This post is hard. Not because I don’t want to write it, but because writing it is a reminder that we’re not still in Scotland. It was such a fantastic trip, I don’t think there was a second of it that we would have changed except for there to be more seconds spent in every place we visited.
Scotland is beautiful, but not beautiful in the way I think I expected. It is a country of rolling, green hills dotted with yellow sticker bushes (they were yellow in April, anyway) that are periodically foggy and always dotted with sheep. Always, the sheep. We loved the sheep.
The people are uniquely kind and the culture is one of openness and sharing. Every hotel we stayed in had a common room with a bar, and all except the major chain hotel we stayed at had board and card games guests could use. After dinner (which it seemed most ate at the hotel), people would sit in the common room by the fire and talk, have a drink, and play games. The pub we ate at the night we stayed on the Isle of Arran was busy and crowded the entire time we were there, and every single table of people around us, at some point, saw someone the knew come in or leave during their meal. It was refreshing.
We spent a lot of time outside, hiking and exploring. We went to a different castle almost every day we were there. We drank whisky and real ale and talked about American politics with the pub manager. I thought about writing a day-by-day of our trip, but I wrote it all in a journal that we’ll keep and reference for our next trip. Instead, I wanted to record some of the things we learned and found most useful.
First, haggis. Can we talk about how amazing haggis is? Our “goals” for this trip were geology, food, and beer/whisky. We accomplished those goals, and then some. We had the best fish and chips we’d ever eaten, we had black pudding for breakfast, we compared sticky toffee pudding at various restaurants, and haggis. Well, I had haggis. Turns out most of it has beef, so it wasn’t as much of a thrill for Josh as it was for me.
I had tried to find some restaurants on TripAdvisor before we got there, and when we had WiFi we used it, but we fared pretty well everywhere we ended up eating. I almost wish I hadn’t planned so well, and we had been forced to wander more – but on the other hand, we had such limited time, it may not have been the best use to wander looking for food.
The castles were all unique, and all incredibly interesting. There was a huge difference between the ones that had been continually inhabited and updated throughout history and the ones that were further outlying and less continually lived-in, but both were equally awesome.
We hiked a lot. We did two hikes around Edinburgh, one at Bienn Lora, and one on Isle of Arran. We decided we’re going to make hiking a priority on every big vacation we go on.
The most unexpectedly useful thing we brought with us? Hiking boots. We almost didn’t even bring them because we thought the hikes we’d planned were tennis shoe friendly, but decided to throw them in because we had room. HOLY COW I wore mine almost every day.Turns out castles don’t have super even floors and walkways, and my hiking boots were so comfortable, I ended up just wearing them instead of other shoes I’d brought. Also, my leggings. I wish I’d brought more pairs, because they were so comfortable and versatile and easy to wash in the sink. I bought a new pair of crops when I got home, and am waiting for colors to stock back up to buy a second pair of full-length leggings.
I also ended up using my Patagonia backpack endlessly. I bought it for the trip because it would be more comfortable to carry through the airport than our smaller one and thought it might come in handy on the hikes, but it ended up just being my purse for the entire trip. It’s an amazingly useful, comfortable, and well-designed bag. I’m finally starting to get the hang of this, “you get what you pay for” stuff.
We will go back. Our plan is to spend a longer time there, and spend most of it in the Highlands. Isle of Skye is high on the list, as is getting to Inverness to visit Nessy. More haggis, black pudding, whisky, and sticky toffee pudding will be had. Scotland was comfortable (once we got used to driving), and we can’t wait to go back.