Guid eenin! Hou are ye? It’s been a week since being back from Scotland and I’m excited to tell ye about my trip. Did you know, Scotland was voted ‘the most beautiful country in the world by readers of roughguides.com?
Scotland is a part of the United Kingdom and occupies the northern third of Great Britain. They may be small but they’re punching well above their weight class in terms of beauty! Scotland is home to incredible pristine beaches, vibrant and bustling cities, jaw-dropping scenic landscapes, some of the best whisky in the world, lochs and glens, and wild coastlines – which makes Scottish road trips so popular. Every region has its own unique character and gives you a different experience.
One thing that simply touched my heart is the warm and unbeatable hospitality of the Scots. I was amazed to see the friendliness in so many places. They embrace new cultures and new people. The Scots truly love people. No wonder they are famous throughout the world for their incredible hospitality.
Have ye heard about the Jacobite? Or the Culloden? Or the Clans? Well, if you’re in Scotland you will get to hear plenty of these terms. The country has an incredible history. Thanks to the popular series Outlander, I had a fair knowledge about the Highlander clans, Jacobite’s and the Culloden war which piqued my interest, each time the guide shared their stories with us.
P.S. Please ignore my Scottish lingo throughout this article 🙂
Coming back to my trip…well to begin with, the start wasn’t great. Sadly, we missed our first activity of the trip due changes in train schedules booked by our tour operator. We were supposed to visit the famous Edinburgh Castle and walk the Royal Mile. It did disappoint us initially, but we managed to salvage the day. Just as we walked the Royal Mile we came across Hazel the owl. For a small amount, we could hold the tamed owl and eagle and take pictures with it. As much as we loved taking photos with the birds it was difficult to get a firm grip on them. This was an experience of a lifetime. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought of holding them otherwise. We enjoyed our day by exploring the city on our own. A lot of shopping opportunities are found on the Royal Mile for those who love to spend.
To say that food and drink are at the very heart of Scotland would be an understatement. Scottish food and drink is the very lifeblood of Scotland’s culture and economy. On day two we sampled some of the finest foods in the country. We were super excited to meet Michelle our guide who planned to show us around and treat us to some Scottish delicacies. We started walking towards Victoria Street (real-life Diagon Alley), where a small joint served porridges. Aye, one of the tastiest porridges I’ve ever had. The next stop was at a family-owned piemaking shop where we simply savored the macaroni cheese pie. Mmm, I’m absolutely craving one right now! On our way she also showed us some of the cities famous attractions like the National Museum, Greyfriars Bobby statue (a wee dog who guarded his masters grave for 14 years until he died himself on 14th January 1872), Greyfriars Kirkyard (home to Tom Riddle’s gravestone), Old Town, and many more interesting places. We loved the traditional haggis (vegetarian version) with whiskey, deep-fried Mars bars, and fudge. Our final stop of this tour was at one of the oldest breweries in the town where we sipped on our IPA’s and relished a cheese platter.
As we had the whole evening to ourselves, we thought of having wee fun at Camera Obscura & World of Illusions. They have something to entertain all ages. Five floors of all such fun attractions, you definitely not going to regret taking this tour. They are situated near Edinburgh Castle at the top of the famous Royal Mile. But the cherry on the cake is the view of Edinburgh cityscape from their rooftop terrace. Cannae believe me! Check the below for yourself.
The next day morning, we embarked on our journey to Fort William where we had an overnight stay in a beautiful inn called ‘The Stronlossit Inn’, cozy rooms and the best views guaranteed, and a roundtrip Jacobite steam engine ride to Mallaig. Described as one of the great railway journeys of the world, this 84-mile round trip takes you past a list of impressive landmarks. This ride takes you to locations from movies such as Skyfall, Highlander, and Harry Potter. The train crosses the Glenfinnan Viaduct, a Scottish icon that’s famous for its classic Victorian engineering. It’s also known as the ‘Harry Potter bridge’ that takes the boy wizard to Hogwarts. A truly recommended tour while you are in Scotland.
