I'm Nicola Holland, a travel blogger/writer at FunkyEllas Travel. I'm from Fife in Scotland. I travel Scotland, take photos and write blogs and love every minute. I'm a Scottish Travel Blogger inspiring you to visit Scotland by travelling the country showing you all the best bits
Pittenweem is a charming village in Fife on the east coast of Scotland. The name comes from a combination of the Gaelic and Pictish words for 'place of the cave'. This pretty village is one of several along the Fife coast, collectively known as the East Neuk. There are many things to do in Pittenweem and the surrounding area so it really is an ideal place to stay for a short break, a relaxing weekend away or a wee romantic getaway. In this guide I'll show you what you can do here, how to get here, what the weather is like, where you can stay and where you can eat.
This blog contains affiliate links which I may receive a small commission from
A wee bit of history
Pittenweem was created as a fishing village in the days of early Christianity. It was made a Royal Burgh by King James V in 1541 and remained so until 1975. The beaches and small bays to the west of the village were perfect for boats to be brought out of the water. Eventually the breakwaters were built which meant boats could then be anchored safely in the sheltered water instead of hauling them onto shore. The village was visited often, by boats from Belgium and the Netherlands who brought with them red pantiles to trade for fish. Locals used these tiles to roof their houses which you can still see today. The local parish church was built in the 16th century. In the ground you can see what remains of the priory. This was originally built on the Isle of May but was moved to Pittenweem to avoid its destruction by sea pirates. Many witch trials took place in the village, the most infamous being the Pittenweem witch trails. In 1705 Patrick Morton, a young 16 year old boy, told crazy stories about some of his neighbours and as a result they were murdered in a pretty horrific way. To find out more about witches in Scotland you can read my blog here.
Pittenweem has the only working harbour left in the East Neuk, there is a bustling fish market on the harbour where the fisherman sell their fish to local restaurants and businesses, having brought them in fresh that morning. Little lanes wind up to Market Square where you'll find pretty shops and cafes. There is a lovely, relaxed vibe and it's definitely one of my favourite places for a relaxing break. I love walking the streets and lanes around Pittenweem, and also exploring the nearby villages of Anstruther, Crail, Elie and St Monans. Creative and quirky touches can be found in gardens and on walls and windows and what I really love is the recycled bikes, painted in beautiful colours and filled with flowers which can be seen all over the village.
Things to do in Pittenweem
Hunt for unique finds at the Pop In The Pop In is a quirky aladdin’s cave filled with one-off pieces of furniture, wall art and homeware. It’s an eclectic range and you could easily spend an hour in here browsing. I have drove past this shop so many times and said I really must go in and I finally did on my last visit. I’m so glad I did, I found so many interesting things. There is also a resident artist up the stairs.
Delve below ground at St Fillans Cave Named after St FIllan, an Irish missionary who lived in the caves as he wrote christian sermons. He did great deeds and when he found the cave too dark to write he asked god to solve the problem and god gave him a glowing left arm, or so the story goes. Since then the cave has been used as a smugglers den, as a storage place for fishermen's nets and as a prison during the witch trials. The cave is on Cove Wynd, a pretty pedestrian lane which leads down to the water. You enter the cave through a 17th century iron gate with a large cross. You can pick up the key to the gate at the nearby Pittenweem Chocolate Company, it's a £5 deposit which you get back when you return the key and a £1 donation towards the upkeep of the cave. Once inside you'll notice the cave is shaped like a Y. There is a holy well, which was once thought to hold healing water and was used to treat the mentally ill, which St Fillan was the patron of. You'll also spot a small stone alter and flat ridges, thought to have been used as beds.
Shop for pretty gifts and art at Funky Scottish This is a beautiful gem of a shop in Market Square. Owner Karen creates much of the paintings and ceramics herself and she is extremely talented, I love her 'funky' colourful style. She also displays art, gifts, ceramics and jewellery from other Scottish artists. The shop opened in 2005 and is a popular stop for visitors and tourists, especially now they have opened a cafe inside too!
Watch the fishermen bring in the fish at the Pittenweem harbour If you get down to the harbour early enough you can watch the fishermen return from sea with their catch, unload it, and sell it at the fish market. If it’s not something you are used to seeing it’s fascinating insight into the lives of these men and of village life. It's lovely watching the brightly coloured boats arriving into the harbour, just mind your heads - the seagulls love it too. This poem by John Watt is from the heyday of the fishing industry in Pittenweem at the end of the 19th century.
I’m goin’ wi’ a lassie fae Pittenweem, She’s every fisher laddie’s dream, She guts the herrin’ doon by the quay, And saves her kisses just for me
The port is now a shellfish port and the boats bring in mainly prawns, but also lobster and clams. Refrigerated lorries will buy from the fish market and ship the shellfish over to Spain, France and Holland.
Walk a section of the Fife Coastal Path The Fife Coastal Path passes along the harbour and carries on, all the way to the Tay Bridge. You can choose to walk east towards the next village, Anstruther where you can reward yourself with a fish supper at the famous Anstruther Fish Bar, or you can walk west towards the village of St Monans. The path is 117 miles long and you can walk as far or as little as you like, you can catch a bus back from any of the towns and villages (check bus times beforehand here).
Take part in a pub quiz at Larachmhor Tavern This is the kind of pub I love, a traditional local pub which is up for a laugh, has friendly and helpful staff and a good programme of entertainment including live music, pub quizzes, sports games on the TV and a pool table.
Meet Keny Drew, the talented creator behind East Neuk Glass Key Drew runs East Neuk Glass from his studio just outside Pittenweem. He creates masterpieces using glass, photography and screen printing and offers courses including night classes.
Visit during the fantastic Pittenweem Arts Festival Pittenweem is a creative place with several artists and creatives living in the village. The Pittenweem Arts Festival gives them the opportunity to throw open their doors and welcome visitors into their studios and show off their work. It isn't just locals either, over 100 artists descend on the East Neuk village, setting up shop in pub gardens, living rooms and empty sheds. The adapted spaces are filled with colourful paintings, beautifully and careful laid out and the bonus of this? The artists are in the studio so you can meet them, have a chat and listen to their story. Find out more about this amazing festival here
Get spooked with a Weems Witch Tour Local Leonard Low runs the very popular Weem Witches tours around Pittenweem, entertaining guests with the horrid tales of the Pittenweem witches, a subject he is fascinated with.
How to get to Pittenweem
From Edinburgh there are several options for your journey to Pittenweem. The X60 will take you directly to Pittenweem which leave roughly every hour. The X59 will take you to St Andrews where you can change buses to the X60 and head to Pittenweem. There isn't a train line serving the East Neuk but you could get the train to Kirkcaldy, the bus station is only a 5 minute walk from the train station here where you can get the bus. If you are driving the journey will take around 1 hour from Edinburgh. From Glasgow take the X27 from Buchanan Bus Station to Kirkcaldy then change to the X58 or X60 to Pittenweem. You can also get the train from Glasgow Queen Street to Haymarket, change trains to Kirkcaldy then get the X60 or X58 bus to Pittenweem. If you are driving the journey will take roughly 1hr 30 mins. You can check bus times and prices at Stagecoach and train times at Scotrail.
There is rarely extreme weather in this corner of Fife, although it is likely to rain on and off pretty often. As it is so close to the coast it very rarely sees any snow but if it does it will likely to be between December and February. Spring and Autumn are mild with an average temperature of 9-12°C, winter averages around 4-6°C and in the summer between 14-16°C. It does get windy here, again because it is on the coast, but in spring and summer it's a lovely breeze. You can check the weather on the Met Office website
Pittenweem Restaurants and Cafes
There isn't a huge selection of places to eat in Pittenweem but there is more than enough and every one I've visited I would go again, they have been lovely. One of my favourites is the Pittenweem Chocolate Company and Cocoa Tree Cafe, owner Sophie hand makes her own range of amazing chocolates, 'Handmade in Pittenweem', as well as sourcing the best quality speciality chocolates from across the world. Behind the chocolate counter is a cosy, inviting cafe serving amazing coffees, teas and meals, my go-to dish is the mixed bean soup made with cocoa, with a little tabasco on the side, delicious! A little further along the road from Market Square is the Pittenweem Fish and Chip Bar, a traditional 'chippy' where you can take away, among other things, a Scottish favourite, a fish supper. I love taking it back to where I am staying and enjoying it in front of the fire. One place the fisherman sell their fish to is The Larachmhor Tavern which is just across the road from the fish market on the harbour. They serve lovely meals during the day and there is a great atmosphere at night in this traditional fisherman's pub. They play regular live music, pub quizzes and hold fun community events, it's a proper local boozer and one you really must visit. Funky Scottish is a fantastic cafe and gallery back in Market Square, the cafe itself serves soups, rolls and homemade cake and a pretty mean cup of coffee. The West End Bar has recently got a new chef and now serves food which is getting great reviews so I can't wait to try it the next time I visit. Another place getting rave reviews but that I've not tried yet is The Dory Bistro and Gallery, this restaurant seems like it would be the ideal place to go for an evening meal.
I've stayed in two properties in Pittenweem and both have been amazing. Seaglass Cottage is right in the heart of the village and has a subtle nautical theme with a beautiful cosy living room and a games room! Seaview Cottage is a 10 minute walk from the village and has outstanding views out over the Firth of Forth. It is beautifully decorated and right on the Fife Coastal Path. There aren't any hotels in Pittenweem although there is in neighbouring Anstruther and Elie, but there are lots of lovely holiday homes and apartments such as The White House (for prices, availability and to book click here), Sunny Nook (check it out here) and the Sea Whisperer (see more here)
If you plan to visit Fife, or the east coast in general then a stay in the East Neuk is a fantastic option. It's not busy and the viaages are picturesque and right in the coast. It's peaceful and relaxing and you won't regret it.
Edinburgh Zoo is a brilliant day out with the kids, it lets you get out of the city for a while, for a change of scenery and a break from shopping. The kids will thank you, they would mostly much prefer gazing at animals than clothes. If the kids love their animals as much as my daughter doe you can even splash out on a Keeper Experience at Edinburgh Zoo, you can read my review of our experience below. It's easy to get to, Lothian buses number 12, 26, and 31 can be boarded near both Waverley and Haymarket train stations as well as many stops in the city centre and there is a bus stop directly outside the zoo. Make sure if you visit to wear comfortable shoes, the zoo is on a hill side and can be steep in places. There is a small bus which takes you from the entrance to the top of the zoo, where you will find the zebras and then you can slowly make your way back down if you don't fancy walking up hill.
