Tag Archives: scotland

Tour of Scotland pt 4: Glencoe & Edinburgh

Unfortunately this is the last part of my Scotland tour series – but before we embark on other adventures, I still have loads to tell you about our last days on the road.

We didn’t need to drive far to reach our first destination: St. Conan’s Kirk is a gorgeous church a short drive away from Oban and it has the most beautiful view of a loch. You can even see the Kilchurn Castle, which was our second stop of the day.

glencoe

Doune Castle was a lovely treat on our last stretch before Edinburgh: the castle has served as a filming location for Monty Python’s Holy Grail as well as Outlander (Doune Castle is Castle Leoch). It even appeared in Game of Thrones as Winterfell! There was an audio guide which had fun tidbits both about the history of the castle as well as the movies that were filmed there. The entrance fee was 6 pounds, which was not too bad either. From Doune Castle we made our way toward the famous Glencoe.

Glencoe was the last location we visited before getting back to Edinburgh. I can’t even stress enough how beautiful the mountains were around us and the amount of green was just staggering.

Once we got back to Edinburgh, we still had one and a half days left to explore the city. Our pre-planned stops included The Elephant House (where J.K. Rowling sat writing Harry Potter), Tom Riddle’s grave (okay, Thomas Riddell’s…but that was in any case the inspiration for Voldemort’s real name), Arthur’s Seat and Greyfriar’s Kirk.

oban 3 edinburgh

Arthur’s Seat took the longest amount of time considering the climb you have to do just to get up on the hill. But the scenery overlooking Edinburgh is amazing. Especially on a warm and sunny day, you can see really far and get wonderful snapshots as memories.

All in all, our tour of Scotland was amazing (we used the company MacBackpackers) and we met wonderful people and saw more than we could’ve hoped for. I wholeheartedly recommend it!

Have you been to Scotland?

Tour of Scotland pt 3: Skye, Oban & Kilmartin

Time for another part of my Scotland tour: from Lewis, we made our way to the Isle of Skye, a famously breathtaking island that is filled with faeries. The first stop on the island was the famed Faerie Glen, where you can climb onto a faerie “castle” and see the entrance to a cave that leads into the faerie realm. You must be careful not to take even a twig as a souvenir though, because otherwise the fae will make sure you’ll have bad luck until the item is returned!

We also saw the famous Kilt Rock and it’s waterfall and later spent the night at Kyleakin where I did an evening walk to the Castle Moil, which was stunning in the evening light.

oban 1 skye

From Skye, we crossed on a ferry back to the mainland and to Oban – but not before visiting Fort William and the Steall waterfall in Glen Nevis. As a massive Harry Potter fan, I was really excited when we stopped at the Glenfinnan viaduct on our way to Fort William. Glenfinnan viaduct featured in Chamber of Secrets in the scene where Harry and Ron try to find the Hogwarts Express while flying in the Ford Anglia. And speaking of the Hogwarts Express, you can see the actual train either puffing over the viaduct or on your stop at Fort William. You can even ride the train! How cool is that?

After a lunch in the picturesque Fort William, we hiked up the mountain sides to the second largest waterfall, Steall, in Glen Nevis. The scenery was unbelievable – jumping over little streams and climbing on rocks until you saw the massive waterfall completely made my day!

oban 2 kilmartin

Oban was our end destination and we stayed there for two nights. The small waterfront town has delicious seafood and lots of cruises going to the nearby islands, such as Mull and Iona. I spent my free day in Oban by doing a half day trip to Kilmartin Glen, an area that has a massive concentration of Neolitchic and Bronze Age remains and a museum that tells you all about them. The best part is that after the museum tour you can actually go and see all the places that are talked about. Imagine climbing into two ancient cairns (tombs) and walking across a field with fluffy sheep before resting your eyes on ritual places, such as the Templewood stone circles. It felt like being sucked into a historical novel.

Places to Visit from Oban

  • Iona (“the cradle of Scottish Christianity”, graveyard, Iona Abbey, beaches)
  • Mull (beaches, wildlife, brochs, castles)
  • Staffa (PUFFINS)
  • Kilmartin Glen (ancient cairns, standing stones, castles)
  • Oban’s own McCaig’s Tower & the local distillery

Tour of Scotland pt 2: Inverness to Lewis

From Inverness, our tour of Scotland had us heading to the Isle of Lewis: an island with wondrous scenery in addition to peace and quiet. Lewis is the largest island of the Western Isles (or Outer Hebrides) of Scotland. Because our 10-day tour was literally called the “Best in the West”, it is clear why Lewis was on our itinerary.

isle of lewis 1

Our stay on Lewis was for two days and we spent the nights in a lovely hostel in the Gearrannan Blackhouse village, which is a group of old crofting buildings that radiate a certain old-world charm and history. The village is situated near the Callanish Standing Stones, which are even older than Stonehenge, and the Carloway Broch, an ancient castle-like construction from the time before castles.

