Castles

Castle Girnigoe Sinclair, Caithness, Scotland

As the North Coast 500 corners the northeastern highlands and travels through Caithness, a host of ancient sites scatters before you. Coming from the west, this is a nice change of pace as the west coast of the North Coast 500 is firmly focused on stunning scenery and austere coastal communities. Here, in Caithness, the landscape is level and unremarkable off the coast, but it’s along the water where you’ll find crumbling castle ruins and antediluvian drystone brochs still half-buried in the emerald turf.

Just north of Wick stands my favorite castle in the region, Castle Sinclair Girnigoe. The Sinclairs are a famous family in Scottish history… Read more...

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Castle Varrich outside Tongue, Sutherland, Scotland

The north coast of the North Coast 500 is the least exciting span on that mammoth road trip of marketing genius. As you move from west to east the landscape steadily shrinks back into the earth, and the span from Tongue to Thurso is especially unremarkable with only a few small settlements and sites of interest. The northwestern horn including Durness, Loch Eriboll, and Tongue, however, has a few incredible stops. Chief among those is Castle Varrich, a small, ruined tower house on a hill opposite Tongue.

I had no expectations once we rounded Durness and began heading east. Read more...

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Ardvreck Castle & Calda House, Assynt, Sutherland, Scotland

The western side of the North Coast 500 that stretches from Kyle of Lochalsh to Durness through Wester Ross and Sutherland is arguably Scotland’s most beautiful landscape. Endless rugged mountains, windswept beaches, cliffs, and lochs define this vast region where tiny roads straggle where they may. Natural splendor is incredibly abundant, perhaps to the expense of everything else. You won’t find any distilleries out this way, few golf courses, and while the region has a lot of history it doesn’t usually take the form of ruined abbeys, castles, and stately manses. The Highland Clearances hit the northwest highlands hard, so the history here is the absence of people, tales on the wind, and a somber intuition of things unjustly lost. Read more...

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Barsallach Point, The Machars, Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland

Dumfries & Galloway occupies a huge portion of southwest Scotland. From the Rinns of Galloway in the west to the southern uplands almost as far as Hawick in the east, and from the Solway Coast north to elevated Sanquhar and the border with Ayrshire, this area escapes the notice of many visitors. It lies tucked to the south of Edinburgh and Glasgow and to the west of the English border, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to learn that most people arrive from Northern Ireland on the ferry to Stranraer.

As off the beaten path as Dumfries & Galloway is, it boasts one peninsula in particular that sees even fewer hardy souls: The Machars. Read more...

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The view over Loch Leven, Lochaber, Scotland

A couple of years ago I rolled out a series of Itinerary Ideas articles that highlighted different areas of Scotland. When I’d written as many as I could, I couldn’t help but notice there were still some glaring holes on the map, little wastelands of knowledge here on my site. It was this process that kickstarted the planning of my subsequent trips – I needed to dig into and explore these areas in more depth, and so I hit the road this past spring to ferret out some of the great visitor experiences in Lochaber and the west highlands. Read more...

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