The Roman armies did not venture very far into Scotland – in fact the ancient Antonine’s wall is almost as far as they dared. However, we have a history going further back than that. You will find evidence of many periods in our history - the earth houses our ancestors made, burial chambers, standing stones carved by the Pictish or blue painted people, the castles built by the clan chiefs, historic ships reminiscent of our maritime past and so much more.
All up the East coast you will find evidence of the Pictish people - standing stones with curious carvings, some by the roadside and others collected and housed in buildings such as an old school in Meigle, a row of cottages in St. Vigeans near Arbroath, the museum at Tain on the Black Isle, Sueno’s stone in Moray to name a few. The many castles maintained by Historic Scotland represent all periods of time and the grand houses, built for the wealthy powerful families of the 17th and 18th centuries, are now maintained by the National Trust for Scotland. Each has a distinct characteristic, be it an intricate plasterwork ceiling, fine furniture, precious porcelain, colourful tapestries, or important paintings. You might be lucky enough to chance upon one-off events such as pageants, concerts, battle enactments in the beautiful gardens of these castles and houses. If you are spending a week or more in Scotland it is worthwhile buying membership of Historic Scotland and /or The National Trust of Scotland, whichever is your interest, as the fee covers entries to all the properties in their care. There are a number of privately owned castles and houses and you can buy a ticket giving you reduced entry to a number of them.
Moray and Aberdeenshire are extraordinarily rich in ‘ancient sites’ from the time of the picts from the 4th century to 9th there are many sites such as the Fordoun Stone, Kinord cross, Maiden stone, Sueno’s stone , in addition there are many examples of Cairns , stone circles, and forts such as Alkey Stone Circle , Bucharn cairn, Burghhead promontory fort, Cairn O’Mount ( a bit of a climb to visit this one but well worth it ) Culsh Earth House , to find out more visit Aberdeen.gov.org.
Situated in the town of Elgin in Moray , the cathedral is one of Scotland’s most beautiful gothic cathedrals , the cathedral was once adorned with painted decoration and stained glass . The cathedral was at the heart of the Diocese of Moray, and was the main place of catholic worship until it wh set on fire by Alexander Stewart , the Earl of Buchan who was also known as the Wolf of Badenoch who had his stronghold in Lochindorb Castle south of Forres.
Situated between Elgin and Forres the Abbey is home to a community of Catholic Benedictine Monks in the only working monastery in the British Isles. When visiting the Abbey, on cannot, not be impressed with the Beautiful Architecture of the building dating back to 1230 and the piece and quite that surrounds the extensive grounds, visit the monks grave yard where all of the resident monks eventually end up , currently there are 55 monks in residence at the monastery .
The ancient ruined Arbroath Abbey has a modern visitor’s centre built by Historic Scotland where you find displays interpreting the Abbey remains and explaining the Declaration of Arbroath where the nobility’s support of Scottish independence of English domination, supposedly a model for the Declaration of American Independence, was signed in 1320. Every year there is a costumed pageant enacting this event. The Abbey itself was founded for the order of Tiron in 1178 by King William the Lion. There are many nooks and crannies to explore. The round “O” in the tower of the red building is visible for many miles around.
The Georgian House of Dun, near Montrose, is maintained by The National Trust of Scotland. This 1730 building, designed by William Adam, the famous and prolific Scottish architect, was once the home of Violet Jacob, the celebrated Angus poet and descendent of the original owner David Erskine. The house has the most intricate plaster work with stories attached to what they represent. Grounds are extensive and it is as well to take time to enter Lady Augusta’s garden. Shops stock local crafts.
HMS Frigate Unicorn sits at City Quay at Dundee waterfront. Her colourful white, gold and red figurehead of a unicorn, proudly wearing the heraldic naval coronet and supporting between his front legs the present-day Royal Arms pointing towards the city that has preserved this 191 years old lady. A wooden warship, that never went to war, she is covered by a roof to preserve her timbers and looks like Noah’s Ark. Mounting the gangway you enter a period of history when the Royal Navy was battle weary after the Napoleonic wars. Collect your guide book on the Quarterdeck. Children love to explore the Gun Deck, the main fighting deck, with massive guns. The Lower Deck provided accommodation for over 300 ‘ship’s company’, most in hammocks. Poor sailors! The Hold provided storage for this community, and ammunition for the guns. Concerts are held on board throughout the year.
