20 year anniversary trip to Scotland

Old Jul 28th, 2017, 07:14 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 1,366
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
20 year anniversary trip to Scotland

First thanks to folks who helped me plan the trip particularly Janisj. I am not a good writer and not good at details so will keep it short. Feel free to ask any questions. Our plan was as follows:

2 nights Edinburgh (Fraser suites)
2 nights Argyll (Airds hotel)
3 nights Skye (Cullins hotel)
2 nights Torridon (the Torridon) -
Last night Edinburg.

Overall - Loved Scotland. Weather turned out to be ok. 5 or so mostly sunny days, 3 days of rain and the remaining cloudy with some scattered showers. Light until almost 10pm...loved that part. Excellent food almost everywhere particularly in Edinburgh. Folks are lovely. We enjoyed all the places we stayed at and would not hesitate to recommend them. Our favorite stay was at the Airds hotel - the service and setting was simply exceptional. From our perspective Scotland was the perfect choice to celebrate our milestone anniversary.

We flew out of Newark airport which has recently gone through some renovations. There are some nice restaurants in the departure area - a glass of rose and a margarita to celebrate our anniversary/trip was a good beginning. Direct redeye flight to Edinburgh was uneventful. I got a few hours of sleep but the hubby mostly watched movies. We land at Edinburgh collect our luggage and take the A100 (I think) to center city. We got off at Waverly bridge and then it was an uphill 10 min walk to the Fraser suites. Excellent location more of less across from the Giles cathedral. Its roughly 1.30pm. We are told the room is not ready which of course is expected. They are happy to keep our bags and make a couple of recommendations for lunch (pizza, burgers??!!). Luckily I had done a quick search on restaurants and had a clue. We start walking down the Royal Mile and the name Angels with Bagpipes rings a bell. We have no reservation but are welcomed. Good ambiance and service. The food preparation/presentation was wonderful. I think it is very well priced for the quality of food and service. My husband has a whisky mixed drink and could not have been happier. Again a wonderful start. Its a bit cloudy so we decide to cover the National Museum. Pls note we are not big into museum but I had read that this one is not to be missed. I agree. It is massive with several floors covering everything from early fashion, locomotives, the industrial revolution, and Scottish history. My fav exhibits were of course Dolly the cloned sheep, and the replica of the tomb of Queen Mary. After 2.5 hours of so we were exhausted and headed back towards our hotel. They were ready for us and gave us a suite on the 1st floor (one floor below the lobby level). Now for whatever reason I was under the impression that our room would have a 'castle view'. Well it didn't and I was told that we are in city center and the hotel is surrounded by walls on 3 sides so there are no real views?? Well the view from our suite was that of a wall. Also the room was right next to the service staircase - I was worried about noise level but turned out to be ok. Anyway the room itself was quite nice and spacious so I accepted it for what it was. We were exhausted at this point and took a long nap (2 hours or so) to recover from the jet lag and woke up feeling great. Got dressed and on to Lovage restaurant for dinner. The restaurant is highly recommended on tripadvisor and it was excellent. We were both pleased with our dishes. Good selection of wines - we ordered a bottle of the Austrian Gruner Veltliner which was very good and brought back memories of a prior trip ... walk back to the hotel was lovely ... the city is even more beautiful late evening.
mnag is offline  
Old Jul 28th, 2017, 07:36 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 499
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Headed to a Scotland in a few weeks. I am enjoying your report.
Sberg is offline  
Old Jul 29th, 2017, 07:57 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 20,203
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
good to go
bilboburgler is online now  
Old Jul 29th, 2017, 08:19 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 68,026
Likes: 0
Received 50 Likes on 7 Posts
Wonderful start.

You couldn't have selected a better location than Fraser Suites. Not sure where you could have read there would be castle views. Just wouldn't be possible from there. I've stayed there twice and a wall was the best view I've had
janisj is offline  
Old Jul 29th, 2017, 09:17 PM
  #5  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 1,366
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Janisj, good to know.

