“The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
Scotland was a dream come true in every way… experiencing new sights, smells, sounds, tastes along with deep and meaningful history. These are such special memories to me. Enjoy this chronicle of another “page read in the book of my world”.
After an long, intense journey across the Atlantic (flight delays, almost getting turned away at the border, just normal stuff like that) my sister and I met up in Aberdeen. We both almost collapsed into a pile of tears when we finally were in the same place safe and sound and not stranded anywhere, haha. We spent a quick night in Aberdeen to then take the train down to Edinburgh for a couple of fun-filled days.
I have found that train rides are so relaxing and scenic… the constant lull and rhythm on the rails. I remembered this ride being particularly scenic from the last time I was in Scotland and it was everything I remembered.
We arrived in Edinburgh to realize that a huge festival was going on, and despite the massive crowds, we got to see some really talented musicians. This guy was amazing on the violin and would record over himself time after time again and build up to a brilliant sound.
I tried to make a point of enjoying and soaking in the little details of each place. So often we’re in a rush and forget to observe the little things…when actually it is those little things that make the big thing so beautiful!
Bet you wouldn’t guess that in order to get this photo I had to stick my arm up through a massive crowd of tourists and hope it came out right 😉
Greyfriar’s Kirkyard: incredible place with many stones commemorating believers of old. This place is best known as the burial ground for the 17th century Covenanters persecuted by George Mackenzie in the Covenanters’ Prison.
The inscription of the Martyr’s Monument, which was erected in 1706, reads…
“Halt passenger take heed what thou dost see
This tomb doth shew for what some men did die
Here lies interr’d the dust of these who stood
Gainst perjury resisting unto blood
Adhering to the Covenants and Laws…
Whom justice did justly to death pursue
But as for this in them no cause was found
Worthy of death but only they were found
Constant and steadfast zealous witnessing
For the prerogatives of CHRIST their king
Which truths were feared…
They did endure the wrath of enemies
Reproaches torments deaths and injuries
But yet they’re these who from such troubles came
And now triumph in glory with the LAMB”
This quaint second-floor restaurant called the Spoon Cafe was a refreshing reprieve from our hike through the city, and was a few streets down from the Royal Mile.
The National Museum of Scotland in which you could probably spend a full week… but we were tired and hungry so we made it more like 30 minutes. 😉
“In March 1296, Edward I launched an invasion of Scotland, unleashing the First War of Scottish Independence. Edinburgh Castle soon came under English control, surrendering after a three days long bombardment. Following the siege, Edward had many of the Scottish legal records and royal treasures moved from the castle to England. A large garrison numbering 325 men was installed in 1300. Edward also brought to Scotland his master builders of the Welsh castles, including Thomas de Houghton and Master Walter of Hereford, both of whom travelled from Wales to Edinburgh…
…After the death of Edward I in 1307, however, England’s control over Scotland weakened. On 14 March 1314, a surprise night attack by Thomas Randolph, 1st Earl of Moray recaptured the castle. John Barbour’s narrative poem The Brus relates how a party of thirty hand-picked men were guided by one William Francis, a member of the garrison who knew of a route along the north face of the Castle Rock and a place where the wall might be scaled. Making the difficult ascent, Randolph’s men scaled the wall, surprised the garrison and took control. Robert the Bruce immediately ordered the destruction of the castle’s defences to prevent its re-occupation by the English. Four months later, his army secured victory at the Battle of Bannockburn.”
We took an evening stroll down to Dean’s Village, and on the way came across St. Mary’s Cathedral which is the largest Cathedral I have ever seen.
So, the magical Dean Village. Leading up to our trip, Rebecca and I would tag each other on Instagram accounts and in photos of places we wanted to visit. This was one such place, and happened to be under a mile from our AirBnb.
We picked up a quick snack at the Starbucks near Haymarket Station and walked through the village. Such a quiet, refreshing time after the hustle and bustle of Edinburgh!
It’s one of those dear little places that doesn’t even seem real. But people really do live here and walk their little dogs by the river and look out those darling windows every morning…
“This is a city of shifting light, of changing skies, of sudden vistas. A city so beautiful it breaks the heart again and again.”
– Alexander McCall Smith
I must insert here that whenever I saw these little underground things I thought of Jean Valjean in the sewer. But if you really think about it these buildings are old enough…
Day two of our travels dawned bright and early (not too early…this was the first night we got a real sleep after our travel day). This cafe was just around the corner from where we stayed so we grabbed a quick breakfast of raspberry bread.
We spent a good chunk of the morning walking to the opposite end of Edinburgh to reach Arthur’s Seat: the place everyone rants and raves about.
The hike up to the Seat was harder than we both had thought…perhaps due to the many pounds that we were carrying in our backpacks (poor planning on our part but we’re that much stronger for it;).
“The view of Edinburgh from the road before you enter Leith is quite enchanting: it is, as Albert said, fairy-like and what you would only imagine as a thing to dream of, or to see in a picture.”
– Queen Victoria on her first visit to Scotland in 1842
“Coming back to Edinburgh is to me like coming home.”
