Central Scotland is a treasure-chest of scenery, traditional arts, lovely villages and riches untold.
Fertile, coastal farmland borders these Scottish villages. The changing vistas tease you to push on to the Highlands, but stop here and savor. Golf--especially at St. Andrews, the spiritual home of golf—is worth the visit even if you’re not a player.
The many castles and palaces, rivers and coastlines, speak to the enduring pleasure and appeal of this area. They are also a testament to the history and heroes here that made Scotland what she is today.
Dunfermline Abbey and Palace:
Founded in the 11th century by St. Margaret, this abbey’s Roman-style nave is stunning. St. Margaret’s is Robert the Bruce’s final resting place. Well, in part... He requested that his heart be removed upon his death and taken on a crusade to the Holy Land. In fact, a skeleton with the heart chamber cut open was discovered here in 1818. The site is marked with a plaque to honor one of Scotland’s greatest heroes.
This is the home of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Stuart kings from 1541 onward. Falkland will give you an intimate glimpse of royal bedchambers, tapestries, and clothing. Most surprising is that Britain’s oldest tennis court, built in 1539, is here and is still ready for a game! Unlike modern tennis, the original game was played indoors and is similar to squash.
Bannockburn Heritage Center:
This is the site of the decisive battle against England in 1314. There’s a visitor center here, complete with a striking statue of Robert the Bruce on horseback. The energy of it is very emotional—take a few moments. The kids (and grown-ups!) can try on helmets and chainmail at the visitor center. Have a peek in Bruce’s cave, and watch the fabled spider that inspired him to renew his fight for Scotland’s freedom. Another must!
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park:
The broad, friendly mountains and poetic beauty of Scotland’s first national park are ideal for the casual walker, visitor, and water sports enthusiast. Luss is the prettiest village in the area, and also hosts the popular Highland Games in June. (Plus, the town has some very cozy tea shops.) Catch a cruise on Loch Lomond from Luss, and enjoy the sunset.
Inhabited for 5,000 years, this glen has an extraordinary number of archaeological remains. Among them are standing stones, temples, and burial cairns. Pause at Kilmartin Church for the best collection of early Christian crosses. There is certainly a sacred air to this site.
Rothesay Castle, Bute:
This is a magical, medieval castle. Built in 1098 during Norse occupation, it is only one of the two castles left in Scotland with a deep-water moat. Its design is unique due to its age. It was vaguely remodeled in the 13th century and fitted with high curtain walls and drum towers. Its circular courtyard is an odd, and wonderful, style for Scotland.
This 14th century castle is pure enchantment. Visit Lord’s Hall, with its musicians’ gallery, double fireplace, and oak screen. It’s easy to take a trip back in time when you’re here!
The word Neuk means corner, and East Neuk refers to a small bend in Scotland’s central coastline. This coast wears a chain of villages that’s as lovely as a strand of pearls. Don’t hurry—every village is a true gem. Exceptionally quaint, spend some time in the towns of Elie and Crail. They are a magnet for artists. Pitterweem’s lovely harbor is a working port, while Anstruther, a haven for yachts, has a seafront that buzzes with energy.
Called “The Fair City,” Perth is perfectly situated on the tree-lined River Tay. Perth’s lanes are a mélange of small shops, making it one of Scotland’s best—and prettiest—spots for window-shopping and buying. No historical buildings here, but Perth is a great center to explore Central Scotland. It’s a great walking town, and one particularly fine path leads you to Kinnoull Hill. What’s there? Absolutely amazing views. Bring a picnic!
This town may be the perfect introduction to some of the simple joys of Scotland. Called “The Tartan-and-Tweed” town, there’s a long history here as well as a fine theater. It’s also near some of Perthshire’s most scenic spots. If you’re an angler (fisherman) make a beeline to the fish ladder, where salmon leap up a series of pools to reach their spawning grounds. Even if you’re not interested in fishing, it’s really something to witness their enthusiasm!