‘Sustainability’ must be one of the most over-worked words of the last few years, as we try to find ways to reduce our impact on the planet we call home. Read on to find out more about sustainable travel around beautiful Scotland.
Sometimes it feels as though we’re trying to hold back an inevitable tide of global warming, ozone thinning, and sea level rises, but channelling the ambition of King Canute, we can make a difference, each in a small way, which will delay those incoming waves just a little longer.
Travel is of course one of the main casualties of Covid 19. Not just for leisure either, but businesses have quickly adapted to online conferences and video meetings. From nature’s perspective however, it’s been a wonderful break from the impact our activities have on our environment. Pollution levels dropped, air quality improved, and the warming slowed down.
6 TIPS TO DO OUR BIT!
The challenge post-Covid is to rebuild with our planet’s needs in the front and centre of our minds, and here are six little ways in which we can all do our bit:-
Plan on line.
Most of us do, but there’s still a temptation to pick up glossy brochures or print out travel guides to take with us. These days there’s really no need to use paper, when you can carry it all with you on a smart phone or laptop.
Visit out of season.
Why not? Why are you going to your chosen destination? If it’s an event or something fixed in the calendar then clearly you have no choice, but if it’s to enjoy the landscapes, the architecture, the history, the food and drink, then surely it’s better to go when the crowds are gone, the roads are emptier and the prices are lower? It also reduces the impact on some of the most visited spots too.
Use public transport
If you can. If you’re travelling in a group then the car might be the greenest and most cost-effective option, but if it’s just one or two of you consider the bus or train, and possibly a car share scheme for local travel? Many of the scheduled bus routes will take you through spectacular scenery and you can simply sit back, relax and enjoy the view.
Stay longer in one place.
There’s a trend for road-trips just now which involve covering long distances in short time frames. Even writing that down feels wrong. How can you really visit the places on the map if you’re only seeing them out of the car windows? Spending a little longer means getting out and walking, or maybe cycling or taking a bus. Shopping, talking to residents, eating the local food delicacies and trying the local beer, gins and whiskies. Spending a little money in local businesses and contributing to the economy, not to the congestion. The relaxed pace, the engagement and the time to draw breath, all make for a much better experience for you as a visitor.
Leave nothing but footprints.
It’s an obvious one, but we still see litter left in remote mountain or loch side locations, presumably by people who’ve gone there to enjoy the beautiful landscapes! It beggars belief, but is probably just casual thoughtlessness in action. If you can bear it, take other people’s rubbish away too. The moral high ground now truly has your name tattooed on it!
Don’t go to a rural area and take everything you plan to eat and drink with you. Those small shops and independent retailers really value your business. If you run out of something you’ll be relying on them after all, so why not intentionally spend some of your food budget locally too? It’s a good way of getting to know people and perhaps getting some great tips on what to see and do during your extended stay as well!
So, there you have it. You can make a difference.
You heard the story of the girl on the beach carefully picking up stranded starfish and gently placing them back in the sea? A passer by asked her what she was doing, and she explained that they would die if they stayed too long out of the water. ‘But there are hundreds of them’, he said. ‘You can’t possibly make a difference here’. She rescued another starfish as he spoke. ‘Well I made a difference to that one’ she said.
Go make a difference!
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The change of seasons brings a reminder that nature will pursue her cycle of newness, growth, seed setting and dormancy despite everything we throw at her, either intentionally or through human carelessness.
This year, summer as we know it didn’t happen. Children didn’t attend end of term parties and proms, families didn’t take their summer holidays, visits to Grandma & Grandad were cancelled, and even barbecues and get togethers were stymied, by the big black cloud of Covid, hanging over the world. Yet still the trees grew, the crops formed, the new grass fed the animals and the earth kept turning.
So here we are, clocks a changing, nights coming earlier and leaves falling like rust from underneath my first car, with perhaps several more months of limited social lives ahead of us.
Tempting as it may be to hibernate until it’s all over, we have to find new ways of getting our happiness buckets refilled, and maybe the natural world is where we’ll find them.
Fortunately, in Scotland our natural world has a wealth of wonders in every season. No-one ever came here for a suntan, and our scenery is always spectacular whether in sunshine or on stormy days. The wilder the storm, the brighter the rainbow after all!
So, let’s set our sights on what we CAN do, what IS open, and what WONDERFUL experiences we can gather over the next few months.
Summer holidays might have been in short supply, but what’s to stop you having a couple of wee ‘chill breaks’ during the winter and early spring? Travelling as a couple or a family is generally possible, and the simplicity of shorter, low key breaks means less pressure and the associated stresses of complex arrangements. Even if the restrictions are tightened, these trips aren’t planned weeks ahead, so there’s usually some wriggle room built in.
And guess what? We have some great ideas for you!
Let’s start off with a series covering the Clyde Islands of Cumbrae, Arran and Bute. Three very different islands, offering a world of experiences, and each with one great thing in common: yes, they all have a wonderful Scottish Gin to explore!
So, why not book a winter trip to one or more of these islands, or better still, book it as a gift! What could be lovelier in a loved one’s Christmas Stocking!
