In the spotlight: Highland Classic Part 2
Come and meet The Kelpies in Falkirk, the largest equine sculptures in the world.
Falkirk Wheel and The Kelpies Excursion
Oh! What a lovely day lies before you … You depart from your hotel in Tyndrum and roll down the hill into Strathfillan, passing Dalrigh – the Kings field, where the redoubtable Robert Bruce was ambushed by the MacDougal clan and where he lost his plaid and the Brooch of Lorne in a very close run encounter. The MacDougals kept this little momento for hundreds of years but lost it at Gylen Castle on the island of Kerrera, off Oban, when the castle was sacked by General Leslie in 1674. The brooch disappeared for 150 years but finally reappeared in the will of a Campbell laird and was returned to the MacDougals.
Strathfillan is the main route to the east and branches off at Crianlarich towards Loch Lomond in the south and the rolling hills of Perthshire via Glen Dochart. Loch Dochart is the habitat of large wild brown trout.
Emerging from Glen Dochart we pass Lix Toll (where local lore states that the 59 Roman Legion got this far north) and pass into Glen Ogle before descending into the lush Perthshire hills. Here lies Lochearnhead and Strathyre – ancient villages which supported the hill farming community. We pass Loch Lubnaig and then Kilmahog before arriving in Callander. By now we are truly in The Trossachs area – magical scenery all around.
After Callander and Doune, we emerge at Stirling Castle, the strategic “key to Scotland”, and press on eastwards towards the site of The Kelpies at Falkirk. The Kelpies are the largest equine sculptures in the world, being 30m (100ft) high and designed by the sculptor Andy Scott. The complex is now completed and is really quite breathtaking. The question is – how do you put emotion into the face of a steel horse? Well, Andy has done it – he is a genius! It took 10 years!
The Falkirk Wheel is the world’s only rotating boat lift, which is used to connect the Forth & Clyde and Union canals in central Scotland.
We head on to the Falkirk Wheel, which was an extremely innovative solution to raising the Forth & Clyde Canal without using the usual lock system. It is engineering on an immense scale and you can take a ride on it if you wish – cameras please!
Both of these engineering extravaganzas in one day is a lot to absorb, but also well worth the effort.
On the return journey we regularly stop at the Kilmahog Woollen Mill. We do this for several reasons: it is spotlessly clean; it has plenty of toilet space and most importantly, the best tea in the county! The scones are good too!
Blair Castle Excursion
We take ourselves across Perthshire to this famous old castle which dates from 1269. It has undergone successive extensions from a simple tower to a full blown fortress, and then transformed into a Victorian hunting, shooting and fishing lodge. Finally, today, it serves as a family home and an exquisite jewel in the crown of Scottish tourism. Blair Castle is the ancestral home of the Dukes and Earls of Athol, and it lies on the outskirts of Blair Athol village.
Discover Blair Castle, the ancient seat of the Dukes and Earls of Atholl and home to Europe's last remaining private army, the Atholl Highlanders.
The Duke of Atholl is the only person who can have a private army in Scotland. They are called the Atholl Highlanders. This was subsequent to a visit by Queen Victoria, so the Duke must really have made an impression!
Blair Castle is also a venue for weddings, corporate entertainment, county sports and many outdoor activities. It offers various types of accommodation scattered around the estate. Nowadays, estates like this are vibrant centres of tourism and are a great credit to their owners. The great halls are full of shooting trophies collected during the 19th, 20th and 21st Centuries. Blair Castle is a truly memorable and original great house, along with a most creditable garden.
Oban, Atlantic Shores & Concert Excursion
Your excursion to Oban takes you through Glen Lochy and Dalmally to the head of Loch Awe. You pass the new private Hydro Electric scheme. As you enter Glen Orchy we see Kilchurn Castle – Highland Heritage Ltd hold the title to this castle, and on by Loch Awe side to the Hollow Mountain and the Ben Cruachan Scheme where three very large turbines are housed inside the mountain. These are reversed at night on cheap off-peak electricity and fill a large dam on the mountain above from the waters of Loch Awe. When a surge of demand comes in the morning, the water is released and drops down onto the turbines to iron out the spikes in demand, for example 20 million kettles being filled after Coronation Street!
Kilchurn Castle is a ruined 15th and 17th century structure on a rocky peninsula at the northeastern end of Loch Awe.
The road takes us on to the Pass of Brander where King Robert Bruce got his revenge for losing his Brooch of Lorne to the MacDougal clan. Further on we pass the wrecked Awe Bridge which mysteriously washed away when too much water was released from the Awe Barrage on New Year’s Day in 1992. Oh dear! Oh dear!
Then on to Loch Etive which stretches from Connel village all the way to Dalness and Glen Etive. At Connel we can see the Falls of Lora where the loch empties out on the falling tide in a great natural spectacle. Mad canoeists and kayakers frequent this spot most days.
It is then past Dunstaffnage where you can see Dunstaffnage Castle and Dunstaffnage Marina before arriving at Oban, descending down to the edge of Oban Bay. Oban Bay is a scenic delight all year round and is the marine hub to service the inner and outer Hebrides. Ferries sail to the isles of Mull, Barra, South Uist, Coll, Tiree, Lismore and Colonsay. Highland Heritage use Oban harbour and CalMac Ferries on a near daily basis. The isles and Oban could not survive without each other.
If you stay in Oban you can easily walk to the top of Pulpit Hill or go to McCaig’s Tower for amazing views and superb photo opportunities before walking back down – although some may prefer to take a taxi!
We next move on to Seil Island with a fantastic drive for miles to the Bridge Over The Atlantic, before stopping at Easdale to enjoy the ancient slate quarries museum and visit John Taylor’s emporium for all things touristic. Tea and coffee are excellent, and there are also good cafes in the village.
We return for our Highland Concert in Oban. The concert features Angus McPhail and Skippinish, a famous highland band. They are an entertaining Scottish group, supported by some lovely highland dancers. A most memorable day out! Time permitting you have the opportunity to enjoy the town of Oban with its shops, coffee houses, tartan emporiums, great pubs and restaurants, as well as the endless comings and goings of the sea traffic to the islands. There is a very busy lifeboat moored at the south pier, and it gets plenty of work during the sailing season! Enjoy a truly spectacular town!
Relax and enjoy a Highland Concert!
This terrific excursion takes us north across some of the most dramatic and beautiful scenic areas of the North and West Highlands of Scotland.
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