Brechin Cathedral and Round Tower is maintained by Historic Scotland. The round tower is of Irish origin and this one is thought to have been built around 1100AD. The greatest attraction is the series of beautiful stained glass windows of the cathedral. The brain child of the Rev. A. D. Tait Hutchison, minister from 1893-1942, the scheme took almost 80 years to complete. The windows portray Prophets and Heroes of the Old Testament and the Apostles and Evangelists of the New Testament and culminate in the presentation of the birth, ministry, death and resurrection of Our Lord. Many famous artists were commissioned and it is impossible to do justice to their work. This is a must see.
The Standing Stones of the 6th and 7th century found at the side of the road in Aberlemno are excellent examples of the legacy of the Picts – the painted people. In winter the stones are protected by wooden cases but are free to view by the summer traveller. Prehistoric cup marks, Pictish symbols of serpents, double disc, Z-rod, mirror and comb are some of the symbols found on the stones. Other carvings show religious and battle scenes. You get a terrific sense of the culture of our ancestors from these stones especially as there is no written record.
Two massive Iron Age hill-forts called the White and Brown Caterthuns, near Edzell, can be accessed from a lay-by on the road which lies between the two neighbouring low hills on the fringe of the Angus glens. A short walk to the top (can be difficult in winter) leads to fine views over the valley of Strathmore. An extra bonus is being able to spot black grouse and other unusual birds on the way to the top.
Commemorating the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, the visitor centre has been completely refurbished using £8 million worth of technology to give you a flavour of the battle. The historical background is explained setting the scene, explaining the various important figures of the time. Listen to soldiers and noblemen, watch the 3D screens enacting scenes from the lead up to the battle and having had the geography explained on the war table, play the war game. Will you be Edward or Robert the Bruce? Open all year, book online.
With fantastic views across the Forth Valley, Wallace Monument is well worth the climb to the top, The spiral stair leads you up to the first room where The Battle of Stirling Bridge and William Wallace's role in it are explained. Listen to the talking heads exhalting in their vistory. Continue up the spiral stair to the second floor where there is an exhibition of Scottish heroes from Wallace through the ages, some will surprise you! This room also houses Wallace's sword. The third floor houses an exhibition on the monument itself and how it was built. Carry on up to the crown and the whole of the Forth Valley is laid out before you. Open all year. A courtesy bus can take you from the car park to the entrance to the monument.
One of the largest Tower Houses still standing in Scotland, Alloa Tower was the home of the Earls of Mar and Kellie and the Tower houses an excellent collection of family portraits and furniture. At the height of their power the Earls of Mar and Kellie were very close to the Stewart Kings and an enormous mansion was built around the Tower, this has all gone, leaving the original medieval Tower intact. Evidence of the wealth and power of the Earls of Mar and Kellie can still be seen within the Tower – the broad and gracious stair leading from the ground floor, which was added in the 18th century. Also in Stirling there is the ruined facade of Mar's Wark, their never completed residence at court in Stirling. Mar's Wark can be found just below the Castle facing down Broad Street.
Situated within a few hundred yards of Stirling Castle, Argyll's Lodging was the home of Archibald Campbell, the 9th Earl of Argyll, when at court in Stirling. Argyll's Lodging is the most complete townhouse of its kind still in existence. It is possible to see how a wealthy nobleman of the 17th century would have lived. Your ticket to Stirling Castle also gives entrance to Argyll's Lodging.
Unlike Hadrian's Wall, the Antonine Wall was built up of earth and ditches and over time these have been eroded. However, the very best place to see the remains of the Antonine Wall is at Rough Castle in Bonnybridge, where the best preserved fort, tallest portion of standing wall and best ditch profiles are located. Also at Rough Castle you can see the only example of Lilia defensive pits along the length of the Antonine Wall. Callender House in Falkirk has an excellent exhibition on the Antonine Wall and the Hunarian Museum in Glasgow has on display the largest collection of artifacts from the Antonine Wall.
Historical Kilmartin and Dunadd is in the heart of Mid Argyll at the south side of loch Awe where the first kings of Scotland were crowned. As well as two castles, Kilmartin Glen offers stone circles, rock art, dating back 5000 years, standing stones, burial cairns and so much more. The museum which is a hidden gem collects and cares for all the archaeological objects that are found. Open every day during the summer season and is well worth a visit. 10:00am to 5:30pm every day from from 1st March to 31st October.
