Elie Ness Lighthouse
First lit in 1908 after sailors worried about not being able to see the rocky cliffside, the Elie Ness Lighthouse is situated between the Isle of May and Inchkeith. Now watched over by the Elie Ness Historical Society and Forth Ports, the lighthouse and the nearby cottage is still maintained. The lighthouse actually sits on its own stretch of land and, following a restoration in 2010, visitors can still explore the wonders of this modern lighthouse.
Glenfarg Railway Tunnel
Opened in 1890, this place isn’t one for claustrophobes. The now disused Glenfarg line is over 5 miles long and punctuated by two tunnels – each 500m long. If you’re a walker looking for somewhere new and exciting to explore, the Glenfarg tunnels allow you to walk through the disused North and South train tunnels. Top tip – the tunnels are very dark, so make sure to bring your torch when you visit!
There’s a bear on the way to Newburgh – but thankfully, not a real one! Cut into the grass of Park Hill in the 1980s, the piece shows a bear and a ragged staff, believed to have come from a stone carving from the nearby Lindores Abbey and has been passed down through noble families across the centuries – from the legend of King Arthur to the Norman Conquerors.
Hamish McHamish Statue
In the heart of St Andrews, one particular celebrity is immortalized in bronze. No, it’s not a royal or a rockstar – it’s Hamish McHamish, the unofficial mascot of the town and a beloved stray cat. The ginger cat explored the length and breadth of the city, with plenty of locals taking the time to feed and care for him. He even had his own social media pages. Though Hamish has now passed away, the statue immortalizes the joy he brought to St Andrews’ residents.
Standing Stones of Lundin
Scotland has many Neolithic and pre-historic remains, but the Lundin Links Standing Stones are particularly stunning to visit. Three lone-standing stones believed to date back all the way to the Bronze Age, sit in a traditional stone circle on the rolling landscape and is one of the most dynamic standing stone formations in the country. Though historians are unsure of what the stones were used for, many believe they represented a place of great ceremony, used over 2000 years ago for important celebrations and events.
Perfect for hikers, Maspie Den is a set of walking paths on the Falkland Estate – pride of place in the heyday of the 19th century. The footpath and woodland areas have undergone extensive reconstruction to welcome walkers in, and you can wander alongside the Coal Pit Burn and through the estate’s grounds as you go. Don’t forget to add the Yad Waterfall to your ‘must-see’ list as you plan your walk along Maspie Den.
South-East of Cowdenbeath is Lochore Castle, a ruined tower house dating back to the 14th century. Originally, the castle sat atop a mound that was surrounded by the waters of Loch Ore – though the water was drained in the 18th century. A traditional motte-and-bailey castle that originally had four storeys and corner towers, the area has been completely re-landscaped and the nearby loch refilled.
The first path is a 2 mile loop round the grounds, past the house and through the golf course. This filled with flat paths which are accessible and suitable for buggies. The second route is 5.5 miles and extends the walk by taking you round the scenic Loch of Skene.
Once you have finished this walk, you are close to Forest Farm Dairy for some of the creamiest ice creams that kids will love!
Though now ruined, the Ravenscraig Castle was once the spot of Kings and Queens. Built for Mary of Gueldres in the 15th century, it was only completed when handed to the Sinclair family, who fortified it to protect against attack. Now managed by Historic Environment Scotland, Ravenscraig Castle was also the inspiration for the great Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott, who made it the setting in a section of his poem, Lay of the Last Minstrel.
Lady’s Tower, Ruby Bay
With a dramatic view over the waters of the bay, Lady’s Tower was built for a rather specific purpose in the 1700s. It was built for Lady Janet Anstruther – a merchant’s daughter renowned for her great beauty and greater reputation – who used it as a spot to sit and relax. She was believed to have bathed nude in the waters of the bay before ascending to the tower to recover from the shock of the water.
Saint Margaret’s Cave
Dating back centuries, the cave is so named after St Margaret, who was once the Queen of Scotland – around 1070. Made a saint by Pope Innocent the Fourth, Margaret was a deeply pious woman who walked up the cave to pray over 900 years ago and is now something of a pilgrimage site for visitors. You can explore the cave via a wooded pathway and a short climb, with a tunnel leading you deep inside the cave where Margaret herself once prayed.
There is a large car park and the main trail to Tappie Tower is 4 miles. This trail has good clear paths the whole way up and gives you great views over to the North Sea and Bennachie. Tappie Tower is a fun little 19th Centaury tower that children will enjoy climbing!
