Castle of Mey Scotland – – Royal Holiday Home

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

 

YouTube video:

Falkland Palace: Scotland’s Ancient Royal Residence

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Located in the Fife village of Falkland, about an hour’s drive north over the River Forth from Scotland’s capital city of Edinburgh, Falkland Palace has historic royal connections going back beyond the 12th century and saw most of the early Scottish rulers and the later Stuart monarchs. Originally a hunting lodge and later a castle, the 16th century Palace of Falkland was inspired by the grand châteaux of France and it was the Stuart monarchs James IV and his son James V who transformed this favoured retreat of the royal Stuarts into a fine example of Renaissance architecture. King James V, father of Mary, Queen of Scots, died there in 1542 and when Mary herself returned from her time in France she came to Falkland Palace as often as she could whilst carrying out her royal duties as Queen.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/The surrounding countryside was kept as a private hunting estate where members of the royal court and favoured guests would hunt wild boar and deer and fly falcons over the hills. As you explore the spectacular Renaissance architecture of what was, in effect, the country residence of the Stuart monarchs and walk around the magnificent gardens and orchard where you will find Britain’s oldest original real (or royal) tennis courts, the roofed spectator area of which is home to a number of nesting swallows during spring and summer (you may need to duck when they come flying in and out!), you will come to understand why this palace was a royal favourite. In the gardens you can still find some remnants of the 12th-century Castle.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Sadly, in 1654, a fire partially destroyed the palace during its occupation by Oliver Cromwell’s forces, and it was allowed to fall into a state of disrepair. It was saved from total ruin some 200 years later by John Crichton-Stuart the 3rd Marquess of Bute who bought the estate and carried out a programme of restoration giving it a new lease of life. Work was done on the gatehouse, the south grange and the cross house. Parts of the palace are still in ruins but the original and reconstructed rooms contain 17th-century Flemish tapestries, elaborate painted ceilings and antique furnishings. The palace also has its own chapel.https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Although still owned by the Crichton-Stuart family, Falkland Palace (a Scottish Tourist Board 4-star visitor attraction) is now in the care of the National Trust for Scotland and guided tours start at regular intervals. Pre-booking is not required. Tours start from East Port through the impressive entrance archway with the keeper’s rooms and then on to the King and Queens’ bedchambers, the old library, the bakehouse and the tapestry corridor. The guides are knowledgeable and friendly and once you have toured the palace you are then free to wander through the gardens (don’t miss the glasshouses) following in the footsteps of royalty and admiring the palace from the outside. Exit is best made through the gift shop from where you are returned to East Port just a hundred meters or so away from where your tour began.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/But don’t just hurry through the shop! Stay a while and browse the well-stocked displays of Scottish history books, arts and crafts, delicacies like Scottish tablet (once tasted never forgotten), highland toffee (mind your fillings) and whisky marmalade (the breakfast spread of kings). You might buy yourself an ornamental spurtle (look it up) and, of course, this being Scotland you simply cannot leave without treating yourself to a miniature or two of malt whisky!

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Actually, once you’ve toured the palace, the village of Falkland (Scotland’s first conservation village) is well worth a look. It has many interesting and historic buildings some of which have appeared in various movies over the years. Keep your eyes peeled for the ‘marriage lintels’ which appear in various places on several houses near the palace – they are an interesting and revealing insight into life in medieval times. The village also has hotels, bars and coffee shops where refreshments may be had.

Falkland village can become very busy during the tourist season – the palace is a popular attraction – and, once the main car parks are full, parking can be problematic so an early arrival would be a good idea. There are many companies who organise bus tours or private tours of both the village and the palace which will relieve you of the hassle of finding a parking space. Whichever way you choose to visit you won’t regret spending a day following in the footsteps of Scottish royalty!

For more information Visit Scotland:

 

Video tour of Falkland Palace:

Visit Scotland On A Budget

If you have always wanted to visit Scotland but have a limited budget then you will be pleased to know that there is a very affordable alternative to expensive hotels. The Scottish Youth Hostels Association, along with its affiliates, runs a network of self-catering hostels throughout Scotland offering budget access to the entire country and it’s a great way to see Scotland without breaking the bank.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/‘’But’’, I hear you ask, ‘’aren’t youth hostels those smelly wooden huts with bunk beds?’’ Once upon a time they were but not any more! Many of today’s youth hostels are modern, comfortable buildings with full facilities, often with family rooms and Scotland has a vast range of hostels from basic to amazing! They offer varying facilities from economy dormitories to private rooms with en-suite facilities and are ideal for families, groups and individuals of all ages.

