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Castles, castles and more castles with a little whisky and music thrown in

Hi
I have been planning our Scottish rambling for mid-May for 2 1/2 weeks. We will have a car and like to sort of let our days develop as we go. I like to have some possible sites that we may want to stop at if we feel like it. We are staying in Acomb, England (Hadrian's Wall is a big bucket list item for me), Ballachulish, Portree, Portmahomack (family friend lives there), Edinburg and one night in Glasgow. I would like your thoughts and see if any peak our interests:
1. What is your favorite Scottish and why?

  1. What distillery tour is your favorite and why? I am leaning towards the one in Skye but would like your thoughts. My husband doesn't drink so he is our designated driver. That worked out nicely, right?!

  2. I LOVE traditional music. Any suggestions for places where we will be staying?

Thanks for your help and look forward to all of your insights.

Posted by
1376 posts

Hi, Nancy,

I think part of your question is missing: "What is your favorite Scottish and why?" There should be a noun after "Scottish." Town, area, island, meat pie, etc.

If you're going to be on Skye, then Talisker would be your best bet, since you're going to be there anyway. As far as distilleries go, the distillation process is pretty much the same. It's the water, special ingredients, and casking that make the difference. So unless someone in your party is a true connoisseur of whisky, one distillery will suffice.

As far as traditional music goes, what is your definition of same? Some people define "traditional" Scots music as ceilidh band music with accordion and fiddle (Jimmy Shand, for example); as well as singers like Andy Stewart, Peter Morison, Calum Kennedy, Kenneth McKellar, or Moira Anderson. Others define "traditional" as folk bands like the Battlefield Band, Tannahill Weavers, Ossian, Malinky, Manran, Skippinish, Tide Lines, the Mackenzie Sisters, etc.; or solo performers like Norrie MacIver, Davy Steele, Karine Polwart, Emily Smith, Dick Gaughan, Arthur Cormack, Steve Byrne, Sheena Wellington, etc.

There is plenty of live music to fit either definition. The former can mainly be found at "Traditional Highland" nights, laid on at fancy hotels; the latter can be found at folk clubs and festivals throughout Scotland. There are also various folk music sessions throughout the country, where amateur (and professional) musicians get together for a few hours to swap songs and tunes. The Edinbane Inn on Skye is one such venue for these sessions, as is Hootenanny in Inverness.

There are two small folk festivals going on in mid May. One in Moniave, in the Borders, on May 10th.; and one in Strichen, near Banchory, on May 17th. Folk clubs usually met on a specific day once a week, once a month, or every other week. You can usually find updated folk club information through the website of The Living Tradition, Scotland's traditional folk music magazine, or by listening to Celtic Music Radio www.celticmusicradio.net

Slainte!

Mike (Auchterless)

p.s.: In addition to Hadrian's Wall, you may want to check out the Scottish version. The Antonine Wall, started in 142 A.D. during the rule of Antoninius Pius, stretched across Scotland from the Forth to the Clyde. Several portions of it remain, especially in the Falkirk - Croy area.

Posted by
274 posts

The Strichen Festival referred to is this

http://buchanheritagesociety.co.uk/

although I think there is some confusion about its location. Strichen is indeed in Aberdeenshire, but not near to Banchory. It is much nearer to Fraserburgh. It is Strachan (pronounced Strawn) which is near to Banchory.

If you are in Aberdeenshire (lots of castles to be found there) during your travels then you might like to visit the Aberdeen Arms Hotel in Tarland where they have a traditional Scottish Music Night every Tuesday

https://www.aberdeenarmstarland.co.uk/

Posted by
1376 posts

Hi, sownack,

I should have remembered that. I thought about it later - there are only about 10 houses in Strachan, and nowhere large enough for a festival venue!. Anyway, it's a good place to blink and miss if you're on your way to Cairn o'Mount.

In addition to the Aberdeen Arms in Tarland, they also have monthly sessions and occasional concerts at the Tin Hut Sessions in Gartly. And the Aberdeen FC has concerts pretty much weekly at the Blue Lamp. Stonehaven seems to be still going strong, and with all the bothy ballad competitions going on, there seems to be no shortage of good traditional music up your way.

Are there any regular folk clubs/folk nights in the Ballater/Braemar/Cambus o'May area?

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
681 posts

Thanks Mike for your correction. Somehow, even after proofreading I left out the word castle. I was just glad to spell whisky the non-American way. I love any kind of traditional music. I think we found some type of live music nightly when we were in Ireland and am hoping for the same experience. You provided lots to think about. We were planning on the distillery on Skye and will probably do that one. One distillery is probably enough for us. What is your favorite castle? or top three I should say.
Thanks
Nancy

Posted by
1376 posts

Hi, Nancy,

My favorite castles are all in Aberdeenshire, so I don't know if your itinerary will route you that way. Dunnottar, for its location, even though it's a ruin; Fyvie, for its beauty and magnificence; and either Craigievar or Crathes, which are similar in appearance, although the gardens at Crathes are quite nice.

Farther afield, Duart Castle on Mull is really nice, as is Castle Campbell, near Dollar. The drive up to the car park at Castle Campbell can be a nightmare if you have anything larger than a mid-sized car - better to hike up Dollar Glen. Stirling Castle is good, as well - it's in a great location overlooking the Valley of the Forth. As you're going to be on Skye, anyway, you could quite easily visit Dunvegan and Talisker on the same day. They are close in proximity. As you're going to be in Portmahomack, Dunrobin Castle is quite nearby. If you're an "Outlander" fan, Blackness Castle and Midhope Castle ("Lallybroch") are very close to one another, although Midhope is not open for visitation, and it costs 10 pounds just to see it from the outside. (Unless you get there after 5:00 p.m., when the man in the ticket booth goes home. After five, you can have a look at the grounds and take photographs.)

Don't visit too many castles! You'll suffer castle burnout, and there are many, many beautiful things to see in Scotland other than castles.

Slainte!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
274 posts

Are there any regular folk clubs/folk nights in the Ballater/Braemar/Cambus o'May area?

Live music events feature at the Deeside Inn and Coilacriech Inn in Ballater and The Fife Arms Hotel, The Braemar Gallery and St Margaret's in Braemar. There are various community and village Facebook pages which keep anyone interested up to date with what is happening in the area.

Posted by
6702 posts

Castles we visited on our trip to that area include, Edinburgh, Dunotter, Dumbarton, Urquart, Eileen Donan, Dunvegan, Bamburgh, Alnwick (A couple Harry Potter movies were filmed there) , Caerlaverlock, and Craigmiller. We also visited a couple Abbey ruins; Jedburgh, Melrose, and Sweatheart. We did visit Glamis castle, but it’s more like a French chateau rather than a typical castle.

Posted by
681 posts

Thanks to all for the great advice. I copied it and plan on exploring your suggestions to see if the will fit in. I am so looking forward to this adventure.

Nancy

Posted by
286 posts

Near Inverness there is Ft. George. Not a castle, but a classic 18th century fortress.

Posted by
681 posts

Hi Mike,
Ft. William is on the list so thanks for confirming.

Nancy