Review: Castle of Mey & The Highlands
Escorted Tour - Coach
Scotland, United Kingdom
The late Queen Mother's holiday home
136 people found this review helpful
As loyal subjects and big fans of the British Royals, my wife and I have always enjoyed visiting the Royal houses of the Windsor Family in England. From the magnificent Buckingham Palace in London to the wonderful estate in Norfolk, we have enjoyed them all, but until now, the two in Scotland have eluded us.
We’ve been led to believe that the public can only access one room in Balmoral, so I guess we will give it a miss, but a 7 day Shearings Coach trip to the Highlands recently caught our eye as it included a visit to the Castle of Mey in Caithness.
Setting off from home at 11 o’clock in the morning, a very comfortable and modern coach took us to a very un-modern Dornoch Hotel in Dornoch via the A68 and A9, eventually arriving at our accommodation at about 8.30 in the evening.
I don’t want to linger too long on the description of the Dornoch Hotel. I had done a little research before booking and discovered that all rooms had a Bath, but not all had a pretty basic necessity these days, especially for Silver Travellers.
That being a SHOWER!!
So to keep it short. The Hotel was clearly in need of some investment, some of the rooms desperately needed re decorating, windows needed replacing, and guttering needed to be cleaned out!
The view from the front of the Hotel is quitepleasant as it overlooks the Royal Dornoch Golf course and the sea beyond it. The view from the back is a choice of fire escapes or run down buildings.
The evening entertainment was entirely of music of one genre or another, including pop, country, the skilful bagpipes.
The lovely village was very quiet when we were there, but the facilities were surprisingly good, and Dornoch boasts an ancient Cathedral, a very interesting museum, a B&B Pub that serves some of the best fish and chips we’ve ever tasted, a village jail which serves as a fantastic crafts shop, and several coffee houses for that important morning coffee and cake.
Another interesting landmark which took us by surprise was the place where the last witch in Scotland met the cruel justice of the day.
And so, on to our real reason for this long trip, which by now you will have guessed was our visit to the Castle of Mey and the short hop to John O Groats.
The late Queen Mother bought the dilapidated building in August 1952 as a holiday home just a few weeks after the death of her husband King George VI in the same year.
It was then restored to a home befitting of a Queen and from 1955 to the year before her death she spent many happy summer holidays here with invited friends. In June 1996 she formed the Queen Elizabeth Castle of Mey Trust to secure the future of the Castle along with it’s farm and estate.
The tour of the Castle begins at the front hall, where you are greeted by the only guide who can tell you first hand stories from many years, as a farming tenant on the estate. She (Alice I think her name is) was more than willing to answer questions about her memories, some of them amusing but respectful of the Queen Mother and her families visits. The Queen Mother’s familiar blue coat hung poignantly on the back of a chair. The tour then progresses up stone steps to the Drawing Room, The Library, Bedrooms, Dining Room and Kitchen, with a new guide in most of the rooms, each with a special story of her Majesty.
It will be a difficult tour for some disabled tourists as some of the access to bedrooms are reached by narrow stone steps, but there is a small lift to assist if needed. A lift which apparently the Queen Mother refused to use.
We walked round the walled garden at our leisure with no one else around with the exception of one of the gardeners who was more than happy to stop his work to answer my wife’s grilling for more facts and stories.
For the children there is also an animal centre to keep them entertained.
All in all it was a delightful spot for the Queen Mother to spend the summer months and for us to spend a couple of hours. The winters on the other hand will be really harsh, and she would be happy to get back to the warmth of Clarence House. That might explain why there was a lot of scaffolding hiding the outside appearance of the Castle when we were there, as some serious pointing was needed to protect it from those severe northerly winds.
After our visit to the Castle it was a short ride to the most northerly point of the UK for the inevitable photo opportunity and then a 90 minute journey back to Dornoch.
Despite the long coach journey and the lack of investment into the fabric of the Dornoch Hotel, it was a pleasant short break, with another Royal Palace ticked off our list and some new friends made.
136 people found this review helpful
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.
Silver Travel Advisor Recommended Partner: Shearings Coach Holidays