Fáilte Ireland’s Tourism Facts 2016 – Key Figures Infographic

On June 20th, 2017, Fáilte Ireland published its preliminary Tourism Facts 2016, a report which compiles research into tourism performance in Ireland in 2016 and condenses it into key facts and figures. We’ve identified the most significant statistics and collated them into an infographic, below –

 

Irish Tourism Facts 2016 (1)

36 Hours in Edinburgh

Where old and modern merge seamlessly: along with medieval alleys, design-forward buildings and a ‘new’ Scottish cuisine.


Edinburgh, a charismatic city full of staircases and hills festooned with Georgian and neo-Classical buildings, is well-versed in incorporating the modern into the old. While it has always been an arts center and a cosmopolitan capital, the city is now turning its vibrant energy toward creating a new Scottish cuisine, a nearly uncountable number of craft beers, and design-forward buildings like the Scottish Parliament, which stands as the symbol of the new Scotland. Yet the charm of “Auld Reekie” is still there in its cozy pubs, medieval alleyways and talkative, wryly self-deprecating residents.

Friday

1. PAST TO PRESENT, 3 P.M.

The National Museum is one of Edinburgh’s crown jewels: a museum that presents a remarkably detailed history of Scotland, from its prehistoric past to the cloning of Dolly the Sheep, who can be found on the first floor. Ten new galleries opened in July, and it would be easy to spend an entire day watching videos about the country’s last lighthouse keepers, learning about the Scottish labor movement, playing with the interactive science exhibits, marveling at how small a vintage Tiger Moth airplane is, and admiring the gloriously airy Victorian atrium. Admission is free, so if you need a stimulant make the two-minute walk to Brew Lab, one of the city’s best independent cafes, which has an industrial chic vibe and top-notch coffee (3.50 pounds, or $4.65), then head back for more. Don’t forget to pick up a tote bag printed with Warhol-esque images of Dolly’s face as a souvenir.

2. PUB GRUB, 6 P.M.

In the upscale neighborhood of Stockbridge, even the pub food is excellent, especially at casual, stylish Scran & Scallie, from the owners of the Michelin-starred Kitchin. You’ll find classics like sausages and mash, and fish and chips, but consider going to the next level and order roast bone marrow, ox tongue and mushrooms, and girolles on toast. The clientele tend to linger over drinks and desserts (try the sticky toffee pudding if it’s on offer). Dinner for two, around £60.

3. BEER GALORE, 8 P.M.

Stockbridge Tap is a bar for serious beer lovers. The international selection changes frequently, but the knowledgeable and friendly bartenders will ask you to describe your favorite tipple and then find the perfect selection. End the evening with a short stroll to the Last Word for one of the most creative and professional cocktails in the city. This basement bar is dimly lit even at 4 p.m. Try the Same But Different, a mix of tequila, mezcal, strawberry jam, rose liqueur and fresh lime juice. There’s a small lab in the back where they do crafty things like clarify chartreuse. Bar snacks include a selection of cheese from the excellent I.J. Mellis cheesemonger around the corner.


Saturday

4. FRY-UP, 9:30 A.M.

The Scottish fried breakfast is a thing of legend (and also perhaps the world’s best hangover cure). The newly opened Angus Fling has a central location, booths upholstered in tartan and an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients. The Scottish “fry” comes with sausages, bacon, eggs, mushrooms, grilled tomato, fried potato bread and a slice of haggis (£6.90). Add a pot of tea for the full Scottish effect.

5. PARLIAMENTS & POETRY, 10:30 A.M.

Walk off that breakfast with a stroll to the Scottish Parliament building, making a detour down tiny Crichton’s Close for a visit to the Scottish Poetry Library. This hidden spot is a haven for literature lovers: Sit down in the second-floor listening library where you can put on headphones and listen to poetry. In the shop, you’ll find illustrated linotype postcards with lines of Robert Burns poetry (£1), and anthologies of Scottish verse. Move on to the Parliament building, a stunningly modern branch-and-leaves design created by the Catalan architect Enric Miralles. It’s a captivating building whether you love the style or hate it, and several themed tours (history, design, architecture) are offered throughout the day — book in advance. If you miss the tour, it’s still possible to pop your head into the chambers where Parliament members meet. If the independence vote ever passes, this is the place from which Scotland will be governed.

