If you have read the post about our trip to Rome, you’ll know that we like to buy holidays for each other rather than presents for our birthdays. So in June, I have the pleasure of planning and taking Ms Lust on holiday for her birthday. As I did in January, Ms Lust had given me a shortlist of three destinations, and it was then left to me to choose which of these we would go to. Although they had been given in no particular order, it was clear that Ms Lust’s top choice was to go to the Isle of Skye in Scotland. This was more due to a particular place on Skye rather than the island itself, but we’ll come back to that later. I’d wanted to visit here myself for a long time too, so it was an easy decision to make in the end and I was soon looking into our options for visiting the Isle of Skye.
As it would just be me driving, I had decided to book a flight to Glasgow and then hire a car to drive the rest of the way. It didn’t really make it any quicker or cheaper, but I didn’t fancy 10 or 11 hours of driving each way, especially with only a few days to make the most of or in which to recover. So we arrived in Glasgow after our morning flight from Stansted, and went to pick up the hire car. I was pleasantly surprised that we didn’t have to wait too long, but my delight soon faded. Why is hiring a car in the UK such an arduous and complex process? I don’t want to start moaning already though, we had a fantastic time and I’d rather be talking about that!
With the hire car sorted, we set off on our way to Skye. We still had approximately five hours of driving before we would get there, but we also had plenty of time to stop and go exploring along the way. I’d planned a rough route to take, not the most direct in order to take in as many sights as we could. After leaving Glasgow, we first made our way through Loch Lomond National Park. I had visited here before on holiday many years ago as a child, and was curious to see how much I would remember. We found a place where we could park and eat lunch, and we were able to walk down to the loch from here. In all honesty it reminded me of standing by the lake in Queenstown more than anything else, the landscapes are so similar although I have to say that Loch Lomond is a lot more peaceful!
As we drove further through the national park, we then found an unexpected treasure, the Falls of Falloch. Located on a river that feeds into Loch Lomond, a short walk from the car park past some smaller falls led us to this amazing place. I always prefer places which require a little bit of effort to reach, rather than simply parking the car, stepping out to take a few photos, and then getting straight back on the road again. I feel that it makes you appreciate it more and that the destination is somehow improved by the journey to get there. Definitely worth the walk, the falls erupt from the surrounding woodland and provide some stunning views. A viewpoint has been constructed at the end of the track, but there are plenty of other spots which give spectacular views of their own.
Back on the road and continuing our journey north, there were so many places that we wanted to stop at but it simply would not have been possible to stop everywhere. The weather was also beginning to turn on us, with the frequent showers becoming heavier and heavier, and we didn’t want to risk getting caught in a downpour so early in the holiday! We did manage to fit in a few quick photo stops before reaching Glencoe however, where we would also stop to see the famous Three Sisters.
At this point I realised that we would be unable to complete part of my planned route, which created more decisions to make. Although we weren’t going to be staying on the Isle of Skye itself, I had wanted to take a ferry from Mallaig to the island and to drive through the Sleat peninsula on our way. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t on our side and strong winds had meant that the ferry had been cancelled. As for our route, this now meant that we would have to stay on the mainland and leave Skye until the following day. However this meant we would not now be going past a couple of places that I had wanted to visit, and we had to decide whether to take a detour to still be able to visit them or not. In the end we compromised to make sure we wouldn’t be arriving too late at our accommodation, and we would drive out to Glenfinnan and back but the coral beach at Morar would have to wait until our next trip to this area.
Glenfinnan is originally famous for being the site where the Jacobite uprising began, when Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard here in 1745. The Glenfinnan Monument was built in 1815 to memorialise those that lost their lives in the battles that ensued, and it is still standing today by the banks of Loch Shiel. Today however, it seems it is more famous for its viaduct, used as a filming location for the Harry Potter films. Fortunately the two sites are a stone’s throw from each other, and we were able to see both in between the increasingly frequent rain showers. Now time was starting to run out and we set off for the last leg of the day’s journey to our accommodation in Craig, near Plockton and a 10 minute drive from the Skye Bridge onto the island.