Here at Ginspired Scotland HQ we love all the ‘spooktakular’ Gins that Scotland has to offer. With Halloween looking a little different this year for everyone we thought we would share some that the grown ups can ‘trick or treat’ themselves too.
So if there is one that you have been ‘dying’ to try, have a look at our online sales page and get it delivered straight to your door. Have a ‘Fangtastic’ Halloween!!
Brought to you by the team at Black Thistle Distillery, based in Brechin, these gins would make an impressive addition to your ‘Halloween Gin Shelf’. Black Mist is perfect for cocktails, and their shimmer gin will leave you mesmerised by its intensely dark nature. Green Mist, Kiwi and Mint is also a shimmer gin and will turn your socially distant friends green with envy!
Stirling Distillery’s range of Gins the ‘Green Lady’ is a must to try on ‘All-Hallows Eve’. As part of their folklore Collection, this mint and bramble liqueur is in memory of a lady in waiting to Mary Queen of Scots. However, after perishing in a fire inside Stirling Castle her ghost roams its hallways and spells danger for any who see her. Are you brave enough to plan a visit there? Click here for details.
Solway Spirits, based in the beautiful Annan along the Solway Coast, paying homage to a great Gin of yesteryear, “Old Tom”. Their range consists of the Classic Gin, Bramble, Turkish Delight and Cherry Almond Bakewell…What’s not to like!
Based in Glasgow in a re-purposed railway arch under the train tracks that serve Glasgow’s famous Central Station, Illicit Spirits embrace the city’s industrial heritage and DIY-ethos. The ‘Black List’ is a smoked gin with Scottish peat, and it’s black!! Recommended serves are ‘The Neat‘ or the more contemporary serve ‘The Black Stuff‘ A must for halloween really!
Caorunn Gin nestled in the Scottish Highlands has a range of gins inspired by their beautiful and tranquil surroundings. They include a Scottish Raspberry Gin, however if your feeling like something a liitle stronger try out the powerful Caorunn Highland Strength at a bolder 54% ABV. Check out their Gin Cocktail page and browse through the amazing choice of Caorunn serves. Make sure and check out ‘Halloween Juice‘ sounds ‘Spooktakular’
We hope we have Ginspired you to try some new ‘Halloween’ Scottish Gins.
NB. No apologies are being made for any of the halloween puns.
Autumn has definitely arrived, and here in Scotland it is one of the most beautiful times to plan your next visit.
Trees ablaze with oranges & reds of all shades imaginable, on a backdrop of the deep evergreen colours, a truly a special time of year.
With an abundance of outdoor activities at every turn, cycling, walking, munro bagging, touring Castles, lochs or even white water rafting, the colours that surround you will make it an even more memorable experience. So pack a picnic and add some autumnal feeling Scottish Gins to make it completely picture perfect!
So wherever you plan to soak up the autumnal colours of Scotland, and whatever Gin you pair it with, check out our Gincyclopedia for help in planning your next memory making adventure.
To celebrate the fact that we are now able to at least plan a getaway for later in the year, we are giving away 4 Ginspired Scotland ‘Taste the Adventure’ tasting packs in our latest competition, over the next 4 weeks!
Sign up to our eNewsletterto be in with a chance of winning. Never miss out on Scottish Gin news again.
Retailing at £34.99, this makes for a great way to spend an evening with your favourite Adventurer. Plan your next trip to Scotland sip by sip! Click the ‘buy’ button above to order and have it delivered straight to your door.
Ginspired Scotland Competitions are in no way sponsored, endorsed, associated with or administered by Instagram or Facebook.
Competitions are only open to UK residents aged over 18 years (legal drinking age)
This Competition ends on Friday 23rd April 2021.
Winners will be drawn on at random on Saturday 24th April 2021 and winners will be notified by email.
Check out our Gincyclopedia for more Ginspired travel ideas around Scotland. Plan every detail of your stay-cation, from accommodation, places to eat, golf, castles, beauty spots and of course Scottish Gin. Lots and lots of Scottish Gin.
Book direct through our map and create your own travel itinerary to share with your travel companions.
Or Ginspired Scotland’s contribution to National Poetry Day
We’ve Castles and Cabers and Coos by the score
We’ve Whiskies, great Gins even wine and there’s more
We’ve mountains and rivers, heathered hills, sandy shores
Fine food, fresh clean air and our water’s so pure
We’ve world leading skills in all the right places
We’ve technical excellence and cover all bases
We’ve creatives, clear voices and beautiful faces
And a rich mix of people from all different races
Our cities are photographed, painted and longed for
Our crags and our glens people even write songs for
New lands caused new places to carry names yearned for
Our clans and our language, even tartan, was fought for
So why is it, when other folk talk of ‘the Scot’
It’s not beautiful landscapes that claim the prime spot
But deep-fried Mars Bars, of which I’ve seen not a jot
(Or purse strings permanently tied in a knot)
Since lock down’s embrace foiled the supply of warm hugs
Since the rainbow covered everything from jumpers to mugs
Since ‘Be Kind’ was heard clearly by everyone’s lugs
Can’t we lose the old way, because to me, oh it bugs?
