by Travel correspondent, Amos Oddie
Each year hundreds of tourists clamber up to Edinburgh Castle, whilst others buzz around the isle of Skye like a wasps around a bin. Many people tell me that Arbroath is the jewel of the North. But did you know that some of the greatest things to see in Western Scotland are right here in the Ochentosh area?
1 Minchie Gardens
These beautiful gardens, situated on the coast between Ochentosh and Minchie, contain some specimens you might expect to find in the jungles of the Amazon. Towering rainforest trees, bright tropical flowers. How is this possible you may ask? Minchie Gardens are warmed by the Golf stream, a flow of warm water that runs from the Carribean across the Atlantic to Northern Europe. Once it gets here the warm water is trapped by Loch Minchie. Indeed the locals swear that bathing in Loch Minchie is just like relaxing in a warm bath. Open every day except Shrove Tuesday.
If history is your passion then a visit to the tiny hamlet of Pishdribbl is a must-do. It was here at Pishdribbl, in 1745, that the Young Pretender, Bonny Prince Charlie, on his way to claim the throne, stopped to relieve himself. Today the spot is marked only by a small stone near a boggy area. Rated as the number one attraction in Pishdribble on Trip Advisor last year. Local historian, Agnes Giddins runs guided tours of the site (10 pounds payable in advance) daily, except Thursdays
3 The Flinge Experience
The advent of modern materials like carbon fibre and marshmallow has all but wiped out the use of old-fashioned flinge. It’s hard to image that Western Scotland once produced four thousand tons of flinge each year. In fact, almost all the flinge required by the enormous British Empire was hand-produced by an army of crofter’s in the local area.
The Ochentosh area, with its damp and windy conditions is perfect, both for harvesting yarp and for making it into flinge. Indeed so pure was it’s product, it is said the Queen Victoria would only use flinge produced in Ochentosh. Now you can amaze your friends by visiting the Flinge Experience where you can see flinge being hand-scroggled in the traditional manner, but also take home a small jar of your very own to rub on at your leisure. The Flinge Experience is open every-day of the year, except obviously Shrove Tuesday, and cost 25 pounds per person. Protective clothing is provided.
4 The Big Haggis
Ever wondered how haggis is made? Or indeed why? The Big Haggis has the answers. You can’t miss it, the giant plastic haggis that stands at the entrance has been an iconic attraction since 1972 when, local entrepreneur, Miles Frequent-Flyer erected it. You can even make your own haggis, or if the thought of it makes you pale, just buy some from the well-stocked shop. The Big Haggis is open every day except Shrove Tuesday. 4 pounds per person.
5 Ochentosh Tobogan Centre
If winter sports are your thing then make sure the Ochentosh Toboggan Centre is on your bucket list. Open from February 8th right through to February 19th, the centre offers an exciting toboggan experience. After an tension-building tractor ride up the hill, you can choose from a selection of hand-crafted toboggans, put on your helmet, take a big gulp of home-made whisky, and then experience the ride of your life, as you speed back down. Helmets included. Two rides 11 pounds. Whisky extra.
6 The Old Man of Kinmuckle
No trip to Western Scotland would be complete without clambering up Ochentosh’s own mini-mountain, The Old Man of Kinmuckle. Especially as the Old Man has been enhanced with several tones of gravel last year adding an impressive eighteen feet of extra height. The views from the top are simply breathtaking! Free.
Getting to Ochentosh
But you say, where is Ochentosh, and how do I get there…..
Ochentosh lies in north-eastern part of western Scotland. Travelling north from Glasgow on the A99 then west on the B3467 towards Slange before turning south to the . Keep Loch Feartie on your right and if you reach Minchie you’ve gone too far.
By Air: You can fly direct to Minchie International airport. Flights twice a week to and from the Faroe Islands.