Child of sea, sun and relaxation, you may have not come to the right place. However, despite the rain, cold and wind, this destination offers something a warm one can’t. This is nature straight out of fairy tales, magical mountains, fairy pools and turbulent waterfalls. You are visiting a destination, which is an inspiration for many movies and fairy tales, has a crazy history of witchcraft and a lot of green landscape. This is a birthplace to worldwide known Harry Potter books.
Well, child of sea and sun… Have you changed your mind yet? Come on, come with me and visit this magical world.
Before I start pointing out what to see, where to go, how to travel, let me give you some advice. The weather here can be really tricky, so it is really necessary to pack a waterproof windbreaker and good hiking shoes. A warm wool hat would also be a good idea, that way you won’t have a headache in the evening. What about rent a car? Definitely yes. Even though I really like the idea of traveling by bus and train around Scotland, it was easier having a car. There was no waiting and being tied up to the schedule and after all Scotland offers many free park places.
The essence of Scotland is not to hurry. Take your time, enjoy the nature, eat and drink well and smile. Scotland will slow you down with closed roads, detours or bad weather, if you try to hurry – believe me, this place has many ideas.
How much time is enough to see this place? We always seem to run out of time when traveling. I would recommend minimum 10 days. I travelled around Scotland for 7 days and it was definitely not enough because we spent a lot of time driving and hurrying.
After visiting many big cities, this was the first time I actually enjoyed it and felt great. Edinburgh is not full of rushing people finding their place on narrow pavements. The city is not “crazy full” at all and you find your way around it in an hour. There are many tours available in the city. One of them is also a free walking tour, which takes you to all the famous sights. Other ones cost from 10 to 15 euros and are amazing. From Harry Potter tour or History of Famous Production of Whiskey to Underground Vaults Tour or Extreme Paranormal Underground Ghost Tour, I am sure you will find at least one to your taste.
The gem of the city is the castle, where they keep the famous crown with the eldest jewels in England called The Honours. The crown has a long history. In the 17th century it was hidden so well, that it was only later in 1818 found by a novelist Walter Scott. Besides it was also a silver wound for which the explanation remains up to today unknown. Book a ticket in advance for visiting the castle because the line there is enormous. Under the caste the Royal Mile full of typical shops, bars, restaurants and the distillery The Scotch Whiskey Experience awaits. If the weather is nice, go up the Calton Hill, where you can enjoy the sun, see the National Monument, that looks like the greek Pantheon, Nelson Monument shaped like an up-turned telescope and the Greek temple. I bet this is a perfect spot to watch the New Year’s fireworks.
Make one day in the city also a sports day by visiting Arthur’s seat. The hike will take you about 30-45 minutes and the view of the whole Edinburgh is fantastic. Don’t forget to take a photo!
Edinburgh is the home of many stories. One of them is about a dog named Bobby. He is known for guarding his owner’s grave for 14 years. In the meantime, he received all the right of citizenship, which meant he could vote.
There are many more things to see and experience in this town. I would like to point out Royal Botanic Garden, which is home to many plants from all over the world, Palace of Holyroodhouse, where queen Elizabeth spends her vacation and a walk down the Princess Street. Also, don’t forget to spend an evening in a typical pub.
Edinburgh is a paradise for your taste buds. Don’t get me wrong, you will find typical Scottish food all over Scotland, but here you are going to have more opportunities to try it. You shouldn’t leave Scotland without trying Haggis. It is actually a savoury pudding containing sheep’s organs – I know it sounds disgusting, but it is really good. It is also served in typical Scottish breakfast, but a there it is called black pudding. The most common dish that you will find everywhere is Haggis, Neeps&Tatties. Around every corner Fish and Chips and their famous soup Cullen Skink awaits. There is also one unusual dish – fried mars – yes, a chocolate mars is fried.
ISLE OF SKYE
Isle of Skye is the most beautiful part of Scotland. Considering the fact you chose or are considering visiting Scotland, I guess you are a nature lover. You came to the right place. The nature here doesn’t mind people and people are absolutely loving this. This is a paradise for hikers because there are many discovered and undiscovered paths. However, beware, the weather can be a bit tricky so pack clothes for warm and cold weather. One could spend an entire week here, but the 2 to 3 days is a minimum.
The most famous part of the island is Old Man of Storr. This is a large pinnacle of rock that can be seen for miles around, a place where sheep relax and weather gets fickle. I would describe weather as Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. At the beginning it was really sunny, then after the climb it started raining and the wind started to blow. After that more rain and wind speed increased. However, by the time we got back it was sunny again. Even though if the parking space is full, don’t worry. Once you start hiking people will kind of scatter and it won’t feel crowded at all.