So next time you see us portrayed with unkindness
Stand up, say your piece, don’t give in to this blindness
Retort, send them hame and I reckon you’ll find yes….
That our nation of Scotland will be shown as the finest.
Over and out Gin Lovers
Happy National Poetry Day!
Support your gin producers offering online sales, and keep your spirits up too.
During these challenging times, it’s vital that you don’t run out of your favourite Scottish Gins.
Inspirited is the personalised gin gifting experience. Pick from a huge range of ingredients Inspirited bring it together. Personalise your gin with customised labels and messages for a unique gift experience. Gift Vouchers available.
FREE postage to the UK for all 70cl bottles. LIVE Virtual Gin School Experiences! Watch your gin being distilled live on one of our mini stills at the distillery’s Gin School and a full bottle of your own creation with a personalised label will then be posted to your home!
A range of Make-your-own Tonic kits. Available online.
All we need now is to source some ‘teleportable’ lemons and limes………, don’t worry, we’re working on it!
Travelling through time.
Royal Deeside, in the North Eastern Highlands, is a remarkable region spanning only 50 miles or so from east to west along the banks of the mighty River Dee. The ‘Royal’ suffix came only after Queen Victoria set up home here in 1852, but it’s association with kings and powerful leaders is evident from many hundreds of years before that. The river’s name, the Dee means ‘Goddess’, and it’s clear that the river influences this area in far more varied ways than just lending it her name. Join us as we explore this fascinating corner of Scotland, in our latest Ginspired Day Trip to Royal Deeside. We’re calling this one ‘Travelling through Time’.
Getting here is easy especially if you’re in Aberdeen! The River Dee reaches the sea in the Granite City, so you could be said to be in Deeside without ever leaving the 30mph zone, but just a few miles west of this elegant cosmopolitan oil capital you reach the real Deeside. Soft green country, forests, farmland, castles, and of course the sinuous River Dee stitching it all together. Dundee and Perth are also within easy day tripping reach, and you can approach from the south on the Snow Road route of the A93 over Glenshee, which is a treat in itself. The railway line no longer reaches into Deeside, but there is a reasonable bus service running the length of the strath to assist travellers.
The land where time began
Whether you echo Mary Poppins or Lewis Carroll, every good story should start at the beginning, and there can be no better beginning than what may very well be the beginning of time. For that is what was recently uncovered in Royal Deeside.
An aerial survey showed signs of an early structure beneath a barley field close to Crathes Castle. Investigation began with the hope that the remains of a timber hall would be discovered, similar to one found at nearby Balbridie. This was thought to be around 1500 years old, and possibly built by travellers from Southern Europe who would have sailed to Scotland in boats made from wooden frames and animal skins. High hopes indeed, but the reality far exceeded the archaeologists’ expectations!
What they found was a series of pits and post holes, constructed in such a pattern that they can only have been used as an early solar or lunar calendar. The posts align with the midwinter sunrise and would have been a means for these hunter gatherers to track the changing seasons and measure the passing of time, rather than simply observe it. The markers even line up with a notch on the horizon between two hills, which would have allowed for the annual readjustment required between the lunar month and the solar year. Similar sites have been discovered in Mesopotamia (now largely Iraq), but the Warren Field site on the banks of the River Dee is far earlier, from around 9800 years ago.
As scientists from the University of Birmingham put it, ‘Could this be where ‘time’ began?’
Our Solar Calendar pre-dates the Pictish past of Scotland by some 3000-6000 years, but here in Royal Deeside we have carved stones, standing stone circles and recumbent stone circles all giving clues to the culture and beliefs of our fishing and farming ancestors. Some appear to be ceremonial sites, others used for burials, and yet more for following the moon and stars. The circle at Tomnaverie near Tarland appears to pay reverence to the mountain of Lochnagar, which is clearly framed above its recumbent stone ‘altar’ and between the two uprights at either side. Perhaps moons and mountains were the celebrities of the Pictish age and Tomnaverie was an early equivalent of Instagram? 😊
Time to talk about the GIN!
There’s a wealth of Scottish Gin produced in Aberdeen and out into Deeside. Some offer visitor experiences, others are brands you should look out for. All are unique!
Please always check ahead if you’d like to arrange a visit.
