Fabulous Coasts between Edinburgh, Inverness and Culzean
The Scottish coasts are outlined by the rhythm of the tides, alternating rugged cliffs, sandy beaches and gentle hills in theeast, tall mountains resisting the aggressive sea inthe west, and beautiful fiords and enchanted isles. Land of legends and battles, the sun creates shadein its forests, the meadows play with the rain, andmist girds the stunningly elegant castles.
Scotland is the land of the Loch Ness monster,of the battles of Glen Coe with the massacre of theMcDonald clan, of some of history’s most surprisinganecdotes and of mountains sunken into the skywhere witches sail about. It is a country of great charm thanks to its people, towns and cities, its natural beauty and excellent cuisine.
The airplane brings us to Edinburgh, and like step-ping out of a time machine, we alight in another era. The elegant city extends from the foot of the rockyhill protecting the castle, shooting heavenward thegothic spires of the churches to tremble in the bluepainted sky.
Lodged in the legendary Balmoral hotel, whose verystones speak o tradition and elegance, we spend peacefulsunny days visiting the city. The threatening castle domi-nates the skyline with its dark stones and conjures upimages of an intriguing past. Within its walls, Mary Stuartgave birth to her son James VI, and in a small chamber wefind the “Honors of Scotland”: the crown, sword of stateand scepter, dating from the fifteenth and sixteenth cen-turies. Also known as the "Crown Jewels", they were usedin the coronation ceremonies of the Scottish monarchsfrom Mary I in 1543 until Charles II in 1651 and appear onthe heraldry, borne by the red lion.
We also admire the Stone of Destiny, or the corona-tion stone, a block of sandstone used as a traditionalcoronation seat for Scottish and English kings, that was returned to Edinburgh in 1996 after remaining inLondon for 700 years. Legend tells us that the Stone ofDestiny, also known as the Stone of Scone, was broughtfrom the Holy Land.
The narrow chambers, the chapel and the armory addcharm to the castle, which offers the best views of thecity, and within the towering walls around the square,crosses glimmer with mystery.
This is where the Royal Mile begins, the oldest streetin Edinburgh, connecting the castle with the Palace ofHolyroodhouse, royal seat since 1300, and beautifiedthroughout the centuries. We visit bars, shops and muse-ums, including the Scotch Whisky Centre, John KnoxHouse, Huntly House, Lawnmarket with its elegant homesand the most outstanding of all, St Giles’ Cathedral withits medieval tower and from which John Knox preachedthe reform of the Scottish Church in 1500.
Prince’s Street vibrates with people, bordering thepark dominated by the giant and gothic ScottMonument, and is enlivened by shops and restaurants.The pubs, parks, botanical garden, museums and gal-leries cheer the city that can be admired from CaltonHill, a genuine fairytale written in its ancient stones.
Close to Edinburgh, we visit the Rosslyn Chapel,built in the fifteenth century with a richly worked inte-rior and famous for its role in the novel, The Da VinciCode. We travel through the Borders country until wereach Stobo Castle, nestled in a forest. A classic story book castle, its towers guard the great park wherepheasants and deer wander about, while guests mayenjoy the fabulous spa and excellent food.
From Edinburgh to Saint Andrews
Our boat waited for us in the Granton Marina, the finestand most exclusive in Scotland. We began to navigatethe Forth Estuary only to discover a coast of gentle hillsthat slope toward the sea like a green carpet.
We admired the great Forth Bridge, a little toward thenorth; we stop in Aberdour to visit its castle and thebeautiful church surrounded by a cemetery. By roadwaywe eventually reach Loch Leven with its castle on anisland, and where Mary Stuart, queen of Scotland,waskept prisoner in 1567.
Stirling is another of the charming towns, wheregolf courses coexist with pastures that are dotted withsheep. In this area the tides uncover immense beachesand in the ports the boats are run aground on the sand.
Kircaldy is a great port, however; without a doubt, the most beautiful area, after navigating through Largo Bay, is the Fife coast where charming port follows port: Elie, Anstruther and Crail, with their typical housesthat face the tremendous winter storms, and cobble stone streets winding down to the harbor. In these charming villages, time stands still; the pubs and restaurants create a marine ambiance with an appreciation of ale, while the rhythm of the tides caresses the beaches, cliffs and docks.
St. Andrews is proud of its abbey ruins, which atone time were imposing due to their greatness and elegant sobriety, a threatening witness of a turbulent pastfilled with religious conflicts. The star attraction, however. is the oldest golf course in the world, where the sport has been practiced since 1457. Its gentle route meanders beside the ocean where the waves beat against the castle ruins.
We lodge in the Old Course Hotel, with its privileged view of the golf course and the coast in order to fully enjoy the small city where golf is king.
