The historic city of Stirling, once Scotland's ancient capital, in the words of the eminent broadcaster David Dimbleby, has a castle "that rivals Edinburgh's". And so it does. Steeped in history this attractive rural city features in the story's of many of Scotland's and the United Kingdom's most famous historical figures including William Wallace and King James VI and I. James Stewart, known as King James sixth of Scotland and first of England and Ireland was the first king to rule all three nations at once. He spent most of his young life at Stirling Castle which it is thought was originally erected either during or sometime before the 12th century. Stirling is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts with open countryside all around that can be accessed within minutes from virtually anywhere within the city. Our accommodation is located in Kings Park, an affluent Victorian district situated below and adjacent to the old town. You are ideally placed to explore both the town, it's parks and the fabulous woodlands and country lanes nearby. All can be easily reached on foot or by bicycle.
The quiet Stirlingshire village of Doune straddles the River Teith a short distance downstream of Callander and a similar distance upstream from Stirling. It has a long history stretching back nearly 4000 years to the Bronze Age. Various locations in the vicinity have yielded archeological evidence in the form of gravesites, hut circles and standing stones. Evidence of it’s more recent past take the shape of Doune Castle and Teith Bridge dating from 1419 and 1535 respectively. The remains of a Roman Fort have also been discovered here as have that of some of the UK’s earliest Christian constructions that date from around 600 AD.
Doune Castle recently shot to fame as Castle Leoch in Outlander, a televised adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s novel by the same name. The story is essentially a historic drama with a twist. The heroine ‘Claire’ is propelled back in time to 1742 after touching a standing stone in 1945 shortly after the end of World War II. She becomes embroiled in the second Jacobite uprising after she is captured by members of Clan MacKenzie.
Another of Doune’s claims to fame – so it is said – is that the first shot fired in the American War of Independence was done so from a Doune pistol. Thomas Caddell first made a Doune pistol in the village in 1646, although the oldest surviving pistol dates from 1678 and can be found in Neufchatel Museum, Switzerland.
Doune’s near neighbour Deanston, located just over the River Teith is home to Deanston Distillery which is housed in an old cotton mill dating from 1785. The Distillery that today produces single malt whisky is open daily and offers tours to visitors. Be sure not to sample too many drams before hopping back on your bike.
Back on the Doune side of the river wildlife watchers might be interested in a visit to either or both Doune Ponds Nature Reserve or Argaty Red Kites. Doune Ponds is free and visitors are likely to see various birds including heron, duck, swan and several other bird species. It’s a pleasant place for a woodland walk and you may even catch a glimpse of a red squirrel. Argaty Red Kites are open all year but visitors must pre-book. We can arrange this for you or provide you with the information to do so.
Like Aberfoyle just over the hill, Callander straddles the divide between the Highlands and Lowlands. It sits just beyond the eastern tip of the beautiful Loch Venachar at the foot of the forested Menteith Hills. It’s the largest village in the Trossachs and supports numerous hotels, B&B’s, restaurants and bars and is busy most of the year round. The centre of Callander is distinctly Victorian with many of that eras more substantial villas now operating as small hotels or guesthouses. However, many remain as family homes in this relatively affluent town. The River Teith runs right through the villages’ heart providing a particularly pleasant outlook for well placed residences on its banks and sport in the form of fishing and canoeing. Another great site from the village is that of Ben Ledi, a magnificent looking hill and one reasonably easy as well as pleasing to climb.
A fairly small village, Strathyre resides in a particularly picturesque part of the Scottish Highlands. Nestling amongst the trees of the forest that shares its’ name and straddling the River Balvag a stroll from one side of the village to the other is a walk through nature itself. Woodland walks and a footbridge link the villages’ two halves at the southern end while an attractive old stone humpback bridge provides the umbilicus upstream. For visitors there’s an inn and a café for meals and providing accommodation along with the inn there’s also a couple of B&B’s.
