Guest Post by Glen Moyer
Many thanks to Glen Moyer from the USA for providing this guest post about Monarch of the Glen Country. Glen was inspired to visit earlier this year after watching the TV show and went on to write a travel blog about his time exploring many beautiful parts of Scotland. I was lucky enough to meet Glen on his travels and I'm delighted that he has written this blog about the place that originally awakened his passion for Scotland. Even if you have never watched the show, this area is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in the country and Glen has included many suggestions for making the most of your time here.
For fans of the BBC drama “Monarch of the Glen”, like me, no tour of Scotland is complete without a visit to “Glenbogle” and the surrounding “Monarch Country” in the Scottish Highlands. Of course Glenbogle is fictional, but Ardverikie, the house and estate where the drama was filmed on location for 7 ‘seasons’ from 2000 to 2005, is very real.
Ardverikie is the historical home of the Clan Macpherson but through various circumstances ownership passed to Sir John William Ramsden in 1867. A family company of his heirs continues to run the estate today.
This present day version of the house is the 3rd, begun in 1870 and completed in 1877 after fires destroyed the first two. Long before it served as a television studio and fictional home to the MacDonald clan, it very nearly became a royal residence. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited here in August 1847 and fancied the house but not the Highland weather (or the pesky midgies) and so later purchased Balmoral as a royal Scottish residence instead.
“Glenbogle” was originally created by Sir Compton Mackenzie in his 1941 novel “Monarch of the Glen”, on which the TV drama was loosely based. It was the show’s creator Michael Chaplin who selected Ardverikie Estate and the region around it to serve as Glenbogle House and the village of Glenbogle for the BBC.
While the TV drama concluded filming and last aired (excepting reruns) nearly a decade ago, the hit series still enjoys a loyal worldwide fan base so Ardeverike draws visitors year round. Unlike many stately homes in England, Ardverikie - the house and the whole of the estate – remains private and as such is not open for public tours. This will no doubt surprise some fans should they arrive unawares. Still there are ways for fans (“Boglies” as they call themselves) and non-fans alike to gain access…
Ardverikie House does open its gardens to the public for one day annually (a charity event), usually the last Sunday of May. Otherwise, the house can be let by the hour for weddings, while those desiring a longer stay can take advantage of six on-estate self-catering cottages. These range from the modern two-bedroom bungalow that was my choice (Pinewood – sleeps 4) to more spacious accommodations for groups from 6 to 13.
If it’s a romantic getaway you seek, there is Gatelodge. A mini, three storey, castle in its own right, it sleeps 3 and guards the entrance to the estate just off the A86. It too featured in the filming of the series when Hector and Molly, after a row with their son Archie, briefly moved out of the big house and into Gatelodge.
The estate covers 40,000 acres and cottage guests are free to explore it from the high munros, to the shoreline of Loch Laggan. The loch runs the length of the estate and its beautiful sandy beach appeared frequently in the series. It is the longest inland beach in Scotland and can often be enjoyed in quiet solitude.
Entry to Loch Laggan’s sandy beach is right off the single track drive to the main house and only a short walk from either Gatelodge or Pinewood.
Many buildings on the estate starred in the TV series, like this one that was dressed as Glenbogle’s pub, The Ghillie’s Rest. The sign above the doorway and the ornate lamppost are all that remain of its on screen glory.
The main house, as noted, is a private home and as such is off limits, especially when the family is in residence. Still the always-friendly staff understand the fans’ desire for that keepsake photo and reasonably close access can be had if you are respectful and ask permission. (In addition to “Monarch” the house featured in the 1997 movie “Mrs. Brown”, about Queen Victoria’s visit here, and 2011’s “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” starring Scottish heartthrob Ewan McGregor.)
As there is no real Glenbogle village, various locations in surrounding villages were used for the filming and most can be visited easily, requiring only a short drive. Nearest, about 7 miles away, is Laggan where the Laggan Stores – recently reopened under new management and featuring a coffee bar – was McKechnies village stores or the “shopping mall.”
True fans will want to seek out the Rumblie B & B, also in Laggan, where owners Simon and Fiona Dodds have a remarkable collection of props (all sold at auction when the series wrapped) including this Citroen auto used by Meg’s Dance School.
Many non-descript buildings in the immediate vicinity of Ardverikie served as locations such as a schoolhouse, a croft, Meg’s Dance studio and more.
One “must see” venue is the Cille Choirill Church and Graveyard just outside Spean Bridge about 20 miles south. (If driving up from Glasgow or Fort William you’ll pass it before reaching Ardverikie) Hector Macdonald, the family patriarch (played by the late beloved actor Richard Briers) was buried here and Archie and Lexie were to have married here but chose a hillside on the estate instead.
The church is not visible from the heavily wooded drive along the A86 so you’ll have to watch carefully for the sign that marks the entrance. The key to get inside the church is kept at the house across the street, so check there before turning up the short drive to the car park. (It should be noted that the Scottish Commando Memorial is also quite nearby and worth a visit while in Spean Bridge.)
Boglie or not, a not to be missed experience is found in the nearby town of Aviemore, the Strathspey Steam Railway. This scenic 10-mile ride departs Aviemore station and travels along the Spey River via Boat of Garten to Broomhill – better known to Boglies everywhere as “Glenbogle Station.”
The train and station featured in one of the drama’s most heart wrenching scenes – the final departure of Lexie MacDonald (played by Dawn Steele). Glenbogle signage can still be found here and is a popular spot for fan selfies!
The Railway offer a variety of dining options for those seeking a truly unique experience including full five course evening meals. I opted for the First Class upgrade with afternoon tea service. My comfortable private compartment had me time traveling back into every old steam train movie I’ve ever seen. The rich wood and tartan décor of these private compartments is enhanced by a small plaque detailing the history of a different Scottish clan in each.
The tea service came complete with white linen tablecloth, and a scrumptious selection of sandwiches, scones, and cakes, plus a sizeable portion of clotted cream – more than ample for the round trip journey. The train operates from March to November with holiday specials in December and January. Early online booking is recommended.
Aviemore is a bustling highland resort and offers great accommodation, shopping, and dining options. The town, just 30 miles north but about an hour’s drive from Ardverikie, is located in the Cairngorms National Park which is a popular holiday destination all its own.
When en route back to Ardverikie don’t miss a stop in Kingussie at the Tipsy Laird Pub. While it didn't feature in the series it is where the cast and crew (often in residence in the area for 6 months at a time) dropped in for a wee dram, a meal and sometimes a bit of nightlife, like karaoke. Numerous other filming locations are scattered throughout the area so don’t be shy about asking locals for information or directions.
Whether you’re a fan of the TV drama or not, “Monarch Country” is among the most scenic regions in the Scottish Highlands. You’ll find brilliant vistas of towering munros and glistening lochs, rushing burns and wee waterfalls compliment the sloping stone walled fields dotted with blackface sheep and shaggy Highland coos.
Ardverikie (or the numerous nearby off-estate accommodations) is centrally located allowing for day trips to the north to Inverness/Loch Ness, or a whisky tasting in Dalwhinnie, or to the south to Fort William to climb Scotland’s highest peak, Ben Nevis, or perhaps to ride the Jacobite Steam train, famous on the big screen as Harry Potter’s Hogwarts Express! But that’s another blog for another time.
There’s no question that a visit to this region of the Scottish Highlands will have you feeling like a Monarch of the Glen!
To find out more about Ardverikie Estate visit their website at www.ardverikie.com
To find out more about The Strathspey Railway visit their website at www.strathspeyrailway.co.uk
To find out more about Rumblie B & B visit their website at http://www.rumblie.com/
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