Category Archives: Things to do

It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

There are literally thousands of reasons to visit Scotland and discover its breathtaking mountains, mysterious lochs, enchanting towns and bustling cities. While these elements remain all year round, they truly come to life at Christmas. Below are a few of our favourite reasons to visit Scotland around the festive season:

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Christmas Markets

What is more magical than visiting a Christmas market? The lights, the smell of mulled wine and the general feeling of festive cheer as well as the chance to pick up some special gifts. Scotland has a wealth of exciting Christmas markets to attend and, as there are multiple events happening around the country, no one has to miss out. If you’re staying in Fife near Aberdeen, you will not want to miss Aberdeen’s wonderful Christmas village. After a successful run in 2018, the Christmas event is back again this year by popular demand. You will find an open-air ice rink, a selection of fairground rides and attractions, festive food and drink and even Santa’s Grotto!

If you are looking to visit a Christmas market, but are also keen to visit some historical landmarks, Glamis Christmas market at Glamis Castle has the whole package. Located in the village of Glamis in Angus, the castle is a magical location to visit at Christmastime. With 80 different stalls selling food, drink and festive gifts, and winter walks around the historic castle, there is something exciting to do for visitors of all ages.

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There’s a higher chance of snow!

Bing Cosby’s famous song ‘White Christmas’ has really got our hopes up for some snow at Christmas. It is such a magical feeling to pull back the curtains on Christmas morning and see a blanket of snow on the ground. If you choose to spend your Christmas in a cottage in Scotland you are far more likely to have a white Christmas, especially if you choose one in the more northerly parts of the country.

Picture this – a cottage with an open fire, Christmas films on the TV and a bright white blanket of snow covering the ground outside as you cosy up to your loved ones on the sofa. If this sounds perfect to you, Unique Cottages offers many cosy cottages that would suit your festive needs. Glen Affric View is particularly lovely and is also pet friendly!

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Visit real reindeer in the Cairngorms National Park

If you are a fan of nature and are feeling particularly festive, a visit to the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre is an absolute must. Located in Glenmore in the Scottish Highlands, the centre is open from February half-term through the year and into early January. Enjoy a guided trip up a mountainside to view the impressive reindeer herd or, if you are not feeling up to the walk, you can visit the reindeer paddocks which are easily accessible.

In the run up to Christmas the centre runs various festive events including craft activities and there is even a visit from Santa that will definitely appeal to the kids! Set just a 20 minute drive away from the centre is one of our delightful cottages, Tayvulin. Wake up with a view of the Cairngorm mountains in this peaceful and quiet cottage and spend Christmas in the serenity of the Scottish Highlands.

Make this Christmas one to remember by booking your stay in a unique cottage. With hundreds of properties to choose from, you will be sure to find the perfect location for you. Visit our website or call our friendly Booking Team on 01835 822277.

The Scottish Backdrops of your Favourite Books

From 18 to 24 November it is Book Week Scotland! This annual event is a celebration of Scottish literature with different events that are held across the country. Scotland’s abundance of incredible landscapes and intriguing locations has inspired authors for centuries. From modern crime writers to eighteenth-century novelists, many authors have been enchanted by Scotland and the country features heavily in numerous famous novels.

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Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus books, set in Edinburgh

Rankin was born in Cardenden in Fife, which is 25 miles from Scotland’s capital city Edinburgh. His Inspector Rebus novels are mostly set in Edinburgh and are considered by many as integral contributions to the tartan noir genre that has grown in popularity over recent years. The genre has its roots in traditional Scottish fiction but borrows from twentieth-century American crime writing.

The author has published 23 Inspector Rebus novels over 31 years and they are based in various locations across southern Scotland. The main focus of the books is the criminal underworld in various locations across Edinburgh, but the books do also include various small villages, business districts and nightclubs. Rankin fans should definitely explore Edinburgh!

Have a look at our range of cottages in Edinburgh and The Lothians to find the right fit for you.