Edinburgh Zoo prices
It is slightly cheaper to buy your tickets online but they can be purchased on the door too (prices as of April 2019) Adult £17.95 (online), £19.95 (on the door) Child 3-15 £9.00 (online), £9.95 (on the door) Child -3 Free Concession £15.50 (online), £17.50 (on the door) Car Park £4.00
There are so many animals here with many in their own well designed enclosures. The Giant Panda Exhibit is where you'll meet the UK's only two giant pandas, Tian Tian (Sweetie) and Yang Guang (Sunshine). They are kept separately as they are solitary animals and are only brought together to breed. The viewing gallery runs between them and you can often see one of them playing around on their swing beds, or with bamboo shoots. They have an outdoor area too with wooden climbing frames, lots of greenery, tree trunks, caves and ponds. During the quiet season there is no need to book a viewing time but during peak season you'll be able to book a slot when you buy your tickets. Youc can watch the pandas any time by viewing the Edinburgh Zoo Panda Cam here
Penguin Rock has recently had a major revamp and is looking wonderful. There are three types of penguin to see - the King penguin, the Gentoo and the Rockhopper. Watch as they dive and swim in their huge pool (the largest outdoor penguin pool in Europe), play in the waterfall and sleep on the rocks. Don't miss the Penguin Parade which is on once a day. It is voluntary for the penguins so you never know how many want to venture out for a walk but there will usually be a few. If none want to go for a walk the parade will be cancelled but it doesn't happen very often. If there are baby penguins you'll love watching from the viewing area as they learn to shuffle around and are fed by the parents.
The Budongo Trail is where you'll find the cheeky chimpanzees in their huge indoor and outdoor play area. The Brilliant Birds exhibitions is an amazing walkthrough filled with exotic birds and you can walk among them You can see the Koalas at the Koala Territory and you'll meet Goonaroo, Alinga, Tanami and little baby Kalari. The Wallaby Outback is another walk through, this time with some Swamp Wallabes.
That's not all though, there is also (are you ready?) Lions, Flamingos, Lemurs, Tamarin Monkeys, Squirrel Monkeys, Pelicans, Baboons, Anteaters, Rhinos, Zebras, SunBears, Meerkats, Otters, Tortoises, Hippos, Red Pandas, Hogs and Wildcats.
Review of the Junior Keeper Experience
I booked my daughter a Zoo keeper experience at Edinburgh Zoo for her birthday. We hadn’t been to the zoo for months so had been looking forward to it for a while. Taylor is animal-daft so was fairly excited by the time it came around. We arrived 10 minutes before the zoo opened at 9am, but not before a quick brekkie at Toby Carvery along the road (always handy). We arrived at reception with our cameras and wellies in tow, where we were greeted by our host, Sam. There was no queuing for us as we were ushered past the line of people, into the shop, to fill out some forms. Then it was up to the zoo keepers’ building where Sam explained how our day would go and what we would be doing and my daughter was given her exclusive Keeper Experience t-shirt. First up was cleaning out the home of the Azara’s Agouri, and the Pudu, mucking out all the rubbish and putting in fresh hay straw and food, it didn’t take long but, as the keeper explained, it's an important part of the job! We then met Dylan the armadillo, who isn’t out for the public to see, so we felt very privileged! Especially as we found out he has starred in a Harry Potter film! We made up his food and took him out to the grass for a run around, and my god he was fast. We also had a quick hold of a white owl and my daughter fed him something gross, I don’t know how she does it but nothing phases her. We had a walk down to the bottom of the zoo to visit the pelicans in their lake. This was definitely my favourite part of the day. Taylor got to feed them some fish, each one had a different coloured bracelet on their ankle so it was game trying to make sure they had the same amount of fish each. These birds are gorgeous, and have loads of personality, and are a little bit mad! We had a bit of spare time before we visited the next animal so we went back to the keepers hut for a bit of hands-on with a bearded dragon and the cutest little mini hedgehog (not it’s official name! I must remember to write things down) Then it was on to visit the lemurs where Taylor and the keeper sat inside with them and fed them fruit while they clambered all over them. They were in for about 30 minutes. If you don’t want to pay for the full experience you can buy the Lemur magic moment on it’s own and I can definitely recommend it, it’s fantastic. The photo below is a bit dodgy, but it has to be done through the window so it’s as good as I was getting, oops. Lastly was a walk down to the penguin enclosure where Taylor was invited in to feed them their fish while everybody watched! They really are the cutest little things and they have a brilliant big enclosure themed beautifully with loads of water for them to play around in. If you go when the babies have hatched you can see them sitting with their parents under their sun umbrellas. Taylor loved her Keeper experience and I felt it was well worth the money
Edinburgh Zoo experiences
If you are over 18 you can take part in the Full Day Keeper Experience. It costs £250 off peak and £260 at peak time and includes the exclusive Keeper T-shirt and certificate. You get to prepare and deliver meals for the animals, make enrichments for the enclosure, have a special hands-on magic moment with one of the animals and learn what the keepers do on a daily basis, it's a brilliant opportunity to get behind-the-scenes. The price includes lunch and your entrance fee and there will only ever be two people during the experience. You can also book a half day Keeper Experience, it costs £150 off peak and £160 at peak time. The Junior Keeper Experience which we did costs £150 for three hours and the child has to be accompanied by an adult, who is not responsible for any other children on the day as they will be required to go behind the scenes too. None of the experiences run on a Saturday but can be booked for any other day.
Hotels near Edinburgh Zoo
If you want to stay near Edinburgh Zoo there is a good selection of hotels nearby. The Holiday Inn (Check availability and book here) is just across the road. The Torfin is a beautiful hotel which gets excellent reviews and is close by, check availability and book here and The White Lady at Wetherspoons, whose rooms are amazing is just along the road (click here for prices
Please do let me know in the comments below if you have a keeper experience at Edinburgh Zoo, I'd love to know how you get on.
When it comes to stunning places to visit, dominating mountains, mesmerising lochs and fascinating history, finding the best of Scotland is actually pretty easy, as there is so many places that are utterly gorgeous.
Scotland is a beautiful country, there is no denying that. I feel incredibly lucky that I have a Scotland d travel blog and I get to travel around Scotland, there are so many places where I have to stop the car, just to soak up the view. I never get anywhere fast, Taylor will confirm that, she appreciates how gorgeous Scotland is but gets slightly annoyed when I can't drive for more than 10 minutes without pulling over and taking photos. Living in Fife gives me pretty easy access to Edinburgh, Dundee and Perthshire and it's not too difficult to get over to the west coast or up into the Highlands.
Glencoe is one of my favourite places to go in Scotland, and I'm not the only one. What makes Glencoe so special is a combination of things. It's atmospheric, the mountains have an allure, a mystical pull that draws you in. It’s a magical place and you can’t help but feel it, surrounded by dominating mountains, with the fresh Highland air filling your lungs. I think the best time to capture Glencoe is when the weather is dull and drizzly, it makes them even more mystical and mysterious. If you are driving to Glencoe from the south don’t forget to stop off at Rannoch Moor (below) too.
This barren landscape is one of the last remaining wildernesses in Europe. It spans 50 square miles and when you are there feels like you are on another planet. It’s a flat expanse of boggy ground, lochs, rivers and lochans, and like Glencoe, is almost other-worldly. You’ll find Rannoch Moor just before you hit Glencoe and the West Highland Way crosses the moor from north to south so if you are on the hike you get to experience it in the best way possible. The West Highland Line also passes across the moor and Glencoe, which is one of Scotrail’s Great Scenic Journeys.
What’s not to love about Edinburgh? Scotland’s capital city is packed full of beautifully historic buildings, photogenic closes and staircases and of course there is the castle, sitting high on an extinct volcano, visible from almost anywhere in the city centre. You’ll find photo stop after photo stop as you wander the cobbled Old Town. Remember to investigate the alleyways and closes, you’ll find some quirky hidden gems, colourful houses and lovely angles, doorways and wall decor.
Mellon Udrigle Beach
I discovered this beach while I was driving around the North Coast 500. Often, when I talk about beaches, I say that they completely transform when the sun comes out, from a standard beach to one that is utterly gorgeous. Mellon Udrigle though is an exception. When it’s overcast and cloudy the colours melt into the mountainous backdrop beautifully. The grey and blues complement each other and it makes for some stunning photos. You’ll find the beach the end of a winding single track road, near the village of Laird in Wester Ross. You’ll be glad you made the effort.
Isle of May
A super easy way to see Puffins while your in Scotland you can visit the Isle of May by boat from Anstruther in Fife, just across the Forth from Edinburgh. It’s a relatively small island so when you are walking along the top of the cliffs watching the seabirds you can see water all around you. The cliffs are high and the water crashes below, the air is fresh and the bird song is deafening and it feels amazing. You can get close enough to the Puffins to get some really beautiful photos as they are perched on the grass or catch them mid flight as they duck and dive for fish.
Melrose Abbey is part of the Borders Abbey Way in the Scottish Borders, along with Dryburgh Abbey, Jedburgh Abbey and Kelso Abbey. All four are beautiful ruins that are very photogenic and the circular long distance hike which takes in all four abbeys, which were founded by David, I of Scotland, is 68 miles long. The abbeys are vastly different, in size and style and have a fascinating history. King Robert the Bruce’s heart is buried in Melrose Abbey, Dryburgh Abbey is where Sir Walter Scott is buried and the villages themselves are really pretty too.
Isle of Iona
Ahhhh...beautiful Iona. Situated off the southern tip of the Isle of Mull this stunning little island is best know for the famous Iona Abbey. Have you tried taking a pretty photo only to wish that bloody car would move? That isn’t an issue on Iona as no cars are allowed, it’s a foot ferry from Fionnfort that you board and the crossing only takes 10 minutes. The water around this island is what makes Iona extra special, on a sunny day it’s a bright torquoise blue and the little white sandy bays are filled with visitors enjoying an ice cream. The Abbey itself was once the centre of the Gaelic monestery and is serene and peaceful, much like the rest of the island.
The Trotternish Ridge
The Trotternish Ridge in the north of Skye has some of the most outstanding landscape in the whole of Scotland, it really is spectacular. Perhaps the most famous part is the Old Man of Storr which is so popular that the hike to it can actually get quite busy, but there is a huge wonderland of bizarre landscape, that was formed by giant landslides, to explore and there is a pretty good chance you'll have wherever you end up all to yourself. Go prepared though, there is some tough hikes up there. The Quiraing is also popular and other formations, such as the Needle and the Table, are weird and extremely photogenic.
The addition of the new Queensferry Crossing, which joins the famous Forth Rail Bridge and Forth Road Bridge, makes taking photos of these bridges even better. Whether you watch them from North Queensferry, South Queensferry, as you fly over, walk across or sail under, every angle gives a different but equally as gorgeous view. The bridges join Edinburgh and the Lothian in the south to the Kingdom of Fife in the north and they look stunning, especially at sunset. I sailed under the bridges with Edinburgh Charter Boats on a catamaran and flew over the bridges on a four seater plane and thoroughly enjoyed seeing them from a different angle.
Another stop on the amazing North Coast 500, this time on the west coast, a little further down than Mellon Udrigle. This remote village, friendly locals and beautiful beaches make it the ideal place to stop for a night or two. The beaches, such as Big Sands and Red Point, backed by large sand dunes, and with views over to Raasay and Skye, are beautifully white, spotlessly clean and utterly charming. The road past Gairloch winds up high above the sea with ruined brochs and broken stone walls littering the fields below, very picturesque.
