The Scots have always loved their food and have come up with some fabulous products and dishes, including porridge, butteries, smoked fish, clapshot, champit tatties, rumbledethumps, skirlie, Forfar bridie, Dundee cake, Lorne sausage, haggis, stovies, cloutie dumpling, cranachan, Abernethy biscuit, oatcakes, pancakes, scones, bannocks, shortbread and not forgetting soups like Cock-a-leekie and Cullen Skink. However, today it is the turn of the humble porridge or as they like to market it these days as a “super food” due to the fact it lowers cholesterol!
Oatmeal has a long history in Scotland because oats are better suited than wheat to the shorter growing season. Oats became the staple grain over the centuries and was traditionally ground down to become oatmeal, which hot water and or milk is added to become porridge, with the addition of salt and sugar depending on your taste. Porridge oats takes to anything, and is excellent with nuts, berries and fruit, whilst the addition of a chopped banana is a great start to the day.
One of the most famous producers in Scotland is “Scotts”, which started life in 1880 in Glasgow and a century later it was bought out by Quaker Oats Ltd. Today it is the largest oat mill in Western Europe, with its products being sold not only in the UK, but also in Scandinavia, France and even in the Far East. Another producer is “The oatmeal of Alford” which is milled at Alford in Aberdeenshire. In fact it is a few miles from the 15th century castle at Auchleven, which can sleep up to 14 people on a self-catering basis. What better way to have your porridge, than by buying your oatmeal locally and having it served up at a castle in Scotland.
Whilst the famous writer Samuel Johnson disparagingly wrote of oats as “a grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people” – it continues to thrive and is a staple part of any diet, be it in Scotland or any part of the world. Regardless of status, be it in a cottage or a castle in Scotland, go for “oat cuisine” over haute cuisine. To enjoy “the true taste of Scotland” of Scotts porage oats in Scotland contact Scotts Castle Holidays today to arrange your Scottish holiday for an ultimate “Scotts” experience.
Having recently returned from a trip to the west coast of Scotland which consisted of travelling over mountain, through glens and past lochs to get to my castle destination, it got me thinking about the old legends and stories. At the Baronial Castle, where the clan chief has resided for many centuries, it was the belief throughout the highlands of Scotland that every castle had a “brounie” to watch over the chief and his family, and this was the case here. What is a “brounie”, you may well ask? Well, it is from the gaelic (traditional Scottish language) “brùnaidh”, and is best described as a “hobgoblin” or in modern parlance a “house-elf”, rather like Dobby in the Harry Potter books. This legend was common throughout Europe and would be known as a “tomte” in Scandanavia and “heinzelmännchen” in Germany.
The legend goes that this “brounie” stayed with the family for centuries looking after the clan chief and his family, and was particularly vocal whenever anyone from the clan Campbell tried to integrate with the family. But the story that resonates most with tourists of today is the one associated with Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite rebellion of 1745/46. Like many clan chiefs he took part in the attempt to restore the Stuarts to the throne in Scotland and supported the Jacobite cause. One night the “brounie” spoke to the chief in the vaults of the castle and warned him of the danger and proclaimed “there is a stranger arrived this day in the North, whose fortunes you will follow and never return”. The chief knew immediately that Bonnie Prince Charlie had arrived, and said “I shall now either live in a way becoming the descendent of an ancient and honourable race, or else I shall die gloriously in the best of causes, the restoration of my rightful King to the throne of his ancestors.”
After gathering men from his clan, he was amongst the first to join Charles Stuart on his march to Edinburgh. At the battle of Culloden on the 16th April 1746, the clan chief was still there and ready to fight for the cause. After an hour of bloody battle on that fatal day, the Jacobite troops were already in retreat and the clan chief was left dead on the battlefield, whilst Bonnie Prince Charlie fled the scene. Bombarded by cannon shot and mortar bombs, the Jacobite tactics of charging the enemy had been mastered and the rebellion was over. Thus was fulfilled the doleful prophecy of the “brounie”. Worse was to follow, as the government confiscated the clan lands and the Argyll Militia destroyed the castle.
However, like all good stories, there is a happy ending. A few years later in 1749, the lands are returned to the clan and the chief’s son, now the 18th chief, aged 14 is in charge and by 1794 is able to get the construction of the new castle underway, further up the glen from the old castle. Perhaps the “brounie” aided him on his way and guided the clan to remain part of these lands for all these years right up to the present day. Whatever the legend, there is no doubt the amazing amount of history here at both castles, old and new, with the Baronial Castle available for let on a self-catering basis for up to 13 people throughout the year. Whilst the old castle remains a magnificent ruin, a charity is now in the process of killing off the ivy and starting a restoration project.
