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Trip Report Ireland and Scotland : 2014 Trip Report

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We returned last week from a 16-day trip of Ireland and Scotland. Both countries had beckoned us for quite a while. Having done most of the other Western European countries on previous vacations, we decided to plunge into Ireland and Scotland this time. It was our first visit to either place, having only been to London a few times earlier. We are a couple from India in our mid-50’s, avid travelers of the independent variety, and vegetarians – which does limit our fooding choices somewhat.

Our research began many months earlier. Most posts on this forum seemed to recommend May as the ideal month to travel to both these destinations, so we selected May. We went through the Lonely Planet guidebooks on both regions, read many posts on this forum, and asked various questions, which were duly answered. I love the planning part of any vacation ! It is as much fun as the vacation itself.

Our broad itinerary was as follows :
Dublin : 1 night
Kilkenny : 1 night
Killarney : 3 nights
Galway : 2 nights
Glencoe : 2 nights
Portree : 3 nights
Callander : 1 night
Edinburgh : 2 nights

Here goes the Trip Report, to be posted in several installments.

Day 1: May 10th : Saturday :
We had a 2 am flight from Mumbai to Brussels, with an onward connection to Dublin. We arrived at Mumbai airport by 11pm, only to be told that our Jet Airways flight to Brussels was delayed by an hour. However, by the time they completed boarding and took off, it was late by 2.5 hours. We eventually reached Brussels at 9:15am (instead of 7:50am), after a restful sleep on the flight. By the time we could de-plane it was 9:45am, and our onward Aer Lingus flight was to depart at 10:05 am. We literally ran from one gate to another, and were lucky to be the last people to board the aircraft before they shut the doors.

Reached Dublin at 10:35am local time, and not surprisingly, our luggage did not show up on the belt. With such a tight connection, we were afraid that this might happen. When we went to the Aer Lingus service desk, they confirmed that our luggage had been left behind at Brussels, and would show up on the same flight next day, i.e. 24 hours later. This has happened to us before on an earlier vacation in Spain, and since then we always carry one set of clothes in our hand-baggage. There was not much to do but complete the paperwork, purchase a 1-day family bus pass, and board the Bus # 16 to our B&B at Shantalla Road. We reached there in 15 minutes by around noon, and found our Shantalla Lodge B&B without difficulty.

There was no one there, so we called up our hostess. She was across the road, get her hair styled. She ran across, showed us to our room, and ran back to complete her hair-work ! Felt strange to be treated as such. The room was a bit tiny, but otherwise everything seemed fine with the place. We showered, changed into the only set of clothes that we had, and boarded the Bus # 16 again, going into Dublin city. We alighted near the Temple Bar area, and went straight for lunch at Govinda’s restaurant on Aungier Street. I had a mixed platter of veg food, while my wife went for roasted potatoes with cheese. Good juices to go with the food. Decent meal in all.

It was a cold, windy and wet day. Most of our rain protective gear and warm clothes were in the missing suitcases, so we were not in the most comfortable situation. We ducked for cover in the Stephen Green Shopping Centre, to bide our time away from the rain. It was a lovely antique building, and we window-shopped around. When the rain stopped, we strolled down Grafton Street, poking into shops here and there. Very soon we were at the gates of Trinity College. They offer walking tours of the Trinity College, for a nominal charge which includes the entry to the Book of Kells, and a tour was starting soon. So we opted for the tour, which turned out to be delightful. It was extremely well conducted by a current student of the college, with witty remarks and good humour, and we were comprehensively taken around the beautiful campus, including to their Long Room library which houses the Book of Kells.

After being done with Trinity College, we took a taxi to nearby Abbey Street, where my wife insisted on visiting a Hare Krishna temple located there. That accomplished, we walked back towards the Temple Bar area, crossing over the river vide the Ha’Penny Bridge. Had lovely juices on the way in a Juice Bar.

At the Temple Bar area, we headed for the famed Stag Head pub. It was a bit early, but the crowds had started piling in. It was a loud pub, with fun-loving folks crammed inside. Had a round of Guiness beer. Then strolled out and enjoyed the music being belted out in the streets. Next into another pub for another round of Guiness. Finally, the jet-lag began to show on us, and we took the Bus # 16 back to our B&B, returning by 7pm. We were still feeling full due to the late lunch, so we decided to skip dinner, and crashed into bed by 8 pm.

We were not too enthused with Dublin. Maybe it was the weather, or maybe the disappointment of the missing luggage. It was not the best start to the holiday !

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    Day 2 : May 11th : Sunday :
    We slept well through the night, and got up late. Had a leisurely breakfast at 9am, which was quite good. We settled our B&B bill, and left with our handbags on Bus # 16 to Dublin Airport. We had anyway planned on coming to the Dublin Airport today to collect our rental car. Now everything would be delayed by a few hours because of our missing luggage. When we reached the airport, we found that the Aer Lingus flight from Brussels had not landed as yet. So we went over to the Dan Dooley counter, and completed all the paperwork for the car that we had booked earlier. We had requested for the smallest automatic car that was possible, and we got a Nissan Micra, but one which had about 125000 km on it !

    The Aer Lingus flight finally landed, and fortunately our bags arrived ! We thanked the staff at the Aer Lingus service desk, and took our rental car and drove off. It was already 12:30 pm, and we were atleast 2 hours behind our planned schedule. It was another day of cold dank and wet weather. We drove towards the Wicklow mountains, headed for Glendalough, reaching there by 1:45 pm.

    We had put on some warm clothes after recovering our bags, so we were better prepared for the weather. We went into the Glendalough Visitor’s Centre, bought maps, and walked around the monastic settlement, which was beautiful, in pristine surroundings. We walked to the Lower Lake, and had barely commenced our walk to the Upper Lake, when the rain came down very heavily, forcing us to retreat to our car in a hurry.

    We drove a short distance to Laragh, where we went into the Wicklow Heather restaurant for lunch. I am glad we came here, as the place was a gem. I had some Ravioli, while wife feasted on some Greek salad and hot chocolate. Satiated with a good meal, we drove off at 3:45 pm, and went non-stop to Kilkenny, making it there by about 6 pm. We were staying at the Butler Court B&B, which was extremely well located, very near the Kilkenny Castle. The room here was spacious and lovely, and the hostess was very friendly and helpful. We freshened up and left soon. The weather had eased up a lot. It was not raining anymore, and the wind had abated, so the chilly cold had also vanished.

    We walked over to the Kilkenny Castle. We were too late to enter inside, as they had closed for the day, but we strolled around the castle grounds and clicked pictures of the castle from outside. We then walked all over High Street, Parliament Street and Kieran Street. All shops were closed, as it was late on a Sunday evening, but it was nice anyway. Kilkenny was a cute little town, and we liked it. Found a Dunnes store open, where we went in, and bought my wife a warm jacket which she had failed to pack in our bags.