This beach, another in Wester Ross, completely blew my mind. I could have been in the Caribbean. The photo below says it all. Three miles north of Lochinver it's actually perfectly possible to visit Gairloch, Alchmelvich and Mellon Udrigle on the same day. I would recommend taking your time though, the road to Alchmelvich is hairy-scary and my knuckles were white by the time we reached the beach. It was totally worth it though, and it was an afternoon I'll never forget.
The bonnie bonnie banks of Loch Lomond are certainly bonnie and with so many walks in the area and islands to explore you'll be spoilt for choice when it comes to pretty views.
Isle of Arran
My favourite island of all, Arran is nicknamed Scotland in miniature as it has vast dominating mountains in the north and lush green fields and white sand beaches to the south. It's easily accessible too, from Glasgow it's just a short bus ride to Adrossan where you can catch a ferry to Brodick on the island. There are so many pretty places to take photos here, such as Goatfell, Brodick Castle, the string road, the Machrie standing stones, Glenashdale Falls, King's Cave and Lochranza.
The Hermitage is in the heart of Highland Perthshire. It's a beautiful stroll through a forest of tall Douglas Firs to the thunderous Black Linn Falls. These thunderous waterfalls tumble down the river and can be viewed from either Ossian Hall, a pretty unique building with a balcony overlooking the falls. or from the banks of the river if you fancy exploring a little further.
You may recognise this bridge from the Harry Potter films, it is part of the West Highland Line from Glasgow to Mallaig. It crosses the River Finnan and is 380 metres long. If you climb the small hill behind the Glenfinnan monument visitor centre you can get excellent views of the bridge and the beautiful surroundings. The train journey from Glasgow to Mallaig is said to be one of the best in the world so if you get the chance to take it I'd highly recommend it. The Jacobite steam train (also from the Harry Potter films) crosses the bridge which you can board in Fort William or Mallaig or you can time it correctly and get photos from one of the vantage points of the steam train on the bridge.
Arguably the most photogenic castle is Scotland this castle is in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire. Perched on a beautifully shaped dramatic cliff. It was once home to one of the most powerful families in Scotland and is now a stunning ruin. You can take a walk from Stonehaven Beach .
Once I visit more places I hope to add to this list so keep your eyes peeled for more amazing locations.
Scotland has a wonderful range of accommodation available to choose from. There is everything from 5 star luxury hotels to cosy traditional cottages. I, though, can often be found looking for unusual places to stay in Scotland. I like to look for something quirky and unique, something with the wow factor, something you just can't find anywhere else. Sometimes it will seem relatively normal and it will be the outstanding location that makes the property stand out, being on the edge of a white sand beach or tucked away in a picturesque forest, sometimes it will have facilities and amenities that I've never experienced before, a handmade wood-fired hot tub or a rustic honesty shop with fresh food from the farm, sometimes it will be so pretty that I just can't bring myself to turn it down. I do enjoy being pampered but I'm just as happy to challenge myself without the basics if it means I get the opportunity to have a digital detox in a breathtaking location. Accommodation in Scotland varies greatly so wherever you fancy staying and however you fancy doing it you'll probably find what you're looking for here in Scotland. Just check out these bonnie wee places.
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Four Sister Boatel, Edinburgh
Moored in the Lochin Basin in Edinburgh Quay, this 4 star luxurious boat is certainly an unique place to stay. There is a full kitchen, 2 cabin bedrooms, a kids bunk room, a flat screen TV, free WiFi and a beautiful shower room. It’s a pretty special way to experience ‘city glamping’ and as you lay in bed, bobbing gently, you’ll feel a million miles away from the centre of Edinburgh. With a lovely little sun terrace to enjoy your breakfast as you watch the locals begin their day, or with a glass of wine in the evening after a delicious meals in one of the many nearby restaurants a stay here is a quirky alternative to a city hotel.
Skye Eco Bells, Isle of Skye
in Dunvegan, on the Isle of Skye, are three cosy little cabins surrounded by stunning mountain views and more wildlife than you could shake a stick at (please don’t do that!). With no WiFi or 4g reception it’s a real opportunity to detox and enjoy the outstanding surroundings. There is a solar powered usb socket to charge your phone, but other than that you’ll be left in peace without buzzing and ringing which is often utter bliss. The hosts have thought of everything in these delightful little cabins, there is an ample supply of cushions and blankets, a wood-burning stove with a bucket of firewood, a double bed and a single bed and little lanterns to provide light. This site is extremely eco-friendly with a compost toilet and greenhouse shower. For prices, availability and to book click here
Woodland Cabins, Glencoe
Another way to get away from it all is to stay in these romantic luxury wooden cabins at the foot of Glencoe. They are tucked away in a native bluebell wood on the shore of Loch Linnhe and there are only four so it feels secluded and peaceful. Each cabin has original beams, a wood-burning stove and huge windows so you can enjoy the beautiful view. Built by the owner’s dad in 1972 they were fully renovated in 2017 and now offer free wifi, a TV and a fully equipped kitchen including a dishwasher. There is a double room and a twin room in each. These cabins are wonderful and are surrounded by forest trails and loch side walks, perfect for a romantic break away. For prices, availability and to book click here.
Nisbet's Tower, Eyemouth
Nisbet's Tower is a renovated 18th century 'doocot' in the small town of Eyemouth in the Scottish Borders. Doocots were used to house nesting pigeons, beginning in the 12th century, they were more commonly shaped like a beehive and you might spot some in fields as you travel around Scotland. This unusual tower sleeps four people with a king sized bed in the bedroom on the ground floor, along with a shower room, and a sofa bed in the open living space upstairs. You'll also find the kitchen and dining space with Smart TV. Perched on top of a small hill the tower has amazing views over the harbour. Nisbet's Tower is named after John Nisbet, a local smuggler who built the nearby Gunsgreen House, which is now a museum. The house was built to include lots of secret hiding places to hide smuggled goods and contains the world's only 'tea chute' where smugglers hid their tea from prying eyes. Kids love the Smugglers Trail and there are challenges on offer in the museum where they can dress up and play to their heart's content. Above the museum there is also another apartment, called Merchant's House, which sleeps 11 people. For prices, availability and to book click here.
Beach Houses with Hot Tubs, Glencoe
These two architect-designed detached houses sit on the banks of Loch Linnhe, just a short drive from the above Woodland Cabins. They really are the ultimate in luxury with a private terrace both downstairs and upstairs so you can enjoy a drink or two or have your breakfast while enjoying the fantastic view over the water. One house has four bedrooms sleeping nine people with 5 bathrooms, the other sleeps seven people in three bedrooms. Then, of course, you have the hot tub, on the bottom deck with those amazing views, utter bliss! Underfloor heating throughout will keep your tootsies cosy and there is a flat screen TV and wifi too. The owners of the lodges also own and run the Holly Tree Hotel which is only two minutes away, where you get free access to the beautiful indoor heated pool, hot tub spa and sauna. For prices, availability and to book click here.
Aberdeen Lighthouse Cottages, Aberdeen
If you are looking for unusual places to stay in Scotland how about staying in a lighthouse? These original lighthouse cottages were built in 1833 and sit on the edge of some pretty dramatic coastline in north east Scotland. The compound was designed by the famous Robert Stevenson, who also designed the Bell Rock Lighthouse and the lighting for the smallest working lighthouse in the world. The lighthouse is still working today although it is controlled remotely and stands at 130 feet. Each of the three cottages are individually decorated with a wood-burning stove, free wifi and few beautiful original features. One of the cottages is the original lighthouse keeper's cottage, another is where all the important machinery was housed. For prices, availability and to book click here
Tangle Tower, Inverness
What was once a watchtower in the Victorian era and an observation tower during the the war Tangle Tower is now an ultra modern apartment with a stunning mixture of original and contemporary features. In South Kessock in Inverness, it looks over the Moray Firth so there is a chance you will spot the pod of dolphins that play in the low tide. A lovely enclosed garden and patio area sits out front with a table and chairs so you can enjoy the view. On the ground floor is a large open plan living/dining area with a gorgeous bespoke kitchen with everything you'll ever need and the huge floor to ceiling patio doors lead out to the garden. Next door is the large master bedroom. Up on the first floor is the second bedroom and huge family bathroom with roll top bath. On the top floor is the impressive viewing room decorated with touches of beautiful modern tartan and uninterrupted views over the Beauly Firth to the Black Isle. For prices, availability and to book click here.
Calendonian Cabin, Invergarry
This Highland Hideaway is more than just a lodge, it's one of the best lodges I've ever seen. It is made from red Cedar logs, handcrafted in Canada using traditional methods, and brought here to the Highlands. Situated 50 yards from the shore of Loch Garry this cabin is cosy, warm and the perfect way to experience a little 'hygge' in Scotland, especially as there is ample supple of rugs and throws, underfloor heating and a pretty fireplace. There is access to a canoe and rowboat to use should you fancy and an outdoor hot tub and pizza oven. If the weather is rubbish and you want to stay indoors there is sky tv and a brilliant wooden games table with chess and backgammon. For prices, availability and to book click here
Harvest Moon Treehouse
In Dunbar, just south of Edinburgh on the east coast is the Harvest Moon Treehouses. It's just a short walk to the beach which has amazing views of the Bass Rock and you can sea swim or go sledging down the sand dunes if you are feeling active. The farm is on a site of scientific interest so there is lots of wildlife around, you can see deer, wild hares and rabbit and many different types of birds. If you are bringing kids they can help to feed the chickens, rabbits and ducks and they can also collect the eggs in the morning for breakfast. The treehouses themselves are split into two, one half is the living/dining space with a pine kitchen, log-burning stove and sofa with views over the farm, fields and towards the sea. A covered walkway leads to the second octagonal space, with a bathroom with shower and two bedrooms. The floor is two meters above the ground and underneath is a love seat, a swing, and a table and chairs. For prices, availability and to book click here.
Rock House, Edinburgh
Built in 1756 Rock House sits at the foot of Calton Hill and has panoramic views of the city. The house once belonged to artist and photographer Davis Octavius Hill who, with Robert Adamson, developed the calotype process in their studio here. It's one of the oldest houses in the New Town and is elegantly decorated with period touches and a whole lot of character. It's a special place, so much so that Conde Nast and Luxury Traveller named it 'The place to stay in Edinburgh'. The house sleeps eight guests in four bedrooms and there are three bathrooms. For prices, availability and to book click here.
I hope this list will give you an idea of the type of quirky and unusual accommodation that there is on offer in Scotland. As i travel around Scotland for my Scottish travel blog I will find more to add to this list, you can subscribe to my monthly newsletter here and you'll be the first to know when I add some more. Have you stay somewhere in Scotland that is out of the ordinary? Let me know in the comments below.
