Walk through the gardens and browse the inviting interior rooms of the late Queen Mother’s Scottish home.
The Castle of Mey is the northernmost castle on the U.K. mainland. A favorite home of the late Queen Mother, this beautifully restored castle has been preserved to look much as it did during her regular visits here. Tour the castle, stroll through its lovely surrounding gardens and bring the kids to the interactive animal center.
Originally constructed in the 1500s, the castle fell into disuse over the centuries. The Queen Mother first saw the castle in 1952 when she was mourning the death of her husband, King George VI. Immediately charmed by the abandoned castle, she purchased the property and restored the building and its gardens. As you approach the castle, notice its jutting towers and corbeled turrets, typical features of 16th-century castle architecture.
Begin in the visitor center, where you can buy your entrance ticket. Consider stopping in the castle’s award-winning tearoom to enjoy a home-made snack or light meal.
Notice the remarkably homey, domestic atmosphere of the castle’s interior. In the front hall, look for the raincoat and simple Wellington boots the Queen Mother wore when walking in the gardens. This area also features portraits of the 12th, 13th and 14th Earls of Caithness, historic owners of the castle.
Explore the castle gardens, which feature wonderful displays of pansies, marigolds and dahlias, among other flowers and plants. Climb to the top of the turret recently constructed in the Walled Garden for fantastic overhead views of the gardens. Use the telescope to check out the Old Man of Hoy, a 450-foot-high (140-meter) sea stack on the distant Orkney Islands.
Don’t miss the fun Animal Centre on the castle grounds, where adults and kids can enjoy safe, supervised contact with farm animals. Pet the farm’s resident donkey, piglets and alpine goats.
The Castle of Mey is 7 miles (11 kilometers) west of John O’Groats. It typically closes for several weeks every summer to accommodate royal visits. To get here, take the bus from the railway station in nearby Thurso. Enjoy your visit to this charming royal retreat.