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Little gems

A ruined castle perches on a headland with the calm bay behind it. There is a round hole in the old stone wall, which maybe once was a window.
Strome Castle
You’ll be surprised what you might find when you take the path less trodden – from a ruined castle overlooking Loch Carron to a crumbling monastery and an ancient Spanish chestnut tree.

1. Balmerino Abbey

An old ruined abbey stands behind a grassy field on a sunny day. The ruins are encircled by a low wooden fence. There is a large wooden cross in the field in the foreground.

Mary, Queen of Scots once visited Balmerino Abbey in the 16th century, and it was donated to the Trust by the Earl of Dundee in 1936.

What was once an impressive Cistercian monastery is now an atmospheric ruin, surrounded by tranquil grounds where visitors can spot interesting plants and wildlife, even a 400-year-old Spanish chestnut tree – the oldest tree in Fife.

Getting here

Balmerino Abbey is 5 miles west of the Tay Road Bridge and 10 miles north-west of St Andrews.

Balmerino Abbey, Balmerino Village, Newport-on-Tay DD6 8SB

2. Black Hill

A large grassy field forms part of a gently sloping hillside. A fence, some gorse bushes and a water trough are on the left-hand side of the photo.

Black Hill has a rich archaeological history: this was once an Iron Age hill fort, and it’s also the site of a Bronze Age burial cairn. It is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

You can also enjoy spectacular views of the Clyde Valley while you’re soaking up the history.

Getting here

Black Hill is 2 miles east of Blackwood.

Black Hill viewpoint, Unnamed Road, Lanark ML11 9UL

3. Boath Doocot

A white round building with a tiled conical roof stands on a hill, at the top of a flight of stairs. Halfway up the stairs in a green, omega-shaped sign in the hillside that says Boath Doocot and has the National Trust for Scotland crest on it.

This 17th-century doocot (the Scots word for ‘dovecot’, which is a simple structure built to house pigeons or doves) sits on the site of an ancient motte. Just 30 minutes’ drive from Culloden, it overlooks the site of the Battle of Auldearn, which took place in 1645.

The doocot stands at just 7.5m tall, but it manages to house 515 nesting boxes within its walls.

Getting here

Boath Doocot, Doocot Road, Auldearn, Nairn IV12 5TF

4. Bruce’s Stone

A large granite boulder sits in a field, with occasional pine trees dotted about. There is a gravel area surrounding the boulder itself. Mountains can be seen in the far distance.

To commemorate Robert the Bruce’s first victory over an English army in 1307, a large granite boulder sits in a forest clearing on the east side of Clatteringshaws Loch. Why here? Because it’s said that the king himself rested in this very spot after the battle was won.

Getting here

The stone is located near to the Clatteringshaws Visitor Centre operated by Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS).

Bruce’s Stone, Moss Raploch, Dumfries & Galloway DG7 3SQ

5. Bucinch & Ceardach

Bucinch & Ceardach seen from the banks of Loch Lomond.
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Two small uninhabited islands in Loch Lomond, between Luss and Balmaha, have been left unspoiled for centuries. Bucinch is a breeding ground for plenty of ground-nesting birds, although its name ‘Bucinch’ literally translates as ‘island of goats’!

Meanwhile, Ceardach, known locally as Tinker’s Island, is home to some quirky natural phenomena and a scattering of Iron Age remains.

6. Caiy Stane

A large and tall granite stone stands in a little alcove at the edge of a residential street. Trees and garden hedges surround it, above a low stone garden wall.

Sometimes called the Caiy Stone, the Key Stone or even General Kay’s Monument, this is a 2.7m (9ft) prehistoric cup-marked stone that’s said to mark the site of an ancient battle, possibly between the Romans and the Picts. It was donated to the Trust in 1936.

Getting here

Caiystane View, Edinburgh EH10 6SQ

7. Cameronians’ Regimental Memorial

A large stone monument stands in the middle of a park, with neat lawns and gravel paths surrounding it. The white stone plinth is topped with a statue of a man in old military uniform.

This monument was built in 1892 in Douglas, South Lanarkshire, and features a statue of the Earl of Angus, the first colonel of the Cameronians’ Regiment. The Earl of Angus died in 1692 at the Battle of Steinkirk, three years after he raised his regiment.

The Cameronians first fought at the Battle of Dunkeld in 1689 against the Jacobite army, and then fought with the British army in every major campaign until the regiment was disbanded in May 1968.

The memorial was passed to the Trust in 1991.

Getting here

The monument is on the north side of the village of Douglas.

Douglas, South Lanarkshire ML11 0QL

8. Cunninghame Graham Memorial

A built stone memorial stands on a hillside with a tree behind. There is a circular plaque in the middle of the front wall, surrounded by four rectangular plaques.

