The Perfect 10-Day Scotland Itinerary

Seeing all the amazing sites in Scotland in one trip is pretty much impossible. There’s simply just way too much to see. I’ve been to this beautiful country two times now and traveled all over it but still feel as if I have only scratched the surface. 

I warned you before, Don’t go to Scotland! But if you refuse to listen, here’s some hlpful advice.

Things to consider when planning your Scotland trip

Length of time

People ask how much time they should allow for a trip to Scotland. That’s a difficult question to answer. Short answer is, how much do you want to see? If you want to try and hit all the highlights, I suppose you could do it in a week but that would be tight. I would suggest 10 days minimum, but 2 weeks would be great. It would allow you to see a lot without feeling as if you are constantly on the go.

Time of year to visit

Another thing to take into consideration is the time of year in which you visit. Although the summer months will be more crowded and more expensive, you have much more daylight to work with in order to fit more in. In the winter it gets dark around 3 or 3:30, but in the summer sunset isn’t until about 11:30. That’s quite a huge difference! In addition, it rains a lot, especially in the spring. Factoring in an extra day or two in case plans get altered due to weather would be wise. However, because the weather fluctuates so much in Scotland, things rarely stop due to rain, fog, and the like. Just pack accordingly and proceed with your schedule as planned whenever possible. Layer, layer, layer and make sure those layers are as waterproof as possible.

What type of trip are you looking for?

Do you want to focus primarily on city life, natural beauty, history, or a combination? There are countless types of trips one could take to Scotland. It’s a country that offers many different types of things to see. This itinerary incorporates some city and natural sites so you can get a bit of a feel for both. In my mind, I wouldn’t be able to choose between all the different options. There’s just so much fascinating history, architecture, stunning natural scenery, and awe-inspiring different things to see and do in this amazing country. 

Here’s a post that may help you narrow down the important things to see (all of which are in this perfect 10 day itinerary!)

Top 10 Bucket List Worthy Things to See in Scotland

If you’re visiting Scotland for the first time, it may be best to simply try to see a bit of everything and hit as many highlights as you can. If that sounds like a good plan, here is 

The Perfect 10-Day Scotland Itinerary

Day 1-2: Edinburgh

Let’s begin in Scotland’s capital city. One could easily spend a week in Edinburgh alone, but we’ve got lots to do so this trip will just be about getting your feet wet. Let’s hit the highlights. Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, Holyrood Palace, and King Arthur’s Seat are all must-dos. Edinburgh is going to be your home base for a few days so pick accommodation that’s comfortable and relatively close to the Royal Mile or Waverley Station if you will be relying on trains for transportation.

Bonus! Here are the top 10 things to do with families in Edinburgh

Overnight accommodation: Edinburgh

Day 3: Stirling

A day in Stirling is a wonderful way to spend your time. Visit the amazing Stirling Castle, shop, eat, and explore the beautiful city. Stirling can easily be reached by train from Edinburgh.

Overnight accommodation: Edinburgh

Day 4: Glasgow

Like Edinburgh, one could spend a week in Glasgow however, this trip is about maximizing our sites so once again, let’s hop on a train from Edinburgh (50-minute ride) and head out to explore the city. Don’t miss the Glasgow Cathedral, the Glasgow Necropolis, Glasgow University, and the Glasgow Botanic Gardens.

Overnight accommodation: Edinburgh

Day 5: St. Andrews

It’s time to pack your bags because today we head to beautiful St. Andrews, home of golf and the oldest university in Scotland. Enjoy meandering the streets and be sure not to miss West Sands Beach to try your hand at recreating the opening scene from Chariots of Fire.

https://www.popsugar.com/entertainment/photo-gallery/42944000/image/42948362/1981-Chariots-Fire

Overnight accommodation: St. Andrews

Day 6: Dufftown

Get an early start because today will be an exciting day! You’re heading to flavor town, aka Dufftown, close to famous whisky distilleries such as The Macallan (this newly redesigned distillery’s 4D whisky experience is something to behold!) and Glenfiddich, a beautiful traditional distillery. Stop in Aberdeen for brunch along the way, because drinking on an empty stomach is never a good idea! 

Overnight accommodations: Dufftown

Day 7: Culloden Battlefield, Clava Cairns, and Loch Ness

It’s impossible to get a good grasp on the events in history that changed the face of Scotland forever without visiting the somber site of Culloden Battlefield. Walk the steps of those that fought gallantly for their beloved country, then step even further back in time by making a quick trip over to Clava Cairns, an ancient bronze-age burial site. After that, look for Nessie as you drive along Loch Ness on your way to Ft. William, a great place to shop and eat after a long day of adventuring.

Overnight accommodation: Ft. William

Day 8: Glenfinnan and Skye

These are my two favorite places to visit in Scotland. They are so beautiful and hold history as well as literary interest. Ever heard of Harry Potter? Of course, you have! The Glenfinnan Viaduct was traveled on by the Hogwarts Express. After a visit to Glenfinnan, head over to the Isle of Skye, a mystical, beautiful island off the country’s northwest coast. 