After a good breakfast at Fraser suites we headed on to the castle. We did not buy the tickets in advance and I was dreading the wait....it looked to be a long line that wrapped around a few times. Luckily it moved fast....we waited no more than 15 min. Would recommend though that folks buy their tics in advance. We did the free guided tour which I thought was informative particularly about the different structures within the castle. The views of the city including Princess gardens are quite special from the castle. St Margrets Chapel within the castle walls is the oldest original structure in Edinburgh and sits at the highest point. I enjoyed the exhibits that lead up to the Crown Jewels which include the crown, scepter and sword as well as the Stone of Scone - having read up a little on the history especially regarding Robert the Bruce, the coronation exhibit was quite moving.
Thereafter we moved on to National War Museum. As mentioned, we do not typically enjoy museums but I found this one quite special. The museum celebrates the extensive contributions made by generations of Scottish warriors that fought alongside the English.

After this we walked along the royal mile to South bridge to catch bus#37 to Roslyn chapel. It took a bit of running between the multiple bus stands but we figured it out and ended up on the right bus. Did I mention this was one of our our sunny days...the weather was beautiful. 40 minutes or so to get there. Well worth the effort. It is an architectural gem. The inside has some interesting carvings and even more interesting stories for example, the one about the two columns one of which was carved by the master and one more skillfully carved by his apprentice. When the master sees the jr man's work upon his return he ends up killing the apprentice in a jealous rage. The cafe is quite nice with countryside views, excellent cappuccino and yummy cakes.

Back in the city we pick up a couple souvenirs and head to the hotel to get ready for the evening. We had some time before dinner reservations so end up at the Whiski bar for pre dinner drinks. I won't get into the details of my husband's whisky tastings but let's just say that he was thrilled. My whisky mule was excellent as well.
On towards the Grain Store for dinner. Don't let the name fool you... this is one awesome restaurant. First I loved the colorful street. The entrance is not much....strains that lead up. But once in the restaurant the ambiance is soft romantic candles lovely old wood... it's special. The food is very good, fresh and they offer some unique dishes. Highly recommend the Grain Store.

Next morning we checked out and took a cab to Sighthill to rent our automatic car from Arnold car rentals. This company has a good reputation and come highly recommended on TripAdvisor. It took some time to get the car but we were given a brand new car. The maps didn't first appear to work but they were very helpful. Essentially the location is not picked up by gps so the guy drove us a couple of blocks until the gps started working. That was a relief... there is no way we could have done half of what we did without the gps.... an absolute must.

A few words about the roads and driving 'on the wrong side with the steering wheel also on the wrong side' . Doable and takes some time. My husband has driven in several countries in Europe including Ireland. His impression is that it's generally more difficult to drive in Scotland. The roads including the main roads are quite narrow and take some time getting used to. He didn't mind the single track roads in Skye where everyone uses caution but some of the narrow main roads with trucks whizzing by in the opposite direction he found more unnerving. He is my champ though and ended up driving almost 800 miles on this trip.

On towards Stirling castle. Parking is a problem and we had to wait it out until spots opened up. Here too we took the free tour. It was ok. For whatever reason I didn't connect as much with Stirling castle. Maybe the stress with rent the car, parking etc... views of the Bannockburn plain and river Stirling are nice and the ceiling of the Great Hall is certainly impressive.

We drove to the Wallace monument. You can take the shuttle bus or hike from the visitors center. We rode the bus each way to save on time. The monument and tower are impressive. It's 246 steps to the top of the crown but there are thre breaks where one can rest their legs and walk around and see some well thought out displays - tribute is paid not only to William Wallace and Robert the Bruce but also to accomplishments of 14 remarkable women of Scotland. One of the levels holds the rather impressive sword from 1100s purported to have belonged to William Wallace. Once on top the views are jaw dropping. While Rick Steves gives this monument only one star, for us this was quite a meaningful experience and I would recommend it particularly for families with kids/teens.
mnag is offline  
Old Jul 30th, 2017, 03:47 PM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 4,108
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I am enjoying your adventures and look forward to more!
irishface is offline  
Old Jul 31st, 2017, 07:13 PM
  #7  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 1,366
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Sorry for the delay. It's been a busy weekend of celebrations (my grandma's 100th birthday ��)

