Posts

Showing posts from July, 2013

Culloden & Clava Cairns

Image
Highland | Culloden | Battlefield & chambered cairns | ★★★★★

Just beyond the western suburbs of Inverness, a single mile separates two historic sites dating over 3,500 years apart. The battlefield at Culloden should be on everyone's shortlist: the final conflict of the 1745 Jacobite uprising against government loyalists and the last hand-to-hand battle fought on British soil. The battlefield itself is free to visit, but you won't get much out of the experience without audio guides included in the admission price for the visitor centre. Inside the latter, a brilliant audio-visual experience results in one of Scotland's most moving visitor attractions - the National Trust for Scotland have really excelled here. Afterwards, escape from the crowds to the peaceful site of three ancient burial cairns at nearby Clava. Crawl inside to get a proper feel for the construction: don't worry, the bodies are long gone.


📌Clava Cairns★★★
Description: Three 4,000 year old burial cair…

Walk: A-maze-ing views on Knockfarrel Ridge

Image
Highland | Strathpeffer | Half day walk | ★★★

Knock Farril is Strathpeffer's local hill, guarding the town from the south with great views into the Northern Highlands from the top of the broad ridge. Every year it's the location for bonkers hill-running and cycling races, but luckily your visit can be pain-free. This circuit explores most of the ridge, with an almost imperceptible ascent via the delightful Touchstone Maze. This is an interesting stone labyrinth aligned with solstices, festivals and Scotland's geology all in mind - a sign at the site makes you realise just how complicated it is. The east end of the ridge has the best views of Cromarty Firth but the west end is the true high point (with views partly obscured by trees). The descent comes as an abrupt contrast to the straightforward preceding terrain, with a steep and narrow path threading through dense forestry to the start.


📌 Walk: A-maze-ing views on Knockfarrel Ridge ★★★
▶ 7 km / 4 miles | ▲ 260 metres
Summ…

Strathpeffer

Image
Highland | Town | ★★★

This well-kept Victorian spa town nestles in one of the quiet glens spidering out from the Cromarty Firth, overlooked by Knockfarrel Ridge. Where our photos went from our visit to the town remains a mystery. Trains used to bring in health tourists in their thousands in the late 1800s and early 1900s: the railway is now gone but the station remains, converted into the interesting Highland Museum of Childhood. Sasperillas Soda Fountain diner / ice cream shop seems to be the most modern part of Strathpeffer by several decades. Conversely, the Pictish symbol stone in a field just off the high street pre-dates all of it by well over a thousand years. The visionary Brahan Seer prophecised that Strath Peffer would be flooded if the stone fell over 3 times. It's since toppled twice, and sea levels are on the rise thanks to global warming. Perhaps it's fortunate that it's now firmly concreted down!

📌Strathpeffer ★★★
Location: G.R.: NH 483581 ///nightlife.sympho…

Walk: Hanging around Rogie Falls

Image
Highland | Contin | Short walk | ★★★★

The countryside north of Contin feels like a step change in landscape. Gone are the rolling acres of farmland and scattered settlements - beyond, you have to go all the way to the west coast before finding a village of any significant size. For scenic beauty however, the first obligatory stop is after only a couple of miles at Rogie Falls. A dramatic suspension bridge hangs over the powerful waterfall amongst spectacular Highland scenery, salmon diverted along an artificial staircase at the side. A path leads directly to the falls, but this doesn't really immerse you in the surroundings. Instead, looping around to a picturesque upper section of rapids gets you in the mood. This way, you also follow the water course downstream to the waterfall - a much more satisfying approach.


📌 Walk: Hanging around Rogie Falls ★★★★
Features: Rogie Falls
Start / finish: Rogie Falls car park, on the A835 2 miles north of Contin, G.R.: NH 442586 ///gazes.sonic.alo…

Walk: Tarbat Ness - more Cornwall than Highland?