Another one of my AirBnB finds (click here for a signing up discount), we were staying in a lodge on a farm that seemed to be used more for tourism purposes rather than agriculture. We didn’t have much time to see the animals, but the setting was incredible and made for some fantastic views as we were leaving and returning each day. We arrived with time to spare and took the opportunity to freshen up before heading out again to find somewhere for dinner. As I mentioned before, Plockon was the nearest town and we had been told that it has a good reputation for food. This was to become our destination for dinner a couple of times, and we were never disappointed. Most of the restaurants in this area take advantage of the local produce available, especially seafood, and we were able to try some wonderful Scottish dishes during our stay (including the odd haggis here and there!).
The next day would be the start of our explorations of the Isle of Skye, and also the first of two days that I had planned more thoroughly. For this day, we would be travelling around the most northern peninsula of Skye, the Trotternish peninsula. A huge, 30 km long landslip here has created some of Skye’s most famous and dramatic landscapes, and it was our intention to try and see as many as we could. Our first stop was the Fairy Glen near Uig, probably the least well-known of the day’s excursions and therefore the least crowded. Located a few kilometres down a single-track road unsuitable for tour buses (hence why it was so quiet!), I was glad I had looked up directions before leaving as there were no signs for this attraction until we actually arrived and I would never have found it otherwise. Fairies feature heavily in Skye’s folklore, and there are many sites on the island that are attributed to these magical creatures. The Fairy Glen doesn’t really have its own story, it is simply named due to the landscape found there looking like something straight out of a fairy tale. Everything in Skye, and the Scottish Highlands as well, is incredibly green. The mountains, lochs, and waterfalls make the scenery so beautiful anyway, but I guess living in New Zealand had made me a little less awestruck by this than I otherwise would have been. What is different to New Zealand is the greenness that covers absolutely everything. It may have been because we visited at the start of summer, but it really does make every landscape look magical. And with the unique shape of the land at the Fairy Glen, it really is easy to see how it got its name.
This was our only stop on the west side of the peninsula, so we made our way eastwards to our next destination, the Quiraing (I have yet to find out how this is pronounced, any help is greatly appreciated!). This is the first of the landscapes created by the famous landslip, which has exposed some wonderful geological features. When seeing the sign directing us over ten miles down a single-track road to such a well-known tourist spot, I had horrifying images of having to stop every two seconds to let the constant convoy of hire cars and tour buses past. Luckily I was worrying for nothing, and the road was reasonably quiet. I had been tempted to continue on the main road around the top of the peninsula, in retrospect I am glad that we didn’t as I would probably have missed the Quiraing altogether! There is a car park just on the side of the road, with a walking track starting on the opposite side. How far you go and how long you stay here is entirely up to you. The main features of the Quiraing are actually visible from the car park, and after walking approximately 200 metres down the track the landscape really opens up into some stunning views. For the more adventurous the track continues, and there are walks of various lengths and difficulties that can be completed from this starting point. For us, our itinerary was too busy to stay for too long, and we were content with just completing the first section of the walk before heading back and continuing down the east coast.
Our next stop was our first real experience of how busy Skye can get, and the car park at the Kilt Rock viewing area was jam-packed when we arrived. Kilt Rock is a cliff where the unique geology has created a sheer face that resembles a kilt. Also just in front of the cliff is a small waterfall called Mealt Falls. There isn’t much here to keep you too long, just a couple of viewpoints which are only about 20 metres from the car park. So after taking a few photos from each, we were soon back on the road and feeling like it was time for something to eat. My biggest piece of advice for anyone travelling to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland is this: plan everything as well as you can. Unfortunately in terms of when and where we would eat, I hadn’t done so and left us with very few options. Skye is a very rural area and although it has become a busy tourist destination, some things still operate at their own pace. As such, not realising that everything would be shut on Sundays, we were left with nowhere to have lunch until finishing our trip around the peninsula and returning to Portree.
So we carried on and proceeded to our next stop, Rubha nam Brathairean or Brothers Point, another often overlooked beauty spot. Again this is probably due to the lack of signs, we also only found it due to my earlier research. Basically just a layby on the side of the road with a footpath on the other side, it would be easily missed. I even missed it on the first pass, noticing the footpath sign just as it was too late to stop and we had to turn around to go back. We were very glad that we did go back, as after a walk along the footpath we were rewarded with some great views of the Skye coastline. It would have been easy to have spent a few hours here exploring, but our stomachs were becoming angry and encouraged us to head back.