6. CASTLES & SHEEP’S HEADS, NOON

Edinburgh Castle is perhaps the city’s biggest draw, and even on a weekday ticket lines can be long. Instead of elbowing your way past the crowds, head southeast to Craigmillar Castle: just three miles from the city center but surrounded by grassy fields and refreshingly low on visitors (admission, £5.50; taxi, around £10). A beautifully preserved castle whose original incarnation was built in the 1300s, it grew over the centuries with each resident family making changes. Ramparts and arrow-slit windows offer fabulous views all the way to Edinburgh Castle. The guidebook (£2.50) provides ample information on the building’s details and its occupants (Mary Queen of Scots was a guest). From here, stroll along the edge of Holyrood Park for a mile to reach the Sheep Heid Inn, a low-ceilinged pub that claims to have fed guests for six centuries. Have a hearty lunch of sloe gin-smoked salmon followed by a chicken and ham pie. Take a peek in back, where an antiquated skittles alley (a type of bowling) is still in use.

image for Craigmillar Castle
7. SUMMERHALL, 4 P.M.

Once a veterinary college, the arts and performance space known as Summerhall is packed with warrens and small hallways that make it a fabulous place to wander for a few hours, especially if there’s a performance happening. The space hosts exhibitions, theater, dance and music events throughout the year, and even the hallways and elevators are home to shows during the annual Fringe Festival. Stop by to check out the art and browse through the original works for sale in the shop. In the tiny distillery in the back, giant casks of gin and rows of bottles await. Finish up at the bar, once the school’s Small Animal Hospital, and have a pint of Summerhall Pale Ale, made in the on-site brewery.

8. RHYMES WITH ‘HAZEL’, 7 P.M.

Aizle is one of the growing number of Edinburgh restaurants where the menu takes the form of a list of ingredients (black vinegar, chicken skin, summer berries, for instance). Happily, these ingredients manifest themselves as beautifully executed plates; a set menu of four dishes, with “snack” and dessert (£45), changes monthly, according to the harvest. If you’re looking for the future of Scottish food — local, thoughtful and laid-back — look no further.

9. WATER OF LIFE, 9:30 P.M.

Scotland’s production of small-batch and you’ve-never-heard-of-them whiskies is booming, and facing a menu of two or three hundred choices in a local pub can be overwhelming. At the Whiski Rooms, you can try one of the whisky flights (starting at £17), each a selection of four sorted by region and style, such as Highland malts, extra-peaty vintages from Islay, and sherried single malts. Stock up on bottles from the shop next door, which also offers guided tastings during the day.


Sunday

10. LEITH, 10 A.M.

Edinburgh’s historic port, Leith, sits on Firth of Forth and is the ideal place for a Sunday stroll. The face of the neighborhood has changed rapidly in recent years, and now the area is a fascinating hodgepodge of quirky pubs, secondhand stores and trendy cocktail bars. Stroll along the waterfront and then turn south, keeping an eye out for the murals, an ongoing public art project by the local organization LeithLate. Check out the hip young things sipping hair-of-the-dog cocktails with brunch in the Lioness of Leith, or stop for a pint in the bicycle-themed Tourmalet. Finish up with lunch at the King’s Wark, a 15th-century pub with mismatched chairs and a pub menu that includes Shetland mussels in garlicky broth.

11. COLLECTIVE ON CALTON, 1 P.M.

It’s a steep climb to the top of Calton Hill, but the panoramic views — of Leith, the Firth, and Arthur’s Seat (an ancient volcano) — are worth it. Developed as a public park in 1724, the hill is dotted with monuments, among them the acropolis-style National Monument, which has remained technically “under construction” since the early 19th century. Climb the spiral staircase to the top of the Nelson Monument (admission, £5; closed Sundays from Oct. 1 through March) for even more spectacular views. Make sure to stop by Collective Gallery, which relocated here in 2013 and operates a small exhibition space featuring pieces by artists working in Scotland.

