On September 9th the Queen will become the longest serving monarch in British history. This is also the day on which she will officially open the new Borders Railway. This massive project which links Edinburgh with Tweedbank is the longest domestic railway to be built in the UK in over 100 years and is indeed a cause for celebration. Several days of community events will culminate in a historic steam train journey along the line where the queen will be joined by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
Ashiestiel House, the former home of Sir Walter Scott is only a couple of miles away from the penultimate stop on this new line at Galashiels. Guests at this most luxurious of properties will now have the benefit of easy day trips to Edinburgh and all that it has to offer. For a car free day it would be an easy pedal to the station, followed by a journey of less than an hour to get to one of the most bike friendly cities in the country.
After the decommissioning of the Royal Yacht in 1997 the era of royal sailing trips to the Western Isles came to an end. The Queen missed her annual sojourns so much that she chartered a former Cal Mac ferry for her 80th birthday celebrations and has returned a number of times subsequently. The old ferry, now considerably more luxurious than when it sailed between Uig and Lochmaddy, would cruise gently through the islands accompanied by a Royal Navy warship, stopping to allow the family to picnic on remote island beaches. To sample a taste of the west coast, how about a week at Achaglachgach? This luxurious conversion of a grand stone stables and barn is a short walk to the water and only 15 minutes from the Kilberry Inn which famously hosted the queen on her 80th birthday cruise.
Traditionally the Queen’s island cruise would end at the home of the Queen Mother at Castle May when she would alight and journey to her residence at Balmoral. Royal Deeside has long been a favourite of the royal family since the days of Queen Victoria and when visiting for the first time you can easily see why. With fishing, hunting, mountains and distilleries galore it’s easy to fill your holiday week. The highlight of the summer here is the Braemar Highland Gathering which the Queen and Prince Philip traditionally attend. Drumrunie is the perfect base for those wishing to play a part being just a short stroll away. The curious can also take a tour around Balmoral Castle itself when the Royal Family are not in residence, or a short drive and hike up to the Queen’s Well, built to commemorate a visit by Queen Victoria in 1861.
Queen Victoria was also a guest at Inver Lodge near Crathie which was originally built in 1760 as a coaching inn. Now converted into a self-catering lodge, this property retains many traditional features and is the perfect destination for large family groups, sporting parties and groups of hill walkers and ski enthusiasts. The lodge has a secure gun cabinet, a rod hanging area and the owners can arrange for a keg of beer to be installed in the cellar so you can pull your own pints at the bar.
For a royal connection with a difference, then how about a visit to the Outer Hebrides to follow in the footsteps of Bonnie Prince Charlie? In stark contrast to the opulence of Balmoral Castle you can visit the cave where he hid in the aftermath of defeat at the battle of Culloden and before his journey to Skye, which was immortalised in the Skye Boat Song. The cave is situated at the foot of Triuirebheinn, next to Ben Kenneth which is easily reached from Lochboisdale. If a night in a cave doesn’t really appeal then Cuir na Bhoir is just a few miles away. This traditional thatched cottage is a most appropriate starting point for following in the footsteps of one of the most romanticised figures in Scottish history.
You don’t have to be royalty to live like a King.
Photo Credit: Braemar Highland Gathering