Overnight accommodation: The Isle of Skye

Day 9: Skye

Today will be a day of nature. Get your hiking shoes ready because the best way to see the Isle of Skye is on foot. Places you must see are The Old Man of Storr, the Quirang, Fairy Glen (on a side note, this blog post about Fairy Gen is really good and I didn’t even write it-haha!), and the Mealt Waterfall near Kilt Rock

Overnight accommodation: The Isle of Skye

Day 10: Loch Lomond, the Trossachs National Park, and Doune Castle

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. Today it’s time to pack up once again and head back to Edinburgh-sigh. As you drive from the Isle of Skye you’ll meander through the beautiful Trossachs National Park and along the banks of Loch Lomond. If you’re feeling like you need one last adventure, make a stop at Doune Castle, a site everyone loves. It’s been featured in popular shows and movies including, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Game of Thrones, and Outlander.

Overnight accommodation: Edinburgh

Thoughts and Things

  • The second half of this itinerary requires a car, which is easy to hire from Edinburgh airport. No international driver’s license is necessary, but you must be at least 25 years of age to avoid steep extra charges. Roads are easy to drive, although getting used to left-hand driving can be challenging if you aren’t used to it. Many roads on the Isle of Skye are single track. If you’re unfamiliar with that term, look up and prepare yourself for lots of pulling over to let oncoming cars pass. Read this blog post to find out more (and to get a little chuckle): White Knuckles, Curb Hopping, and Coo Crossing, OH MY! Our Family’s Adventure Driving Through Scotland.
  • Book accommodations early, especially if traveling in the summer months. Places like Dufftown and the Isle of Skye are very limited in lodging options so booking early is key. We usually book a B&B or self-catered cottage through VRBO or Airbnb.
  • I highly recommend purchasing an Explorer Pass through Historic Environment Scotland. This will give you entry to many of the sites listed in this itinerary as well as provide discounts on souvenirs purchased in their gift shops.
  • Although it stays light later in the summer, shops and some restaurants in small towns still close early. Think 5 or 6. Take this into account when planning your shopping or dining in the evening and plan ahead. No one likes to miss dinner!
  • Be sure to pack appropriately for your trip. Check out Scotland Bound: 8 Essentials to Pack In Your Suitcase for some great tips!
  • If you want more help planning your trip, Absolute Escapes is a fantastic travel agency that will meticulously help you plan every detail.
  • If you are lucky enough to have more than 10 days to enjoy Scotland, I highly recommend adding these places to your itinerary:

The Isle of Mull

The Isles of Staffa and Lunga

The Isle of Iona

Inveraray

The perfect 10-day Scotland itinerary!

So there you go, planning done. If you follow this 10-day Scotland itinerary, you will be busy, but will also have the opportunity to hit most of the highlights this amazing country has to offer. However, let this be a warning to you. If you’re like me, it will only make you hungry for more. I’m currently in the process of planning my third visit back, and am just as excited as the first time I went. Enjoy, and let me know all about how your trip goes!

Take Me Back to the Isles of Staffa & Lunga!

Have you ever done one of those meditation exercises where you’re told to close your eyes and picture a place that brings you calm and peace? A place with unrivaled beauty that makes you feel happy? Well my friend, the Isles of Staffa and Lunga in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland have become my “meditation vision”. That being said, I don’t really do much meditation, but if I did these places would be foremost in my peaceful mind. The words “stunning beauty” don’t even begin to describe them. At one point in our journey, I found myself standing practically alone atop Staffa feeling so incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to experience something so special.

The Isles of Staffa and Lunga are not exactly an easy jaunt from the main cities of Scotland. For us, our journey took us from Edinburgh, to Inveraray where we stayed for a couple of nights. Next, we journeyed to Oban, hopped on a ferry to the Isle of Mull, and the next day boarded a tour boat with Staffa Tours out of the picturesque town of Tobermory. Are there easier routes? Perhaps. But we took our time enjoying the beautiful sites Scotland had to offer along the way. 

Staffa Tours specializes in boat tours to Staffa and Lunga. They were very professional, kind, and offered nice, comfortable accommodations with seating both inside and outside. Not to mention they had bathrooms onboard. An important convenience if you are going on a full day tour. Although the boat was full (perhaps 50 people), there was plenty of seating for everyone and once we arrived on the island, everyone scattered about so it never felt over crowded.

Jack’s best “Blue Steel”

As we sailed across the Atlantic Ocean towards the Treshnish Isles, I found myself enchanted by the water. It’s difficult to explain, but I’ve found this in the Lochs of Scotland as well. The water seems extraordinarily thick and glassy. Although we were in the open ocean, the water still seemed to take on this thick, heavy demeanor. It’s fascinating to watch a boat cut through the water and create a slow, smooth wake that can span out for what seems like a mile. I find it eerily beautiful. Maybe I’m weird being fascinated by something like this, I don’t know. But it really is a very unique phenomenon.

