I have mentioned on my blog before that although I'm not religious, I love visiting old churches on my travels around Scotland. I find that they are one of the best places to learn about the community and history of an area.
Recently I made a trip to Kilmun Church and Argyll Mausoleum on the shores of Loch Fyne in the Cowal Peninsula. It turned out to be so much more than just an interesting place of local worship, I found it to be a fascinating attraction with a lot to offer anyone interested in Scottish history.
There is a small visitor centre which details the story of the site from a Celtic Monastery to the final resting place of the Campbells, one of the most powerful clans in Scotland. Volunteer guides are also on hand to show you around if you wish and I found the guide on duty during my visit a wealth of information (I wish I had gotten her name!).
The only thing I found disappointing was to hear how low the visitor figures are, as this really is a special place where there has been a lot of effort put in to enhance the visitor experience. I thoroughly enjoyed my morning there and spent way longer than I had anticipated, partly because I got chatting with the guide over some tea and biscuits after my visit which is optional but recommended!
I really urge you to seek out Kilmun Church and Argyll Mausoleum for yourself and support this great attraction. There is so much history to discover in this little unassuming place and these are just some of the things I found out during my visit...
As I stood on the porch of my latest 'home from home' I was filled with my usual eager anticipation. Opening the door, I peeked my head inside and had a quick scope around. My first thought was 'Wow!' and the smile on my face reassured Mr Adventures Around Scotland that our new abode for the weekend was as lovely as we had hoped.
'It's like a show-home' I declared excitedly, before we kicked off our shoes and padded across the springy carpet to explore our surprisingly spacious holiday lodge.
We had been invited to stay at an ABI Ben Lomond Lodge in Loch Lomond Holiday Park and compared to other lodges I have stayed in recently, this was on another level with luxury bespoke fittings and co-ordinated soft furnishings. It really did feel like a bijou show-home and I was immediately ready to move in!
I probably shouldn't have been surprised as ABI specialise in designing quality hand built holiday homes that can be purchased by anyone wanting their own permanent holiday escape.
The open plan kitchen and living area was lovely and bright with patio doors leading out to a large porch with views to Loch Lomond and two big squishy sofas to relax on. The main bedroom had a little en-suite dressing room and bathroom, and a second twin bedroom and shower room meant that a family or larger group could stay there comfortably.
Drumlanrig Castle is not exactly a hidden gem; it is the Dumfriesshire seat of the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch and sits in the Queensberry Estate which covers over 90,000 acres of southern Scotland after all! However, you could easily travel around this scenic part of Dumfries and Galloway completely unaware of its existence.
Although I have been to Dumfries and Galloway many times, I had never actually visited Drumlanrig Castle until I was recently invited to go on a tour. It was already on my radar for visiting this summer as it was used as an Outlander filming location, however the invite brought forward my visit and I was lucky enough to get a private tour of the castle before it opened to the public for the summer. I also had one of the best afternoons in a long time going on a Land Rover tour of the estate and soon discovered that the castle and surrounding area have so much to offer that I wanted to share 5 reasons why I think you should visit Drumlanrig Castle for yourself.
1. Take the Drumlanrig Castle tour
120 rooms, 17 turrets and 4 towers - Drumlanrig Castle is seriously impressive inside and out. The best way to learn about its colourful history and to admire its lavish interior is on a guided tour. Unfortunately the castle tour season is a pretty short one, only running through July and August with a few other select days through the year, but it is worth timing your visit to coincide with the opening dates in my opinion.
Drumlanrig Castle is considered one of the finest examples of 17th Century Renaissance architecture in Scotland and has been the seat of the Douglas Family for generations. In 1684, William 3rd Earl of Queensberry, was made 1st Duke of Queensberry in recognition for his loyalty to Charles II. The castle which stands today was built to reflect his new status, incorporating some of the 14th century castle which had previously occupied the site. However, after spending only 1 night, the Duke decided he didn't like his new abode and moved back to Sanquhar Castle, he was obviously hard to please!
During the guided tour you can view Drumlanrig Castle's renowned art, furniture and silver collections and learn about life at the castle through the centuries. You will also discover more about some of the colourful characters that have visited Drumlanrig Castle over the years and view the bed that Bonnie Prince Charlie and Neil Armstrong slept in, not at the same time obviously!