    We had dinner at Café Sol on William Street, which had been recommended by our hostess. It was an excellent restaurant with plentiful veg options. We shared a Tomato soup. I opted for the roasted root vegetables, whereas my wife went for the stir-fry veggies. Everything was extremely well cooked and delicious. We then walked across the Nore river to the large pub called Matt the Millers. I had a Smithwicks Red Ale, which I found delightful. There was excellent trad music going on in the pub, and we had a great time listening to our first “trad” music session in Ireland.

    After a while we walked over to the Tynan Bridge Pub, where I tried the “Kilkenny” beer, which was equally good. Here too some trad music was going on, with a guy singing soft old ballads, with all the patrons singing along. He saw us foreigners sitting at the bar, asked where we were from, and invited my wife to play along the guitar with him. Another patron took my wife’s permission for a dance, and he guided her through some dance steps ! It was a very enjoyable evening, with lovely music and warm people, and we loved every minute of it.

    We returned late to our B&B by around 10:30pm and went to bed. This had been a much better day, and we felt that our holiday had finally begun.

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    Glad to see so many readers offering a word of encouragement. Will spur me along to complete the TR soon. Will post more installments later in the day. Many thanks, and keep the encouragement going !

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    Day 3 : May 12th : MONDAY
    We were up and ready by 8 am. There was a cold breakfast kept in the room, which was the only jarring point about this otherwise excellent B&B. Cereals, bread and juices. All other B&Bs where we stayed throughout this trip gave us a hot breakfast. Anyway, no quibbling about these minor issues. Our hostess gave us good directions about which roads to take. We settled our bill and departed by 9 am, headed for Rock of Cashel.

    It was a cloudy and windy day, but thankfully there was no rain. We reached ROC at 10am. We did not opt for their conducted tours, but paid and went in on our own. We were less interested in the history of the place, and more interested in the sights and views. It was a lovely sight, superb to roam around in, and extremely photogenic. Made for great photographs. We had our fill in less than an hour, and hit the road again, towards Killarney.

    As suggested by our Kilkenny hostess, we avoided taking the small regional roads, and took the longer motorways, which were easier to drive on. We took the M8 to just outside Cork, and then the N22 to Killarney. The motorways were excellent, and we had no difficulty at all. By 1:30pm, we were at our Killarney B&B, the Friars Glen. Our first reaction on reaching the place was – WOW ! Never stayed in such a beautiful B&B before. Wonderfully landscaped exteriors, set on 20 acres of land, and superbly designed interiors, with excellent décor and maintenance. And the hostess Mary was extremely warm, friendly and helpful. The weather had improved considerably since the morning, with occasional spells of sunlight.

    We quickly left our luggage in our room, took maps of the area from our hostess, and were off soon for the Ring of Kerry drive. First stop was at the nearby Molly Darcy pub where we had lunch. It was a wonderful pub, quirkily decorated, with good food. Had our fill, and started the ROK drive at 3:30pm, doing it counter-clockwise as recommended by everyone. We first drove to Killorglin town, which looked like a cute bustling town with very colourful buildings. We did not stop here, but drove on to Glenbeigh, where we ventured to the Rossbeigh Strand beach. This beach had apparently been severely damaged in a storm earlier this year, and construction and repair work was on. However the vistas of the water were rugged and lovely.

    We drove on to Caherciveen, where we detoured for the Ballycarbery Castle. This was too beautiful for words, and we kept staring at the moss covered castle ruin, set in picturesque environs. Also saw the ring fort of Cahergall.

    Our next stop was Waterville. We stopped at a lovely craft shop just outside the town, and bought an Irish hat for myself, and a scarf for my wife. We stopped for photo ops at the Charlie Chaplin statue, and admired the views of Ballinskelligs Bay, which were truly worth admiring.

    The next part of the Ring of Kerry drive was the most breathtaking – the drive from Waterville to Caherdaniel. Outstanding scenery, and I must have stopped atleast 10 times to click photographs. Enroute was the Scariff Inn, which is reputed to have the best views. We wanted to go in for a coffee and enjoy the views, but for some reason the place was closed. This part of the drive reminded me of similar scenes on a lovely drive in New Zealand, from Queenstown to Glenorchy – which I rate as one of the best drives I have ever done. This part of ROK came pretty close in this stretch.

    We stopped at Sneem village and strolled about. It was again a very cute and colourful little place, which seemed to be the general rule for most Irish towns. We sat inside the Blue Bull pub, where I tried Murphy’s beer (only a half-pint, as I had to drive !). Then moved on.

    We reached Kenmare by about 8 pm. We parked our car and sauntered through the town. Walked all over High Street. Sat in Horseshoe pub, and had a Smithwicks beer. Then went for dinner at a restaurant called No. 35, which had been recommended by our B&B hostess. I opted for the Tiger prawns on honey noodles, and wife went for a pasta. Once again, an excellent choice of restaurant, where the cooking was perfect.

    The drive from Kenmare to Killarney was pretty, but it was getting dark, so we resisted stopping anywhere, promising to return to some places the next day. In particular, we wanted to see the views at Molls Gap and at Ladies View, but it was too dark by the time we crossed them. So we just drove on to Killarney, reaching at 10:30 pm, and went straight to bed.

    The weather had been the best in the trip so far. It had been a long day, into which we had crammed a lot, but we had enjoyed the day thoroughly.

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    Day 4 : May 13th : TUESDAY :
    We settled into a routine of getting up before 7 am, and being both ready by about 8 am. When we went down for breakfast, Mary greeted us with the news that the weather outlook for the next few days was excellent – clear, warm and sunny. She warned however, that this could change very quickly in Ireland. We decided to take advantage of the weather and do the Gap of Dunloe tour today. Mary called up Dero’s Tours, and booked us on their Dunloe Tour for the day.

    We had an excellent hot breakfast which was the best so far in Ireland. At about 8:45 am, we drove to the Muckross Abbey, which was a two minute drive from our B&B. It was nice, and OK to visit if you have 30 minutes to kill, otherwise nothing to go out of your way for. We returned to our B&B, and enjoyed strolling on its expansive gardens and estate, and clicking many pictures.

    Dero’s Tours sent a taxi to pick us up from our B&B at 10 am sharp, and we were driven to their office in city centre. We departed in their van by 10:30 am, and were taken straight to Kate Kearney cottage. Here we had to negotiate our onward journey on a trap with pony, and there were many carriages around. We were told that the fixed rate was Euro 20 per person, provided 4 people were sharing the trap. We joined up with a Russian couple who were on the same tour, and soon we were off on the trap and pony ride.

    This is the most scenic part of the trip to Gap of Dunloe, and took about 90 minutes. The weather was excellent, and the vistas were extremely pretty. During some uphill sections, the driver requested us to disembark and walk, which we did not mind at all. In fact it was fun. The view of the Gap itself was super as we neared it, and finally we went over the Gap. At the end, we posed for lots of photographs, and decided that this had been one of the high points of this vacation so far. We had reached Brandon’s Cottage, and it was only 12:15 pm. The boats that would take us onwards would be reporting there by 2 pm, so we had plenty of time to relax and have lunch.

