Scotland: The Highlands

Catching up? Read about our time in Ireland here and here

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After eight days in Ireland we arrived in Edinburgh, Scotland around 5:30 in the evening. Our first night there we were really just there to sleep before departing on a two-day tour of the Highlands bright and early the following morning. So we got checked into our hotel, went for a quick dinner and drink and then did some walking around before getting to bed early.

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The next morning we got up bright and early to start our tour! When planning the trip several months ago I thought we might be sick of driving by the time we got to Scotland so booked us two tours through Rabbies Trailburners. A 2-day tour of the Highland and a 1-day tour to St. Andrews. In hindsight, we now realize we are really not organized tour people (we like to stop when and where we want to stop!) and we really should have rented a car again in Scotland and done it on our own. Oh well, you live and learn right? And we did learn some really interesting things on the tours!

Anyways, we got on the road bright and early at 8:30 am and our first stop was right outside of Edinburgh at the Firth of Forth bridge. It was another sunny, beautiful day and the mist was just lifting off the bridge. It was pretty cool.

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We then spent the rest of the day slowly making our way towards Inverness through the Highlands. We did stop often, which was nice. But neither Eric or myself were huge fans of the places where we did stop because they tended to be really touristy little villages where all the tour buses stopped. We did enjoy our first taste of the Highlands though as the landscape shifted and we stopped at a few random castles which was cool!

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Our last stop of the day was the Loch Ness and our first view of it was definitely a very misty one.

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We finally got to our B&B in Inverness around 6:30pm. It was one that Rabbies booked for us and it was a great little B&B. Very cozy and nice! We actually really lucked out with our accommodation on this trip and had great stays everywhere.

Inverness was a really beautiful city and I liked it a lot. We had dinner and then went for a walk along the river and stopped for a drink with a view of the castle. It was a nice, relaxing evening. It was a Monday night so there didn’t seem to be a lot going on. The path along the river was so beautiful though that I drug myself out of bed bright and early the following morning for my second run of the trip, a 30-minute run along the river. It was the perfect way to start the day!

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Our tour guide picked us up right after breakfast at the B&B and we hit the road again. Our first stop was again the Loch Ness where we did a boat tour for 13 pounds each. I personally did not find this boat tour worth the money at all. We basically zipped out on the Loch Ness, dropped half the people off at a castle and then zipped back to the dock. I dunno, to be honest the landscape around the Loch Ness reminded me of the Shuswap area in BC. I think we could have seen and experienced it just as much without doing the pricey boat tour!

But at least it wasn’t raining!

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We had a little snafu with some of our tour participants going missing so we got quite a bit behind schedule after the boat tour and ended up having to skip the whiskey distillery we were supposed to visit in the afternoon, which was kind of disappointing! The village we stopped in for lunch on this day was quite beautiful and I enjoyed our time there. It was a really cute little village right on the Loch Ness – again full of tourists.

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After lunch we began driving back to Edinburgh through the Glencoe side of the Highlands.

We only stopped once for photos which was a bit disappointing as well because this part of the Highlands was so, so, so beautiful! There were multiple places we would have pulled over if we’d been driving. And also Eric and I both really wished we’d set aside some time on this trip for some hiking in the Highlands! Again, live and learn. The one place we did pullover was really stunning. These photos do not really do justice to the beautiful green hills and the valley we were driving through.

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The rest of the drive down through the Glencoe area was equally as stunning. Like I said we didn’t stop for anymore photos which was disappointing but I did try to snap a few out the window.

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Oh and we did pull off briefly to get a closer look at the Scottish Highland Cow known as the Hamish!

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We loved the Highlands and we really truly believe we just got a very small taste of them. When (again not if) we go back to Scotland one day we would spend all of our time in the Highlands, staying at little B&B’s in the middle of nowhere, hiking in the beautiful green hills and visiting the many, many whiskey distilleries scattered throughout them. Like I said, in hindsight we wish we’d spent a lot more than two days in the area but live and learn. Now we know for next time! If you are planning on visiting Scotland in the future and you like the countryside I would highly recommend setting aside 3-4 days for the Scottish Highlands. Personally, I was done with Edinburgh after one day so don’t really feel like you need more than that there depending on what you want to do. We would also absolutely rent a car next time and do the drive on our own. Though if you do like tours I would recommend Rabbies as they were a good company to use. We just discovered tours like that are not our thing.

Next recap will be the last one and will recap our time in Edinburgh and visiting St. Andrews!

