Friendly faces, extravagant castles, charming towns and breathtaking scenery are just some of the things we experienced during our four-day adventure through Scotland.
After much planning and crunching, we finally had our four-day itinerary for Scotland all mapped out. We knew it was going to be a busy trip since we were staying in a new town every night, but we felt this was the best way to get an overview of what this side of the UK really had to offer.
I guess you could say our love for Scotland began as our plane descended through the clouds. As soon as we glanced out of the window, we were mesmerised by the landscape underneath us. Castles on islands in the middle of the water and stunningly green rolling hills.
As soon as we touched down, we grabbed our bags and car then set off for Edinburgh.
Our drive to Edinburgh was breathtaking. On our way, we passed abandoned homes, purple and yellow flowers sprouting over stone fences and lush trees growing over the roadways.
Our first day was to explore the city, roam around and get a feel of the people and the scenery. We dropped our bags off at a little hotel nestled in the middle of the city, it was Ballantrae Hotel.
After we settled, we ventured out and had dinner at the Witchery by the Castle. A fourteenth-century building with two options for dining, one in the Kings Room and the other in the Garden. We opted for the Garden room. We walked through to find the entire dining area candle-lit in a very romantic setting. We ordered the Lamb Wellington for Two and sipped on red wine as we began plotting our next day.
The next morning, we toured through more of the city. Going through the gardens, walking in and out of Royal Mile and ducking through hidden alleys where we wandered towards a little French café that was serving a basic Scottish brunch.
We sat and ate then wandered right up to Edinburgh Castle. We didn’t go in but got a good idea of how massive it was as it stood there standing tall and watching over the entire city. We also wandered right through this marching band of bagpipe players and small children also playing along with them.
We began to make our way to the city of Craigellachie, a town close to the whisky distilleries (about 2 1/2 hours from Edinburgh). On the way, we had a few stops to make. First, we stopped at Balmoral Castle. The Queen’s very modest summer home. Because she wasn’t in residency, we were able to tour inside and get a lay of her beautifully manicured land.
On the drive to our next stop, we couldn’t help but notice we were getting into some serious rural farm territory. Sheep and their babies filled the hills.
Lambs were leaping and playing in the fields, the sheep were grazing on the grass. We even saw quite a bit of cow and their babies as well. We came at a perfect time – where all the offspring were out and running around.
Of course, we drove up to a few lambs that were hanging out on the side of the road. I was determined to get out and pet one. They didn’t seem to like that too much and ran back and squeezed through the gates where their mum was intensely watching.
On the mountains, we noticed these vibrant yellow flowers called Gorse.
Our next stop, Glenlivet Distillery. Here we talked, toured and sampled all things whisky. We were able to sample an 8-year-old whisky right out of the barrel and then compared it to a sample of a 15-year-old whisky that was matured.
After our tour, we had to stop somewhere that was on my list since we started planning this whole trip. My pink fairytale castle. Craigievar Castle is located in Aberdeen and was built in 1630. This seven-story castle is known for its famous architecture and charming pink colour. It’s also said that it was the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle and you can see it by the way it was constructed.
Because it was getting late and we were 1 hour away from our B&B, we decided to get moving since we hadn’t had any dinner yet (most restaurants close at 8 pm). As we were driving, one of the most amazing things happened. We saw 4 massive deer right on the side of the road. We were surprised when we stopped the car, they didn’t even run. They let us photograph them and then quickly moved closer to their other group of 5 or 6 more.
As we kept driving, we noticed we were the only ones on the road. Just one winding road, driving through the hills with no service or signal. It felt nice to just be at peace with the scenery and take in all of the beauty.
We arrived at Highlander Inn in Craigellachie. This quaint B&B was nestled in this little cottage town with only a few buildings like the post office, a convenience store, and a few other homes. We were starving but the kitchen had closed. Because reception had closed, the bartender ended up checking us in. He couldn’t help but notice we were hungry so he made us soup and sandwiches to go with the local stout we ordered at the bar.
We loved the fact that everyone was so friendly and willing to accommodate us there. Both bartenders ensured we were taken care of and that night we were able to talk to the locals that use this hotel as their main watering hole after work.
