Romantic Breaks in the Highlands

January 30th, 2016 by Emma Gibb

With scenery that is sure to sweep you off your feet and views to get your pulse racing, the Scottish Highlands is an ideal location for a romantic getaway.  Castle ruins, quiet glens, panoramic mountain views, secluded beaches… what could be more romantic?   

From city apartments to idyllic countryside retreats, Gael Holiday Homes has a range of properties that are ideal for romantic breaks in the Highlands.  And it’s not too late if you’re thinking about whisking a loved one away for a surprise Valentine’s break.  Here are a few ideas.

A Coastal Retreat

Why not head to the coast to recharge the batteries and spend some quality time together?  On the scenic west coast, Minch View is located within a National Scenic Area and enjoys a secluded setting with sea views.  Soak up the seascape and the views towards Skye and Lewis and Harris from the sun lounge, go for long walks on one of the lovely sandy beaches around Gairloch or take a wildlife watching boat trip in the hope of seeing whales and dolphins.  There are a number of top attractions in the surrounding area or you could just enjoy the views and the selection of books and DVDs in this comfortable and spacious home-from-home.

Big Sands, Gairloch

A City Break

Inverness is a great choice for a short city break, with plenty of Highland charm.  As well as shopping, sightseeing around the city and walking along the River Ness, your Valentine’s break could include an evening at Eden Court Theatre (also home to a cinema) and fine dining at one of the city’s fantastic restaurants.  You could also explore local attractions and sights such as Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle, or journey further afield – Inverness is ideally located at a crossroads in the Highlands with a host of wonderful day trips on its doorstep. 

If you’re looking for something right in the heart of the city, 404 By the Bridge is a luxury one bedroom serviced apartment on the banks of the River Ness and overlooking Inverness Castle (and you can enjoy the views from your own balcony), only a two minute walk from the main shopping area. 

For something a bit further out No 57 Holm Farm Apartment is located to the south east of Inverness, a 10 minute drive from the city centre.  This modern apartment, built in 2014, is an ideal base for a romantic getaway, finished to a high standard and with everything you need for a relaxing self-catering stay (3 nights minimum stay).

no 57 holm farm

No 57 Holm Farm

A Log Cabin Hideaway

The Speyside area stretches from the coast to the mountains and is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts, whisky lovers, walkers and those just searching for picturesque surroundings in which to unwind.  Ben Rinnes View is a comfortable and cosy log cabin in a peaceful location just outside Ballindalloch.  Enjoy lovely views and walks from the cabin, explore the nearby Cairngorms National Park, discover the world’s only Malt Whisky Trail and try to spot dolphins at Spey Bay.  There’s something for everyone, whether you want to be active in nature or just relax in an idyllic setting.

log cabin

Ben Rinnes View

A Historic Town 

The Royal Burgh of Dornoch is an attractive, historic town, famed for its mild climate, gorgeous sandy beaches and championship golf course.  The town is within a National Scenic Area, on the edge of the Dornoch Firth, with a myriad of attractions and activities to enjoy during a self-catering stay.  No 8 Argyle Place is a two bedroom, luxury apartment ideally located right in the town square, in the centre of Dornoch’s conservation area, with views of the 13th century cathedral.  This modern apartment is beautifully decorated and is available for rent for a minimum of four nights.      

dornoch

No 8 Argyle Place

Visit Gael Holiday Homes for more information and to check availability for your Valentine’s getaway.

Discover The North Coast 500

January 18th, 2016 by Emma Gibb

Discover the North Coast 500 (2)

Right at the top of my to-do list for this year is more of Scotland’s newest tourist route, the North Coast 500 (recently recommended by the New York Times in 52 Places to Go in 2016).  Having already driven the Inverness to Applecross section and a large chunk of the west coast, I have had a taste of how completely jaw-dropping this coastal route is – and I want to see more.  The tip of the mainland is largely unexplored territory for me (I have been to the northern edge as a child and have hazy memories of shrieking at the coldness of the water at Farr Beach) and I have only been as far as Golspie on the east coast.  I am itching to return to the beaches of the Drumbeg Road north of Lochinver with children who I know will love these white sands; I long to visit the Torridon area I have heard so much about; I dream of visiting Smoo Cave on the north east tip of the route, and finding out in Thurso whether I can remember anything from surfing lessons taken years ago.

