Some of our guests at Crosswoodhill feel compelled to spend over 8 hours in their car in one day in a quest to glimpse “Nessie” or take home memories of some spectacular Highland scenery. They arrive home here exhausted (which impacts on their next day’s fun). Unless you are going to take at least 2 days out to go as far north as Inverness, our recommendation would be “don’t!”. Save up this treat for another time when you have a lot more time. Spending less time in the car and instead going no further north than visiting Perthshire, or the Trossachs will reward you with some achingly beautiful landscapes – a touch of Highland grandeur within easy reach. The Trossachs and Loch Lomond have long enthralled travellers – romantic, dramatic, heather clad hills and lochs half-hidden in woodlands. Perthshire is equally stunning. If you really do ache for wild and atmospheric landscape, Glencoe is just about on the outer limits of reasonable driving distance, but allow for many hours in the car if you are desperate to savour the spectacular and brooding atmosphere of this remarkable glen where 38 members of the MacDonald clan were massacred in 1692 by government troops..
Here are some suggestions for some days out north of the Forth
Stirling, Loch Lomond & the Trossachs
1865 square kms. of loch, hill, forest and moor comprise the area known as Loch Lomond and the Trossachs where the wild, wooded lochs and hills caught the mood of the Romantic Age. The “Banks of Loch Lomond” is one of Scotland’s best-known traditional songs and now these “bonnie banks” are part of Scotland’s first national park. Loch Lomond has the largest surface area of any Scottish loch. Walking, sailing, cruising, angling and lots more are popular ways of making the most of this loch straddling Highland and Lowland and overlooked by the sentinel peak of Ben Lomond. One of the best ways of enjoying this superb landscape of the neighbouring Trossachs is from the deck of S.S.Sir Walter Scott, the steam powered cruising vessel which has sailed on Loch Katrine for a century. And if approaching the Trossachs from the Stirling direction (recommended) you may want to call in at the Rob Roy and Trossachs Visitor Centre in Callander and start your Trossachs adventure from there. You’ll find plenty of walks and waymarked trails through the woods or onto the peaks.
If time is short and you don’t have enough days in your week, the Trossachs can be happily combined with Stirling, offering a stimulating balance of “See & Do”. We would suggest heading for Stirling first, a one hour drive away from Crosswoodhill. Stirling is often referred to as the Gateway to the North. In warlike days whoever held Stirling held all of Scotland, so important was this natural route centred on the Highland Edge. Don’t omit Stirling Castle from your “must-visit” list: with its more intimate atmosphere the majority of our guests prefer it to Edinburgh Castle. History will come alive for you at the castle, perched on its landmark crag. Its Renaissance Palace and Great Hall recall the grandeur of the court of the Stewart Monarchs of Scotland.
7 battle sites can be seen from the ramparts of Stirling Castle. Also below the ramparts is the atmospheric old town with its Tolbooth and Old Town Jail, with actors giving living history performances (check times in advance)
To the north of the town is the National Wallace Monument, commemorating Sir William Wallace. This is the area sometimes known as “Braveheart Country” following Hollywood’s interpretation of the life of Wallace, Scotland’s first freedom fighter. And just two miles south of Stirling, on your road in from here, is the Bannockburn Heritage Centre, site of King Robert the Bruce’s great victory at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.
If you are combining Stirling and the Trossachs, head north before taking the road to Callandar, the A 84. And make the most of the daylight hours there. Don’t worry if you make the return journey from the southern foot of the Loch Lomond to Crosswoodhill in darkness. You are not missing any stunning scenery. The urban sprawl around Glasgow and the M8 motorway between Glasgow and Junction 4 where you leave the motorway makes this particular journey less than exciting!
However if you are in Stirling and the weather is poor and would put a dampener on scenic or active experiences, there is another option. Go south of the River Forth to Falkirk instead and be enthralled by feats of engineering, a historic house and even a spot of retail therapy.. Falkirk and Stirling combine nicely as a great day out, and if time you might want to make a detour to Bo’ness.
Callendar House, on the outskirts of Falkirk is a 600 year old French style chateau, visited by many famous Scottish historical figures over the past 600 years. Step back in time: costumed guides bring the experiences alive. Nice grounds to wander in.
Now step forward in time and marvel at the Falkirk Wheel, the world’s only rotating boat lift. 35 metres high and a modern marvel of engineering, it allows boats to move between the Forth and Clyde Canal and the Union Canal, hence re-connecting Edinburgh and Glasgow by canal. A visitor centre explains the groundbreaking engineering feat and there are boat trips through the Wheel and interactive exhibitions. Entertaining, educational, interactive and relaxing is how they bill it.
Step back in time again if you decide to make the short journey to Bo’ness and Kinneil Heritage Steam Railway, a must for steam enthusiasts and a nostalgic evocation of a Scottish branch line in the days of steam. You can hop on board one of the many steam locomotives which puff into life (only at certain times of the year: check the times) and travel to Birkhill where you can explore the depths of a historic fireclay mine.
Alternatively, especially if you have children you may want to call in at Blair Drummond Safari Park (check seasonal opening times) for a wild day out with everything from lions to lemurs.
