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Exploring Blair Castle and Killiecrankie, Perthshire

By 17 October 2014 Life, Lifestyle, Scotland, Travel
Blair Castle through the trees

I decided that it couldn’t possibly by right to visit Scotland without going to a castle. The nearest to where we were staying was Blair Castle.

Blair Castle, Perthshire

Situated outside the village of Blair Atholl, near Pitlochry, stands the pretty white castle with a history that spans 700 years. The current castle is Victorian and the east wing is still home to the family of the Duke of Atholl.

We arrived at Blair Castle just in time for the piper.

Piper at Blair Castle

The rooms accessible to the public are beautifully decorated and take you back in time. There’s something a bit voyeuristic about peeking into the lives of others but, perhaps because I’m extremely nosy, I love it! Just like Through the Keyhole or the fabulous home tours on The Everygirl! (By the way, if you want to see how young, professional women live in America, you should definitely check out The Everygirl!)

No photography was permitted inside the castle, except in the ballroom but that was one of the least interesting rooms. The main stairway was adorned with weapons and there were stag heads lining the corridors. This was most definitely home to some serious hunters. But then hunting is one of those country pursuits that is still very much enjoyed in this part of the world. Deer stalking is carried out between July and February to both bring money into the estate and to keep the deer population under control.

After we ate our lunch sitting on a wet bench (picnics and Scotland in September don’t really mix!), we got to exploring the grounds a little. Close to the castle itself is the Hercules Garden. This walled, ornamental garden is gorgeous. It’s full of bright flowers, fruit trees, topiary and sculptures, all surrounding a huge pond.

I love photographing flowers. The colours always come out so well.

Flowers at Blair Castle

Blair Castle is sat within the expansive Atholl Estates. We walked just one short path that took us through ancient woodland, alongside a gorge of a river and inside a Victorian folly.

River in the woods Blair Castle

We just about spotted a red squirrel before it scuttled back up the tree. This meant spending a long time with our necks craned trying to find more squirrels but to no avail. We did meet a friendly German Shepherd though!

View Atholl Estates

Having spent a few hours at Blair Castle, we continued down the road towards Pitlochry and visited the famous Killiecrankie. Here at ‘Soldier’s Leap’ a fleeing Jacobite soldier evaded the enemy by leaping from one side of the gorge to the other. I think it was about 17 feet! Aside from being a place of historical significance, the Pass of Killiecrankie is a pretty stunning location.


Pass of Killiecrankie

Soldier's Leap, Killiecrankie

Before heading back to our cosy cottage, we did pop by Pitlochry but the shops were closed and it was starting to get late so we didn’t stop long.

Pitlochry main street, Perthshire

We loved our holiday in Scotland. This is just one of the days out we enjoyed. Have you been to Scotland? Where did you visit?

If you like castles, you might also want to read about Dover Castle in Kent.

Rachel x

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Autumn in the Scottish Highlands

By 4 October 2014 Outdoors, Photography, Scotland, Travel, United Kingdom
Autumn in the Scottish Highlands

This time last week I was driving home from South Yorkshire where we spent an overnight to break up the long journey from Scotland. That’s one of the downsides of living right in the south east corner of the UK; everywhere else in the country is a long way away!

We spent an awesome week in the Highlands, that followed a fantastic 6 nights camping in Cumbria. This holiday felt like it had taken an age to come around. Aside from a few days away here and there, we’ve not been on holiday since our honeymoon in May 2013. Having two weeks off work has been bliss and it meant returning feeling refreshed and raring to go.

Neither of us had been to Cumbria or the Highlands before and I think we chose the right time of year. Scotland was stunning and we were in awe of the view at every turn.

Woods at Blair Castle estate
When we left Kent, it was still late summer. Autumn seemed to happen in front of our eyes during our holiday. Now the fall is well and truly here. These woods at Blair Castle are home to red squirrels. We were lucky enough to just about spot one as it scrambled up a tree.

Ferns  at Rothiemurchus
Our rented cottage was about half an hour or so from Aviemore. Just down the road is the Rothiemurchus estate. We parked for FREE (a shock to system after forking out a fortune in parking charges everywhere in the Lake District) in the woodland car park and took a delightful stroll through this Highland estate. The dying ferns were turning brown, the purple heather was full of glistening spiders’ webs and the leaves were literally falling around us.

Woods on Rothiemurchus estate near Aviemore
Rothiemurchus is obviously a popular place on a Sunday and we were by no means the only people out enjoying the unseasonable warm weather. I managed to avoid getting anyone else in my photos though, so we can always pretend we were the only ones there!

Outside the Clachaig Inn Glencoe
Glencoe was simply awe inspiring. Having arrived to the area late, we didn’t really get to explore but we stopped for a beer in the Clachaig Inn, which is right in the heart of the glen with insane views from the car park!

Streetlight on bridge at Boat of Garten, Speyside
On our last day, we went for a drive around Speyside. Having driven through Boat of Garten, we continued over a bridge over the river Spey. Hubby had to pull over on the side of the road so I could get out and take some pictures!

River Spey Boat of Garten
The river was shimmering in the early evening sunshine. This area of Scotland is the home of whiskey production. There are a huge number of distilleries in the area, with some famous names including Glenfiddich, Aberlour and Glenlivet. Since neither of us particularly like the spirit we didn’t stop for a wee dram.

