Scotland is a country full of natural beauty with lakes (lochs), valleys (glens) and mountain wildernesses.  U.K.’s northernmost country is brimming with things to do with its 550 golf courses, 7 vibrant cities, 2,704 castles, 152 whiskey distilleries, 2 national parks – Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park and the Cairngorms, and 2,078 walking trails. 

Roots go deep here with 500 clans dating back centuries, each with their own tartan design.  The Scottish people extended warm welcomes and called out “Haste ye back!” when we left.

We traveled throughout Scotland by car and discovered dozens of favorite places to go, where to stay, dine & spa. Sharing our list of recommendations below in Edinburgh, Perthshire, Aberdeenshire, Glencoe, The Northern Highlands, Argyll, Glasgow, Loch Lomond, Kintyre and Ayrshire. 

We can’t wait to return and add the Orkneys, Shetland Islands, and other regions to this list.

Golfers Alert!  Quick link to find the Top Golf Courses in Scotland – Cruden Bay, Kingsbarns, St. Andrews & Carnoustie at this link, click here

EDINBURGH

We started our travels in the capital city with lunch at the Brasserie Prince at The Balmoral, a Rocco Forte Hotel.  Legendary Chef Alain Roux presents the very best of Scottish produce with a classic French twist.  Our lunch included smoked salmon with capers, lemon & rye soda bread along with a quinoa, sunflower seed & spring vegetable salad with minted soy yogurt dressing, in a bonny setting looking out to the heart of the city.

A highlight was walking the Royal Mile from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace, the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland, Queen Elizabeth II.   The city’s architecture ranges from the Old Town’s medieval buildings to New Town’s Georgian and neoclassical buildings.  Don’t Miss!  Walk to Calton Hill to get sweeping views of Edinburgh. 

Where to Stay, Dine & Spa:

  • The Dunstane Houses:  We loved this one-of-a-kind boutique hotel!  It won Scotland’s Boutique Hotel of 2018.  We were greeted with homemade shortbread and smiles. There are two renovated historic buildings to choose from- the 5-star Dunstane House and the 4-star Hampton House with a total of 35 contemporary bedrooms. Interior designers Shirley & Hannah Lohan created a unique design in each room that plays off owners Shirley & Derek Mowat’s Orcadian roots with rich interiors to artwork by local artists.  Every detail exudes luxury from leather sofas, Persian carpets, 300-threadcount bedlinens, Noble Isle bath products, TLC St. Andrews teas, fluffy bathrobes & slippers – refined details abound.  Be sure to reserve a room with a freestanding tub.
  • The Ba’ Bar:  Ba’ Bar serves up seasonal Scottish produce at Dunstane’s dining room and lounge, with a vintage whisky cabinet.  We enjoyed wee bites for appetizers and cocktails, and the next morning had a full Scottish breakfast.
  • Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian:  Built in 1903, this luxury hotel is a historic icon on Edinburgh’s Princes Street, built on top of the old Caledonian Railway Station. It offers the largest number of rooms with views of Edinburgh Castle in the city. 
  • The Guerlain Spa – Awarded Best Luxury Hotel Spa in the UK at the 2017 World Luxury Spa Awards, booking a treatment here is a slice of heaven with… relaxing French-style beauty treatments utilizing Guerlain products, a relaxation lounge, nail bar, 12 meter pool, sauna, steam room, whirlpool and fitness center. 
  • The Pompadour, a fine-dining restaurant in the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh.  Award winning Head Chef Dan Ashmore presents artfully plattered dishes, in a lovely setting with exquisite hand-painted walls panels and décor inspired by Madame de Pompadour Versailles flair. Our multi-course tasting menu featured locally-sourced ingredients.  A memorable dining experience.

Before checking out, we had a hearty breakfast at the hotel’s Grazing by Mark Greenaway.