12. SNUG PUB, 3 P.M.

Sink into the velvet seats of Kay’s Bar, a small Georgian coach house turned quiet Victorian pub tucked away from the crowds on tiny, circular Jamaica Street. This is the “local” for Edinburgh residents, from geezers nodding off over pints of the oft-changing selection of ales to university students solving the world’s problems as the table fills up with empty glasses. The smattering of original fixtures and the warm red glow of the walls, furniture and carpet make this snug pub a cozy place to retreat from the inevitable rain.


Lodging

 

Visit our website: http://b2b.abbeyirelandanduk.com/

 

 

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Summer’s here: Britain’s 20 best beaches

To help you plan a trip to the coast this summer, and with Britain finally basking in heat, we have asked a group of our regular writers to recommend their favourite beaches around the country. Some of the nominations are deservedly popular spots along the south and western coast of Britain, while others are of the wild and unspoilt variety, where even at the height of summer you can find a secluded spot beneath cliffs or among dunes. Some of the shorelines here – those in Scotland and the Isles of Scilly, for instance – are so remote that you will need to find a base for a night or two. So for each destination we have suggested somewhere to stay locally, and – where it exists – somewhere to eat on or near your stretch of sand.

North Cornwall

1. Watergate Bay, Newquay

Two miles of golden sand backed by cliffs and caves, where the Atlantic swells produce reliable surf and peregrine falcons, gulls and fulmars wheel overhead. Spot strawberry anemones and crabs among the rock pools, walk along the clifftop, or book a surfing or traction kiting lesson

South Cornwall

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2. Porthcurno, near Land’s End

Set beneath the clifftop Minack Theatre, this is arguably the county’s most beautiful bay: a funnel of sand caught between lichen-encrusted granite cliffs. Easily accessible, it has fine white sand and is popular with families. It’s best at low tide when you can walk to other beaches in the bay (one of which is nudist) and sit on sandbars beneath the ancient cliff fort of Treryn Dinas, surrounded by Grecian-blue water.
Eat: at the Coffee Shop at the Minack Theatre, above the beach offers coffee, Cornish cream teas, and light meals. You have to pay for admission to the site (adults £4.50; 15 and under £2.50), but this includes access to the gardens. (01736 810694; minack.com).
Stay: at The Old Coastguard hotel in Mousehole, which offers a spacious bar/restaurant, and a superb location with views over the palm-filled garden sloping down to the sea. Doubles from £130, including breakfast.

Isles of Scilly

3. Pentle Bay, Tresco

Pentle Bay induces a broad grin. You can’t help it after crossing Tresco Island’s lush interior and walking through sandy grass into a wall of dazzling colour: bleached white sand, emerald-and-turquoise ocean dotted with islands and impossibly blue sky. Everything is light, bright, almost tropical in its brilliance. It takes a dip in the briny – two degrees colder than the mainland – to confirm that you are still in Britain.

North Devon

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4. Saunton Sands

Behind this untamed three-mile stretch of beach is Braunton Burrows, one of the largest sand-dune systems in Britain, and home to myriad rare plants and butterflies. Atlantic rollers sweep on to the vast sandy beach.
Eat: at The Sands on the Beach, sister cafe to the Saunton Sands Hotel, offers casual dining options at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and snacks
Stay: at the Saunton Sands Hotel offers family-friendly accommodation right above the beach, with indoor and outdoor pool, health club, and sea-view rooms.

South Devon

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5. Blackpool Sands

Three miles south-west of Dartmouth is this sheltered and peaceful crescent of fine shingle, backed by wooded hills. It’s popular with families, and a great spot for swimming as its turquoise waters are clean and usually calm. You can hire kayaks and paddle boards.
Eat: at The Venus Café, right on the beach, serves Devon crab, baguettes and salads, open daily from 8.30am-9pm until the beginning of September.
Stay: at Strete Barton House, Strete: a stylish b & b in a 16th-century manor house near Dartmouth. Doubles from £105, including breakfast.

Dorset

6. Studland Bay

Four miles of pristine white sand, which shelves gently into milky-blue waters, with a backdrop of dunes and heathland. The northern stretch, most easily reached by chain ferry, has an away-from-it-all, desert-island feel, appreciated by the naturist sunbathers at Shell Bay; the southern Knoll Beach is popular with families.
Eat: at the National Trust Beach Café, Knoll Beach, which serves hot and cold main meals and snacks. You can dine indoors or out (01929 450500; nationaltrust.org.uk/studland-beach/eating-and-shopping).
Stay: at The Pig on the Beach hotel, which offers cosy interiors, superb breakfasts and an extensive kitchen garden, with views ofOld Harry Rocks and the Isle of Wight.

