Latest Posts

Castles and countryside

We enjoyed a visit to the castles of Aberdeenshire – castle country in the rolling farmlands of the north-east. Our first and long overdue tour to Craigievar Castle. The pink castle is said to have inspired Walt Disney to create his Cinderella Castle. This castle in Aberdeenshire has a much more varied history. Built by the Clan Sempill in the 14th century and then owned by the Forbes family for 350 years. It was passed to the National Trust for Scotland in 1963.

We enjoyed exploring and the guided tour. The spiral stairs are steep and take you to the top floor where the servants would do the laundry and sleep four to a bed. This is such an excellent example of a tower house and we enjoyed hearing about the families who had lived there so long ago.

Smoking fish like a Jacobite

Bannockburn House in Bannockburn has been empty for many decades. However we enjoyed an open day there in September when we heard about the plans to restore this marvellous mansion house back to its former glory. Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed here for four weeks in 1746 planning for the Battle of Falkirk, nearby. It is very exciting since a local trust has been formed to buy the house and to begin a project of restoration. It is clearly a very significant part of our local, and national, heritage and Sublime Scotland looks forward to keeping in touch with progress.

During the September open day we enjoyed exploring the house and imagining how it was when Bonnie Prince Charlie was welcomed to stay. After the Battle of Falkirk he left from here to travel to Inverness and Culloden. The Jacobites had to be very clever when travelling and we saw how they enjoyed smoking their food in a whisky barrel.

Inveraray on Loch Fyne

Our guests enjoyed a private tour to Inveraray Castle and the town of Inverary on Loch Fyne. We also enjoyed the view from the top of the tower where we saw the stunning loch and mountains of Argyll.

Love Scottish History – then visit the Border Abbeys

The Scottish Border region, close to England, has been a part of Scottish history since the middle ages. The number of beautiful Abbeys, within a short driving distance of each other, make this a perfect place to based yourself to be immersed in some of the highlights of Scotland.

Stunning Melrose Abbey

Visit Melrose Abbey – founded in the 1100s

We visited Melrose Abbey in August in a private tour of the Borders. This beautiful building grew to become one of the wealthiest and most majestic medieval monasteries in Scotland. Today it is within just a few miles of the splendid ruins of Kelso, Dryburgh and Jedburgh Abbeys. One of the most touching features at Melrose Abbey is the casket said to contain the heart of Robert The Bruce. Discovered in 1921 in a lead casket this is now carefully protected in the Abbey grounds.

Only a few miles away sits the stunning Jedburgh Abbey standing on an elevated position overlooking the Jed Water of Jedburgh. Founded in 1138 this major Augustinian Abbey is one of the most complete in Scotland. The scale and quality of its buildings, and their location close to the border with England, were clear statements of King David I’s ambitions for the Scottish church. We enjoyed climbing the steep spiral stairs of the tower to enjoy the amazing view of the ancient nave through the Abbey.

Climb the tower of Jedburgh Abbey

Our final visit on this private tour of the Border Abbeys was Dryburgh Abbey. This is a favourite, not just because of the wonderful history of Dryburgh Abbey itself, but also for the fact it is the burial place of Scotland’s famous writer Sir Walter Scott. The journey from his home at Abbotsford House to Dryburgh includes his favourite viewpoint across his bellowed Scottish Borders – Scotts view. Sir Walter Scott built his beautiful home at Abbotsford. In 1819 he had begun his love affair with this house by building the armoury, dining room, study and upstairs bedroom.

Abbotsford House – home of Sir Walter Scott

Favourite view of Sir Walter Scott – Scottish Borders

Enjoy a hike with John

Scotland has been voted one of the top countries in the world to visit in 2017! Rough Guide has said this is a wonderful place to explore and we agree. This is why Sublime Scotland has expanded this season and is now a husband and wife business. John joins us with his own new range of tours. He has spent 20 years hiking across Scotland and always loves to introduce people to new corners of the country. He also has had a lifetimes interest in Scottish history and especially the many battlefields which were important in shaping the country.

Hiking

Explore some of our stunning Scottish scenery on foot. There are so many options and it is great to have help from John to choose a hike which suits your group. Even a one hour stroll around a beautiful loch shore results in memories to last a lifetime. More remote walks are also offered by John taking account of the experience of the guests.