You’ll return home to Crosswoodhill feeling you’ve discovered many treasures, whether it be stunning scenery, breath-taking modern technology or beautiful buildings bearing secrets of Scotland’s past.
Fife, Dundee and Perthshire
From the red-roofed villages of East Fife to the glens of Perthshire, this large area displays many of the contrasts of Scotland – a superb coastline, heather moorland, lochs, mountains and rolling countryside, well-manicured golf-courses. Totally varied terrain, it comes with plenty of diversion and entertainment. There is too much here for just one day.
Fife and Dundee
Fife is defined by the two Firths to the north and south. In ancient Pictish days, this area, the Kingdom of Fife, really was an independent kingdom. Today, it is characterised by gentle rural land, pantile houses and colourful harbours, miles of coastline ideal for short strolls and more adventurous expeditions, and many, many golf courses. St. Andrews, once the ecclesiastical capital of Scotland, is now better known as the Home of Golf. 600 years old, it’s Old course is world renowned. Home, too, to Scotland’s oldest university, St. Andrews blends its academic, religious and sporting credentials with some fine beaches and good shopping. It’s a favourite with our guests, many of whom love the drive back via the south facing coastal road, or walk a stretch of the 130 km signposted Fife Coastal path, running from the Firth of Tay to the Firth of Forth. The East Neuk of Fife (Neuk is a Scots word for corner) is the name for a string of picturesque fishing villages including Anstruther, Crail, St. Monans and Pittenweem where the sun glitters off the walls of the colourful attractive pantile houses. The Scottish Fisheries Museum at Anstruther explores the long struggle with the sea. This coastline invites a bucket and spade day on a sandy beach, so take your swimming gear.
But if a coastal journey is not your first choice, you may want to either make a detour to Dundee or come home inland via the village of red-roofed Falkland. This attractive little village is dominated by Falkland Palace, the old hunting lodge of the Stewart kings and now a Scottish National Trust property. There is a satisfyingly easy climb from there to the two Lomond Hills; ideal for children as minimal effort is rewarded by maximum views.
If you decide on crossing the Tay Bridge from Fife north to Dundee you are in for a voyage of Discovery. Visit RRS Discovery on Dundee’s waterfront to discover the dramatic tales of Captain Scott’s polar explorations. Traditionally Dundee was noted for jute, journalism and jam and you can experience the sights and smells in the fascinating Verdant Works, a former jute mill where the canvas was made for the pioneer wagons that developed America and sails for the ships that sailed the world. If you have children you may want to visit the Dundee Science Centre, Sensations, which provides family fun with more than 60 hands-on exhibits to explore. The city has a lively arts scene reflected in the Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre featuring decorative arts, music, dance, drama and cinema.
As you make your way south towards the Forth Bridge, you may want to call in at Dunfermline to view the 11th century Abbey there, Or maybe make a slight detour to Culross, an exceptionally well-preserved, picturesque seventeenth century town of cobbled streets, white houses, red pantiled roofs and crow-stepped gables that has passed time by. Or if there are juniors in your party you might be persuaded to visit Deep Sea World This “different world” experience either thrills or leaves those peeling off the £££ entrance fees disappointed. But no one can fail to be impressed by the grandeur of the Forth Bridges as you come back over the water on your way home to Crosswoodhill.
Perthshire, sometimes know as the Scottish Heartland, like so many areas in Scotland, offers a huge diversity… almost everything except the sea as it is landlocked. But what it lacks in coast it makes up for in long ribbons of lochs in glacial steep-sided glens with big grey-green mountains crouching above, the line of hills marking the beginning of the Highlands.
Queen’s View, a rocky spur on the B8019, at the head of Loch Tummel captures the spirit of Perthshire – a sweeping vista through the gentle glen up the length of Loch Tummel to Schiehallion and the mountain ridges beyond. And for anyone wanting to bag a Munro, Schiehallion is a good one, but get up early and make it a summer expedition with long daylight hours.
Perthshire is becoming a magnet for those who enjoy pushing themselves in sports more extreme than walking. Adventure sports such as white-water rafting, canyoning, gorge-walking or spectacular 4 x 4 driving become all the more enthralling because of the dramatic landscape backdrops.
By way of contrast the Fair City of Perth, on the banks of the River Tay and winner of a string of Britain in Bloom titles, is intersected by countryside parks and offers good shopping for crafts and antiques. Not far away is Scone Palace, original home of Scotland’s Stone of Destiny and ancient crowning place of 42 Scottish Kings.
Just west of Perth is the resort of Crieff where Scotland’s oldest distillery, Glenturret and its innovatory Famous Grouse Experience are open to visitors. Drink in the surrounding countryside: it’s wonderful whether you are walking, biking or touring.
Hopefully the myriad range of places to visit touched on in these “Area Pages” have inspired you to think very seriously about holidaying in our area. Add into the mix the range of activities that are elaborated on in the next Pages and you’ll realise that this is an area you could return to year after year.
One of the most useful sites about Scotland and all things Scottish is www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk. Created (naturally) by a West Lothian resident and friend, you’ll find a wealth of up-to-date information there.