They can be found in locations as diverse and scenic as the Isle of Skye (you must visit the ‘’Fairy Pools’’), Gairloch (go on a whale-watching trip) and many of the Hebridean islands, the Orkney Islands and the Shetland Islands (recently voted the three best areas to live in Scotland) as well as being scattered randomly throughout the country in both rural and urban locations.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/The Scottish Youth Hostels Association even have four-star rated hostels right in the middle of Scotland’s capital city of Edinburgh and another in Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city, as well as first-class hostels in other cities. But be warned – not all SYHA hostels are easy to get to, some are located in very remote areas. Glen Affric Youth Hostel is eight miles from the nearest road and the only way to reach it is by hiking over the hills!https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

And there’s more! The Scottish Youth Hostels Association offer a series of activity holidays suitable for all levels of experience and fitness ranging from Munro-Bagging to Winter Skills to Tai Chi all of which are small groups led by qualified and experienced instructors and are a great way to learn new skills, so whatever you are seeking from a holiday in Scotland be it exploring the cities, an experience in the wilderness, or learning new skills, there is a hostel which will fit the bill for you – and that bill won’t be expensive.https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Membership of the Scottish Youth Hostels Association is surprisingly cheap and you don’t even have to be a member to stay in one! Costs vary but a one-off payment for a one-night stay in a hostel needn’t cost more than a couple of cups of coffee – a bargain certainly. And the Scottish Youth Hostels Association hasn’t forgotten Man’s Best Friend! For a small extra charge many of Scotland’s Youth Hostels are only too happy to welcome your canine companion but do check with the hostel first since the number of dog-friendly rooms is limited.

All things considered a tour of Scotland via its wonderful network of youth hostels is definitely worth thinking about.

FOR MORE ON SCOTTISH YOUTH HOSTELS VISIT THE SYHA WEBSITE

 

YouTube video:

Smoo Cave – Subterranean Scotland

In a dramatic location on the north coast of Scotland, near the small town of Durness you will find Smoo Cave. Lying just off the North Coast 500, that picturesque touring route which is becoming ever-more popular with visitors to Scotland, Smoo Cave is one of the many spectacular sights Scotland has to offer. An unusual combination of sea cave and freshwater cave – partially carved by the sea and partially carved by the Allt (river) Smoo, the name is thought to come from an old Norse word which meant a hiding place.https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Largest Sea Cave Entrance

It is the largest sea cave entrance in Britain and the sea approach to the cave is quite breathtaking. The cave entrance and main chamber have been considerably enlarged by sea action to nearly 130 feet wide and 50 feet high and the entrance is located at the end of a nearly 700 yards long tidal gorge (Geodha Smoo) which, before that section of the roof collapsed, was once part of the cave. If the weather is clear (not always guaranteed in Scotland!) then following the path above the gorge is well worth the effort for the view it gives down its length.https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Three Chambers

The cave consists of three chambers and you are free to explore the first two by yourself by means of a wooden walkway but the third chamber is generally inaccessible. Don’t worry about the tides. Over time the cave has undergone a certain amount of uplift and today it is only at the highest of spring tides that the sea encroaches into the entrance. Unfortunately, access to the cave can be problematic. There is a steep path from the car park on the A838 which leads down to a bridge over the Allt Smoo and thence to the cave entrance.https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Occupation Back To Mesolithic Age

So what will you see inside Smoo Cave? The first chamber is impressive – 200 feet long, 130 feet wide and about 50 feet high at the entrance. This chamber was formed by the sea. Archaeological investigations have unearthed Neolithic, Norse and Iron Age artifacts here. It is believed that human occupation of the cave extends back to the Mesolithic age and, given its size, it’s easy to imagine that a fair-sized community could have made its home here.