In the second place of most amazing places on Isle of Skye are Fairy Pools, which I didn’t have time to visit because I went to see Neist Point instead. It is the most westerly tip of the Skye and it hides one of the most beautiful lighthouses. There is a 2 km long path towards it, but the view is amazing already in the first 100 meters. The light house can be seen up to 16 nautical miles offshore and is today privately owned. To see the sunrise or sunset here was one of the things you will never forget.
Next place is Fairy Glen. This is a place where fairies live, well it looks like they would. There are small hills one next to each other, the grass is really soft and the greenest possible colour, trees have strange forms and rocks form a perfect circle, for which even today scientist don’t have explanation. Scottish people ask the tourists not to move them, so look only with your eyes. I even read somewhere that many people put coins between them for good luck. Well, let me tell you, “the fairies” must have taken those euros and pennies because there were nowhere to be seen. Fairy Glen something very unusual, but yet very beautiful. We can say that the place looks like Quiraing, but in a minimised size. One of the hills still has a basalt topping, which from the distance looks like a ruin of the castle.
Make sure you eat well on the Isle of Skye. The restaurants here are among the best in Scotland. You are going to find most of them in a town called Portree, a place famous by sea food and colourful houses. Keep in mind that the restaurants are closed between 1 and 5 pm. If you are hungry, buy a meat pie in that time – they are delicious.
The island also has amazing waterfalls. The most famous is Kilt Rock, but just before you arrive to it, double waterfall called Waterfalls of Rha will be waiting for you.
Fort William offers many hiking paths and beautiful nature. Take a hike by the Loch Eil and find the perfect viewpoint. Harry Potter fans also won’t be disappointed because they will be able to see Hogwarts Express. The very famous Glenfinnan Viaduct is the one you can see in a movie when Harry takes the train to school. The train crosses the viaduct twice a day, but check the schedule before arriving there. We waited in vain because the train no longer drove in the afternoon.
You also came to Scotland to try their famous Whiskey and it is no better way to try in than in the Ben Nevis Distillery. This is a place worth visiting. They will show you how whiskey is made and you can try many different flavours. Don’t worry if you don’t drink alcohol. There are different tickets available with different numbers of whiskey shots.
Loch Ness is probably the most famous lake in the world. We all know the myth about Loch Ness monster. Nessie, they call it, kept scientist busy and created big fears for the locals. There were many researches, tries and explorations, but the monster was never found. All of the unsuccessful explorations can be seen in Loch Ness Exhibition Centre. It is very interesting and instead of showing the signs of existence, they give you proofs why such a big monster couldn’t possibly live in a lake like this. Scams and fake photos that people created are shown, for what people could mistake the monster and explain that Nessie would probably starve to death because there wasn’t enough food for an animal as big as the famous Loch Ness monster. However, despite all the evidence Loch Ness seems very mysterious and dark. It is the largest lake by volume in the British Isles. Next to the centre you will find a beautiful castle (actually, you can find a beautiful caste behind every corner in Scotland) named Urquhart Caste. Through the remains of the castle a path leads and explains how the castle looked and what was a room or a place used for.
Stirling is a wonderful small town, that guards the entrance to Highlands. It is described as a brooch that clasps Highlands and Lowlands together. It has a beautiful castle, an iconic bridge and National Wallance Monument, which offers a view of entire Stirling. Hey, but the view has its price – 246 stairs have to be climbed in order to see it. It is said that from this point Wallance watched the gathering of the enemy’s army, before going into the battle.
Overall, Scotland is full of castles. Dunrobin castle, Floors Castle, Drummond Castle gardens, Urquhart Castle, Eilean Donan Castle and Fyvie Castle are one of many, many, many worth visiting. Of course, there are many more things and signs to see, these are just a few I wanted to point out. I must admit I didn’t look forward to this destination as usual, but I have to admit that the nature and the cold enchanted me. Driving on the left side of the road and siting on the right side while driving was the only thing that caused some trouble, but people here are very nice and patient.
Scotland has really opened my eyes about the northern destinations. My next trip just might be somewhere cold again.
P.S. for girls: In Scotland there won’t be an hour without seeing a sheep lying, enjoying and casually eating grass. There are many stores that sale products, such as scarves and blankets made of cashmere and sheep wool. Buy one outside of Edinburgh because the material is the same but the price much higher in the city. I bet you need one to match it with your winter coat waiting in the closet.