City of Aberdeen Distillery & Gin School– the first distillery in Aberdeen for nearly 80 years and home to the Aberdeen Gin School. Owned and run by two friends, the distillery is situated in the heart of the Scottish City of Aberdeen (the Silver City with the Golden Sands), within a historic railway arch where true small batch Aberdeen Gins are designed and distilled. The distillery is open to visitors who are invited to sample from the demi-johns (fill a bottle), enjoy a Distillery Tour, Gin Tasting Masterclass or even distil your very own 70cl bottle of gin at the Gin School Experience. Find out more about their visitor experiences here…
The House Of Botanicals is the home of an array of botanical based beverages including the House of Botanicals Old Tom Gins, the Dr. Adam’s Cocktail Bitters portfolio, and the forthcoming Italian influenced Pietro Nicola range; with liqueurs, amari and fortified wine in development. Family run by Adam & Steffie Elan-Elmegirab, The House of Botanicals operates with a zero-waste ethos and ethically sources all our raw materials. Our sole desire is to create a range of unique, quality, hand-crafted products for the growing demands of the beverage industry, with the spotlight shone on botanicals and the influence they have in the world of mixed drinks. Find out more about their products here ……
Porter’s Gin – With a passion for creating better drinks, we turned the basement of our bar, Orchid, in Aberdeen, Scotland into one of the UK’s most innovative micro-distilleries. We built our own vacuum still, which distills botanicals at low temperatures, retaining their fresh, natural flavour. While working closely with the UK’s most respected Gin Distillers, we perfected the art of cold distilling botanicals. This respect for tradition while innovating results in exceptionally well balanced, refined, high quality gin recipes that bring together the best of classic and contemporary botanical distilling. Find out more about their visitor experiences here…
Canna’B – Aberdeen-based firm specialising in CBD liquor: rum and gin infused with hemp and CBD. Husband and wife team Calum and Rebecca Napier who are behind it also run The Wee Hemp Company, a CBD-based firm which won Scotland’s Micro Business of the Year in 2019’s FSB Awards. The Wee Hemp Company was launched in May 2018, largely thanks to Rebecca’s inspiring experiences with CBD. Wee Hemp Spirits currently offers hemp-infused Canna’B Gin and Canna’B Rum, with a full spectrum limited edition CBD-infused Canna’B Spirits about to be released. The name ‘Canna’B’ is a smart play on Scottish dialect, pronounced ‘cannae be,’ as in ‘cannot be.’ It also serves as a neat reference to the cannabis sativa L plant and the bees which provide the honey used in these CBD liquor products. Find out more about their products here….
Launched in 2017, Still River is famous for producing the ‘world’s strongest gin’; its award winning 77% ABV strength Naked Uncut Gin. Part of Deeside Distillery, Banchory is home to the Still River team and their experimental work led by head distiller Liam Pennycook. With the aim of producing original and innovative spirits, the distillery produces its own base spirit for various drinks, placing it alongside only a handful of other Scottish distilleries who use this approach of creating their base spirit from scratch. Find out more about them here……
Granite North– Taking its name from the rock so closely associated with the North East of Scotland, Granite North Gin is inspired by the rugged peaks and ancient forests of the Scottish Highlands. Developed for the modern adventurer, Granite North is a smooth London gin packed with flavour. A juniper-forward gin, its fresh, citrus taste is smooth enough to drink on its own or with a light tonic to release even more of its zesty flavour. Its outdoor personality is revealed in the subtle infusion of Grand Fir needles that complement the native taste of its juniper cousin, helping to summon the fresh aromas of the pure mountain air. Handcrafted in small batches in Scotland, Granite North Gin is distilled using water from the nearby Cairngorm Mountain range. With its rich contour of flavours capturing the essence of the rugged Highland landscape, Granite North Gin will warm on the coldest winter nights and refresh on the balmiest of summer days. Find out more about their products here…
The Tippling House, on Belmont Street in Aberdeen is the place to sample amazing gin cocktails. Look at the wonderful array here! Why not make it your late night favourite at the end of your Ginspired Day Trip to Royal Deeside. Also the home of Jindea Single Estate Tea Gin. Find out more by clicking here
Founded in 2015, Esker Spirits was established to embrace innovation and produce a Scottish gin that delivers a real taste experience. We have changed the thinking behind the traditional gin flavours and using silver birch sap, a feature of Royal Deeside, challenged the traditional botanicals and gin recipes. Our Distillery. A place of stunning natural beauty, Esker Spirits is produced in the heart of Scotland on the Kincardine Estate, Royal Deeside. Our gins are produced in copper stills in the distillery using over a dozen botanicals, including locally sourced silver birch sap, heather, citrus and spice. Find out more about their products here….
The Lost Loch Distillery just outside Aboyne. is home to Eenoo Gin, and Springmount Gin. Micro-tours and full on gin schools are run regularly, but do get in touch to check the current situation. It’s a great opportunity to create your own gin as well as learning the art of spirit production. For more information, click here ……
Maryculter House Hotel on the western fringes of Aberdeen is the ideal place to begin or end your Deeside Day Trip. The hotel dates back to the 12th Century and has links to the Knights Templar. They have a house gin, The Knights Gin, which is perfectly served with Templar Tonic! Find out more here.
Ancient & Modern
Take yourself to the beautiful memorial of nearby Migvie Kirk, on the Tillypronie Estate, lovingly restored by the Laird Philip Astor in honour of his late parents. A precarious Pictish Cross Slab is found in the kirkyard, with ornate carvings of a horse and rider. The deconsecrated kirk itself is deceptively simple from the outside, but once inside the carved oak doors replicating the design on the Pictish stone, a wondrously light space filled with artworks and artisan furniture, all by local creatives, is uncovered. There are no signs to guide you here, you have to find it yourself, that’s part of the charm. So it’s our secret, a gift from me to you!
