EXPLORE AND EXPERIENCE

Great base for a week or a short break that will be full of unspoilt scenery, fun, adventure and exploration of the local area & beyond

Loch Cruises are popular

Local Area

There are several towns and large villages around us, each with it's own charm, character and offer a true Scottish Highland experience.

The closest (approx 10 miles) are Dufftown, Aberlour and Tomintoul, Dufftown & Aberlour have higher populations and more to offer in the way of shops etc. but all three have their own character and plus points.
Huntly, Keith and Elgin are all around 25 miles from the cottages and they all have Supermarkets, Elgin has a cinema and museums, Huntly has Dean’s Shortbread, a falconry centre and a castle, Keith has a distillery (Strathisla), a railway station and some interesting shops for the unusual ideas / crafts / gifts.

are all within a 45 minute drive of the cottages,

Aviemore is the outdoor capital of Scotland and is geared up for the active traveller with plenty of varied activities for all ages & abilities, including Lochside walks, Cairngorms reindeer herd (you can walk with them and feed them), ride with the dogsled teams or even experience Open Water swimming!

Lossiemouth is a typical fishing port with two fantastic beaches (see the header photograph – this the East Beach), it also has an active RAF base with a modern flight wing of Tornadoes, Eurofighters and the new P8 Orions.

Grantown-on-Spey is similar to Dufftown sizewise including a Golfing challenge that will test the best.

Nairn, Forres, Findhorn, Hopeman, Fochabers, Portknockie, Cullen, Portsoy, Banff and Pennan are all old traditional fishing villages along the moray coast they all have sandy or pebble beaches, cliffs overlooking the Firth, there is the chance to spot Dolphins, Seals and even occasionally Orcas.

Each has eateries from quaint bistros to traditional fish and chip shops and a selection of good country pubs.

Fochabers is the home of Baxters, Cullen is the home of the world renown Cullen Skink soup, Portknockie is where you will find “Bow Fiddle Rock”, Banff is home to a large modern fishing fleet leaving the harbour with the tides with Portsoy and Pennan the film sets for the remake of “Whisky Galore” and “Local Hero” respectively.

Away from the coast Carrbridge is the home of the World Porridge Championships and the Landmark centre (a great place for kids), Kingussie is home to Hamish the young Polar Bear at the Highland Wildlife Park and not forgetting Braemar home to the Queen at Balmoral.

Further afield the Region’s two largest cities Inverness and Aberdeen are both just over an hour away with everything you expect from a major city, e.g. the state of the art and modern P&J Arena, large shopping complexes and theatres, music venues etc.

Small is Fun!

Recommended trips out

With the cottages as a base, a small selection of recommended day trips are following,

Drive to Dochgarroch Loch (at the top western side of Loch Ness) approx 90 mins and board one of the early Loch Cruise tours (booking advisable), we recommend the Jacobite Rebellion Tour (4hrs includes a couple of hours ashore to explore Urquhart Castle). After departing the cruise turn left and follow the A82 towards Fort Augustus stopping for lunch at one of the numerous loch side country pubs or cafes. After lunch continue through Fort Augustus and follow the General Wade Military Road up the eastern side of Loch Ness Stopping along the way to admire the scenery and wildlife. Rejoin the A9 to return to the cottages via Carrbridge.

Arrive at Lossiemouth harbour and park up, enjoy a stroll along the promenade sampling a superb Ice Cream from either the two shops on the front. return to the harbour and enjoy a great lunch at the Harbour Lights Cafe (weather permitting sit outside – with a pet friendly zone). After lunch take a stroll along either of the two beautiful beaches or even dip your toes in the Moray Firth (Note at the moment there is no access to the east beach because of an engineering issue with the access bridge), Walk along the west beach passed the Royal Moray Golf course approaching Covesea Lighthouse with the opportunity to get your toes wet. (Note the take off flight path from RAF Lossiemouth is directly overhead).

Culbin Forest is just outside Forres (50 mins), After parking (a small fee is payable) enjoy a stunning walk with various routes and things to see clearly marked for example gravel pits, the tower view point, a RSPB site and the beach etc. A relaxed stroll through the forest arriving at a wide deserted sandy beach takes about an hour (eachway) and is a great place to enjoy your packed lunch, Important if you stroll along the beach beware that it is recognised as an important Seal pull out area and as such is covered by wildlife protection legislation (do not approach the wildlife)

The Landmark Forest Adventure Park, Carrbridge (35 mins)
A great day out with Fun, Discovery and Adventure for the whole family.
As well as numerous adventure grounds, rides and visitor areas, the park is also of importance to wildlife and conservation in the area. In particular, certain areas of the park attract the endangered red squirrel, with the park playing a key role in the work of reintroducing the species to the Highland area.