How to Get Around

  • Book your private driver with Iain Colquhoun at EMG Transfers Ltd.  Iain. He offers airport transfers, tailor-made tours, and will chauffeur you to golf courses, events, etc.  His local insights are helpful and he’s professional and punctual.  You can reach him at:  mobile  +447577910079 OR Email: info@emgtransfers.com

PERTHSHIRE

This area is known for its artistic glassmaking, the oldest distillery in Scotland – Glenturret, Loch Tay safaris, Blair and Glamis Castles, the Falls of Dochart, and world-class golf at The Gleneagles.

Where to Dine?

  • The Strathearn at Glenagles:  For an unforgettable fine dining experience, book a reservation at the newly-refurbished The Strathearn, set inside the Gleneagles a luxury 5-star hotel, spa and golf resort.  We entered the glamorous dining room and received first-class Highland dining.  Our tastebuds delighted while we savored Franco-Scottish cuisine.  Our servers lifted silver cloches to present entrees from Scottish Halibut to Tweed Valley Beef Fillet.  The traditional Geuridon service from a bygone era makes this an exceptional dining event. Throughout dinner, we were entertained by a parade of walnut trolleys delivering artisan breads, roasted fillet of beef wellington, cheeses and flambé desserts. 

Where to Stay?

  • Knock Castle: Our stay at the former 19th century baronial home of Scottish shipping magnate Lady MacBrayne, was pleasant. Located near the charming market town Crieff, and only one hour drive from Glasgow and Edinburgh.  We felt at home when we arrived, and found the bar and reception area a nice place to relax after a full day of golf.  Set amidst woodlands and the Perthshire hills, it’s easy to rest at this country retreat offering excellent Scottish hospitality.  Our spacious rooms and baths had views of the surrounding countryside hills of Strathearn Valley. 

ABERDEENSHIRE & MORAY

Known for its Speyside Whiskey Trail, 50 golf courses including Cruden Bay Golf Club, castles and coastal trails, country sports like fishing to shooting, archery, and Highland Walks, we found there’s so much to do in this region that we can’t wait to return.  Balmedie is one of our favorite Scottish beaches and within a 40 mins drive from where we stayed. 

If you have a few days,  explore this region on the Northeast 250 Route, a road trip that will take you through mountain passes in the Cairngorms, past historic castles, the Speyside Whiskey Trail, the rugged North Sea coastline and picturesque seaside villages like Findochty and Portknockie along the Moray Firth Coast. 

Cyclists can rent bikes at Outfit Moray for a ride along the coast. This outdoor adventure center also caters to disadvantaged young people in the local area offering activities such as rock climbing, kayaking, abseiling, mountain biking, canoeing, coasteering, archery & more. A great way to enjoy the outdoors and support a good cause.

Castles to See in the Area:

  • Ballindalloch:  We met Guy Macpherson-Grant, the 23rd generation of family to live at this castle.  He and his wife Victoria and their children manage this estate and welcome visitors from around the world.  Guy shared that they open up their castle for tours, corporate dinners, make their own whiskey and even offer an Art of Whiskey workshop to visitors.  They arrange for golfing and fishing trips too.  He’s one of the visionaries of Northeast 250 Route and also the Eden Project harnessing geothermal energy.
  • Balmoral, Her Majesty the Queen’s Scottish Home for the Royal Family: There are over 50,000 acres of heather-clad hills and pine forest near the River Dee where the public can stroll and enjoy the scenery.  There is even a golf course, safari tours and holiday cottages to rent.  Good to note:  the Ballroom is the only room available in the Castle since other rooms within the Castle are the Queen’s private rooms, not open to the public. 
  • Old Slains:  This 14th century castle is a ruined abandoned castle near Colliston.  Watch for our drone footage with aerials of the castle ruins along the rocky coastline click here.
  • Dunnottar:  Set on top of a rocky outcrop along the eastern coast of Scotland, Dunnottar is one of the most impressive ruined castles in Scotland.  Visit this castle and learn about its fascinating history.  The walking trails surrounding the castle offer sweeping vistas.  Be sure to stay on walking trails and use caution since there are steep drop offs.