From St Andrews to Aberdeen
Before sailing we visit the countryside and the spectacu-lar Glamis Castle, the elegant and sober childhoodhome of the Queen Mother, hidden in a beautiful parken hanced by flowers.
The cities of Perth and Dundee preserve their small town. big city feel in the shadow of their churches andelegant Victorian buildings.
As we sail north we pass the beautiful ports ofMontrose and Stonehaven, with their fine sandybeaches at the foot of the small bluffs that are watchedover by sheep.
Aberdeen, famous for its fishing, opens its greatport to important international commerce. The city’sconsequence is reflected in the majesty of its largebuildings, its long beach and boardwalk, the aquarium.Mayoralty and university.
We discover The Marcliffe Hotel & Spa. an old mansion transformed into a luxury five star hotel within amajestic park, characterized by aristocratic elegance and excellent cuisine. It is an ideal starting pointto explore the countryside, to visit the whisky dis-tilleries (Glenfiddich, Glenlivet and Strathisla) andthe castles: Fraser, with its impressive gardens, fortified towers and silhouetted with legends, is visited in the company of its ghosts. Drum Castlehas belonged to the Irvine family for more than653 years, and still carries a medieval air; CrathesCastle, has a cozy garden dating from the nine-teenth century. Balmoral, the imposing Scottish residence of the royal family, is surrounded byextensive forests where the region’s fauna is conserved and lifts its square tower that ends in sharparrows. It was purchased by Queen Victoria in1848. who called it “My dear paradise in the Highlands”. Blair Castle casts its white silhouetteagainst the foot of the mountains, a typical imagein Scotland: admired since the thirteenth century,its towers defy the test of time. .
The mountains, or Highlands, are stunning intheir majesty and shelter the best ski slopes, encircling the beauty of the region where proud riversrush by with their inviting salmon, and where wefind fabulous golf courses, mysterious towns andScotland’s smallest whiskey distillery. Edradour.
The Grampian mountains slope gently downtoward the sea. gradually transforming into greenhills crisscrossed by rivers, and forming the northcoast where long beaches alternate with smallbluffs and large ports. Fraserburgh is considered the best fishing port in the region, Banff. Inverness is the last, large northern city hidden at the end of Moray Firth, a long estuary of waters battered by the north winds and habitat to the bottle nosed dolphins. Inverness is dominated by itscastle that guards the mouth of the Ness River, andis adorned by elegant homes, the St AndrewsCathedral and a charming ambiance.
We stay at the Boath House Hotel & Spa, an elegant Georgian country house set in a large parkand dating from 1850. There, the chef. CharlieLockley. together with owner Wendy Mathesonand her husband Don. have created an excellentculinary reputation, and are recognized as one ofthe ten best restaurants in Scotland.
We were able to explore a part of the northern region where we discovered the estuaries, the surprising town of Dornoch with its fifteenth century castle that dominates the beach and the Royal Golfcreated in 1877. Golfers have flocked to the regionsince the sixteenth century, and more recently, itwas the site chosen by Madonna for her wedding,and later for her son’s baptism in 2001. Themedieval cathedral dates from 1239 and has pre-served its magnificent windows.
To the north lies Skibo Castle, home to theexclusive Carnagie Club, a famous golf and countryclub, and the Dunrobin Castle.
From Inverness, an incursion on the west coast
We discover the west by means of the sinuous highways that invade the Highlands, admiring how thefiords conceive the commanding landscapes, wherethe sea harasses the coast and carves beautiful beachesand disquieting cliffs.
The wind draws clouds, the waves splash on thehorizon, making sailing difficult, and sheep wander onthe hills and rocky mountains. Ullapool. Loch Maree.Loch Carron and the Isle of Skye preserve their intriguingand savage beauty where the fields melt into thecloudy horizen and the mist wraps the scene in perpetualmystery.
In the Loch Duich is the Eilean Donan Castle, builton a small island and joined to dry land by a stonebridge that dances with its reflection in the water tothe rhythm of the tides. It is one of the most emblematicimages of Scotland.
The Caledonian Canal, from Inverness to Fort Williams
One of the most exceptional canals in the world, whichthe Scots call “Caley". it crosses the famous Loch Nessand traces a spectacular landscape by the wooded hillsof the Great Glen. Bisecting Scotland from northeast to southeast, it has been an important means of communication since its inauguration in 1822. The canal measures a total of sixty miles, of which twenty two were constructed and the rest are lakes: Loch Dochfour, Loch Ness. Loch Oich. and Loch Lochy.