It's past 5.30pm and we head on towards Port Appin, Airds hotel. I knew we would pass Kilchurn castle but wasn't sure if the hubby would be interested in exploring since it had been a long day already. Kilchurn is quite a sight off the road. We saw a couple of cars pulled over taking pics but no one know if there was a path to get there. Hubby seemed uninterested and wanted to drive on....I was pretty sure if we go past it we weren't going to be coming back to explore since we had a tight itinerary. We took several pics and got back on the road...i recollected something about two white post markers and a hidden parking lot...and saw it right after we made the turn... hubby knew I really wanted to take a closer look and pulled into the lot. It was drizzling and getting late... I knew we'd be cutting it close to our 8pm dinner reservations at the Airds. Tons of midges as we step out of the car..but once we started walking it wasn't too bad. It was probably a 10 min walk or so on a muddy path...not too bad. Impressive ruins overlooking a small lake - serene setting. Must have been quite a sight in its full glory.We were the only ones there. We explored for a short while and headed back towards the car as the rain picked up. I'm so glad we stopped. Not too far to the hotel (less than an hour) but the road gets quite narrow and scenic as we near Port Appin.

It's almost 8pm and we are exhausted. We finally get to the hotel and wonder do we park right in the front or is there a parking lot. We see the lot off around the corner and pull in. It's been a long day. We drag our bags across the gravel lot...not fun. I'm cranky. The minute we push open the door we are welcomed with a smile...I'm still cranky. The drawing room on the right has guests dressed up enjoying pre-dinner drinks. We are invited to take a seat and are offered a glass of prosecco. Folks are friendly and ask us where we are from...our drive etc. All it took was a drink some good company and assurance that we don't need to worry about being late for our dinner reservations. A great start to our stay. Room is nice and the shower is fantastic. We take a much needed bath and go down to dinner. The dining room setting and views out the window are even better than what I expected based on the photos on the internet. The wine list is devine and the dishes beautifully presented and tasty.
This hotel is 30 minutes or so away from Glencoe (where we plan to spend the next full day) so slightly out of the way down the banks of Loch Linhe in the lil town of Port Appin but I am sure glad I picked this hotel.
mnag is offline  
Old Aug 1st, 2017, 04:25 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 350
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Enjoying your trip report. We are headed to Scotland next summer. My husband is joining a group of his friends to play golf and I am flying over the next week to meet him and see Scotland. I've never been before. I have told him we need to eat at the Grain Store in Edinburgh. Can't wait to read more.
lrock5 is offline  
Old Aug 1st, 2017, 06:47 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,517
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks for the report. I'm headed to Edinburgh in 5 weeks - can't wait!
SusanM is offline  
Old Aug 1st, 2017, 09:28 AM
  #10  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 1,366
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast (hard not to linger when the setting service and food is top notch) before heading towards Glencoe. First stop is the Glencoe visitor center. Nice views of the three sisters from the visitors center (walk through the doors at the back). Plan today is to hike the lost valley and maybe a smaller hike later in the day. A couple of thoughts about Glencoe. Essentially there is no need to hike to see gorgeous views. They are all around you. Just pull into the parking lots and you can walk a few feet if you like but many folks particularly the onces that have stopped by on tourist buses do no hiking. The beauty of the valley and the mountains are everywhere around you. It is spectacularly beautiful and lucky for us we got a beautiful day to enjoy it all.

