How come it took me 22 years to set foot in the land of lochs, legends, fairies, clans, castles, pipes & drums? Scotland, mo ghràidh, my love: you have earned a prime spot on top of my “most astounding and breathtaking countries I have ever visited” list (right next to New Zealand). Despite the gravely delayed visit, I have fallen head over heels in love with this spectacular country in the United Kingdom. If you haven’t visited Scotland before and have no idea where to start, dinna fash (don’t worry): I will share my travel itinerary in this post with you, which – apart from it being way too short – I can highly recommend to any Scotland newbies. My trip to the highlands and the isle of Skye will be the main focus; expect a special post about exploring Edinburgh on a budget soon!
So, first things first: after a bloody intense semester full of deadlines, essay writing, advertising briefs and cafe work it was finally time for our much anticipated Scotland trip – me and my friend Jess took the bus from Leeds to Edinburgh and started our adventure in the capital. I will not digress about Edinburgh here; this fascinating city has a rich history, many landmarks, a unique atmosphere, and definitely deserves its own post (click!).
When visiting Scotland for the first time, make sure to look beyond the charm of lovely Edinburgh; the Scottish highlands are a sight to behold, and should not (I repeat, SHOULD NOT) be missed when visiting the country. Because of my obsession with a certain tv show about Scotland (pssst: Outlander) I was determined to see at least a little bit of the Scottish countryside before going back to England again. One of my friends recommended booking a tour with MacBackpackers – a Scottish travel company which offers bus tours ranging from 3 to 7 days, and attracts people from all over the world between the ages of 18 and 35. Our tour guide was called Graeme; a proper highlander guiding us around the Game of Thrones-like landscapes, century old ruins and mysterious lochs. I’ve got nothing but praise for his fantastic storytelling abilities.
We went on a 3-day trip, which included plenty of landmarks and a rich variety of sights. Don’t underestimate the distances – we were in the bus quite a lot. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the astonishing landscapes though: quite the contrary, it was actually nice being able to relax for a bit, while being flooded with all sorts of new impressions. Trust me, you will never get bored of the highland landscapes!
Whisky tasting at Dalwhinnie Distillery, the Highland Folk Museum, Loch Ness, Eilean Donan Castle. We stayed the night in Kyleakin. My favourite this day? Definitely Eilean Donan Castle… what an incredible sight to behold against the setting sun. However, I must admit the whisky was a nice start of the tour too…
The Fairy Pools, Sligachan, Kilt Rock, Quiraing. The Fairy Pools are probably my favourite out of these three, although Quiraing makes a very close second. I love the pools because of all of the fairy myths and clan stories about them, and the turquoise water makes it hard to question why those stories came into existence. I could easily imagine a water spirit shape-shifting into a kelpie between the glittering rocks… Sligachan had an equally intriguing story about fairies and the brave warrior Cúchulainn. Quiraing was incredibly windy, yet definitely worth a visit! When I go back, I’d love to do a long hike there and enjoy the views that reach as far as the eye can see.
Glencoe, Fort William, Wallace Monument, Doune Castle, back to Edinburgh. Most definitely my favourite location from the whole tour: Glen Coe. Unfortunately known for the horrendous Glencoe massacre, the area shows nature in its most pure and raw form. Deep green and yellow hues, ridges and landscapes so overwhelming it takes you a couple of minutes to regain your sense of reality. Please, make sure to visit this astonishing piece of nature when exploring the highlands and the isle of Skye.
After this we went back to Edinburgh. I had such a blast and am already trying to plan a next trip to Scotland. Many thanks to our wonderful tour guide, Graeme seemed to have an inexhaustible supply of fascinating highland stories and a great sense of humour. The organisation of the tour was great too; there were plenty of toilet stops, food options and there was a lot of freedom in deciding what to see. I can definitely recommend the tours.
Make sure to check out this little travel video about our trip to Edinburgh and the highlands:
I will stop now, mo charaid. Make sure to check out the post about Edinburgh on a budget!
Have you ever been to Scotland?