Whisky and history. What more could a family ask for in a holiday?
And with half term fast approaching, a trip to take in some of Historic Scotland and The National Trust for Scotland’s finest properties could be just the right tonic.
As autumn approaches there is no-where better than The Highlands, the drive up north from East Lancashire is wonderful in itself as you take in the breath-taking scenery made all the more better with the changing colours of the trees. In fact it it the favourite time of the year for Ruaridh (6) and Flora (4) who joined me north of the border.
Only a spits distance from the capital Inverness lie three historic beauties. Dallas Dhu Distillery and Fort George, both belonging to Historic Scotland and Brodie Castle, cared for by The National Trust for Scotland. All three are ideal for families as they have something for everyone. Fort George dates back to the 18th century and is the only ancient monument in Scotland still functioning as intended, a working army barracks, but still open to visitors.
It hit the headlines a short while ago when actor Hugh Grant saved it from closure and it is well worth a visit. The fort was created following the 1746 defeat at Culloden of Bonnie Prince Charlie. George II created an ultimate defence against further Jacobite unrest. Fort George is regarded as the mightiest artillery fortification in Britain, if not Europe.
Its great to wander around, for adults and children too, Ruaridh loved the hand held commentary radios which allowed us to potter around at our leisure and get an insight into the workings of the fort.
These days there are not many soldiers about, but you get a real sense of how things worked at the height of military life as you look about. The children particularly loved the walk round the walls, which at certain times of the year play host to a dolphin display as the loveable creatures do their stuff in the bay next to the fort.
Its credit to the fort, that if it was built today it would cost more than a £1 billion to create. The building house everything soldiers need and comfortable barracks too.
We left Fort George to head for Brodie Castle, a 16th century castle which has you dreaming of turrets and romance! Set in beautiful grounds, which allow you to wander through some wonderful countryside the castle itself is full of antiques, paintings and cermaics, all a legacy of the Brodie clan. The 71 hectare estate also boasts a woodland walk, fabulous adventure playground and a nature trail.
As you contine from Brode to Dallas Dhu Distillery, you can enjoy the lovely drive to Forres, a nice wee town famous for its Britain in Bloom entries.
Dallas Dhu is typical of small distilleries built in the 1900s and is a fantastic way of appreciating how whisky is made. Via a audio guide you are given an insight into how whisky is made and a chance to see the equipment at close. Historic Scotland is in the process of working out if the distillery is worth opening as a living history museum and I hope it works out as it is a lovely site, full of potential.
And so from The Highlands, heading home. To break the journey we called at a National Trust for Scotland gem, Pollock House in Glasgow and the National Museum of Rural Life in nearby East Kilbride.
Pollock House gives a real taste of upstairs and downstairs life in the 1930s, the house is just outside the city centre in a lovely park and has the United Kingdom’s finest collection of Spanish art and an impressive servants quarters.
The National Museum of Rural Life gives the visitor a chance to get back to the land and experience the traditional way of life on a Scottish Farm in the 1950s. Packed full of equipment used in the 50s and with a tractor ride up to the farmhouse to experience life in the farm house and to see how a modern farm work, this museum is great for children.
And by the time you are finished and head home, you will be exhausted, but full of history and nostalgia!
For more information on Historic Scotland sites, log onto www.historic-scotland.gov.uk
Brodie Castle is cared for by the National Trust for Scotland. Log onto www.nts.org.uk