It feels like it’s been awhile! We stayed put for Christmas. And my work trips were so busy I had barely a second to myself. But after two weekends in Wilmington, VT, I feel prepared to put the “pen to paper.”
We spent New Year’s in Wilmington with dear friends and the intentions of doing more outside, but -12 F temperatures (before the wind chill!) kept us mostly indoors. James had to reschedule his snowboarding lesson and here we are again, a month later.
Both times we stayed at an AirBnb with our friends Dan and Hannah. The first weekend here the AirBnb was truly awesome (second time around we had less to chose from and while super convenient wasn’t quite as amazing). We stayed here the first weekend and definitely recommend it.
Wilmington is a super cute town. So when Dan and James went off snowboarding at Mount Snow, Hannah and I had the opportunity to get acquainted with the local Vermonters.
We enjoyed lunch at The Village Roost – a funky coffee shop on the main street area, with tons of seating and lots of choices. They have gluten free and vegetarian friendly options. A wide array of sandwiches. And best of all? Freshly cut and cooked fries. Heaven.
Before and after our lunch, we strolled around the main street area, popping into shops, and even venturing down a walking path that would have definitely been more enjoyable if we had snow shoes, or there was no snow/ice. That said, tons of beautiful scenery around.
In the afternoon, Hannah and I headed to Michelle’s Nail Spa. This is a one woman run shop – pedicures, manicures and waxing. So while definitely not conducive to groups, a pair works totally fine if you are willing to wait. It took about two hours for us to both have mani/pedis. Michelle’s work is really good. And the prices range depending on if you are visiting on the weekend (combo is $70) or weekday (combo is $50). Definitely recommend checking out if you’re in the area!
For dinner we went to the Hermitage Inn. Initially we tried to get into the Cask and Kiln, and had even put our names on a waiting list (which we did get a call back!). The Hermitage Inn was described to us as “Vermonty” and Cask and Kiln as “Manhattany.” Thus we made our choice. The food was decent. You will be seated in the main dining room, but do have the option to order off either the fine dining or tavern menu. Most of us got the braised short ribs with polenta.
The real highlight of our trip occurred after dinner – a surprise that Hannah and I had planned while James and Dan snowboarded all day. We booked a sleigh ride through the mountains up to a log cabin for hot chocolate and warmth. The sleigh rides are run through the Adams Family Farm. Because we were on the night ride, it was nearly impossible to get any photos or videos, but what a truly magical experience. The stars were out in full force (and luckily it was a clear night!). We were drawn up the mountain by some very powerful horses with the snow crunching under foot and the trees flying by us.
The cabin was incredibly warm – heated by an old fashion range and wood stove – and a welcome after the very cold journey up there. After about 20 minutes or so, we boarded the sleigh and headed back down to the entrance. You can book your sleigh ride here.
The final day! We wrapped up our U.K. journey by starting the day with a long walk through London. The main purpose was to find a good coffee shop (for caffeine, but also for Cory’s coffee beans) and to maybe see a bit more than we had the previous day, since we were mostly relegated to East London and Hyde Park.
The morning was crisp, the air pleasant the sun shining. It was the perfect way to start our Saturday. Following we packed and tidied up the AirBnb.
Around lunchtime we headed to the SOHO area, and grabbed a quick lunch at a poke bowl restaurant. It was not nearly as good as Poke Works in Boston (or anything in Hawaii), but it was nice to eat something familiar and fresh.
At 1 pm, we headed to the Palace theater for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Part 1. Essentially, anyone who sees the show is supposed to “keep the secrets,” so I won’t say much, but it was enchanting and magical and the special effects they used were SO cool.
For dinner, we headed to a Peruvian restaurant called Ceviche Soho (thanks Kaori for the recommendation!) which was a short walk from the theater. The meal was delicious – and nothing like the food we’d been eating for the last two weeks. We welcomed the spice and heat! And again, a great place for those with food allergies!
Part 2 started at 7:30, and so we headed back after dinner to take our seats and enjoy the remainder of the show. Again, I won’t say much, but I really enjoyed it, and I can’t believe it’s already over.
We returned to the flat around 10:30, quickly packed our remaining belongings, showered and hit the pillows for an early morning flight.
We woke up and I debated whether or not I was up for everything I had planned. I went back and forth on this, and then decided to just give it a go and see how far I could make it.