Don’t Miss!  The Bay Fish & Chips at Stonehaven Just a 5 mins drive from Dunnottar Castle, stop by Stonehaven and order battered amity scampi, locally sourced haddock, handcrafted puddings, chips…we gobbled up every morsel.  Arrive early since there will be a line of customers.

Where to Stay?

  • Wardhill Castle:  We stayed a few nights at the lovely 12th century Wardhill Castle.  One of the oldest privately-owned estates in Northeast Scotland, Wardhill Castle has been the family home of the Leslie family for 800 years.

This historic castle and estate is available for exclusive private hire at a reasonable price, and is managed by family – Sarah and William Leslie.  It’s the ideal place for a family reunion, friends’ getaway, corporate retreats, and it’s one of the most romantic places for a destination wedding, with 8 traditionally decorated bedrooms that sleep up to 16 people.  Each room has a modern bathroom and amenities that offer a most luxurious stay.  The castle’s library, living rooms, dining room and new kitchen are stunningly beautiful. 

One of my favorite rooms is the den where there is an elaborate family tree dating back to the 11th century preserved under the coffee table glass top.  Our first night, Sebastian Arbuthnot-Leslie, the Chieftain of Clan Leslie and Laird of the Castle, and son William Leslie shared stories about their family history and the castle.  Sebastian and his wife, Candida Mary Sibyl “Candy” Weld of House of Fraser, treasure their heritage and have raised their family here.  In fact, their daughter Rose Leslie and Kit Harington of Game of Thrones held their wedding celebrations at Wardhill Castle.

The castle is surrounded by incredible views of the Bennachie hill tops.   As we wandered through its 400 acres of managed woodlands, we were enchanted by the pastoral beauty with sheep grazing the parkland and birds chirping.  It felt like we were walking back in time.

There’s even a lovely stone cottage with a woodburning stove, cozy antique bed and freestanding Victorian bath, located in the woodland behind a walled garden – a peaceful setting for the perfect getaway.  Glamping at its finest!

The castle is a short distance from Aberdeen airport, and we found it easy to explore the local area – castles, golfing, whiskey tasting, but really enjoyed our time relaxing at the castle.  There are golf courses, sandy beaches, whisky distilleries, and highland walks all within easy reach of the castle.

Our 93 year old father, Frank Southon, sketched this drawing below of Wardhill Castle which you might see hanging on the castle walls during your stay.

Book the castle click here 

General Inquiries Email: WILLIAMALESLIE@icloud.com 

For wedding inquiries, email:   TayloredPlans@hotmail.com  

Good to note: guests can arrange for these optional extras – price on application.

Each guest can tailor their stay with options to add butlers and full catering packages or can choose to self-cater.  We requested Kate’s of Inverurie to prepare our meals in the grand dining room at the castle.  Their meals were excellent and service impeccable.  Wardhill works exclusively with Rosset Bespoke Butlers, who cater to your every need.

There are more options to choose from including – Bagpiper (we requested Ross MacKenzie and he welcomed us at the castle playing his bagpipes), Clay Pigeon Shooting, Quad Biking, Mini Highland Games, game shooting, fishing and hunting.

  • Castle Hotel in Huntley:  Owners Andrew and Linda Meiklejohn and family moved from South Africa to Scotland and acquired the Castle Hotel in Huntley.  They fell in love with the castle setting with ancient trees and rolling green lawns.  Today, the family shares their castle with others to enjoy this peaceful sanctuary where you wake up each morning to the sounds of birds, and fall asleep at night under a canopy of stars.

They opened their castle doors to travelers.  Guests receive a complimentary sherry upon arrival and can choose from Suites with four-poster beds, to Deluxe Rooms or Standard Rooms. 

Our dinner at the Castle Hotel was delicious.  Set in a beautifully elegant dining room with tall Georgian windows that look out to the gardens.

Keep a lookout for the monthly recipe from the castle:   Especially love this one – Seed, Date & Raisin Loaf.

Where to Dine? 

Aberdeenshire boasts some of the best dining in Scotland with locally sourced beef, pork and fish.  Wardhill Castle shared the following list of local restaurants.

