The city of Perth makes an excellent base for exploring beautiful countryside that was once hugely important and influential in Scotland. It is set on the banks of the Tay River 45 mi/70 km north of Edinburgh, in a hilly wooded area near Scone (pronounced skoon) Palace, a beautiful structure covered in red ivy, with several peacocks wandering the grounds. You'll also find a chapel and a replica of the Stone of Scone on which the kings of Scots were crowned. (The original, now in Edinburgh Castle, was stolen by the English and kept in London until its return to Scotland.) http://www.scone-palace.co.uk.
Farther east from Scone Palace, the coastline leads to Dundee, Scotland's fourth-largest city. It was once noted for jam, jute and journalism, but only journalism remains. D.C. Thomson, publisher of most of the nation's comics, is still based there. It created children's favorites such as "Dennis the Menace," "Desperate Dan" and "Bash Street Kids." You can see how jute was manufactured and processed at Verdant Works, one of Europe's top industrial museums. http://www.rrsdiscovery.com/index.php?pageID=130.
The city's major attraction is the ship Discovery, which was used on the first Antarctic expedition of Capt. Robert Scott. The ship was originally built in the Panmure shipyard. In the 1970s, it was little more than a decaying hulk moored on the Thames's Embankment in London, but then a campaign by its home city resulted in its return and complete restoration. http://www.rrsdiscovery.com.
To the north of Dundee is Glamis Castle, birthplace and childhood home of the late Queen Mother (http://www.glamis-castle.co.uk). Also in that area are Brechin Round Tower (built more than 1,000 years ago by Irish monks) and the lovely gardens at Edzell Castle. To the northeast lie the ruins of Arbroath Abbey and the remains of Dunnottar Castle (http://www.dunnottarcastle.co.uk). In Broughty Ferry, a village to the east of Dundee, Claypotts Castle is a fine example of 16th-century Scottish architecture and was once owned by John Graham of Claverhouse, known as "Bonnie Dundee" or "Bloody Clavers," depending on your point of view. More information on many of these castles can be found at http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk.
South of Perth is Gleneagles, a five-star hotel and resort that has four excellent golf courses. It is one of only two hotels that can guarantee guests a round on a championship course. Facilities also include the Gleneagles Mark Phillips Equestrian Centre (with indoor and outdoor arenas) and the Gleneagles Jackie Stewart Shooting School for clay target shooting. http://www.gleneagles.com.
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