Showing posts from June, 2016

St Mary's Church (Grandtully)

Perth & Kinross | Grandtully | Church | ★★

From the outside it's an unassuming, run-of-the-mill farm building. Why do Historic Environment Scotland bother having this in their tourist portfolio? - you might think. But first appearances can be deceiving: open the door, flick on the lights and gaze upwards. Here you'll find a magnificent painted ceiling, added to the 1533 exterior a century or so later. Portable panels explain the various sections, with death and the final judgement at the centre. Well worth the short drive from nearby Aberfeldy.

Location & info

📌 St Mary's Church (Grandtully)★★
By minor road end off A827 2 mi southwest of Grandtully, G.R.: NN 887506 ///templates.lows.limes
Always open | Free

Dewar's Aberfeldy Distillery

Perth & Kinross | Aberfeldy | Distillery | ★★★★

The area around Aberfeldy has a long history of whisky production - today, the last distillery standing is just to the east of town - home of Dewar's Aberfeldy Distillery. In addition to the standard whirlwind tour through the production areas, tour tickets also give access to a highly impressive and extensive museum area and auditorium: if possible, visit this part before the guided tour to get the context. Potential information overload specifically about the Dewar's brand (as well known for its blend as for its single malt) probably means this isn't the best place to go for your first distillery tour, but for dedicated Dewar's fans or distillery "collectors" it proves excellent value for money. We're happy to report that the brand's catastrophically confusing website has finally been re-thought, which means it's now possible to find tour times and other basic info.

Location & info

📌 Dewar&…

Castle Menzies & Mausoleum

Perth & Kinross | Aberfeldy | Castle & church | ★★★

Castle Menzies (pronounced Ming-us, or something) is the ancestral seat of Clan Menzies, a proud mansion originally built as a Z-plan tower house in the 1500s. The thriving Menzies Clan Society has been responsible for saving the castle from a somewhat ruinous state in the 1950s: various corners are still undergoing restoration, but there are nevertheless a huge number of rooms to explore once you've watched the optional (and seemingly never-ending) introductory video. The family mausoleum is a short walk or drive down the road at Weem, housed in the village's former parish church and included in the castle entrance ticket.

Location & info

📌 Castle Menzies★★★
Description: 16th century castle and ancestral home for Clan Menzies.
By the B846 half a mile west of Weem village, G.R.: NN 837496 ///remarried.bounty.access
Open daily, April to October | £8 adult / £4 child

📌 Old Kirk of Weem (Menzies Mausoleum)


Perth & Kinross | Town | ★★

A bustling town on the upper reaches of the River Tay, Aberfeldy has many ingredients for a short countryside holiday destination. Many of the local attractions are water-related: this stretch of the Tay is well known for white-water rafting, while many neighbouring burns sport impressive waterfalls after heavy rain or snowmelt - the Birks of Aberfeldy is the closest example, championed by Robert Burns and easily reachable on foot from the middle of town. Local spring water also helped kick-start Aberfeldy's whisky distilling traditions, which continue just up the road at Dewar's Aberfeldy Distillery. The very centre perhaps lacks an "X-factor" - not helped by the main road running diagonally across the middle of the town square - but the variety of surrounding sights more than make up for this. The attractions continue across the 18th century river bridge - check out the full list below.


📌 Aberfeldy ★★
Perth & Kinross, G.R…

Fortinghall Yew

Perth & Kinross | Fortinghall | Nature site | ★★★

5,000 years ago, a yew tree seed sprouted in the remote glen of the River Lyon in deepest Perthshire. Astonishingly, this very tree is still alive and thriving (and apparently changing sex according to a recent discovery by staff from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh). This is truly one of Scotland's great natural wonders; if the age is right then it could be Europe's oldest tree, though there are other contenders. The yew's notable age has already attracted tourists for millennia - yes, you read that right - and Pontius Pilate is said to have been born in the village, when the tree could have been a mere 3,000 years old. Unsurprisingly, over the centuries visitors have wanted to take home "souvenirs", damaging parts of the tree. It's probably just as well that it's now protected by a stone enclosure, even if it does slightly limit viewing opportunities. Nevertheless, this is a special place if you k…