Auchagallon, an ancient burial place dating from around 2000 BC, enjoys spectacular views south across Machrie Moor along the coast of the Isle of Arran and west across the Kilbrannan Sound. Take in the fantastic views and soak up the atmosphere of this scenic place and see if you can solve the original purpose of this mysterious place – Is it a Stone Circle or a Kerbed Cairn? It consists of 15 upright sandstone slabs encircling a large cairn. The diameter of the circle is 47ft and the stones surrounding it are graded, with the larger ones being on the downhill westerly side and the shorter ones on the uphill easterly side. In the 19th century a burial cist was found in the centre but no records were made at the time as to what was found and this remains the position to this day. Although the monument is now called a stone circle, it was probably built as a kerbed cairn where important people were buried, usually in a crouched position, in a stone-lined burial chamber (cist) complete with tools and decorated food vessels. This was then covered by a cairn of stone with a kerbed edge. There are many ancient sites in the area of Machrie Moor from complex stones circles, standing stones, burial cairns and ancient houses all dating back to the Neolithic era and Bronze Age. This was around the time hunter-gatherers began to put down roots and this fertile area supported a flourishing farming community, signs of which can still be seen today. Well worth a visit.
For history lovers a visit to Skelmorlie Aisle in the middle of the town of Largs is a must. Situated on the site of the original Largs Old Kirk, it was built as the mausoleum,. or burial place, for Sir Robert Montgomerie and his wife Dame Margaret Douglas in 1636. The outside of the Aisle is very simple, however, the interior is quite dramatic. A Renaissance style elaborate, carved, canopied, stone tomb is the centrepiece. The canopy is decorated with their Arms and Monograms, however, Sir Robert's panel has been left blank whilst Dame Margaret's is beautifully decorated. Their coffins still lie in the vault beneath the tomb. Sir Robert's coffin is very long and it is said that local fishermen removed much of the lead on the bottom of the coffin and used it for lead weights believing that it would result in a large catch of fish. Historic Scotland currently look after the building. Admission is free and the key can be obtained from the adjoining Largs museum. Open late May to early September.
Paxton was built in the mid 18th century for Patrick Home, the then Laird of Wedderburn. It was designed by John and James Adam and is an excellent example of their work. Located near Berwick on Tweed, Paxton houses a wonderful collection of furniture including examples of Chippendale. The art collection is also superb, with paintings by Raeburn, Wilkie and Lawrence. The children's nursery is charming .
Located in the town of Melrose, the ruins of the Cistercian Abbey are a magnificent example of ecclesiastical architecture. Founded in 1136 by King David, the Abbey was funded by the proceeds of the wool trade. It was in continuous use until the Reformation in 1560 although the last of the monks lived on in the abbey until 1590. Melrose Abbey is the burial site of the heart of Robert the Bruce.
Like Melrose Abbey, Jedburgh was founded in the 12th century by David the first of Scotland, however, the site of the Abbey has produced 8th century carvings and artifacts which can be see in the visitor centre. Jedburgh Abbey was frequently the target for invading armies from the south.
Mellerstain is located about 8 miles north of Kelso. It is the stately home of the Earls of Haddington and was built in two phases. The east and west wings were completed in the early 1700s, however the main mansion house itself was built almost 50 years later and was designed by Robert Adam. The house has wonderful delicate plasterwork throughout and the main drawing room still has it's original silk wall hangings.
The red sandstone ruins of Sweetheart Abbey are remarkably complete. The Abbey was founded by Lady Dervorgilla of Galloway in memory of her husband Lord John Balliol who died in 1268. After his death, Lady Dervorgilla had his heart embalmed, placed in an ivory casket and carried it with her until her death. She and the casket were buried at the Abbey and the monks renamed the abbey Sweetheart in memory of her devotion.
This is a large Tibetan Buddhist Temple and monastic community. The Centre is peacefully located in a quiet rural setting near Eskdalemuir. Open all year round, it offers a programme of courses and teachings.
Bruce's Stone is at the top of the hill on the north side of Loch Trool. It is a massive granite boulder commemorating the first victory by Robert the Bruce over the English army in 1307.
The magnificent ruins of Lochmaben Castle are found near Lockerbie. Dating back to the 14th century the ruins are an excellent example of a Z plan Tower House. Lochmaben has a turbulent history having fallen into English hands under Edward I and thereafter razed to the ground around 1380, it was finally abandoned in the 1600s.
