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Archive for scotland

Caledonian Splendor

By Linda Tancs

Once upon a time, a vast woodland known as the Caledonian Forest covered much of Scotland. Formed at the end of the last ice age, its remnants are still visible in places like Glen Affric, considered one of the most beautiful places in Scotland. Thick with trees, its mix of Scots pine, birch, oak and Douglas fir is a big reason why the glen is protected as a National Nature Reserve. Several animals call these ancient woods home, like its iconic red deer (most visible in winter and autumn), pine martens and red squirrels. The protected environment is also invaluable for rare species like golden eagles and black grouse. A short distance from Loch Ness, the River Affric runs the length of the reserve, where trails offer stunning views of the mountains, towering trees and waterfalls.

Paradise in the Highlands

By Linda Tancs

As many a diary and motion picture can attest, Queen Victoria found paradise in the Scottish Highlands, particularly at Balmoral. Then and now, one of the core attractions of Deeside is its scenery—glens and forests, rivers and lochs, grand highland estates, mountains and moorlands, flora and fauna. You can experience it like a Royal by exploring the Victorian Heritage Trail, a 76-mile route from Drumoak to Braemar. Along the way, you can visit sites like the restored railway track once used by Queen Victoria to journey to Balmoral, the magnificent grounds of Drum Castle, the Victorian village of Ballater, the heather and pines of Glen Tanar and the town of Braemar surrounded by Cairngorms National Park. The grounds and select areas of Balmoral Castle are open to the public when the Queen is not in residence, generally from April through July.

The Great North Road

By Linda Tancs

You might think of the U.K.’s Great North Road as the nation’s version of iconic Route 66 in the United States—only with a lot more history attached. It was the only way of traveling the 409 miles between London and Edinburgh for centuries until it was subsumed into the A1 (the longest numbered road in Britain) and other motorways of today. In prehistoric times it comprised part of the network of Roman roads: Ermine Street led from London to York, and Dere Street from York to Edinburgh. The ancient route is lined today with rusting mile markers; its cultural significance is marked by literary giants like Charles Dickens, a frequent traveler who gave it a nod in The Pickwick Papers. There’s even an old street sign inside the rock at Gibraltar where a vehicle tunnel was dug.

Stone Skimming in Scotland

By Linda Tancs

Are you an ace stone skimmer? There’s a competition just for you on Easdale Island in Argyll, Scotland. The annual World Stone Skimming Championships is open to anyone of any age and any level of skill. To qualify, the stone (no more than 3 inches in diameter and formed naturally of Easdale slate) must hit the water three times and sink within the designated lane as marked by the buoys. The event takes place this year on September 23.

Scotland’s Fair Isle

By Linda Tancs

Of Scotland’s 790 or so offshore islands, which is the most fair? Opinions may differ, but the easiest response is the one so named. Fair Isle is an island in northern Scotland lying halfway between the mainland and Shetland. The small island is home to about 70 residents and is renowned for its bird observatory and style of knitting. This off-the-beaten-path tourist destination also offers visitors 250 species of flowering plants that have earned the locale the nickname “Island of Flowers.” It’s accessible via air or boat.

Eagle Island

By Linda Tancs

Mull is the second largest island of the Inner Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland. It’s known as Eagle Island, one of the best places in Scotland to spot golden and white-tailed eagles—virtually year round. In fact, thanks to the abundance of this and other wildlife, many tours are offered throughout the year. Ferries cross to the island at three points: Oban, Lochaline and Kilchoan. The best known and most used is the ferry from Oban to Craignure (near Mull’s most easterly point), which will get you there in under one hour.

The Gruffalo Trail

By Linda Tancs

Inspired by a children’s book about a mouse walking through a European forest, the Gruffalo Trail is a whimsical walk in Ardkinglas Estate, one of many features awaiting visitors at this property in Argyll, Scotland. On the shore at the head of Loch Fyne, set against a spectacular background of mountains and forest, Ardkinglas is noted for its outstanding collection of plants and trees amidst over 11,000 acres. Open year round, the woodland garden includes the “mightiest conifer in Europe” as well as woodland lochan, an ancient mill, a scriptorium and a thriving population of the region’s red squirrels.

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