We went on a lovely trip to the Highlands yesterday. We took a look at the Fortingall Yew tree, which is thought to be around 5000 years old. And then drove up Glen Lyon, one of the most beautiful valleys in Scotland. Finishing with a walk along the shore of Loch Tay. We saw 2 herds of red deer – counting about 70 animals. As well as lots of pheasants and a hare. We watched a farmer round up a pregnant sheep with his 2 sheep dogs, and help her give birth to a healthy lamb.
The scenery was amazing, and there were daffodils everywhere. There were lots of requests for photo stops!
This has been an unusually long winter, with visits from the “Beast from the East” weather front bringing late snow not only to Scotland, but to much of the UK. There is a great sledging hill in one of Crieff’s parks, and even I couldn’t resist sledging down it a few times.
Easter day was beautiful, and I took a stunning photo in the sunshine at Crieff’s reservoir.
But we then had yet more snow!
I am fairly confident that we have finally seen the last of it now. We visited beautiful Loch Tay yesterday. There was still a little snow on the hills, but Naomi and a visitor from France took the plunge, with a quick swim in the loch. I won’t pretend that the water was warm, and they were very proud of themselves.
There are new born lambs in the fields, and we have found plenty of frogspawn. Lots of daffodils too.
JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter book series, lives in Edinburgh, where she wrote the Harry Potter books. Many of the sites used in the Harry Potter films can be found in Edinburgh and in the Scottish countryside. There is a Harry Potter walking tour that fans can go on in Edinburgh.
When we take visitors on a day trip to Edinburgh, we include a few Harry Potter sights. And everyone has the chance to buy plenty of Harry Potter souvenirs – there’s a great choice in wands!
The historic City of Stirling is easily reached from our homestay – by car or bus.
Stirling is an ancient capital of Scotland. As the lowest bridging point of the River Forth, it was a focal point for travel between northern and southern Scotland. It was said that: “He who holds Stirling, holds Scotland”. It was the scene of the great battles of Stirling Bridge and of Bannockburn, in which the Scots defeated the English (something that rarely happened, due to the superior resources of the English).
Stirling’s 2 most famous sights both stand on top of dramatic crags. They are lit up at night – an impressive sight if you are driving past the city.
Stirling Castle is one of the most interesting castles in Scotland to visit. It was first built in the 1100s, with the remaining buildings mostly dating from the 1400s and 1500s. A very popular castle with Scottish royalty.
The castle has beautiful interiors, and its guides are dressed up in medieval costume.
The castle boasts 7 new tapestries, depicting a successful unicorn hunt. A recent project which took 13 years to complete.
The oldest football in the world was found in the Palace at Stirling Castle.
The remains of a medieval knight were discovered beneath the kitchen. He was killed during a siege in the 1300s.
In 1507, one of James IV’s courtiers attempted to fly from the castle. He leapt from the battlements with chicken feathers stuck to his arms. He landed in a dung heap (very smelly!).
The castle isn’t Stirling’s only famous visitor attraction. See also:
The Wallace Monument – learn about the great warrior William Wallace, while climbing 246 steps to the top of this tower – amazing views.
This is also a good place to go shopping, eat out, go to the cinema or to a concert, etc.
The Crieff Highland Gathering is my absolute favourite Scottish day out.
There are other Highland Games, and we go to some of those too, in recognition of the fact that not everyone can make it to the Crieff Highland Gathering. But Crieff does it best! Admittedly, some of the other Highland Games take place in the grounds of beautiful castles, which is an added attraction.
A Highland Games combines a lot of fun things all happening at the same time, usually including:
an epic competition between very large strongmen hurling various extremely heavy objects in various interesting different ways while wearing kilts
tug-of-war competitions between teams of only slightly smaller strongmen
Highland Dancing contests between girls, boys and women in traditional Scottish dress / sailor uniforms – many dancers come all the way from the USA and Canada for the experience
athletics and cycling events for adults and children
lots of different bagpipe and drumming bands – sometimes including top international music groups
a music tent with more modern Scottish music performers
Scottish food (try the venison)
In 2018, we have the possibility of Highland Games on the following dates. Those in bold are local or fairly local to us. Those not in bold are also possible, but we may need to charge you a small additional fee. Please let us know ahead of time if you would like to go to one of these Highland Games.
2018 dates for Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Edinburgh International Festival: 3rd to 27th August
Edinburgh, the world’s leading festival city, is an easy day trip from our homestay in Crieff, by car or public transport.
August is the biggest festival month, with 5 festivals taking place:
Edinburgh International Festival
Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
Edinburgh Art Festival
Edinburgh Book Festival
There are plenty of other festivals to enjoy – why not come for the Scottish International Storytelling Festival in late October? Or for the International Science Festival in April? A great way to improve your English.
The most famous of them all is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The biggest Arts Festival in the world. It is basically 3 weeks of every kind of show you can imagine (all kinds of music, theatre, magic, circus, comedy, cabaret, speeches, musical theatre, etc etc), crammed into every possible venue in the City, over 3 weeks in August. The streets are full of street performers and crowds of arts-loving people from all over the world. We go every year, and we’d love to take you with us.
For the 2018 Festival Fringe programme, see: https://tickets.edfringe.com/about-us
Linlithgow Palace is another great option for those who are travelling to or from Edinburgh Airport.
Linlithgow is a small historic town with its own loch (lake) right in the centre of town. We often stop here on the way to the airport, for a last bit of sight-seeing and a chance for visitors to do last minute shopping for presents to take home with them.
The magnificent ruined Royal Palace overlooks its parkland and the loch. It was a popular residence for Scottish royalty from the 1400s onwards. Both James V (1512) and Mary Queen of Scots (1542) were born here. Mary was of course famously executed by England’s Queen Elizabeth I.
Good views over the loch from the rooftop of the Palace. If you feel like some exercise, there’s a one hour walk round the loch, or you could hire a boat.
This is a unique trip, which may be available if you have a few hours to spare when travelling to or from Edinburgh Airport.
The Falkirk Wheel is the world’s only rotating boat lift. It links the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. These are the 2 canals that link Scotland’s 2 big cities – Edinburgh and Glasgow.
The Falkirk Wheel is 35 metres tall, the equivalent of 8 double decker buses stacked on top of each other. It contains over 15,000 bolts which are matched with 45,000 bolts holes. Each of these bolts was hand tightened.
The Wheel opened in 2002. Since then it has had 5.5 million visitors. You could add to that number!
The trip is a chance to ride the Falkirk Wheel on board a canal boat, from one canal to the other. There is then a short canal boat ride through a long tunnel, before the boat turns and heads back for the downward ride on the Wheel. There are good views from the top.
This is one of the trips that I have enjoyed the most – it is quite expensive, but really good fun.
A quicker stopping-off place on the way to or from Edinburgh Airport is the famous Falkirk Kelpies. These impressive metal beasts rise up from the Forth and Clyde Canal. They are 30 metres high and are lit up in changing colours at night, so they’re very difficult to miss as you drive past on the motorway that links Edinburgh and Stirling. They were built in 2013 as a monument to Central Scotland’s horse powered heritage.