to reach from most of the central belt of Scotland making this one of the most popular ‘staycation’ destinations in Scotland. Surely it’s worth a visit if you happen to have a day or two to spare?

For those who do decide on a longer stay the area has a plethora of hotels and guest houses ranging from small and cosy to big and beautiful and there are numerous camping and caravanning sites available so you’re bound to find something to your liking.

Loch Lomond Map and Information:

YouTube Video: Watch a video of the Loch

One of the most famous Scottish songs is about Loch Lomond. Here is a beautiful version of it.

The song itself is about a Scottish soldier who is to be executed. Legend has it that the spirits of Scots who die abroad return to Scotland by the “Low Road” and the singer says they will return by the “low road”.

Inverness – The Hub of the Highlands

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Inverness

Although it is the most northerly of Scotland’s ‘cities’ Inverness isn’t hard to reach. With the four major roads which span the Scottish Highlands converging on the city, its own airport and a railway station and bus station, both of which are travel hubs for the east coast of Scotland, Inverness is well located as a great starting (or finishing) point for any trip to the Highlands.

But the city shouldn’t be regarded as a mere waypoint on a greater journey. It has much to offer those who may wish to linger awhile and explore what Inverness and the surrounding area has to offer. There is a great selection of hotels, B&Bs and guest houses both within the city and nearby so finding suitable accommodation shouldn’t be a problem.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

River Ness

The River Ness runs through the middle of the city and the numerous hotels and cafes on its banks and the attractive bridges across the river give both wonderful views and the opportunity for visitors to simply sit and people watch as the world goes by as well as sample what culinary delights the city has to offer.

Inverness is the cultural heart of the Highlands with museums and art galleries dedicated to local history and culture. Various guided tours of the city are available pointing out places of interest and giving an insight into the history of the area – fairies, slaves and rebellion feature large!

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Victorian Market

For dedicated shoppers Inverness has a Victorian Market and a large, modern shopping centre as well as numerous small shops selling all kinds of items from souvenirs to kilts and other tartan clothing. If you search diligently you may even be able to purchase a haggis!

Inverness is also associated with that iconic piece of clothing, said to have been worn by Sherlock Holmes – the Inverness Cape. This is a sleeveless coat, with an over cape. Many bands, including pipe bands and those with accordion players use the Inverness Cape as part of their uniform, as it gives good access to their musical instruments, unlike coats with sleeves that can be restrictive. Coachmen, who drove horses and carriages, also used to be clothed in an Inverness Cape for the freedom it provided to control and handle the horses.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Inverness Cathedral

Inverness Cathedral, dedicated to St Andrew, has an important place in Scottish religious history and is currently the seat of the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church. It is a magnificent building and well worth a visit. Inverness Castle is a wonderful sight from across the river towering, as it does, over the city and the river and is another place not to be missed.

Caledonian Canal

For those of a nautical bent Inverness lies at one end of the Caledonian Canal, that 60-mile-long diagonal slash through Scotland which offers an interesting opportunity to sail peacefully from one side of Scotland to the other. Several companies hire motor cruisers on the canal and it is possible to cruise from Inverness to Fort William passing through some magnificent scenery along the way. As you traverse Loch Ness, look out for the Loch Ness monster!https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Dolphins Cetaceans and Porpoises

Dolphin watching trips out in the Moray Firth can be taken where a resident pod of bottlenose dolphins can often be seen frolicking in the waves. Other cetaceans can also be spotted including harbour porpoises and even, occasionally, minke whales. If your sea legs aren’t the best then stay on shore and go to Chanonry Point – the best of several places on the Moray Firth from where these creatures can be seen.

NC500

The city is also the starting point for the NC500, that 500-mile long road trip which takes you up the east coast, along the north coast and down the west coast of Scotland returning to Inverness by a cross-country route cutting through some magnificent scenery on its way.

Only a couple of miles from Inverness you may be interested in visiting what is one of Scotland’s most iconic historical sites. https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/The Battle of Culloden in 1746 was the last pitched battle fought on British soil and resulted in the defeat by an English army of the rebellious Jacobite forces under the command of ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’. The site of the battle is preserved as much as possible with a visitors’ centre including a 360-degree theatre which puts you right in the middle of the battle and a museum which displays artifacts which have been recovered from the battlefield.