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Val McDermid’s The Distant Echo, set in St Andrews

Crime novelist Val McDermid grew up in Kirkcaldy, a town and former royal burgh in eastern Scotland. Her novel The Distant Echo is set in St Andrews, 24 miles from where McDermid grew up. The book centres on the relationship between four students who stumble across a dead body in the town.

The author explained that she set the crime thriller in St Andrews because she was familiar with the area, and she needed a small community to make the plot of the book believable. McDermid has used specific locations and landmarks to her advantage, saying ‘I knew I could use the particular features of the place to great effect. The Pictish cemetery, the Bottle Dungeon, the Castle Cliffs… irresistible, really.’ We can’t resist Scotland either, so we know exactly how she feels.

To find a cottage in the St Andrews area, view our selection.

book-week-blog-loch-katrineWalter Scott’s Waverley, set in the Scottish Highlands

Walter Scott’s Waverley has been regarded as one of the first historical novels in the Western literary tradition. The book, which was published in 1814, sees an English soldier travel from the south of England, first to the Scottish Lowlands and then into the Highlands to experience the aftermath of the Jacobite uprising of 1745.

The book features numerous Scottish locations as the protagonist travels further north as the book progresses. Walter Scott created a romantic vision of Scotland in the book that was characterised by tartan, tradition and nobility.

Experience the beauty of northern Scotland for yourself by staying in one of our many cottages in the Highlands.

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Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting, set in Edinburgh

Born in Leith, Irvine Welsh is one of the best-known Scottish authors due to the success of his 1993 novel Trainspotting. Trainspotting isn’t the only one of Welsh’s books that is set in Edinburgh; Filth, the story of an indulgent and cruel detective sergeant, is also set in Scotland’s vibrant capital. Trainspotting and its sequel feature prominent Edinburgh landmarks such as Arthurs Seat, Edinburgh Castle and Princes Street, the main shopping street in Edinburgh.

While Edinburgh is a cultural capital and a tourist favourite, Welsh paints a darker picture of the city in the 1990s and the underworld that existed at the time. You’ll be delighted to know that you can learn all about the area AND stay in a beautiful cottage in the Lothians, while still being in easy reach of Edinburgh – it really is the best of both worlds!

To view our cottages in the Lothians, visit the website.

Why not celebrate Scotland’s literary masterpieces by visiting Scotland in person? We have hundreds of cottages for you to choose from. Visit our website to find your perfect match.

Autumn Adventures in Scotland

As the autumn weather makes an appearance and the cosy nights begin to roll in, why not book a stay in a unique cottage? Explore Scotland as the leaves start to brown and the air begins to cool. What could possibly be better than that? Here are just some of the activities you could be getting up to if you rent a cottage with us this autumn:

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1. Discover Stirling

Avoid the sweaty summer crowds of tourists by visiting Stirling during the autumn months. The city in the heart of Central Scotland is full of character and charm and is a history lovers paradise. Make sure to visit the imposing fortress that is Stirling Castle and enjoy the entertainment provided by costumed performers there.

After a fascinating excursion around Stirling Castle, why not stop off at the National Wallace Monument which commemorates the Scottish hero, Sir William Wallace? Braveheart fans will certainly want to give Stirling a visit! After taking in the fascinating history of the building, climb to the top of the Monument and enjoy spectacular panoramic views of the whole city.

Browse our selection of cottages in Central Scotland.

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2. Explore the Scottish Lochs

As the leaves begin to turn their orange hue, why not visit one of the many Scottish lochs? There are over 31,000 different lochs spread out all across the country that range in size from the largest (Loch Ness) to much smaller ones such as Loch Ard in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, but all of them are beautiful in their own special way.

Drumnadrochit in the Highlands is, of course, home to the famous Loch Ness where the fabled monster that is said to haunt the depths of the water. Loch Muick, pronounced Loch ‘Mick’, in Aberdeenshire is sometimes home to a royal visitor, as it lies within Queen Elizabeth’s Balmoral Estate. A trip to one of Scotland’s many stunning lochs makes for a perfect day out in nature.