The last stop on our itinerary was possibly the most disappointing, the Old Man of Storr. Similar to the Quiraing, this is a landscape formed by the landslip. The Old Man of Storr itself is a natural obelisk that was left protruding from the landscape. This is another of the main tourist spots in this area, and even when we arrived late in the afternoon it was still very busy. The footpath up to the Old Man of Storr is a long, steep slog which we were told would take two hours to reach the top and back. With no time nor inclination for a walk of that length, we decided to start and see how far we would get or if we would find a good viewpoint on the way. The truth is, the view from the footpath is particularly disappointing. The whole way up you are directly in front of the ridge and the Old Man of Storr, which makes it very hard to identify where it actually is. To be completely honest, the views from the road both before and after the car park were much better, thanks to being able to view the landscape from a different angle. It may be that it is truly wonderful once you reach the top, but we weren’t prepared to spend so much time and effort to find out and after about fifteen minutes of climbing we decided to head back down.
After this we really did need to find somewhere to eat and we parked up in Portree, unfortunately it seemed that everyone else had had the same idea. Every restaurant we tried was full, with waiting times all being about an hour, so in the end we gave up and drove on to the next town, Sligachan. Here we were more fortunate, and we found somewhere to satisfy our haggis cravings on only our second attempt. It had been another very long day, but we had seen some fantastic landscapes and we were ready for more!
The next day was Ms Lust’s birthday, so she was in charge of what we would do. I had made some suggestions but there was one place that was absolutely non-negotiable. The place that Ms Lust had wanted to visit, and basically the whole reason we were visiting Skye, was the Fairy Pools. Another of Skye’s enchanted areas, this is a cascade of waterfalls on a stream of incredibly clear water that has run down from the mountains. Again this isn’t very well signposted from the main road (I think the locals are trying to keep some of these spots to themselves!), it really is worth doing your homework beforehand to be able to find these places. The Fairy Pools really are spectacular, and one pool is particularly beautiful. Two pools, one with a waterfall dropping into it, connected by an underwater arch, provide reason enough for the name. These were the pools we had also earmarked for a swim, which we had brought wetsuits along for. The climb down to the pools is fairly dangerous, especially once the rocks have become wet and slippery, but the advantage of this is that you get the pool more or less to yourself if you are willing to make the descent. We did, and instantly were thankful that we had. It is such a beautiful place and, despite the water being so cold, swimming here is something I will remember forever.
After our swim, we dried off and continued a little further up the path. It is possible to walk all the way back to Sligachan, marked as a 4.6 kilometre walk. We didn’t go that far, even just a few hundred metres further gave us the chance to see so many other pools that were equally as beautiful. Plus we hadn’t started the day as early as planned so we now needed to get back on the road. Our next stop was to be Dunvegan Castle, after Ms Lust had decided she would prefer a cultural stop to break up all of nature and landscape stops we had been making.
Dunvegan Castle was originally a medieval castle built in the fourteenth century, and the ancestral home of the MacLeod clan. Since then, various clan chiefs have made their own additions and, although they have been made in the same style as the castle, it now seems more like a stately home. The castle sits on the shores of a loch and offers great views of the loch and the surrounding countryside. Inside there wasn’t too much to see, the main draw is the infamous Fairy Flag which is said to bring good luck. An heirloom of the MacLeod clan, it is said to have been raised in battle at times when defeat seemed inevitable, and every time the clan have gone on to be victorious.
Included with the ticket is access to the castle gardens, which we had a short walk around. With neither of us being particularly interested in horticulture, we were there mainly for the views it offered of the castle. As a result, the price of the ticket seemed a little expensive as we were only there for about an hour, but it was an interesting visit nonetheless. Once we had finished at the castle, we only really had time to head back to our accommodation to prepare for dinner. Naturally we made a couple of quick stops along the way, one of which was to finally take a photo of this bridge that we had passed so many times already! As we made our way back, we said our goodbyes to the Isle of Skye as the next day we would be heading back south.