Padlock on gate at the Highland Wildlife Park
Sister to Edinburgh Zoo, the Highland Wildlife Park has to be in one of the most picturesque settings for a zoo. Hubby thought I’d gone mad taking a photo of this locked gate but I knew the colours would match that of the landscape!

Sun through the clouds out car window
I took far too many photos out of the car windows this holiday. Don’t get me wrong, Kent is a beautiful part of the world but it’s mostly rolling hills, flat marsh and farmland. Both the Lake District and Scotland had us driving around open-mouthed for the majority of the time. The most uttered words in the car were ‘wow, look at that view’!

We fell in love with the Scottish Highlands. So much so that we might live there one day! Have you ever been to the Highlands? What did you think?

Rachel x

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Homecoming Scotland: 2014 Sounds Like a Great Year to Holiday in Scotland

By 6 October 2013 Scotland, Travel, United Kingdom

Scotland Homecoming 2014 loch, mountains and castle

I have family in Scotland (my Nanna was born there) and have meant to return to visit for years now. Shamefully, I’ve not actually been since I was 8 years old. Marc’s always wanted to visit the Highlands so we decided that next year’s summer holiday will be in Scotland. We’ve picked our accommodation, a tiny romantic cottage in the Cairngorm National Park, and just need to save up for the deposit. While researching potential activities for our holiday in Scotland I’ve learnt that 2014 is the Year of the Homecoming.

In 2014, Scotland hopes to welcome millions of visitors from around the world. The country is hosting not only the Commonwealth Games but the Ryder Cup is coming to Gleneagles. The tourist board have created the Homecoming campaign to celebrate, and there will be hundreds of events held throughout the year. The chairman of VisitScotland, Mike Cantaly, said, “Next year’s Homecoming will position our country as dynamic and creative with a rich history and culture.” There are five key themes for Homecoming 2014: active, food and drink, creative, natural and ancestry. Across the globe, there are approximately 50 million people who claim Scottish heritage (including me!) so many of the events will centre around ancestry. They hope that many people with Scottish roots will come to Scotland during the Year of the Homecoming. Even if no one else turns up, at least they’ll have me! 😉

It turns out that Marc and I couldn’t have chosen a better year to visit Scotland and I think we’ll be able to make a trip up to the Findhorn Bay Arts Festival, which is on while we’ll be in the area. I’m very excited about the possibility to feeding reindeer up in the mountains, taking Marc to a whisky distillery, and generally just enjoying the fresh Highland air. It’s going to be great! Because it takes about 12 hours to drive there, we’re going to be making the trip a two-parter. The first week will be spent camping in the Lake District and then we’ll drive up to the Cairngorms for a week. So far, the only thing booked is the campsite. As our plans unfold, I’ll keep you updated.

Fancy making a trip to Scotland in 2014?

A full list of Homecoming 2014 events is available and further events will be added during 2013 and 2014. Up-to-date Homecoming information can be found at

Homecoming Scotland 2014 logo

By Rachel Birchley

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Family Fun in the City: Edinburgh

By 29 October 2012 Life, Lifestyle, Scotland, Travel
Guest Post by Catherine Lavinia

Whether it’s a break during half term or a pleasant change in the Christmas holidays, it’s always fun to get away from the toil of everyday life with your family and enjoy the outdoors and delights that a city break can offer. Escape to the beautiful city of Edinburgh with your family during the festive season and you could enjoy a whole manner of attractions that are available during the yuletide celebrations.

If you’re hoping to see the city over a weekend or a few days, you can find great deals on hotels in Edinburgh to ensure you keep accommodation costs low. With many hotels centrally located and offering affordable family rooms, you can be safe in the knowledge that not only will you all be safe and comfortable but your purse will be pleased too.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh castle on Castle Rock
Photo by Bernt Rostad – Flickr Creative Commons 

It’d be a shame to visit this glorious Scottish city and not experience the beauty of Edinburgh Castle. Dominating the skyline, this impressive fortress atop Castle Rock remains the most popular paid tourist attraction in Scotland with umpteen historical displays as well as re-enactments to entertain its visitors.

Visit at the end of a cold afternoon in winter and you can admire the panoramas as the dusk falls. A truly beautiful sight to behold.  After your visit, why not test your skills on the ice at the outdoor ice rink that can be found in the vicinity?


Spend a morning wandering Edinburgh Zoo and discover over 1000 animals including penguin parades and sealion displays. With regular special events held throughout the year your children will be in their element getting to grips with zoo life and utilising the new play areas.

During the Christmas holidays, you can enjoy the festive pantomime – Peter Pan – as well as participate in the Pandaversary, commemorating the magnificent giant panda.

Alternatively, a little further out of the city is the Five Sisters Zoo – a great family excursion housing animals from all over the world.

Ghost Tours

With so many advertised all over the city, it’s difficult to choose one that would suit you and your requirements. The Ghostly Underground by Mercat Tours comes highly recommended and suits anyone from 8 years and up. Offering walks of underground vaults and scary ghost stories to keep up the intensity, it’s a great little activity to wile away a few hours.

Starfish in rockpool at aquariumDeep Sea World Aquarium

Having won the National Scottish Aquarium award three times over, you and your family can enjoy a multitude of underwater displays and demonstrations. From getting close to the sea life and feeding the seals to swimming with sand tiger sharks, there’s something for everyone.

Whether these options are for you or you just want to browse the shops and enjoy the hubbub of this thriving city, Edinburgh has something for everybody. Book a family room in a city hotel today and guarantee yourself and your brood a winter break in one of the most spectacular cities in the world.

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