16 July 2019

Endless summer days make Scotland best for summer 

Traditionally getting to Scotland involves a drive - and often quite a long one - albeit a pretty memorable road trip. But as flights and carhire drop in price air travel is increasingly an affordable and easy option.

Inverness Airport is expanding fast. It's modern, well-organised and easy and takes flights from many different destinations in England, Ireland and continental Europe. This opens up much of the far north of Scotland, a region more often visited by adventurous Europeans than by the neighbouring English.

There was a recent initiative to make the region more tourist-friendly by renaming the airport 'Inverness Loch Ness Airport' but this was soundly trounced by 88% of Scots consulted. They have the number of tourists they like up there thankyouverymuch, and don't need to resort to gimmicks.

There are two outstanding Wolsey Lodge within easy reach of Inverness. Most northerly is Pool House in Wester Ross, beautifully set on the shores of Loch Ewe with stunning views of both the lake and sea. Once a strategic base during the German wars it is now a haven of rest and relaxation, favoured by more discerning celebrities. There's plenty of do here with fishing, seal-spotting, sandy beaches and just enjoying the sense of space. Walking options are endless, from strenuous hikes to gentle ambles around fabulous gardens and nature reserves. Body and soul are beautifully nourished here. The cuisine is superb, with superfresh crabs and scallops from Loch Ewe and venison from the estate matched with countless other ingredients, all locally sourced. For general well-being there are a range of massage therapies available in the lodge's own dedicated treatment room. All followed by slow late sunsets that would melt the stoniest heart.

Blervie House in Moray is just 40 minutes east of Inverness Airport, overlooking the Moray Firth. Confounding stereotypes, this is the third-sunniest region in the UK, with more than a touch of Gulf Stream warmth. Summer is the time to explore the coast, where you'll find miles of sandy beaches, deserted apart from a few resident seals, and countless small inlets and fishing harbours. Inland there are whisky distilleries, golf courses and National Parks to explore. Blervie House itself is set in an estate of 272 acres, of which 45 are gardens, so with so many riding trails and countryside just outside your door it's tempting, once here, to stay in and make the most of your stately-home surroundings.

Buoyed by many years as a hub for the North Sea's oil industry, Aberdeen Airport has a well-established network of domestic and international flights. This is the airport to choose for Lys-Na-Greyne, a 45-minute drive inland near the Royal Deeside village of Aboyne. This is castle country, with Dunnotttar, Braemar and Balmoral amongst the highlights, with the National Trust operating Crathes, Drum and more. They're all conveniently strung along a 'Castle Trail', but once you're sightseen out the lodge can offer fishing on the River Dee while the Cairngorm National Park is at your door.

Edinburgh and Glasgow airports have long been well served by flights both European and intercontinental, and these are the airports to choose for the other Scottish Wolsey Lodges. Take your pick of either for a stay at Cardross: both are 59 minutes away by car. Cardross is a magnificent mansion whose military origins are revealed in its commanding position: it has fantastic views over the River Forth and the countryside in every direction. Now it's very much a superbly comfortable stately home, beautifully decorated and wonderfully welcoming. There are great castles at Stirling and Doune, Scotland's two major cities are not far away and both east and west coasts are within easy reach.

Old Kippenross is also about an hour form either Edinburgh of Glasgow, and is also three miles from Dunblane Railway Station if you want to complete your journey by public transport. This is a historic building that dates back to 1448, greatly extended into a fortified L-shaped tower house. It was painted pink after the battle of Sheriffmuir in 1715 to signify that it was a safe house for Jacobites and signs of its history live on in every stone. It's now very much a family home though, where you'll get a warm welcome from both your hosts and their pets.

Fly to Edinburgh for Greenhead Farm, Claremont House and Crookstone House.

Greenhead Farm is near Glenrothes in Fife, 40 minutes north across the Forth from Edinburgh. Set at the heart of a large working farm this is a luxurious experience, and a great base from which to explore Stirling, Perth and Edinburgh itself. Though with so many board games in the living room and croquet in the gardens you may find yourself spending more time in the lodge than out on expeditions.

Claremont House is actually in the city of Edinburgh itself and so is easy to reach by taxi or public transport from the airport. This is ideal for a last-minute visit to the famous Fringe Festival and annual Book Fair, but there's plenty more to see in this historic city. There are public transport links to all the major attractions but you can easily walk into the centre and experience living in the city as a local.

Forty minutes to the southwest of Edinburgh Crookston House could not feel more different: a massive rural pile set in its own wooded estate, beautifully rural but near the village of Heriot. Its position near the Scottish Borders means there's plenty of history but the countryside here is beautiful, with the River Tweed cutting through a landscape of open moorland and rounded hills. The beaches nearby are spectacular, including Yellowcraigs and Seacliffe, and if you want to go hill-walking packed lunches can be prepared to set you up for hikes in the Lammermuirts, Pentlands, Moorfoots and Cheviots.

But now you're south of Edinburgh it might be worth reconsidering your fly-drive plans. In many ways a few days at Crookston could form the start of a road trip that sees you continuing on to explore further north on a spectacular Scottish road trip.