Saturday, 30 January 2016

Scotland's Best B&Bs guide to Outlander Film Locations

Every now and then a film or TV program comes along that introduces the delights of Scotland to a whole new generation of people.  In the 80's it was 'Highlander' and 'Local Hero', in the 90's it was 'Braveheart', in the Noughtie's it was 'Monarch of the Glen'.  The most recent addition to this impressive group is the TV series 'Outlander'.....the story of of Claire Randall who finds herself living in two worlds, 1940's Britain after World War II and in 18th century Scotland around the time of the Jacobite rebellions.
Main character 'Claire Randall' pictured filming Series 2 at Culross
The books have already captured the imagination of millions, but the TV series has really bought them to life, opening them up to a whole new audience who had never read the books before. 

We especially love 'Outlander' here at Scotland's Best B&Bs with many of our B&B owners avid readers of the books and now fortunate enough to live near where the filming is taking place.  We are so lucky that the program makers have remained true to its Scottish roots and used so many different locations all over the country.
Cast and Crew pictured filming at Culross
With so many keen fans of Outlander in our group, we decided to pool our knowledge and help you find where the locations used in the series have been filmed.  With our B&Bs help, we have added a whole new page to our website dedicated entirely to Outlander Film Locations which helps you track them all down.  We also have a handy map so you can plan a route taking in as many locations as possible whilst helping you find the perfect B&B to stay in on the way.
Visit our site to see the interactive map of 'Outlander Locations' and B&Bs near by

 Our favourite Outlander Locations
Castle Leoch...Otherwise known as Doune Castle
Doune Castle - Already a star of Monty Python Films and used in Game of Thrones, Doune is used as the location for Castle Leoch and home to Jamies uncle Colum MacKenzie.

Culross - You wouldn't imagine that 'Cranesmuir' could possibly be a real place and not a film set, but it is.  The wonderfully preserved town of Culross makes the perfect place to film the many  scenes in the fictional town of Cranesmuir.  Those familiar with the series will recognise lots of buildings featured in the program.

You can also find other locations here, such as Claires Herb Garden, which in the series is at Castle Leoch (Doune Castle).

And if you are super lucky you might catch a glimpse of actual filming taking place!

Falkland - The  beautiful town of Falkland features prominently in the 1940's scenes where Claire and her husband Frank visit Scotland to have a second honeymoon after the war.  The town plays the part of 'Inverness' although the real  Inverness is many, many miles away!
Here you will find Mrs Bairds B&B, Campbells Coffee shop and the town square.  This town also features in the opening credits of the series.  As well as the town you can also visit the fabulous Falkland Palace which is just a short distance away.

Blackness Castle -This foreboding castle is the perfect location for the scenes of Black Jack Randalls fearsome Fort William headquarters.  The castle is actually not far from Edinburgh, whereas the real Fort William is many hours drive away.
Highland Folk Museum - To really step back in time, then a drive to the real Highlands and a visit to the Highland Folk Museum is a must.  Used as the location of the fictional MacKenzie Village it is made up of authentic highland dwellings, farm buildings and tradesmen businesses.

These are just a few of our favourites, but if you visit our website you will find loads more on a list that is growing series by series.  We have already added some locations we know about for Series 2 and will update as soon as it hits the screens in April.....we can't wait!

And if you are really, really lucky, you might get to actually see some filming taking place and bump into some of the cast like Irene Goddard did from Wyvis Boutique B&B in Tillicoutry!

Visit our Outlander Film Locations webpage to find more, and our general website to find the perfect B&B for your Outlander tour

Monday, 18 January 2016

Our recipe for a great Burns Supper - Burns Night 25th January

In a few days time Scottish people all over the world will be celebrating the birth of their most famous poet, Robert Burns.  Born in Alloway, Ayrshire in 1759, Burns was celebrated in his own lifetime for his poetry and songs and the influence he had on his contemporaries. In the years since his death, Burns poetry has reached right round the world....whether you realise it or not you are singing a Burns poem every New Years Eve when you join hands to sing 'Auld Lang Syne'
Robert Burns Birthplace Museum - Photo by Sunnyside B&B near Ayr
Celebrating Burns Night is becoming more and more popular outside of don't have to 'be' Scottish or even know anyone Scottish to join in!
Haggis, Neeps and Tatties prepared by Wyvis Boutique B&B in Tillicoultry