Image
Highland | Portmahomack | Full day walk | ★★★

Tarbat Ness is a peninsula jutting into the North Sea between the Cromarty Firth and Dornoch Firth. Off the beaten track describes the area well: it has a bit of an isolated, island feel, especially if you travel here via the Cromarty Ferry. The scenery feels more Cornish than Caledonian in character, with an absence of high hills nearby and a relatively dry climate. The slim headland makes a excellent (although quite rough) circuit feasible, passing the stripy lighthouse before returning along the peninsula's eastern shore, past a restored castle home sitting on the low cliffs close to Rockfield hamlet. Portmahomack, the seaside village at the start, is pretty enough to merit a quick exploration even without the walk.


📌 Walk: Tarbat Ness - more Cornwall than Highland? ★★★
▶ 14 km / 9 miles | ▲ 290 metres | ⌚ Full day walk
Features: Portmahomack; Tarbat Ness; Tarbatness Lighthouse; Ballone Castle
Start / finish: Car park towards the sout…

Drumnadrochit & Urquhart Castle

Image
Highland | Drumnadrochit | Village sights | ★★★★

The crowds of Loch Ness and its main tourist sites reach new heights at the village of Drumnadrochit. This seems to have become the main centre for Loch Ness Monster enthusiasts, with and a couple of Nessie-related attractions have sprung up accordingly: one probably worth a visit, the other disappointing in our opinion. Just round the corner, Urquhart Castle is the only Historic Scotland attraction we've ever had to queue for besides Edinburgh Castle. This 13th century ruin is a true Scotland icon, romantically situated overlooking the loch with a bloody history owing to the Wars of Independence. Crowds spoilt our mid-afternoon visit - coming here early in the day might be a good bet. This is an area we hate to love, but always do. The nearby waterfall on the Divach Burn is reputedly impressive after heavy rainfall (we visited during a dry spell), slightly off the tourist trail and all the more peaceful for it.


📌Falls of Divach ★★
D…

Invermoriston Falls

Image
Highland | Invermoriston | Waterfall | ★★

The translation of the River Moriston from its Gaelic roots into English as River of the waterfalls is a big clue that it might be worth stopping off here. Fortunately most people don't speak Gaelic and drive right by, ensuring this beauty spot remains relatively quiet by local standards. Here, the burn tumbles haphazardly across bands of rock in a determined effort to reach nearby Loch Ness. These aren't the highest waterfalls in the region by any means, but they're a pleasant place for a short wander, or to let off steam after being stuck behind a slow lorry on the A82 for the last mile or 10. Even the local Highland Cows are friendly...


📌Invermoriston Falls ★★
Location: Off A82 immediately south of Invermoriston, G.R.: NH 421164 ///shook.asks.highly
Anything else? From the main village car park on the A82 at G.R.: NH 420167 ///dinosaur.pelted.shoelaces it's a 5-min walk to the nearest rapids. Follow the clear path south, paral…

Walk: Carn an t-Suidhe - a hill made for tourists

Image
Highland | Loch Ness | Short walk | ★★★

The main road along the east side of Loch Ness passes right by the base of Carn an t-Suidhe. This hillock isn't notable for its height, dramatic terrain or scenery on the way to the summit. But it's a popular stop-off so there's a good path, views from the top are decent and it's less than a mile's round trip. Therefore, if you're passing by in good weather then a quick trip up's pretty much obligatory.


📌 Walk: Carn an t-Suidhe - a hill made for tourists ★★★
▶ 1 km / <1 mile | ▲ 60 metres Summits: Carn an t-Suidhe (450 metres) Start / finish: Layby on B862 4 miles southwest of Whitebridge, G.R.: NH 450105 ///attention.window.bus
Route: Layby - Carn an t-Suidhe - return by outward route Terrain: Straightforward, clear path with gentle ascent. Wildlife today: Several deer wandering the nearby deforested plantations. Weather today: Sun, large clouds and light winds.


Route map
Route credit: Scotland off the beaten track

Walk: Fantastic Falls of Foyers

Image
Highland | Loch Ness | Short walk | ★★★★

A short drive along the narrow shore road from Dores brings you to the village of Foyers, scattered across the hillside high above Loch Ness. A short walk takes you to viewpoints for the breathtaking waterfalls on the River Foyers. The scenery seems almost North American in character here, trees towering high above a seemingly bottomless chasm, filled with mist when the river's in spate. As is usually the case with waterfalls, photographs don't capture the true scale of the terrain - you have to actually be there. The area is deserving of exploration all the way down to the houses in Lower Foyers where the river runs into the loch. We found the area beyond here a bit anti-climatic, so it's probably worth turning tail here and burning some calories on the steep ascent back towards the car park.


