Following a busy but also strangely relaxing day in Edinburgh, we woke up bright an early and caught a cab bound for the center of Old Town. Our adventure today took us way outside of our temporary home city and all across the breathtaking Scottish highlands.
Since we only had three full days in Scotland but wanted to see every loch and glen, we opted for the best compromise and took a full day tour. I realize that 12 hours on a bus is not everyone’s ideal way to spend a day on vacation but we saw so many beautiful sights and had perfect weather to set the mood.
Our first of many stops was in the charming little town of Callander where we picked up some coffee, snacks and an emergency umbrella. Ya girl has spent the last six years in the U.S. south and isn’t accustomed to rain, or having a rain jacket or umbrella handy at all times – two crucial items to bring on your tour of the highlands!
We then we made our way into the highlands where we were treated to some of the most sublime scenery I’ve ever seen.
We took the Loch Ness and the Highlands Small Group Day Tour from Edinburgh through Heart of Scotland tours. Our tour guide, Alan, entertained us with a plethora of fascinating Scottish tales, history, myths and legends, which I thoroughly enjoyed! So much so that I took notes. True story.
It was a really long day though and the climax, Loch Ness, wasn’t as spectacular as I thought it would be. Especially after seeing Glencoe…wow!
Lessons were learned and while I would choose Alan and Heart of Scotland tours again, my ideal trip – and one I recommend to you – would hit Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond and Glencoe.
Our tour ended with a bonus stop at Queensferry. We only drove through it but that little teaser left me wanting much more. Quaint, ancient, full of history – my kinda place!
The next day, after another feast for breakfast at our lovely B&B, we set off in search of more history. This time at Edinburgh Castle.
The Castle was packed. Like, can’t enjoy any of it because large groups of twenty-somethings are pushing and shoving their way through the Crown Jewels exhibit, kind of packed.
I don’t know if it was due to the crowds, or if this really is the case but there didn’t seem to be much to look at aside from the beautiful exterior, which I’m sorry to say looks so much more impressive from down in the streets below (or from Arthur’s Seat). We saw a few of the interior rooms and then the memorial but overall weren’t impressed and my advice, just skip it.
After maybe an hour of fighting our way through crowds and not seeing much but the tops of people’s heads (short girl problems!), we left and wandered in and out of the shops that line the Royal Mile.
Then found ourselves here…
A little garden oasis in the middle of the Royal Mile, designed in 17th century fashion. Such a lovely little spot to catch your breath before making your way up to Calton Hill…
Via this zig-zagging stone pathway.
And of course, you have to get this picture on your trip to Edinburgh, or it didn’t really happen! 😉
After a pause to take in the views on Calton Hill, we made our way up Princes Street and did a bit more shopping, popping into each store that caught our eye.
Knowing we would be waking up at 3:30am for our flight back to Washington D.C., we got an early dinner at Southpour (DELISH) then settled in for one last night at the lovely Barony House.
Other notable restaurants/cafes:
- Howies – fantastic, seasonal Scottish cuisine
- No.1 The Grange – old fashioned pub with delicious food offerings and guest ales
- Edinburgh Press Club – coffee house with breakfast, lunch, pastries and artisanal sodas
We said goodbye to Edinburgh and made our way to the airport just as the sun was coming up…at 4am…then had a quick layover in London before a very long return flight.
This trip was dream come true and I hope I’ve inspired you to take your own dream trip – life is too short not to!