A Church of Scotland place of worship since 1072, Dunfermline Abbey was the first Christian church ever built in the area and was once a burial site for Scottish royalty – including Robert the Bruce. Built from the ruins of a Benedictine Abbey, it’s one of the most significant cultural sites in Scotland – not just for its resting place of early Scotland’s great leaders, but also as the birthplace of Charles I –the last British monarch to be born in Scotland.
On the coastline is the charming town of Pittenween, an active port area renowned for its fish markets and vibrant community atmosphere. Set in the East Neuk of Fife, the village centres around the harbour, where many properties now restored by the National Trust capture the history of the area. Nearby, you’ll find the famous Kellie Lodge – a 16th-century townhouse – and St Fillan’s Cave on the cliffside.
In the Firth of Forth is Inchcolm, a small island that is now home to a ruined Augustine Abbey. Repeatedly attacked by the English during the Scottish Wars of Independence, its name comes from the word ‘Innis Choluim’, Scottish Gaelic for ‘Columba’s Island’. Just one mile from the Fife coastline, the island was also used as a base for the Royal Navy during WWI.
Scotland’s Secret Bunker
Perhaps the worst kept secret in Scotland, this Secret Bunker seems, on the surface, rather innocuous. But step inside and you’ll find Scotland’s Secret Underground Nuclear Command Centre. Set 100ft underground, its farmhouse exterior hid the centre – built in 1953 – as the Cold War began to progress. Now, its history is immortalized in an interactive museum.
Perhaps best known in the contemporary day for being one of the locations used in Outlander, Culross is also home to a brand new memorial to the 380 women who were executed after being accused of witchcraft. Placed along the Fife Coastal Path, visitors to Culross will be able to learn more about the area’s history and relationship to the witch trials of the period.
If you go down to Dunino Den, you might just find a big surprise. Close to St Andrews, this area of shaded woodland is believed to have been haunted by fairies and a significant site of Pagan worshippers. Crags, crosses, messages set in stone – it’s believed that the Pagan ancestors left these symbols for future generations to discover more about the time in which they lived. Visitors can expect a supernatural vibe within the forest, as though the Druids are still there in spirit.
Formed over 7000 years ago by the movement of the sea, the Wemyss Caves are found just north of the Firth of Forth. It’s believed that the caves were integral to communities in pre-historic Britain, with organizations now dedicated to preserving the large number of carvings that were found in the caves. Visitors can explore the six remaining caves that sit along the coastline and see some of the earliest examples of Pichtish Art.
Adrenaline seekers should hurry to the Fife Coastline and to the Elie Chain Walk – which is not for the faint-hearted! Just set a little away from the village of Elie, the cliffs above the Fife Coastal Park boast a difficult terrain that experienced walkers can scale with the help of hanging chains to keep you steady. If your nerve is strong enough to take on the walk, you can expect gorgeous views over Kincraig Point and Shell Bay as you climb.
Take a gentle walk through the Fife countryside and you’ll find one of the most oddly shaped rock formations in the country. The Bunnett Stane (or bonnet, if you’re anglicizing it) sits in West Lomond and is named after its distinctive, mushroom-like shape. Formed over centuries of ice, wind and water, you’ll find a manmade cave just beneath it where you can find out more about this incredible feat of natural rock formation.
In the care of Historic Environment Scotland, the ruins of Culross Abbey – once an order for Cistercian monks in the 1200s – are still a beautiful sight to behold. Some parts of the abbey are still used for the local Church of Scotland parish and often plays host to many cultural events in the area. One of the oldest Christian sites in Scotland, the abbey is now open to the public – and often plays host to local weddings.
Wellie Garden of St Monans
At the harbour of St Monans, on an otherwise non-descript slipway, is a rather wonderful slice of horticulture. Indeed, because the plants have not been planted in pots or the earth – but in wellie boots. The shipyard is now no longer used but has been given a new lease on life thanks to Win Brown – a local teacher. Visit in the summer and you’ll find around 200 pairs of boots, packed with flowers.
Doocot of Crail
Though the Doocot – a building that houses pigeons – is a familiar site in Fife, Crail is distinctive primarily by its hive shape. Originally built in the 16th century to supply food to the local communities, the building was partially restored in the 60s and then further in the 2010s. Now, visitors can visit the Doocot, explore its insides and learn more about the extensive history of the building itself.
St Fillan’s Cave
Head down to Pittenweem harbour and you’ll find St Fillan’s Cave – a place believed to have some rather magical qualities. Fillan was an Irish missionary who was active in converting Fife residents to Christianity in the 8th century. It was believed he lived in the cave, writing sermons by the light of his luminous arm. Inside the cave, you’ll find the well dedicated to the saint, whose healing waters were believed to cure the ill.