Planning your character dining at Disney doesn't need to be mind-boggling, but I completely understand why it can seem confusing. If you aren't sure which restaurant serves what, which characters are where, which parks the restaurants are in and how on earth you choose between them all then this blog will help make it clear. Disney World character dining is an amazing experience and the perfect opportunity to meet characters that you might struggle to find in the parks, or if you do it'll likely mean a long wait, time that you could be spending on rides or watching parades.
Find out - Where the restaurants are (park/hotel) Which characters you'll see What food is served How much money/dining credits it costs
It is recommended that you book your character dining in advance, 180 days in advance if you are staying on-site. This is especially important if you want to book Cinderella's Royal Table or if you have your heart set on meeting a particular character. Plus, booking in advance is great fun, booking day is something we look forward to it and we always make a big fuss, gathering everyone around the table with our list, it's another exciting stage of the vacation planning.
This complete guide to Disney World Character Dining will make the process a whole lot easier so you can make the best decision for you and your family.
In the parks
Future World, Epcot
This Disney World character dining experience is distinctly retro so is popular with Disney World regulars but not so popular with first-timers so it's not as difficult to book as some of the other. It's one of my favourites though and I highly recommend it. Situated in the Land Pavillion in Epcot, in the same building as Living with the land, Soarin' and The Circle of Life, it's Disney's only rotating restaurant! Yes, rotating! Garden Grill is on the top floor of the Land Pavillion and looks over the Living with the land ride. The restaurant (very) slowly rotates so the scenery changes while you eat, through a rainforest, the famous farmhouse and a desert. The rotation takes 1 hour giving you ample time to eat without the scenery repeating. It is split into two levels, the upper level has traditional tables and the lower lever has comfy booths facing the changing views so if you can, ask for a table here. You can experience character dining at breakfast, lunch and dinner here and you'll meet Mickey, Pluto and Chip 'n' Dale. The interaction is fantastic, Chip 'n' Dale are their usually cheeky selves and you will likely see the characters more than once as you eat. Mickey wears his farmer outfit and the restaurant has a country, comfortable, family feel. Breakfast is served on a skillet, family-style, meaning the food is altogether on the skillet and you help yourself. It's also eat-as-much-as-you-care so you can feel free to ask for more of anything. Breakfast includes fruit, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, Mickey waffles and the all-so-amazing Chip's Sticky Bun, a gooey, sticky and utterly scrumptious tear-and-share. You can enjoy Chip 'n' Dale's Harvest Feast at lunch and dinner, including slow-braised turkey, pot roast, carved pork, mashed potato, mac 'n'cheese , fries and delicious veg, most of which is grown in the Land Pavillion and can be seen if you ride the ride. 1 Meal credit
Akershus Royal Banquet Hall
Norway Pavillion, Epcot
For a taste of something different and an easier way to meet some princesses than Cinderella's Royal Table, Akershus is ideal. Set in a medieval castle in the Norway Pavillion, in Epcot, it serves a nice mix of American food and Norwegian food for breakfast. For lunch and dinner the menu is focused more on Norwegian food and there are characters at each of the meal times. As you enter the castle there is a photo opportunity with one of the princesses before you even get seated, ours was Belle. You'll meet the other four - Snow White, Aurora, Ariel and Cinderella, while you eat. Breakfast consists of a buffet with bread, pastries, fruit, cheese, hams and cereals. You will also be served a skillet, family-style, with sausages, bacon, scrambled eggs and potatoes, this is eat-as-much-as-you-care so you can ask for more if you want it. The same princesses are there during lunch and dinner. Your meal begins with a "Taste of Norway', with Scandinavian fish, cheeses and meats along with salad and fruit. The main course is ordered from the a la carte menu where you can choose, among other things, Swedish meatballs, a Viking mixed grill or herb-roasted chicken. Dessert is a delicious selection of Norwegian treats. Children can choose from their own 'pick and mix' menu and there is a good selection including pizza, meatballs and mac 'n' cheese, with rice, potatoes, corn, veg or fruit salad. The princesses are adorable and chatty and the kids can go for a walk with them around the restaurant too. 1 meal credit
Visiting Disneyland Paris? Find out out the food on offer here
In the Africa section of Animal Kingdom, near the Festival of the Lion King, is Tusker House. This safari themed restaurant is an alternative way to experience character dining at Disney because they all are all in their very cute safari outfits! Mickey, Donald, Daisy and Goofy look adorable in their khaki clothes. This is a large restaurant but brilliantly themed so it never feels too busy. The buffet is slightly African themed but there are definitely options if that isn't your thing. Beautifully spiced curries, chutneys and stews make an amazing change from the usual theme park food. It's laid out like a market place with some buffet stations and some stations with chefs, preparing meats and fish. The kids have their own special buffet section with food such as mac 'n' cheese, nuggets, fries, veg and meats and cheeses. The desserts are in the section right in the middle and they are amazing! You check in at the outdoor counter and are given a buzzer which will go off when your table is ready. This is a lovely option for Disney World character dining, the restaurant has such a lovely atmosphere and the servers are always chatty and friendly. 1 meal credit
Hollywood and Vine
If the kids are fans of Playhouse Disney then they will love Hollywood and Vine's breakfast buffet, they not only get to enjoy a buffet filled with pancakes, Mickey waffles, pastries and omelettes they will also get to meet Nancy Clancy, Doc McStuffins, Vampirini and Roadstar Racer Goofy. Lunch and dinner give a glamourous Minnie Mouse the chance to host her seasonal dinner party where she is joined by Mickey, Donald, Daisy and Goofy. The food is traditionally American with the usual meats, salads, breads, soup and desserts. This sleek Art Deco restaurant doesn't have the biggest selection of food but you will most definitely find enough of what you like. 1 meal credit
Photo courtesy of Mike Christoferson @Flickr
Located in Disney's Magic Kingdom, this beautiful restaurant is light, airy and bright with huge windows and plants and a glass ceiling, like a greenhouse! If you go for breakfast you can get into the park early and get some amazing shots of the castle before the crowds arrive. This is one of my favourite places to experience character dining experiences in Walt Disney World, firstly because the food is such good quality and second because I get to meet some of my favourite characters - Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Tigger and Eeyore. There isn't a huge variety of food on offer but it is utterly delicious and it includes pancakes, waffles, biscuits and gravy, fresh fruit, cereals, meats like bacon, sausages and salami, scrambled eggs and an omelette station and some speciality French toast with cinnamon. Lunch and dinner include seasonal fish such as salmon and shrimp, veg, a meat carving station, fresh breads, salads, soups, rotisserie chicken and beautiful desserts. The character interactions here fantastic, they are interactive, animated and very funny. 1 meal credit
Cinderella's Royal Table
This is commonly known as the best character dining at Disney World and I agree, to a certain extent. If the kids love princesses and it's their dream to eat inside the castle and have the whole princess experience then this is perfect. Imagine the faces of the kids when they find out they can dine with the princesses in the castle at Magic Kingdom? It is on the pricey side though so be prepared, it's also two dining credits so if they are happy to meet them elsewhere you should also consider Akershus at Epcot. It's a situation where you are definitely paying for the setting and the experience. There is a lot of hanging around, firstly to check in, then to wait for the photo spot, then to have your name called to be seated. We had quite a late dining time so it may be easier if you book a time slot before the park opens, you then also get those amazing shots down an almost empty Main Street. Character dining takes place at breakfast, lunch and dinner and the princesses are Belle, Aurora, Ariel, Snow White and Cinderella. Once you check in you wait in the lobby of the castle for your photo with the first princess, then once your name is called you are taken up the stairs to the main dining room which is beautifully decorated with suits of armour, shields, magnificent chandeliers and pretty, colourful stained glass windows. If you are lucky enough to get a seat by the windows you'll get an excellent view over Fantasyland. The food is chosen off the a la carte menu and there is a pretty good selection so you'll likely find something you like. I have found the food to be a hit or miss, some dishes have been amazing and some not so good. The dishes are always beautifully presented but the portions are on the small side. The experience is magical for the kids though so that's all that matters eh? Breakfast includes a starter of pastries followed by a choice of (among other things) a traditional breakfast of sausages and bacon, a healthier option of oatmeal and a wholemeal bagel with avocado or caramel and apple stuffed french toast. Lunch and dinner include a starter of either soup, salad or a nice meat and cheese platter followed by a choice of dishes such as braised pork, fish of the day, pan-seared chicken or vegetable couscous. The clock strikes Twelve is a pretty amazing dessert too. 2 meal credits
So that is all the character dining at Disney but did you know you can meet the characters if you dine in restaurants in some of the Disney hotels? There are many reasons why this is just a brilliant idea. One, you get to have a nosy around a Disney hotel you might not otherwise get to see, two, the restaurants are usually quieter than in the parks, three, you don't even need a park ticket and four, you get three hours free parking if you have a reservation! I happen to think the food is often better too and the experience is just as special.
Polynesian Village Resort
Love everything about this restaurant, and hotel. Themed so that you feel like you are in the South Pacific, it’s a tropical oasis. From the exotic plants and wooden tiki statues to hula dancers and fire-eaters, this hotel is amazing. It's also on the monorail so it's super easy to reach. I highly recommend taking a relaxed walk around the resort, there is a lot of green space, beautifully placed seating areas, palm trees and a white sand beach. Character dining takes place in Ohana, up the stairs from the main lobby, at breakfast, where you can meet Lilo, Stitch, Mickey and Pluto in their Hawaii outfits. The food is served family style on a skillet. The meal begins with a delicious warm tear and share sticky bread, a fresh fruit platter and a glass of the famous Pog juice. Next, a huge skillet is brought to the table and you can help yourself to scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, ham, biscuits, potatoes and Mickey waffles. Breakfast is always my favourite meal of the day and I really enjoy our meals here. The portions are large and you can ask for more of anything you want. Meeting Stitch is always a joy, he is so cheeky, he even picked his nose once and flicked it in our pog juice! The kids get to have a walk around the restaurant with the characters and will be given maracas to shake as they go.
