Scottish Travel Itineraries: Edinburgh and the East

The National Wallace Monument viewed over the River Forth. Picture: submitted

The National Wallace Monument viewed over the River Forth. Picture: submitted

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The east of Scotland is home to the nation’s capital, but also to all manner of wonderful places. To help you explore Edinburgh and the east, we have produced some carefully-crafted itineraries. With restaurants, attractions and hotels all specially selected, we hope that these itineraries will make your trip a great one.

EDINBURGH

Lunan Bay, near Montrose, Angus.
Picture: Paul Tomkins

Lunan Bay, near Montrose, Angus. Picture: Paul Tomkins

Edinburgh’s city centre is chock-a-block with famous sites and elegant eateries. If you would like to stay in a central location which offers luxury accommodation, the Balmoral is the obvious choice. Built as a railway hotel and opened in 1902, this magnificent neo-Renaissance building retains many of its original features, including ornate plasterwork, beautiful staircases and the imposing Palm Court Tearoom. Guests can take advantage of the spa and gym facilities, as well as the Michelin-star restaurant, Number One.

Only ten minutes’ walk from the Balmoral is one of Scotland’s most popular tourist attractions, Edinburgh Castle. Centuries of history are packed in to this fascinating castle, with cannons, crown jewels and even the Stone of Destiny to discover. You can learn about some of Scotland’s most famous monarchs, as well as the history of the Scottish military.

Just a few steps outside the castle is the wonderfully weird Camera Obscura, which specialises in optical illusions. Its interactive exhibits are sure to impress, and the camera obscura itself gives you the best possible views of the city from on high. Illusionist Derren Brown gave the attraction a ringing endorsement: “well worth a visit and the finest I’ve seen.”

If you are planning an intimate evening meal with a loved one, the Witchery by the Castle is an excellent choice. Just a stone’s throw from the castle gates, The Witchery is housed in one of the Royal Mile’s many historic buildings. The atmosphere is decidedly romantic, with baroque oak panelling, heraldic painted ceilings and a multitude of antique candlesticks. An eclectic range of dishes is on offer, each with an imaginative combination of flavours.

The view from the Old Course Hotel into St Andrews. Picture:  David Scott

The view from the Old Course Hotel into St Andrews. Picture: David Scott

ST ANDREWS

The East Neuk of Fife is renowned for its beautiful coastline, which can be enjoyed to the full from the university town of St Andrews. Visitors can stay in the magnificent Old Course Hotel, which is the proud owner of five AA red stars. The hotel looks over the famed Old Links golf course and West Sands beach. It has 144 premium-quality rooms, as well as the Kholer Waters Spa, and a choice of six bars and restaurants.

A twenty minute walk will take you through the centre of town towards St Andrew’s ruined cathedral. Situated right on the coast, the cathedral was once Scotland’s largest medieval church. The museum houses some incredible medieval relics from the site, which was used for worship since at least the 700s. Another ruin which you can explore is St Andrew’s Castle, which has been a bishop’s palace, a fortress and a prison during its 450-year history. Visitors can explore the infamous dungeons, where prisoners were held in the medieval period.

After returning from the ruins, or perhaps after some golf, guests at the Old Course Hotel can indulge in a delicious evening meal at the Road Hole Restaurant, where the staff have won awards for their expertly made dishes. The finest Scottish meat and fish are cooked to perfection, and presented to a very high standard.

Edinburgh from Calton Hill . Picture: TSPL

Edinburgh from Calton Hill . Picture: TSPL

STIRLING

Hotel Colessio describes itself as “Scotland’s newest and most luxurious boutique hotel”. This makes it the ideal base of operations during a stay in Stirling. It is just a short walk from Stirling Castle, and offers stylish accommodation, complete with silver furnishings and vases of orchids.

The castle itself is a fantastic place for a day out, with tours, itineraries and museums to suit all tastes. The Royal Palace of James V is a highlight – it is a Renaissance wonder, restored to its 16th century glory. James IV’s Great Hall is another must-see, as is the Chapel Royal, and the ambitious Tapestry project exhibition.

The National Wallace Monument is another star attraction in Stirling, which is a ten minute drive or a thirty minute bus ride from the castle. The monument celebrates the knight William Wallace, as well as other famous Scots in its Hall of Heroes. The Hall of Arms tells the story of the Battle of Stirling Bridge, and the view from the Crown at the top of the monument is truly spectacular.

Gleneagles Hotel. Picture: Getty

Gleneagles Hotel. Picture: Getty

After returning to the centre of Stirling, you can grab a bite to eat at Hermann’s Restaurant. This eatery combines Scottish and Austrian cuisine, with the finest local produce and central European favourites such as schnitzel and strudel.

ANGUS

Any trip to Angus wouldn’t be complete without a walk along Lunan Bay. One of Scotland’s finest beaches, Lunan Bay has gorgeous golden sands, dramatic cliffs and rolling dunes. If you fancy a picnic, a bit of sand-castle-building, or some light paddling, this beach will suit all your needs.

A twenty minute drive into Abroath will bring you to the historically significant and austerely beautiful Arbroath Abbey. This is where Scottish nobles announced their independence from England in 1320 by signing the Declaration of Arbroath. It was founded in 1178, and has one of the most complete abbot’s residences in Britain.

Only ten minutes’ drive from Arbroath is Gordon’s Restaurant with Rooms, which won the AA award for Best Restaurant of the Year in 2012. Gordon and Maria Watson run the restaurant as a husband and wife team, ensuring that the food is both personal and delicious. British cuisine is brought to life by traditional cooking techniques, and enhanced by the finest wines. The Rooms have earned five stars from Visit Scotland for their individuality, and will ensure you have the best night’s sleep.

PERTH AND KINROSS

Since 1924, Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire has been the “Riviera of the Highlands”. There are an incredible range of activities on offer, which will make you feel like a true Scottish laird: golf, shooting, falconry, fishing, and archery, to name but a few. To top it all off, it is home to Andrew Fairlie’s restaurant, which is the only restaurant in Scotland to whole two Michelin stars. French and Scottish cooking are combined to great effect, producing some of the most memorable dishes you will ever taste.

If you fancy a bit of military history, Balhousie Castle is thirty minutes’ drive from Gleneagles. This is the ancestral home of the Black Watch, the famous Scottish regiment. The museum is full of medals, photographs, diaries and weapons, and the café has won awards for its exemplary breakfasts, lunches and afternoon teas.

Also, if one attraction isn’t enough, Scone is just ten minutes’ drive from Balhousie. This is the original home of the Stone of Destiny, where Scottish monarchs used to be crowned. You can marvel at the elegant antiques and outstanding artworks, as well as wandering around the stunning gardens and grounds, before returning to Gleneagles for a slap-up meal.

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