It was an almost lifelong dream to have the opportunity to visit Scotland. So, when we had the chance to go, I jumped at it! I immediately fell in love with Edinburgh, and that only fueled my desire to see more of this beautiful country.
We headed here after Edinburgh primarily because Tigger wanted to see Loch Ness, which is a short bus ride from the town.
It is a lovely town, but there really isn’t much here. It is a good location to use as a jumping off point for many day trips, and that seems to be its main popularity.
We did visit Loch Ness and were pretty disappointed. If you’re going there to camp, boat, or engage in other outdoor activities, it’s a great place. But the small castle and the lake are otherwise not really worth the time or monetary investment as far as we are both concerned.
There is a wonderful green belt that goes through the city and follows the river. We really enjoyed walking along that, and it’s a great bike path. It’s part of the 73-mile Great Glen Way, which is the nation’s 4th long-distance national walking route.
We had a nice surprise one day while walking on the bridge over the river when we saw a harbor seal swim by.
We stayed at two different locations—Alban & Abbey House and Highlander B&B. I would definitely recommend Highlander B&B. Unfortunately, they have some really bad TripAdvisor reviews, but there has been a change in management. The difference is night & day. We had such a great stay with them, and the experience really couldn’t have been better.
We spotted this town while taking the train from Edinburgh to Inverness. It seemed like such a cool medieval town that I made sure to note the name. It’s only about 1-1/2 hours from Inverness. It is such a quaint town to walk around. There are also some beautiful natural areas. It’s a great day trip, although if the weather is nice I’d consider coming here and camping.
Signage and such would give the impression that this sleepy town gets a decent amount of local tourism, but we were there in the spring and it just wasn’t busy at all.
Scotland’s largest city, and the 3rd largest in the UK, is a big contrast from Edinburgh. A Scot described the difference to me as Edinburgh is made up of more of the middle class, white collar-type people whereas Glasgow is very much blue collar.
I felt that was an adequate description. The Industrial Revolution really made a big difference to Glasgow’s growth, and you can see that grittiness quite clearly.
However, it was also one of the major centers of the Scottish Enlightenment period. In fact, it houses the Glasgow School of Art which is world renown and is one of Europe’s leaders in visual arts education.
If you’re a fan of the Harry Potter books and you visit the university here, I think you’ll feel like you’re standing in front of Hogwarts. The building was so amazing that it stopped me in my tracks. Tigger wasn’t up to exploring it more, but I would’ve loved to have spent time just walking around the grounds.
There are some different long-distance walks that take you through the city and along a rather gorgeous green belt, one of which is The Clyde Walkway.
The Glasgow Botanic Gardens are rather breathtaking. Our hotel was practically across the street from here, and it was easily my favorite place in Glasgow.
We stayed at the Ambassador Hotel. I really liked the location, and the room was quite comfortable. However, if you need good WiFi this isn’t your best option. It’s a short walk to the metro station and within walking distance of some great sites. Staff are a bit hit and miss. You’ll either have someone who is really friendly or kind of surly.
Pretty much everyone has heard of haggis, a “pudding” (kind of like sausage) made from sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs, combined with some other savory ingredients, and cooked within sheep’s stomach. Yes, it sounds positively disgusting. While I am a pretty adventurous eater, I was admittedly nervous about trying this traditional Scottish delicacy. It is customarily served as part of a full Scottish breakfast.
While we were in Pitlochry, we decided to go ahead and experience the full Scottish breakfast. I didn’t tell Tigger what haggis was because I knew he wouldn’t give it a try. When our food arrived, I took a deep breath and gave haggis a shot.
And I’m a big fan. Even Tigger liked it, and he ate it again even after I read a description to him later.
Restaurants will often charge a lot for haggis (although not for a full Scottish breakfast), so if you’re just curious it’s much cheaper to pick up some at a corner or grocery store and fix it yourself. If your hotel or restaurant offers it as part of breakfast, do go for it and give it a try. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Don’t feel bad if you don’t like it, though. Many Scots have told me haggis is either loved or reviled in Scotland.
We didn’t really eat at any remarkable restaurants, so I’ll skip restaurant recommendations. However, to save money on food, I do recommend visiting Tesco or even Waitrose and picking up some of their prepared meals. They have a nice variety of meals which are of fairly good quality and much cheaper than restaurant fare. Two of us could get meals, snacks, and drinks for what a restaurant meal for one would often cost.
Getting around Scotland
The train system, as you would expect, is quite nice in this part of the UK. Most of the trains are modern and quite comfortable. First Scotland’s trains usually offer free, good WiFi in both the stations and on the train. East Coast’s trains usually offer about 15 minutes of free WiFi and charge if you want longer. However, if you ride in first class, WiFi is free (and for some reason first class is sometimes the cheapest seat when traveling on a weekend day).
It could also be worth checking out Megabus for better deals. The UK rail system can be a bit expensive, and sometimes a trip by bus has the same duration.
Make sure to get tickets as far in advance as possible. This will increase the likelihood of you getting a better deal. I used The Trainline site for our train travel in the UK (they have a great mobile app, too) and found it very helpful for planning and for finding cheaper fares.
Should you visit Scotland?
Oh my, yes! Scotland is absolutely gorgeous, and the people are friendly. I didn’t have any trouble with accents until we got to Glasgow. Sometimes I wasn’t sure they weren’t speaking Gaelic, but it added to the fun.
If you can work a car hire into your budget, I think this is probably one of the best ways to experience Scotland. There is so much beauty in this country! But without a vehicle, it’s still easy to get around and see what you want to see.
Scotland is one of my favorite countries now, and I’d love to go back to experience more of her. If I could work it out financially, Edinburgh would be my home for at least half the year.
Did you visit Scotland? If so, what is your favorite spot?