  • Formartines at Haddo
  • Eat on the Green in Udny:  Chef Craig Wilson, Scotland’s “Kilted Chef” greeted us and escorted our group back into his kitchen and gave us a cooking lesson of Haggis Bon Bons and a shot of whiskey.  His personality, excellent staff combined with rich Scottish flavors created the perfect evening for our group.  He has loyal patrons who return each week. We were impressed by his contributions to charities through fundraisers and events. 
  • Fennel Restaurant in Inverurie
  • The Mither Tap restaurant at Pittodrie House

ABERDEEN

We only stayed one night in Aberdeen and unfortunately didn’t have enough time to explore this university town, but were impressed by its pastoral surroundings, rivers and wooded areas.

Where to Stay?

  • Mercure Aberdeen Ardoe Castle Blair: Just 3 miles from the center of Aberdeen, the Ardoe Castle Blair offers 120 rooms from suites to classic.  Our rooms were clean and comfortable with garden views.  The wood paneled interiors add a warmth to the castle, and the staff were attentive of our needs.

Their award-winning Blairs Restaurant one of the most popular dining spots in Aberdeen.  The menu selections included Perthshire chicken, black pudding & pistachio Terrine, and Smoked Salmon with capers, lemon, toasted brioche and more. Stop at Soapies Brasserie, Drawing Room & Whisky bar for a drink pre or post dinner.  

THE NORTHERN HIGHLANDS

After exploring the Moray Firth, North of Aberdeenshire, we continued to the Northern Highlands and stayed the night in Dornach.

Further north, you can visit the small village of Helmsdale with a contemporary art gallery, or walk along the beaches in Golspie or Brora.  Take a scenic drive to Durness and see the Sango Sands beach, or Balnakeil to sample Cocoa Mountain’s chocolates.  Join an ecoventure and go wildlife watching in Cromarty where you might see a pod of dolphins in the firth.  Cycle the Learnie Red Rocks trails, or shop antiques in town.

  • Be sure to visit Dunrobin Castle, the Earl of Sutherland’s stately home in Sutherland that overlooks the Dornoch Firth and is the family seat of the Clan Sutherland.  Located just north of Golspie, ~ 5 miles south of Brora, this castle is the largest in the Northern Highlands with 189 rooms.  

“A very warm welcome to Dunrobin Castle, home of my ancestors for over seven hundred years. I’m so proud that people from all over the world pay us a visit and I enjoy being able to share the magnificent castle and gardens with others. I look forward to seeing you too at Dunrobin “ –Lord Strathnaver

Don’t Miss!  There are daily falconry displays at Dunrobin Castle between April – September. 

  • TIP: If you have a few extra days, drive the North Coast 500 – Scotland’s route 66, where you will see 500 miles of stunning coast of the Scottish Highlands.  The route begins in Inverness and loops round the Northern coast.  These windy and steep single track roads showcase rural Scotland’s enchanting towns, with stops at villages and beaches along the way. 

Where to Stay?

  • Dornoch Castle Hotel: Set in the historic town of Dornoch, this castle hotel and is across the street from the 12th century Dornoch Cathedral where Madonna and Guy Ritchie were once married.  Several other couples marry here and choose Dornoch Castle Hotel as their wedding venue.  This is one of UK’s only castles that has it’s own distillery onsite – the Dornoch Distillery Company.

The hotel offers four poster deluxe rooms and superior garden rooms or standard rooms – some in the old castle and others in the modern extension.

Our candle-lit dinner at the Garden Restaurant, overlooked the walled gardens.  Our server at dinner shared that “the Castle’s original restaurant and dining room have been transformed into the Whisky Bar and reception that features 15th Century stonewalls, completed with oak paneling and Caithness slab flooring.”  The chefs prepare delectable meals with locally sourced produce.

  • For golfers seeking an exclusive club, look no further than the Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle. We were given a tour of the castle and admired its baronial architecture on the outside to the Edwardian rich interiors.  The manicured gardens and grounds look out to the renowned Carnegie Golf Links, on the shores of the beautiful Dornoch Firth.