The Carloway Broch is incredibly impressive and you can even climb a little ways inside the stone structure. However, while the broch was majestic, my absolute favorite from the whole island were the Callanish Standing Stones. It’s hard to comprehend how old the stones truly are – I felt like I had stepped into Outlander and was about to be whisked away into the olden days with bagpipes sounding in the wind. Okay, in reality, I was around a bunch of tourists and posing for my very 21st century selfies but that didn’t diminish the magic one bit.

isle of lewis 2

The various white, sandy beaches were another incredible sight for sore eyes: the turquoise waters and the long stretches of bright sand looked like they could’ve belonged to some exotic, warm country rather than the cold, windy Scotland. We visited on the Isle of Great Bernera that hosts the Bostadh Beach and an Iron Age mill. It was the perfect spot for a lunch break as we noticed.

In addition to Bostadh, another wonderful beach-y spot we explored was the Uig beach, which is actually one of the biggest beach areas on the island. It was huge – let me tell ya! It took forever just to walk from the parking lot to the waterline…like, if you were to go swimming (not that you would unless you were impervious to the cold) it would be a workout in itself just to get to the water. But there was a wonderful set of hills around it where we hiked on little twisty trails to see the beach from higher ground. It was gorgeous!

lewis 1

Must see things on Lewis:

Sights that I saw and loved:

  • Callanish standing stones (though there are numerous standing stones around the island, these are arguably the most famous!)
  • Carloway Broch
  • Any of the gorgeous white beaches
  • Isle of Great Bernera
  • Uig Chessmen

Sights I wish I’d seen:

  • Lews Castle
  • Crannogs
  • St. Columba’s Church Ui

Finally, check out the first part of my Scotland tour: Edinburgh and Inverness!

Tour of Scotland pt 1: Edinburgh to Inverness

When this school year started in September, I promised myself a reward for finishing my Master’s Thesis in the form of a trip to Scotland. I coaxed my friend to join me and after I returned my thesis in April, we packed our bags and embarked on our tour of Scottish moors in mid-May.

inverness scotland 1

We started out in Edinburgh where we had a lovely sunny evening walking around the main street and around the Edinburgh Castle. The next morning we boarded a minibus with eight other backpackers and headed out to the wilderness. Well, to Inverness, actually. Our first proper stop, after briefly getting out to snap pictures of the Forth Bridge, was the Highland Museum where some scenes from Outlander were shot. The 1700s village was quaint though the inside of the buildings was gloomy without any light source.

From the Highland Museum, we made our way further up north to the famous Loch Ness, which was magical. The lake was gorgeous and serene and somehow the entire scenery seemed imbued with the bluest of blue. Though we did not spot Nessie, the Loch Ness monster hunter (now there’s a profession I’d like to try) who has made his home on the shore of Loch Ness did sell little figurines to make up for it.

inverness scotland 2

From Loch Ness we rode on to Inverness where we arrived around 6 p.m. after traveling for nine hours. After such a long day we first wanted to shower and go have a bite to eat. Afterwards we would’ve wanted to go sit somewhere where we could hear music, but apparently it’s hard to find a place with live music AND free seats on a Monday night in Inverness. However, we decided to take a stroll by the river to the Ness Islands that were decorated with adorable fairy lights. It ended up being a lovely alternative to sitting in a pub.

It would have been nice to have more time in Inverness as we only got to spend one evening there (after everything had already closed) but hopefully I get to visit again another time. From Inverness our trip continued across the country to the West coast and to Ullapool, which I will tell more about in the second part of my travel diary.

Have you been to Scotland? How did you like the country?

Traveling in Scotland Part 2: Edinburgh

Here’s the long overdue second part of my Scotland trip :D This is dedicated to our day trip to Edinburgh, which was absolutely brilliant. We started by visiting the National Museum of Scotland (YAY for free museums!) and by shopping, of course!

For lunch we chose the Elephant House, which Potter fans might well know – it’s the birthplace of Harry Potter, and J.K. Rowling wrote Potters while sitting in that particular café. They had really great food and, especially, absolutely brilliant carrot soup.

edinburgh-1

We also somehow ended up both into a Christian festival and a rock concert organized by Hard Rock Cafe. Slightly random but I guess adventures are part of vacation :D At the end of the day we had dinner at Bella Italia and below you can see my completely delicious pasta carbonara. My mouth starts to water just thinking about it…

edinburgh

All in all, the trip to Scotland was wonderful and I hope to visit again sometime! Also, the weather agrees with me because my skin burns easily. And huge thanks to my friend for putting up with me the entire time :D

Traveling in Scotland Part 1

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I recently went to Scotland for a week: I stayed with my friend in Aberdeen and I even attended a few of her English lectures at the University of Aberdeen. We also visited the beach, which was nice in spite of the cold and wind!

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The university buildings are absolutely gorgeous; in fact, I loved the architecture there in general! Everything is either quaint and charming, or majestic and reminiscent of Hogwarts!

aberdeen-2

On my first whole day there (traveling day does NOT count) we had to have proper afternoon tea with scones and sandwiches, which happened to be absolutely delicious. We also did some major shopping and sight-seeing (although the sight-seeing was mostly my friend saying “This is an important building! And so is this!”).

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In addition to spending most of our days in Aberdeen, we visited Stonehaven – a lovely little village/town a short train ride away from the center of Aberdeen. The famous Dunnottar castle is located there, a few mile long hike from the harbor of Stonehaven.

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Even my friend, who suffers from a fear of heights, managed to walk to the castle with me, which was great because the view was breathtaking – it was Scotland at its finest: green moors and castle ruins!

stonehaven-2

Stay tuned for more photos from my trip later this week!