Having always travelled to the West Coast of Scotland while on vacation, it was time to investigate east of Inverness to see some famous castles. First stop, under 2 hours from Inverness, is Fyvie Castle. This National Trust property has terrific gardens (free of charge) and has a long history, reflected in the architecture. The original castle can still be seen in the two towers that rise above the exquiIte gardens. It is well worth doing a tour of the the castle itself – (£12.50 per adult: weekdays guided and weekends self-guided). Look out for the music room with the splendid tapestries – very good place for a classy wedding.
Next up was Dunnottar Castle. En route, have lunch at the Ythank Hotel, Methlick – great traditional pub food with friendly locals. You can stay in Stonehaven for the night, it is just a short coastal walk to the castle – The Ship Inn is a good option for B&B and dinner with a great view of the harbor.
And now for the big hurrah – Balmoral Castle, private summer residence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. This is a wonderful experience – just £11.50 per adult. Exquisite gardens – floral and vegetable. As for the Castle itself, you only get to see inside the Ballroom, but even from that you get a feel for the small scale, private splendor that makes this the annual retreat for QE2 and her family. And yes, there is a corgi trail for the kids to follow. After Balmoral, a trip to Braemar Castle is in order, and a walk along the Queen’s Drive with a follow up walk to Lion’s Head is very rewarding
And finally, stay the 2nd night in Ballater, a Royal Deeside town – in fact, The Royal Deeside town. You must stay at The Auld Kirk (try for Room 4) where you sign in at The Pulpit and enjoy your breakfast under the stained glass windows. Then enjoy dinner at The Lochnagar Indian Restaurant – great ambience.
Rise early and do an easy 3 hour walk around Loch Muick – wear a deer stalker and plus fours as it is still on QE2’s Balmoral Estate. And finally, finally, a wonderful drive through Cairngorm National Park back to Inverness.