Showing posts from July, 2013


Highland | Culloden | Battlefield | ★★★★★

Just beyond the western suburbs of Inverness lies one of Scotland's most emotive places. The battlefield at Culloden should be on any visitor'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, with cairns, graves and flags marking out key events from the conflict. But the experience is greatly enhanced by audio guides included in the admission price for the visitor centre. Inside the latter, a event is retold another way: through a memorably brilliant audio-visual exhibition. Don't be surprised if the whole experience brings more than a couple of tears to your eyes.

Location & info

📌 Culloden★★★★★
By the B9006 2 mi east of Westhill, G.R.: NH 745450 ///folks.attend.fiction
Open daily | Visitor centre: £11 adult / £9.50 child / free for National Trust for Scotland members. Battlefield: free, but…


Highland | Town | ★★★

This well-kept Victorian spa town nestles in one of the broad 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. Just up the road, locals rave about the Red Poppy Restaurant, though we haven't yet been lucky enough to try it for ourselves. Most of the town is pleasantly old-fashioned and fairly quiet, so the bonkers Strathpuffer cycling race held each winter to the north of town seems quite out of keeping. A Pictish symbol stone in a field just off the high street pre-dates all of this 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 a…

Walk: Hanging around Rogie Falls

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 ★★★★
Start / finish at Rogie Falls car park, A835 2 mi north of Contin, G.R.: NH 442586 ///gazes.sonic.alone

▶ 2 km / 1 mi | ▲ 50 m | …

Walk: Tarbat Ness - from Cornwall to shorn wool

Highland | Portmahomack | Full day walk | ★★★

Tarbat Ness is a peninsula jutting into the North Sea between the Cromarty and Dornoch firths. 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 and its flocks of sheep before returning along the peninsula's eastern shore, past a restored castle home sitting on the low cliffs close to Rockfield hamlet. Portmahomack, the idyllic fishing village at the start, is pretty enough to merit a quick exploration even without the walk.

📌 Walk: Tarbat Ness - from Cornwall to shorn wool ★★★
Start / finish at car park on Main Street (B9165) towards the south end of Portmahomack, G.R.: NH 914842 ///fuse.salad.geek

▶ 14 km / 9 mi …


Highland | Village | ★★

Out on a limb on the fertile Tarbat Ness peninsula, sleepy Portmahomack feels more like a Cornish village than a Highland one, except without the peak season crowds. A sandy beach, small harbour, couple of restaurants and good coastal walks makes this a pleasant day trip destination, perhaps as a detour from the busy North Coast 500.


📌 Portmahomack ★★
Highland, G.R.: NH 916845 ///reply.most.suiting

🚌 Catch a bus from Tain.

See & do (<1 mi away)

>> Walk: Tarbat Ness - from Cornwall to shorn wool★★★

Drumnadrochit & Urquhart Castle

Highland | Drumnadrochit | Village sights | ★★★★

The crowds of Loch Ness and its main tourist sites reach new heights at the village of Drumnadrochit. This is an area we hate to love, but always do. The settlement seems to have become the main centre for Loch Ness Monster enthusiasts, and a couple of Nessie-related attractions have sprung up accordingly; one is 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. The 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, so coming here early in the day might be a good bet. 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.

Location &am…

Invermoriston Falls

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. Even the local Highland Cows are friendly!

Location & info

📌 Invermoriston Falls ★★
Off the A82 immediately south of Invermoriston, G.R.: NH 421164 ///shook.asks.highly
Always open | Free

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, parallel to the main road at first but soon heading away to the lef…

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

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 ★★★
Start / finish at layby on B862 4 mi southwest of Whitebridge, G.R.: NH 450105 ///attention.window.bus

▶ 1 km / <1 mi | ▲ 60 m | ⌚ Short | ⬤ Easy
Summits: Carn an t-Suidhe (450 m)
Terrain: Straightforward, clear path with gentle ascent.

Route & map

Layby - Carn an t-Suidhe - return by outward route

Route credit: Scotland Off the Beaten Track
On our visit

Wildlife: Several deer wandering the nearby deforested plantations.
Weather: Sun, large clouds and light winds.