To view our cottages in the Highlands, visit our website.

 

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3. Visit Glasgow

Glasgow has a lot to offer people of all ages. If you are a fan of shopping, history, or nature, Glasgow has got you covered. Nature lovers will want to visit the stunning Botanic Gardens, located in the west end of the city by the River Kelvin. The gardens contain a variety of exotic plant collections from all over the world and the carnivorous plants in particular are quite fascinating!

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After a wander around the Botanic Gardens, wind down with a riverside walk or head towards the city centre for an afternoon of indulgent shopping. If that wasn’t enough, Glasgow has 11 fantastic museums ranging from the history of art to the history of religious life with something for everyone to enjoy. A visit to Glasgow is not complete without popping to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum (free entry) that houses some fantastic works of art. The ‘Floating Heads’ sculptural art installation is a real highlight and makes for plenty of great photo opportunities.

To view our cottages on the West Coast of Scotland, visit our website.

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4. Spend a cosy night in your Unique Cottage

What could be better than spending the night snuggled up in a dressing gown, drinking hot chocolate and watching a film? Many of our cottages are pet friendly, so your furry friend can join in too! That isn’t all – some of our cottages have hot tubs that you can wind down in after a busy day of exploring all that Scotland has to offer.

To find your ideal cottage visit our website or call the friendly Booking Team on 01835 822277. They have specialist knowledge of Scotland and can help find exactly the right fit for you!

4 of Scotland’s Best Hiking Trails

We offer a variety of Unique Cottages that are perfect for your stay in stunning Scotland. Apart from its many lovely, quaint cottages, Scotland is known for its incredible natural beauty with so much to see and experience. If you’re a fan of hiking, Scotland is the place for you.

Explore mountains, forests and coastal paths from John O’ Groats to Dumfries – there are literally hundreds of trails to choose from. Here are our four favourite Scottish hiking trails:

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Loch an Eilein, Cairngorm National Park

Fans of medieval architecture will love the Loch an Eilein walk. The walk is 4.25 miles and explores the magnificent Rothiemurchus Forest in the Scottish Highlands. The walk attracts kayakers, wild campers and photographers from all over the world.

Along the way is a breathtakingly beautiful 13th century castle surrounded by water and thick, magical woodland. It is the perfect walk for a family who don’t want to journey too far but want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a couple of hours. Loch an Eilein was voted Britain’s Favourite Picnic Spot back in 2010. We can see why!

To view our cottages that are in close proximity to Cairngorms National Park, click here.

The Cateran Trail

For the hardcore hiker, The Cateran Trail is the whole package. The route takes hikers across 64 miles of farmland, forests and glens in Angus and Perthshire. The walk can be done in five days and is typically split into five stages by hikers, but completion times do vary.

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For those who want to explore Scotland’s breathtaking landscapes but want a range of terrain to traverse, this trail is perfect. The trail is well marked and there are plenty of places to have exciting and educational pit stops, such as the Alyth Museum in Strathmore. You will never forget the natural beauty of Scotland after completing this walk!

Browse our Perthshire cottages that are in easy reach of The Cateran Trail.

Fife Pilgrim Way

Since 1600, St Andrews was a popular pilgrimage destination in Medieval Europe as Christians wanted to be close to the bones of St Andrew, one of Jesus’ disciples in the Bible. The pilgrimage made its mark on the landscape in Fife, as many of the paths and roads were created to ease the passage of thousands of pilgrims.

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The Fife Pilgrim Way follows one of the many routes that the pilgrims took to reach the holy site of St Andrews. The walk spans 117 miles and the route goes through wildlife reserves, stunning beaches and historic villages.

To view our cottages near St Andrews along the Fife Pilgrim Way click here.