My guide was hugely knowledgeable and although the tour only covers a fraction of the castle, it gave me a real insight into one of Scotland's most powerful families.
2. Go on a Land Rover safari
I am really not exaggerating when I say that the Land Rover tour from Drumlanrig Castle is seriously one of the best things I've done in ages. I'll be honest and say that I was a little apprehensive that 3 hours might be a bit too long. 'What if I get bored?', 'What if it's too shoogly and I feel sick?' or worst of all 'What if I'm in the middle of nowhere and need to visit the little girl's room?!' Thankfully none of these worries transpired as I was having way too much fun and by the time my 3 hours was up and we arrived back at the castle I was pretty sad it was all over, time really did fly by.
My guide, Brian, has worked on the estate for 50 years and what he doesn't know is very likely not worth knowing. In fact, I'm pretty sure that there is nothing that he doesn't know about Queensberry Estate. For the entire tour he had me engrossed with stories from history, facts about land management and wildlife, all punctuated with some humorous anecdotes.
We rumbled through woods, across fields (literally!), stopped at points of interest and took to the hills, thanks to our off road mode of transport, normally inaccessible areas were no longer off limits. The hilltop drive really was a highlight and the views were just superb. Travelling by Land Rover really does mean anyone can access the stunning scenery, even those who wouldn't normally have the ability or time to reach the hill tops.
We saw so much wildlife, covered diverse landscapes and stopped at historical sites. This really was a unique experience and one that I'll not forget, it definitely ranks as one of my favourite things that I've done in Scotland.
Until recently, the seaside town of Largs would not have been a Scottish destination I would have associated with hill-walking. Ice-cream, yes, scenic hiking, not so much. However, I am happy to admit when I am wrong and wanted to share with you a fairly easy hill walk that I discovered which gets top marks for effort to reward ratio in my opinion.
Castle Hill has the best view of the Firth of Clyde that I've come across and a short detour at the start to visit a prehistoric tomb makes this a worthwhile adventure to add to your Largs itinerary.
The walk up Castle Hill is accessed via Douglas Park, a short stroll from the town centre, and when I visited the play-park opposite was full of gorgeous pink cherry blossoms. I couldn't resist standing beneath the floral coated branches while the fragile petals rained down in the wind.
The start of the Castle Hill walk is well signposted once you reach the park but I suggest you follow the path to visit the Haylie Chambered Tomb first.
Discovered in 1772 by James Wilson of Haylie, the remains of 5 bodies were found within. Sadly today all you are likely to find within is rubbish and the tomb does seem pretty unloved considering it is such a fascinating piece of local prehistoric history. However, its unexpected location in a little clearing behind some houses is worth a look.
I took a well worn short cut from the chambered tomb up to the official path for the Castle Hill viewpoint but you can take the path back to the signposted route at the start if you prefer. This is really a walk of two halves as the first stretch is along a path surrounded by patchy grass and scrubby undergrowth and isn't that picturesque. It is also quite steep going in places and I certainly felt my calf muscles working harder than usual.
However, keep checking behind you as the view opens up across the Firth of Clyde and you will get all the encouragement you need to keep going. There are also some benches where you can enjoy the view if you need a little breather.
Competition - Win 2 Access-All-Areas-Money-Can’t-Buy Golden Wristbands for the Edinburgh Whisky Festival!
If you're a fan of whisky or curious to find out more about Scotland's national drink and can make it to Edinburgh on Saturday 17th June then you are going to love my latest competition.
I'm giving away 2 x Access-All-Areas-Money-Can’t-Buy Golden Wristbands for The Edinburgh Whisky Festival to one lucky reader.
I'm sure that I don't have to remind you that Saturday the 17th June is also Father's Day so this prize could make an extra special gift for a very lucky whisky loving dad.
The Edinburgh Whisky Festival is bringing more than 50 whisky producers, makers and bottlers together under one roof on Saturday 17th June, for a one-day celebration of all things liquid gold. As part of their quest to quash the misconceptions around whisky, festival organisers, The Whisky Lounge, are including a special ‘beginners’ area, featuring talks and workshops from industry insiders.
This year, they are upping the fun factor and interactivity levels by adding the whisky creche, which will be hosted by HuffPost UK’s Matt Chambers, as well as cocktail workshops and a ‘Blending Lab’ – where festival-goers can have a go at making their own blended whisky.