Kirkmadrine Church and graveyard is in Sandhead near Stranraer. The Stones are believed to date from the 5th or early 6th century and are some of the oldest and most important early Christian Memorial Stones in Britain. On display in a glass fronted porch at Kirkmadrine Burial Chapel, the stones have Latin inscriptions commemorating Bishops and priests. The stones are presently removed for conservation by Historic Scotland
There's plenty to see and do at the restored Cotton Mill at Gatehouse of Fleet. Built in the 18th century and now restored as both an exhibition space and a visitor centre, the main floor houses a permanent exhibition on Gatehouse, it's history and heritage, while the Faed Gallery has exhibitions by local artists.
Located within the churchyard of Kirkcolm Church in Stranraer and dating from the 10th century, the Viking carved stones are an interesting relic of Scotland's connections to the Vikings. The stones are elaborately carved and well worth a visit.
The Torhouse Standing Stones are located 4 miles from Wigtown. Believed to date from the Bronze Age, the Stone Circle of Torhouse consists of 19 large granite boulders. There are three standing stones in the centre of the circle known as King Gauldus's Tomb. Most of Scotland's stone circles are found in the north east so this location is very unusual.
Made famous recently by the film, The Da Vinci Code, Rosslyn is still owned by the family of the Earl and Countess of Rosslyn. Built in 1446 and originally intended to be much more extensive Rosslyn's intricately carved stonework is a remarkable survival. The history of the chapel is fully explained by the guides who give regular talks throughout the day.
Situated in Princes Street Gardens and opposite the famous Jenners store, the Scott Monument was built to commemorate Sir Walter Scott, it is the largest monument to a writer anywhere in the world. 200 ft tall with a series of viewing platforms reached by spiral staircases totalling 287 steps, the Scott Monument offers panoramic views across Edinburgh.
A short walk from Edinburgh's Royal Mile is the 640 acre Royal Park of Holyrood Palace. The highest point in the Park is Arthur's Seat. Dating back around 2000 years, Arthur's Seat is a dormant volcano and the site of a large and well preserved hill fort. Also with the Park are the 15th century medieval St Anthony's Chapel, Salisbury Crags and Duddingston Loch.
Sited at the bottom of the Royal Mile just in front of Holyrood Palace, the Scottish Parliament was designed by Enric Miralles. Built of a mixture of steel, oak and granite the Scottish Parliament is unapologetically modern. Open to visitors 6 days a week, advance booking is advised.
The present house, constructed on the foundations of older buildings dating back to the 14th century, is set in beautifully landscaped parkland and was built in 1612. It takes its name from the site on which it was built, the' land of binns' meaning hill and overlooks the River Forth. It has been in the Dalyell family for 400 years. Learn about the colourful legends of General Tom Dalyell and his dealings with the Devil! Since 1944 the house has been gifted to the National Trust for Scotland and is currently home to Tam and Kathleen Dalyell who enjoy opening the house and grounds to help with the maintenance and upkeep of the property. Enjoy delicious food in the Cafe and an interesting selection of gifts in the shop.
Hopetoun is a magnificent 18th century stately home to the west of Edinburgh, originally designed by William Bruce and later extended by William Adam. The interiors have remained virtually unchanged and reflect the elegance of the Georgian era with wonderful examples of furniture, art, tapestries, plasterwork and carving. Guided tours at 2pm every day throughout the summer months.
Situated not far from the top of the Royal Mile, Gladstone's Land is a rare example of how 17th century Edinburgh citizens lived before the building of the New Town. Discover the very cramped conditions that were the norm, with people from a variety of backgrounds, from lawyers to washer women all living within one tenement house.
Unlike Gladstone's Land, Mary King's Close is a warren of underground streets and spaces. In the 1600s though this area was open to the skies and bustled with life and trade. Find out why it's now underground. Very atmospheric with guides setting the scene of plague ridden 17th century Edinburgh where up to 50% of the residents of one of these overcrowded streets could die from plague during one outbreak.
Also known as the South Bridge Vaults, these are a series of chambers in the 19 arches of the South Bridge which was completed in 1788. Originally used to house taverns and shops, later these poorly ventilated spaces were used by Edinburgh's poor as housing.
The Tall ship, Glenlee, sited at Riverside is the only floating Clyde-built sailing ship in the UK. Explore the Captain’s cabin; enjoy one of the many themed events. Listen to the history of the ship via an Audio guide, or visit the mini cinema. Under 5’s have their own play area in the hold. Round off your visit by popping into the gift and coffee shop.