First up was a Street Art walking tour through East London. Our tour guide, a graffiti artist, showed us numerous pieces of work throughout the city, and explained why people “tag” and what those bubble letters are all about (it’s a progression of art…. And also to learn how to control the spray paint can!). We saw some really cool stuff. Eventually the pouring rain put an end to the walk and we headed back through the neighborhood for lunch.
During the tour, we spotted a taco place, so we backed track. We shared a tray of tacos and chips and guacamole. Definitely not as good as our beloved Lone Star at home, but it hit the spot and it was indoors and out of the rain.
After lunch we headed to Kensington Palace. This a bite size museum – and I’m so glad it was! We wandered through rooms built in the 17th and 18th centuries, and heard the other side of the Protestant vs. Catholic monarchy from the English. At the end of the palace tour, you have the opportunity to go through an exhibit of Princess Diana’s clothing. Definitely recommend. It was interesting to read about everything she wore, how her fashion evolved over time and the designers she worked with.
By the time we finished, it was around 3 pm, and so we decided to head back to our AirBnb to rest up a bit before dinner. I made reservations at the Kitchen Table – because how could I pass up the opportunity to go again?! This was one of the restaurants we went to during our honeymoon three years ago. The concept is simple: the chef and his team picks and forages everything, buys meat fresh, etc. and the menu changes daily. It is at minimum a 12 course menu. We had 15 last night.
I tried to capture everything down that they told us about each course, but I definitely missed some ingredients. That being said… you’ll get the idea!
Shrimp – served raw with slightly dried tomatoes that were marinated in brains of shrimp and shisho
Radish – potato puff servied with puréed yeast, dill and homemade ketchup, thinly sliced radishes, confit lemon zest and fresh dill
Kale – young kale dressed in salted anchovies dressing, sourdough bread crumbs and confit lemon zest
Chicken – chicken skin cracker with rosemary mascarpone and bacon jam (the only repeat from three years ago – it’s a pretty popular item!)
Parker house – rolls served with beef fat onion butter and shaved summer truffle
Green beans – cut and chargrilled served on top of peppered yogurt and salad of unripe strawberries and a granita made from vinegar marinated with lemon
Scallop – hand dived scallop brushed with teriyaki and torched served with pickled rhubarb and pickled rhubarb juice, fig leaf oil, cucumber and sesame seeds
Squid – served with roasted shellfish sauce, sweet corn, zucchini and tarragon butter
Lobster – Cornish lobster cooked with oil made from lobster head and seared and smoked with juniper branch; served on top of grapefruit confit, roasted beets and raw ginger
BONUS Duck – liver parfait with garlic ketchup, duck leg tartar, mushrooms and raw chestnuts
Duck – aged four weeks and browned in its own fat served with sauce made from bones, fresh elderberries and shallots and grilled spring onion
Fønix – a Norwegian blue cheese shaved on top of a red onion tartlet
Beetroot – cooked into a marmalade served on top of sweet woodroof ice cream, a syrup infused with sweet woodruff and sweet woodruff granita
Raspberry – meringue seasoned with peppercorn and charred, milk ice cream and fresh tarragon leaf oil served with fresh raspberries and a raspberry vinegar sauce
Blackberry – take on a trifle with blackberry jelly, raw blackberry with cream infused with blackberry alcohol, white chocolate shavings and ice cream
Canele – the famous French dessert, but I had caramel ice cream
Herbal tea with herbs from the garden
As always, highly recommend. It’s pricey, but it’s an amazingly unique experience. They also do a fabulous job with food allergies!
Still sick but determined to do all we had planned today. We set out to tour Edinburgh’s castle. Everyone we met has told us we have to see the castle. That it is something special. Maybe it was the number of castles we’d been to before, or the audio tour (definitely the audio tour), but Edinburgh Castle just didn’t light a spark for us. It’s definitely cool – built into rock formed by volcano, but the audio tour is 90% focused on military activity and war. In fact, the castle is filled with little museums within, and these are almost exclusively related to war and military. Some history is good, but hours and hours worth? We weren’t having it.
There were two sections that we both thought were cool. The prison, which had been housing prisoners since 1100 AD (and maybe before), including some Americans from the Revolutionary War. There is a carving on one of the prison doors from the 1700s that depicts our stars and stripes flag.