    There was only a fast food café here, so we had to make do with soup and sandwiches. Very average quality. Finally, the boats showed up at 2 pm, and we boarded it. The boats took us through three lakes. The views were interesting initially, but I thought the overall boat ride was a bit too long at about 80 minutes. Got a bit monotonous after a while. And it was a bit cold out on the water. We finally reached Ross Castle, clicked a few pictures (the spot was quite lovely), and then the coach brought us back.

    We were dropped back at our B&B by 4 pm. Mary served us some wonderful tea and we rested for a while in the comfortable living areas. We wanted to do a Muckross House Tour, which was nearby. She found that the last tour of the day was at 4:40 pm, so we left to catch that tour. The place was only 1 km away, and we were there in no time. We were taken on a complete tour of the house. It was nice, but after seeing so many palaces and similar nobility houses on earlier vacations, it was so-so. We enjoyed the gardens of Muckross House much more. The views of the lake from their rear garden was stupendous, and the flowers and landscaping were exquisite.

    We finally left at about 6 pm, and went driving on the ROK road towards Kenmare. We stopped at Torc’s waterfall, Ladies View and at Molls Gap, all of which we had missed the previous day due to fading light. At Molls Gap, we turned around and returned to Killarney. We had not gone into the city centre the previous day, so went there today. We parked in a parking lot, and had dinner at an Indian restaurant called “Bombay”. We had Chana Masala, Dal, Naan and Roti. The portions were huge, and the food was delicious and authentic.

    We walked all over High Street, and poked into many many stores. A very lively town compared to either Kilkenny or Kenmare, and much larger than both. Quite a vibrant place, and for once we found shops open till 9 pm. Lots of people were visible on the streets everywhere, another oddity for Ireland, as we could scarcely see people around in Kilkenny, Sneem or Kenmare. We sat at Coutney’s Pub on Plunkett Street and enjoyed some Murphy’s beer. Then retrieved our car from the parking lot, and drove home, reaching our B&B by 10pm. It had been the best day so far from every point of view.

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    Thanks - we are staying at Friar's Glen early in October, and hope to do the Gap of Dunloe tour while there. We'd prefer to walk, rather than take the horse and cart, if possible. Does it look doable? We are pretty good walkers, but I don't know about 6+ miles, especially if some of it is steep.

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    Hi azzure. I know that some people do walk the Gap of Dunloe, and I am sure it is quite doable. In any case we had to walk the steep portions (which were not very steep really). It will surely take some time to do it on foot, but we saw lots of people walking it. You will have to check with the Tour operator about the timing of the boat that will bring you back. I am sure they have some arrangement, for many people do take the walking option. You will love Friars Glen. One of the best B&B on Planet Earth !

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    Day 5 : May 14th : Wednesday :
    Killarney (Continued) :
    We got up as usual, and had another wonderful breakfast at 8:30 am. The weather had changed somewhat. There was no rain, but the sunshine had evaporated, and it was very cloudy and overcast. We had planned on doing the Dingle peninsula today. The GPS that we had rented from Dan Dooley had been giving some problems – it seemed to have a loose connection for charging its battery. We called up the Dan Dooley desk at Kerry airport, and told them of the problem. The lady was extremely helpful. She offered to change the GPS immediately. We were due to go past Kerry airport in the afternoon, while returning from the Dingle peninsula, so we promised to stop by and replace the GPS then.

    We were off by 9:15 am, and drove to Castlemaine and then on to Inch. At Inch beach we stopped at Sammy’s for coffee. Very nice views from there. However, there seemed to be an overhang of mist and clouds everywhere, which spoilt the views somewhat. We drove on to Dingle town, stopping for pictures every now and then. However, at most places, the views were obscured by the mist.

    From Dingle, we embarked on the famed Slea Head drive. It was not the best day to do so, because of the clouds, but we had no other day available. We drove past Ventry, and stopped at the Dunbeg Fort Visitors Centre. Saw their interesting Audio-Visual show, and went down to the Fort ruins. You can only see them from some distance, as complete access is presently cut off due to some restoration work. Drove further, and stopped at the Beehive huts for some pictures.

    We stopped at the Blasket Island Centre at Dunquin. It has an overpriced entry fee for a museum, which we did not venture into. Instead, we walked all around the building exteriors, which offered fabulous views and photo-ops. From there on to Ballyferriter, where we drove down to the beach for the views. We could see that the Slea Head drive had probably more beauty packed into it than the Ring Of Kerry; it is just that we were here on the wrong day, and the mist and clouds took away much of the views.

    We returned to Dingle by about 2:45 pm, parked our car and went to John Benny pub for lunch. I had a Risotto, while wife had some pasta, downed with Murphy’s beer. Food was good. Then we roamed all over Dingle town, which was a delightful enchanting little town, full of life and colour. Nice shops where we bought some scarves. Feasted on Murphy’s icecream. Dingle is one of the nicer towns in Ireland.

    We were warned that this was not the best day to drive over the Connors Pass, as it would be shrouded in clouds. However, we decided to try it anyway. It was a nice drive, but when we reached the summit car park, the clouds were so dense that we could barely see beyond a few feet ! As we descended on the other side of Connors Pass, the weather suddenly cleared up, and we got bright sunshine for the first time today. By the time we reached Brandon’s Point, it was completely clear, and we enjoyed the first great views of the day of Dingle peninsula. Awesome.

    We called up the Dan Dooley desk at Kerry airport, to inform her that we might be a bit late in reaching there to replace the GPS. She was a real sweet soul. She disclosed that she lived in Killarney, and offered to drop off the GPS at our B&B, without even picking up the defective GPS. She said we could return both GPS when we returned the car. This was very nice and helpful on her part, and we thanked her profusely. Now there was no hurry to rush back.

    We drove on to Tralee, and then slowly made our way back to Killarney. We reached Killarney town at about 7pm, parked, and went into Courtney’s pub. I tried a new beer today, called “Beamish”, which turned out to be the best stout beer I had tasted in Ireland so far. We again walked up and down High Street, and did a lot of souvenir shopping at Bricin store.

    We had wanted to dine at the upstairs restaurant of Bricin, but they were totally booked with a large tour group. So we went to nearby restaurant called “Med”. Wife had a pizza, while I had some excellent calamaris with Potata bravas. Then to O’Connors pub for another round of Beamish beer. A trad music session was to start, and we waited for quite a while. But they seemed to be in no hurry to commence. We finally left at 9:45pm, returned to our B&B and crashed into bed.

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    Day 6 : May 15th : Thursday:
    GALWAY :

    Woke up to a clear, warm and sunny day. We packed up, loaded our luggage in the car, had breakfast, and said goodbye to our hostess Mary. It felt bad to be leaving Friars Glen – it was certainly one of the best B&B we had ever stayed in around the world, and we have stayed in quite a few.

    We set off from Killarney at 9:15am. The Dan Dooley lady from Kerry airport had been true to her words, and had dropped off a new GPS at our B&B. Thankfully, this one worked like a charm. We had no difficulty navigating now, and we were at Adare by 10:45 am. We parked near the Visitor’s Centre, took the maps of the town, and headed off towards the cute cottages that are so much photographed, and have come to represent Adare. I was somehow under the impression that the whole town would be littered with such cottages, but apparently there are only about 8 of them in a single line together.

