Showing posts from 2015

Walk: Tentsmuir - it grows on you...

Fife | Tayport | Half day walk | ★★★

Expanding at a rate of up to 5 metres each year, Tentsmuir Point is the fastest-growing point in Scotland. Longshore drift and sediment from the River Tay combine here to create miles of pristine sand, the outer reaches frequented by both common and grey seals. The vast golden swathes are subject to tides, so time your walk to reach the Point around low water. On the way there, you'll have every opportunity to spot red squirrels in the 50 square miles of forest, while hundreds of teal and other ducks gather at Morton Lochs each winter by the start. If you're not interested in birds, beaches or trees, stay clear - you'll see little else all day.

📌 Walk: Tentsmuir - it grows on you... ★★★
▶ 16 km / 10 miles | ▲ 30 metres
Features: Tentsmuir NNR (forest, sands, seals & Morton Lochs)
Start / finish: Car park at Morton Lochs, off B945 2 miles south of Tayport, G.R.: NO 465264 ///kindness.mass.munch

Route: Start - Fetterdale - Tentsmuir Fore…

Balmerino Abbey

Fife | Balmerino | Abbey | ★★

Balmerino Abbey differs from most National Trust for Scotland sites. No gift shop, no guided tours (in fact, no staff at all) and happily no admission charge. Leaflets in a box near the entrance provided the information for our own exploration of the ruined 13th century monastery, partly held up by wooden props but still with some interesting architectural features visible. Also look out for the gnarly old Spanish Chestnut tree, reputed to have been planted to mark the abbey's founding (although signs on site put this in doubt!) in 1229.

📌Balmerino Abbey★★
Location: Balmerino village centre, G.R.: NO 358247 ///straddled.frames.revival
Open: Always (exterior only)
Cost: Free

Walk: Tay Norman's Law fae Luthrie

Fife | Ochil Hills | Half day walk | ★★★

Norman's Law only stands 285 metres above the Firth of Tay, but it's the highest hill in northern Fife, topped with trig point, view indicator and iron-age hill fort. Pheasant shooting may create a noisy backdrop to visits on winter weekends, but doesn't detract from the superb views along the length of the estuary and south to the Lomond Hills. Much of the Cairngorms, West and Central Highlands are also visible on a clear day - notably Schiehallion.

📌 Walk: Tay Norman's Law fae Luthrie ★★★
▶ 6 km / 4 miles | ▲ 290 metres
Summits: Norman's Law (285 metres, sub-2000')
Start / finish: Street parking, Luthrie village centre, G.R.: NO 331196 ///hurricane.hill.struts

Route: Start - Emily Wood - Carphin Farm - fork right off track just north of Black Craig - bealach at G.R.: NO 310201 - Norman's Law - return by outward route
Terrain: Tracks as far as Black Craig, churned by cows in places, then path to summit.
Wildlife today: P…

Walk: Lade Inn & Leny - raw power of the Garbh Uisge

Stirling | Trossachs | Half day walk | ★★★

Just downstream of Loch Lubnaig the Garbh Uisge (Rough Water) cuts a deep valley between Ben Ledi and Meall Biorach. Here are the Falls of Leny - less a waterfall than a powerful set of rapids, focussed around where foaming waters are forced either side of a huge, tree-covered boulder. The old Callander to Oban railway bed provides a flat outward option, but rougher paths follow the river bank more loyally if not flooded, and you need to divert onto these at some stage to see the rapids - hopefully in spate. Wider views of this part of the Trossachs open up on the higher return to the start, with the Lade Inn just around the corner serving good food.

📌 Walk: Lady Inn & Leny - raw power of the Garbh Uisge ★★★
▶ 8 km / 5 miles | ▲ 220 metres
Features: Falls of Leny
Start / finish: Car park off the A821 across the river from Kilmahog, G.R.: NN 608081 ///sides.theory.otters

Route: Car park - Falls of Leny - Ben Ledi car park - track junction at …

Paisley Museum

Renfrewshire | Paisley | Museum | ★★★

Despite an occasionally leaky roof and unbearably excessive heating, Paisley Museum is an excellent museum showcasing Scotland's largest town. A large main hall, art gallery and several subsidiary rooms show Paisley's history to be a lot broader than weaving alone (though there's ample space for that too). The back of the impressive Victorian building connects to the Coats Observatory: Scotland's oldest observatory. Tours from the museum run a few times daily, with nighttime telescope viewings over the winter months.

📌Paisley Museum★★★
Location: High Street, Paisley centre, G.R.: NS 480640 ///invite.back.having
Open (2019): Closed for major refurbishment - expected reopening in late 2022
Cost: Free

Kilwinning Abbey

North Ayrshire | Kilwinning | Abbey | ★★

The south transept of this once great building soars high above Kilwinning town centre. The abbey was built in the 12th century as a daughter house of Kelso Abbey, with the widest medieval church in Scotland at its centre. Much of the stonework was plundered or demolished for a new church in the 1700s, but it's still a very attractive aspect of the town and Main Street. The impressive clock tower on the northwest side is a modern (well, early 19th century!) addition, and its interior is open to the public on summer Sundays afternoons; as well as seeing the museum exhibits, you can climb the spiral stairs to see the bells, chiming mechanism and the excellent views from the roof.

