Thursday, January 29, 2015


It's on days like today, when I have a "to-do" list that keeps growing, papers to grade, laundry to do, closets to organize, that I wish I could be back on vacation. We all have days like this... they're overwhelming and you wish you had more time on your hands.

I was fortunate enough to get to experience Scotland over my Thanksgiving break. In my district we get a week off at Thanksgiving, and I've found its often a really good time to travel. My family has never been big on celebrating Thanksgiving. As a kid, my brother played hockey and we were always in a different city watching my brother play in a Thanksgiving tournament. Our Thanksgiving meals were often spent in hotels or with hockey teams. So we didn't really have a family tradition of spending Thanksgiving anywhere but a hockey rink.

Now I hadn't been to Europe since 2002, so I was excited to finally be heading back. Add in to that my love of the Outlander book series, and it became obvious that Scotland was my go-to destination. I traveled with one of my best friends and we had a blast. We were only gone 6 days, but I saw so much of the countryside.

Day 1- Glasgow
After flying on the red-eye we landed in Glasgow around 6:30pm. My first adventure... driving our rental car, on the right hand side of the car, on the left hand side of the road. It was nerve-racking at first, but I quickly got used to it.Finally making it to our hotel, we headed out to explore downtown Glasgow. There's pubs everywhere. The streets and buildings are very industrial. We walked a few blocks over and saw where they were beginning to set up their Christmas festival. Lights everywhere. And then we saw this beautiful monument for Veterans. I had to snap a pic.

Day 2- Fort William
The drive from Glasgow to Fort William was beautiful, but was mainly 2 lane roads. That was scarier to drive on, as you're not used to navigating the left lane. But wow did we see some amazing sights. Beautiful lochs along the side of the highway, castles, and old stone houses. We stayed the night in Fort William, which was a very small town, right near Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in Scotland.

Loch Lomond was a beautiful spot along the road that we found. Gorgeous clear water. Chilly outside, but amazingly clear and cool.

Day 3- Loch Ness
On the way to the Highlands we stopped at Castle Urquhart on Loch Ness. I was beyond excited to make it to Loch Ness, and while I did search for Nessie, she remained elusive. The castle still had ruins that we were able to walk and climb around. It was interesting to see all the different rooms, how small the doorways were...

Loch Ness was amazing. You've never seen water so dark and black, it almost looks like ink. Loch Ness is so deep and long that all the rest of Scotland's lochs could be dumped into it and it wouldn't fill it up.

Night 3/ Day 4- The Highlands (Inverness & Culloden Moor)

Inverness is the oldest city in the Highlands. It's on the River Ness and is a city of rich history. The Highlands are where most of the battles between the English and the Scottish took place, particularly the last bloody battle at Culloden Moor. This happened in 1745, and following that battle loss the Scottish were not allowed to wear their tartans, and Scottish clan pride was outlawed.

This cairn was created in memoriam for the hundreds of lives lost by both the Scottish and the British during the battle. There is a large historical society on the moor, and it truly is staggering to see.

Night 4-Day 6 Edinburgh
We spent our last 2 days in Edinburgh, which is a gorgeous city. Split up into two parts: Old Town and New Town, with New Town being built in the 1800s, it truly is a historic city. Up on the hill is Edinburgh Castle, which is still used as a British military base, but mainly features tourist attractions. Our hotel was in Old Town, with a view of the castle up on the hill. The view from the castle is spectacular, as you can see the city for miles in every direction. 
Edinburgh Castle is also the inspiration for Hogwarts from the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling. We went to the Elephant Cafe which is where JK spent many mornings looking up at Edinburgh Castle as she wrote. 

 We also ate at The White Hart Inn which is the oldest pub in Scotland, established in 1516. Robert Burns stayed there. It's really small and quaint inside, and had delicious pub food. It was such a fun place to visit. I also discovered a fondness for hard cider, as it was on tap in every pub and restaurant we went to. 

It was a truly awesome trip. If anyone is thinking about going to Scotland, I highly recommend it. The people are nice and friendly. They would often ask what part of the United States we were from. When we would respond with "California"... they almost always asked, "Oh, what part?" I was amazed at how well the knew the San Francisco area, as it felt so different. The accents were charming, though a little hard to decipher when were farther in the countryside, but we had such an amazing time. 

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