SCOTLAND TRAVEL GUIDE


I'm recently back from a trip to Scotland with my friend Lauren and am so excited to share a travel guide to this fabulous country with you! Scotland is such a magical place. The Scottish landscape is vast and seems otherworldly... from the historic winding cobblestone roads of Edinburgh to the rugged vistas of Isle of Skye, this country offers something for everyone. While Scotland's landscape is so diverse it's also a relatively small and sparsely populated place. Getting around and seeing a lot of sights is doable, especially if you rent a car.

Since this was my first time in Scotland I knew I wanted to see as much of the country as possible, and definitely a mix of city and countryside. Originally when planning this trip we were supposed to be there ten days, but due to bad weather our flight got cancelled twice and our trip was cut in half. It was a bummer, but we were still able to accomplish almost everything we had originally planned and spend a decent amount of time in both Edinburgh and Isle of Skye. If you're pressed for time but want to experience two very different sides of Scotland, combining these two areas to gives you a wonderful taste of the country. A website that helped our planning of not-to-miss spots was Visit Scotland. I highly recommend checking out their website (and their gorgeous Instagram) if you have Scotland on the mind.


ABOUT SCOTLAND
Scotland is the U.K.'s northern most country. It shares a border with England and it's home to around 800 small islands (I never knew this!). While Scotland isn't that large (just over 30,000 square miles) it packs a punch. The geography of the country is very unique and a major part of its appeal. In fact, Scotland was recently voted the world's most beautiful country. You can find rugged coastlines, mountainous terrain, stunning beaches and world class cities there.


The weather in Scotland is something that a lot of people have been asking me about. I'll admit, I was quite nervous leading up to our trip that we'd be wet and cold with constant rain, but we got so lucky! It barely rained and we saw the sun each day, with temperatures hovering in the mid 40s. We even felt hot sometimes while walking in the bright sun. It's important to remember that the weather in Scotland can be unpredictable and windy, so a great jacket is good to have on hand. Barbour sent me two jackets to bring to Scotland and they really came in handy! One of the jackets is a new lightweight wax jacket that was perfect for the constantly changing weather. I really appreciated that the lighter weight kept me cool while hiking but also provided perfect wind protection on the colder mornings.

GETTING THERE AND GETTING AROUND
Scotland is a pretty easy place to get to. Direct flights are offered from over 32 countries, and it's only 75 minutes from London and 110 minutes from Paris. I flew direct from Stewart International Airport, which is located outside of New York City, to Edinburgh on Norwegian. If you aren't familiar with Norwegian it's a low-cost long haul airline that makes the act of flying enjoyable. I wrote a whole rundown of my Norwegian experience here. If you live in the NYC area I highly recommend flying to Edinburgh with Norwegian via Stewart Airport. We breezed through security at Stewart, didn't have to pay luggage fees to check our large bags and the Norwegian staff were all so kind!


Once in Scotland you should definitely plan to rent a car. I'll get to our road trip itinerary in a bit, but whether you want to drive around the entire country or stay close to Edinburgh, having your own wheels is a major plus. Sure you can take the trains (and I've heard the country has a great train system) but I prefer to have my own car to make detours as I wish and be on my own schedule. Scotland is full of historic ruins, beautiful castles and scenic hikes, you definitely don't want to miss out on something nearby just because you didn't have a way to get there. My favorite car company to rent from has always been Hertz, and I was so excited to try a rental with Hertz Europe on this trip. Our experience was amazing! The car we got was perfect (the European version of the Nissan Rogue) and so safe. It had cameras on all sides to help with parking and if we went over a traffic line on the winding country roads, or got too close to something, an alert would go off. This was especially helpful in Scotland, a country where they drive on the opposite side of the road than in America.


EDINBURGH
Edinburgh truly blew me away, I absolutely LOVED it! It's such a walkable city filled to the brim with charm and new places to discover around each corner. The architecture in Edinburgh is beautiful and the city's medieval past seems very much alive in the buildings. Crooked cobblestone streets and Georgian architecture intertwine perfectly with modern construction and make it an awesome place to explore. Old Town Edinburgh is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and I'm so happy our hotel, Lateral City Apartments, Old Town Chambers, was located in this area. Lateral City Apartments are luxury serviced hotel-apartments in renovated historic buildings.




