The remainder of our trip, through the link.
Day Four, Thursday, Fintry-Doune-Pitlochry-Newtonmore-Inverness
This was the point in the trip when we lost all track of time and were like “what day is it? It can’t be Thursday!” This day was my favorite day of the whole trip.
Our goal for the day was to make it up to Inverness, where our B&B for the night was, but with stops along the way. First stop was Doune Castle. This castle is where a lot of Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed (look familiar?), some shots of Winterfell on Game of Thrones were filmed here, and most importantly, it is Castle Leoch on Outlander. Here’s the courtyard inside the castle walls.
We had some minor road snafus on our way out from the castle but eventually found our way to the highway and started north into the highlands. We stopped in a super cute little town called Pitlochry for lunch. I will probably add a picture when I get my film back from being developed, though it’s possible I just didn’t take any pictures. It was a cute town, lunch was tasty sandwiches consumed on a bench next to a babbling brook.
We carried on up to Newtonmore, to the Highland Folk Museum, aka My Happy Place. The day was gorgeous and sunny, and the museum is an amazing place with old timey buildings all over the place that are decorated as old timey businesses and stuff, and there are people in costume dropping knowledge bombs about history. We had a nice chat with the lady pretending to be a 1930s school teacher in a one-room schoolhouse, then hiked up to the area of the museum (the grounds are huge) where Outlander filmed the episode Rent. It looked just like the show! You can go inside all of the historic stuff and touch things and poke around! Here’s an inside of a 1700s croft. Also, there were ponies and sheep. Seriously, I can’t overstress how much I loved this place. It was incredible. And it was free! OMG. I would have paid 20 pounds to go in (I did give a donation in the donation box, I’m not a monster). I’m guessing they are going to see a huge uptick in visitors because of Outlander.
We had still more driving to do to get to the Inverness area. I had planned one more stop to see Culloden, but it had been a long day and we were nearing the time for the Culloden visitor’s center to close anyway, so we decided to just continue on into Inverness, find our B&B, and chill for the evening. Our B&B was so fabulous! Inverness is mostly B&Bs, and I had a hard time finding one that had two rooms open on this night, so I went through a long list to arrive at this one, but I’m so glad we ended up where we did. The owner was so nice, the rooms were cozy, and the breakfast was the best breakfast we had on the whole trip. Drew and I walked around looking fruitlessly for a store that would see him a Scotland soccer jersey. Then we all went out for Indian food. The food was good, though it was sweeter and more coconutty than the Indian food we get here. We learned that night there is a vast cultural divide between American diners (diners being people who dine, not diners being roadside greasy spoons) and UK restaurants. Apparently it’s considered rude for waiters to bring the check to the table without it being specifically asked for. Meanwhile, we think it’s rude to bother waiters by asking for the check. So we sat at our empty table long after they cleared the plates away, wondering if we were ever going to get out of the restaurant. The restaurant owner came over for a chat, and we were just like seriously, how do we get out of here. Drew and I ended the night going to read books in bars- we tried one very gritty local pub and felt super out of place (or at least, I did, because I was the only woman in the pub, it was weird). We landed at the hotel bar next door to our B&B and it was comfy and pleasant. Oh, and here’s the view from our B&B. It looked cool at night, too.
Day Five, Friday, Inverness-Loch Ness-Fort William-Loch Lomond-Balmaha
Our biggest driving day, and the first day of the trip when it super rained for a lot of the day.
We started off bright and early and just made it onto the first Loch Ness cruise of the day. It was an hour boat ride, the wind was brisk (ok, it was freezing), the sky was gray, but it was awesome.
After the cruise we headed on to the Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition. It came highly recommended by our tour books, and we obviously needed to do something Nessie related, but I can’t say that I echo the recommendation. It was kind of interesting, but it was basically just a bunch of videos in different rooms.
Next, we went down the road to Urquhart Castle. Here’s another part of the castle. It was a nice tumbledown castle. Drew says some of the Highlander movie was filmed there. We managed to explore the entire castle and get inside the visitor’s center for lunch just as the rain started, and it was pouring by the time we left.
