The largest national park in Great Britain is located in the central highlands and dominated by the peaks of the Grampian Mountains. The wild landscape with its heather-covered hills and the deep black lakes, inaccessible moors and green forests form a unique natural setting. Some 25,000 red deer roam the forests and heaths of the park. Large parts of the area are not developed for traffic. The largest towns are Ballater in the east and Kingussie and Aviemore in the west. Highest point is Ben Macdui with 1,310 m. Although two roads follow the border from west to east or to the south, there is no road access to the national park's center. The area can therefore be reached only on foot. Southeast near Braemar stands a popular tourist attraction: Balmoral Castle.
Summer residence of the British Queen
Today, this palace in Aberdeenshire is the summer residence of the British Queen, who stays here for around twelve weeks out of the year. It was built in the 14th century, but did receive its current appearance until 1856, when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert went on vacation in Scotland. Since they were fascinated by the Scottish landscape, they bought the palace and renovated it as the prince saw fit. The hours of operation depend on whether or not the Queen is in residence and can be checked at www.balmoralcastle.com.
A whisky education at the seat of the Duke of Atholl
Blair Castle is located north of Blair Atholl in a typical idyllic Scottish landscape. It was built in the 13th century and later became the seat of the Duke of Atholl. The Atholl Highlanders, the only legal private army in Europe, are stationed at the castle. Their job is to protect the castle and the surrounding area. The castle itself is open every day to tourists. Whisky lovers will be glad to hear that they can tour the palace distillery and learn all about the whisky firsthand.
Scotland's most beautiful Castles
The Grampians west of Aberdeen contain some of Scotland's most picturesque castles, eleven of which are connected by the Castle Trail. Most of the structures were built in the 13th century, a period when Scottish lords began to fortify their settlements under the influence of the Normans. The castles have been renovated numerous times through the centuries in response to the changed living conditions of the nobility. The imposing fortresses are surrounded by equally majestic landscapes. The moors and remote, grassy hills of the Highlands are the perfect breeding grounds for legends involving ghosts and other supernatural occurrences. Travellers who have had their fill of castles can switch to the Whisky Trail, which leads to several renowned distilleries.
First legal distillery
The distillery of 1823 was the first legal one in the area, which is why the founder caused resentment in the whole region. Illegal distilling of whisky had a long tradition in this area. In 1880, the Smiths acquired exclusive rights to the name “The Glenlivet”. In 1977 the distillery was sold to the American alcohol company Seagram, which in 2001 went to Pernod Ricard. The distillery has a visitor center, visits are free of charge.
Walk into the past
The open-air museum in Newtonmore depicts life in the Highlands from early modern times to the early post-war period. It consists of four parts: a 19th century farm, a 1930s village with a school, church and craftsmen's houses, a forest with a mill and playground and Baile Gean, a reconstructed village around 1700. The thatched blackhouses were the location for the Outlander series. During the high season, village scenes are recreated in original costumes. There is a café next to the visitor centre.
Whisky distillery near Balmoral Castle
The whisky distillery is located on the River Dee two kilometers downstream from Balmoral Castle, which was acquired by Queen Victoria in 1845. In the same year the queen visited the distillery and appointed it the royal purveyor to the court. Since then, the Distillery has been allowed to use the title “Royal”. Royal Lochnagar has a visitor center and is open to the public.
Whisky tasting on the heritage railway
This heritage railway located in the Highlands runs between Aviemore and Broomhill for a distance of 16 kilometers. After the railway ceased operating in the 1960s, railroad fans founded the Strathspey Railway Company and have been operating this section railway with original diesel and steam locomotives since 1978. The train stations have been kept in their original condition as far as possible. From April to Oktober, the trains run several days during the week and they run every day in July and August. Three pairs of trains are usually scheduled to run per day, except on special occasions. Special train rides in a dining car or with whisky tastings can also be booked.
Scottish specialities, delicatessen and souvenirs
Scotland's most prestigious department store is not located in Glasgow or Edinburgh, but in the countryside on the A9. In the beautiful market hall you can buy mainly Scottish specialities, of course whisky and unusual food, but also clothes, decorations for the house, leisure items, bags and many souvenirs. After shopping you can have lunch or coffee.