Things to Do in Scotland in October
It feels like it’s been approximately two seconds since my post about what we got up to in September, but here I am, all ready to wow you with another rundown of our days out this month, thinly disguised as a guide to things to do in Scotland in October. Don’t lie, you love it really…
This month’s post, however, will be shorter than the last one, because – predictably enough – the autumn weather has been making outdoor activities seem less and less appealing: which makes entertaining a toddler particularly difficult right now, thanks to the additional Covid-19 restrictions central Scotland is currently under.
At the time of writing, we’re not allowed to go into other people’s houses, most hospitality venues are closed, and, of course, things like soft play and other kid-friendly activities just never opened up again after their closure back in March. Thankfully we ARE still allowed to travel for non-essential reasons, so we’ve been continuing to do our best to get out of the house as much as possible anyway: and here’s what we’ve been getting up to…
WONDROUS WOODS AT HOPETOUN HOUSE
Ignoring, if you will, the photo of the apparently headless toddler above (Which was taken on a different day from the one I’m going to talk about, just to be extra confusing here…), if you follow me on Instagram you might have seen some of the photos and videos I posted from the Wondrous Woods event at Hopetoun House last week. I really hope you did, anyway, because, as you might expect from me by now, the fact that the event took place at night meant that I totally failed to any decent photos of it for this post: whoops!
Instead, here’s a small collage of shots in which I look more like I’m haunting Hopetoun House than just visiting it, and Terry looks like he’s about to kidnap me or something. So, just the usual, quality content you’ve come to expect from me, basically:
We attended the press preview of the event (Which, full disclosure, means we didn’t have to pay for our tickets…), but it’s something we definitely would’ve done anyway: as regular readers will know, we visit Hopetoun fairly regularly (And had actually been there earlier in the month, for a walk around the grounds), and this event was a totally new way to experience one of our favourite places.
“But what IS it Amber?” I’m going to pretend I hear you ask?
Well, as you may or may not be able to tell from the photos, Wondrous Woods is a light trail, which leads you through the Hopetoun grounds, past various different exhibits, ending with a spectacular light show over the lake. What you definitely CAN’T tell from these photos, though, is how magical it all felt: Max was absolutely enchanted by it (He’s actually asked to go back several times now…), and we were lucky to get a dry, clear night, so we didn’t even need the multiple umbrellas we’d brought along just in case.
Everything was carefully planned with social distancing and Covid-19 safety in mind, and there’s even coffee and snacks available at the end of the trail, which took us around an hour to walk round. Although I’ve filed this under ‘things to do in Scotland in October’, the event runs until November 15th, so if you fancy it, you can book your tickets here.
DOUNE CASTLE, STIRLINGSHIRE
Terry and I have visited Doune Castle a couple of times now (See photos from our last trip here…), but, us being us, we’d somehow always managed to time our visits for the exact moment the castle closed for the day, so we’d never actually been inside it. This time, though, we finally made it inside, and I’m happy to report that it was worth the wait: as well as being fascinating in its own right, the castle is something of a film star, having appeared in Outlander, Game of Thrones, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail, all of which help add an extra layer of interest to it.
Once we’d finished exploring the castle itself, we took a walk down to the nearby river, where Max had great fun throwing stones into the water: we’ve made a mental note to go back at some point for a longer walk! On the subject of ruined castles, places, meanwhile…
LINLITHGOW PALACE, WEST LOTHIAN
I mentioned Linlithgow Palace in my last post, but this time we actually made it inside this one, too – can you tell that we’re really starting to run out of things to do that don’t involve being indoors all the time?
Of course, Linlithgow Palace IS technically “indoors” – or, at least parts of it are – but, as it’s ruined, most of the rooms don’t have things like roofs, or glass in the windows, so I don’t think it really counts. As with Doune Castle, meanwhile (And, indeed, everywhere else we’ve been lately…) they’re currently limiting visitor numbers to ensure social distancing is observed, and, to be totally honest, I wish tourists attractions would just keep doing that forever, because it means you get the place more or less to yourself, which makes for a much better visit.
