When Nature painted Scotland

Tripoto
17th Sep 2017

Scotland, as nature painted it is green grass as far as your can eyes see, a Loch nearby and blue skies with grey clouds if you are lucky to see sun.

My inspiration for Scotland came from the series "Outlander", where Scotland's scenery, history, castles, rivers, lochs play a important role in the story. The other reason which might sound trivial to you would be that my passport will expire next year and I simply want to put it to good use :).

Photo of When Nature painted Scotland 1/4 by anumeha gupta
Photo of When Nature painted Scotland 2/4 by anumeha gupta
Photo of When Nature painted Scotland 3/4 by anumeha gupta
Photo of When Nature painted Scotland 4/4 by anumeha gupta

Quairing, Skye

Photo of Quiraing, United Kingdom by anumeha gupta
Photo of Quiraing, United Kingdom by anumeha gupta

Scotland on the world map is a tiny landmass but it has hundreds of islands on west(Inner and Outer Hebrides), north( Orkney and Shetlands etc) and south(Jura, Mull, Islay etc) of it. Hence making it difficult to finalize an itinerary.

For history buffs, the museums are packed with loads of information. So, finalize itinerary keeping enough time for them. And Scotland has been a very busy country for past thousand years or so.

Westland Highland Museum, Inverness-Spot the Bonny Prince Charles?

Photo of Highland Folk Museum, Newtonmore, United Kingdom by anumeha gupta

Most forts and castles, placed in very strategic locations are in ruins. They are a good way of learning more about the Scottish way of living that existed before the Battle of Culloden. Some castles like Dunrobin, Dunvegan are in good conditions as the clan has lived in them for past centuries. The royal mile, just outside the Edinburgh Castle is a mile walk full of other historical places. The historical palaces and most buildings are built of ignitions grey color rocks, making them look beautiful against the blue/grey skies. Some of the one's that we visited were Dunrobin, Dunvegan, Dunolli, Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle.

The Royal Mile, Edinburgh

Photo of The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, United Kingdom by anumeha gupta
Photo of The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, United Kingdom by anumeha gupta
Photo of The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, United Kingdom by anumeha gupta
Photo of The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, United Kingdom by anumeha gupta
Photo of The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, United Kingdom by anumeha gupta
Photo of The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, United Kingdom by anumeha gupta
Photo of The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, United Kingdom by anumeha gupta

Uruquhart Castle

Photo of Urquhart Castle, Drumnadrochit, United Kingdom by anumeha gupta

Dunvegan Castle

Photo of Dunvegan Castle, Isle of Skye, United Kingdom by anumeha gupta

McCaig's Tower, Oban

Photo of McCaig's Tower, Duncraggan Road, Oban, United Kingdom by anumeha gupta

Reflection in water or mirror?

Photo of Salisbury Cathedral, Salisbury, United Kingdom by anumeha gupta

Tombstone of Clan Fraser at Battle of Culloden

Photo of Culloden Battlefield, Culloden Moor, United Kingdom by anumeha gupta

Scottish Clans

Photo of Culloden Battlefield, Culloden Moor, United Kingdom by anumeha gupta

Whisky is something which used to be distilled in each and every home till English regularized it in 18th century. And why shouldn't they? Scotland is blessed with thousands of lochs(fresh water lakes) and tonnes of barley production. Do visit at least one or two distilleries to find out why that bottle of 12 years aged Macallan or Talisker costs a bomb or how should you drink your whisky or how does whisky gets it flavor. In a distillery you are taken through the tour of the facility and the stages which any whisky has to go through to come to your table finally. The tour ends with you sampling some of their finest whisky. What better and a high way to end a tour.

Six Principles which define the Macallan

Photo of Macallan Distillery, United Kingdom by anumeha gupta

Not to mention, London is home to Mecca of sports. Hence we had included a visit to Wimbledon, Manchester, Lord's in the trip. For zealous fans, these tours are dream come true where the guide is telling you about the place where your favorite player sat or other locker room/dressing room stories.

Manchester

Photo of Manchester, United Kingdom by anumeha gupta

Other experiences that you can have in London are Opera, Ballet, Theater like Lion King or a Warner Bros Studio especially Harry Potter tour if you are a fan. Even if not, the Harry Potter Studio takes you through the complexities behind the scenes and extremely detailed work that thousands of designers, artists, cast and crew have put together to make the Harry Potter series.

Photo of Royal Opera House, Bow Street, London, United Kingdom by anumeha gupta

There are many tours to go around in London, Edinburgh, Orkney. These tours have good guides and you have lots of local stories, jokes and information about the place. Also, you end up seeing many places in one day which would have taken you lots of planning. These are time bound, and you can spend only limited amount of time at one place. You can find more about them in the pamphlets lying around your hotels/hostels/tourist centers.

Since we were on a backpacking trip, we had chosen hostels over hotels as they are cheap. Try and book hostels which are in the heart of the city and near the train stations or party places or whatever be your priority in the place. AirBnB's are also a good option if you are a group. Usually these are in remote and most beautiful locations. The one near John O' Groats, we stayed in was an old tea room and beautifully decorated by their owner and other one was a small croft facing the sea and nothing around them. Skyewalker, in the Skye is a very recommended hostel. YHA have a good chain of hostel in UK especially London and Edinburgh.

AirBnb, Scarfskerry

Photo of Scarfskerry, United Kingdom by anumeha gupta

We had rented a car from Edinburgh to move around Scotland. We had two drivers among the group. Most cars are automatic, much different than what we usually have in India though automatics are picking up in the market. Rules, speed limits, lane driving are much stricter than in India, and we took some time to adjust to the local driving style. More than that, people were much more courteous on road towards each other. Booking was done in advance, though payment was done while picking the car. Parking can be difficult to find in cities like Edinburgh. The restaurants you stop at have parking free if available. Do display the ticket and many places have free parking after 6pm.