    The cottages were the only part sight of Adare that we were interested in, and they were a very short walk away. Some of them have people living in them, some are shops and some are restaurants. We peeped into all the shops there, and sat down in one of them to have coffee. Clicked lots of pictures and left in exactly an hour, as we had a long day ahead of us.

    Our next stop was the Cliffs of Moher, and we made it there by 1 pm. Parked in the huge parking bay, where you also pay the entrance fee, and then walked to the Visitors Centre. The whole area is quite impressively maintained, and well landscaped. From the Visitors Centre we slowly walked to the viewing wall. Walked up and down and soaked in the views. It was really spectacular, especially on a bright and clear day like this. The temperature was easily around 18-20 C, and the sun was out in all its glory. This was quite a sight to see and we really liked the Cliffs.

    That done, we drove to Doolin town, and bought tickets for the O’Brien Boat cruise of the Cliffs starting at 3 pm. We had a quick sandwich and cookie lunch at a harbor-front stall. We were told that their 2 pm cruise had been delayed, and would be leaving at 2:45 pm, and if we wanted we could board that trip (the 3 pm tour would be delayed further). We were just in time to board the earlier tour at 2:45 pm, so we decided to take it.

    The next hour on the boat was definitely one of the high points of our Ireland trip. I would strongly recommend to any visitor going to Cliffs of Moher to definitely see it from the water, as it is much more spectacular from here. Today, the ocean was not rough, but still the swells were quite daunting, which rocked the boat and brought water on board ! The boat slowly made its way to the Cliffs, and on reaching there, it parked there for quite some time. Unforgettable sights on such a clear day. Zillions of birds flying about. A memorable journey, and I am so glad we took the boat trip.

    The boat dropped us back at 3:45 pm, and we immediately left for Galway, driving via the Burren. Our first stop was at the Kilfenora Visitor’s Centre, where we were given maps and directions. We drove on to the ring fort, and then to the Poulnabrome. The latter was the ancient burial site, which was mildly interesting. We continued driving to Ballyvaughan and Kinvarra, and this part of the drive was scenic, with limestone mountains on one side. However, overall the Burren underwhelmed us. I wouldn’t go out of the way to visit here, but if I was driving through, it was pleasant.

    We reached our B&B (Oranmore Lodge) at Oranmore village, just outside of Galway, by about 6:30 pm. Relaxed for a while with a cup of tea. After an hour’s rest, we drove into Galway town and parked. As we walked over to Quay Street and High Street, we were in for a pleasant surprise. We had never seen a livelier corner in the whole of Ireland. The atmosphere was fabulous, people were thronging the streets, and the place buzzed with electricity. Never seen anything like this in Ireland so far. We walked all over the city centre, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

    We went for dinner at the Asian Tea House on Mary Street. The food was extremely spicy and the cooking was top-notch. Must visit eatery in Galway. Our B&B host had suggested we visit the Taaffe’s Pub, which is in the city centre, where trad music session was going on. It was packed to the core, and difficult to find even standing space. Had a pint of beer, and enjoyed the foot stomping music and singing that emanated from there. Finally, well past 10 pm we decided to call it a day, and drove back to our B&B.

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    Day 7 : May 16th : Friday :
    GALWAY :

    Woke up to another lovely, clear, warm and sunny day. This made it two days in a row, which I believe is an oddity in Ireland. We had breakfast and left by 9:15 am as usual. Today was set aside for the Connemara region, and we could not have selected a better day. First stopped at a laundry in Oranmore village to drop a pile of clothes to be washed and dried, and off we were. The B&B host had promised to pick up our laundry for us when it was done.

    We first drove to Moycullen and stopped at Celtic Crystals. Saw a demo of their glass cutting, and browsed through their shop. Found everything a bit overpriced. A little further beyond Moycullen was Brigit’s Garden. We went in and were rewarded with the unusual sights of the planned garden. A lovely place where you feel tranquil and relaxed, and we spent a good hour inside.

    We drove on to Outerard, and saw the Aughnanure Castle from outside. Then proceeded straight to Clifden. We first drove on the Upper Sky Road, and then the Lower Sky Road, and then looped back. The views from both the Upper and Lower Sky were fabulous. Next we had a baked potato lunch in Clifden at “Off the Square” restaurant, where veg choices were extremely limited.

    After lunch we drove to Letterfrack, where we went to the Connemara National Park Visitor’s Centre. We had not planned on doing any hiking here, but the man at the reception desk persuaded us to undertake a short hike. We took the shortest Yellow trail, which was a nice and easy walk of 30 minutes, which we thoroughly enjoyed.

    We drove further to Leenane and the drive was spectacular. In fact the drive all the way from Outerard to Clifden to Letterfrack and to Leenane is all very scenic and nice. On a clear day like this, it was even prettier. We finally drove to Cong, and returned to Galway via Headford. On reaching Galway, we went straight to the city centre, and again roamed around High Street and Quay Street. Went to another pub recommended by our host, the Tis Coeli, where also trad music was in progress. After sauntering through many shops, we finally had dinner at an Italian restaurant called “Trattoria”. Good authentic Italian food.

    For a change, we returned early to our B&B, by 9pm as I was not feeling too well. Also, we had to get up really early in the morning, as we had a long drive to Dublin, where we were due to fly out from, headed for Scotland. We finished our packing for the journey ahead and retired to bed. Ireland part of vacation was over, and we had enjoyed the country. Only one day’s sightseeing at Dingle peninsula had been marred by the clouds and the weather, but that is expected in Ireland. Otherwise the weather had been fairly decent the whole week.

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    Indiancouple, we're really enjoying your TR. We visited Ireland in our pre-Fodorite days, and experienced many of the things you described. We were fortunate to have mostly good weather, but, as you suggested, rain or overcast just makes for a change of plans. We're glad that the weather seemed to improve as your trip went on. We're looking forward to your continued report on Scotland.

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    Day 8 : May 17th : Saturday
    GLENCOE (Scotland)

    We had to get up real early at 4:15am, and leave by 5:45am, as we had a long drive to Dublin before catching our morning flight to Glasgow. Very good motorway all the way, but the problem about driving due East at sunrise time, is that the rising sun hits you straight in the eye at that awkward angle. That makes driving very difficult and painful. As we started nearing Dublin, I started feeling exhausted by all the last week’s driving, and started feeling like going back to bed ! Somehow made it to Dublin airport, and went to the Dan Dooley car rental office for returns. We were there by 8 am, and done with everything in 5 minutes. Very efficient. Must say that we were very happy with our Dan Dooley rental experience. Their prices were much below all other competitors. Yes, we got a slightly old car, but the car gave no trouble at all. And they were very helpful about replacing the GPS. No hidden costs and no surprises.