Our first stop was the Isle of Staffa. All I can say is that if we went nowhere other than this island, I would have been content. Beautiful is not even a worthy word to describe the attributes of Staffa.

The island itself is made up of basalt volcanic rock that has come together in a uniform matrix. Almost like a 3-D puzzle. Fun fact, The Vikings gave Staffa its name because the basalt reminded them of their houses, which were built from vertically placed tree-logs (thanks Wikipedia!).

It’s absolutely incredible. A short walk along a cliff brings you to the famous Fingal’s Cave, a site visited by both Queen Victoria and Felix Mendelssohn who was so moved by the beauty of the cave that he wrote the Hebrides Overture as a tribute.

As we approached, a lone bagpiper stood at the mouth of the cave playing a hauntingly beautiful melody. When he finished he told the small crowd around him that it had been his life-long dream to play his bagpipes here. I felt privileged to be part of such a special occasion. 

After our bagpipe serenade at Fingal’s Cave, we hiked to the top of the island and sat on a grassy spot near the edge of a cliff. A soft sea breeze kissed our cheeks as we took in in the majestic view. Sea birds called overhead, and an expanse of sparkling aquamarine water undulated below. It was remote, peaceful, and absolutely beautiful.

I thought for a second about hiding out on Staffa and letting the boat leave me there, but realized my two boys might not appreciate the island as much once night fell and we were all alone in the dark, so I begrudgingly dragged myself back to the boat. However, we were excited because our next stop was the Isle Of Lunga to meet some Puffins!

The Isle of Lunga is similar in composition to the Isle of Staffa. A rocky base covered in grass and heather. Again, breathtakingly beautiful.

After hiking up a short trail, we came across our first puffins. To say these little guys are adorable is an understatement. I can see now why people travel far and wide to get a glimpse of these birds. Burrowing into their nests set deep in the heather, they pop out and look at you with as much curiosity as you them.

I could have sat and watched them all day. However, I was with my two boys and you know boys, they’re always onto the next thing. “Yeah, yeah, cute birds. I get it, now let’s move on”. 

A short cliff-side walk led us to Heart Rock.

Home to literally tens of thousands of birds, this rock is a sight to behold. The sounds of bird calls is almost deafening and it’s amazing to stand there and watch as birds manage to find a spot to land on the crowded rock. 

All those little dots are thousands of birds!

After Heart Rock, we were feeling adventurous and hiked to the top of Lunga.

When we reached our destination, we all sat alone on a rock overlooking a wide expanse of open ocean. Ok, you know by now that I’m in love with Scotland, and views like this are one of the many reasons why. There are very few places in the world where you can sit isolated from the world and take in such an array of sweeping, vast beauty.

Take me back to the Isles of Staffa and Lunga!

Again, the time came to leave the island and I begrudgingly peeled myself away, looking longingly back from the boat as the island became a small dot on the horizon. Our journey brought us back to Tobermory with new memories, new adventures, and a new love of puffins. 

I highly recommend making the journey out to the Scottish Isles of Staffa and Lunga. If you do, you too will always keep the memory of their magnificence with you and may also begin to see them in your “meditation visions” when you are searching for calm. They are a tranquil place of unrivaled beauty, adorable wildlife, and perfect peace.

As a side note, Absolute Escapes helped us book our perfect trip to Scotland. I highly recommend checking them out. They are awesome!

4 Days on The Isle of Mull

The Isle of Mull is a quiet, and beautiful island. One of the largest islands in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, it offers picturesque coastal towns, rugged cliffs, and beautiful white sand beaches. Cows and sheep outnumber people and seem to dot the windswept landscape everywhere you go. Winding, single track roads carry you from the green coast through the Scottish wilderness with a vast array of topography and wildlife.

When I scheduled our trip to Scotland with Absolute Escapes, I asked them for suggestions on where to go. I was looking for places that were off the beaten path, but with enough to do so that my travel companions (Hunter, 21, and Jack, 12) wouldn’t get bored. Mull was suggested as offering a little something for us all, and it truly did. Mull felt like a much different vacation than we typically had. Things moved more slowly on the island. There wasn’t something to do 24/7, but this became quite a nice change of pace. The boys had time to explore and come up with their own entertainment which ended up being their most enjoyable part of our entire trip to Scotland. I enjoyed watching them bond over things like hiking and swimming instead of simply sitting in front of a tv or glued to their phones.

4 days is just enough time to hit the highlights of Mull. We enjoyed every minute and appreciated the opportunity to slow down a bit. Intrigued? Here’s what we did:

4 Day Isle of Mull Itinerary

Day 1

We boarded the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry from Oban to Craignure after spending the morning exploring the town of Oban. In this cute coastal town, we found many shops and places to eat.

