Edinburgh Castle

Few things define the mysterious and romantic atmosphere of Scotland the way that castles do. These hilltop fortresses with their distinctive crenelations, Cyclopean curtain walls, and sky-flung towers have always captured my imagination. Today my Best of Scotland series rolls on with a hat tip to all the castle hunters out there.

But where to begin the hunt?

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The Broch of Gurness, Orkney, Scotland

Last week I kicked off a new series on Traveling Savage highlighting the best Scotland has to offer visitors. I started with five destinations for nature lovers, and I’m continuing today with five destinations for history buffs.

This was a tough list to put together since Scotland is a country with a deep sense of history that spans many eras. From neolithic hunter-gatherers pre-dating the Great Pyramids, through the Iron Age and Dark Ages fraught with battles between Picts and Romans, into the medieval splendor of castles and fortified tower houses, and right on past the Scottish Enlightenment and pre-Industrial era, Scotland has it all. Read more...

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Craigendarroch Hill Viewpoint

All the beer and whisky writing I’ve been doing lately has inclined me to write another post about my outdoorsy pursuits in Scotland. I’m not always in the pub draining pints of ale and sipping drams of whisky – before that happens I’m usually out in Scotland’s beautiful landscapes taking in the scenery and working up a sweat.

The Cairngorms National Park is full of such opportunities, and Craigendarroch Hill is the perfect half-day jaunt. The hill forms the northern edge of town and it’s surprisingly tall. The River Dee gives its name to this area of Scotland and the river hugs the pretty little town of Ballater against Craigendarroch Hill, which makes a gorgeous setting ripe for excellent views. Read more...

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Royal Lochnagar on the Balmoral Estate

The snow-capped peak of Lochnagar pierces the sky above the green, leafy hills of what is now the Balmoral Estate in the Royal Deeside region of Scotland. Lochnagar, an extinct volcano with a blasted crater, hides a small lochan, or lake, from which its name derives: loch of the noise.

Lochnagar also shelters a far-from-noisy, eponymously-named distillery in the fields beneath the mountain, and it was here – not up the mountain – that my travels led me.

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Tasting beer at the Deeside Brewery's Deeside Beer Festival

The international reputation of Scotland’s drinking culture rests with the malt whisky industry, but within Scotland another contender is growing in popularity: craft cask ales. My love for the smooth character and rich flavors of cask ales has grown to the point where I prefer them more than the heavily carbonated lagers and kegged beers available in the States. Recent visits to the Stewart Brewery and CAMRA meetings have only made this love all the more clear. A day in Scotland feels incomplete without a trusty pint.

After a long day of sightseeing in Scotland’s castle country, few things could have rejuvenated me like the newly-christened Deeside Beer Festival. Read more...

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