But where is the “brounie” today? Well, when I was there I saw no evidence of him (Harry or Munn is his name), but perhaps if I had stayed longer I may have spotted him somewhere. Or maybe I did, as on the stairs there is a stylised figure holding a crest – perhaps that is the “brounie”? I will definitely stay longer next time to find out more, as staying at this Scottish Castle is a legend in itself, and a great experience for anyone wanting a genuine Scottish Castle Holiday with Scotts Castle Holidays.
Visiting castles in Scotland is special at any time of the year, but there is always a particular resonance in winter, with the contrast of the soft snow and the hard stone. I recently returned to this 16th century Castle, a few miles from Selkirk and it looked as pretty as a Christmas card on the outside.
Once inside, the thick stone walls retain the heat and the castle itself is cosy and warm. In the Great Hall, with its vast inglenook fireplace, the open fire throws out a fantastic orange glow, and even with the modern pictures and sofas, there is still the hint of medieval times.
This room (and castle) has many stories to tell and it is said that one of the previous owners and residents of the castle was a wizard and warlock. Just looking at the old oak door to the Great Hall, with all its carving and ancient graffiti – takes you back in time.
From 1517, the castle site belonged to the Scotts of Aikwood, who eventually built the tower in the 1540s. The marriage stone is still visible in the tower wall above the door, where the Laich Hall enters the tower section at ground level and this commemorates the marriage, in 1602, of Robert Scott of Aikwood and Elspeth Murray of Elibank.
Originally known as Aikwood, because it was located within an oak wood, which the local dialect refers to as “aik wood”, the name was anglicised for a time to be Oakwood, but it has become again Aikwood. Oakwood or Aikwood – it is a great place whatever it is called.
Like many towers and keeps, access internally is by its stone stairs and part of the endearing quirks of architecture and craftsmanship are immediately apparent, as the Kerry-handed (left turning) spiral staircase lies before you and it is 62 steps up to the top floor.
Aikwood Tower is different to most castles and holiday houses in Scotland, because its charm lies in its intimacy. Getting close to the stone walls is part of the package and one that most hotels or more modern castles cannot offer. There is luxury on offer, but it is understated and not necessarily obvious. This is an ideal Scottish castle for a group of up 10 friends for a self-catering break for a week or weekend. For more information, contact the Scotts Castle Holidays friendly sales team who will be delighted to assist further.
When is the best time to visit Scotland?
This is a question that pops up on a regular basis at Scotts Castle Holidays.
Whilst we can give a comprehensive response and describe the advantages of each season, ultimately the answer depends on the one asking the question and what it is that you are looking for from your holiday.
Scotland offers so much, whatever the time of year, with summer and winter events and festivals, so there are always things to do, with culture and history in abundance, not dependent on the season or the weather.
Scotland offers many ideal solutions for the perfect holiday and by checking the Met Office on weather conditions at that time of the year, you can choose what fits your requirements.
Let’s take a look at the main seasons in Scotland, including what’s on, what type of weather to expect and the landscape:
Spring (March – May).
This is a beautiful time of year to visit Scotland, as everything is either on the cusp of colour or is bursting through. It is a joy to be out in the clean fresh air, to see the mountains, lochs and countryside in all their grandeur.
Weather-wise it can be cool, but the warmth is on its way.
This time of year is an ideal time to take to the great outdoors for brisk walks, proper hiking of hills, cycling, fishing and golfing.
Some great events take place in May, including the Aviemore and Cairngorms Walking and Mountain Festival, the Arran Wildlife Festival, and the Isle of Bute Jazz Festival.
For those wishing to tour Scotland, it is a quieter time of year to travel (except the Easter break) and is a great opportunity to explore the many historic castles or take in a whisky tour and sample the finest malt. Check the Events Scotland website for all the month by month events listings.
Summer (June – August).
These are the traditional summer months, where the weather is at its warmest, when one year can be a heat-wave and the next be a wash-out.
It is the busiest time of the year throughout Scotland, and the capital city of Edinburgh hosts a festival for three weeks in August, tripling in size with visitors and performers arriving from all around the world.
Also in August (providing you book well in advance) you can take in the long standing Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the biggest event of its kind in the world, which is hosted at Edinburgh Castle.
Summer also has a full calendar of Highland Games, including the Cowal Gathering, the largest of the Games events and smaller, more intimate festivals including the annual small boats festival at Portsoy.
For sporting activities, the golfers enjoy the award-winning world-famous courses looking at their best and the scenery is looking magnificent.
