There aren’t many itineraries in Scotland that are complete without visiting some cathedrals and castles. Therefore, during our road trip around the country last June, we decided to take full advantage of our Historic Scotland membership and visit some of the countries most iconic historic sites.
As you may remember, we spent day 1 crossing through the country’s biggest national park, the Cairngorms, stopping at Pitlochry and at Aviemore. On day 2 we visited Inverness and headed to see the dolphins at Moray Firth.
Over the next three days we hopped around the country from the north, to the east to the central belt, and visited many historic buildings and their respective towns.
Here are the abbeys, cathedrals & castles we visited:
We passed by Elgin on our way back from seeing the dolphins Chanonry Point. It’s halfway between Inverness and Aberdeen and since it was on the way, we stopped for an hour or two. It’s a lovely town that I recommend you visit if you’re in the region. Especially the area near the cathedral and River Lossie, it shows all the history of the town.
The cathedral itself was established in the 13th century. It was abandoned during the Scottish reformation in the 16th century. It’s now part of Historic Scotland and it’s a lovely place to visit.
The next day we were down on the east coast, driving toward Stonehaven to see the beautiful fortification that is Dunnottar Castle. Dunnottar is one of those iconic Scottish castles that many will visit on their trip here. I got to say it is absolutely worth it! I have visited my fair share of castles in Scotland and it is by far my favourite (or close with Urquhart nonetheless).
Dunnottar is at an incredible location on the east cost, just south of Stonehaven and dates back to the 15th century. It is at the top of a rock formation that is only slightly connected to mainland. The castle itself is reachable by a long series of staircases and surrounded by cliffs. It’s a gorgeous backdrop for such a historic building and we had a lot of fun taking loads of photos!
The only thing I didn’t like about it was that it isn’t associated with either the National Trust of Scotland or Historic Scotland. But I still recommend visiting it!
After Dunnotar we followed the scenic coastal route down to Arbroath. The old harbour town is lovely, but unfortunately very tired. There are many towns like this in Scotland but I this particularly sad as Arbroath stands at the centre of Scotland’s history.
Nonetheless we walked around the town, which felt very deserted after the busy Stonehaven (this place doesn’t seem on the radar of many tourists).
The Abbey was definitely worth the visit though, it was beautiful and there were rabbits everywhere! The Abbey dates back to the 12th century and was one of Scotland’s famous monasteries for many centuries. I especially liked the beautiful red sandstone that makes the building stand out.
On day 4 of our road trip, we started the morning at Falkland Palace. The previous night we were in St Andrews and Falkland Palace was a short drive away and a perfect addition to our itinerary.
Falkland Palace & Garden date back to the 12th century, though the building itself became a palace in the 13th century when it was extended. Part of it is still inhabited, though it is managed by the National Trust of Scotland, and so it means photos were not allowed inside.
The Palace was very fun to visit, especially that the National Trust is very good for having guides inside the different rooms of their properties so they can share all their knowledge on the history of the buildings.
Another Outlander favourite! Some of you may know Blackness as Fort William in the popular tv series. Blackness is, in reality, on the south shore of the Firth of Forth right near Edinburgh. It’s a bit hard to reach by public transport so we were happy to be able to drive so easily to it.
Blackness is a fortress, as you may see below, dating back to the 15th century. With a bit of distance you can tell it has been built in the shape of a boat, which is pretty cool! The castle was very strategic. Not only was it the port of Blackness, which also served the nearby royal burgh of Linlithgow (which we visited earlier this summer), but it was also a prison and later became an artillery fortification.
It’s very cool to visit if you have a spare hour or two around Edinburgh and you have a car! One of my favourite things about it was the beautiful views over both the east and west sides of the Firth of Forth.
What’s your favourite historic building to visit in the world?xx