As it’s the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, we asked Mike Spencer-Nairn, owner of Eagle Brae, for some more recommendations on delving into the past in the Highlands – here are some of his suggestions:
Corrimony Chambered Cairn
If you love exploring a stone circle site (or you are an Outlander fan!) Corrimony Burial Cairn lies near Cannich, dating back 4,000 years. Corrimony Burial Cairn is a near-complete Clava type cairn – a large circular mound with a chamber at its centre, with a remarkably intact passageway and a circle of standing stones around it.
This lovely ruined church is situated near the river in this historic town of Beauly, and was one of three priories founded around 1230 in Scotland for monks of the Valliscaulian order (the other two were Ardchattan near Oban and Pluscarden near Elgin). Only the Abbey church is left of Beauly Priory but it is an interesting, peaceful place to explore, with some tombs from the 1400s in the grave yard (and there is also an ancient elm in the grounds).
In the Tomich area you’ll find Guisachan House, the ruin of a Victorian mansion owned by Lord Tweedmouth and visited by British Prime Ministers and Queen Victoria. The Estate is known as the ancestral home of the golden retriever as Lord Tweedmouth originated the breeding programme of the yellow retriever there which then developed into the golden retriever.
Further afield, and a must for Outlander fans, Culloden Battlefield is the site where the Jacobite Rising of 1745 tragically came to an end. Take a haunting step into Scotland’s past by exploring the atmospheric moor and experiencing the battle in the immersion cinema in the Visitor Centre. You can also view Jacobite artefacts.
This fairy-tale castle, with its beautiful turrets and spires, is the family seat of Clan Sutherland – and is one of the UK’s oldest continuously inhabited houses. Dunrobin Castle dates back to the early 1300s and enjoys an idyllic setting just north of Golspie. The formal gardens and the Victorian extension to the castle were designed by Sir Charles Barry, the architect who designed the Houses of Parliament. There are daily falconry demonstrations at 11.30am and 2.00pm on the castle lawn.
Perched above Loch Ness the ruins of Urquhart Castle is a popular tourist attraction. This medieval fortress was once one of Scotland’s largest castles, and fell into decline after it was blown up in 1692 by the last of the government troops garrisoned here during the Jacobite Risings. As well as enjoying the sweeping views of Loch Ness (and maybe a bit of Nessie searching?) you can explore the ruins and view a full-sized, working trebuchet. (There is also four Disover Explore missions around the castle for young historians).
Eilean Donan Castle
The perfect photo stop (often described as Scotland’s most photographed castle), Eilean Donan is a reconstructed 13th century castle, sitting prettily at the point where three sea lochs meet and surrounded by beautiful scenery. The first fortified castle was built in the mid 13th century, with four different versions of the castle built and rebuilt over time. After being partially destroyed in a Jacobite Uprising in 1719 the castle lay in ruins until it was bought by Lieutenant Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrap in 1911 and restored over the next 20 years. It is easy to see why it is one of the most popular attractions in the Highlands.
Clan Chisholm Burial Ground
Close to Eagle Brae, Clan Chisholm burial ground is just over the River Farrar from Struy at Erchless and has some superb old Celtic crosses. (And if you know anyone looking to trace Chisholm family roots why not point them in this direction?).
What historical attractions do you love in the Highlands? Leave us a comment below.