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Article: Caroline's Guide To The Scottish Highlands

Caroline's Guide To The Scottish Highlands
TRAVEL

Caroline's Guide To The Scottish Highlands

Although I grew up close to the Scottish border in Northumberland, my trips away always took me South or overseas. I didn’t really start exploring Scotland until a few years ago and got the taste of how special of a place it is. My school friend, Gail went to university in Edinburgh, and has spent a lot of time exploring parts of Scotland, so I was more than excited for her to show Jeffrey and me some of her favorite spots. I thought I’d put together a guide of where we stayed, ate and explored in the breathtaking Highlands of Scotland…

Banchory is a burgh or town in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. It is about 18 miles west of Aberdeen, near where the Feugh River meets the River Dee. Glen Dye is a 15,000 acre private estate with cabins and cottages sitting at its centre, surrounded by wilderness, forest and moorland on the banks of the River Dye. Gail has worked on creative projects over the years with owners, Charlie and Caroline Gladstone, and has raved about her visits here. So, we were especially excited that she brought us.

We stayed in The Hay Loft, a small two bedroom house which was a hay loft once upon a time with the central feature now being a picture window which hay used to pass through to feed the cattle on the property. We cooked our own food each night and morning, enjoyed the wood fire in the living room and our own private wood fired hot tub outside at night. Their sweet little provisions shop on property offers eggs from their resident hens, and a carefully curated selection of staples like bread, jams, local meat, fish and homemade ready meals.

The Glen Dye Arms is a pub just down a short path from The Hay Loft and is as cozy as pubs in the country come. It's small and intimate with a roaring log fire, ancient bar and record player and is a BYOB concept which guarantees you will drink exactly what you want in the way you like to drink it!

There are many hikes to take right from your door at Glen Dye all with spectacular views. We took a 2.5 hour hike up to Clachnaben summit. It was a little challenging in the snow and wind but well worth the effort.

According to Wikipedia... Balmoral Estate is within the Cairngorms National Park and is partly within the Deeside and Lochnagar. The 50,000-acre estate contains a wide variety of landscapes, from the Dee river valley to open mountains. The estate was leased by Sir Robert Gordon, but when he died in 1847, Balmoral reverted to Lord Aberdeen. In February 1848 an arrangement was made that Prince Albert would acquire the remaining part of the lease on Balmoral, together with its furniture and staff.

After Victoria's death, the royal family continued to use Balmoral during annual visits. Queen Elizabeth II had been at the castle since July 2022 for her annual summer holiday and died on 8 September 2022 at the age of 96. The Queen's coffin lay in repose in the ballroom of the castle for three days, to allow the Royal Family, estate staff and neighbours to pay their respects. On 11 September, the coffin was transported to the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh for the start of the state funeral proceedings.

Located in the neighboring village of Ballater, Fish Shop restaurant has been created for those who enjoy freshly caught, ethically sourced seafood from Scotland and the British Isles. The food is incredible here and I highly recommend the MacDuff brown crab crumpet appetizer, the roasted scallops and the 70% Island dark chocolate ice cream with Blackthorn sea salt.

Built in the 19th century, The Fife Arms Hotel is a Braemar historical landmark. Its size is evidence of the popularity of Braemar in the wake of Queen Victoria’s visits and her purchase of Balmoral, just 15 minutes from the hotel.

Inside, Bertie’s Whisky Bar, is a sumptuously elegant and glamorous whisky bar, named in honor of Queen Victoria’s eldest son, King Edward VII, also known as ‘Bertie’. There are over 390 whiskies, arranged by flavor profile: Fragrant, Fruity, Rich and Smoky. I highly recommend booking a whiskey tasting to learn more about the art of whiskey making, enjoying and aquiring. 

It was said that if you were looking for someone in Braemar, the first place you should look was the public bar at The Fife Arms. The Flying Stag public bar continues to be the social centre of the village. With regulars rubbing shoulders with visitors, the bar has a vibrant atmosphere with animated conversation and live entertainment. The bar offers local beers, Scottish whiskies and spirits accompanied by a menu of hearty Scottish dishes and warm hospitality. 

Glas-allt-Shiel is a lodge on the Balmoral Estate by the shore of Loch Muick. In its present form it was built in 1868 by Queen Victoria, who called it Glassalt. Following the death of her husband, Albert in 1861, she nicknamed the place, "widow's house" and lived there for several months to mourn and reflect surrounded by the extraordinary views of the Loch and hillsides. It is now an historical landmark, owned personally by King Charles III. The house is visible from the other side of the Loch and you're able to walk all the way around to get up close. 

Part of my trip included spending time with close friends to have a belated celebration dinner for my 50th (which was in January). There’s nothing like quality time, even if it was brief, with those who’ve known me the longest. And for anyone who loves Indian food, Trishna is exceptional. They’re located in the Marylbone area of London and have a sister restaurant, Gymkhana.

I hope I was able to do Scotland's Highlands justice here, but there's nothing like seeing it and experiencing it in person. Scotland leaves a mark on your soul, that's for sure. I'm already looking forward to my next trip back. Special thanks to Gail for showing us such magical places, and to all my friends who made my dinner in London so fun. 50 has been very good to me so far!

Sending lots of love,

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