So I realized today that posting about each individual day would actually take me quite a while to catch up and may not be the most interesting thing to you as the reader. I decided to try to group the days into cohesive clusters in order to catch you all up a bit faster. I’m really excited to get to the trip I’m currently planning. This time I’m going to mix the pictures in!
I’ll start off by saying that there are positives and negatives to the method we used to see the country on this trip. Disclaimer right off the bat: if you are renting a car in an unfamiliar place, let alone another country, it is nearly imperative that you spend the extra and get the GPS/Sat Nav. Seriously. Your phone service won’t cut it (especially in the mountains) and trying to read a physical map, though fun, can be very stressful, especially in cities. It cuts down immensely on the time you spend trying to figure out where you are and where to go which when you’re pressed for time is a great help.
The pros and cons of car rental should definitely be something you consider before a trip. For us, it was the best option for the countries we were in and what we were trying to do. My aunt is a photographer and I had some very specific things I wanted to see that would have been very difficult taking any other mode of transport to see. It allows you to go literally wherever you want, whenever you want without having to depend on schedules, tickets, and routes. Renting a car also allows you to stop whenever you want or take detours which, for two people who love taking their time (and photos), was a benefit we couldn’t pass up. That being said, car rental (with GPS/Sat Nav) can be fairly expensive and in the case of most of the EU, not necessary with their network of trains. It also means that you have to drive in a country or place you are unfamiliar with, sometimes on the opposite side of the road. For those of you coming from the US and other countries that roundabouts/rotaries aren’t common, they can be quite daunting, especially in busy areas so be aware beforehand. Overall I would say that there are more benefits than downsides to renting a car but again, all something to consider when you are deciding what you want to get out of a trip. For my upcoming trip, for example, I have a pretty even mixture of things accessible by train and others pretty much only accessible by car which may mean I do a little travel by both.
For this trip, the majority of the travel we did was by car. We rented from a place right in the Edinburgh airport and headed right out from there. We took the bridge instead of going around the Forth which I kind of wish we hadn’t done because we skipped Stirling Castle but we also knew how long it was going to take us to drive the route through the Highlands, especially with stopping to take photos. A lot of the route we would end up taking ran right alongside the line of Lochs and rivers known as the Great Glen that crosses the Scottish Highlands
The landscape through the Highlands was like nothing I had ever seen before. The sides of the mountains were so green and the water was so blue it felt like most pictures couldn’t do them justice. We made it all the way up to Inverness that day (it helped that it didn’t get dark until after midnight up there.) Such a cute city! I think one of my favorite features of all of the European cities I’ve been to so far is the rivers that usually run through or next to them. They are so clean and clear compared to the rivers I’m used to (there are reasons for that…) Next time I’m in Scotland I definitely plan to go back and explore a little more. We didn’t have a whole lot of time there since we arrived pretty late in the evening and had to leave pretty early the next morning to get to Loch Lomond by dark.
As we sat in our hotel eating breakfast the next day we started to plot our route south. We decided to take the same highway we had taken south then jog off toward the Isle of Skye. It was well worth it. We spent a bit of time stopping off around Loch Ness. I spent a few hours exploring Urquhart Castle. It’s one of my favorites so far. It is one of the largest castles in Scotland, though mostly in ruins now. It was fun to explore and see the different signs that told of the history of the buildings. Urquhart was a major landmark in the Wars of Scottish Independence. I took one of my favorite pictures there, the landscape surrounding the ruins is just so beautiful.
We hit the castle Eilean Donan on the way which was really neat because it is fully restored and looks the way it used to a long time ago. Most of the inside is a museum now that portrays life through the ages in the castle. It’s extremely picturesque and well worth the visit if you can make it. Once we got to the Isle of Skye we took a route that led along the water to the town of Portree. This is yet another place that I wish I could have spent a bit more time exploring. There’s a lot to see on the Isle of Skye including some museums that I would like to go back and visit next time.
On our way from the Isle of Skye to Loch Lomond, we passed a sign for Inverlochy Castle and decided to pop by and see what it was about. This was a castle that had somehow escaped my research in my quest for castles to visit but I’m totally glad we stopped by. It was completely free to visit and there was no one there so I felt like I got to really experience the space which was nice. Inverlochy Castle is a good example of a typical quadrangular castle, almost square in shape with towers at each of the four corners. There is nothing left of the internal structures but the towers were still standing (though under renovations while we were there.) There were a few signs placed around the courtyard detailing the history and location of old buildings. On the back side of the castle, you can see where the old boat landings used to be on the River Lochy leading into the Great Glen. Yet another worthwhile stop and another reason that our car rental proved to be an asset.
We ended up making one last stop on our way into Loch Lomond for the night near Glencoe. It wasn’t for any specific landmark, it was only for the sheer beauty of the site. It’s kind of rare to find places to pull the car to the side of the road for pictures which is slightly disappointing (though understandable.) We were in the middle of a valley where a river ran into a loch in the distance. My aunt decided to take some pictures of the one house we could see nearby while I decided to hike up the side of the mountain on our side of the river. It was a tad slippery but I went up a couple hundred feet to a ledge where I could see the entire valley. It was so quiet except for the wind. You could see the clouds forming as the wind swept up the side of the mountain across from me and the water condensed as it hit cooler air. It was so neat because I didn’t really feel like a body standing on the side of a mountain. I always loved transcendentalism but I had never really experienced anything like the “transparent eyeball” mentioned by Ralph Waldo Emerson. It suddenly made sense to me.
“Standing on the bare ground,–my head bathed by the blithe air and uplifted into infinite space,–all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or parcel of God.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
I felt like I was a simple observer taking in everything around me. It’s amazing the kind of peace that fills you when you lose the egotism that Emerson mentions, even if just for a moment. I stood there for quite a while until I heard my aunt calling me because we needed to continue driving.
Once we got to Loch Lomond, we found a cute little inn right on the water. It was late so they weren’t serving food anymore so we drove down the street a little way (on the suggestion of the wonderful man working at the inn where we stayed) to the Drovers Inn. The inn has 300 years of history and legend says that Rob Roy ate there! The food was probably my favorite meal I had on the whole trip. We both ordered the steak and Guinness pie. It makes my mouth water just thinking about it. If you’re ever in the Loch Lomond area (it’s a national park and highly recommended by most everyone who has traveled there) definitely pop by for a bite, it is well worth your time.
So I guess I lied, this post was not short like I assumed it would be. We saw so much though and its hard to blog about going to the Highlands without repetitively mentioning the beauty and sights.
We had only one more day left in Scotland but what we saw that day is worth an entire post of its own. Stay tuned!!