Storybook dining at Artist Point
The newest character dining at Disney replaces the signature dining at Artist Point and is an absolutely amazing Disney World character dining experience. The creator's aim was to make the meal more of a storytelling journey, rather than just another character meal and I think it was pretty successful. The room has been transformed into an enchanted forest with trees, leaves and lanterns. Character dining takes place at dinner only (4pm-9pm) and you'll get to meet Snow White, Grumpy, Dopey and the Evil Queen (just don't call her that!). Although you can find Snow White in several areas of the parks it's an excellent chance to see two of the dwarfs which are rare characters and getting to meet the evil queen is also exciting as she is never really in the parks unless it's a special event. I loved the whole storytelling experience, from the leather-bound menu and the inventive names of the dishes, to the dancing and interactions, it's a memorable evening. The menu is slightly confusing, it's a set selection of dishes for appetisers and desserts and you can choose your entre, there is a selection of around 6-8 dishes, including 2 veggie options. The appetisers and desserts are brought to the table on a twisted branch with large leaves which the dishes sit on. I'm not sure yet if the dishes change seasonally but when we visited the appetisers included a spicy Winter Bisque, a Hunters Pie and a Wicked Shrimp Cocktail. the desserts were a Miners Treasure (like a green cupcake), a Fairytale Gooseberry Pie and a sparkly Poisoned Apple. As a fantastic finale, the servers will bring you the 'Hunter's gift for the Queen', a wooden chest filled with smoke, maple candied popcorn and red chocolate hearts. The lighting through the evening changes, as you enter the room is bright and it slowly darkens as the night goes on - very clever. There is very little chance of being bored as the night is filled with songs, dances and brilliant interactions. 1 meal credit
Cape May Cafe
Beach Club Resort
Minnie's Beach Bash Breakfast takes place in Cape May Cafe in the fantastic Beach Club Resort. I love the theming of this restaurant. Colourful deckchairs and beach umbrellas adorn the walls and sandcastles can be found dotted around. The New England beach style is carried on in the characters' brightly coloured outfits. The character dining experience, with Minnie, Donald, Daisy and Goofy, is for breakfast only and is served buffet style so you can help yourself to as much as you like. There is a good selection of food to choose from, including fresh fruit, salad, cereals, pastries, bagels, Mickey waffles, sausages, bacon, scrambled eggs and an omelette station. Donald will get the kids up for a dance around the restaurant and the characters are chatty and bubbly. 1 meal credit
Trattoria Al Forno
Another stunning hotel and another of my favourites, the location is amazing with pretty, white-washed and pastel coloured buildings lining the waterfront. Trattoria al Forno is an Italian Eatery with beautiful views across the water and a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere. The Bon Voyage Adventure Breakfast is the perfect opportunity to meet some rare characters with Prince Eric and Flynn Ryder appearing, alongside Ariel and Rapunzel. The meal begins with a generous dish of warm pastries and a fresh fruit salad and you can then choose your main course. Options include the King Tatton's Shipwreck al Forno, a calzone of scrambled egg, veg, bacon, sausages and gravy, Tangled Eggs, a Tower of pancakes and a Royale Breakfast. The kids can follow Ariel, dancing around the restaurant and you can join in a giant sing-a-long. Don't forget to pop into the delicious Boardwalk Bakery as you leave. 1 meal credit
1900 Park Fare
A firm favourite of many Disney fans, The Grand Floridian has two very different character dining experiences. For breakfast, you can meet 5 of my favourite characters, so it's another experience I love, even though I prefer the Boardwalk and Beach Club hotels. You meet Mary Poppins, Mad Hatter, Winnie the Pooh, Alice and Tigger while enjoying a buffet of fresh fruit, yoghurts, eggs, corned beef hash, sausages, bacon, Eggs Benedict, salmon, a carving station and the famous Strawberry Soup. It's not the most exciting meal or experience, but if you love the characters it's an ideal way to meet them. Cinderella's Happily Ever After Dinner takes place in the evening. After having your photo taken in front of the painted mural which features the castle you are seated in the beautiful dining room which reminds me of a vintage fairground with carousel horses and a grand organ which plays sparodically high up on the wall. Cinderella, Prince Charming, the ugly sisters and step-mother all make an appearance. The ugly sisters have a wicked sense of humour and make a hilarious character meet and it's great to meet characters you won't usually find in the parks. Dinner is served buffet style and includes a wonderful, classy selection of salad, meats and seafood followed by some creative desserts. 1 meal credit
To choose the best character dining experience for you and your family I'd recommend you find out where your favourite characters appear, decide if it's feasible to visit that particular restaurant and if it's possible book as early as possible, 180 days in advance if you are staying on Disney property. Work out in advance how to get to and from the restaurant so you don't have to worry..
The Highland villages of Dunkeld and Birnam, which are neighbouring villages in the heart of Perthshire, are charming places to stop and explore, or you can stay here and use them as a base to discover the rest of beautiful Perthshire. There are so many lovely things to do in Dunkeld, Birnam and the surrounding area that it’s the perfect spot to spend a few days, eating in the fantastic cafes, doing some shopping in the wide range of independent shops, and taking strolls down by the river. The two villages are situated on either side of the River Tay and are connected by a picturesque bridge which was built in 1809 by Thomas Telford. Thomas Telford not only designed a huge amount of bridges all over the U.K. but also constructed the Caledonian Canal. The villages are around 15 miles north of Perth, just off the main A9 road into the Highlands. This village guide will tell you everything you need to know about Dunkeld and Birnam so you can make the most of your trip. Find the best things to do in Dunkeld, a little bit ofhistory, what the village is liketoday,how to get there, Dunkeld weatherand thebest restaurants, cafes and shops.
A wee bit of history
The name Dunkeld comes from the Scots Gaelic ‘Dùn Chailleann’ meaning Fort of the Caledonians, presumably because of the Hill fort nearby, this means there has been a presence here as far back as the Iron Ages. The original village is thought to have been created by the King of the Picts, Caustantin son of Fergus in 820. Most of the original village was destroyed during the Battle of Dunkeld in 1689 when 5000 Jacobites, hyped up after their victory in the Battle of Killiecrankie, came to the town with the intention of pushing back the Scottish government forces. After 12 hours of fighting, most of the town was burning and the last stand took place by the Cathedral, you can still see musket holes in the walls today. The neighbouring village of Birnam is smaller in size and has more of a Victorian feel.
What's the villages like today
The village of Dunkeld was rebuilt and the National Trust for Scotland played a large part, by restoring several houses around The Cross, the market place with the wonderful Gothic Atholl Memorial Fountain in the centre. This old part of town is lovely to explore, little lanes lead off the Main Street to access the gardens of these pretty whitewashed cottages. Some of the lanes lead down to the banks of the River Tay. On the left side of the street, the road leads back to the Cathedral and the oldest house in the village, The Old Rectory, where Poet Robert Burns entertained in 1787. The main road through Dunkeld was built when the bridge was built in 1809 and has some stunning Georgian architecture. Before the bridge was built the river had to be crossed by ferry. The villages are in Perthshire, known as Big Tree Country. Find out more about this beautiful region and what there is to explore, including castles, distilleries, lochs, mountains and outdoor activities here.
If you are just driving through (although I highly recommend spending time here) and you are wondering what to do in Dunkeld then head to the Cathedral. Known fondly as Scotland's most romantic Cathedral this beautiful structure began life in 850AD when it became the religious centre of Scotland. St Columba's relics were brought here from the Isle of Iona as the number of attacks on the west coast by Vikings was increasing. The construction of the Cathedral took place in stages from 1260-1501 and is influenced by Gothic and Norman styles. The Choir is the oldest part, dating from 1350 and although it has been restored you can still find some of the original red stone in the east gable. Dunkeld Cathedral has survived two attempted destructions. The first was during The Reformation when anything related to the Papacy was destroyed and the second was during the bloody Battle of Dunkeld. The east end of the Cathedral is a beautiful Parish Church which is used today as a place of worship for locals and visitors. The west end is a roofless ruin with a thick grass carpet, there is also a Bell Tower and Chapter House, which holds a museum displaying the history of the Cathedral and it's people as well as an Apostle Stone from the 800's and cross slab from the same period. Now run by Historic Scotland the west end is currently under scaffolding as part of a large renovation project, stabilising the stonework, but you can still explore the outside. The choir has received several renovations over the years. The stunning Great East Window was gifted, in 1908, by Sir Donald Currie of Garth and Glen Lyon and in it you'll spot St Columba addressing his followers. In the church, you can also see the tomb of the 'Wolf of Badenoch' Alexander Stewart, 1st Earl of Buchan. Visitors and children are welcome to attend any of the services and children are given little activity packs with bible stories, crayons and colouring pages. The church and service are Presbyterian in style. The Cathedral is free to enter. 10 Cathedral Street, PH8 0AW Historic Scotland
Birnam Arts Centre
This unique building is a multi-purpose arts centre and entertainment venue. There are regular concerts of all types including folk music, fiddlers and Scottish bands. Upstairs there is an ever-changing art exhibition and you may even get the chance to take part in a workshop or two. Potter's Junction gift shop has amazing little gifts to take home and the Foyer Cafe serves good coffee and home baked cakes and scones along with delicious breakfasts and light lunches. What's lovely about the arts centre as it's such a comfortable space, it's the heart of the Birnam community and a wonderful place to visit, especially if you are travelling with the kids as there is something pretty special inside... Station Road, PH8 0DS Website
Beatrix Potter Exhibition
This is just the cutest little gem you'll find. A whole exhibition dedicated to the lovable characters created by Beatrix Potter. Although born in London Beatrix Potter spend every summer from the age of 5 to 15 to a cottage near the centre and it was here, away from the strict upbringing she received in London, she could be free to run in the fields and explore in the fresh air. It was also here she met local postman Charles Macintosh who taught her about fauna and flora and also fungi which turned into a lifelong passion. The letters she wrote while she was here are thought to be the first drafts of her famous stories 'The Tale of Peter Rabbit' and 'The Tale of Jeremy Fisher'. You can find some of the old letters in the wonderful exhibition where the kids can dress up, put on a puppet show, play shop and explore a Victorian classroom. Outside the kids can hunt for the characters in the delightful gardens. Station Road, PH8 0DS Website
Loch of the Lowes
The Loch of the Lowes Visitor Centre and Wildlife Reserve cover 98 hectares of land 2 miles northeast of the village. The star attraction is undoubtedly the pair of breeding Ospreys who return to the nest to breed from early April to late August. They nest just 150 metres from the hide and there are telescopes and binoculars available to watch them up close. All year round you can spot red squirrels, wildfowl and other wildlife such as beavers, otters and pine martens. Birds to spot include Wood Warblers, Spotted Flycatcher, Wrens and Bullfinches. There is an observation window to see the birds feeding nearby, viewing hides and a childen's hide, named the 'Duckling Den'. There is also a shop with lots of wildlife-themed gifts and books. If you want to see the Ospreys before you arrive you can watch the reserve's fantastic webcam here PH8 0HH
Dunkeld Heritage Walk
A nice way to learn more about the history of the villages is to follow the blue plaques on the walls on the buildings which point out interesting facts. You'll see them dotted around as you explore. Pick up a map from local shops and hunt out the 34 plaques on buildings such as the Old Jail at Telford Bridge and the Old Rectory. Dunkeld is the perfect little village to explore as it is compact and everything is within easy walking distance.
One of the most popular things to do in Dunkeld and Birnam is to visit the Birnam Oak. This famous Sessile Oak can be reached by following the brown tourist sign from the centre of the village, along Oak Road. Along the way there are some humorous signs, placed to help confused tree hunters, such as "It's not me, I'm a Sycamore' and 'Not me either, keep going...'. Once you do find the oak there is no mistaking it, the circumference is 24 feet! Fans of Shakespeare will remember the Birnam Woods as the ones which struck fear into the heart of Macbeth.
