To help us launch our new camping in Scotland section and our guide to holidays in Scotland, we thought we would let you in on Scotland’s top 5 best kept secrets. As the title suggests these are places well worth a visit that are not on all guide books or a little further off the beaten-track for many tourists, trust us and discover more.
1. Loch Morar’s Silver Sands
Take the road from Fort Willian to Mallaig and Loch Morar is just before you arrive in the port town of Mallaig. Silver Sands is the beach that gently eases its way into the warm, crystal clear waters of Loch Morar. There are no designated parking spaces, so carefully park along the narrow road and enjoy a day at the beach courtesy of Scotland. (pictured above)
2. Foyer’s Falls
Most people take the A82 road along Loch Ness, between Fort Augustus and Inverness and therefore miss Foyer’s Falls which are a set of spectacular waterfalls on the east side of the famous Loch. Leave this one for a rainy day, as the waterfalls cascade are even more impressive.
3. St Kilda
St Kilda is for those who really are looking for an adventure. The island, Scotland’s first World Heritage site, is the remotest part of the British Isles. Now managed by the National Trust of Scotland as a nature reserve. Visiting St Kilda is possible, please see more information on their website http://www.kilda.org.uk. Camping on the islands’ only campsite is the only way to stay on the island!
4. Regional Feis
Scotland is rich in history and culture and a Feis is a series of Gaelic Arts Festivals that takes place across Scotland between February and October each year. If you are planning a trip to Scotland in 2013, check out the nearest Feis using this site http://www.feisean.org
5. Carbisdale Castle
Built in 1907 for the Duchess of Sutherland and once the home of the exiled King of Norway, this ornate castle is now a youth hostel that boasts a ballroom, library, huge fireplaces and staircases to rival Hogwarts from the Harry Potter films. The castle is said to have a few resident ghosts, so if you don’t want to stay, just visit!
The Scottish highlands are an area sparsely populated with incredible countryside and mountain ranges. They are located in the north west of Scotland and are a very popular destination.
The stunning scenery and picturesque views make it a haven for any nature lovers but there are also many amazing lochs and trails around hills and over the mountains. Below are 4 great examples of places you can go or stay if you’re looking to go camping in the Scottish Highlands.
1) Wow Scotland – Wild camping in the Scottish Highlands
If you’ve always wanted to explore the Scottish wilderness, but are not that confident that you won’t get lost, why not try a guided camping tour as a family with Wow Scotland?
This company are very flexible and allow you to decide how long you want the journey to be, as well as what kind of area you’re looking to camp in. For example, some prefer to explore the mountains while others enjoy relaxing by the lochs.
The guides can also teach you camping skills such as cooking with a gas stove and navigation techniques, so that you’ll be all prepared to take your next trip alone!
2) Red Squirrel Campsite Glencoe
This site consists of 22 acres of camping space and is right next to the River Coe. Surrounding this fantastic park is a wooded area, perfect for exploring or going for relaxing walks.
The site also boasts a small lake used for swimming, and a permit for fishing in the river if you so wish. Or, if you’re looking for a little civilization outside of the site, there is a friendly, local pub approximately a 10-minute walk from the site!
I asked local resident and travel writer, Jamie Monteath, to give us his top 5 places to visit around Edinburgh, Scotland.
Stunning as it is, if you are visiting Edinburgh you’d be missing out if you didn’t take a trip further afield to explore some of the surrounding areas.
Living in the beautiful city of Edinburgh, I like to think I am spoilt for choice when it comes to things to do and places to go. With some of the most stunning landmarks in Scotland and a whole host of diverse attractions, it is pretty easy to get caught up in the city and all it has to offer. However, I recently started to wonder what lay beyond the boundaries of Scotland’s capital. Surely there was a wealth of unexplored territory just waiting to be discovered? It turns out I was right!
I decided to make my first trip one that may be considered a more obvious draw for tourists – the magical Rosslyn Chapel. Made even more famous for its inclusion in the smash hit The Da Vinci Code novel and film, it has been intriguing and mystifying visitors for many years as they ponder over the meanings of some of the incredible carvings which practically cover the entire surface of the chapel. I was blown away by the details and I didn’t need to travel far to get there – the village of Rosslyn lies only 7 miles south of the city and is easily accessible by car or using the local bus service (I drove, car parking at the chapel is free!). (more…)
Autumn is well and truly here and whilst camping may not be to everyone’s taste this time of year, there are plenty of opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy the changing of the seasons. This weekend we ventured out to Salcey Forest .
Here are my top 10 tried and tested family walks for Autumn in the UK :
1. Salcey Forest, Northamptonshire
My personal favourite! The six-mile circular trail follows the edge of the Salcey forest, a medieval hunting forest known for its ancient oaks and beeches. A series of trailside art sculptures have been installed and a short cut that takes walkers to the Treetop Walk, a skywalk that elevates to 70ft in the air and gives views across the forest and surrounding Northamptonshire countryside. They are also in the middle of creating a super Tree Ninja Adventure playground for kids and adults alike.
2. Kings Wood, Cornwall
Near St Austell is a richly varied spread of oak, beech, ash, birch and spruce on the slopes of the Pentewan valley – popular with walkers and riders. A primary path runs through the middle of the wood, with less formal paths branching off either towards the valley top, for views over the area, or down to the wet woodlands – wear your wellies along the banks of the St Austell river!
3. Sea Palling, Norfolk
A family-friendly walk that takes walkers along the beach from Sea Palling along to Winterton on Sea. It is not a circular walk, so not ideal in that respect, however, if you have young children it is worth following the beach south towards the Great Barn at Waxham and turn back. Those that want to carry on will get a real opportunity to really let the wind blow the cobwebs and enjoy spectacular views across the North Sea.
