We’ve been home from out UK adventure for over a month! We’re finally settled in and back in a normal routine. In case you missed it, my husband and I went to Ireland, Scotland and London for two whole weeks back in the beginning of September. It was truly an adventure of a lifetime! After spending a couple weeks recuperating and organizing all 4,000 of our pictures/video (yes…4,000), I’m finally getting around to posting recaps.
A couple weeks ago I posted a recap of our Ireland portion of the trip. Today we’ll dive into Scotland! It was our favorite part of the trip.
From Dublin, Ireland, we flew into Edinburgh, Scotland.
Our flight from Dublin to Edinburgh was at 6:30am– which meant we had to get up at 4 to get to the airport on time. We were SO tired when we arrived, we went to a coffee house for brunch and sat around for a while, recuperating. Our hotel was in the middle of the city, close to the Royal Mile.
We walked around the city for a while and found this dog statue. Apparently Bobby was a Skye terrior in the 1800’s who belonged to a policeman. After the policeman died, Bobby sat by his grave for 14 years. He was well known by the locals, and they even built him a doghouse and fed him in the graveyard.
After Bobby passed away, they built a gravestone for him and ever since, visitors place a stick at the base. Nick and I thought this story was sweet, so we found a couple sticks and added them to the pile.
We walked up and down the Royal Mile, which is the main shopping street in Edinburgh. There are a million scarf shops. Apparently that’s a thing in Edinburgh– wool or cashmere scarves. Every single shop had them. We wanted something authentic though, and stumbled down this alley to find a kiltmaker shop.
The owner of the shop was in the back, standing behind a wooden counter with rolls of fabric piled around him. Celtic music was playing from a speaker in the corner. He was working on a kilt, making careful stitches. He looked up our last name in an old book about tartans and found that the Weeks family tartan is called the “Caledonian”. He didn’t have any pre-made scarves of the caledonian fabric, but he had the Macpherson pattern that he said was “close enough”. Nick bought the scarf on the left, and I bought the one on the right just because I thought it was pretty.
There were many street performers on the Royal Mile, including bagpipe players, circus performers and musicians.
We loved the architecture in Edinburgh. There were plenty of old buildings, winding alleys and interesting colors. The building below is actually stained black because of the oil that’s in the stone used to build it.
EDINBURGH CASTLE, SCOTLAND
After walking around Edinburgh all morning, we ate lunch in a cute cafe overlooking the street, then made our way to the top of the Royal Mile to see Edinburgh Castle. It overlooks the entire city.
We arrived just in time and hopped into a tour that was beginning. Our tour guide took us around to all of the buildings and we learned some interesting history of the castle. There has been a castle built on the rock since the 1500’s and has played an important role in the country’s wars over the years.
The picture below is actually the view from our hotel room balcony! Nick got sick on this day of our trip and was running a fever. We spent the evening holed up in the hotel room, except for when I walked across the street and ordered some pizzas (and had a glass of wine).
We only stayed in Edinburgh for one night, but wished we had planned more time. It’s such a cool city. The next morning we picked up our rental car and began the hour long drive to Stirling Castle, which is approximately in the middle of Glasgow and Edinburgh, towards the center of the country. It was a beautiful drive!
If you’ve seen Braveheart, this is the castle that William Wallace defends in the First War of Scottish Independence. It was used for royal residences for many years, and several kings and queens of Scotland were born and died here.
It was an very cold (40 degrees F– that’s “very cold” to a Texan) and super rainy but we still enjoyed roaming around the castle for a couple hours. It was a neat castle, but we were dissapointed with how redone it was. Most of the rooms had been renovated to show what it would have looked like back in the day, but we actually enjoyed the castles that were more of a crumble.
I enjoyed going underground and seeing the kitchens– back then, most of the kitchen workers were men. They ate lots of potatoes and meat, and even had a sample recipe book for what they would have cooked back then.
After Stirling, we began the four hour drive to Loch Ness, which is in the middle of the country. Urquhart Castle sits by Loch Ness in the Sottish Highlands and dates back to the 13th century. We spent too much time stopping and looking at different things along the drive that we arrived just ten minutes past their closing time so we didn’t get to go down to the ruins and we were pretty dissapointed. But, we still got a good view of the castle.
Seeing Loch Ness was definitely on our to-do list. No sighting of Nessie though!
After Loch Ness, we began the three hour drive to the Isle of Skye. The drive was absolutely breathtaking. Every corner we took was a new mountain or tree covered hill.
