Showing posts from November, 2015

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.

Location & info

📌 Royal Yacht Britannia★★★★
Access from within Ocean Terminal shopping centre, half a mile northwest of Leith town centre, G.R.: NT 266773 ///
Open daily | £17 adult / £8.75 child

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.

Location & info

📌 Deep Sea World★★★★
Battery Quarry, 5-min walk southeast of North Queensferry village centre, G.R.: NT 133803 ///tadpole.prepared.smuggled
Open daily | £15.80 adult / £11.25 child, discount for 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 Falk…


Falkirk | Town | ★★

The town of Falkirk (Speckled Church) sits almost exactly in the centre of the triangle connecting Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling. Good road and rail links mean it's one of the best non-city bases for exploring the Central Belt. As a settlement in its own right though, it's often overlooked by tourists. Spend a little time locally and you'll discover an attractive shopping district surrounded by a variety of tourist attractions, ranging from a beautiful stately home within acres of landscaped grounds, to easygoing canal walks, a key Roman Fort on the Antonine Wall, a slick new urban park and the Falkirk Wheel: one of the most striking pieces of modern architecture in Scotland. The various attraction are listed below.


📌 Falkirk ★★
Falkirk council area, G.R.: NS 888799 ///fame.piper.invest

🚶 Falkirk spreads quite widely, though Callander House is an easy walk from the centre. The Kelpies are at least a half hour walk away; the Falkirk Wheel is a…

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.

Location & info

📌 Falkirk Wheel★★★
Millennium Wheel Drive, 2 mi west of Falkirk town centre, G.R.: NS 853802 ///included.summit.arose
Boat trips generally run a few times daily, but some winter closures - check website. Rest of site: always open | Boat trip: £9.95+ ad…

Walk: Around Falkirk's wheely big boatlift

Falkirk | Forth & Clyde / Union Canals | Short walk | ★★★

The best way to fully appreciate the Falkirk Wheel and its wider setting is a walk along the two canals it connects together. Easy walking along towpaths culminates in a dramatic emergence from a short tunnel, with the top of the Wheel directly ahead along with a panoramic view taking in the Ochil Hills. Food is available at the visitor centre and at a pub midway.

📌 Walk: Around Falkirk's Wheely big boatlift ★★★
Start / finish at Falkirk Wheel car park, Millennium Wheel Drive, 2 mi west of Falkirk town centre, G.R.: NS 853805 ///momentous.ropes.part

▶ 5 km / 3 mi | ▲ 60 m | ⌚ Short | ⬤ Easy
Features: Falkirk Wheel; Forth & Clyde Canal; Union Canal; Roughcastle Tunnel
Terrain: Surfaced canal towpaths; suburban paths and pavements to link the two canals after Lock Sixteen; steep grassy slope to access Union Canal.

Route & map

Car park - Lock Sixteen via Forth & Clyde Canal - Union Canal aqueduct over Greenbank Roa…

Walk: Swanning around Lanark Loch

South Lanarkshire | Lanark | Short walk | ★★

Just outside the attractive market town of Lanark lies Lanark Country Park. With a pretty loch, hungry swans and an excellent restaurant (the Inn on the Loch, with surely the biggest menu for miles around), all the ingredients for a simple afternoon amble are present, with bumper boats in summer and a large adventure playground making it a good place to bring younger ones too. "Ice may be slippery" warns a faded sign near the end - rather obvious, but this is a good option in all seasons.

📌 Walk: Swanning around Lanark Loch ★★
Start / finish at Lanark Loch car park, A73 a mile east of Lanark town centre, G.R.: NS 898430 ///

▶ 1 km / <1 mi | ▲ Negligible | ⌚ Short | ⬤ Easy
Features:Lanark Loch
Terrain: Tarmac paths throughout.

Route & map

Car park - circuit of Lanark Loch (in either direction) - start

Route credit: Scotland Off the Beaten Track
On our visit

Wildlife: Swans, mallard and tufted ducks.

