I'd go back to the Highlands tomorrow if I could...
Until recently I had never been to Scotland. And this year I turned 30 and figured it was about time I went. My boyfriend and I had been talking about doing a driving holiday for a while and we decided on Scotland in April. The original plan was to travel around, staying in a different place every night... but I have been so busy this summer I didn't actually start planning the trip until 2 weeks before we left! We'd also decided to go to Scotland during the busiest week of the year! To cut a very long story short... we decided to stay near Loch Ness for 4 nights, and then go to travel to Edinburgh for a couple of nights in case we got ran out of stuff to do... How wrong could I have been?!
We were very lucky and managed to book a lodge at Wildside Highland Lodge (http://www.wildsidelodges.com/3-bed-lodges.asp), near Fort Augustus, Loch Ness. I'd highly recommend it as a place to stay. The Lodge was lovely and our hot tub had a mountain view. I haven't slept so well in years, after a day exploring we came back to our cabin, had our t and got in the hot hub for an hour with a drink or 2 before falling into bed and sleeping right through til morning.
After a long, 8 hour, but beautiful drive up from Yorkshire... which included driving the length of Loch Lomond, and right through the middle of Glencoe, one of the highlights of my trip (still kicking myself for not getting Mat to stop so I could take photos!) we arrived.
The Best way to see Loch Ness? At a speed of 30 knots on a RIB!
Before we went, I had been looking for something to do around Loch Ness for our first day. I knew we had a long drive up, and Mat probably wouldn't feel like driving far the day after! So I'd been looking at cruises, although I thought I'd probably get bored after 30 minutes, it seemed rude to go to Loch Ness and not do something on the water. And then I came across Cruise Loch Ness - RIB Trips (https://www.cruiselochness.com/rib-trips). Mat took a little convincing, he suffers with sea sickness, but man... we are both so glad I convinced him! We chose to do the hour long "Finding Nessie" tour. I just didn't think the shorter 30 minutes would be long enough (which it would not have been!) but didn't want to risk one too long in case Mat did suffer... but he didn't, not one bit! And when we go back we will most definitely be doing this again... but for longer!
I don't want to give too much away, because I highly recommend you go and do this if you ever have the chance! Our skipper was very funny, and we learned a little from him about the Loch, such as there is more water in Loch Ness than the whole of England and Wales combined! And it is so dark under the surface, with all todays modern technology, we still have never seen the bottom. He stopped a couple of times to tell us a few facts and stories... the one of most interest to me of course was when he showed us the beach from which the most famous photograph or "The Loch Ness Monster" was taken in 1933
"The Surgeon’s Photo"
I have now put it on my bucket list to find the exact location of that beach from the road... and if it is accessible, go and take a landscape photo from there!
The most fun part of the trip was on the way back to Fort Augustus. The skipper let us sit on the side of the RIB! Although I was a little unsure if I should as I have a habit of falling in water, the view was brilliant and it really wasn't that hard to hold on!
Fort Augustus itself is a beautiful little town. We were shocked that although the car park was small and busy, we got parked right away and we got a bit of a shock when we went to the pay machine... £1 for 12 hours! It had a few cafes and pubs to eat at, and some lovely little shops. One of which was "That Cute Little Highland Shop" where I made one of my favorite purchases of the trip; a pug mug by Wrendale Designs.
A Little Highland Walk
That turned into a long highland walk! Mat and I arn't really walkers. But there was a welcome package with a few walking routes listed in it at our lodge. On the second day we decided to take a little walk, and chose one of the shorter, signposted routes... and still managed to get lost! The trail we chose was Squirrel Trail, in hopes we would see a Red Squirrel, which unfortunately we didn't. In fact we didn't see one the whole time we were in Scotland! But we did see a couple of miniature shetlands, a highland cow and some gorgeous scenery! The landscape photo at the top of this blog was taken on this walk.
A Visit To Meet Some Friends, Old & New
On our last day in the Highlands, we took a trip up to Tain, to visit Sheena and Eric at Hjaltland Miniature Shetland Pony Stud. I had never met Sheena and Eric before, but they bought a pony, Plumtree Tassle from us a couple of years ago. Tassle was 2 years old at the time, and this year she had her first ever foal for them, a gorgeous Dun & White colt. I contacted Sheena before we went up to Scotland and she very kindly allowed us to visit Tassle and her baby boy. Sheena and Eric were lovely hosts and had coffee and nibbles for us on our arrival. They then showed us round their stunning ponies and foals. Tassle was more interested in eating than having her photo taken, but here is one of Sheena with her.
After 4 days in the highlands it was time to leave and head to Edinburgh for 2 nights. Before we set off we stopped in at Fort Augustus for some breakfast, it was the first time I'd tried haggis, and I loved it! What it really is didn't even put me off. I was sad to be leaving.
It was a few hours drive, and as we got closer and closer we got to civilisation the more I started to think I'd made a mistake going from the highlands to the city. In the end I didn't regret our day in Edinburgh though, it was lovely and I'm glad we went.
When we finally arrived at our hotel, The Fraser Suites. After lugging our cases up the steepest, tallest set of stairs known to man, we didn't have time to do much apart from get ready and head out to the Hard Rock Cafe for something to eat!
We only had 1 full day in the city. So we visited the two biggest tourist spot. First was the Zoo. Now, I know its famous, but I think it might be the worst Zoo I have visited... I didn't even take any photos! I did get to see the male Panda's bum though as he slept under a bush!
After the Zoo we headed to Edinburgh Castle. These sort of tourist spots are not normally my 'thing' but I have to say, I really enjoyed our visit. It was not what I expected at all, with the tea rooms where we had a lovely afternoon tea, and the Whiskey Shop where we tried a scrumptious Whiskey Liqueur. Not to mention the views!
That evening, before we went to eat, we squeezed in a visit to the Camera Obscurer. My friend had recommended we go, and it was really fun! If you ever find yourself in Edinburgh with an hour or 2 to kill I recommend a visit. Maybe long if you have kids or are big kids yourself. We were getting hungry so didn't stop and wait a turn at every interactive toy in there. The staff are lovely too! And at the end you get another lovely view of the city.
After the Camera Obscura we headed down the road to Burgers and Beer we popped in because it sounded right up our street! And we are glad we did, the "Flying Scotsman" burger, which had haggis on and the alcoholic milkshake I had were both naughty but beautiful.
The next morning we had breakfast and headed home, including 2 traffic jams... one of which we were stood in for 2 hours! I could have written forever about this holiday, but I have tried to keep it short and sweet. I hope you enjoyed my photographs if nothing else! Have you ever been to Scotland? If not I'd highly recommend it and if so, please leave me some suggestions of things to do, because if I know one thing... It is that I will be going back!