This summer My Husband Jorge and I got to visit a country known for its green rolling hills, rocky cliffs, bagpipes, kilts, and whiskey: yes we had the pleasure of spending 20 days in this beautiful country in the north, Scotland. We first flew in to Edinburgh and began our journey from there. We visited the largest cities and some of the smaller towns. After visiting Stirling, St. Andrews, Isle of Skye, Inverness, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee, and Edinburgh we realized there are some things we learned about Scotland that all travelers should keep in mind when planning their upcoming trips. Here are five suggestions and anecdotes to keep in mind:
1- When we thought of visiting Great Britain and especially Scotland, we said to ourselves we need to try some Scottish beer and have a few pints. Little did we realize that the beer is NOT COLD. We were surprised and a little disappointed but enjoyed some pints nonetheless. It made sense to have luke-warm beer because even in the summer it is really cold and windy everyday. Cold beer is for hot weather, sunny beaches, and terraces in the south of Spain; not for overcast days and 10 degree afternoons. So get ready to drink less-than-cold pints of beer and enjoy it like the locals in a warm cozy pub wearing jackets and pants.
2- One of our favorite things to do while we were in Scotland was to stop at a beach, walk around in the sand, explore the wildlife, and enjoy the solitude and peace. The beaches along the Dundee and St. Andrew’s coast were some of the most peaceful, quiet, and beautiful beaches you will see. St. Andrews had a wonderful area for kids or grownups to explore. There was a great Cemetery near the water and it was another great way to explore St. Andrew’s beautiful coast. Another beach we enjoyed visiting was Lunan Beach. It was on the east coast south of Aberdeen and it has wonderful caves, sand dunes, and a rocky coast to explore. In one beach we even found some wonderful beached jellyfish sunbathing and waiting for the tide to come in. It was fantastic place to explore. Whatever beach you explore in the winter or in the summer you must take a jacket just in case and trousers for sure.
3- Another fantastic activity to do with or without the family is spend some time exploring some of the many cemeteries in Scotland. The cemeteries are everywhere and they are beautifully preserved. Some cemeteries like the one in Aberdeen and Edinburgh surround the church yards and form a part of the cold and spooky atmosphere. In Stirling the cemetery was on a hill and had great views of the tombs, the castle, and the William Wallace monument. It was also really fun to go on a scavenger hunt for the oldest tomb. We went a little further with our fascination of the macabre and the morbid by doing a ghost tour in spooky Edinburg. We booked out tour through Sandemans and enjoyed walking at night with our tour group through some of the spookiest places and cemetery yards. Our tour guide even told us a story inside a mausoleum at pitch dark and the feeling was heavy and really frightening. There are many tour companies that do night or ghost tours and mostly focus on the cemeteries and the underground tunnels in Edinburgh. We couldn’t leave Edinburgh without exploring the dark side. It was a fantastic way to spend a night.
4- You must go here: When we first looked into a trip to Scotland I came upon pictures of this beautiful place called the Fairy pools. When I saw these images I said to myself ¨We must visit this place.¨ It is fantastic. So we rented a car and headed there. We stayed two nights in a great hostel called Skyewalker Hostel and in a super location, but like all places in the Isle of Skye-super isolated. Isle of Skye is off the west coast of the mainland. The drive there is long but well worth the views and the adventure. The roads are difficult to drive on because there are many one lane highways. We drove around the Trotternish peninsula and it took us a half day with many photo stops. You feel as if you are at the end of the world. Do not miss stopping and doing a short 4k hike to the fairy pools at the base of the Cullin Mountains. The pictures do not do this place justice. The Cullin Mountains also paint the landscape with dark and rocky peaks that stands above the green scenery. In the height of summer and tourist season the island was isolated and peaceful. There were few people around and many hikes, walks, or picture spots to enjoy. We also stopped at the capital of Isle of Skye, Portree. It was a great place to stop for lunch, tea, or dinner. The town is small but picturesque and this is the main place for information and hotels in the island. We even got to enjoy a traditional bagpipe band in the town square. What a treat!
5- Amongst all the places we visited, Inverness and the Black Isle were my favorites. We spent a weekend there and loved the city and the surrounding areas. We mostly went to go visit Nessie. But soon found out it was not worth the investment of time or money. We picked a big boat and company and later regretted it. We took a two hour tour on the Loch and it took us to the Urquart Castle. Little did we know that you can visit the castle on your own and if you really want to do a boat trip on Loch Ness to find Nessie, we needed to hire a smaller company and boat to get a personalized and more in depth tour of the mysteries of the Loch. If you do go to Inverness, make sure to go check out The Black Isle. The Black Isle is an area north of the city to look for Dolphins and just enjoy some of the great beaches and small towns. The Best place to spot some dolphins are in Channory Point or Cromarty. We didn’t get to see any but many people did. We just happened to get there at the wrong time for the tide. We suggest spending a whole day exploring the coast there and stopping at the small coastal towns and beaches.
6- Lastly, there are Castles: castles everywhere! It is very true that there are many castles in Scotland. There are ruined ones, more modern looking ones, ones that are in-land, and some that are on the edge of cliffs. Two of our favorite castles we saw from the outside (we didn’t want to pay the price in Pounds to go in but the Elian Donan castle did have the most reasonable prices), were the Elian Donan Castle on our way to Isle of Skye and Dunnotar Castle of the East coast of Scotland on our way to Aberdeen. Both are set in a beautiful environment and still keep their original shape and structure. Both look wonderful in pictures and both are a fantastic way to spend an afternoon.
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