One of the most exciting and romantic ways to explore the landscape, culture and history of a European destination on an intimate scale is on a barge cruise. Scotland is one place that really benefits from getting up close and personal, not only to the landscape itself, but also to the great many historical sites and buildings that knit together the stories and battles of its rich past. |
Cawdor Castle, a short distance from Nairn, is a magnificent example of just how that kind of heritage has been preserved. It’s one of the sites that those who cruise Scotland (between May and September) will have the opportunity to visit and explore.
Discover a Fortress
Built in the fourteenth century as a fortress for the Thanes of Cawdor, 600 years later, incredibly, it is still in the hands of the ancestors of that same family. In fact, Dowager Countess of Cawdor resides there at certain times of the year.
The impressive architecture of the building takes in four storeys in a solid rectangular shape, which makes it almost austere in appearance. It was certainly not designed to be welcoming, but that was the point of a fortress.
A Quirky Touch
Legend has it that when the Thane of Cawdor decided to build his new fortress, he was visited in a dream by an oracle who told him to load up a donkey with gold and wherever the donkey chose to rest should be the site. The donkey stopped to rest under a hawthorn tree and the castle was duly built around it. The thorn tree is still there today and it stands (protected) in the dungeon at the heart of the building.
Forever Linked to Macbeth
Cawdor Castle was immortalised in Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, and it will forever be linked with the Bard. In truth, the events of the play took place long before its construction, but Shakespeare’s description – “this castle hath a pleasant seat; the air nimbly and sweetly recommends itself unto our gentle senses” – is too lovely to ignore.
A tour of the magnificently preserved interiors reveals a warm and inviting space, in contrast to the exterior. Particular rooms to pay attention to are the Drawing Room, with its minstrel’s gallery and collection of portraits; the Tapestry Bedroom, which was added in the seventeenth century and features intricate wall tapestries and a gilded Venetian headboard; and the old kitchen, with its inbuilt well, authentic kitchen implements and impressive cooking range.
The gardens have been given a ‘top 100 in the UK’ status, which is well deserved. Divided into three sections – the Walled Garden, the Flower Garden and the Wild Garden – they are an attraction in their own right and shouldn’t be rushed. Along with a wealth of floral species, including roses, poppies and rhododendrons, there are contemporary sculptures dotted throughout the plantings.
Cruise Scotland and Enjoy Multiple Shore Excursions
For those who choose a barge cruise, Scotland’s landscape can be enjoyed in the most delightful way from the deck of the vessel. But there are also ample opportunities to go ashore and visit some of the most important attractions – like this one.
Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK's most respected provider of all-inclusive, luxury barge holiday itineraries. If you’re planning a relaxing barge cruise, Scotland, France and Italy are just a few of the great destinations you can choose. Part of a team of experienced barging aficionados, Paul is first in line to endorse the perks of a slow-paced barge cruise to anyone looking for a unique holiday experience.
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