Arthur’s Seat and Hollyrood Park

hiking-blog-arthurs-seatView from Top of Arthur’s Seat

If you’re visiting Edinburgh, this short walk is one you shouldn’t miss. Arthur’s Seat is a well-known spot in Edinburgh that attracts thousands of visitors a year. But did you know that it marks the very top of a dormant volcano that erupted 350 years ago?

When you reach Arthur’s Seat, you’ll see spectacular 360 degree views of the city, including historic Edinburgh Castle. It is the perfect way to escape the chaos of the city for a while.

To view our cottages that are in close proximity to Edinburgh, click here.

Whichever trail you choose, Unique Cottages have a variety of beautiful cottages for you to choose from. Visit our website to find the perfect cottage for you or give us a call on 01835 822277.

Wild at Heart – the Whitmuir Estate

Guest blogger Lucy Cooke tells us all about her wildlife spotting visit to the beautiful Whitmuir Estate.

Deep in the heart of the Scottish Borders lies a very special secret – you don’t have to travel hundreds of miles to find a piece of the Scottish wilds and some absolutely stunning wildlife. This rolling countryside contains valleys, lochs, mountains and forests all ready to be explored or simply appreciated from the comfort of your chosen cottage.

Escape

'Common Blue Butterfly'
Common Blue Butterfly

Past the picturesque Eildon Hills and near the lovely town of Selkirk sits Whitmuir Farm and Estate that is set in 176 hectares of wonderful countryside with exceptionally rich grasslands, wildflowers and a mixture of woodland with more deciduous trees being planted every year. The estate has an impressive range of biodiversity, boasting as many as 1,400 different species including badgers, wild orchids, butterflies and fungi like the out-of-this-world Smurf Blue mushroom.

Explore

Whitmuir offers the perfect base for further exploration of the area within easy reach of the best the Borders has to offer. Lovers of the untamed and uninhabited can take their pick from the many hill ranges in the area, from the Lammermuirs to the Cheviots, that each provide a different experience and reward walkers with uniquely beautiful views and scenery.

Several long distance foot paths wind their way around the region from the Southern Upland Way that skims the outstandingly beautiful St Mary’s Loch and the Border Abbeys Way that takes in 4 historic abbeys, to St Cuthbert’s Way that leads from Melrose all the way over to the east coast. If waterways are your passion, pick from the many walks along the River Tweed where salmon jump, osprey fish and kingfishers dart.

Embark

Take a drive into any of the Border towns to find excellent local food, quirky little shops and many museums, castles and abbeys celebrating the life, culture and history of the region. For sport enthusiasts there is horse riding, rugby, golf and fishing and a trip up to the capital is easily achievable within an hour by train for a day trip to enjoy all that Edinburgh has to offer.

And relax…

We have a range of properties on the estate to choose from with everything from the remarkable Whitmuir House which is great for families or larger groups right through to Meadowside Cottage that is a warm and cosy hideout for couples in search of peace and tranquillity. There is also Marl Moss Cottage, Whitmuir Steading Cottage and Knowpark Cottage to choose from. Teyl, the Estate Factor, shares the environmentally friendly ethos and will be sure to make your stay a pleasant one.

Waking up Wild

Whitmuir truly is a wildlife haven and every year improvements are made that encourage a rich mixture of environmental habitats across the estate. One of the recent ambitious projects was to remove large areas of Sitka Spruce and replace it with a diverse range of tree species including some from the International Conifer Conservation Program based at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

FungiExamples of fungi from the estate

Fungi fanatics won’t have to go far to find a wide abundance of species such as penny buns, fly argaric, witches butter or scarlet elfcaps. The previously mentioned blue smurf (entoloma madidum) is a fabulous and rare fungus and the estate even boasts a species that was new to science when it was found in 2013. It was finally named Cortinarius brunneiaurantius in 2014 and has since been found a few more times but in Northern Scotland.

Over 90 species of birds have been recorded on the estate from warblers to water rail and goshawk to crossbill. Winter visitors may well spy waxwings and redwings feasting on berries or fields full of skylarks whilst those catching the beginnings of spring may hear the sound of the cuckoo call.