– Charles Dickens
A short distance from Arthur’s Seat is Holyrood Palace, the Queen’s residence in Edinburgh. The Palace was built because of the stunning view the area had of Arthur’s Seat.
The Abbey is a particularly stunning piece of ruinous architecture, only some of it standing after the palace was raided in the 1940s.
The gardens surrounding the palace and abbey are so peaceful and luscious.
You can see Arthur’s Seat in the background here; the palace by far has the best view of it.
We found a darling little tea shop called Clarinda’s Tea Room, which obviously indicates how darling it actually it is. And wow, let me just say real tea with real scones and real clotted cream and real jam is really where it’s at.
We rode the train home during sunset and it was absolutely delightful. This is near Stonehaven.
Garden Center in Drum near Aberdeen…pictured is Faith, the lovely bride (see her wedding here!) I have some iPhone snaps of our week in Aberdeen but really photos don’t do it justice. It was such a refreshing time with dear friends that left my heart absolutely filled to the brim. Love you Rankins!
We stayed with some new friends in their beautiful new home outside of Aberdeen. What a view of Bennachie in the background.
We revisited a little place called Gardenstown where Rebecca and I had been in 2013. The colorful houses and steep, windy roads down to the coast truly make it an experience.
We walked along the coast and up one of the hills to some old church ruins…
“My voyage is mead my sorrow is o’er
The troubled sea of life
I’ll cross no more
My life was short, reader take notice
Where I am now
You all most shortly come”
(on one of the gravestones)
The sun came out in time for us to have our Fish & Chips in the sun near Banff. I love the blue on blue of water and sky, no matter where I am.
The Battlefields of Culloden were a huge highlight for us. We are all a little history-crazy and found the story of this place incredible. If we’re being honest, Will knew all of the history already and enlightened us as we walked through…
“‘Twas love of our prince drove us on to Drumossie
But in scarcely the time that it takes me to tell
The flower of our country lay scorched by an army
As ruthless and red as the embers of hell
Cold the wind on the moors blow
Warm the enemy’s fire glows
Black the harvest of Culloden
Pain and fear and death grow…
Now mothers and children are left to their weeping
With only the memory of father and son
Turned out of their homes to make shelter for strangers
The blackest of hours on this land has begun”
“We followed you, Prince, to this ocean of flatness and bullets.”
Our evening found us happy to reach the hunting lodge Will found for us to stay in (which was inhabited by hunters during WWII…I was totally geeking out). After a quick look-around, we headed to a nearby pub in Carr Bridge for dinner and, of course, dessert.
The next day found us driving through the highlands which was rugged and beautiful and all I expected it to be.
We had to stop for a few photos among the heather.
“I feel a sort of reverence in going over these scenes in this most beautiful country…”
Queen Victoria in 1873
Kilchurn Castle is found nestled in the highlands on a little lake…
“Kilchurn Castle is a ruined structure on a rocky peninsula… It was first constructed in the mid-15th century as the base of the Campbells of Glenorchy.”
“Did not strong connections draw me elsewhere, I believe Scotland would be the country I would choose to end my days in.”
Seeing and hiking around the Glenfinnan Viaduct was a definite highlight for me. It opened in 1901 and thinking of the work and dedication it took to build this monster is mind boggling.
I wish I would have gotten an “after” photo of our shoes, after we trudged/hiked/walked/ran through a LOT of mud.
Ayyy do you see what I see?! I got pretty close to this big ol’ animal.
We hiked around to the other side of the bridge to watch the old steam train come through…
“It must be the old, darling, foolish highlands in us, my dear, the old people and the old stories they are telling us for generations round he fire, and it must be the hills about us, and the constant complaint of the sea.”
– Neil Munro
The Eilean Donan Castle near the Kyle of Lochalsh
This was further into Skye… we had to stop by the side of the road to observe this incredible beauty. The colors were absolutely this vibrant in real life! And the sheep…so cute.
After Will navigated us through some harrowing roads like a champ, we reached Neist Point which is at the very end of the Isle of Skye.
Honestly, words can’t even describe the exhilaration and beauty of this place. It was one of those experiences where you keep looking around you and thinking “wait, is this actually real?!”
From the lone shieling of the misty island
Mountains divide us, and the waste of seas
Yet still the blood is strong, the heart is Highland,
And we in dreams behold the Hebrides
One of my favorite wildlife photos from the trip. The sheep wandering on the hillside by the sea, with its rugged, unshorn look.
Not engaged, just showing off my pretty new ring 😉
As we hiked back up from the lighthouse, I noticed the sun coming through the clouds and hitting the waterfall perfectly. JUST WOW.
Hiking the Quiraing was a solid 4 miles over the most beautiful green country.
The adventured was only “dampened” (haha) by a lot of rain and wind. But if you look at it the right way, it just means the sense of adventure was heightened!
We hiked up to the top of this ….cliff (I would have called it a hill but the wind almost blew us over it a few times so I think cliff is appropriate). It was definitely more for the experience than for the views, which at that point were pretty much secluded by the fog and rain.
From there we went to Kilt Rock (see more photos of that here!) and from there I took my train back to the other side of Scotland to say goodbye to my dear friends and head back to the states.