SinkHole And Waterfall

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/From the first chamber a walkway leads to the second chamber where you find the 60-foot waterfall of the Allt Smoo dropping into the cave through its sinkhole with a gushing roar – really spectacular after rain! This is as far as most visitors can go but, during the summer months when the water level is low enough, it is possible to take a boat tour to the third chamber which includes a short walk and an interesting talk on the geology of the cave. Both the second and third chambers were carved by the action of the Allt Smoo.https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Near the car park a wooden bridge has been built across the Allt Smoo at the point where it drops into the sinkhole giving a safe view of this most impressive feature. There are many stories of the cave being a smugglers’ hideaway or the location of an illicit still or even the dumping ground for murder victims some of whom were (allegedly) dropped down the sinkhole of the river to be washed out to sea. There are also tales of the supernatural – ghosts, ghouls and devils have been, at various times, said to inhabit the cave. It has even been claimed that the cave is an entrance to hell and, on dark and stormy evenings when the river is roaring at its loudest and the waterfall is foaming and surging at its most violent, one could well believe it!

No tour of northern Scotland can be said to be complete without a visit to Smoo Cave. In fact, for anyone travelling the North Coast 500 it’s practically mandatory!

Smoo Cave Website

YouTube Video of Smoo Cave

Ben Cruachan: Scotland’s Hollow Mountain: Visit If You Dare!

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Lying at the head of Loch Awe, Scotland’s longest freshwater loch, you will find a most curious thing – a ‘hollow mountain’. Ben Cruachan, one of Scotland’s Munros (mountains over 3000 feet) is home to the only underground, pumped, storage hydroelectric power station in Scotland.

Taking six years to build, Ben Cruachan Power Station was opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1965. Housed in a huge cavern, big enough to accommodate the Tower of London, situated deep beneath the mountain this invisible power station is truly an awesome construction – and you can visit it!

Not only is Ben Cruachan power station a working industrial complex it is also a major tourist attraction with 50,000 people braving the underground journey each year. There is a well-equipped and laid out visitor centre with interactive displays showing how the power station works including a working model of a turbine generator.

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

Once you have taken all this in, you can then board the minibus (small charge) which will take you along the one kilometre access tunnel to a point close to the turbine hall (which was featured in the James Bond film ‘The World is Not Enough’). From there you must walk the last few yards to a viewing area.

A guide accompanies you and points out various interesting things like the tropical plants growing in the warm, humid atmosphere and the drips of water from the roof of the tunnel: water which has taken two years to percolate down from the reservoir lying in the corrie many metres above your head. It can be a little claustrophobic down here but don’t worry you’re perfectly safe!

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Ben Cruachan Power Station can be found at the head of Loch Awe on the main A85 Oban to Crianlarich road. There is a cafe and picnic area where you can enjoy a light lunch in a scenic spot overlooking the loch as well as a gift shop and a large, free car park.

Note: For the energetic the mountain Ben Cruachan can be climbed from the visitor centre on a route which takes you past the spectacular dam and reservoir and gives great views down the length of Loch Awe but it’s a long, hard climb and full hillwalking gear and a good level of fitness is required – you have been warned!

TAKE A TRIP INTO THE HOLLOW MOUNTAIN – video

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION VISIT THE HOLLOW MOUNTAIN’S WEBSITE

 

Isle of Arran – Scotland in Miniature

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Many tourists who visit Scotland will want to spend a few days on one of the islands off the west coast. Known as the Hebrides. The most visited is probably the Isle of Skye (famous for the Cuillin mountains) since it has been connected to the mainland by a bridge since 1995 and it’s a simple matter to drive there.

Travelling to all of the other Hebridean islands requires a ferry crossing but don’t let that put you off visiting them – they are definitely well worth that little bit of extra effort to reach but there is one island which is often overlooked by tourists possibly because it isn’t part of the Hebridean archipelago, situated as it is, much further south.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/In the Firth of Clyde between the mainland and the long, southward-stretching tongue of the Kintyre peninsula lies the Isle of Arran. Scotland’s seventh-biggest island, Arran is also one of the most accessible of the west coast islands being close to the heavily-populated central belt and just a short ferry trip from the mainland. Arran has been continuously inhabited since the early Neolithic period and numerous prehistoric remains have been found. The island once belonged to Norway but is now firmly in Scottish hands!

Rugged and mountainous in its northern half and flat and fertile in the south, Arran is often called ‘Scotland in miniature’. This quirk of geology mirrors the Scottish mainland and is the result of the Highland Boundary Fault, which divides Scotland into the highlands and the lowlands, continuing through Arran resulting in two quite distinct geological zones, just like the mainland – a ‘Scotland in miniature’!

