Keeping true to our word prior to having our son, Barry and I continue to enjoy exploring, learning and sharing through the art of travel, but with the added bonus of sharing it with our wee one. We love to expose him to new sights, and although he will not remember our early family adventures, thankfully the countless photos will be there to serve as proof.
While stationed in Ullapool, Scotland for a week’s getaway with my parents, we designed a perfect family day out for the five of us, and one that can easily be done by anyone with a young family.
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Dunrobin Castle: A Photographer’s Delight
Our perfect day began with a visit to Dunrobin Castle, a stately home in the Highland area of Scotland, and the family seat of the Earl of Sutherland and the Clan Sutherland. Located 1 mile (1.6 km) north of Golspie, this 189-room castle is the largest house in the north of Scotland. Its origins lie in the Middle Ages, and although its history is interesting, full of loss for many and gain for few, it is valid as any other history and one to be learned.
We were kindly invited as guests of Dunrobin Castle by Property Manager, Scott Morrison. Upon arrival we seemed to hit the carpark at a busy time, but fortunately, finding a space was quick and easy. There were marshalls on duty which made the whole car parking experience flow. Once we got out of the car we immediately heard the welcoming sound of the iconic Scottish bagpipes. It was a wonderful way to arrive to this fairytale looking castle which resembles a French château!
We were warmly welcomed by Scott and his wife Laura who advised us to first explore the gardens as the falconry show would begin within half an hour. From the 1st April to the 30th September the birds of prey flying demonstrations take place daily from 11:30am and 2:00pm. It is imperative to mention at this moment that the best way to get around with a baby in Dunrobin Castle and its gardens is with a baby sling or baby carrier. There is no practical way to sightsee with a pram/push chair as there are too many stairs outside the Castle, and hardly any space inside to maneuver one.
As we made our way to the castle’s lawn, we immediately appreciated how gorgeous the grounds are. What a shame that visitors do not approach the castle from the sea side, for that would be a grandiose welcome, with the Castle towering over you!
I love outdoor picnics, and this was a magical setting to have one. We were in our element - family sharing food and time together, feeding the baby, seeing a spectacular show featuring golden eagles and peregrine falcons, both resident birds in the Scottish Highlands. It was simply perfect. After the entertaining and informative show, we had the pleasure to speak to the castle’s professional resident falconer, Andrew Bunting, who was very kind and knowledgeable. It was clear that he loves what he does for a living and that he is good at it.
While walking back to the castle we strolled through the lush and beautiful gardens that were inspired by the Palace of Versailles in Paris, France. In 1850, Sir Charles Barry, who designed the Houses of Parliament in London, England, laid out the gardens. We took the opportunity to visit the museum located off to the side on the grounds. It bursts with hunting trophies and other interesting finds that were not frowned upon in earlier times.
Once back into the Castle, we took nearly an hour to embrace all its beauty and history. Slowly we took it all in. From the entrance hall the main staircase led to the state rooms on the first floor. There the dining table was laid and ready for guests with silver candlesticks. Huge family portraits were on the wall. The library contained over 10,000 books and led the way to smaller rooms which were in the older and original parts of the castle. I kept reminding myself that I was walking where Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip had once visited.
The nursery and the children’s playroom caught my attention for their sheer size. I would not mind if our little man had that at home! Eventually, we ended up visiting the cozy tea room and gift shop on the ground floor which offers a nice variety of Scottish goodies.
It was a lovely visit that encompassed a variety of sights in one visit. Needless to say, we consider that adults and children are well entertained for £11.50 and £7.00 respectively.
Càrn Liath: A Unique Scottish Monument
Our perfect family day out continued soon after leaving Dunrobin Castle for our next destination was about a mile down the road. We were visiting Càrn Liath Broch (English: Grey Cairn) which is an Iron Age broch - a hollow-walled structure found only in Scotland, mainly in the north and west.
Free to visit, open year round, with its own carpark and an information board for visitors, it was a practical site to visit. However, with a baby, it was best to use the sling/carrier once more for the ground is uneven. We carefully crossed the main road and roamed through the solid-based round tower and the ruins of an associate village that would have been contemporary with the broch. It was a quick yet informative stop as this unique Scottish monument shows the ingenuity Scottish Iron Age farmers and their architectural sophistication.
Visiting the broch was interesting to explore with its nooks and crannies and its ‘staircase’ up to the top which is covered in grass. It provided a great view point into the broch interior and over to the Moray Firth while barely noticing the roadway. You can even see Dunrobin Castle in the distance!
This was definitely a fun yet informative detour. Fifteen minutes later we were off to our next stop.
Big Burn Walk: Golspie’s Hidden Gem
Five minutes from Càrn Liath is Big Burn Walk, the spectacular short or long walk up a gorge criss-crossed by footbridges and ending in a waterfall. Signposted off the A9, we parked in the designated carpark, and enjoyed an excellent circuit which at the time comprised of mostly clear yet very muddy woodland paths with steps and steep slopes in places. Proper hiking shoes were definitely a plus to have although I was wearing my faithful ‘chancletas’ (flip flops) at the time.
The walk was a pure delight. Once more, we took our little man in the baby carrier for it would not have been practical to use a pram. We crossed back and forth across the river in dappled sunlight and the water falling from the moss and the ferns enriched our senses. It was as if the fairies were welcoming us!
Following the well-maintained path, we went under a superb railway viaduct and through a rocky gorge before finally arriving at a magnificent hidden Big Burn waterfall. It was like being inside a Japanese landscape painting.
I did not want to leave, but the day was coming to an end, and we were driving back to Ullapool which would take over an hour and a half.
Our perfect family day out was a success, and it had all be done on a low budget. We learned a bit of everything that day and enjoyed both the in and outdoors. However, the best part was sharing and spending time amongst family. That was priceless.
Join us next time when our family adventures take us to Stonehaven.
Until then, happy reading and safe travels.