Charms & Legends
Back to the River, our Goddess. A 2000 year old tradition has it that we should cast silver or song into the water for good luck. In my case I’d better save up, as my singing voice is unlikely to summon anything positive. This may be an antidote to another legend, not unique in these parts, that of the water sprite or Kelpie. Now recognisable from the glorious sculptures at The Helix near Falkirk, Kelpies were thought to be shapeshifters, sometimes appearing as men, other times as writhing, twisting horses. They could be kind and generous for needy folk, but they could also turn wicked and vengeful, luring the unwary to their watery lairs and inevitable doom (think Private Fraser from Dad’s Army – dooooom!). There are many tales of Kelpies in this area, and parents have long used the stories as a way of making their children fearful of getting too close to the waters edge. No bad thing indeed. However, these tales can make a lasting impression, as an old lady, interviewed just before her ninetieth year recalled how her father (a farmer) always kept a halter on a hook beside the back door, ‘just in case the Kelpie came’, in the hope he might be able to control it. She was a firm believer, as clearly her father had also been!
What a Racket!
Another unique watery feature of Royal Deeside is the impressive Burn O’Vat. It’s a natural pot hole carved out of rock by stones grinding together underneath a retreating ice shelf, some 14,000 years ago. These days, easily found near to Loch Kinord, it’s a lovely excuse for a walk amid birch trees and bird song to the narrow entrance, and then into the Vat itself. It is said that legendary cattle thief Rob Roy McGregor hid his stolen animals here, as the noise of the rushing water muffled their moos to passers-by! Above the waterfall is a stone where Jacobite survivors are said to have met after Culloden to plan their next, but ultimately futile, move.
Ballater is well known for its plethora of Royal Warrants above shop doorways. The Royal Warrant is granted from a member of the Royal Household to a business which supplies it with goods or services, to a very high standard. The nearby Highland home of the British Royal Family at Balmoral Castle, means that many local businesses from the town have achieved this accolade over the years.
At present, Royal Warrants can only be granted by HM Queen Elizabeth II, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh or HRH The Prince of Wales, Duke of Rothesay. To belong to the Royal Warrants Association is a highly cherished honour. Warrant holders must follow strict rules regarding the use of the warrant or risk losing it, as happened to Rigby & Peller in 2018. Apparently, they disclosed too much detail in an account of their role as purveyors of undergarments to HM Queen Elizabeth. A storm in a D cup perhaps? You decide.
Balmoral Castle itself is just a few miles west of Ballater, and available to visit when the family are not in residence. It isn’t possible to see inside the Castle itself but there is a good visitor centre, exhibition spaces and you do get to meet the Queen’s own ponies, which are well kept and very polite!
Above Balmoral rises the majestic mountain of Lochnagar, and amidst its foothills are a number of stone cairns, built on the instruction of Queen Victoria mainly to commemorate the marriages of her children. The largest however was built in honour of her beloved Albert, after his death in 1861. There are various walks to take in the cairns and the viewpoints each affords. Visit www.walkhighlands.com for a detailed route plan. The climb up Lochnagar is well worth it, especially on a clear day. The route along the shores of Loch Muick (pronounced mick), is a joy. Be careful if the cloud is low however as there are some steep and dangerous drops, so plan ahead please.
A quiet life
The Royal family have always enjoyed their time spent at Balmoral and seen it as a relaxing place, where they could move around freely and without scrutiny. In Queen Victoria’s time, it’s said that staff and estate workers were instructed to ignore her if they saw her out walking or riding. They were simply to pretend they hadn’t seen her at all! Preference was given to estate tenants who agreed to make their front room (the best room in the house) over to the Queen should she be passing and have need of it. Any members of the family in residence should retreat to the remainder of the house and lock the adjoining door. One cottage had two front doors especially to allow access to Her Majesty, and she was known to call in for refreshments on a whim, which must have been rather alarming for the inhabitants as she wasn’t known for her tolerance or good humour.
The Balmoral Estate is not huge by local standards, so often walks or rides would take the royal parties onto neighbouring properties. One such route carried Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth onto the nearby Invercauld Estate where a hillside bothy took her fancy. When her courtiers wrote to the estate owner telling him of her desire to visit regularly, the bothy was very discreetly made over, simply furnished, and supplied with a small stove and the facilities to make a hot drink.
I recall the story of a local man who lived on the estate and who was a reserve firefighter. One day having received a ‘shout,’ he headed at speed along the estate road to get to the fire station and out to the emergency. Hurtling around a corner he almost collided head on with a Landrover driven by a lady in a floral headscarf, who glowered at him in annoyance. He waved, drove on, and then realised who he’d nearly mown down! The next day he wrote a letter of humble apology explaining his mission and his ‘need for speed’, only to receive a very gracious handwritten reply completely exonerating him of his misdemeanour, and which is no doubt a family heirloom by now!
Bridging the gap
Heading further west the road crosses the beautiful Invercauld Bridge. Built in 1859 and paid for by Prince Albert, the Bridge of Dee, connected the military road network with the route north to Ruthven Barracks and Corgarff Castle. All part of General Wade and Major Caulfeild’s plan to subdue the Highlanders by making travel around Scotland easier for government troops. Many of these routes form the basis of our modern road network today.
