Well, well, well…I’m finally getting around to Scotland travel tips, part 2. What can I say? I lead a busy, glamorous life. It’s hard to keep up with me!
Here goes the second part:
Car rental vs. train travel
After scouring the internet for advice, it seemed the best way to see Scotland was to drive. That way, you stand a better chance of getting up close and personal with the pretty, pretty scenery. So that’s what we did, even if it meant driving on the other side of the road, through endless roundabouts, earnestly following the GPS’s instructions to “Exit third exit.” Sometimes we had to count them out loud as an exit didn’t always look like an exit. However, we made it out of those roundabouts without a scratch, dent or traffic ticket.
One piece of pre-trip advice I’m glad we followed: don’t drive in the city of Edinburgh. So we didn’t pick up our rental car at the airport until our three-night stay in the historic city was complete.
Where to go?
This is where TripAdvisor, travel sites and an Eyewitness Travel book on Scotland came in handy. Optimally, the advice went, if you want to see Scotland, spend time in the Highlands. Which is exactly what they are – high lands, also known as mountains. Not Rocky-mountain mountains; but beautiful, sparse mysterious mountains. And all of them are pretty, pretty, pretty.
Highlands, part 1: Inverness
Pray tell, Pam, what did you do in or around Inverness? Welp, we took a two-hour boat tour on the Loch Ness (pretty, but fundamentally a boat ride), learned a little somethin’ somethin’ about Scottish Jacobite history (kilts, tartans, all that) at the Battle of Culloden site and ate Fish n’ Chips at the Dores Inn, a true Scottish pub on the shores of the Loch Ness.
Highlands, part 2: Fort William
Then we spent two nights in Fort William in a B&B run by an older couple familiar with the needs of North Americans. So the room was larger than our previous B&B near Inverness. And it had a container full of Kleenex – unlike our AIRBNB in Edinburgh. Additionally, the bathroom had two complete sets of towels – bath, hand and washcloth – unlike the other properties, though I’m not complaining: I enjoyed our stays there too.
Going without the usual conveniences forces you to ask – do we really need all our stuff? Will life go on if you don’t have paper towels, for instance? I think so. It was also in Fort William that we hiked the Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the U.K. – an experience I recounted in Scotland travel tips, part 1.
What else did you do in Fort William, Pam? We spent time in the city centre, perused the Highlands Museum and walked along a canal on a path called Neptune’s Staircase.
In the spirit of waste not, want not: food
When you order a sandwich from your favorite U.S. restaurant, it is likely to be accompanied by fistfuls of potato chips. Which you are tempted to consume. When I ordered a cheese and tomato toastie in Glasgow, guess how many chips were on the plate? Four. The perfect amount – hit the spot without the extra calories.
My original point: Scotland circle tour
Our path around Scotland was: Edinburgh, Inverness, Fort William, Glasgow, Edinburgh. That way you get the benefit of the two major cities and then all that bee-yoo-tee-full Highland scenery. Other popular destinations include St. Andrews and the Isle of Skye. I think you need more time to fit all that in but this is the beautiful thing about designing your own trip – you can plan it any way you want.
Finally, don’t over plan
Otherwise we wouldn’t have stopped at the super-pretty Foyers Falls on our way from Inverness to Fort William or experienced other unexpected sites and sounds. Plan your major stops but talk to the locals for tips on what to see and do while you’re there – or just follow your gut instincts. You won’t likely see everything, but you’ll see enough to change your perspective. And for me, that’s the real beauty of travel.