    We were in the Terminal building by 8:15 am. Checked in, went through security, filed our VAT refund forms, and had some breakfast. Then boarded our Aer Lingus flight which departed at 9:35 am. I slept peacefully through the flight, and we landed in Glasgow at 11 am. Cloudy skies and rain greeted us. Recovered our luggage, spoke to the Arnold Clark representative on the courtesy phone, who told us where to stand to be picked up by the courtesy bus. Unfortunately, she gave wrong directions, and it was 30 minutes of idle standing before we had to speak again and understand that we were standing at the wrong place.

    Anyway, we finally made it to the Arnold Clark office. We had heeded posts on various forums, and booked through their official booking partner, Celtic Legend, who offers better rates on Arnold Clark than booking direct (especially on charges for GPS, extra drivers etc). We had asked for the smallest automatic car, but were upgraded to an i30 automatic, and a brand new one this time. The car was very comfortable, and their GPS worked like a charm all through. We drove straight to Balloch, on the south bank of Loch Lomond, and took a 1:30pm cruise on the lake. It was pleasant, but the heavy clouds and mist took away some of the beauty of the bonny bonny banks of Loch Lomond.

    Went to the Balloch House restaurant for lunch, which was very near the boat pier. We had an excellent meal. Wife had a bean-burger and I had some soup plus ricotta cheese and spinach in a pastry, which were all deliciously prepared. The place looked very popular, and the food was real good.

    It was about 3:45pm by the time we set off towards Glencoe, which was not very far. However, there was some traffic holdup on A82 due to some road accident, and we were standstill at a point for 45 minutes. It was almost 6 pm by the time we reached our B&B Strath Cottage at Glencoe village. As we neared Glencoe, we could not help exclaiming at the lovely views on both sides. The drive just gets awesome as you cross the Rannoch Moor and descend into the mighty Glen. Another WOW on reaching our destination, as it had to be among the best B&B’s that we have stayed in. We loved the room and the overall décor, and the hostess was wonderful.

    It was raining very heavily, and it seemed pointless to go anywhere. We were also tired with our early morning start to the day, so we just rested in our room for a while. At about 7:30pm, the rain seemed to reduce a bit, so we decided to leave to catch dinner and look around a bit. Discussed with our hostess, and enquired about what to do. We finally decided to take a drive to Glen Etive, which was supposed to be a picturesque drive, and doable in the rain.

    So we had to retrace our tracks about 10 miles, back towards Rannoch Moor, till we reached the turnout towards Glen Etive. As we turned into the Glen Etive drive, the scenery just got better and better. It was one of the most awesome places of natural beauty that we had visited. The mist and the clouds just added to the beauty. We were just gaping at what we saw from our car window, and loving it. If anyone is just driving through Glencoe, he must undertake this detour to Glen Etive. It is fabulous and beyond words.

    We could not go all the way to the end, as it was getting late, and we had been warned that all restaurants close at 9 pm. So after we had gone about halfway into Glen Etive (about 30 minutes), we turned around and returned. When we reached the Glen Etive turnout on the main road, it was a very short drive to the Kings House Hotel, where we went for dinner, which had been very highly recommended to us by a Scot acquaintance of ours. We reached there just before 9 pm, only to be told that their kitchen closed at 8:30 pm ! We pleaded with them, and the people were real sweet and understanding. So they decided to serve us anyway. The food there was simply the best ever on this trip. Wife loved their lentil soup so much that she ordered a second helping of the soup itself. I had a mixed bean casserole which was also excellent. And good beer to go along. The views from their lounge were to die for, and we kept clicking pictures. Very friendly and helpful staff.

    We were back at our B&B at about 10pm, and had some well deserved sleep.

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    Day 9 : May 18th : Sunday :

    We had an excellent breakfast at 8:30 am, and after being armed with local maps and directions, we left at our usual 9:15 am. The bad weather continued, with clouds and light rain. But it was expected to clear up a bit by the afternoon. Our hostess recommended some walks which were slightly “sheltered”, which we could do in the light rain in the morning, and we embarked on those.

    We first drove a short distance to the Glencoe Lochan, and took the recommended red trail that went all around the Lochan. This was an easy and very enjoyable walk, and the trees all around shielded the rain quite well. We then drove to Fort Williams and went to the Glen Nevis Visitor’s Centre, to enquire about the walk to Steal Falls. We were given directions, but were warned that due to the continuous rains, there was water on the trails, and we would have to cross two streams. We were told that we would need good waterproof boots to undertake it in this weather, and all we had were simple walking shoes which were not waterproof.

    We decided to go along and as far as we could. We drove to the Upper Falls carpark, which was a good and scenic drive. Then we took out our limited rain gear, and started the walk. The rain was very mild, but the heavy rains of the last two days had taken its toll on the trail. The ground was boggy at times, and lots of water on the trails at a few places. We had to cross quite a few waterfalls, which we did. We walked for about 30 minutes and did almost 2/3 of the distance. But then it started getting real difficult. We were warned by returning walkers that we had to negotiate a difficult waterfall ahead, where we would have to wade through water. Wife was not up to the challenge, so we had to turn back. What a pity !

    Went to High Street in Fort Williams for lunch. Selected a restaurant called “Glen Nevis”. I had some cannelloni and wife had some paninis, The food was good, and the “Ness” local beer was excellent. After lunch, we saw a trekking outfit store which was open, and went in. They had lots of waterproof boots and light waterproof jackets on a 50% discount sale. We both bought ourselves a pair of boots and a rain jacket each. We did not want to ruin the rest of our vacation for want of proper gear. We put on the boots right in the store, and packed away our regular walking shoes.

    As we drove back to Glencoe, the rain had completely stopped, but it remained cloudy for the rest of the day. Our hostess had recommended a lovely hike, which was not very arduous, called the “Study” walk, although it is not signposted anywhere, nor had I read about it in any guidebook. To do this, we had to drive back in the direction of Rannoch Moor, but not all the way. Somewhere near the “Three Sisters”, we parked at a spot which she had explained, and found the “Study” trail. This was a mild uphill easy hike, and extremely beautiful. We must have been the only people on that trail that day, and the trail itself was very good. As you climb up, the Three Sisters come in direct view, and at the summit, the views were awesome. The entire hike was about 30 minutes in each direction, and very rewarding.

    We then drove again to the Kings House Hotel, and enquired about walking trails towards the Rannoch Moor. We took off on a level trail as directed by the hotel staff, but after proceeding for some distance, the rain started again coming down hard. So we retraced our steps and returned to our car. We decided to re-visit our Glen Etive drive of yesterday, and go all the way to the end. Today the clouds were much less than yesterday, and the rain had also stopped. So everything was prettier and clearer, and we could stop and take pictures, which we did countless times. I do not have words to describe this stretch. We went all the way to the end, which takes almost an hour of driving, and you cross deer on the way. Then an hour back. It was very rewarding and beautiful.

    We went to the Clachaig Inn for dinner. I had a mushroom risotto, and wife opted for some fried Brie cheese and skewered vegetables. The service was very slow, and the food was just OK. Had heard so much about this place, but we were disappointed.

    We returned home at 9:30pm and slept. This had to be one of the most scenic places on the Earth that we had ever visited. We had enjoyed it thoroughly, but I think the pleasure would have been much more if the weather had been more cooperative. But alas, such is Scotland weather !

