Bucket List Locations of Scotland – Part 2
The ‘Bucket List’. A list of dreams and ambition. A list that we create to make sure we see the things we want to see. A list of hope.
Back in December, you may remember that we set out an inspirational Bucket List of Amazing Locations in Scotland to set 2019 off with a bang. And now, the first quarter of the year is almost done, there is an air of unbridled optimism in our step as we turn our faces to the sun, breath in the scented air and take a moment to be grateful that the longest, darkest, hardest months that the year hands us are over. We shed them as easily as we shrug off our winter coats, and Scotland’s grass rises green and lush, waking from its downtrodden winter slumber. We and the world are in rebirth, and don’t we all want to be appreciated when we undergo a makeover? Scotland plays host to the most extraordinary locations, of history and culture dating back thousands of years, to views so breathtaking they are hard to beat anywhere in the world. When you experience the dramatic mountain landscapes climbing to the heavens, or the sea and sky interchangeable on the sunset horizon, or the heady, breathing heart of the pine forest, take a deep breath and appreciate it. Because appreciation makes effort worthwhile, and doesn’t Scotland go to a lot of effort to impress?
A visit to Stirling Castle is an essential part of any visit to central Scotland. Perched 250 ft up on its high volcanic rock, surrounded on three sides by steep cliffs and visible for many miles in every direction, its location was of strategic interest to anyone wanting to control central Scotland. And indeed, Stirling Castle has seen many a turbulent time, with the castle having been attacked or besieged at least 16 times. During a long and bloody history, three battles have been fought in its immediate vicinity, two of which were turning points in Scottish history. As it guards the lowest crossing point of the River Forth movement across central Scotland as made easier for anyone with power in the castle. A favoured residence of the Stewart kings and queens who held grand celebrations from christenings to coronations, knights, nobles and foreign ambassadors once flocked to Stirling Castle to marvel at its grandeur with its superb sculptures and beautiful gardens. Today, take a tour and explore the spectacular interiors, including the Great Hall, Chapel Royal, Castle Exhibition, Regimental Museum, Great Kitchens and the Tapestry Studio. The walkways on the Outer Defences offer the most beautiful views of the surrounding area, from the mountainous Trossachs to the Wallace Monument, and to the south-east the Forth Road Bridge near Edinburgh. A visit comprises of costumed bodyguards, court officials, maids of honour and servants giving you a glimpse of 16th century life. Try your hand at playing medieval instruments, or dressing up yourself! A guided tour by knowledgeable staff brings makes the whole experience even better, by bringing the history the castle’s notorious characters to life. And when you require it, the Unicorn Café has a range of hot and cold drinks and yummy food. This is a great day out, and really not to be missed. Home to generations of Scottish monarchs including, Mary Queen of Scots, the Castle is a powerful reminder of Scotland’s fascinating history.
Loch Ness is brimming with history, and tales of the world’s shyest monster, and taking to the water you might just spot Nessie. Silently roaming the murky depths, reports dated as early as the 6th century claim that a creature swiftly splits the water, revealing its recognisable neck and humps, before vanishing as quickly as it emerges. It’s a familiar tale for lots of visitors to Loch Ness, with the mysteries and myths surrounding Scotland’s most famous legend stretching back hundreds of years. With 23 miles of loch to explore, looking for Nessie is no small task, but worth it for the breathtaking surroundings you pass through on your search. Loch Ness with its castle, monuments and scenery is second to none with panoramic views that are hard to rival anywhere in the world. You have to sail it to believe it. Jacobite Cruises have four vessels decked out with everything you could need to make sure you can explore the world’s most famous loch in safety and comfort, including serving a range of light snacks, soft drinks, and hot beverages to warm the chilly fingers for above deck viewing! There is even a bar on board should you require a celebration (maybe the rain has stayed away- sláinte!) Take the Clansman Cruise one hour voyage across the deepest, bluest and most mysterious waters of Loch Ness. Stand in the wild wind under the scudding clouds from the top deck and breath in the fresh highland air, whilst treating your eyes to the breathtaking sight of the historic Urquhart Castle.