Cluny House Gardens

Perth & Kinross | Aberfeldy | Garden | ★★★

Cluny House Garden isn't a typical public garden. If you're expecting perfectly manicured lawns and well-trimmed hedges, forget it. Instead, this hilltop hideaway is an intimate woodland paradise with red squirrels seemingly scampering around every turn of the twisting, narrow paths which you navigate by aid of numbered waymarkers. Himalayan plants are the garden's speciality, but the gardens also boast Britain's widest conifer. With a circumference of 11 metres, it's surrounded by squirrel feeders as well as (hopefully) the rusty rodents themselves; visit early or late in the day for the best chance of spotting them - we've never seen so many at a single location before.

Location & info

📌 Cluny House Gardens★★★
Off minor road 3 mi northeast of Aberfeldy, G.R.: NN 879514 ///type.debut.ramble
Open daily (probably best in spring / summer) | £5 adult / £1 child

Balloch Castle Country Park

West Dunbartonshire | Balloch | Park | ★★★

Balloch Castle Country Park lies just to the north of Balloch town centre, a planned landscape centred around 19th century Balloch Castle. Technically the park is (just) south of the Highland Boundary Fault and therefore in the Lowlands, but there are hints of Highland grandeur in the views across the loch from the shoreline paths. There's quite a lot to see here, and seeking out the various bits and pieces (walled garden, Chinese garden, Fairy Glen and Loch Lomond itself to name a few) is more complicated than you might expect due to the aimlessly meandering paths (who designed these?!). The expanse of open grassland in the middle of the park used to be grazed by sheep and cattle... nowadays, as the park leaflet helpfully informs you, "you're more likely to see a lawnmower". Charming.

Location & info

📌 Balloch Castle Country Park★★★
North side of Balloch. The main car park is 200 m north of Balloch railway station, G.R.:…

Walk: Doon with the Dunoon ducks

Argyll & Bute | Cowal | Short walk | ★★

Bishop's Glen Reservoir is a popular local beauty spot for Dunoonites (yes, that is a thing), within easy walking distance uphill from Dunoon's town centre. Wide and shady paths set a little way back from the duck-filled waters make a circuit easy, and busy by Cowal's standards. The burn at the head of the reservoir has a bridge for a possible shortcut to the return leg; for more variety, continue up Balgaidh Burn's verdant glen with occasional glimpses of dark pools and rapids.

📌 Walk: Doon with the Dunoon ducks ★★
Start / finish at car park at upper end of Nelson Street, 1 mi west of Dunoon town centre, G.R.: NS 165767 ///flop.seaweed.hounded

▶ 3 km / 2 mi | ▲ 100 m | ⌚ Short | ⬤ Easy
Features: Bishop's Glen Reservoir
Terrain: Wide paths (narrower options closer to the reservoir side) with only odd steep sections. Short tarmac lane for return from reservoir.

Route & map

Car park - cross burn just upstream from car park …


Argyll & Bute | Town | ★★

The only settlement of any significant size on the Cowal peninsula, Dunoon plays an important dual role as both the regional capital and the arrival point for two ferry routes from the "mainland" Central Belt. It's a long way to get here by road alone, and the region's resulting reliance on ferries gives the town an island outpost sort of feel. The main street has that pleasant but slightly faded feel common to many Clyde seaside resorts nowadays, but still with a reasonable selection of places to stay, shop and eat: the 51st State American-theme restaurant has a large menu and even larger portion sizes, magically transforming into an Italian restaurant each evening. Up on the hill above the small pier is Castle House Museum, surrounded by attractive gardens with excellent views over the Firth of Clyde. Overall, pretty much an obligatory stopping point before you head off into Cowal's wilder interior.


📌 Dunoon ★★
Argyll &…

Kilmun Arboretum

Argyll & Bute | Kilmun | Woodland | ★★

Way back in the 1930s, it was decided that the Cowal Peninsula's cool, moist climate provided ideal conditions to test the worth of hundreds of tree species as possible candidates of timber production. A tiny forest of each species was planted; out of the 300-ish trials, approximately half of the miniature forests have survived into the new millennium, making this a great place for a wander (unless you hate trees...). Admittedly different types of pine all start to look a bit similar after you've passed dozens of signposted groves of them, but more obviously exotic highlights include eucalyptus and monkey puzzle trees.

