Edinburgh, ScotlandThe culturally and historically rich capital city of Scotland, Edinburgh is bounded by the Firth of Forth and the Pentland Hills. There is something for every interest and sites and activities too numerous to mention. Some of the most popular attractions include The National Museum of Scotland, with over 20,000 exhibits spread over 36 galleries, the Museum of Childhood, full of toys and objects both past and present, Dynamic Earth, the only place in Scotland where you can travel through time and around the planet, and Edinburgh Castle, sitting majestically at the top of the Royal Mile, where a gun has been fired daily at 1 p.m. since1861. The best preserved castle in Edinburgh is the Craigmillar Castle, built around 1400. Dirleton Castle boasts gardens first cultivated in the 16th century and featured in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s longest herbaceous border. Featured in Dan Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code, Rosslyn Chapel, founded in 1446 is both mysterious and beautiful. The National Galleries of Scotland showcase 65,000 art objects from Rembrandt to Picasso, the Royal Botanic Gardens, founded in 1670, offer 72 tranquil acres of what is considered one of the finest gardens in the world, and the award-winning Scottish Seabird Centre features a range of state-of-the-art cameras to view the lives of the many seabirds in the area. Walkers will want to tour the Real Mary King’s Close, a world-class attraction of underground streets where people lived between the 17th and 19th centuries and Old Town, with many preserved medieval and Reformation-era buildings. Amazing panoramic views all across the city are found at Scott Monument, the 200-foot-high Victorian Gothic monument to honor of Sir Walter Scott.
Peterhead, ScotlandPeterhead is the most easterly port in Scotland and the largest whitefish port in the UK. Peterhead was founded by fishermen and was developed in 1587. Four charming lighthouse protect the harbor which is becoming popular as a cruise liner destination. Buchanhaven is a small fishing village found Peterhead, just one mile north of the town center near the mouth of the Ugie river. At the Arbuthnot Museum is an enlightening history of Peterhead and its inhabitants as well as an impressive collection of Inuit artifacts. The unique Peterhead Maritime Museum is shaped like a scaffy fishing boat, housing the fishing history of Peterhead and a stop at Ugie Salmon Fish House lets visitors see the salmon smoking process in their 400-year-old building which is the oldest in town. See the beautiful architecture of Town House, built in 1788, with a majestic 1868 statue out front. The 78-foot-high Culsh Monument offers viewing platforms to see the lush countryside, including the Caithness Hills and Grampian Mountains. Beachlovers will appreciate award-winning Lido Beach.
Ivergordon, ScotlandThe small port town of Invergordon is the gateway to the stunning and scenic highlands of northeast Scotland. Situated on the shores of Cromarty Firth, about 43 miles from Inverness, Invergordon’s sheltered, deep waters have made it a major port for cruise liners. The extra-wide streets of Invergordon encourage walking through this charming town where, at the eastern end of the central shopping area, you can see the first of what is planned to be a series of heritage murals. Established in 2004, the Invergordon Naval Museum and Heritage Centre offers an excellent collection of local history artifacts. Sites around Invergordon include The Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition to learn all about “Nessie” and see original footage from the Loch Ness Project archive, Inverness Castle, dating back to the 6th century and now a sheriff court, 14th century, fairy-tale-like Cawdor Castle, the reputed setting for Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and Dalmore Distillery, 3 miles from Invergordon, makers of single malt whiskeys since 1839.
Stromness, ScotlandSituated in an inlet of Scapa Flow, sheltered by the island of Inner and Outer Holm, the dramatic scenery around Stromness welcomes visitors into its old, charming seaport town seated between a lovely harbor and range of cliffs 100-500 feet high, The town is clustered along a narrow, winding flagstone main street, bordered by houses and shops built from local stone. Narrow lanes and alleys are found branching off this main street, which is the core of the town, and stretch for over a mile along the shore of Hamnavoe. There are some must see sites in and near Stromness. The Pier Arts Centre, an impressive collection of 20th century British art donated by author and peace activist Margaret Gardiner. The Stromness Museum, established and amassing artifacts since 1837, where a fascinating, unique collection has something of interest for everyone. A short distance away is the Orkney Brewery, housed in an old school house, the UNESCO World Heritage Site Skara Brae, the most complete Neolithic Village in Europe, and Skaill House, built in 1620 and containing artifacts from the 17th Century.
