Scotland is the icing on top of the UK and is frankly a phenomenal and beautiful country. The islands are some of the most beautiful places I have ever visited and the cities are unique and quirky in their own way. You are about to explore the hills of the Cairngorms, the island delights of Arran and Skye, and the winding roads of the Highlands. The Scots we met in the year we lived there were friendly and welcoming (even to this Englander) and helped us on countless occasions. This blog is going to be a highlight reel of some of the amazing places we explored.
We lived in a small town called Troon on the coast. It is a lovely town made famous by its Open golf course. It has some good restaurants on the pier including “A Wee Hurry” and “Scotts”. On a clear day you get a great view of the Isle of Arran and I specifically drove a longer way home every day to catch this sight and it didn’t get boring or too familiar in the 12 months we were there. The ever-changing clouds and sky made sure of that. Here are some photos Katie took of Troon in the snow!
The Isle of Arran was a short ferry ride away and if you're lucky you'll catch sight of some dolphins or seals as you travel. We both took our parents here when they visited and we travelled around looking at the wildlife.
|Whitelee - Second Largest Wind Farm in Europe|
We had a day trip to a nearby and beautiful place called Culzean Castle.
Before moving to Scotland for the year of 2013, we had also visited Skye in 2010 and camped out with Katie’s family. The hills were unforgettable and rivalled anything we saw in Asia. Credit where credit is due as Gary took most of these photos of Skye!
Edinburgh, with its picturesque castle in the centre, turns into a comedy orgy in the month of August. We have visited this city about a dozen times over the last four years and it truly is amazing. The Edinburgh Fringe is a must and the best festival in the UK (Glasto is a close second!)
We also visited nearby St Andrews. We didn’t think too much of this town and it was a lot smaller than either of us expected actually. I think quaint is the best word to describe it.
Glasgow isn’t the dive that the media likes to portray it as and it has some interesting architecture and good restaurants (such as Meat). It’s also great for a night out!
During the summer of 2013 I took two weeks out to drive around the country on my own, as Katie did not have the holiday from work. My drive was a whistle-stop tour of the north of the UK and was remarkable - see the map. The Cairngorms were a highlight for me with snow even in May.
|Glenlivet Whiskey Distillery|
Loch Ness was as beautiful as one would imagine. The scale of the lake was a sight to behold from a high point and the hiking was lovely around there.
The highlands were just spectacular and where I fell in love with driving. Since being back on the busy roads of southern England, I have fallen out of love again.
Lochinver deserves a special mention. The white sand beaches, staying in a hostel in the middle of nowhere with some interesting people, and waking up to these views was unforgettable. A great place to cycle around and amazing for hikes.
The very north of the country involved a visit to John O’Groats – the northernmost tip of Great Britain.
|The route I followed for hundreds of miles |
I then decided to go a little further north and got a ferry to Orkney. I did some scuba diving in Scapa Flow and had a wonderful time cycling around this tiny island, visiting Skara Brae and some of the oldest human settlements ever found (over 3000 years old - at time of writing).
I went next door to an island called Hoy and saw the Old Man. That was breathtaking and so tranquil. There was literally no-one in sight.
|Other Orkney Settlements|
|The Old Man!|
As you can see from the photos, Scotland really is a wonderful place to visit with good roads, good restaurants, good cycling, good hikes, and some of the best views I have ever seen. They also (nearly) speak English, which is a bonus for us non-linguists.
I hope that anyone reading this blog post might consider Scotland as a destination for a holiday rather than a butt of a joke about the weather. It truly is spectacular.