VERY IMPORTANT INFORMATION – All group tours depart from Bus Stand ZE, Waterloo Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3BQ (opposite Howie’s Restaurant).
- Cairngorms National Park
- Crathes Castle
- Dunnottar Castle
- St Cyrus National Nature Reserve
- St Andrews
Our route to the historic North-East takes us past Loch Leven and the fair city of Perth before arriving at the picturesque village of Dunkeld. Here you can stroll through quaint narrow streets and visit Dunkeld Cathedral.
Dedicated to St Columba and beautifully located beside the River Tay, a visit to this ancient church is a delightful start to the day.
Next we drive through Glen Shee (eyes peeled for red deer) and into the Cairngorms National Park. Following one of General Wade’s old military roads we stop at the Cairnwell Pass for fabulous Highland vistas. At 2200 feet above sea this is the highest public road in the UK. If you have a good head for heights why not take the ski-lift to the plateau summit – possibly even ‘bagging’ one of Scotland’s famous Munros!
After lunch in the beautiful riverside village of Braemar, we stop near Ballater where our options include either a visit to the Queen’s Highland castle, Balmoral, or a tour and dram at The Royal Lochnagar malt whisky distillery.
Our journey through the stunning scenery of Royal Deeside then takes us to Crathes Castle. Turrets and towers, winding staircases, ornate ceilings and ancient sculpted yew trees combine to make every visit memorable.
An enchanting 16th-century tower house, Crathes is surrounded by 240 hectares of formal gardens, woodland walks and rolling Scottish countryside.
In the early evening we arrive in Aberdeen, our base for the night. Nicknamed the Granite City because of its sparkling stone architecture, it is better known as the Oil Capital of Europe following the discovery of North Sea Oil in the 1970s. Nestled between the rivers Dee and Don, the city has a long, sandy coastline where you may wish to enjoy an evening stroll.
Example accommodation: www.atholl-aberdeen.co.uk
First stop today is Dunnottar Castle. This dramatic cliff-top fortress and its stunning setting is one of Scotland’s most impressive castles.
You’ll have time to wander around the many ruined buildings and discover the importance of Dunnottar, an impregnable Castle that holds many rich secrets of Scotland’s colourful past.
William Wallace and Mary Queen of Scots graced the Castle with their presence. Most famously though, it was at Dunnottar Castle that a small garrison held out against the might of Cromwell’s army for eight months and saved the Scottish Crown Jewels, the ‘Honours of Scotland’, from destruction.
As we continue down Scotland’s beautiful east coast, we’ll visit the small village of St Cyrus for a walk in the adjoining National Nature Reserve.
The cliffs and dunes provide a nationally important habitat for flowering plants, birds and butterflies. We may even see some traditional salmon net fishing as we walk along the beach.
Continuing through Dundee, where we’ll catch a glimpse of Captain Scott’s ship The Discovery, we cross the Tay Bridge before arriving in St Andrews. Internationally renowned as the ‘Home of Golf’, there’s plenty of time to see the famous Old Course – a place of pilgrimage for golfers of all abilities.
St Andrews was one of the most important religious sites in medieval Europe and the ruins of the massive Cathedral are only 5 minutes walk from the Castle, perched on cliffs above the North Sea. These two historic buildings played key roles during the Scottish Reformation. There are three beaches in St Andrews – the opening scenes of Chariots of Fire were filmed on the West Sands.
The oldest University in Scotland (established 1411) is located here and its architectural legacy can be seen all over town. Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, studied and met his wife Kate Middleton here (they are known as the Earl and Countess of Strathearn in Scotland).
Mary Queen of Scots was also educated here and was probably one of the first women in the world to play golf, here on the links.
Our route back to Edinburgh takes us via the charming fishing villages of the East Neuk. We stop at Anstruther and admire its 16th century harbour, one of the most photographed in Scotland.
Once at the heart of Scotland’s 19th century herring industry, Anstruther is now a popular weekend retreat with a very pleasant mixture of boats, historic streets and visitors strolling around the harbour enjoying the famous fish and chips.
If you don’t have the time for this tour, or just want a day trip then check out the West Highland Lochs and Castles tour.