Home to one of the world’s most prestigious clubs, Skibo Castle offers a range of events and activities to its private members.   During our tour, we learned that “Industrialist Andrew Carnegie, one of history’s greatest philanthropists, came to Skibo in 1898 and transformed the estate into what he rightly termed ‘Heaven on Earth’.”  Skibo caters to its members and families where they can find solitude on this 8,000 acres estate and discover the grandeur of the Scottish Highlands.

Driving Note:  When leaving the Northern Highlands towards Inverness, take the scenic Struie Road, a country road that winds its way towards the Achnagairn Estate.

INVERNESS

The gateway to the Highlands and home of the mysterious legend, the Loch Ness Monster. This city is located along the shores of the 120ft deep freshwater loch, Scotland’s second largest loch.  Great restaurant in town is called The Mustard Seed – we stopped here for lunch and savored every dish. For a list of things to do in this area, click here.

Castles to Visit near Loch Ness:

  • Inverness Castle:  Overlooking the River Ness, this 18th century red sandstone castle watches over the town of Inverness, on a cliff that was formerly the site of an 11th-century defensive fortress.
  • Eilean Dorean This 13th Century Castle is one of the most photographed castles in Scotland. Situated on an island where three sea lochs meet in a picturesque village of Dornie, south of Inverness and just 8 miles to the bridge at Kyle of Lochalsh that connects you to the Isle of Skye. Click here to view their webcam.
  • Urquhart Castle: Located south of Inverness along the Loch Ness on the A82 road, near the village of Drumnadrochit. The castle was built on the site of an early medieval fortification, and its ruins date from the 13th to the 16th centuries. Our guide Andrew Rose gave us a wonderful tour.

Where to Stay? 

  • Achnagairn Estate – The Achnagairn Estate is a 5-star hotel, castle & lodge that attracts vacationers, families, corporate events, dinner parties and is known to be a popular wedding venue in the Highlands. As part of the Perfect Manors collection, Achnagairn Estate is just 7 miles from Inverness, offering a central base to explore the area.  The main castle and lodge feature a large ballroom, perfect for a wedding celebration or big event.  We were in one of the large luxury lodges and each of our rooms was uniquely designed with views of the surrounding woodlands and grounds.  One of the highlights during our stay was walking the trails on the property.  It’s a beautiful setting.

Dine at Table Manners:  Set on Achnagairn Estate, our dinner at Table Manors was impressive and the dishes were presented in an artful way.  This restaurant was awarded Two Rosettes from the AA, the highest score you can receive on a first rating.

ISLE OF SKYE

As you drive southwest towards Skye, stop at Dornie, at the mouth of Loch Long, and look out to the Cuillin mountain range of Skye in the distance across Loch Alsh or look to the head of Loch Duich towards the dramatic Five Sisters of Kintail.  The scenery is spectacular.

Along the drive to Skye, stop to see the 1,500 yrs old brochs of Glenelg, and visit the Lochalsh Woodland Garden at Balmacara or climb up to the Falls of Glomach. The Isle of Skye is easy to visit either by ferry or by car.

Don’t Miss!  Hiking the Man of Storr & Quiriang.  Spend a day driving around the Isle of Skye, one of Scotland’s most spectacular destinations with abundant natural beauty and unspoilt landscape.  Take time to discover the cultural heritage and history of Skye’s castles, museums and people.

Where to Stay & Dine:

  • Cuillin Hills Hotel: When we arrived to Cuillin Hills Hotel, we felt at home and were enamored with our views overlooking Portree Bay to the Sound of Raasay and the Cuillin Mountains.

The Wickman Family have been the owners of this hotel for 25 years, and take pride in their family run business.  Set on 15 acres of manicured grounds, the hotel is only a 5 mins walk into the main town of Portree where you’ll find a harbor filled with colorful boats and a charming village.  Explore Portree click here.

