Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Aberdour Castle and Falkland

While we spent a big chunk of our day in Culross, we did not stay there overnight.  We drove to Aberdour Castle, about a 30 minute car ride away. Aberdour Castle is an Historic Scotland site so there will be an admission charge and hours vary depending on the season so check the website before you travel.

Aberdour Castle stood in for the Sainte Anne de Beaurpe monastery where  Claire helps nurse Jamie back to health after his horrific assault and rescue from Wentworth Prison.  While most of the castle is in ruins there are a couple of intact rooms that have been restored.  The long hall and the kitchen were used in filming this episode.  

 After we left here we went to Falkland.  All Outlander fans are familiar with this town which stands in for the 1940's Inverness.  My husband booked our room at the Covenanter Hotel  which is Mrs. Baird's B&B in the show.  I was so excited when we checked in and discovered our room was the Stuart Room, "the one" that Claire and Frank stayed in.  Of course, the room looked nothing like the set that was used for filming but our window would have been the one that Frank discovers the mysterious "Highlander" ghost looking up at Claire.

The dining room is nice and the staff was very friendly.  The location is great as it's right across from Falkland Palace and we toured there the next morning.  There is public parking around the corner.  However, this wasn't one of our favorite places to stay at on our travels through Scotland.  Honestly, unless you're an ├╝ber fan of Outlander I wouldn't recommend staying here.  We had stayed at so many wonderful B&B's that this location just fell flat for us. 

The town is rather charming.  There are flowers everywhere and it's easy to walk to a restaurant or shop.  We ate at a local place up the hill since the restaurant at The Covenanter was closed that evening.  And there were plenty of shops to pop into if you feel like buying some trinkets.  

Tuesday, March 5, 2019


The next morning we headed towards Culross.  This is a must see for Outlander fans as they have  used this location several times for filming!  Part of the town stood in as Cranesmuir, the palace gardens stood in for Castle Leoch's and various rooms in the palace were used as well.

Just outside of town is the West Kirk Churchyard.  This is the spot where Claire discovers that the young boys were being poisoned by lily of the valley in season 1. The ground is a bit uneven and the stones are falling into disrepair so be careful if you decide to visit.  It's really a beautiful place and the benefits of arriving early on mean we had the site to ourselves. 

In town we found public parking along the waterfront which has a small park with playground equipment and public restrooms. 

Culross Palace is across the street from the parking.  While this grand home was never a royal residence the family was wealthy and the home is opulent for it's time.  It's easy to see why this was an ideal location for many Outlander scenes.  I know we couldn't photograph the interior but the exterior and gardens were fair game. We spent a decent amount of time wandering through the garden and even though it looks rather small it's easy to spend an hour looking at everything.  Okay, maybe not an hour, but I love gardens and this particular style is the stuff of my dreams so perhaps I spent longer wandering through than the average person might.  I would love nothing more than to convert my entire backyard into something similar.  

Harry Potter was hiding in the bird house!  That was a fun discovery. 

After leaving the palace grounds we walked through town.  We purchased a National Trust for Scotland guidebook for Culross at the gift shop and it was helpful as we made our way around.  It gives a brief history of the town as well as the buildings and landmarks of significance.  It has a map of the Culross Trail and it's easy to follow.  We didn't purchase these books anywhere else but since we were touring the town and not just the palace it came in handy.  

The Town House

Mercat Cross

Located up the hill is the Mercat Cross.  This is in season 1 of Outlander where the young man has his ear nailed to the boards after he was found guilty of stealing.  Geillis' house is to the right of here.  Unfortunately for me, there were cars parked there so I didn't get a great photo of the square.  The crew painted everything white for filming and then returned it to the colors seen here. 

The Lockit Well

The Abbey with the church in the background
Culross is a charming village and the people we chatted with were quite nice.  Actually, everyone we talked to in Scotland was so kind and they were just as interested in our story as we were theirs.  I enjoyed talking to the locals and it really was a highlight of the trip for me.  Travel seems to bring people together in the very best way.  I hope you enjoyed this post and my photos today. 

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Visiting a print shop, Rosslyn Chapel and The Kelpies

After a lovely chat with our B&B hosts we headed to Innerleithen to check out Robert Smail's Printing Works.  However, when we got there we discovered there was a delay in the opening time due to a staffing issue.  We stuck around even though our schedule was thrown off a bit.  We were rewarded with an informative tour of the print shop.  The guide was fun and very knowledgeable.  He creates the items you see in the gift shop along with posters and such seen around the buildings.  We were even given the chance to set type and create a bookmark of our own.  While this gent was no A. Malcom,  I really enjoyed this site.