Of the thirteen bridges which span the Dee, five are suspension bridges. The Crathie Bridge was built in 1834 to take carriages to and from Balmoral Castle. When Queen Victoria purchased Balmoral in 1852 however, she felt a more substantial structure was required, and so Prince Albert commissioned the doyen of Victorian Engineering, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, to design The Balmoral Bridge. This was completed in 1857, just two years before Brunel died. That bridge is still very much in use today, and if you choose to visit Balmoral during your Ginspired Day Trip, you’ll walk right over it, just like Victoria!
Soldiers and squirrels
Continue towards Braemar where Braemar Castle is perfectly located on a bend of the road and the glen itself, affording views in all directions. It was built in 1628 as a Hunting Lodge but used as a garrison for Hanoverian Soldiers after Culloden. The Castle itself won’t reopen this season, but the grounds and squirrel hides are still available, so make it a stop on your trip this year, and part of your plan for next year.
If Stags could fly
Reaching Braemar itself there are a variety of independent businesses to explore, coffee shops and gift shops to enjoy, and now the splendidly refurbished Fife Arms Hotel. Always a grand structure, it had rather passed its sell-by date, but has seen huge investment, great creative flair, and a real desire to bring global travellers to this part of the Highlands. Well worth a visit. Check out ‘The Flying Stag’ Bar. I’ll not spoil the surprises here, but there’s a wide-ranging menu and live music on Friday evenings if you can stay around. If your pockets are deep enough, an overnight stay here will match any well known, luxury establishment, but it does come at a price. They excel on a huge whisky collection, and thankfully the list of Scottish Gin is catching up fast!
Where to eat, drink, shop and even stay a while….
Foos yer doos?
Royal Deeside sits in the north east of Scotland, partly within the Cairngorm National Park, and completely within the region of the Doric language. Doric is thought to come from the Greek for local or rustic, and like most dialects, its origins go way back into the farming and fishing heritage of Scotland’s north east corner. It’s still widely spoken, so a few words might be useful whilst you’re visiting! Here’s some to play with:
The ‘F’ word
Where – as in where are you going
What – as in what are you going there for?
When – as in when are you going
How – as in how are you getting there
Who – as in who are you going with
Why – as in why are you going there
And lesson twa’ (two)
Far ye gaan?
Where are you going?
Fan ye aff?
When are you going?
Who is that?
Fit wye nae?
Far div ye bide?
Where do you stay?
How are you?
Fan div ye yoke?
When do you start work?
Foo’s yer doos? (How are your doves/pigeons?)
How are you?
Fit wye’s at noo?
Why is that now?
And, saving the most important to the last:
Fa’s roond is it? Whose turn is it to buy the Scottish Gin?
If you’re enjoying learning the Doric, see if you can follow the words in this old old song ‘Willie MacKintosh’, sung in the dialect. The singer comes from Tarland, even though the Fiddichside and Auchindoun referred to, are both in Speyside which is slightly further north.
So that’s it. You’re now ready and prepared for a fully Ginspired Day Trip to Royal Deeside! Enjoy.
South Western Scotland is often overlooked by holiday makers seeking the splendours of the Highlands or the vibrancy of Glasgow & Edinburgh. Yet those same holidaymakers who blithely cruise the M74, without ‘eyes left’, are missing out. We believe Dumfries & Galloway has so much to offer it’s visitors, we’ve created this Ginspired Day Trip and confidently called it ‘The A-Z of D&G’, because there really is everything here, from A to Z. Come with us as we Day Trip to Dumfries & Galloway:
Getting here is easy: under 2 hours from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle or Preston by road, or 3 hours from Leeds and Bradford. With alternative routes across country if the journey is part of the fun. From side to side, the whole region is just a 90 minute drive with detours to our suggested locations to the north and south of the main A75 route west to Stranraer.
So here goes:
A Art Galleries aplenty, but probably the most significant is the Kirkcudbright Galleries site, which is currently hosting an exhibition of works by Ewan McClure (now until end October). But whichever part of the Dumfries & Galloway region you find yourself in, there are galleries and art centres, more than a dozen in total. Many are free to enter, some you must book in advance, all are worth a look.
B Books – staying in the cultural vein, Wigtown is known as Scotland’s Book Town, with over 30 book-related businesses in the area. The Book Festival has moved online this year (Sept 24th – Oct 4th) but a non-virtual visit to Wigtown still rewards visitors with its beautiful setting and historic architecture.
C Castles, Coos, Crafts – Caerlaverock Castle unique triangular design is so impressive. It’s open all year round, but tickets must be booked in advance, online just now. Situated in Glencaple, it has a rich history, but it’s huge curtain wall was demolished in the 17th Century to prevent it ever being used again as a fortification. Much older is Loch Doon Castle, near Dalmellington. It was built by Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland on an island in Loch Doon. It’s free to visit and open all year, but was relocated, stone by stone, to its current location on the shores of the Loch in 1935, as a new hydro electric scheme meant the water levels would rise and cover it! It’s ruin now, but still worth a look.