We all enjoyed Oban very much, and I would highly recommend putting it on your list of places to visit in Scotland. Upon arrival to Craignure, we continued on to Tobermory, a picturesque fishing village lined with brightly painted buildings situated along the harbor.

On our way, we came across two abandoned ships on the side of the road that looked as if they had quite a story to tell.

By the time we arrived in Tobermory, all the shops were closed so we simply walked around and enjoyed a lovely dinner by the water. 

Day 2

This was the day we were all excited for! We booked a boat tour to Staffa and the Treshnish Isles through Staffa Tours. Oh, what a wonderful day it was! We had never seen anything like the Isles of Staffa and Lunga. The way the volcanic basalt rocks jutted sharply out of the sea looked as if someone had chiseled them away by hand.

Fingal’s Cave was remarkable, and we had time to simply explore the island, taking in the stunning view from the top.

The Isle of Lunga was home to the most adorable bird in the world-the puffin. We had time to hike around and watch these little creatures in their natural habitat. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Day 3

Since Mull is so large, and the roads so small, it took us almost a full day to cross the island in order to get to our next destination-Fionnphort (believe it or not, pronounced Finn-a-furt). Along the way, we stopped at the Isle of Mull Cheese Farm where we enjoyed a self-guided tour and snack in an adorable cafe.

Next, we made our way halfway around the island to the Killiechronan Pony Trekking farm and enjoyed an hour riding horses over hill and dale.

Back on the road, we made a quick stop at Calgary Bay, a beautiful white sand beach but didn’t have much time since the drive was so long (about 5 1/2 hours since the roads are so small). Upon our arrival in Fionnphort, we couldn’t believe how tiny it was. I’d say it was 1/2 mile in length at the most.

The entire town of Fionnphort.

A few B&B’s, one restaurant/bar, and one convenience store were about all it had to offer. I’ll admit, I was a bit worried about filling time for the boys, but in all honesty, I think this became their favorite destination. After dinner, we went out to explore. The weather had been unseasonably warm (almost hot), and the boys decided they wanted to go swimming. So at 10 pm, in full daylight, they jumped into the Atlantic Ocean. Well, although the air temperature was warm, the water temperature was not. However, they were having such a great time they ignored the fact that their bodies were numb and swam around for quite a while.

Day 4

Another highly anticipated day of exploring. In the morning we hopped on the 10 minute passenger ferry to the Isle of Iona. This was the place that captured my heart. This island is very small and totally walkable. We visited the remains of a nunnery founded in the 1200’s.

Then we went to the Iona Abbey, the location where Christianity was brought to Scotland. It was truly a sacred, beautiful sight to see.

After that we were feeling pretty adventurous so decided to walk to a nearby abandoned quarry. Typical of us, we found ourselves lost so we climbed a sea cliff and hiked around the island a bit. Just us, the sheep, and endless gorgeous views.

When we returned to Mull, we ate dinner and the boys decided they wanted to go on another hike and swim. We spent the rest of the evening adventuring around Fionnphort hiking, getting stuck in the mud, laughing, and just having a great time.

The next morning we made our way back to Craignure and headed back to the mainland. We all agreed what memorable fun we had and would love to do it again. 

All the facts

Where we Stayed

Tobermory

Harbour View B&B

This lovely little Bed & Breakfast is situated atop a steep hill offering stunning views of the harbor and the rooftops of Tobermory. We occupied both the Rose and Lavender cottages behind the B&B. Although they were small, they were private and cozy.

www.tobermorybandb.com

1 Argyll Terrace

Argyll, PA75

Telephone:

01688 301111

Fionnphort

Caol-lthe Guest House 

Don’t even try to pronounce this one. I never could get it right. But I can say this B&B was the most professionally run one I have ever visited. The accommodations were very comfortable and breakfasts were delicious.

www.holidayisleofmull.co.uk

Address:

You don’t really need one. Just look for the sign. It’s on the one and only main road.

Telephone:

01681 700375

What we Did

Tobormory Distillery

Staffa and Treshnish Isles boat tour

Isle of Mull Cheese

Killechronan Pony trekking

Day trip to the Isle of Iona

hiking

swimming

shopping

eating

Thoughts and Things

Since Mull is such a large island, 4 days is really the minimum amount of time you will want to spend here. The longer the better. 

In the summer, it’s light until about 11:30pm. However, most of the shops and restaurants close early (shops around 6, restaurants a bit later). That being said, you’ll have quite a few hours of daylight left to fill so perhaps save some exploring or nature walks until evening.

Some of our best moments on Mull were those that weren’t planned. Make sure you leave time in your schedule to relax and make things up as you go. Who knows, maybe you too will find yourself freezing in the Atlantic Ocean and loving every cold minute of it!