Unfortunately our delay at the print shop caused us to arrive at Rosslyn Chapel later than we had planned on.  Unlike many churches/cathedrals/etc. that are free to enter, Rosslyn Chapel does have an admission fee.  This chapel is still a active place of worship so check your schedule ahead of time to make sure you're not arriving during a service.  We arrived at 4 p.m. and went straight inside to marvel at the details that have made the chapel famous.  Seeing the interior in person is so different from travel shows or documentaries about the chapel and it's sometimes hard to decide exactly where to look next.  There are guide cards that point out features as you walk around.  It's a fairly small church and can get crowded so being patient is a must.  This is the only place we felt rushed during our entire trip!  The chapel closes at 5 but the staff was rushing us out before 4:45.  We had already finished the interior but I never made it completely around the outside before the staff made us return to the visitors center.  An hour would have been the perfect amount of time to spend here.  

After leaving Rosslyn Chapel we checked into our hotel and dropped off our luggage.  There is nothing remarkable about the hotel as it was just a chain but it was clean and the bed was comfortable.  We drove from there to see the Kelpies.  These are the largest equine sculptures in the world and they are beautiful.  We went after all the vendors and the visitor center had closed for the day but before the sculptures were lit for the night.  The crowds were lighter at this time of day and that made parking easier.  

On our way back to the car we spotted this swan family in the canal.  They were so sweet!  We watched them for a bit and then called it a day.  This was a heavy driving day for us but we still managed to get in all the things my husband had planned and we enjoyed every site we visited.  

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Preston Mill and Beyond

We were up early to catch a bus to the airport so we could pick up our rental car and head into the Scottish countryside.  We opted for a rental car to allow us the most flexibility with our schedule and getting around wasn't difficult at all.  We appreciated being able to travel at our own pace and not rely on bus or trains to get us around after we left Edinburgh. 

Our first stop was to be Preston Mill, which is a stop that Outlander fans will recognize as the place where Jamie Fraser loses his shirt while attempting to repair the water wheel near Lallybroch as some British soldiers approach.  We were a bit early though and saw signs for Hailes Castle and decided to see what was there.  It was several miles away and fairly easy to get to. 

Hailes Castle is a free site managed by Historic Scotland.  These charming castle ruins are located along the River Tyne and have a lot of signs to tell you about the site as well as a brief history.  We spent about 30 minutes here, which is all you need, and I felt it was a perfect place to start our travels around the countryside.  Since this isn't a major site we didn't see anyone else until we were walking back to the car so I think it would have been a lovely place for a picnic style lunch, especially on a lovely summer day.

Preston Mill is managed by the National Trust for Scotland and does charge an admission fee.  Since my husband purchased an annual membership for the National Trust we just presented our cards at the desk.  He ordered this ahead of time and had the membership cards mailed to our house in the USA.  After 3 weeks in Scotland, we more than covered the cost of the membership so it ended up being a great deal for us.  It also meant that we didn't need to carry a large amount of money to pay at every site or run our credit cards for admission.  While this isn't an ideal option for everyone, especially if you are limited in time or location, it was totally worth it for us.  


The mill was a working mill until the 1950's and they offer a tour if your interested in the learning all the details of how the mill worked.  It was interesting but the guide gave a bit more information than the average tourist wants to know so it was pretty long.  We spoke at length with the gentleman who was on staff that day about the Outlander crew using the location for filming.  He had so much fun behind the scenes stuff to share about how they transformed the mill and working with the crew that getting his point of view on the filming added so much to the experience for me.  Preston Mill is a must see for all Outlander fans and if you skip the tour of the mill it is a pretty quick stop.  I enjoyed every minute we spent here.

After we left the mill in the early afternoon we headed to Soutra Aisle which is the site of an old hospital built by the Augustinians around 1160.  There is a bit of history here and it's fascinating.  It used to be an important site along one of Scotland's busiest roads at the time.  The hospital remained in use for 300 years before a scandal forced the closure of the site.  Click the link above to learn more.  

Next we drove to Dryburgh Abbey  which is operated by Historic Scotland, so there is an admission fee.  This was such a beautiful place and I loved our time here.  While much of the abbey is in ruins the atmosphere was so calm and peaceful.  Sites like this are some of my favorites to visit.  Sir Walter Scott's tomb is located on the grounds here and you'll find it as you wander around.  

We had a bed and breakfast in Melrose booked for the night and as we made towards there we stopped quickly at Scott's View.  It's a pretty overlook of the valley and was one of Sir Walter Scott's favorite views.  I can easily see why.

Melrose Abbey is also operated by Historic Scotland (see how quickly admission fees can add up) and was our last stop for the day.  There is so much history in these ruins and it's always fun to explore.  It is believed that Robert the Bruce's heart is buried here.  The grounds are expertly maintained and the ruins are easy to navigate.  We were even able to climb up a tower and get a great view of the grounds and hills surrounding the town of Melrose.  Be sure to check out the unique carvings along the top.  

We stayed at The Barn at the Coach House bed and breakfast and it was absolutely wonderful.  The owners, Claire and Donald, have thought about everything to make their guests feel comfortable and at home.  I highly recommend a stay here if you are in the area.  The rooms are well appointed and very clean and breakfast the next day was delicious.  They've earned every single stellar review they have received.