The ancestral home of the Maxwell family, Pollock House, with beautifully manicured gardens, is now managed by The National Trust for Scotland and is only three miles from Glasgow city centre. Immerse yourself in its striking architecture, lavish family rooms and world-famous private collection of Spanish paintings by Murillo, Goya and El Greco. Enjoy the collection of silverware, glass, porcelain and antique furniture. Visit the below stairs servants’ quarters, including shops and the award-winning Edwardian Kitchen restaurant. For garden lovers marvel at the collection of over 1,000 species of rhododendrons.
Granted World Heritage Site Status in 2001, New Lanark is a beautifully restored 18th century cotton mill village on the banks of the river Clyde. Under the management of Robert Owen, between 1800 and 1825, the facilities and conditions for the families living and working in the village were greatly improved by introducing progressive education, larger homes, free health care, affordable food and factory reform. The mill manufactured cotton until 1968, almost 200 years. The visitor Centre brings back to life the fascinating history of the village and the ‘Annie Mcleod Experience’ is a must. The ghost of Annie appears to take you on a journey. The continued restoration and maintenance of the village is in the hands of an independent charity. Visit the Roof Garden featuring over 70 plants, a water feature and sculptures, situated on the roof of the A-listed mill.
Paisley Abbey situated just seven miles from Glasgow was set up as a Cluniac monastery on the site of a 6th century Celtic church and became an Abbey in 1245. The Abbey traded extensively with Europe and was also a centre of learning – William Wallace may have been educated by the monks at the Abbey. King Robert II of Scotland was born at the Abbey following the death of his mother from a tragic riding accident. The present Queen is descended from him. The Abbey has quite a chequered history being burnt almost to the ground in the 13th century, the tower collapsed in the 16th century, the monastery was disbanded in 1560 and handed over to the Hamilton family. In the late 19th and 20th centuries restoration commenced and it is now one of the finest churches in Scotland.
Chatelherault Country Park has 500 acres of countryside, ancient woodland and 10 miles of pathways and gorge trails following the course of the River Avon. It was originally built in 1732 as a Hunting Lodge and Summer House for the Dukes of Hamilton. Today a 5 star Visitor Centre takes centre place in the restored buildings including a Gift Shop and the Oaks Cafe. The original West Lodge houses the Banqueting Hall and the Duke and Duchess's apartments. Also visit the Exhibition gallery and Displays. Join one of the guided historical and heritage tours. For the younger visitor, from toddler to teenager, there is an adventure playground. Finally round off your visit with a picnic in the glorious parkland providing some of the most breathtaking views across the Campsie Hills, Ben Lomond and the Central Belt.
In inner Glasgow, The City Chambers were completed in 1888, is a testament to the wealth of this great industrial city. It has the largest marble staircase in Western Europe, inspired by an Italian design. For over a hundred years, this grand edifice has been the home of the'city fathers' as the council is known. However, there are public tours at 10.30 and 2.30 Monday to Friday. It is well worth joining a tour – no booking required – because very helpful guides can show and tell you about areas you might otherwise miss. For instance, one area that won’t be known to many visitors is also one of the most poignant parts of the building. Behind some potted plants, on one of the many staircases, graffiti covers part of a wall, a lot of them from 1915 and 1916. It is thought that boys from Glasgow and surrounding areas would have been here awaiting their shipment off to the Great War.
This is the oldest remaining house in Glasgow, having been built in 1471 as part of St Nicolas’s Hospital. It was likely to have been used to have housed clergy for the neighbouring Cathedral. It is presently a museum housing a collection of seventeenth century Scottish furniture donated by Sir William Burrell – who donated his whole collection to the City of Glasgow and which now has its own building. Glasgow Cathedral which is the oldest building in Glasgow and Provand’s Lordship are two of the few surviving buildings from Glasgow’s medieval period. Most of the remaining medieval buildings that surrounded the Cathedral and hospital were demolished between the 18th and 20th centuries.
Among the many churches in Glasgow, you might like to visit The Mackintosh Church, at Queen’s Cross, the only church he saw completed. A memorial stone was laid in 1898 and the first service for the Free Church of St Matthew was held in 1899. It is simply designed with no towering spire and may be called Modern Gothic. The roof is made up by the most striking timber-lined barrel-vaulted roof, which spans the entire forty feet of the nave. The pulpit is carved in Mackintosh designs - it is repeated five times around the curved front. It has been suggested that it represents the wings of a bird protecting young shoots - sown on fertile ground. The stained glass windows are distinctly Mackintosh in style. Public tours are available.
