Morgan and Drew recently shared their honeymoon trip to Croatia and Montenegro. But a year after tying the knot in Maine, they packed their bags again—for an anniversary adventure to Scotland. After successfully workin
Drew's family is from Scotland and he suggested taking a trip to the homeland might be fun. He's been to Ireland (which is where my family is from), so Scotland won out. For this trip, it was vital that we make it to the Isle of Skye, which is where the MacLeod castle is since MacLeod is Drew’s middle name. Other than that, we just wanted to "see Scotland" and I, of course, wanted to see any local creatures. The top of my creature list was Highland cattle. Once I put two and two together that Highland cows are from the highlands...and the highlands are in Scotland...I HAD to see them! So those were the requirements, and we sent to Katie.
She put together two fantastic options for a 10-day trip and we couldn't go wrong. We chose one that allowed us longer time in various locations, rather than driving to a new town every other day. We went in mid-May, and the weather was chilly, similar to home in Chicago. Shockingly, it was sunny almost every day and rained very little! I did have to buy some gloves early on, but other than that the weather was perfect!
We flew into Edinburgh, and immediately fell in love. The city is SO charming. There's a buzz of young life due to the amount of universities located there, and we arrived in time to watch commuters walking their children to school. There's also a strong sense of history, in the architecture and street layout. Our hotel in Edinburgh was the cutest thing, nestled into the city. All of the fabrics were plaid, and the layout was a fun mix of traditional and modern (with a claw foot tub, right beside the sofa!). The route to our room was the most meandering path, I got lost every time! Luckily, Drew memorized it. Every morning we were in Edinburgh we ate breakfast at Cafe Lucano, down the street. Often, we ordered extra croissants and jam to pack in our bags to snack on throughout the day. It was so much fun to have a home base.
Possibly our favorite thing about Edinburgh was Holyrood Park. The hike up Arthurs Seat (a dormant volcano) is right on the edge of the city. We spent an entire morning hiking to the top, then enjoying our croissants while we looked down over Edinburgh. I've never seen anything like it. The grass in Scotland is also one of my favorite things. I have a phobia of bugs, which normally inhibits me from sitting in grass for very long...but in Scotland, the grass is short and soft, and the land is sort of soft. Drew took a picture of me laying completely face down in the grass as proof of how much I loved it. Such a silly thing to say, but I highly recommend going just to check it out.
The colors in Scotland were also really shocking. The grass was so green, the flowers so yellow. It was like walking through an edited photo, but it was reality! The food in Scotland was also something I wasn't quite prepared for; the meat was all so fresh and delicious, however, we encountered very few vegetables and salads were rarely listed on menus. My favorite example: for lunch one day, we stopped at a tiny pub and ordered the BLT with side salad. There was zero lettuce on the sandwich (BLT with no L?) and the side salad consisted of shredded carrots! Delicious, but not really salad. One of our waiters, summed it up perfectly as, "We're a nation of salad dodgers." I'm no beer expert (far from it), and try as he might, Drew has the hardest time determining what type of beer I like. That said, I LOVED the beer in Scotland.
We also explored the Royal Botanical Garden in Edinburgh. A beautiful site. We had a great time playing with our various camera lenses and met our first magpie!
After falling in love with Edinburgh, we rented a car, and drove (on the left side of the road!) north, through the Highlands to Inverness. We stayed at Rocpool Reserve, which was a more modern hotel. Our suite was huge and cozy, complete with fireplace! The restaurant was amazing. We ate breakfast and dinner there every night.
We went on day trips every day, and choosing each venture was no easy task. There's SO much to do and see. Drew discovered this amazing website for hikes in Scotland. The site has maps, tips, a written description of the paths, reviews which include the intensity, the distance, terrain types, and estimated times. So much of Scotland is open to the public, you can hike almost anywhere! We decided that seeing Loch Ness was a must, so we drove south to Fort Augustus (the town at the base of the loch) and hiked Foyers Falls along the way. On our way home, up the other side of the loch, we stopped to explore the ruins on Urquart Castle.
