Bucket List Locations of Scotland – Part 3
The arrival of July brought us officially through six months of 2019, with half a year gone in a flash of Brexit chat, a royal baby and the end of Game of Thrones.
And so we start the next six, with July and the arrival of the Great British Summer wafting in on perfumed air and long, lazy evenings and the promise of a holiday. The world is in full bloom, the shy and hesitant first shoots of spring are overthrown amongst heidonous blooms and unabashed flourishes, of vibrant foliage and the rich abundance of our green world in its flush of its teenage years. Now’s the time to be outside, enjoying the outdoors and all it has to offer whilst its warm enough to brave it only in a T-shirt. Scotland is an invigorating and awe-inspiring exploration at any time of the year, which each season bringing its own delights and changes to the landscape, wildlife, nature and people (who doesn’t perk up after some Vitamin D?). So to the third (and summer) installment of our Bucket List Locations of Scotland, yet more panoramic vistas, from castles to villages, and a distillery thrown in for a good sunshine measure!
Of all the castles in Scotland, Dunrobin Castle, perched on a high terrace above walled gardens, has to occupy one of the most dramatic and picturesque locations. With its fairytale like spires and turrets, this majestic stronghold and Baroque masterpiece rises above the North Sea in dramatic and unquestioning power, dominating the coastline for miles north and south. Just a 15-minute drive south is the famous market and cathedral town of Dornoch, Dunrobin Castle is the most northerly and largest of Scotland’s great houses, and continuously inhabited since the early 1300’s and home to the Dukes of Sutherland.
A trip to the castle takes in the magnificent interiors, and entry to falconry display, museum and gardens. Inspired by the gardens at Versailles, the Dunrobin gardens haven’t changed since they were planted 150 years ago, with the sheltered gardens able to support a surprising range of plants, despite the castle’s northerly location. The views out over the North Sea are spectacular, and not to be missed. Once the history and flora and flora then head to the tea room for a bowl of hearty homemade soup, freshly prepared sandwiches, tempting homemade cakes and pastries, and local ice creams. And to find that perfect gift for friends and family or to take home as a reminder of your day at Dunrobin, stop by the gift shop for some quality Scottish crafts and woollens. Dunrobin Castle is a magnificent castle in a magnificent setting.
Gardenstown, a picturesque coastal village in Aberdeenshire located on the Moray Firth Coastline in the North East of Scotland, can be found clinging to the terraced ledges that descend the steep south-east side of Gamrie Bay. Built into the old red sandstone cliffs it has a quaint atmosphere, and the stoic presence of a village that has withstood the test of time despite the barrages of the North Sea.
The harbour and beaches offer beautiful views out over the Moray Firth, with the chance of a glimpse of the dolphins that often swim in the bay.The stunning sunsets are not to be missed and neither are the galleries, a pottery and art & craft workshops. This area has much to offer and explore with walks, wildlife, heritage, arts & crafts on your doorstep. In 2016, Rough Guides announced ‘Britain’s 30 Best Seaside Towns’ and Gardenstown reached 11th in the UK and 2nd in Scotland – if that’s not a reason to visit then what is?!
Nestled deep in the beautiful Spey Valley, Ballindalloch Single Malt Distillery is the latest edition to the highland estate of Ballindalloch, an estate that has upheld tradition while continuing to develop and grow. Returning the Macpherson-Grant family to the distilling traditions of previous generations, the first distillery built in 1820’s at Delnashaugh, above the junction of the rivers Avon and Spey, Ballindalloch Distillery aims to create the finest spirit keeping the traditional attitudes at the forefront of what they do.
Taking a tour is a great way to get up close and personal with the process. The three different tours cover all areas of interest of a potential guest, and vary in price : the standard Distillery Tour with a maximum capacity of 8 guests comes in at £35; The Ballindalloch Spirit, up to six people comes in at £75 for 4 hours of fun; with The Art of Whisky Making, for 2 people, starting at 8.00am and finishing at 4pm and allowing for a truly unique and hands on experience. A visit to Ballindalloch Single Malt Distillery is much more that just another distillery tour. Here you can become involved in the art of making whisky. Read our full article on Ballindalloch Distillery
Located at a height of 1164 ft on the northern slopes of the Cairngorm Mountains, Tomintoul is not only the highest village in the Highlands but also the highest in the UK. Snugly situated between the Rivers Avon and Conglass, the town is ideally placed to explore the Glenlivet Estate, north eastern Cairngorms and Speyside Malt Whisky Trail.
With over one hundred miles of easy access walking and biking trails exploring the wild highlands is easy. For the adventurers, there are a host of more energetic outdoor pursuits such as horse riding, clay pigeon shooting and fine fishing beats all close by, and in winter there are a variety of snow sports available at the nearby ski resort. Tomintoul itself is a great example of an 18th century Scottish Highland planned village, with a central square and many Georgian and Victorian buildings, and there are various tea shops, cafes, restaurants and quirky arts, crafts and gift shops with lots of local delights.
A walk along a bleak moorland track is rewarded threefold when the spectacular and wondrous views of Sandwood Bay come into view, an idyllic beach in Sutherland in the Highlands of Scotland. Perhaps the most beautiful beach in Britain, over a mile of pink and golden sands are backed by sand dunes and a loch whilst the views out to sea are all high cliffs and the famous Am Buachaille sea stack. The beach is exceptionally quiet as the public road ends at Blairmore a few miles to the northwest, and access is by a 4 mile, well-trodden and fairly flat path leading from the gravel car park at the hamlet of Blairmore.
Despite its popularity, Sandwood Bay never seems busy as the beach is big enough to absorb the visitors. The beach is considered to be one of the most unspoilt beaches in the whole of mainland Britain, and the crashing waves, soaring birds and endless white sand allow you to simply soak up the wild surroundings of the North West Highlands. For more on Sandwood Bay take a peek at The NC500 BLOG
The Fife Arms
Braemar, a small highland village at the end of the Dee valley, is unusual for the huge Victorian pile right in the middle of it, the Fife Arms Hotel. Originally a coaching inn, when Queen Victoria bought Balmoral, it suddenly became a place where people wanted to visit. The hotel has recently undergone a full renovation and has been imaginatively and uniquely restored, with art playing a vital role.
More than 14,000 pieces including both antiques and specially commissioned artworks have been thoughtfully integrated into every room, corridor, and corner. From the architecture to the decor, everything had to have a meaning, to tell a story. Each room is now individual and is a piece of the Braemar jigsaw, celebrating characters that had a connection with Braemar or a connection with Scottish history, such as Robert Louis Stevenson. If you are looking for an authentic, deep and almost spiritual experience in an extraordinary luxurious place, with great food and astonishing light and landscape, The Fife Arms is the place to go. On Sundays you can enjoy their Highland Feast served in the Clunie Dining Room – a glorious room featuring the impressive works of the Argentinian artist Guillermo Kuitca.
For our full portfolio of self-catering holiday homes visit our website to find holiday accommodation next to some of these Bucket List Locations. If you already have a list that includes places in Scotland why not share them with us? We would love to know where you all want to go!