Monday, July 18, 2016

Final Thoughts on Scotland

To see all of the photos from our trip, please view my Flickr album

Now that we are back in the good ole U.S. I feel like I should take some time to reflect on our trip. It was amazing, beautiful, breathtaking, fun, delicious, and relaxing (not a sit-in-a-beach-chair-all-day kind of relaxing, but more like escape-from-children-and-drink-when-you-want-to relaxing). The landscapes are unbelievable and it's impossible to accurately capture it in photographs. The cities are historic, quaint, and interesting. It makes you remember how 'new' everything is in America (also how much we tend to build with crappy materials that don't last very long).  There are things that were awesome about the country and things that were annoying - like the sinks with separate hot and cold faucets. 

The country is so clean - we didn't see litter anywhere. They are so smart with their roads - I just can't say enough good things about roundabouts. I wish we utilized them more in the US. Even driving on the 'wrong' side of the road was tolerable with roundabouts. They were the friendliest people - possibly because they drink whisky all day - but we didn't encounter a single rude or unlikable person. Speaking of drinks, we thoroughly enjoyed sampling all of the local whiskies, beers, and wines. The food was delicious and we ate far too much of it. It will take a few weeks before my pants fit again.

The single track roads were a little nerve-wracking at times - driving over a hill and not knowing if another car is heading straight for you on the other side. The 'passing places' are tiny and sometimes not in the place where you need them. But since we spent most of our time on local roads, we could pull over and stop the car every time we saw a nice view (or a cow). Our travels took much longer than planned because we kept stopping to enjoy the views - and it didn't matter if we were late arriving anywhere because it didn't get dark until after midnight!  Thank goodness for the heavy dark curtains to block out the sunlight at 3:30am. 

All of the places we stayed were amazing. If you ever decide on a trip to Scotland, you should definitely try these - many of them have Michelin-rated restaurants!

Edinburgh - The Balmoral Hotel 
* Try their "Number One" restaurant, which was rated #1 on Trip Advisor

Pitlochry (Perthshire) - Knockendarroch House
* Dinner was amazing!

Nairn (outside Inverness) - Boath House
* Featured as one of Scotland's best gardens! Dinner was also amazing.

Isle of Skye - The Flodigarry Hotel
* Great restaurant and bar and amazing water views.

Kilchrenan on Loch Awe (kinda near Glen Coe or Loch Lomond - it's in the middle of nowhere) - Ardanaiseig Hotel
* Beautiful old manor home - delicious food and gardens. They provide Wellies for all the guests!

Stirling - Hotel Colessio
* Very close to Stirling Castle and shops. 

Edinburgh (near the airport)-  Norton House Hotel & Spa
* Also has a very nice spa but we didn't have time to use it. A good place to stay upon arrival or before leaving since it is so close to the airport, but is too far outside of town if you are wanting to sight see. 

I would highly recommend this as a trip for anyone, whether you want to do half the country like we did, or just a few stops (I could do a week just on Skye alone!)  If you are interested I'm happy to pass along more info on what we did, as well as our books that I used when planning.  


Saturday, July 16, 2016


Although our trip to Scotland appeared to be picture-perfect, we definitely had a few camera bloopers along the way. Didn't want you to think that we were that perfect...

Boob shot

The sun is too bright!!

How does this selfie stick work??

The sun is still too bright!!

Did I turn off the camera?

Can't you see I just shoved a whole granola bar in my mouth?

It's too windy!!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Adventures in Scotland - Our Last Day

Well, the day I've dreaded has finally arrived. Our last full day in Scotland - we fly back to the States tomorrow. It has been such a great trip and we've done so much in the past nine days! Today we explored more of Stirling, starting with Bannockburn Battlefield. This is where Robert the Bruce beat the English in the early 1300's, even though they were highly outnumbered. Scots consider this the most important battle in gaining Scottish independence.

Lunch at a local pub with a great quote on their bar.

Next on to Edinburgh Castle, probably the best preserved castle in Scotland (and certainly the most historically significant).

Built on high rock with beautiful views of the surrounding areas.

Another Heilan Coo! She even posed for me.

We stopped at a cafe to meet Maggie, a Scotland artist who is a friend of my mom's. My mom has taken several of her pastel workshops (including one in Scotland a few years ago) and Maggie always stays with my parents when she comes to the States. She also painted beautiful portraits of my kids when they were babies. It was fun to have a quick visit with her! She recommended a restaurant for dinner, which we thoroughly enjoyed. 

Thistle on the table! 

The waiter, upon learning we were from Virginia, stated "Unfortunately the only thing I know about Virginia is that Chris Brown is from there." Yes, he sure is. If he is our most famous Virginian at the moment, we are in trouble!

We drove back to Edinburgh and we are staying at a country house near the airport. It has a tv on the wall in the bathroom, so they have definitely made some recent upgrades! We started the long process of unpacking and repacking so we can make the trip home tomorrow with just two suitcases. Let's hope they let us on the plane! 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Adventures in Scotland - Day 8 On to Stirling

We had such a good nights sleep in our dark castle room and woke up ready for our next adventure. After breakfast we popped back in the car and headed east. We had been staying in the Argyll region and covered the last bit of the southern Highlands as we drove through Glen Lochy and south to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. We made it almost to Ayrshire, but we'll have to come back another time to visit my (maiden) namesake.

This is the park where the Scots go to vacation, and it's easy to see why. It's an hour from Glasgow, Stirling, and Edinburgh, so that's most of the population! 

We stopped for lunch on the loch and then headed through the middle of the park. My DH was so excited to drive through Dukes Pass, especially because he happened to be wearing a JMU shirt!

So many beautiful places to stop for a walk. I'm constantly amazed by how green everything is.

"Cow and Castle"

My highlight from today was finally seeing Heilan Coos that were close enough to the road so I could get pictures of them. Cutest cows ever - and you know how much I love cows!

Highland Humor 

We had planned on another long-ish hike to a waterfall but the weather started moving in, so we decided to try to make it to the National Wallace Monument (Battle of Sterling Bridge). We got there 10 minutes before they stopped selling tickets and had to power-hike up a steep hill to get there. We made it with a minute to spare and no breath left. Unfortunately the museum is spread out among 3 floors of the tower so we had to climb 260 stairs to get there.

William Wallace's 5 ft broadsword. It's almost as tall as I am!

The views at the top of the monument were amazing and well worth the steep hike and grueling stair climb.

It was very windy at the top!

They kicked us out when the museum closed so we headed into old town Stirling to our hotel.

Another exciting moment - more Heilan Coos! And the Stirling Castle too!

Isn't it weird that there is a field of cows right behind the castle? Only in Scotland...

After our brief (or not-so-brief) stop to photograph cows and castles, we had dinner and then explored some other parts of the old city.

Our hotel is centrally located and is a quick walk uphill to the castle and other historical buildings. This is the church where King James (son of Mary Queen of Scots) was crowned.

It's 8:30pm so everything is closed for touring, but it's still daylight so we wander around some more.

And we are rewarded with a rainbow over the old jail!

We strolled through the old kirkyard with stones dating back to 1572.

Beautiful view of the castle on the hill.

Statue of another Scottish hero, Rob Roy.

Eric got to watch more soccer games on TV tonight, so he is happy. Tomorrow is our last full day in Scotland before flying home on Wednesday. Tonight I'll be counting Highland coos instead of coos.