We pulled over to investigate the loch as soon as we caught sight of it, climbed down to the water’s edge. Drew went ahead of me, and I totally wiped out and slid down the muddy bank of the hill. So, as soon as I got to the waters edge I wanted to rinse my hands off...I attempted to reach one foot out to a rock in the water (the top of the rock was out) so I could better reach the water to rinse my hands...my foot slipped on the moss on the rock...and I fell right in! Of course, Drew took pictures of this entire episode. Complete with me, then having to remove my shoe and sock (which I had to ring out!). Shortly after this, my wet sock still in my hand and my shoe untied, another group of tourists came down the bank as well. They were a group of young girls, I'm guessing Middle Eastern, and they asked me to take a picture of them....and as I reached for their camera, realized they wanted me IN the pictures with them! I guess a redhead in Scotland is a tourist attraction, even if she's also a tourist!
Fort Augustus was an adorable, tiny town where we had lunch and walked through some shops. We went on a speed boat tour of the loch, too, wearing these crazy suits with life vests on top. Our guide was so knowledgeable of the history of the loch, the terrain, the animals native to the area and of course on all the folklore surrounding Nessie.
In Fort Augustus there was a small petting zoo, that advertised Highland cows! So, because we hadn't spotted them yet, we paid to see them. I was out of my mind excited and couldn't get enough of them! As soon as we left the parking lot to head to Urquart Castle from Fort Augustus, we passed a field of Highlanders, literally less than a quarter of a mile from where we just paid to see them! We pulled over, and took more photos.
There was a little shop in town too, and Drew got a set of whiskey glasses that we both love. It's two glasses and a water pitcher, that sit into a strip of wood from an actual whiskey barrel. Sidebar: when you order whiskey at a restaurant, they bring you a small glass of whiskey, and a small glass pitcher of water.
We then traveled on to the Isle of Skye. Possibly the most beautiful place. It's so dreamy, and it feels like you've traveled back in time. The roads are one lane wide, and cows and sheep rule the land. We stayed at the Kinloch Lodge. If you are in Scotland, you MUST travel as far as necessary to eat at there! We did the 7-course tasting menu our first night there, and it was mind-blowing. Also, the process of eating at Kinloch is so much fun. You are first escorted to a sitting room where you enjoy a few bites from the chef, and a pre-dinner cocktail. Then, you are shown to the dining room (where we ate with real silver!) for a mind-blowing meal with the best service! Then, back to the sitting room for coffee/tee/whiskey. Let's just say, the next morning at breakfast it was all I could do to eat a scone and some tea. P.S. the scones were the best I've had. ever. And Drew says the same about the oatmeal).
While on Skye, we took a tour of the Talisker whiskey distillery and I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the process. We also visited Dunvegan, which was possibly the highlight of the trip for Drew. Learning a bit about his ancestry, and knowing that the leaders of the MacLeod clan still live there, meant so much.
On our way to Glasgow (the final destination of our trip) we stopped for lunch in Oban and passed a herd of baby cows (or “coos” as they’re called there). I ran after to snap about 50 photos. By the time we reached Glasgow, we were pretty burned out. Our hotel was incredible and pretty extravagant! We ordered room service (salads!) both nights in Glasgow, and spent our evenings in our cushy hotel robes, eating and watching movies in bed. Our first day there we walked around a bit, and found it slightly more difficult to navigate on foot than Edinburgh. The second day, we took advantage of the hop on/hop off tour bus so we could quickly see the sites of the city (and stay dry from the rain!). We did find an amazing small, old pub where we spent several hours, relaxing, eating, drinking beer.
I think the best thing we did for Scotland that we didn't do for Croatia was to rent a few camera lenses. We are still learning to use our Nikon D7 and only had one lens for our honeymoon. For Scotland, we rented a few options. For 10 days' rental, we had several thousand dollars worth of great lenses at our disposal for a fraction of what it would cost to buy them. And our pictures are much better because of it.
Scotland is a place I'd recommend to anyone who would listen! Everyone we encountered was insanely friendly and helpful and kind. The sites were amazing, and there's such a variety of things to do. Drew didn't get to golf this trip (he's an avid golfer, so we definitely have to go back), and I didn't get to ride Hogwarts Express. We are looking forward to going back, and often daydream of moving there!
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