hedroom after another. complete with beautiful antique furnishings. livery window affords a different. seemingly more spectacular view of the castle grounds than the last.

We set off early the next day for Ahoyne. where we're hooked to do quad hiking (see ‘Wheels'l. If I‘m living the

fairytale dream. right now I‘m like Rapunzel on acid. ()ur

quad instructor simply nods when he hears where we're staying. confirming my growing realisation that this here city

girl has missed the gradual change in the tourist market. If

Scotland he l’aris it seems there's a wealth of liiffel 'l‘owers just waiting to be explored. Two energetic hours later. I‘m psyched. initially terrified (‘I don’t have a driving licence. am I still good to go'." I ask meekly) and now. I am a quad hiking convert. Knee deep in mud. a whole new world is opening tip. On arrival back at the castle we park right tip front outside the main entrance. which is open to the public throughout the year: a man runs out. assuming we're lost: 'You can‘t park here.’ Simultaneously we shout over with barely concealed glee: 'We live here.‘ before heading down to investigate the lush gardens and surrounding loch. As dusk descends. we capture the silhouette of our new abode through the dense woodland and calculate the cost of hiring the castle as a group. Suddenly the HOOD—1500 a night (depending on the season)

doesn‘t seem that much. In reality. between l3 (the ntnuher of

beds in the tower). it's only marginally more than you‘d spend renting a cottage. ()r so we convince ourselves. ‘We could fly to liurope for that.' my friend considers thoughtfully. ‘l guessf I say. smitten. ‘But I‘m not ready to give tip my crown yet.‘

Fyvie Castle, Fyvie, Turriff, 01651 891 299, www.nts.org.


As the good weather kicks in (it really does, you know) Scotland’s picture perfect beaches come out of hibernation

Kiloran Beach, Isle of Colonsay It’s regarded as one of the finest beaches in the Hebrides. and golden eagles have been spotted swooping over the honey coloured sands before resting on the Carn An Eoin, the “hill of the birds'. which is the highest point on the island. About a mile long. the bay lies back against a range of limestone sand dunes. and looks out to the west across Torran Rocks, towards the Ross of Mull and the sacred island of Iona.

Sound bite A Viking ship was once excavated from the dunes.

Torrisdale Bay, Sutherland Not unlike some exotic far flung shore. the white sand and clear blue seas of the bay are truly awesome. Long and picturesque. the beach is surrounded by some awe- inspiring scenery. Huge breakers come rolling onto the beach. while thunderous waves crash against the surrounding rocky cliffs. Sound bite Seals bob playfully in the sea and there's an array of bird life to watch.

West Sands, St Andrews The jewel at the heart of this bustling university town. From fun-loving students to watersport enthusiasts and ardent golfers. the West Sands are a starting point for many sporting activities. including kite surfing and wind Surfing. Sound bite The running scene from Chariots of Fire was filmed on this two mile stretch of sand.

Brimms Ness, Thurso Yet another surfing peach picking up swells around the north coast. Its cluster of three surf breaks can challenge even the most experienced surfers and the water temperature rarely gets above 140. But those who have tried it generally agree that. at its best. this really is the finest surfing location anywhere in Europe. Sound bite Brimms Ness actually means ‘surf point'.

‘4 was

Pease Bay, East Lothian Surrounded by majestic cliffs, this crescent-shaped beach would be among the most beautiful of all those on this photogenic stretch of the Borders coastline were it not dominated by the serried ranks of caravans that overlook it from the holiday park that virtually spills onto it. But don't be put off: this beach attracts many from the surfing community thanks to its reputation for excellent surf conditions. And a short walk round the headland in either direction will soon take you out of eyesight of the caravans. Sound bite Pease Bay staged major national surfing competition, the Red Bull Local Hero Tour. in 2003.

Newburgh Beach, Aberdeenshire The area is internationally renowned for wildlife and. with a stunning beach to watch it all from, it certainly warrants a trip. You can watch the seals basking and swimming in the estuary or the thousands of elder ducks feeding on mussel beds on the beach. Sound bite The bird sanctuary in nearby Forvie is worth a visit.

21’ Jul 5) Aug) 900$ THE LIST 15