Monthly Archives: June 2018

Scotland day 10, Blackness Castle, Falkland and Culross villages and Torphichen Inn for a grand farewell dinner

In nearby West Lothian we visited Blackness Castle built in the 15th century as a garrison fortress and state prison. The castle features in the TV series as a stand-in for Fort William and in season one Jamie was lashed by Jack Randall. The castle has various levels, winding spiral staircases, spacious rooms, a rocky inner courtyard is incredibly well preserved with a cold, eerie feel. We had a special treats, a local tour company was visiting the castle and the patrons were dressed in typical Outlander costumes.

The drive between villages is very scenic with rolling green farmland, hills dotted with sheep and winding narrow roads.  Our talented coach driver Davey is a master at maneuvering the large bus through the small roadways.

Carrying on to the lovely village of Falkland which appears extensively in the TV series as a stand-in for Inverness in the 1940s. Here, we felt as if we were following the footsteps of Claire. We had plenty of free time to explore the quaint shops and enjoy a pub lunch and a pint of ale.

We toured the impressive Falkland Palace, a royal residence which was frequented by Mary Queen of Scotts and where her father King James V spent his remaining days until he succumbed to tuberculosis. The royal gardens are quite impressive.

In the afternoon we crossed the River Forth over the historical Forth Bridge to the historic burgh of Culross, used as a backdrop of some of the 1740s scenes for The Outlander. This charming riverside town has narrow cobble stone streets lined with charming homes and colourful gardens.

We enjoyed a tour of the home which was used extensively in the Outlander series.  The impressive back garden was frequently used for the place where Claire would collect herbs for her medicines.

A hike up to the 12th century Culross Abbey was a real treat. The view of the town and river from the hilltop is spectacular and the inside of the ancient  Abbey stunningly beautiful.
On our way back to the city we passed by The Kelpies, an impressive 30 metre high horse sculpture designed by Andy Scott

This evening we enjoyed a special dinner at the Torphichen Inn. Inspired by food and entertainment in Diana Galbaldon’s Outlander series. The evening included a delicious meal, live traditional music from a local band and the famous ceremony of piping in the haggis. I must admit I was hesitate to taste the Haggis but it turned out to be a very tasty treat. We enjoyed a lovely sunset on our drive back to the city.  The days are long with sunrise at 4 am and sun set  at 1030 pm.   

Overnight: Mercure Hotel Princess Street, Edinburgh

Scotland day 9, Edinburgh free day

Today we enjoyed free time to explore this fascinating city. Starting out early we began with a tour of Hollyrood Palace.  One thing we’re enjoying is the ease of walking about this fabulous city.  The Palace is visited by Queen Elizabeth every year. It’s a beautiful stately home with an incredible history. The Queen holds a garden party in the lovely garden.

We took a stroll up the Royal Mile exploring the charming shops. Our luggage is going to be slighly heavier going home.  Some items purchased are beautiful tartan scarfs, typical Scotland tshirts, celtic jewelry, shortbread cookies and delicious tablet fudge.  Continuing up the mile to visit the Edinburgh Cathedral. Then lunch at The Witchery, one of Edinburgh’s fine dining  restaurants with exceptional service and delicious food.

After our fabulous lunch the group gathered for a tour of Edinburgh’s underground city.  We enjoyed a guided walking tour of Mary King’s Close. Transported back to 17th century Edinburgh as a costumed character guide lead us on an hour long tour.  Dinner this evening was at Amber Restaurant located at the top of the Royal Mile near Edinburgh Castle.  We certainly are getting our exercise on this tour climbing the flights of stairs to get from Princess Street up to the Royal Mile.  The views of the city are stunning at night with the buildings dramatically lit.

Most of the ladies enjoyed a 2 hour Ghost Walk tour through the dark side of the city.  A fun time was had by all.  The rest of us went to The Dome for a night cap.

Overnight: Mercure Hotel Princess Street, Edinburgh

Scotland day 8: Edinburgh Castle, Old and New Town and the Royal Mile

It’s another beautiful, warm, sunny day in Scotland.  We began our day with a panoramic coach tour to see the sites of the city , from the Georgian New Town to the romantic Old Town. We walked to the top of Calton Hill to take in the panoramic view of the city.

