The Chain Mail

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Top Five For Summer Days Out


Our intrepid blogger Robin gives his run down on the best places to spend your summer days. This is his top five, we’d love to hear yours!

Escape to Holyrood

Holyrood Park is arguably Edinburgh’s most impressive green lung and is much beloved of locals and visitors alike. How many people, even citizens of the city, know that it is under the care of Historic Scotland? I’m a huge fan of its diversity – here there are wide open spaces to enjoy, an often forgotten chapel and Iron Age fort sites and, of course, Arthur’s Seat. On a calm day you can even picnic atop this 251m high volcano with epic views that take in the whole city and out towards the Pentlands, Lammermuirs and the Firth of Forth. The park is great for getting active too – I love cycling around these paths.

View of Edinburgh

The view from the top at Holyrood Park

Escape Doon the Watter

Hop on a ferry for a real trip back in time doon the watter as you sail across the Firth of Clyde to the Isle of Bute. Its capital Rothesay was once a grand affair, visited by legions of Glaswegians who revered it as their favourite holiday hotspot before the age of jet travel dawned. The star attraction is Rothesay Castle. My parents used to have a wee self-built yacht on Bute so I’ve spent many an hour rambling around what for me is a quintessentially Scottish castle. It comes complete with a proper big moat and a drawbridge. It reclines sleepily today, but it boasts a remarkable history, once besieged by Viking warriors and then used by James IV to launch campaigns against the once omnipotent Lords of the Isles. Highlights include the ‘bloody stair’ and the daunting pit prison, which were both more than enough to fire my youthful imagination!


Rothesay Castle

The rewarding Rothesay Castle after a wee ferry trip

 Escape to the Edge of the Highlands

Dunkeld Cathedral lies on a deeply scenic, not to mention strategic, site right on the banks of the mighty River Tay on the edge of the Highlands. Centuries ago making a journey north of here could be a treacherous undertaking in the days long before Queen Victoria started romanticising the Highlands. The cathedral swirls in history as it was once the administrative seat of the church in Scotland. Inside look out too for an effigy of the legendary Wolf of Badenoch. After visiting I like to relax on a sunny day with a picnic on the banks of the Tay outside. My wee daughters love the excellent playground nearby that is free to use.


Family exploing Dunkeld Cathedral

Exploring Dunkeld Cathedral

Escape Across a Scottish Lake

Yes you heard me right. I said escape across a Scottish lake not a loch, which is exactly what you can do at Lake of Mentieth on the edge of the Trossachs. Inchmahome Priory lies a short boat ride across the calm waters of this birdlife rich lake. It was founded as long ago as 1238 and harbours an eclectic history. Robert the Bruce and Mary Queen of Scots both came to this tranquil spot and it is said that the boxwood bower here was planted by Mary herself. A lovely spot for a summer picnic, relaxing at Inchmahome it’s easy to see what so beguiled the Augustinian canons who resided here for more than three centuries. If you want to enjoy a more active day I’d also recommend a walk up one of the rich bounty of local hills as this is superb hiking country too.

Inchmahome Priory

The ever majestic Inchmahome Priory

Escape to Fort George

There was once a time when escaping from Fort George or finding a way in if you were not welcome would have been very tricky. This mighty military marvel forms the most impressive artillery fortress anywhere in the UK. It sits in an idyllic location perched by the Moray Firth. They host living history programmes during the summer months to give you a real insight into what life would have been like for the redcoats who were stationed here in the aftermath of the last Jacobite rebellion. Indeed, the biggest event of Historic Scotland’s year is held here in August with over 250 performers. The walls themselves are a staggering attraction, sweeping for almost a mile. You can also check out some of the old cannons and various weapons, with the newly refurbished Highlanders’ Museum dedicated to the histories of three of the four regiments that now make up the Highlanders Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland. My wee daughters love looking out for bottlenose dolphins skipping by too. The fort also stages ‘Dolphin Watches’ to help keen dolphin spotters out.


Fort George

Fort George – awaiting your exploration!


What sites would make your top five summer days out? Let us know in the comments!



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!


  1. Lynn Edwards on

    Stirling Castle heads the list. Friendly staff, beautiful views, excellent renovation work. Fascinating! While I’m nearby, The Falkirk Wheel and I must visit the Kelpies now they’re finished. Also NTS sites at Culross and Alloa Tower. And if I could just fit in Kinneil House… I must get to Dundonald Castle again. When I first saw it, it was a heap of rubble. Now it’s a tower house that can be explored. (Why? Maiden name was Cochrane!) Kirkcudbright is another interesting place both for art and to visit McLellan’s Castle – family connections again! And to round things off? Threave. With HS and NTS memberships, I can explore Castle (must get there one day) and Garden (excellent for a wander round and with views that include the local landscape).

    Oh, dear! Rather more than five….

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