  • Dinner at Cuillin Hills Hotel:  Our dinner included local seafood dishes, paired with fine wines and a magnificent view of Portree Bay as we watched the sunset.
  • Before leaving Isle of Skye, we went to Kinloch Lodge for lunch.  Many visitors stop here just try the cuisine of world famous Head Chef Marcelo Tully.  If we had an extra day in our itinerary, we would love to stay here too. This historic hotel and restaurant is located down a long drive, at the foot of a mountain and at the head of Loch na Dal.  A magical setting!

Our server shared with us that Scotland’s ‘Julia Childs’ is “Claire Macdonald, the owner at Kinloch, who started the kitchens at Kinloch with a mission to make the most of the wonderful local produce on offer, simply cooked and served generously. Her focus on unfussy seasonal cooking was ahead of its time and today remains unchanged. Armed with an ever-growing list of local ingredients, Michelin Star Chef Marcello Tully continues Claire’s food ethos today.”

How to Get Around: 

Good to note:  You have two options to get to/from the Isle of Skye – drive to/from Mallaig and take the ferry to/from Skye, or drive at Kyle of Lochalsh and cross from/to Skye via the bridge. The ferry from Mallaig to Skye takes 30 minutes and docks at Armadale.

  • Gus’s Taxis If you need a taxi, tour or transfer, contact Gus at Gus’s Taxis based in Portree.  He and his team have been providing high quality efficient service to private individuals, the business professional, and corporate community throughout Skye and Lochalsh for the past 30 years.  They have over 5 vehicles and are the main taxi and cab service on Skye and Lochalsh.  Our driver Sandy was an excellent driver and shared insights about the local area.  He also was one of the officers that sighted the Loch Ness Monster and was featured in National Geographic.

GLENCOE & FORT WILLIAM

We left the Isle of Skye and took the ferry to Mallaig.  Check the ferry schedule and be sure to book a reservation since this is a small ferry.

En route to Glencoe, check the times for the train at the 21-arched Glenfinnan Viaduct and you might be able to see the ‘Harry Potter’ train or one that looks like it.  If you want to experience the steam train journey, you can travel 84-miles between Fort William to Mallaig on the grand Jacobite and see breathtaking vistas.  You’ll pass the charming village of Arisaig, and the picturesque River Mortar, and Britain’s deepest freshwater loch, Loch Mortar. The journey ends at Loch Nevis.

The nearby Glenfinnan monument of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite’s occupies a majestic position at the head of Loch Shiel, where the dramatic history of the 1745 Jacobite Rising unfolded, highlighted in the popular Outlander series.

The Glencoe area is an adventurer’s paradise with walking and hiking trails, fishing, skiing or snowboarding and mountain biking.  

  • Sign up for a Safari Tour with Scott McCombie, Estate Manager-Senior Ranger at the Glencoe National Nature Reserve, National Trust for Scotland.  Stop by the Glencoe & Dalness Visitor Center or call #01855811307  click here to see activities offered. 

If you are interested in climbing, walking and hiking then you will find trails for all levels in the Glencoe area. Advanced hikers and climbers will enjoy The Three Sisters of Glencoe, The Pap of Glencoe and Ben Nevis.  Click here to find more hikes, and for guided climbing, click here.

Where to Stay

  • Inverlochy Castle  We stopped for afternoon tea and scones at this 19th century castle, nestled in the foothills of the highest mountain in Great Britain – Ben Nevis, near Fort William.  Surrounded by a forest of evergreen trees and a private loch. Known as Scotland’s finest Country Hotel, we took the castle boat and rowed on the lake after our tea.  We hope we can stay here on our next trip to Scotland and dine at its exquisite restaurant.
  • Glencoe House: Located in Glencoe, we stayed at this historic mansion, former home of Lord Strathcona, located in Glencoe Glen, the Highlands.  Glencoe House offers elegant accommodation located in 10 acres of private gardens.  Roger Niemeyer and Judy Pate are the Guardians of Glencoe House and look after the property. Our suite had a large living room, dining area, two bedrooms and a large bathroom that looked out to Loch Leven.  We cozied up to the roaring fire in our marble fireplace and didn’t want to leave.