The Highland Wildlife Park, Kingussie (60mins)
Discover Scottish wildlife and endangered animals of the world’s mountains and tundra in our spectacular setting. Drive around the Main Reserve in your own car and then investigate the walk-round area on foot. The Wildlife Park has a wide and diverse range of animals. From native species such as the Capercaillie and Scottish Wildcat to those from further afield such as the Amur Tiger and Polar Bear including Hamish.

After  breakfast take a short drive to the North East Falconry Centre, where you can get up close and watch the flying display and experience the thrill of a large (or small one the little ones or timid) bird of prey swooping down to land on your hand.

Talk to John or his team about the birds, they are clean to share the knowledge. You can spend all day here and watch all three displays – each with different birds or continue with the trip.

A ten minute drive to Huntly and park at Dean’s Shortbread Factory shop for lunch after lunch drive to Huntly Castle (just the other side of town) and enjoy the afternoon exploring the castle and it’s history from the Ale house, through the dungeons to the upper ramparts of this spectacular Castle.

Take a slow drive through Huntly, enjoying the scenery and quiet roads to Portsoy a 17th Century harbour and home of the famous Portsoy Ice Cream and the Portsoy International Boat Festival. Park the car and set off on the relaxed 3 hour walk along the cliff edges looking down on the Victorian Lido, a stunning sea arch and looking out for dolphins, seals and a multitude of sea birds on the Firth to Sandend, enjoy a packed lunch on the beach while the kids paddle safely on a wide flat sandy beach before returning to Portsoy and your car.

Take a short trip to Portknockie to explore Bow Fiddle Rock and enjoy a supper fish & chip near the rock!

Awesome Castle

Castles and History

NE Scotland and The Highlands were at the centre of the Jacobite rebellion and as a result it is a region steeped in history. Here you will find castles of every format from Family homes, through Strongholds to Clan and Regal expressions of power. Around about us there are numerous castles (most of them are looked after by either Historic Environment Scotland or the National Trust Scotland ) a small selection of recommended castles to visit are

Within a few miles of the cottage there are seven significant sites,

Blairfindy Castle A Tower House was built in 1586 and it’s diminutive size suggests it may have originally been a hunting lodge which can be seen from the cottages.

Drumin Castle (stands in an ideal defensive location on a steep bluff overlooking the rivers Avon and Livet, which may have been fortified as far back as the Iron Age). It is reputedly a former lair of the notorious “Wolf of Badenoch”, Alexander Stewart, one of the infamous characters in Scottish history.

Ballindalloch Caste (our neighbours),

Known as ‘The Pearl of the North’, Ballindalloch Castle is one of the most romantic and renowned castles in Scotland.

Balvenie Castle (originally known as Mortlach Castle, Balvenie was built in the 13th century as a castle of enclosure with an impressive curtain wall. For more than 500 years, Balvenie was a mighty stronghold – initially for the Comyn earls of Buchan, who ruled over this part of north-east Scotland. Robert the Bruce overthrew the powerful lords in 1306, taking Balvenie Castle in 1308. The castle was added to in the 15th and 16th centuries and hosted Mary Queen of Scots in 1562, another notable guest King Edward I of England

Auchindoun Castle (trek up to the lonely ruin and surrounding earthworks of a 15th century stronghold. Auchindoun Castle may have been built by Thomas Cochrane, a favourite of King James III. Auchindoun was sold to Sir Adam Gordon in 1567. Gordon’s claim to fame was the murder of all the occupants of Corgarff Castle during a feud in 1571. Auchindoun Castle was burned by William Mackintosh in revenge and by 1725 the castle lay derelict.

Packhorse Bridge (Bridgend of Glenlivet)

Not a castle but a fascinating piece of 16th Century history, spans the Livet where it tumbles through a narrow, rocky gorge at Bridgend. It is thought to have been built at the same time as nearby Blairfindy Castle. Only two of the original arches survive, the third having been ripped away during the Muckle Spate of 1829.

Seminary at Scalen (Braes of Glenlivet), In 1716 Catholic Bishops established a college for priests and chose this remote spot at the foot of the Ladder Hills to avoid persecution by Hanovarian soldiers. This is how Catholicism managed to survive in Scotland during the eighteenth century. About one hundred priests were trained at Scalen up until 1799, a fantastic achievement for those troubled times.