📌 Walk: Fantastic Falls of Foyers ★★★★
▶ 3 km / 2 miles | ▲ 120 metres
Features: Falls of Foyers
Start / finish: Car park on B852 next to Foyer…

Dores viewpoint

Image
Highland | Viewpoint | ★★

Dores is your first point of contact with Loch Ness when exploring it in a clockwise direction from Inverness. There's not much to the village itself, although we can recommend the Dores Inn, with a beautiful outlook over the water especially at sunset. And indeed, it's the views that bring visitors to Dores: it's a perfect place to stand and gaze along the loch towards Fort Augustus and the hill of Meall Fuar-mhonaidh... at least if you're there before the crowds arrive. A key highlight for fans of the Loch Ness Monster is a camper van / kiosk on the beach belonging to Steve Feltham - a full-time Nessie hunter.


📌Dores viewpoint ★★
Location: G.R.: NH 599348 ///geese.moment.sunblock

Loch Ness

Image
Highland | Drumnadrochit | Loch | ★★★

Loch Ness is the Scotland's largest loch by volume, extending 23 miles southwest from near Inverness, and containing more water than all of the lakes in England and Wales combined. This is one of the most popular destinations in the Highlands. Why? Mostly because of the Loch Ness Monster which (probably...) inhabits the deeps here, and reputedly contributes £41 million to the Scottish economy each year. Whether or not you catch a glimpse of Nessie doesn't matter, as a varied set of visitor attractions and beauty spots encircle the loch, often irritatingly crowded in peak season but deservedly so. The distances involved make it an ideal day's driving tour from Inverness, taking in Dores, the Falls of Foyers and Carn an t-Suidhe on the quieter east bank en route to Fort Augustus at the head of the loch. Invermoriston, Urquhart Castle and Drumnadrochit on the busy west bank complete the circuit. As for whether it's worth coming all th…

Leith Hall

Image
Aberdeenshire | Kennethmont | Stately home | ★★★

After half a decade of closure, Leith Hall opened to the public once again in 2013; the photos here were taken on re-opening day. Originally built in the 17th century for defensive purposes, the property belonged to the Leith family for ten generations. Like so many historic family homes, it was expanded and altered over the years to the more comfortable property you see today. The extensive grounds and gardens are as much of a draw as the house's grand interior (but a bit muddy on our visit).


📌Leith Hall★★★
Location: B9002 a mile north of Kennethmont, G.R.: NJ 541298 ///dusters.producers.historic
Open (2019): House: Friday to Monday, July to August; weekends, early April to June & September to late October. Gardens: daily
Cost (2019): £11 (adults), £9.50 (children), free for National Trust for Scotland members

Walk: Beinn a' Bhuird & Ben Avon - Cairngorms marathon

Image
Aberdeenshire | Braemar | Full day walk | ★★★★★

The formidable hulks of Beinn a' Bhuird and Ben Avon comprise some of the highest and most inhospitable ground in the country. Both are extensive and remote plateaus: the former fringed by dramatic cliffs, the latter capped with a cluster of rocky tors. Both can be tackled in a single, epic day by one of the most memorable walks in the Cairngorms. At a monstrous 37 km in distance, this is a serious undertaking, passing through terrain miles from the nearest road. On a summer day in good conditions however, long daylight hours make the circuit feasible for experienced walkers, with wonderfully varied terrain keeping interest going as the legs inevitably tire. Just one highlight of the journey is that it passes the "Hidden Bothies": possibly as many as three separate shelters blending into the hillside around the intimate upper part of Gleann an t-Slugain. They're not marked on maps (and shouldn't be confused with the…

Craigellachie Bridge

Image
Moray | Craigellachie | Bridge | ★★

Tucked away next to the important Speyside road hub of Craigellachie is a majestic, cast iron bridge soaring above the River Spey, with castle-like towers flanking each end. Thomas Telford built this single arch span in 1812-15, making the oldest of its type still surviving in Scotland; it's now bypassed by the main road leaving it easy to explore on foot. The views from the bridge are good, but you should also take a short path from the car park down to the river bank to see the arch in its full glory - it's also a nice spot for a picnic on a sunny day.


