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Highland Games, Castles and a scotch distillery within reach of Edinburgh and St Andrews mid-August

Planning our return to Scotland. This journey will take place over the course of the first 2 weeks of August, either in 2022 or 2023. We will bring our daughter’s family, her golf and scotch loving husband, and our grandson, 13 and our granddaughter, 11. We will be sure to soak in the street performers during the Festival in Edinburgh and attend the Tatoo. Can’t wait to explore as many castles we can reach and experience the rugged eastern coastline. We realize both the variety of Highland Games and the castles vary in character, so your observations and feel for the unique experiences they offer will be highly valuable. To top it off, our son-in-law will be on a quest to tour a scotch distillery that offers a refined personalized touch. Train, bus, ferry, taxi/hired driver and walking will be our modes of transportation. My husband and I are amazed grateful to have survived driving in Scotland, and while the adventure was rewarding, we don’t wish to press our luck. Looking forward to your recommendations (and warnings). To build anticipation, I will design a virtual “scavenger hunt”. Thank you for sharing your experiences in these realms.

Posted by
484 posts

I would look at the tours available from Rabbie’s Tours. We did a day trip from Glasgow that included Stirling Castle and a whisky distillery tour. I’m sure they offer day trips from Edinburgh also.

Posted by
2743 posts

Have not personally visited any Scotch whisky distillery, but Dalwhinnie is in a spectacular location and I've seen very favorable reviews of the tour they offer. I get the impression the tour is fairly personalized.

https://www.malts.com/en-row/distilleries/dalwhinnie

Keep in mind that Scotland has a low limit for blood alcohol when driving.

https://www.gov.uk/drink-drive-limit

My husband and I are generally not drinkers, but Dalwhinnie was our favorite when we tasted a "wee dram" of a few different labels.

Posted by
228 posts

To get you started...

Holyrood Distillery is a newly opened distillery actually in Edinburgh itself, although it hasn’t got any whisky ready to sell yet. They do tours.

https://www.holyrooddistillery.co.uk/

Perhaps a more traditional distillery is Deanston in Doune which is about 45-50 miles north west of Edinburgh. (Train to Stirling and then bus/ taxi to Deanston).

https://deanstonmalt.com/

They offer tasting experiences.

https://deanstonmalt.digitickets.co.uk/tickets

After visiting the distillery, catch a bus into Doune and visit the Castle. (If you are Monty Python fans, the castle featured in Monty Python and the Holy Grail).

https://www.thecastlesofscotland.co.uk/the-best-castles/grand-castles/doune-castle/

There is Edinburgh CAstle and Holyrood House in Edinburgh and also the ruined Craigmillar Castle which is a couple of miles from the city centre (Bus to the Royal Infirmary) and ignored by most visitors. It has connections to Mary Queen of Scots.
https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/edinburgh/craigmillarcastle/index.html

St Andrews (Train to Leuchars and then bus/taxi) is the home of golf and also a super ruined castle. (Don’t miss the mine and countermine...) and also the ruins of a cathedral. (William and Kate met at St Andrews university )
https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/standrews/standrews/index.html

https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/standrews/standrewscastle/index.html

https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/standrews/cathedral/index.html

Posted by
228 posts

If you are more into stately homes than ruined castles. There is the Georgian House on Charlotte Square which is considered a masterpiece of urban architecture and furnished as it might have been at the turn of the C18th.

https://www.nts.org.uk/visit/places/georgian-house

To the west of Edinburgh are Dalmeny or Hopeton House (Bus to South Queensferry and then taxi or taxi from Edinburgh)

https://roseberyestates.co.uk/dalmeny-house

https://hopetoun.co.uk/

A bit further is Falkland Palace, (Bus to Glenrothes and another bus to Falkland Palace)

https://www.nts.org.uk/visit/places/falkland-palace

As for Highland Games, there is Bridge of Allan (train) on 7th August 2022.

August is the main season for Highland Games, but this is probably the easiest to reach from Edinburgh.

If you are more into stately homes than ruined castles. There is the Georgian House on Charlotte Square which is considered a masterpiece of urban architecture and furnished as it might have been at the turn of the C18th.
https://www.nts.org.uk/visit/places/georgian-house

To the west of Edinburgh are Dalmeny or Hopeton House (Bus to South Queensferry and then taxi or taxi from Edinburgh)

https://roseberyestates.co.uk/dalmeny-house

https://hopetoun.co.uk/

A bit further is Falkland Palace, (Bus to Glenrothes and another bus to Falkland Palace)
https://www.nts.org.uk/visit/places/falkland-palace

As for Highland Games, there is Bridge of Allan (train) on 7th August 2022.