HIking

Hiking in Scotland

July tours

July is peak season in Scotland for visitors so there are plenty of exciting events happening. We find the quiet corners where nobody goes and enjoy the peaceful beauty of the Highlands or the coastal villages. In July guests from Denmark, Mexico and also the United States enjoyed fantastic tours with us. We visited The Scottish Highlands, hiked on the island of Kerrera, explored the quaint fishing and ferry port of Ullapool in the remote north west Highlands, and many more special places.

We also enjoyed the medieval Castles of Stirling, spectacular ruins of Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe, Urquhart castle on Loch Ness and the Aberdeenshire Crathes Castle. Our guests took a fun filled rib boat trip around famous Loch Ness. There are more than 730 castles in Scotland and our tours will take you to many of them across the country. The weather in July was kind to us and many days of warm sunshine kept everyone smiling!

August tours

This month we have welcomed our first cruise ship guests of 2017 and also our first guests from Panama. It was fun meeting them at two different ports of Newhaven, Edinburgh and then two days later at Greenock near Glasgow. This is a great way to see different parts of Scotland from your cruise ship without needing to book a different guide!

Visit the Scottish gardens in spring or summer

Escaping the maze at Scone Palace

Walled garden at Blair Castle

Walled garden at Blair Castle

Blair Castle and walled garden

This Spring our tours have included many beautiful Scottish gardens across our country. We visited the stunning 9 acre walled garden at Blair Castle. Created between 1747 and 1760 by the 2nd Duke of Atholl. Sadly it was abandoned in the 1960’s but very happily it has now been restored and is an excellent addition to any visit to Blair Castle.

The entrance to the Hercules Garden through the south wall was created in 1924, when the 8th Duke and Duchess received a set of beautiful gates from friends and family. After the second world war the lack of labour and difficult economic times took their toll and the gardens fell into decline. Finally in 1989 the importance of the gardens were realised and restoration work began. The pathways, the very unusual Chinese bridge, many yew tress and statues were all restored. Many of our tours include this part of Perthshire and can easily include a visit to this special castle and the walled garden.

Scone Palace and maze

We also visited the Scone Maze. The maze is in a star shape and comprises 2,000 beech trees, half of them green and half of them copper. They were planted in such a way as to create a stunning tartan effect. We visited in June just after the maze had had it’s annual haircut and so it was looking very neat indeed.

The Scone maze is 215 feet across and at it’s centre sits a pentagonal fountain. The site of the maze is in fact the ancient area of flat ground known originally as the Monks Playgreen. it was here until 1559, that the monks of the Abbey of Scone played their own version of football. The nearby Scottish gardens of Scone Palace are also a delight to visit. We strolled among the towering conifers and enjoyed the mounds of pink, purple and red rhododendrons in May. In 2013 work started on a collection of Acers which will produce a fabulous display of autumn colours for years to come.

Castle of Mey walled garden

Our third garden of our 2017 spring tours was the northern Castle of Mey. Favourite holiday home of the Queen Mother for 50 years, this walled garden protects the flowers and vegetables from the harsh north winds of the Pentland Firth. The garden was peaceful and colourful and well worth a visit after the castle tour.

Drummond Castle

Of the four Scottish gardens we toured in spring 2017, the spectacular formal gardens of Drummond castle near Crieff in Perthshire were quite stunning.

Drummond Castle gardens

Awesome April springtime private tours

Isle of Skye tour

Isle of Skye tour

We have had a busy start to the season with tours in April to the Scottish Highlands, Isle of Skye and Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. The weather was very kind to us and the scenery looked great in the sunshine. We  had some great guests which made the trips lots of fun.

Follow mummy

Follow mummy

This was  followed up with an ancestry tour to the lovely East Lothian region. Tennis fans from the USA were delighted to visit the home town of Andy Murray, the world’s tennis number one, to see the tennis courts he played on as a child.

Dunblane, home of Andy Murray tennis star

Dunblane, home of Andy Murray tennis star

No matter what special interests our guests have we seem to surprise them with a few local secrets along the way.

