5 Great Summer Walks

With summer heading our way, and hopefully some wonderful weather to go with it, we’re taking a look at some of the best walks the NTS has to offer.

 

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Pathways of exotic plants at Inverewe Gardens

Firstly Inverewe Gardens. Perfect for a pleasant stroll through gorgeous grounds, Inverewe Garden is a special place on the North West coast of Scotland. Its unique ecosystem allows plants from all over to grow and its home to pine martens, squirrels, buzzards and if you’re lucky even an eagle. There is usually plenty of colour and enough variety to dazzle all the senses. Their Pinewood trail takes just 45 minutes and is perfect for families, plus you can stop off at the restaurant after for a quick pick me up.

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A view up to the castle of Culzean

Secondly, Culzean Castle and its lovely beach. A classic mixture of sand and rocks this beach lies below the stunning castle and offers a more secluded beach environment than usual. As you walk along you get great views out to sea and, to the south, the granite rock that is Ailsa Craig. You’ll also see caves dotted in the cliffs and, if you fancy, you can join a guided tour taking you into the cave chambers where you can discover tales of smugglers from years ago. http://www.nts.org.uk/Events/Culzean-Castle-and-Country-Park/Explore-Culzeans-Caves/

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The majestic Falls of Glomach

If you fancy something a bit more adventurous you can head to the Falls of Glomach. One of the highest waterfalls in Britain, with a drop of 113m (370ft), the Falls of Glomach are set in a steep narrow cleft in remote Highland country. The easiest walk is 2.5 miles uphill from the car park at Dorusduain but the rewarding views and atmospheric misty conditions definitely make it worth the effort. This is one of the few walks where rain is actually welcome as the runoff makes the falls even more spectacular.

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The beautiful coastline of Rockcliffe

Rockcliffe, on the other hand, can offer something for everyone. From mudflats to meadows, rocky shore to heather-topped granite outcrops, this area is home to a huge diversity of wildlife and a network of paths gives access to most of the area. One of the highlights is the Mote of Mark which dates back to the late 6th or 7th century AD. This defended settlement is thought to have been the citadel of one of the princes of the ancient kingdom of Rheged. Huge stone and timber ramparts surrounded a large timber hall and some smaller stables and workshops, where bronze jewellery was made. Today you can only see the remains of the ramparts but it is still an impressive site. You can also see Rough Island, a bird sanctuary, where oystercatchers like to nest and ringed plovers are also found. If you time it right you’ll also see the oystercatchers probing for cockles in the soft estuary mud when the tide is out. If that’s not enough though you may catch sight of porpoises in the water as the feed to close to shore or, if you are very lucky, even a peregrine falcon as it hunts on the mudflats and cliffs.

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Ossian’s Hall at the Hermitage

Finally, for more of a woodland walk, we turn to The Hermitage. Here you can follow in the footsteps of notable visitors of the past including Wordsworth, Queen Victoria, Mendelssohn and Turner. The area takes you through spectacular Douglas firs, including one of the tallest trees in the country, and then on to a lovely little folly called Ossian’s Hall which sits overlooking the Black Linn waterfall.  With summers long hours if you visit in the evening there is also a chance of seeing bats flying over the river or perching in the trees and you can often here the calls of a tawny owl of two.

Hopefully these walks have tempted you to head out on an adventure. As always please like, tweet, comment, share and keep your fingers crossed for some sunshine.

All the best, K & D

 

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A Selection of Staircases

This week we were chatting and I ended up mentioning one of the staircases at Brodie Castle which I use to takes tours in. Anyway, one thing lead to another and we thought it might just make a good blog to showcase some of the staircases at National Trust for Scotland properties.

So, first and foremost the Brodie Castle staircase it began with. Whilst at Brodie I used to be a tour guide and took people around the castle which was great fun. And, whilst I loved the rooms and the history, it was the sprial staircase that always made me smile and make me feel like an excited child for getting to climb up it.

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Brodie Castle.

 

Brodie Castle, is not really a castle but is in fact a tower house which originally followed the classic Z-plan house design. This meant there were two tower in diagonal corners and the way up these towers was, as you may have guessed, a small spiral staircase. One staircase has since been removed but the other one still lives on and is accessible to guest as you make your way from the Red Drawing Room up to the Gallery. It’s the perfect small space that makes you feel that little bit devilish for going up it and adds that little thrill to the experience.

Meanwhile, Fyvie Castle has a slightly larger version. Considered one of the finest stone-wheel staircases in Scotland Fyvie’s staircase was built by the First Earl of Dunfermline and is an impressive ten feet wide. There other examples around including Glamis Castle but unlike theres Fyvies central post is not hollow but a solid cylinder. The staircases goes up three floors and is again fully accessible. If you’re good you’ll also notice pits in the stairs where it is said some rather drunken men rode their horses up the stairs.

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Fyvie Castle’s spiral staircase

 

If you ever get a chance to see these staircases or indeed most old spiral stairs you may notice that most will tend to put your right hand side in the centre as you ascend and on the outside of the stairs as you descend. This was actually done for tactical reason in the times when enemies were a concern. Any enemies coming up the stairs would find their right had, traditionally their sword hand confined and therefore they would be unable to wield their weapon. Those coming down to protect the castle would however be free to move their right hand and attack any men approaching from below. Very convenient.

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Stairs at Holmwood House

 

If these staircases are a little far north for you have no fear; just a few miles outside of Glasgow there is the little gem of Holmwood House. The National Trust for Scotland managed to save the property from development plans in 1994 and is a prime example of conservation in action with restoration of the villa ongoing so there is always something new to see. This unique house has been described as Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson’s finest domestic design and its staircase is gorgeous. Known as the star staircase the stairs are lined with beautiful mahogany carved bannisters before culminating under a magnificent cupola.

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The cupola at Holmwood

 

And finally we couldn’t make this list without input from the stunning Culzean Castle. The castle is a great example of high-clas 18th Century living and the main staircase is no exception. A Robert Adam masterpiece, the Oval Staircase lies at the heart of Culzean Castle. It is famous for its soaring colonnades, grand oil paintings and dramatic carpet. And of course the glass cupola above which floods light into the space below. It’s so glamorous you can even get married on the staircase.

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The Oval Staircase at Culzean Castle

 

So, that’s our top picks for staircases, hopefully you’ve enjoyed it and as always please tweet, like, comment, share and try not to get to worn out thinking of climbing all those stairs.

All the best, K & D