Day two in Scotland was dedicated to touring around the western Highlands. I had submerged myself in the Highlands October of 2018 when I walked the West Highland Way (something I daydream of often), but this time I let someone else show me around. My friend Pam and I chose to do a full day guided tour, which was very convenient and a lot of fun.
Typically I like to have complete control over where I go, and I rent a car when I visit new places, but this was a nice change of pace. I had zero stress, and our tour guide Mike was a fun Scottish man with loads of information. His driving was a bit scary at times, but that’s another story. Our tour started at 0800 in Edinburgh, and we finished just before 1700.
Our first stop was Doune Castle, a famous filming location for movies and television. Likely the most known movie filmed here was Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The Netflix series Outlander was also filmed here, as well as Game of Thrones. Basically Scotland has some epic landscapes and castles, and Hollywood has capitalized on it.
After wandering the castle and the nearby river path for an hour, we moved onward towards the Highlands. We made a quick stop to view Kilchurn Castle, sitting across from us on the edge of Loch Awe. We could only view this castle from afar, but it was awe-worthy indeed. A perfect name for the location.
My photo is terrible, so I will include a professional shot.
Our next stop was in a quaint little town called Inveraray. Here is where we stopped for lunch, but I brought my lunch with me which allowed me more time to explore. Pam and I parted ways for a bit at this stop, and I headed towards Inveraray Castle for a close up view. The castle was closed, but I was still able to view it from the gate.
Sometimes I daydream about what it was like to live in a castle in the medieval days.
Inveraray sits on the shores of Loch Fyne (who comes up with these names? They’re great!) and although our time spent here was during a wave of snow and wind I thoroughly enjoyed wandering this small town. After the castle I walked along the water, up to the old jail, and popped into the few shops that were open.
From Inveraray we began to climb. The winding roads went up, up, up leading us to a popular viewpoint known as “Rest and Be Thankful.” This spot is quite literally named as a place where travelers in olden times would stop, rest, and be thankful that they had reached the top of their steep climb, before continuing on to their destination.
Sounds much like modern day hiking. Except hiking is less: “I must move onward for my survival,” and more: “I climb hills because I like to see the world from up high.”
I am not a person that typically gravitates towards snow, but the Highlands in the winter hold a magical beauty that can only be fully appreciated in person. The white contrast makes the greens, the browns, and the reds POP. The landscape is constantly changing providing constant visual stimulation.
Our final stop before heading back to Edinburgh was to a town called Luss, on the “Bonnie, Bonnie Banks” of Loch Lomond. Our tour guide Mike told us the history of the song Loch Lomond, which is actually quite sad. The song stems back to the Jacobite Uprising and is said to be about two soldiers, one destined for execution.
According to Mike, the soldiers were brothers. One was scheduled for execution and at the last minute his brother volunteered to be killed so his brother could return to his family. The words: “ye’ll tak’ the high road and I’ll tak’ the low road” is saying that you will return alive, and I will return in spirit.
All this talk about death had me needing an emotional boost (that and it was nearing 1600), and my belly was asking me for a hit of carbs and sugar. We had 45 minutes to wander around Luss and I initially tried to find some Heilan Coo’s, but I ended up finding a small cafe with the best scones. The prize wining component?
I ate it all. Every last bit, including the butter. I ate the butter by the chunks because I didn’t dare waste it. The sugar rush that came from this decision was a bit intense, but boy was it tasty. We arrived back in Edinburgh around 1800, and I balanced out my sugar hit with some grilled chicken, hummus, and veggies from the grocery.
Pam and I gathered our picnic style dinner, and ate in an area we designated as “our spot” of the hotel we were staying while reminiscing about the long, but wonderful day. Another unforgettable memory for the mind book. I have no affiliation with Rabbie’s Tours, but I would highly recommend them if you’re ever in the U.K. They’re professional, efficient, affordable, and informative!
Next up: Edinburgh highlights.
Q: Would you rather drive yourself around a new area, or allow a tour guide to take you places? As I said, I prefer driving myself, but this was a nice change of pace!