Where to Dine

  • Laroch Restaurant:  one of our favorite dinners in Scotland was at Laroch in the village of Ballachulish not far from Glencoe.  Every dish was delicious starting with the bowl of fresh Loch Leven mussels.  The main course was the Mallaig Halibut and Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert.  Highly recommend this restaurant when you’re in the Glencoe area.

Michelin Star Chef Allan Donald, Sous Chef Eileen Donald and their staff aim to please and source local produce as much as possible.  Be sure to book a reservation # 01855 811940

OBAN & ARGYLL

Whether you are a whiskey fan or have a green thumb, this area is for you.  The Oban Distilerry and Arduaine Gardens are just a few reasons visitors love this region. Click here to learn about things to do in this area.

If you want to visit local artist studios, working watermills, old villages, or go on a short hike or whiskey tasting, contact Helen for private tours in the Oban area.

Oban distillery:  We stopped here for a whiskey tasting and learned the difference between whiskey and scotch.  Whiskey needs to be in an oak barrel for 3 years +1 day and in Scotland to qualify.

Founded in 1794, we toured one of Scotland’s oldest single malt scotch whiskey distilleries.  We learned about the whisky making process and how this brand evolved into a world-renowned whiskey.

  • Where to Dine in Oban?  We heard there are several good restaurants with fresh seafood including The Hawthorn Restaurant, Ee-usk, The Waterfront, The Pier House – Port Appin, Piazza and Coast.

Castles in the Area

  • Castle Stalker:  Schedule a tour at this privately owned castle near Port Appin.  Set on the tidal islet of Loch Laich, an inlet off of Loch Linnhe, the film location for Monty Python & The Holy Grail.  In fact, the owner made a cameo appearance and can share more about the filming on your tour.  Learn about the history of this castle with stories of family murders, illegitimate children, and clan wars.  This 4-story castle is one of the best-preserved medieval tower-houses in western Scotland. Read its history, click here.
  • Kilchurn Castle:  Kilchurn is one of the most recognized castles in Scotland, located along Loch Awe.  Built in the 14th century, this 5-story tower house was the Clan Campbells base for 150 years.  Once a fortress, and later a garrison stronghold during the Jacobite Rising, then abandoned in the 17th century.
  • Inveraray Castle This remarkable Gothic Revival style castle is the ancestral home of the Duke of Argyll, Chief of the Clan Campbell dating back to the 12th century, and a must visit on the West Coast of Scotland.  See timeline: click here. The present Duke & Clan Chief Torquhil Ian, inherited the title on the death of his father in 2001.

Where to Stay

  • Barcaldine Castle: This 16th century tower house is a luxury B&B located only 9 miles from Oban.  Built in 1609 by “Black” Duncan Campbell and restored in 1897 by Sir Duncan Campbell 3rd Baronet of Barcaldine, it’s one of a few ancient castles guests can stay at.  Set against the snow-capped mountains of Glencoe and on the banks of Loch Crenan, this historic ‘Black Castle’ is a unique place to stay in the countryside.

Our two luxury Suites both with en-suite toilets & showers were the Argyll with views of the garden, Lochan Dhub and the ancient Scots pines, and the Airds with its own turreted dressing area on the top floor!  Good to note:  there is no elevator since it was built 400 years ago, so bring a small overnight bag from your car to climb up the spiral staircase.

The full Scottish breakfast was delicious –bacon, pork sausage, haggis, black pudding, potato scone, mushrooms, tomatoes & eggs, Stacked Scottish pancakes, or scrambled eggs and Feochan Mhor smoked salmon (hot and cold smoked), Smoked Haddock with poached eggs, and famous Loch Fyne Kippers. Yummy!

Click here to see local recommendations in Argyll and Oban, surrounding Barcaldine Castle.