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Inverness Castle

Inverness also has a castle, which acted as a place of corrections for many years, after being rebuilt in the nineteenth century on what was originally a defensive site, overlooking the River Ness. Inverness castle is no longer the site of the Sheriff court but the grounds and North Tower are open to visitors, with a wide view of the River Ness and many historical artifacts. When acting as a defensive site, it was associated with Mary Queen of Scots, though was later blown up by Bonnie Prince Charlie, as it was taken over by a clan who supported the English forces.

No matter what you decide Inverness will make you welcome. By the way, Inverness is said to be the place in the British Isles where the clearest English is spoken!

 

More On Inverness

Information on INVERNESS

THINGS TO DO AND MAPS Of Inverness

 

Gold Panning Scotland

Come to Scotland for whisky, golf – and gold!

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/If you ask anyone what Scotland is best known for they would probably say ‘whisky’ and ‘golf’ and many tourists who visit Scotland will no doubt want to investigate both. But there is more to Scotland than those two well-known and well-frequented pursuits. How about a different kind of activity when you visit Scotland? How about panning for gold? Unlikely as it may seem, gold can be found in many of Scotland’s rivers and streams. It isn’t hard to find and Scotland has experienced its very own gold rush! It wasn’t on the scale of the California gold rush but in 1868 and again in 1869 the Sutherland gold rush in the north of Scotland attracted many hundreds of people and yielded modest quantities of gold.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Panning for gold has been popular for centuries. Gold is found in the sands and gravels in streams which act as a natural means of concentrating the gold. Scotland doesn’t contain huge quantities of gold but with a little bit of luck it can be quite lucrative – the largest single gold nugget ever found in Scotland (in 2016) weighed 86 grams which, at the current price of gold, is worth nearly $70,000 and there have been recent rumours of an even bigger one being found!

The Scottish Crown Jewels, better known as the Honours of Scotland, which are on display in Edinburgh Castle, are made from Scottish gold and one fact may surprise you – Scottish gold has a market value five times higher than other golds due to its rarity! Isn’t it worth having a go?

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Commercial gold mining hasn’t really been carried out in Scotland, but a new gold mine has recently opened at Cononish in Tyndrum, Perthshire, where Australian company Scotgold expect to mine in the region of 20,000 ounces of gold annually, which at today’s prices is worth approximately $22 million. This should give you some idea of the value of gold to be found in Scotland although, to be honest, most people will be lucky to find enough to make into a ring or a pair of earrings but they will have fun doing so.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/If you wish to follow in the footsteps of the 1868-69 prospectors in Sutherland then the Suisgill Estate is the place to go. There you can obtain licences and equipment to pan for gold on the estate. There are other places in Scotland where gold can be panned but many of them are covered by what is known as ‘Mines Royal’ – the gold is, in fact, owned by the Crown. This doesn’t mean that you can’t pan for gold but it would be wise to check out the legal position in the area you plan to go since you may not be allowed to keep any significant finds you make. You can see a gold in Scotland map, showing places where gold has been found.

Whichever area you choose you will have a great time and, of course, there is always the possibility of finding a new record-breaking gold nugget!

Gold Nugget on YouTube:

If you need to know more about whether you can legally search for gold in Scotland, you need to check out the legal position. It is YOUR responsibility to check the legal position for any place you may choose to search for gold. Some information can be downloaded as a PDF at the link below, however, it may not be the latest information and you are strongly advised to check the current position before trying panning for gold in Scotland.

Legal Stuff about Mines Royal:

Dunfermline – Scotland’s Other Royal Mile

Most tourists who come to Scotland will pay a visit to Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city (once known as the ‘Second City of the Empire’) and then move on to the nation’s capital city of Edinburgh. What many of them won’t know is that Edinburgh hasn’t always been the capital of Scotland. Drive north across the Forth Road Bridge and you will very quickly come to the Royal Burgh of Dunfermline, a town which played a significant role in the early history of Scotland and a place bursting with history.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Dunfermline’s beginnings go back to the 11th century when King Malcolm III built a fortified tower on a rocky hill on a site which is now in a public park and established Dunfermline as the new seat of royal power and the town became the de facto capital of Scotland for the next 350 years. Take yourself through 900 years of Scottish history, explore the ruins of the royal palace and Dunfermline Abbey, the last resting place of no less than 12 of Scotland’s kings and queens (including Robert the Bruce, who is revered in Scotland as a national hero). Dunfermline was also the birthplace of other royals including King James I and King Charles I.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/You might visit the Abbot House Heritage Centre in the 15th century Abbot House – one of the few houses to survive a devastating fire in 1624 which consumed most of the town and left the bulk of the population homeless and don’t miss a visit to the award-winning Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries where you can learn all about Dunfermline and its history.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Dunfermline Abbey is a fascinating place to visit and is just a short walk from the beautiful Pittencrieff Park (known locally as The Glen) which was gifted to the town by Andrew Carnegie. It’s a real oasis in the middle of the town with tranquil woodland walks which are great for wildlife spotting. It also has beautiful formal gardens, several childrens’ play areas and is home to a resident muster of peacocks!

King Malcolm’s Queen, Margaret, is Scotland’s only female saint, and her shrine in Dunfermline Abbey has been visited by many thousands of pilgrims over the centuries. Tucked away in the corner of a public car park you may visit St Margaret’s Cave where the deeply religious queen came to pray and, as you follow the tunnel and descend the 87 steps down to the cave, you can feel the weight of 900 years of prayer and history. This place has a special atmosphere.

‘The Auld Grey Toun’ of Dunfermline is also the birthplace of one of the world’s most well-known philanthropists – Andrew Carnegie. The small cottage in which he was born is today preserved as the Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum – a museum and monument to his life where you can hear the story of how he became the richest man in the world and how he gave away vast sums of money to worthy causes.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/The Royal Burgh of Dunfermline is often overlooked by tourists visiting Scotland but a visit to this ancient Scottish capital will more than repay the time spent there and will reveal some fascinating facts which will surprise many people – did you know that the USA had a Consulate in Dunfermline from the late nineteenth century right up until the 1920s? In addition to the history, don’t forget the town itself. Dunfermline has a great indoor shopping centre and its pedestrianised High Street is a safe place to wander along, simply taking in the atmosphere of this vibrant and modern town – and don’t miss out the side streets heading downhill from the High Street. There are some real gems down there ranging from specialist shops to a good variety of eating places including cafes, restaurants and pubs.

Take a wander around historic Dunfermline in this video:

VisitScotland: Dunfermline

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Scotland’s largest city and the UK’s third largest (once known as ‘the second city of the empire’), Glasgow has many fine art galleries and museums but one of the most popular is undoubtedly Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum which houses one of Europe’s great art collections. It is also one of the top three free-to-enter visitor attractions in Scotland and one of the most visited museums in the United Kingdom outside of London. It could be considered to be the Scottish Smithsonian.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/First opened in 1901 and reopened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in July 2006 after a three-year closure for major renovations, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum was an immediate success with the public with 2.23 million visitors to this impressive red sandstone building in the following year.

With everything from art to animals, in over 8000 exhibits in 22 state of the art galleries, its natural history displays, its cultural and historically important artefacts (Kelvingrove has one of the top three collections of arms and armour in the world) and its collections of art representing many different schools, Kelvingrove contains an impressive range of internationally significant displays.

The museum houses Dali’s Christ of St John of the Cross and there are separate galleries devoted to Dutch artists including work by Rembrandt; French artistes with Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh and one of the few female impressionists Mary Cassatt. The Glasgow Boys and the Scottish Colourists have their own galleries and the Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Glasgow Style gallery includes many important works. There are also a number of temporary displays and exhibits which change over time so you never really know what you’re going to see on your next visit.https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum also has its own beehive. Always a popular exhibit, the Kelvingrove beehive allows you to look deep inside the hive and see its structure in detail and watch the bees being, well, busy little bees!

There are persistent rumours that the museum is home to Scotland’s only fossilised Haggis. That may simply be a folk myth but it’s worth keeping your eyes open just in case it’s lurking somewhere amongst the other exhibits. And don’t just wander around a bit and look at the exhibits, take some time to examine the building itself. It’s a magnificent edifice in its own right and well worth the reported £28m it cost for the renovations.

