Here goes, the looong post about our week in Scotland! Make sure you’ve got a bit of reading time for this one…For those of you who want to skip the details and go straight to the video: you’ll find it at the end of this post or here on Vimeo.
We started out our week-long vacation by flying over to Edinburgh and picking up the car we rented. Instead of staying in the Edinburgh area we made straight north for the Highlands, to Inverness. The drive up was quite interesting…first of all my boyfriend had to get used to driving on the left side and then the weather was a tiny bit capricious. We had sun, clouds, rain, hail and snow all within the first three hours of being in the country.
In Inverness we stayed at Dunhallin House, a lovely guest house where we were made immediately very welcome. The only drawback was that the walk into the city centre was quite long (we should have known though) and despite what we had read we didn’t find Inverness city particularly charming. So we headed straight back to get the car and drove out to Culloden Battlefield to watch the last bit of sunshine of the day and have a solitary walk along the battle lines and gravestones in the moor. Quite a magical place with lots of heather in bloom and brightly colored mosses!
Just a note: these photos are bigger than the ones I usually upload here, so do click on them to view them bigger and better!
We started off our first full day with a real scottish breakfast. Well, the boyfriend did, while I had porridge for the first time in my life (yum!) and fruit and toast.
We needed the warm breakfast, too, because the weather continued to be unpredictable and most of all, pretty cold. We headed up to beautiful Nairn beach, but cut our stay short due to a heavy shower and decided to have a look at Cawdor Castle and Gardens next.
We didn’t buy the indoor pass, since by then the sun had reappeared but took a quick look around the walled garden and then proceeded through a hidden “secret garden” kind of door into the land behind the castle for a walk that would take us about 2.5 hours through beautiful woodland.
The first thing you notice in the Highlands is that the air is just so clean and fresh and good.
Quite tired after our walk we headed to the lovely Beauly Gallery for a warm lunch and, refreshed, then set out for the breathtaking scenery at Glen Affric. We took all three marked trails around Dog Falls and spent about three hours in the woodlands, never meeting a single person on our walks.
We got back late and literally fell into bed by that point.
The next morning we bid farewell to the Inverness area and Dunhallin House, though we would dearly have liked to stay a bit longer, and spent the day driving on the shores of Loch Ness. We took the smaller, South road (B852) which held some of the most breathtaking scenery of our whole stay in store for us. Thanks to it being a wet and dreary day we had the area (and the single track road) to ourselves for the day and visited Dores beach (photo below), the Change House and Boleskine graveyard.
The Falls of Foyers proved to be spectacular and despite the rain we walked a small trail in the surrounding woodland.
The real highlight of the day was not a tourist attraction at all…it was this small clearing right behind some trees lining the road that I saw driving by. I told my boyfriend to stop the car and walked back to it. I’ve never seen a more magical place. It was very boggy, the ground completely saturated with water and you had to watch your step very carefully. The wet grounds had made mosses take over the whole area and it was eerily quiet except for the trickling of water. If there ever was a place to make you start believing in fairies and elves it’s this one…I still get goose bumps even writing about it!
The photo really doesn’t do it justice! Mind you, we did find an iPhone on a tree stump there that someone must have forgotten…so the real world is never far off.
Since we still had time, we headed back up the Loch about half way on the north road and visited Urquhart Castle. Quite overrun by tourists even on that quiet day, but still well worth a visit!
Our next place to stay was Distant Hills Guesthouse in Spean Bridge and once again, it was even better than we had hoped! Beautiful rooms with the option of choosing a DVD to watch (which we did every single night we stayed there, since our day tours usually left us too wiped out to go out for dinner) and very good breakfast and packed lunches. The owners Peter and Lesley are both lovely and eager to provide help and tipps and road maps for a memorable stay.
Since it continued to be cloudy and rainy the next day, we set out for a longer drive up to Eilean Donan Castle and the coast around Plockton (as suggested by Peter) and found the weather there much better and the scenery again incredible. We ate lunch in the sunshine by the sea and visited a farm afterwards.
Bluebells everywhere, sheep with their lambs slowing down our progress on the road and Highland cattle grazing in the middle of a tiny village. What a day!
I’m starting to worry this post will be the longest I’ve ever written, but I’ve still got three days left to tell about!
The next day we went up to Glenfinnan to see the Monument and of course the viaduct, a.k.a. the “Harry Potter Bridge” (let me tell you, the monument is much prettier than the bridge) and after that we explored the beaches at Morar, the “Silver Sands of Morar” on foot.
Quite a bit sunburned we headed back down the coast to our next stop, Ariundle Oakwoods, a nature reserve. I’m running out of superlatives here, but Ariundle was another highlight and an absolute Must-See in the Fort William Area.
Another magical forest, but stretching on and on, quite an eerie place to be walking in on a late afternoon.
And we saw a pine marten! A live, cute, wild one, hunting for food in a hollow tree!
And as if to prove it could still get better, we saw seals playing in Loch Sunart on our way back. You can’t see them in the photo, but they were taking a break on an island in the loch, as well as swimming and fighting and bellowing.
After the long day it was time for our favourite dinner in Scotland, yummy and salty fish&chips.
We took leave of the Fort William area and Distant Hills the next day to drive back down to Edinburgh via the Glencoe area and the Trossachs.
The weather by then had turned warm and sunny and driving through Glen Coe left us awestruck.
At last, we made it back to Edinburgh and after getting lost about five times, managed to locate our hotel. After the friendly and cozy guest houses we had stayed in we were a bit underwhelmed by our hotel and the very pricey restaurant attached but we only had one day left anyway. We filled our day in Edinburgh to the brim by visiting Edinburgh Castle early the next morning (nice, but too expensive), walking along the Royal Mile and visiting the Georgian House (lovely!).
Our Edinburgh highlight was visiting The Real Mary Kings Close, expensive and touristy yes, but also so interesting, spooky and funny (ask for the tour guide Robert!). See some more info here.
Whew, if you’ve made it this far, congratulations! As you can imagine we came home filled to the brim with places and stories and impressions. Quite overwhelmed really! We loved our 7-days-see-as-much-as-you-possibly-can-tour of Scotland and I hope you enjoyed this account of it and maybe took away some tipps for visiting the country yourself.
And NOW for the video, which I’ve spent hours and hours cutting in the last few days. You can watch it here or view a bigger version over at Vimeo (which I’d recommend). Enjoy 🙂