This short but intense trip was many things with a little taste of Scotland, our first trip to the UK. Our flight takes off with considerable delay from the airport that take us to Edinburgh. United Kingdom is outside the Schengen area, so on arrival there are passport checks and customs formalities. There is a long line and we were a bit irritated at the delay as our time is short and in these five days we will have to run a lot.
When we are finally outside the airport, we take the rental car and head to the apartment we booked, which should be very close because it is located outside of the center. Bad luck has it that we struggle to find the address because at that stretch of road there are road works in progress, but then we make it.
Upon arrival we see the beautiful apartment, which has two bedrooms, a super modern living room with fireplace and dining table, kitchen, bathroom and backyard. The road is not very busy so you also can park for free, and in the fridge there's even breakfast for the next day! When I get in a comfortable house it disappears all the fatigue of the journey.
We support our things and we try not to lose more time, because we would like to move straight into the historic center. The bus stop is located at a minutes walk. Once accommodated on board here I start chatting with a lady sitting next to me in perfect English, of course! Fortunately they had told me that the Scots speak a little understandable English, and instead understand (almost) everything. The very polite lady advises on the most convenient stop for us to reach Edinburgh Castle .
We get off the bus after crossing the North Bridge and we are immediately on the corner with the famous Royal Mile, the oldest pedestrian street that leads straight to one side of Edinburgh Castle, and the one opposite the city's harbor. We start walking to breathe a little Scottish air!
Along the walk we meet several local restaurants with gaily painted doors and windows, bagpipers and Scottish souvenir shops. Arriving at the castle, however, we realize that it is too late to enter and consequently many rooms are already closed. We buy tickets for the next morning, so as to avoid the queue, and we go wandering around the old town. We visit the St. Giles' Cathedral and then catapult into dine in a typical pub. The day ends early because we were a bit tired.
Royal residence since before the year one thousand, and a military fort from 1600 onwards, Edinburgh Castle stands on a hill overlooking the city. From here you can enjoy a wonderful view of the sea, if the weather permits. The cost of tickets to the castles in Scotland are high. The tickets can be bought online as well, at no extra cost.
The front facade has the statue of William Wallace, the hero of Scottish independence, based on the history of which the director Mel Gibson made a big hit movie (Braveheart). Then there is the Royal Palace, with its gallery of monarchs portraits and the magnificent Great Hall, the National War Museum, where there is the history of armies and Scottish fighters to the present day, including shots of the photographic project Helmand Return of Robert Wilson, dedicated to the return of British fighters from Afghanistan.
I quietly admire the view from where you can enjoy the city. Slowly the gray morning clears and the sun is coming out. We have lunch in the cafeteria on the Esplanade with a sandwich and a drink.
Our Edinburgh visit was very short, and having the rental car already available, immediately after lunch we start towards Fort William, Scottish Highlands, true interest of our trip. The rental car has GPS which naturally makes us take a different path which seems to me much longer than they should, but who knows maybe it calculates routes based on traffic! The fact is that we begin to delve into the green of the Scottish scenery, and with a trip of about 3 hours and a half we arrive in Fort William.
Our cottage is located in the countryside in an idyllic situation with a beautiful garden and a pond for the ducks, and the view of Ben Nevis, the highest in the UK, known winter ski mountain. This was the view we had every morning!
We have a veranda, a kitchen, bathroom with shower, a skimpy double bedroom and nicest thing of all a second bedroom loft with two single beds and balcony. In the evening we had to turn on the heat because it was chilly. The cottage had an electric heating system, something never seen before and that made us laugh a lot, but that probably says a lot about the harsh climate in these parts and on electricity consumption that the manager has to paid separately. In 3 and a half days we used electricity for 2 pounds, so no exorbitant expense to be paid separately.
We stayed here for 3 nights. The location was good and central for touring the Highlands, unless you are planning to make a trip traveling, but prefer to go back every night in the same accommodation. Of course Scotland is wider to turn than what appears and then having had more days, we too would have done more stages, sleeping in different places. But with only 5 days in all it went very well.
The town of Fort William is located on the banks of one of the many beautiful Loch of the region, the Loch Linnhe. The Scottish Loch are different depths lakes with all the long and narrow characteristic shape, some fresh water (such as Loch Ness) and others are the fjords, where the sea creeps, and are therefore saltwater. In this region the water is one of the absolute protagonists, and one of the main reasons for its beauty. With rivers, lakes, waterfalls and sea, Scotland is a celebration of nature!
There are many roads in the Highlands along the loch, so every movement becomes an opportunity to admire the lakes and the surrounding green hills. The loch are perfectly navigable, the waters are always calm and clear, and you can hop on a boat for sightseeing, as we did on Loch Linnhe, and if you are lucky you can be able to admire a bit of local wildlife.
There are birds out there, but you can also watch the seals (marine fjords) and the oysters and seafood farms. Some slopes of marine lakes are at times so difficult to reach that the few inhabitants of some remotest houses remain disconnected from the world for a long time, especially during the winter. During our boat trip on Loch Linnhe we could watch the Ben Nevis in all its splendor as the sun shone high in the sky, and the guide explained to us that only a few days a year you could enjoy such a clear view on the mountain, and we were lucky!
The cruise lasts an hour and a half. If the day is not too cold you can stand on the deck admiring the scenery, or you can also settle down in the deck and watch from the large windows, sipping hot chocolate from the bar.
On the way to the Isle of Skye that is unique among the Scottish islands as it is also connected by land you can enjoy great and unique views, especially if you're lucky enough to admire them on a sunny day like the one that happened to us.
