Not sure what to do on your next visit to Scotland? Planning a decent itinerary can take time and energy so why not choose a pre-planned trail based around activities you enjoy.
Follow the Amber Nectar Road – The Malt Whisky Trail
For those who love a wee dram of the good stuff there is no better way to spend your holidays than following the world’s only malt whiskey trail. The Speyside trail takes in several distilleries: Benromach, Cardhu, Dallas Dhu, Glenfiddich, Glen Grant, Glenlivet, Glen Moray and Strathisla.
Built in areas with a rich supply of barley and clear spring water, each distillery has their own recipe and set of traditional brewing rules. Benromach has the world’s first certified organic malt as well as a cask signed by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, whilst the Glenfiddich Distillery is one of a very few that still remains in the hands of the family who founded it.
The trail also included the Speyside Cooperage which is the only working Cooperage in the UK. See the casks integral to the Scottish Whisky making process hand crafted by skilled coopersand have a go at making your own mini cask!
The trail is clearly marked and easy to navigate and can be completed as a whole on a longer break or in part for those with time limitations. Set in the Spey Valley, the Whiskey Trail is also a great option for sportsmen, walkers and history lovers alike. The Speyside Way is a stunning walking and cycling route dotted with fishing villages and idyllic beaches. There are also a number of world class golf courses in the area. Visit the Malt Whisky Trail for more info.
Scottish Castle Trail
With 17 stunning castles to visit, the Aberdeenshire Castle Trail is a great choice for families and groups. The area boasts the highest castle density in the UK as well as lots of other points of interest, including the Cairngorms National Park and the Dolphin Coast.
Perched atop rugged and wild cliffs, the first castle on the map is Dunottar. It is a ruined fortress famous for the gruesome Whig’s Vault of 1685. This was a dark time at Dunottar Castle as 122 men and 45 women were imprisoned for refusing to support and recognize the King’s supremacy in spiritual matters. They were locked in cells with hardly any food and no sanitation whatsoever for over two months. It is thought 5 prisoners died but 25 actually escaped, with the others either falling to their deaths during the attempted escape or being sold into slavery in the West Indies. Dunottar Castle holds a lot of history within its walls and you can still visit the cells even now and take a tour of the grounds.
Other castles of particular interest include Balmoral Castle, the Scottish holiday home of the royal family. It was bought by Prince Albert for Queen Victoria and remains as a privately owned estate and not as part of the Crown’s properties. Albert used to love shooting and hunting deer and game whilst Victoria took regular walks for hours at a time across the mesmerizing landscapes. It now fills 49,000 acres of land and has over the years had other facilities added to it by members of the Royal Family. It’s a great day out and you can wander the gardens and exhibitions at set times of the year when the Royals are not in residence of course.
Corgarff Castle, which was used a base by the Victorian government for tackling whisky smuggling in the local area, has a long and arduous history and can be mistaken for what it effectively is now, a farmhouse. Built in 1550, it became a meeting point for armed forces in the civil war, it was burnt down several times during its history by Government forces and insurgents and the Jacobites used it as an arms store at one point due to its location and convenience. It was repurchased by the Government as a preventative measure to handle whisky smuggling and then subsequently was owned by two sisters as a home and then abandoned during the First World War. It now is under the restoration and care of the Lonach Highland Friendly Society. It’s a wonderful area to visit and steeped in Scottish history, perhaps having seen more action than any other castle in the country. And most impressively, it is still standing. Print out this guide to the Scottish Castle Trail before you go
Harry Potter Locations
If you like books then it’s likely you know of Harry Potter. This incredible series of books all started from somewhere and J.K.Rowling was seen in several Scottish cafes with her notebook, jotting notes down ideas for her best-selling series. You can visit the Balmoral Hotel where she purportedly finished writing the final book in the series as well as the local cafes that she frequented.
Of course every fan wants to see Hogwarts Castle, played in the films by Alnwick Castle, a fantastic location for photo opportunities.
The Glenfinnan Viaduct, as seen in the Ford Anglia car-flying scene in The Chamber Of Secrets, is also an absolute must for photographers and Potter fans alike.
Scotland was clearly an inspiration to J.K Rowling and with so many locations to choose from, it’s a great trail for the whole family to enjoy. With stunning scenery, wildlife, structures and a deep and rich history, it’s the perfect place to have your very own adventure. See this site about Harry Potter film locations for more info.
Photo credits: All via flickr
Author Bio: Vicky works alongside the Altnaharra fishing hotel in the highlands. She is a keen traveler and history buff who enjoys visiting castles and stately homes. Travelling on the Jacobite railway and crossing the Glenfinnan Vidaduct was one of her all time favourite holiday moments! In her spare time she likes to read, run and play the guitar.
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