Early next day we returned back to Edinburgh for a night. The journey from Fort William to Edinburgh was approximate 4 hours 30 minutes ride. Luckily, we filled up the day by doing the Edinburgh Castle tour that we missed on our very first day. Edinburgh Castle is one of the oldest fortified places in Europe. With a long rich history as a royal residence, military garrison, prison, and fortress, it is alive with many exciting tales.
It was recently voted top UK Heritage Attraction in the British Travel Awards and is Scotland’s number one paid-for tourist attraction. The castle houses the Honours (Crown Jewels) of Scotland, the Stone of Destiny, the famous 15th-century gun Mons Meg, the One O’Clock Gun, and the National War Museum of Scotland.
Finally, the day that I long awaited for. We began our journey to Inverness from Edinburgh. Inverness is truly spectacular with most of the natural splendors. It really has got all the elements for a memorable city break. Our travel partner Railbookers who organized the whole trip had done a great job with the selection of hotels. Particularly in Inverness, we loved the location as it was easily accessible from the station and was situated on the banks of River Ness with a fine view of the Inverness Castle. The city’s main attractions are all close by, with Columba Hotel near Inverness Castle, the Museum and Art Gallery, the Cathedral, and the Eden Court Theatre. I will definitely recommend this hotel for all its warm hospitality showered upon us while our stay. The meals prepared were really tasty.
Next on our schedule was a 2-hour cruise ride on the famous Loch Ness. The cruise begins from the Caledonian canal making its way further to Loch Ness. Loch Ness is best known for alleged sightings of the plesiosaur-like creature, also known affectionately as “Nessie”. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to spot this mysterious monster who lurks beneath the rippling surface of Loch Ness …
Quick fact: Loch Ness contains more water than all the lakes of England and Wales combined, making it the most voluminous lake in the UK.
While cruising on Loch Ness one gets spectacular views of the iconic Urquhart Castle situated on the north-western shore of Loch Ness. It is considered to be one of Scotland’s largest castles. This is where St. Columba is said to have worked miracles in the 6th century, where acts of chivalry and defiance provided inspiration during the Wars of Independence and where the MacDonald Lords of the Isles struggled with the Crown for power. You could discover 1,000 years of drama, experience a glimpse of medieval life, and enjoy stunning views over Loch Ness from the ruins of the greatest castle in the Highlands.
As ours’s was an independent tour, we had plenty of free time in the evenings for ourselves. This gave us the freedom to explore it nicely. Since we did not want to rest in our cozy hotel beds, we planned to book a half-day tour after completing our boat ride on Loch Ness.
We were truly grateful to George Murray from Go Highlands Tours to show us around Inverness at such short notice. He drove us around the city and showed us some breath-taking scenery and wonderful places steeped in history & culture. We originally had planned to visit the Dunrobin Castle, but as we were running late we visited the Glen Ord distillery where we learned the whiskey-making process and enjoyed a wee dram! Ah, the dram! Nestled on the outskirts of Muir of Ord, Glen Ord Distillery is one of the Highland’s hidden treasures producing liquid gold all year round. No tour of Scotland is complete without visiting a distillery. George was a blessing in disguise for taking us here. As we continued further we came across some awe-inspiring ‘hidden gems’ included in this tour.
We visited Clava Cairns, a 4000 years old well preserved Bronze Age cemetery complex of passage graves; ring cairns, kerb cairns, and standing stones in a beautiful setting. For those Outlander fans out there, if you’re reading this blog you should know, it was suggested that Outlander’s fictitious stone circle, Craigh na Dun was inspired by the site. The releases of the TV dramatization of Diana Gabaldon’s popular Outlander novel, Clava Cairns became a bucket list destination overnight. However, there’s way more to Clava Cairns than its Outlander connection. For history lovers, it gives a fascinating insight into the mysterious lives of our ancient ancestors.
