Wednesday, July 08, 2015

The United Kingdom: Entering the Highlands

I still can't believe as I look through the pictures of our time in Scotland, I am still amazed that we saw all the beautiful things we did. Everything was just magical, and mystical, and green, and lush, and breathtakingly gorgeous. Aaron and I continue to say that we really need to start basing vacations on food or scenery. Scotland definitely isn't the top as far as cuisine, but the scenery was other worldly.

When planning our time in the Highlands, we realized it would be most effective to do a tour in order to be able to get to places that one could only drive to, without us having to learn to operate a car on the other side of the road. We chose perfectly, because along with someone driving us everywhere and us just having to worry about taking pictures, we also got the most wonderful tour guide who told us stories all about Scottish history. While I know my way around England quite well, my knowledge of Scotland is limited. It was so cool to see how the stories we had just explored in London about kings and queens became so intertwined with the stories of clans and uprisings and their own royal families. I think that Aaron and I were the only ones of the tour who fully appreciated all the stories, but our tour guide Alan, was very grateful for our interest and listening ears.

We began our tour by leaving Edinburgh and heading north in the Highlands. There is a statue of two horses heads that mark the gateway to the Highlands. Most people in Scotland are torn as to whether think it is an eye sore, or whether they like them. I myself actually think they are pretty cool.

I wish I could remember every detail and back story behind the photos I took along the drive. There were so many castle peppering the side of the road and on the hillsides in the distance, that I stopped being able to keep it all straight. So here are a few of the photos I was able to take along the way. 

Our first stop was along a riverbank where we were able to stretch our legs and use the restroom. Even the rest stop was gorgeous!

The weather was cold and the van with our small group (probably around 16 people) was comfortable and warm. As we traveled along, I would close my eyes at times and just listen to the stories or the music Alan was playing. It was so relaxing to take in all the gorgeous scenery from outside my window. Then occasionally we would stop and be able to take panoramic photos of the mountains and valleys.

Viaducts, which always remind me of Harry Potter

I seriously just kept taking pictures and have photos of almost every angle of every landscape we saw.   I would take a photo and then the clouds would shift and entirely new set of shadows would reveal and even better shot. Even now as I look through all the photos I have, and I can't choose which shot is best.

The sun shone brightly as we got to Glencoe, which is actually made most famous by a clan massacre that occurred there.

Aaron and our guide, Alan, quickly developed a bit of a bromance over shared love of Scotch.

One of my favorite stops on the first day was to a rest strop across the waters from Eilean Donan Castle. We didn't get to go inside on this day, but we would stop on our way back down to Edinburgh on the 3rd day. However it was rainy when we came back through, so I loved getting to capture beautiful pictures of the castle in the sunshine and with the water in the shot too.

And then we arrived at the Isle of Skye, which is where we would spend our middle day exploring. We stopped along the water for some photos.

Once on the Isle of Skye, the scenery just got more beautiful and a bit more magical. It was like fairies carved out each waterfall and brooke and mountainside.

And then we arrived in Portree for the evening. We got into our bed and breakfast and were give suggestions on where in town to find food. Since this harbor village is mainly a bit stop for tours such as ours, the restaurants quickly filled up and we had a bit of a wait for a table. We decided on a seafood restaurant along the water for dinner. I got lobster linguini that was absolutely divine and Aaron got the salmon. I would have loved to have a glass of wine, but sadly my little stowaway prevented it. Aaron however switched up his regular beer in a pub, for scotch and was in heaven.

After dinner we walked along the harbor. I was absolutely in love with the colorful buildings along the water and the equally colorful boats.

Dear friends of ours told us before we went to Scotland that their family can be traced back to the McNicol clan of Portree, so we definitely thought of them as we wandered through the village. We eventually made our way back to our bed and breakfast and our blissfully comfortable bed!

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