The other section is Mary Queen of Scots’ chambers, which also house the Scottish crone jewels and stone of destiny (which we heard about way back during our visit to Scone Palace).
Needless to say, we didn’t dawdle too much. And so we headed off to Loudon café for lunch. Loudon is known for it’s gluten free fare – and so I had an eggs benedict with avocado and bacon on a gluten free English muffins and a piece of gluten free Victoria sponge cake. James had a lamb burger and cheesecake (but his were gluten filled).
We were supposed to go on a Harry Potter walking tour at 3 pm, and so with two hours to kill, we walked around the city, popping into shops and making a journey to Harvey Nichols so I could pick up prosecco glitter (it’s a real thing! And it only exists in the UK!).
We headed to the Benny the dog statue at around 3 pm to meet up for the tour. There must have been 100 people there. The tour guide showed up a little late and we soon realized that about 60 – 70 of the people were on this tour – with one guide. I love Harry Potter. But I don’t love crowds, and I don’t love having to fight to hear, especially when I’m under the weather. So we made the decision to head back to the apartment – and this was definitely needed. We packed, finished laundry and I even took another nap.
Since this was our third anniversary, I had made reservations at The Kitchin, a Michelin star Scottish restaurant. They were absolutely amazing with accommodating my diet, and we opted for the surprise tasting menu.
Part of this menu included grouse. I made fun of James for his reaction to grouse three years ago when he ordered it during our honeymoon. He hated it. He was so sad. I didn’t know I was being served grouse and suddenly this little bird looking meal was put in front of me and I knew it had to be… grouse is bitter, smelly and disgusting. I don’t recommend it to anyone. Otherwise, the rest of the meal was fabulous!
This took almost three hours, and we even cut it short since I was really starting to lag at the end.
Scotland > London: Day 11
This was mostly a travel day. Note to self – next time you take a short flight in Europe, do it in the morning or at night so you don’t lose a whole day.
Our flight was at 1:45 pm, so we left our AirBnb early and headed to Glencraig, which is the town that James’ great grandparents lived in. Today, the town is known as a failed mining town and one of the street signs in Glencraig literally says: the town that died. Not morbid at all!
We drove along to Loch Gerry and Meadows park, which now boasts a significant number of offroad bike trails. That’s literally what is left. We walked around the trails a bit, then headed to the airport.
Our flight was uneventful. British Airways wants you to pay seven pounds (seven!!) if you want to switch your seat. Stuck in a window, and James in the middle, I went up to the check in counter and told the woman I had a knee injury and couldn’t sit where I was placed. She moved us for free.
We figured we would take the Tube to the next AirBnb we were staying at since this is cheaper, and generally takes the same amount of time as driving. What a mistake! There were signal line problems, and by the time we were on our way, after picking up our bags and getting out of the airport, it was rush hour. It took a hour and a half. The entire time I was standing, crammed in with tons of people. So much for an easy rest day. I was pretty wrecked by the time I got to the apartment, but we still had to get groceries and dinner. We opted to walk over to Whole Foods in Picadilly Circus since it’s a short walk, and we knew what to expect from there. (It also meant I could pick up the savory biscuits I love that I can only find in the UK).
We got back to the flat around 8 pm. I crawled into bed and not even the sounds of neighbors talking and dogs barking could keep me awake.
It happened. I got sick. Somehow I managed to stay well through multiple weddings and wedding activities, work travel and major announcements and buying a house/moving. But as soon as I let my guard down… hello head cold!
We still managed a packed day though. First off was a walking tour of the old town of Edinburgh. Booked through Sandeman’s tours, our guide, Neale, took us through thousands of years of history and refreshingly we did not talk about the Jacobite rebellion. We learned about the different kings and queens of Scotland, public punishments, unusual quirks about the city (how there is a protestant reformer buried in a parking lot because his dying wish was to be buried by his church – and yes you can park over his grave), how to prevent body snatchers from removing your body for science and so much more. It was a great way to frame the city and build an understanding.
Following, I had booked afternoon tea at the Colonnades at the Signet Library. Imagine a fancy high tea, but in a beautifully set library, surrounded by old books. Even better, they are amazing with allergies. We both ordered our pots of tea, and then they proceed to bring you soup, a tray of savories, a tray of sweets and sorbet. We left incredibly stuffed. This is definitely a meal, not a snack, in case you ever fancy to book tea in the UK.
