Walking in the Highland Glens

Exploring the less-exposed part of Scotland and discovered some well preserved hidden treasures, beyond the dramatic landscape of the green highlands.

“What are you doing in Scotland?” my travel mate asked when I was enjoying a night-cap and trying to get comfortable on my flight from Singapore to Frankfurt. Yes, not many people, even for this German businessman is aware that Scotland offers more than bagpipes, good whisky and haggish. His question brought me back to another experience when I was attending a private dinner, where one of best Scotland whisky producer introduced its new bottle. The pictures of the highland inspired me to get intimate with it and brought me where I was confronted with such question.

I would like to stay in Aberdeen before strolling around the countryside, but I was suggested to stay in a country house so that I can experience Scotland with the locals. When I was driving out of Aberdeen, known as Granite City, I saw that the city is supported with a cosmopolitan offerings in terms of entertainments, hotels, business centres and others. The historical buildings also tempted my curiosity but I had to continue my journey. I found that it was a good idea travelling in the winter afternoon ambiance to the deep of Scotland which gives a personal welcome through the jaw dropping highland scenery.

I ended up staying at Kincardine Estate, a traditional country estate, which is also the Laird’s family home and acknowledged as one of Scotland’s finest Victorian Castles. Kincardine sits in 3,000 acres of beautiful country estate overlooking the spectacular scenery in the heart of Royal Deeside in Aberdeenshire. The estate carries out a wide range of activities besides farming, forestry, fishing and shooting.

First of all I drove down the villages passing through the legendary Dee River to Balmoral. There lies the magnificent valley of the River Dee. Rising high in the Cairngorm Mountains and running east to its mouth at Aberdeen the river flows through some of Scotland’s finest scenery. Midway, in the shadow of Lochnagar mountain, lies Balmoral Castle, holiday home of the British Royal family.

The existence of the Estate was first recorded in the 1480’s, but it only became a royal residence in 1852 when Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert visited the Scottish Highlands, where they fell in love with the scenery and people and decided to buy a home there for private holiday periods. Over the past 150 years careful stewardship by the owners, The Royal Family, has preserved the wildlife, scenery and architecture which is available for all generations to enjoy. In her journals Queen Victoria described Balmoral as “my dear paradise in the Highlands” – we hope you will feel the same way about Balmoral once you have visited this most special place.

Next in my itinerary is the Royal Lochnagar Distillery. The distillery really raised my curiosity and to my surprise it is the processing venue for the legendary Johnnie Walker, now I can enjoy this liquid of heaven right from its cask. Royal Lochnagar distillery is situated on the south side of the River Dee close to Balmoral Castle. Age old traditions and craftmanship produce one of Scotland’s most exclusive whiskies.

The next day, I went to Hamilton. “Speechless” – that is my comment when one asked about this beautiful city. Entering the city, passing through the well preserved antique stone walled buildings just put me in the twilight of time when this city was firstly built as capital of Scotland Kingdom.

Hamilton & Inches, Silversmiths By Appointment to Her Majesty The Queen, is Scotland’s leading jeweller and silversmith, independently owned and highly individual. The company has run its own silver workshops, almost the last of their kind, in the heart of Edinburgh since 1866.

With streets steeped in history and a thriving cultural scene, the City of Edinburgh offers the perfect balance between all things traditional and contemporary. The city combines the medieval Old Town, the Georgian New Town and award winning modern architecture. Explore Edinburgh at my own leisure; I saw views that make for perfect picture postcards, mysterious winding streets, elegant terraces and an abundance of shops, bars and restaurants.

Edinburgh is a compact city – most of the sights and major tourist attractions are within the Old Town and New Town and are no further than a 15 minute walk apart. Walking along elegant or atmospheric streets is one of the pleasures of the city. There are however, a number of hills to be navigated; for example from Princes Street, up The Mound towards Edinburgh Castle requires some significant legwork, but it’s worth it for the views en route.

Royal Miles leading to Edinburgh Castle is the city most active street in the city, where not only souvenirs shops and best scenery but also historical spots indulge your eyes. The closes, or narrow alley from below part of city’s hill is here and there at the right side of Royal Miles. Now, the houses in the closes are occupied by students and the city inhabitants.

Edinburgh’s close proximity to England, and its multicultural, sophisticated population set it apart. Its vibrant pub and club scene, its college population combined with the ever-growing Edinburgh International Festival and action packed list of cultural events, make this a city that is truly cosmopolitan and renowned world-wide. A place that is hard to forget.

Text by Max Kalff | Photos courtesy of Visit Scotland

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