I hope this will be the year I discover the gems tucked along Scotland’s most northern edge.  For now, though, here are some of my personal highlights from what I’ve experienced of the North Coast 500 so far.

Bealach na Ba Road to Applecross 

The first section of the North Coast 500 takes you from the Highland Capital of Inverness to Applecross and the climax of this is the awe-inspiring Bealach na Ba (or Pass of the Cattle).  The dramatic drive is breathtaking – both in terms of the hairpin corners and the spectacular scenery.  We drove the road for the first time in the dark (I’m not sure whether it made it more or less nail-biting) and in daylight the journey took twice as long as it should have done as I demanded the car be stopped at nearly every passing place so I could take photographs.  We were lucky enough to see red deer roaming the hillside and I was completely and utterly captivated by this mountain landscape.  The views from the top towards Skye and the Outer Hebrides are stunning, as is the sight of Wester Ross rolling out around you, and it is certainly a drive you’re unlikely to forget in a hurry.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Inverewe Gardens

Last summer I explored the Gairloch area for the first time and fell head over heels for this picturesque village, fringed by mountains and sea.  If you’re travelling along the North Coast 500 there are a host of things not to miss in and around Gairloch, from its stunning beaches to wildlife watching boat trips (the view from Big Sand beach towards the Torridon Mountains is so beautiful).  But my favourite of all the local attractions is Inverewe Gardens, managed by the National Trust for Scotland.  At the time of visiting I was still adjusting to life as a mother of two and the gardens, set against Loch Ewe, offered a tranquil oasis in which I could soak up some much-needed peace and quiet.  Inverewe Gardens were created by Osgood Mackenzie in 1862 and are home to a number of exotic plants from around the world.  I walked for an hour and I still didn’t see everything.  I particularly liked the New Zealand section, having lived there a few years ago, the amazing willow sculptures and walking down to the edge of the loch (I’m always on the lookout for a cheeky otter). 

Ardvreck Castle

About three years ago we were travelling along the coastal route north of Ullapool, heading to the Lochinver area, when we spotted castle ruins tucked into the side of Loch Assynt.  We decided to investigate and if you are passing along this route I recommend doing the same.  It is a short walk from the car park to the ruins of Ardvreck Castle, in its impossibly scenic location, and so worth it for the views of Loch Assynt and the surrounding mountains.  We were lucky enough to experience baking sunshine during this trip and Loch Assynt glittered before us like a jewel.  The castle was built in the late 15th century and belonged to the Macleods of Assynt.  From the castle’s vantage point you can also see the ruin of the 18th century Calda House.  A loch, a castle and beautiful views – a pretty perfect place to stretch those legs.  

The Drumbeg Road Beaches 

Without a doubt, the beaches on the Drumbeg Road, north of Lochinver, are among the most beautiful I’ve ever seen: white sands, clear waters and stunning mountain vistas.  Achmelvich, Clachtoll and Clashnessie beaches are found on the North Coast 500 between Lochinver and Kylesku, and were definitely a highlight of this area for me.  Achmelvich is the first beach you reach from Lochinver and there are two little bays to explore, it’s a slight detour from the road but most definitely worth it.  Clachtoll is my favourite of these beaches (I’ve written about my love of Clachtoll Beach before), possibly because we had this gorgeous stretch of sand all to ourselves on a sunny August day.  I recommend walking up onto the headland beside the beach and taking in the views towards the Assynt mountains.  The third beach on this loop is Clashnessie, a lovely reddish beach right beside the road.  I cannot over-emphasise just how picture-perfect these beaches are (just look at these photos!). 

