Scotland has so much natural beauty to offer! Yes, Edinburgh and Glasgow are awesome, but I don’t really think you’ve experienced Scotland until you get out of the urban areas and explore the great outdoors!
The downside? Traveling around the more remote areas of Scotland is hard unless you have a car….or a friend with a car. The upside? I have a friend with a car in Scotland! lol!
Nick, the guy who I met in Scotland on the night before I left Edinburgh, encouraged me to explore the Scottish highlands with him during a long weekend in February. I couldn’t help but resist! Being a bit of a travel addict, by the time I’d booked the flight I already had a list of places I wanted to see in the highlands. Since Nick is by nature really easy going, he agreed to let me to pick some destinations, and then we planned the most logical route that allowed us to see the most in the least amount of time.
Since it was still the middle of winter and pretty far up north on the globe, days were admittedly short. By the time I arrived to Edinburgh that first day and drove up north with Nick, day had turned into night and not much was visible. I do remember however, driving through the Glencoe valley (a national scenic area of Scotland, where the movie 007 was partially filmed- pretty BA if you ask me!) and realizing that the massive snowcapped mountains that surrounded us were the only thing illuminating the otherwise dark road ahead of us. That natural moonlit reflection made the dark of the night a bit less harsh.
The next morning we headed north to visit the first stops on our road trip- the Glenfinnan viaduct and Castle Stalker. If you’re a movie buff, these names might sound familiar. That’s because the Glenfinnan viaduct was made famous in the Harry Potter films, serving as the ‘train’ that takes the students to Hogwarts. Castle Stalker described as a “four-story tower house or keep picturesquely set on a tidal islet on Loch Laich,” is featured in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. If I’m honest, I don’t remember the scene from the movie (probably because I probably slept through the scene since I can never stay awake for any movie), but it was really beautiful regardless.
We then made our way southeast, back towards Edinburgh stopping along the way to see the infamous highland cows (I embarrassingly thought they were called ‘coos’ since that’s what it sounds like when Scottish people say ‘cow’), Fort William where we explored the remains of a castle, Ballachulish where we stopped to warm up with some tea, and a couple other stops along the road.
Eventually we entered into more populated areas and had the chance to quickly visit a couple of small cities including Stirling, Linlithgow, and Falkirk.
Most notably, between Linlithgow and Falkirk we stopped at the Kelpies which are huge horse-head sculptures, that stand next to the Forth. I remember the cold was biting on the walk from the car to the Kelpies, but was so glad I toughed up and went out to see them!
After that we even had a chance to watch a bit of rugby and grab a drink of cider (of course a must any time I’m in the UK) and Irn Bru-a soda that’s often referred to as Scotland’s national drink. I thought it was gross to be honest, but I had to try it!
The second and last night was spent back in Edinburgh where I had a chance to meet up with my couch surfing host, Dominic, where we caught up over drinks at Grass Market! I was pretty spent from all the sightseeing, so I didn’t stay out too late, but did manage to grab a late dinner and Nando’s afterwards haha…..
I flew out the next day, but not before brunching at one of Edinburgh’s most popular brunch spots called Montpelier’s. Our eyes were most definitely bigger than our stomach’s as we seemed to have ordered half the brunch menu. Everything was so good though, it was just the right way to end my second visit to Scotland.