D Dark Skies & Deer – The Dark Skies Observatory near Dalmellington re-opens on September 3rd for star gazers to enjoy. Evening visits begin initially at 9pm, changing to 8pm later in the season. The region’s scarcity of artificial lights means that over 7000 stars and planets are visible with the naked eye, and by using the high-powered telescopes in the observatory, the whole sky comes alive. Even if you don’t know Uranus from your elbow, this is still a memorable treat for the eyes. The Galloway Forest is home to the full range of Scottish Wildlife, but is much less visited than many areas of the country. It’s entirely possible to spot ospreys, otters, red squirrels, red deer, pine martens, and eagles across the region, especially if you know where to look! A great place to start is the hide at the Red Deer Range, near Castle Douglas. Use of the hide is free, but you stand a good chance of seeing some of the local 60 or so deer which live here.
E Enchantment – JM Barrie, author of Peter Pan, lived in Dumfries and took much of his inspiration for his most famous work from his home and garden at Moat Brae. Now a visitor centre celebrating his life and work, Moat Brae reopens on September 3rd, for story telling tours and a brand-new exhibition.
F Fishing and Fish – If it’s coarse fishing you’re looking for, you’re spoiled for choice with rivers and lochs offering opportunities to fish a range of species. For a unique pescatarian experience though, make a trip to The Logan Fish Pond, close to Port Logan on the west coast. Open until the end of October, and with a family ticket costing just £10, the ‘pond’ has been used for over 200 years! It was originally set up to take advantage of a natural cavity in the rock formation where the tide would refresh the seawater twice a day, but always leave a significant pool of water, enough to sustain large sea fish. The laird of nearby Logan House would buy live fish from the locals and place them into the pond to live happily, until their turn came to feature on his menu. These days it’s possible to walk down to the edge of the pond and see the fish (now free to live out their natural term) at close quarters. It really is fascinating. Don’t miss a trip to Port Logan itself while you’re there. Lovely beach and so quiet.
G Golf – With over 20 golf courses across the region, from challenging upland, parkland and links courses, you’ll find it easy to find one to suit your taste, ability and location.
But ‘G’? I mean really, it’s all about the GIN!
Click the links to learn more.
Now here are three wonderful reasons for you to visit Dumfries and Galloway. They’re called Orogin, Solway Gin and Hills and Harbour Gin. If you do nothing else while you’re in the area make sure you sample at least one of these (and take several bottles home with you too!)
Orogin originates at The Dalton Distillery near Lockerbie. Although currently not running tours due to Covid, they do hope to re-open soon, so it’s worth checking online before your trip, or call them on 01387 840381. The Distillery Shop is open every day except Sunday, but the Oro Bar & Garden is open on Fridays and Saturdays only from 1pm – 11pm. Their website is www.orogin.co.uk
Solway Spirits in Annan is run by Andrew & Kate. Although there’s no visitor centre at present, tours and tastings are possible for pre-arranged visits. The best way is to call to arrange something according to your timetable, group size, date etc, and they’ll do their best to accommodate you. It’s totally flexible, for up to 12 guests, and if you’re buying, they won’t even charge you for the tour! Call them on 01461 758388 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hills and Harbour Gin is made at the Crafty Distillery near to Newton Stewart. Tours of the distillery take place at 11.30am on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. There’s an overspill tour at 2pm if it’s especially busy. Book in advance, by phone or online, and make sure you have a designated driver, as the tour includes three gorgeous ginny drinks too! There is also a shop to explore with some other local food and drinks to enjoy. For the real gin enthusiasts among you, call to arrange a ‘Gin Escape’. This full day experience for up to four people (one bubble), includes joining the Crafty’s Gin Makers in foraging for ingredients (botanicals), lots of tasting, gin making techniques and so much more. You’ll need your own transport just now, and if you bring a driver too, he/she would not count towards the four people limit. The distillery is in a beautiful location, run by friendly and hugely knowledgeable people, with a real passion for what they do. You won’t be disappointed. Visit their website at https://craftydistillery.com/
H Horse Riding. When was the last time you cantered down a country lane or galloped off into the sunset? Too long, time you did it again, and Dumfries and Galloway is a perfect location to revisit that feeling only a saddle can give to your bottom. Lochhill Equestrian Centre near Castle Douglas offers treks from one hour to a whole day to explore this part of Galloway. With horses and ponies of all shapes and sizes, they can accommodate people of all shapes and sizes too, so the whole family can join in. Alternatively, Lochhill also offers Carriage Rides through the historic town of Kirkcudbright, so if you fancy something a little more sedate, that could be for you.
I Ice cream – oh yes! What’s a day out without a melty 99 running down your chin or over your hand? It’s what day trips were made for (well that and Scottish Gin of course!) My personal favourite and a brand you’ll see everywhere is ‘Cream o’ Galloway’. Situated near Gatehouse of Fleet, this organic dairy farm produces excellent ice cream and also has a visitor centre, adventure playgrounds, e-karts, café etc etc. It’s a full day out in itself, and of course there’s always lashings of ice cream to go around. Don’t miss it!
J Jewellery – in tune with the creative vibes in the air around here, Dumfries & Galloway have a world class collection of bespoke jewellery designers. So, you have an heirloom in need of modernisation, a romantic proposal to engage with, or just want to spoil yourself or someone special, try Elizabeth Gault and Kathryn King in Kirkcudbright, or Alison MacLeod in Thornhill. True gems for you to discover.
