visit iona abbey.

Pilgrim or lover of the outdoors, the Isle of Iona is a must

There's more than one reason to visit Iona Iona has that powerful draw that puts conventional tourist destinations firmly in the shade. A centre of Christianity the tiny island is trumped only by Jerusalem in my own experience as a route to pilgrimage for the religiously devoted. The appeal does not end with religion though as Iona is one of Scotland’s most visually rewarding islands and, for first time visitors, the path to an addiction to the West coast. With spirituality in the air the short boat trip from Mull kicks off a day of soul therapy. I have no
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culross palace

A visit to the Royal Burgh of Culross

Stepping back in time in Culross From my time working in Belgium in recent years, I’ve often heard of the town of Bruges referred to as a place where time has stood still. Where seemingly little has changed over the years, decades and centuries. I see the Fife village of Culross as Scotland’s Bruges. Smaller certainly and minus the chocolate and beer worth retiring for, but still an amazingly preserved 16th and 17th Century coastal haven. The town’s top attraction is the Palace. Now, get that image of Buckingham Palace-esque buildings out of your mind immediately. Not that kind of
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caerlaverock castle blog.

Castle hunting in war-ravaged Southern Scotland

Caerlaverock Castle Not since I was in primary school have I seen its like before. Upon arrival at Caerlaverock Castle way down in the south of Scotland I’m faced with a brief documentary by none other than the wonderful Tony Robinson. That’s Baldrick from Blackadder, you remember. I can still recall the school TV room smell and those awful wooden-blocks-held-up-by-metal-bars-with-some-sort-of-plastic-coating seats that we had to perch on. The house lights would be dimmed (the vertical blinds were yanked to a semi-shut state), the TV is wheeled in (yes, wheeled, and by today’s standards it looks like something that might be
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what to do in scotland

Beginner’s guide to visiting Scotland

Where to go in Scotland - some early planning tips Ok Neil, help me, where in Scotland should I be going for the best bits? Some of my customers know exactly what they want and need from me, others haven’t a clue. So this is a familiar question in my inbox. Here’s my attempt at joining the early dots for some of the most popular reasons for coming to these shores.   The Outdoors “…..then I plan to spend the weekend in ‘the Highlands’.” Ah yes, but beware, this could mean just about anything. The Highlands are a vast, vast
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Exploring Glenfinnan and that famous view over Loch Shiel

Glenfinnan Monument and Loch Shiel It is one of the most famous images in Scotland and one certain to cause of jump of the heart for Harry Potter fans. Glenfinnan and the stunning view over Loch Shiel are the Scottish Highlands at their dramatic best. Historically significant as the starting point of the final Jacobite rising it is now also the highlight of one of the world’s great train journeys aboard the Jacobite Steam Train. In 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie landed for the first time on the Scottish mainland near Glenfinnan and announced to his followers his intention to re-take
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The stunning panorama atop Dumbarton Rock

Why I wouldn't want to attack Dumbarton Castle Dumbarton Castle is one of the most under-hyped in Scotland. It doesn’t even get a mention in Lonely Planet’s Scotland guide, a glaring omission for this castle lover. Dramatically situated on Dumbarton Rock, the stunning panoramic views over the Firth of Clyde reveal much about the strategic importance of this spot in centuries past. The volcanic Dumbarton Rock is a powerful mass standing at 240 feet. The idea of putting a military stronghold on it has to be an act of genius. Although the many steps now pose problems for the less
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highland games

The Scottish Highland Games experience

A day out at the Stirling Highland Games By mid-August, Highland Games season is slowly drawing to a close for 2014. Of the lowland ones I have attended, Stirling comes out top for me this year. A terrific setting, surprisingly good catering options and a nice range of activities make for a great day out. Of course the scale of some of the Highland Games in the north are without equal but for accessibility to the central region, there is still much to love about those further south. The Stirling Highland Games have moved recently to the Sports Village to
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applecross peninsula

Scotland at its most naturally brilliant

Another Great Scotland Road Trip - Ullapool to Applecross The latest in the series of Great Scottish Drives, this one is truly a jaw dropper of a road trip. Ullapool is as close as you are likely to get to a proper hub in this stretch of Scotland’s west coast so make sure you’ve got all necessary supplies (and petrol!) from the town before setting off. This is a journey that is stunning pretty much from start to finish. No thesaurus of words for ‘beautiful’ would ever be big enough, so I’ll try to keep the gushing to a minimum
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scotland conical munro

Hiking Scotland’s Conical Mountain

Taking on one of Scotland's most popular Munros Schiehallion’s distinctive conical shape makes it one of the best known and most popular Munros in Scotland. It is also a terrific option for beginner hiking enthusiasts looking to experience the great Scottish outdoors. I love driving in Perthshire. It feels a wee bit like cheating given that I’m less than two hours away from Glasgow and yet already immersed in stunning and diverse Highland scenery. Nature is at its best here too with endless trees (including the world’s oldest at Fortingall), lochs and glens to keep the driver shooting the passenger
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day trip dunrobin castle

Prepare for the unexpected and spectacular at Dunrobin Castle

A day trip to Dunrobin Castle I’m snaking my way north on one of my long Highland drives. Certain sights become familiar. Certain sights become expected. Then I’m staring down the monster driveway of Dunrobin Castle, a Baroque masterpiece and the biggest house in all of the Highlands. Dunrobin Castle is to be found on the east coast heading north from Inverness, just past the town of Golspie. The west coast of the Northern Highlands justifiably generates much of the ballyhoo in these parts but the castle is reason enough not to ignore the east. So what of the history
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falkland palace.