Traffic was backed up on the Royal Mile so we decided to leave the coach and walk., It’s much easier to see the city this way.  We stopped in the courtyard of the University and took a quick look inside the National Museum.  Surprising all of the museums and galleries are free in Scotland. The museum is in a stunning building and houses a great variety of exhibits such as an interesting astrological clock and Dolly the cloned sheep. The perfect place to explore on a rainy day.

We travelled back in time on a walking tour through the atmospheric cobbled streets around the Royal Mile, where Claire and Jamie reunited after 20 years. Stopped at the statue of Greyfriar’s Bobbie, a sky terrier and one of Edinburgh’s honorary citizens. We strolled through the cemetery where JK Rawlings got names off the tomb stones for characters in her books and saw the Elephant House tea room where she would sit and write her books.

Continuing on we passed the Grass market square, a popular dining area with great pubs and restaurants.  Some have very interesting names such as The Last Drop which is located in an area where they used to hang people.  We  walked up the winding streets that are lined with colourful buildings housing charming shops and cafes. The buskers are out on the Royal Mile entertaining the tourists.

Later we visited Edinburgh Castle, a mighty fortress sitting on top of Castle Hill and overlooking the entire city and still operates a military from here. The history dates back to the 1100’s and is the most attached castle in Scotland, changing hands many times over the centuries.

Within the castle, we visited the Royal Apartments and National War Museum and saw the Crown Jewels and Stone of Destiny.  The stone is used when crowning a king or queen. One day Prince Charles will sit on this stone when they crown him as King.

We stopped for lunch at a charming pub at the Grass Market Square. Delicious! Then enjoyed a free afternoon exploring the city and shopping along the Royal Mile.  Continuing down the bottom of the Royal Mile to the royal Hollyrood Palace which is still visited by the Queen every year. After a long day we decided to take a taxi back to our hotel. Dinner this evening was a short walk from our hotel at Amarone’s restaurant. Excellent food, great service.

Overnight: Mercure Hotel Princess Street, Edinburgh

Scotland day 7, Highland Folk Museum and whiskey tasting in Pitlochry

This morning we left charming Inverness and headed towards the city of Edinbugh. Along the way we stopped in the village of Carrbridge to view the oldest bridge in the highlands, dating back to the early 1700’s and an wood carving.  Not sure of the meaning of the carving but its and interesting piece of art.

Continuing our scenic drive through the highlands with majestic scenery and wildlife. The next stop was the Highland Folk Museum home to the Baile Gean Township, complete with turf houses, which features extensively in The Outlander.

The museum depicted the difficult way of life for the highlanders and the idyllic setting.

Continuing our drive through the Highlands we arrived at Pitlochry, located in the heart of Scotland with beautiful scenery and rich clan history. Here, we visited a whisky distillery to learn about the age-old process of the making of the “water of life”.

Afterward our whisky tasting we enjoyed free time for lunch and shopping in this charming town then continued our scenic drive through the countryside.

We arrived in Edinburgh at the end of the day.

Overnight: Mercure Hotel Princess Street, Edinburgh

Scotland day 6, Culloden Battlefield and Clava Cairns stone circle

Today we visited Culloden Battlefield to soak up the rich history and haunting atmosphere of the last battle ever fought on British soil. In The Outlander, Culloden is the spot where Claire and Jamie said their goodbyes. The Culloden Visitor Centre offers an excellent indoor audio guided tour taking you through the history of this sad part of the demise of the Scottish Clans. Outside there are walkways through the battlefield with headstones markers for the various clans and a large monument tribute to the thousands that lost t heir lives in the brutal one hour battle.

Our drive to Clava Cairns took us on narrow roadways, over one lane bridges and through the colourful scenic countryside.

Little is known about the standing stones which date back 4000 years.  The large stone structue form a circle and have a walkway into the centre of them.  To this day they are still a mystery. There are approximately 50 of these stones located in this area.  This is as close as we are going to get to the fictional Craigh na Dun, where Claire is swept back in time. Clava Cairns is one of Scotland’s most evocative stone circle sites. The scenery in this area is stunning, narrow roads, green pastures and nosy cows wondering what the ladies are doing on the roadway.

In the afternoon we travelled to the unspoilt town of Beauly, home of the clan Mackenzie. We explored the ruins of the ancient Beauly Priory in a secluded spot fringed by trees and framed by wooded hills. In the TV series, this is the spot where Claire meets the Seer. This amazing place dates back to the 1400’s.  It was named when Mary Queen of Scotts visited and said it was a beauly place or pretty place. That’s why it’s called Beauly.