Some highlights from the trays included: carrot coriander soup, beef blackberry tartlet, roasted red pepper polenta, falafel, pulled pork sandwich, roasted red pepper sandwich, strawberry white chocolate macaroon, chocolate caramel tartlet, coconut mango mousse, two types of scones, and so much more.
Full to the brim, I went on a mission to find a pharmacy because while I packed pretty much everything I could possibly need on this trip, I neglected to pack Dayquil and cough drops. I found equivalents and moved on. (By the way, the cough drops here are crazy. They definitely have medicine in them, and they are ridiculously cheap).
We wandered around Edinburgh, popping in and out of stores, and decided to start working through a small section of the National Museum of Scotland (which is free).
We checked out Dolly, the cloned sheep, who is now stuffed and on display at the museum. We also went through the Scotland through the Fashions exhibit, which highlighted clothing from the last 400 years. Definitely cool and I highly recommend!
After our bite size museum experience, we headed back to the AirBnb. James wanted to walk and because it had stopped raining I agreed. Once back inside, I was determined to not leave again, and so we very quickly became obsessed with Ancestry.com and next thing we knew, four hours had passed.
Scotland: Day 9
The full fledge cold – ugh! Determined not to let a mostly sunny day go to waste in bed, I napped until about 10 am and then James and I headed to Arthur’s Seat for some fresh air. This is definitely a hike… don’t let locals fool you by saying you can climb it in your “trainers.” Hiking boots recommended! But regardless, we took it easy and slowly made our way up to the top for fantastic views of the city and the lands further north and south.
We took the main path on the way up, but opted to cut across a glassy slope to a paved sidewalk for our descent (which also put us closer to lunch). From Arthur’s Seat, we headed to Press Coffee for brunch. They have an eggs benedict like dish served on potatoes instead of English muffins. I was in heaven. It was amazing. James had a ciabatta with bacon, brie and cranberry chutney.
I managed to convince James to go into the Surgeon’s Museum that is a part of Edinburgh University. I love medical oddity museums, and find historical records of healthcare fascinating. James not so much. We’ve had a few incidence in the past that have involved throwing up. He was a trooper though and I got to spend an hour reading about the “invention” of surgery. There was a room with thousands of pathology specimens, which James was willing to sit outside while I wandered through, but at this point I was feeling rather lousy and so we left.
Finding a bus stop that wasn’t filled with a bunch of creeps took some time, but eventually we were able to hop back on the bus that took us to the flat.
Exhausted, I proceeded to take a hard nap, and James went for a run. I spent the rest of the evening laying on the couch watching the Great British Baking Show. The silver lining to being sick in the UK!
We are now making it around the bend into our second week. There was some definite home sickness today – it will be good to be back in cities and a change of pace.
The owner of the Blarcreen house served a fabulously gluten free breakfast for me – even finding a loaf of bread that was definitely more attractive than most. We were on the road by 8:45 am, and back down the winding one way street (but no sheep this time!). Cell signal was rough – and even James’ offline Google maps had a hard time, so we made a few wrong turns, but ultimately ended up in Callander to do the Bracklinn Falls circuit hike. The hike starts off by numerous waterfalls and a very cool triangle bridge.
Similarly to the Glenfinnan Viaduct, it appears that most people stop at the falls and head back. We continued on up the circuit hike and were not quite expecting the strenuous upgrade climb we were about to take on! Nonetheless, the views at the top are once again stunning and it’s fairly quiet, given that most people stay on below.
Most websites say the hike will take two hours and we did it in a little over an hour. In fairness we were going at a fairly good clip. Afterwards, we hopped in the car to head to Doune Castle.
Doune Castle has definitely been my favorite tour. While it is not the most beautiful castle, it is the cheapest (privately owned!) and ticket price comes with an audio guide narrated by one of the creators of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Doune, this is the castle that was featured in pretty much every castle scene of Monty Python. Because of issues with filming at other castles in Scotland (the ones that are operated and managed by the country not privately), they had to make do. So Doune stood in for pretty much all the castles you see in the film. It’s also Winterferll from Game of Thrones and Castle Leoch from Outlander.
