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

 

Chasing a little simplicity solitude? Go to Scotland!

Loch Ness

Loch Ness, Photo by Court Jeremiah

When travelling it’s so easy to get absolutely-caught-up in these big and majestic cities, they pull us in and entice our low energy levels with ‘all the things’ to run around and do: a frantic visual of -hopping on the train, getting off the bus, running from one location to another – because heck’ we only have 8 hours in a day and this city has 50 odd things see… familiar?
But that’s what it’s like in big cities! And not always just as a traveller. I too was needing a moment away from the ‘hustle and bustle’ of my beautiful home city of Edinburgh. And- even more so, that craziness of life.
Each year on this planet seems to speed by faster and faster, and we barely keep up – it’s simple: “Time stops for no one”.

‘Attempting to Stop Time’. Image by Court Jeremiah.

Amongst that velocity, sometimes we just find ourselves needing a little healthy solitude and simplicity, am I right? I’m not saying I AM capable of slowing down life for us all (wouldn’t that be a super-power), or that there is only one PERFECT place to get back to that simplicity, but what I am saying is- I’m over here totally in love with Scotland and I know

where we can find one of them. Under the umbrella of Scotland’s Top Hostels there’s a family beneath of places to stay for that escape to the Highlands and away from all the bustle.
This week I decided to check out Loch Ness & one of our hostels ‘Lochside’.

 

I took a seat on the legendary MacBackpackers Tours for the trip up and during: leader Dave said to me “It’s really fucking’ cold all year either way in Loch Ness, but it is something you’ll never forget.” He continued to say how often it is overlooked by travellers as a place to stay and check out, opposed to big name places like Skye. He educated us all on the history and the legends. Also, about the language of Scottish Gaelic, how it’s not used as much these days,

but is still very evident in the Highlands and Loch Ness.
Here’s a few words I found valuable for my time in Loch Ness, best to learn:
Glen means ‘Valley’.
Inver means ‘The Mouth of a River’
– and Loch meaning ‘Lake’ or ‘Sea Inlet’. Okay got it? Great!

Putting the words into context – Loch Ness is 23miles long and resides within the borders of the Great Glen – the Loch begins in the North – Highland’s Capital of Inverness and finishes in the South in the township of Invermoriston. The Loch encompasses a very large body of water that connects to the ocean via canals, and because of the huge amount, the water struggles to heat and sits in the 4-6 degree celsius zone. It’s stunning to take in visually! But also beneath the water’s surface- one of the most talked about legends of all time, made it’s way into history in 1933 – with the first recorded sighting of the Loch Ness Monster. Although the legend has had life amongst locals since the 6th century A.D.  No secret here that I am a legend/myth lover so I was especially excited to be sleeping “uncomfortably close to the monster”!

Those Loch Monster theories.

At the foot of the Loch, nestled amongst the ‘Scot’s Pine Trees’ is the baby of the STH family: the ‘Lochside Hostel’ previously known as the Loch Ness Youth Hostel, it was taken the wings of STH just last year. Early this year it was brought to life under the stealth management of Bruce Johnston and has resulted in becoming an ideal place to stay while in Loch Ness.

Candice and Fabian at Lochside

Candice and Fabian at Lochside

Taking some time aside I spoke with Bruce.
If you don’t know him, Bruce hails from South Africa but has been living in the UK for the last 5 years. It seems he came over for a short time and never left. What happened? He fell in love with Scotland and settled into the golden trimmings of Edinburgh’s Castle Rock Hostel. Under his belt (if he wore belts), he has an abundance of knowledge & experience on hostels and Loch Ness.

How would you describe the atmosphere at the hostel? “3 words really – easy words: Chilled, social and relaxing.” – that’s perfect for us!
What is your personal favourite thing to do in Loch Ness area? “Honestly, I love the Loch itself here, it’s just

massive, driving around it and viewing it from different angles and heights is incredible.” Bruce as I touched on- is very experienced – incredibly so in the city life, so I still couldn’t help but wonder –
Why did you come here? “I spent 5 years in Edinburgh, and although it’s beautiful, I wanted to get away from the busyness for a while, the Highlands was always somewhere I wanted to go and that’s why I’m here.”

Bruce Johnston (pictured middle) back in the Reception days at Castle Rock.

