Things to Do in The Scottish Highlands
No bricks, no mortar, no buttress -- just stone placed on top of stone on an exposed Lewis hilltop nearly 2,000 years ago, Carloway Broch roundhouse has stood tall against the Isle of Lewis’s raging Atlantic storms since the Iron Age. Looking out to Loch Roag, this is one of the best preserved brochs in Scotland, and parts of the Dun Carloway still come close to its original height at nine meters tall. It’s not clear why these brochs (Scottish drystone roundhouses) were ever built, but it’s thought that they could have been the homes of the high-status local leaders. Even though the building of brochs fell out of fashion in 150 AD, this multi-story roundhouse has continued to be used through the ages. Dun Carloway was even the scene of one particularly dramatic fight back in the 1500s, when a party of Morrisons stole cattle from the Macaulay clan and hid out in the broch. What did the Macaulays do? Smoke their enemies out with burning heather, of course.
Standing proud against the fearsome storms that ravage the north coast of Lewis is the Butt of Lewis Lighthouse. Designed by Scottish lighthouse engineer David Stevenson in the 1860s, the watchtower wasn’t automated until 1998, making it one of the last in the British Isles to lose its lighthouse keeper. While you can no longer go inside, there are information plaques outside, and it’s interesting just to see the lighthouse in all its exposed red-brick glory instead of the usual white. A birdwatcher’s paradise, look out for buzzards, gulls and the occasional puffin soaring around the cliffs. Also, take a close look at the crags being buffeted by the North Sea, some of the oldest exposed rock in Europe, created up to 300 million years ago back in the Cambrian period. While you’re here, follow the coast southwest past the lighthouse. You’ll soon see a natural sea cave, known as the Eye of the Butt
More Things to Do in The Scottish Highlands
On a tiny peninsula at the northern tip of Loch Awe surrounded by glens, Kilchurn Castle is one of the most photographed spots in Scotland. The castle of 1,000 calendar covers, Kilchurn has had many lives: it served as the powerhouse of the Campbell clan from the year 1440 and was even later used as barracks able to house up to 200 troops during the Jacobite Risings. In the 1750s, however, a huge fire caused by lightning ran right through the castle, and its ruins have been abandoned ever since.
Kilchurn is for anyone who has ever dreamed of having a ruined Scottish castle all to themselves, with no tourist trinket shops around. There isn’t even an attendant at the door of this picturesque ruin, but despite being unmanned, there are plenty of information boards throughout the castle. Climb to the top of its four-story tower for views of the loch and surrounding hills, and remember to say hi to the sheep on your way out!
As every Scot knows, Bannockburn was where King Robert the Bruce led Scottish forces to victory over a much larger English force led by Edward II in 1314. Moviegoers may remember the decisive battle from the end of the film Braveheart. This event, so critical to the development of Scottish national identity, is now marked by an imposing equestrian statue of Robert, from where you can survey the surrounding countryside. There is also a more modern monument at the spot where soldiers camped on the eve of the battle. The Bannockburn Heritage Centre explains the historical importance of this conflict amidst the long, fraught relations between Scotland and the “Sassenachs” to the south.
Considering Corrieshalloch Gorge is such a beautiful spot, full of Caledonian pines and rare Atlantic lichen, it might come as a surprise that its name is actually Gaelic for “Ugly Hollow.” Created at the end of the last Ice Age, the gorge is one of Britain’s most impressive box canyons. Carved by glacial meltwaters that burst through the Scottish Highlands over 12,000 years ago, today you can walk the trails along the top of the mossy gorge and get great views down the 60-meter deep crevice, where the Droma river flows in a chain of waterfalls until it makes its most impressive roar of all, in a 46-meter plunge from the Falls of Measach.
If you just want to check out the waterfall and head back, follow the trail to the small suspension bridge 300 meters from the car park. From here, you’ll get great views of the rushing waters and surrounding woods.
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