It’s easy to fall in love with the atmospheric beauty of Urquhart Castle which sits on Strone Point, a rocky peninsula on Loch Ness. Written records show that a castle has stood on this site from at least the 13th Century, as a result of an uprising by the people of Moray against King Alexander II. With the rebellion quashed, the King named his son-in-law, Alan Durward, the Lordship of Urquhart, and established a stronghold in the area. It has an interesting history of possession being passed backwards and forwards being the Scottish and English crowns, and anyone with a love of history and ancient, medieval castles should make sure to catch the visitor centre. The Clansman Cruise and Castle tour allows you to hop ashore for an hour to explore Urquhart Castle and its turbulent past.
Ah, Aulde Reekie, where do we even start? Thus named in the 17th century for the noxious combination of sewage coal smoke that suffocated the streets, Scotland’s capital city is still sometimes referred to as Auld Reekie, meaning ‘Old Smokey‘ in the Scots dialect. Nowadays, Edinburgh establishments from tours to coffee shops have proudly adopted this nickname as their own, wearing their insalubrious history with pride. Scotland’s capital lives and breathes history – from historic castles and palaces, winding ancient streets and wynds, market places, grand cathedrals, galleries and museums and beautiful gardens there is so much to see and do. Holyrood, the royal mile. Arthur’s seat, the galleries, the dungeons, the castles, the gardens, the festival, eat, drink and be merry in more pubs than you can count – Edinburgh is teeming with culture and history, all keen to be explored. And at the pinnacle, standing tall overseeing the Newtown to the north, and the Old Town to the south, and running the famous mile east to Holyrood, is Edinburgh Castle. Casting her mighty shadow from the top of cragged faces of Castle Rock, Edinburgh Castle is a fortress of power, dominating the skyline of the City of Edinburgh. There has been a royal castle on this vantage point since at least the 12th century, and through the ages the castle has been used as a royal residence, a prison, and an army garrison. It is the most important castle in Scotland and has been at the center of numerous wars, having been attacked and besieged many times. Perhaps then it is no surprise, with its long history, that Edinburgh is said to be one of the most haunted locations in Scotland and indeed Europe. The most famous ghost of the castle is The Lone Piper, said to be the ghost of a missing boy that 700 years ago, when sent in to some discovered tunnels to see where they lead, disappeared. Told to play his pipes as he progressed through the tunnels so the above ground could track his progress, they abruptly stopped close to the Tron Church on the mile. Despite searches, he was never found. Ever since that time many people have reported hearing the faint underground sounds of a lone bagpipe being played far below ground under Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile.. There is always more to Edinburgh than meets the eye, which is amazing considering with all the hidden nooks and crannies, underground passageways, secret tunnels and fantastic architecture, there is plenty to see! A rich history dating back hundreds of years is visible all around you, it is easy to be transported back 100 of years. So the next time you walk the Royal Mile, marvelling at the beauty of this city, take a second to imagine what it must been like to live here centuries ago, and be thankful for how far Edinburgh has come since its reeking past.
Goatfell – Isle of Arran
A fine conical peak and a magnificent viewpoint, Goatfell is the highest of the mountains the Isle of on Arran and at 2,866 ft (874 m), it’s the highest point on the island. The culminating point of some dramatic granite ridges, the skyline is dominated by the jagged summits and ridges of Goatfell and the surrounding hills. With open, rugged, landscape formed during the last ice age the spectacular landscape and dramatic scenery makes the ascent of Goatfell a hugely rewarding experience. The hike to the summit is a challenging climb, but the spectacular and dramatic views make for absolutely stunning panoramic vistas. The mountain stands guard above Brodick Castle, which is worth a visit for its gardens, woodland, waterfalls and a castle packed with treasures. The climb takes between 2 and 5 hours, so pack plenty of supplies and make sure you are properly equipped. Is is fairly easy for the most part and follows a wide path with clear views of the top. The last 20 minutes are more challenging with an interesting bit of scrambling over large rocks to get right to the summit. But make sure you stop every ten minutes or so to see the landscape below changing the higher you climb, and when you reach the top, the views make every second of the climb worth it. Fantastic 360 views from the top with views of Jura and Ben Lomond, and from where you can see the whole island, Bute, Cumbrae and the mainland/peninsula on both sides as well. On a clear day you can even see as far as Ireland.
