Scotland Road Trip

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

As much as we were sad to say goodbye to Edinburgh, we were excited to venture out and start exploring Scotland's vast countryside. 

The first step was to pick up our rental car which was only a short distance from our hotel. Upon arrival, there was a bit of a line outside the rental location. I quickly noticed the impatient look on those that were in front of us and knew that we were in for a long wait. After an hour or so in line, we finally made it to the counter and were handed our keys to an upgraded BMW blah, blah, blah series car. 

Next step was to make our way out of the city. This task proved to be even more complicated than receiving our car. Now you may be thinking to yourself, she must have had issues with driving on the opposite side of the road. Well, you would be wrong. Minus a few potholes that I hit and a few times I ran off the road, I was a pro. Our issue was that we could not figure out how to use the GPS in our fancy upgraded car. We spent an extensive amount of time trying to figure it out. I decided that I would start driving and assigned the task to my mom. The look of panic that crossed her face when I put the car in drive was one I will not soon forget. 

I made our way out of the parking garage. Since we didn't know the direction we were supposed to be heading, I made a left. Then a right. While I was busy making incorrect turns, my mom began hitting the GPS frantically in the hopes that this would magically make it work. I advised her that this was not the right course of action and suggested for her to calm down. We drove around in circles for a bit, while being honked at, due to my indecisive sense of direction. Once we figured out the GPS, we exhaled a huge sigh of relief and were on our way. 

We drove a little over an hour to our first stop, St Andrews. Now, I will be honest. The only thing I really knew about St Andrews was that it was home to one of the oldest golf courses. I have zero interest in golf. My mom really has no interest in golf. Then why did we stop here you may ask? Picture me shrugging shoulders here. But, I will say that St Andrews surprised me. It was a cute college town with cobbled stone streets set right on the coast. 

We roamed the ruins of St Andrews Cathedral. Once the largest church in all of Scotland. Then we continued on foot to St Andrews Castle deciding to forego the $10 admission and admire it from afar. We headed into town just in time since it started to rain and tucked into a burger joint for a late lunch, which turned out to be popular with the student body. 

We decided to make our way to our hotel in Aberdeen which was about an hour and half from St Andrews. We stayed at the Marcliffe Hotel and Spa. When we arrived we were tired and chose to have dinner at the hotel and then called it a night. 

We made our way out of Aberdeen, not experiencing much of it besides our cozy accommodations. The roads started to narrow and twist and turn. I heard a few gasps in the passenger side seat as I may have grazed a few tree branches. We had entered the Cairngorms National Park. This was a warm welcome to the Highlands. The difficult part of being the driver was that it was hard keeping my eyes on the road with the beautiful scenery unfolding around me. And of course my mom proclaiming to look at this or that over there. 

There were mountains, rolling green hills, dense forests, wide open spaces with rivers rolling through, and bikers. So many bikers. Bikers who took up the entire road. Which forced you to sit back and enjoy the view because, due to winding roads and visibility of oncoming traffic, it was difficult to pass. I may have envisioned given a few of these bikers a little bump but I controlled the urge. 

We made a stop at Braemar Castle along the route before heading to Inverness. We took the audio tour and found it to be quite interesting.This would be the first of many castles visited on this trip. 

We made our way to Inverness. Before heading to the B&B, my mom had one request to visit the Culloden Battlefield. She is a fan of the show Outlander and was very into the history of the Jacobites. I, being the wonderful daughter that I am, obliged. 

If castles are your thing, then Scotland will sure have you covered. We started the next morning visiting Urquhart Castle which is nestled right on beautiful Loch Ness. Unfortunately for us, the parking lot was full when we arrived and we had to utilize another lot that was further away. Much further. I'm talking, we saw a girl hitch hiking from the lot further. (It really wasn't that bad and took us maybe 15 minutes but it was uphill). 

We explored the castle ruins, ancient rooms, towers, and took in over a thousand years of history. The castle's setting was worth the visit alone. 

Next up and my personal favorite, Eilean Donan Castle. I mean, this has to be one of the most photogenic castles in Scotland. Surrounded by dark sea lochs and majestic Scottish mountains, it is truly picture perfect. The interior is just as impressive and is well worth a visit. 

We crossed the Skye Bridge and made our way to a mythical land where fairies roam, the Isle of Skye. If you only do one thing in Scotland, make your way here. It is rugged, dramatic, mysterious, raw, and just utterly breathtaking. This was my favorite part of our trip. 

We stayed in Portree at the Cuillin Hills Hotel. It was a short distance from town, a great base to explore, and views were amazing. 

Can we just talk about weather in Scotland? It rains. Alot. Like, you will have a 70% chance of rain or higher. So, when it is not raining you need to take advantage and quickly. Because, chances are it will start to rain at any moment. That's exactly what we did. The first day was raining and very, very windy. It may have not been the best day to hike to the Old Man of Storr (large pinnacles of rock that rise high and can be seen for miles), but time was limited. Once the rain and wind slowed down, we laced up, zipped up, and prepared ourselves for the trekk.  

With each step we took, the wind would get stronger and my breath would get shorter. I looked up to see my mom far ahead. Her Zumba classes were definitely paying off. I pretended to tie my shoe so I could catch my breath to cover up the fact that I was finding it hard to keep up. The fog was heavy and we could only catch glimpses of the famous rock formation. 

We made our way to Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls. The Kilt Rock cliffs resemble a Scottish kilt (hence the name). This area was crowded with people. To see the falls you have to lean your head out and over a railing for a good view. Along with everyone else in front and back of you. 

We continued our drive to The Quiraing. There were only a few cars parked so we were not entirely sure if we had the right location. We followed a few sheep who led the way through muddy trails to insane mountain vistas. This place is incredible and we only scratched the surface. 

Our time on Isle of the Skye, sadly, came to a quick end and we were back on the road. We took a scenic drive through the valley of Glencoe. Stopping to appreciate our surroundings along the way. We made our way past Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park staying the night. Our road trip came to an end in Glasgow where we turned in our car and explored the city with the one sunny day we had on the the trip. 

Now, if you've made it this far, I'm impressed. Let's play a game and see how many times I said how amazing the scenery was throughout this lil post. That is Scotland for you, trying to find as many synonyms for beautiful as possible. Rain or shine.