Built in 1832, is revered the world over and considered a feat of architectural brilliance. Members of the Merchant Club, a wealthy group of individuals based in Glasgow, decided to create a Necropolis reflecting the wealth and brilliance of Glasgow at the time. With more than 50,000 people interred in its hallowed grounds, only 5,000 have a memorial erected in their memory. Bizarrely, the first person to have a memorial built in their honour doesn’t have a grave there. Robert Stevenson McGill a Professor of Theology at Glasgow University suggested a statue be built of John Knox, leader of the Scottish Reformation. This memorial became the foundation stone of the Glasgow Necropolis, known as the City of the Dead. Other luminaries with connection are Charles Rennie Mackintosh who designed a Celtic cross for a friend of his father and the author of the children’s nursery rhyme Wee Willie Winkie. The Necropolis is multi faith .Details of every single one of the 50,000 plus interred members of Glasgow’s City Of The Dead were recorded. Every name, date, gender, cause of death, date of death and profession is available in the Mitchell Library’s archives – a rich genealogy source if you have ancestors from Glasgow. Public tours are available.
Delving further into the past, Roman remains can be found further out from the city. The Antonine Wall was not the first structure to be built in Scotland by the Romans, though it was by far the most impressive. Along the wall, at least four forts were built in a line between the River Forth and the River Tay in the AD 80s and between these forts, connected by a military road, were a series of watch towers. Many of the artefacts found at these sites can be found in the University of Glasgow’s Hunterian Museum. But, on the ground, foundations of Bearsden Bath House, for instance, can be seen at Roman Road, Bearsden.
The Barracks was built between 1719 and 1721 on a prominent mound overlooking what is now the world famous Insh Marshes. It was one of four infantry barracks constructed throughout the Highlands by George II’s government following the failed Jacobite rising in 1715. The barracks housed around 120 men on three floors. In 1734 Major General Wade gave orders for a stable block to be added. The views down the valley from the Barracks are spectacular and wildlife abounds in the surrounding marshes. Open all year.
A prehistoric Bronze Age cemetery dating back some 4000 years comprising of passage graves, ring cairns, kerb cairn and standing stones. Very little is known about the builders of the cairns. The three well preserved burial cairns each have a central chamber and are surrounded by rings of standing stones. Probably the burial place of the privileged among the local farming community and only one or two bodies within each cairn. Set in the beautiful wooded surroundings at Balnuaran, best visited at sunrise or sunset and the colour and texture of the stones emphasises the special association with the sun on the shortest day of the year. Spot the cup-and-ring marks along the passages, examples of prehistoric rock-art. Visit the nearby spectacular railway viaduct and Culloden Battlefield.
The bronze, Category A, memorial standing some 5.2m high, situated in Lochaber in the Scottish Highlands, was completed in 1951 by Scott Sutherland and unveiled by the Queen Mother in 1952. It depicts three Commandos in typical World War II uniforms looking out towards Ben Nevis with an inscription at their feet saying “United We Conquer”. Eight serving Commandos were awarded the Victoria Cross. The Commandos intensive training centre was established at Achnacarry Castle in 1942 North West of the monument and today it has become one of Scotland’s most visited tourist attractions. Also the site of an Area of Remembrance for those Commandos who served in World War II and also those who have died in more recent conflicts. Further information and displays can be found at the Clan Cameron Museum at Achnacarry, the West Highland Museum in Fort William and at the Spean Bridge Hotel. Access to the site is from the B8004. Open all year.
See history brought to life with Gaelic music, songs, interactive exhibition, a 360 degree film, battle table and real artefacts taken from the battle site. Imagine the terror experienced by the many characters involved and relive the horrors of the battle – the last to be fought on British soil. The site has been restored to as near as possible to how it would have looked on 16th April 1746. Walk around the battlefield and experience the eerie feeling as you look over your shoulder sensing the cries of battle and then appreciate the scale of the battle from the rooftop viewing area. All the paths are suitable for anyone with special access needs and families with prams. This is a spectacular, environmentally friendly Visitor Centre, including a shop and restaurant. Open all year.
