While spending a week in Scotland, I kept getting whopped over the head with these eerie senses of deja vu. Either I had spent too much time looking through photos of these places or there is some sort of collective memory stored in my blood. Scotland was like coming home!
The day before arrive in Scotland, Fritz and I drove from Lake Garda to the Venice airport with an exploding rental car. We had 10 am flights and trying to milk the most our of our Italian vacation we chose to spend the last night in Lake Garda rather than spend a night in the tourist cluster of Venice. This left no room for error and when we filled up gas on the autostrada about 30 miles from the airport the car started chugging like it was running out of gas every time the gas pedal was pressed.
This was pretty much my worst nightmare – exploding car plus Italian rush hour autostrada insanity! We left the car at the rental car drop-off and essentially made a run for it. Since Fritz was flying home to the U.S. and I was flying within Europe we weren’t able to be in the same area of the airport so my hope for one last cappuccino together didn’t work out and I bawled my eyes out when we had to say our goodbyes at the gate. I wanted Fritz to come to Scotland with me or me to go home with him – why do I plan these crazy trips by myself and how am I going to navigate Scotland stick driving on the wrong side of the road by myself?!?
I had an eight hour layover in Amsterdam so I hopped on the train to Central Station and went for a canal run through the city in the rain (of course!). Amsterdam was just as overwhelming as I remember it – more bike traffic than cars and utter commuter chaos – I loved it! Upon arriving I made it to my AirBNB just outside Edinburgh for a few hours of sleep before pointing my Fiat west.
I beelined to the west coast driving through the Highlands audibly OMG-ing at every turn and getting out of the car every once in awhile to take it all in. I was feeling a little lonely after 10 days in Italy with Fritz so I did what any solo female traveler would do in a foreign country and pick up a couple of hitchhikers in my tiny car. The two rather large men complete with towering backpacks could barely fit into the Fiat, but we made it work since they wanted out of the rain and into a pub!
The Scottish men told me it is always the Americans that pick them up and one of them launched into telling me the plans for his Great American road trip scheduled for next summer. He has plans to visit Southern Utah and Yellowstone so I gave him my email and told me to contact me when he’s passing through – I hope he does. Upon giving him my email he said, “Ahhh Maxwell, a solid Scottish name.” I was so proud.
My first real stop was the Glenfinnan Viaduct of Harry Potter fame, but I ended up exploring the trails across the street which totally looked like some shangri-la land.
Crossing the Skye Bridge onto the Isle of Skye was totally magical! There were seriously rainbows shooting out of everywhere and toe tapping tunes being blasted on BBC Gaelic in the Fiat. I drove to the literal end of the road, in a tiny town called Uig, which consisted of a ferry port, one restaurant/bar that was not open, a gas station, and the Isle of Sky Brewery. I checked into the hostel and then back into the car for some serious single track driving and my first hike in the shoe sucking bogs of Scotland.
I spent the next morning wandering through the Quiraing, which was pretty much the reason I came to Scotland. The Quiraing is in the northern most portion of the Isle of Skye in an area called Trotternish and a massive landslip created a fairyland of cliffs, pinnacles, and hidden plateaus. The views from this walk are burned upon my brain forever, a break in the rain and an unexpected appearance by the sun created a zillion shades of green like I’ve never seen before. Scotland I am in love, but I need some more appropriate footwear.
It poured the rest of the day so I explored castles, before retiring to Uig for a dinner of gas station cheese, bread, and beer. They weren’t kidding when I read that dining options on the Isle of Skye were relatively limited.
My second day on the Isle of Skye will be know forever as the day I actually got blown over. The aftermath of Storm Aileen was hitting Northern Scotland and the storm was creating gusts in the 70-80 mph range. I wasn’t going to let a little wind keep me from visiting the Old Man of Storr, but maybe I should have. I will let the video speak for itself.
I highly considered spending the entire trip on the Isle of Skye taking day trips to the Outer Hebrides, but the weather wasn’t expected to get any better and it looked mighty nice on the North Coast so I headed yonder stopping by the most photographed, for good reason, castle in all of the Scotland, the Eilean Donan.