Last Fatal Duel in Scotland – Cardenden
On the surface, a seemingly tranquil forest is actually home to the last fatal duel that took place on Scottish soil. A banker and a linen merchant found themselves at pistols at dawn on a cold morning in 1826. The banker was shot dead, despite being an ex-military man, and the linen merchant was found not guilty of murder. True crime buffs and history lovers unite – and take a stroll along this indelible place in Scottish history.
St Monans Old Kirk
One of the oldest Scottish churches still used by locals today, St Monans Old Kirk dates back to AD 1256 and, following disuse, was believed to have been rebuilt by King David I as a way to thank God for his safe passage during a storm. Built into the cliffs of St Monans, the church is one of a handful of medieval places of worship still left in the country and is also considered one of the most beautiful in Scotland.
St Andrews Cathedral
Noted as Scotland’s largest medieval church, St Andrews Cathedral’s majesty overlooks the coast and is one of the town’s most prominent landmarks. Once the seat for the leading bishops and archbishops of Scotland, the ruins stretch across 199m and was designated a scheduled monument in 1999.
St Andrews Old Course
St Andrews – and Scotland as a whole – is known for golf, but there is no course older or more iconic than the St Andrews Old Course. Played on by some of the greatest golfers in history, the course is home to the famous Swilcan Bridge and Hell Bunker – and is open for anyone to play a round on. St Andrews Old Course has also hosted the Open Championships more times than any other course in the country.
Fife is also home to a tennis court considered to be the oldest in the world. At Falkland Place, the hidden gem of the Royal Tennis Courts is a roofless space where early editions of the sport were played as far back as the 1500s. It gets it ‘royal’ name from its commissioner – King James IV, whose family enjoyed playing ‘royal tennis’ on the court, a version slightly different from the modern game. If you’re visiting Falkland Palace, a few sets on the court are certainly in order!
Kingarrock Hickory Golf
The last remaining hickory golf course in the UK, Kingarrock will transport back through almost one hundred years of history across the 9-hole course. First built in 1924, the course was reopened to the public following years of improvements for players in 2008. Whatever your handicap, whether you’re a keen golfer – or much more acquainted with the sport’s ‘crazy’ side, Kingarrock is the perfect place to test out your skills.
West Sands Beach
Fifteen minutes from the centre of St Andrews is West Sands Beach, a stretch of beautiful beach that was awarded the 2014 Keep Scotland Beautiful Seaside Award. The two miles of sand are perhaps most famous for the iconic opening scene of the 1981 film Chariots of Fire – so it’s the perfect place to test out your racing skills.
Just southwest of St Andrews, the Craigtoun Country Park is a great spot for families to visit. Originally part of the forty-seven-acre Mount Melville Estate, much of the grounds’ original design still remains – including the rose garden, walled garden and Italian garden. You’ll also want to visit the ‘Dutch Village’ – a small island village in the middle of a lake. Explore the park by tractor, train or even by boat and pedalo!
Isle of May
A protected natural reserve in the Firth of Forth, the Isle of May is home to puffins, seals seabirds – and a long history of smugglers. Best visited in the summer months – particularly to see the mating seabirds – a boat takes you up to the island and gives you time to explore the stunning natural landscape that brought monks and Vikings to its shores centuries ago.
A Tour of Historic Stirling
When it comes to the history of Scotland, there are few places as important as Stirling. Positioned at a crossing point in the River Forth, its known as the Guardian of the Highlands for a reason. Hundreds of years ago, if an army wanted to move north then they had to go past Stirling.
Major historical events have taken place all around Scotland’s smallest city and the evidence is still there for all to see.
The highlight of most visits to the city, Stirling Castle has a long and exciting history. Surrounded by cliffs on three sides, this was a powerful fortress favoured by Scottish royalty. Its more of a luxury palace than a defensive structure now, but Stirling Castle was deeply involved in many Scottish conflicts including the Wars of Independence.
In 1304, this was the final bastion of Scottish resistance against Edward Longshanks’ powerful army. The garrison knew that they were alone and out of options. When the Scots surrendered, Edward refused to accept until he could try out Warwolf – an enormous trebuchet that had taken over 2 months to build.
Fast forward almost 150 years and Stirling Castle was safely back in Scottish hands and the scene for one of the bloodiest dinner parties in Scottish history. King James II invited the powerful 8th Earl of Douglas here under a letter of safe passage to discuss their differences. An argument broke out and that letter wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. Douglas wasn’t just killed, he was stabbed 26 times and thrown from a window into the grounds below.