We returned via the country roads and to our delight spotted some famous Highland Cows.

This evening we had a great pub meal at Johnny Fox restaurant and later stopped in Gallion’s,  the oldest pub in Inverness.  This evening we were in for a treat, a popular local musician and his band were performing traditional Scottish music.  A fun night was had by all.

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Overnight: Best Western Palace & Spa, Inverness

Scotland day 5, scenic landscapes, glistening lochs and Urquhart Castle

This morning we drove along the scenic route through the Great Glen to admire the spectacular landscapes, great glistening lochs and enchanting moorlands before heading to Loch Ness. First stop was the War Memorial and to view the magnificent scenery.  The road travels alongside the lochs. The hills are covered in rhododendrons and the roads lined with brilliant yellow gorsch. It certainly is a colourful time of year to visit Scotland

Next stop,  we visited the magnificent ruins of Urquhart Castle, a picturesque and dramatic stronghold in a beautiful Highland setting. The views of Loch Ness are stunning from the top of the castle ruins.  We were on the lookout for Nessie, the world-famous Loch Ness Monster.

In the afternoon, we arrived at Inverness, the capital of the Highlands where, in the TV series, Claire’s adventures unfold while on her honeymoon.  The skyline is adorned with steeples and bridges spanning the river.  There are pedestrian zoned streets lined with many charming shops and restaurants.  I enjoyed my stroll about town happily snapping photos to capture the essence of this charming town. I visited St Andrew’s Cathedral which opened in the late 1800″s. From our hotel we have a great view of the Inverness Castle which houses the courts.

Overnight: Best Western Palace & Spa, Inverness

Scotland day 4, Isle of Sky and Eilean Donan Castle

This morning we visited Neptune Staircase, a set of 8 locks connecting the lochs. This canal has a series of 29 locks in total.

Continuing on to the Glenfinnan Monument set amidst superb Highland scenery. The monument is a tribute to the Jacobite clansmen who fought alongside Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745.  A short hike took us to an incredible view point to take in the magnificent scenery and the rail bridge made from the Harry Potter movies.  The famous Jacobite steam train crosses this bridge.

Contining our drive through the Highlands we took a detour and enjoyed a scenic seaside route to the white sands of the Atlantic ocean. Of course the ladies just had to dip their feet in the ocean.

Our next stop was the charming town of Mallaig for a stroll through town followed by a delicious lunch at the West Highland Hotel.  Theirs a magnificent harbour view from the restaurant.

On to the ferry for a 45 minute ride to Armadale on the beautiful Isle of Sky.  The view of the west coast is stunning from the water, a camera does not do it justice. As you approach the ferry dock you get a great view of the ruinds of MacDonald castle. It’s not recorded that Jamie and Claire visited the Isle of Skye, but this beautiful island seems to epitomize the romance of the highlands.

The scenery and beauty of the Island is fabulous.  We made many stops to take in the view. The bright yellow gorse and many colours of rhododendrons dot the landscape.

Crossing the bridge back to the main land we stopped for an impressive view of Eilean Donan Castle. Situated on an island at the point where three great sea lochs meet, and surrounded by some majestic scenery, it is little wonder that the castle is now one of the most visited and important attractions in the Scottish highlands. We enjoyed a guided tour of this restored castle which to this day is still used by the MacRae family.

We continued our drive through the highlands with a few more scenic photo stops, returning back to Fort William in time for dinner. Rumour has it there was a little bit of dancing going on last night.  It was another magnificent day in Scotland!

Overnight: Ben Nevis Hotel, Fort William

Scotland day 3. Stirling and Duone Castles and Trossachs National Park

Today, we drove through the rugged landscapes of the Scottish Highlands. Our first stop is Stirling Castle, one of Scotland’s grandest castles due to its imposing position and impressive architecture.  It’s a foggy morning but the rain is holding off.  It’s going to be another warm day. Each room of the castle has someone dressed in period costumes explaining a bit about the castle and that particular room. This castle was home to Marie Deguise, mother of Mary Queen of Scots.

The town of Stirling is very quaint and charming.  This area was used for the filming of Braveheart and a statue of the Scottish hero William Wallace sits at the entrance to the town.  We enjoyed a delicious lunch at Loving Food restaurant.