With around 2,000sq.km of rugged coastlines, mountains, beaches and forests the Geopark takes in the Summer Isles in Wester Ross, parts of Caithness and Sutherland including Durness and Cape Wrath on the north coast and follows the Moine Thrust Zone to the east. At around 3 million years old and almost treeless, it contains some of the oldest rocks in Europe and was awarded UNESCO geopark status in 2004. Visit the unique Smoo Cave, a large limestone sea cave near Durness, whose inner chambers were formed by fresh water and its outer chamber by the action of seawater. Remains of Eurasian Lynx, Arctic Fox, Reindeer, Polar and Brown bears, as well as human remains dating back some 4,500 years, have been found at Inchnadamph Bone Caves. The stunning scenery, ancient settlements and lively communities offer a wide variety of choice to suit every taste. Call in to the Rock Stop Café and Exhibition Centre at Unapool providing full details of the Geopark.
Situated six miles south-west of Elgin, Pluscarden Abbey dating back to 1230 owes its foundation to King Alexander II of Scotland. It is a community of Catholic Benedictine monks enjoying the peace and tranquillity of a secluded glen and the beauty of its architecture in the only medieval British monastery still being used for its original purpose. Long before 1230 there may have been a hermit’s cell and a well dedicated to St. Andrew situated here. Pluscarden was probably burned by the Wolf of Badenoch around 1390 and some evidence of this can still be seen. The history of Pluscarden is very varied and it was not until 1948 that life began again for the Benedictine monks. It was elevated to Abbey status in 1974. Rebuilding and restoration continues, but today it is a thriving house, place of worship and a training place for Novices. Visit the Abbey on retreat and share in the prayer and work of the community.
Designed by James Gillespie and erected in 1815 the monument is in a magical setting at the head of Loch Shiel. Surrounded by some of the Highland’s most spectacular scenery the lone kilted Highlander sits at the top of an 18m column and commemorates the Jacobite clansmen who fought for Bonnie Prince Charlie in the 1845 uprising which came to a bloody end in 1846 at Culloden. The Visitor centre holds a new exhibition opened in 2013, also a shop and café and is run by The National Trust for Scotland. The site is open all year but see the Trust’s website for opening times for the monument and visitor centre.
Spectacularly located right on the coast and on the edge of the ancient burgh of St. Andrews, the ruins were once the largest and most magnificent Cathedral in Scotland. Visit St. Rule's Tower, part of the first church built by the Augustinian canons in the early 12th century and see the fabulous views from the top of the Tower. Within the Cathedral Museum it is possible to see the St. Andrews' Sarcophagus which dates from Pictish times.
The Mansion House of Hill of Tarvit sits above the town of Cupar. Originally built in the 1600s it was completely refurbished in 1906 by the then owner, a wealthy jute mill owner, who wanted to display his collections of furniture, paintings and antiques. The remodelling of the house was done by Sir Robert Lorimer.
The historic village of Culross sits on the banks of the River Forth between Dunfermline and Alloa, close to Kincardine.The village is a fascinating place to visit, wandering the cobbled streets and looking at the 16th and 17th century buildings. The Palace is open in the afternoons, and is furnished with period pieces, the decorated ceilings are authentic and the tiered gardens to the rear are a delight to wander through. The Townhouse is also open to the public and was the centre for commerce in the town. It is also supposed to be where Bishop Leighton of Dunblane Cathedral wrote his sermons.
Originally founded as a priory by King Malcolm's wife, Queen Margaret, sometimes known as Saint Margaret, it was re-established by their son King David as an Abbey and is the burial place of Robert the Bruce (minus his heart which is buried at Melrose Abbey in the Borders). The Abbey complex is also the site of the Palace built by King James VI for his wife Anne of Denmark. Adjacent to the Abbey and accessed through the grounds is the Abbot's House, painted bright pink, it's hard to miss. The Abbot's House contains an excellent exhibition of the history of Dunfermline from prehistory through to the Second World War.
Located just below the Forth Bridge and offering excellent views of it, the Light Tower is the smallest working light tower in the world. Only 24 steps take you up to the lamp, where you can discover how the lamp was maintained by the lighthouse keeper. The North Queensferry Harbour Light Tower was designed by Robert Stevenson and built in 1817. The Tower is located close to the Fife Coastal Path and is not far from the Carlingnose Reserve.