The small Mote Hill right next to Stirling Castle doesn’t get a lot of attention. For those who do make the small climb, they’ll find an old lump of rock protected by a cage called the Beheading Stone. At one time, this was where the King of Scots would dispense his royal justice.
The most famous executions were the Duke of Albany and his sons, killed by James I in the 15th century. Albany was James’ cousin, and the King blamed this side of the family for leaving him a prisoner of the English and abusing their power in his absence. Guilty or not, this view of Stirling was the last thing they saw.
The late 15th Century Old Stirling Bridge that stands today replaced an even older wooden bridge that helped bring around one of Scotland’s greatest historical victories. In 1297, William Wallace and Andrew de Moray led an outnumbered Scottish army to victory against the large English war machine.
Stirling Bridge was so narrow that only 2 horsemen could cross side by side, and it would take hours to move the entire English army. Waiting until just the right number had crossed the bridge, the Scottish spears rushed to attack. Without giving the English time to form up or the space they needed to fight, the Scots won the day.
The inspiring Wallace Monument soars high above Stirling, reminding visitors and locals alike of Scotland’s National Hero. The Abbey Craig hill that the monument sits on is believed to be where Wallace and Moray had their headquarters the night before that historic Battle of Stirling Bridge.
Inside the monument, learn the history around Wallace’s rise to leading the Scottish resistance and details of the battle fought on the fields below. On display is the Wallace Sword and the Hall of Heroes containing busts of other famous Scots. After climbing all the way to the top of the building, you’re rewarded with unrivalled views of historic Stirling.
In a lazy loop of the River Forth not far from the Wallace Monument hides the remains of Cambuskenneth Abbey. The only part still standing is the bell tower, but these humble ruins disguise a rich history. Robert the Bruce held parliaments at Cambuskenneth, James III and his wife lie here and if you believe the legends then one quarter of William Wallace was even buried in the grounds.
Battle of Bannockburn
Just outside of Stirling, the Battle of Bannockburn visitor centre tells the story of King Robert the Bruce’s monumental victory against overwhelming odds. There is arguably no event in Scottish history that conjures up the same feelings as Bannockburn and the battle is closely linked to Stirling Castle.
In 1314, Stirling Castle was one of the last Scottish fortresses still in the hands of the English. Edward Bruce was struggling to breach the castle’s defenses and so he made a deal. If the castle wasn’t relieved by midsummer, then the garrison agreed to surrender. The English couldn’t afford to lose Stirling and so an enormous English army came north.
The Battle of Bannockburn lasted for 2 days but in the end, the Scots won the day. Superior tactics defeated brute force and Robert the Bruce had firmly secured his place in history.
The 20 of the Best Long Distance Walks in Scotland
The Great Glen Way
Stretching across 79 miles, you can take to the Great Glen Way by foot, by bike or even by boat. The pathway is perhaps the most famous long-distance track in the country and runs concurrently with the Great Glen Canoe Trail – a long-distance path for canoers and rafters. Covering path, loch, canal and track – you can cross it regardless of your chosen transport. The path follows the Great Glen from Fort William to Inverness and was designated one of Scotland’s Great Trails by NatureScot. If you’re looking to walk, the route generally takes between 5-7 days to complete. If you do – you’ll be a part of almost 5,000 people who have successfully completed the trail.
Cape Wrath Trail
This one is not for the faint-hearted. Crossing over 200 miles of the Scottish Highlands, the Cape Wrath Trail is considered one of the most difficult long-distance trails in the UK. Taking around 20 days to cross in its entirety, the landscape around the trail is wild, but incredibly beautiful, making the long trek more than worth it. Follow along the Northwest Coast of Scotland, beginning in Fort William and ending up in its namesake, Cape Wrath.
The John O’Groats Trail
Ending in the most north-eastern part of Great Britain, the John O’Groats Trail crosses along the shorelines and cliffsides of the Scottish Highlands. Beginning in Inverness, the trail remains a work in progress, though is crossed by many experienced and local walkers as much of the coastal route is a popular spot for casual strollers. The trek can be particularly tricky and remote, so walkers with less experience are encouraged to pick some of the more popular sections rather than attempt the entire trail. Crossing 147 miles of land, it’s estimated the trail would take around two weeks to complete for an experienced walker tackling one of the 14 stages per day.