Built to avoid navigating the dangerous north coast, twenty nine locks allow crafts to sail the thirty two meter difference in altitude. One of the greatestattractions is Neptune’s Staircase, with its eight locks.
It is a sumptuous journey that allows us to visit theLoch Ness and Urquhart Castle, which has dominated the lake since the eighteenth century. It is the perfectspot to search for the monster that the locals affection-ately call Nessie. and the lovely port of Fort Augustus.
Mooring in Fort Williams, on the shore of LochLinnhe, we reach the Inverlochy Castle transformedinto an hotel where the flavor of yesteryear, theScottish elegance, its excellent cuisine and its tradi-cional decor all combine to transport us back in time.
We visit the central Highlands, dramatic and wild,with their high mountains sculpted by ancient gla-ciers. their arid valleys, their waterfalls and torrentsand ski resorts. There we find the mountainous dra-matic scenery of Glen Coe. where the infamous massacre of the McDonald clan by members of the Campbell clan took place in 1692.
From Fort Williams to Culzean Castle
Leaving the Caledonian Canal behind, we sail the costal regions of Argyll and Bute, with their beautiful wooded hills interspersed with green pastures. We discoverintriguing ports, including Oban, with its white houses reflected in the sea. its intense tourism, restaurants and excellent marina; then there is Lochgilphead, reachedafter circling the Kintyre Peninsula and sailing along the coast of the beautiful Isle of Arran, and where from the bottom of a deep river the tides uncover black sand. Invercaray, challenging time from its small peninsulafrom which it lifts up. among white houses with blackroofs, its church, its airof mystery caressed by the tides, sofar from the high sea and its castle.
Penetrating the River Clyde we arrive at the great cityof Glasgow, which sprawls over the hills that separate thenorth from the south. If Edinburgh is the city of aristo-crats. Glasgow is the city of workers and industry. Its ancient center abounds with sumptous buildingslike the university, the art gallery, and the homes ofKelvingrove or Kelvinside. where we lodged in thewonderful Hotel du Vin, an original fusion of variouselegant mansions.
In this city of mysteries, in the twentieth century bourgeois style, the catedral is outstanding inall its medieval glory, a marvelous example ofgothic architecture before the reform. The crypt isa mysterious forest of pillars where St Mungo’stomb reigns.
South of Glasgow
The Borders region, beside England, is a green,hilly territory used for agriculture and cattle.
Sailing along the coast, we reach our final destination. the elegant Culzean castle that dominates the cliff with its typically Scottish baroque style, and gorgeous flowering gardens where themagnolias compete with narcissus. The home wasfounded in 1777 by David Kennedy. Earl of Cassilis.Former American president Dwight Eisen howeronce stayed there.
Before boarding the plane, we finish our tourby resting mind and body in the Sheraton GrandHotel & Spa Scotland is a veritable fairytale with moun-tains. mysterious towns, intriguing castles, andmist-shrouded lochs where monsters and goblinsjust might appear. Its beauty, cultivation andjovial people make Scotland a true cultural paradise on earth.
Scotland, travel with lxury and beauty
As the first step, we emphasize the business class of the World Club of British Airways, with its new flat bed. wider, of 1.82 meters, with more privacy, com-fort and storage space. Entertainment on demand in allcabins, gourmet food service and personalized attention.The trip with British Airways is the security to travel inclass. When you arrive in Scotland, different stages aredefined with the refinement choosing the best hotels,which are generally found in the castles.
In Edinburg we choose the Sheraton Grand Hotel &Spa, in the heart of the city, with its Santini restaurantand a fabulous spa. Also the Balmoral, magnificent hotelthat preserves its legendary elegance. The Stobo Castle,south of Edinburg, is a majestic castle that counts with anextraordinary spa surrounded by the forest
In St. Andrews the Gleneagles and the Old CourseHotel combine the elegance with a golf journey. InAberdeen The Marcliffe. mansion where nature reunitesthe distinction with the daintiness of its kitchen.
Near Inverness, the Boath House is a small palacewith a cozy decoration and the best cuisine of Scotland.Nearby Fort Williams the Inverlochy Castle is a magnifi-cent castle that convenes to live the experience of theauthentic Scotland.
Glasgow invites to discover the Hotel Du Vin at OneDevonshire Gardens, elegant mansions united withrooms in blue shades, a surprising wine cellar and thebest whisky.
By sea, the Hebridean Company offers a marvelouscruiser that navigates in the coasts, revealing the fiordsand islands with the maximum luxury.
To discover Scotland, Connoisseurs Scotland guarantees trips where luxury, personalized attention and thebest services (hotel, train, car. plane and cruiser) makean alliance to offer excellence in quality and refinedand elegant taste.
Text: Patrick Monney ± Photo: Patrick Monney