Eurotrip 2019 - Scotland, Part 1
We left Liverpool and continued north…to Scotland! And boy did we cover a lot of ground (literally). I’ll do my best to keep things succinct, since this was just 6 days, but boy is that hard.
Our first stop in Scotland was Edinburgh. Once we checked into our hotel, we set out to explore a bit. First we went fabric shopping, then we headed toward the downtown area. We paid a visit to Greyfriars Bobby, a statue of a dog who was loyal to his master even in death and lived in the nearby graveyard. It’s traditional to pet his nose, which is the most polished part of the whole statue. We walked along Victoria Street, which is full of beautiful colors (and a silly shop called The Boy Wizard). We also walked on George IV Bridge - this is an elevated street, and you wouldn’t know it’s actually elevated except for a couple views from the bridge to the street below, and that it can make reading a map a little tricky if you’re not used to it, but makes exploring pretty fun.
As we continued on foot, we walked down Grassmarket in Old Town and then we saw the castle! That day was a bit rainy (finally!) so at one point we ducked into a bookshop (where I bought a Scots version of Harry Potter!), and then into a pub for a pint and to watch some soccer. While exploring, we noticed that the city is just FULL of signs - for shows, ads, etc. This makes it hard to get a pretty picture of the old buildings, and was kind of a bummer because they’re so eye catching, but not in the good way.
The next day we had breakfast at The Elephant House - I may have purposefully had us in Edinburgh on Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling’s birthday… 😉
After breakfast, we walked to the castle again - we didn’t go in, but instead explored nearby, which included a super touristy shop that had an old school tartan weaving machine. We also wandered through the gardens, saw some statues, and admired the new robot lawn mowers they’re trying out 😂
After less than 24 hours, we hopped in the car again, our next stop being the Caithness Glass. Here we got to watch paperweights being made. Nathaniel told me to pick out a paperweight to bring home - most of the ones that really caught my eye were verrrry expensive, but then I found a sweet little dog named Monty, and now he lives in my craft room.
Next up was the Edradour distillery. A good friend who loves scotch told us to go here. This used to be the smallest legal Scotch distillery, but a semi-recent law made it so people can legally have stills in their homes (kind of like micro-brewing, but for Scotch), so now it’s just the smallest of the big guys. We went on a tour of the facilities and got to watch some of the machines do their thing, and even got a few little tasters. Scotch isn’t really my thing, but I think it’s super cool how much effort goes into the process. Also, the stills totally look like something out of Dr. Seuss to me 😂
After the tour, we continued our journey up to Inverness. We pulled over a handful of times, usually because something super pretty caught our eye, or because I wanted to listen to the sheep and cows, or because we needed to stretch, but you just wouldn’t believe how beautiful each roadside stop in Scotland was. I feel like including too many pictures won’t do it justice, because they’ll all seem to blend together and, while pretty, look the same. But I am so thankful my sweet husband wanted to incorporate driving into our trip, because he made sure we took time to look, listen and soak up our surroundings.
Our hotel in Inverness (situated right next to the Old High Church and the Free Church of Scotland) was super close to the River Ness, and while walking across the cute footbridge to get to the castle, I looked down into the water and saw a SEAL!! It was gone before I could snap a picture, but it was so exciting! Didn’t see Nessie, though…
The Inverness Castle is cute and pretty small. They have a little “museum” inside where you can watch short videos about the history and mythology of the area, but the best part is the observation deck at the top. They only let a few people up at a time, and after I went through he turnstile, Nathaniel got stuck, and we had to wait for a few people to come down so he could join me. We actually really lucked out, too, because we had the whole place to ourselves for a few minutes. There’s a nice view of the city, though I wish someone would take the time to make the tops of the newer buildings prettier. Maybe they need to get some mural artists in to do something about that!
The next day we went to Loch Ness to walk along the shore for a little bit and take some pictures. We saw some really fancy looking B&B’s across the loch, which I bet would be very fun to stay at, and maybe even go on a little boat ride from.
We also stopped by the Culloden battlefields. Here the English army fought against the Scottish clansmen in one of the bloodiest battles back when the English were trying to take control of everything and Bonnie Prince Charlie was trying to keep Scotland separate and be its ruler. (That’s a disgusting summary, but you’ll learn more by reading about it than me trying to explain it). Here there are lots of mass graves for all the lost clansmen, and it’s just crazy to think that you’re actually where something so brutal happened. I felt like I learned a lot - they did a nice job of presenting information from both sides. If you’re interested in Scottish history (or if you’ve read/watched Outlander), this is a good little stop. They also have a few Highland cows, for whatever reason, probably to lighten the mood a bit?
Nathaniel is a part of the Clan Gunn, and the Clan Gunn Heritage Center was very close to Wick, our next stop, so we decided to visit. It’s a cute little building, surrounded by graves, filled with pictures and artifacts, and they have extensive ancestry records you can pour through if you’re so inclined. The man who was working there that day was excited to hear that Nathaniel is a Manson, and brought out records for us to look at that pertained to this offshoot of the clan. He also mentioned that they’re in the process of digitizing it all, which will make it much easier to search through. He said he hoped it would be done by the end of the year. If you’re not part of the Clan Gunn, you might not care too much to go to this museum, but if you have any sort of Scottish ancestry, going here (or to another museum for your clan) could be a fun little stop.
We reached Wick and first went to Old Pulteney, another Scotch distillery - unfortunately they weren’t open for tours (they were in their off season, doing some renovations), but we got our own private tasting, given by the sweetest red-headed Scottish lady who was so enthusiastic and friendly, so even though we didn’t get to do what we had planned to do, it was still fun! We’ll definitely go back someday - Nathaniel read that this is one of the most fun tours, so we’ll have to make sure we plan our next Scotland trip around when they’re open!
We walked from our hotel to the Castle of Old Wick, which is on a cliff, mostly in ruin. It’s not too big, and it’s crazy to think that this small rock building was the home of the most powerful person in the area! It is gorgeous, though, so I totally understand why this location was chosen. 😉 There were also signs about a firing range nearby - why anyone would do this so close to an historic castle, I have no idea.
On our walk to/from the castle we saw lots of cows and sheep - seeing these guys really is a highlight for me! We also went past a little sea pool called the Trinkie. I think there’s a group trying to restore it - it wasn’t in use when we went, and I don’t know the logistics of how a sea pool works, but it’s a pretty cool location on a cliff above the sea, and I could totally see it being a fun place to hang out on nice days. We finished our walk, going along the shore as much as possible, and made our way back to our hotel.
I think I’ll leave it here for the first part of our drive around Scotland.