Location & info

📌 Kilmun Arboretum★★
Off the A880, north end of Kilmun, G.R.: NS 164823 ///items.snug.cove
Always open | Free

Anything else? The lower, waymarked trails are clear and mostly straightforward. Venture higher and the paths are rougher, steeper and overgrown by ferns in summer - beware ticks!

Historic Kilmun

Argyll & Bute | Kilmun | Church | ★★★

On the face of it, Historic Kilmun is simply an attractive parish church above the Holy Loch on the Cowal Peninsula. But by little-visited Cowal's standards, this should be a fairly major tourist attraction. Why? The local area's Christian roots go all the way back to the 7th century, when one of western Scotland's earliest Christian communities was formed here by the Irishman (and later Saint) Fintán Munnu. By the 1400s, the site had also become the Collegiate Church of the Campbell Clan: several of the clan (who later became the Earls and Dukes of Argyll) are buried here in a cavernous mausoleum. The original church is no more, but the depth of history here is tangible, enhanced by an excellent visitor setup which has clearly had a lot of money poured into it over recent years. A couple of other things worth mentioning: the stained glass windows are truly stunning, and the recently restored organ is one of the only water-powered …

The Govan Stones

Glasgow | Govan | Carved stones | ★★★

The Old Church in the once heavily industrial suburb of Govan is the location for no fewer than 31 magnificent medieval stones. Viking hogbacks, standing stones, cross slabs and a single sarcophagus are dotted around the church in a rough clockwise loop. All have been discovered over the centuries in the surrounding area, which was once a key religious centre within the ancient kingdom of Strathclyde. The sheer size of the church is a reminder of the area's long history and former status - once distinct from that of nearby Glasgow - and a fitting place for the stones.

Location & info

📌 The Govan Stones★★★
Govan Old Church, 866 Govan Road, Govan town centre, 2 mi west of George Square, Glasgow, G.R.: NS 553659 ///actor.former.empire
Open afternoons only, April to October | Free

Walk: Smirisary's spellbinding sands

Highland | Moidart | Half day walk | ★★★★

As you negotiate the winding road west from Glen Uig on route to the start of this walk, look smug as you gaze out over the often packed Samalaman Beach. You're bound for a much better spot. A rough half-mile beyond the road end car park lies the township of Smirisary, a roadless settlement made up of half a dozen scattered houses plus several ruins. As idyllic spot as any in Moidart, sheep wandering between the shelter of the various buildings and keeping the lush grass in check. But the real destination on a hot day is the fantastic, hidden beach a further mile to the south. These miniature, secluded bays are well worth bearing the boggy approach for, carved into intimate sections by rock bands and with brilliant views in all directions. Although best at low tide, part of the beach stays dry even at high water level, so you don't need to worry too much about timing your visit to coincide with tide times.

📌 Walk: Smirisary's spel…

Walk: Gold star for The Silver Walk

Highland | Moidart | Half day walk | ★★★★

On a sunny day after lots of dry weather, this circular ramble incorporating part of The Silver Walk is probably the most spectacular in Moidart. This mesmerising ribbon of Victorian engineering was originally constructed as a coastal estate path, threading an improbable route between the waters of Loch Moidart and sheer cliffs towering above it. The western half is probably the most dramatic, leading to a boggy inland return route which visits a couple of beautiful lochans nestling between low hills. At the start is Castle Tioram - it's difficult to imagine a more romantically located castle, cradled by the bay of Cùl Doirlinn.

📌 Walk: Gold star for The Silver Walk ★★★★
Start / finish at car park at minor road end 3 mi north of Acharacle, G.R.: NM 664720 ///stun.revise.chum

▶ 6 km / 4 mi | ▲ 270 m | ⌚ Half a day | ⬤ Moderate
Features: Castle Tioram; The Silver Walk; Lochan na Fola
Terrain: Sandy causeway is submerged at high tide (though pr…