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Trip Report Scotland trip report July 2014, chapter 1

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Aided by every guide book and travel video ever created about Scotland, a lifetime of my father's stories about the family clan, and the expert and patient advice of the Fodor Forum, my pal and I embarked on a two week trip to Scotland this July. We are two near-retirement-age professional women, former co-workers, and great pals. I was planning on going by myself on a tour, when my friend said she'd accompany me! So off we went.

Being very greedy, it was difficult to let go of places I wanted to visit, so I made a massive itinerary. We would start in Edinburg in a rented apartment for five days, then pick up a rental car and do a big loop that included St. Andrews, part of the Castle Trail, down Loch Ness, over to Skye for 3 days and then to the Trossachs & Stirling for the last three days. It was ambitious, it was great, but it was also exhausting and now I'd like to sit on a beach and vegetate for a few days. Still, it was an absolutely glorious two weeks. We had a mix of scenery, different types of accommodations, a little of this, a little of that.

We flew Boston - Shannon - Edinburgh via Aer Lingus. It was the cheapest flight we found ($799 RT) , but as the old adage says: you get what you pay for. The departure time kept changing and we finally wound up with a 4 hour (!) layover in Shannon. The Shannon airport is not exactly large or comfortable. (I'm being kind here.) (Do not fly Aer Lingus if you can help it.) So by the time we arrived in E'burgh, we were really tired and overwhelmed. And I packed way way too much despite editing my stuff several times.
(Once I travelled to Italy for 6 weeks with carry-on only. What happened to me?!?). So we opted to take a taxi rather than the new tram or even the airport bus. It would have been so easy... except for the two-ton suitcase ... the tram would have let us out a block away from our apartment. Ah, tourists.)

Our rental apartment on Randolph Lane was fabulous. It was small and charming, nicely furnished, every comfort you could think of, a little outdoor terrace for morning coffee, two bedrooms so we each had out own space and perfectly placed. We were right around the corner from the most beautiful New Town square -- Charlotte Square and the wonderful Georgian House museum -- but also two blocks from restaurants, food stores, bars, and every bus line you could imagine. But we really walked everywhere.

We managed to resist the urge to nap and strolled down to the corner restaurant, La P'tite Folie, for an early dinner. A lovely place with an upstairs dining room, a downstairs less formal cafe, and a really happening wine bar. We had the dining room to ourselves for quite a while, but by the time we stumbled home, it was packed. It was an absolutely lovely meal with a starter of steamed mussels, wonderful salmon with a French touch, a glass of wine by candlelight. I was teary with happiness (and fatigue) over finally making it to the land of my ancestors.

We slept in the next day and got a late start. After morning coffee, we headed out for lunch at the Witchery. We walked. Huff huff, pause, huff huff, pause. Made it. Yes, I know it's touristy. Not one person from Scotland was in the dining room with us... a group from Japan, four women from the UK celebrating a birthday, six people from Finland... but it was so beautiful. The service was attentive. Candle light and linen in that incredible paneled room with red leather banquettes. And the food was very good as well. Expensive? Oh yes. But for the service, the incredible atmosphere and the food, it was worth every penny. Smoked salmon starters, a pasta with lobster and the first of what would prove to be many sticky toffee puddings for dessert.

From there we headed to the Castle. Huff huff pause huff huff pause. Now, let me mention that the weather is stunning. Bright blue sky, puffy white clouds, in the 80s. Crowds of tourists with every language imaginable being spoken. Fabulous view out over the city, all the way to the Firth, out to Leith, Arthur's seat, Calton Hill. Gorgeous.
Saw every nook and cranny from the War Museum and the jail to the crown jewels and the church. And then we walked home. I confess we stopped at Starbucks (there's one every 5 blocks it seems) for a caffeine pick-me-up. Home for a wee nap.
We didn't think we'd eat dinner, but around 9 o'clock, we got peckish and went down the block to a fun beer hall, Indigo Yards. A great crowd of young professionals and incredibly friendly staff. Our server, Jamie, wound up chatting with us on and off for most the evening telling us about his brother living in the states. We were trying to figure out if we could bring him home for my friend's daughter, but he was spoken for. Food was quite good and very cheap after the Witchery! It was great to have neighborhood options.

More to come!

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