The lady at the visitor center gave us a nice map and told us to look out for the metal stairs and if we end up at the wooden bridge instead its the wrong hike. Back on the highway we made a left out of the visitors lot. There are two small lots you can park your car. The first lot was full and there was hardly any room to maneuver the car. We infact saw a tourist bus hit a parked car and drive away!! We drove on to the next lot which is very close but found it to be less full. Managed to park our car in a safe out of the way spot and started hiking. Several paths leading in multiple directions...we went towards the right...it really is so beautiful everywhere. We saw some folks ahead of us and figured it was the right hike. In about 10 min I questioned whether we were on the correct path....well we ended up at a wooden bridge and knew we needed to track back. So we did and 15 min later were on the right path. About 10 minutes later we ended up at the metal stairs. We have done some light hiking but do not get out there on a regular basis. I would say there are some strenuous parts but overall it was ok. We had been told that we might not be able to complete the hike because the part where you cross the stream which is normally passable by stepping over a few rocks was not going to be easily passable because of the recent rains. The hike up to that point is atleast an hour or hour fifteen. We tried taking the path to the right instead of crossing the stream but it turned out to be all steep gravel and not passable. Several folks ahead of us were also turning around. I was ready to take off my shoes roll up my pants and 'cross' the gushing stream but my dear hubby refused so we weren't able to complete the lost valley hike. It was a wonderful experience nonetheless with waterfalls along the way etc. Great memories. We headed back and took a break for lunch. Car was fine thankfully. Can't remember the name of the inn where we had lunch but it was close to the Signal rock trail. I had haggis pie and loved it (don't want to know what's in it but it tasted good). Btw when I am in Europe my standard non-alcoholic drink is Cappuccino...the Cappuccinos in the US simply can't compare to the creamy ones I've had in Europe (no different in Scotland). It must be the quality of the milk ?!?
After lunch we ended up doing the Signal rock trail - easy but the views were just ok.
mnag is offline  
Old Aug 1st, 2017, 10:16 AM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 68,026
Likes: 0
Received 50 Likes on 7 Posts
Sounds like it was a wonderful day.

>>Can't remember the name of the inn where we had lunch but it was close to the Signal rock trail.
janisj is offline  
Old Aug 1st, 2017, 10:49 AM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 68,026
Likes: 0
Received 50 Likes on 7 Posts
>>That would be the Clachaiggreat place to stay. Wonderful location, really hearty food plus live music, CAMRA member, and an amazing selection of single malts. What's not to like
janisj is offline  
Old Aug 2nd, 2017, 09:50 AM
  #13  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 1,366
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
yes it was indeed Chachaig.

One last thing that was a must for me in the area was to drive down the single track road towards Glen Etive where scenes in the James Bond film Skyfall were filmed. Nice drive with similar mountain views. The road is single track but not too bad since folks are normally quite courteous in pulling over. We didn't drive all the way down but about 3/4 of the way - the road got a bit rough after that point and I'd read the best views are towards the front end anyways.

Back to the Airds...we stopped by to take more pics of Stalker Castle - its a four story tower caslte set on an inlet on Lake Laich. Once can walk and explore the island at low tide. Colorful history. It was around 6.30pm. We decided to take one of the shorter walks recommended by the concierge...took us right up to the beach. Through the cute village of Port Appin and back to the hotel. If you are looking for serenity I cant imagine a better hotel/location. As we were walking by the beach we ran into two ladies looking for a dog - we had seen the dog just a few minutes ago. We sent them towards the beach. The story was that no one knew whose dog it was but the dog was creating havoc by scaring the local sheep and so these lovely ladies were on a mission to catch this dog. We were happy to be part of some of the local action.

Back at the hotel and in time for our last dinner. Probably even better than the previous night. The sunset tonight was glorious - the whole sky was grey with wide streaky bright pink bands....I'd never seen anything like that before. Most of us left our dinners and stepped outside to take pictures - it was stunning especially with the lighthouse in the background. Another nice gathering with other hotel guests discussing how we had heard about the hotel etc etc. This was our last night - I would have liked one more day at the Airds but time to move on. The next day I received a note from management apologizing for not having my preferred newspaper. Like I've said before - I found this place to be above and beyond...