A large parish or a very small village, whatever Balquidder’s designation it’s a delightful wee place. Rolling into the village along the Sustrans cycle route from the south we pass several attractive stone-built homes, mostly working farmhouses and cross a couple of old humpback bridges. The village is simply pretty with a handful of quaint cottages dotted throughout. It has one small tea room despite receiving lots of visitors who mostly come to see the infamous Scottish outlaw Rob Roy MacGregor’s grave or are heading further into the glen to visit the site of his onetime house at Inverlochlarig. Roundabout there are a couple of B&B’s and a few miles away to the west there’s an hotel, Monachyle Mhor and to the east the Mhor 84 motel.
Situated at the western end of Loch Earn the views from Lochearnhead can be spectacular. They’re even better if you climb above the village on the Sustrans cycle track. From up here, on a clear day you can easily see St Fillans at the eastern end of the loch. In the village there are several attractive old stone buildings including a pretty wee cottage with thatched roof. For visitors there are a couple of two-star hotels or four-star B&B’s but limited choice for eating out other than the hotels. The village shop doubles as a post office and sells takeaway tea and coffee.
Killin is a pleasant Highland village corralled by two attractive rivers that flow into Loch Tay. The Falls of Dochart formed on the river bearing the same name are a wonderful site and draw many visitors to the area in themselves. The River Lochay is a more serene beast that gently meanders around the village, conveniently providing mooring for boats adjacent to properties along its bank. There are several shops in the village including an outdoors shop that hires out mountain bikes and Canadian Canoes. For sleeping, eating and drinking there are also several options in the form of hotels, inns, B&B’s, guesthouses, restaurants and bars.
Ardeonaig is a pretty little hamlet on the southern shores of Loch Tay. Not much more than a collection of farm buildings, cottages and country houses it manages to boast a hotel that is renowned for its quality. The Ardeonaig Hotel is a four star establishment that serves as a watering hole to walkers, cyclists and day trippers as well as providing comfortable bedrooms for overnighting guests.
Kenmore is blessed with some tremendous views over Loch Tay towards the Ben Lawers group of mountains on the loch’s northern shore. The village itself is pleasing on the eye too with a picture postcard bridge crossing the River Tay. And then there’s the pretty main square with rows of cottages running down two sides and shouldering the Kenmore Hotel on one of the sides. At one end on a promontory sits the village kirk overlooking both loch and square. Opposite is the grand arched entrance to Taymouth Castle Estate. The castle is currently being renovated and its new owners plan to open an upmarket hotel. Guests might even be able to arrive by plane using the loch as a landing strip.
The Highland town of Aberfeldy is a bustling centre of activity. Along the main drag traditional Victorian buildings house shops, banks, hotels, and tea rooms. Step away from here and you’ll find yourself in residential streets full of Victorian terraces and villas many with gardens full of brightly coloured flowers, mature trees and sumptuous hedgerows. At the northern end of town the five arches of General Wade’s Bridge span the River Tay below four sculpted obelisks protruding skywards near the centre of the bridge. It is a simple yet stunning piece of architecture.
Grandtully is a beautiful wee village on the south bank of the River Tay. And despite its size boasts a primary school, chocolatier, hostel, inn, coffee house and a water sports centre. From the inn it’s possible to watch white water rafters and kayakers careering down the rapids below. Less than a minute’s stroll across a bridge adjacent to the inn and water sports centre car park is Grandtully’s nearest neighbour Strathtay, also very attractive. What Strathtay lacks in chocolatiers and inns it gains in a village shop and golf course. And like Grandtully has some fabulous Victorian houses.
Grand hotels, castles and country homes reside alongside impressive examples of Victorian engineering in a truly stunning mountain setting amidst forests of pine and oak and beech and alder and more. With glistening Loch Faskally and the tumbling Tummel River right at the heart of this spellbinding picture, the allure of Pitlochry is patently obvious to see. It’s no wonder that this town is one of Scotland’s most popular visitor destinations outside of Edinburgh. Besides the usual attractions of spas, a distillery, fine restaurants and quality accommodation Pitlochry also boasts a theatre which is responsible in itself for many of the towns’ visitors. The theatre keeps the punters rolling in all year round with many acclaimed productions to see performed by theatre companies from near and far.