We then proceed to Castle Leod, the seat of clan Mackenzie. it is situated near to the delightful Victorian spa village of Strathpeffer in Easter Ross, Scotland. Castle Leod is surely one of the most beautiful, romantic, and unspoiled castles in the Highlands. The castle has been lived in by the same family for well over 500 years. The family has been at the epicenter of Highland and Scottish politics, heavily involved in the Jacobite Rising of 1745.
Finally, we finished our day by visiting a local hill of Strathpeffer, Knock Farrel also known as ‘the cat’s back’. As someone rightly quoted,
“The best view comes after the hardest climb.”
Couldn’t agree more. As for being carsick, I started feeling queasy. I couldn’t climb further up the hill. Hence, Dishant climbed the hill up by himself and shot a beautiful video for all of you to see the beauty.
Watch the video for yourself.
It was finally the last day for all the sightseeing. The end was kept for the best. ‘Isle of Skye’ is a nature’s paradise. The Skye is the largest and northernmost of the major islands in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. It has a wealth of natural scenery, providing some of Scotland’s most iconic scenic spots, including the Old Man of Storr, the Quiraing, and the Cuillin.
The Island has a rich history covering many topics, such as Dinosaur Fossils, Clan Warfare, Highland Clearances, and the infamous ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ and the Jacobite Rebellion.
We began our day at 8:00 am to the Isle of Skye which is a nearly 2.5 hrs drive from Inverness. It’s a full-day tour.
We had our first stop at one of the most recognized castles in Scotland i.e. Eilean Donan Castle. It is situated at the confluence of three sea lochs in the western Highlands of Scotland. The island’s original castle was built in the thirteenth century; Since then, at least four different versions of the castle have been built and re-built. The present-day castle is Lieutenant-Colonel John Macrae-Gilstrap’s 20th-century reconstruction of the old castle.
The castle is beautifully located and is one of the most photographed castles in Scotland. The castle has been starred in movies like Highlander, James Bond – The World is Not Enough, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, and many more.
Watch the full video of my visit to this iconic castle on my YouTube channel.
After spending a good one hour exploring all the rooms in the castle, we head on our way to Portree, a town in Scotland. En route, we came across Dornie a small former fishing village, Kyle of Lochalsh, where the Skye Bridge connects the Isle of Sky to the Mainland Scotland, Broadford which is the second-largest village lying in the shadows of the Red Cuillin mountains. We had a quick photo stop at the Loch Fada.
We now proceed further to Sligachan, close to the Cuillin mountains that provide a good viewpoint for seeing the Black Cuillin mountains. The Sligachan Old Bridge was built between 1810 and 1818 by engineer Thomas Telford. There’s an old saying about the water running underneath this bridge. It says if you dip your head under the water for 7 seconds you will look 7 years younger than your age. So if you want to feel and look a wee bit younger, you know where to come! (P.S. Shh, it’s a secret, I did dip my head under the water for 7 seconds)
We finally reach Portree and have a good meal. Yes, it was a quick lunch stop in this town.
We now head towards Kilt Rock & Mealt Falls viewpoint. The rock gets the name as it resembles a pleated Kilt. Adjoining it are Mealt Falls which fall dramatically from the clifftop into the sea. The viewpoint offers some panoromic views of the cliffs, sea and the falls.
It’s on every photographer’s dreamlist!
The final point of interest on our scheduled itinerary was Quiraing. The local version of the name is Cuith-Raing. It offers one of the most famous views on the Isle of Skye. As part of the Trotternish Ridge, it has been formed by a massive landslip which has created high cliffs, hidden plateaus, and pinnacles of rock. Let my photos do the talking.
It was time to bid adieu to our lovely week-long trip. This was one of the most memorable and special holidays as I celebrated my birthday in one of the most beautiful countries. If ever you get an opportunity, do visit this magical country. I am sure you will be spellbound by its beauty and impeccable hospitality from the Scots.