More than 150 whiskies will be available to taste at the Festival, which is celebrating its fifth year in Edinburgh. Brands including Bowmore, Macallan, Jameson, Glenlivet and Talisker are among those exhibiting.
The Edinburgh Whisky Festival will provide a laid back, informal environment to break down barriers, unlock myths, educate and excite those who haven’t ever tried whisky or are cautious about where to start
The festival takes place in the Assembly Rooms in George Street, Edinburgh and the winner will be able to choose from two sessions, either 12pm - 4pm or 5pm - 9pm.
Standard entry includes
In addition The Golden Wristband will also provide access to any of the masterclasses and workshops (Blending Lab/Whisky Creche/Cocktail Workshops etc) for free and you will also experience the full VIP treatment as you won't need to queue either.
The Golden Wristbands are not for general sale so the winner really will enjoy a money can't buy experience! One winner will receive 2 Golden Wristbands.
So how can you win this amazing prize?
You can obtain up to 5 competition entries through the Rafflecopter App below. Each option is worth one entry.
Please note all entrants must be over 18 and available to attend the event on 17th June.
One winner will be picked at random via Rafflecopter on Wednesday 14th June and notified via e-mail. The winner can collect their wristbands from the venue on the day of the event.
Please see below for further terms and conditions.
TERMS AND CONDITIONS
All entrants must be over 18 and available to attend the event on Saturday 17th June 2017.
The prize is as stated and no alternatives are available.
The winner will be drawn at random on the closing date of 14th June.
There is no entry fee and no purchase necessary to enter this competition.
This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook, Twitter or any other Social Network.
The winner will be chosen at random by Rafflecopter and notified by email within 24 hours of the closing date.
If the winner cannot be contacted or does not claim the prize within 48 hours of notification, we reserve the right to withdraw the prize from the winner and pick a replacement winner. The prize can be collected in person from the venue on the day of the event.
In Scotland you are surrounded by history wherever you travel in the country and for every popular historical attraction there are dozens of others that remain under the tourist radar. Many of these sites have just as much, if not more, historical significance but receive much less attention for various reasons.
Nestled tightly between a housing estate and the Main Street of the North Ayrshire town of Kilwinning is the unexpected gem of Kilwinning Abbey.
Urban Quarters Review
My recent visit to Dundee was my fifth trip to the city in the last couple of years and as I had already covered most of the Dundee attractions on previous visits, I was looking forward to exploring the city like a local rather than a tourist. Thanks to an invite to experience the centrally located Urban Quarters apartments, I even had my own luxury Dundee pad for the weekend and you can't get much more local than that!
Since it was also my wedding anniversary that week it was the perfect opportunity to celebrate with Mr Adventures Around Scotland as Dundee is one of our favourite places.
Urban Quarters is made up of 4 individual apartments, each named after a famous Dundonian. We were allocated the two bedroom Patrick Geddes apartment on the top floor.
From walking in, we felt immediately at home. The designer apartment is fitted out to a high standard with lots of creative and quirky touches which I just loved. It is definitely the first (and will probably be the only) accommodation I have stayed at with a popcorn maker, 3D glasses and a record player (complete with an eclectic mix of albums). If you were watching my Instagram story you might recall me playing some Scottish tunes from the legendary jimmy Shand as our Friday night entertainment. I really know how to party!
If you would rather chill out than dance the night away to some cheesy tunes then a yoga mat and book of mindfulness is provided to help you relax. Personally, I was really impressed by the unique touches which all helped us to feel at home, in fact it felt better than my home as I don't have a popcorn maker or a Jimmy Shand album.
I can hardly believe that my little Scottish travel blog turned 3 this week and although I don't normally write blogging related posts, after 3 years I felt it was the right time to share some of the highs, lows and future of Adventures Around Scotland.
What started out as a way to fill my new found spare time when I relocated from Glasgow to the Isle of Bute has taken me on the most amazing journey, quite literally! When I started this blog, I thought I already knew Scotland pretty well but I've discovered that I hardly knew my country at all and even after all this time, I'm constantly finding new places to explore and my Scottish travel bucket list just keeps getting longer.
The trips I've enjoyed around Scotland over the past three years have left me with the most amazing memories and some of the experiences that I could only have dreamed about thanks to this blog (and all the hard work behind it!) include -
Follow me as I search for the best and most original travel experiences in Scotland.