When most people think of Scotland, their eyes get dreamy and they start imagining Loch Ness, rugged highlands and glens, and kilt-clad bagpipers. What most people don’t realize is that there is an entirely different side to Scotland. The eastern side to be exact.
Relaxing in the Port Town of Montrose
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I made my way from crowded Edinburgh towards Montrose, on Scotland’s eastern coast. Even Scottish people I met couldn’t understand why I would be visiting eastern Scotland. That made the surprise that much sweeter when I arrived at my destination and feasted my eyes upon the rolling hayfields and ocean expanding before me in all directions. I couldn’t have pictured a more peaceful retreat after having spent about a week in the big cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh.
I spent the next few days exploring the area around the tiny village of St. Cyrus and it’s slightly bigger neighbor, Montrose. Montrose has been around since the 1200′s and served as a key trading port.
Nowadays, its main attractions are the Montrose Basin Nature Reserve and its beach. I skipped the beach and headed straight for the basin to see some of the many bird species that make their home there. The low tide meant that all the boats in the basin were beached in the mud. It looked like a real boat graveyard!
Visiting Eastern Scotland’s Best-Kept Secret, Forfar
Montrose and the surrounding coastal areas proved to be the perfect place to kick back my feet and enjoy some fresh sea air. But I didn’t have much time to linger – the next destination on my list was Forfar. Heading inland, Forfar is only about 20 miles away from the coast and from Montrose.
At first glance, Forfar seems like any other small British town. But once I had the chance to explore the winding streets and alleys, I started to see that Forfar is special in its own right. As night fell, I headed to the pub. The people in Forfar were unusually friendly; several different people started up conversations with me at the pub. They seemed genuinely curious about me and where I was going.
Though Forfar seems at first like a country backwater, there is actually plenty to occupy visitors. The town is only a short bus ride away from Glamis Castle. Glamis Castle is probably one of the most fairytale-like medieval castles I came across in all of Scotland. It’s also the place where the British royal family’s own Queen Mother was born. If that isn’t enough reason to go, Glamis Castle is also supposedly one of the most haunted castles in all of Scotland. A tour of the castle is well worth it, if only to gawk at the interesting paintings and decorations covering the walls.
Glamis Castle isn’t the only thing visitors can see if they are visiting Forfar. The town also has its own “wee” loch. There is a path that encircles the loch, and locals can be found walking their dogs there in the early evening.
Of course, any visit to Forfar wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Forfar’s small museum, which among other things explains the history of the town. They even have a display reenacting the 17th century witch trials and executions for which Forfar is now remembered. Spooky!
All in all, I only had the chance to thoroughly explore two of eastern’s Scotland’s towns: Montrose and Forfar. But it was enough to make me realize that this area has a lot to offer that most tourists (and even Scottish people themselves) are missing out on. Too often people will ignore eastern Scotland and focus on the Scottish highlands. But if you want to have a “real” Scottish experience far from the tourist crowds, head to Scotland’s east coast!