10 Beautiful Scottish Villages UNCOVERED!

CAPTION: The Classic Highlands ‘Hairy Coo’.

When we think of Scotland – our minds tend to rush straight to classic images of those red -beards of loud men, assorted tartans, somewhat hormonal weather, bag-pipes and even the adorable ‘Hairy Coos’… BUT There’s more- there always is, more than even spectacular buildings!
As recently inspired by Scotland’s win in The Rough Guide’s competition for the Most Beautiful Country in the world – I decided it was time to UNCOVER Scotland’s Most Beautiful Villages in the Highlands. And all of Scotland for that matter and maybe even England – but let’s not tell the English that!

Firstup – #1: Killin.
Killin tops the list as the most beautiful – diverse in landscape, the villages here are surrounded by trees, mountains and has a prime location – situated at the western end of Loch Tay, plus you will be close to Ben Lauers National Nature Reserve & Finlaig Castle. Definite must-sees!
The Village itself – a mix of traditional cottage style homes and quaint pubs. If you’re trying to see a classic Highland’s village this is number one and matches your imagination to a ‘T’.
My TOP-TIP is to get out in nature, heck I say it enough – there’s wild-life to see and outdoor activities to be done- the best place for all the hiking equipment for sale or hire is The Killin Outdoor Centre, the guys there: full of useful information and best places to walk those feet!

CAPTION: Dochart Falls Bridge, Killin.

 

#2: Torridon.
Torridon, well hey #2: Steve Carter captured this spot perfectly through the lens of his camera – all the nature feels, the rapid cascading falls and the seemingly endless greenery.
The Village is sitting at the very feet of Liathach and Upper Loch Torridon- and there, there are the mountains and peaks of Torridon. Acclaimed by even the locals as the most beautiful mountain region in all of Scotland.
This location features gorges, rolling-slopes, cliffs – all just waiting to be explored.
My TOP-TIP is to do one of the great walks in the area and see it all – choose an intensive hike – either The Ridge Walk of Liathach Massif or Beinn Eighe OR an easier 7mile Lower Diabaig to Redpoint.

CAPTION: The stunning hills of Torridon, captured by Photographer: Steve Carter.

 

#3: Shieldaig.
Like Torridon it’s at the west of Liathach and on Loch Torridon. It’s often in competition by tourists with Torridon over which is more beautiful for that reason– it also makes it harder to choose between the two for 2nd and 3rd place!
Here, there’s a lot of history regarding the Fishing Trade! The village it’s self – is a mix of seaweed, scrub and the scenic Shieldaig Island. Beautiful in the days of snow too, like below.
MY TOP-TIP is to grab a rod and go for a fish.

CAPTION: The Winter-Wonderland of Shieldaig, captured by Steve Carter.

 

#4: Applecross.
Continuing on the coast of Scotland from Torridon you’ll meet up with the village of Applecross – no apples here, oh wait – maybe – I’m sure there’s some Scottish lad picking some as we speak – definitely not what we are travelling to Applecross for, however. Applecross is a village in the Highlands, which is known by locals as a ‘street’ more than a village, the actual name Applecross is roughly 1,300 years old though…
It resides in the remote area of Wester Ross also- but it’s fame really has nothing to do with apples but everything to do with the gorgeous scenic drives along Bealach na Ba Road and way into the hills as high up as 2,053ft! Among the highest in Britain and it’s views spread to Rassay and Skye via the Bay below.
My TOP-TIP is do the whole road-trip with some friends! Give the Applecross Guide a view too – it is a must-read – Click here.

Applecross hill drive

CAPTION: The Scenic Route among the hills and beside the water. Applecross.

 

#5: Braemar.
The next road we ‘can go down’, is just how high-up we can get into the Scottish Highlands – and there is the village of Braemar. Surrounded by the Grampian Mountains and close to the Cairngorms National Park – it’s easy to encounter snow here – just because of just high up the village is. The village’s cottages are also mostly made of stone to keep people up there warm! Brrrrrr.
In the area – there’s 65 miles of high level walks and cycling routes to help you see it at it’s best – delightful and dramatic.
MY TOP-TIP is to do some of the walks – most of which will take you to the Braemar Castle – unique in it’s appearance and ‘colourful’ in it’s history. Depending on the time of year there are the Braemar Highland Games held within walking distance.

Bramear castle.

CAPTION: Nestled amongst the trees and wide-open spaces is the unique Bramear Castle.


#5: Boat of Garten.