The compulsory visit before arriving on the island is Eilean Donan, a small castle located on a small island connected by a stone bridge, currently privately owned by the MacRae family, probably one of the most visited and emblematic of Scotland. You may remember it also in the films of the 80s, where many scenes of the film have been set right here. This small castle is capable of giving authentic dips to the heart, as it is set in a spectacular natural setting at the confluence of three lochs and the Isle of Skye in the background.
The history of the castle stretches between the 12th and the 18th century, when it was bombed by the Royal Navy because it was occupied by Spanish soldiers during a Jacobite uprising. From that date onwards, it remained abandoned and in ruins for about two centuries, until a descendant of the MacRae clan, owners of the castle in 1500 acquired it by right of succession and began the restoration project. The current owners still use the castle for gatherings and events related to the clan, and in the rooms you can see in the picture the events linked to the family, even the most recent. It's really a dive in the history of several generations of a family.
Inside you can visit all the rooms, but is not allowed to take photos. The bedrooms, kitchens, tables are laden and clothes in the closets recreate the atmosphere of a castle of 1800. Also ensure that you do not poke around too much because you might find a nice surprise as a type of skeleton suddenly leaps before your eyes!
It is possible to have lunch at the self service of the small visitor center, just opposite the castle, which has free wifi. In the afternoon we went to the Isle of Skye where we had intended to visit the Talisker distillery, which unfortunately was closed to visitors at 5 pm. We, of course, like Edinburgh Castle, arrived late. From then on we realized that to visit monuments and places of attraction in Scotland, it was necessary to take account of these hours, otherwise we would have missed all visits.
Also because of the beautiful sunny day, I did not regret at all that we had spent most of the afternoon walking barefoot on this wonderful beach resort in Lower Breakish.
Next day given the nice weather, we decide in the morning for a boat trip on Loch Lynnhe that I mentioned above, departing from the pier in Fort William at 10 am. At lunch we visit the Ben Nevis distillery, located in Fort William, and in the afternoon we head towards Fort Augustus and Loch Ness. In the visitor center it begins with a fun movie projected on the wall where the giant MCDram tells the story of the origins of Scotch whiskey, then begins the guided tour explaining the processes of the drink!
An interesting anecdote that has impressed me is that concerning that part of whiskey every year goes in barrels, by evaporation. It is called side of the angels, perhaps because it is assumed that the evaporation for the benefit of the latter. The tour ends with a small course tasting, reserved for adults only. Of course there is also a shop where you can buy, but they seemed exorbitant prices though the whisky was good.
After lunch we head towards Fort Augustus, the town which is located to the south of Lake Loch Ness. The Caledonian Canal is a navigable canal built to connect with each other the different lakes, and consequently the north of the Scottish peninsula in Inverness to the south, in the village of Banavie (fort William). Here in Fort Augustus we were lucky and we were able to attend the commissioning of operation of the system, with a consequent increase of the various water levels, to allow the transit of certain vessels.
Loch Ness and the Nessie, after all, is not the first thing that comes to mind thinking of Scotland, after the whiskey! The lake has been explored far and wide with a sonar, and in the 90s, a documentary was also made. As explained in the museum of the Loch Ness Exhibition Center in Drumnadrochit, it has been documented throughout the history of Nessie, the possibility of a kind of dinosaur that survived extinction and has been trapped in the waters of the lakes. The first documented sightings in some way date back to 1500 years ago.
This Museum is really interesting and you should definitely visit if you are in the area. It provides all the information. You can for example hear the videotaped testimonies of people who claim to have seen the creature. When you leave it will be you who will have to answer the question, the Loch Ness monster exists or not? It's up to you to decide whether to believe or not.
Our short but intense journey comes to an end already. On the last day we have the return flight from Edinburgh at 4 pm. We get in the car in the morning because we know that await us several hours of driving, but we still have a visit scheduled on the way back.
The road we take to the return is not the same as the first leg, in which we have been guided by the navigator. We decide to take the valley of Glen Coe, which among other things does not minimally lengthen the way. This is one of the most spectacular valleys of Scotland, and despite the rain we still enjoyed in all its majestic views. The amount of water, waterfalls, rivers and streams is impressive. From a hill come down dozens of streams, which seemed to gush from the top cloud in which was to disappear the top of hill itself. I was enchanted!
When we arrive at our last stop, the Stirling Castle, the sun was finally out. We have little time, but we decide to visit the same. The coolest thing about the castle is probably its location and the view of the valley can be enjoyed from its walkways. Around this fortress were fought many battles during the Scottish wars of independence of the thirteenth century, with the separatist armies led by the legendary William Wallace. The statue dedicated to him is located on the facade of the castle of Edinburgh.
After the visit to Stirling we had lunch outdoors overlooking a fascinating" cemetery, and then take the way to the airport, where awaited the return flight, which will take us back home after making a stopover in Amsterdam.
We loved this short tour to Scotland and would certainly return with more days available. It is a trip that combines so many different aspects and is suitable for both those who are fond of nature, because the landscapes are stunning and there are many possibilities for outdoor activities. Even a simple ride on one of the Loch coffin will leave a beautiful memory. The history lovers instead definitely will find bread for their teeth, because here there is plenty, even seasoned with a hint of romance and an air of mystery.
It is a very suitable trip to those traveling with children but the only problem would be to find a suitable accommodation, if you travel with more than two, because the majority of the bed and breakfast apartments have a few rooms, which is why if you want to travel in high season (summer) you have to book well in advance.