Lonely Planet was a good guide for our places to eat. Being a vegetarian, I could find one or two options to eat which I had not expected. Hence I was glad for it. Breakfast was mainly English or Scottish. Though you would save a lot, if you are staying in a hostel and cook eggs and eat fruits. Haggis, made of sheep liver or intestine (I am not sure) is a famous dish. My friends ate it and it is very heavy apparently. You can also try different ale and whisky too.

Though am no expert in Flora and Fauna, sheep cultivation takes a primary role in the economy of the nation. So along side road you can see grasslands with sheep or highland cows (heilan coo' in gaelic :P) grazing away all day long and hills or lochs(lake) which can accompany you for miles. Tenants were actually evicted forcefully by their landlords in the 18th century, so that the land could be made available for sheep cultivation. Conserved forest are Trossachs and Cairngorm which are very popular for skiing, trekking, camping among the locals. We skipped them for we have the mighty Himalayas in our own country.

Orkney, the island just on top of the mainland deserves a mention of its own. We had taken a tour of Orkney, and it took us to Kirkwall, Stromness, Scara Brae, Ring of Brodgar, Stenness, Italian Chapel. This island and other places in UK are famous for their neanderthal villages. Scara Brae is approximately a 5000 year old village which was well preserved due to sand and uncovered very recently due to a Tsunami which washed away the sand. I could actually feel chills thinking of all the rituals which humans at that time would have performed in these places.

Photo of Stenness, United Kingdom by anumeha gupta
Photo of Stenness, United Kingdom by anumeha gupta

Scara Brae,5000 year old Neolithic Village

Photo of Skara Brae Prehistoric Village, Sandwick, United Kingdom by anumeha gupta

Skye is also one place which attracts lots of tourists and even rightfully so. Don't forget the dip into fairy pools :).

Old Man of Storr

Photo of Old Man of Storr, United Kingdom by anumeha gupta

Day Wise Itinerary in case you want to save the trouble of months of planning is below.

Day 1: Land in London in morning, go around London city, Baker's street

Day 2: Golden Tours taking us to Stonehenge, Salisbury, Windsor Castle, Bath and ending the day at London Bridge.

Day 2: Breakfast at Duck and Waffle (highly recommended for it's superb views of London and Duck), Buckingham Palace, watching the "change of guards" ceremony (Do visit the palace and take the extensive tour, and watch the gifts and treats which England has received when the sun never set on it's empire, two hour journey by train to Manchester with a first class ticket with awesome services, tour of Manchester Club.

Day 3: Morning train to Edinburgh, lodged in Belford Hostel (Church converted to hostel), Louden's Bakery for breakfast, visit to Edinburgh Castle and Royal Mile, Scottish Parliament, Hollyrood Castle, Picked up car from Arnold Clark, Royal Yacht and ghost dungeon tour in the evening

Day 4: Breakfast at Honeycomb Tearoom, Start drive towards Inverness, Visit Stirling castle, Drive along Loch Lomond (beautiful view along the single track roads), Reached Inverness

Day 5: Breakfast at Cafe 81, Uruquhart castle, Fort Augustus, Caledonian canal, Cameron tea room for lunch, Speyside and Telford Thomas bridge on Invermoriston river, Culloden battlefields, Clava Cairns, Foyers Waterfall,

Day 6: Maccallan Distillery, Johnston Woolen mill for lunch, Check in to Sea side croft Airbnb near John O Groats

Day 7: Ferry to Kirkwall, Orkney tour taking us to Museum, Cathedral, The Secret Garden, Stromness (Ale platter and rich ice cream to be definitely tried), Scara Brae, Ring of Brodgar, Standing Stones of Stenness, Italian chapel, Check into Old tea room airbnb near John O Groats,

Day 8: Left for Skye, Dunrobin Castle on way, Checked into Skyewalkers Hostel

Day 9: Breakfast at Cafe Arriba, Portree, Walked to Old Man of Storr, Kilt Rock Veiw point, Quairing, Dunvegan, Lighthouse of Neist, Dinner at Old Inn

Day 10: Old inn for breakfast, Visited Talasker, Fairy Pool(Do take a dip in them), Elgol, Reached Fort William for Dinner at Storlost inn

Day 11: Jacobite train viewing, Beer garden cafe for brunch in Fort Williams, West Highland Museum, Waterfall and walks at Glen Navis, Dinner at Grog and Gruel and Ben Navis restaurant

Day 12: Leave for Oban, Brunch in kitchen garden, Boat ride to see seal families, Eagles and Salmon farming, McCaig Tower, Dunolli Castle, Waffles at Oban Chocolate Company(A must), Scotland music and dance at Skipnish House

Day 13: Left for Glasgow, Murals on the street, Modern Art Gallery, Reached Edinburgh, returned the car with '0' fine for speed limit, shopping for kilts and other Scottish Sovenieur as they wont be available in London , Evening Walk to Arthur's seat, Bus to Edinburgh

Day 14: Frank's cafe for Breakfast, Wimbledon Tour, Shopping at Oxford Street, Lion king at Theatre Lyceum, Dinner at Bella Italia

Day 15: Harry Potter Tour at Warner Bros Studio, Evening Flight to New Delhi

Photo of Loch Lomond, United Kingdom by anumeha gupta
Photo of Loch Lomond, United Kingdom by anumeha gupta
Photo of Loch Lomond, United Kingdom by anumeha gupta
Photo of Loch Lomond, United Kingdom by anumeha gupta
Photo of Loch Lomond, United Kingdom by anumeha gupta
Photo of Loch Lomond, United Kingdom by anumeha gupta
Photo of Loch Lomond, United Kingdom by anumeha gupta
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