New Lanark

South Lanarkshire | Lanark | Industrial site | ★★★★

The historical importance of New Lanark can hardly be overestimated. Visiting the area today, you could almost be fooled into thinking the 18th century mill village has hardly changed. In reality, this industrial centre on the banks of the Clyde has made the long journey from thriving business, to the brink of demolition, to World Heritage Site in its eventful lifetime. Subsequent restoration has transformed the area into a major tourist attraction, with working machinery, Annie McLeod Experience Ride, reconstructed village stores from different centuries, restored classrooms and more. With so much to do indoors and the nearby Falls of Clyde best after rainfall, put this on your list for a wet weather day - allow a few hours for the ticketed parts alone.

Location & info

📌 New Lanark★★★★
New Lanark Road, 1 mi south of Lanark, G.R.: NS 881425 ///landowner.walked.lookout
Open daily | £13.95 adult / £9.95 child for full area ticket


Walk: The Clyde's majestic daughter - Corra Linn circular

South Lanarkshire | New Lanark | Full day walk | ★★★★

This must be one of the best wet weather walks in Scotland, mostly sheltered by trees but delivering scenic drama worthy of the Highlands. Here the Clyde thunders over two colossal waterfalls in Bonnington Linn and Corra Linn - the latter cataracts described as "the Clyde's most majestic daughter" by William Wordsworth. Beyond the mills of New Lanark World Heritage Site (itself a major tourist attraction, complete with cafe) the river shows its gentler side, its anger spent, passing under the 17th century Clydesholm Bridge and its newer replacement. Combining the two sections and returning on the quiet west bank enables a superb circuit, even including a ruined castle. Hydroelectric activity can tamper with the flow volume, so its best to visit after prolonged bouts of rain to guarantee a good show.

📌 Walk: The Clyde's majestic daughter - Corra Linn circular ★★★★
Start / finish on Kirkfield Road (street parking), …

Walk: The grouse of Gabhar

Aberdeenshire | Braemar | Full day walk | ★★★

Creag nan Gabhar is a dwarf amongst giants in this part of the Cairngorms, but its position above Glen Clunie makes it an ideal vantage point from which to get to grips with the layout of most of the major hill groups in the area. Combining it with a visit to Loch Callater and its beautifully situated bothy creates a perfect circuit with stupidly high numbers of grouse. This is one of the easier Corbett ascents thanks to the high level start and good tracks - albeit with a short pathless section after the summit.

📌 Walk: The grouse of Gabhar ★★★
Start / finish at car park (monetary "contribution") on A93 near Auchallater Farm, 2 mi south of Braemar, G.R.: NO 156882 ///

▶ 15 km / 9 mi | ▲ 480 m | ⌚ Full day | ⬤ Moderate
Summits: Creag nan Gabhar (834 m, Corbett) | Features: Loch Callater
Terrain: Good tracks and wide paths to summit area, then pathless to bealach to southeast. Short section of track then faint pat…

Cairnwell Pass (A93)

Aberdeenshire / Perth & Kinross | Braemar | Road pass | ★★★★

Running above wooded gorges and through huge glacial valleys, the A93 climbs ever more steeply until the magic 670 metres above sea level is reached in passing the county border from Perthshire into Aberdeenshire. The Cairnwell Pass is the country's highest road, one of its most scenic, and one of the most enjoyable to drive; Top Gear made the trip here to road test the Jaguar F-TYPE in 2013, for example. The steepest climbs and descents are either side of Glenshee Ski Centre (the notorious Devil's Elbow hairpins fortunately now bypassed), but the magnificent Cairngorm scenery extends all the way from Blairgowrie in the south to Braemar in the north. It's also the bane of many a Scottish skier's life; in winter the road can be a different beast altogether, with the long southern approach in particular vulnerable to drifting snow.

📌Cairnwell Pass (A93) ★★★★
Cairngorms. Summit is between Spittal of Glenshee …