The island is mainly made up of single track roads. Prepare yourself. These driving conditions are very different from what you may be used to, and getting places tends to take way longer than you would expect. It is 48 miles from Tobermory to Fionnphort but it took us 5 1/2 hours to make the journey. We did stop a lot to look around, and I was pretty nervous driving on the roads at first which is most likely why it took so long. Read more about our adventures driving in Scotland here.

We weren’t huge fans of the food selections on the island. Lots of bar food and seafood which is fine, but just don’t expect to find any Michelin Star restaurants. 

On your next visit to Scotland, put the Isle of Mull on your itinerary. From boat trips and cheese farms to pony trekking and hiking, Mull is a large, diverse island that’s sure to leave you with happy memories, as it did us. 

White Knuckles, Curb Hopping, & Coo Crossing, OH MY! Our Family’s Adventure Driving Through Scotland.

Today I’m here to tell a tale. One of adventure, intrigue, and death-defying stunt moves. Ok, I exaggerate a bit, but not much when I am talking about our family’s experience driving the streets of Scotland. 

Let me begin at the very beginning…a very good place to start. Wait, I think that’s a song. Hmm. But really, here we go. You know how much I love Scotland, right? I suppose I’ve mentioned that fact a few times.

For the Love of Scotland, Two Girls Take off on the Trip of a Lifetime,

Don’t go to Scotland!

Things We ❤️: Absolute Escapes

 So I was excited to bring my family over for their first visit. My youngest son, Jack and I arrived in Edinburgh last summer after a veeeeerrrry long journey from Shanghai. To say we were exhausted upon our arrival would be an understatement. However, I knew the moment I had been dreading for months had finally arrived. I was going to have to get in a rental car and drive in Scotland. There was simply no way around it. We had a busy 16 days in front of us traveling hither and yon throughout the country so we needed wheels. 

Why was I so scared to drive in Scotland you ask? Well for starters, the Scots drive on the wrong side of the road, according to us Americans!!! I had nightmares of pulling out into the wrong side of traffic, or making a left turn into the wrong lane. Needless to say, I was pretty worked up. However, being the cool, calm and collected mom that I am, I put on my brave girl pants and told Jack to climb in. But before we took off into the wild blue yonder with the wind whipping through our hair, we had to inspect our rental car and note any prior damage. At first glance, I realized this was no ordinary car. It was a Mercedes E-Class Estate Wagon. Why make me even more stressed out by giving me a super expensive Mercedes?! And even worse, it was a brand, spanking new car. I’m talking we were maybe the second drivers to rent this car. Ever. Ok, no pressure. 

Now let’s take a moment to review: I’m exhausted, sitting in an airport parking lot in an unfamiliar foreign city, expected to drive a brand new Mercedes on the opposite side of the road than I’m used to. Ok, just making sure you’ve got a clear picture in your head. Let me add to the story a bit. The Christmas prior to this trip, we rented a car in the States. I got persuaded in to buying the additional insurance on the rental. I never heard the end of it from my husband, saying I never should have agreed and it was a waste of money because our credit card already offered insurance. So this time, I confidently said no to the offer of extra insurance. “Haha, I thought. You aren’t gong to get me this time!”. As we slowly (and when I say slowly, a turtle may have gone faster than us) pulled out of the parking lot, I began questioning that decision. I don’t think I have ever held onto a steering wheel tighter than I did those first few days driving in Scotland. 

So we made it out of the parking lot (woohoo!). Jack was my official navigator so I could focus on nothing but the road. Well, I don’t know how many of you have used a 12-year-old to help navigate, but this can be a bit of a challenge. They can be a bit clueless when it comes to map reading (sorry Jack!). We literally went dizzily around a roundabout three times before we could figure out the right exit, and passed our B&B twice before we could find it. My heart was racing the entire time, and I drove, white-knuckled and owl-eyed the entire way. Funny thing, I wasn’t feeling so tired anymore. As we parked, I accidentally ran over the curb and decided right then and there we would return to the airport in the morning and pay whatever the ridiculous fee would be for the extra insurance, pride be damned. 

It just so happened that as a special treat, Jack’s favorite person in the world, his older brother Hunter, was flying in the next morning to surprise Jack and continue our first week in Scotland with us before the last two members of our family to come would arrive (this is a bit complicated to follow I know, so just don’t even try. 😉 ). We had a lot to do and see in that week, and a lot of driving to do in order to get to all of our destinations. But now I had a 21-year-old navigator in the passenger seat so things were sure to go better right? Ha!

Doesn’t he look fully capable of navigating?

Let me interject here quickly and say that I’m usually a very good driver. I’ve been on the road for many years and have had a very minimal number of accidents (2 to be exact). However, streets in Scotland are old, small, and complicated. There is a different type of roundabout what seems like every 500 feet, and driving a surprisingly wide car like the E-Class Estate is not exactly an ideal way to take on these types of driving conditions for the first time. 