August is the main season for Highland Games, but this is probably the easiest to reach from Edinburgh.

https://bofagames.com/

Posted by
3203 posts

Craigmiller castle is a bus ride away from Edinburgh. I think the ride was about 30 minutes. We took the bus from downtown. At the bus stop there was about a 1/4 mile walk to the castle. That was back in 2008. If you watched the movie The Da Vinci code, Rosslyn chapel is about a 40 minute bus ride from downtown.

Posted by
710 posts

If you don’t mind me suggesting a side excursion to your trip you could try the same whisky tasting I went to a couple of months back which was personalised to our small group. The problem with it is that it was at the brand new Lagg Distillery on Arran. You can get to Arran from Edinburgh by rail or bus. Rail seems best as the bus journey looks like it involves multiple changes and is nearly twice the time the train takes (over four hours by bus as opposed to the two and a half by rail to Ardrossan). The rail journey seems to be able to also include a foot passenger ticket on the ferry (twelve a day) from Ardrossan to Brodick, each crossing taking about one hour, one way. From Brodick you’ll need to get a taxi or the 323 bus (Brodick to Blackwaterfoot, ask the driver to drop you at the distillery) for the sixteen miles trip to Lagg, at the southern end of the island, which by bus takes around an hour and a quarter.

As you can see, without a car there’s a fair amount of time travelling so you are probably best to try and book a night or two to stay on the island. You could stay in Brodick which is not big enough to be far away from the ferry terminal, thus walkable, or further afield if you preferred. The island itself is magnificent with mountains in the north and fabulous views from the more rolling southern end. And, of course, Brodick has a castle and good surrounding gardens.

The whisky tasting we did was, I thought, reasonably priced (I can check the price per head if you are interested) and involved a tasting of five different whiskies. Unfortunately there is a rather lovely and well stocked shop at the entrance/exit and having reached an, erm, heightened state of awareness, I shelled out for a couple of relatively expensive bottles of one of the whiskies we’d just sampled beforehand. And a t-shirt.

There was no tour of the actual stills but in my experience if you’ve seen one still and had the distilling process explained to you, then you’ve pretty much seen them all. The same people who operate the Lagg distillery also run the older one at Lochranza which is at the north of the island and is as far distant as you can possibly get on Arran.

It’s a suggestion anyway - let me know if you need any further information. I hope you have a great trip - Scotland’s fae me!

Ian

Posted by
247 posts

Marvelous! So grateful for your detailed recommendation and guidance. I’m certain you have added a rich experience to many travelers such as me! The hard part will be waiting a year or two for the excursion. You have described, an invitation of sorts, exactly what we are hoping for! Our first taste of Scotland left us yearning to return for so much more, and you have helped us imagine another wonderful possibility. Wishing you good health, Steve&Vicki

Posted by
1398 posts

When you have decided on definite dates, be sure to book accommodation , and Tattoo tickets in Edinburgh as soon as you can.
It gets busy during the Festival.

Posted by
228 posts

If you want a boat trip, there are two companies doing trips from South Queensferry....

https://www.forthtours.com/

https://www.maidoftheforth.co.uk/

Inchcolm Abbey on the tiny island of Inchcolm in the Firth of Forth would make a good trip. You need to buy a separate ticket for the Abbey as it is in the care of Historic Scotland. The Abbey dates from 1140 and is the best-preserved group of monastic buildings in Scotland - do a google image search!

https://www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/places/inchcolm-abbey/prices-and-opening-times/

Posted by
1280 posts

I would suggest get a map, a maths compass, and draw a 100 km / 60 mile radius from where you are basing. Depending on the roads this will be between 45 min and 1h50. From both Edinburgh and St Andrews you have the distilleries of Perthshire, such as the Famous Grouse at Crieff. There are other Perthshire distilleries as this is in the Highland Zone for whisky.

Castles, you have the biggies like Edinburgh and Stirling, but some Historic Scotland sites like Loch Leven at Kinross, or Huntingtower near Perth which had important roles in Scottish history. From St Andrews this also takes in Glamis Castle, birthplace of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and one of the most haunted buildings in Scotland.

That 100 km from Edinburgh also takes into account the Scottish Borders. There are distilleries, historic towns, and castles galore in the Land of the Reivers.

Posted by
1280 posts

If travelling from Edinburgh, do not let the border put you off. Berwick is just over it, remember Berwickshire is in Scotland, also Alnwick Castle and Lindisfarne are within that radius.