So, we are home. We have been home for three weeks actually, and while writing was really hard in Europe, it has proven to be an impossible task here in the States. Getting back to “real” life has been a process, but getting out of the habit of writing is what really kept these final blogs from being written. But here they are, our final couple of blogs. Our final European destination… SCOTLAND!
We took our final train ride from London to Edinburgh, arriving late-afternoon and grabbing a red double decker bus to our Airbnb in the Morningside neighborhood. We spent the rest of the night hanging out with our host, drinking some Scottish cider and eating a home cooked meal. The next morning we headed out into the city for a free walking tour and a stroll down the Royal Mile. Our free tour took us through the old part of the city and around the cities main sites. We saw the main churches, old writer’s hangouts, the Grassmarket and the Greyfriar’s Bobby. Along with these historical sites I got to nerd-out at various spots that inspired J.K. Rowling while she wrote the first two Harry Potters. We saw the school that inspired Hogwarts, the inspiration for Diagon Alley, Tom Riddle’s grave, and the café where Harry was first brought to life. I was in Potter heaven!
We had planned to do a bit more sightseeing after our tour, but the day was too beautiful to spend inside any old buildings, so instead we headed to a place called The Meadow (literally a giant meadow/park) to enjoy the sunshine and read. Locals all around us were commenting on how it was the nicest day of the year so far. We drank some “Heather ale” with our homemade dinner back at our B&B before turning in early in preparation for the start of our Highland Tour the next morning.
We set out for the Scottish Highlands at 8 am the next morning on our big yellow Haggis Adventures bus. This was the only “big bus tour” we took during our whole four month trip, and while we are not fans of the big bus type of tourism, it ended up being necessary as it is extremely difficult to see this part of Scotland without a car (which we are unable to rent due to our youth). Our two guides were awesome and made the whole experience really fun and interesting. The tour was three days and took us all the way up to the Isle of Skye.
After heading out from Edinburgh our first stop was a tiny town called Dunkeld, where we visited an 11th century church where many famous clansmen are buried. The church is on the banks of a beautiful river and the views were incredible! We grabbed a picnic lunch from a little deli shop and headed to a replica 17th century village to eat our lunch and catch a glimpse into how the highlanders lived back in the day. After some time spent wandering around the wooden homes and the beautiful area surrounding them we got back on the bus and headed to a distillery to learn about whiskey making. The Scots take their whiskey VERY seriously and after learning about the process we got to visit a storeroom where they store a barrel of whiskey from every year going back to the 60’s. We got to do a little tasting (I hate whiskey, but Logan LOVES it) before heading to our hostel along the shores of Loch Ness. After checking in and eating some dinner we grabbed a few beers and sat down by the lake and watched the sunset.
We started out for the Isle of Skye early on our second morning, stopping at ruined castles and a few battlefields along the way. We learned loads of history on the drive up, along with some local lore about fairies and magic. One of our guides was from the isle and told us all about what it is like to live there and shared local lore. We stopped at a river with a picturesque bridge where we were told that if we stuck our head in the water we would stay eternally beautiful. I refrained from sticking my head into the freezing cold water, but Logan decided he could use a little help in the beauty department and held his head under the water for ten seconds as instructed.
For lunch we went to the main town on the isle for lunch before hopping back on the bus and driving by the Red and Black Cullin Mountains and Eilan Donan. We made a few stops to see ancient dinosaur footprints and pieces of beautiful green shoreline. It rained the entire day, but that made the isle seem even greener and more magical. Back at the hostel we ate chicken stuffed with haggis (I thought it was gross but Logan liked it) and hung out with our British roommates for the rest of the night.
Our final tour day took us back to Edinburgh by way of the beautiful Glencoe, where part of Harry Potter and James Bond Skyfall were filmed. The Glencoe is beautiful and feels magical and we got to take a little hike in the drizzle up part of the green, green valley. We stopped in a littler town called Calendar for lunch (fish and chips!) before making the long haul back to the city.
Back in Edinburgh we spent our last two days seeing more of the city and getting prepared for our long trip back to reality. Logan made the hike up to Arthur’s Seat to get amazing views of the city (I laid in the sun and read), we spent a little more time on the Royal Mile, and we toured the Edinburgh Castle. The castle was really interesting and as the heart of Edinburgh’s history we learned a lot about the Scottish view on various wars and political movements and uprisings. After spending a little time preparing our bags for our journey home, we headed out at dusk for one last walking tour. We had decided to end our time in Europe with a “Dark Side” tour, combining Edinburgh’s history with Scottish perchance for folklore. Unfortunately, we encountered the absolute worst guide we had ever had (in seven months of travel!) and combined with the freezing weather (45 degrees on July 29th!!!), we decided it was a sign and headed back for an early night.
The next morning we caught our final bus to the airport and after what felt like forever (especially because of the time change) we made it back to Colorado! We really, really liked Scotland and although it is not technically its own country (not yet anyway, there is a vote on September 18th!), it is set firmly in our top five favorite countries we have visited so far. It is so beautiful and the people are so friendly. We would love to return someday, especially to the highlands, to see more of what the country (or whatever) has to offer.