In this case, although we visit Linlithgow often, it’s been so long since I was inside the palace (I actually think the last time was as part of a school outing…) that I’d forgotten how amazing it is: I actually think this is my favourite of all of the ruined/semi-ruined castles we’ve seen – although it looks like an empty shell from outside, there’s still a labyrinth of rooms and corridors which are more or less intact, and it’s really easy to imagine what they must have looked like in their prime. The photo above was taken from the top of one of the towers, from which you get a fantastic view of the palace itself, plus Linlithgow Loch: the entrance fee is worth it for that alone.
ROSLIN GLEN, EDINBURGH
Lots of visitors to Scotland have heard of Rosslyn Chapel, in Edinburgh, which features in The Da Vinci code, and is truly the stuff of myths and legends, but fewer are familiar with nearby Roslin Glen country park (No, I have no idea why the two Roslins are spelt differently, but let’s just go with it…), which is… well, it’s a country park, unsurprisingly. Yes.
Roslin Glen is, however, particularly picturesque park, especially in autumn, when the fallen leaves make it extra instagrammable. The scenery here is pretty dramatic, and as well as natural wonders like waterfalls and surprisingly steep cliffs, you can also explore the ruins of what was once Scotland’s largest gunpowder mill.
From here, you can also walk to the ruined Rosslyn Castle, which you can’t get inside, but which is most notable (To me, at least), for the fact that the top floor is completely intact (And can actually be rented out as a holiday let…), and then the four or five floors which sit beneath it are utterly derelict, and boarded up. So, you’d be living there in the house at the top, and, below your feet, there would be this gigantic, ancient ruined castle, which… I mean, that’s basically the plot of a horror story right there, isn’t it? I honestly can’t decide whether I want to avoid thinking about this ever again, or rent it immediately, and spend Halloween there. If you never hear from me again, please make sure Rosslyn Castle is the first place the search party looks for me…
CAMMO TOWER, EDINBURGH
Cammo Tower is a 19th century water tower, which you’ll find in the grounds of the ruined Cammo House, in Edinburgh. All that remains of the house is this…
… which is particularly sad given that, as recently as the 1970s, this was a huge mansion house, with an amazing backstory involving a scandalous heiress known as The Black Widow, her reclusive son, and his pack of 30 dogs. I promise I’m not making this up: you can read a bit about it here, if you’re interested.
These days, all that remains are these crumbling walls, plus the ruins of the stable block, but the estate they’re set on is a good place for a walk, as well as being close to Cramond beach, which is another regular haunt of ours: here’s Max, shortly before he went barrelling up to another child and asked to share his snack:
And that was our October. I’ve not included photos of our trip to Craigies Farm, because I wrote about that here, but it’s definitely another place I’d recommend in October, for the pumpkin patch and apple picking.
As for November, well, Scotland is due to go into a new, 5-tiered system of restrictions on November 2nd: because I guess the 3-tier English system wasn’t complicated enough for us, or something? I’m not sure which tier our area will be in yet, but, given the current infection rates, I suspect it will be one of the highest, which will mean we’ll still be prevented from meeting family and friends indoors (I honestly can’t believe I just typed that sentence as if it was totally normal for it to be illegal for me to go into someone’s home, or meet them in a restaurant…). My main hope, then, is that there won’t be any travel restrictions in place (During the spring lockdown we were supposed to remain within a 5-mile radius of our homes…), because, cold though it may be, our days out are one of the only things keeping us sane right now. (Well, that and wine, and, goddammit, but daytime drinking is STILL not acceptable, apparently. I mean, FFS!)
Anyway: I guess we’ll find out soon enough – and, if the suspense doesn’t kill you, you can check back next month to find out what we get up to in November!