A Different Trail
As a tourist initiative, the idea of grouping together a series of attractions that share a common theme along with some kind of commentary or guide and naming them a trail has been a huge success. The Pictish Trail, The Malt Whisky Trail and Outlander Trail are just a few of the more well-known and successful of these but there are also a huge number of unheralded and unusual trails that are well worth seeking out and investigating.
Snorkelling is an activity that has not received much promotion in the past but what many people do not realise is just how perfectly suited the clear waters of the Highlands are for this. The sea along this coastline is bursting with marine life; from small sea squirts, sponges and anemones right up to dolphins, whales and harmless basking sharks. The recently launched North West Highlands Snorkel Trail, produced in conjunction with The Scottish Wildlife Trust identifies the nine top sites in the area along with access notes and details of what you are likely to see. One of the top sites identified in the guide is the coast around Big Sand in Gairloch, suitable for beginners to spot kelp forests and colourful rock dwellers. Where better to stay when you are snorkelling than a house right on the waters-edge? From Shore House you could almost jump into the water from the doorstep, or at low tide you could easily stroll round the coast to the expanse of Big Sand.
Scotland has some of the world’s finest tree collections. Their diversity reflects the role many individuals have played over the centuries, collecting, planting and nurturing trees from around the globe. The Scottish Tree Trail brings together these collections to make them easier to visit individually or as part of a grand tour, it also highlights the important work they do in regards tree conservation and their ongoing cultivation for current and future generations. One of the highlights of the trail is Ardkinglas Woodland Garden. Situated on the shores of Loch Fyne in Argyll, against a spectacular backdrop of mountain and forest this is an outstanding collection of plants and trees, including one of the tallest trees in Britain. Strone House is just a short drive away and is conveniently located for all the attractions of the Cowal Peninsula as well as being close to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs.
The Scottish textile industry has a rich and established heritage, creating many of world’s iconic textile products – from tartan to cashmere and to tweed. The Scottish Textile Trail was developed to be an informative guide to help visitors explore the varied textile visitor attractions throughout the country. One of the highlights in the guide is New Lanark. This village, built around a series of textile mills is one of Scotland’s 6 UNESCO World Heritage sites and welcomes more than 300,000 visitors each year. The buildings house an award-winning visitor centre and a restored mill spins organic wool in the traditional way. The Tower of Hallbar is just 6 miles away on quiet country roads so would make a great day out by bike.
Loch Katrine and the surrounding Trossachs have inspired artists and writers for hundreds of years. With the help of the new Art and Literature Trail you can see for yourself what has drawn so many to this unique part of Scotland. In the early 1800s Wordsworth and Coleridge both visited, closely followed by Sir Walter Scott who set his bestselling Lady of the Lake here. Other literary tourists were soon to follow with Thomas Carlyle, Hans Christian Anderson, Gerard Manley Hopkins and Jules Verne all making the journey. Jules Verne even set his classic book The Underground City beneath the shores of the loch. The Old Farmhouse sits on the southern shores of Loch Lomond, it’s a short drive up to Loch Katrine or a longer hike up the West Highland Way if you are feeling intrepid.
One of the most famous artistic works to be associated with Scotland is the tale of Macbeth. A new film version released last year starring Michael Fassbender has led to a resurgence of interest in this classic tale of ambition and madness. Although the events in the original Shakespeare play are fictional, the characters it features are historical figures with ties to real life places. The film was shot at a variety of locations across the country and in addition there are a host of historical sites you can visit with connections to the real Thane of Cawdor. The new Macbeth Trail handily draws all these together to make it easy to plan your visit or to find out just exactly where are all those stunning backdrops you were captivated by on the big screen. Some of the battle sequences in the film were filmed below the Quiraing and The Old Man of Storr on Skye. Filmgoers accustomed to CGI effects might assume the scenery is artificial but if anything, it is more impressive in real life. Beach House just south of Portree is close enough to make it an easy day trip, its bright, relaxing coastal location a stark contrast to the foreboding menace of the mountains.