Craigellachie Bridge Is a cast iron arched bridge at Craigellachie near Aberlour and was designed by the renowned engineer Thomas Telford. It has been given category A listed status by Historic Scotland and was the site of the historic meeting of The Gordon Highlanders and The Queen’s Own Highlanders on their amalgamation to form The Highlanders in 1994.eight

Huntly Castle – The seat of one of medieval and Renaissance Scotland’s most powerful families The Earl of Huntly Chief of Clan Gordon.

Corgarff Castle – Dating back to the 16th Century it was a noble residence turned army base for capturing Jacobite sympathisers and whisky smugglers

Fyvie Castle – Ghosts, legends and folklore are all woven into the tapestry of Fyvie’s 800-year-old history. But stories aside, we do know William the Lion was at Fyvie around 1214 and later Robert the Bruce and Charles I were among its royal guests.

Fort George – Stand in awe of Fort George, one of the most outstanding fortifications in Europe. It was built in the wake of the Battle of Culloden (1746) as a secure base for King George II’s army. it took 22 years to complete, by which time the Jacobite threat had subsided, but it has served the British Army for the almost 250 years since and today it the regimental home of the Highland Regiments.

Balmoral Castle – Is the Scottish home of the British Royal Family since it was purchased for Queen Victoria by Prince Albert in 1852, having been first leased in 1848.

Dunnottar Castle – an unforgettable experience, in fact our favourite castle, so visit the dramatic and evocative ruined cliff top fortress which was the home of the Earls Marischal, once one of the most powerful families in the land.

William Wallace, Mary Queen of Scots, the Marquis of Montrose and the future King Charles II have graced the Castle with their presence. Most famously though, it was at Dunnottar Castle that a small garrison held out against the might of Cromwell’s army for eight months and saved the Scottish Crown Jewels, the ‘Honours of Scotland’, from destruction.

Slains Castle – The original castle has been reconstructed may times since its construction in 1597 by the Earl of Erroll. The ruin you see today is the inevitable result of the castle’s location and various misfortunes becoming the owners over time. The castle is famous for many reasons, partly because it was a place where celebrities were entertained on numerous occasions in the 19th Century. Most notable being, Bram Stoker and it is believed the castle is the inspiration for the setting of the tale in Count Dracula (1897). The Crown (2016 -) fans will also recognise Slains Castle.

There are popular ruins at Ruthven Barracks, Duffus estate, Findlater, Glenbuchat, Kildrummy. If these don’t interest you then look at Drum, Crathes, Craigievar, Blair Athol, Brodie and Cawdor Castles or for an even older castle Clava Cairns near by is also Culloden, a powerfully emotive and atmospheric battlefield where on the 16 April 1746, the final Jacobite Rising came to a brutal head in one of the most harrowing battles in British history.

Jacobite supporters, seeking to restore the Stuart monarchy to the British thrones, gathered to fight the Duke of Cumberland’s government troops. It was the last pitched battle on British soil and, in less than an hour, around 1,600 men were slain – 1,500 of them Jacobites.

are all enjoyable trips.

A familiar sight on the Whisky Trail

Malt Whisky Country

As you would expect being situated in the Heart of Malt Whisky Country, we are surrounded by Distilleries, in fact within a 30 minute drive there are currently 51 operating Whisky distilleries some of which also produce renowned brands of Gin, there are also numerous Gin Distilleries.

A few of the Whisky and Gin Distilleries have a visitor centre and organised tours.
Within an ten mile circle (approximately) of our cottages, there is or were

Glenlivet (Whisky – Visitor Centre)
Glenrinnes (Gin & Vodka – Visitor Centre)
Allt-a-Bhainne (Whisky)
Tomintoul (Whisky) – visit by arrangement
Tamnavulin (Whisky)
Ballindalloch (Whisky – Visitor Centre)
Cragganmore (Whisky – Visitor Centre)
Braeval (Whisky)
Benrinnes (Whisky)
Glenfarclas (Whisky – Visitor Centre)
Dailuaine (Whisky – Visitor Centre)
GlenAllachie (Whisky – Visitor Centre)
Aberlour (Whisky – Visitor Centre)
Glenfiddich (Whisky – Visitor Centre)
Balvenie (Whisky – Visitor Centre **)
Dufftown (Whisky)
Mortlach (Whisky)
Pittyvaich (Whisky) Demolished
Convalmore (Whisky) Dismantled
Glendullan (Whisky) – visit by arrangement
Parkmore (Whisky) Dismantled
Craigellachie (Whisky) – visit by arrangement
Macallan (Whisky – Visitor Centre **)
Caorunn (Gin – Visitor Centre)

There are probably a couple more but I haven’t found them on my travels yet.

