Scotland is one of the most hauntingly beautiful places in the world. The history is fascinating, the men are handsome, and the whiskey is delicious. – J.K. Rowling
While I’m not a fan of whiskey, leave it to the incredible J.K. Rowling to perfectly sum up my thoughts about Scotland!
About a year ago, I shared my first experience exploring Scotland with my good friend Ian Walker. Ian of Borders Journeys is an incredible tour guide who specializes in private sightseeing, ancestral and Outlander tours of Scotland. He is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to his beautiful homeland and he truly goes above and beyond for his clients. Whether it be family history and ancestral research, creating customized itineraries, or thinking of fun and creative experiences for a client of any age – Ian’s main priority is to give you the trip of a lifetime. He’s also a fantastic photographer so you’ll walk away with so many memories and photos to share on Facebook with your friends and family.
The beauty of Scotland cannot be captured in just a few photographs, which is why I had to create a short montage video of my most recent trip in November.
EXPLORING WITH A SCOTSMAN
Ian’s love for his country runs deep which is why he is the perfect person to show you around Scotland. Whether you’re exploring Scotland for your first or fifth time, I can almost guarantee that Ian will take you somewhere you never knew existed. He knows how to find those hidden gems. After all, so many guide books and travel blogs will recommend asking locals for the best places to eat and explore! What’s better than actually traveling around with a local? Thanks to Ian, I’ve visited family-run castles, famous filming locations, and even stayed overnight in the oldest inhabited house in the country!
OUTLANDER IN SCOTLAND
Author Diana Gabaldon began writing the Outlander series in the 90’s, which is a story about a 20th-century English nurse who time travels back to 18th-century Scotland. Thanks to the huge success of the recent TV adaptation, fans of Outlander have been pouring into Scotland. Lucky for tourists, Outlander primarily shoots in Scotland which means there are so many filming locations to explore!
Just outside of Edinburgh’s city center, you’ll find a ruined medieval castle called Craigmillar. Multiple scenes from Series 3 of Outlander (airing later this year) were filmed here. However, this ancient site is so worth visiting even if you’ve never heard of Outlander! It was built in the 14th century and lived in by noble families until the 1600’s. Mary, Queen of Scots was just one of the famous visitors who stayed in Craigmillar Castle!
Nothing is roped off at Craigmillar Castle. You are free to explore every nook and cranny… and there’s a lot of them! Although it’s a ruined castle, there are so many rooms still intact which you can set foot in. You just have to use your imagination for the furniture! Don’t miss out on climbing to the very top to see sweeping views of Edinburgh, surrounding towns, and the North Sea.
We also visited Drumlanrig Castle where some great interior and exterior scenes were filmed for series 2 of Outlander. Drumlanrig is known as one of Britain’s grandest castles and it’s easy to see why! It is home to the Duke and Duchess of Buccleauch and Queenberry who have one of the most extensive and impressive private art collections. The vast majority of the collection, which mostly consists of paintings, furniture, and jewelry, is divided between their three main houses – Drumlanrig Castle, Bowhill House, and Boughton House.
Due to the preciousness of these famous artworks, photographs are not allowed inside. Although, you can easily fill up an entire memory card of photos just from exploring the grounds! It’s really hard to take a bad picture at Drumlanrig, and we were blessed with so much sunshine even in November. Bowhill House, which I mentioned before, was another place we visited which is owned by the same family. While not as grand as Drumlanrig, this is truly a family home.
LIVING, BREATHING HISTORY
As an American who isn’t used to exploring castles and historic homes on a daily basis, it was surprising to see how many of these places are still lived in. I loved seeing family photos right next to famous paintings or furniture that once belonged in Versailles! It is such an interesting contrast and one that I enjoy taking in all throughout Scotland.
One of my favorite places Ian has taken me, and one that I’ve written briefly about before, is Traquair House!
Dating back to 1107, Traquair House is the oldest continuously inhabited house in Scotland. Catherine Maxwell Stuart, the 21st Lady of Traquair, has done a brilliant job of opening her home up to visitors in a way where history comes alive and is so accessible to all. You can explore Traquair from April – November, but one thing I highly suggest is staying overnight which you can do year round! This was one of my favorite things I’ve ever done on my travels and I can’t wait to share my entire experience with you later this week. Stay tuned!
Have you visited Scotland before? Do you want to plan a trip this year or next? Let me know in the comments below!
More information about Ian Walker & Borders Journeys: