It all started about 10 months ago with an ad of the Edinburgh Royal Military Tattoo on the web and the idea, to try and get tickets and spend a few days in/around Edinburgh. Luckily, we got 2 tickets (thanks to a special friend) and what was supposed to be a long weekend, ended up being a 3-weeks trip through beautiful Scotland. Because I never had been to Scotland and Andy was telling me all those wonderful things about it, we eventually decided to make it our summer vacation.
Did we plan a lot in advance? Not at all! All we had booked were: the flights (yes, booked! No standby travel!), the absolutely wonderful Restaurant with Rooms, the Witchery by the Castle in Edinburgh for the first two nights and the car.
We roughly defined the route which would take us up the East Coast route through the Highlands, all the way up north and back down the West Coast with its Isles.
We always planned the next day on the spot, taking into consideration the weather, the things we wanted to see and also where we would end up spending the next night.
So here is my travel journal:
In Edinburgh, we did, what all tourists do: Hop on, Hop off! But truly, it is the best way to see all the important sights in this absolutely gorgeous city. The Witchery by the Castle (as the name tells you), is only a two minutes walk from the Castle and the Tattoo, on the Royal Mile. So we literally stayed in the center of all action.
The first day we enjoyed strolling through the old and the new part of the city, having lunch at the Wildfire Steak & Seafood Bistro , on lively Rose Street. I enjoyed Salmon Tatar and a Crab Sandwich and Andy had to have the first Haggis in years. I DID taste it and as much as the ingredients sound terrible, it was actually quite nice.
After lunch and some walking and shopping, we had to have a drink and coffee at the famous Balmoral Hotel, to recharge our batteries for more walking and shopping.
We enjoyed dinner at a place, that turned out to be quite hip and we were lucky to get a table. It is called The Outsider. We had absolutely fantastic meals, me fish again, Andy, well…hmmm…porkbelly…If you go, book a table!
The next day we enjoyed a longer tour on various Hop on, Hop off Tour Buses. Archie, one of the guides told us interesting stories about the past and present and Edinburgh’s inhabitants: from Lords, to Kings and Queens to Robert Louis Stevenson the author of Treasure Island. As we were only the two of us on the bus, he had plenty of time to chat with us!
One thing that I want to mention here and is valid for all of Scotland and my experience; Scots are extremely outgoing people, love to talk and discuss, want to know all about yourself. We met wonderful people and had really good discussions with them, mainly of course about Scotland’s future, but also about food, live, tourism and so on. I was very pleased to get more than a normal touristy insight of this country.
And then, in the evening, finally the Tattoo! The whole experience was simply WOW! It started with dinner at the Amber Restaurant and then we got our VIP Seats with a nice Tartan blanked to keep us warm. Luckily, it did not rain, it was a bit rainy and cloudy during the day, but in the evening, the sky cleared up! Perfect! The show was really amazing, the pipers and the drummers, but also all the other performances were fantastic. Dare I saying? I think I loved the Maori’s performance best. But of course all the other corps, Army bands etc. were giving me creeps. And it all was enhanced with an outstanding light show projected on the Castle’s walls and seemingly never ending fire works.
After another night at the outstanding Witchery we left Edinburgh for our Highland Adventure.
We left Edinburgh across the Firth of Forth (try saying that name 20 times very fast…) and drove along the coast to St. Andrews where we stopped to buy some golf balls and equipment of the various courses, I was a bit disappointed by the Old Course as I saw people on the driving range in JEANS!!!????, it is all half as sophisticated as I thought it would be. We continued via Dundee to St. Cyrus, a small little village where we stayed at the Woodston Fishing Station B&B, which is very remotely located on a cliff overlooking the North Sea. This place is very cozy, perfectly refurbished and our room on the first floor was overlooking the ocean. What a treat the next morning to wake up to a clear blue sky and all you see is a fantastic country side!
Close to St. Cyrus there are a few other little fishing villages, we drove to Johnshaven for dinner at the Anchor Hotel. A place that close to the sea of course served delicious seafood, we had mussels and fish and chips.
The next day, we drove along the East Coast for a bit and then inland towards Cairngorms National Park and Balmoral. We took secondary routes and enjoyed the wonderful landscape. I would have loved to visit Balmoral Castle, but HRH apparently is spending her vacation there usually as of August, so it was closed to the public. But!, the souvenir shop was open and I definitely had to get some stuff there…things like golf balls and napkins. We drove on, partly on the Whisky Trail, had a nice lunch in a typical pub and later on stopped at the Glendfiddich Distillery. Not for a tour, but for a coffee break and a wi-fi spot as we still needed to find a place to stay that night. We finally booked a room at the Dowans Hotel in Aberlour. This village is very picturesque, with little shops and of course the Walker’s Shortbread Factory. Needless to say what I had to buy. As I did also run out of £, I had to go to the ATM, much to my surprise I got Scottish £ printed by the Clydesdale Bank and not the National Bank. There is a total of 3 banks who can print £, the other two are RBS, and HBOS.
We spent the evening at the Hotel’s bar and had no dinner, just drinks! Why? We ate too much for breakfast and lunch…oh oh!
The next day, Sunday, we started our animal hunt! Blackhead Sheep, Highland Cows and of course, we were on the oulook for Nessie!
Again, only driving along secondary routes, avoiding the tourist routes, we made our way to Fort Augustus. On the route, for the first time on this trip we saw the typical Scottish sheep and cows. The sheep are quite shy, while the cows really couldn’t care less if you start talking to them.
I liked the village of Fort Augustus, the lock ship canal and the moving bridge are fascinating. After a coffee break, we continued on along the west bank of Loch Ness, looking very closely if we would find the little monster, hey and there it was!!! It is a bit of a fluffy species if you ask me:
Drummadrochit, where the official Nessie Visitor’s Center is located is very touristy, so we did not spend too much time there, we just stopped to buy a few essential souvenirs!
We also did not visit Urquhart Castle as the parking lot was full, basically, it is not a good idea to visit Loch Ness on a Sunday!
We continued on to Inverness where we had planned to stay for the night and still needed to find a place. Now, people who know me, know I am a hotel aficionado and I am always looking for unusual and special places. On a Sunday, High Season, near Loch Ness? Impossible? No, not for me. We found a room at the Loch Ness Country House Hotel. What a spectacular house! The living rooms with their fire places invite you to sit and relax with a cup of tea in the afternoon or an aperitif. The room we had was huge, a bit “moldy” maybe, but absolutely okay. But the best was yet to come: dinner!!! The Park Restaurant is very intimate and offers excellent food that deserves a Michelin Star! We had seafood as starters and Angus Beef Surf’n’Turf as a main course. Accompanied by a nice glass of red wine. Later one, we retired to the lounge and had coffee, whisky (not me) and petit fours. What a great way to end a Sunday if you do not have to go to work the next day!
Our exciting journey continued on a sunny Monday Morning, we left Inverness towards the north and drove to Cromarty on Black Isle. From that little village, we took a ferry over to Nigg. The remarkable thing about this ferry ferry is, that it carries a maximum of 4 cars and has a revolving platform which turns the car either upon entering or leaving the ferry. The journey is very short, about 15 mins, but really an experience not to miss! Bookings are not possible, it is based on “first come, first served”.
From Nigg, we drove all the way to Portmahomack where we enjoyed a short break with fabulous views of the Lighthouse and the North Sea. We continued on up north with some stops along the coast. Dunrobin Castle was one of the stops, but since we both are not really too much into visiting Museums, we only had a look from the outside, and it was quite impressive I have to say. Further up north we stopped for coffee (that brown water the Scots call coffee, I mean) and a sweet treat. We finally drove to our final destination of the day, the absolutely stunning Ackergill Tower Castle near Wick. We got a small, the smallest, room and paid the world for it, but it was definitely worth it! The Castle is full of mystery, drama and romance, absolutely magical. Yes, I did feel like a princess for a while :-)!
The location, right on the sea makes this a fantastic place to stay, I really loved it! And there were tons of rabbits, a nuisance for the owners, a fun animal to observe for us! We drove back to Wick for dinner and ended up at the Mackay’s Hotel in their Bistro #1, according to the Guinness Book of World Records located on the world’s shortest street, Ebenezer Place. Again, we were served fantastic fresh seafood and fish. Who said the Scots can’t cook? That is definitely not true, maybe it was “fish’n’chips” and nothing else a few years ago, but they definitely discovered the treasuries of the seas that surround the country and make fantastic meals out of it.
After a very quiet night (in Scotland, in most places we stayed, the maximum we would hear were waves at night), we were spoiled with a nice breakfast in the Great Hall of the Castle, it was just the two of us in that huge hall, that was very special indeed…ohhh, if only they knew how to brew coffee…it would have been perfect! 🙂
We left quite early as the weather was absolutely fantastic and we decided to go on a tour to the Orkney’s from John O’Groats. This was definitely a wise decision as we spent a beautiful day on the Islands. The Ferry takes you over in only 40mins and from the harbour, we were picked up by a coach. The tour took us first to Kirkwall, then to Skara Brae, the Churchill Barriers, Scapa Flow, Ring of Brodgar, the Standing Stones of Stenness, the Italian Chapel and back to the ferry. On the way back, we saw seals, but the Orkas kept hiding from us.
We had booked a room at the Inn at John O’Groats right on the harbor, the Inn was very newly built, but was clairaudient, once the kids in the other rooms fell asleep however, the place become extremely tranquil. When we got back from the tour, the only eating place which remained open was the Fish’n’Chips Shack. Well, we had better dinners, but it was fun sitting right on the seashore, watching the sun set!
The next day, we drove along the north coast of Scotland, the landscape is fascinating, the mix of heather in bloom, Highland Cows and Blackhead Sheep on dark green meadows, right on the sea shore helped me to unwind. This is truly no joke. The stunning colors, the quiet and peaceful moments really are better than any session with your shrink!
Since the weather gods were on our side, we decided to stay two nights up north to enjoy the unique landscape a little longer. We checked in to the Bettyhill Hotel in Bettyhill. This is a basic 3* hotel, the rooms are nice, very clean and the food is tasty. The view from the Dining Room and our Room over Torrisdale Bay is breathtaking! The hosts are very nice people and they run this hotel with a lot of passion!
The only thing I would complain about were the “croissants” in the morning. They should rather only serve toast, we are in Scotland, not in France.
It was definitely worth spending two nights in that region, we enjoyed a lazy afternoon around Bettyhill and its beach (not swimming, just relaxing) and the next day we made a tour inland. And yes, you are guessing correctly, all along secondary “single lane” roads to Lairg and back to Bettyhill on another even more narrow road. We stopped in Lairg for lunch in a very cute coffee shop right on Loch Shin called the Pier Café . It is very nicely decorated, has a small lounge or tables where you can enjoy their vast selection of sweet and salty treats. I could not resist and had a Victoria Sponge Cake with Clotted Cream and Strawberry Jam, yummy!
The next day, we continued our journey along the north coast visiting the small villages of Tongue and Durness. Durness has a chocolate factory and of course we had to visit it just to compare if they know as well as the Swiss how to produce chocolate. Ehm, no! Forget it.
However, Durness has a very spooky cemetery and I could have spent hours taking pictures of stone graves that are 200 years and older. John Lennon’s auntie rests there as well. We continued on, leaving the north coast driving down the west coast now, of course, avoiding main roads again.
In the course of the afternoon, we arrived in Lochinver, a cute little village right on The Minch, as the sea between the mainland and Isle of Lewis is called. We had booked a room at the Inver Lodge which sits on hill above the village. The building from outside would definitely never win any architectural awards, it really looks ugly…but, once you enter the Hall you arrive in a cozy and warm world and immediately forget about the outside. Their lounge is really grand, with a nice fire place and fluffy sofas. And the best was yet to come, the coffee they serve tastes really nice and is close to Italian brews! Other guests enjoyed their afternoon tea, in style with all it needs. Since we had read about a nice Bistro downtown, we resisted to do the same in order to save space in our stomachs for dinner.
The rooms are really nice, big and comfy too, so it was another good choice, phew…!
One of the culinary highlights we experienced was in that above said Dining Pub with the hard to pronounce name: The Caberfeidh! (pronounced Caber-fay). Their concept is quite simple: a blackboard tells you what Scottish Tapas they have available and you order until you drop. The place is owned by a chef who also runs the Michelin starred the Albannach Restaurant in Lochinver. He does not stand himself in the kitchen fo the Caberfeidh. He has recruited a local young chef who cooks under his direction…and this guy does a miracle job and deserves at least 5 “myisitravelandfood” Stars! To make a long story short, with the exception of three dishes on the board, we tasted them all! Words definitely cannot describe the tastiness of the food well enough, the seafood is so fresh, I bet the scallops were still swimming in the sea that same morning. The Langoustines too, for sure! We spent a wonderful evening at the Caberfeidh as not only the food was excellent but the team who runs the place is so convivial and easygoing, it was a joy being their guests.
The next morning we woke up to a rainy and foggy day the first time since we arrived in Scotland. And it would turn out to be the only really bad weather day we had in 3 weeks. Talking a bit of the weather, unlike in Switzerland where it tends to rain forever, days and nights, in Scotland, rainy periods do not last long and often you can have 30 mins of rain, then a cloudy period, then comes the sun, cloudy again, it is a happy mix. But those never-ending rainy days that tend to drive you nuts here at home do not really exist. Am I biased? Maybe, but this is how I experienced it during three weeks.
So, rainy day…hmm, what do we do? We had planned to drive further south along the west coast and found a nice B&B in Poolewe at Loch Ewe not too far away from Lochinver. I had the fantastic idea to look if on the way, in the next big village we could find a Launderette to wash our clothes (the efficient traveler only carries clothes for half of the days the trip lasts and then washes them, saves space in the suitcases for souvenirs…one would think…more about that a bit later). So, we saw on the fabulous WWW that there is a Launderette in Ullapool on our way to our next stopover. Perfect! What else would you do on a rainy day than household chores? Eh, see! So we got to that place and unlike in other salons there was only 1 washer and 1 dryer. But we were lucky, we were the only ones and could get started right away. While the machines did work hard, we strolled along the waterfront, went for coffee, did a bit of shopping at Tesco’s, had a look what the many souvenir shops had to offer and as usual, I could not resist and had to buy a souvenir: This time, fluffy socks with sheep faces! Yes I know, silly stuff, but I will wear them only at home. They have anti-slip-dots on the sole and are more slippers than socks.
After lunch time, our washing was all done and we headed off towards Poolewe through gorgeous landscapes, it had stopped raining and we really enjoyed the drive along the different Lochs and admiring all those waterfalls. We stopped in Mellon Charles at Loch Ewe for a coffee break at the Perfume Studio. It is actually more a coffee shop with a soap manufactory and is also selling nice souvenirs. We bought some amazingly smelling soaps and a tiny little sheep made of glass. Their cakes and sandwiches are very nice too and while we were eating, we were planning where to go for dinner. Talk of foodies! When we got to the B&B called The Corriness House, we found a note saying that the hosts would only be back by 4.30pm. Fine with us, we continued on to Gairloch which is another cute village and had a stroll around the area. Wait, I think it wasn’t a stroll, we were driving.
Back in Poolewe which consists of 1 post office, 1 church, 1 pub and a few houses, we were greeted by our host who showed us her house. It is decorated with much love and we felt immediately at ease. One thing that impresses me with all those small B&Bs, Inns etc. we stayed in, is that they all have their web page and offer online booking. And a small hint for my readers: if you can, book with them directly as the commissions they have to pay to booking engines are exorbitant..and sometimes, they give you a small discount in return.
