Ten of our favourite attractions
The coronation site for Scottish Kings and home of the famous Stone of destiny, Scone Palace (www.scone-palace.co.uk) has played a pivotal role in Scotland’s rich history. It was capital of the Picts, has been the seat of parliament and has seen the crowning of Robert the Bruce and Macbeth. It is built on the site of Scone Abbey and houses a fantastic collection of objets d’art including some items that belonged to Marie Antoinette. Sitting above the River Tay in Perthshire, the palace has the Grampian mountains as a backdrop and looks across the river to Perth. Inside, the splendid state rooms are sure to impress, as the palace houses a vast array of treasures, from porcelain, ivories and clocks to furniture, paintings and a unique collection of papier maché objets d’art. In the grounds is Moot Hill, which was the ancient crowning place of the Kings of Scots. It sits in front of the Palace, topped by a small Presbyterian Chapel. In front of that sits a replica of the famous Stone of Scone. Guided tours for groups can be arranged at an additional cost. Coach parking is free.
Pollok House and Country Park
Fans of Downton Abbey will enjoy a visit to Pollok House (www.nts.org.uk/Property/Pollok-House), a grand country house built in 1752 and near the centre of Glasgow. Set within Pollok Country Park, Glasgow’s largest park, a visit here will give a real flavour of upstairs/downstairs life in the 1930s, with the lavish family rooms, which are full of period furnishings and furniture and the finest collection of Spanish art in the UK, which includes painting by Goya, El Greco and Murillo. Then head downstairs to the huge servants’ quarters, which give a good idea of how much it took to run a country house like this. The Park is also home to The Burrell Collection (www.glasgowlife.org.uk/museums/burrell-collection), one of the greatest art collections in the world. The 361 acres of Pollok Country Park include gardens and woodlands. Highlights include the Walled Garden, and the Woodland Garden with its collection of Rhododendron cultivarsThe park also features heavy horses, a play park, wildlife garden, highland cattle, and orienteering course.
Gretna Green Famous Blacksmiths Shop
Not your usual grand historic building, the Famous Blacksmiths Shop at Gretna Green, is, nevertheless one of Scotland’s most popular visitor attractions, and has also been voted the UK’s most Coach Friendly Shopping Attraction on three occasions. Just off the main motorway into Scotland (M6/M74), Gretna Green makes a great journey break. The Gretna Green Story Exhibition is housed in the original blacksmiths cottage and workshop. Audio-visual displays bring the story of runaway weddings to life and you can also see a collection of memorabilia and artefacts. Visitors also get to enter the room where couples have and still do get married. Touch the famous Anvil and good fortune in affairs of the heart will be yours. Groups can also have some fun with a wedding re-enactment – an exclusive offering for groups at no extra charge. Coach Parking is free with space for 60 coaches. Call 01461 337893 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Situated near the edge of Loch Fyne, and 10 miles south of Iveraray, Crarae Garden (www.nts.org.uk/Property/Crarae-Garden) is a spectacular woodland garden of 50 acres in the most wonderful dramatic setting. The Crarae Burn runs through it and features a rocky gorge and a series of cascades. The burn can be crossed by a number of bridges. All kinds of shrubs and trees can enjoyed in the garden, from spring-flowering azaleas, magnolias, camellias and rhododendrons to plantings chosen for their wonderful rich autumnal colour. Wild-origin Rhododendrons and the National Collection of Nothofagus can also be seen. For groups coach parking is 50m from the visitor centre. Wheelchair access is limited to the lower garden, and the centre/shop/plant sales is open April 1 – October 31 Thursday to Monday. Guided tours cost £25 for a maximum group of 12.
Drummond Castle Gardens
Just five minutes from the centre of Crieff, you approachch Drummond Castle Gardens (www.drummondcastlegardens.co.uk) along the beech avenue, but it’s not until you walk on to the terracing that you get to appreciate the majesty of these beautiful gardens. The standout featere is the St Andrew’s Cross parterre design, which has a multiplex 17th century sundial at its centre.