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Female Emperor Moth

Those with a passion for wildflowers can walk through the gorgeous meadows in spring and summer enjoying a canvas of colour that attracts pretty pollinators like the common blue butterfly. Moth traps have been set up to attract and record the many varieties of moth that visit throughout the year including the beautiful emperor moth.

So whether it’s walking in the footsteps of St Cuthbert, listening to skylark singing overhead, or watching the mighty hares box outside whilst enjoying a roaring fire and a glass of something special, the Whitmuir Estate has something for everyone. Explore them for yourself and decide which Whitmuir property suits you best.

Adrenalin and Adventure in Mountain Biking Heaven

Scotland is a haven for mountain bikers. Whether you’re just heading out for a few hours of adventure or taking to the tracks for some serious cycling, the country has the forests, hill, glens and awesome scenery to rival any of the world’s mountain biking destinations.

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Photo Courtesy of Stewart Meldrum

One of the most popular places for the sport is the South of Scotland. The area is sometimes overlooked by visitors as they head to the central belt and beyond, but it’s somewhere that mountain bikers in the know return to time after time.

Stretching from the Scottish Borders in the east to Dumfries and Galloway in the west, the area features the famous 7Stanes – a series of mountain bike trail centres comprising a mixture of different graded trails running through fabulous mountains and hills.

One of the most popular is Glentress in the heart of the Tweed Valley near the pretty Borders town of Peebles. The centre boasts a skills area for beginners, plus excellent Green and Blue routes. More experienced mountain bikers will love the Red route with its Spooky Wood descent, as well as the epic 30km Black route.

Adrenaline-junkies can pop along the road to Innerleithen and experience the leg-burning climb and thrilling single track descents of the centre’s XC route, or the exhilarating, ‘extreme’-rated Innerleithen Downhill with its Cresta Run, Matador, Make or Brake and Gold Run sections – definitely not for the faint-hearted.

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Downhill course at Innerleithen – Photo Courtesy of Stewart Meldrum

Further west, in Dumfries and Galloway, another highlight of the 7Stanes is Mabie, just south of Dumfries. It offers something for every level of mountain biking, from peaceful rides through the forest to the 17km Red-graded Phoenix Trail and The Dark Side, a 3.8km orange-rated bike park graded trail that’s strictly for experts.

A recent visitor to the South of Scotland is famous cycling adventurer, Markus Stitz. Born in Germany but now based in Edinburgh, he is known for cycling around the world on a bike with just one gear. Markus recently stayed at Whitmuir Steading Cottage – a delightful converted farm building that sits between Melrose and Selkirk and is surrounded by stunning countryside.

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Markus Stitz on his recent visit to the Whitmuir Estate – Copyright: markusstitz.com

Markus has kindly created some new cycle routes around this beautiful part of the Borders. These Ale Water Trails range from the 9-mile Selkirkshire Ward Route, which is great for beginners and starts and finishes in Selkirk, to the 108 mile Reiver Raid loop that offers 11 hours of exhilarating riding.

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Whitmuir Steading Cottage’s Games Room

Whitmuir Steading Cottage sleeps four people from just £450 for 7 nights and comes complete with a games room and pool table for enjoying downtime together, plus important cycling accessories including bike tools, a puncture repair kit and an air pump. It is one of three of our cottages that are set on the beautiful Whitmuir Estate.

Further north, the hills and glens of the Scottish Highlands also feature some mountain biking treasures including two great routes on the Glenlivet Estate in the heart of Cairngorms National Park just 4 miles from the village of Tomintoul.

The 9km Blue trail is idea for novice or experienced riders and comprises sweeping single track trails and forest roads. It is suitable for families and is great for a bit of wildlife spotting along the way.

