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 when she was only 25 years old.
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.
Our county town of Perth, a historic city and former capital of Scotland, makes a good trip if you would like a break from the countryside. It boasts a castle, museums and galleries, an ice-rink and a great leisure pool with flumes, currents and jacuzzi as well as a separate pool for serious swimming. There’s a concert hall and a theatre too. It also has 3 golf clubs, one of which is on an island in the river Tay – Scotland’s longest river. Perth is a half hour drive from Crieff – by car or bus.
My favourite thing to do in Perth is actually the short walk up woody Kinnoull Hill. At the top there is a dramatic viewpoint over the River Tay.
A spectacular bird of prey, with a wingspan of close to 2 metres. Red kites came close to extinction in the UK, and were re-introduced from Scandinavia.
We visit a red kite feeding station, which supports and monitors the birds. There are often 30 or more birds, swooping for food. They can be very vocal too. This trip includes a talk about red kites and their preservation. http://www.argatyredkites.co.uk
We often see red kites when walking near Crieff. Especially in the autumn and winter.
Doune Castle is, I’m told, the best preserved medieval castle in Scotland. That’s why it’s so popular with producers of films and TV series. It’s featured in “Game of Thrones”, “Outlander” and “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”.
Doune was the seat of “Scotland’s uncrowned king” – Robert Stewart, 1st Duke of Albany and Governor of Scotland. He acquired the castle in 1361. He ruled Scotland while its kings were either incapable or imprisoned by the English.
You can take an interesting audio tour of the castle. It explains the skullduggery that the Duke of Albany resorted to to retain his power, how the castle functioned during the 1300s, and its use as a film set.
If this inspires you, we have the film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” on DVD.
Why not visit Edinburgh during your stay with us? Edinburgh is of course Scotland’s historic capital city. It’s the second most popular tourist destination in the UK (after London), and is an easy day trip from our homestay.
Edinburgh’s medieval Old Town is a maze of ancient cobbled streets, narrow alleyways and hidden courtyards. The Royal Mile leads from Edinburgh Castle (perched on the remains of a volcano) down to the Palace of Holyroodhouse (the Queen’s official residence in Scotland). You can take also take a tour of the very modern Scottish Parliament building, and if you time your visit well you can even listen to a parliamentary debate.
This is also where you’ll find King Arthur’s Seat – an impressive hill in the centre of Edinburgh. If you have the energy to climb it, there are great views, and it’s a good place for a picnic.
There’s a lot to do in the Old Town. You could visit the excellent National Museum of Scotland, Dynamic Earth, or the Camera Obscura and World of Illusions.
Edinburgh is JK Rowling’s home town. Keen Harry Potter fans can visit the Elephant House cafe, where she wrote Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. And you can do some shopping in Diagon House – an all things Harry Potter shop on the street that inspired the magical Diagon Alley.
Edinburgh’s New Town is not so very new – its beautiful streets and squares were built in the 18th and 19th centuries.
It’s a great area just to walk around, and for shopping and restaurants.
My tip for when you visit Edinburgh is to head for Stockbridge in the New Town on a Sunday. Walk along the peaceful Water of Leith river; choose from the delicious food on offer at Stockbridge Market for lunch; enjoy the fun local shopping and wander round the beautiful streets. You could end the afternoon with a visit to Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden, with its impressive glasshouses built in the 1800s, filled with plants from around the world. Stockbridge is where you can find my favourite Edinburgh restaurant (it’s already way too popular for me to divulge the name on this website).
The city of Stirling was the site of many a battle between Scots and English, in the centuries before the 2 countries unified, as its bridge over the River Forth was the main entry point to the north of Scotland.
The Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297 was one of the few Scottish victories, as the English armies were inevitably larger and more powerful.
The Scots, led by their great military leader William Wallace, outmanoeuvred the English by splitting the English army in two – with half on one side and half on the other side of the bridge. 5000 English soldiers were slaughtered.
The anniversary of the battle, 11th September, is celebrated every year by the Society of William Wallace, and other supporters of Scottish independence.
Wallace was later betrayed to the English, captured, and tried in London. He suffered a terrible death – on 23rd August 1305 he was hanged, disembowelled, beheaded and quartered.
You may remember him from the 1995 film “Braveheart”.
If you visit the monument on the anniversary of Wallace’s death, you will have the chance to see actors play the parts of Wallace and his English accuser.
There was a competition to design a monument to commemorate Wallace, with over 100 entries. It is 67 metres high and was completed in 1869. It stands on the remains of an ancient volcano.
You can climb to the top of the Monument, visiting several exhibition rooms along the way. From the top, there are stunning views of Stirling, the River Forth and the Ochil hills.