Showing posts from June, 2012

Balmoral Castle

Aberdeenshire | Crathie | Castle | ★★★

Balmoral is the Royal Family's main holiday residence in Scotland, with the estate first purchased from Lord Aberdeen during Queen Victoria's reign. The castle you see today was built during the next decade: a beautiful building in Scots Baronial style, smaller than you might expect. Be aware: most of the castle itself (apart from the Ballroom) isn't open to the public. Various exhibitions and extensive grounds form part of the package, but the admission price still seems quite high in terms of what you get in return.

📌Balmoral Castle★★★
Location: Off B976 at Crathie, G.R. NO 254950 ///
Open (2019): Daily, April to July
Cost (2019): £11.50 (adults), £6 (children)
Anything else? From the huge car park (with charge) at G.R.: NO 264949 ///gambles.goats.novel it's a 15-min walk to the castle, mostly on level tarmac.

Drum Castle

Aberdeenshire | Drumoak | Castle | ★★★★

Former home of Clan Irvine, Drum Castle has got to be one of north-east Scotland's best castles, up against stiff competition. Close to Aberdeen's city limits, the key draw is the combination of its respective parts from periods centuries apart, making it feel almost like you're visiting multiple castles instead of one. The tower house is one of the country's oldest, dating to the early 13th century and still in amazing condition considering its age. Meanwhile, the finely-furnished mansion extension is a mere four centuries old, with further surrounding buildings added even more recently. The intimate chapel stands amongst trees just off to the side, while a large walled garden well-known for its roses in summer occupies east-facing slopes on the other side.

📌Drum Castle★★★★
Location: Minor road off A93 a mile north of Drumoak, G.R.: NJ 796005 ///beyond.notices.treetop
Open (2019): Castle: daily, June to August; Thursday to Monday,…

Findlater Castle

Aberdeenshire | Sandend | Castle | ★★

There isn't much left of Findlater Castle: just a few precarious walls and vaults threatening to collapse into the sea at any moment. But the reason to visit is the dramatic setting - on a par with any other Scottish castle, hanging grimly onto a rocky promontory above the turbulent North Sea. Coastal erosion aside, it was obviously once a formidable defensive location, surrounded by vertical cliffs on three sides and with a stone causeway complete with double drawbridge on the remaining landward edge. Paths do lead out onto the headland but you can get a good view from the main path without risking life and limb too. There's a carpark fairly nearby, but visiting the castle as part of a coastal walk between Sandend and Cullen makes an even better trip.

📌 Findlater Castle ★★
Location: On the coast, off minor road a mile west of Sandend, G.R.: NJ 542672 ///recorders.congested.violinist
Open: Always
Cost: Free
Anything else? From the car park at…

Walk: Sandend to Cullen - clifftop caper

Aberdeenshire / Moray | Sandend | Half day walk | ★★★

Perilously-perched Findlater Castle is just one highlight of the wonderfully scenic stretch of coastline divided by the border between Aberdeenshire and Moray. This route is bookended by two of the North East's most picturesque fishing villages, with tiny Sandend at the start contrasting massively with bustling Cullen. The first half of the route mainly keeps to clifftop paths, with the second often running around rocky bays below the cliffs. A bus is needed to return to the start (or walk back the same way, doubling the distance).

📌 Walk: Findlater Castle - at your peril ★★★
▶ 7 km / 4 miles | ▲ 150 metres
Features: Sandend; Findlater Castle; Cullen (viaduct, village, harbour, bay)
Start: A98 at the minor road junction for Sandend, G.R.: NJ 554656 ///cello.pretty.quack. N.B. This is not a circular route.
Finish: Car park at The Square, Cullen village centre, G.R.: NJ 512671 ///zoos.define.owls
Transport to start: Park at the finis…


Aberdeenshire | Village | ★★

Sandend is a place made up from an unusual cocktail of components: tiny coastal village and harbour, large caravan park and working distillery. The individual parts are compact but there's no obvious centre to Sandend overall. Except perhaps its beach? Magical Sandend Bay is a gorgeous stretch of perfect golden sand, quiet outside the holiday season and providing the link on foot between houses and distillery. What the village lacks in facilities it makes up for in wonderful coastal walks, both east towards Portsoy and west towards Findlater Castle.