There has been a church standing on the north bank of the River Tay in the village of Dunkeld since the sixth or early seventh century when the first Celtic monks set up their base in Alba. Once the religious centre of Scotland, the present Cathedral shows both Gothic and Norman influence having being completed over a period of nearly 250 years between 1260 and 1501. The Cathedral has twice suffered damage during Scotland's turbulent history – once in the Reformation and again in the Jacobite rebellion. Today the Cathedral is a beautiful, tranquil place of worship and houses a permanent local history exhibition telling the history of the town and the redevelopment of the reformed church.
This is a replica of an iron age loch dwelling constructed by the Scottish Trust for Underwater Archaeology in the beautiful setting of Highland Perthshire. Built on Loch Tay at Kenmore, the crannog is an authentic copy of a defensive homestead similar to those inhabited by our ancestors nearly 2,500 years ago. Available to visitors is a guided tour by knowledgeable ‘Iron Age’ guides and the opportunity to get ‘hand-on’ experience of ancient crafts using iron age technology. Special events are a regular feature during the season and weather depending, visitors can also hire replica dugout canoes.
Fortingall is a beautiful village close to Aberfeldy, a little north of the River Lyon. Famous for the Fortingall Yew, believed to be 5,000 years old and possibly the oldest living thing on earth, the village is also reputed to be the birth place of Pontius Pilate. All but wiped out by the Black Death in the Middle Ages, the AsCarn na Marbh or "Cairn of the Dead" standing stone is believed to mark the villagers grave. In the 19th century, Sir Donald Currie, a Glasgow shipping merchant, purchased the Glenlyon Estate and engaged Art and Craft architects to rebuild the village and that is what you see today. Cottages with their white painted exteriors and beautiful reed-thatched roofs, the traditional Fortingall Hotel with hints of the traditional design of Scottish tower houses and castles of the past, Molteno Village Hall and the post reformation Fortingall Church all contribute to the unique character that makes Fortingall so special.
St Mary’s Grandtully is a hidden gem in the Highland Perthshire crown. An exquisite example of a pre-Reformation Highland church, externally it is simple and rectangular, while internally it is almost devoid of ornamentation. What makes it extraordinary is its painted ceiling. One of only two church ceilings of the 1600s now remaining in its original setting (the other is in Largs), the decoration takes the form of 28 roundels of varying shapes and sizes depicting saints, proverbs and the local nobility’s heraldic achievements. The background is composed of clusters of fruit and flowers, birds and reclining angels trumpeting the Resurrection. The centre panel depicts the Resurrection itself, with a dying figure in a canopied bed about to be ‘stung’ by Death – a skeletal figure wielding a spear or arrow. To the right of the bed, the dead rise from their graves at the summons of a pair of angels sounding the last trumpet.
The Dunfallandy Stone, known locally as Clach an t'Sagairt or "The Priest's Stone”, is a Pictish cross slab which stands about a mile south of Pitlochry. Standing approx. 1.5m high and 0.6m wide, it dates back to the 8th century. The carvings are a highly elaborate cross carved on the front face and a collection of symbols and figures carved on the rear face. The spaces above and below the side arms of the cross are filled by a series of panels with carvings of animals and angels. The back face shows a collection of symbols seen on many Pictish stones such as the fish-tailed snakes that frame the stone but usually there are also three figures carved on this side of the stone. The top two are seated opposite each other on ornate chairs while between them is a cross on a table. Some believe this carving represents the meeting of St. Paul and St. Anthony, but it may equally be a scene from the life of the person the stone may have been carved to commemorate: perhaps his conversion to Christianity. Underneath the seated figures is a large carving of a horseman, again accompanied by symbols. The stone is now encased in glass and protected by Historic Scotland.
While the present Logierait Kirk building only dates back to 1904, it is believed to stand on the site of an early Christian church founded by St. Cedd around 650 AD. The Kirkyard contains a number of decorated memorial stones including a Pictish Cross in the form of a sculpted stone. On one face is a knot work-decorated Cross with 4 small circular raised bosses and on the other what looks to be a horseman trampling a serpent-and-rod. The carvings show the horseman carrying a spear and riding a horse wearing an ornamented saddle and bridle. Also within the Kirkyard are 3 Mort Safes (2 adults and 1 child). A ‘Mort Safe’ was a heavy cast iron coffin cover rented out to families in the early 19th to prevent body snatchers from removing their newly buried relatives body to sell in Edinburgh for medical examination. The heavy iron frame was buried with the coffin, and then removed when the body had decomposed enough to be of no value.