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Portrush, IrelandBuilt on the mile-long Ramore Head Peninsula, Portrush is a small resort town by the sea, well known for its three sandy beaches, White Rocks, West Strand and East Strand, where a 13-foot-high bronze sculpture stands. It is also known for its Royal Portrush Golf Club, the only club outside Great Britain to host the British Open Championship, back in 1951. For a small town there is much to do. The Coastal Zone offers marine-life exhibits, a touch pool, fossil hunts and a rock pool, Dunluce Centre is a high-tech indoor playground, Barry’s Amusements is the largest amusement park in Northern Ireland and Waterworld boasts an impressive swimming complex. The White House department store has been in business on the same site for over 120 years and some of Northern Ireland’s best known and largest nightclubs are in Portrush, specifically The Kelly’s complex, a multitude of bars and clubs. Up the coast is the spectacular Dunluce Castle, sitting majestically on a crag, while The Skerries, a collection of rocks off the coast, are an important habitat for such species as the cotton spinner sea cucumber, horse mussels, and the spiny spider crab. About a mile from Portrush stands Ballywillan Church, whose ruins date back to the 16th century.
Isle of ManThe Isle of Man has been inhabited since before 6500 B.C. in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland. It is 32 miles long and its highest mountain is Snaefell (elev. 2,034 ft). For centuries the symbol of the Isle of Man has been the “three legs of Mann” a triskelion dating back to the late 13th century. The diverse scenic beauty and many leisurely activities of this island have made it a popular tourist destination. Some of the most famous activities involve motor sports and include the TT (Tourist Trophy motorcycle race), Southern 100 and Manx Grand Prix. The island’s main cultural showcase is the Manx Museum in Douglas, but there are many interesting sites all around the island. The 14th century ruined castle at Peel, the Great Laxey Wheel, a 70-foot wheel that has pumped water for over 150 years, the National Folk Museum at Cregneash, Rushen Abbey at Ballasalla Village and Castle Rushen in Castletown. Derby Fort, a circular stronghold built in 1540 sits on the jutting Langness Peninsula and a drive to Douglas Head will present a dramatic and scenic view and the Tower of Refuge, built in 1832 on the orders of Sir William Hillary was constructed on the semi-submerged reef of St. Mary’s Isle as a refuge for survivors of shipwrecks. Of note – two domestic animals specifically connected to the Isle of Man are the Manx cat and the Manx Loaghtan sheep.
Dublin, IrelandThere are so many things to see and do in Dublin that this incomplete list is intended to whet your appetite to see this charming city located at the mouth of River Liffey. Landmarks include Dublin Castle, first founded in 1204, the Spire of Dublin, their newest monument, a conical stainless steel spire standing 398 ft. tall, the old, iron footbridge, Ha’penny Bridge, and Trinity College Library which houses the Book of Kells, an illustrated manual dating back to 800 AD. Other sites to see are the Mansion House, the Anna Livia monument, Christ Church Cathedral, the Custom House and Poolbeg Towers. Explore medieval Dublin at Dublinia & the Viking World, a heritage center depicting life in Viking times, life onboard a Viking warship, and medieval burial grounds. Visit Number Twenty Nine, a Georgian House Museum of rooms furnished with original artifacts from 1790 to 1820. One of Ireland’s most popular attractions is the Guinness Storehouse, which has been home to Guinness beer since 1759, and was recently remodeled into the shape of a giant pint of Guinness, as well as the Old Jameson Distillery, where water, barley and yeast are magically transformed into Jameson Irish Whiskey. Dublin’s rich literary tradition has produced four Nobel Prize winners and many internationally renowned writers like Jonathan Swift, Richard Sheridan, George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, William Yeats, and James Joyce, whose works and histories can be found at the Dublin Writers Museum, opened in 1991 in an 18th century mansion. Ireland’s No. 1 visitor attraction is the Dublin Zoo, a 70-acre park that is one of the world’s oldest zoos, home to over 600 animals. Get some exercise at the Croke Park Experience where interactive and touch screen technology let visitors test their own hurling and Gaelic football skills.