For a homesick kiwi arriving on the other side of the world Scotland couldn’t have been a more perfect start to my UK adventure. It felt like such familiar countryside, yet at the same time it’s ruggedness and depth of history felt so foreign and exciting.
Flying into Edinburgh we picked up a car and hit the road immediately to make our way up to the Isle of Skye. Stopping off in Inverness to take in the beautiful surroundings and enjoy some Cullen Skink for lunch (yuuuum), it was then on to explore Loch Ness and say hi to Nessie.
Travelling up the country I was mesmerised by our surroundings, and stumbling across Eilean Donan Castle just as the afternoon sun was bathing her in a golden glow gave me a real sense of the magic that exists in this country. It was truly beautiful and transported you instantly to another place and time.
And that feeling continued as we approached the Skye bridge, it only opened in 1995 after the increase in tourist populations became too much for the ferry crossings, and as cheesy as it sounds when driving over it you actually feel like you’re taking to the sky and entering a whole other land.
We stayed in Portree, the most populated little village in the area, where the only option for accommodation really is B&B’s (pretty much every local has turned their house into one as tourism really has become the main source of income). We stayed at Gleann An Ronnaich and what a treat it was. Run by a fantastic couple Stu and Will and their little Westie dog Ben, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such a warm and inviting home and would recommend the place in a heartbeat. Like every other aspect of Skye it oozed charm and delight in every single nook and cranny.
Given we were only in Skye for two nights we wanted to make the most of our stay and joined a day tour lead by an amazing local guide Don. In 7 hours we covered almost every inch of Skye, including the rugged East Coast of Staffin, the spectacular pinnacle rocks of Old Man Storr, Storr Lochs, the beautiful Sligachan bridge, the striking rock formations of Quiraing, the jaggy ridges of the Black Cullins, the incredible two thousand year old ruins of Dun Beag Broch (the most preserved in Skye), and of course topped it all off with whisky at Talisker Brewery.
And while the whisky was beyond delicious, my favourite parts of the tour had to be Faerie Glenn and Dun Vegan Castle. Not only was the landscape of the Glen to me so beautiful, but the legend and stories of it being the meeting place of the little people captivated the imagination of my inner 5 year old.
I’ve always loved a good fairy tale, so the stories and legends of how Dun Vegan Castle (with a history spanning nearly 8 centuries!!) came to house the fairy flag (the most treasured possession of the McLeod clan) were something I could’ve listened to for hours.
All in all it was a lot to take in in just 7 hours, and by the end the day we were exhausted (not too exhausted to dig into some haggis and cider mind you, yum) but I’m so glad we did it. There’s no way we would’ve been able to find our way around as easily to all the magic spots in the short amount of time we had.
After 2 magic days it was hard to say goodbye to Skye, but at least the drive down to Glasgow helped ease the pain. Again the scenery had me feeling like we were traversing some kind of magestical land, especially when the weather gods smiled down at us when we stopped at Loch Cluanie, the perfect mirrored lake took my breath away, even the photos can’t quite do it justice.
After exploring the countryside our afternoon in Glasgow was definitely a change in pace. Strangely given my apparent ease at falling in love with cities, Glasgow didn’t really evoke such strong feelings from me. It felt to me like a city that didn’t really know were it belonged, looking to the past or moving to the future. It’s mish mash of historic facades and modern buildings felt a little confused to me, and like no one had really given much thought to its layout. In saying that though, the former Art History student in me did enjoy seeing Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s School of Art, and although I saw no sign of the upcoming sporting event, I’m intrigued to see how the city comes alive during this year’s Commonwealth Games.
Our last stop was of course Edinburgh and I loved every single second we were there. The city was just so easily accessible and charming, and once again had me feeling as if I’d been launched back in history.
We happened to be at Edinburgh castle on the Queen’s actual birthday so were treated to all kinds of military displays and canon firing.
With such a short one night stop over it wasn’t hard to fill our time in Edinburgh, once we’d explored old and new town, strolled the golden mile, and survived climbing Scott Monument (which reminded me of my ongoing battle with heights!) our short visit came and went too fast. I’d love to go back in August, when I’m told the city positively heaves with visitors heading to festivals like the fringe and the military tattoo – no doubt that would be pretty amazing to experience.
As a first stop in this part of the world Scotland really opened my eyes to how lucky I am to have the opportunity to be exploring this wonderous world of ours. I really got my first taste of what it’s like to be able to be in a place, close your eyes, and actually feel the depth of the rich history over the centuries that have gone by.
I’d go back to Scotland in a heartbeat, the Scots and their incredible landscape well and truly stole my heart.