Off the tourist trail in Falkland, Fife

Falkland Palace and why it is well worth a stop Fife and neighbouring Perthshire both pull in the tourists en masse every year. Whether here for the golfing around St Andrews, to marvel at the East Neuk or just to pass through on the road north to the Highlands, it's always a popular area. The little town of Falkland, though, is often by-passed. Maybe it's because of its barely-even-there mentions in the guide books, or that Old Course fever has defeated all rational thought or just that the coach driver has never heard of it. Regardless, this is one that
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great scottish drives aberdeen to elgin

Great Scottish Drives: Aberdeen to Elgin

The Glorious Journey from Aberdeen to Elgin Another day on the road. Tank's filled, aviators on, 80’s rock blissfully fills the ears…. This trip jumps between two of the urban hubs in Scotland’s north east and snakes past some of the unmistakable things that make Scotland special. From the Granite City of Aberdeen to the Central Highland town of Elgin this is the latest in my series of Great Scottish Drives. First thing to note. Do not take the most direct route. The diagonal A96 road is unimpressive, head west instead on the A93 and take it on at a
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looking over threave castle

A peaceful treasure in Dumfries and Galloway

Exploring Threave Castle, Estate and Gardens I’m having a bit of a fascination with Dumfries and Galloway these days. I’ve always been a fan of this under-visited part of Scotland but the recent terrific weather in the region makes it even more glorious. A daunting castle, nature spotting in abundance and the magnificent Threave Gardens make for one of Southern Scotland’s best day trips. I’m history daft so it’s off to the Castle first of all. It’s on an island, always a great start. Amazing what thirty seconds in a boat can do for the romance of a place. A
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cover photo beinn ghlas cover

Out and about in Perthshire

Climbing Ben Lawers and Beinn Ghlas This may be recklessly premature, but this is turning into a wonderful Scottish summer. Clear blue skies and 20 odd degree temperatures are usually an extreme rarity in these parts but today has just been the latest of several in 2014. Days like this need two things – an amazing mountain to defeat and an appropriately placed watering hole for an amazing pint afterwards. I know just the place. Perthshire is perfect as a Glasgow or Edinburgh day trip destination. Outdoor options abound and the hard part is knowing where to target first. If
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arbroath declaration within the ruins of the town abbey

Scottish Independence and the role of Arbroath Abbey

The Arbroath Declaration and Arbroath Abbey 2014 is a big year for Scotland. In September all of us living here will be voting on whether or not to leave the rest of the United Kingdom and become a fully independent country. Big decisions, history potentially in the making. Today I’m in Arbroath to see the original Declaration of Arbroath that came into being in the 14th Century and that outlined the case for Scotland’s independence as Robert the Bruce’s wars drew to a close. After the glorious victory at Bannockburn, the Bruce’s Scotland sought the thumbs up from the Pope
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visiting culloden

A visit to Culloden battlefield

The Jacobite Rising and the Battle of Culloden Any visitor to Scotland will come across the story of the Jacobites in some shape or form. The cause represents one of the most interesting, bloody, complicated and confusing periods in Scottish history. It also created one of Scotland’s most recognisable faces, that of Bonnie Prince Charlie. But what was the fuss all about? Jump aboard and head back to 1685 to the rule of James VII of Scotland and II of England and Ireland. His preference for Catholicism was not going down well with the Protestants in his kingdom. They turned
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great scottish drives

The amazing Highland drive from Durness to Ullapool

Great Scottish Drives: Durness to Ullapool One of my most common occurrences in helping people decide on the details of their trip to Scotland is the issue of whether or not to drive. All of this wrong side of the road caper that discourages a lot of people from other shores is an unfortunate deterrent for many drivers. Don’t be put off is my response. It may be a worry at first but the chance to find your Scottish freedom and explore off the beaten coach-tour track is an opportunity that would be tragic to miss. The drive from Durness
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things to do near glasgow

The David Livingstone Centre and Bothwell Castle

Things to do near Glasgow Why do I love Glasgow so much? It’s a question that I get asked quite frequently, usually by people who have visited on one of our many rainy days. There’s a long roundabout way of answering this question but to put it succinctly, it’s about the people more than anything else. There’s a hospitality and a humour here that’s unmatched. While I’m gushing praise, another traditional trait is the desire to explore, to be entrepreneurs and pioneers. History is full of great Glaswegians. Not many though have led such an impressive, challenging and absolutely spectacular
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applecross inn

The long and winding road to the Applecross Inn

The Applecross Inn - Scottish dining at its best The journey is nothing short of petrifying. I don't recall ever facing a road like it, not even in rural China. Twists and turns, sheer drops, crumbling roads, a constant ascent in second gear at best, sheer babbling terror at the sight of an oncoming vehicle half a mile away.....My definition of hairpin bend stretched to new limits with the Bealach na Ba. If you attempt this drive at night you will very likely die, I'm quite sure of that. Even in daylight I'm astonished its legal. Damn good fun though.
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loch ness castle

Highlights of a drive around Loch Ness

Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle There are few more Scottish sights than that of Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness on a misty day. Involuntary bagpipes fill your ears and your mind’s eye is consumed with thoughts of kilts, shortbread and a bloody big monster that lurks beneath the waves waiting for his moment. Well, no, that last bit’s nonsense but it’s still a powerful image. Loch Ness has long been a major pull for the tourist masses desperate to see the largest of Scotland’s lochs and get caught up in the fanfare and occasional hysteria re the
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