The Chain Mail

Welcome to The Chain Mail - a visitor’s guide to the sights and sounds of Historic Scotland

Top 5 Romantic Escapes


It’s mid-July and wedding season is in full bloom. This got us thinking about romance in Scotland, so we sent our roving blogger Robin McKelvie out to track down what he considers our most romantic escapes in Scotland. Here’s his top five:

Inchmahome Priory

A boat trip to Inchmahome Priory

A boat trip to the stunning Inchmahome Priory

What could be more romantic than casting off across still waters in search of an atmospheric old priory with the Trossachs rising in the background? This is exactly what you can do with your amour with a wee boat trip across the Lake of Mentieth to Inchmahome Priory. Founded way back in 1238, Augustinian canons lived here for more than three centuries.  Today, stories swirl around it of an intoxicating history that saw two of the most romanticised Scottish monarchs, Mary Queen of Scots and Robert the Bruce, make the journey over the lake. The boxwood bower here was apparently planted by Mary! On a sunny day just settle down on the island and enjoy a picnic for two as you watch the bountiful local birdlife.

Iona Abbey

beaches on the island of Iona

Beautiful abbey and fantastic beaches on Iona

Iona has a special place in the hearts of many Scots and no wonder. Whether you are religious or not, for most visitors this is a deeply spiritual and moving island, the perfect setting for pondering some of the larger things in life and, of course, for turning your attention to matters of the heart. The iconic abbey was founded by St Columba back in 563 and it played a crucial role in the development of Christianity in Scotland. This is a truly beautiful place that created great beauty too – the Book of Kells is said to hail from here and many impressive carved stones and crosses were sculpted on Iona too. Highlights of a visit include the high crosses, Columba’s Shrine and the Abbey Museum. As well as a romantic stroll around the abbey and the island’s tiny settlement you can slip off to one of the often deserted white sand beaches or climb up Dùn Ì, which offers sweeping views back to Mull and out towards a sprinkling of smaller isles.

Lochranza Castle

Lochranza Castle

The atmospheric Lochranza Castle

I’ve been visiting the Isle of Arran every year since I was a wee boy and I find Lochranza Castle almost unbearably romantic. There is something about a ruin that really stirs the heart. This one lies in a spectacular location on the northern tip of one of my favourite Scottish islands. The sturdy 16th-century tower house sits on the site of a 13th-century hall house, which is still easy to make out within the larger, newer structure. The castle reclines surrounded by a wildscape of hill and glen on its own pebbly promontory sticking right out into the sea. The last time I visited, a herd of deer was wandering around by its charming stone walls while a basking shark patrolled the waters just offshore. On a crystal clear evening I watched this leviathan swim around as Lochranza’s resident colony of seals peered on curiously!

Holyrood Park

Dunsapie Loch in Holyrood Park

Spoilt for picnic locations and walking trails in Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park

How many couples strolling around Holyrood Park realise that it comes under the care of Historic Scotland? This green lung just oozes romance whether you are feeding the swans at St Margaret’s Loch in the shadow of St Anthony’s Chapel, or gazing down on to the Palace of Holyroodhouse from the lofty heights of Salisbury Crags. I love losing myself in this surprisingly wild landscape away from the sights and sounds of the busy city of Edinburgh, dreaming up historic scenes of royal hunting parties and camped out Jacobite armies. There are plenty of historical sites to unearth too, with two surviving holy wells of St Anthony’s and St Margaret’s and a quartet of Iron Age forts and farmsteads. On a sunny day Holyrood Park is also ideal for a romantic picnic.

Sweetheart Abbey

Sweetheart Abbey

Sweetheart Abbey – the name alone conjures romance!

The name instantly conjures up a sense of romance that just deepens when you learn the heart-warming story of this graceful abbey. The name derives from Lady Dervorgilla of Galloway. When her beloved husband John de Balliol passed away she insisted on carrying his embalmed heart around with her everywhere for twenty years until her own death. She was then buried still clasping her husband’s heart. Even without this beguiling tale, this romantic ruin in the rolling countryside of Dumfries and Galloway is a charming place with much of the abbey church still intact. Sweetheart Abbey for me is the perfect testament to both religious love and of the love of two people that even death could not separate.

And that rounds off Robin’s top 5 – do you agree with his choices?

With all this talk of romance you may be interested to know that many of our beautiful historic sites around Scotland double as unique wedding venues! You can get the full list on our website, and we also have a Pinterest board with photographs of big days at our sites.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and explore all romantic Scotland has to offer!



About Author

Robin McKelvie

Robin is a full-time travel writer, photographer, broadcaster and blogger who has worked in more than 100 countries. His articles have appeared in over 150 magazines and newspapers across five continents. Robin lives in South Queensferry with his family and is extremely excited about blogging his Historic Scotland experiences!


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