A Little Photoessay… Scottish Highlands, Glens and Day Trips near Dundee

Last updated on June 29, 2019

After a week of uncommon hospitality given to me in Scotland, I surly owe a debt of kindness to other travelers—one to be repaid at some point in the future.

On an icy-cold evening in Northern India, I met two sisters, fellow backpackers, who were nestled into a tiny restaurant in McLeod Ganj. We shared a table—there was not a seat to spare in the warm and cozy one-room restaurant—and backpacking stories during our hot meal. When we parted ways several hours later, they casually mentioned that if I headed to Scotland that I should stay at their mom’s house for a few days.

Now, although the offer was genuine, all parties admitted that they didn’t think I would actually take them up it. Four months later, I did. I wasn’t even sure why, except that the chance for a local perspective, and a warm, quiet place to crash, sounded great. So, I spent a lovely four days touring the Scottish highlands and glens with Jeannie, mom of two other RTW backpackers on year-long journeys. Jeannie graciously opened her home to me and made it her task to show me Eastern Scotland’s highlights.

We toured the highlands and glens around Dundee, Scotland, and these are my favorite photos and stories from my explorations!

We hiked to the top of the gently rounded mountains afforded views of the River Tay, the North Sea and all of the low-lying farmland.

Distant View of Cairngorms National Park
Distant View of Cairngorms National Park
Piled Rocks and North Sea in far Distance
Piled Rocks and North Sea in far Distance

Exploring Crail Harbour

The small fishing village of Crail is quiet and quaint and dates back to 800 AD, when it was first settled. This place was utterly charming. Small pottery shops hide in the small side-streets and the perfect cuppa tea awaited us overlooking the sea at Crail Harbour Gallery.

Big cities have a lot of interesting museums and a fast pace of life, but its villages that hold the heartbeat of culture and history, these hold the traditions of an older way of life. And even better, it’s just 10 miles from Crail Harbour to St. Andrews, which makes it very accessible as a quick stop. We parked in the village and then walked down to the Habour, had our tea, enjoyed the sunshine and perfect weather, before making the easy way back to where we had parked.

When we left Crail, which truly is the prettiest of these East Neuk of Fife,  we took a quick drive by Glamis Castle, which is where the Queen Mother spent her childhood.

Boats bobbing in tiny Crail Harbor
Boats bobbing in tiny Crail Harbor
lobster tackle in Crail Harbor
Lobster tackle and fishing gear in Crail Harbor
colorful boats crail harbor scotland
So charming, couldn’t get enough of the colorful boats!
Glamis Castle
Scotland’s Glamis Castle, where the Queen Mother grew up.

The Fortingall Yew

We enjoyed a warm fire and hot chocolate in Kenmore at a bright and roomy restaurant overlooking Loch Tay before heading to Fortingall to see an ancient Fortingall Yew Tree.

The tree is thought to be as much as 5,000 years old, which would make it the oldest living organism in Britain. Modern estimates put it closer to 3,000 years old, but really there is no telling. The base of the tree was once 56 feet wide—until souvenir hunters hacked at it! Natural erosion also took away other parts of the tree. Most of the space inside the wall of the tree was once tree trunk.

Fortingall's 5,000 year old yew tree
5,000 year old Yew tree
The ancient Fortingall Yew Tree.
Etched glass window in the tiny Fortingall church
Inside the old Fortingall church.
The small Fortingall Church and graveyard in Scotland
The small Fortingall Church and graveyard in Scotland

Discovering St. Andrews, Briefly

We hiked some in between the towns on our day trip to Crail and St. Andrews, and the Scottish hillside was abloom in gorgeous heather. I am a fan of folk music, and I couldn’t stop singing The Wild Mountain Thyme in my head while we hiked to vistas and viewpoints of the Scottish highlands and glens.

St. Andrews is beautiful and worth a visit. I would have loved to spend a day or two poking around. The small city is best known for golf and for Prince William attending college there, but it’s so much more than either of those two claims to fame. I have a fondness for small cities (like my days poking around Stirling, Scotland). St. Andrews is charming and I thoroughly enjoyed this pretty little town.

Gorgeous blooming heather in the Scottish Highlands in August
Gorgeous blooming heather in the Scottish Highlands during our August hikes.
St. Andrews church
St. Andrews church is stately and beautiful.
ruins and coastline near St. Andrews, Scotland.
Views of ruins and coastline near St. Andrews, Scotland.

Driving through eastern Scotland, through the country’s famous Scottish glens and highlands, has been an absolute highlight from my round the world trip. I can only extend an enormous thank you to Jeannie, because of her gracious hospitality I was able to explore the nooks and crannies of this area of Scotland.

I owe one to the Universe now, and will repay it when I finally find a place to settle down. I have loved this insider’s take on the best hikes and towns, the stories of how Jeannie and her children enjoyed living this region as locals.

Quick Tips: Planning Your Trip to Scotland

Where to stay: Scotland is full of hostels and budget-friendly accommodations, as well as mid and high-range hotels. One of the best ways to find Scotland hotel deals is through Booking.com, and ALA readers receive a discount on their first booking!

Onward travel: Think about buying the Scotland Lonely Planet before backpacking the region— I found the transportation advice to be invaluable when I was backpacking in Scotland.

1 thought on “A Little Photoessay… Scottish Highlands, Glens and Day Trips near Dundee”

  1. lovely article and photographs too. after reading your article i am feeling very excited and i think i have to plan my journey to scottish glens and highlands very soon.


Leave a Comment