This cairn marks the memory of R B Cunninghame Graham of Ardoch (1852–1936), a distinguished Scottish author, politician and traveller. As a young man, Cunninghame Graham spent 8 years in South America, travelling through Ecuador, Brazil, Venezuela and Paraguay among other places. Soon after marrying, he returned to his childhood estate at Gartmore and became a Liberal MP for North Lanark in 1886. He was dedicated to improving conditions in the mines and shipyards and also campaigned for reforms to the working day. Later in his life, he wrote many novels and was also friendly with a number of the ‘Glasgow Boys’ artists.

This memorial was erected one year after his death in 1937 at Castlehill, Dumbarton, but was moved to Gartmore in 1981.

Getting here

Main Street, Gartmore, Stirling FK8 3RS

9. Finavon Doocot

A white stone building with a very large sloping roof stands at the top of a field, with trees either side.

This is the largest doocot in Scotland, with 2,400 nesting boxes. It’s said to have been built by the Earl of Crawford in the 16th century, and was passed into the care of the Trust by the Angus Historic Buildings Society in 1993.

Please note that Finavon Doocot is currently closed to visitors.

10. Kippen Smiddy

An end of terrace house on a narrow street. Snow covers the road and roofs. A car is parked outside the house. There is a metal sculpture protruding from the wall above the main door.

Kippen Smiddy is a late 18th-century blacksmiths located in the village of Kippen, west of Stirling. The smiddy was owned by the Rennie family from the 1770s; the lane on which the property is located, Rennie’s Loan, takes their name. The property includes the traditional workshop at the top of the lane containing the forge and equipment, and a separate store further down the lane.

Kippen Smiddy was gifted to the National Trust for Scotland by Mr Andrew Rennie, the sixth generation of blacksmiths in Kippen, in 1982.

Please note that Kippen Smiddy is currently closed to visitors.

Getting here

Rennie’s Loan, Kippen, Stirling FK8 3DX

11. Macquarie Mausoleum

A little stone mausoleum stands on the middle of a large plot, with neat lawn surrounding it. There is a roof-to-floor plaque on the gable end of the building.

Lachlan Macquarie, who was born nearby at Ulva Ferry in 1761, died in 1824 after distinguished service as Governor of New South Wales. He was known as ‘the father of Australia’. The Mausoleum is on the Gruline estate, which he owned.

The Mausoleum is not actually a Trust property; instead we have managed it on behalf of the National Trust of Australia since 1963.

Getting here

Macquarie Mausoleum, Isle of Mull PA71 6HS

12. Murray Isles

A view looking out to sea from a shingle beach. On the near horizon is a low-lying island.
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These two small uninhabited islands form part of the Islands of Fleet in Wigtown Bay, off Carrick Point in Dumfries & Galloway. The islands are host to a colony of cormorants and are significant as a site for breeding gulls.

If you want to get the best view from the mainland, head to Carrick Shore.

Getting here

Carrick Shore, Dumfries & Galloway

13. Shieldaig Island

A view from a stony shore that slopes steeply into the water. Along the coastline is a small lumpy island, completely covered in trees. It is very close to the shore. A group of brightly coloured houses stands on the headland directly in front of the island.

Shieldaig is almost entirely covered in Scots pine, thought to have been planted over 100 years ago to provide poles for drying the nets of local fishermen.

The island is a haven for wildlife: herons use the trees for nesting platforms; a pair of white-tailed eagles are resident here; and seals climb out of the water onto the rocky foreshore.

Getting here

Shieldaig village, Torridon, Ross-shire

14. Strome Castle

A ruined castle perches on a headland with the calm bay behind it. There is a round hole in the old stone wall, which maybe once was a window.

Perched on a rocky outcrop at the end of Loch Carron, Strome Castle has perfect views towards the Isle of Skye.

It was built in the 14th century and changed hands many times over the centuries, until finally, in the 1600s, it was besieged (and blown up) by Kenneth MacKenzie, Lord of Kintail.

Getting here

Strome Castle, Strathcarron IV54 8YJ

15. Tighnabruaich Viewpoint

The indicators, attributed to the Trust and the Scottish Civic Trust, were erected by a Trust supporter in memory of the two MacRobert brothers, who gave generously of their time to the work of the Trust.

Both viewpoints offer marvellous views over the Kyles of Bute, Loch Riddon and the Cowal Peninsula.

Getting here

The viewpoint is north of the village of Tighnabruaich, along the A8003.

Tighnabruaich Viewpoint

16. Venniehill

A meadow on the side of a hill, overlooking a long village street. It is a sunny day.

Last, but not least, Venniehill is a wildflower meadow that overlooks Gatehouse of Fleet in Galloway. During the summer months, these grasslands are teaming with butterflies and bumble bees, and the hilltop is partially surrounded by a low earthwork, perhaps the defence structure of an old fort or early settlement.

Getting here

Gatehouse of Fleet, Dumfries & Galloway DG7 2EG