The proud possessor of a Gold Award from Visit Scotland’s Green Tourism scheme Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is located on Argyle Street, in Kelvingrove Park in the West End of the city near the main campus of the University of Glasgow. The park site also includes Kelvingrove Skatepark.

The museum is easy to get to and is fully accessible to the disabled – even to the extent of providing wheelchairs for visitors to use (subject to availability). There is a Glasgow museums gift shop, a restaurant and a cafe (feel free to bring your own sandwiches) and guide dogs are welcome. Admission is free (donations are appreciated).

PS: Don’t forget to say ‘hello’ to Sir Roger as you pass through the West Court!https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Check out the Kelvingrove Museum Website:

Watch A Video About The Kelvingrove

Visit Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh’s crowning glory

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Amongst the many sights and experiences Edinburgh has to offer its visitors Edinburgh Castle is surely the crowning glory. This magnificent edifice perches nearly 300 feet above the city on the ancient volcanic plug of Castle Rock, an extinct volcano which dominates Scotland’s capital and makes the castle visible for many miles away.

Because of its strategic position Castle Rock has been occupied since 900bc and, when the Romans first came this way in about AD80, they found that the local Votadini people had the well-established fort of ‘Din Eidyn’ looking balefully down at them – and the Romans wisely left it alone!https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Since then the castle has been rebuilt, expanded, fortified and altered. It has been bombarded, besieged, captured and recaptured (it is the most besieged castle in Britain). It has been a fortress, a barracks, a prison, a hospital, a royal residence, a museum and a treasury.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/The Crown Jewels of Scotland, known as ‘The Honours of Scotland’ (the oldest crown jewels in the UK) are housed in the castle and are made from gold that was mined in Scotland. The Stone of Destiny, sitting upon which monarchs of both Scotland and England have been crowned for centuries is also there.

Within its walls is the oldest building in Edinburgh – St Margaret’s Chapel – which still hosts weddings and christenings to this day. Every day at one o’clock precisely (excepting Sundays, Good Friday and Christmas Day) a cannon is fired from the Mills Mount Battery – originally a time signal for ships in the River Forth but nowadays just one of the many traditions associated with the castle.https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Still a military garrison, Edinburgh Castle is now a world-famous visitor attraction and an iconic part of the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site. It houses Scotland’s National War Museum and, of course, it is host to the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, that magnificent spectacle of military skill which takes place every August on the castle Esplanade. The first tattoo took place in 1949 and attracted about 100,000 spectators in total. The last time the tattoo was held was 2019 (the 2020 event was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic) when 220,000 people watched the various live events and many, many more watched it on television. The 2021 event is expected to happen as normal.https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Edinburgh Castle is a large and complex place and it houses so much of interest: the Lang Stairs, The Portcullis Gate, The Half Moon Battery, The Argyll Battery, The Mills Mount Battery, the huge cannon of Mons Meg, The Great Hall, The Argyll Tower, Foog’s Gate, the Castle Vaults and the two small museums of the Royal Scots Regiment and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. A full day is needed to do this place justice!

As you wander through the castle keep in mind that you are treading in the footsteps of kings and queens, princes and princesses, rebels and saints, writers and poets, and rogues (including the architect who restored the Great Hall – and then refused to hand over the keys!).https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Edinburgh Castle offers guided tours by castle stewards or you may choose to follow the audio guide at your own pace. Whichever you choose you can’t fail to be impressed – witnessing or indeed being a central character in much of Scotland’s history it could be said that, in many ways, the history of the castle is the history of Scotland.

Read more about Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle on YouTube:

Falkirk Wheel Tour – Boating In The Sky!

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Connecting two largely disused waterways the Falkirk Wheel, the largest ‘functional sculpture’ you are likely to see anywhere, is the world’s only rotating boat lift. Opened in May 2002 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as part of her Golden Jubilee celebrations the wheel connects the Union Canal with the Forth and Clyde Canal, both once used extensively for commercial purposes.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Situated pretty much half way between Glasgow and Edinburgh, and part of the Millennium Link project, this 35 metre (115 feet) diameter wheel lifts boats 24 metres (79 feet) from the lower canal up to a pair of locks leading on to the higher canal and re-establishes a link between Glasgow and Edinburgh which was severed in the 1930s due to disuse and industrial development.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/You may wonder why was the Falkirk Wheel built? Not only was the wheel built to reconnect Scotland’s two major cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh, with the much-valued leisure resource of a recreational waterway, it was also built to be a major tourist attraction and today the Falkirk Wheel is one of Scotland’s busiest attractions boasting a state-of-the-art visitor centre with a Falkirk Wheel gift shop and café.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/The visitor centre is free to enter and, over a coffee, you can simply sit and admire the effortless ease with which the Falkirk Wheel boat lift rotates the combined weight of water and boat (some 500 tonnes on each side) from one level to the other using no more electricity than it would take to boil a few kettles of water – which speaks volumes about the efficient design of the boat lift.