Following, we headed towards Edinburgh with a VERY short trip to the Kelpies for a photo opps (but since the clouds had come rolling in, the giant horse heads were about the same color as the sky). We reached the neighborhood of the Airbnb around 4:30 but proceeded to drive past it numerous times because it was listed as 13/6 and I thought it was number 6. In case you’re wondering, it was number 13 and apartment 6. There was no number 6 on the road which led me to be very confused! Regardless, we made it! And found a parking spot right outside. Now to not move the car for three days!
The flat is super cute. Definitely old, but we’re used to that in Boston. The hosts really have made it as comfortable as they possibly can. Once we were checked in, laundry went in immediately and we whisked away to the grocery store to pick up some staples. Back in the flat, we settled in watching the Simpsons but more importantly THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF. They have marathons of those here. It’s amazing.
Our journey on Isle of Skye has come to an end. For a change of pace, and a break from driving, we opted to take the ferry back to the main land. This doesn’t really save you any time due to the waiting, checking in and actual ride, but it was nice not to be behind the wheel for once. We met a woman from Martha’s Vineyard and chatted with her for most of the boat ride over.
Once back on solid ground, we headed to the Glenfinnan Viaduct hiking trail. Yes, the Harry Potter bridge. There was a car park packed with cars and humans and no where to go, but the directions I printed for the hike suggested another parking spot by a bed & breakfast and ferry. We made our way, easily found a spot, and headed off.
The trail is beautiful. We made our way from the bottom of the bridge up top (need those aerial view shots!) and shared the path with another couple and their child. What people don’t do (including this trio) is continue on the path, and what a shame! While we were walking, a train came by and road over the bridge (sadly no Hogwart’s Express, but it will do). We continued on and were met with amazing views of Loch Shiel and the Nevis mountain range. It was truly stunning.
The trail in total is about an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes.
Eager to make it a bit further along on our journey, we headed towards Glencoe, which is famous for it’s amazing scenery (and for HP fans, it’s where Hagrid’s hut was filmed). We stopped at the Glencoe visitor center, had a quick ice cream pit stop, and then made our way around one of the paths, taking it all in.
Check-in at our next bed & breakfast was at 4 pm, and so finally coming to that time, we made our way there. I was driving at this point, and the road that took us from the highway to the B&B was…. not my favorite. It was 5 miles long, going about 10 mph, littered with sheep (some just ran in front of the car when they weren’t even in the road!!!) and extremely hilly.
We and the car made it in one piece. The B&B – the Blarcreen House – is definitely remote, but it’s stunning. Our room had a king size canopy bed (my inner 5-year old is obsessed with canopy beds) and beautiful furniture and decoration. The rooms overlook green fields filled with sheep (luckily not the suicidal ones that ran in front of my car) and is simply quiet. We both agree though that the most comfortable bed we’ve slept in thus far is the one in the yurt (which makes no sense whatsoever) and so here’s to hoping the AirBnb in Edinburgh is better!
For dinner we made our way down another single track winding road (no sheep though) into downtown Oban. We had a reservation at Eeusk, which is famous for their seafood. The food was good and fairly priced. James and I shared a massive bowl of mussels in a butter garlic wine sauce. For my entrée I had the king scallops and James had the seafood platter (which was filled with more mussels, oysters, langoustines, scallops and salmon – and only 20 pounds!).
Eager to get back before dark (these streets don’t have lights!), we headed back to the B&B and despite saying that we’d stay up later, I was definitely asleep by 9:30.
Initially I had planned to drive around Isle of Skye on our own. But then after thinking this through, I realized it would be better to let someone else do the driving and add in some story telling. We booked a tour through Real Scottish Journeys which promised to take us from top to bottom of the islands.
After a delicious breakfast, we headed to downtown Portree. Our bed & breakfast is about a fifteen minute walk away. There we met with our tour guide – Murray – and boarded the small (wee) bus and headed off to the fairy pools.
Most of the water on Isle of Skye is “dyed” brown by the peat. The fairy pools are these amazingly clear pools of water and waterfalls that line a crevice in a mountain. That said, these are really something special. To get to them, you must hike down through the crevice and back up the mountain a bit. Definitely worth the hike, even if James slipped and missed a rock at one point and submerged his foot in the icy cold river. Give yourself 60 – 90 minutes to explore, at least.