Isle of Wight

7. Compton Bay

A rural and unspoilt stretch of coast caught between the English Channel and the grassy downs of West Wight. Walk south to Brook Bay at low tide and you may find ancient dinosaur tracks revealed on the foreshore, or spot fossils in the crumbling cliffs (see dinosaurisle.com for details of fossil walks). Access from the clifftop car parks (National Trust) is by steep wooden steps.
Eat: at The Café at Dimbola Lodge in Freshwater Bay, is set in a charming photographic museum and serves teas and lunches.
Stay: at Compton Farm Caravan and Camping, close to the beach.
Or stay in one of the smart yurts of the Really Green Holiday Company at Afton, a short drive or cycle away.

Sussex

8. West Wittering

It’s a long, narrow and often traffic-choked road to the Witterings from Chichester, but that’s what gives this Sussex beach its remote feel. The fine, open stretch of sand, overlooking the Solent and Chichester harbour, is spotlessly clean and at low tide there are pools for paddling. Out on the water, acrobatic windsurfers sweep past. From the far western end, you can cross a narrow ridge to East Head, a lovely and remote sand-dune spit at the mouth of the harbour. Get there early to avoid the queues and bag a parking spot.
Eat: at the well-run beach café, which serves a range of snacks and sandwiches.

Kent

9. Botany Bay

This is the most northerly of Broadstairs’s beaches, and perhaps the prettiest – a 660ft curve of sand backed by white cliffs, with chalk stacks, rock pools and safe swimming. At low tide you can walk to Joss Bay, Kent’s best surf beach.
Eat: at Oscar’s Festival Café (07595 750091; oscarsfestivalcafe.co.uk), in Oscar Road, Broadstairs. It serves light breakfasts, lunches, teas and magnificent cakes in a charmingly retro interior.
Stay: at Crescent Victoria Hotel in Margate (from £54 a night), which offers individually-styled rooms, a retro vibe, and fabulous sea views.

Suffolk

10. Walberswick

The wooden bridge leading from the picturesque village of Walberswick to the beach is always crammed with children clutching crabbing lines and plastic buckets. Clamber over the ridge of dunes into the magical light of the Suffolk coast and you’ll understand why so many artists are drawn to paint this long and empty stretch of sandy beach.

Eat: at the Anchor for superior pub food, plus brunches, BBQs, and Curry Fridays
Stay: at In Southwold, stay at the refurbished Crown Hotel, which has a restaurant using local ingredients or the Swan Hotel, which offers an old-fashioned welcome and family-friendly service.

 

Norfolk

11. Wells/Holkham

You don’t know the meaning of “big sky” until you cross the wooden boards through the dunes and tip out on to this vast stretch of sand, midway along the north Norfolk coast. You can lay out your beach towels here or walk east on a path through the pine woods to the slightly more sheltered beach at neighbouring Wells-next-the-Sea. In high summer it’s easier to park at Wells and walk the other way. In any case, take a windbreak – and watch out for the caprices of the incoming tide.
Eat: at The Beach Cafe on the Holkham Estate is backed by pinewoods and near the beach. Food is homemade, using local produce, and includes hot and cold snacks, lunches, and sandwiches, as well as ice-creams and drinks.
Stay: at Cley Windmill overlooking the salt marshes about 11 miles east along the coast.

Yorkshire

12. Sandsend

Set against a backdrop of grassy cliffs, where the wide sweep of beach from Whitby ends, this stretch is quieter and prettier than its famous neighbour. Children play in the little becks that flow across the sand and ducks waddle across the green in charming Sandsend village. This is a great place for fossil hunting at low tide.
Eat: at The Woodlands is a lovely café-cum-restaurant close to the beach; closed on Mondays.
Stay: at The Porthole, a converted 19th-century bunker built into the cliff with a private terrace overlooking the sea

Northumberland

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13. Bamburgh

Overlooked by Bamburgh Castle, this beautiful stretch of wild coastline offers clear seas and huge sands that stretch to Seahouses, three miles away. On a clear day you can see out to Lindisfarne and the Farne Islands.
Eat: at The Old Ship Inn, Seahouses, an atmospheric pub with sweeping sea views; local seafood is the speciality. Or eat simply: barbecue Bamburgh bangers from R Carter & Son butchers (01668 214344; bamburghbanger.co.uk).
Stay: at St Cuthbert’s House , an elegant 200-year-old former chapel in North Sunderland near Seahouses.