'Macbeth shall never vanquish'd be until Great Birnam Woods to high Dunsinane Hill shall come against him'
The prophecy of the three witches did indeed come true when the advancing army, coming for Macbeth, camouflaged themselves with the leaves and branches of the trees in Birnam Woods. The nearby Birnam Sycamore is thought to be over 300 years old, so significantly 'younger' than the Oak but even bigger with a circumference of 25 feet. Both trees have branches which are gnarled and twisted and they look eerily medieval. You can find out more about them and how to find them in the tourist information centre in the west of the village. Oak Road, PH8 0BL
This adorable painting studio and quirky shop is on Cathedral Street and is perfect if you have little ones who don't quite appreciated the beautiful architecture and history of Dunkeld. They can paint all sorts of things such as mugs, plates, fairies, dinosaurs and even little Highland cows and sheep. Adults can have a go too and there is no need to book unless it's a party of more than 5. Just pop in and choose what you want to paint then while away an hour or two relaxing and painting to your heart's content. If it's a decorative item you can take it away when you are finished, if it's an item which will need to be washed such as a plate or mug you can leave it and they will phone when it's ready or if you are passing through they can post it out to you. These little trinkets make a brilliant gift or souvenir of your trip to Scotland to take home. Going Pottie is family run by the lovely Julie and Laurence Hunt and inside you'll also find the Jaggedy Thistle, an amazing little shop selling quirky and unique gifts including MacGnome, the original Scottish Gnome! 2 Cathedral Street, PH8 0AW
Dunkeld House Tree Trail
The mighty trees you find throughout Perthshire, and who gave the area its 'Big tree country' nickname, are thanks to the Dukes of Atholl who planted 27 million conifers in the area between 1738 - 1830. They lived at Dunkeld House and today visitors can explore the gardens which are home to some of the world's rarest conifers, including the 18 trees included in the trail. The team at Dunkeld House works with the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh to collect seedlings from across the world, from trees which are near extinction, to give them a happy home in Dunkeld and give visitors of the future a glimpse at trees they might never have been able to see otherwise. The gardens are free to explore and you can also get a cuppa or enjoy an afternoon tea in the hotel bar and lounge. Dunkeld House Estate, PH8 0HX
There are so many incredible walks near Dunkeld and Birnam and the whole region is so pretty it would be a shame not to get out and have a stroll. The Atholl Woods Path leaves from the Cally Car Park and circles the coniferous Atholl Woods, taking in two wee lochs, the Mill Dam with stunning views and Craig a Barns which is a popular climbing spot. The route is around 6 1/2 miles long. The Birnam Riverside Path is another circular route, this time along the banks of the River Tay with lovely views of the Cathedral, under the Telford Bridge and past the famous Birnam Oak and it's around 3 1/2 miles long. The Loch of the Lowes Path is 4 3/4 miles long and explores the area around the wildlife reserve and the Birnam Hill Path climbs 1,200 feet to the summit of King's Seat for wonderful views over Perthshire. For more information about walks in the area click here.
If you'd prefer to hire some bikes Progression Bikes in St Ninians Wynd hire out all kinds of bikes, from kids bikes (or a trailer if they are too wee), adult bikes, electric bikes and full suspension bikes for the more serious riders. You can also hire out any equipment like helmets and pads if you need them. The team are happy to recommend lots of suitable routes to match your ability. The bikes can be hired for anything from a half day to multiple days. 2 St Ninian's Wynd, PH8 0AT
Another option, if you are feeling adventurous, is to take to the Perthshire hills in a quad bike. Highland Offroad will take you a one hour adventure, first on their assault course filled with cobbles, steep hillsides and camelback humps, then into the open hills and forest. This is a thrilling way to spend the afternoon and an exciting way to explore the scenic surroundings. The Steading, Dunkeld House, PH8 0HX
Land Rover Experience
There is no shortage of transport options in Dunkeld is there? Walking, bikes or quad bikes not for you? What about a Land Rover? Choose from an hour-long tester session, a half day tour or a full day tour and experience some crazy off-road driving over bridge crossings, up and down steep inclines, through deep water, across rocks and even attempt a cave drop. Loch Fishings, Butterstone, PH8 0HH
This enchanting walk along the River Braan, among some of the tallest trees in Britain, the Douglas Firs, takes you to the mighty and impressive Black Linn Waterfalls. The crashing waves tumbling over the rocks and down into the frothy pools below make an almighty thundering noise as you watch from the romantic folly above. Ossian's Hall was built in 1757 as a focal point to admire the beautiful surroundings, which were created as a playground for the Dukes of Atholl in the 18th century. The area is looked after by the National Trust for Scotland and the car park nearby, where you can begin the walk, costs £2 unless you are a member.
To learn more about Perthshire's fascinating history read my post here
How to get to Dunkeld
By car - From Edinburgh take the M90 towards Perth, then the A9 towards Stirling and Crainlarich at junction 10. From there Dunkeld is signposted and the route takes around 1hr 14mins. By train - You can catch a train from Edinburgh Waverley to Dunkeld, changing at Perth. The journey takes around 2hr 15mins. By bus - The bus from Edinburgh to Dunkeld takes around 2hr 15mins. Stagecoach, Citylink and Megabus all run to Birnam (for Dunkeld).
With an average temperature of 14-16º in the summer and 2-3º in the winter, there aren't generally any extreme temperatures in Perthshire. The coldest months tend to be December, January and February and the warmest? June, July and August. It's warmer in Perthshire with less extreme weather than further up north so if you like more even temperatures Perthshire is perfect. You are unlikely to ever encounter scorching weather although it has been known, occasionally. What you'll almost definitely encounter though is rain, although, again, you might. The weather, like the rest of Scotland, is famously indecisive and unpredictable. My advice? Pack wisely.
Restaurants in Dunkeld
There are some amazing restaurants in Dunkeld so you won't need to go far for a good meal. Howie's Bistro serves breakfasts such as smashed avocado on toast and Dunkeld Salmon and scrambled eggs, light lunches of soup, paninis, salads, sharing plates and classic Scottish dishes such as fish and chips and steak and ale pie. Their evening menu gets rave reviews too. The Perth Arms is the oldest trading pub in Dunkeld and is also a popular choice as it The Taybank, The Meeting Place and The Darjeeling. The Chattan Tearoom in Birnam and The Foyer Cafe inside the Birnum Arts Centre are a good choice for a nice lunch and if you fancy a traditional takeaway fish and chips the Dunkeld Fishbar is perfect. The Scottish Deli specialises in excellent quality local foods and also has a cafe and takeaway service.
Shopping in Dunkeld is always a pleasure, there are so many high-quality independent shops so you can choose the perfect, unique gifts and souvenirs. A local butchers, bakers, deli and wine store means if you don't want to eat out you can have a pretty delicious meal at your accommodation.
I highly recommend adding Dunkeld and Birnam to your Scotland Itinerary. I love this village, it's classy, extremely pretty and the locals are fab.
If you've been doing research about Scotland you'll have no doubt heard about the notorious wee beastie that goes by the name of "Midge". Conversation usually goes something like "those BLOODY midges were everywhere!" Or "I've been eaten ALIVE!!". You may not recognise the name Scottish Midge , they are also known as "no see ums" in the states (which I think is a pretty excellent and appropriate name for the little swines), sand flies in Australia, gnats and punkies. Whichever name you call them there is no denying they are a bit of a nightmare. Here you'll find out everything you need to know and how to how to get rid of midges.
For those unprepared they can indeed be a complete pain and can easily ruin your holiday but fear not, a few simple rules and some good midge repellent should make your trip to Scotland beastie free and let your enjoy your trip without the need to turn into a mad man/woman, swinging tennis bats/hand bags/frying pans around your head like you are doing the time warp.
What is a midge?
The Scottish midge is a teeny wee flying insect with a wing-span of 2-3 mm. There are actually over 35 species of biting midge in Scotland but it's the ferocious Highland midge that causes the most problems. With wings that flap 1000 times a second they have the highest wing speed of all animals worldwide and if you unfortunate enough to encounter a swarm of them they can deliver 3000 midge bites in an hour. That's the scary facts but you'll be pleased to know that only half of the midge population will bite, the males are quite content to munch on flowers. The females reach adulthood with enough eggs for one batch of eggs, after this, if she decides to have more, she needs blood so it's then that the little madams decide to feed on us. Just a quick note as people are often confused. Midges are not mosquitoes, the are a much smaller version. You are unlikely to ever see a mosquito in Scotland.
What attracts midges?
The Scottish Midge hates when the sun comes out, which is why so many are in Scotland I suppose ? What they do enjoy though is in the evening when they want to party! Even more so when you are situated near dense woodland or still water. Also called the Highland midge, these wee buggers love dark clothing, bare skin, damp ground and long grass. They thrive in damp and dark conditions and this is when you'll need to be the most wary. What initially attracts them is the carbon dioxide in your breath which is why you are unlikely to get bitten when it's windy. As you can't exactly just not breath there are some measure that will help get rid of midges.
How to keep midges away
Fret not, there are ways to stay safe and avoid those perky midge bites. Firstly know which situations you are likely to find them and avoid, don't sit outside in the evenings, especially if the weather is calm and still, sit inside with a glass of wine or a good book, or head to a local bar or restaurant. When you are inside you can keep the windows open, they are usually too lazy to fly inside. Wear light coloured clothing, it doesn't matter what material you wear as they won't bite through anything other than your bare skin which bring me to the next point - cover up! The more you have on the less of a chance they will find somewhere to bite. Save your picnics and BBQ for a nice breezy sunny day. You will be safe sitting in direct sunlight, which they really don't like, and if there is a breeze, even better! They hate nothing more than fresh sea air so if you are having fish and chips for lunch, sitting on the pier they won't be interested. Mind you the seagulls will, no, that's a whole other story. Avoid woodland in the evenings at all costs, this is where they hide!
What not to do
The perfect recipe for an attack of the midges goes something like this...
You are up in the highlands, far from the coast, at a campsite and you've pitched your tent. You and the family are sitting outside in the evening, it's a warm and balmy night. The air is calm, not even a whiff of wind. It's been raining so the ground is damp but it's cleared up now. You are all cosy on the grass next to the trees, chatting away. You are wearing dark clothes. One just happens to fly past, you've been spotted. He goes back and tells his friends, "Hey, anyone hungry? I've just found a whole bunch of humans that look especially tasty".
Oh and if you've had a few too many and can't make it to the toilet block, don't even consider stepping into those trees to relieve yourself because you'll wake those beasties from the beds and your bits and pieces will seriously regret it.
When is the Scottish midge season?
Midges season tends to be from late May and die off in September. The males arrive first then the females a week or two later. The numbers go down then the weather is below 10ºC and if it's below 3º they pretty much disappear. As Highland midges like wet ground if there has been an exceptionally dry spring midge numbers will decrease. If it's been an extremely cold winter numbers may be up since the cold will have killed off many of their predators. So, keep an eye on the weather before you visit if you are particularly bothered about their appearance, but I'm just giving you the facts, I wouldn't worry too much. If you want to avoid the midges altogether stay in the south of Scotland, they rarely see midges there. They are mostly found in the Highlands and islands, away from the coast.