Lambing time in Scotland

Lambing time in Scotland

Isle of Skye road trip with snow

Rainbow on Skye

Rainbow over the Isle of Skye

Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan Castle

Glen Coe waterfalls

Loch Ness

Loch Ness

We enjoyed a road trip around the Highlands and the Isle of Skye last week. An interesting time of year to visit since many places are getting ready for the new season.

The weather was also different – we had snow, some rain, some hail and quite windy. This is not too surprising for Scotland in the month of March so we wrapped up well and took advantage of the quieter roads. Day One took us from the capital city of Edinburgh and a  visit to Dalwhinnie Distillery in the Highlands. 

A lorry had lost its load of fish on the road but we made it with minutes to spare for the afternoon tour. This was well worth it as we had a very small group and all the fascinating processes of making a Highland malt whisky were well explained along the way. Of course at the end of the tour a wee dram was poured for all and this very special whisky was enjoyed.

Dalwhinnie Distillery

Dalwhinnie Distillery – highest in Scotland

 

After a very cosy night in Inverness, the capital of the Highlands, we journeyed along famous Loch Ness. There was no sign of the monster but it was probably too cold for Nessie that day.

Next stop was stunning Eilean Donan Castle. Beautifully restored by the Macrae family in 1908 this is now one of the most photographed castles in Scotland. The springtime daffodils created a lovely scene for all the keen photographers who had come from far and wide.

Our lunch stop for today was in the old converted school house of Red Skye near the village of Broadford. Very tasty butternut squash soup and a plate of Arisaig mussels was the perfect meal to set us on our way.

The Cuillin Hills were teasing us all day as they appeared and disappeared as each wave of weather moved over the Isle of Skye.  The atmospheric scene was looking more special than when the blue summer sky offers a bright background.

Our final day took us through the iconic Glen Coe pass, through the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park and with the sun shining brightly we had time for a late afternoon visit to the amazing Stirling Castle. A very busy trip across Scotland through some of the best scenery in the world. 

Scottish Ancestry Tours – find out who you are?

Scottish Ancestry Tours are always very special days for our guests. Sublime Scotland is delighted to be recognised by VisitScotland as an Ancestral Ambassador.

Welcome to Ancestry

Welcome to Ancestry

Our personalised ancestry tours are enjoyed by people from Canada, the United States and also Australia. The tours are each unique to the family, connecting each person with the landscape, history and places of their own forebears. It is a very special experience to walk in the footsteps of your own family from 200 years ago. We can help you do this by personalising your own ancestry tour.

This experience is exciting and emotional and fun to be part of.

New family

New family

 

Ancestry Research

Ancestry Research

Research your family tree

There is a great deal of expertise in Scotland to help with researching your family tree. VisitScotland can point you in the right direction with information. Local experts such as Jane Harris can help you find places and people you did not even know existed.

Historic Culross and Outlander

Culross Palace

Culross Palace

Culross

Ancient Culross street

Culross Town House

Town House, Culross

Outlander exhibition

Outlander photographic exhibition

There are many great reasons to visit the delightful historic village of Culross on the River Forth. The village has a long history with a busy coal mining and salt industry during the 16th and 17th century.

King James VI visited this mine shaft in 1595 which was on a tidal island in the middle of the River Forth. He was rather shocked at the one mile depth of the shaft beneath the sea.

Culross Palace has been extensively restored and although it was never a royal residence it is a unique example of a house belonging to a wealthy merchant of the early 17th century. A pathway known as Stinking Wynd leads uphill along a cobbled way, where the centre is slightly higher and poorer people had to walk in the gutters.

The Town House was built in 1626 with the clock tower added 150 years later. This amazing building now houses a photographic exhibition  of many of the iconic places and scenes of Scotland and is well worth a visit. A delightful café nearby is the perfect place to relax and plan the next stage of your tour.

 

Today many people visit Culross to see first hand some of the settings for the series of Outlander books and film. Behind the Culross Palace lies the setting for the herb garden at the fictional Castle Leoch. The town also lends its backdrop to the Outlander Jacobite encampment scenes.

Drummond Gardens near Crieff can be reached within a short drive. These beautiful formal gardens are one of the best in Europe. Locals were delighted when they  stood in for the Palace of Versailles in the second series of Outlander.