Sunset at Stoer Head Lighthouse

Watching the sun set from Stoer Head Lighthouse is something I’d highly recommend.  Standing on the very edge of the land and looking out on the vast expanse of sea, I found myself thinking about the Outer Hebrides that lay beyond.  The sunset that night was magical, with a lovely light cast upon the Assynt mountains.  Next time I’d love to go in the day and walk along the coastal path to the Old Man of Stoer sea stack (said to to be a good walk for dolphin and whale spotting).  

Why not take a look at Gael Holiday Homes for your North Coast 500 accommodation?  With properties in Inverness, Wester Ross, Dornoch and Easter Ross you can find a cosy home-from-home as a base for exploring Scotland’s answer to Route 66.    

 

Have you driven along the North Coast 500?  What are your highlights? Tell us in the comments box below.

Unwind with a Hot Tub Holiday

December 28th, 2015 by Emma Gibb

A self-catering short break in the Scottish Highlands is an ideal way to relax after the busy festive season.  Forget the hustle and bustle of the Christmas crowds in the wide open spaces of the Highland glens; detox and clear the head by drinking in the peacefulness of ancient forest; and refresh the spirit with exhilarating hill and coastal walks.  A balm to the often frenzied run up to Christmas, a holiday in the Highlands offers beautiful scenery and bewitching landscapes in which to truly recharge those batteries.  

cairngorm_park_2400px

The Cairngorms National Park is a wonderful destination for those who see the great outdoors as an antidote to the excesses of the festive season; whether you want to blow away cobwebs in this outdoor playground or enjoy leisurely walks in spectacular surroundings.   And if your ideal getaway includes a hot tub for easing those post-skiing sore muscles or for simply taking the relaxation level up a notch, Delmhor 1 and 3 are newly built holiday homes in Aviemore, complete with their own hot tubs.

These luxury three bedroom holiday homes are finished to a very high standard and have an outdoor clothing drying room which can be used for storing outdoor equipment.  Located on the road to Cairngorm Mountain, the Delmhor holiday homes make an ideal base for exploring all that the Aviemore area has to offer. 

As well as skiing and snowboarding on the mountain range, you can enjoy a number of peaceful walks and relaxing bike rides in the local area, from Loch Morlich and the Glenmore Forest to the Rothiemurchas Estate.  River, loch, woodland, mountain, beach – Delmhor 1 and 3 have an abundance of soothing scenery on their doorstep.  And if you want nothing more from your new year break than a chance to rest, than simply hop into your hot tub and put your feet up in your home-from-home. 

hot tub

Whether you imagine the perfect Highland getaway to be a luxury, city centre apartment or a log cabin in the countryside, Gael Holiday Homes has a wide range of accommodation for a variety of holiday needs.  Take a look at last minute availability if you’re searching for a holiday home in the next 28 days or search the site by area of accommodation type.  

 

Wishing you a very happy New Year – here’s to a 2016 full of Highland holiday adventure!  

16 Things to Enjoy During a Highland Holiday in 2016

December 19th, 2015 by Emma Gibb

As the final chapter of 2015 draws to a close, let’s look ahead to the shiny new year ahead and all that a Highland holiday has to offer.  Whether you’re planning your summer getaway or Easter break, or just looking for some holiday inspiration, here are 16 things to enjoy during your self-catering holiday in 2016.

1. Architecture in the Highlands  

Next year has been designated the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design in Scotland – the perfect time to discover the hidden gems and contemporary jewels of Scottish architecture.  The Festival of Architecture has a number of events throughout the year, including guided walks, tours and visits to restored buildings with the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland.  You can also pick up an Architectural Guide to the North Coast 500, detailing buildings of significance along the northern coastal route (see below). 

2. North Coast 500

Journey along Scotland’s answer to Route 66, looping north from Inverness via Wester Ross, Sutherland, Caithness, Easter Ross and the Black Isle.  The North Coast 500 takes you along more than 500 miles of spectacular northern Highland landscape, with dramatic coastal views, rugged mountain scenery and unspoilt countryside.  From the jaw-dropping Bealach-na-Ba road (that quite literally takes your breath away) to secluded white sand beaches, this incredibly scenic route has a host of Highland highlights.  With such mesmerising landscape, the only problem you may have is keeping your eyes on the road. 