A popular destination for hiking and fishing by tourists & locals! And of course – so stunning.
Commonly referred to as the “The Osprey Village’, it’s found not far from the Cairngorms National Park – who tend to reap all the glory in the area… Boat of Garten, however, is perfect for getting away and unwinding in the peaceful surrounds. Not to mention boasting an abundance of natural beauty and wildlife! The famous and secretive Osprey bird is very commonly found here from April to August and clearly a big part of the town’s nickname!
Stunning in scenery my TOP-TIP is to get out of the car and catch the local steam-train to see it from new heights and perspectives, INFO & TIMETABLE HERE.

Boat of garten

CAPTION: The River Sprey in the Snow.


#7: Nethy Bridge.
Lucky 7! This village is a part of Speyside and south east of the River Spey and through from the forests of Abernethy.
The area is famous for being a big role in the Industrialisation of Scotland with production of Saw-mills from 1728. But we love it for the beauty mostly! Close proximity to the Abernethy Forest, it is also surrounded by Caledonian Pines and has 4 major bridges all photo worthy! The bridges – contributed to the name again. Like, Osprey- so clever Scotland! To mix it up – from rivers and scrub – this village hosts rocky landscapes, stone buildings and wide open spaces.
My TOP-TIP get up those mountains and test the limits of your feet with surmounting the rocks.

Nethy Bridge

CAPTION: On top of the world in Nethy Bridge.


#8: Cromarty.
Overlooked by most this village is just north of Inverness (of course close to Loch Territories), best known for it’s part in the historic county of ‘Cromartyshire’ until 1890 BUT to us – absolutely worth a look for the stunning views.
My TOP-TIP is to carefully amble the narrow streets and go up to the Cromarty Lighthouse to check out the view such as the one below.

Cromarty lighthouse view

CAPTION: Rainbows & Views – what a combination looking out the Cromarty Lighthouse.


#9: Plockton.

A delightful and picturesque village set amongst the hills and on a secluded bay of Loch Carron – to one side there’s all this wonderful-lush-greenery and to the other you find an indescribable coast line. It’s a fishing village and has it’s own harbour. Like other stunning villages it is set amongst the pines with views for days and we love that, but there’s also lots of Hairy Coos – and that just makes everything better!
My TOP-TIP is to sit right on the water’s edge (low-tide of course) with some locally caught Fish & Chips and a good read!

plockton village.

CAPTION: Amongst the hills, along the water is the stunning Plockton village.


#10: Ballater.
And finally, Ballater – commonly known as THE area for the best hiking in the Highlands, but more so, for it’s eloquent history. Way up in the Scottish Highlands, in the Royal Deeside within the Cairngorm’s National Park, you can find this village. The keyword in that sentence is: Royal. The village is close to the Balmoral Castle which hosts the Royal Family from time to time and has for an even longer time. The Royal Lochnager Distillery is also close by with exclusive Scottish whiskies. An exclusive abundance of wildlife is in the hills of Ballater – Red Deer, Golden Eagles and Grouse. Together these things add a very special touch to the Ballater village.
My TOP-TIP is to give one of the hikes a go, it’s truly the best way to see the village from the heights of a Golden Eagle.

ballater village

CAPTION: Picturesque Ballater Village.


3 Fun Scottish Phrases to use in your Village Highland Experience..

Hiked out? “I’m fair puckled.” – I am short of breath!
Confused? “Ah dinnae ken.” – I don’t know.
Inspired? “Whits fur ye’ll no go by ye!” – What’s meant to be – will happen.
Click here for more fun Scottish Slang and Phrases.

The Scottish Highlands is also where majority of our hostels are located – so we have this covered. Oban, Skye, Inverness, Loch Ness, Fort William and Pitlochry.

I recommend planning a 2-3 day road trip incorporating all of the 10 along the way.
Overall – these places are exceptionally spectacular to been see over the winter months and capped with snow.
A great website to check out for more information on what to see and do, where to eat and extra activities is VisitScotland.

I’ve always said: “you don’t often find the gems of a country in the big cities.” And it’s totally the case again.
Stretch your imagination and walk those feet to the Scottish Highlands.

court jeremiahWritten by Court Jeremiah.
STH Blog Writer/Photographer.
www.courtjeremiah.com
@courtredhanded_

Please Note: All opinions stated in this Blog are entirely those of the Author. Images photographed by Court Jeremiah are not to be taken or used without permission

 

Harry Potter and the Edinburgh Spell – Part 1

Edinburgh

Where the magic begins…

Calling all HARDCORE Harry Potter fans! There’s a Harry Potter ‘Prequel’ you may have not know about yet… so I am inviting you to join me in turning our ‘Time-turners’ back and to whisk ourselves to the Old Town cobble streets of Scotland’s Capital: Edinburgh.
The year is 1994, because that’s where this story really takes-off.