Next on the agenda - Glenfinnan and the monument, Jacobite express, Silver sands of Morar and ferry over to Skye
mnag is offline  
Old Aug 3rd, 2017, 06:00 AM
  #14  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 1,366
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
On towards Glenfinnan - little over an hour from Port Appin. The visitors center is at the head of Loch Shiel and the famous Glenfinnan monument which pays tribute to the Jacobite clansmen that fought bravely for the cause of Prince Charles Stuart. Despite the crowds the setting is quite serene and the views of the lake especially if you take the very short hike up behind the visitors center quite spectacular. There seem to be boat cruises that leave from nearby if interested. We peeked into the nearby St Mary's church and then walked a few more yards towards the Glenfinnan viaduct viewpoint (made famous from the Harry Potter movies). While I would have absolutely loved to see the steam train go by we could not make that work with the timetable for our ferry over to Skye. Despite that the view of the viaduct itself is worth the short walk from the visitors center. Quite a sight. We were about an hour or more before the scheduled train and we saw Harry Potter fans beginning to come by to get choice seats for the upcoming viewing.

Next on the plan was to visit the white sand beaches at Morar before getting on the car ferry to Skye. I had tried to reserve the car ferry in advance but their site was not working so I simply called them and they made the reservation. Quite easy and done the same week - but if peak season I would recommend doing this slightly in advance. We took the ferry around 4pm and it appeared quite full to me.

To get to the beaches you follow the coastal route sign from Morar (?). Did I mention once again we had a bright sunny day...Lovely to say the least....several coves of bright white sand and blue water. Identical to some of the white sand beaches we have been to in the Caribbean.

On to the car ferry from Arisaig to Skye. You park pick up the tickets and drive onto the boat. Simple and efficient. Smooth ride over to Skye.
mnag is offline  
Old Aug 3rd, 2017, 06:15 AM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 1,757
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
What month were you there? Scotland is on my bucket list but want to go when the weather will most likely be the nicest. What were the average temps?
KarenWoo is offline  
Old Aug 3rd, 2017, 07:12 AM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 566
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
The Airds Hotel sounds fabulous, but it should since one night there costs more than my air fare from Canada.
almcd is offline  
Old Aug 3rd, 2017, 08:54 AM
  #17  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 1,366
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
KarenWoo - take a look at some of the weather charts. We were there the first week in July. June is supposed to be less rainy than July/Aug. But really I think its a hit or miss. When we got to Skye the sky was bright and clear. We were told it was the first clear day they had had in two weeks. We got lucky.

Almcd - not sure what your airfare is from Canada or when you are visiting. A lot depends on the exchange rate at the time of the booking and of course the time of the year you are plan on visiting. I believe we paid a little over $400 which included a full breakfast and a full 3 or 4 course gourmet dinner. Wine not included.
mnag is offline  
Old Aug 3rd, 2017, 09:12 AM
  #18  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 1,366
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
We off board at Armadale on Skye. And drive towards Portree. The scenery is magnificent. First impression of Skye - worth all the hype. I had my husband pull over 3 times in the first 10 minutes. We fill up on gas (the first time I think...). Portree is quite busy. We're booked at the Cuillin Hills hotel. Not sure where it is so we ask around. Its slightly outside of town up on a hill but still in walking distance. First impression - omg what a magnificent view overlooking Portree bay and the cute colorful town of Portree with the Cuillin range in the background. It was around 7pm...sun was still shining...They have a few lounge chairs in the front lush lawn overlooking the spectacular scenery....I can't wait to drop my bags, change and come down for a drink. We do just that. Front row seats enjoying the vistas, a glass of rose for me and a beer for my husband, sunglasses on...Probably the fondest memory of the entire trip for me.
We dine at the hotel. Not a bad meal...same view from the restaurant.
mnag is offline  
Old Aug 3rd, 2017, 09:48 AM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 68,026
Likes: 0
Received 50 Likes on 7 Posts
I have never stayed the the Cullin Hills but have had drinks there a couple of times and My folks treated me to dinner there once. The views ARE all that you describe.

>>but want to go when the weather will most likely be the nicest. >take a look at some of the weather charts. We were there the first week in July. June is supposed to be less rainy than July/Aug. >But really I think its a hit or miss.
janisj is offline  
Old Aug 3rd, 2017, 10:23 AM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 1,757
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks everyone for your comments about the weather in Scotland. Sounds like New England where I live! I will check weather charts. However, one question - because Scotland is so far north, I assume the winter months will not be nice months to visit as far as weather/temperatures go?
KarenWoo is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 03:53 AM.