Lancashire

14. Formby

The monumental dunes here are classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and from their tops there are views of the Cumbrian mountains – and even Blackpool Tower on a clear day. Footpaths lead through the pinewoods behind to a red squirrel reserve (this is one of the last outposts in Britain), and on the vast expanse of beach you can sometimes spot prehistoric human and animal footprints. The sunsets are spectacular. Read our guide to a walk along the Formby coast.
Eat: at one of the picnic areas, or among the dunes.
Stay: at Bay Tree House b & b, Southport

East coast of Scotland

15. Lunan Bay

This magnificent two-mile strand on the unheralded Angus coastline is backed by dunes and overlooked by Red Castle, a crumbling 12th-century fortress. Its pink sandstone hues match the colour of the low red cliffs and curious rock formations on the beach below. This is a great place for birdwatching, and is popular with surfers and riders. Some swear the sands have a rosy tint; certainly the shore glitters after a storm, when semiprecious stones such as agate and jasper can be found. Take care when swimming as there are strong currents.
Stay: at Ethie Castle, on the coast near Lunan Bay, a14th-century sandstone fortress that is one of Scotland’s oldest inhabited castles – and one of its most atmospheric b&bs.
Eat: at Gordon’s Restaurant with rooms in nearby Inverkeilor , a place for serious foodies.

West coast of Scotland

16. Sandwood Bay, Cape Wrath, Sutherland

Sutherland’s, and arguably Scotland’s, best beach is Sandwood Bay: a glorious, mile-long stretch of sparkling sand that is pounded by North Atlantic rollers and backed by undulating dunes. The beach, which is owned and managed by the John Muir Trust, is popular with intrepid types – there’s a hike of four and a half miles from Blairmore.
Eat: picnics.
Stay: at Mackay’s Rooms, Durness, has seven stylish bedrooms, two self-catering properties and two crofts.

Scottish Islands

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17. Luskentyre, Outer Hebrides

Hidden at the end of a winding road on the wild north-west coast of the Isle of Harris, this long stretch of brilliant sand is washed by shallow, startlingly azure water. Farther out are the steel-grey rollers more often associated with Scotland, studded with empty, windswept islands.
Eat: at a scenic picnic spot – there are no cafes within walking distance.
Stay: at a cottage or b&b.

Northern Ireland

18. Portstewart Strand

A magnificent beach on the Causeway Coast, bounded at one end by low basalt cliffs and at the other by the River Bann. The dunes that back the two-mile-long Strand reach heights of 100ft and more, lending it an air of wildness and mystery, and the waves that crash on to the beach provide reasonable surfing. In neighbouring Portrush you can marvel at sea-sculpted shapes in limestone cliffs on White Rocks beach – the Cathedral Cave, the Lion’s Paw, the Wishing Arch.
Eat: at Ramore Wine Bar, on the harbour in Portrush
Stay: at the Royal Court Hotel which stands above Portrush, looking down on the town, the East Strand and the Royal Portrush Golf Course.

Wales

19. Marloes Sands

There is a half-mile walk from the car park to this magnificent National Trust-managed beach, but it’s worth it for the crystal-clear water and dramatic sandstone cliffs, the views of outlying islands, and for the fossils, rock pools, seals, surf and space.
Eat: at the Lobster Pot Inn, Marloes.
Stay: at a self-catering property in the area; summer short breaks are available, if booked at the last minute.

