After a month in Ireland, we were anxious and excited to spend our anniversary weekend in the glorious highlands of Scotland, followed by what we thought we be a charming 10 days in Glasgow and happy September in Edinburgh. Best laid plans, amiright? Accomodations fell through, things got switched, and we ended up with a whirlwind 2-week tour of what I would say was 80% of Scotland. Man, did we cover some ground in a short amount of time. It wasn’t what we were intending, but that’s the thing about travel, isn’t it?
Now, before you continue, I want you to pause for a moment and play the above audio as you sift through these pictures. Really, the only way to drive through the Highlands is with the sweet tunes of Braveheart as your soundtrack. The clouds were low and a light rain began to fall as we wound our way up the hills into the bottom of the Highlands. I won’t lie, with the bagpipes serenading us, coming over that first ridge and seeing those green and glorious mountains was quite the emotional experience. There might have been more than one pair of teary eyes.
For our anniversary, we rented a small cabin in the small (tiny!) town of Gairloch, with a beautiful view of the water and the Isle of Skye across the sea (literally, over the sea to Skye). On day one and with T as an avid lover of his Scottish ancestry, we ventured to the Isle of Skye, home of the clan Donald, to explore it’s rich heritage and stunning landscapes. Upon visiting Armadale Castle, the main home for the MacDonalds, we were hiking around the grounds and noting at all the sweet pigs and sheered sheep. When we were walking through the museum after, I noticed a kid’s book about the elder MacDonald’s farm. WHAT. We are on Old. MacDonald’s. Actual. Farm! Ahh! Everywhere an oink oink!
The rest of Skye was all glorious fairy pools, Cuillin mountains, Old Man of Storr and Quiraing. God, it was gorgeous. The real treasure was at the end of the day as we were driving back, a freak storm rolled over the coast in a flash, and treated us to literally the most gorgeous sunset I have ever laid eyes on. It's cool to look at the photos of the same shot in the morning and in the evening.
The next two days were spent in a similar fashion, driving all around the upper Highlands to some ominous Bone Caves, exploring the Torridons, and taking in a plethora of landscape porn. It was interesting how the landscape was littered with these sweet purple flowers only found in higher altitudes, giving the ground a purple/brown look instead of the typical green. Circling around the upper part, we made our way to Inverness, Loch Ness and Culloden (Outlander!).
After a snafu with our accommodations, we spent 2 nights in Glasgow, which had a nice cathedral and haunting cemetery, but otherwise it wasn’t really our cup of tea. First off, Glasgow is HUGE. As in it’s probably the same size, if not bigger, than Dublin, with the general vibe of Baltimore. Who knew?
We then spent a few days exploring Stirling, wandering around the battle fields and monuments praising the time when English rule could be snuffed out with a few battles and shirtless Scotsmen. Then a few days in Edinburgh, which is such a gorgeous mix of old world and new. The city was finishing up Fringe Fest, a huge comedy and music festival, so it was pretty crazy. At the end of the festival, they shot off fireworks from Princes Street Gardens, so we hiked up to Arthur’s Seat to watch. We then explored more of the city, and hiked up Arthur’s seat again to see it in the daytime. Jeez Scotland, even your cities have gorgeous landscapes.
All in all, Scotland was exactly what we were craving. It was rich in history, architecture and landscapes; it was a combination of stunningly pretty and charmingly quaint and crazily urban, with great food and the friendliest people. After wandering our way around what felt like the entire country, T and I both agree that the Highlands will definitely always have a spot in our (brave) heart.