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. You can see Greyfriar’s Kirkyard, where the famous small dog Bobby spent the last years of his life faithfully guarding his master’s grave. A statue of the dog commemorates his great loyalty.
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 Harry Potter themed shopping in Victoria Street – 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.
Our town, Crieff, lies on the southern edge of the Scottish Highlands. Hills and mountains rise up dramatically behind the town, and can be glimpsed from our garden. It is a short walk up into the hills, where there are beautiful views. Here are some photos taken this winter (the castle is Castle Monzie):
A few miles down the road from Crieff, we visit the village of Comrie, which boasts impressive waterfalls and wild Highland scenery.
We also take our visitors deeper into the Highlands. We visit the pretty town of Aberfeldy (great cafes!) with its famous waterfalls walk – Birks’ Walk – immortalised in song by the great songwriter and poet, Robert Burns:
-Bonie lassie, will ye go,
Will ye go, will ye go,
Bonie lassie, will ye go
To the birks of Aberfeldy!
Here is the great Robert Burns himself, sitting next to one of our visitors as he admires the scenery.
And then on to the beautiful Loch Tay, where you may want to visit the Scottish Crannog Centre – a reconstructed prehistoric loch-dwelling. It’s also a good place for wild swimming.