Scotland: Introduction

January 09, 2019

We planned this 2-week trip in Scotland way back in the fall of 2017 to celebrate my mom’s [big] birthday. I had visited Edinburgh a long time ago and took a 1-day bus tour around the Highlands. But I now realize you have to get well off the beaten path to see the best of the Highlands. I had no idea the scenery in Scotland was going to be so dramatic. We had exceptional weather…which makes me think as great as this trip was, I’m not sure I’ll be back to Scotland again anytime soon. I think I’d be setting myself up for disappointment as two weeks in a row of sun apparently has never happened before in the history of Scotland and will never happen again—this is what all the locals were always telling us.

Tarbert, Kintyre Peninsula

We rented the car through AutoEurope, and ended up paying a supplement for a larger car (which I definitely didn’t want) as they did not have my beloved Fiat 500 that we requested in stock (and somehow that was on us). We did end up with an automatic transmission though, which was probably a good thing. It was my first time driving on the left and it was pretty scary at first. Not just because of the driving on the left thing but because the roads are so narrow in Scotland, often lined on both sides by stone walls, and often you are driving down single track lanes so if someone is coming the opposite way (inevitably at about 60 mph) you need to hope there’s a turnoff near you or you need to back up until you find a turnoff (or hope they do). Terrifying… but by the end of the two weeks I was really enjoying the driving! One good thing about the driving in Scotland in late June is you don’t have to worry about driving in the dark. It doesn’t get dark until past 11pm and even then, it never seems to get fully dark. Commendably, we noticed that even the most fancy restaurants do not at all push alcoholic beverages on the driver and seem to have a wide range of great non-alcoholic options that they happily pitch.

Whiskey bar, Torridon Hotel

Scotland is a fantastic destination for hikers. If you spend any time with experienced hikers in Scotland, you will quickly become familiar with the concept of Munros, “separate mountains” over 3,000 ft.—and remember, most start at or very near sea level—of which there are 282. (Note, there are 538 summits in Scotland over 3,000 ft. but the dip between peaks must be significant enough to count them as separate mountains and not just multiple peaks of one mountain to be a Munro.) “Munro bagging” is the challenge of summiting all the Munros. I believe I bagged three on this trip, so I have a little ways still to go.

Dinner, Torridon Hotel

Again, we were really lucky with the weather. Come prepared for cold weather (it got chilly at night) and rain any time of year and you’ll be ready! Many of the hiking trails are unmarked so if you’re serious about hiking, it is worth joining an organized hiking holiday such as HF Holidays as we did, or hiring local guides for day hikes.

Old Man of Storr, Skye

You can see all my Scotland photos here. Stay tuned for more on our specific Scotland destinations in the coming weeks!

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