Scottish Countryside Castles and World-Famous Golf Courses
Dotted with moors, mountains, and freshwater lochs, Scotland is home to some of the most idyllic landscapes in the world. As far back as the 12th century, nobles began building 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 battles in Scottish history. On this eight-day self-guided driving tour from Beyond Boundaries, you'll get a chance to explore a number of these world-famous castles as you make your way north along the country's rugged coastline. Other stops along the way include Edinburgh, the capital city, and Aberdeen, a granite-colored metropolis bordered by a long, sandy shore. There's no official tour guide, leaving you free to modify the itinerary as you go.
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Days 1–3: An overnight flight brings you from Boston to Edinburgh Airport (EDI), where a manual-transmission rental car will be waiting. From here, it's a half-hour drive west to Airth Castle Hotel, your home base for the next three days. Set on 14 acres of wooded parkland, the 14th-century medieval castle 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 most impenetrable fortifications in the British Isles. Visit the enormous Great Hall, and climb the Wall Walk for views of the battlefield where William Wallace defeated the English.
Day 4: You have the entire day to explore Edinburgh, the second-most-visited city in the United Kingdom. Perched on an extinct volcano overlooking the city center, Edinburgh Castle has witnessed nearly a thousand years of Scottish history. Enclosed in its stone walls, you can see the royal palace where Mary, Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI, and you can feast your eyes on the nation's crown jewels—the crown, scepter, and sword used in coronation ceremonies.
Before leaving town, make time to walk the ancient cobblestone streets of Edinburgh's city center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its mix of old and new architecture, and sample a malt whiskey at a watering hole near Greenmarket.
Days 5–7: On day 5, you'll make the three-hour journey north to Aberdeenshire. 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 reigns as a world-famous golf destination. The nearly 50 courses in the area include the Old Course at St. Andrews, which was named the best course outside the United States by Golf Digest magazine. From here, you can make your way to the luxurious Ardoe House Hotel and Spa, set in a 19th-century mansion.
Aberdeenshire is said to have more castles per acre than anywhere else in the UK, and many of them are connected via a castle trail. You can visit the ruins of the 13th-century Kildrummy Castle or tour the restored Corgarff Castle, which once served as a garrison. 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 Pitmedden Garden—which have helped the city to win the prestigious Britain in Bloom competition a record-breaking 10 times.
Day 8: Order breakfast in bed at the hotel before driving back to Edinburgh, where the flight home departs in the afternoon.
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