I always say that the people here are so generous with their time and help that I need to do a trip report when I return from my vacation. Alas, despite the best of intentions something always comes up and I never get around to it. I am now planning to change that with this, my first trip report, documenting our recent trip to Scotland (my wife and I).
First of all, thank you to everyone who responded to my questions. The help was truly appreciated.
Some preliminaries before I get on with it.
We made plans in May for our trip in early September. The trip was 12 nights and about 12 ½ days. Many places we looked into staying were booked already, so we went with alternatives and it all turned out well, and in many cases much better than well.
We are not foodies. We ate at some decent places and enjoyed most of the food, but food was not intended as a primary reason for the trip. Sometimes we simply ate wherever was convenient and whatever was quick. We also are not drinkers, whisky or otherwise, so there were no whisky tours on this journey. In retrospect, perhaps we should have done a tour just to learn about the history and to say we did it, but it just really wasn’t of particular interest to us, so we skipped it (I’m sure that may be blasphemy to some ;))
Driving – I drove on the left side of the road about 3 years ago on another trip -- to Ireland --, so I had a little experience, but it still took some getting used to again. I rented a car with an automatic transmission. I deliberated for some time about what kind of car to rent and finally settled on a small SUV for comfort given the amount of driving I would be doing and the amount of luggage we would have. I was a little concerned that it was going to be too big and I would regret the decision, but I think I made the right choice for me. It was comfortable for the long drives and rougher roads and, although there were definitely areas I drove where I had wished the car were smaller, it was also nice to have something a little more substantial when driving on roads with large trucks, buses and other SUVs.
Planning materials – We relied heavily on general (not customized) materials purchased from Secret Scotland online as well as on Fodors and Lonely Planet guide books.
A summary of our sleep destinations that we used as bases or arrival points (we prefer to stay at least 2 nights in a location):
3 nights - Edinburgh
2 nights – Inverness
2 nights- Kyle of Lochalsh
3 nights – Oban
2 nights - Stirling
So here we go. I suspect this will take a little time to write, so I will do it in installments over time and throughout this thread. I hope it is helpful to some or at least provides a bit of entertainment for those looking for a mindless way to burn some time other than watching television.
If there are any questions along the way, please ask away.
Day 1 -- Edinburgh
We arrived in Edinburgh around 9 am after an overnight flight. We were tired and had a fair amount of luggage so we decided to take a taxi to our accommodation. I knew the first few days were going to require some jet lag adjustment, so I had made a decision to splurge on our accommodations and booked an apartment at the Rutland Hotel (all rooms in the hotel itself were booked when I made reservations). Spacious, quiet and centrally located. Perfect.
It was too early to check in when we arrived, so we left our bags with the hotel and went out. First stop – Carphone Warehouse to get a sim card for my phone. Then we went to Costa Coffee to get a small bite to eat.
We walked around a little in the area, ultimately ending up at Waverley Bridge where we bought tickets for a bus tour - we purchased Grand 48 tickets which got us tickets for the hop on-hop off bus for 48 hours and for other attractions we wanted to see, particularly Edinburgh Castle and Palace of Holyroodhouse. It also ensured we wouldn’t have to wait in line to buy tickets.
We took the live guided bus tour to get familiar with the area. Unfortunately, this was the day that the Tour de France started in the area, so there were some diversions and more traffic than usual. Still, it was helpful to get a sense of the city and not have to walk around very much. It was a bit of a problem, however, that we were so tired from a lack of sleep on the plane. Walking may have proved a better idea as we almost dozed off several times on the bus.
After the tour, we went back to the hotel. After checking and settling in we decided to just give in and take a nap. Well, more like a sleep. The nap lasted more than 2 hours because we had barely slept at all on the plane. Now I know that conventional wisdom is to force yourself to stay awake as long as possible and then get to sleep early, but our experience on these overnight European flights is that if we don’t get some sleep the first day, someone winds up getting sick pretty quickly. So, we slept. And it helped. And it didn’t prevent us from sleeping that night at all!
After we woke up, it was close to dinner time, so we got cleaned up and went to the Huxley (the pub run by the Rutland Hotel) for a light dinner and called it an early night, going back to the apartment to relax and plan for the next day. We checked the weather and it wasn’t looking great for our visit, but we also knew that things can change on a dime. We were in Scotland and intended to do our best to have a good time regardless of the weather!