Rob Roy Way
Officially created in 2002, the Rob Roy Way gets its name from the Scottish hero Rob Roy MacGregor – an outlaw in the early 18th century. The 79-mile trail crosses countryside paths MacGregor often used himself, stretching from Drymen to Pitlochry in Perthshire. It also crosses the Highland Boundary Fault, where the Scottish Lowlands meet the Highlands. Following along the River Tay, the trail was designated as one of Scotland’s Great Trails in 2012 and is visited by around 3,000 people each year. If you’re lucky, you’ll be one of the 450 people who complete the entire trail annually.
The Hebridean Way
Not content with staying on one piece of land? Welcome to the Hebridean Way, spanning nearly two hundred miles across ten different Scottish islands. You’ll cross the Atlantic coastline, beginning in Vatersay and travelling up to the Butt of Lewis, either on foot or by bike. The landscape is diverse and awe-inspiring – you’ll want to stop and take the majesty of each island in as you pass through. There are two separate routes that make up the Way – one for walking and one for cycling.
Across 85 miles in the Speyside Way, a long-distance walk that crosses the Scottish Highlands. Beginning in Buckie and ending in Newtonmore, the trail follows along the River Spey and was first opened to adventurous walkers in the 1980s and extended in 2000. One of only four official Long Distance Routes in the country, you’ll travel along the coastline and the edges of the Grampian Mountains. Just under 3,000 people manage to complete the walk in its entirety a year – and the route is also used as the location for the Speyside Way Ultramarathon, which lasts for thirty-six miles.
West Highland Way
Beginning just outside of Glasgow and crossing up to Fort William in the Highlands, the West Highland Way is another of Scotland’s four Great Trails. At 96 miles long, the route passes by some of the most beautiful landscapes in the area – including passing Glen Coe and Ben Nevis – and is full of local wildlife, including red deer, feral goats and even golden eagles. Particularly popular, over 35,000 people tend to complete the route each year.
The Skye Trail
Though not an ‘official’ route for walkers and one of the least travelled, the Skye Trail is something of a best-kept secret among expert trekkers. The route is particularly challenging – there are no official markers for a route and the path often disappears for stretches at a time – but crossing the beautiful Isle of Skye is more than worth it for the hikers who do follow the coastal cliffs. The trail begins in Rubha Hunish and crosses down the length of the island to Broadford. Much of the trail is isolated and remote – so it’s only really for experienced hill climbers.
Southern Upland Way
Ready to cross coast to coast? Get on the Southern Upland Way, Scotland’s only long-distance route that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the North Sea. Found in the Southernmost part of Scotland – close to the English border – the trail is 214 miles long, from Portpatrick in the west to Cockburnspath in the east. Considered one of the most difficult of the Great Trails, the area is nonetheless popular not just for walkers, but for mountain bikers – and even for horse riders looking for a challenge.
The Annandale Way
At just 56 miles, the Annandale Way might be one of the shortest long distances on our list – but it’s still one of the most popular. Strong walkers can cross this trail in four or five days, beginning at the delightfully named Devil’s Beef Tub and following all the way up to the Soloway Firth, where the river empties out. The trail is perhaps best known for its historical connections, particularly to Robert the Bruce and Scotland’s extensive and storied medieval history.
There is a large car park and the main trail to Tappie Tower is 4 miles. This trail has good clear paths the whole way up and gives you great views over to the North Sea and Bennachie. Tappie Tower is a fun little 19th Centaury tower that children will enjoy climbing!
Borders Abbeys Way
First established in 2006, the Borders Abbeys Way will take you on a fully circular route around the countryside of the Scottish Borders. Around 64 miles in length, the walk is considered by many to be something of a pilgrimage walk – early Christians are believed to have walked a similar path towards the Border Abbeys. You’ll even be able to see some of the famous Abbeys that are now ruined along the pathways, including Kelso, Jedburgh and Melrose.
St Cuthbert’s Way
Sixty-two miles of long-distance walking separates the towns of Melrose and Lindisfarne in the Scottish Borders – home to St Cuthbert’s Way. Much like the Borders Abbeys Way, the route is seen by some as a pilgrimage route. St Cuthbert – the patron saint of Northumbria in England – began his religious life in the nearby Melrose Abbey and the trail dips in and out of both Scotland and England as you follow it. Full of gorgeous scenery, the route can be completed in around 4-6 days, depending on your ability.
Berwickshire Coastal Path
Just 30 miles long, the Berwickshire Coastal Path follows the coastline along the east of Scotland, from Cockburnspath in the Scottish Borders down to Berwick upon Tweed, in England just across the border. Because of the bounty of local animals and wildlife, the area is a designated Special Protection Area because of its international importance to seabirds. A strong walker can complete the trail in around two days.