Note Strathisla Distillery with it’s visitor centre (picture left) is outside the 10 mile circle in Keith about 25 mins from us.

For most Visitor Centres Booking is recommended, if it is “**” then booking in advance (at least 6 months in some cases) is essential

Whisky made from malted barley is the original Scotch. The invention of the continuous still in the late 1820’s allowed for the production of Grain Whisky, producing a very pure, very high strength spirit which started to be sent to England for rectification into Gin.
George Smith – Upper Drummin Farm (Glenlivet distillery) was the first in the region to apply for a licence under the 1823 Spirits Act, when he went “legal” his colleagues saw this as an act of betrayal and threatened to burn down his distillery – ‘and him at the heart of it’. The pistols he carried for several years to ward off any such attempt can be seen in the visitors centre today.

History in the making, varied past

Eating and Drinking Out

For a coffee, cake and snack there are several places in the area

Looking for a wonderful ambience and the experience of a great coffee, homemade cake, pastry, tray bake and speciality teas either drink / eat in or takeaway then the Dufftown Glassworks (Conval Street, Dufftown) can not be beaten, in fact you will find us in there.

The shop has a significant stock of arts and crafts all by local artisans working with a range of mediums and a large selection artwork.

The Glenfiddich and Glenlivet Distilleries both have a very good café, which serves a range of meals when the distilleries are open.  You don’t necessarily need to take a tour to use the café.

The Coffee Pot (09:00 – 16:00) and The Sidings Café (10:00 – 16:00) at Dufftown Station both offer an all-day food menu, coffee and snacks with a takeawy option.

The Highland Café offers a range of home bakes, cakes, speciality coffees, fresh juice and smoothies.

The Fire Station Café on Main Street opens each day from 9am -5pm and serves coffee and tea, home bakes and excellent bacon rolls.

The Byre Grazing Bistro is a café located on the High Street next door to the garage. They have a good reputation of food, which they serve throughout the day. There is also The Gather’n next to the Co-Op which serves a varied seasonal menu, the Aberlour Takeaway, which offers a selection of fast food.

For a restaurant rather than a snack, then please consider the where we have enjoyed our meals in all of the following

You are assured of a warm highland welcome at The Croft Inn.

The Malt Room restaurant is renowned for it’s homemade Scottish food using the best of local seasonal produce. The  spectacular views looking towards Ben Rinnes further up the Glen (you can see Bluefolds on the southern slope) make it a pleasure.

The bar is well stocked with malt whiskies, an extensive wine list and local cask-conditioned ales, including the Croft Ale which you can only get here.

There is a wonderful atmosphere at The Croft Inn and it is a good opportunity to meet the locals over a pint or a dram. Well-behaved children are welcome.

It is best to make a reservation, especially if you have any special dietary requirements or you wish to eat at a specific time.

They are open 5 days a week (Wednesday to Sunday) from 17:30 during the main tourist season April to the end of October with limited hours during the remainder of the year. The Croft Inn sits on the B9009 is about 2 miles from Bluefolds in the direction of Glenlivet.

Please contact us or Alan & Helena at the Croft Inn direct on (01807) 590361 to make a reservation.

At the junction of the B9008 and the A95, nestling within the wooded glens of Ballindalloch Castle in the heart of Speyside, the historic inn has for centuries provided hearty meals, refreshing ales for locals and visitors to the Scottish Highlands providing excellent good value meals. Booking during the holiday season is essential.

The Seven Stills at the bottom end of Conval Street, Dufftown serves great food with a Scottish / French (Corsican) twist, the bar and whisky snug is a great place to spend time and experience one or two of over 400 different whisky expressions with the owners (Ros and Patrick) and their whisky knowledge and facts to add to the experience.

The atmosphere and food is first rate and you will always have a great welcome plus the chance to meet and chat with the locals here is not to be missed.

Open from 17:30

Booking is essential so to check opening times and make a reservation please contact Ros & Patrick direct on 01340 820880

In the Square, by the clock tower, serves good home cooked food using only the freshest of local seasonal ingredients and it has a good reputation, run by a local family (Kareen Anderson, a ‘Dufftown Quine’ – a local girl to the non-Doric speakers). It is advisable to check the opening times and make a booking on 07749559337

The Tannochbrae Restaurant at the Tannochbrae Guest House has good reputation, also there is The Spice of India an Indian Restaurant on Church St.