That night, we felt like eating light and so we went to the village’s only Pub and had some Beer, Cider and Smoked Scottish Salmon. Talking of, we still have to find out why Scottish Salmon tastes so much better than Alaskan, Norwegian or Canadian. Also, when we buy smoked salmon in a store here, it is packed in plastic and usually is covered with a greasy film. But the one we were served, be at breakfasts or dinners or snacks always had a dry surface and I wonder how they manage to get it dried like this…any ideas out there?
After another night’s deep and calm sleep, we were served a hearty Scottish Breakfast. We, who usually have a coffee at the maximum for breakfast, slowly started to get used to eat an abundant meal in the morning.
Our final destination for that day was going to be the Isle of Skye where we had made a booking at a newly opened Bed & Breakfast. The weather was back to what we were used to, sun and cloud mix. The route today did lead us to the Applecross Peninsula, a place out of this world, a dazzling landscape all the way from Torridon with wonderful views of Loch Torridon along the Peninsula’s coast to the village of Applecross and inland to Kishorn which again is on Loch Carron. On the west coast of the Peninsula we enjoyed great views of the Isles of Raasay and Skye. The lush meadows, the grazing cows and sheep, the white croft houses and the heather made this a truly unique picturesque place on earth. This day will certainly remain very close to my heart as I felt a satisfying calmness driving along this coast. Who knows, I could well imagine spending some more time there!
I need to mention Kishorn, it has nothing else to offer than the BEST Seafood Bar on the planet! This is true, the place won a lot of awards already and the owner is a sweet lady, she is loving what she is doing and fond of her country as well. She did offer us two “YES” buttons to wear:-)
It was warm enough to sit outside on the deck and have our lunch, we were served scallops, salmon, crabs and much more, which we chose directly from the kitchen, we had a feast I swear! I am ever so glad that we stopped at that place, it is a seafood lover’s paradise!
After that great lunch we continued on, along to coast to the Eilean Donan Castle. Never heard of? Maybe not, but certainly seen it in the movie Highlander or James Bond’s “The World is not enough”.
The Castle apparently hosts a nice museum, but by now you know how much we love visiting museums, so I cannot really confirm if it is true. But definitely, it is beautiful and mystic from the outside and certainly the most photographed castle in Scotland.
Our trip continued on to the Isle of Skye along the west coast of the island to Portree the principal town on Skye. We found that cute B&B just outside of the village called Canowindra, another stunning place to stay. The young couple Rick & Georgie have created a place where you will feel at home the moment you enter through the door. The house is newly built with a touch of Shabby Chic, a style I love very much. The lounge and breakfast room are both very cozy yet elegant and the only thing that is really missing is a view onto a Loch or the Sea. Like in all the B&Bs we had a great discussions with the hosts, not only about the upcoming referendum (which by now we know that Scotland remains part of the UK), but also about making business in Scotland, lifestyle, and much more. The hosts really all share a similar vision: making Scotland more known to tourists, fulfill a dream and create home from home for their guests.
Portree is actually a cute little village and the only one with colored houses we saw so far in Scotland. There are lots of nice shops, restaurants and pubs. The next day we “cruised” along the Islands’s coasts and stopped at Talisker Distillery. So far, we had not bought any Whisky, nor had we tasted a lot. Factory tours usually take quite a while, and since we had a ferry to catch, we decided to just visit the shop. We bought some Sweaters, Shirts and Pins…and 3 little bottle of different Whiskies. As we are both not big Whisky-drinkers, we thought, those make good presents or can be used for baking and cooking! Or used as solace, more about it later. We also went to a Oyster and Salmon Fisher and bought some smoked salmon and scallops
At noon, we took the CalMac Ferry from Armadale to Mallaig, a short 30′ crossing. From Mallaig, we drove along the Sound of Ansaig all the way to Resipole, which is a hamlet with 3 houses at Loch Sunart. This was our final destination for the day as we were staying at the #1 Bed & Breakfast on my top 10 list of this trip, the Rockpool House. Not only is the house located just steps from the water, it is also an architectural gem. The big windows in the lounge allow you to watch wildlife from the comfort of the sofa and the rooms are really very nicely decorated and offer all you need! And you should see their kitchen, amazing. The best “thing” about Rockpool House however are Richard and Val, the hosts! If I would teach hospitality to students, I would take them as role models on how hospitality should be lived! The couple is absolutely amazing, cheerful and warmhearted. They welcomed us as if we were good old friends, immediately offering us tea and cake. The cake! OMG! The best ever ginger cake I tasted. The recipe will follow on this blog very soon, promised! I immediately felt extremely at ease with the two and we had such good chats with them. They have a lot of information about the area available as well, so we decided to follow their advice and make a late afternoon tour to the very end of the Ardnamurchan Peninsula where there is a beautiful lighthouse. Well, talking of single lane roads, these were really narrow and hilly and the trip seemed never ending. But what a view from that Lighthouse, the ocean was really rough and we enjoyed watching the waves hitting the shore. Unfortunately, we got there after 5 pm and the Lighthouse was already closed, else we could have walked up the stairs to the top. On the way back, we saw an eagle. That was actually the first time in my life I saw one in the wild and not in a zoo. Back at the B&B, Val told us that there are a few eagles around and that we were lucky to see one.