Ayrshire Coastal Path
Crossing one hundred miles of panoramic coastline, the Ayrshire Coastal Path hugs the Atlantic Ocean and is considered one of the more accessible trails in the area thanks to the path’s proximity to the beach. Also forming part of the International Appalachian Trail, the path is most popular with walkers – though some horse riders have also been known to take on the walk. The path begins in Glenapp, moving across many small villages until it reaches Skelmorlie, further North.
The Fife Coastal Path
Running from Kincardine to Newburgh, you can follow along the Fife Coastline and experience the majesty of the Scottish seaside. At 116 miles, it can take anywhere between a week to ten days to walk in its entirety and is visited each year by around 500,000 visitors who climb all or parts of the trail. It crosses through many seaside towns and villages – including the famous St Andrews – and is also home to many historical landmarks, like Macduff’s and Aberdour Castle. If you’re lucky, you’ll also catch a glimpse of some dolphins and puffins along the coastline as you walk.
The Cateran Trail
Trailing through Perthshire and Angus, this beautiful circuit walkway will take you through some of the most scenic areas in Scotland. Spanning 64 miles, the trail is unique in that there’s no official ‘beginning’ – walkers can join the trail at any point and follow it around until they reach their own start point. However, walkers tend to start in the town of Blairgowrie. The terrain can vary from farmland to mountain ranges to forest but is very accessible for less experienced walkers who may choose to complete the trail in small sections.
If you’ve ever wanted to visit New Lanark, one of Scotland’s six UNESCO World Heritage Sites, you can trek along the Clyde Walkway and end up in the iconic landmark after 40 miles of scenic walking. Beginning in Glasgow, the pathway is most often used by walkers and mountain bikers, running alongside the River Clyde. On your walk, you’ll wander through the Clyde Valley Nature Reserve and experience the majesty of the Falls of Clyde – and even get some city centre walking as you explore the centre of Glasgow! Even though public transport links are excellent in some parts, you’ll certainly want to invest in a good pair of walking boots when taking some of the more remote terrains.
The Loch Lomond and Cowal Way
Formerly known as the Cowal Way, this long-distance trail in Argyll and Bute was renamed in 2018 thanks to its close proximity to the famous Loch Lomond. The trail was first established in 2000 and is considered one of Scotland’s Great Trails, with walkers coming from all over the world to cross the trail. Some even regard it as one of the best trails to walk in Scotland! Crossing the Highlands, the trail is known to encapsulate the beauty of Scottish nature in just 57 miles – beginning in Portavadie on the Cowal Peninsula and ending in Inveruglas, near the Loch.
At 24 miles, the Dava Way is the shortest long-distance trek on our list – but it’s by no means the least spectacular. The pathway was built to follow alongside the now disused Highland Railway, from the town of Grantown-on-Spey near the Cairngorms to Forres, a town on the Moray Coast. The pathway winds along through the countryside, following farm and moorland across Northeast Scotland. As you walk, you’ll also be able to take in the beautiful Cairngorm Mountains and the Cromdale Hills to the South. The trail is suitable for both walkers and bikers and adjoins other routes that can extend – or indeed, decrease – the amount of time that you spend walking.
Win an overnight stay at Dunstane Houses in Edinburgh
If you’re looking for a mini-break in the heart of beautiful Edinburgh or want a getaway with a luxurious twist, this might just be your lucky day. Hidden Scotland has teamed up with The Dunstane Houses to offer one lucky winner an overnight stay at one of their contemporary townhouse locations with cocktails, dinner and breakfast included.
Winner of the ‘Best Boutique Hotel Experience in Scotland 2020’ The Dunstane Houses are a five-star, luxury boutique hotel found in the heart of Edinburgh. Stylish and contemporary, this independent getaway is set over two historic Victorian townhouses over a quiet road – both of which have been newly refurbished. Your experience here will be unlike anywhere you’ve stayed before. Over twenty-three years of Scottish hospitality is on display – and you’ll find your every need catered for by their knowledgeable staff.
Spacious, yet cosy, your luxury king double room welcomes you with the promise of a king sized Vispring bed that’ll help you sink into a restful night’s sleep. Found in the Dunstane House, the room is a tranquil oasis, complete with ensuite power shower, bath and toiletries exclusively from Noble Isle. Wrap up in the fluffiest of complimentary bathrobes – and be sure to explore the minibar, packed with treats from the local area.