After going for breakfast at our new favourite cafe in Kyle of Lochalsh, we set off on the road back towards the lowlands of Scotland. We hadn’t gone too far however before it was time for our first stop of the day, at Eilean Donan Castle. I had found out about this castle while researching the holiday, and as soon as I saw it I decided we had to go. I instantly recognised it as the castle from The World Is Not Enough, and later found out it had been used in the filming of Highlander as well. A truly iconic, typically Scottish castle, it just had to be worth a visit. And it really was, a lot more of the castle is open to the public than at Dunvegan Castle, and it is wonderful to be able to explore both the inside of the castle and the ramparts. I guess the fact that it costs only just over half as much to get in as well is what makes the ticket for Dunvegan Castle seem a lot.
The location of Eilean Donan Castle is just perfect, protruding into the water at the meeting point of three lochs. The piper playing by the shore to greet visitors finishes off this perfect setting, it felt like a true Scottish experience. We spent a lot longer here, but we had to be wary of time to make where we would have enough spare for some stops on our way to Stirling. So after exploring the castle to its extent, it was time to continue heading south.
I had made a slight detour in order to be able to see Loch Ness, which didn’t really live up to my expectations. I’m not sure what I had been expecting, but it really is just like all the other lochs we had seen on the trip. I guess I was always going to be disappointed unless I had actually seen Nessie’s head poking out of the water! With my curiosity satisfied, our next port of call was one we had been putting off since the first day on Skye. We had decided we should visit a whisky distillery while in Scotland, and our first choice had been to visit the Talisker distillery on the Isle of Skye. With all the other visits we wanted to make here we simply hadn’t had the time, so out next choice was to stop at the Edradour distillery near Pitlochry on our way to Stirling (I came here with my parents and it has been my father’s favourite whisky ever since, so felt I needed to get it for myself!). Unfortunately we weren’t going to make it here before closing so we had to find another option, which turned out to be the Dalwhinnie distillery. I had never heard of this whisky before, but I’m certainly glad we stopped here. After a tour around the distillery and the storage sheds it was time for the important part, the tasting session. I personally prefer the pasty taste of west coast whiskies, and after smelling the malts of both Dalwhinnie and a west coast whisky I wasn’t expecting too much. I was pleasantly surprised and have certainly found another whisky to add to my drinking list, it is very smooth and flavoursome, give it a try!
After a brief stop in Perth for dinner at a great restaurant, we finally arrived in Stirling and found where we were staying. I had some reservations about the place I had booked, as I knew it was part of the university’s halls of residence, but it really was a great place to stay for the night. Considering it was also basically free as a package with our flights to Glasgow, I can’t praise it enough!
So our final day in Scotland was to be spent in Stirling, and I have to admit I hadn’t planned too much. Apart from the National Wallace Monument and Stirling Castle, I didn’t really know what else there was to see here. So we began the day at the National Wallace Monument, a huge tower that was built in 1815 in memory of the great William Wallace. It sits on top of a hill overlooking Stirling Bridge, the site of Wallace’s famous battle with the English, and there are fantastic views to be had of Stirling and the surroundings after climbing the 246 steps to the top of the monument. We were also lucky to have gone on a day when they have presentations to explain more about William Wallace and how he came to be the symbol of freedom in Scotland. Another very interesting visit, I really thought I would only be taking memories of fantastic landscapes away from this trip, however I learnt a lot about Scottish history and whisky as well!
After getting a bit lost waking back down through the woods from the monument, we had to decide where to go next. Stirling Castle seemed a bit expensive, and warranted more time to visit than the couple of hours we had left before having to head back to Glasgow for our flight home. So we ended up exploring the old part of Stirling city, and discovered some more interesting places to visit. Unfortunately the Old Jail was closed, but we had a look inside the Church of the Holy Rude which is the only church in Britain to have held a coronation other than Westminster Abbey. We also walked up to the castle for a walk around the grounds, and then by this point it was time to be grab some lunch and head to Glasgow.
So after battling our way through Glasgow’s rush hour traffic to reach the airport, it was time to say goodbye to Scotland for now. We have seen so many amazing places while we were there, and also so many more that we need to come back for. But by this point we really were weary travellers, trying to fit so much in to only a few days had left us very tired and, although we had had a fantastic time, the call of home was becoming very strong!