J.K. Rowling (born 1965) had experienced a fateful moment on a journey from Manchester to London, just 4 years earlier. She thought of Harry Potter whilst gazing into the country-side as it passed her by and when experiencing a ‘traditional’ UK 4 hour train delay.
A little boy who didn’t know he was a wizard had cast a spell on her mind.

This was a year that altered her life enormously – not just by dreaming up Harry Potter, her mother also passed away at the end of 1990, and Rowling was extremely close with her, saying that the death brought “guilt and worry and anxiety” into her life.

In the years that followed: she married a Portuguese man, moved to Portugal and would have a daughter – but all of it was not as successful as first envisioned.
From it suicidal thoughts weaved their way into her every day, and she had hit rock-bottom.

Returning to 1994 she decided to make the return to the UK, and to Edinburgh to be with her baby sister Dianne.

J.K. returned as a shattered, divorced version of herself, & a single mother. She was as poor as poor could be without being homeless.
But no matter what her financial position was – she never lost her ideas for Harry Potter.
They started to flood her mind again.

Giving herself just one year to complete it– she would spend a great deal of time in Edinburgh’s coffee shops – ‘Nicolson’s Café’ and ‘Elephant House Café’ mostly. In fact, she’s quoted as saying that coffee shops were great because the cost of coffee was cheaper than heating her home. For hours her tiny daughter would lay beside her sleeping whilst Rowling wrote.

You see “this is a city people quite literally fall in love with”, no exception for Rowling – the old world feel, the gothic architecture, hidden pockets of mystery are scattered through the city and an even bustling pace of other creatives is evident. When it came to building the books – characters, locations and imagery were all vastly inspired by Edinburgh.

J.K. Rowling’s days were either spent wandering the city or in coffee shops.
When she wandered, she passed places like George Heriot’s School – the most expensive in the area but the only one offering Single-Parent Scholarships – it also comprises of 4 towers and 4 houses… are we taking note? Combine that with the likes of Edinburgh Castle which can be seen from George Heriot’s – and ideas for Hogwarts developed, Edinburgh Castle was intriguing to her being mounted on a large ‘rock’.
She’d also wander through the Greyfriar’s Graveyard gazing at headstones for ideas of ‘Old-world’ first names and last names for characters – the most obvious links being Tom Riddle and Professor MacGonagall.
On her wanders, were the streets of Victoria Street and Cockburn Street – laced with cobble, unique bends in the road, little shops stacked against each other – the resemblance to Diagon Alley is also uncanny.

HP BOOKS.

CAPTION: The Harry Potter book collection.

The first book was completed in 1995, she did it – stuck to her one year goal too.
And the rest as they say- is history…

This ‘edition’ of Harry Potter is ‘Fairytale meets tragedy’ – the wonderful writing of HP really commenced in Edinburgh and ended in Edinburgh- the last link to the last story’s creation being the Balmoral Hotel where she completed the book. Edinburgh is where a story was brought to life – fed, nourished, loved and where it would grow from a simple idea.

JK Rowling holding book

CAPTION: Rowling holding her final Harry Potter book.

It’s a funny thing how being an Author is a considerable risk to most people, and that definitely didn’t stop with J.K.Rowling – she suffered, what seemed like endless criticism for her dreams of writing books, even way before ‘Bloomsbury’ picked it up, it was dismissed as not good enough for publication by two dozen other Publishers…
and I bet they all feel like ‘Royal Idiots’ now… just a thought.

J.K Rowling now lives in her own ‘small castle’ in Edinburgh with her family.

~

HERE’S SOME FUN FACTS –
-JK Rowling used a very old Type Writer which is near-on-extinct in today’s society. See no fancy iPad required! And today is worth a collective $545 million dollars for her Harry Potter legacy – which technically makes her richer than the Queen!
– J.K. Rowling hails from England, but is notably 1/4 Scottish and her parents’ love blossomed on a train ride to Scotland.
– Edinburgh was the first UNESCO City of Literature. How appropriate?!
– As a child she began to dream of being an author and creating stories for those small too.
-HP was filmed in Warner Brother’s Studios in England, but most location filming was done in Scotland.
-The Harry Potter books (all 7) were published in 10 years exactly 1997 to 2007 and the 8 Blockbuster movies between 2001 and 2011.
-The HP Books have been translated 79 times and today 450 million copies have been sold word-wide. Impressive stuff.

Look out for part two where we talk about the awesome places to see and do all things Harry Potter!

 

Written by Court Jeremiah.
STH Blog Writer/Photographer.
www.courtjeremiah.com
@courtredhanded_
Please Note: All opinions stated in this Blog are entirely those of the Author.
Images photographed by Court Jeremiah are not to be taken or used without permission.