20. Rhossili beach

The Worm’s Head promontory marks the beginning of this four-mile stretch of golden sand. Set at the western tip of the peninsula, it bears the full might of Atlantic swells, and is popular with surfers, walkers and paragliders. Access is tricky, involving a walk down the cliff path. Look out for the hull of the Helvetia, wrecked on the beach in 1887. There can be strong undertows when the surf is high.
Eat and stay: at The Worm’s Head Hotel

 

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EPIC Ireland: Inside Dublin’s epic new €15 million tourist attraction

A deep dive into Irish DNA

Epic-Logo-FingerprintEPIC Ireland is described as an interactive visitor experience celebrating the global journeys and influence of the Irish disapora.
Opening to the public on May 7 after an official launch by Mary Robinson, the attraction is set in the brick vaults of CHQ on Custom House Quay.

It is entirely privately funded, developed at a cost of €15 million by Neville Isdell, former Chairman and CEO of Coca Cola and member of the Irish diaspora.
On a preview tour, my experience was of a bold series of 20 galleries slickly fitted with at times breathtakingly immersive technology-driven displays.

Designed by Event Communications, the award-winning designers of Titanic Belfast, EPIC Ireland aspires to tell the story of “10 million journeys”, with galleries organised into themes of migration, motivation, influence and connection.

epic ireland

Why did people leave? What was their influence overseas? How has the emigrant experience changed over time? All are questions integral to the experience.

“The vision and objective of EPIC Ireland is to be the essential first port of call for visitors to Ireland,” said its Managing Director, Conal Harvey.
75pc of visitors are expected to come from overseas, with 25pc coming from the island of Ireland, according to Dervla O’Neill, its head of marketing.

She described the experience as “a real deep dive into the Irish DNA”.
Visitors receive a passport as they enter the attraction, stamping it at various points before using it to send a virtual postcard as their tour concludes.

Some 70 living characters are included among the galleries, ranging from Magdelene daughter Mari Steed to Graham Norton and President Barack Obama.

A rogues’ gallery evokes characters like Ned Kelly and Typhoid Mary, whilst others celebrate the achievements of scientists like Ernest Walton, musicians like Morrissey, and literary giants ranging from Bram Stoker to Edna O’Brien.

epic_23

(…)
All told, however, this is a much-needed and extremely polished addition to Dublin’s deck of tourist attractions – at a time when the city is badly in need of new competitive edges to re-position a somewhat tiring image.
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Tourism Ireland celebrates Season 6 by repurposing Game of Thrones history

Earlier this year, Storm Gertrude ripped up several 200-year-old beech trees from the Dark Hedges, a natural landmark in County Amtrim, Northern Ireland. It’s a landmark that should be familiar to any Game of Thrones fan.
(…)

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Tourism Ireland saved the fallen trees and will use the wood to make ten doors, one for each episode of Game of Thrones Season 6. On each door, it’ll work with world class illustrators, CGI artists, and CNC engineers who will engrave the doors with artistic depictions of the episode’s storylines. Then each door will be posted at a pub around Northern Ireland, culminating in a country-wide pub crawl of epic proportions.

The first door, for “The Red Woman,” has already been completed and is housed in a pub called The Cuan, near the Castle Ward filming location.. It depicts Westeros itself, and the major powers at play.


Tourism Ireland has more than Game of Thrones-themed doors in mind. Already this week, it’s released its first in a series of limited edition GoT stamps.

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These stamps are being created in conjunction with the Royal Mail—they let you send post from Northern Ireland GoT Territory. As with the doors, a new one will be released each week, and each one will be inspired by current themes on the show.

 

 

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The 10 Scottish Stately Homes You Must Visit

SCOTLAND is blessed with a wonderful array of magnificent stately homes and it's easy to spend a day wandering the gardens and rooms of these extraordinary legacies from a distant era. Any of these would be worth a visit at any time of the year.

 

1. Holyrood Palace

Holyrood Park, Edinburgh


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It doesn’t get more stately than a Royal residence, and Holyrood – or The Palace of Holyrood House to give it its proper title – is the Queen’s official abode when she’s north of the border.

She spends a week there every summer carrying out engagements and hosting ceremonies, as does Prince Charles, but for the rest of the year it’s open to the public.

Unsurprisingly it’s one of the country’s top tourist attractions with visitors flocking to walk through its grand State Rooms with their collection of Brussels tapestries, the Throne Room which plays host to the Knights and Ladies of the Order of the Thistle, and the Great Gallery where portraits of real, and legendary, kings of Scotland hang.