The opportunities to spot wildlife are everywhere, so look out for buzzards and golden eagles soaring high in the sky. Discover the abundance of flora and fauna, from dwarf juniper and sweet-scented heather to tiger beetles and emperor moths. Goat Fell is a favourite destination for hill-walkers and climbers, and a superb example of a mountain climb with a reward at the end. We have a lovely range of holiday homes on Arran which are the perfect base for adventuring!
Casting his gigantic over the town of Fort William in the north west highlands of Scotland, the legendary peak of Ben Nevis towers above glistening lochans and deep glacial valleys. At its summit, the Ben reaches heights of 1344 m (4409 ft), making it the highest mountain in Scotland. As far as reaching the heavens this is as close as you get in Scotland. Part of the Grampian Mountain range, with his snow topped summit and cragged faces, Ben Nevis is the king of them all. The mountain is all that’s left of an ancient volcano. It’s peak is the collapsed dome of the volcano that imploded millions of years ago. A must for an avid hill walker or munro bagger, the summit was reached for the first times in August 1771 by James Robertson, a botanist from Edinburgh. Over the centuries it has continued to attract the attention of walkers, amblers and those that love panoramic vistas, and today the famous peak attracts 125k walkers a year. An observatory was built at the summit in 1883 to monitor the weather at high altitudes and was open for 20 years and was then left unmanned due to lack of funding. It’s ruins can still be seen at the summit today, a neat piece of history forever on the summit of the highest mountain in the UK. There has been some debate about the meaning of the name, with there being two translations from the ancient Gaelic language. One meaning is ‘mountain with its head in the clouds’, the other ‘venomous mountain’. Perhaps once you’ve given it a climb you will be able to make up your own mind as to which is more appropriate!
Loch Lomond and the surrounding Trossachs – a place of snow capped peaks, glimmering waters and sweeping forests – truly reflects Scotland’s world renowned scenery. First put on the map by Sir Walter Scott’s “Lady of the Lake” in 1810, its popularity has grown and it remains one of the most loved and most explored areas of Scotland today. Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park was designated in 2002 as Scotland’s first national park consisting of 21 munroes, 22 lochs, two forest parks and over 50 designated special nature conservation sites that are home to a variety of wildlife.
The eponymous loch, with a shoreline of 153km, is the largest inland stretch of water in Great Britain. If that is not in itself reason enough to visit then just imagine the wild scenery, thrilling history, exciting trail rides, climbing, biking, hiking plus suberb local food and drink. You could take a cruise on the waters in the shadow of the mighty bulk of Ben Lomond, Scotland’s most southerly Munro, as well as the jagged shoulders of the Arrochar Alps, stopping to perhaps visit one of the loch’s 30 islands. If you are of the opinion that there is nothing better than an afternoon on the water then look no further- you have a choice of kayaks, canoes, jet skis or perhaps a windsurfer. Every kind of watercraft can be seen cruising the blue waters, and there is plenty going on below the surface, so anglers (and permits) at the ready! For those that enjoy a pint or two, visit Loch Lomond Brewery and see how these handcrafted ales and beers “capture the flavour of the surrounding landscape”.
If shopping is your thing then make sure you pay a visit to the Loch Lomond Shores, with views up the water making it one of the most beautifully situated shopping destinations in Britain. You can browse famous Scottish brands and unique one-off shops, and pick up some fine local fare to tickle the taste buds and fill the tummy. There is something to capture the heart and imagination of everyone in this marvellously beautiful and rugged place. These are but a few of the adventures you could have if you venture to the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. Read our full blog on Loch Lomond and watch our short video featuring some wonderful holiday homes nearby.
So there you have it, another set of fabulous bucket list locations which we feel are a must-see when visiting Scotland – we hope it’s been helpful! Let us know if you have been to any of them and also let us know if you have any suggestions for Part 3.
Visit our website today to discover self catering accommodation all over Scotland.