Of course, no stay at The Dunstane Houses is complete without exploring their array of dining and drinking options – each as unique and luxurious as the hotel itself.
The Ba’Bar has a legendary, forty-year-old whisky cabinet at its heart and is the only bar in the city to serve a Highland Park of the same age. Or, for the gin connoisseurs, an artisanal selection that ensures, no matter how long you stay, you’ll never have the same one twice. Take your cocktails to the terrace and soak in the golden hour.
After cocktails, of course, the Dunstane restaurant welcomes you to dinner. You may want to drop in during the day, whether to indulge in brunch, linger in the garden with afternoon tea or fuel up with breakfast for a day of exploring, dinner is where the restaurant truly shines. The menu is specially curated to showcase the best of Scottish cuisine, using local ingredients to create new twists on familiar classics. Orkney fish and chips or a beefburger are great choices for pub food lovers, while beetroot risotto with parmesan and feta, tempura broccoli with sriracha or haggis fritters will satisfy the palate of even the most adventurous foodie. Pair your meal with wine chosen by in-house experts or another choice from their extensive cocktail menu.
A gateway into Edinburgh’s Old Town, the vibrant atmosphere of Scotland’s capital is just a scenic walk away from the comfort of your room. Though, if the hotel entices you enough, you may never want to leave the comfort of your room.
This competition closes on 31st of October 2021. And winners stays are valid until 31st March 2022 excluding Saturday nights and peak periods such as Christmas, Hogmanay and rugby dates.
The prize is subject to availability and full terms and conditions apply.
Melrose Abbey and Robert the Bruce’s Heart
A trip to the Scottish Borders isn’t complete without stopping at one of the four medieval abbeys, each with their own charm and history. While Melrose isn’t the biggest or even the best preserved of the four, it has one thing that roots it firmly in Scotland’s national interest.
The Abbey was founded on the instructions of King David I in 1137 and its close proximity to the English border means that it was burned down more than a few times. If you wander around the ruins today, you’ll see beautiful carved angels, saints and even a bagpipe playing pig. Melrose became a pretty desirable place to be buried and somewhere in the grounds lie the bodies of King Alexander II and Michael Scott the Wizard along with his magic books. These might be interesting enough but the claim to fame that really sets Melrose Abbey apart is the final resting place of Robert the Bruce’s heart.
King Robert I is rightfully thought of as a national hero and iconic figure, around whom folk stories and legends grew as he and his trusty lieutenants mounted daring raids on English-held castles and clawed back the country piece by piece from these invaders. His reign hadn’t got off to the best start in 1306 when he murdered his rival to the throne at Greyfriars monastery in Dumfries and was subsequently excommunicated by the Pope. Robert was a pious man and even though his excommunication was eventually lifted, he was still determined to go on crusade to the Holy Land as penance for his crime.
Unfortunately, by the time Robert was officially recognised by England as the legitimate King of Scots, making it safe enough to leave Scotland, he was on his death bed. He asked his friend and most loyal follower, Sir James the Black Douglas to take his heart on crusade instead and so his body was buried in Dunfermline Abbey while his heart was mummified and placed in a silver casket that Douglas wore around his neck.
The only problem for Douglas was that the Pope hadn’t called for a crusade and they were starting to go out of fashion. He wasn’t going to let that stop him carrying out the final request of his King and he set sail for the continent, learning that Alfonso of Castile was preparing to fight the Moors in Granada. Not many of the Scots survived the fighting in Spain with one fairly dubious account describing how Douglas launched the casket containing Bruce’s heart at the enemy in defiance before he was cut down.
Bruce’s heart was returned to Scotland and believed to be buried in Melrose Abbey but nobody knew where until a mysterious lead cone was dug up in 1996. When the archaeologists opened this up there was an older casket inside with a little note telling them it had been opened in 1921 and a heart was inside. After a bit of investigating, it was proved that it held a recognisable heart which dated from around the right time to be Robert’s. It was reburied in 1998 with a memorial stone in place for all to pay their respects to the legendary King.
Three miles long, two miles wide, the remote island of North Ronaldsay is perched on the northern periphery of the Orkney islands archipelago – the final frontier before a vast and featureless ocean. Despite its small size, the island has a distinct character with rich heritage, wild landscapes and an incredible community spirit.
For most travellers, the journey to North Ronaldsay commences by hopping into the 6-seater Loganair islander aircraft and taking the 15- minute flight from Kirkwall airport. The flight is quite an experience in itself, and on a clear day the views are simply stunning as you fly over some of Orkneys other Northern isles. Touching down at the North Ronaldsay airfield, you are greeted by a remarkably flat landscape and a sense that you have just arrived at the edge of the earth, I was hooked immediately!
