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Issue 64 - Spirit of the Place

Scotland Magazine Issue 64
August 2012


This article is 6 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Spirit of the Place

From the rolling lowlands purple with heather, to the high craggy mountain tops covered with summer snow; from medieval castles ravaged by centuries of war, to lively, cosmopolitan cities; Scotland can truly be called a country of extremes. What ever is has that draws people back, it has it in spades. Whether you agree or would have chosen differently, it's impossible to deny that these dramatic landscapes and buildings are special, permeated with a very tangible sense of location and history. This is something which might be called Scotland's Genius loci, the spirit of the place, the distinctive atmosphere which can only be found right here.

Edinburgh Castle
This dominating fortress has to be the highlight of any visit to the capital. Built atop an extinct volcano, Edinburgh Castle has witnessed some of the most defining moments of Scottish history. Regularly attracting one million visitors a year, things to see include: the Scottish crown jewels; tiny St Margarets Chapel dating from the early 12th century; the National War Museum; and the one-o-clock gun – fired every day since 1861. Not to mention the famous Tattoo, which takes place here every year in August. Tel: +44 (0)131 225 9846

Loch Ness
No visit to Scotland is complete without taking in this immortal loch. More than 20 miles long, a mile wide and 700 feet at its deepest, Loch Ness is the largest lake in Scotland by volume, and contains more fresh water than all the lakes of England and Wales combined. Its waters are decidedly murky due to the high peat content of the surrounding soil, this low visibility may have given rise to the legend of the cryptozoological Loch Ness Monster. Not only is it beautiful, but the surrounding area is filled with historic attractions, natural wonders, cosy places to stay and superb eateries.

Glen Coe
This narrow, steep sided valley is one of the most magnificent and famous of all the Scottish glens. This beautiful landscape has remained unchanged for centuries. From Loch Leven at its northern end to vast empty spaces of Rannoch Moor further south, this beautiful glen comprises high mountain peaks, ridges, rushing rivers and waterfalls. It is somewhat hard to believe that such a heart-achingly beautiful place could have been the site of a brutal massacre. In 1692, hundreds of years of clan warfare and government posturing culminated in the massacre of 38 Macdonalds and many more that perished in the brutal winter snows.

Scone Palace
This ivy-clad, gothic palace occupies a unique position in the history of Scotland. Immortalised in Shakespeare’ Macbeth, Scone (pronounced ‘skoon’) is home to the Earls of Mansfield as well as the celebrated Stone of Scone – an innocuouslooking block of stone which has been used for centuries in the coronation of Scotland’s monarchs. The 100 acre estate and myriad rooms stuffed with portraits, furniture and some unusual taxidermy are widely regarded Scotland’s jewel in the crown. Tel : +44 (0)1738 552 300

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
One of the world’s finest botanic gardens, where seasonal displays of abundant exotic and native plantlife provide a breathtaking backdrop of colour throughout the year. Established in 1670, the RBGE is a living testimony to the plant hunters who travelled to far flung reaches of the world to bring rare and unusual flora back to the UK, plants that now are well established in gardens around the country. Highlights include the stunning herbaceous borders, woodland garden and the incredible glasshouse – which is well worth the £5 entrance fee Tel: +44 (0)131 248 2866

Culzean Castle
This fairy tale castle is the masterpiece of 18th century architect Robert Adam, who transformed it from medieval tower house into one of Scotland’s grandest country houses. This hugely impressive castle, sitting dramatically upon an Ayrshire cliff top, was once the principle seat of the Kennedy family and is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland. Today you can explore the 600 acre Country Park and many rooms of the house, including the impressive armoury, the largest collection of its type in existence. Tel: +44 (0)1655 884 455

Crathes Castle
This remarkably well preserved 16th century castle is one of Scotland’s greatest. Occupied by a single family for more than 350 years, Crathes is surrounded by 240 hectares of formal gardens, woodland walks and rolling Scottish countryside; all within easy reach of Aberdeen. Highlights include the Great Hall, a room which has hosted kings and queens across the centuries, dominated by its high vaulted ceiling and impressive stone fireplace, above which hangs the ancient Horn of Leys, a gift from King Robert the Bruce in 1323. tel: +44 (0)844 493 2166

Britain's highest and most massive mountain range is also Britain’s largest National Park; comprising spectacularly clean rivers and lochs, vast native forests and deep valleys gouged out by ancient glaciers. At the foothills of the range is one of the UK’s biggest tracts of natural woodland; rare surviving fragments of the ancient Caledonian pine forest which is home to a variety of animals, including the capercaillie. The national park also includes Aviemore, Royal Deeside and Strathspey areas, which are equally famous in their own right. Many areas of Scotland have something special about them, the Cairngorms just happens to have it all in one place. Tel: +44 (0)1479 873 535

Isle of Skye
One of the largest and best known of the Scottish islands, Skye is particularly famous for its beautiful mountain scenery. The coastline is a series of rocky peninsulas and sandy bays radiating out from a centre dominated by the impressive Cuillin hills; and many of its lochs are ringed by sheer cliffs. Many people come to Skye to climb or walk in the hills, but the so-called Misty Isle is equally famous for its beauty, history, wildlife, whisky and food - the locally caught seafood in particular is second to none. Add to this some true blue island hospitality and you have a place that is truly special. Tel: +44 (0)1470 592 319

Within site of Stirling Castle lies a heritage centre celebrating the most significant victory in Scottish history. In 1315 Edward II’s troops were marching north from Berwick to bring aid to a besieged Stirling Castle, when Robert the Bruce met them at a crossing of the Bannock Burn. Debate continues as to exactly where the battle took place, but the area of land around the heritage centre is of exceptional significance because it is the spot where Bruce is thought to have raised his standard on the first day. A great deal of money is currently being spent on the heritage centre here which, when completed in 2014, will make this site one of Scotland’s best visitor attractions. Tel: +44 (0)844 493 2138

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