📌Kilwinning Abbey & Heritage Centre★★
Location: Main Street, Kilwinning, G.R.: NS 303433 ///dislikes.episode.fallen
Open (2019): Abbey ruins: always; Heritage centre: Easter weekend plus Friday to Sunday afternoons, mid-May to mid-September
Cost: Free

Eglinton Country Park

North Ayrshire | Kilwinning | Park | ★★

Eglinton Castle is the centrepiece to this park straddling the Lugton Water near Kilwinning, the ruins the most tangible reminder of the large estate once belonging to the Earls of Eglinton. In 1839 the 13th earl hosted the Eglinton Tournament here celebrating Queen Victoria's coronation. This was one of the most lavish events the country had ever seen, re-enacting a medieval joust with 100,000 spectators attending. This being Scotland, torrential August rain marred the spectacle and scant evidence of the tournament remains. There's plenty else to see here if you live in the area though, with woodland, parkland and lochside walks linking the visitor centre, castle and various hidden-away buildings. Print out a map from the park website to get the best out of your visit, as signposting is limited.

📌Eglinton Country Park★★
Location (visitor centre): Off A78 / A737 junction, Kilwinning, G.R.: NS 320420 ///earl.tutorial.nature
Features: Eglint…

Royal Yacht Britannia

City of Edinburgh | Leith | Ship | ★★★★

The Royal Yacht Britannia was Queen Elizabeth II's official ship until 1997. She was launched on the west coast of Scotland in 1953 and now sits retired on the east coast at the Port of Leith, having visited 135 countries over 44 years' service. A content-rich exhibition precedes a tour of the actual ship, including both the royal quarters and the staff areas below decks. Access is, weirdly, from the top floor of Ocean Terminal shopping centre, so it's easy to combine with a shopping trip, cinema visit or meal out - a good (though expensive) option for a wet day.

📌Royal Yacht Britannia★★★★
Location: Ocean Terminal shopping centre, north side of Leith, G.R.: NT 266773 ///
Open (2019): Daily
Cost (2019): £16.50 (adults), £8.75 (children)

Deep Sea World

Fife | North Queensferry | Aquarium | ★★★★

A flooded quarry in the slumbersome fishing village of North Queensferry is, perhaps unexpectedly, home to Scotland's largest aquarium. And probably the best: the excellent attractions includes hundreds of fish across dozens of tanks and climates ranging from cold Scottish waters to the Amazon rainforest. The list extends to seals, rockpool life, amphibians, rays, otters... and the UK's longest underwater tunnels, where you can view sharks, rays and other fish pass by inches away. Feeds, talks and activities run through the day so you could probably fill a full morning or afternoon without getting bored.

📌Deep Sea World★★★★
Location: Battery Quarry, 5-min walk southeast from North Queensferry village centre, G.R.: NT 133803 ///tadpole.prepared.smuggled
Open (2019): Daily
Cost (2019): £15.25 (adults), £10.75 (children); discounts when booking online

Walk: Hidden underbelly of Falkirk

Falkirk | Union Canal | Short walk | ★★★

On a dull and damp day it's often appealing to stay indoors... or you could head underground and explore Scotland's longest canal tunnel! Stalactites have been growing inside from the constant dripping for nearly 200 years since the tunnel's construction - these and atmospheric reflections in the still canal water create a fascinating underworld, accessible by foot or by boat. Beyond the tunnel exit, look out for the Laughin' Greetin' Bridge. Its arch is adorned on the Edinburgh and Glasgow sides with happy and miserable faces respectively: referring to the comparatively easy time canal navvies had in building east over flat ground, compared to the numerous locks (many now replaced by the Falkirk Wheel) and the long tunnel lying ahead to the west. The overland return route through suburbs and scrub doesn't quite compare, but a decent view over Falkirk to the Ochil Hills is a nice bonus.

📌 Walk: Hidden underbelly of Falki…

Falkirk Wheel

Falkirk | Forth & Clyde Canal / Union Canal | Boatlift | ★★★

Unique in Scotland, and indeed the world, the Falkirk Wheel is a magnificent piece of engineering - all £17.5 million of it. The rotating boatlift replaced several locks linking the two Central Belt canals at Falkirk, and was constructed as part of the Millenium Link which helped to reopen both waterways to traffic in 2002. It's undeniably impressive, but we're not quite so convinced about the visitor experience. The fancy visitor centre is mostly just a big shop and lacks interpretation space, while boat trips up and down the Wheel are a bit pricey. Better views of the gigantic structure are actually gained exploring the site on foot - for free.

📌Falkirk Wheel★★★
Location: Western edge of Falkirk, G.R.: NS 853802 ///included.summit.arose
Open (2019): Boat trip: 3 times daily, but some winter closures including from early January to late March for maintenance - check website. Rest of site: always
Cost (2019): Boat t…