But, onward we went. I was still nervous, but a bit more emboldened when Hunter came up with a safe word I must have heard 1,000 times…“LANE!”, meaning I was drifting to the left and about to run into the curb on the passenger side. It was so hard to get a feel for exactly where I should be especially since most of the lanes were really narrow, and oncoming cars were zooming past us so close we could feel the wind from their speed shake the car. 

Although the scenery was beautiful, I don’t think Hunter and I noticed much of it that first day.

He was busy keeping my lane positioning in check, and I was concentrating with every ounce of my being on the road ahead. But, we had been driving for a while and were getting thirsty so we began looking for a place to safely pull over in order to buy some water. Finally, along came a promising looking gas station on our right side. We all spotted it and as we were looking at it, I somehow drifted over to the left (remember these lanes were small so there wasn’t a lot of drifting room). Like a slow-motion scene out of a movie, the car hopped the curb, continued down the road for what seemed like a mile but was really only a foot or two on only three wheels, and made a horrible scraping sound against the road. “AHHHHH…HHHH…HHHH!!!” All three of screamed in unison, but I managed to get off the curb and pull into the gas station. Hearts pounding, and fear of the damage that may have just happened coursing through our veins, we all sat there for a moment just looking at each other incredulously. I peeled my fingers away from the death grip I had on the steering wheel, and we reluctantly got out of the car in order to assess the damage.  Peeking through one eye, I saw that two of the car’s rims were scraped, there was a gash in the tire, and somehow the front fender of the passenger side was scraped up pretty substantially.

“Boy am I glad I got the extra insurance,” I giggled nervously. Thankfully the car was still completely drivable. So we bought our waters, took a deep breath, and slowly got back on the road. 

The next few drives went about the same way. We drove along narrow two-lane roads throughout the Highlands, missing most of the beautiful scenery around us because we were focussing intently on not crashing the car.

Perhaps Jack would have enjoyed it from the back seat but he slept most of the time since he felt car sick due to the windy roads. After the Highlands, our next destination was the beautiful Isle of Mull. I didn’t sleep at all the night before we journeyed to the island. Instead, I had horrible visions of driving the car off the ferry into the ocean, or something else equally devastating. But lo and behold, the ferry ride went fine. Whew!

We made it onto the ferry!

It was when we got off the ferry that things once again got interesting. 

Have you ever heard of single-track roads? Oh boy, now these are something that will get your heart pumping. Single-track roads are exactly how they sound. One-lane is available to drive on in either direction with passing places for oncoming traffic available at certain points along the road. Imagine playing a game of chicken with cars and you’ll get the gist of the driving conditions on these roads. And to add to the fun, not only is there only one lane, but many times you are driving on very winding roads on the side of a cliff with consistent blind spots as you go up and down hills.

Let me just say, Hunter is a pretty laid back guy. Not much rattles him. However, driving on the Isle of Mull managed to get even him stressed out. We had a lot of quick, face-to-face car encounters that would require one or both cars to back up to a passing area and wait our turn to continue.  One such incident occurred right after we a took a tight corner. As we rounded the corner, a car was coming right at us. The driver was kind enough to back up so we could pass. The problem was, he backed up right into a ditch. Two wheels spinning in mid-air, this guy wasn’t going anywhere without a tow truck. We felt terrible. Not that it was our fault, but I could see myself doing the exact same thing. 

This became a regular occurrance after a day of driving.

Still, after a couple of days driving those single-track roads, I came to kind of like them. They were quiet, could be peaceful, and when there were no other cars to be seen in the distance, it was fun picking up some pretty good speed feeling like I owned the road. Sometimes our only company were the Highland Coo’s that simply stood sleepily in the middle of the road staring at us as if silently daring us to just try and make them move.

When we left the Isle of Mull and worked our way back to Edinburgh, The roads became divided and wider again. It felt like such a luxury having two or more lanes available on which to drive.

When Brett and Elijah finally arrived, I had become pretty comfortable driving. Brett was actually thoroughly impressed by the way I navigated the city streets. I just looked at him and said, ”oh you know, it’s no big deal”. So Brett tried his hand at driving. After the 15th time I yelled, “LANE!” in an hour, we decided to leave the driving to the pro…me.

Who would have guessed? 😉

Take a Trip to Inveraray

Driving around Scotland, one is bound to pass through a plethora of small towns and burgs. Many of the quaint little locations no bigger than a main street with a few shops and restaurants. Since there are so many, it’s easy to simply drive through the majority of them without any thought of stopping. However, I’ve found time and time again that when we’ve taken time to get out of the car and walk around, many of these little towns offer incredible pieces of Scottish of history, cute shops in which to browse, quaint historical architecture, ancient cobblestone streets, and simple beauty that could never be appreciated when zooming by in a car.