Walk: Fantastic Falls of Foyers

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 ★★★★
Start / finish at car park on B852 next to Foyers Village Stores, G.R.: NH 498205 ///highly.uproot.mel…

Dores viewpoint

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 for early birds, before 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.

Location & info

📌 Dores viewpoint ★★
By the B862, Dores village centre, G.R.: NH 599348 ///geese.moment.sunblock
Always open | Free

Loch Ness

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. 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 the way here on a si…

Leith Hall

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 reopening day. Originally built in the 17th century for defensive purposes, the property belonged to the Leith family for 10 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).

Location & info

📌 Leith Hall★★★
Off the B9002 1 mi north of Kennethmont, G.R.: NJ 541298 ///dusters.producers.historic
House open Friday to Monday, July to August; weekends, April to June & September to October. Gardens: daily | £12 adult / £10 child / free for National Trust for Scotland members

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

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

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.

Location & info

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

Walk: Heathery Hill of Rowan

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

The cone-shaped Maule Monument is a prominent landmark, crowning gentle Hill of Rowan in beautiful Glen Esk, Angus. 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 ★★★
Start / finish at car park on minor road, Tarfside village centre, G.R.: NO 493797 ///comedy.ignites.plants

▶ 7 km / 4 mi | ▲ 200 m | ⌚ Half a day | ⬤ Moderate
Summits: Hill of Rowan (380 metres)
Terrain: Pleasant tracks, fainter on final ascent to summit and initial descent. Minor road return.

Route & map

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 road walking on the return by crossing the North Esk near Dalbrack, following the track on the south bank to Buskhead before cro…

Glen Esk Folk Museum

Angus | Tarfside | Museum | ★★
The road into Glen Esk, north of 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. Perhaps the best place to start is at the interesting museum, documenting Glen Esk and Angus country life. This former shooting lodge is owned by the community and - despite the remote setting - acts as an important hub for local life. The cafe is pretty decent too!

Location & info

📌 Glen Esk Folk Museum★★
By minor road 1 mi east of Tarfside, G.R.: NO 509789 ///impresses.oatmeal.branch
Closed for refurbishment throughout 2020 | Free

House of Dun

Angus | Montrose | Stately home | ★★★

Location & info

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★★★
Off the A935 4 mi west of Montrose, G.R.: NO 670599 ///palace.golden.contour
House open daily, early July to early September; Saturday to Wednesday, late March to early July & early September to early November. Gardens: daily | £12 adult / £10 child / free for National Trust for Scotland members


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

When is a city not a city? Answer: 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 might not 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.

Location & info

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

📌 Caledonian Railway★★★
Description: Heritage steam railway linking Brechin to the Bridge of Dun, close to the House of Dun estate.
Western terminus is at Brechin station, Park Road, 5-min walk east of Brechin town centre, G.R.: NO 602602 ///goals.crisp.mixing. East…

Walk: A hike for the Keen

Aberdeenshire | Aboyne | Full day walk | ★★★★

Mount Keen is Scotland's easternmost Munro and a popular one, seeing less rain than most of the others. Fans of the craggier west might decry Mount Keen as a dull, rounded lump, but the views over Aberdeenshire, Angus and the Cairngorms are hard to beat; the view of Lochnagar's moody coire is particularly fine. Now, which route to take? The start amongst Glen Tanar's stunning pine forests isn't the closest trailhead to the summit, but it allows the most scenic approach. At the top you'll probably be greeted by crowds of walkers who started from Glen Esk to the south. We think the northern approach is quieter and superior; if you're not looking for a long walk, then take a hike... elsewhere.

📌 Walk: A hike for the Keen ★★★★
Start / finish at car park at minor road end, by Glen Tanar House, 3 mi southwest of Ballater, G.R.: NO 474956 ///skate.stags.reboot

▶ 29 km / 18 mi | ▲ 1120 m | ⌚ Full day | ⬤ Tough
Summits: Mount…