The palace was originally built as an abbey in the 11 century by King David I, before it became a Royal home, and its history is as rich as its décor, Most famously, Mary Queen of Scots spend most of her turbulent life in the Palace, marrying two of her husbands there, one of whom murdered her private secretary in her private apartments.

Standing at the end of the Royal Mile, with Arthur’s Seat as its backdrop, it’s easy to walk to from the city centre, and if the weather’s kind there are four hectares of immaculate Palace gardens to stroll through.

2. Abbotsford House

Melrose, Roxburghshire

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Take a literary inspired pilgrimage to the home of one of Scotland’s most famous writers, Sir Walter Scott, author of Rob Roy, Ivanhoe and The Lady of the Lake, on the banks of the River Tweed in the Scottish Borders.

After a two year, multi million pound renovation, it re-opened in 2013 and is now one of the top tourist destinations in the Borders with a spanking new visitor centre and restaurant.

Built for Scott two hundred years ago, he was deeply passionate about Abbotsford, calling it the ‘Dalilah of his imagination’ and his ‘flibbertigibbet of a house’ that would ‘suit none but an antiquary’. What started as a villa, over time grew to become a grand mansion and he filled it with an extensive library, antique furniture, arms and armour and other relics.

Scott lived at Abbotsford until he died in 1832, when it was opened to the public and visitors today can see his library of over 9,000 rare volumes, The Armoury where he kept his vast collection of armour, swords and guns including Rob Roy’s gun (but not his sporran which was stolen from the house in 2014), and the ornately decorated Chinese Drawing Room where Scott’s wife Charlotte, and two daughters would retire after dinner to play instruments and do needlework.

A visit to Abbotsford is a must for lovers of Scottish literature.

 

3. Mount Stuart

Isle of Bute, Argyll & Bute

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On the tiny Isle of Bute, which is just 15 miles long, stands the stunning Mount Stuart, a feat of Victorian gothic architecture.

The red-stoned mansion, which was built in the 1870s, was the vision of the 3 Marquess of Bute, John Crichton-Stuart, the richest man in Britain at the time. Money was no object and it’s a house of ‘firsts’; the first home in the world to have a heated indoor swimming pool, and the first in Scotland to have a passenger lift and a telephone system.

From the Marble Hall with its 80 feet of rare Italian and Sicilian marble and alabaster, to the celestial ceilings, with their zodiac inspired artwork, and the medieval inspired Family Bedroom complete with stained glass windows and Arts and Crafts furniture, Mount Stuart is beyond opulent.

Don’t be put off by the location, there are regular ferry crossings to the island from Wemyss Bay, just 50 mins drive from Glasgow. And if you fancy extending your stay, you can rent a self-catering eco home in the grounds of the house. Sadly they don’t come with a swimming pool though!

 

4. Glamis Castle

Angus

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Whether you’re a Shakespeare buff, a ghost hunter or a Royalist, Glamis Castle is well worth a visit.

The setting for Macbeth, the childhood home of the Queen Mother and the birthplace of Princess Margaret, it’s steeped in history and legend, some of it pretty spine chilling including the burning of suspected witches at the stake, and the tale that a nobleman once played cards with the devil in a secret room in the castle. It’s reputedly home to several ghosts, and has a reputation as the most haunted castle in Scotland!

The castle has been the family home of the Earls of Strathmore since 1372, and its present owner is Simon Patrick Bowes Lyon, the 19 Earl. It combines a family home, albeit a very grand one, with being a living museum of Scottish history.

Visitors can take a guided tour of the castle, or enjoy the castle’s grounds including The Walled Garden and The Italian Garden.

5. Dunrobin Castle

Golspie, Sutherland

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Looking more like a French chateau than a traditional Scottish castle, Dunrobin is the most northerly of all the country’s great homes. It’s also one of Britain’s oldest continuously inhabited houses, with residents from the Sutherland family going all the way back to the early 1300s.

A fire in 1915 almost destroyed the castle, which was being used as a naval hospital at the time. Fortunately it was put out by hundreds of Royal Navy sailors from ships that were lying off the coast, desperate to save their shipmates.

Thanks to their heroics, you can visit the castle’s Breakfast Room, where only men were permitted to eat (women breakfasted in their bedroom), the Library which houses over 10,000 books and the Green and Gold Room where Queen Victoria once stayed.