📌Sandend ★★
Location: G.R.: NJ 555665 ///

Within walking distance

📌Glenglassaugh Distillery★★★
Description: Small, coastal distillery on the boundary between the Speyside and Highland whisky regions.
Location: A98 2 miles west of Portsoy, G.R.: NJ 561658 ///buck.seashell.banana
Open (2019): Weekdays - check in advance during winter
Cost (2019): £5+ depending on tour type

📌Sandend Bay ★★★


Moray | Village | ★★★

Cullen's attractive streets reliably fill up with tourists each summer holiday at the slightest hint of good weather. And with good reason: this is a village famed for both its scenery and its food. The delicious haddock soup known as Cullen Skink originated here (lunch perhaps?), and The Ice Cream Shop has a deserved and loyal following from visitors far and wide. There are good views over the lower cottages of Seatown, its harbour and sandy beach from the former railway viaduct, now a cycle path, and also from the higher east end of the village. There's even a well-kept pet cemetery by the coast path just beyond the human one. Don't miss the excellent walk from Cullen harbour along the coast to the amazing sight of Bow Fiddle Rock - just pushing the coastline to the east into second place.

📌Cullen ★★★
Location: G.R.: NJ 512671 ///mush.dive.vans

Within walking distance

📌Cullen Bay ★★★
Description: Beautiful sandy beach - mostly hidden at high tide - stu…

Walk: Knock Knock... Hill's there?

Aberdeenshire | Gordonstown | Short walk | ★★★

Knock Hill's moorland rises prominently above northern Aberdeenshire's fertile farmland. 430 metres is a lot of height in these parts, and you certainly feel it on the unrelenting, direct ascent, not helped by a path littered with loose stones. Feel sorry for the poor souls who take part in the annual hill race. On the plus side, the views are stunning on a clear day, taking in large parts of north-east Scotland's low ground, coastline and the northern foothills of the Cairngorms.

📌 Walk: Knock Knock... Hill's there? ★★★
▶ 2 km / 1 mile | ▲ 240 metres
Summits: Knock Hill (430 metres, sub-2000')
Start / finish: Layby by sharp bend in minor road at Swilebog, 2 miles southwest of Gordonstown, G.R. NJ 547553 ///

Route: Layby - Knock Hill - return by outward route
Terrain: Short section of muddy track, then clear but unrelentingly steep and narrow path, rocky and muddy in places.
Wildlife today: Not much..…


Moray | Village | ★

Dufftown is probably the whisky capital of Scotland, and therefore the world. Although not actually on the River Spey, the village is an essential waypoint on Speyside's Malt Whisky Trail, and home to half a dozen distilleries producing Speyside whisky. World-famous Glenfiddich Distillery and little-known Balvenie Distillery are on the north side of town and both offer tours. The village itself isn't particularly exciting, but enjoying your visit here doesn't have to depend on downing drams. There's also an imposing 13th century castle and a heritage railway taking visitors 11 miles through varied Moray countryside to the village of Keith. The railway station, castle and both distilleries offering tours are all within a few minutes' walk of each other (although a little way from the centre) - combine them all for a perfect day out.

📌Dufftown ★
Location: G.R.: NJ 324400 ///farmed.hiring.crew

Within walking distance

📌Balvenie Castle★★
Description: Ru…

Walk: Mighty Macdui & the Big Grey Man

Aberdeenshire | Cairngorm Plateau | Full day walk | ★★★★

It's a long way to Ben Macdui from Deeside, but this is a journey worth every step. It's also a long way up despite the high start height: Ben Macdui is the UK's second highest summit after Ben Nevis, and a much more serious affair. And it's haunted, with a ghostly apparition known as the Grey Man known to patrol the summit plateau. On a wild day when the cloud is down... well, you never know. Like many expeditions into the Cairngorms interior, this is a circuit involving a long albeit scenic approach along valley floor tracks (and another at the end of the day). But in addition there's one of the best narrow ridges in the Cairngorms, a trio of Munro summits to enjoy, and a magnificent high mountain feel on the north-eastern slopes of Ben Macdui overlooking Loch Etchachan.