Traditional Burns Supper
1 x Haggis
500g of Large White Potatoes
500g of Turnip/Swede/Rutabega
50g Butter
50g Cream
Salt and Pepper
1. Depending on the sort of Haggis you have bought (ie 'traditional in natural casings' or 'easy cook' version) you will need to consider how to cook it.  Traditional haggis should be cooked in water on a gentle simmer....timings will differ according to size.  Modern versions can be cooked in minutes in the microwave

2. Peel the Neeps (Turnip/Swede) and the Tatties (Potatoes), then chop into small chunks and boil separately in lightly salted water.  Swede can be particularly stubborn so smaller chunks are recommended.  Once they are soft to the pressure of a fork, drain and mash with cream and butter to taste and a little bit of seasoning with Salt and Pepper.
3. When everything is ready, serve.....but only once you have piped in and addressed your haggis!

If you want to make your Burns supper extra special, add a ladle of Whisky Sauce.

Whisky Sauce
Scottish Whisky - How much? You decide!
500ml Double Cream
2 tsp Wholegrain Mustard
Salt and Pepper to taste
Chopped Parsley and Rosemary to garnish
Haggis, Neeps and Tatties with Whisky Sauce served in a 'stack'
1. The trick with Whisky sauce is to burn off the alcohol at the beginning to avoid your sauce being too bitter. So start with a hot pan and pour in the whisky (recommend 3-4 teaspoons, but you decide!).  Now light the sauce and burn off the alcohol....carefully

2. Now gradually add the cream, stirring all the time

3. Add the mustard

4. Continue to stir over a gentle heat until the sauce has thickened.  Add salt and pepper to taste 

5. Drizzle over your Haggis, Neeps and Tattie and garnish
And if you don't have your own piper, or can't get your tongue round the Burns poem, just play ours here provided by our B&B Northlands in Pitlochry

And last but not least, you need plenty of Scotch Whisky to accompany your supper and ensure you are in good voice.

If you would like to learn more about Robert Burns then you must visit the Burns Birthplace Museum and other Burns related sites in Ayrshire.  You can immerse yourself in the landscape that inspired such a great man. Visit our website to learn more about this part of Scotland and find some wonderful places to stay
View from Turnberry in Ayrshire looking towards Ailsa Craig and Arran, picture taken by our B&B Cosses Country House, Girvin
And here is our B&B owner, Gordon Bulloch from The Dulaig in Grantown on Spey, signing off with a recitation of the Burns poem 'Holy Willies Prayer' at a Burns Supper last year

Happy Burns Night! Slainte!

Sunday, 10 January 2016

The Modern Wonders of Scotland - The Kelpies & Falkirk Wheel

It might surprise you to know that two of the most visited sites in Scotland are not its Castles or Lochs, but a couple of more recent additions to the Scottish Landscape.

Scots are famous around the world for their ingenuity and engineering prowess and nowhere is this more apparent than in the former industrial town of Falkirk.  If there was a list of Modern Wonders of the World, then surely The Kelpies and The Falkirk Wheel would be on it.  Both are modern day testaments to the engineers that built them and incite the same sense of awe the Steam Engine and  the standing stones did 100s of years before.

The Kelpies

The Kelpies were only completed in April 2014, but they have quickly found their way into the affections of everyone who has visited them.  Forming the centre piece of a huge regeneration project called 'The Helix', the Kelpies were the brainchild of the talented sculptor Andy Scott.  Asked to come up with an original idea for a site where the Forth and Clyde Canal meets the the River Carron, Andy married the strength of the iconic Clydesdale Horses who towed barges along the canal during its industrial past, with the mythical Kelpies of Scottish Legend

The figures involved in these huge structures are staggering.  Standing at 30 metres tall they are the largest equine structures anywhere in the world.  300 tonnes of steel was used to make them and they were erected over the course of just 5 months.  

These beautiful horses have to be seen to be believed....and whatever you do, don't forget your camera!

For a small charge you can park at the Kelpies themselves, or at the nearby Falkirk Football Stadium. If you park at the stadium you can enjoy a pleasant walk through The Helix Park and then along the canal which will deliver you to The Kelpies where there is also a Visitors Centre, cafe and shops.  We would recommend you allow at least half a day.