It’s not just the castle’s architecture which has a French feel; its gardens are inspired by the Palace of Versailles. Parisian chic in the highlands!

 

6. Dumfries House

Cumnock, Ayrshire

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Chippendale fans (and we don’t mean the strippers before you get any ideas) will know that Dumfries House is home to a world-class and unrivalled collection of the famous furniture.

Just one of the many reasons it’s such a popular West Coast tourist destination. It was built in the 1750s and was home to William Dalrymple, the 5th Earl of Dumfries.

After being inherited by the 2nd Marquess of Bute in the 1800s, it stayed in his family until 2007 when it was bought for Scotland for £45 million by a consortium led by Prince Charles, amid fears the Chippendale collection would be sold off privately.

Visitors can take a guided tour of the house, through Lord Dumfries’s study, the Blue Drawing Room and The Pewter Corridor, which links the original part of the house to its 19th century extension.

Afterwards, enjoy afternoon tea in the café which was once the estate’s coach house, before letting the kids explore the woodland adventure playground in the grounds.

 

7. Drumlanrig Castle

Thornhill, Galloway

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Set in the 90,000 acre Queensberry Estate, you can’t miss the imposing Drumlanrig Castle thanks to its distinctive pink sandstone and seventeen turrets.

It’s the Dumfriesshire seat of the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch and Queensberry, whose ancestors took ownership of the castle in 1810 and aside from its 120 rooms filled with antique furniture and opulent furnishings, it’s a haven for art lovers. It’s collection of works by Rembrandt, Da Vinci and Gainsborough would rival any top gallery, right on our doorstep.

Outside the castle’s walls, visitors can enjoy a spot of salmon fishing, take a spin round one of the championship mountain biking trails or go on a ranger led walk through the Estate.

 

8. Falkland Palace

Falkland, Fife

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As with Mount Stuart, we have John Crichton-Stuart, the 3rd Marquess of Bute, to thank for Falkland Palace, as he rebuilt and restored much of it in the 19th century, after it had fallen into disrepair.

Today it’s cared for by the National Trust for Scotland, and is one of Scotland’s most captivating stately homes.

The palace has a strong Royal connection as it was the country residence of the Stuart monarchs for 200 years, they loved to visit to hunt deer and boar in the woods and park. It’s also home to the oldest Royal tennis court in Britain, built for King James V and played on by Mary Queen of Scots, Andy Murray eat your heart out!

Part of the palace remains in ruins but the reconstructed rooms are packed with 17th century Flemish tapestries, and have elaborate painted ceilings.

Gardening fanatics will love the grounds which feature The Pleasure Garden, an ancient fruit orchard, a labyrinth and a stunning wildflower meadow.

9. Blair Castle

Blair Atholl, Pitlochry

You’ll feel as if you’ve been transported back in time from the moment you arrive at the imposing and fairytale like Blair Castle, located at the gateway to the Cairngorms National Park.

A fortress and home to the Dukes of Atholl, it’s hosted royals, nobility, and thousands of visitors who can immerse themselves in 700 years of rich, Scottish history.

Must-sees in the castle include the Victorian Ballroom which is decorated with 175 pairs of antlers, the Entrance Hall in which hangs weapons used at the Battle of Culloden, and the Derby Suite where Queen Victoria stayed on her famous visit to the castle in 1844 when she gifted the Duke with Europe’s only remaining private army, the Atholl Highlanders.

10. The Hill House

Upper Colquhoun Street, Helensburgh

While it may be significantly younger, smaller and more modern than many of Scotland’s other stately homes, The Hill House more than holds its own in the history, design and grandeur stakes.

It’s achieved global fame as Scottish architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s finest domestic creation, and is a compelling mix of Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau, Scottish Baronial and Japonsime architecture and design.

Built between 1902 and 1904 for the publisher Walter Blackie, Mackintosh himself designed everything from the structure of the house to the furniture inside, while his wife Margaret was responsible for the textiles which furnish it.

Mackintosh even instructed what flowers should be used in the house to match the colour schemes he’d created.

Like any stately home worth its salt, the house is rumoured to have its very own ghost – a tall, slender figure dressed in black who appears from Mr Blackie’s Dressing Room.

 

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