Inveraray is one of those towns. A small 18th century planned town on the banks of Loch Fyne, someone could drive all the way from one end of town to the other in less than 5 minutes. Last summer two of my sons and I were on a week-long trip to Scotland and Inveraray was a town in which we were scheduled to stay. We booked a trip through Absolute Escapes and I wasn’t so sure about this stop they had scheduled into our itinerary. Needless to say, I was a bit unimpressed when we first came upon the neat row of simple white buildings which lined the main street.IMG_0991 However, we were scheduled to spend two nights there so I resigned myself to the thought that we may need to figure out some things to do outside the teeny town in order to keep us entertained. 

But as I said before, many small towns in Scotland offer a surprising amount of things to do and see. The boys and I actually enjoyed every minute of our full day in Inveraray and I would love to go back and enjoy the simplicity of the town once again. Although it’s small, there is enough to do to fill a day easily without rushing. It’s a sleepy little town with quaint shops, beautiful views of Loch Fyne, an amazing castle, and even a 19th-century jail the has been turned into a museum, making it easy to find something to do for people of all ages. As an added bonus, Inveraray is also completely walkable so you can park your car for the day and simply head out to see all the sights.IMG_1023

 

Things to do

Stroll down Main Street and visit some of the quaint shops

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Enjoy an ice cream or a coffee depending upon the weather. Maybe pick up a bottle of whiskey from Loch Fyne Whiskies. Upon their recommendation, I gave GlenDronach 12-year a try and it instantly became my favorite scotch of all time. Mmmmm!IMG_0927

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Take a walk to Inveraray Castle

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This impressive functioning castle remains the home of the Duke of Argyle and was featured in Downton Abbey’s 2012 Christmas episode, “A Journey to the Highlands”. The castle boasts an impressive Armory Hall, soaring 21 meters in height and houses weapons as old as the 16th century.IMG_0939 Taking a stroll outside the castle walls will lead you to extensive gardens with numerous marked forest walks, one of which will lead you up 800 feet to the tower at the top of Dun na Cuaiche where you can see all of Inveraray and beyond.IMG_0937 I tried to convince the boys to do the hike, but they were eager to get to the jail so I was outvoted. Instead, we simply walked around the stunning grounds close to the castle which as you can see, did not disappoint!

Become a prisoner at the Inveraray Jail

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Don’t worry, you won’t have to do hard time at Inveraray Jail, but this is an interesting museum that recounts prison conditions from Medieval times to the 19th century. The jail here was considered very advanced for its time, and the boys enjoyed learning about prison conditions of old through hands-on exhibits and interactive storytelling.

Where we stayed 

The Old Rectory Bed & Breakfast

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Owners Cathie & David have worked tirelessly restoring this 200-year-old building overlooking Loch Fyne. Many of the building’s original features remain but have been updated with a cozy, chic feel.IMG_0914 All three of us fit perfectly into one of the B&B’s larger rooms and the bathroom was spectacular! I don’t usually go around rating bathrooms of all things, but this one deserves a special nod.

The Old Rectory

www.oldrectoryinverary.com 

Newton, Inveraray

Argyll, PA32 8UH

01499 302 711

info@oldrectoryinveraray.com

Tasty eats

(MAKE SURE YOU CALL AHEAD FOR A RESERVATION FOR EITHER OF THESE RESTAURANTS)

The George HotelIMG_0925

Want to try a whiskey flight? Then this is the place for you! The George Hotel’s restaurant/pub offers a choice of 100 malt whiskeys, as well as local quality beef, and seafood.IMG_0916 The food was delicious and the building felt like a true Scottish pub with mahogany walls, leather seats, and a warm atmosphere. Plus our server looked like David Beckham so I wasn’t complaining! 

Samphire Seafood Restaurant

Although Inverary is small, we managed to find some amazing places to eat. The Samphire Seafood Restaurant didn’t disappoint. A small space offering locally sourced sustainable seafood, shellfish, meat and game, the menu offers something to please everyone. I was a bit worried because I don’t eat fish and we were going to a seafood restaurant, but I tried the Angus beef burger and it was fantastic. 

How the heck do you get there?

Inveraray is about 2 1/2 hours west of Edinburgh. We took our time driving there, stopping at the adorable burgh of Culross for lunch, then meandered through the Trossachs National Park while enjoying the stunning view of Loch Lomond. It was a very easy and enjoyable drive, but make sure you keep a lookout and don’t end up speeding right through Inveraray once you get there. 😉IMG_0923Although it’s small, Inveraray has a lot to offer. In addition, it’s a good stopping point when on your way to other destinations such as Oban, the Hebrides, or the Cowal Peninsula. It’s a simple, romantic little town that is sure to surprisingly capture your heart as it did mine. In the end, I even decided I liked the plain white buildings that lined the shore, realizing they served as a brilliant backdrop to the still waters and hills of Loch Fyne.IMG_0930 So put Inveraray on your Scotland itinerary and while you’re there pick up a bottle of GlenDronach for me. Oh, and if you see the server at The George Hotel who looks like David Beckham, tell him I said, “hi”!

