Historic Days Out
If there is one that Scotland does well it is historic days out, whether that is family friendly entertainment in a grand house, an educational outing to a castle or something more adventurous.
Caerlaverlock Castle is one of the most stunning and unique castles in the country. Triangular shaped with imposing battlements and surrounded by a moat, it was built to defend the Borders from raiders across the Solway Firth. This medieval fortress is still in an amazing condition with a permanent exhibition devoted to siege warfare and is also the venue for a host of historical re-enactments throughout the summer. There is an adventure park, nature trail and café so you can make a day of it. Berryburn, at Gretna is a majestic Victorian villa just a short drive away and a fabulous base to explore the many historical attractions in the area.
Balmoral Castle on Royal Deeside has been the private home of the royal family since the 1850s, it is an iconic building but by far the biggest attraction of a visit is the chance to explore the grounds and the surrounding estate. The location here is stunning and the scenery largely unchanged since Queen Victoria was first captivated by it. You can take it all in from Drumrunie, just a short stroll from Braemar. This period house has been upgraded to a very high standard and is perfect for golfers, walkers and skiers.
Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland and has been the stronghold of Clan Macleod for over 800 years. Built on a rocky outcrop on the shores of Loch Dunvegan, once entirely encircled by the sea, this well maintained castle and gardens has a wealth of historical treasures on display including the Fairy Flag. Seal spotting boat trips run daily from the pier below the castle on traditionally built clinker boats that will also give you a sense of what it must have been like to arrive at this imposing structure by sea in days gone by. Saltwinds by contrast is a thoroughly modern retreat overlooking Fiskavaig bay, further down the coast but still with views of the Cuillin Mountains.
Urquhart Castle on the shores of Loch Ness has been developed into one of the most child friendly castles in the country to visit. As well as being a romantic ruin that is fun to just wander around there is a newly constructed visitor centre that provides a wealth of activities to engage younger visitors, even a full-sized, working trebuchet. There is a prison cell to visit in the dungeon, a tower house, a chapel and of course, a monster to spot. Glen View Lodge is just a 10 minute drive away and offers contemporary comfort for 6 with a wood burning stove, sauna and easy access to Glen Affric and Beauly.
The iconic Eilean Donan Castle must surely be one of the most photographed in the country. Its reputation is not just based on its exterior though. The visitor centre has continually developed over time and there is now a huge amount to keep even the smallest members of the family interested. The internal rooms are decked out in period furniture with Jacobean artefacts, displays of weapons and fine art. Kids can swing a Claymore, spy through the spy holes, lift the cannon balls, gaze at the fearsome portcullis or exploring the ancient battlements. Wildlife also surrounds the island, with regular viewings of porpoise, dolphins, and otters. The Mill House at Nostie is just a five minute drive away, secluded and peaceful while still being within easy reach of Skye.
Glamis Castle was the childhood home of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, birthplace of HRH The Princess Margaret and the setting for Shakespeare's 'Macbeth'. It was winner of the best attraction award for the UK in 2015 and prides itself on the huge number of events it organises throughout the year. The interiors are lavishly decorated with period furniture, there is a medieval crypt you can visit (this is also supposedly the most haunted castle in Scotland) and it has particularly impressive gardens with a nature trail and pet cemetery. Glen Cruick is a short drive away in a secluded part of the Angus Glens and offers a unique blend of traditional and modern. A peaceful retreat where you can still access the many other attractions of the area.