Scottish Countryside Castles and Stops in Edinburgh and Aberdeen
With moors, mountains, and freshwater lochs, Scotland is home to some of the world’s most idyllic landscapes. As far back as the 12th century, nobles built castles on the country's east coast to glorify and defend their beloved land. The structures evolved from timber palisades to lavish chateaus, and many became the sites of important Scottish battles. On this eight-day self-guided driving tour from Beyond Boundaries Travel, you'll get a chance to explore a several of these world-famous castles as you make your way north along the country's rugged coastline. Other stops along the way include Edinburgh and Aberdeen, a granite-colored metropolis bordered by a long sandy shore. There's no official tour guide, leaving you free to tackle the itinerary at your preferred pace.
Click here to view the daily itinerary. Note that the order of your hotel stays could switch, depending on the date of your arrival.
Days 1–3: An overnight flight brings you from New York City to Glasgow International Airport (GLA), where you’ll pick up a manual-transmission rental car. Drive a half hour east to Airth Castle Hotel, your home base for the next three days. Set on 14 acres of wooded parkland about 30 miles outside of Edinburgh, the 14th-century medieval castle and four-star hotel houses an award-winning spa.
The tour begins with a drive to Stirling Castle, an elaborate fortress that dates back to 1110 AD. Surrounded on three sides by steep cliffs, the castle was one of the British Isles’ most impenetrable fortifications. Visit the enormous Great Hall, and climb the Wall Walk for views of the battlefield where William Wallace defeated the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge.
Day 4: You have the entire day to explore Edinburgh, the United Kingdom’s second-most-visited city. Perched on an extinct volcano overlooking the city center, Edinburgh Castle has seen nearly a thousand years of Scottish history. From inside in its stone walls, you can see the royal palace where Mary, Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI, and you can behold the nation's crown jewels—the crown, scepter, and sword used in coronation ceremonies.
Before leaving town, walk the ancient cobblestone streets of Edinburgh's city center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its charming mixture of old and new architecture. Be sure to sample a malt whiskey at a watering hole near Greenmarket.
Days 5–7: On day 5, make the three-hour journey north to Aberdeenshire and stop at the Kingdom of Fife on the way. This narrow lowland region, comprised of several colorful fishing villages, was home to Scotland's capital for six centuries. Today it’s a world-famous golf destination with nearly 50 courses, including the Old Course at St. Andrews, which was named the best course outside the United States by Golf Digest. From here, you can make your way to the luxurious Mercure Aberdeen Ardoe House Hotel and Spa, a four-star hotel set in a 19th-century mansion.
Aberdeenshire is said to have more castles per acre than anywhere else in the United Kingdom, many of them connected via a castle trail. You can visit the ruins of the 13th-century Kildrummy Castle or tour the restored Corgarff Castle. Other nearby attractions include Cairngorms National Park, a 3,800-square-kilometer nature preserve home to a quarter of Britain's endangered species. Aberdeenshire is also famous for its brilliant green spaces—such as the meticulously manicured Pitmedden Garden—which have helped the city to win the prestigious Britain in Bloom competition a record-breaking 10 times.
Day 8: Drive back to Glasgow, where the flight home departs in the afternoon.
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