The 22km Red route includes sections of the Blue run, but then branches off to take riders across moorland and through woodland on monster climbs and flat-out fast sections. Technical trail features include drop offs, rollers, stone staircases and berms. The centre also has a café, bike hire and bike washing facilities. It is also close to Tomintoul Distillery, if you fancy a wee dram after your ride.

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Cosy Corrunich Cottage

One of our wonderful wilderness retreats, Corrunich Cottage is also close-by. With a previous life as a barn, it has now been lovingly converted into a spacious, open-plan cottage for two people that is warm, light and airy and includes a fitness room with rowing machine, cross trainer, weights and table tennis.

Corrunich Cottage is pet friendly and costs from just £450 for 7 nights.

Find out more about mountain biking breaks or call 01835 822277 and speak to our friendly booking team who can help you choose the perfect cottage for your stay.

Scotland’s First Snorkel Trail

Scotland is famous as a location for a wide range of active holidays, from golf and fishing to skiing, mountain biking, canoeing, and many more.

Now, thanks to the Scottish Wildlife Trust, it also boasts its first ever snorkel trail – a set of nine, self-led trails in the waters off the North West Highlands that allow both beginners and advanced snorkelers to dive down and see the impressive variety of Scotland’s marine life.

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Exploring the Waters

Many people might think it is too cold to snorkel in Scotland, but the British Sub Aqua Club disagrees, saying that the colours and life under the surface in places like the north west coast are up there with the coral reefs you can find abroad.

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Sunstar Starfish

So while you won’t be able to ‘Find Dory’, the Pacific Regal Blue Tang of the recent animated blockbuster, in Scottish waters you are likely to see lobsters and various species of crab as well as a surprising variety of starfish including common starfish, sunstars and brittlestars. Scotland’s living seas are also home to extensive beds of Maerl (an unusual red coralline algae) and colourful sea urchins that cling to rocks around the coast and harbours. Keep your eyes peeled too for sea squirts, sponges and anemones, as well as cuttlefish, dead man’s fingers, dogfish, butterfish, jellyfish and periwinkle. If you are lucky you might even manage to see dolphins or the impressive, but harmless, basking sharks.

The North West Highlands Snorkel Trail comprises of sites at beaches and bays along the coast near Gairloch, Ullapool and Lochinver. It is a stunning part of the world with truly majestic scenery and that, in addition to its rich marine life, is famous for other wildlife including ptarmigan, golden eagles and deer.

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Pebble Coast

We have several beautiful self catering properties in the area that would make a perfect base for exploring both on land and at sea. The Old Schoolhouse at Achiltibuie, north west of Ullapool is set just 200 yards from the sea with beautiful views across to the Dundonnell Mountains. The nearby Kirkaig Falls and Suilven Mountain are well worth visiting, as is the ruined and rumoured to be haunted Ardvreck Castle.

Other accommodation options in the area include the gorgeous Pebble Coast that is set in an amazing clifftop location near Gairloch with magnificent views out across The Minch to the Isle of Skye and the Outer Hebrides and direct access down to a lovely pebble beach.

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The First Officer’s Quarters

Also near Gairloch are The First Officer’s Quarters in the spectacular setting of Rua Reidh lighthouse, which comes complete with a private wildlife hide for the use of guests. It is known as a great spot for witnessing the beautiful natural light show of the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights.

If you do decide to go snorkeling, please read the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Snorkel Safety information on their website before you go. It contains lots of vital information to keep you safe and help you make the most of your watery adventure.

To discover more about our properties in the North West Highlands, click here or call us on 01835 822 277.

Scotland’s Golfing Greats

If you’re a golfer who is thinking about a sporting break in Scotland, then you are in luck as you have over over 550 fabulous courses to choose from.

We’ve all heard of the big hitters – Gleneagles, Carnoustie and, of course, Royal Troon which plays host to this year’s British Open in July. They are certainly amazing places to enjoy a round, but there are also lots of hidden gems right across the country that have some of the most beautiful scenery to admire as you play.

