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Little gems

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

Balmerino Abbey

Mary, Queen of Scots once visited Balmerino Abbey in the 13th 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.

2. Black Hill

Black Hill

This was once an Iron Age hill fort, and it’s also the site of a Bronze Age burial cairn, so Black Hill has a rich archaeological history. As a Scheduled Ancient Monument, it holds a special place in the Trust’s heart, and you can even enjoy spectacular views of the Clyde valley while you’re soaking up the history.

3. Boath Doocot

This 17th-century doocot (Scots for ‘dovecot', which is a simple structure built to house pigeons or doves) sits on the site of an ancient motte. Just 20 minutes from Culloden, it overlooks the site of the Battle of Auldearn, which took place in 1645. It stands at just 7.5m tall, but it manages to house 515 nesting boxes within its walls.

Boath Doocot

4. Bruce’s Stone

To commemorate Robert the Bruce’s first victory over an English army in 1307, a heavy granite boulder sits at the top of the hill on the north side of Loch Trool. Why here? Because it's said that the king himself rested in this very spot after the battle was won.

Bruce’s Stone

5. Bucinch & Ceardach

Two small uninhabited islands, between Luss and Balmaha, have been left unspoiled for centuries. Bucinch is a breeding ground for plenty of ground-nesting birds, and here’s a fun fact: '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

Sometimes called the Caiy Stone, the Key Stone or even General Kay’s Monument, this is a 2.7m 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.

Caiy Stane

7. Cameronians’ Regimental Memorial

This memorial was passed to the Trust in 1991, but it dates back hundreds of years. It was raised in 1689 in Douglas, South Lanarkshire, and features a statue of the first Colonel of the Cameronian Regiment, the Earl of Angus.

Cameronians’ Regimental Memorial

8. Cunninghame Graham Memorial

This cairn marks the memory of R B Cunninghame Graham of Ardoch, a distinguished Scottish author, politician and traveller. The memorial was erected one year after his death in 1937 at Castlehill, Dumbarton, and moved to Gartmore in 1981.

Cunninghame Graham Memorial

9. Finavon Doocot

Finavon 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.

Finavon Doocot

10. Macquarie Mausoleum

Lachlan Macquarie, who was born nearby at Ulva Ferry in 1761, died in 1824 after distinguished service as Governor of New South Wales and 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 the Trust has, since 1963, managed it on behalf of the National Trust of Australia.

Macquarie Mausoleum

11. Murray Isles

The Murray Isles are two small uninhabited islands in the Islands of Fleet, Wigtown Bay, off Carrick Point. 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.

12. Shieldaig 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 as herons use the trees for nesting platforms, and seals climb out of the water onto the rocky foreshore.

Shieldaig Island

13. Strome Castle

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.

Strome Castle

14. Tighnabruaich Viewpoint

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

15. Venniehill

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.