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Scottish Highlands – visit in the autumn for glorious colour

Eilean Donnan Castle

Eilean Donnan Castle

Enjoying the sun on SkyeOur Autumn tour around the Scottish Highlands  offered many different possibilities. At this time of year the stunning castles had less  visitors, the colours on the mountains had turned golden and the lighting for photographers was soft and gentle from dawn to dusk.

Our tour in October took us from the west coast of Loch Lomond, through Glencoe and along the stunning tidal sea loch of Loch Linnhe. Our overnight at Fort William let us enjoy the west coast sunset.

We visited romantic Eilean Donnan Castle along the way and then our next stop was the famous Isle of Skye. The weather was spectacular and our drive along the north coast to Kilt Rock and the waterfall into the sea was truly special.

After two days on the Isle of Skye we enjoyed a drive along famous Loch Ness to Urquhart Castle where we looked carefully for the monster! We finished the day with a walk around the Culloden Battlefield. This is the scene of the last battle fought on British soil and there is an excellent visitor centre describing the historic event in 1746.

Our tour continued with the Golden Spurtle event in the Scottish Highlands, which is the world porridge making championships! The 2016 winner was from America which pleased our Michigan guests very much!

Toasting the world porridge championships

Toasting the world porridge championships

Finally we spent two nights on the east coast of Scotland firstly at Stonehaven and then  in ancient St. Andrews. We enjoyed Crathes Castle, Dunnottar and also Glamis Castle. The special visit to Arbroath  Abbey and the connection between the Scottish Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution was a lesson to us all. Thanks Cindy and Rick for being such great company on our tour of the Scottish Highlands!

Phone box on Isle of Skye

Phone box on Isle of Skye

Private Tour of Scotland

Private Tours of Scotland – book now for 2017

It has been a busy September! Our Private Tours of Scotland have taken us to Stirling where we enjoyed the medieval Stirling Castle. This lovingly restored Royal  Palace was voted the best historic attraction in the UK.

We also visited  the National Wallace Monument and climbed all the 248 steps to the top to see amazing views all over the beautiful region. As part of this tour  guests can enjoy excellent service and comfort at Abbotsford Lodge, in rural Callander, near Stirling. We also visited the fantastic ruins of Linlithgow Palace where the medieval Kings and Queens  entertained 16th century guests  from all over Europe.

Linlithgow Palace

Linlithgow Palace

We travelled to the beautiful region of Argyll to visit Inveraray Castle and the island of Kerrera. This time we hiked to the defensive Gylen Castle, standing proud on the high coastal cliff since

Kerrera Ferry

Catching the ferry to Kerrera

the 12th century. From here we could see the islands of Mull, Easdale and Seil.

 

One tour this month included a Landrover safari through the majestic Glencoe mountains. Here we met with an expert countryside ranger from the National Trust for Scotland. We explored on rough tracks deep into the mountains and heard stories about the landscape and the wildlife. We even heard about the filming of Harry Potter in the Glencoe Mountains.Enjoying the island of KerreraGylen Castle - Kerrera

 

Scottish Cathedrals

There are many Scottish Cathedrals offered on our tours. This tour included Dunkeld Cathedral. It is a lovely spot on the banks of the River Tay in Perthshire. The Cathedral was the centre of the Scottish Church until this moved to St Andrews Cathedral.

In August the flower baskets around the village are stunning and add to the colour of the centre.

Portree harbour, Skye

Portree harbour, Skye

On this tour we had also been to Fort Augustus. We had seen the Caledonian Canal and Loch Ness. We then drove through stunning Glen Sheil and saw the famous Five Sisters of Kintail mountain ridge. Our visit to Portree was short but very enjoyable in the summer sunshine over the harbour.

Dunkeld is an historic village where the centre was lovingly restored in the mid 20th century. It is now a lovely place to stroll through either at the end of a tour before returning to the city, or as a first stop on the way to the Highlands. Last week we had a picnic on the riverbank after a visit to Scone Palace and Huntingtower Castle.