Eilean Donan Castle
One of our last stops on the mainland of Scotland was at the Eilean Donan Castle. Eilean Donan is a tiny island where three sea locks meet, Loch Duich, Long Long and Loch Alsh in the western Highlands of Scotland. It was just beginning to get dark and the lights came on the outside of the castle, which lit it up. The sky was dark and there was mist hanging low over the mountains. It felt pretty mystical!
Just FYI, this is the castle that inspired JK Rowling for Hogwarts. Can you see the slight resemblance?
After hanging out at Eilean Donan for a while, we hopped back in the car and finished our trip to the Isle of Skye.
ISLE OF SKYE, SCOTLAND
We knew when we planned this trip that we definitely wanted to go to the Isle of Skye. There are so many amazing pictures out there of all the beautiful places you can visit. You could definitely just spend a week alone on Skye.
Our AirBnB host, Carolyn, was so sweet. Her guest suite overlooked a green field full of grazing sheep, which was a nice view to wake up to. She also set out cupcakes and had champagne chilling in the mini fridge.
We stayed in Portree for two nights, and spent one full day making a round trip around the island.
I spent hours planning this one-day road trip. We wanted to hit all the major sight seeing spots in just 10 hours, so planning was definitely necessary! I scanned my hand-written map so you could see what we did! We started in Portree, which is the largest town on the island (but still small with a population of 2,400). You can see Portree on the map where the little house is drawn in the middle on the right hand side.
We ended up cutting a few places out for time purposes, but we did make it to The Storr, Kilt Rock, The Quiraing, Dunvegan Castle, Fairy Pools, and Sligachan Bridge. Yep, all in a day’s drive!
Everywhere you looked on Skye had some sort of waterfall or stream flowing through it. They were just coming down from the mountaintops. We couldn’t help ourselves and made so many stops to take pictures!
The Old Man of Storr
The first stop on our Skye road trip was The Old Man of Storr. This is probably the most famous walk on the island and definitely the busiest. The Old Mann is a large rock that sticks high above the others and can be seen for miles. It was created by a massive ancient landslide and is one of the most photographed landscapes in the world.
Here, you can see the storr sticking up above the landscape:
The hike to the top took us about an hour. It was 90 stories high and a pretty vertical climb. So exhausting, but worth it when we got to the top!
The Storr overlooks the Sound of Raasay, which was another breathtaking view.
We continued our loop around the island and found another random waterfall that was too gorgeous to not stop and take a picture.
Mealt Falls & Kilt Rock
This was a quick stop off the main road. Kilt Rock is north up the coast and is famous for it’s landscape that looks like the pleats in a kilt. Closer is the Mealt waterfall, which freefalls off the cliff for 60 meters into the Sound of Raasay below.
We weren’t planning on stopping here, so we just drove through it. The Quiraing is a massive landslip which created high cliffs, hidden plateaus and pinnacles of rock. It was quite foggy on this part of the island so we couldn’t see much of the landscape, but it was mystical and beautiful anyway!
By far my favorite spot on all of Skye. The Fairy Pools were nothing like I’ve ever seen before. They’re beautifully crystal clear blue pools on the River Brittle and entice visitors from all over the world.
We actually didn’t make it here on our full-day round trip of Skye because it got dark before we could make it there. But the next morning when we were leaving, we drove right by it so I got out and took a picture. There’s nothing super awesome about this bridge, except it’s the oldest footbridge on the island and one of the most photographed places (weird, considering there were so many other cool things to see haha).
Note– we did go to Dunvegan Castle, but found it to be a complete waste of time. It looks cool in pictures online, but when you arrive, it’s really just a fancy redecorated mansion. The clansmen who own it still meet there so it’s just a fancy house.
So after our adventure on Skye, we took a ferry over to the Glencoe area (back on the mainland) and drove to the Glenfinnan Viaduct. This was something on our must-see list. You may recognize why!
It’s the bridge from Harry Potter! Heh. It’s obviously doctored up in the movies but it was so cool to see it in person. It was a cloudy, dreary day which made it feel like we were going to see the Hogwarts Express go by!
It’s a pretty massive and impressive structure in person.
After the Glenfinnan Viaduct, we continued our drive through Glencoe, by Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park (stunning) and made it to Glasgow in time to return our rental car by 7pm. We spent the night in Glasgow right by the train station so we could catch our 8am train to London in the morning.
Scotland was BY FAR our favorite part of the trip. Ireland was beautiful, but Scotland was just nothing like I’ve ever seen before. It felt like we were in The Shire. We felt we should have spent less time in Dublin and more time in Scotland. I would definitely come back and spend more time here!
Have you been to Scotland?