Scotland Vacations With Scotland Castles

Is it possible to have good Scotland vacations without visiting a few castles? Castles more or less dot the country side and sit right at the center of so many of the main cities. If you want to enjoy Scotland’s rich history you will find yourself at some sort of castle. Some of these castles are crumbling shells while others have been restored and you can spend the night in one of their stately rooms. There are even castles that you could get married in and rent the entire estate out for your wedding party.

A Short List of my Favorites

Haunted Borthwick Castle, this castle at first sight is so imposing with its gray brick and tall towers. The walls just growl “be ware!” The history in these buildings contains a ghost and a story to go along with it. People claim to see the ghost of a page boy that might be Mary Queen of Scots sneaking past a mob of 1000 men that had come to kill her husband. The best part is that it is in the Edinburgh area and is now a hotel.

Dunrobin Castle is a wonderful contrast to Borthwick. Parts of this castle date back to the 1300s, this castle looks like it comes right out of a fairy tale. White stone with sharp spires all over the place just screams Cinderella. One family has owned Dunrobin for over 700 years and they also have a ghost. Long ago a love sick girl fell to her death trying to escape the castle to meet her love.

Cowder Castle is the last of my short list. The photo that is on my site to represent this castle is so beautiful and makes it easy to dream about living there. This castle is extra famous because it was built around a holly tree where a donkey stopped. The donkey’s owner was told in a dream that this is where the castle should be built. The family still occupies this castle, but they do rent out a few holiday cottages.

Including these castles in your Scotland vacation will make your trip a truly wonderful experience. You don’t have to be a history buff to enjoy them. If you want to have a memorable vacation then be sure to look for the artwork, architecture, gardens, and friendly people. You just can not go wrong with Scotland vacations.

Rigging for the New Year

It’s the beginning of the New Year, and I know it’s cold outside. ‘Tis here in the South, far worse in the North. Yet, I know many of us are ready to take to the field or are contemplating plans to do so. We turn to checking our equipment and making sure it’s ready or deciding to go for something better. After all, we are desirous of the best experiences we can have and share with our fellow and intrepid travelers. How shall we rig for the adventures of this brand new year?

Standard equipment now, a good pair of binoculars, field guide, a good pair of boots, cap, some means of carrying the necessities. Yet, I know there are many times when a good scope is required as well. A good scope requires a good tripod. Ducks and shorebirds on the water, Sandhill and Whooping Cranes in grassy fields and marshes, Gallinules and Green Herons in the bayous-all better seen with a scope. Don’t forget the Peregrines on the rocky cliffs or the Bald Eagles nested in the pines above a mountain lake. There are so many times when a good scope is such a grand instrument to have at hand.

Experience tells this author that one should not try to just get by when considering any optical equipment. This is true for scopes as well. Remember you are buying or wanting to buy equipment that will allow you to enjoy the great outdoors for years to come. You are also buying the company. Make sure the company backs their product with a great warranty and service.

The Vortex 20-60 x 80 Viper HD Spotting Scope is worthy of your consideration. It is backed up by an unconditional and unlimited warranty. It comes in two configurations, straight and angled. Its lenses and prisms are of high density glass and fully multi-coated. The fog proofing is accomplished with Argon gas, a noble gas, extending the life of the scope owing to its inability to attack the O-rings and seals. It has dual focus, a great feature. Couple that with the Vortex Pro Skyline Tripod and you have a rig that is easy to get into the field and will make the experience so worthwhile. Pair a quality scope with a quality tripod. There is nothing more frustrating than having your investment in a scope being compromised by an inadequate, wobbly, heavy, useless tripod. You’ll find the Skyline is the polar opposite of that with anodized padded aluminum legs and a balance hook. It’s topped off with a micro-fluid head for smooth, easy panning of the environs. The Skyline is again backed by a very good warranty.

This author is ready to go on his next trip to the field and knows exactly to what body of water he heads. Binoculars-check; boots-check; field guide-check; cap-check; scope and tripod-you bet! Hope you’re equipped and ready as well. Happy birding!

Follow the Stars to Cannes, or Take in the Best UK Film Locations

Fashion designers are styling up their clients and brand ambassadors, five-star hotels are fully booked under a variety of aliases, there are after parties being planned for after the after party, the limousines have been hired and the red carpet is ready to be rolled out. The movie stars are heading for Cannes and the paparazzi cannot be too far behind – it’s time for the Cannes film Festival.

For most movie enthusiasts in Europe, this is the main event. Some go as far as travelling to Nice to get a glimpse of the stars and, if they are lucky, come away with autographs and pictures with their idols.

But they will need to catch them first. Cannes is known for glitz, and car hire companies offering luxury and prestige car hire in France are seeing their lots emptied of Porsche 911 Carreras and Panameras, as the celebrities arrange their stay. If you’re thinking of heading to the French Riviera, and especially if you’re considering hiring a car to make an impression, try Avis or another high-end company well in advance to avoid disappointment.