K Kennedy – well to be fair, Castle Kennedy near Stranraer. I thought it deserved a space of its own as space is truly what it offers. Over 70 acres of beautiful gardens to wander in, with something of interest no matter what time of year you visit. Open Wednesday to Sunday until the end of October, and if you happen to be NHS staff, please show your pass for a discount. Book ahead just now, and you’re assured of a wonderful visit. I really could continue with Kippford (picturesque seaside village with coastal walks, family and dog friendly pubs, and scenic views), Kircudbright (with its busy fishing harbour and its community of artists and craftspeople, it was first established in 1455). And Kites. See wild red kites being fed at Bellymack Hill Farm. Lots of Ks!
L Lochs – for fishing of course, but also to cycle round, swim in, sail on and simply look at and enjoy. Loch Ken, with the Galloway Activity Centre on its eastern shore, Mossroddich Loch for coarse fishing, Loch Doon with its Castle, close to the Dark Skies Observatory, Clatteringshaws Loch with the Forest Visitor Centre nearby, Loch Ryan and it’s wonderful oysters. I could go on, but make sure you enjoy at least one during your visit.
M Mountain Biking – If there’s any region of Scotland with better provision for mountain bikers, I’m yet to find it. There are over a dozen dedicated routes and courses, from Kirroughtrees to Drumlanrig. Glentrool to the Mabie Forest. Some are only for the very brave, but others would suit even the most lily livered among us. There’s also bike hire (e-bikes too) widely available, so you don’t even need to bring your own wheels to enjoy them.
N National Trust for Scotland – It’s been a tough year for the NTS, so if you’re able to visit one of their properties it would help preserve both that place, and many others across the country. Threave Gardens near Castle Douglas are gorgeous, Broughton House and Garden in Kirkcudbright was home to E A Hornel, one of the ‘Glasgow Boys’, who as well as being an accomplished artist, also held one of the largest collections of Robert Burns works.
O Open Spaces – from the massive sands of Luce Bay, the views across to the Lake District, the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland from the Mull of Galloway, you’ll not be short of open spaces, open air and open skies around here. And the best news of all, most places are now also ‘Open’ for business! Covid means things are constantly changing though, so do check ahead, especially if you’re making a long journey.
P Plants – Castle Kennedy Gardens, Threave Gardens, Glenwhan Gardens at Glenluce, Logan Botanic Gardens, and I could go on. This area of Scotland tends to be milder than most so you might be surprised by what you find!
Q Queues? No, none of them around here! That’s the beauty of this area, it’s one of Scotland’s best kept secrets.
R Rockcliffe is a lovely historic seaside village and also part of the NTS estate. The Raiders Road Forest Drive is a great way to get deep inside the Galloway Forest even if you’re not the mountain biking, horse riding, walking booted type. It’s a car-friendly (forest roads but well maintained) route with various recommended stops (including loos) along the way and a realistic chance of spotting deer, squirrels, birds or prey, and even otters in some places. Take a picnic or visit the Visitor Centre & café at Clatteringshaws Loch to complete the experience.
S Seaside – there’s lots of this! To the east, this tidal estuary can be a wee bit muddy, but further west the sweeping sands give way to rocky coves. There really is a beach for every day of the week!
T and scones. There’s something about baking and Scotland. It’s hard to beat, and even the west country’s famed cream teas would struggle to beat the scones our Caledonian cooks can create. Seek them out during your day trip.
U Undiscovered Scotland is a phrase often used, but honestly this area does remain quiet and relatively undiscovered by many visitors to Scotland.
V Visitor Attractions from Castles, Museums and Art Galleries, to Mountain Biking, Horse Riding, Walking, Fishing & Golf. Sailing, Kayaking, Bird Watching, Star Gazing, Shopping, Eating to oh yes – Drinking Great Scottish Gin!
W Whisky – yes there’s some of this too. Try the Annandale Distillery, or Bladnoch, near Newton Stewart. Both make exceptional malt whisky.
X Marks the Spot – The Treasure Hunt in Castle Douglas is a two mile walk which should take around 2 hours, during which there are clues to solve a mystery. Fun for detectives of all ages.
Y Yachting, well sailing to be precise, at the Galloway Sailing School on Loch Ken. The centre also offers climbing, laser tag and a wealth of other activities. Covid restrictions mean it’s changing all the time so contact them direct for an up to date description. They have accommodation and a café too!
Z Well ok, so I’ve failed at the last hurdle, but Z, really? There used to be a wildlife park (or Zoo) in the area, but it seems no longer. But you have to admit that we came up with suggestions for the other 25, so not too shabby!
As you can see, Dumfries and Galloway is not short of things to do, see and experience, with three great gins to explore too. So, plan your own Day Trip to Dumfriesshire, or stay without delay in Galloway!
Here are some more of our favourite spots to stay, eat, drink & buy the local gins. Click through the links & Enjoy!
Ginspired Day Trips Spark Scottish Staycation interest boom
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