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Lochs and Castles in Scotland

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What is it? A family trip to Scotland.

Where? We spent four nights at Adamo, a four-star hotel located in Bridge of Allan.

Description: [loch.jpg]Long famous for its dramatic scenery, tartan-clad men and “wee little accent,” Scotland is often billed as a must-see in the U.K. Delia Lloyd took her family to see what all the fuss was about…

To get a taste of the Scottish Highlands and Lowlands.

Lunch at the Allan Water Cafe in Bridge of Allan is a must. Try their award-winning fish and chips and homemade ice cream and stroll along the river afterwards. Drive up to Balquhidder and conjure up the image of Scottish national folk hero, Rob Roy MacGregor. If you can manage the hour or so drive, visit Inveraray Castle and see the old prison. Scone (just outside Perth) is also a great outing for castle lovers – and there’s a lovely park complete with roving Highland cows. If you just want to chill out with the kids, the Blairdrummond Safari Park just outside Stirling has elephants, rhinos and sea lion shows. Dobbies Garden Centre is also a good morning or afternoon out with its aquarium, play park and maize maze.

Eva – Adamo’s very own nightclub – is open on Fridays and Saturdays and boasts a separate bar, dance floor and multiple flat-screen TV’s. There’s also a terrace behind the hotel for having cocktails in nice weather (even in May, it stayed light until well past 10 p.m.!). The Albert Halls in Stirling showcase concerts and conferences, and the Tolbooth is a smaller, more intimate venue featuring bands, concerts and comedy. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra also performs periodically at Stirling Castle. 

Although we didn’t take advantage of this opportunity, Adamo was happy to book a sitter for us and other hotels can make similar arrangements.

Lumia – a day spa in Bridge of Allan – is just a ten-minute walk away.

Local activities: See above.

Wish we had known: How warm it can get in May. Everyone advised us to “bring our woolies.” But the weather is quite variable in Scotland and when the sun comes out it can get quite warm. We needed to purchase sunblock for our hike up Dumyat! 

Our top tip: Don’t try to drive into central Edinburgh (it’s a lot like trying to navigate some of the older neighborhoods in London). Take the train or park at one of the train stations on the outskirts of the city and do a “kiss and ride” (10 minutes) into the heart of Edinburgh.

Kids say: Isaac, 8: “Why can’t we watch Monty Python?” Allie, 5: “What’s haggis?”

Getting There: Several European airlines fly from London to Edinburgh and Glasgow, as does Easy Jet for as low as L20 pounds one way. To save the hassle of a long drive, take a train from Kings Cross station in London which will have you in Stirling in about six hours. An entire family can travel for under L100 return. Hotels in Stirling come at all levels and prices. The townhouse at Adamo runs at L160 per night, but check the website for special offers.

About our stay: Ever since I moved to the UK nearly three years ago, I’ve been told by just about everyone that I had to get to Scotland. Between the breathtaking vistas, the historic architecture and – oh yes, those crazy men in skirts – Scotland has been on my “to do” list for quite sometime. When we finally got there over the May half-term holidays, it didn’t disappoint. Torn between an outdoorsy adventure in the highlands and a cultural tour of the lowlands, we opted  – Golidlocks style – for somewhere in the middle. We stayed at the recently renovated Adamo Hotel in Bridge of Allan, a small, charming town on the edge of Stirling in central Scotland. The Adamo provides stylish accommodations in a low-key manner. This simple elegance is reflected in its tasteful, wood-paneled rooms and their spacious, state-of-the art en suite bathrooms. This is a great option if you have an infant or one small child. Alternatively, you can opt to stay (as we did) in one of the three-story townhomes behind the hotel. These have two separate bedrooms and modern, eat-in kitchens and can easily accommodate larger families (though because of certain design features, these are probably best suited to children five and up.) The hotel has an excellent restaurant with a reasonably priced prix fixe menu during the week, an upscale bar that also serves food and a state-of-the art nightclub on weekends. The staff was extremely knowledgeable and courteous, and the Adamo served as the perfect point of departure for exploring the region’s many splendors. We began with a day-long tour of the nearby Trossachs region, known for its craggy hills and sparkling lochs. Be sure to set aside a few hours for Doune Castle (of Monty Python fame), which is chock full of nooks and crannies that will appeal to visitors of all ages. Both of my kids (aged 5 and 8) loved the audio tour, which really brings the castle alive in its day. From there, we drove to Loch Katrine – one of the larger and more dazzling lakes in the region – where we rented bicycles and rode around for a couple of hours taking in the scenery. Younger children might enjoy a ride on the SS Sir Walter Scott, a 110 year-old steam ship that tours the lake daily. [bull.jpg] En route to Loch Katrine, pop into the Kilmahog Woollen Mill just outside Callander, a 250-year-old textile mill – complete with original water wheel – that’s still in operation. (Be sure to say hello to Hamish, the [hairy] Highland bull while you’re there and feed him some veg!). After you leave Loch Katrine, continue along the scenic loop through the Trossachs National Park to Aberfoyle. Get out at the Visitor’s Centre and have them direct you to the short “faerie walk” up to the top of Doon Hill, where visitors leave messages and mementos for the faeries who still (legend has it) lurk there. We spent the next day in Stirling. Stirling Castle is one of the most famous in Scotland and provides a nice contrast to the more rugged, medieval setting of Doune Castle. Skip the guided tour and focus on the audio tour, which talks you through the many resplendent rooms of this Renaissance castle. The other must-see in Stirling is the Wallace Monument, a prominent Victorian Tower which offers stunning views. Inside, you can climb to the top of the tower and learn more about Sir William Wallace, who continues to serve as a symbol of Scottish freedom and independence. On a nice day, you can also explore the beautifully Abbey Craig woodland on which the monument stands. Just outside Stirling, it’s well worth a climb to the top of Dumyat – the highest hill in the Ochils. You can drive pretty far up the mountain and then walk the last 45 minutes or so. It’s not a steep climb and offers a splendid view of the Firth Valley – bring a packed lunch and have a picnic at the top! A bit further afield is the Falkirk wheel – a gigantic modern boat lift that connects two canals. You can buy tickets to actually “ride” the lock (warning: it’s 35 meters high!) or you can just watch this amazing feat of modern engineering from below. Afterwards, duck into the hands-on exhibits at the visitor’s centre or let the kids run around the playground and its tunnels, slides and trampolines.[castle.jpg] It’s also quite easy to pop down to Edinburgh for the day. Go directly to the Royal Mile and walk up the top half towards Edinburgh Castle. (There are special discounts available if you’re planning to visit both Stirling and Edinburgh castles.) On your way up, take an hour to visit Camera Obscura, which combines an amazing 20-minute panoramic tour of the city through a giant periscope with a museum of optical illusions. Edinburgh Castle is also spectacular. If you fancy a walk, stroll over to New Town to take in the Georgian architecture. Delia Lloyd is a writer/journalist based in London. She has written for the International Herald Tribune, the Guardian Weekly and the Financial Times. She blogs at www.realdelia.com.

Created: 2009-06-10 12:17:15.330

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