Or should I say travellers? I guess I should, I take you on a new trip with me, so… dear travellers, today I want to tell you about our most recent trip, so I want to apologise for overwhelming you with details, but everything is incredibly fresh in my mind. Two years ago, in July, I read one of those articles about holiday destinations, you know, one of those “10 holiday destinations out of a fairy tale” or similar. There I saw the Fairy Pools and I started dreaming of visiting them. As they are in the Isle of Skye and not too easy to access, I postponed the visit until now. I know, there are tours available, but I honestly could not find the information about them. I actually emailed some of the touristic websites and was basically discouraged about doing it without a car. The situation might have changed in the last two years, but now there were groups exploring Skye, so I cannot understand why this lack of information.
Anyhow, when I said that to Mr Wander, he started looking up our options and planning everything. Living in Cambridgeshire, driving up to Skye would have taken about ten hours, so we decided to fly to Glasgow and then rent a car there. The time was about the same, but a lot more relaxing. Also, with all our love for our Delilah, a brand new car, even of the same size, was a much better experience for a trip like ours and all the hours of driving involved. Not to mention that I have no idea how much we would have spent in souvenirs and memorabilia if we had not had the limit of a hand luggage allowance to keep us at bay!
So, landed in Glasgow and collected our car, we immediately headed towards the Islands. The weather was not great but it was so quintessentially Scottish that we cannot complain. Actually, it rained a lot while we were driving, which made it perfect for exploring during moments of rest. Monday, the day we had planned for the Fairy Pools, was dry and nice, and our experience was perfect, but I will go back to that soon. On Saturday we drove from Glasgow to our accommodation in Craig with a few random stops on the way, first of all in Loch Lomond for a quick bite, we got our lunch at the airport but we were anxious for being in the road so we hadn’t eaten yet. It was only about 11 a.m., but we were up since 4 a.m., so it was more than fine to have lunch then, and that spot was a perfect excuse for a stop.
Soon after that, another unplanned stop came up when we saw the sign for the Falls of Falloch. We had no idea what was there (well, falls, of course, but what to expect) but we had a nice surprise, as you can appreciate from our shots. As this was at the beginning, just after a bit of rain, the paths were a bit muddy and required a bit of care sometimes, but some people were there with simple trainers, so our beloved trekking shoes that accompany us since Australia were not afraid of sinking in there. Something we realised there was that the water in Scotland has a distinctive yellow-reddish colour, not just there but in the other waterfalls and rivers we saw during our five days there.
Something we wanted to do on our way to our accommodation was to see the steam train going over the Glenfinnan viaduct as this is the one that was used for Harry Potter’s Hogwart Express, but we were a bit late. We still managed to take a shot of the viaduct from the National Trust parking as then is when it started raining heavily and we decided to give the walk a miss.
We arrived fairly early in Craig and we had a bit of time to settle in before going for dinner. We were staying in a farm that has a few cabins rented through AirBnb. The place was overlooking the sea and it was beautiful to look out of our terrace every day. They had plenty of animals that we could feed. I don’t find this activity so incredible because of my origins, so we gave it a miss as well. Coming from a small town in Sardinia, it is nothing special for me, as we always had farm animals at home. Hens and rabbits were always there, and we often had geese and turkeys; we even had a baby goat and a lamb for a few months.
For dinner, we went to Plockton, one of the bigger towns near us, and we had some haggis and fish at the Plockton Hotel. I was not too keen on haggis, but as a starter, and accompanied by whisky, I decided to give it a try, and I was not disappointed. The fish was obviously good, as there is always fresh supply around there. As a matter of principle, I don’t really trust a British pub that doesn’t include sticky toffee pudding in its menu, and I was happy to see that all the places we chose for our dinners had it at the top of their list. Of course, as a result, we had had it every night apart from Sunday. I am sometimes disappointed when they warm it up too much and the sponge becomes a bit bitter because it is slightly burned, but I have to say they were all quite good there. If I had to choose, I would probably say that I preferred the first one, because the sponge was quite soft and not dry at all and there was so much caramel sauce. Here is a collage of the three, sorry for the bad quality of some pictures, when tasty food is involved I can’t focus (pun intended!).