Whilst many visitors will be happy to merely watch this remarkable structure in action the real thrills come from trying it out for yourself. Departing from right in front of the visitor centre, and lasting about an hour for the full ascent and descent experience, boat trips on the Falkirk Wheel are very popular with some 400,000 people visiting the wheel every year and about 1.3 million visitors in total have taken a boat ride since the wheel opened.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/If you are spending any amount of time in central Scotland this is one tourist attraction and impressive feat of engineering you really must visit. The site is fully accessible for visitors with mobility problems. It is wheelchair friendly and wheelchairs or mobility scooters can be taken on the boat trip. Designed to last 120 years the Falkirk Wheel will be ready and waiting for you when you decide to take your ride on the world’s only rotating boat lift!

Check out the Falkirk Wheel Website:

Youtube Video showing the canal boat being lifted nearly 80 feet into the air to join the upper canal.

Except where otherwise credited, all photos are believed to be in the public domain, from Pixabay.com

Castle of Mey Scotland – – Royal Holiday Home

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Stefan Serena Flickr Public Domain

In 1952, just after the death of her husband King George VI, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, better known as ‘The Queen Mother’, bought the 450-year-old abandoned Barrogill Castle in the far north of Scotland as a place where she could relax away from prying eyes. She oversaw the restoration of this remote castle on the north coast of Caithness just six miles from John O’Groats for use as her holiday home. Stefan Serena Flickr Public Domain

Choosing many of the fixtures and fittings herself she returned the castle to its original name of The Castle of Mey and took vacations there for three weeks in August and ten days in October each year until her death in 2002. Some years before she died she had the foresight to establish the Queen Elizabeth Castle of Mey Trust to oversee the future affairs of the castle and it’s because of her forward-looking attitude that it is possible today for the public to visit the castle and explore the wonderful gardens which she designed.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/The Castle of Mey is the northernmost castle on the British mainland and, protected by a 12-foot high wall known as ‘The Great Wall of Mey’, is now under the care of The Prince’s Foundation, an educational charity established in 1986 by Charles, Prince of Wales. The castle stands on a slight rise about 400 yards from the sea with magnificent views over the Pentland Firth to the distant Orkney Islands. Once the seat of the Earls of Caithness the castle is open every day from the beginning of May to the end of September with a break of 10 days in July/August when His Royal Highness Prince Charles (president of The Prince’s Foundation) and his wife Camilla Duchess of Cornwall often visit.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/
Edward Tenny Flickr Public Domain

A new visitors centre was opened in 2007 and, in its first year, some 29,000 visitors explored the castle and the extensive gardens, particularly the shell garden where the Queen Mother used to sit with her corgis in the afternoons, and sampled the home-grown fare in the award-winning tearoom – much of which comes from the castle gardens and adjacent lands. In the walled garden you will find a lookout tower which is a great place to take in the scenery. There is also a small museum and quite a large gift shop.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/
Edward Tenny Flickr Public Domain

The castle is still very much as the Queen Mother restored it and has seen little update since then (her motto was ‘if it works don’t fix it’!). The knowledgeable guides will do all they can to make your visit interesting and enjoyable and are happy to answer any questions you may have. It must be kept in mind that the Castle of Mey is an historic building and disabled access is not possible to all parts of it although the shop, tearoom and toilets are fully accessible.