Edinburgh is the perfect city to explore on foot as nooks, small alleyways and steep cobblestone staircases lie around every corner. We loved waking up early, grabbing coffee and setting off to explore.  It was fun to discover the city's charming neighborhoods and two of our favorite spots were Dean Village and Circus Lane. While our favorite thing to do in Edinburgh was just wander around and explore, some specifics to add to your itinerary are visiting the Edinburgh Castle and climbing to the top of Arthur's Seat

Edinburgh served as the inspiration for Harry Potter and it's so easy to see the parallels. The hauntingly beautiful Edinburgh Castle sits perched on a hill overlooking the city and is a dead ringer for Hogwarts, and the colorful Victoria Street gives nod to Diagon Alley. A fun edition to your Edinburgh itinerary is to swing by The Elephant House, a cafe where it's said J.K. Rowling wrote some of Harry Potter. 

The food in Edinburgh was delicious and so fresh. Some of our favorite places were The Doric for traditional Scottish bites, The Milkman for coffee, The Bon Vivant for small shareable plates and Bramble for craft cocktails in a hidden bar.


ROAD TRIP EDINBURGH TO SKYE
After two packed days in Edinburgh we set off on a road trip around the country with our rental car from Hertz Europe. Despite our shortened trip, we still had our hearts set on seeing a lot of the Scottish countryside and specific castles in Aberdeenshire and Inverness that were only accessible by car. We headed east from Edinburgh, making our way up through Aberdeenshire, across to Inverness and then on to our final destination, Isle of Skye. It was a long day of driving but in the end we were happy we stuck it out to see these unique sights.


Dunnottar Castle is a ruined medieval castle perched on sheer cliffs along the ocean. It's an incredibly dramatic sight and what I imagine when I think of "Scottish Castle." We toured the grounds and had a great time walking within the ruins, it was very evocative. Next up was Craigievar Castle which was pink perfection come to life in castle form. Craigievar was said to be the inspiration for Cinderella's Castle and it's truly fit for a princess. It's located on a hill in the middle of the woods and was well-worth the stop.

Inverness was next up on our drive after Aberdeenshire. Unfortunately it was starting to get dark by the time we arrived so we didn't have too long to visit. It's a town I really want to go back to one day. We did drive up to take a look at the luxurious Culloden House (where we were supposed to spend a night before our trip got shortened) and it was pretty magnificent. Culloden House is over 200 years old and was built when Inverness, the capital of the Highlands, attracted wealthy families from all over. But the original house on the property was a 16th century Jacobean castle that was home to a range of Scottish royal and noble families over the years. The rich history of Culloden is so interesting and it's a great place to spend a night in the Highlands to really steep yourself in the area's rich past.



ISLE OF SKYE
When we finally reached our destination of Isle of Skye we were blown away by the otherworldly landscape. Some parts of Skye truly made us feel like we were on another planet. Isle of Skye is in the Scottish Highlands and situated off the west coast of the country. It's known for dramatic, rugged landscape, charming fishing villages and beautiful medieval castles. And boy did it ever live up to our expectations!


Our home base in Skye was Portree, the main town on the island. It's a colorful and lively port filled with cute shops and delicious seafood restaurants. Portree was a great base for exploring all that Skye has to offer, but our car came in majorly handy to take us to the hard to reach places that weren't on the regular tourist path. Aside from the beautiful vistas, another highlight of our time in Skye was our hotel, The Bosville. This charming boutique hotel was right in the center of Portree and beautifully furnished. The hotel's restaurant, Dulse & Brose, was amazing and our room came with a complementary breakfast. I think we ate every meal in the hotel's restaurant we loved it so much! The Bosville also has a cozy pub with fireplaces which made for the perfect place to relax after a day of Highlands hiking.



We had a long list of spots we wanted to explore on Skye and our favorites were Fairy Glen, Brother's Point and Eilean Donan. Simply just driving around Isle of Skye was an experience. The roads were so narrow, hilly and winding. Local drivers and huge tour buses would wiz past us without slowing down and every bend in the road made way for a new insanely beautiful view. It was such a unique road trip destination and a place that everyone should experience in their life.




I received free items to review during my trip in Scotland. As always, all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting brands that make My Darling Passport possible!

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