It is possible to fly to Arran but the best way is to catch the ferry from the mainland ferry port of Ardrossan (well served by road and rail links) to Brodick, https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Arran’s main town. The crossing takes just under an hour and if you are travelling by car, advance booking is recommended. During the summer months, you can also sail from Kintyre to Lochranza in the north of the Island, a trip which takes only 30 minutes.

Once on the island there is a wide choice of things to do. For those with plenty of energy there is Goat Fell. At 2886 feet (874m) it’s the highest peak on Arran and all who venture into this dramatic and spectacular landscape are treated to unrivalled views of the island and, on a clear day, all the way across to Ben Lomond on the mainland and the coast of Ireland to the southwest.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/For the less energetic outdoor enthusiasts there is a plethora of paths, trails and walks of all lengths to explore, ranging from short and easy wanders along sandy beaches to longer and slightly more challenging routes. Whichever you choose, remember to dress appropriately and tell someone where you are going – just in case!

Challenging mountain climbs, dramatic landscapes, seascapes and wonderfully scenic walks are not the end of Arran’s attractions. There are no less than seven golf courses, lots of wildlife and local arts and crafts and produce to sample. You can go sailing, sea kayaking, paragliding, windsurfing, pony trekking (or ride a horse along a beach with the spray in your face), go sea fishing, trout fishing, salmon fishing or ride the waves in a rigid inflatable boat.https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

For those of a more relaxed frame of mind there are historic castles, museums, two malt whisky distilleries, a brewery and lots more to explore and since Arran is only 56 miles in circumference nowhere is more than a 30-minute drive away from where you are staying.https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Speaking of places to stay, Arran offers a wide range of accommodation from basic campsites to youth hostels, independent hostels, guest houses, B&Bs, self catering cottages and a number of excellent hotels all the way up to 5-star accommodation. You can even arrange a vacation stay using Airbnb and, since many people on the island work in the tourist industry you can be assured of a warm welcome.

Scotland in miniature it may be but there’s nothing small about a vacation on the Isle of Arran!

 

YouTube Video:

Website for the Isle of Arran

All pictures, other than those identified on the picture itself, are CC0 and can be used freely without accreditation.

Visit Queen Elizabeth’s Favourite Ship – Britannia

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Coming to Edinburgh? No vacation trip to Scotland’s capital city would be complete without a visit to the Royal Yacht Britannia, one of Scotland’s most popular visitor attractions. Launched in 1953 Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia (her proper name) was a much-loved favourite of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the British royal family for over 40 years and during her lifetime was probably the most famous ship in the world.

In April 1954, carrying a young Prince Charles and Princess Anne, Britannia sailed on her maiden voyage from Portsmouth to Malta and thence to Tobruk in North Africa where Queen Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, boarded her for the first of many voyages. Since then she has carried the Queen and members of the Royal Family on almost 1000 official voyages to virtually all of the worlds’ seas and oceans.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/From her launch to her decommissioning in 1997 she travelled more than a million nautical miles on the high seas and during her career she was the scene of many official receptions and state visits to countries all over the world. She played host to many VIPs and heads of state, including several Presidents of the United States of America. In her role as a floating ambassador for Great Britain she helped to generate many billions of pounds in trade deals and was also used by the royal family as a holiday cruise ship. In 1981 when Prince Charles married the then Lady Diana Spencer they spent their honeymoon aboard her.https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Built at the famous John Brown’s Shipyard on the River Clyde in Scotland, this veritable floating palace is now an award-winning visitor attraction and events venue permanently berthed at Ocean Terminal, Leith, in Edinburgh. Receiving more than 300,000 visitors a year she is a fascinating glimpse into royal life and an important historical resource and museum piece.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/On your visit you will be able to explore the bridge, the state apartments, the crew’s quarters and the engine room. Highlights of the tour through the five decks include the sun lounge, the Queen’s bedroom, the state dining room and drawing rooms, the Royal Marines’ barracks and the sick bay. https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/The majority of items on view are the originals (on loan from the Royal Collection and other contributors) including furniture, paintings and photographs from when Britannia was in royal service.

