15-day trip to Scotland
Visiting Edinburgh, Stirling, John o ‘Groats, Durneses, Fort George, Invernees, Stones of Clava Cairns, Culloden, Loch Ness, Highlands, Dunnet Head, Old Man, Hoy, Orkney Islands, Kirkwall, Skara Brae, Church of Orkney, Scapa Flow, Cave of SMOE, Ullapool, Corrieshalloch Gorge, Gruinard Bay, Redpoint, Torridon, Applecross, Rona Islands, Inner Hebrides, Isle of Skye, Portree, Talisker, Neptune’s Staircase, Caledonian Canal, Fort Williams, Ben Nevis, Oban, Loch Awe, Trossachs, Mainland and the castles of Edinburgh, Blair, Glamis, Dunottar, Drum, Crathes, Balmoral, Cawdor, Stirling, Glamis, Craigievar, Braemar, Dunrobin, Eilan Donan, Stelker, Kilkhurn, Dunvegan.
We reached Edinburgh, from Venice, in only four hours , with a stopover in London and a change of plane. We rented a car so that we could freely organize our journey.
During the trip we always went to sleep, without pre-booking, in Bed & Breakfast.
The best way to present Scotland: a lonely Scot in kilt, playing the bagpipes in the middle of a lawn, whom we met along the way. Then the easiness with which you can get married and finally a tribute to beer. We bought a variety of colourful cans, all with different brands.
Edimburgh Castle, Great Hall, Palace (where Mary Stuart gave birth to James 4th), Argyle Battery, St.Margaret’s Chapel
Edinburgh is dominated by the Edinburgh Castle built on the summit of a rock.
It was interesting the square in front of the castle where the guards were on duty wearing the kilt.
We could note…that the legend is not a legend…they were really without panties!
Inside the castle, we visited the beautiful vast Great Hall, where the Scottish Parliament used to meet. In the nearby Royal Palace, where Mary, Queen of Scots, gave birth to James VI, it is interesting the room with the royal insignia.
Next to the Argyle Battery, there is the square with the military housing.
The oldest building of the castle is St. Margaret‘ s Chapel; St. Margaret is depicted in the stained glass window.
Royal Mile with many seventeenth-century palaces , Royal Palace of Holyrood
Going out of the Castle we found the Royal Mile, the road that runs downhill till the Royal Palace of Holyrood and which is characterized by beautiful seventeenth-century palaces on its sides.
It is interesting the sign of the city’s museum and the clock of one of the seventeenth-century palaces.
North British Hotel, Calton Hill, monument to the dog Bobby
Continuing the tour of the city we could see the historic North British Hotel, the Calton Hill, gardens full of flowers and two typical pubs. Finally, it was a surprise to see the monument that the people of Edinburgh dedicated to the dog Bobby. They wanted to remember its loyalty to its master; in fact, Bobby did not abandon its master’s tomb for 14 years, until its own death.
Blair Castle: residence of the Dukes of Atholl, with their own army called Atholl Highlanders
A curiosity: in 1844, Queen Victoria authorized the Dukes to have a private army, called the Atholl Highlanders. Even nowadays, there are members of this army!
Dunottar Castle and Drum Castle
We visited the spectacular ruins of the castle of Dunottar built on a cliff by the sea.
The structure of the Drum Castle is very interesting: its main building dates back to 1200 whereas the dwelling is of 1600. It was closed to the public and we could only visit to the beautiful “rose garden”, divided into four sections, from 17th to 20th century.
Crathes Castle and Balmoral Castle
The structure of the Crathes Castle dates back to 1500 and is scenically very attractive. It is characterized by rich interiors and, in particular, by some antique wooden painted ceilings.
The best feature of Crathes is given by its ornamental gardens.
Balmoral Castle, more recently built (1850), is a royal residence and cannot be visited. As in the other castles, there is an interesting park and nice gardens. A special feature: the window of Diana’s bedroom: inside we could see a mirror.
Cawdor Castle and Stirling Castle
I remember Cawdor Castle for the wonderful visual impact given by its drawbridge, the moat and the defensive tower. The impression became even more intense during the visit inside since the castle is still inhabited by the Thanes of Cawdor. It seemed as if we were prying into their privacy. The interior decoration is very “familiar” and there are interesting works exposed.
A curiosity is the huge Old Kitchen, an old and big Victorian kitchen.
