Whenever my husband and I talk about our vacation to Scotland we can’t help but sigh longingly. It’s been two years, and we still get an aching in our gut every time we reminisce, wanting so badly to go back to our home away from home. It was our first trip to Europe, our first time out of the United States, and we couldn’t have chosen a better place to visit.
It’s actually quite funny how perfect our visit was. When we tell others about our love for Scotland, most people don’t disagree, but they have one complaint almost every time. The weather. They say it’s so gloomy and cloudy all the time and if it were more sunny and bright it would be perfect. Well, we must have hit the jackpot because we came during a very unique “heat wave”. Out of the four days we were there three of them were sunny and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Not a cloud in sight. And everyone we passed on the street was commenting on how HOT it was. We couldn’t help but laugh.
So when it’s warm the Scots aren’t too happy and when it’s cloudy the tourists are upset. We got the best of both worlds and here’s where I’ll tell you all about it so you can get the same experience.
Best Time to Visit.
I’m sure you are wondering what time of year we visited so that you can possibly catch that same heat wave? Well, we went the beginning of June. Literally, the first week of June. And the people who rented out their home to us during our stay (via Airbnb) said that June and July are typically their warmer months during the year. So, if you are not one for rainy days, I would choose the beginning of the summer for your holiday.
BUT, now that we have visited here, walked the streets, seen it all during the summer, we have a HUGE desire to go during Christmas time. While walking The Royal Mile in the heart of Edinburgh we passed by historic buildings, cathedrals, shops and restaurants as we headed up to the Edinburgh castle and we just imagined the place covered in snow and how beautiful that would be. Also, there were some year-round Christmas shops that were to die for. AND we just love Christmas, so if you’re not one to listen to Christmas songs come Halloween time, then just head on over to Scotland during the summer.
Where to Stay.
Before I get more into the best things we did while visiting Scotland, I’ve got to give you info on where we lodged during our first time out of the country. We stayed with an aspiring artist and his girlfriend who were SO accommodating and inviting. We booked their extra room via Airbnb (this link will take you to their specific page) if you are looking for a safe place within walking distance of The Royal Mile (which is where most day tour meeting spots are), walking distance from the Edinburgh Castle, walking distance from the Scott Monument, and has many different markets and restaurants around the block this is your place to stay. Our hosts were very conversational, giving us local recommended places to dine out (we ate twice at La Favorita, so delicious), and they invited us to local events going on that week if we wanted to go.
You’ve seen all the movies like Taken and Taken 2 and I’m sure you’ve read plenty of international kidnapping stories to scare you out of ever leaving the country or even your home at the rate that the world is going at. I reason that staying with a local that has approved reviews and a high-ranking on a verified site like Airbnb is your safest and most cost-effective bet. Hostels are gross and sketchy, and if you look up hotel prices they are through the roof (or they were two years ago when I was doing my research). By our experience, it was the best choice we made for the bulk of our trip. Now, to treat ourselves we did splurge on one thing…
One Night in a Castle.
For ONE night (which is what we did), treat yo’self like royalty. Walk the historic grounds with ruins from centuries ago, visit the falconry, get lost in the deep green forest, feast on cherried duck and aged cheese in the dungeon, play chess in the library and enjoy breakfast in the sunroom. You might think I’m speaking of some sort of dreamland that doesn’t exist, I promise you I am not. Stay at Dalhousie Castle and you’ll see what I mean.
Best Tours to Take.
We took two separate day tours and, without even trying, I think we chose the best ones we could have.
Our first tour was an entire day trip to Glen Coe, Loch Ness and Inverness with Scottish Tours. This is a tour company that has been around since 1907, and you can tell from the experience, especially if all of the tour guides are like ours was. Our bus driver and guide was talking almost nonstop (all 10-12 hours), flooding us with information on every bit of land we passed on our ride to the Highlands and Loch Ness. He was an endless stream of knowledge about Scottish history, fun facts and corrective remarks about Braveheart. We ate it all up. Glen Coe was breathtaking, Loch Ness was eerily calm and dark, the cruise on Loch Ness was beautiful, and the ride was nice and cool.
The second tour we took was to St. Andrews and the Kingdom of Fife.
You take a coach up the east coast of Scotland, stopping on your way at many different fishing towns that are adorable and quaint. Then you get three hours in St. Andrews to do as you please, and I have to say, we would go back for even more time. St. Andrews Cathedral is hauntingly beautiful, the whole town is small but historic, and the hubby was a HUGE fan of the golf. You can do a walk on golf game any time there isn’t a tournament going on and play where the greats of the golfing world have made history.
St. Andrews, Loch Ness, and the Highlands were really the top things we could have done while in Scotland and outside of Edinburgh. We had no regrets on missing out on Glasgow or anywhere else for our first venture to the Scot’s land, but hope to return to discover more in the future.
Best Things to Do.
Finally, the best things we did in Edinburgh while we were staying there.
We had two days where we gave ourselves a break from rushing to a day tour, and with those two days we just took it all in. We walked The Royal Mile and shopped for souvenirs. We went to The Edinburgh Castle and saw the oldest standing building in Edinburgh (St. Margaret’s Chapel, built in 1019).
We strolled into St. Gile’s Cathedral and took in the awe of ancient architecture. We visited the Writer’s Museum and when we went into an open atrium area I had a starry-eyed fan girl moment when I saw the hand prints of non-other than J.K. Rowling… I placed my hands where her hands once were… And I think I soaked up some of her writing power into my fingertips.
The heart of Edinburgh, and especially near the Royal Mile, is not that big and you are walking distance from so many things to do and places to see. Edinburgh is like a city frozen in time, with buildings that make you feel like you are walking the set of Downton Abbey or Sherlock Holmes. The cobblestoned streets, the smoke chimneys, and high-pitched roofs help you escape to another land with another tale to tell. And from the moment you leave, it calls you back wantingly, making you wish you never left in the first place.
This post was on #traveltuesday with Melanie on Life’s Sweet Words. Be sure to head over to her site to see her amazing articles about life, travel and the like. And comment below with your best travel stories/links!