We had our breakfast at Highlander Inn and then needed to make our way to the Highlands (about a 3-hour drive). Again, we had a few pitstops along the way.
First stop, Urquhart Castle. This castle sits beside Loch Ness in the Highlands. What’s now in ruins, dates back to the thirteenth century and had endured some of the bloodiest wars. It was raided by locals and pieces of the castle were slowly taken bit by bit. You can still see where the bedroom, the dungeon and the stone making room still stood.
After touring around the ruins of the castle, we felt lunch was in order especially around Loch Ness. We walked to a grocery store, picked up a few sandwiches, snacks and beers and parked our car right next to Loch Ness. We ate our lunch right on the rocky beach. This was one of our favourite moments. We skipped stones, played on rocks and just took in the beautiful scenery. As we began to get rained on out of nowhere (typical Scotland) we knew it was time to head to our next stop.
Now, we were right in the thick of the highlands. Towering mountains overlooked us as we drove through the one lane road. Again, no one on the road but us but we got to see some of the best scenery once again.
We drove into Glencoe, where our next hotel was waiting. We checked in at the Ballachulish Hotel. This hotel has quite the history, Queen Victoria made this her choice hotel when she vacationed to Scotland. Each room is unique in its own way, and yes the steps creak very loudly.
We figured we had a few more hours of heavy rainfall ahead of us so we decided to make the drive to see Skyfall. Not to be confused with James Bond’s house, this is where the two valleys meet on a very narrow winding road. We drove out there in the pouring rain to see it, it was just as beautiful as everything else we saw.
Dinner was at the hotel that night. We both ordered the Lamb Burger which came with potatoes, and we ordered a side of onion rings. For dessert, we tried their rhubarb crumble – it was amazing and tasted homemade. We had a few local beers and then decided we weren’t ready to go to bed just yet. So we took our beers that we were struggling to finish and roamed the creaky hotel. We wandered down winding hallways, poked our heads in secret rooms and basically had our own adventure before retiring for the night.
We were awakened by creaks and the most beautiful views
…and then decided to get up, get showered and grab some breakfast before we spent our final day in Glasgow.
On the drive, we took one last long look at the beautiful scenery we saw before us, the rolling hills, mountains, beautiful flowers and lambs that littered the hills. We could tell we were slowly coming back to civilization as we came across more cars and wider lanes.
We arrived in Glasgow in about 3 1/2 hours. We checked in at the Grand Central Hotel. Probably one of the coolest and swankiest hotels we stayed at. It was modern and was part of their train station that they decided to turn into a hotel. It was beautiful inside, dark, rich mahogany twirling staircases was the main focus point in this hotel.
After we settled our things, we decided to grab some lunch and tour the city of Glasgow.
We ate lunch at Girl Meets Bread and enjoyed hot dogs, their take on poutine and fresh cut fries. Then, we walked off that large lunch through the main strip where major brand named stores lined the streets. We shopped a little but then ventured down different roads.
We ducked into one bar for a quick sip. I had an English Garden (basically a mojito) and Kev had a Manhattan. We then walked to Butterfly and the Pig. This cute little restaurant was half a tea room, half a restaurant. The restaurant was in the basement where we were served mismatched glasses, dishes, and cutlery. The menu was all paper and was filled with charming descriptions of their homemade dishes. I tried the Shepherd’s Pie and Kevin had Fish and Chips. The portions were large and very delicious. For dessert, we had their berry brumble. Yes, a brumble. This was a pie/crumble hybrid. It was actually one of the best desserts we had the entire trip.
We walked back to the hotel knowing we had to get up at 4 am for our flight to Ireland the next day.
Scotland is one of those destinations that carries so many hidden gems. No matter how many times you visit, you always find something new. It’s magical – the hills, the wildlife, the scenery. It’s as if it was out of a fairytale. We were surprised by so many things on this trip. We learned about its history in both whisky making, castle storming and its past royalty. We knew this wasn’t the last time we would visit and next time we would plan an entire trip just to Scotland alone.
Stay tuned for our travel diary through southern Ireland.