Autumn (September – November).
Once the traditional summer months are over, the countryside begins to change colour, with a mixture of beautiful golds and browns dominating countryside walks.
It is a great time for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy the best of walking, cycling and climbing.
The last of the Highland Games events at Balmoral is held on the first Saturday of September each year and the summer events give way to the more relaxed pace of the autumn events, like the Wigtown Book Festival.
The Autumn Speyside Whisky Festival in Dufftown, Moray is always worth a visit. All the major visitor attractions remain open until the end of November and it is a good time of year to visit whilst it becomes quieter but maintains the milder temperatures.
Winter (December – February)
. Scotland becomes colder and daylight hours become shorted at this time of year, so the emphasis turns on different aspects of Scotland.
Glasgow and Edinburgh are great cities to visit for a city break with world-class shopping facilities, and both offer spectacular Winter events: Glasgow on Ice and Edinburgh’s Winter Wonderland respectively.
Whilst Scotland is known for many things, it is perhaps best known for hosting its legendary annual New Year’s Eve party, with Edinburgh Hogmanay an absolute must-see.
Skiing is also a big hit in Scotland in the Winter, with heavy snowfall common until early Spring. Thousands flock to the mountains to race down the fantastic slopes and soak up the stunning scenery. There are 5 ski resorts in Scotland, with the Cairngorm range, the Lecht, Glencoe, Glenshee and the Nevis range all offering winter sports.
So, to answer the question: when is the best time to visit Scotland?
The answer: it is up to you – depending on what you want out of your trip.
Once you have decided, we at Scotts Castle Holidays will be delighted to assist you further in designing your dream holiday – give us a call on 01208 821 341 or browse the extensive collection of stunning properties on the website.
Whenever you choose to visit, you’re sure to have a fantastic time. We hope to see you soon.
Winter coats and sturdy boots ward off the chilly day. Forced inside by long dark evenings, with windows shut and curtains drawn. The warmth of a log fire pulls in the crowd, the perfect conduit for family interaction. Whether you’re roasting chestnuts, toasting crumpets or warming toes, a home with a hearth is a happy place to be.
Whilst there have been great celebrations as Scotland’s Andy Murray won Wimbledon, his Serbian opponent Novak Djokovic showed great humility in defeat. Having known each other since they were 12 years old, he acknowledged that he was better on the day. Earlier in the year Djokovic had been in Scotland and passed Andy Murray’s hometown of Dunblane.
“I was passing by Dunblane and I took a picture of the road sign and sent him the photo. He said: ‘What are you doing there?’ I said: ‘I was paying you a visit but you’re not at home.’ He went on – “I like Scotland, it was a little surprise for my girlfriend because Scotland and Britain is full of beautiful medieval castles and we are in love with that, we love that fairytale, romantic, medieval sights. I took her there for her birthday. I got a very friendly welcome”.
Find your own beautiful medieval castle in Scotland from a selection of self-catering castles and large houses at Scotts Castle Holidays today.
While Skimo is already well established in the Alps, it is a recent addition to the Scottish sports scene.
Ski mountaineering racing combines athletic skiing with mountaineering skills incorporating technical ascents and descents. There are different types of courses ranging from vertical sprints to technical downhill sections. The Skimo competitors are also supplied with an equipment list and everything must be carried over the whole distance. The fastest person to complete the course is the winner!
Scotts Castle’s Harriet recently attended the penultimate event in Glencoe. There are five events in the series, and the last event will be held at Nevis Range on March 23rd, in fact entries are still open for enthusiastic competitors! It’s looking to be a fantastic event with the series prize ceremony, live music and dinner included. If you fancy getting a group together, The Victorian Fishing Lodge, which sleeps 14 adults, is situated only a few miles from the Nevis Range mountain resort near Fort William. Offering excellent value for money, this self-catering large holiday house is ideal for a group of family of friends. Contact the office today for more details on 01208 821 341.
A short film about the restoration of Stirling Castle to its former 16th-century glory has been put on the internet. The film offers a behind-the-scenes virtual tour of the castle, showing the traditional techniques used to restore the castle to how it originally looked. The project, which includes the restoration of four-poster beds and heraldic decorations on the walls and ceilings, should be completed by April 2011. The film can be seen at www.youtube.com/historicscotlandtv
If you are planning to stay in the Central Belt of Scotland and looking for easy access to Stirling Castle, as well as Edinburgh and Glasgow, then there is this Castle Apartment, which sleeps 2 adults and 2 children. Visit Stirling Castle and stay in your own castle nearby for the perfect Scottish Castle Holiday.