Our next stop, Doune Castle, otherwise known as the fictional Castle Leoch in the TV series and Monty Python’s Holy Grail. Built for the Regent Albany, Doune is a magnificent late 14th century courtyard castle. Its most striking feature is the 100 ft high gatehouse which includes the splendid Lord’s Hall with its musicians’ gallery, double fireplace and carved oak screen.

Our route continued through the Trossachs National Park, Rob Roy’s country, on to the magnificent landscapes of Rannoch Moor and Glencoe. The landscape of the highlands has changed dramatically with windy roads through charming towns and rolling hills become mountains. Some of the scenes from  James Bond movie Skyfall was filmed in this area. We stopped to take in the scenic beauty of the three sisters. Allain, our guide was dressed in a colourful kilt.

Overnight: Ben Nevis Hotel, Fort William

Scotland day 2, visiting Outlander filming locations in Glasgow

This morning we visited  Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Mu​seum housing one of Europe’s great art collections. The building alone is a masterpiece.  There were great works of art from the French impressionists and The Glasgow Boys.  There was also a unique display of faces. Very captivating.

We took a drive to view the architectural award winning Riverside Museum situated alongside the Clyde River.  There was a beautiful tall ship docked near the museum. The view of the city from this vantage point shows off some of Glasgow’s impressive buildings.  The ladies seem to be enjoying the tour and the unseasonably warm temperatures.

The Outlander series has often used Glasgow as one of its filming locations and today we took  a look at these highlights. We visited Pollok Country Park, the setting for crucial scenes from Season Two. The dual between Jamie and Jack Randall and the gardens were a stand in for Versaille’s gardens. George Square, turned into a 1940s set for various scenes in Season One, and the University of Glasgow.

The impressive Pollock House dates back to the late 1700’s and was once home to one of Glasgow’s richest families.  In 1966 it was donated to the city and is now a museum.

Some of the ladies enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Willow Tea Room on Buchanan Street. Afterwards we took a hike up to the Nicropolis to meander through the park like setting and read the headstones of Glasgow’s elite.  The view of the city is quite spectacular.

This evening’s dinner was at the popular Browns Restaurant housed in the iconic 130 year old ex post office.  The food and service were excellent.  The group enjoyed another great day exploring Scotland!

Overrnight: Lorne Hotel, Glasgow

Scotland tour, the Outlander story – Day 1

The history, scenery, and legends of Scotland have come alive in the TV series The Outlander, based on the best-seller series by American author Diana Gabaldon.  On this tour, we will experience Scotland as the home of Gabaldon’s heroes Jamie and Claire by visiting many of the sites that double as for their fictional land. We’ll see the standing stones, romantic castles, and sweeping scenery that inspired the books.  As we are swept away into Jamie and Claire’s world, we’ll discover a magical mix of mountains, lochs, forests and glens, in a land steeped in fascinating history, culture and heritage.
The Scottish Highlands, where the majority of Outlander takes place, is a dynamic character in the TV series.  Together we’ll see the magical Isle of Skye, the atmospheric Glasgow Cathedral, impressive Blackness Castle, and the delightful town of Falkland, among other breathtaking locations.     FOLLOW THE WTN BLOG and Join us for our Journey.

Day 1 – Arrive Glasgow
This morning we’re met on arrival  and set off from the airport on a panoramic tour of the city on the way to our hotel. From the magnificent St Mungo Cathedral to the People’s Palace and Glasgow Green to get the feel of Glasgow’s rich past as a religious centre and one of the most important industrial cities in Britain.  Our first stop was the town hall to admire the impressive marble stair cases.


Then off to Buchanan street (pedestrian mall) for lunch.  We enjoyed some delicious Thai food at Chaophraya restaurant. Delicious!  Then back to the bus and transfer to the Glasgow Cathedral, a stunning architectural marvel dating back to the 1400’s .The royal chairs at the front of the cathedral are where Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip sit when they visit.

The crypt was the setting for the hospital in the Outlander series.The golden gates lead to the Necropolis, a grave yard  with impressive headstones of Glasgow’s prominent people.

We enjoyed a welcome dinner at the hotel.  Afterwards some of us took a stroll. The temperature is delightful in the high 60’s.  We ended up at the Islay Inn, a local pub where we  enjoyed a night cap and listened to some live music. The impressive University building is dramatically lit in the evening.  A great first day in Scotland!

Overnight: Lorne Hotel, Glasgow