Sunday was all dedicated to exploring the natural beauties of the Isle of Skye and we were lucky enough to arrive at the different locations in between rain showers, although it was quite windy the whole day. Our first stop was in Kyle of Lochalsh for breakfast at Hector’s Bothy, a place so nice and with such a good quality of food that we repeated on Tuesday as well, while we got take away cakes on Monday. We then headed to Fairy Glen, where there actually was a girl dressed like a fairy posing for a photoshoot, or something like that. All we know is that it took her and the photographer half an hour to choose the spot and then they were gone immediately, I didn’t even see her without a coat, but maybe they only needed one shot and I missed that exact moment. We went hiking a few hills and I started climbing this rock that from a certain perspective, looks like Harry Potter’s sorting hat. Of course, when I arrived to the top I realised that the path was very narrow and I had to look down to climb down and I regretted my choice. When I pointed out to Mr Wander that I am an idiot and he shouldn’t follow an idiot, he wisely said that at least he is not afraid of heights. Taking in all the wisdom of that reply and realising that I am actually a bigger idiot than I thought, I started climbing down pretending I was fine.
Our second stop was the Quiraing, a mix between the Monument Valley (from what I can see from pictures) and the Sella del Diavolo in Cagliari. Then it was really windy but we fortunately only had planned a short walk to see it from the distance and we were not planning on going through it and doing the whole walk. All along the way there are several scenic spots that were on our list, so we stopped at Kilt Rock (you can easily guess the reason behind the name just by seeing the photo with the layers of rocks and sediments), Brother’s Point (Or Brothers’ Point, can’t find a definitive spelling), where we went on a short hike down to the rocky beach surrounded by sheep eating grass and seaweed, and the Old Man of Storr. Here is where I gave up, the walk is too long, I am not fit at all for walking up a mountain, and all we could see from there was a rock blending with the rocky slope behind it and disappearing to our eyes. It was actually a lot more impressing from the side of the road where it was distinctly visible.
Dinner time saw us in Portree, where the restaurants were all booked and the waiting time for a table was one hour. When at the last place we were told that we could sit at the bar and grab a table when someone got up, I had two seconds to imagine myself fighting with people to sit down first as in musical chairs and I just walked out with a frowned face and a scorned “No, thank you!”.
Monday was the day we had planned for the main thing of our trip: Swimming with the fairies! We had a quick breakfast at home and we headed towards the Isle of Skye once again. The walk to the Fairy Pools is short, but then we had to climb down a little cliff to reach the famous location. I was not pleased with that, but there are worst things done for a lesser reward, so there I went, screaming while sort of jumping down, but immediately happy when down. As always when I see water, I have to rush, so I put on my wetsuit as fast as I could, I tried to rush Mr Wander to stop taking pictures and to come, and I went in. The water was freezing, so much so that I had to go in twice and go back out before actually finding the strength to go to the end. As I explained in an earlier post, I don’t know why my body floats so much, but between that and the freezing water, I didn’t feel too comfortable going under the arch, so I decided to climb on top of it, and there I was, swimming with fairies under the waterfall. The legend says that, as I am clumsy and I had a mouthful of water while swimming, I am now slowly becoming a fairy as well, or so I like to tell myself.
Call it hypothermia or nice weather, getting dressed again and walking back to the car was not half as hard as I expected it to be. I forgot to mention that, on our way to the pools Mr Wander managed to take his longed for picture of a Highland coo in all its beauty and fluffiness, see his profile here for it. After the pools, we headed to Dunvegan Castle, a building that is a mix of an actual castle and a stately home. As it is still inhabited by the owner, just a small part of it is open for visits. It is very nice, with some interesting pieces of furniture and the fairy flag. This is a piece of silk that, according to the legend (not one I just made up, a real legend, forgive the oxymoron), was used by the fairies to cradle the baby of the chief of Clan MacLeod when the nanny left him in the room to go partying. The gardens are also very nice with different styles in different parts of it, but I have to admit that half hour is more than enough for the visit, which makes the price of £13 a bit too much for a ticket.
Back home, after a quick shower, we headed to Plockton again for a delicious dinner with langoustines, seabass, and salmon cakes… and sticky toffee pudding, of course! Only bad side was that we thought we had to wait half hour for our table and we got a beer for the wait but our table was available in five minutes and we had to stick to our beer instead of wine to accompany our seafood.