 

 

 

 

History, heritage and archaeology in 2017

2017 is a special year in Scotland. Designated as the year of History, Heritage and Archaeology there will be much to see. There is certainly a lot to celebrate and all the people who look after our ancient buildings will  help us enjoy this amazing heritage. Jackie is a steward at one of our castles and she tells us what she loves about her job here.

Tours

Our tours are never far away from some fantastic examples of our great castles, stately homes, and buildings such as Stanley Mills which are part of our social heritage. Just north of Perth, the visitor centre tells the story of the weaving and the people who worked in the mills. Built in 1787 we see the best example of an 18th century workplace, anywhere in the world. 200 years of cotton making with all its innovations and the impact on the local communities perfectly explained.

In 2017 we will visit more than 20 of our great castles.

Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle is one of the most visited and tells the story of the Stewart monarchs through the 15th and 16th century. The restored Royal Palace includes the stunning Stirling Oak Heads. Characters from history wander the Castle and answer any questions about their life and times.

 

Enjoying Stirling Castle

Enjoying Stirling Castle

Further up the east coast of Scotland enjoy the stunning cliff top setting of Dunnottar Castle.

Near the charming harbour town of Stonehaven this romantic ruin tells the story of the Scottish Crown jewels. Kept for safety during the battles with the troops of Oliver Cromwell, the Scottish Honours were eventually sneaked out of the castle and kept hidden for years in a local church. These precious gems are now under high security in Edinburgh Castle. 

Engineering Heritage

Our heritage is much more than castles and history. Scotland’s great engineers have left a heritage recognised all over the world. The innovative engineering of the Forth Railway Bridge has been recognised with a UNESCO award. Still used many times each day by travellers to Edinburgh it stands as testament to the forward thinking engineers of 1882.

Forth Bridge at sunset

Forth Bridge at sunset

Many of our tours will take the route over the Forth Bridge to allow stunning views of this engineering wonder. From 2017 we will be crossing the new globally unique Queensferry crossing bridge. This is the largest to feature cables which cross mid span. Opening in May 2017 it will be an exciting crossing for all our visitors.

Whisky Distillery

New three day private tour for 2017

See the best of Scotland in a three day  private tour. No need to pack a suitcase each day! In 2017 we offer a new multi-day tour based in the bustling town of Callander in the heart of the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. Sublime Scotland guests will receive special discount at the excellent Abbotsford Lodge Guesthouse.

Day One

Day one will take you from Callander, through the national park, to stunning Loch Lubnaig. We  visit Crainlarich and the quirky Artisan Café for morning refreshments. We then explore the beautiful west coast villages and towns of Connell Bridge and the ferry port of Oban. Perhaps take a ferry over to the island of Lismore or Kerrera. Returning to Abbotsford Lodge you have time to explore Callander and its many pubs and restaurants in the evening.

Kerrera Ferry

Ferry to Kerrera, Argyll

Day Two

On day two be picked up from Abbotsford Lodge to head eastwards to the ancient medieval and university town of St Andrews. Visit the astounding  ruins of the 12th century  St Andrews Cathedral. This was once the largest church in Scotland and a place of pilgrimage. Enjoy the many historic sites in the medieval lanes and streets. Golf fans may book a walking tour of the famous Old Course at St Andrews. To finish the tour visit the harbour villages of the East Neuk of Fife or the beautiful Falkland Palace. Return to Callander for the evening or stay for dinner in the Old Town of Stirling.

Old Course, St Andrews

Old Course, St Andrews

 

Day Three

On the final day take a drive north into Highland Perthshire and enjoy exploring historic Dunkeld on the banks of the River Tay.  Next we visit the fairytale Blair Atholl Castle. Unique amongst Scottish castles  hear the story of its 700 year history, and enjoy the sound of the bagpiper as he plays. On this day we will may also visit Scotland’s smallest distillery near Pitlochry at Erdradour. Here you take a fascinating tour and enjoy a wee dram of whisky before heading back for your last night at Abbotsford Lodge.

This is one example of the three day tour based in Callander. Please get in touch for other options.

Susan’s  knowledge of the area is excellent.  It was a wonderful day and will be remembered for a lifetime. Jim and Mary Deviny, Washington, US