Stephen, another kick-ass staff member of ‘Lochside’ – loves hikes and has a deep love of the area and Scotland. But, he’s also not a Scot’… I asked why he came here to Scotland he replied- “I travelled for a few months back in 2011 all over, but I found I kept coming back, so I purchased a one way ticket and never left”

Special stuff, boys! Maybe “there’s something in the water”? Oh wait… Nessie!

Loch Ness & Surrounds to-do-

Loch Ness & Surrounds Map from ‘VisitSouthLochNess’. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

One of the best things about Loch Ness is its location and with a strong focus on nature and the simplicity we’re chasing- here’s my top list of things to do!
Hiking! If you’re that hiking-addict or just wanting to give it a go, this place rocks for it. Loch Ness is in the heart of hiking territory, the centre of The Great Glen Way and totally giving you that ‘back to nature’ fix.
Here’s a couple to get you going –
Lochside to Forte Augustus is a 3-5hour hike depending on fitness levels or, the Invermoriston track from Lochside roughly a 2hour walk . You’ll be surrounded by waterfalls, the whistles of robins, and the thick wet moss-covered forest.
Cruise along the Loch Ness by boat, it’s an experience and light on the wallet – a cheap 14.50 pounds – ‘Cruise Lochness’ is a good one to take.

Drumnadrochit (there’s an art to saying it) – it’s only a 15-20minutes drive North of Lochside and has two awesome places to check out – the ‘Nessie Land’ museum and Loch Ness’ own 800  year old ‘Urqhuart Castle’: right at the edge of where the Nessie Sightings have taken place for over 200.
-To the West, a 15minute drive away is one of the largest pinewood forests found in Scotland (Glen Affric) with ‘views for days’. Plus there’s Lochs, Otters, Deer and Woodland birds.
Ben Nevis – the biggest mountain you’ll find in the British Isles (1,343 metres high!) is just over an hour away.

-Further North about an hour is Castle Territory – Castle Stuart, Cawdor Castle, Aldourie Castle. –
Regardless it’s just a 1 hour drive to places such as Skye, Fort William and Inverness, so check out these Highland townships.

The ‘Lochside Hostel’ is a seasonal hostel that operates over the warmer months, it has exactly what you need and everything that any good hostel should have: very good beds, hot showers, USB ports and common areas. It’s location is it’s best feature- right at the foot of the Loch and Loch Territory but also features amazing views from inside and out on the deck, a cosy fireplace and even a tartan pool-table. I received comments from travellers such as “It’s social but not overwhelming”,  “Completely surrounded by nature and located ridiculously close to everything great in the area.”

How to get to the Lochside Hostel –
‘Lochside’ is in Glenmoriston, along Loch Ness.
Inverness international Airport and the Inverness Train Station are both close. From the Station: 45minutes and the Airport: 1hour.
By Bus: You want to catch the CityLink bus, departing roughly every 30mins. CLICK HERE for times.
By Car: Travelling to ‘Lochside’ from Inverness by car is as short as 30mins.
NOTE: Throughout the months of April-October the buses run often but less frequent in the other months.

Chilling at ‘Lochside’ is Amy & Candice, Image by Court Jeremiah.

The Lochside Hostel – 3 C’s – Closeness, Cabin Feels and Cosiness. Definitely worth a visiwift for its 2018 debut in the April – It’ll be showing off new wooden beds and a jetty for you to jump into the Loch. But don’t forget there is a monster in there and it’s 4-6 degrees, haha!
It may be cold in Scotland, yes, BUT- it was just last week that The Rough Guide announced Scotland as the Winner of the Most Beautiful Country on The Planet, so that is saying something!
Because I love my legends- my ‘top two’ to do in Loch Ness is to go Nessie Land museum and cruise out on the Loch with your binoculars.
Embrace your own Nessie expedition and  ‘Lochside’ is where it all begins.

The mossy landscape of Loch Ness

The mossy landscape of Loch Ness

That simplicity and healthy-solitude? Did I get it? TICK. Cheers for that Loch Ness.

Call me a Wizard (or…crazy) – but I swear life slowed down this week!

Written by Court Jeremiah.
STH Blog Writer.
www.courtjeremiah.com
@Courtredhanded_

 

Please note: All opinions stated in this Blog are entirely those of the Author. Images taken by Court Jeremiah are not to be taken or used without permission, including Feature Image.

