The bay on the North Sea is considered the greatest Firth of Britain. The large funnel between Kinnairds Head near Fraserburgh in Aberdeenshire and Duncansby Head near Wick is 120 kilometers wide at the opening. Counting all the bays, the Firth has a coastline of about 800 kilometers, including rocky cliffs and tidal flats. The highest peak close to the shore is Ben Wyvis: With its 1048 meters it is mostly shrouded in fog and snowcapped even during summer. Frolicking dolphins and whales are best seen from Chanonry Point.
Mystical ruins on the River Beauly
During the 13th century, French monks built an abbey on a spot along the River Beauly just before it empties into the firth. They called it the “beau lieu” due to its particularly beautiful location. The monastery was abandoned during the Reformation and became a ruin. The cloister, dormitory and the abbot's residence disappeared and the roof of the church caved in. Nevertheless, the ruin exudes a very unique charm.
A hike to the waterfall
The waterfall at the end of this 2.5 kilometer hike is definitely worth seeing. The trail starts near Dunrobin Castle and leads upstream through a dense natural forest.
There is also a longer trail requiring hiking shoes that leads to the Falls of Shin, where you can see salmon jumping if you come during the right season. There is even a restaurant over the waterfall.
Where King Macbeth committed murder
According to Shakespeare, this castle with its massive keep was the crime scene where King Macbeth murdered Duncan. Historians have their doubts, however, because the castle was was not built until the 14th century and because Duncan actually died in the Battle of Elgin. Nevertheless, Cawdor Castle, which now belongs to the Dukes of Argyll, is still worth a visit. One of the very few “Royal” whisky distilleries, the Royal Brackla Distillery, is next door.
Bloodbath and the end of a Scottish dream
In the swamps of Culloden, the dream of the Highlanders of rule over Great Britain came to an end on 16 April 1746. The Battle of Culloden is a turning point in the history of Scotland. Not only did it put an end to the Stuarts' final attempt to assert their claim to the throne, it also marked the demise of traditional Scottish culture and the powerful special position of clan leaders and sealed the integration of the formerly independent country into an English-dominated Great Britain. Today only a lonely tower and a museum remind of the bloodbath.
Scottish Heritage Pass (Culloden Battlefield)
Whisky museum in an old distillery
This former whisky distillery near Forres is now a museum in a listed historic building. The name “Dallas” comes from the Gaelic words for valley and water. “Dhu” means black. There is no visitor center, but the Historic Scotland organization has done a great job restoring the distillery. The old warehouse is now a museum about the history of Speyside Whisky in Scotland. The museum also includes a tour of the entire distillation and the maturation process. The whole building complex is open all year round.
Historic Scotland Explorer Pass
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From Cromarty to the Bottlenose Dolphins
Off the Moray Firth lives a colony of Bottlenose Dolphins. Since 2004 a small company has been taking out guests by speedboat. The excursion lasts approximately two hours and starts in the picturesque town of Cromarty.
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Green hills, mild climate
Easter Ross is the easternmost part of Ross-shire, which in the west reaches to the Atlantic Ocean and includes a Hebridean island. The region on the North Sea is shielded by the high mountains to the west and therefore has a milder climate than the Western Highlands. The green hills reach up to the Cromart Fjord, where sometimes dolphins can be spotted. Amongst all this are small villages and manor houses.
Sand and stone beach at the mouth of the river
To the east of the village there is a beautiful sandy and rocky beach at the mouth of the Spye River. Those who enjoy this windy experience can afterwards eat a hearty Cullen Skink – a typical Scottish soup made of smoked fish and potatoes – at the Lighthouse Inn at Lossiemouth marina.
Benedictine Monastery in the Blackburn Valley
In the remote Blackburn valley lies a monastery founded by the Scottish King in 1230. It joined the Benedictine Order 200 years later. With the Scottish Reformation in the 16th century and its best days behind it, it was abandoned and by the 17th century lay in ruins. In 1948 Pluscarden was revived when Benedictines from Montecassino, Italy, were overwhelmed by the spiritual power of the place in the north of the Grampian Mountains. They revived the monastery. Today the buildings have been restored to their former glory.