The route you will follow is fully accessible with lifts and ramps to aid your progress from one fascinating exhibit to another and there is no hurry to complete your visit. Tours are neither guided nor timed – you are free to go at your own pace and admire your glimpse into royal life at your leisure. An audio handset is provided to assist your tour. Allow at least two hours and another hour or so if you wish to visit the gift shop or the Royal Deck Tea Room (highly recommended)

A tour of Britannia is surely one of the highlights of any vacation to Scotland’s capital city and shouldn’t be missed. You are welcome to take as many photographs as you wish although the rule is ‘look but don’t touch!’. And until you can go there, check out this YouTube Video.

 

North Coast 500: Explore Scotland by Road

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/
North Coast 500 Passing Place

Thinking of visiting Scotland but don’t really know where to start? Or maybe you’ve already done the castle trail, the whisky trail, and the city experience and now you want to see more of the real, wild Scotland. So what’s the best way to see Scotland’s amazing scenery without confining yourself to one or two relatively small areas?

How about the North Coast 500? A 500-mile road route around the coast of Scotland the North Coast 500 has been called ‘’Scotland’s Route 66’’ after the iconic highway in the USA which no longer exists as a complete route.

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

Beginning in Inverness this circular route can be done in either direction depending on which order you want to see the magnificent scenery it reveals to you. From narrow, single-track roads with passing places to long stretches of lonely road where, at times, you will hardly meet another vehicle, the North Coast 500 winds its scenic way around long, narrow, sea lochs where well-positioned parking places offer stunning views of cliffs, sandy almost inaccessible bays and misty views of distant islands.

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

From numerous vantage points around the route you will have the chance to see dolphins and whales of many different species, ever-present seals and many species of seabird as well as the recently reintroduced white-tailed sea eagle (the largest bird of prey in the UK and the fourth largest in the world).

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

Although mainly a coastal route the North Coast 500 does loop inland in places and there is a 60-mile cross-country section from Inverness in the east to the Applecross peninsula in the west giving you the opportunity to see some of Scotland’s beautiful inland lochs and mountains (you must pause at the head of Glen Docherty to gaze in awe at the view west to distant Loch Maree) as well as the chance to spot Scotland’s iconic bird, the golden eagle, soaring its way along the flanks of a hill and disappearing into the mist.

Along the route you will pass through scattered settlements and villages often with only a handful of houses and a couple of dozen inhabitants as well as larger towns although the biggest still does not exceed 10,000 people. Although it’s only 500 miles the North Coast 500 can’t be done in a couple of days. To do so would miss out on much of what the route has to offer.

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

There’s the Black Isle (not an island at all), John O’Groats at the tip of Scotland, unforgettable mountain scenery including Ben Hope (Scotland’s most northerly Munro), the bizarre-looking steep-sided ridge of Suilven, the fairytale castle of Dunrobin, Ardvreck castle ruins and Achmelvich and Dornoch beaches both of which, when the sun shines, will rival any caribbean beach. These are places to savour, not whiz past in a rush.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/
Single Track Road

Spreading your journey over several days will give you the chance to sample the best which Scotland has to offer in the way of cuisine and accommodation and offers opportunities to divert a little from the route to visit places of special interest to you. It’s no wonder that the North Coast 500 route is regarded by many to be one of the best coastal trips on the planet! You may also wish to take some time to explore your starting place, the city of Inverness with its wonderful bridges over the river and its informal coffee shops and cafes. Inverness is also the place where, allegedly, the clearest English in the United Kingdom is spoken!

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/
Lonely Road Along the NC500

If you would love to experience this route but don’t want to organise it yourself or are reluctant to drive yourself (those single-track roads can be awkward if you’re not used to them or to driving on the ‘’wrong’’ side of the road) then don’t despair because there are travel companies which can chauffeur you along the route – either part way or all the way – enabling you to devote all your time to marvel at the passing scenery. Travel itineraries vary and you can choose from full-on luxury hotels to basic camping, travelling by either four wheels or two – including by bicycle.

Whichever direction you decide to take out of Inverness –  north up the east coast or west to Applecross – you will have an unforgettable journey and if you are sufficiently impressed by the North Coast 500 (and you won’t fail to be) then maybe you’ll come back next year and do it the other way around!

The North Coast 500 website has suggested itineraries, where to go, what to see and do and a very useful interactive map which shows accommodation and attractions all round the route. You really must take a look.

North Coast 500 Website:

North Coast Video on Youtube

All pictures courtesy of Pixabay.com CC0