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    Day 10 : May 19th : Monday :

    Had a sumptuous breakfast, bid goodbye to our lovely hostess, and left by 9:15 am. It was a warm day, clear and sunny, blue skies. Why couldn’t we have had some of this during the last two days ?

    I could not resist driving back some distance, towards the Three Sisters, to see the views and click pictures in bright sunlight. Alas, with a heavy heart, we tore ourselves from this place of divine beauty, and started our drive towards Fort William, and then on to Mallaig – the Road to the Isles. We did make a pit stop at the Glenfinnan monument, where we saw the “Hogwartz Bridge”.

    As we drove on to Arisaig, the drive just got prettier. The Arisaig harbor itself it beautiful. From here we took the coastal road towards Morar, which was breathtakingly beautiful. We stopped at Camusdarach Beach, and walked through the gaps between the dunes, till we reached the beach. A most spectacular beach with pristine white sands. And the walk through the dunes to reach here was lovely too. We would have loved to spend some time here, but we were getting late for our 12:20 Calmac ferry crossing which we had booked.

    We drove quickly to Mallaig, and were soon on the ferry, which sailed dot on time. The views from the ferry were also very nice, which we enjoyed over a cup of coffee. In just about 30 minutes were dropped off at Armadale, from where we drove on straight to Portree, making it to our B&B at 2:15 pm. The Larchside Inn, where we were staying, was just a 5 minute drive out of town, in a quiet spot. Pretty good place, with a very friendly and helpful couple who own it.

    We took directions, and left for a late lunch at 3 pm. We went to Café Arriba, which was a funky café with lots of veggie options. I feasted on a spicy lentil soup, with Indian vegetables and Dal with Pita bread, while wife chose the cheesy macaronis. It was a delicious meal in very nice settings. We peeped into a nearby restaurant called the “Granary” which our host had highly recommended, and made dinner reservations.

    We were then off to Dunvegan Castle, which we toured in entirety. First complete castle inside tour in this trip. The gardens and grounds were also lovely, with a number of different gardens laid out one after another, in different styling. We were a bit late for the boat trip from the castle, which we were told was worthwhile.

    Then drove to the Claigan Coral Beach, which was about a 10-15 minute drive from Dunvegan. From the carpark, there is a very very long walk to the beach. We walked for about 20 minutes, till we reached the hilltop from where the beach was visible. It looked like another 15 minutes of walking to reach the beach, so we turned back and returned to the car.

    Neist Point was not far away, where we went next. Unfortunately, the roads are very poorly signposted for these star attractions, and you frequently get lost while driving. The GPS was not programmed to locate these points of interest. Anyway, we blundered along till we reached there at 7:15 pm. It was a beautiful sight to behold, especially on a clear day like this. The ground is very boggy, so you do need waterproof boots to walk here. We walked a little distance north-east, from where the Lighthouse came into view. The overall vista was spectacular. We were not up to the task of walking the steep steps to the lighthouse and back, and enjoyed the views from the top for quite some time.

    Reluctantly, we drove back to Portree, and made it to the “Granary” before it closed. The food here was quite average by our reckoning. I had a goatcheese stack with dressings, and wife went for some pomegranate salad and chips. The meal did not live up to our expectations. Returned home before 10pm and into bed.

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    Day 11 : May 20th : Tuesday :

    We had a very heavy breakfast, and left leisurely at about 9:45 am. It was a nice clear warm day, with sunny skies. Our host informed us that such days were quite uncommon on Skye. We drove towards the Old Man of Storr. We could see it from a distance, and it looked dramatic and lovely. We had no intentions of climbing it. Nevertheless we parked, and walked up a bit, only to see if a better view was possible from another angle. It did not seem so, as the best views were from the road. So we retraced our steps, and drove on.

    The entire day was planned for the Trotternish Peninsula. A short drive away were the Lealt Falls, where again we got down and walked over to the Falls viewing point. It was nice and clear till now, and everything was in full view. But as we drove a few miles ahead to Kilt Rock, the clouds had taken over, and the kilted rocks were not at all visible. Could only see the nearby waterfall, which I believe is called the Mealt Falls. However, the Kilt Rocks were totally obscured.

    We drove a short distance away to an art café, and had a coffee, waiting for the clouds to clear. However, that was not to be, and eventually we gave up and moved on. We drove on to the Quirang, and parked there. As we walked about, the views were spectacular. Stunning is the correct word. Unfortunately, the clouds played hide-and-seek, and sometimes the landscape came in full view, and sometimes vanished behind the mist. Would have been even more enjoyable if the weather had been clearer.

    We drove to Uig town, which was very pretty. The weather here was extremely clear. We had lunch at the “Sheiling” restaurant, which was like a café-cum-flea shop. Very interesting place. The food was actually quite good. I had their veg platter whereas my wife went for oatmeal biscuits with cheese and salad. We bought a few nick-nacks from here. Then wandered around some pottery shops in the town. Wanted to tour the Isle of Skye Brewery, but they have closed down their visitor tours. However, Uig town itself is quite beautiful.

    In the afternoon, we drove to the Faerie Glen. Fortunately, the weather was crystal clear here. The landscape was bizarre and fascinating. We climbed up and roamed all over the place. Simply loved the place, as it seemed to be out of a fairy tale. A must see sight on the Skye, in my opinion. Must have clicked dozens of photographs, as it was rare to be in a beautiful place in Skye without the obnoxious presence of clouds.

    We drove back to Portree and wandered through the shops. We found an excellent knitwear shop, where most items were on reduced prices. We did our maximum shopping on this entire trip here. I bought a Harris Tweed jacket for myself (which I later saw at Edinburgh at much higher prices) and a fleece jacket, whereas wife bought some cashmere sweaters, scarves and much more. The stuff was good, and the prices were equally good.

    We then walked to Portree harbor, which was lined with colourful buildings like a picture postcard. Next we embarked on the Scorrybreac walking trail. It was a nice walk, hugging the coast all the way. We must have gone for about 30 minutes, and then walked the same distance back. Passed some lovely houses on the way.

    We had dinner at an Indian restaurant called “Taste of India”. The food was excellent, but the service was really slow. Satiated after a great meal, we returned to our B&B and retired for the day. Another lovely day on Skye.

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    Day 12 : May 21st : Wednesday :

    We woke up late today, and had a lazy breakfast. Our hosts had offered to do our laundry in their own machine, and we did our second and last round of laundry on this trip. We left by 9:45 am for our last day’s excursion on Skye. Unfortunately, it appeared to be the worst day weather wise, as it was cloudy and raining.

    We had booked the Bella Jane boat trip out of Elgol that day, which we had heard so much about. We had really been looking forward to this. It was a long drive to Elgol, but we did not mind. It took almost 90 minutes to reach Elgol, and we were there by 11:15am, well in time for our 12:15pm boat trip to Loch Coruisk. As we reached the Bella Jane counter, we were greeted with the devastating news that all boat trips for the day had been cancelled. Apparently the weather was not conducive, the seas were very rough, and they said that people would have been miserable on the boat on a day like this. This was sad news. Bad luck.