Visit the Drummond Castle Gardens and you’ll be walking in the footsteps of Queen Victoria who described how she and Prince Albert ‘walked in the garden which is really very fine, with terraces, like an old French garden’. The gardens are open Easter weekend and from May through October. Groups are advised to pre-book. Entry is £4 for groups of 20 or more. Driver and courier get free entry. Groups of 50 or more can enjoy a private morning visit. Other special tours on offer include Guided Tours with a Horticultural Theme, and an Evening Visit and a Glass of Wine – you can also choose a guided evening visit.
Loch Ness has to be one of the most famous locations anywhere in Scotland, and perched on its banks is one of its most picturesque landmarks – Urqhart Castle (www.historic-scotland.gov.uk). Situated between Inverness and Fort William, the castle offers fabulous views over the loch – a perfect place to keep an eye out for the elusive Loch Ness monster! Despite being in a ruinous state, the castle is still an impressive fort and it has played an important role in Scottish history over the past 500 years. Its history is explained in an audio-visual display and exhibition in the visitor centre, which also houses a number of medieval artefacts, plus a shop and café. There’s a large car and coach park. Because of steep gradients assistance is needed for those using wheelchairs or with limited mobility.
Landmark Forest Adventure Park
Landmark Forest Adventure Park (www.landmarkpark.co.uk), not far from Aviemore, in Carrbridge, Inverness-shire, manages to combine its beautiful surroundings and natural appeal, with exciting rides and activities, which should please people of all ages and tastes. In the forest, take a walk in the tranquil ancient pinewood and see if you can spot the red squirrels in the branches. Then get a squirrel’s eye view yourself by heading up into the treetops in the UK’s original treetop trail, which offers access to buggies and wheelchair users. In the Bamboozeleum you’ll find weird and wonderful illusions; puzzles and special effects to amaze everyone, whatever their age. Then if you want to get more active there are high ropes trails, climbing wall, parachute jump simulation, and an adventure play area. And finally, thrill seekers can try out the rides including a rollercoaster and water ride. Groups of 10 or more get a discount, while education groups of 10 or more also admit a group leader for free. Parking is free.
Burns National Heritage Park
Set in 10 acres of beautiful countryside in Alloway, Ayr, this is the place to go to find out about the life and work of the nation’s beloved Baird. The Robert Burns Birthplace Museum (www.burnsmuseum.org.uk ) is a modern visitor centre that combines technology and intercativity with Burns artefacts such as his writing set, with which he penned his famous words, and original manuscripts. Guided tours are on offer at weekends and there is a café and gift shop. Visitors can also see Burns Cottage where the poet was born, and which recreates the simple interior of the 18th century. You can also walk to both Auld Alloway Kirk (where Burns’ father is buried) and the Brig o’Doon, which feature in the famous poem Tam o’Shanter. The Burns Monument offers good views down to the Brig o’Doon.
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Situated just a mile outside the city centre, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (www.rbge.org.uk/) gives visitors the chance to experience some peace and tranquility among its 72 acres. Take a tour around the world’s flora in the Glasshouses, which include Britain’s tallest palm house. The Chinese Hillside is a place of serenity, or you can take a look at the world-famous Rock Garden or walk among the imposing giant Redwood trees in the Woodland Garden. The garden is open all year round. Theres’s a café and the Botanics Shop is a great place to pick up gifts, souvenirs, crafts and plants. Prebooked groups can enjoy guided tours throughout the year – these normally last for around 90 minutes and cost £6 a person. Coach passengers can be dropped off by the West Gate entrance located at Arboretum Place. Admission to the gardens is free, but there is a charge for the glasshouses. Groups of 11 or more save £2 on the admission price, paying £3. Call 0131 248 2909 to prebook.
This Tudor gothic revival mansion and home of the Earls of Rosebery for more than 300 years, Dalmeny House (www.dalmeny.co.uk) is said to be one of the greatest treasure houses of Scotland. It is home to a fine collection of French 18th-century furniture and Sèvres porcelain, the 5th Lord Rosebery’s Napleonic collection and paintings by Gainsborough, Raeburn, Reynolds and Lawrence. Overlooking the Firth of Forth, it has a beautiful and unspoilt setting and yet it is only seven miles from Edinburgh.
Coach parking for group visits is available by prior arrangement. The main collection is all on the ground floor and is generally accessible. Disabled access and toilet facilities are next to the tearoom, which is separately accessible from the back of the house. The house is open to visitors in June and July on selected days of the week. Groups of 20+ £9 per person.