Oh my goodness, this post is long overdue. We took another hiatus from the blog to focus on our home and self-care. January and February were all about hibernating and settling into the house. We’ve now had the chance to host both of our families in the new place, and it’s really starting to feel like home to us.
I kept meaning to write a quick recap of our travels to Scotland in October and early November, but was not able to to find the time or energy until this weekend. The stories and memories are not as sharp as I’d like them to be given the trip was 3 months ago, so there will be more photos and less description than usual. I apologize!! We plan to get back to blogging more regularly during our travels this spring and summer, when we begin hiking, canoeing and camping again.
Our UK adventures began in Scarborough – a seaside town in the north east of England. We were treated to sunshine and relatively warm temperatures given that we were visiting in early November. Fiona and I treated ourselves to coffee and breakfast sandwiches on a patio by the waterfront, happy to have left the cold temperatures behind us in Ottawa.
Fiona and I spent the day playing tourist, visiting Scarborough Castle and St. Mary’s Church as well as the Scarborough Market Hall. We learned from the boys that food in Scarborough had been less than stellar, as they’d found most meals lacked flavour (few condiments!) or variety. On our last day in Scarborough we managed to find a delicious lunch spot named Relish, tucked in an alleyway within walking distance to the market. We’d highly recommend stopping in for a bite or hot drinks!
The next morning we boarded the train bound for Scotland. It had been a short 2 night stay in Scarborough, and we were eager to begin our road trip from Edinburgh through the Highlands.
We began and ended our road trip in Edinburgh, and this allowed us to stay in both the Old Town and New Town neighbourhoods. During our first visit, we stayed in a lovely, well-placed Airbnb rental on the Royal Mile (Old Town). The unit was right beside Edinburgh Castle and allowed us to walk almost everywhere we were interested in seeing. We started the day with a castle tour, and finished with a hike up Arthur’s Seat. It was late afternoon and sunny, and we found the trails and hill to be quite busy. We’d recommend visiting earlier in the day, potentially the morning as we later heard from friends who also visited that it was far less busy at that time. It is a popular spot, so do not expect to be alone up there! The views were worth it though.
We visited two more historic sites near Edinburgh – Stirling Castle and Lithlingow Palace. Stirling Castle is beautifully restored and rich in history. This is somewhere to take your time. The gardens were beautiful even in November, so I suspect in spring and summer they would be spectacular. We found Lithlingow Palace to be unexpectedly enchanting – it was great for a quick walk through as it is not restored / inhabitable.
We picked up our rental car in Edinburgh, landing a larger than expected Mitsubishi Outlander. Antoine had previously honed is left-side driving skills during our 2016 trip to Australia, so he took the wheel for entirety of the trip. We left the freeways behind us, journeying on winding roads through Loch Lomond and the Trossochs National Park. We were booked for the evening at Loch Linnhe Waterfront Lodges, but we took our time along the roads, stopping to enjoy the views and photo opportunities when we could. Antoine managed like a expert on the tiny narrow roads with no shoulders, often hugging along the sides of lochs as we wound our way through hills and mountains. It was a bit scary meeting lorry trucks on tight turns on these roads, but it was worth it for the spectacular scenery!
We enjoyed a lovely Scottish dinner at The Holly Tree Hotel. The next day we took our breakfast loch-side on the deck of the cottage before hitting the road again, bound for Ben Nevis. Ben Nevis is the tallest mountain in the British Isles. We were not looking to summit Ben Nevis, as we hadn’t the gear or the time on this trip. So we visited the visitor’s centre to ask for advice on moderate day hikes with great views nearby. We chose the Cow Hill hike, an 11km circuit route with beautiful views over the town of Fort William, down Glen Nevis and Loch Linnhe.
Isle of Skye
After completing the hike, we hopped back in the car bound for Isle of Skye. We’d planned two nights in this region, with one stay in an Airbnb called the Boatbuilders Cottage in Breakish and a second evening at the Raasay House on the Isle of Raasay. I think that we all adored our time on the Isle of Skye. The winding roads, stunning vistas, ample hiking possibilities… It had it all! We would highly recommend having a car when visiting the Isle. There is so much to see, but it would be challenging without a vehicle. Fall was also an excellent time of year to visit. The weather was nicer than expected and the stops were less busy than during the summer months.
We used Earth Trekkers “Isle of Skye One Day Itinerary” blog post to plan our route, visiting the Fairy Glen, Quiraing, Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls and Old Mann of Storr. We missed the hike at Quiraing by accidentally continuing down the road beyond the parking area, and were not able to hike Brother’s Point due to the soggy state of the trail. But it’s incredible how much you can see and do on Isle of Skye in one day! We would love to return and complete more hikes and possibly camp one day; getting to see it by car was breathtaking though. We finished the day in Dunvegan, where we found the castle to be closed for the season. We made up for this with a stop at the oldest bakery on Isle of Skye for tea and desserts – the bakery opened around 1870!
Filled with tea and treats, we set off to catch the ferry in Sconser to the Isle of Raasay. Cory had found a neat place for us to stay at Raasay House, which ended up being one of our favourite and most memorable accommodations on the trip! Raasay house was build in 1747, and has quite the history. We were pleasantly surprised to have our rooms upgraded upon arrival. The boys enjoyed the pingpong table in the games room while Fiona and I got ready. We later gathered in the library for drinks by the wood burning fire before enjoying a fancy meal at the restaurant. It’s a very special place, and we would’ve loved to spend more time adventuring the Isle of Raasay. Next time!!
The last destination on our roadtrip was the town of Inverness. We travelled eastward along the A82, stopping to visit the Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle. While we didn’t spot Nessie during our visit, Mother Nature really cooperated with us by giving us sunshine and pleasant fall temperatures. Everyone was incredibly charmed by the town of Inverness! We stayed in a converted church Airbnb along the riverfront in the centre of town. We walked about town, stopping to pick up souvenirs for our family and friends. The town had a neat vibe to it, and Fiona was left dreaming of a move to Inverness. That evening we enjoyed wood fired pizzas and drinks at the Black Isle Bar in central Inverness. Like many restaurants in the UK, dogs are welcome to join their owners for dinner. I wish that this was something we had here in Canada!
The next morning we hit the road again, destined for Edinburgh to spend our last evening in Scotland before taking the train back to London. All in all, we travelled approximately 980km across Scotland by car. We really loved our time here, and Cory and Fiona were an amazing couple to travel with!
Scotland Travel Tips: If you’re going to visit castles or other historic sites in Scotland, it might be economical to get the Explorer Pass. We luckily visited during the winter season, so we received an extra discount on the purchase price. This meant that our passes were paid for after only 2 castle visits! Unluckily, there were a number of sites that were closed or only open on limited days of the week due to the season.
And lastly, when planning a visit to Scotland make sure to pack a raincoat and rainboots. During our trip it always seemed to be threatening to rain, but in the end we actually only had one full rainy day while the others were spotty showers and some were full sun. We were very fortunate for November!!
That’s all for now 🙂 Thanks for reading, and your patience while we were away from the blog.
Liz & Antoine