The next morning we enjoyed a delicious breakfast before heading off. Actually, I would have loved to stay for much longer, but unfortunately, the rooms were sold out for the next days. So, we had no choice but to move on! We drove to Fort William, which is not really worth to stop longer than for 2-3 hours, we had a coffee there and a stroll through the main shopping “mile” where we bought nice soul mate Celtic rings <3. This is the reason, why I will never forget FW, not because it is such a nice place to be.
Anyway, we drove on and made a tour along Glen Coe with its beautiful landscape and mountains. Yes, these are not as high as the alps in Switzerland or the Rocky Mountains, however, considering you are at sea level, 890 meters ARE high!
The journey that day ended in Benderloch by Oban. I had found a very stylish B&B online and booked/prepaid it for one night. When we got there, we were impressed with the house, however, this was unfortunately the worst experience we had in Scotland. The female host was nothing less than a drill sergeant and the architect certainly was allowed to fulfill a dream, however, he has planned walls, thin as paper, floors that click-clack all the time and to top the thing off, the beds were the most uncomfy ones I ever slept in…The only highlight was a nice breakfast and the male host who tried to make us feel at ease, but, to no avail as his wife made us feel so terribly miserable! Andy even had to have some deep sips of Whisky from our Souvenir Box for consolidation!!! Had we not prepaid for the place, we would have waved good-bye before we even set a food in the place. The name of the place is called Ardtorna in Millfarm, Barcaldine close to Benderloch. To avoid!
But, we found a wonderful dinner place that night at the Hawthorn Restaurant in Benderloch. The dinner and wine we had were once more outstanding, delicious and the ambiance in the restaurant made us forget about the unfriendly B&B rottweiler. It was definitely pure pleasure to eat there!
The next day, we left very early after a night of almost no sleep. The route led us all along the west coast to Castleton and then up Loch Fyne to Inveraray, over to Loch Lommond where we enjoyed a smoked salmon pick-nick eating the salmon we had bought back on the Isle of Skye at the lake and enjoyed the warm sun rays on our faces. Later on, we drove to Glasgow Airport. Glasgow Airport?? Yes, it turned out that I had to interrupt my vacation for one day to fly down to London for a meeting and fly up the same day again.
Which I did the next day.
I got back from London at 4pm, early enough to escape from the hustle and bustle of the big city. We drove to Gourock, from where we took the ferry to Dunoon. In Kirn, we found the incredibly charming Douglas Park Guest House, a beautiful Victorian Villa which was just recently refurbished and Shona and Kenneth greeted us at the door like home coming family members (what a treat after the encounter in Barcaldine and the Holiday Inn Express at Glasgow), just like Richard and Val did a few days ago! These two couples have a lot in common and all four do exactly know how guests want to be treated and how to make somebody feel comfortable in a beautiful home. Shona served us tea, coffee and fabulous lemon cake in the lounge. Kenneth had a lot of interesting stories to tell and so we spent quite a long time chatting with them before even taking a look at our room. The room on the first floor was overlooking the Firth of Clyde, was very modern and yet traditionally furnished. Another gem found!