From the fairy pools we started North and stopped off at Café Lephin for lunch. Originally I had planned to eat a sandwich I made, but after walking in, I knew I had to have a bowl of their zucchini and leek soup with oat cakes and a gluten free brownie. James had a sandwich from the café, along with a piece of Victoria sponge cake.
Next stop was Neist (pronounced like east with an N in front of it) lighthouse. This was another short but mighty hike. James and I whisked down to the bottom along the left side, to visit the lighthouse, and then madly climbed back up a ridiculously steep hill so we could go along the other side to get the famous shot of Neist on the cliff. (worth it) Everything is so stunningly beautiful here.
Following Neist was the Fairy Glenn, which hadn’t even been on my radar. The Fairy Glenn is a section of a farmer’s croft where these beehive looking mounds of earth have appeared. Everything is green and amazing. We climbed as many as we could before boarding the bus.
The Quiraing was also on the agenda. This was where James and I originally had wanted to hike. And while we agreed that the view would have definitely been worth the strenuous work out, we were OK with the bus taking us to the exact spot to. The views here are STUNNING.
From the Quiraing we drove to Kilt rock, a cliff in which the rock formation looks like a Scottish kilt with pleats. A waterfall runs down the side of the cliff into the ocean.
The final stop of the tour was at Old Man Storr, a single rock that juts up into the sky.
We made our way back into Portree around 6:30. James and I raced back to our bed & breakfast so that we could change (we were covered in mud!) and then headed to Scorrybreac for dinner. This is one of the restaurants that is impossible to get a reservation at if you don’t book months in advance. The food did not disappoint. They served popcorn and a mushrooms leek soup to start. I had the basil crème brulee, Highland lamb and chamomile panna cotta. James had the beef tartar, halibut with vegetable noodles (sooo good!) and a chocolate whiskey cake. If you’ll be in Skye, make a reservation! Amazing!
And so we wind down our last evening in Skye. This is a beautiful area with an ugly history and past. Currently there are only 11,000 people who live on Skye, which was once thriving prior to the Battle of Culloden. (in the hundred years after the battle, about 30,000 – 40,000 people left)
The towns are amazingly cute, and there is a mobile bank, library and movie cinema that travels around so that folks can do what they gotta do to live here.
Our fire lighting experiences from the previous evening took a toll in the morning. Unable to light the fire and take off the chill, I trudged to the “Hub” to take a shower and get ready for the day. The Hub is the facilities area of the campground. There’s a few bathrooms, showers and a sink to do your dishes. Getting there involves a walk up a very steep hill, and so one only goes to the Hub when one must.
Afterwards, we headed to our boat cruise on the Loch Ness. We gave ourselves an hour to do a 40 minutes drive. Not even two miles in, we were held up by a giant cement truck that was parked on a road that only one car can use at a time (despite it being two way). The truck eventually moved, but it took about 15 minutes. Now nervous about getting to our boat cruise on time, we called to give them a heads up. The UK oozes politeness and the company actually held the boat for us! We weren’t late, but we were about two minutes before the boat was scheduled to leave. Thank you Jacobite cruises!
The cruise we booked took us out onto Loch Ness, and then dropped us off at Urquhart Castle. The castle is currently in ruins, but there is a nice tour that highlights what rooms they were likely to be, and shares the history of the castle and it’s inhabitants. The castle was built in the 1200s (though parts may have occurred even earlier) and was a point of battle and angst throughout it’s 500 year history. Eventually the castle was blown to smithereens as the English thought that the clans living there were Jacobites.
Highly recommend checking it out if you have a chance – and getting there via boat is definitely the way to do it!
Following, we headed over to Cawdor Castle. We were feeling a bit of castle fatigue, but decided to forge ahead anyway. I’m glad we did. Cawdor Castle is cool – but so are the other castles. What makes it stand apart was the sassy sign writer who described each of the rooms with amusing quips and detail. We found ourselves giggling throughout. To all the people who breezed through, I am sorry, you should have read the descriptions!!
We headed to Inverness afterwards to check out the city. It looks a lot like Dublin, or Copenhagen, or Cologne or any other European city with roots in the medieval times. We headed to Velocity Café and Bike Repair shop which is one of the top rated cafes in the city, and also had a wide range of gluten free treats. The almond lemon cake was AMAZING.
