The Scottish Highlands has become a favourite spot for Gulf royals – unsurprising given the stunning natural scenery and rich history, says Neil King
Regal and majestic, the lochs and mountains of the Scottish Highlands have a long and proud tradition of both defying and welcoming wideeyed intruders eager to either dominate the ancient lands, or enwrap themselves in their natural splendour.
The Romans fell afoul of the natives’ staunch defences, and Proud Edward’s armies were famously sent homeward ‘tae think again’ in the 1300s – as immortalised in the country’s de facto national anthem, Flower of Scotland.
Despite this, Scottish hospitality is generally famous for its warmth, and has more recently been extended to the world’s royals – most notably the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The ruler’s 63,000 acre estate in the northwest of the country regularly receives the Gulf monarch, his family, and his many and varied guests.
And while His Highness’s 16-bedroom lodge – reportedly complete with four 65ft helipads, and all the amenities money can buy – might be out of reach for most of us visiting the country, there are still plenty of ways to make your holiday to the Highlands fit for a king or queen.
On the sovereign theme, where better to start than with the Highlands’ many and varied historical attractions?
A good place to start is one of Scotland’s most famous castles, Eilean Donan. Located on the meeting point of three lochs, and surrounded by stunning scenery, the castle is well known to many having appeared on screen in such movies as Highlander, James Bond film The World is Not Enough, and Elizabeth – The Golden Age.
Similarly romantic are the ruins of Urquhart Castle on the shore of Loch Ness – where you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the famous yet elusive monster; and for literary buffs, Cawdor Castle in Narinshire will evoke Shakespeare’s MacBeth, being one of the landmark ‘Scottish Play’s’ principle settings.
For something more grandiose, the family seat of the Earl of Sutherland – Dunrobin Castle – will fit the bill. With architectural styles crossing Scottish baronial and French Renaissance, the perfectly manicured gardens are a particularly big draw if you are lucky enough to have good weather.
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