Well, and just an advice: if your hosts look at you a bit funny when you mention which restaurant you have chosen for dinner and they try to convince you to go to another place: LISTEN to them! We didn’t, we just felt after all that typical Scottish food, it was time for Indian Cuisine. No, that was definitely not the best idea we had, the starters were okay, but the main course was below average. So we decided, that for the rest of the trip, we stick to Seafood and Angus Beef and trust our hosts!
The next morning, we were spoiled with a rich Scottish Breakfast. We had planned the evening before that we would drive as close as possible to the Mull of Kintyre today. As it was a weekend again, I had booked a hotel on the Kintyre Peninsula in Machrihanish. So far, so good and we started our journey and drove towards Portavadie where we wanted to take the Ferry to Tarbert. The route led us along various Fjords, this is a beautiful and unexplored part of Scotland and truly worth visiting. Well, once we got the Portavadie Marina, we read on the information board that today, the Ferry Service was suspended “until further notice”! Ha, FOG (ferry on ground), happens as well, and I thought, only AOG (Airplane on Ground) can happen. There was of course no soul around we could have asked, what UFN really means…1 hour, 4, 7, 24? We called the service line and all we got was a very sexy voice, telling us the service was suspended UFN. Okay, what did that mean? Instead of a 20 min ferry ride, we had to do a detour of about 200 km! But, the drive was fantastic along Fjords, Lochas and wonderful landscapes. Wwhen we finally got to Tarbert, we decided to take a look at the ferry..it did not look as if it was going to be fixed anytime soon. We continued on the west coast of the Peninsula to Machrihanish where we checked in at the Ugadale Hotel, a very sophisticated place which has gained back its glory of past times due to a recent renovation. What a wonderful place to stay! Our suite was overlooking the golf course and the North Channel. Machrihanish is a very quiet place to stay and has very nice Mansions which are architectural art pieces. I guess, I could not afford to buy one. But talking of Real Estate in general, there were a lot of houses to be sold throughout Scotland, at very reasonable prices. I was surprised that many croft houses would come with so much land that you would be forced to buy sheep as a lawn mower would not be sufficient.
After last nights disaster dinner at the Bangladeshy, we felt like pampering ourselves again to real nice seafood. Andy found the Lochside Restaurant in Craigard House in Campbelltown, Kintyre’s principal town. The house is a Victorian mansion which was built by Whisky Distillers and eventually transformed into a Maternity Home. Nowadays it is a wonderful Guest House with an even more wonderful eating place! We were offered to have our aperitif in their lounge where we could already have a glance at the dinner menu. It was difficult to make a choice, I could have eaten every dish on the menu! Finally, we decided to have scallops and langoustines.
healthy unhealthy breakfast the next morning, we drove along beautiful meadows to the Mull of Kintyre. The road ends on top of the hill, and the Lighthouse itself actually is a vacation home and can be rented. I guess, next available dates are in 2018 or so…
The weather was once more fantastic, so we could see all the way over to Ireland. Enjoy that little youtube video, to get an impression.
We drove on, along the coast up north again to Claonaig from where we took the ferry over to Lochranza on the Isle of Arran. While waiting for the ferry I got a phone call from the hotel where I had booked the next night, telling me they were sold out and would not honor our booking! Uh Oh! On a Saturday during high season? Okay, so now what? Thankfully, Claonaig was not that remote, so I had an internet connection and could google for alternates. I found this place called Auchrannie Resort and thought, oh well, just call and see what they can offer. I had a nice chat with the front desk manager and he offered me a lodge for a reasonable price. I thought, what the heck, just a bed is good enough.
So we got on the ferry and enjoyed the nice journey over to the Isle of Arran. As it was just after lunch time and we felt a little hole in our stomachs, we decided to make a first stop just about 1km away from the port at the Isle of Arran Distillery with its very modern coffee shop. That is the place, where we had a piece of wonderful Whisky Cake which I tried to bake last Sunday, but unfortunately, the result was not as tasty as the one we had there.