We weaved in and out of a few stores and then headed back to the yurts (with a quick pit stop at the Cooperative grocery store, where we have gone every day since arriving). Back at the yurts we made dinner, enjoyed some more cheese, showered and packed up, as tomorrow we move on to Isle of Skye.
Scotland: Day 4
Au revoir yurt! We spent our final two hours in the yurt lighting a fire successfully with fire starter (provided by the hosts who finally recognized that we suck at making fires from newspaper and wood), making breakfast, cleaning up and packing up.
We hit the road by 9 am and headed toward Isle of Skye. At first we were intending to stop along the way to do things, but the scenery quickly took over and we discovered that an hour would go by without even noticing. We did however, stop along the way to take breathtaking photographs. A pit stop was necessary to buy some cheese from a local dairy shop as well (with a friendly dog, and a part of the Scottish cheese trail to boot). We enjoyed the cheese for lunch along with some leftover salt and pepper crackers.
We stopped at Eileann Donan Castle on our way to Isle of Skye (okay, we had to back track a few miles, but it was 100% worth it). This castle and backdrop is breathtaking. But rather than tour the castle, we were good to go after some photo opps and a bathroom break. Definitely recommend stopping by if you’re ever en route.
Isle of Skye is magical. It’s incredibly beautiful and every turn brings something new. At first, we were hoping to hike the Quiraing, but unfortunately, rain came about that could potentially have made for a dangerous and uncomfortable hike. So we headed to the Castle of Dunvegan instead. This castle surprisingly surpassed our expectations. While the commentary in each room wasn’t as pithy as Cawford, we found the descriptions to be thoughtful and interesting. But the best part of this castle is the seal tour by the boat house. Seals line the property where the castle sits, and bask for hours at a time in the sun, digesting their latest meal (according to our very un-chatty captain who we had to pry information from). We spent 25 minutes driving around the waters to look at gluttonous seal do their thing. It was amazing.
Following the castle we headed to the Bed & Breakfast we’re staying in. The owners weren’t home but left us with a little welcome package, and so after checking ourselves in, we headed to downtown Portree to explore. The town shuts down at about 5 pm (wah!) but a few stores remained open. The best part though was discovering “the lump” which is a pristine little park that overlooks the harbor. A watch tower built in the 1800s is climbable as well.
For dinner, we had reservations at Rosedale Hotel. Reviews had raved about the restaurant, but James and I started to get nervous after walking around the hotel to try and find it (hotel did not look or smell so nice). The restaurant however, is amazing. It overlooks Portree harbor and the food is spectacular. We both had the scallops and the venison. The chef served a celeriac soup prior to the meal, with fantastic whipped butter for bread (mine gluten free) and flakey sea salt. After eating the last three meals in a yurt, cooked on a camp stove, this was a much welcomed treat.
We walked back to our bed and breakfast, full, and ready to have a bathroom available to us at any point during the middle of the night.
We have internet again! After spending a few days camping just North of Inverness we have ventured even further North, but staying in a Bed + Breakfast with wifi. So not quite back in civilization but making strides.
And without further ado…. the blog posts.
Scotland: Day 1
Our two week journey in Scotland started with a plane ride at 10:40 pm from Boston to London. Ultimately, the trip was painless, all considering and both James and I managed a few hours of sleep despite being upright. We landed in London around 10 a.m. on Sunday, had a leisurely breakfast and boarded a shuttle to Edinburgh.
We picked up our rental car in Edinburgh (a Mercedes!), loaded up the luggage and headed out of the city to Perth, which is about 40 – 45 minutes north. We stayed at the Huntingtower Hotel, a very Scottish bed and breakfast. After checking in, we went out for a quick walk before dinner. The hotel is near the Huntingtower Castle, so we made our way up there to see our first Scottish castle and hoping to kill some jet lag.
Given the crazy day of travel, we decided to have dinner at the bed & breakfast. The meal was decent (nothing to write home about, but good enough). I had mushroom soup and steak, while James had smoked salmon and steak with blue cheese (and cheesecake). We headed almost immediately to bed afterwards and proceeded to sleep for 11 hours.
In the morning we decided to go for a short run before being in the car for a few hours. The walk the evening before proved to be beautiful and pleasant. I gave James the task of leading us for our run. We spent the majority of it in a construction site….