The rest of the day was rain, rain, and more rain. Luckily, this was the day we’d planned to be just driving for hours after the castle, so we got in the car and I white-knuckled it down the A82. The views were still amazing even in the rain, and hey, I didn’t crash the car or run it off the tiny windy roads! Victory! We stopped in Fort William (unremarkable except for Outlander nuts like me, secretly squee-ing inside) for a quick break. Drew and I went off in search of a bathroom, and ended up ducking into the free West Highland Museum strictly for their bathroom. Classy! Also, I got a Tunnock’s tea cake somewhere in Fort William, and it was a taste sensation. I might be obsessed. So we got back in the car for more driving. We drove through Glen Coe, stopped to step onto Rannoch Moor (very desolate, rainy, and barren), and drove the length of Loch Lomond (very pretty but too scary for me to appreciate because OMG the road). Our hotel for the night was on the other side of Loch Lomond, in Balmaha, The Oak Tree Inn. Look at how cute and picturesque it looks! Reality was a little different. I do think that in the summer, on nice days/nights, it’s probably really beautiful and nice. On a rainy, cold night it left a bit to be desired. This was, sadly, the most uncomfortable night of our trip because the rooms are tiny and there’s no sound insulation so we heard everything going on in all the rooms around us, and it sounded like they were all having parties. The inn is a big draw for hikers who are setting out or coming back from the West Highland Way, and I think if that’s your thing it’s perfect for you, but since that was not our thing, it was just kind of meh. We got dinner at the inn, and Drew & I did a bit of reading in the bar, but the bar was crowded and hot, so we grabbed some drinks from the store that’s part of the inn and retired early to our room.
Day Six, Saturday, Balmaha-Glasgow
I had planned for the night at Balmaha because I wanted one more night in the highlands, but knowing what I know now, I do wish we had just pushed on to Glasgow and had two nights in Glasgow. However, our Glasgow hotel was weird and I think I would have been disappointed to spend two nights there. In retrospect, Drew maintains that he loved the hotel because it was like a British sitcom. The hotel appeared to be managed by a very nice lady who was super helpful in the morning, but she kind of disappeared in the evening. Her son, the lead singer of this band was bartending that night and we did have an awesome conversation about music. He got so excited and gave me a huge list of Scottish bands to check out, and I was able to give him a few bands he’d never heard of. That was actually a highlight of the trip and was super awesome. Talking about Scottish music with a guy in a band! OMG.
Backing up, we got into Glasgow in the morning, parked and dropped our stuff off, and set out. We were close to the Necropolis (giant Victorian cemetery on a hill) so we hiked up there and explored that in the rain. The rain cleared out and we got some stunning(?) views of industrial Glasgow. We checked out the Glasgow Cathedral, then started our march to explore the city. It rained off and on pretty much the entire day. Like, it would downpour for ten minutes, then clear and be sunny, and repeat. We walked around the city center until lunchtime, got lunch, then Drew set out for his soccer game. T and I kept walking around, as I had a couple of record stores I wanted to check out. We found them and checked them out (Mono records, owned by a guy in the Pastels, and Love Music). I talked to a record store guy about the new Twilight Sad single. Yay! We continued on and eventually took a break at the Willow Tea Room. We kept on walking until we needed another break, and stopped at the Kelvingrove Museum for a bit. Then we pushed on to our meeting place with Drew, The Sparkle Horse. This was one of the places I was really looking forward to, and it lived up to my hopes! It’s owned by a guy who was in the band Bis. Upon internet research after the fact, I am 99% sure that guy served me our first beers. OMG! Drew joined us, we stayed for dinner, then got a cab back to our hotel because we were super on the other side of the city. I’d love to go back to Glasgow and stay in the West End area, it was very much the Cambridgey/Somervilley college area of the city. Had our music chat evening at the hotel bar, and that was the end of the day.
Day Seven, Sunday, Glasgow-Maryland
That’s it. We drove to the airport without mishap, had our flights without any problems, and got back to Baltimore safe and sound. Flew back to Boston the next day. Now that we’ve seen the highlights, I want to go back to Scotland and do a slow vacation with actual relaxation.