The northern tip of the island is particularly barren and is dominated by the North Ronaldsay Lighthouse. The red-brick lighthouse is the tallest land-based building of its kind in the UK and towers over the surrounding low-lying landscape. The complex of buildings at the lighthouse have been put to good use, including self-catering accommodation, visitor centre, an amazing café and even a bakery! Tours of the lighthouse are also available, boasting incredible views from the top.
The island is perhaps most well-known for its rare breed of seaweed eating sheep. The North Ronaldsay sheep belong to the ancient northern short-tailed group of breeds and bones of similar animals dating from the Neolithic period have been found at Skara Brae on the Orkney Mainland. These hardy and endearing characters spend most of their time wandering the exposed, rocky coastlines and are kept off the grassland by the Grade A listed dry stone wall known as the ‘Sheep Dyke’, which spans over 13 miles encircling the entire island.
The sheep dyke was completed in 1832 to confine the native sheep to the foreshore, protecting the cultivated land and crops from their wanderings and since then the breed has evolved to survive primarily on seaweed! Because of this diet, their mutton has a unique gamely flavour and is highly prized by chefs across the country.
During the winter the sheep dyke suffers greatly from the exposure to the elements, with large portions of it being destroyed by storms each winter. To help keep on top of maintenance, the island trust employed a full time ‘sheep dyke warden’ in 2019 to carry out repairs and restoration. The island also hosts the annual North Ronaldsay Sheep festival where the community and visitors come together to help rebuild the dyke and celebrate the rare breed.
There is no doubt that North Ronaldsay possesses its own unique kind of magic. The relaxed pace of island life encourages you to slow down, unwind and truly appreciate your surroundings. You can easily walk round the island in a day, taking your time to enjoy the views, stroll along the white sandy beaches and watch the seals hauled up on the rocky skerries.
Calton Hill, Edinburgh
Each of the seven hills Edinburgh stands gracefully upon has its own entrenched history and aesthetic significance. While Arthur’s Seat is inarguably the most widely known, much of what makes Edinburgh such a vibrant and beloved city is linked with a different peak – Calton Hill. The Scottish Government, Parliament Building, City Observatory, National Monument and many more are situated on, or near the foot of, the hill.
While peaks like Arthur’s Seat and Corstorphine Hill are loved primarily for their natural beauty, Calton Hill holds many testaments to the ingenuity of Scottish culture. From its summit, visitors have views of an incredible skyline dotted with intricate architecture, some of which has stood for centuries. In fact, its beauty is so great that it was the subject of the world’s first panorama, produced by Robert Barker in 1787.
Hidden Scotland Magazine Issue 3 – Pre-order Now
It gives us great pleasure to be sharing with you the third edition of Hidden Scotland magazine. Welcome to our Autumn Winter 2021/22 issue.
We’ll start with four potent words: the past is alive. Scotland is a land sculpted by its history, a place moulded by the passage of time, and over the following pages, the days of yore are a recurrent theme. Stepping back into the mists of prehistory, we explore the Jurassic beginnings of the Isle of Skye, where dinosaurs once roamed. We enter the towering canopy of the great Caledonian Forest, crunching the underbrush of the temperate rainforest that once blanketed almost the entire country. No less stirringly, we also take a wander among the extraordinary Neolithic sites that make Scotland one of the world’s most important repositories of Stone Age architecture.
Striding forward to more recent centuries, we visit the historic towns and age-old places of worship that mark the Borders Abbeys Way, learn more about the 17th century witches of Shetland, and discover the layered past (not to mention the vibrant culture and open countryside) of Dumfries & Galloway. Keeping the theme going, we also hear the ancient tale of Thomas the Rhymer, and take a winding drive along the fabled Highlands road that is Bealach na Bà.
But there’s more to these pages, of course, than the past. As regular readers will have come to expect, we also meet some of Scotland’s most inspirational modern-day inhabitants, from the sustainably minded food and drink producers of Glenelg, and the determined founders of the Isle of Skye Sea Salt Company, to acclaimed jewellery-maker Róis Clark.
And that’s not all. Among other things, there’s also a journey through Cape Wrath in the company of writer and photographer Richard Gaston, a spotlight on one of the country’s enigmatic mountain hares, and advice on how to make the most of the Scottish winter with your canine companion.
As ever, enjoy the journey. Slàinte mhath