Its hard to know where to even begin in describing the last two weeks! When I last blogged, I mentioned that we had our first visitor coming, Ryan. Soon after writing that, our friend Drew texted Jared and asked if he could come along as well. We assumed he was joking, since Ryan was coming like 2 days later, but he wasn’t! So our one visitor turned into two, twice the fun! It really was though, we loved having both Ryan and Drew here, and getting to explore most all of Scotland together.
Quick note: This post is quite picture heavy. I tried to narrow it down, and this is probably only like 5% of the pictures Jared took. If you want to see them bigger, just click on them. If you want to ignore them all together, that’s ok too!
Ryan ended up coming a few days before Drew, so we showed him around St Andrews and Stirling, and then we all spent a day in Edinburgh after picking up Drew. We usually take the trains to and from Edinburgh, but of course they were doing construction on the tracks between our stop and Edinburgh, so we made the journey by bus, which takes almost twice as long, but it was a new adventure! Sunday we all relaxed in St Andrews and tried to let Drew acclimate to the jetlag, before we set off Monday for the Highlands!
In order to properly explore the Scottish Highlands, we really needed a car. This was our first time renting a car in Scotland, so it was a bit of an adventure. We had our first day all planned out: Jared took a train at 7 am to go pick up the car from Edinburgh, then searched for the car rental place, found it, and drove on the right side of the car, on the left side of the street, through the roundabouts, and back to St Andrews where we were waiting for him! Our plans were slightly foiled when we ended up with a flat tire right outside our flat, but we turned that into an adventure as well. We spent some time trying to get a new tire and put it on ourselves, but eventually admitted defeat and called their roadside assistance company. Turns out their service was free so we only had to pay for the tire anyway, and by mid afternoon we were on our way! As this was the first time any of us spent an extended amount of time in a British car on British roads (including Jared), we spent the first day mostly terrified we were going to die. I swear the roads here are half the size. Within the first few hours as the navigator, I took us on the route that went around the city at rush hour, thinking we would be avoiding traffic, but we ended up surrounded by lots of cars on tiny one lane, two way roads. Basically there was enough room for 1 car, but there was traffic both ways, and people were going like 50 mph. We were utterly terrified and I think my heart stopped at least twice, and its a miracle Jared didn’t kill me for the number of times I freaked out, but we made it through our first day, and the following days were significantly better!
In true road trip fashion, we listened to hours of BBC Radio, where we followed along with their British TV Awards drama. We ate bags upon bags of crisps (potato chips) and quickly devoured an entire batch of these chocolate chip cookies. We introduced Drew to chips and cheese (an British pub-grub staple), and spent the rest of the trip searching for them in each town we came to.
The first day included visiting the beautiful Dunnottar Castle, making it just in time for the last bits of daylight. We eventually made it to Inverness, our stopping place for the evening. We enjoyed dinner in a nice little cafe overlooking the beautiful river! We want to make it back up to Inverness sometime, as we only saw the city for a few hours.
We got up early Tuesday morning to head to the Isle of Skye. We drove via Loch Ness, and were all in awe of it! It was amazing to be standing on the shores of Loch Ness, thinking “are we really here??” Also, Jared will guarantee you he saw Nessie. Tuesdays castles included Urquhart Castle on the shores of Loch Ness and Eilean Donan Castle just before Isle of Skye. Its hard to comprehend the beauty of the castles, and the reality that people really build these hundreds of years ago! Mid-afternoon we arrived at the Talisker Distillery, where we got a tour and free tastings. The tour was so cool, and made all of us appreciate whisky a little bit more (even me!).
Wednesday was split between Isle of Skye and Isle of Lewis. We saw some of the main sights on Isle of Skye, but were slightly deterred by the rain and hail and wind. One of my favorite parts of the trip was visiting the Faerie Glen on Skye. Its this random spot in the middle of the country with some of the most unique, beautiful topography I’ve ever seen. Legend has it that no natural causes could have created a place like this, so it was obviously created by fairies! (or the hobbits… it bears a striking resemblance to Hobbiton). After exploring Skye, we took the ferry boat over to Isle of Lewis. Isle of Lewis and Isle of Harris are connected, so we used the last hour or so of daylight to drive around Harris, ending up at this beautifully preserved medieval church. Its amazing being able to explore a church which has been worshipped in for so long! As we lost the last bits of daylight, we made our way north, up to the very top coast of Lewis. We stopped for dinner in Stornoway, where we ended up getting Chinese take out and eating it in a pub… typical Scottish dinner…? When we finally made it to our hostel, the man who ran it was surprised we had made it! It was a beautiful location and we would gladly go back if we are ever on Lewis again.
Thursday we got up early again to explore Lewis before the long trip home. We were absolutely amazed by the beaches on both Lewis and Harris, they seriously look like perfect Mediterranean beaches, they are just about 70 degrees colder. Lewis has a very strong Christian history, and to this day pretty much the whole Island shuts down on Sundays. We visited some traditional black houses, the Dun Carloway Broch, the Callanish Standing Stones, and drove to the “Bridge to Nowhere”. Everywhere we went, we just stood in awe of the historical significance of the beautiful sights we saw. Its hard to communicate just how beautiful and important these places were!
Our trip finished with a long drive back to St Andrews, including snow, rain, hail, and wind. Friday we took the car back to Edinburgh and spend the day exploring the castle and the city with Ryan and Drew.
Saturday morning they left too early for buses, so we put them in a taxi and climbed back in bed for a few hours. They made it home safely, and we are back to real life for a few weeks! Our next visitors come two weeks from today! Dublin here we come!