After our trip we can say without a doubt that the two most amazing aspects of Scotland are the kind hearted Scots that inhabit the Northern British Isle and the scenery that surrounds them!
As soon as we got on the train at London King’s Cross Station we encountered the Scottish hospitality and warmth that we had heard so much about. Two older women travelling with their daughter and granddaughter started up a conversation with us, moments after the train had rolled out from the station. The whole way up they were chatting with us, telling us about places to see in their beloved Scotland. They were so full of energy!
At one point one of the older Scottish women, who was dressed in bright pink and purple, broke out into song “The Northern Lights of Aberdeen…” Her friend joined in. It was like they were half drunk, happily singing along with way too much energy for 70+ year old Nannas! Maybe it was all the 'Irn Bru' they had been drinking on the way up!
After arriving in Edinburgh we immediately set out to explore. Before long, the Heavens opened, in true Scottish style, and there was a huge downpour, flooding the streets and drenching umbrella-less passers by (luckily we had our very tiny, flimsy umbrella which held out reasonably well) After ducking into a cute, little pub near Grassmarket, we chatted for hours with a lovely, local couple who bought us a ‘welcome to Scotland drink’. And what a warm welcome it had been!
This Scottish affability was evident from the very start until the very end of our four-day road trip.
The weather changed dramatically the following morning, when we were met with sunshine and blue skies. We picked up the hire car and started our journey into the Highlands.
What should have been a two-hour drive up to Fort Augustus became a four-hour journey as we stopped constantly to admire the absolutely breathtaking scenery that surrounded us. There were photo opportunities galore, with every winding turn presenting an even more beautiful outlook than the last.
We were in awe as we gazed upon the jagged mountain peaks covered with the greenest grass and patches of glistening, white snow and the beautiful, shimmering lochs with vibrant wild flowers growing on the banks. The remarkable old rock walls, which stretched out for kilometres, and the ruins of old stone houses perched on the mountains and by winding rivers amazed us. We imagined what it might have looked like thousands of years ago when there were small communities inhabiting this rural land.
The ruins and rock walls were just the ‘tasters’. The real stars of the show were the many castles that we saw. Just out of Fort Augustus we visited “Urquhart Castle’. It was actually closed for the evening and no one was there so we had the whole castle to explore on our own.
It was one of those really surreal, particularly special travel experiences. The mist was settling in over Loch Ness and the sun was setting. We meandered through the ruins of the castle, taking in every moment and enjoying the fact that no one else was around. This was our most memorable castle experience but there were so many others that were also beautiful.
My other Scottish love (aside from the people and the landscape and the castles) is the famous (or infamous, depending on your taste for foodie adventure) “Haggis”. I went crazy for it! Even Kristian loved it. For those of you who turn your nose up at the idea of haggis, you need to take a long, hard look at yourselves!
I actually love the fact that the Scots have turned something that is generally discarded into a wonderful dish. It is ‘poor man’s food’, which is most often the best kind of food in any culture. Through imagination, resourcefulness and necessity they created a dish so delicious that it has stood the test of time. In times when people had nothing, they had to be inventive in order to survive. Furthermore, by not wasting any of the animal, you are showing respect and appreciation for something that was once living.
I think that because we have so much choice in our modern world, people are too quick to turn down perfectly good food. Most would rather order the eye fillet steak over haggis, even though the latter is just as tasty, if not tastier! The Scots love their haggis so if you want a taste of local cuisine I highly recommend you at least try it if you are ever in Scotland. You won’t regret it!
Our four-day journey was just a quick sampler of Scotland but it sure did leave a lasting impression. Everything went swimmingly (aside from the punctured tire and two hour delay on the way back from Edinburgh- but that’s another story!) We will surely be back again to explore even more of an absolutely stunning region of Britain.
Mavisburn B&B in Fort Augustus:
Elaine and John were extremely helpful from the moment we arrived. The Scottish breakfast they made us in the morning was delicious! Highly recommended.
Langal B&B in Carbost (Isle of Skye):
Gorgeous views over the lake from the house. The town itself is really lovely and small. Murray and Norma were amazing hosts and also cooked up the most delicious breakfast.
Whiski Rooms, Edinburgh: 7-9 N Bank St, Old Town, Edinburgh EH1 2LP
We had an amazing dinner here. Service was excellent. Our waitress was so lovely and chatty. They have a delicious local Haggis that is made by the famous ‘McSween Butchers’ in Edinburgh. We thoroughly enjoyed our dinner here. If you go, do try the haggis spring rolls. Delicious!
Isle of Skye Baking Co., Portree: The Old Woolen Mill, Dunvegan Rd, Portree IV51 9HG
The little bakery offers a lovely selection of bread, focaccia and freshly baked cakes as well as local cheeses and deli products. We chose the onion and black pudding filled bread accompanied by a local cheddar. We told the beautiful lady serving us that we were going to have a picnic and she packed us a complimentary container of pumpkin chutney and cranberry jelly to go with our bread and cheese. We drove up towards Staffin and picnicked with the sheep on the cliff front. If you are on Skye and it is a sunny day, definitely pack a picnic lunch and take in the surroundings.
The Old Inn, Carbost (Isle of Skye): Carbost, Isle of Skye IV47 8SR
The only Inn in Carbost so lucky it was so great! A very typical Scottish pub (or ‘Bothy’ as they call it) It was very cosy and inviting.
Because they are near the sea, they offer different seafood specials each day, depending on the catch that morning. Thoroughly enjoyed my Garlic Hartford Prawns and Kristian loved the Haggis, tatties and neeps strudel.
Glencoe Café, Glencoe: Glencoe Village, Ballachulish PH49 4HP
Great little coffee shop offering fresh food made with local produce. The house made venison and pheasant terrine was highly enjoyable. It is only a small café but extremely cosy and welcoming.
Bluebell Tearooms, Stirling: 1a Pitt Terrace, Stirling, FK8 2EZ
Lisa, the owner, is originally from Brisbane, Australia but has called Scotland home for the past 28 years! Really fantastic service, not to mention the most amazing afternoon tea offerings. My house made Chicken Liver Pate, accompanied by traditional oat cakes and a fresh salad was to die for as was the *GLUTEN FREE* Lemon Sponge Cake. I don’t know how she did it, but it was one of the best gluten free sponges I had ever had. It has inspired me to do some experimenting in the kitchen now.
Quite understandably, she didn’t want to give away her recipe, despite my begging. Because she is a coeliac, everything on the menu can be prepared gluten free. A great place to go if you have a gluten intolerance, and even if you don’t have one!