The external structure of Stirling Castle is very nice; it is built on the top of a rocky hill which dominates the town. The complex is very large and looks like a fortified town.
We found the indoor rooms quite unsatisfactory: they had been recently restored and many rooms were completely empty.
We saw a characteristic old fireplace with an ancient tapestry on its top.
It is also interesting the oldest house in Scotland (dating back to 1600), owned by the Duke of Argyll.
Glamis Castle, Craigievar Castle and Braemar Castle
The Glamis Castle is one of the most picturesque of Scotland. It dates back to the sixteenth century and owes its fame to the birth, within its walls, of Princess Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth.
The Craigievar Castle, dating back to the beginning of 1600, is a tower house with many small towers.
The Braemar Castle dates back to the mid-seventeenth century. You can see it in the middle of a thick forest and is not far from the homonymous town, known to be one of the most famous ski resorts in Scotland.
Fort George: military fortification of the half of the 1700
Before reaching the city of Inverness, we stopped to visit Fort George, a huge military fortification which is represented by a plastic model.
The building, of the half of the 1700, is very interesting and has never been used for a military purpose; we could visit the bastions overlooking the sea (where we saw dolphins swimming) and some barracks in which they recreated the ancient rooms.
Inverness, surroundings: Stones of Clava (or Clava Cairns), Culloden, battle won by the English who defeated the Highlanders
Nearby, in Culloden, it took place a furious battle in which the British defeated the Highlanders (Scots), thus putting an end to their hopes of a return of a Stewart monarch.
The battle was fought “in the suggestive forest“; nowadays the forest does not exist anymore.
To remember the fight, in addition to the commemorative plaque, there are numerous stelae dedicated to the different Scottish clans destroyed during the battle.
Loch Ness: the monster’s lake and the ruined Urquhart Castle
After passing Inverness, we made a short but interesting visit to Loch Ness.
We had not the chance to meet the famous monster but the visit to the ruined Urquhart Castle was really pleasant.
Highlands: Duncasby Head, the coast from John o’ Groats to Durness, Dunnet Head, Old Man of Hoy, Cave of Smoo, Ullapool, Gruinard Bay
We arrived in the farthest north-eastern part of Scotland: the cliffs of Duncasby Head.
The panorama is very good both for the large number of puffins and for the height of the rocks overlooking the sea.
The only negative point was given by the wind and the weather: it seemed to be in November more than in July.
All the north coast is very beautiful, from John o ‘Groats to Durness, with a succession of nice landscapes: high cliffs, as at Dunnet Head, from which we could see the rock, isolated on the sea, called the Old Man of Hoy (250 meters high) which is in the homonymous island part of the Orkney archipelago.
Inland, we found a contrast of landscapes: from large expanses of green and well cultivated fields to steep mountain cliffs.
In Durnees, we visited the Smoo Cave, a deep and dark cave, which can be accessed from the sea and that we visited by boat .
There are suggestive holes in the rock through which waterfalls flow down.
We visited Ullapool and the deep Corrieshalloch Gorge, then we crossed new and increasingly wonderful views, driving along fjords, lakes or simple ponds, beautiful bays with pink sand, as the splendid Gruinard Bay.
Atlantic coast: landscapes
The days were nice so that, with the sun, seascapes and the mountains…(in fact if you do not see the sea it seems to be in the mountain)were really beautiful.
My readers will be able to enjoy, through the photos of this gallery, the beauty of the area.
towars Oban: Redpoint beach, Torridon, Applecross, monument to Prince Bonnie Charlie, Neptune’s Staircase, Fort Williams
We made a detour to visit the long beach of Redpoint and then continued to Torridon where we stayed in a B&B by the sea.
We could taste the “Haggis”, a traditional Scottish dish containing sheep’s pluck cooked in its gut.
It was very interesting to cross Applecross (626 meters), also known by the name of ” Pass of the cattle ,” from which we could enjoy excellent views of the islands of Rona and Skye. The road is narrow and seems to fall, with steep bends, on the inner fjord .
In Glenfinnan we visited the monument erected to commemorate the first victory of Prince Bonnie Charlie during the Jacobite uprising of 1745.
It was also interesting the visit to Neptune’s Staircase, consisting of a series of eight locks at the end of the Caledonian Canal; it allows pleasant craft to avoid the circumnavigation of the North of Scotland, from Invernees to Fort Williams.