One of the few Scottish Cathedrals untouched by the damage of the Reformation was Glasgow Cathedral and this is a must visit place on any tour of this beautiful city.

 

Islay

Whisky island of Islay

At Loch Lomond after Islay tour

At Loch Lomond after Islay tour

Reindeer The whisky Island of Islay is a lovely spot for a  short visit and lots of peaty whisky. Our guests suggested the tour to follow after they had enjoyed a cycling vacation in Scotland. This was a perfect way to wind down and sample some of the many excellent malts on this very special island of Islay.

The choice of Lagavullin in the morning and Laphraoig in the afternoon meant almost no time was wasted travelling between them! We heard the stories of each 200 year history, enjoyed the samples and the trip to the peat cutting was a whole new experience.

The two hour ferry crossing makes sure you know you are going somewhere special and the friendly waves as we drove around confirmed this…A visit to the island Islay can be combined with the best of the west coast of Scotland such as the ferry port of Oban or the long, narrow Mull of Kintyre.

The icing on the cake was meeting Scotland’s long  distance cyclist Mark Beaumont who was making a documentary “Wild About Argyll” – one worth looking out for soon….

Argyll

Wild About Argyll

Castles, Culloden and the Cuillin Mountains

Just finished a really great tour around Scotland visiting Culloden Battlefield, The Cuillins and Cawdor Castle. We found some really quiet places. We walked through Glen Sligachan in Skye where the slight fall of rain kept all but the most keen walkers indoors. We could feel the brooding Cuillin mountains through the mist.

When we left Skye the sun was shining from early morning so we made the most of it with an early start and gathered up the views along the way. Every peak on the ridge was visible and by the time we reached the ferry at Kylerea we were keen to do some otter hunting from the well made hide high up on the coast.

The ferry trip across was out of the this world! This small special ferry – the only manual turntable ferry in the world – takes only six vehicles. On the trip we took there was only Sublime Scotland aboard so we had a private charter ferry!! After visiting the iron Age Dun Broch – 9m high of a double skinned stone wall we had an excellent lunch at Glenelg Inn.

The slightly hair-raising drive over the pass was well rewarded with views over to the Kintail ridge – what a sport for a picnic!

The second part of the weeks tour was to feature the famous Culloden Battlefield . Such an excellent visitor centre and even the thunder and lightning as we explored the battlefield only added to the sense of history and poignancy.

The home of the Marquis of Cawdor was next, the beautifully kept Cawdor Castle where the humourous and quirky historic notes added a rare sense of fun to a castle visit.

The last two days of the tour let us get out and about exploring the paths along Ben Wyvis, the amazing Corrieshalloch Gorge and then the delightful ferry port of Ullapool. The last drive along the iconic Glencoe back to Stirling completed a memorable week. The icing on the cake was a small side trip to Cambuskenneth Abbey to see the stunning remains on the 14th century Abbey and the burial-place of King James III.

A really special week and thanks to Pam for being the perfect guest.

 

Hiking in Scotland

What a lovely  walk we had hiking over the beautiful Conic Hill. This is one of the best views of Loch Lomond in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. With a mix of forest, open views and then the loch and the islands this was a great day out.

Lunch in Balmaha at the Independent Pub of 2016 was a good way to end the day. Some local ale or Scottish fresh produce in a local burger or some fresh seafood.

Ben Nevis

Enjoy stunning Ben Nevis

Enjoy Ben Nevis from this fantastic viewpoint. Last week we had a great tour to the Isle of Skye and enjoyed seeing Ben Nevis twice in one week. The weather and views on the final day were stunning.

We also visit St Andrews for the castle and the cathedral. We had a really fun  visit to Stirling Castle and had a quick viewpoint of the national Wallace Monument. The walk and waterfalls at The Hermitage were very photogenic which was great for the keen photographer in the family!