KINTYRE

Visit the fishing village of Tarbert and the Tarbert Castle Ruins, go sea and fly fishing on Loch Fyne, try clay pigeon shooting, horseback riding at Brenfield Estate or even deer stalking.  There are several hiking trails in the area and also water adventures to Seil Island or visit the amazing natural phenomenon, the Corryvreckan Whirlpool.  There are 5 golf courses within 40 miles of Stonefield Castle if you want to tee off.

Where to Stay

  • Stonefield Castle:  We stayed at Stonefield Castle near Tarbert. Built in the 18th century in Scottish baronial style, and it has maintained its exquisite wood paneling, ornate ceilings and marble fireplaces.  There are 36 en suite bedrooms with views over the gardens and Loch Fyne itself.

We settled into the cozy bar area for fish n’chips and a sip of the local drink.  Our dinner was scrumptious and we loved the fresh seafood and delectable desserts.  The views are spectacular from the dining room, bar and most bedrooms.

Don’t Miss!  Explore castle’s 60 acres and woodland gardens leading down to the shores of Loch Fyne. We went on an early morning walk and took in the sights and sounds of the natural beauty in this area.

AYRSHIRE

The next day, we drove south towards Ayrshire.  A perfect place to stop along the way is the small village Luss along the shores of Loch Lomond, where you can find a café and walking paths to stretch your legs. 

We continued to Glenapp Castle, a 5-star luxury hotel and a member of the Relais & Château group: an exclusive collection of 480 of the finest hotels and gourmet restaurants in 58 countries across the world. This hotel is the Winner of “Independent Hotel of the Year” CIS Excellence Awards 2019, and we arrived to tour its castle rooms and learn about its history. 

In 2015 the castle was acquired by Paul and Poppy Szkiler. Paul is the Chairman of the Truestone Group. Both Paul and Poppy focus on building businesses not simply to create profit but to address social and environmental challenges from Africa to Asia as well as here in the UK.

We hope to return to Glenapp for the “sea adventure” a new concept that is being launched by the castle hotel where guest can stay a night or two on a remote Scottish Island and connect with nature while getting pampered with luxury bedding and a tent with all the creature comforts. Click here to read more. The castle gardens were in full bloom and the colorful azalea brightened the landscape.

Another must visit castle is Culzean Castle north of Glenapp as we drove back towards Glascow.

  • Culzean Castle:  This estate was once home to the 10th Earl of Cassillis, David Kennedy. 

Our guide shared that there “are miles of sandy coastline dotted with caves, and finished off with a Swan Pond, an ice house, flamboyant formal gardens and fruit-filled glasshouses.  The castle itself is perched on the Ayrshire cliffs, incorporating everything the earl could wish for in his country home. It was designed by Robert Adam in the late 18th century and is filled to the turrets with treasures that tell the stories of the people who lived here. There are 40 buildings and secret follies in this country park spanning hundreds of acres, including the magnificent cliff-top castle.”

GLASGOW AREA

One of Scotland’s cultural hubs with museums, art galleries, click here to find things to do in Glasgow.

Where to Dine

  • The Ubiquitous Chip:  Great place to dine – contemporary Scottish cuisine.  Opened in 1971 and has been a popular restaurant with locals ever since.  We arrived without a reservation and the 1-hour wait was worth it.   Great ambience with its 2-story greenhouse-like space and fairy lights.

Where to Stay

  • Sherbrooke Castle Hotel   Built in the 18th century, this 4 star baronial style hotel offers guest rooms in the main building, garden suites, and cottage with a mixture of traditional and contemporary rooms.

This red sandstone castle includes a restaurant, bar and conference facilities that cater for up to 200 people.  Many couples choose this location for their wedding venue. Located on the south side of Glasgow in the peaceful surroundings of Pollokshields, where you can take a stroll to neighborhoods and nearby park. Don’t Miss! Robert Adam’s Oval Staircase – the dramatic centerpiece of the castle.

Acknowledgements

Global Adventuress thanks those mentioned in this article for hosting us in various ways during our travels in Scotland. The opinions expressed in this piece are our own.

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