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Report 2088: Scotland the Brave

By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2013

Trip Description: We spent ten days in September exploring the area between Aberdeen and Inverness, visiting ruined castles, stately homes and gardens, as well as Pictish crosses and prehistoric remains.

Destinations: Countries - United Kingdom; Regions/Cities - Scotland

Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Garden Visits; Sightseeing; Independent Travel; 2 People

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Page 1 of 29: Introduction

photo by MAW

Portsoy harbour

Over the years we have visited most of Scotland and the islands. One of the areas we havenít been is north east Scotland, the large bit that sticks out into the North Sea between Aberdeen and Inverness.

Daughter and family were on holiday giving us ten days free of grand-parenting duties. It was too good a chance to miss. We borrowed the ordnance survey maps from the library and began to plan.

I didnít bother with guide books but relied on Undiscovered Scotland website which threw up enough ideas to last us ten months rather than ten days. I hadnít realized just how much there is to do and see in the area.

The area has a long history going back to prehistoric man and there are hill forts and cairns scattered across the countryside. All are open daylight hours and make a good fill in between the major sites.

There are beautifully carved Pictish stones. Many still stand outside exposed to the elements others are protected in a museum.

This area has been fought over and there are ruined castles as well as forts built after the Jacobite Rebellion in the 18thC. With the arrival of more settled times, stately homes sprouted up all over the area. Many are now in the care of the National Trust for Scotland.

Difficult decisions had to be made. We crossed off all the places visited by guided tour only. We find these tend to concentrate on the history of the family and family portraits which isnít what interests us. This reduced the list to manageable proportions. All were very different and many have excellent tea rooms attached to them. Unfortunately none of the properties allowed photography inside.

This is whisky country and the area is stuffed with distilleries. Some like Glenfiddich are well known names. Others are smaller and produce whisky for the named blends. Many offer tours. We decided we ought to visit a distillery during our trip to Scotland and chose Dallas Ddu, a small Victorian distillery which closed in 1983 and is now owned by Historic Scotland.

We are members of National Trust, Historic Scotland and Historic Houses Association which gave us free entry to all the properties we visited. They certainly repaid their annual fee this holiday.

Planning at short notice, we decided to use Premier Inns and Travelodges, which provide basic clean en suite accommodation. All were near supermarkets to buy food for breakfasts and evening meals. We needed to break journey overnight on the way up and back, so the final itinerary looked like this:

  • 1 night Travelodge, Perth
  • 3 nights Premier Inn, Westhill, just outside Aberdeen
  • 2 nights Premier Inn, Elgin
  • 3 nights Travelodge, Inverness
  • 1 night Travelodge, Todhills near Carlisle

We find that standards at Premier Inn are consistently higher than at Travelodge, although Todhills has been refurbished recently and is one of the best Travelodges we have stayed at.

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