HOLIDAYING in the homeland this year? Pick one of the destinations in our gallery and you’ll find it hard to believe you haven’t left Scotland’s shores.
Dunrobin Castle - Scotland or Loire Valley?
This fairytale castle, looking like somewhere Marie Antoinette might have holidayed, lies just north of Golspie in the Highlands overlooking the Moray Firth, and is the seat of the Dukes of Sutherland. Originally dating from 1275, extensive additions were made in the 19th century by Sir Charles Barry, who also designed the Houses of Parliament – he based the design of Dunrobin’s gardens on those at Versailles.
Lunan Bay - Scotland or Cape Cod?
The beach at Lunan Bay near Montrose, Angus, stretches from Boddin Point at the north for two miles of dunes south to Ethie Haven. Remote and unspoilt, the beach is framed by cliffs to the north and south which contain a labyrinth of caves and sea arches which can be explored when the tide is out, and after a storm keep an eye out for semi-precious stones and agates on the shore.
Isle of Barra – Scotland or Bora Bora?
The view from the flight between Barra and the Isle of Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides, looking over the Isle of Fuday, may cause momentary confusion to passengers wondering if they’ve fallen asleep and woken up over the South Pacific. Barra’s airport is famously the only one in the world to have scheduled flights landing on a beach, although the timetable is by necessity somewhat flexible, as planes can only take off and land at low tide.
Culzean Castle – Scotland or Tunisia?
Between the palm trees and almost-Moorish architectural styling, pictures of Culzean Castle belie its location on the South Ayrshire coast near Maybole. Designed by Robert Adam and completed in 1792, there are sea caves beneath the castle, which is home to a reported seven ghosts, including a piper and a servant girl, and also served as the home of Lord Summersisle, played by Christopher Lee, in the 1973 cult film The Wicker Man.
Skara Brae – Scotland or Mykonos?
Skara Brae is a Neolithic settlement, or what remains of it, at the Bay of Skaill on the west coast of Mainland, the largest of Orkney’s islands. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the eight clustered houses were occupied from around 3180 BCE–2500 BCE, making the village older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids. The site is Europe’s most complete Neolithic settlement and was discovered in 1850 after a severe storm stripped the earth from around it.
Isle of Lewis – Scotland or Biarritz?
Lewis forms the northern part of Lewis and Harris, the largest island in the Outer Hebrides, 40 miles off the north west coast of Scotland. Exposed to the full force of the North Atlantic and the Gulf Stream and with an array of reefs, points and headlands, the waters are warmer than most around Scotland and conditions provide good waves for surfers, who say that Lewis has the best consistency of surfing conditions in the UK, and among the best in Northern Europe.
Smoo Cave – Scotland or Borneo?
Smoo Cave in Durness in Sutherland is unique in the UK, in that it is a combined sea cave and freshwater cave, with the first chamber formed by the action of the sea and the inner chambers, which you can visit by boat, by rainwater. Inside the cave, the waters of Allt Smoo drop in as a 20m-high waterfall. The cave entrance is 40m high and 15m wide, making it the largest sea cave entrance in Britain. Its name is thought to originate from the Norse word ‘smuga’, meaning hiding place.
Breckon Sands – Scotland or Aruba?
An award-winning white shell sand beach on the north shore of the island of Yell, Shetland, with views across the Atlantic Ocean, the Sands of Breckon is home to upright stones thought to be a Norse burial site. Roman coins dating from between 119AD to 138AD, a bronze needle and shards of Roman Samian pottery have also been found in the dunes, along with silver German coins from the Hanseatic period.
Loch Morlich – Scotland or Norway?
Loch Morlich, a freshwater loch lapping at sandy beaches in the Badenoch and Strathspey area of the Highlands, near Aviemore, is home to a water sports centre offering canoeing, kayaking, sailing and windsurfing. The area around the loch was used as a training ground during World War II by Kompani Linge of the Norwegian army, who were trained there by british Special Operations because of the uncanny resemblance of the landscape and its climate to Norway – you’ll find a memorial to Kompani Linge outside the Glenmore Forest Park visitor centre.
Blair Drummond Safari Park – Scotland or Mozambique?
Opened in 1970, Blair Drummond Safari Park, near Stirling, covers 120 acres of reserves and is home to African lions, American bison, giraffes, African elephants, llamas, zebras, bears, Siberian tigers, rhinoceros, meerkats, chimpanzees, lemurs, camels and ostriches – all of whom visitors can see on the drive-through reserves or on the boat safari. The park is involved in captive breeding and research programmes for endangered species and contributes to conservation campaigns, and visitors can adopt the animals, even if they will have to leave them behind in the park.
• Images courtesy of Visit Scotland. For more information on holidaying in Scotland go to www.visitscotland.com/natural