A big part of the castle’s attraction, especially for children, is the animal centre. Its relaxed and welcoming atmosphere can be enjoyed by adults and children alike and gives the opportunity to see how animals should be cared for. https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Visitors to the animal centre in the east woods can interact with some of the animals, providing an enjoyable and educational visit. There is a colourful collection of unusual and eye-catching poultry breeds, various waterfowl including ducks and geese and unusual sheep breeds in the paddock. The different sizes, shapes and colours of all these creatures make a curiously wonderful display. At the right time of year bottle-feeding of young lambs is a highlight and, with a little luck, your visit will coincide with a new hatch of chicks – fluffy, yellow balls of new life!

Two unusual features of the animal centre experience is the opportunity to try your hand at spinning fleece from the castle’s flock of cheviot sheep or attempting to milk Daisy the wooden cow! These are both popular activities and, depending on how busy it is, you may have to wait a while for your turn. Demonstrations are normally held three days a week during opening hours.

A ROMANTIC WEDDING VENUE

For a romantic wedding with a difference the castle visitor centre offers itself as a wedding venue with facilities for up to 60 guests in the grounds of the castle overlooking the Pentland Firth. Photographs can be taken in the visitors centre, the castle or the gardens. It is also possible to hold the wedding ceremony elsewhere and have the photographs taken in the castle and gardens. Weddings are confined to those months when the castle isn’t open to the public but, considering that the castle is only open for part of the year, that still leaves a good choice of dates.

THE CAPTAIN’S HOUSE

Only a few hundred yards from the castle the Captain’s House offers quiet self-catering accommodation. It is the only property on the castle estate which is used as a holiday let and was a favourite picnic spot of the Queen Mother. A large conservatory overlooks the enclosed garden and gives excellent views over the Pentland Firth. It’s a great place for reading, painting or simply chilling out and appreciating the solitude and the breathtaking views.

Castle Of Mey Video

For those of a more active nature the Captain’s House is perfectly situated for walking, bird watching or fishing with sheer cliffs and sandy beaches all around and Gills Bay, from where you can take a ferry to Orkney, is just a mile away. Equipped to a very high standard the Captain’s House has one double and two twin rooms and can sleep six people.

THE GRANARY LODGE

Opened in 2019 the Granary Lodge offers luxury bed and breakfast accommodation on the castle grounds. This is an ideal place to witness the impressive sunsets visible here and, if you are lucky, the evening sky may be enhanced by an appearance from the ‘Heavenly Dancers’ – also known as the Northern Lights or the Aurora Borealis to help make you stay just that little bit more special. Be it a day trip or a longer visit, the Castle of Mey and its surroundings cannot fail to impress!

Corrieshalloch Gorge Viewpoint

Corrieshalloch Gorge: ugly in name but not in nature!

Some 12 miles or so southeast of the west highland town of Ullapool you will find that deep slash in the landscape known as Corrieshalloch Gorge. https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/This narrow, mile-long box canyon demonstrates how erosion by meltwater from glaciers can lead to the formation of deep gorges. The river Droma runs through Corrieshalloch heading towards Loch Broom, tumbling over the 150-foot high Falls of Measach on its way, as well as numerous smaller waterfalls. For once, visitors to this breathtakingly deep gorge will be glad of Scotland’s rainy reputation. There aren’t many outdoor attractions in the highlands best seen after heavy rain but Corrieshalloch Gorge is certainly one of them – the cloud of mist produced by the waterfalls when they are in full flow almost obscures the view!https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Corrieshalloch Gorge, whose name means the ‘ugly gorge’, is owned by the National Trust for Scotland and is a National Nature Reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It’s sheer walls have protected it from incursions by Man making it a refuge for rare species of plants which have largely disappeared from the surrounding areas due to human activities. The dark, humid walls of the gorge form a habitat for ferns, mosses and several species of plants which are otherwise rare in this part of Scotland. The more sunlit slopes higher up the gorge support many types of tree and there are insect species here which are rarely seen elsewhere in Scotland. In springtime look for the ravens which nest on a ledge near the bridge.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/There are two ways for visitors to explore the gorge. A descent must be made down the fairly steep (but well-maintained) gravel path from the car park on the A832 on the south side of the gorge. This leads to the Corrieshalloch Suspension Bridge, a 25-metre-long footbridge spanning the gorge downstream of the Falls of Measach – but only cross that bridge if you have a good head for heights! The bridge doesn’t look all that solid and, in fact, it has a tendency to sway when anyone is crossing. Visitors’ confidence isn’t helped by the sign which has been erected at the bridge – it warns that no more than six people should cross at one time!