Anyway… we kicked off the journey by heading to Scone Palace (pronounced Scoon), which is where Scone Stone once lay. This is the stone that almost every Scottish king was crowned on. You may have heard of it because a group of students in the 50s stole the stone from London in attempts to return it to its rightful homeland. (It ended up in England in the first place because one of the Scottish kings brought it there).
The palace was previously a bishops palace, but the family that runs and lives in it now, has done so for the past four hundred years. We strolled through the halls of the palace, admiring breath taking art work and even Queen Victoria’s chambers when she came to visit for a brief period.
The castle grounds are also breathtaking, and so following our indoor tour, we wandered around outside – including complete a star shaped hedge maze, checking out the kitchen gardens and the town’s old graveyard.
At around 11:30 we hopped over to the café onsite for a quick bite to eat (potato leek soup!) and then hit the road for our next destination: the Highland Folk Museum.
For anyone who watches Outlander, the scenes of Lallybroch (the town not the manor) were shot at the folk museum. So first things first, we headed over to the 1700s highland town. Similar to Plymouth planation or Williamsburg, Virginia this was a living breathing replica of a 1700s highland town, complete with actors and fires in the hearth. We wandered around, taking in the beautiful scenery and dodging the random spurts of rain. Afterwards, we walked around the rest of the museum (it’s outdoors), which included a village from the 1920s/1930s (weaving shop, tailors, post office, candy store, school house, church, clock store, etc.). It was definitely cool.
We opted to forgo the farming section and headed back on the road to the Black Isle Yurts. The scenery continued to be breathtaking and eventually we crossed the point in which the road was literally one lane with a “passing spot” every 100 feet or so in case there are two cars going opposite direction at the same time. Nerve-wracking the first time (though better with each subsequent turn), we eventually made it to our yurt.
The yurt is secluded and overlooks Moray Firth – which apparently houses numerous dolphins (yet to be seen). We stocked up at the grocery store on goodies, and had a dinner of gluten free pasta, pesto, asparagus and tomatoes. Given our two weeks of travel, we’re going to try and cook whenever it makes sense – and so peanut butter and jelly sandwiches will be the lunch norm for the next few days.
Scotland: Day 2
Our first night in a yurt was cozy and REALLY cold. The wood stove went out around midnight (according to James) and when I finally woke up around 6 am, I felt I could barely move because of the temperature. After mustering the courage, I finally pealed out of bed and tried lighting a fire. This is really not that easy, if you are left with a book of matches, some logs and newspaper.
Today was a hiking day. Originally I wanted to do a dolphin hike in Rosemarkie, but we discovered that we could walk to the majority of the hike from Black Isle, and so after checking the tides, headed off on our journey. The yurts are located on a cliff overlooking the ocean. We made it down the cliff and then walked along the beach for about 4 – 5 miles to a lighthouse at the end.
The lighthouse is supposed to be “the place” to see dolphins, but we actually saw many more along the way. Some were so close it felt like we could almost touch them. The sun was shining and everything was pleasant. As soon as we reached the lighthouse, a rain cloud floated over and POURED. We ran around trying to find cover, but there really wasn’t any. So we eventually decided to move on and walked through the 15th oldest golf course in the world into town for a bathroom break and bandaid expedition (some sand in the boot made for a nice blister sensation).
Along the way we popped into the Groam House museum, which is a local museum that houses stones found from 700-800 AD. The stones are intricately cut and believed to have once been part of a monastery in Rosemarkie. But the coolest part of the museum was the upstairs temporary collection – a series of drawings from World War I done by Celtic artist George Bain. They pieces were amazingly detailed and beautiful.
From the museum, we started down the Fairy Glen path, and were pleasantly surprised by multiple waterfalls at the end. The rest of our journey was up Eathie road, which we thought was significantly shorter…. Lesson learned!
Once we got back from our hike, we hopped in the car and headed to Culloden Battlefield. The museum is very well done – you go through the history of both the English and Scottish, learning about the Jacobites, Bonnie Prince Charlie and battle techniques of both side. I was really impressed. A short film immerses you in a recreation of the battle, and is quite disturbing and incredibly moving. We finished the tour by walking through the battle field, in which each of the clans that fought and lost their lives are depicted.
I highly recommend a visit if you are in Scotland, whether you have a connection to Culloden or not.
We drove back towards our yurt, and spent the rest of the evening trying to light our wood stove (it was being very difficult this evening!), making dinner and doing dishes.