The ruins of Linlithgow Palace (in Linlithgow off the M-9 west of Edinburgh) mark the ancestral home of the Stewarts from James I to James VII, including Mary, Queen of Scots who was born at the palace in the 16th century. The building the remains today is only a shell, but is in relatively good shape and has many interesting features.
Those who are fans of the DaVinci Code might want to visit Rosslyn Chapel in the town of Roslin, less than ten miles south of Edinburgh. Although the chapel has interesting, even mysterious ornamentation, its links with the Knights Templar, not to mention the Holy Grail, are tenuous and misplaced by centuries. It is, however, a beautiful, well-preserved and ornate little gem that is worth visiting.
Tantallon Castle has a beautiful setting overlooking a particularly fine area of the coast and a small island called Bass Rock. The castle is famous for its massive, well-preserved walls.
Dirleton Castle, is less crowded than Tantallon, but has an interesting layout and more areas to explore. The British attacked the castle numerous times and it shows considerable damage, but remains an attractive and evocative site.
Several small towns in the area are fun to visit for shopping or a bite to eat. You might combine a stop at the castles with a tour of the Borders
The mountains and country surrounding in the Glencoe area (east of the town of Glencoe on A82) are impressive and awe inspiring. Depending on the weather (always a good chance of rain or snow or it is raining or snowing), the area seems to vary between moody, brooding, or challenging. It is said by some that the Highlands symbolize the rock spine both of Scotland and the Scots.
In spring and summer the displays of rhododendrons, which grow wild here, are astounding. The roadsides, alive with acres of blooming "rhodies", are beautiful; their colors are bright and beautiful and their size amazing.
There is a National Trust Glencoe Visitors Center on A82 about 2 miles southeast of the town of Glencoe that provides good detail about the areas history and the 17th century massacre of the Mc Donald clan by the clan of Campbell.
Eilean Donan Castle
One of the most photographed sites in the Western Highlands is the Eilean Donan Castle, near the town of Dornie (on Highway A87). The Castle sits on a small islet and is now connected to shore by a narrow stone causeway The site is majestic and has been marked by the building and destruction of four different castles since the 13th century. The present castle, which sits on a small peninsula near the joining of three sea lochs, lay in ruins for over 200 years and was reopened to the public in 1932 after years of restoration work.
The Eilean Donan castle was destroyed by British frigates in 1719. At the time the Castle was in the possession of Spanish soldiers billeted there in support of the Jacobite Rebellion. Unfortunately, the Spanish has stockpiled gunpowder in support of the Rebellion and it was used to by the British to destroy the parts of the castle that had not been damaged by the naval bombardment.
The castle is open for touring and the interior is interesting but not spectacular. Eilean Donan is most famous for its setting and if you wander the area a bit, you will find some spectacular views of the castle, the lochs and the local mountains.
The Isle of Skye
Skye, the largest island of the Inner Hebrides and closest to the mainland, possesses a rugged beauty that is enhanced by the island's seeming isolation from the mainland. Although a recent bridge to the mainland has largely replaced the ferries that used to connect the two, Skye remains "remote".
Skye's landscapes and people are the main attractions and most visitors use their time hiking, shopping, or car touring to explore the island's beautiful vistas.
If you plan on staying several days in Skye, we recommend you consider taking a B & B. You will find many scattered around the island, mostly near the shore and many in scenic settings.
If you stay at a B&B , the likelihood is good that most of your fellow guests will be Scots from other parts of the country who have come to enjoy the beauty of Skye.
Portree is Skye's main village and a good place to stay on a quick trip. Along the colorful harbor, you will find some several stands selling tasty fish and chips (although you might have to fend of the seagulls who seem to have developed a taste for chips).
Skye has always been attractive to artisans and the island has a number of shops featuring the fine and decorative arts. Touring these shops will fill an afternoon and provide a good opportunity purchase unique Scottish trinkets for the tribe back home.
If your name is McDonald, or you belong to the Clan Donald, you might be interested in visiting the Clan Donald Visitor Centre sixteen miles south of Broadford on the A-86 (near Armadale).
If you are an aficionado of Scotch Whiskey, you might want to consider heading for Carbost on Loch Harpot in the northwest of the island to visit the small, but well-known, Talisker Distillery. Follow the A87 south from Portree, turn right on the A863 and left at the B8009, which heads up the west side of the Loch to the distillery.
Skye is accessible by ferry from Malaig or by driving across the Skye Bridge at Kyle of Lochalsh on the A86. The bridge provides the only year round access to Skye (and since 2004 the excessive crossing toll has been dropped).
Fort William is considered the "Gateway to the Western Highlands". The town is not particularly interesting as a tourist attraction, but it provides a choice of places to stay and a number of restaurants.
Inverness is the capital of the highlands and serves as a comfortable jumping off point for several attractions in the area. There are few attractions in Inverness, but it offers a choice of places to stay and provides access to more restaurants than one will find in smaller towns in the area.
Loch Ness is the most famous attraction in the vicinity of Inverness and it is one of those touristy things we all do when on vacation -then wonder later why we did. You should know that it is likely that "Nessie" will have been spotted just before your arrival, but, unfortunately, she will likely be "on vacation" during your visit.
"Loch Ness 2000" (formerly the "Official Loch Ness Monster Exhibition Center") in Drumnadrochit , is a fun exhibition covering "Nessie" and the sightings of the beast through the ages.
Drumnadrochit is 15 miles south of Inverness on A-82.
Castle Urquhart, a scenic ruin on the shores of Loch Ness, is a few miles south of Drumnadrochit.
History fans will relish a trip to the Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre, 5 miles east of Inverness. In 1746, Culloden, a barren moor, was the site of the last major battle in Britain. The battle ended the Jacobite rebellion (for the return of the exiled Stuart dynasty) and crushed Bonnie Prince Charlie's (Prince Charles Edward Stuart) attempt to regain the throne.
The battlefield is a large, flat moor that appears not to have offered the Scots any tactical advantage. The Scots fought bravely but were outnumbered by an English army led by the Duke of Cumberland. The battle lasted less than an hour before the British declared victory.
A little further east of Culloden, on B9090, is Cawdor Castle, which has three lovely gardens that are well worth seeing in spring and early summer. The Castle, which can be toured, is the working home of the Lord and Lady Cawdor.