3. Fort William Mountain Festival 

From the 17th to the 21st February the Outdoor Capital of the UK hosts the Fort William Mountain Festival with a packed programme of mountain-themed events, including presentations, films, workshops, live music and art exhibitions.  Ideal for mountain-biking enthusiasts, skiers and climbers.

4. Skye Live 2016 

Held in Portree from 29th to 30th April, this two day music festival features a mix of over twenty dance, electronic and traditional Scottish music acts.  Booking tickets and accommodation well in advance is recommended.  Even if a music festival isn’t your scene, a trip to the stunning Isle of Skye should definitely be on your bucket list for the Highlands. 

5. Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival  

The rolling countryside of Speyside is malt whisky country – home to around 50 distilleries.  The annual Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is held 28th April to 2nd May 2016, and whisky lovers can enjoy around 400 events such as distillery tours, ceilidhs, live music, walks and, of course, plenty of tastings!

6. Highland Games

A trip to a local Highland Games should be on your list if you’re looking for a uniquely Scottish experience.  Summer is Highland Games season, with Games happening across right the region.  Watch traditional events such as caber tossing and shot putt, as well as Highland dancing and track and field events, and soak up the atmosphere of this family friendly spectacle. 

7. Wildlife Watching                          

The Highlands is home to a diverse range of bird, sea and wildlife, from the famous Moray Firth dolphins (the largest bottlenose dolphins in the world) to the elusive pine martin.  As well as wildlife spotting during walks and bike rides, you can take a wildlife watching boat trip with a number of tour operators such as EcoVentures in Cromarty and Hebridean Whale Cruises in Gairloch.

Moray Firth Dolphins

8. Gin Tasting

Scotland may be famous for its whisky, but as well as touring a distillery why not discover the fabulous gin produced in the Highlands?  One way to experience some of the gins on offer is a visit to the Highland Gin Experience in Inverness.   A gin tasting session of five unique small batch Highland gins costs £20 per person.

9. The Nip Festival

Talking about whisky and gin… if it’s tastings you’re into then Nip, Scotland’s Whisky and Gin Festival (formally the Inverness Whisky Festival), is right up your street.  A celebration of craft whisky and gin produced in the Highlands and Islands, the Nip is held in venues in and around the Highland Capital of Inverness from 29th March to 2nd April 2016.  Events include masterclasses, guided tours, tastings and a drinks exhibition, with the festival culminating at Bogbain Farm.

10. Beautiful Beaches

One of my very favourite things about the Highlands is its abundance of stunning beaches.  From the golden sand beaches around Dornoch to the remote but jaw-droppingly beautiful Sandwood Beach in North Sutherland there are countless treasures just waiting to be discovered.  And the best thing?  You quite often get to hug these gems to yourself.  

Firemore

11. Mountain Biking

The landscape of the Highlands is a haven for mountain biking enthusiasts and the more leisurely cyclist, with everything from challenging hill rides to quiet country tracks and forest circuits.  It’s a great way to see more of the Highlands during your holiday – why not take a look at accommodation that welcomes cyclists?

12. European Pipe Band Championships

Held in the Grant Park in Forres for the third consecutive year, the European Pipe Band Championships is the biggest piping event in the Highlands and a fun family day out.  On 25th June 2016 over 100 bands from across Europe will compete in the championships.  As well as enjoying the piping, there are over 100 retail stalls to browse and lots of lovely local produce on offer.

pipe band

13. The Highland Military Tattoo

Held in Fort George from 9th to 11th September 2016, the Highland Military Tattoo is a fantastic display of pipe and military bands, youth ceilidh bands, Highland dancers and choirs.  Early bird tickets for next year’s event are on sale until 25th January 2016 – don’t miss out!

14. Loopallu Festival  

Loopallu is held in Ullapool, on Scotland’s scenic West Coast, from 30th September to 1st October 2016.  Previous acts have included Mumford and Sons, Paolo Nutini, Shed Seven and Franz Ferdinand.  This year’s line up is still to be announced but it’s a popular festival in a breath-taking coastal setting.