So we continued our journey to Brodick and were looking for that Resort. We finally found it, it is located a bit remote from the village. The old mansion built in 1869 was stunningly beautiful, I just wondered, why the man on the phone said something about a lodge? So we walked in and wanted to check-in, but the lady said, no we do not have a booking under your name. Shock! But when I mentioned, it should be a lodge, she said, “oh, just drive around the mansion, down to the lodge reception”, ahaa…Okay. So that is what we did and saw that there are various little houses in a huge park. We checked in and I thought we will now get one of those mini semi-detached lodges. But no, the very nice and humorous lady from the front desk showed us our home, a huge detached absolutely fantastic and incredible 3 bedroom house! I couldn’t believe my eyes, the kitchen was larger than mine at home, the living room a dream and we had not only 3 bedrooms, but also 3 bathrooms to chose from! Somehow, I was thrilled that the other hotel was sold out!!! We looked at each other and within the blink of an eye, we knew exactly what to do: ask if we could stay two nights! And we were lucky, the house was free and so we decided to stay longer on Arran than planned.
Here’s a snapshot of the place:
We had dinner at the Eighteen69 Scottish Tapas Restaurant in the Mansion that night, it was again another amazing experience with delicious food. We tasted various seafood and fish plates, and we came to the conclusion that we are now definitely big fans of scallops, prepared in any possible way. We concluded the evening with a coffee and a Whisky, and we came to the next conclusion that Whisky is definitely not our favorite spirit (TBH, no spirit is my favorite spirit, I am more a wine person) and that the Scots can’t do espresso.
On Sunday, we took it really easy, we drove all around the Isle of Arran, stopping at beautiful beaches and shores, enjoying a day with plenty of sunshine and then relaxing on our balcony. Later on in the evening we went to the harbor and purchased our tickets for the ferry back to the mainland the next day. And we visited the Arran Aromatics shop where we bought ourselves two nice smelling perfumes.
We woke up to another sunny and warm day, the last one of our vacation! We packed all our suitcases, and since we just threw our shopping bags with the souvenirs in the car during the past three weeks, we now had to sort them out a bit. Oh, Oh…the two suitcases would definitely be too small for all that stuff. So we would have to go and buy a suitcase later on when back in Edinburgh.
The ferry only left at 11am, we had plenty of time for another breakfast and slowly heading to the harbor. The ferry to Ardrossan was one of the biggest vessels we took on our Scotland Trip. It was quite impressive. We were actually thinking, had we known how many ferry trips we would take, it would have been worthwhile buying a package. But since we wanted to be flexible with the route, we did finally end up buying single tickets.
Once back ashore, we drove inland towards Edinburgh Airport. It was unusual to see more urban scenes again, I got so used to the rural life. As we had no intention to spend the last night at a clinical Airport hotel, I was looking for something special. And I did find a stunning B&B, only 5 minutes from the Airport, yet very remote and calm. After a stop at the shopping mall to get our 3rd suitcase, we drove to the Kellerstain Stables B&B. We were welcomed by the hosts, Gail & Alex a really outgoing couple. We had some good laughs and discussions with them. The house is a gem, you should see their kitchen! I am sure my hole apartment would fit in it, it is huge and I was a tiny little bit jealous! Only a tiny little bit though! From our room, we could watch the cows grazing, that was ever so funny, especially the calfs were fun to observe.
Our hosts suggested we should have dinner at the Bridge Inn in Ratho, close to the B&B, serving nice food. They were so kind to place a reservation for us. So, we drove there and had our last dinner of the marvelous Scotland Trip, enjoying once more delicious seafood.
The next morning, our 3 suitcases and both of us were ready to head home. This is of course always the part I do not like on a vacation trip. But I did take home wonderful memories from a country with stunning landscapes and people who are so cordial and open minded. Scotland conquered my heart in no time, I do treasure the moments I have spent there and hope to return one day soon.