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Are you thinking about a romantic break in Scotland? If you are looking for inspiration, then there are lots of romantic things to do – and romantic places to stay in Scotland.
First of all - why is a get-away-from-it-all break with just the two of you (usually!) often called a romantic break? In its oldest form romances were chivalrous and fantastical tales written, many centuries ago, in a variety of languages, including popular (as opposed to classical) Latin - sometimes called Romanicus, French Provencal, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian. As words evolve, Romanicus became Romanic and them Romantic. These popular tales written in native 'Romance' languages had a key theme: the narrative rose far above everyday life. Later, the stories often included a love element - and this pointed towards one modern meaning of a romance.
'Romantic' - as in the Romantic Movement or revival in the late 18th century - applied to the writers, artists and poets who revolted against the narrowness and order of neo-classicism in the arts (in their widest sense. These creative types aspired to a freer more picturesque and imaginative style. So, when the English poet William Wordsworth with his sister Dorothy made their first expeditions to Scotland in 1803, you could say they were on a romantic break, but not as we know it.
No, the Wordsworths visited to experience the sublime - wild and untamed Nature - and thus, along with Sir Walter Scott and Samuel Taylor Coleridge and others, helped create that image of Scotland as a romantic destination. More on this topic here: romantic break - the Trossachs or on the potted history of Scottish tourism page.
Even so, there is a link to the old sense of the word - a place where things happen that are far above the everyday......
Right, now we've got the etymology out of the way, here are some things to do on your romantic break in Scotland.
There are lots of lovely beaches in Scotland. Very often they are deserted. Ideal for a romantic stroll. This one happens to be west of Lossiemouth, amongst the peerlesss beaches of the Moray Firth. And it was summer when I photographed it.
In Edinburgh? Take your best-beloved to the Bollinger Bar at the Palm Court, Balmoral Hotel, for a bottle to remember on your romantic break. Expensive? Frankly, yes.
Low cost alternative? A stroll to see Greyfriars Bobby, the dog that features in heart-rending tale of fidelity that won the hearts of Edinburgh folk (and Walt Disney). Wait a minute, can dogs do Romantic?
Well, what about something wacky? Catch a 44 bus to Portobello. The promenade is historic, while the Victorian architecture behind the seafront is fascinating - little bijou cottages and mini-town houses, many of which were built by Edinburgh business-men of the 19th century, so they could discreetly install their mistresses. Is this romantic, or just seedy? Hmm.
Further afield (but day-trippable from Edinburgh), visit Melrose Abbey. A fine description of this romantically ruined abbey is in Sir Walter Scott's 'Lay of the Last Minstrel'. He recommends seeing the ruins by moonlight (very romantic), though the National Trust for Scotland would prefer if you came by daylight.
Or, also easy to reach from the city, take a boat trip across Loch Leven and hear the tale of Mary, Queen of Scots' escape from her imprisonment in Loch Leven Castle in 1568. This did not count as a romantic break. Anyway, young Willy Douglas was so charmed by her that instead of guarding her he pinched the keys from the castle owner, arranged a boat, and then let her out, locking the doors behind him and hiding the keys.
Finally, in Fife, show her you care - by not playing golf one morning in St Andrews but instead tagging along and browsing the town's excellent and upmarket shops - antiques, gifts, carpets etc. (This suggestion is romantic and sexist at the same time.)
In Perthshire and Angus, there are lots of things to do on a romantic break; such as responding to Robert Burns invitation in song and taking a walk above the pleasant Perthshire town of Aberfeldy, with woods and waterfalls. 'Bonnie Lassie, will ye go, to the Birks o Aberfeldy?' he wrote.
Answer, yes, but only if you make your partner promise to buy dinner afterwards. (Birks are birch trees, by the way.) And, as you can see, from the pic., words from the song have been thoughtfully carved on panels for you to quote, should love make you otherwise tongue-tied.
Sticking with romantic songs - discover the Angus Glens. 'Busk, busk, bonnie lassie, and come awa wi me / And I'll tak ye tae Glen Isla near bonnie Glenshee' is the traditional song by way of invitation. 'Busk' means roughly 'get your act together and put some lippy on - we're going out'. Make sure you get at least a morning coffee and a fancy cake at one of the cafes in Kirriemuir, the Glens gateway. A gentle and peaceful day, spending time together. Aww. Now that's romantic.
The road north, above the Spittal of Glenshee. Strictly speaking, we're looking up Gleann Beag, and the road climbs to the ski centre at Glenshee. The A93, a little further on, is the highest main road in the UK. It then drops to Braemar in Royal Deeside, Aberdeeenshire. For snow-lovers, this pic was taken on 10 March 2011, with exceptional snow conditions higher up. But the road was passable.
Around Glasgow and the South-West, Sweetheart Abbey, not far from Dumfries, chimes in nicely with the theme of a romantic break. This romantic ruin is a reminder of the enduring nature of true love (sniff!). It was built in the 13th century by Lady Devorgilla in memory of her beloved husband John Balliol. Even in death Lady Devorgilla couldn't be parted from her one true love. She was buried along with her husband's heart in the Abbey's High Altar.
Gretna, the most famous of the communities along the Scottish Border which were once the goal of eloping couples from south of the Border, is nearby and where weddings and romance is still a big industry.
Finally, within easy reach of Glasgow, Paisley Museum and Art Gallery features the definitive history of the Paisley Shawl. As the distinctive teardrop pattern is sometimes described as an ancient Middle Eastern fertility symbol, does this make it romantic? You could certainly buy an antique shawl as a romantic gift.
As an afterthought, Glasgow, Scotland's largest city has an important symbol of love (and romance), especially if you're keen on venerating old bones on your romantic break. These particular bones are (gasp!) the actual relics of St Valentine. Or at least one St Valentine, as three have been recorded. For years, some of this St Valentine's mortal remains were in a side aisle of St Francis' Church in Scotland's largest city. Then, for a period in the 1990s, they were kept in a wooden casket in a cardboard box on a wardrobe in a nearby chapter house. (Yes, really, it's on the BBC website.) Now they are on display in a gold casket in the Church of Blessed St John Duns Scotus in Glasgow's Gorbals, not a part of the city noted for its visitor attractions. However, another St Valentine's bits are in a box in a church in Dublin, with yet more pieces in other European centres, so that Glasgow isn't unique. (And neither, for that matter, is Valentine.)
Anyway, the point is that in Geoffrey Chaucer's Parliament of Fowles, the mediaeval English author was the first to connect 14th February, St Valentine's Day, with romantic love - as he remarks that that is the day when all the birds of the air assemble to choose their mates.
Here is a little list of romantic hotels in Scotland. Well, you'll need a base, won't you?
Return to the main seven day tour Scotland.
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Scotland in Three Days