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The Burn on the Carnoustie Course

Fortrose and Rosemarkie Golf Course is just a few miles from Inverness and as it is situated on a narrow peninsula it has incredible sea views, with dolphins being a regular sight near the 4th hole. While St Andrews in Fife is famous the world over, the region also has some great golfing alternatives. Anstruther is a pretty fishing village with a multi-award winning fish and chip shop and a very picturesque golf course with wonderful views out to the Isle of May and the Bass Rock. Nearby Aberdour is another great course that is set in beautiful parkland with breathtaking views across the Firth of Forth to Edinburgh Castle. It is also very easily accessible as it is just 30 minutes away from Edinburgh Airport.

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So Near and Yet So Far

Further south in the Scottish Borders, The Roxburghe Golf Course in Kelso is the region’s first Championship course and was recently voted the 6th best golf experience in Scotland by ‘Bunkered’, the UK’s best-selling golf magazine. Situated on the Duke of Roxburghe’s estate, its 14th hole (known as the Viaduct) looks right down to the River Teviot and has been described as one of the best driving holes in Scotland.

The Boat of Garten Golf Course near Aviemore is situated by the River Spey in the beautiful Cairngorms National Park and the scenery that surrounds it is simply stunning. Each hole in this 6,000 yard, 18-hole course has been cleverly shaped in tune with the natural landscape. Its location, close to some of Scotland’s finest whisky distilleries, is another excellent incentive for a visit.

Machrihanish Dunes Golf Course can be found near Campbeltown alongside the better known Machrihanish Course. It opened in 2009 on a Site of Special Scientific Interest and features spectacular views, exciting blind shots over the dunes, uneven fairways, some enormous bunkers and joyous fast greens, as well as some grazing sheep that do a good job of keeping down the rough.

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The Standard Diameter Hole

Mary Queen of Scots is reported to have played golf at the Musselburgh Links course way back in 1567. One of the world’s oldest courses, it is from here that the 4 and a half inch diameter of the hole became standard. It just happened to be the width of the implement used to cut out the hole at Musselburgh and in 1893 the R&A made the size mandatory. The course hosted the Open six times between 1874 and 1889 and still offers the chance to play The Old Golf Course the way it was intended with original Hickory golf clubs (available to hire).

Whether you are teeing off on one of Scotland’s showcase courses, or playing your way round some of the country’s lesser-known golfing treasures, at Unique Cottages we have fantastic accommodation that’s great for golfing groups and/or couples.

Find out more on our website or call 01835 822 277 and speak to a member of our helpful booking team.

Monster-hunting Holidays!

Scotland is a land of legends, from kelpies (water-horses) to faeries and giants to selkies (seal-folk); there are no shortage of stories about supernatural creatures which thrived in the wild and untamed Scottish landscape in times gone by. Possibly the most famous of all these beings is Nessitera rhombopteryx who some believe still resides in the one of Scotland’s largest, deepest, fresh water lochs, right in the heart of the Highlands.

Famous? Then why haven’t you heard about this legendary entity?

Ah, but you have, possibly by one of her other, more common, names. For the creature of which I speak is the notorious Loch Ness Monster, more affectionately referred to as Nessie!
The first recorded sighting of a monster living in the area of Loch Ness was over 15 hundred years ago, when Irish monk St Columba was visiting the Pictish shores. After having sent one of his followers into the water to attract the ‘water beast’ he demonstrated the power of his God by commanding the creature to break off his attack and caused it to flee in terror!

The first ever picture of the Loch Ness Monster?Fast forwarding to the beginning of the 20th century, further interest was sparked when George Spicer and his wife saw what they described as ‘a most extraordinary animal’ cross the road in front of their car and disappear into the Loch. The sighting lead to numerous ‘hunting’ parties visiting the loch over the following few years determined to catch the monster ‘dead or alive’. It was at this time that the well known ‘Surgeons photograph’ was taken, which has now been exposed as a hoax. However in 1938 a South African tourist called G. E. Taylor made a 3 minute recording on 16mm colour film of the elusive creature, and although only a single frame was ever made publicly available, experts have said that it is ‘positive evidence’ of Nessie’s existence.