15. Autumn Colours

Autumn is a gorgeous time of year to visit, with fiery shades igniting the landscapes.  Immerse yourself in the autumnal palette in the glens and forests of the Highlands and enjoy seasonal highlights such as migrating geese and the red deer rut.   

rogie-falls_autumn

16. Winter Wonderland

As 2016 reaches its conclusion why not head to Cairngorm Mountain, the Lecht or the Nevis Range for some snow sport fun?  From winter walks to Christmas festivals, the Highlands has plenty to offer the winter visitor.  Experience the raw beauty of the Highlands wrapped in its winter cloak – for me, there is nothing more spectacular than a sunny winter’s day in the Scottish Highlands.

 

Inspired?  Start planning your 2016 holiday with Gael Holiday Homes.

 

Holiday Homes for a Highland Hogmanay

November 25th, 2015 by Emma Gibb

Why not head to the Highlands to welcome in the shiny New Year and enjoy traditional Hogmanay festivities, or just relax after the busy festive season in a comfortable home-from-home.  For me there is no better time to holiday in Scotland; the scenery is even more spectacular when wrapped in its festive cloak and doused in winter sunshine.   

If you think it’s too late to organise holiday accommodation for New Year, think again!  There are still some lovely Gael Holiday Homes properties with availability for Hogmanay, from apartments in Inverness to cosy cottages in the Black Isle.  Take a look at the three holiday homes below and events nearby or contact Gael Holiday Homes for more information on accommodation with New Year availability.

Dun Brae Cottage, Dornoch 

Dornoch is a charming, historic town on the edge of the beautiful Dornoch Firth, known for its championship golf course and stunning beaches.  Dun Brae Cottage offers luxury accommodation for four and is ideally located close to the town centre, overlooking the cathedral and town square.  With a fully-fitted kitchen, cosy living area and beautifully decorated rooms, this lovely period cottage is perfect for a relaxing New Year break.  There is a packed programme of events for Hogmanay in Dornoch including a family ceilidh, a Hogmanay party in the town square and the Dornoch Loony Dook on the 1st January.  If you’re not keen on a New Year dip in the sea, what better than a revitalising beach walk on the first day of the year?  The celebrations continue on the 2nd January with a family treasure hunt around Dornoch, golf competitions and traditional music at Dornoch Cathedral in the evening.  

Dun Brae

Kersheil, Aviemore

The outdoor playground of the Cairngorms National Park is a wonderful place to enjoy a winter break, with snow sports on your doorstep, and ancient pine forest for walking and biking.  Kersheil is only a 5 minute drive and a 25 minute walk from the centre of Aviemore and its peaceful location backing onto woodland means you can enjoy some quiet after the festivities.  

There are plenty of hotels, bars and restaurants in Aviemore where you can enjoy a fun-packed Hogmanay, and nearby Newtonmore has an annual torch-lit procession on New Year’s Eve, accompanied by a pipe band.

After Hogmanay celebrations or a day spent zipping down the slopes, what better than curling up in front of a wood burning stove?  With two bedrooms, spacious living/dining area and a large bathroom, Kersheil is ideal for a family holiday this New Year.

 

Riverview Apartment, Inverness

This luxury one bedroom apartment is an excellent base for a winter city break and is only a 5 minute walk from the centre of Inverness.  If you’re thinking about whisking your loved one away for a short break over New Year, where better than the vibrant Highland Capital?  Riverview Apartment has a modern, fully-fitted kitchen, comfortable living area, private parking, and views of the River Ness.  With shops, restaurants, cafes and leisure amenities within easy reach and fantastic day trips on your doorstep, the apartment is a great base for a Highland getaway. 

As well as a wide variety of pubs and restaurants where you can see in 2016, you can enjoy the atmosphere of The Red Hot Highland Fling on New Year’s Eve - the largest free Hogmanay concert in Scotland - with Gaelic band Capercaillie this year’s headline act.  And at Riverview Apartment you’re only a stone’s throw from it all! 

riverview

BACK TO TOP