Isle of Skye’s Prehistoric Gem

Imagine for a moment you could go back in time… as far back as even 170 odd million years to when the mighty dinosaurs still ruled this earth.
The dinosaurs were powerful, they were fearless and without a doubt- the champions of a world we will never fully understand.
They’ve gone now but have since left their marks in the forms of bones and GIGANTIC footprints.

It might not be Thursday but let’s have some Throwbacks to the days of watching Jurassic Park at home on the television, watching in amazement as the prehistoric beasts came to life in front of us and the characters fighting for their lives against them. Maybe you were once a tiny human who walked around ‘roaring’ at the top of your lungs to anyone near, in hopes you’d terrify them. Those were the days!
Dinosaurs are still awesome, and guess what? The dinosaur fun doesn’t have to end in your childhood.

Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park

Back in 2015 a small group of researchers from Edinburgh University were led by a palaeontologist named Steve Brusatte to find dinosaur remains in Duntulm in the Highlands of Scotland. Even though their chances of finding dinosaur bones were small (almost as small as the country itself) they did happen to find something else, which was, in my opinion – pretty damn cool: very well preserved fossilized footprints. The footprints preserved by sedimentary layers in rocks and belonged to Sauropods (a breed of dinosaur which weighed more than 10 tonnes!). The researchers were very excited, and for good reason! Not long after the discovery, these prints were concluded as some of the very best dinosaur tracks found in the world! National Geographic called it “the largest dinosaur site ever found in Scotland”. In the Isle of Skye footprints have been found in areas such as Staffin Beach & Duntulm. The prehistoric footprint collection has seen travellers & locals nickname the area– ‘Dinosaur Isle’ or ‘Jurassic Island’.

I hope you’re making a trip up to the Isle of Skye! The beaches on their own are uniquely beautiful – some parts sandy, some salty and some have plenty of green mossy rocks. Make stops along the way to gaze into the rock pools. All that beauty aside… you must remember – you’ll literally be going on a dinosaur hunt, which means you also get to refer to yourself as Dinosaur Hunter (hashtags and all) . I promise you’ll smile to yourself cause’ you’ll actually be walking in the footprints of dinosaurs and embracing your own Jurassic story.
Many visitors to the say that the experience will have you questioning your part in the evolutionary experience. Just imagine comparing your feet or your hands to these larger than life prints.


The footprints are there, but it must be said #dinosaurhunter, that they can be as tricky to find them as the dinosaurs themselves- many travellers have visited and left the area having not found them. Instagram tags barely make up 300 images; partly for this reason.
Challenge accepted- I hear you say, that’s what I want to hear!

Now.. here are my Top-Tips to get the most out of your search..

Isle of Skye, Staffin Beach, Dinosaur Footprint.

  1. Stream the very first ‘Jurassic Park’ movie ever made – circa 1993. And watch it the night before! Get those adventure feels flowing, and hey if you’re keen – do 2,3 & Jurassic World too!
  2. Get up early to check them out! Low tide is the best time.
    Investigate the low tide times of the site you’re visiting prior. The central township of Portree has a tourist information centre which identify these times and/or looking it up online. Depending on which location you are going to visit & what time of the year- start times could be 4am or later.
  3. Wear some non-slip Gumboots/Galoshes/Wellies, no time for wet feet when we are Dinosaur Hunters.
  4. Check out the quirky Staffin Dinosaur Museum where the team there have a wealth of knowledge and offer priceless guidance to finding the coveted footprints.
  5. Get an epic shot of yourself in your best dinosaur pose next to a footprint!
    The seemingly common ‘Millenial’ question these days is: “if it isn’t on social media did it actually happen?” – might as well make it a great one!
  6. Someone once told me “every misadventure leads to a great story” – maybe you don’t find them straight away, maybe you lose a gumboot or fall in the water? – but those things MAKE A STORY when you tell the grandkids about that epic time you followed some clues and went dinosaur hunting.

Have fun ticking this prehistoric little beauty’ off your bucket-list.

And if you’re chasing a place to stay while you get you’re ‘dinosaur hunting’ on… look no further than Scotland’s Top Hostels local Skye Backpackers – Only a short drive to the dinosaur sites. CLICK HERE.

Written by – Court Jeremiah.
@Courtredhanded_
STH Blogger.