Fort Williams is dominated by Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Scotland with its 1.344 meters!
The town of Oban is famous for its fishing fleet and for being the place where you can catch ferries towards the islands of the west coast .
A curiosity: Oban is dominated by McCaig’ s Tower, an unfinished imitation of the Colosseum in Rome, built at the end of the 1800. The homonymous local banker decided to build it in order to give work to the many unemployed people of the time.
Dunrobin Castle: still inhabited by Counts Sutherland; show of trained birds of prey
The days spent in the northernmost area of the Highlands have not always been characterized by a good weather. In the beginning, we found a lot of wind, low clouds and a constant threat of rain and cold temperatures (6/8 degrees).
When we found sunny days, the panorama took a completely different aspect. The small lakes, close to the sea , resembled our mountain lakes. The bracing air, the shining sun and the bright colours contributed to create a succession of beautiful landscapes.
Along the streets, all narrow and full of bends, we met several animals.
I want to represent the most characteristic ones: the Highland cattle with long red hair, the kind of sheep with the longest hair and a black swan.
The Dunrobin Castle is a huge castle which dates back to the thirteenth century and was restored several times. It is characterized by a fairy-tale architecture and has a quite spectacular location near the sea and magnificent Italian gardens.
We could visit the castle, quite interesting with its numerous well furnished rooms (the castle is still inhabited by the Counts of Sutherland; this family has been the only owner of the castle).
In the garden, we saw a show with trained birds of prey . We could admire numerous performances , some particularly impressive .
There was a number of cages full of several birds of prey, some never seen before.
Castles: Eilean Donan, Stelker e Kilkhurn. The Trossachs area, holiday resort zone for Scots
Eilean Donan Castle is the most photographed castle in Scotland and is situated in a very scenic location.
It is built on a small island within a fjord and is connected to the mainland with a footbridge.
It was interesting the visit to its interiors and the views which we could enjoyed from its windows.
The picture of the castle of Stelker is very scenic as well as that of the ruins of the Castle of Kilkhurn, built on the bank of Loch Awe.
The area of Trossachs, a holiday resort zone for the Scots, is characterized by magnificent landscapes including lakes and hills full of lush vegetation, extensive forests of pine trees, meadows of ferns and huge rhododendrons.
Orcadi: Mainland Island, Kirkwall, Bishop’s Palace, Cathedral of San Magnus, prehistoric village of Skara Brae, “Church of the Italians”
The island of Mainland, the largest of the 67 islands that form the Orkney archipelago, welcomed us with beautiful scenery. Sweet hills, cultivated fields and beautiful seascapes: high cliffs alternating with white, sandy beaches.
There were many clouds in the sky, but the wind, which was always blowing, prevented them from discharging rain.
In the capital of the Orkney Islands, Kirkwall, we visited the ruins of the Bishop’s Palace, dating back to the twelfth century, and the nearby St. Magnus Cathedral. The cemetery which surrounds the cathedral is mystical.
Also the visit to the prehistoric village of Skara Brae with settlements dating back to 3.000 BC is very interesting. It is excellently preserved because it was submerged by sand in prehistoric times and re-emerged only in 1850 as a result of a violent storm.
Before leaving the island we visited the “Church of the Italians,” a little church made in corrugated built by the Italians taken prisoner in World War II.
Isle of Skye (Ebridi): Portree, island’s capital, distillery of the famous Talisker malt, Dunvegan Castle, residence of the clan of Machead
The Isle of Skye is the largest of the Inner Hebrides and, only recently, it can be reached through a bridge that connects it to the mainland.
The town of Portree, the island’s capital, is very beautiful. The harbour is really picturesque because of a series of colourful houses.
It is interesting the tour of the island with beautiful panoramic views, including a visit to the famous malt Talisker distillery.
The Dunvegan Castle, dating back to the fifteenth century, is the historic residence of the clan of Machead in which it is kept their legendary banner.
Stirling: monument to William Wallace and the typical (and still used) telephone booths
Near the town of Stirling, on a hill, there is the monument (as a matter of fact it is a 67-meter high tower) built as a pantheon dedicated to the glories of the Scottish patriot William Wallace.
Finally, I remember the typical (and quite used) telephone booths.
There are many of them, even in the most remote places.