The Falkirk Wheel
The Falkirk Wheel and Visitors Centre
Travel just 4 miles (10 min drive) along the canal from The Kelpies and you will arrive at the Falkirk Wheel.  This feat of engineering has been fascinating visitors since it opened in 2002.
The aquaduct the transports boats to and from the wheel
The wheel was designed to replace a series of 11 locks which dealt with the 35 metre difference in height.  The wheel transports boats and barges by either raising them up or delivering them down to the different sections of the canal via a cantilever boat lift.  This is the only rotating boat lift of its kind in the world...there are other designs, but none as beautiful as this.
Approach to the Falkirk Wheel from the upper level
Visitors can take a 50 minute trip experiencing being lifted in a boat on the wheel and then traveling along the canal before returning to the Visitors Centre.  There are other activities at the Visitors Centre as well as a shop and cafe and a restaurant nearby if you fancy something a bit more grown up.   Make sure you book your tickets in advance during peak season.   
The Forth and Clyde Canal
 These two sites are just a part of a whole range of Attractions that can be found in this region of Scotland.  To find out more about what else you can do and where you can stay visit our website.  We have listed a number of interesting sites in this region including Castles, Wildlife, Gardens, Distilleries and Golf Courses.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

North Coast 500 - Ultimate Scottish Road Trip

You might not have heard of it yet, but soon the North Coast 500 route will be at the top of your bucket list.

This new, unique route follows a circular tour of the most northerly part of the country, hugging the coastline as it guides you around some of Scotland's most iconic scenery.

Launched in 2014, the North Coast 500 route was the brainchild of the North Highland Initiative Group which is headed up up by His Royal Highness Prince of Wales.  The whole route is designed to make the very most of the spectacular coastline and scenery that encompass the counties of Caithness, Sutherland, Ross, Cromarty and the northern tip of Invernesshire.  Many visitors don't make it to this part of Scotland, which is a huge shame as it includes many of the iconic scenes that attract people to the country in the first place.

Starting in Inverness, you can choose to do the route either clockwise, or anti clockwise....whichever way round you go, you can expect to see splendid sights like these along the way...these are some of our favourites...

Strathy Point - As you drive along the Northern part of the route you will pass many spectacular cliffs with views towards to the Orkneys and Shetland.  Beaches pepper this part of coast, their golden sand at odds with the usually cold temperatures of the North Sea   
This part of the coast also includes the famous Ducansby Stacks and Lighthouse as well that the most Northerly point of the UK mainland, Dunnet Head.   If you are lucky, and depending on the time of year you can watch the entertaining puffins and other seabirds as well as catching a glimpse of whales, dolphins and seals.
Ullapool - Ullapool is one of the larger towns in the North Highlands, albeit home to only about 1500 people.    Originally a Herring port, Ullapool has been a popular tourist destination mainly because of the picturesque harbour, surrounded by mountains and its mild climate.
Loch Assynt & Ardvreck Castle - Not all of the route sticks slavishly to the coast.  Occasionally the mountains and cliffs force the road inland where yet more wonders await.  On the North Western part of the route as you travel along the A837, you pass the beautiful Loch Assynt.  If you are really lucky you might catch a glimpse of the Mermaid of Assynt.  

Sitting upon the shore lie the ruins of Ardvreck Castle, home to the Clan McLeod.  As with the loch itself, the castle is swathed in myth and legend and you should keep a special eye out for one of the two ghosts prowling the ruins.
Torridon -  In the south eastern part of the route you will find Loch Torridon and the hills, mountains and Glens of the same name.  It is widely accepted that Torridon has some of the best mountain scenery of the whole of the British Isles. No wonder it is so popular with climbers, photographers and wildlife watchers
Shieldaig - Just along Loch Torridon as the A896 heads out to sea (or inland if you are going clockwise) you find the stunning village of Shieldaig. Nestled between the two ends of Loch Torridon and looking out over its own Loch of Shieldaig

Northern Lights - For the truly lucky, and those willing to do the North Coast 500 outside of the busy tourist season, a real treat awaits.  The Aurora Borealis is more easily seen the north of the country where light pollution is minimal in the autumn and winter. 

Slowly does's not a race.....
The whole point of the North Coast 500 route is to take time to appreciate the stunning views and scenery as you drive. You MUST get out of your car and stop a while to really enjoy the views and the wildlife around you.  There are so many places to visit on the way....castles, distilleries, museums, wildlife sites, towns and villages. You don't even need to do it all in one one side one year and the other side the next.   If you do it all too quickly, you will miss the point of doing it in the first place

Just some of the Classic Cars available for hire at our B&B Kennels Cottage near Dollar

It won't surprise you to know that Scotland's Best B&Bs have Bed and Breakfasts along the entire length of the route.  Many are located in the most spectacular of settings with views of the lochs, mountains and sea. 

We have a page dedicated to the route and our B&Bs along it on our website

 Click here to see a full version of our handy map with our B&Bs pinpointed as well as lots of Points of Interest en route