The moment you set foot on Scottish Highlands’ soil, you know you’re in for an adventure filled with unbelievable history and scenic magnificence. That’s a given. But there is also a sense of calm and inner peace that comes with a visit to the Scottish Highlands. Perhaps that comes from the ethereal landscapes that captivate you as you drive to your destination. Or the stillness of the lochs on a calm, autumnal morning. Or maybe the quaint villages you seek out to try to get a feel for life in the Highlands. Here are two such places we’ve chosen to write about this month, each with a character and history of their own that still stand proud for the 21st century tourist. During a stay in Aldourie Castle we urge you to dig even deeper into the history and beauty of the Scottish Highlands.
Invergarry is peaceful and historic
Just over an hour away from the stunning setting of Aldourie Castle lies a sleepy-looking village called Invergarry. It is home to the MacDonnells of Glengarry, an important clan in Scottish Highland history. Invergarry is located at the foot of Glengarry on the way from Inverness to Fort William. It is between Loch Oich and Loch Garry, both themselves natural beauty spots to wander around. To the south you’ll find the ruins of its Castle, the third of its kind after the last having being burned down in 1746. To the north stands the roadside Well of Seven Heads, a gruesome reminder of the slaying of seven MacDonnell brothers, who had murdered their dead brother’s two sons.
Walk in the footsteps of old
In spite of its gruesome clan history, Invergarry is an ideal day out for those appreciative of simple village life; cosy cottages with well-tended gardens, a parish church, a nice village pub and a coffee shop. There are superb walks for every ability around Invergarry. You can opt for an easy stroll along the Great Glen way, a long distance path in Scotland. Or why not explore the local forest scenery or tackle the local mountain, Ben Tee! Invergarry is on the Great Glen Cycling and Walking Route which runs for 73 miles from Inverness to Fort William. Many hikers choose to stay in Invergarry while completing the trail or following one of the other footpaths in the area.
For those keen on architectural heritage, the Bridge of Oich, located across the River Oich near Aberchalder, is a high concrete bridge built in the 1930s. More local history is housed in the The Invergarry Heritage Centre.
Pitlochry; nature at its best with great views
Take in the beautiful surroundings of Highlands’ Perthshire in the picturesque town of Pitlochry. Housing one of the oldest working distilleries in Scotland, Blair Athol Distillery, at the foothills of the Grampian Mountains, this pleasant town makes a good start to your whisky tasting journey. From hills, woods, mountains and lochs there’s a varied offering of natural landscapes in Pitlochry. And you can’t get away from the Highlands’ gory history even in this delightfully pretty town.
Queen’s View and Fishing in Loch Tummel
Named after Queen Victoria herself who visited in 1866, Queen’s View sits just outside of Pitlochry and overlooks the glorious Loch Tummel. As its name suggests it boasts an unforgettable view. No matter what your level you can enjoy walks in this area, including through adventure-ridden forests, to suit the whole family.
West of Pitlochry, Loch Tummel is surrounded by even more spectacular scenery and if fishing is your game this is a popular location for brown trout, perch and pike. (Make sure you’re aware of laws and rules regarding fishing in certain areas before you head out.) The Loch reaches six miles through Perthshire and is a beautiful part of the regions’ ‘Big Tree Country’, also ideal for walks, cycle routes and places to relax.
Ben Vrackie and the Schiehallion mountain
The former is a much-loved hill creating a scenic backdrop to Pitlochry with a summit that peaks at an incredible 2,757 feet. Venture to the top of Ben Vrakie to experience the breath-taking views of the Beinn a Ghlo range to the north and the Strathtay and Strathtummel areas to the west.
Schiehallion, one of Perthshire’s best-known landmarks, stands even taller at a magnificent 3,547 feet high. Take a short stroll from the Braes of Foss car park or, if you’re experienced hillwalkers, climb to the summit to enjoy invigorating wild views over Rannoch Moor. Keep your eyes peeled for the splendid sight of soaring birds of prey. You may also spot grouse, red deer and ptarmigan across the spectacular landscape.
Killiecrankie Gorge combines wildlife with a gruesome past
Once the site of one of the goriest battles in Jacobite history, Killiecrankie Gorge features the 18 foot-wide Soldier’s Leap. It’s worth waiting for a rainy spell to witness salmon leaping at the falls beneath! As with every landmark in the Scottish Highlands there are numerous views to admire along the way. Continue along the path to reach the southern end of the Pass of Killiecrankie. The visitor centre is worth a visit should you want to learn more about the history of Killiecrankie Gorge and its famous battle.
Situated within the Tay Forest Park, famed for nurturing the finest forests in Scotland, Faskally Wood boasts a wide range of tree species. Just like in Aldourie’s arboretum, which has recently had new trees planted alongside old ones as part of our conservation program, some trees are more than 200 years old. If you are staying as a family house party at Aldourie Castle during October you will not want to miss the popular Enchanted Forest event which takes place here each year. For a nod to nostalgia be sure to explore the tranquil Loch Dunmore which features its own boat house and picturesque timber footbridge. Or head along one of the many woodland trails to admire the stunning autumnal blends of reds and purples.
Both Invergarry and Pitlochry are each only a scenic drive away from Aldourie Estate. They each possess a history and beauty that have come to define the Scottish Highlands. This makes them more than scenic local towns to visit during a private stay at Aldourie Castle, but more places to experience the real Highlands.