Those who suffer from vertigo may struggle here but crossing the bridge is a thrilling and rewarding experience as the Falls of Measach thunder down below. Once over the bridge turn left and it is but a short walk to a viewing platform which juts out over the gorge and gives a magnificent view of the waterfall and along the gorge. Again, anyone who suffers from vertigo may not be entirely happy here!https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

The other option (some would say the more level-headed option) is the one-kilometre or so long trail (known as Lady Fowler’s walk) which starts from the suspension bridge (before you cross it) and wends its way along the gorge to a viewpoint from where it is possible to see Loch Broom, into which the river Droma flows, in the distance. This trail continues on through woods for a bit and then loops back around to the suspension bridge via the gorge viewpoint.

Over 70,000 people visit Corrieshalloch Gorge every year and we can be pretty sure that none of them would describe it as ‘ugly’. The gorge can be a treacherous place especially after rain so do supervise children closely and if you take the family pooch it’s best to keep it on a leash at all times.

NTS Gorge website

Inveraray Jail: A Model Prison

Inveraray Jail: model prison?

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Near the head of the long, thin sea loch of Loch Fyne on Scotland’s west coast is the town of Inveraray where, amongst other interesting sights, you will find what was once the model prison of its day – Inveraray Jail. Consisting of two prisons (the Old Prison, which was completed in 1820, and the New Prison, completed in 1848) Inveraray Jail, which is now a living museum and a listed building, was in use as a prison up until August 1889. Originally the building also included the courthouse (which continued to sit until 1954) as well as the prison and was used to house convicted felons, untried prisoners, debtors and the insane.https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

In the early 1980s the two-story building which has three-foot thick walls was extensively renovated by the Scottish Government and in May 1989, almost a hundred years after the last prisoners departed, Inveraray Jail (now in private hands) opened to the public. The jail attracts visitors from all over the world and is one of Scotland’s top tourist attractions.

On your tour of the jail you will find an exhibition of instruments of ‘torture and punishment’ some of which you can try out for yourself such as the thumbscrews (don’t tighten them too far!) and the whipping table (used on boys as an alternative to sending them to prison) but do try to avoid the branding irons or having your ears nailed to a post! https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/You will see the cramped cells within which prisoners both lived and worked and were only allowed out for one hour a day for exercise or to use the wc.

As well as touring the jail and seeing what life was like for both guards and inmates, Inveraray Jail also hosts a series of exhibitions which illustrate how crime was dealt with and punishment meted out in Scotland 200 years ago. Live actors take the part of guards and prisoners introducing you to life behind bars. In the courthouse you will find a very convincing scene of a trial in full flow with participants represented by mannequins in appropriate dress – judge, lawyers, prisoners, witnesses, guards and members of the jury with the proceedings being broadcast over an audio system. Visitors can take a seat beside the jury and follow the trial to its conclusion. Just make sure that the person sitting next to you is not a mannequin before striking up a conversation!

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/You can even try your hand at being a prisoner – speak nicely (or perhaps rudely!) to one of the guards and they will be only too happy to lock you in a cell for a while so that you can live the authentic experience of being an inmate of what was, in its day, a state-of-the-art prison. Hopefully they won’t flog you as well but while you are serving your sentence you could try out the hard wooden bed or, if you are lucky, the hammock but don’t worry, you probably won’t be jailed for too long and at least you won’t be told to make your own clothes as real prisoners had to do or work at picking oakum or making fishing nets or turning the crank wheel.https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Some of the prisoners incarcerated in Inveraray Jail were locked up for trivial offences like theft of a turnip and not all the inmates were adults – children were also held in prison. Given the anguish and injustice of prison life in those days it’s hardly surprising that Inveraray Jail has the reputation of being one of the most haunted places in Scotland. Paranormal investigators have combed through the jail and have come across some rather disturbing incidents as have members of staff and many visitors to the jail – feelings of a spooky presence, of feeling unwell, ghostly images caught on camera, indistinct voices and eerie footsteps both heard and recorded and even physical contact from an unseen entity. Not every visitor to Inveraray Jail has an otherworldly experience but, if you are scared of ghosts, then you might want to avoid Cell 10!

Learn more about Inveraray Jail here

 

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