Things We ❤️: Absolute Escapes

Did you know I love Scotland? Shocker, right? I mean, I did just tell you all the reasons NOT to go to Scotland. But it’s true, this amazing country is first on my list whenever anyone asks me where they should go on a vacation.IMG_2162 Scotland truly offers something for everyone. History, natural beauty, amazing architecture, culture. The list is endless. Yes, I could never get enough of Scotland. So when I had the opportunity to go back for a second visit I was perhaps even more excited than the first time. Don’t get me wrong, the first time was fantastic. My mom and I went on a 10-day Outlander/Mary Queen of Scots tour and loved every goofy, girly minute. But this time my husband and three of our kids would be joining me for a 16-day visit and while they’re adventurous, I knew they wouldn’t want to see all things Outlander. Plus, I really wanted them to love the country as much as I do (no pressure, haha!) so everything had to be planned perfectly. 

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Family bonding

Since I had already been to Scotland once, I knew some of the things we should visit that the family would enjoy. However, I wanted to explore more of the country than I did before and found that I was at a bit of a loss where to start. I mean, how do you know the best route to take or the best B&B to choose? This was the first time I would be driving, and on the wrong side of the road no doubt ;), so I was already a bit nervous about getting around. I began trying to plan the trip by looking at Tripadvisor, Hotels.com, and other search engines but found myself getting overwhelmed quickly, and felt as if there was a lot riding on this trip so didn’t want to be the one to mess it up by making a bad choice. 

 

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I’d say hiking to the top of King Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh was a good choice!

By pure chance and a lot of Google searching, I came across Absolute Escapes. They looked promising, boasting ratings of 4.9 out of 5 on Facebook and 98% on aito.com, so I sent them an inquiry just to see what they had to say. I was connected with Pippa, one of their lovely tour guides who shared with me a little bit of what Absolute Escapes is all about. Here’s what she said:

We believe that travel should be exciting, intriguing, rejuvenating and memorable. That’s why we’ve created a company staffed by the most knowledgeable, passionate and enthusiastic experts available. Our philosophy is to offer special holidays tailored to your individual requirements. We use our expert knowledge to seek out the best that the UK has to offer – the best places to stay, the best experiences, the best routes and we take away the hard work by arranging it all for you.”

Since this was exactly what I was hoping for, I was willing to give Absolute Escapes a try. This trip was going to be a tough one to plan because it was a logistical nightmare. Some of the family was coming on one date. They would leave and others would come. We wanted to see a lot so needed to organize many different places to stay, a car rental, routes, places to eat, etc. Taking all that into consideration, I was happy to get any help I could. Pippa quickly answered all of my questions and was clearly very knowledgeable about all things Scotland. After a few more emails back and forth, I knew this company was going to make my trip planning much more manageable. 

 

 

So patient Pippa and I spent the better part of a month emailing back and forth while working out an itinerary. She was so wonderful, answering all of my questions and really taking the time to listen and understand exactly what it was we wanted to do. She offered many wonderful suggestions on things she thought may be of interest to us and the best way to make it all happen. I honestly cannot say enough good things about her. 

Finally, our trip was all booked through Absolute Escapes. The lodging, car rental, driving routes, everything. And when I say everything, here’s exactly what I mean: 16 days=1 rental car, 2 ferry crossings, 9 B&B’s, 1 boat tour, and Explorer Passes (paid entry into select castles and monuments) for all 5 of us. They even sent us a packet with our detailed itinerary that included drive times, contact information, places to eat and things to do. It was perfect.IMG_5256 All that being said, you never fully know what you’re going to get until you arrive at your destination and see how all the details play out. Since I had never worked with Absolute Escapes before, I’ll admit that I was a bit worried that things might not go as smoothly as they looked on paper, especially considering all the details involved. But I’m pleased to announce they did! Our rental car was waiting for us at the airport, all the B&B’s were wonderful, and the sights we saw were absolutely amazing.

 

 

If you aren’t completely sold yet, according to their website here’s a bit more of what this company has to offer:

Absolute Escapes is a leading specialist in self-guided walking holidays in the UK & Ireland, and tailor-made travel to Scotland. 

  • We offer self-guided walking holidays on some of the finest long-distance trails in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. 
  • We also specialise in tailor-made travel to Scotland including self-drive itineraries and escorted tours. 
  • We customise all of our itineraries to your exact requirements based on our experience and intimate knowledge of Scotland. Whether you’d like to drive the North Coast 500 or island-hop around the Outer Hebrides – choose from the many itineraries, experiences and accommodation options that we offer, then contact one of our specialist consultants who’ll turn your ideas into your perfect tailor-made trip.

I would say they are all this and more! Absolute Escapes is a fantastic company that’s willing to listen to what your interests are and will tailor your trip exactly to what you want. They spend a lot of time working out all the details and have many relationships with local businesses that offer them good rates and in turn, can end up saving you money. From start to finish, I cannot recommend them enough.  Read more