“Midnight in Paris” is set to open the 64th Festival de Cannes. The film was written and directed by world famous director Woody Allen and features, amongst other stellar names, none other than Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, wife of the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy.

Woody Allen has always enjoyed a love affair with the French public, who have arguably stuck by him for longer than any other audience while his star has faded in recent years. Indeed, 2002’s Hollywood Ending (which did not even receive a full release in the USA) nodded to this fact when Woody’s character, a Director who covers up his blindness in order to finish a film, wins a Gong at the Cannes Festival and declares “Thank God the French exist.”

The festival organisers are probably on safe ground kicking off with the debut of a new Allen movie titled “Midnight in Paris” – the film is likely to go down well with French audiences and Francophiles alike, as the French capital arguably takes the starring role.

While Paris remains the hot spot for movies shot in France, The UK has a proud history in film production, and several UK locations have been the stars of their own films. Here are a few of the most famous and beautiful locations that merit a visit if a celebrity-chasing holiday in Cannes is not your thing.

The Kings Speech (2010)

This brilliant movie starring Britain’s Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter won 4 Oscars. As expected of a story whose central character is King George VI, all of its 118mins was shot in the UK. 33 Portland Place, Marylebone, London was used as the home of the Duke and Duchess of York. The King and Lionel have their fall out at Avenue Garden near Regent’s Park, London. Elland Road Stadium in Leeds and Grattan Stadium in Bradford was used as Wembley Stadium at start of film. Ely Cathedral in Ely, Cambridgeshire stood in for the iconic Westminster Abbey.

The Thirty Nine Steps (1978)

Voted the most iconic film location in London in a poll, it gained its reputation for a scene in this 1978 thriller in which Robert Powell’s character hangs off the clocks face. For a truly iconic image of London in film it’s hard to beat the nail-biting, clock-ticking drama seen at the top of Big Ben in The Thirty Nine Steps. St Paul’s Cathedral was voted second place, for the scene in Mary Poppins where the hungry pigeons get fed on the building’s steps.

28 Days Later (2002)

One of the most popular British horror movies features various scenes set across the English capital. However, Westminster Bridge, the location for the opening scene of the British horror film 28 Days Later, stands out. In the film, Irish star Cillian Murphy’s character wakes up to find himself completely alone in London and wanders over the deserted bridge.

Robin Hood (2010)

Pembrokeshire on the south west Wales coast which has been seen in two recent films – “Robin Hood” staring Russell Crow and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”. It’s not hard to see how this vast expanse of beach with little pools created at low tide captivates audiences and holiday makers alike, especially those carrying surfboards. The beach is called Freshwater West Beach just down the road from Saundersfoot.

Braveheart (1995)

The 1995 epic drama was filmed in some of Scotland’s most dramatic locations, Glen Nevis, Loch Leven and Glen Coe. Glen Nevis, located under Ben Nevis is where the opening scene is shot. It’s a walker’s haven and home to Scotland’s three highest waterfalls. Glen Coe is a fantastic place for climbers and skiers in the winter and was used for filming scenes on its eastern edge close to the 3,345-foot high mountain, Buchaille Etive Mor.

Harry Potter (Trilogy)

Alnwick Castle is probably the most famous Harry Potter filming locations as the setting for Hogwarts School of Magic, but en-route to Hogwarts and at a number of other times during the trilogy, a train is seen passing over a high railway bridge. This wasn’t computer generated – the bridge is called the Glenfinnan viaduct on the line from Fort William to Mallaig in Scotland, with views down to the Loch itself.

The Da Vinci Code (2006)

Lincoln Cathedral was one of the settings for the 2006 film The Da Vinci Code, although the cathedral which is pretty historic in its own right was meant to look like Westminster Abbey. The fact is, the 13th Century Lincoln Cathedral was just more historic looking than its famous London cousin. There is plenty of history surrounding the castle including having one of only four copies of the Magna Catra in existence. Another of the locations made famous by Dan Browns’ book is The Chapel Rosslyn near Edinburgh. Again the building is steeped in history itself, but it became almost a mecca for Da Vinci Code enthusiasts after the film was released having been named in it. The 15th Century chapel is claimed to have connections with the Knights Templar and the Masons, both of whom are believed to be connected to the Da Vinci Code.

The World is Not Enough (1999)

The iconic British spy trailed the bad guys all over London. Tower Bridge, Tobacco Wharf, Thamesdown Drive, Thames Bank, Stowe School and Stowe Gardens, Royal Victoria Docks, SIS Headquaters (as expected of a true double-0). The list is endless. However, the most memorable was watching James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) chase the baddies along the River Thames in a frenetic boat chase which came to a climax at the Millennium Dome (an iconic masterpiece built to celebrate the beginning of the third millennium). It also features in the opening scene to the movie with Pierce Brosnan parachuting unto the circular landmark.