    We found a lovely restaurant in Elgol, where we had some coffee, and then moved to Carbost. We reached there by about 1:30 pm. We first went to the Talisker distillery, to book a tour. We could get one of the last few seats available for the day, on their 3:30pm tour. Their tours really sell out fast ! We then went to the “Old Inn” pub for lunch, which seemed to be extremely popular with everyone. It was a long wait to get a table at this place, because there many people waiting. It was a lovely and lively pub, and packed to capacity. I had a soup and a spicy bean burger, whereas wife went for a pasta. The food was really nice. We enjoyed our meal here.

    We returned to Talisker distillery to do their tour, which lasted an hour. This was extremely interesting, and learned so much about the production of single malts of Scotland. It was extremely well conducted, and included some whisky tasting. I am not particularly fond of whisky, and noted that the stuff here had a very smoky flavor. I felt compelled to buy some whisky from their shop – how can one not buy whisky while in Scotland ?

    We then drove to Talisker, and parked in order to undertake the walk to the beach at Talisker Bay. Fortunately the rain had stopped now, and so had the winds. It was a lovely walk to the Bay, with excellent scenery and sheep and lambs all over the place. The walk took about 25 minutes each way. We were glad to have our walking boots, as the ground was boggy in many parts. This and the distillery tour were the only worthwhile sightseeing activities for the day.

    It was about 6pm already, and we drove to the Fairy Pools. Why are all attractions on this island so poorly signposted ? On reaching the carpark, we were told by returning walkers that the trek to the pools were extremely difficult because of the flowing waters. Apparently, two streams had to be negotiated on the way, and one of them was quite “challenging”. The second one involved wading through knee deep water. Many had returned after unsuccessfully attempting it, and some were coming back after having successfully negotiating the obstacles. We realized that we could not cope with the physical challenges, and it would be pointless to even try. We just walked for about 10 minutes to see the waterfalls and enjoy the scenery. Today was one disappointment after another. Too bad.

    We just drove back to Portree. Reached there at 8 pm. We had dinner reservations at the Scorrybreac restaurant, which is a classy place where a celebrity chef cooks for limited people who have reserved in advance. This was an excellent place, and our first fine dining experience on this trip. The entrees were of asparagus, the mains comprised of risotto and gnocchi, followed by rhubarb crème brulee for dessert. Excellent meal, exquisitely prepared. Returned to our B&B and packed up for our departure tomorrow.

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    Loving your report. Isn't Glen Etive spectacular(!) Maybe you knew this but parts of the Jams Bond film Skyfall was filmed there.

    You are very lucky to have had some nice weather on Skye (I think it was my 3rd visit before I ever saw anything - but when it is clear the scenery is AMAZING)

    Re the Clachaig - I've eaten there several times an it was always very good. But I do think they are mostly for carnivores :) - maybe their vegetarian options aren't so good/

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    janisj, your comments comfort me. So we were not the only unlucky ones to have had 1 bad weather day out of 3. Everyone else also told us that it was nearly impossible to get all good days on Skye.

    Yes I have heard that Skyfall was filmed partly at Glen Etive. It is truly spectacular there.

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    Thanks for sharing. You reminded me that I hadn't booked our tour of Talisker - whew!
    I really enjoy your honesty about the highs and lows of travel - it happens to us all.

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    Yes willowjane, except that we have been exceptionally lucky with the weather in all our previous travels, so we were getting a bit spoiled ! We have been to other places where the weather has been known to be unpredictable, like New Zealand, Switzerland, Alaska etc, but we got excellent days every single day of our travel. We were hoping for the same in Ireland and Scotland, but that was not to be.

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    Good point about last orders in restaurants being relatively early. Many visitors are caught out by this - we recently saw some incredulous French tourists being turned away from a restaurant on Islay at 8:45pm as they were closing for the night.

    And yes for whisky distillery tours, it's always worth phoning ahead to book a place as they can often fill up resulting in a potentially wasted journey.

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    Day 13 : May 22nd : Thursday :

    We had a longish drive ahead of us today. We had an early breakfast, sad goodbye to our very helpful host couple on Skye, and were on our way by 9:15 am. The weather was a little better than the previous day, with partly cloudy skies, but no rain.

    We were driving our of Skye via the Skye Bridge, where we stopped to take some pictures, as the views near the Skye Bridge were just amazing. Our next photo stop was at Eilean Donan Castle, which is extremely photogenic. We just clicked from outside, at the carpark, as we had no intentions of going into the castle. After that, we drove virtually non-stop to Callander, stopping occasionally for a picture. As we neared Callander, the scenery got quite pretty, although the beauty was of a very different type compared to the Highlands.

    We reached our B&B, the Annfield Guest House, at slightly after 2 pm. It was a classy place, with rich décor, very tastefully done. The quality of furnishings were excellent. We rushed out to grab a late lunch at a nearby café called the “Atrium” which had a nice friendly atmosphere. I had some warm paninis, whereas wife had toasted sandwiches.

    We drove quickly to the Lake of Mentieth, as we knew that the boat rides there close early. We managed to get a boat at 4 pm, which took us to the island, where the Inchmahone Priory is. The place was an absolute delight. It is a serenely beautiful place, in a beautiful setting. We got excellent peaceful vibes there, and we just wanted to stay there for a long time. Very relaxing, and makes for great pictures in that backdrop. We were less interested in the history of the place as we were in its beauty. We spent some time there, after which the boat brought us back.

    We next roamed around Main Street of Callander, and entered the few shops that were still open (why does everything close down by 5:30 pm ?!!). Did find an interesting shop which sold a lot of beads, which DW was interested in. Then we drove to the Bracklin Falls car park, and walked to the Falls. It was a pleasant walk of 15 minutes, a lovely waterfall, with a very cute wooden bridge over it.

    We drove to the Meadows car park, and started walking on the trail for some distance. Then slowly walked back, and sat near the pond, watching the ducks gliding on the water. We went for an early dinner at an Italian restaurant called “Cilo”, which turned out to be disappointing. Then back home for an early night to bed.

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    Day 14 : May 23rd : Friday :

    We awoke to a wonderful day. The weather was the most important part of this trip, and the first thing we did when we woke up was to look out of the window. It was clear, bright and sunny, although a bit cold. But we could live with the cold if the skies were blue. We had an excellent breakfast, loaded our luggage, and were off by 9:15 am.

    The Stirling Castle was just 20 minutes away. We did not want to enter the Castle, as we knew we had the Edinburgh Castle coming up later in the day. We just clicked pictures from outside and left. We drove straight to Edinburgh airport, filled the tank with petrol, and returned our rental car at Arnold Clark. They were also super efficient in car returns, and once again, we were very satisfied with our experience with Arnold Clark. Good rates, excellent vehicle, and efficient service with no hidden costs. We took the airport shuttle bus into Edinburgh City centre, from where we took a taxi to our B&B, the Straven Guest House, where we received a very warm welcome from Mac, our host.