In 1943 the monster was seen again by C. B. Farrel of the Royal Observer Corps as he carried out his duties on the Loch. He described a finned creature with large eyes and a neck that protruded 4-5 feet out of the waters. 11 years later, the crew of a fishing boat called the Rival III reported sonar readings of a large object at a depth of 480 feet keeping pace with them for approximately half a mile as they sailed across the loch.

What lies beneath the tranquil waters of Loch Ness? (photo courtesy of conner395)In 1960 the monster was again caught on film by Tim Dinsdale, which, when digitally enhanced in 1993, showed a creature with rear flippers and a plesiosaur-like body (plesiosaurs were carnivorous aquatic reptiles which lived at the end of the Triassic Period). Sceptics have said that due to the poor quality of the film, these features could have been created by tricks of the light as it reflected on the water, but no one really knows.

Just 4 years ago the monster appeared on film again, when Gordon Holmes videoed a jet black ‘thing’, about 45 feet long, moving quickly through the loch waters, but because the footage did not include anything which could be used as a scale comparison, once again it can not be classed as definitive proof.

A visit to the Loch Ness Monster Visitor Centre in Drumnadrochit ensures you a sighting of the beast! (photo courtesy of n.hewson)So, the legend remains just that!  There is no undisputed verification of the existence of a monster living in the waters of Loch Ness, but then again, there is no sure proof that there is not! Perhaps, sometime soon, someone will get the evidence that Nessie isn’t just a myth or tale, but rather another example of how the unique, unspoilt landscape of Scotland supports species that have been long extinct elsewhere.

If you fancy taking on the challenge and take part in a bit of Nessie spotting then Unique Cottages has a selection of cottages close to Loch Ness, including two where you can actually see a great length of the loch from the window!

See cottages near Loch Ness >

Something novel…

I’m of the opinion that reading is definitely ‘medicine for the soul’ and that a good book can transport you to another place, a world away from any worries or stress.  Whether it be a gritty crime mystery, a heartwarming romance, an epic historical thriller or a light hearted comedic satire, there are books suit every taste.

Melrose Abbey, Scottish Borders.Avid readers like myself will, no doubt, be delighted to hear that once a year, in the pretty Border town of Melrose, lovers of literature congregate for a celebration of the diversity and enduring appeal of the written word.

If, when you think of books and reading, the image of a dusty old library with a misery guts of a curator sharply ‘shhh-ing’ you for the slightest sound springs to mind, then prepare to be surprised!

The Borders Book Festival has a relaxing, jovial, carnival type atmosphere, which is both exciting and exhilarating!  In fact, you would be hard pushed to find such a wide collection of witty, intelligent, imaginative people all in one place at one time!  But it is one factor which unites them all and that’s a love of all things literary!

Borders Book Festival 2011, Melrose, Scottish Borders.With a range of events taking place from the 16th to the 19th of June, the Borders Book Festival offers something for everyone, no matter your age or interest.  The festival attracts famous names such as presenter Peter Snow, broadcaster and journalist Michael Parkinson, impressionist and playwright Rory Bremner, comedian Rory McGrath and actor Larry Lamb, to name just a few.

The event is eminently family friendly, and children (of all ages) can have fun while they learn about the Murderous Maths of Everything, create their own story in the Mazes and Monster Workshop or just sit back and enjoy the free Storytime sessions.

So, if you agree that sometimes there is nothing better than curling up with a novel, then why not check out theVisit Melrose, Self Catering Cottages Scotland. Borders Book Festival this year and join an exceptional celebration of the written word in some truly beautiful Scottish surroundings?

Self Catering Cottages in Melrose >

More about the Borders Book Festival >

Here’s a video about the venue where the festival is held (it refers to the 2009 festival, but will be held at the same place this year), I hope to see you there! >