4. Derwent Valley Walk, Derbyshire
Starting from Fairholmes, this 11-mile circular walk follows a marked route round the famous ‘Dambuster’ reservoirs. The walk is set in heather moorland peppered with beech, rowan, silver birch, spruce and oak trees, which amongst other factors attract a large array of birds, including ravens, crossbills and ospreys.
5. Pepper Wood, West Midlands
There’s an excellent network of walks, ranging from 20 minutes up to 2 hours with young children. Pepper Wood, is the remant of the ancient Forest of Feckenham, and lies close to Wyre Forest near Bromsgrove. The 150 acre site offers a woodland setting in the midst of great oaks, birch and lime. Alders line the valley floor.
6. Pass of Killiecrankie, Perthshire, Scotland
Perthshire is believed to be the area where you will find some of Scotland’s finest woodlands. The Pass of Killiecrankie walk, a four mile walk set in oak woodland along the River Garry, is possible one of the finest. The riverside trail, which starts at the visitor centre leads to the shores of Loch Faskally. You can end your walk at Pitlochry, or continue along the circular Bealach walk, which brings you back to Killiecrankie. The birch, rowan, aspen and ash trees that adorn the walk will certainly give you a taste of autumn.
7. Ullswater, Lake District
This is one for the families with children aged 11 and upwards, it is easier than the walk at Scafell Pike, but still offers a challenge. Starting at church near Howton, this 10-mile circular walk takes you along the shores of Ullswater for part of the way and up in woodland sorrounding the 657m, Place Fell peak. Follow paths and narrow roads to Martindale, then bear right towards Patterdale, before heading towards the shores of Ullswater and following the twisting path to Sandwick and then back to Martindale.
8. Attenborough Nature Reserve, Nottinghamshire
Another family-friendly nature reserve near Nottingham was opened in the 1960′s by Sir David Attenborough. The walk is nearly 4 miles long, has wide paths and can even accommodate pushchairs. It takes visitors from pond to pond for nearly two hours and is perfect for bird watching in Autumn and Winter, including, according to the visitor centre, two fish-eating birds, the goosander and the merganser.
9. Ystwyth Valley, near Aberystwyth
This walk is set in the grounds of Hafod Uchtryd and occupies 500 acres of the Ystwyth valley. There are many huge beeches, red oaks and larches (the only ‘conifer’ to change colour) that line the walks. My favourite is the short(ish) Gentleman’s walk, which climbs to offer great views over the valley. Much work has been carried out in recent years to restore the many of original walks, which date back to the 18th century. Start your walk at the Church car park.
10. Dove Crag walk, Northumberland
Another 4-mile circular walk at Holystone that will take you through stunning Autumn scenery. The walk is set in the Northumberland National Park and follows a path through oak woodland before climbing to moorland. Here you will find oak, birchwoods and larches. Also look out for birds of prey and red squirrels.
‘Scotland! Isn’t that really far away?’ questioned my 6 year old when I told him we were going camping for a few days there.
Yes, it is a long drive, from us it is approximately 7 hours to Fort William, but it is definately worth it. We stayed at the Red Squirrel campsite in the heart of Glencoe, 10 miles south of Fort William.
Hagrid’s hut from the Harry Potter films was filmed about 2 minutes walk from the campsite, so if you can remember the films, you will have a good idea of the landscape surrounding us. We went mid-August and temperatures during the 5 days we were there soared to near 30 degrees, which made it very warm in the tent during the day.
Around Glencoe there are plenty of places to visit and walks to go on, our children are reasonably adventurous, but still young, so we kept to the easier walks. To buy groceries, local shops are available in Glencoe Village and a small supermarket at Ballacullish. There are plenty places to visit and explore near Glencoe, including Inchree Waterfalls. If you are looking for something a little different try Canyoning at Inchree Waterfalls, near Onich. We only discovered this by chance on a walk to see the waterfalls and the guys at Vertical Decents were taking a group Canyoning down the waterfalls – maybe next time!
Further afield you have Fort William, the provincial capital of the highlands and major fishing port, which is worth a visit. Heading north, you have a choice of either going further west towards Mallaig and onto the Isle of Skye by boat or further north towards Loch Ness and Inverness. Both offer stunning drives and plenty of places to stop and admire in awe of the place.
The road towards Mallaig from Fort William is peppered with mountains and lochs, including many with salmon fisheries. If are planning to head towards Mallaig, and the weather is reasonable, take your swimming kits. 10 minutes south of Mallaig is Silver Sands, a sandy beach that gently slopes into an inlet of Loch Morar with its fresh crystal clear water is perfect for everyone to go swimming.
Heading north towards Inverness on the A82, you will come across Fort Augustus, a popular tourist spot. It’s a nice small town positioned at Loch Ness’ most southerly point and referred to as the Gateway to the world famous Loch. The heart of the town features a number of pubs and restaurants that adorn the three-boat wide locks that continue vessels along the Caledonian canal into Loch Ness.
Further afield you have the Nessie Monster museum at Drumnadrochit, and just before you get into the town, you will pass Urquhart Castle, which is believed to date back to the 13th century and has played an important role in Scotland’s history. If you have time, it is well worth a visit.
We have been a number of times to the Scottish Highlands and still discovering new places and routes.
Can you help? Where would you recommend others to visit?
(Feature Photo: Loch Lomond and the Trossachs taken from the village of Tarbet during our journey north)