📌Craigellachie Bridge ★★
Location: By A941 / A95 junction, 5-min walk west of Craigellachie, G.R.: NJ 286452 ///awoke.breath.joggers
Open: Always
Cost: Free

Glen Esk

Image
Angus | Angus Glens | Glen Esk sights | ★★

The road north from Edzell winds for 15 unhurried miles into the heart of the Cairngorms. Tarfside is the capital by default - it's pretty much the only settlement, with a tiny school but no shop. All the Angus Glens are lovely, but Glen Esk probably offers the widest variety of attractions, with an interesting folk museum, ruined castle and the prominent Maule Monument as well as more serious hill walks. Not to mention the Queen's Well and Balnamoon's Cave even further up the glen. Lots to explore here amongst beautiful surroundings, and usually delightfully quiet.


📌Glen Esk Folk Museum★★
Description: Interesting museum documenting Glen Esk and Angus country life, with a decent cafe.
Location: Minor road a mile east of Tarfside, G.R.: NO 509789 ///impresses.oatmeal.branch
Open (2019): Closed for refurbishment.
Cost: Free

📌Invermark Castle ★★
Description: Tall tower house ruin probably dating to the 16th century - note the first floor …

Walk: Heathery Hill of Rowan

Image
Angus | Angus Glens | Half day walk | ★★★

The cone-shaped Maule Monument is a prominent landmark, crowning gentle Hill of Rowan in beautiful Glen Esk. The monument dates from 1866, built as a memorial to the local Panmure family. Beautiful purple hues created by blooming heather makes this an idyllic summer wander starting from the remote hamlet of Tarfside.


📌 Walk: Heathery Hill of Rowan ★★★
▶ 7 km / 4 miles | ▲ 200 metres
Summits: Hill of Rowan (380 metres)
Start / finish: Car park on minor road at Tarfside, G.R.: NO 493797 ///comedy.ignites.plants

Route: Car park - leave main track at G.R. NO 475799 - Hill of Rowan - track near Stylemouth - join minor road east of Blackness - start. It may be possible to reduce the road walking on the return by crossing the North Esk near Dalbrack, following the track on the south bank to Buskhead before crossing back. However, the bridge at Buskhead is marked as private and unsafe, so couldn't be recommended.
Terrain: Pleasant tracks, fainter on f…

House of Dun

Image
Angus | Montrose | Stately home | ★★★

The House of Dun is a stunning Georgian stately home situated in pleasant Angus countryside between Brechin and Montrose, not far from the mud flats of Montrose Basin nature reserve. As you'd expect from a National Trust for Scotland property, the house interior is furnished lavishly, with equally beautiful gardens. On a good weather day, let the train take the strain from the Brechin to nearby Bridge of Dun (10 minutes from the House). This makes a nice addition to poking around the town and its cathedral. In fact, you can't really say you've "dun" Brechin without it...


📌House of Dun★★★
Location: A935 4 miles west of Montrose, G.R.: NO 670599 ///palace.golden.contour
Open (2019): House: Saturday to Wednesday, late March to late October; weekends, late October to late November. Gardens: daily
Cost (2019): £11 (adults), £9.50 (children)

Brechin

Image
Angus | Brechin | Cathedral & heritage railway | ★★★

When is a city not a city? When it's Brechin City. The town's ancient cathedral (complete with an 11th century round tower) is responsible for the illusions of grandeur held by the local football club (Brechin City) and other organisations. In reality the town itself won't hold your attention for long. Once you've exhausted the options in the centre, take the steam railway 4 miles to the House of Dun. There used to be a good museum relating to the Picts on the outskirts of town, but this closed in 2014.


📌Brechin Cathedral & Round Tower★★
Description: Small, 13th century cathedral and earlier, unusual round tower.
Location: Church Street, town centre, G.R.: NO 596601 ///pegs.contain.steep
Open (2019): Daily (Round Tower: exterior only)
Cost: Free

📌Caledonian Railway★★★
Description: Heritage steam railway linking Brechin to the Bridge of Dun, close to the House of Dun estate.
Location (Brechin station): Park Road, 5-…