📌 Walk: Mighty Macdui & the Big Grey Man ★★★★
▶ 32 km / 20 miles | ▲ 1320 metres
Summits: Carn a' Mhaim (1037 metres, Munro); Ben M…

Walk: In defence of Ben Chonzie

Perth & Kinross | Crieff | Full day walk | ★★★

Ben Chonzie's lumpy, undramatic profile gets a bad rep amongst walkers despite its accessible, southerly location: in fact, it's often unfairly referred to as the most boring Munro! But most people climb it from Glen Lednock: a shorter walk, but with few distinguishing features. Approach from Loch Turret on the south-eastern side and things get much more interesting: the approach along the reservoir is surrounded by craggy hillside which can be explored on the return route. There's often a bit of a mudbath beyond Lochan Uaine - at least it's only brief.

📌 Walk: In defence of Ben Chonzie ★★★
▶ 16 km / 10 miles | ▲ 940 metres
Summits: Ben Chonzie (931 metres, Munro); Meall na Sèide (757 metres); Càrn Chòis (786 metres) | Features: Loch Turret
Start / finish: Car park at Loch Turret dam, 4 miles northwest of Crieff, G.R.: NN 821264 ///retiring.foggy.jumps

Route: Car park - Lochan Uaine via east bank of Loch Turret - Bealach …

Ganavan Sands

Argyll & Bute | Oban | Beach | ★★★

Rusting swings, a new housing development and a caravan park all nearby... Ganavan Sands certainly isn't your typical West Highland beach. But keep your eyes firmly out to sea (or to the north) and there's a wonderful outlook over the islands of Lismore and Mull - especially alluring at sunset at the end of a clear day. It's only a few minutes' drive from Oban, but amazingly the locals seem to take it for granted: the beach was deserted when we visited on a calm June evening.

📌Ganavan Sands ★★★
Location: End of Ganavan Road, 2 miles north of Oban, G.R.: NM 862328 ///cackling.nature.await
Anything else? Best at low tide, though there's always some sand above the high water level.

McCaig's Tower

Argyll & Bute | Oban | Monument | ★★★

On a clear evening as the sun sets on Oban Bay, time seems to stand still at McCaig's Tower. This circular folly is the busier of two exquisite vantage points for Oban (the other being Pulpit Hill), with daytime ferries plying to and fro between the harbour and the maze of islands making up the western seaboard. The tower itself was commissioned by a wealthy banker in 1897, built to commemorate his family and give work to local stonemasons. In the end it was never completed, leaving an empty shell with no real purpose except as a prominent component of Oban's skyline, well worth the steep uphill climb from the centre of town.

📌McCaig's Tower ★★★
Location: Duncraggan Road, 10-min uphill walk northeast of Oban town centre, G.R.: NM 861302 ///internet.perch.uplifting
Open: Always
Cost: Free

Arduaine Garden

Argyll & Bute | Arduaine | Garden | ★★★★

With a stunning, sunny and sheltered location overlooking Asknish Bay and the island of Shuna, Arduaine is one of our favourite Scottish gardens, protected from harsh winters by the warming maritime influence. It's renowned for its rhododendrons but there's far wider appeal than that with plants from all over the globe: South America and East Asia in particular. They're spread around a beautiful site with areas ranging from hideaway walkways to ponds, immaculate lawns and shady woodland. The out-of-the-way location adds to the peaceful feel: visit early or late in the day and you'll probably have the place pretty much to yourself.

📌Arduaine Garden★★★★
Location: A816 at Arduaine, G.R.: NM 796104 ///
Open (2019): Daily except over Christmas & New Year period, but best in late spring / early summer
Cost (2019): £7.50 (adults), £5.50 (children), free for National Trust for Scotland members