How sore are midge bites?
Midge bites feel like little sharp pricks and aren't particularly sore at the time, but they leave small red irritating lump which can be sore for a few hours, or even a few days. Best advice? Try not to itch! Try and get your hands on some anti-histamines, you'll usually find some in local shops, if not any large supermarket or chemist will stock both the cream and tablets.
There are many midge sprays available. The best midge repellent by reputation here is Smidge insect repellent. People swear by it and I always have a bottle of it in the glove compartment in the car. Another popular option is Avon Skin so Soft which can be ordered online from the Avon website. For a natural homemade option I found this recipe online here , I haven't tried it yet but I will soon. For alternative midge protection you could fashion a lovely midge net. It may not be something to wear to the local shops but in the evenings, once it's dark, you'll be grabbing it before you can say 'here come the midges'. They are available to buy relatively cheap online. There are many other things you can try. If you are on holiday here and come across midges where you are staying the local shops will often stock a few options. You could try midge candles (see my story below) or Co2 traps. If you are staying in a tent make sure you have insect mesh up and you don't leave any gaps. Midges may not come into buildings but they aren't afraid of a tent. Always make sure you carry your midge repellent with you. It's not much good in the drawer in the caravan or stuck at the bottom of your bag, underneath today's lunch, book and spare set of clothes. Have it ready, just in case.
Midge bites treatment
Even after all this preparation and attempted prevention you still get a bite don't panic, while midge bites are extremely annoying they don't carry diseases. It's the red swollen lumps that you will find irritating. As mentioned above you can visit a chemist who can give you anti-histamines or hydrocortisone ointment over the counter. For immediate relief cover the area with an ice pack or cold wet towel.
Please remember that dogs can also be bitten so keep an eye on them when outside and use the same precautions.
Now that I've put you off coming to Scotland and before you go and start researching a trip to Spain don't be overly concerned. You won't always encounter the wee devils, I spent a week doing the North Coast 500 and didn't see a single one. During all the travelling around Scotland I've done (a lot!) I've only really been bothered by them once. That perfect example above, I did that. I went one better too and bought a Midge candle, but thought the idea of it was to keep them away so put it in the centre of the table beside us. Take note, these candle ATTRACT the midge, so keep it lit FAR away. Ouch. That was a mistake I won't be repeating.
I've compacted all this info in a handy wee video here...
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While visiting Edinburgh it would be criminal to miss out on a traditional afternoon tea, especially as Edinburgh has some of the most amazing venues to enjoy it in. Afternoon teas in Edinburgh are a luxurious and indulgent way to relax after a few hours pounding the cobbled streets of this beautiful city. It's an experience, one to be savoured with friends, one to enjoy with loved ones, where you can sink into a comfy seat, sit back and chat while relishing the pretty, dainty treats on offer. Splashing out on afternoon tea dates back to the 1880's when Anna, 7th Duchess of Bedford, fancied a light snack during the long afternoon gap between her lunch and evening meal. What began as some tea, bread and butter served in her room with a few friends quickly caught the attention of high society and the light snack became a glamorous affair enjoyed by ladies dolled up in dresses, long gloves and posh hats.
Afternoon tea usually consists of a selection of sandwiches, scones with cream and jam and a few cakes and pastries, and, of course, tea, like the sample menu ?
However, with everywhere from high end restaurants to quaint country tearooms competing for custom chefs are aiming high, creating masterpieces, albeit tiny ones. Sandwich fillings are becoming more and more inventive and the range of teas available can be extraordinary.
Traditionally served on a three-tier cake stand with the sandwiches on the bottom, so you 'make your way up', afternoon teas are pretty as a picture. A beautiful china teapot and teensy cups and saucers often accompany the main affair.
Edinburgh has some amazing options for afternoon teas so read on for some of the best, whether you want to go all out on a 5 star experience or get cosy in a cute little cafe.
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High end luxury
The Dome, Edinburgh Afternoon tea one of the best dining experiences in the city. If you want to splash out this is a fantastic option. The huge, elegant Georgian Tearoom is lined with black and gold wall panels, with grand chandeliers and beautiful warm wall lights. The menu is created by chef Sue Snider. There are 9 flavours of loose leaf tea including a traditional Scottish brew and the meal is served on bespoke Fine Boned China. There is also a Children's afternoon tea menu.
Address | 14 George Street, Edinburgh, EH2 2PF
Price | £26pp with champayne or £18.50 without, Children £10
Stand out item - Savoury Choux Bun filled with smoked salmon and cream cheese
Cute, vintage bakery
This small chain of bakeries in Edinburgh are most famous for their amazing cakes but also serve a pretty delicious afternoon tea. With funky wallpaper and decor, and a cosy, comfortable atmosphere Mimi's is a lovely place to spend time. Leave some room for the cakes, made fresh every day they are to die for. They also do a... wait for it.... a beforenoon tea, with cheddar scones, cinnamon rolls, bacon rolls and granola pots.
Stand out item - Hot pork and apple sausage rolls (award winning!)
You may also be interested in My Ultimate Guide to Edinburgh with Kids here
Trendy, colourful, delicious and reasonably priced
If you want a classy place for afternoon tea but not somewhere too, shall we say, stuffy, this is the place to go. You may have guessed from the name but Eteaket is famous for its tea. Not only can you choose form the massive range of exciting and often unheard of whole leaf teas, including black teas, green teas, Oolong teas, tea lattes and fruit and herbal teas you can also enjoy the new range of tea cocktails!
Address | 41 Frederick Street, EH2 1EP | 277 St John's Road, EH12 7XD
Price | £19.95 with bubbles, £15.95 without
Stand out item - Minty Mohito Tea Cocktail
Harvey Nichols is a luxurious British department store which is famous world wide for its outstanding collection of designer clothes, beauty products and food department, so, of course, the restaurant would have to be pretty fantastic too and it certainly is. For one of the most upmarket afternoon teas in Edinburgh head to the Forth Floor restaurant which has amazing views over the city and across to the Firth of Forth. If the weather isn't being typically Scottish you can even sit outside on the balcony. Food-wise, the afternoon tea is traditional with an original twist, with quiche, tarts and miniature salads replacing the sandwiches.
Stand out item - Serrano ham, courgette and feta quiche
The Cafe at the Palace of Holyrood House
After your visit to the wonderful Palace of Holyroodhouse or the Queen's Gallery you can relax in the cafe in the historic mews. This Edinburgh afternoon tea gets good reviews and deservedly so. With views over to Arthur's seat enjoy a great selection of teas with your afternoon tea, which is made using the best locally sourced products. A little difficult to find but worth the hunt!
Address | Palace of Holyroodhouse, Canongate, The Royal Mile, EH8 8DX
Stand out item - Whisky-soaked raisin and cherry scone
This funky yet classy boutique hotel is hugely popular, it's a fantastic place and the decor is pretty unique. The rooms are fab, the restaurant is fab, the food is brilliant and the service is top class. It's not traditional so if you are after something a bit different this is where to go, you can even enjoy a teapot cocktail!
For the ultimate Edinburgh afternoon tea it has to be a Balmoral afternoon tea. The building is a landmark in the city, with Edinburgh's most prestigious address, Number 1 Princes Street. The Balmoral is over 100 years old and is home to luxurious suites, an award-winning spa, the Michelin-starred Number One restaurant and the elegant Palm Court, where the award-winning afternoon tea is served. Enjoy delicate treats created by executive pastry chef Ross Sneddon under the exquisite glass dome and grand chandelier.
St Andrews is a classy town. Best known as 'The Home of Golf' St Andrews, in the north of Fife, is where the game was invented and if it's golf you are coming for there are an amazing 10 courses to play on, including the famous Old Course. St Andrews also has the third oldest university in the English-speaking world. There is so many things to do in St Andrews that I highly recommend spending at least 2 days here although if you only have one you can still get a feeling for the town and get the chance to explore. It's a town which is culturally rich, with a diverse population and unique attractions. It's really a town like no other and it would be a shame to miss it off your Scotland Itinerary.
Things to do in St Andrews
St Andrews Cathedral
St Andrews Castle
The New Picture House
West Sands Beach
St Andrews Harbour
St Andrews Aquarium
Forgan's Weekly Ceilidh
A Ghost and Vampire tour
British Golf Museum
St Salvator's Chapel
St Andrews Museum
Fisher and Donaldson
Eden Mill Brewery and Distillery
The Bell Pettigrew Museum
The St Andrews Preservation Trust Museum
The Byre Theatre
How to get to St Andrews
Best time to visit St Andrews
St Andrews Accommodation
Places to eat in St Andrews
Shopping in St Andrews
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St Andrews Cathedral
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St Andrews Cathedral
This ancient ruin sits at the end of South Street and is the remains of what was once Scotland’s largest and most magnificent Church. Once home to the bishops and archbishops of St Andrews it was the centre of the Medieval Catholic Church in Scotland. If you are looking for things to do in St Andrews and only have a limited amount of time this Cathedral is really one you should squeeze in. Now looked after by Historic Scotland it is spectacular. St Rule’s Tower offers stunning views if you're willing to climb the 156 steps, up a tight metal spiral staircase. A tip here is to listen out for anyone heading down before you commence, a meeting on your trip up can be awkward at best! The views from the top though (33m high) are outstanding. The whole of St Andrews is laid out before you, including the golf course and harbour. You can also see a lot more, including, on a clear day, all the way to Arbroath! The gravestones themselves are fascinating, with the most important now undercover in the museum, including the famous golfer, Mr Tom Morris. There is a great little visitor centre where you can see some of the stones which have been recovered and are being kept safe indoors and there is also a lovely gift shop. Tickets cost £5 per adult and £3 for children (5-15). The Pends, KY16 9QL
St Serfs Tower
St Andrews Cathedral
St Andrews Castle
Also closely linked to the bishops of St Andrews, St Andrews Castle became their main residence. There isn't much left of the original castle which was destroyed during the Scottish Wars of Independence and the castle you see today was built in the 1400's. With steep cliffs covering three sides and what was once a moat on the other this castle was built to last. You can still see today, as you walk through the main tower and out into the square, the towers in each corner which were used to house the bishops and their household. One unique feature is the bottleneck dungeon which tells a few horrific tales, and if you are brave enough you can tackle the underground mine and countermine, but it's not for the fainthearted. There is a fantastic visitor Centre here where you can find out all about the history of the town and castle. Run by Historic Scotland tickets cost £6 per adult, £3.60 for children (5-15). The Scores, KY16 9AR You can buy a combined Castle and Cathedral ticket for £9 per adult and £5.50 for children (5-15).