    We checked in, and left quickly by bus to Princess Street, and walked over to the Royal Mile. The moment you reach the Royal Mile, you are transported to a different era, and it is exhilarating. The grandeur of the place is overwhelming. We were doing window-shopping on Victoria Street when we spotted a Mexican restaurant called “Machiato”, where we went in for lunch. Turned out to be very good. I had a spicy mushroom burrito (which was very spicy) with a margherita, and wife loved her nachos and fajitas. Excellent restaurant.

    We walked up to Edinburgh Castle and went in. Saw the Argyle Battery, the One ‘o clock Gun, the Prison of War exhibitions, Crown Jewels, Long Hall, Margaret’s Church and the Dog Cemetery. We loved the castle interiors and the exhibits. It was a very enjoyable experience.

    We strolled on the Royal Mile for over an hour. There are excellent shops on both sides, making it hard for any lady to resist going in. So wife kept dragging me into the shops, which were mostly selling woolen goods. Then we hopped down to Princess Street and did some more window shopping. Finally, we returned to the Royal Mile, and sat down at a pub for a spot of beer. We had made dinner reservations at David Bann, which was a gourmet restaurant just off the Royal Mile. The food and ambiance was great. We had their buttersquash and coriander soup, which was amazing, followed by a tartlet of caramelized onions.

    Then we took a bus back to our B&B and retired to bed before 10 pm.

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    Oh - I'm so glad you made it out to Inchmahome - it is one of my very favorite places in all of Scotland.

    (It was my late parents' 'home from home' over their 12 or 13 trips to Scotland through the years. Two years ago I hired one of the fishing boast and scattered part of Mom and Dad's ashes in the Lake out in front of the island.)

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    Day 15 : May 24th : Saturday :

    This was our last full day of vacation. It was a cloudy day, but did not show signs of rain. After another wonderful breakfast (breakfasts all over Ireland and Scotland had been most wonderful), we left for the day, buying the all-day bus pass, which is excellent value for money in Edinburgh.

    We rode the bus to Princess Street, where we boarded another bus to Ocean Terminal. At the Ocean Terminal, we went first to the Royal Yacht Brittania. We started our tour at about 10:30 am; we were amongst the early visitors, and it was not very crowded then. Probably the best time to go there. The tour of the yacht was absolutely fantastic. It was extremely well laid out, the audio guides had just the right amount of details, and the experience was very nice. We enjoyed every minute of it, especially the royal quarters, the sun-deck, the bedrooms, and the dining room. It was one of the high points in our Edinburgh leg of travel, and we recommend any Edinburgh visitor to go here.

    After the yacht tour, we did a fair amount of shopping at the Ocean Terminal. We bought fleece jackets, purses, shoes, and very soon we had more on our hands than what we could carry. After taking a quick lunch at a café, we returned to Princess Street and walked down all the way to one end, where the Palace of Holyroodhouse is located. Only to find out that it was closed for the day, as someone from the royal family was visiting.

    We went over to the nearby Scottish Parliament building, and they had a guided tour which was about to start at 3 pm. We did not have much expectations from this place, and were in two minds whether to join the tour or not. But I am so glad that we did. It was a wonderful place, and not worth missing in Edinburgh. Certainly the most beautiful parliament building anywhere in the world. Very modern, designed with the artistic flair and genius of a great architect, so well laid out and so aesthetically done. The wall with handwritten comments about great Scottish women, the Debating Chambers, and just about everything in the building was overwhelming. The tour guide was excellent, and this is also a must see place in Edinburgh, which many tourists probably skip.

    The rest of the vacation was earmarked for shopping. We took a bus which drove some distance up the Royal Mile, from where we walked down to St James Shopping Centre and the John Lewis store. The John Lewis store was an excellent place to shop. We ended up buying a lot of souvenirs and gifts. By now our hands were aching with the day’s shopping.

    Finally we walked back to the Royal Mile, and sat down at a pub for beer. Once again we went to a Mexican restaurant for dinner : “Pancho’s Villas”. The food was good, but the margheritas were bad. Then we returned home a bit early, as we had a lot of packing to do for our departure the next day.

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    janisj, so touching to hear about your late parents' connection with Inchmahone Priory. We had seen "similar" sights in this trip at Glendalough and Rock of Cashel in Ireland, but this place was something special. It had an air of tranquility about it. I do not know why we felt attached to this spot.

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    Day 16 : May 25th : Sunday :
    Departure to India :

    We had spent a lot of time packing our bags for the journey home. We had our last Scottish breakfast of the trip, kept our bags in the living area, and left for the Royal Mile. We had an afternoon flight to catch.

    Our first destination was the Holyroodhouse palace, which was open for the day. We went in and did the tour, but cannot say that we enjoyed it as much as the other sights of Edinburgh during the last two days. After that, the rest of the morning was devoted to shopping on the Royal Mile. We must have bought huge number of scarves and fleece jackets for friends back home. Once this was done, we went to Grassmarket and sat down at the “Last Drop” pub for beer – my last beer in Scotland. We had lunch at a French restaurant nearby, which turned out to be average.

    Edinburgh had been lovely, and a fitting place to end such a vacation. People spend 4-5 days in Edinburgh, but we thought that our 2-2.5 days was just right. We grudgingly tore ourselves away from the Royal Mile, and headed back to our B&B. We had called in a taxi to take us to the airport in the afternoon, which arrived on time. The the non-eventful trip back home : from Edinburgh to Heathrow, and then on to Mumbai, reaching home the next day.

    This brings me to the end of my Trip Report. I have enjoyed writing it, and I hope you have enjoyed reading parts of it. I have a long travel week ahead, and I am glad I could finish it. Look forward to your comments.

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    Thank you so much for taking the time to finish your trip report - I have loved every word!

    My sisters and I may be heading to Scotland next year so it will be lovely to have your experiences for reference.

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    My daughter, my sister, and I have a trip planned to London, York, and Edinburgh for September; and I have copied some of your notes for our file. Thank you for writing your trip report in so comprehensive and interesting a manner.

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    >>we returned to Princess Street and walked down all the way to one end, where the Palace of Holyroodhouse is located<<

    Just a quick point of clarification: I guess you meant the Royal Mile (aka High Street and Canongate), rather than Princes Street. Princes Street is the wide shopping street in the New Town with the gardens on the side facing the castle.

    Glad you liked the Parliament building and tour - it has its detractors but I think it's a superb example of modern architecture.

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    This is the month for fabulous trip report! We are very lucky to have yours. Yo write beautifully and evoke a real sense of where you are visiting. We could very easily use this as our guidebook when we visit Ireland!

    A friend is in charge of the guides at the Scottish Parliament, and I know he will be pleased to read your generous remarks.

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    Thanks everyone for the appreciation. I was travelling all of last week, and could not respond earlier.

    Gordon, sorry for the typo. Yes, I meant the Royal Mile, and not Princess St when I rote about the Holyroodhouse. Thanks for correcting it.

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    Hi Indiancouple, I really enjoyed your wonderful report. I especially appreciate your mention of the Cliffs of Moher boat tour. I've been to the cliffs twice, but have not done the boat ride. I plan to do it next time. Sounds great!

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