Day three and we enjoyed the fairytale Eilean Donan Castle before heading over to Skye and walking in the foothills of the majestic Cuillins. We gave Portree a miss so that we had time to go further north to Kilt Rock on the far east cliff top.

Our overnight stop in Plockton look amazing in the sunny evening and the palm trees were a surprise for our guests on tour. The sunny weather continue all the way through Glencoe on the final day and a last stop at Loch Lomond saw all the local families enjoying the afternoon sun. A brief appearance by some midges did not spoil our fun.

Private tour

Private tour of Scotland

This private tour took us on a six day circuit of Scotland. From the ruined ancient castle of St Andrews to the cliff top Dunnotar Castle. That was only day one. Day two started with the wonderful Crathes Castle of Aberdeenshire. Stunning gardens too.

Next we ventured into Speyside and the world famous Malt Whisky Trail. The tour of Aberlour Distillery gave us lots of think about with six different malts to taste after the tour of the distillery.

Day three was a walk in the ancient Caledonian Pine forest of the Cairngorm National Park. Two hours around Loch An Eilean was a great way to stretch the legs and admire the amazing scenery. This contrasted well with our historical visit of the day to Culloden Battlefield. Telling the tale of the last battle fought on British soil in April 1746. Bonnie Prince Charlie did not lead his men to victory that day. The new GPS assisted audio guides to the battlefield were amazing.

The drive along the famous Loch Ness next day was gorgeous with the promise of hot sunny weather. Urquhart Castle stood proudly on the banks of the Loch and it was easy to see why it was placed there so many centuries ago.

Day five was a very special day on the Isle of Skye. A walk along Glen Sligachan in warm sunny weather was a special memory – for tour guests and the guide! A visit to the capital of Portree gave the chance for a stroll along the colourful harbour. This day showed the benefit of a private tour as the walk  was exactly the length and height requested!

The last day of the tour took us over the sea to the ferry port of Mallaig. Then we travelled through the magnificent Glencoe mountains. One of the special places of Scottish history and landscape it was a stunning drive. Finally we waved to Doune Castle then Stirling Castle before reaching Edinburgh. One last night in Scotland before flying home to Canada. All good things come to an end – before the next time!

Whisky Distillery

Enjoy a Scotch whisky

Enjoy a Scotch whisky at Scotland’s smallest distillery. we are just back from a tour to Speyside enjoying the  The Whisky Trail. We also passed through Pitlochry and visited the lovely  Erdradour Distillery. Every distillery has something different to offer and it is great fun finding new places to visit and hear the story of that distillery.

Of course these distilleries be easily mixed with castle visits, beautiful  walks and even a little retail therapy.

Our whisky tours   can be included in any of our multi-day tours such as Scotland Revealed five day tour. Or we can visit a distillery in a single day if time is short. Some of the other tours such as Inverary C astle  from a cruise ship can include a visit to a specialist shop. There is no shortage of options for a taste of Scotch even if there is no distillery near by!

Visit Kerrera and Mull

The tiny island of Kerrera is indeed a hidden gem. Only ten minutes from the bustling ferry town of Oban, then a five minute ferry adventure and you arrive on this lovely island. Perfect for a walk into the hills but a very nice path to take you up hill and down dale.

The enticing signs to the local tea room were so quirky. The views over the to the mainland were stunning and even on a cooler day it would be a protected walk on the east side of the island next to the mainland. See some of the amazing views we had in this brief video.

This is also a paradise for geologists, there is Gylen Castle to visit and even an Iron Age hillock to explore. The best is yet to come – the tea room at the end of the one hour walk was not to disappoint. Lovely soup and even better cakes. A pot of tea for two and we were refreshed for the return journey.

This was a great way to spend the day before the fabulous Obanlive music festival. Next time I shall complete the circuit of this most intriguing west coast island.