Historic Scotland properties
Check opening times and dates in advance if you plan to visit Historic Scotland (and National Trust for Scotland) properties. Hours are almost always reduced during the winter and some close altogether. You can buy passes in advance which will greatly reduce the cost. Plan how many you want to visit and work out if it's cheaper to buy a yearly pass or any other type of pass. You can read out the different passes here
St Andrews Castle
Blackfriars Chapel is the ruin of the Dominican Friary of St Mary, used by Friars in the 1500’s in the later half of the Middle Ages. The Friars worked in the community, helping locals and supporting local people and were themselves supported by a religious order in the town. What remains now is a small picturesque ruin in the heart of the town, out of place among the bustling streets, shops and restaurants. South Street, KY16 9UP
The New Picture House
The New Picture House is a small independant cinema on North Street. There are three screens showing films daily and you can buy tickets at the door or online. This quaint old cinema was built in the 1930's and while it certainly isn't modern that's what makes it special. Step back in time to how cinemas used to be, without the big flashy lights and modern seating. Grab a chair in the balcony of cinema 1 or a leather reclining seat in the upper circle. It's wonderfully nostalgic and a great addition which not many towns have anymore. 117 North Street, Ky16 9AD
This grand city gate is one of the last remaining in Scotland. Having been originally built in 1587 it was extensively refurbished in 1843, meaning it’s also one of the best preserved. The decorated central arch is original, modelled on the Netherbow Port in Edinburgh. The side arches were added during the refurbishment. The gate sits at the foot of South Street and welcomes visitors into the medieval town centre. 170 South Street, KY16 9EG
West Sands Beach
West Sands beach is a two mile stretch of coast, with fine white sand backed by dunes and the world famous Old Course. The south side was used in the opening scenes of the film “Chariots of Fire” and is perfect for a swim in the summer. The north side is famous for kite-surfing, and also looks onto the Eden Estuary with its array of birds and seals. The beach is a quick ten minute walk from the centre of town and has ample parking (not so much during the Open though) Locals love to walk this beach and it’s also very popular with visitors who picnic and BBQ along the dunes. The scrumptious Cheesy Toast Shack, who began with an extremely popular shack in Kingsbarns, have recently opened here too and serve toasties to die for! The beach is popular with joggers and horse riders and looks over to the town giving an excellent opportunity for pretty photos at sunrise and sunset.
If you want to get out the town centre and stretch your legs you might as well do it somewhere gorgeous and Tentsmuir Forest is perfect; Tall pine trees, windswept sands and dunes and the chance to spot some of Scotland's wildlife such as red squirrels and seals. There are miles of trails to discover and a cute little Crepe Shack for a snack afterwards. The forest is 1 1/2 miles from the B945 between Leuchars and Tayport, and is signposted Kinshaldy Beach. The car park costs £2 so make sure you bring coins. Kinshaldy Beach KY16 0DR
St Andrews Harbour
Tucked below the cliffs and the ruins of the Cathedral, the harbour is a lovely place to sit and relax, watching the colourful little fishing boats bobbing in the water. The original stone piers were built in the 16th century and what was once the lifeblood of the town is now filled with leisure boats and fishing boats bring in shellfish to be sold locally and internationally.
If all the golf talk makes you want to join in you can have a go at the massively popular Himalayas putting green. Sitting alongside the famous Old Course but open to anyone and everyone this is tricky but great fun. Named because of the crazy hills and slopes, even the professionals have a go. You are provided with a putter and a ball and off you go, 18 holes for a measly £3! There is also a 9 hole course for beginners and younger players. It’s open daily from April to September, and certain days in March and October depending on the weather. The Links, KY16 9JD
Himalayas Golf Course
The Swilken Bridge
The famous Swilken Bridge, between the 1st and 18th hole of the St Andrews Links Golf Course, is a must if you are a golf fan. You can get your photo taken where the likes of Tom Watson, Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Morris have stood. The bridge itself is tiny and spans the Swilken Burn. It's a functioning bridge and if you want a photo while your playing there are a few tips to help you get the right pic, have your camera ready so you don't waste time and annoy the other golfers and ask whoever is taking the photo to stand behind the bridge on the left so you get that beautiful S Andrews skyline in the background. If you aren't playing golf the course is open on Sundays for a stroll and you can get the perfect shot then.
St Andrews Aquarium
Children love the aquarium where they are transported to a underwater oasis of discovery. They can meet sharks, spiders, lobsters, frogs, piranhas and the adorable seals and meerkats. There are also penguin, seal and meerkat feeding sessions which you can book, reptile handling and talks. Open 7 days a week except over Christmas and New Year it costs £11 per adult and £8.50 for children over 2. The Scores, KY16 9AS
Forgan's weekly Ceilidh
If you want to experience a Ceilidh while you are in Scotland Forgan's, on Market Street, is the place to head to on a Saturday night. Every Saturday, at 10.30pm they host a traditional Scottish Ceilidh, or if you'd prefer a more modern take on the Ceilidh go Friday instead, again at 10.30pm. Have a meal beforehand and try out their delicious Duck Shepherd's Pie. If you are in a group of more than 8 you can hire one of their fantastic wood-lined bothies for some privacy. 110 Market Street, KY16 9PB
A Ghost and Vampire Tour
Explore the old Quarter of St Andrews with guide, author and historian Richard Falconer and find out why St Andrews is one of the most haunted places in the world. Lasting for 90 minutes these entertaining tours are a great way to explore the town and hear stories from a man who has wrote three books about the paranormal, and maybe even get a few wee frights! You can book a tour here.
Another way to soak up the golfing atmosphere is to visit the newly renovated and now state of the art Golf Museum. Situated across the road from the R+A building the museum looks fantastic. See how golf started, how the first clubs were made, how golf balls changed designs over time. Hear tales about famous golfers such as Tom Morris and Willie Park. Learn about the history of women’s golf and how fashion has changed. The decor of the museum is slick and modern and the interactive screens, indoor putting area and dress up area for the kids meaning the whole family can enjoy a couple of hours learning about golf, in the home of golf! Afterwards you can have a cuppa and bite to eat in the roof top cafe which has panoramic views, views of the first tee and West sands beach and serves locally sourced Scottish dishes. Tickets cost £8.50 per adult for a two day ticket and free guide book, and children under 15 are free which is a fantastic deal. Also keep an eye on their website here as there is often a 2-4-1 offer on. Bargain. Bruce Embankment, KY16 9AB
If you fancy stretching your legs the Fife Coastal Path stretches from Kincardine in the west of Fife to Tay Bridge in the north, passing straight through St Andrews. Read more about it here
Set in 18 acres of land this hidden gem is perfect to escape to when you fancy a bit of quiet time. With over 8000 plants, some from Scotland but most grown in the wild around the world, in the summer it’s a treat for the eyes. With glasshouses, a herb garden, a 17th century garden and the recent addition of a veg garden you could easily wile away a few hours here. The Rock Garden with it's unusual alpine plants is gorgeous and the Peace Garden, which was built to commemorate the founding of the United Nations is beautiful in the winter and smells fantastic. The Tropical House and The Mediterranean House are both warm, colourful and fun to explore. Entry costs £6 per adult and under 18's are free. Canongate, KY16 8RT
St Salvator's Chapel
This absolutely stunning Gothic chapel was built in 1450. Designed to not only serve the college but also the public the chapel, uncharacteristically, has its main doors facing the street. While it is beautiful now, it will have been even more beautiful in its hayday, before the Protestant Reformers smashed up the statues and stained glass windows. Provost Skene, in the 1680's, raised a large amount to refurbish with great success and there have been any additions over the years. North Street, KY16 9AL
There are plenty of things to do in St Andrews but whatever you choose to do make sure you begin or end it with a stop off at Jannettas who have been creating the most delicious ice cream for over 100 years. Ever since Bennett Janetta landed on our shores from the tiny village of Atina in Italy the family have been serving locals and tourists alike with their amazing homemade ice cream, ice cream cakes and Gelato pops from their shop and cafe on South Street. Decorated in retro pastel pink and blues the cafe is cute as a button. The family serve over 50 flavours on a regular basis including Scottish tablet, sea salt chocolate, creamy caramel fudge and Irn Bru. 31 South Street, KY16 9QR
St Andrews Museum
There are a few museums in St Andrews and they all offer something different. To discover more about the heritage of this medieval town you can visit St Andrews Museum, set in a stunning Victorian mansion in Kilburn Park. There are lots of temporary exhibitions, talks and concerts and a fab gift shop selling local art work. Kilburn Park, Doubledyke Road, KY16 9DP
There are now a few whisky distilleries in Fife but Kingsbarns Distillery was the first one for many years. It's located 6 miles outside St Andrews. This new distillery and visitor centre is in the ideal location for all the golf fans wanting a dram after the game. The building, the cafe and the areas of the tour are all brilliantly designed and this is a must do for any whisky lovers visiting St Andrews. Dreamt up by local golf caddie Douglas Clement, he teamed up the Wemyss Family and set about creating Fife's first whisky distillery. Now, three years down the line, the long-awaited whisky is ready. Darnley's Gin Distillery is the Wemyss family's newest venture and is situated just behind the whisky distillery. There are three whisky tours to chose from and two gin tours. Kingsbarns, KY16 8QE
Fisher and Donaldson
Fisher and Donaldson is an institution in St Andrews, famous for their sweet treats and in particular their fudge doughnuts. They now have 7 stores in Scotland, including one in Cupar where you can watch them make their delicious chocolates. The St Andrews store was the first, opening in 1919, and is now in its fifth generation of family, who bake almost 400 different types of Scottish and continental treats. Their fudge doughnut is award winning and the recipe is a highly guarded secret, so much so that it is split in two and hidden in five different locations! This bakery also has the Royal seal of approval – apparently Will and Kate are big fans. 13 Church Street, KY16 9NW
Fisher and Donaldson
Eden Mill Brewery and Distillery
Eden Mill sits in the outskirts of St Andrews in Guardbridge. They usually offer tours where you can learn about the history and making processes of their unashamedly small but perfectly formed brewery and distillery where they use local ingredients to make craft beers and ales and limited edition whiskies and gins, but they are in the process of moving to a bigger site next door. You can have a Gin tour at the moment though, and most of their products are for sale in the beautiful Rusacks Hotel where you can also have a gin blending experience. Guardbridge Fife
The Bell Pettigrew Museum
Situated in the Bute medical building in the university is a zoological treasure trove where you can examine fossil fish, a dodo, a Tasmanian wolf, a St Kilda mouse and Narwhal tusks, once thought to be the horns of unicorns! Most of the exhibits were collected during the Victorian age and the building still contains the original cases and mosaic floor. It's only open on Tuesdays and Fridays from 2-5pm but if you happen to be in the town during those times then this is a pretty unique way to spend some time. Bute Medical Buildings, School of Biology, Queen's Terrace, KY16 9TS
You may also be interested in visiting Dunino Den, a mystical gem not far from St Andrews, with links to druids, fairies and ancient Celtic rituals and customs. Read more here
The St Andrews Preservation Trust Museum
Another unique little museum, this time in the centre of town, in an old 17th century house. This is where you can find out about the history of St Andrews and its people. With a mixture of permanent displays feature long gone shops and regularly changing temporary displays upstairs this museum is a fascinating wee find but it's only open from 2-5pm daily so time it right and head along after lunch. 12 North Street, KY16..