Tuesday we left our accommodation and we headed to the Highlands as we were going to spend our last night in Scotland in Stirling. On our way, we stopped in Eilean Donan Castle, the castle that featured in Highlander and 007 – The World is not enough. Totally in love with Queen and Sean Connery, you can imagine how happy it made me to be able to visit this place. As in Dunvegan Castle, photography is not allowed inside, but there are plenty of beautiful spots outside for great shots, and the visit is absolutely worth the price. You can hear about the reconstruction, as the castle was in ruins until the beginning of the XX century, and of the history of the MacRae, the owners of the castle, and their allied. Outside, you can see Lea MacLeod playing the bagpipe and it is wonderful with the castle as a background.
Driving to Stirling, we quickly stopped in Loch Ness for a few shots, and then we tried to arrive on time for a whisky tour at Dalwhinnie Distillery. As it closes at 5:15 p.m., the last tour starts at 16:30 and we were spot on. I have recently discovered whisky as a nice drink, because I finally tasted some good ones. As any other alcoholic drink, when we are young, we start with the cheap, commercial stuff and we decide we dislike it a lot. It happens with beer, initially too bitter for young taste buds, especially when confronted with common lager (that was my experience). I had a similar experience with wine, hating red wine for a long time, until I realised that it is not just about pairing it with food, which is extremely important, but also about finding the ones you like. In my case, it is mainly Cab-Sauv. With whisky it is the same, Jack Daniel’s is cool, and it was the one the guys I liked in school liked, but it is nothing special if not mixed with something else. I know, JD is whiskey, but that makes little difference, both words were used in the beginning and then whisky settled in the UK while whiskey is the one used in the US and Ireland. Anyway, in this visit I found out something else: Mr Wander and I totally disagree on whiskies, as he likes the more peaty ones (the one from the West Coast, we learnt at Dalwhinnie), while I like the smoother ones, like Dalwhinnie itself for example, but we both enjoy the visit greatly and we loved the tasting with chocolate truffles. We learnt the dos and don’ts when drinking whisky and we also got our tasting glass as a souvenir, so we happily headed to dinner.
We stopped in Perth in a fancy restaurant called The Bothy in which we were not ashamed at all of walking in with our hiking shoes and our gym bags. The service was a bit slow, but the food was of incredible quality, so we had more haggis with neeps and tatties, some meat, and our beloved dessert, of course. Dinner was quite relaxed and gave us time to plan a bit what to do the next day in Stirling before heading to the airport. Our accommodation was a room in the halls of residence of Stirling University, a compact, brand new room that was perfect for the night.
Wednesday morning we had a filling breakfast at Café 33 before going exploring. check this place out if you are around, it is small but the food is delicious and the staff very friendly, like everyone else we encountered in these days in Scotland. The walls are covered with motivational and funny messages that are for sale and it feels kind of crammed, but the place was not too busy. After breakfast we went to the National Wallace Monument, where we learnt more about the Battle of Stirling Bridge and William Wallace. If you watched Braveheart, you must know what I am talking about. Every 45 minutes on specific days, you have an actor in costume telling you the history of the battle and then you can climb up the monument. There, confronted with one of my not so natural enemies, a spiral staircase, I climbed up all the levels up to the crown to enjoy the view of the actual battle grounds. There are four levels in total, with history boards, memorabilia, and activities for kids (and us). To reach the monument we took the complimentary bus shuttle, but we walked down through the parks before doing some final shopping.
As it was still a bit early, we headed to the city centre and we visited a few more spots, the Holy Rude Church, where you can find an interesting panel about King James’s Bible, Mar’s Wark, a building in ruins in front of the cemetery, and Stirling Castle. As we didn’t have time to visit this one, we just enjoyed a quick walk around the entrance and one of the guards shouting: “GET OFF THE WALL, SIR!” to someone that we couldn’t identify.
Our time was over, not just the parking ticket, but in general, and it was time to go back to the airport and fly back home. I have to admit that this trip was a wonderful treat and that Mr Wander spoiled me more than he usually does, so I will always treasure these memories, but the celebrations were not over, as my self-present was a ticket for Shakespeare’s Comedy of errors in the forest on Thursday, so the holidays may have ended on Wednesday night, but partying was still on the rest of the week!
Thanks for travelling with us, see you in two weeks,