I made a real effort on this trip to not go completely picture crazy. I know what it looks like to come home from a wedding with two or three thousand photos and think "dear god what I have done!?" and I was determined not to let that happen with Europe... when we all know it easily could have!
And yet, there are still a lot of photos. Especially of Scotland. Because even though we were only there for three and a half days, it really spoke to us in a way that no other place on this trip did. Now, it's also where I was the most excited to go. But it wasn't where Erik was most excited to go, so his enthusiasm was a fun surprise.
There's just this raw, wild beauty about Scotland everywhere you turn. Even in Edinburgh, where we were staying, it feels like an adventure. All the closes (which are like little alleyways between streets) make you feel like you're going through secret passageways through buildings that have been there for SO long.
We rented a flat through Airbnb (the greatest invention for travelers ever) that was right on the Royal Mile of Edinburgh. From here, you can walk anywhere. I mean, you can walk pretty much anywhere in Edinburgh regardless. But literally everything we wanted to do was within about 5-10 minutes walking of our flat... including Edinburgh castle!
The first day, we arrived at 7am after a redeye trip overnight. Erik slept a little bit on the plane. I didn't. But it didn't matter because you lose 5 hours and they woke you up at 5am for breakfast anyway. So it was just a lost cause.
But, as our first tour guide enthusiastically informed us, "you are in SCOTLAND!" So we ran on adrenaline that first day. It was cold and wet, but we went on our three hour walking tour of the city anyway! Because this is SCOTLAND (you have to say that with the right accent and EMPHASIS), and to them this was not really that bad of weather at all. We were just pathetic. We bought hats and scarfs to cope ;)
Honestly there aren't that many photos from this day because I was really cold and wet and kept my camera in my bag for the most part while we followed our guide around. Our guide, like everyone we met in Scotland, was super friendly and spent the entire time telling us stories. Theatricality is definitely a huge part of the Scottish culture and no one disappointed us in that regard!
Day 2 was my favorite day of our entire Europe trip. The Scottish Highlands. Just like with our Edinburgh tour, we signed up for a free, pay as you will tour. But this was an eight hour tour so I was kind of amazed that people could literally have just done it and not paid a thing! The guide explained that they wanted everyone, no matter their budget, to experience the Highlands when they visit Scotland. What an awesome thing. If you go to Scotland, make sure you take the Hairy Coo Tour! Definitely money well spent.
You get a lot of blurry pictures of yourself when you hand your SLR to strangers who don't know how to use one ;)
Next, we visited the William Wallace memorial. You had to pay to go inside the tower, so we just walked around the outside of it. I was amused that everywhere we went, it seemed Scottish people are very determined to inform you that Braveheart is not accurate, and this is how William Wallace REALLY was. And you know, he might have been even more awesome in real life. Go read about him. Or get someone with a Scottish accent to tell you about him, that'll be the most fun.
We stopped at a few more scenic spots along the way, including Sterling Castle. Scots love lochs and hills. So do I.
Then we had lunch in a tiny, adorable Highland village called Aberfoyle. Our guide told us to get some meat pies, so Erik had one. I had a mac and cheese pie and some ice cream :)
Next stop, THE HIGHLANDS. Like, for real this time. And with hairy coos. God bless the hairy coos... especially for FINALLY getting Jamie out of Wentworth. Y'all know what I'm saying... but seriously, after this trip and hearing our guide's adoration for the hairy coo (cow, for those of you not in the Scottish know) Erik was really amused to see their crucial function in the Outlander finale haha.
From here we went to the beautiful Loch Katrine. You can tell from the photos I think how this place really spoke to our hearts, especially Erik! haha We also befriended this older, American couple on our tour who happily took pictures of us everywhere we went. Yay for fellow Outlander fans ;)
Next stop, Castle Dounne! When I saw that this was on the free Highlands tour, I was completely sold. This is the same castle they used for Outlander so for me it was like playing around inside my favorite book. But unfortunately Jamie's accent was a little American and he was wearing jeans, not a kilt... hm...
It was amazing. I loved that it was just so bare. They hadn't tried to jazz it up for tourists. They gave us headsets so we could listen to an audio guide explain what different rooms were used for, but otherwise you were just free to roam around and explore every nook and cranny. It's exactly what you want a castle to be when you visit a castle. Well, in my opinion as an American who had never visited a castle anyway.
There was also a room outlining how this castle has been used in Outlander, along with other landmarks you can visit nearby that were used in the show. There's a Monty Python and the Holy Grail section, too. Our guide even had coconuts for us ;)
Castles aren't built for tall folk.
This was our last stop in The Highlands, but definitely our favorite.
The next day... our last full day, we had breakfast at The Elephant House cafe, where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter. The amount of HP love in that place is unreal. Just go into the bathroom and the walls are completely covered in Harry Potter fan messages for JK Rowling. It's kind of adorable.
And then we headed to Edinburgh Castle. And I think after loving Dounne so much, our expectations were a little crushed by how commercial that castle is. I don't have a ton of photos because most of the castle feels more like a museum or a gift shop than a CASTLE. And it was super crowded. I don't want to say we were disappointed because, it was still cool. But it wasn't what we expected at all. However, I did get to quickly photograph a wedding. So now I can check that off my wedding location to do list ;)
And that was it! We spent all the rest of our time wandering the city, trying restaurants, drinking tea (me, not Erik) and whisky (which we both agreed was not for us haha). It was a great start to our European adventure. I think of all the places we visited on this trip, this is the one that we'll return to one day. There's a lot of Scotland that we didn't get to see and now I think I've just whet my appetite for more :)
Also, if you actually read this far in this blog post, I am impressed. Kudos to you!