Edinburgh – Day 2
We had a lot of ground to cover today. We knew Edinburgh Castle would be busy, so we decided to start there. We didn’t have breakfast covered with our room, so we ventured out to grab something first. We stopped for breakfast at the Thistle Stop Cafe which was close to the castle. Food was good and we had no complaints.
On to the castle. Impressive, but it was even more crowded than we expected and it did detract a bit from the experience. We did enjoy it, but not being much for large crowds we didn't spend quite as much time as we would have if there had been somewhat fewer people (and this was early September not July or August).
Following our castle visit we spent some time walking around the Royal Mile, checking out some of the alleys/closes and people watching. We stopped at the café at Dynamic Earth for lunch as it was close to the Scottish Parliament building and I was interested in taking some pictures. Nothing special, but lunch was better than I had expected.
Holyrood Palace was our destination after lunch. This turned out to be a good choice as it was raining. On the other hand, we didn’t spend much time in the gardens as a result. We both enjoyed the palace very much and, interestingly, more than the castle. The old abbey ruins were a highlight. I felt like the rain added an ethereal quality to the old ruins and we spent more time than I would have expected looking at the writings on the burial monuments inside the abbey.
Since we still had use of the hop on-hop off bus, we decided to “hop on” and took a bus back close to our hotel. Big mistake. Not because taking a bus was a bad idea, but because the guide on this particular bus was extremely boring and spoke nonstop in a monotone voice. If the guide the day before had been the same we would have fallen asleep for sure! We couldn’t wait to get off that bus.
After a brief stop at the hotel/apartment we ventured out again: Greyfriars Cemetery where, among other things we, of course, had to see the grave of Tom Riddle (well, Thomas Riddell as it is written on the tombstone); Elephant House (the “birthplace” of the Harry Potter Books where J.K. Rowling used to write); a stroll down Victoria Street which is said to have possibly been the inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter books/movie; and a stroll by Greyfriars Bobby to see the statue of Bobby whose poor nose has been rubbed into oblivion! I understand that it cost 400 pounds in restoration costs to repair his nose, but people continue to rub it for good luck. We refrained.
We ate dinner at “Petite Paris” – a cute French bistro on Grassmarket. A good meal. After dinner we took a walk and went back to the Elephant House for dessert. It was late by the time we left and we called it a night. More to come.
Edinburgh – Day 3
Well, today started off with a bang … literally. Although we have a travel hairdryer that is switchable between 110 and 220 volts that we bought specifically for travel in countries that use higher voltage than in the US, for some reason neither of us thought about it this trip and my wife brought her regular hairdryer. It survived the first couple of days, but when I turned it on this morning (after my wife had already used it), it sort of … well … blew up. Fortunately, I turned it off immediately and there was no harm other than a slight burning smell and the demise of the hairdryer. Note to self: make sure to travel with proper hairdryer. An adapter without a converter is not good enough!
So, after grabbing a quick bite to eat, part of the morning was spent going to Boots Pharmacy to purchase a new hairdryer. Additionally, I was having problems with the sim card I purchased. For some reason, I could not get any internet access on my iPhone although the data worked when I put the card in my iPad. Nobody was able to figure that out, so I eventually just gave up because I only needed the phone for calls and I used the iPad for data anyway.
When that was all sorted, we took a bus to Roslin to go to the Rosslyn Chapel - of Da Vince Code fame (anybody care to tell me why the chapel has a different spelling from the village it is located in?). It is a small chapel, but what a wonderful place. Beautiful, intricate carvings and very interesting history. We were told by friends to make sure to stay and listen to the information provided by the guide. They were right. The talk was brief (maybe 10 minutes), but entertaining and very helpful to understand what we were seeing. We ate a late lunch at the café in the visitor center and caught the bus back to Edinburgh.
Upon returning we went out to just walk around so I could take some photos and we ate dinner at a Thai restaurant - Passorn Thai Brasserie. Excellent food. Then out for more photos up to Calton Hill and around town until after dark.
(To be continued)Edited: 22 September 2017, 00:41