Down a small lane in the fishing town of Montrose, about halfway along the coast between Dundee and Aberdeen, the William Lamb Memorial Studio displays the work of the unheralded but hugely talented sculptor William Lamb (1893-1951). The rooms were paid for out of the commission he received in the 1930s for his bronze heads of the Queen Mother and the young princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, but although feted by the London establishment he preferred life in his home town, where he created some superb full- size casts of local fisher folk and seafarers. You often have to be wary of local artists' galleries - this one is a poignant and inspiring gem.
A night or two in a country house hotel is one of the treats of travelling in Scotland. Some are overbearing, some twee, many are expensive. An unfussy, relaxed member of this clan, Mimore House was the former home of George Smith, the owner of the famous Glenlivet distillery on Speyside. Situated right beside the distillery on a quiet hillside overlooking the Livet Water, it sums up the well-groomed, patient pace of life which makes the finest whisky in the world.
Near Huntly in the north-east of Scotland, I thought to round off my Friday with a home-brewed pint at the Borve Brew House, situated in an old schoolhouse a few miles out of town. I got there at six expecting a convivial, end-of-week gathering, but the place was deserted. I ordered a pint of the house pale ale and sparred verbally with the proprietor about the ills of beer sold under the banner "real ale" and my inability to pronounce local place names such as Ruthven (pron. Rivven), Avon (A'an) and Tomintoul (Tomintowel). By the end of my pint no one else had arrived, so I left, still under the limit but in no fit state to ask for directions with any confidence at all.
Biggest Let Down
In the shadow of Ben Nevis, on the shores of Scotland's largest sea loch, Loch Linnhe, with Glen Coe a few miles to the south and the Great Glen stretching northwards: Fort William was born with a tartan spoon in its mouth but yet it contrives to be the most dispiriting town in the Highlands. A dual carriageway cuts off the town from the loch-side, the pedestrianised main street is dominated by disoriented tourists and bored youths, and all roads seem to lead inexorably to the coach park beside the tourist- tack-filled Woollen Mill.
Being seduced by the lingering sunset on one of the wonderfully long evenings of the Scottish summer into believing that a romantic stroll or al fresco meal would round the day off perfectly. The reason? A small insect with a phenomenal size-to-bite ratio which attacks in swarms: the midge.
Of all Scottish fare seafood stands head and shoulders above the rest for variety, colour, taste and distinctiveness. Oysters, mussels, clams, prawns, smoked salmon, and lobster are at their best well away from fancy recipes and within shell-throwing distance of the sea whence they came. There are few places to beat the roadside Loch Fyne Oyster Bar in Argyll to taste seafood at its freshest and simplest: for the best value stock up with a picnic's worth then park yourself on the rocky shores of Loch Fyne to savour it.
Across Glasgow's own Bridge of Sighs behind the medieval Cathedral, the hillside graveyard called the Necropolis has to be one of the more bizarre places in which to discover a vista of eclectic, post-industrial Glasgow. Inspired by the Pierre Lachaise cemetery in Paris, it has Neoclassical tombs, Doric pillars and lavish memorials to the famous and the obscure.
Airlines compete with bargain fares from London to Scotland, starting from around pounds 29 plus tax one way. Look out for offers in the press. The GNER train line is the speediest and most comfortable to Edinburgh and Glasgow, with advance fares from pounds 21 one way.
Where to stay
Mimore House, Glenlivet, Banffshire (01807 590278) costs pounds 45 per person per night B&B.
Where to eat and drink
Loch Fyne Oyster Bar (01499 600264) is on the A83 at the head of Loch Fyne near Cairndow.
Borve Brew House is in Ruthven (pronounced Rivven), about six miles north of Huntly off the main A96 route between Aberdeen and Inverness.
What to see
The William Lamb Memorial Studio is on Market Street, Montrose; if it's not open ask at the Montrose Museum on Panmure Place for access.
Donald Reid co-wrote 'The Rough Guide to Scotland'. Keep up with the latest developments in travel by subscribing to the free newsletter 'Rough News', published three times yearly. Write to Rough Guides, IoS offer, 1 Mercer Street, London WC2H 9QJ. A free Rough Guide to the first three subscribers each week.Reuse content