Scotland - June 2017
We began another summer vacation with a long trip to Scotland, a country with other-worldly landscapes and famous philosophers, and one I've dreamed of visiting since I discovered the novels of Walter Scott! We had twelve long, glorious days to drive around much of the northern, ancient kingdom...
June 26th: Arrival in Glasgow and drive to Edinburgh. (Flying into Glasgow was way cheaper than Edinburgh.) We checked into gorgeous Sherwood Guest House and headed out to see Edinburgh, thoroughly exhausted but determined. We stayed here for two nights and saw Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, the Edinburgh National Museum, visited Mark's cousin Tracy, Holyrood House Abbey and Palace and King Arthur's seat. We also visited the Elephant Cafe, where much of Harry Potter was imagined and written. Though June, it was pretty chilly and gray. The dreary buildings did not do much to liven the scene, but they aren't allowed to be painted in order to maintain historical accuracy. The kids really enjoyed the soldier's dog cemetery at the Castle and the enormous Mons Meg cannon.
The street life and museums transported you to another time. There is so much history, and so many famous Scottish personages. Two nights was just not enough, we could have explored in Edinburgh for weeks! I wished we had put more time in our schedule to relax here more. It's a very exciting but easy-to-get-around city.
June 28th: From Edinburgh we drove our rental down to Abbotsford on the River Tweed - just a quick jaunt to see the home of Sir Walter Scott and where he wrote most of his famous historical novels like my favourites, The Antiquary and Guy Mannering. Knox was sick on the side of the road, I think it was having him drink the last dregs of his penicillin (he was recovering from pneumonia) instead of throwing it out! Abbotsford was a dream of a home on the river looking across at England. It was kept as he left it and full of memorabilia of famous Scottish battles and personages, all collected by Scott. Then we drove back up to into the Highlands into Stirling, to see Stirling Castle and the home of Mary, Queen of Scots. On the way we saw the famous Falkirk horses, the Kelpies (based on a haunting Scottish legend about imps that trick people into drowning!)
June 29th: Still in the highlands, we continued north into the Grampian Mountains, to the Cairngorms. Fog covered the top of the mountain in a deep wet mist, which we discovered when we took the funicular to the top and hiked around a bit, surprising a lone reindeer. Even though we missed the best view around, I loved the haunting atmosphere.
June 30th: We left our hotel in the little skiing village of Aviemore (another nondescript hotel in Scotland that was overpriced and under-expectations) and stopped by a local farm for a sheepdog demonstration. Blue (for his one blue eye) followed short whistles and commands and herded those sheep like nothing! That night we went deeper into the highlands and stayed outside of Inverness at Kincraig castle - a real medieval castle turned hotel. It was a splurge, but we try to balance with cheaper stays elsewhere! From here we explored the Inverness and Loch Ness area, including our favourite castle - Urquhart. We also visited the Battlefield of Culloden (1745) and it's excellent museum, as well as the Clava Cairns, a prehistoric burial site. All the castles had excellent cafes where we had lunch and rested.
July 2nd: we left Loch Ness and drove east towards the Isle of Skye and stayed in Balmacara near Eileen Donan Castle. This whole eastern area is just a dream of landscapes and hiking. We wished we'd brought our boots for a good Scottish walk in the munros.
July 3rd: Our last stay was in the Isle of Glencoe hotel near the colourfully named Ballachulish village. The landscape and munros near Glencoe were just awe-inspiring and spiritual and I wish we had longer than 2 days there. We managed to find a road featured in James Bond and do a bit of highland "walking." We'll have to come back for more when the kids are older and we have the proper footwear. Despite the cold and wet, the bleakness of the scenes spoke to my soul. We even found Castle Argh! (Monty Python and the Holy Grail) and hiked up one munro almost to the top. We flew back out of Glasgow July 5th - it was a quick trip full of wonders and a place we WILL revisit.