For fast food DJ’s Chippie on Fife Street serves excellent Fish suppers and Pizza’s, there is also the Castle Chinese Takeaway on Church Street.

In Tomintoul The Richmond and Ben Avon Hotels offer meals throughout the day.  Also, The Clock House Restaurant has an excellent reputation for cooking with fresh ingredients.  It is open at lunchtime and evening throughout the summer season.

The Mash Tun is the nearest thing to an English pub in Aberlour. They have a selection of cask-conditioned ale on offer and an extensive selection of malt whiskies including the Glenfarclas Family Casks (45 bottles from 1952 to 1998).  They serve food throughout the day.

Restaurants are also available in the Aberlour Hotel and the Dowans Hotel, both of which provide a “fine dining” experience.

In Craigellachie about 25 mins from the cottages, there are

The Copperdog (which also has local musicians performing in the bar area on Fridays and Saturdays evenings, and a well stocked Whisky snug (with a few rare expressions) upstairs in hotel area), The Highlander Inn and Fiddich Side, all excellent food choices, as with most places in the region, Whisky features prominently in the menus, please contact them all for availability.

In Rothes (about 35 mins from cottages) there is The Station Hotel which houses Toots Bistro and Restaurant.

Baxter’s of Fochabers is very worthwhile. The factory site at Fochabers has a large visitor’s centre and their well-appointed restaurant offers a wide selection of food during the day including their world-renowned soups.

Brodie Countryfare has an award-winning family restaurant providing the ideal opportunity for a refreshing coffee or a meal with family or friends. Each dish is freshly prepared on the premises using only the finest ingredients from the rich natural larder of the North East of Scotland.

Sea Fishing

Things To Do

In the cottages you will find a comprehensive catalogue of Tourist Information Booklets and Leaflets, covering the north of Scotland from the Central Belt upto Shetland. below you will find a few random selections from the Activity A to Z that is available

As you will have noticed above, Castles, Whisky, the Coast and Food are widely available for you to enjoy, but you should also look into

Wildlife – There are numerous RSPB sites within easy reach of the cottages including the Osprey Centre at Boat of Garten (nr Aviemore), Troop Head (nr Pennan) and the Loch of Strathbeg (nr Fraserburgh), also the Scottish Dolphin Centre (Spey Bay).

Fishing – Moray Speyside is on the banks of the mighty River Spey and along it’s tributaries the River A’an and River Livet all provide various fishing swims to suit all budgets along with a large selection of dedicated fisheries.

Golf – Within Moray there are at least 16 golf courses nearby ranging from challenging to relaxing, we have a couple of spare sets of clubs for the enthusiastic guest, and I always enjoy playing.

Walking – about a mile up the moor behind the cottages you can join the Aberlour to Tomintoul branch of the Speyside Way (Aviemore to Buckie one of Scotland official long distance walks), there are also the Isla Way, the Dava Way, the Moray Coast Trail and numerous other named marked ways and trails. We also recommend Clash Woods (chance to see Red Squirrels close up), Morinsh Woods (site of the Battle of Glenlivet in 1594)

For the more active

Hill Walking there are of course Munro’s and Corbetts throughout the region including The Cairngorms National Park, Corryhabbie, Brown Cow Hill, The Buck, Geal Charn, Carn Daimh which are all local plus an exhilarating challenge.

Of course it would be remiss of us not to mention Ben Rinnes, step out of the cottages and make your way to the top from right behind the cottages or take the marked path from Edenville.

Mountain biking is very popular in the Highlands, with the world famous Glenlivet Mountain Bike Trails being less than 7 miles from the door.

If we throw in Go-Carting, Archery, Zip Wires, Woodland Walks, Clay Pigeon Shooting, Off Road Driving experiences and Quad Bikes, Heritage Train lines (Keith & Dufftown Railway Association, The Strathspey Railway Line) and of course The Hogwarts Express (Glenfinnan)

Adventure Sports including Canyoning, Kayaking, Canadian Canoeing, Windsurfing.

Film Set locations, High speed boat tours, Sea-life Aquariums,

Not forgetting a less energetic tranquil garden to relax in you’ll understand how easy it is for you to fill your days and give everyone an experience they want to return to time after time.