We landed in Edinburgh, Scotland, following a ten-day tour of Ireland as described in Ireland: Part I and Part II. Scotland was a “DIY” driving tour (but in an upgraded Mercedes sedan, thanks to Avis), following a series of prebooked hotels. I’d wanted to travel unbound by commitments but early planning found such a limited choice of accommodations, I changed my mind. And I was glad I did. “No Vacancy” signs abounded.
Before I get into our trip, here’s a bit of geography for those geography-challenged, like myself. Below are terms I’ve heard all my life but now realize I didn’t fully understand.
What I didn't realize...
What I didn’t realize…
England: is a country (I did know that!)
Wales: is a country (OK, did know that too)
Britain: England and Wales
Great Britain: an island that includes England, Wales, and Scotland
U.K.: United Kingdom including Britain, England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland
The Republic of Ireland is not part of the U.K.. and with Brexit looming, there will soon be a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
We then headed for the famous Isle of Skye. On the way we stopped by the iconic Eilean Donan (island of Donan) castle, considered one of the most beautiful in all of Scotland. The setting is stunning as it’s situated on a peninsula with a lovely stone bridge leading you to the castle’s courtyard.
Scotland’s known for their Highland cows. I fell head over heels in love with these guys. Adorable, smart, and very friendly. And did I say adorable?
"There are two seasons in Scotland: June and Winter."
That quote captures our trip perfectly. We knew it would rain as it was Scotland after all, but it rained. And rained. Cold rain. And wind. We learned that a downpour could occur at any moment and, if we were lucky, would be followed by a few rays of sunshine.
and what does a lot of rain and bits of sunshine get you?
They must have known we were coming...
In the Isle of Skye, we stayed at a lovely hotel, Cuillin Hills, set on a hill overlooking the town of Portree. We awoke one morning after days of rain to the stunning sight below. I grabbed my camera and climbed out of our window onto to roof to get these shots!
Classic Food and Drink
Here’s how you start the day in Scotland- eggs, toast, beans, mushrooms, what we call "Buckboard" bacon (very flavorful), tatties (flat hash browns), blood pudding (dark round item on top made from pork blood and oatmeal), sausages, and the infamous haggis. Haggis is the dark crumbly bits in the center.
Haggis is made from sheep heart, liver, and lungs. It's most similar to Braunschweiger (but stronger) or Vegamite for the Aussies. The US prohibits all products made with lung so sorry, you can't get in the states. I know you're disappointed.
A little ketchup helps and we were quite surprised that we both liked it!
Scotch Whiskey - Did you know?
SCOTTISH WHISKY IS ALWAYS SPELLED WITHOUT AN “E.” IRISH WHISKEY IS SPELLED WITH AN “E.”
"Scotland] is one of the most hauntingly beautiful places in the world, the history is fascinating, the men are handsome and the whisky is delicious."
We left the Isle of Skye and headed north towards Inverness and Loch Ness. We stopped in the balmy seaside village of Plockton to see the only palm trees in Scotland. In full disclosure, the trees are not actually palm trees, but they do look somewhat like hem.
We were delightfully surprised by this charming seaside town. And then - the sun came out! A banner day.
We visited Inverness and Loch Ness
(no, we didn’t see Nessie, but we did talk to several local believers),
the infamous Culloden battlefield where the Scots lost their independence to England, and ancient circular tombs.No great images worth sharing, though. In general, the landscapes of Scotland were stunning especially during the fleeting moments of sunshine. Below are random shots from across the country.
We spent the last four days in Edinburgh. This city is a medieval wonderland and our favorite place of the entire trip. Edinburgh’s Old Town is famous for the Royal Mile with Edinburgh Castle overlooking the city at one end and Holyroodhouse Palace, the Queen of England’s home when she’s in town, at the lower end.
Fun fact - Edinburgh is home to J.K. Rowling and she wrote most of the Harry Potter books in local cafes. So you’ll find many a Harry Potter shop where you can buy your very own wizarding ensemble. And you’ll see more than a few excited tourists (large and small) wearing robes and carrying wands, hoping for a bit of magical power.
"Edinburgh is a city of shifting light, of changing skies, of sudden vistas. A city so beautiful it breaks the heart again and again."
—Alexander McCall Smith
On of my bucket list was a photo was a Scotsman in full regalia. So I was thrilled to find this handsome gentleman playing hour after hour along the Royal Mile. And no, I didn’t ask what he was wearing under his kilt. TMI!
"“Look at Scottish guys wearing kilts - you could look at them and laugh, but the way they carry themselves, how can you?”"
Haunting landscapes, luxuriant whiskeys, ever changing skies
From Mary, Queen of Scots -
"To be kind to all, to like many and love a few, to be needed and wanted by those we love, is certainly the nearest we can come to happiness."