16 Responses

  1. Wow, those photos are gorgeous! I am not a big tour person either. I did a day tour to the Beaches of Normandy when I was in France, which was a good decision as I wouldn’t want to drive alone and I learned a lot from the guide but after that day trip, it affirmed the fact that I am better at traveling on my own. It’s hard to know what you are going to really like about a country before you visit it but I”m glad you are walking away wanting to come back and knowing how you’d schedule your next trip!

    I have never been to Scotland or Ireland but your photos make me want to go. My mom really wants to go to Scotland as her dad was of Scottish decent. I’d love to take a trip with her there someday!

  2. Ris says:

    These photos are so beautiful! I’ve really been enjoying reading about your trip 🙂

  3. Nora says:

    I don’t mind short tours (like the ghost tour I did in New Orleans, and the boat/history tour I did in Wisconsin this past fall) but overall i prefer to be able to explore on my own. You have some gorgeous photos all things considered! And that Hamish. Wow. He looks huge.

  4. Lisa says:

    What a cool looking bridge! It’s like art!

  5. Alli says:

    You are getting me so excited for our trip with these posts. I’m not a huge tour person either though sometimes I like those 3 hour city tours because you get a feel for where things are and where you want to go back to.

  6. Despite the disappointing tourism side of things (pretty much exactly how I felt in Cinque Terre!), it looks beautiful and I’m sure you enjoyed your time away with Eric.

    There’s surely a business opportunity here. Providing interesting, local-based ways for people to tour a country – minus the big tour busses, skipping the towns built on tourism, etc. – but, rather, providing tips for us to visit a country and feel like we really get to know the country!

  7. Caz says:

    All your photos make me miss Scotland!!

    The Highlands were definitely my favourite area and I’m so glad we set aside time to go hiking on Ben Nevis (in Fort William) and explore the area (even though it meant skipping Loch Ness) but I’d love to go back and explore even more. I’m told by many people that missing the Isle of Skye was something I shouldn’t do again.

    • Amber says:

      Haha see and you recommended that to me when we were planning but I was all “skip the loch ness, whaaaa?” but now in hindsight I would have WAY rather spent time in Fort William. The Loch Ness was just another lake and there really wasn’t anything “special” about it to me, other than to say we’ve seen it. We didn’t even stop in Fort William, just drove through, and it seemed like such a cool town. Ideally we would have spent one more day in the Highlands and that day could have been spent in the Fort William area. Oh well, like I said, live and learn. We will be back one day!

  8. Kelly says:

    I totally agree with you about organized tours. I like the idea that I don’t have to drive and that I learn some interesting things about the area, but I hate dealing with the stupidity of other people (getting lost? what?!) and not having the flexibility to stop when I want to and ditch places I don’t want to be. We did an awesome tour in Iceland that was just in a small van so it was us and 3 other people. That was ideal because we couldn’t get to the glacier on our own, but having only 5 people was so much more flexible.

    That being said, we had a different experience in the Scottish Highlands. Our tour was 3 days which probably makes a difference. We did do 2 beautiful hikes and the only touristy village I remember visiting was when we had to bring a woman who hurt her ankle hiking to a hospital and I really didn’t mind one little tourist town. We spent some wonderful time at the Isle of Skye which was probably one of my favorite parts because the area is so beautiful. Also, I felt like our tour guide was very anti tourist (even though he drove a tour bus) so he tried to get us to places more off the beaten path. I have pictures of Eric close up with those Hamish things. Obviously there were some down sides because we stayed in hostels (though nice ones) and we still had a bus so its not like we were ever alone anywhere.

    Obviously Eric loved Loch Ness even though it’s just a lake as you said. The scenery was different enough for us that it was worth it 🙂

    This is about to be one of my epic long comments but also agree with Edinburgh. I liked the city a lot and could probably live there (lots of good day trips from there) but I didn’t need to do a ton of touristy stuff there. Did you say in the old town? We did the castle up there and I liked the cobblestone streets ha ha.

  9. Becky says:

    Ahhhh! The Highlands! So so so jealous!!!

  10. These pictures are beautiful but I don’t think this is a country I’d need to visit. Ireand, yes, but I could stay in a pub there for another week ha.

  11. Such beautiful pictures!!

    We are totally not ‘organized tour’ people either. We hate being on a schedule on vacation, and we love to just do our own thing.

  12. ashley says:

    Stephany showed me your blog when I asked for travel advice on Scotland…glad I got to read this post. I’ll have to add the Highlands to my list!!

  13. […] ALL my vacation recaps are up! You can find them at the following links: Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland Highlands, Scotland – Edinburgh & St. […]

  14. […] Six. Standing on the shores of the Loch Ness.  […]

  15. Susan says:

    I’m planning a trip to Scotland in May and stumbled across these posts! So helpful- thanks!

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