After a fun packed Glasgow day, we had to go to the Capital for a few days even though it was minus Leo. I have to admit being a tourist in Scotland may be my new favourite thing ever!
We (mum, dad and me) managed to borrow our next-door neighbours flat which is in a truly fab location in Edinburgh CBD for a few nights so we could go explore, act like tourists, eat all the good food and really just get outa Largs for a few days.
I’ll start with the food scene as it’s truly wonderful. Now, we don’t eat anywhere fancy but I want to give special mention to Cult Espresso where we ate breakfast both mornings (even though we had brought all the DIY breakfast items we would need for these 2 mornings). The coffee scene in this place is wicked, it’s so well done, the boys in there really know how to pour the most delicious flat white.
As for the food, I experienced the best waffle I have ever had in my life. It was so good I had it both mornings, while mum had smashed avo and dad the almond croissant - a little nervous as the breakfast menu items all contained some sort of fancy words and flower petals. Well, the second morning we ended up all having the waffles and I converted my parents into eating in cool, hip places with great vibes and try new things! – DELICIOUS! 10/10 highly recommend dining here. For dinner, we went to Zizzi’s, a fancy Italian food chain but it was super tasty and as a recommendation got for the Skinny pizza – half pizza, half salad but with all the flavour. Now, for our last dinner in the city we went to 10 to 10 delhi which is a super Indian restaurant which has the best indoor décor and seating I have seen in a long time! So comfortable, it’s like dining in your lounge but with great food! We also ate in Rocksalt in Leith, as well as a few drinks in Bannermans and Wetherspoons.
Let me continue with my love for Glasgow ramble. Glasgow has a rich and varied architectural heritage. The city's wealthy past has left a legacy of some of the finest Victorian architecture like the iconic City Chambers which sits majestically overlooking George Square – the heart of the city.
Glasgow Cathedral is one of the finest examples of medieval architecture I have ever seen in Scotland and adjacent to the Cathedral is the mesmerising Necropolis – a cemetery which is generally a sad place to be, but nor this one… it’s full of wonderful sculptures and fascinating stories. We managed to tick off all 3 and I will explain these plus more below.
George Square – we stopped here to take some photos, immerse ourselves in this fantastic architecture and also managed to get a fantastic dinner deal that evening at the Millennium hotel where we sat in their conservatory – essentially a glass room , private to just us which overlooks the square and the heart of the action. It was wonderful and the food was also pretty special – highly recommend!
I can’t believe I have been home now for just over 2 weeks! The time has flown. We have had the visit from Leo’s parents where they finally got to meet mine and it went REALLY well (if anyone knows me you would know that I have been mildly freaking out for months). Both set’s of parents seemed to really like each other and overall despite lost luggage, the torrential Scottish weather and the language barrier, we had a BLAST.
Leo also left nearly 10 days ago to head to his Vipassana meditation retreat – a 10 day silent meditation retreat where he cannot use eye contact, speech, writing or reading, essentially no outside influence whatsoever…and consequently no contact with me at all, which has successfully triggered a weird separation anxiety in myself which I felt for the first few days. I can only try and convince myself that it is totally normal as we have literally spent every waking moment together for the past 7 months, so I am actively pursuing enjoying this time and hoping it is entirely normal!
Back to Vipassana - In short, the idea of a Vipassana retreat (often colloquially referred to as a “sit”) is that you sit around all day long and learn to sharpen your awareness of what’s actually going on inside your body at the level of sensations. Over the 10 days you train yourself to stop reacting to the vicissitudes of life.
If you want to understand more (as I have been asked a lot) then I have added how it works below:
It sounds truly wonderful but since I suffer from high functioning anxiety as is, then we discussed me joining this retreat would actually not do any good, in fact it would probably make my already overactive monkey mind freak out even more. If you are interested and want to learn more or even try a course out then all the info can be found here.
Back to Scotland, I wanted to write about Glasgow – which I will do over 2 blog posts as I have already rambled on about meditation and me missing Leo…
For the next 2 days we made our way past Loch Ness attempting to find Nessie and into Inverness stopping at Castle Urquart before heading South back to Largs. We stopped along the way for small pit stops and spent the evening in a fantastic Air B n B – Black Croft lodge located South of Inverness.
Overall, despite the bad weather we had a wonderful time. We were amazed with how beautiful Scotland is and how similar it is to New Zealand. We spotted some great wildlife, got stuck in various highland cow traffic jams, explored so many castles and really immersed Leo into the ‘real’ Scotland which was my plan from the start.
So the breakfast served at this beaut Air B n B is out of this world good! Just have a look at it, there was everything and for us poor backpackers I nearly had a fit of excitement with the amount of food we got. Of course, the food we didn’t eat made it’s way into a packed lunch for out day’s adventure up ahead. On the itinerary today was the most famous walk in Skye – The Old man of Storr.
The ‘Old Man’ is a large pinnacle of rock that stands high and can be seen for miles around.
As part of the Trotternish ridge the Storr was created by a massive ancient landside, leaving one of the most photographed landscapes in the world. The great news is that today we were meeting some of our friends from New Zealand and together thought this would be a perfect day trip. Upon arriving at the carpark, it was already mobbed despite the weather being incredibly pish. We met our friends and sat in the car catching up for the best part of an hour, praying the weather would clear. And then it happened, a clearing, it was our window to hop out the car and start this trek fast.
It takes about 1 hour to walk, stopping along the way and when we reached the summit, OH.MY.GOD – the sun split through the clouds, the landscape was in full bloom and it was truly one of the most amazing places we have all ever been. We got absolutely soaked on the way down, but after taking some incredible photos, enjoying the surroundings and exploring as much as we could we headed back to the car…drenched…yes on cloud 9 for managing to tick this off the list.
Arriving in Skye was great, only 25 minutes from Eilean Donan will take you to the bridge and for ease of access and budget this was our method to get to the island. You can take the ferry which would have been great but with time restrictions, weather and cost we opted for the cheapest. I was dying to try some fresh seafood so we googled the best places to eat and ‘The Oyster shed’ seemed to fit the bill, so after a 40 minute drive from the bridge we arrived, hungry and ready to fill our tummies! We were not disappointed, it’s bloody brilliant! We paid $20nzd each which is pretty expensive when on a budget but with that got scallops, hot smoked salmon and chippy chips which on a cold day was the best way to spend lunchtime.
We then headed to the fairy pools, which are famous pools which apparently entice visitors from all over the world, as they make some great ‘Wild Swimming’ for those brave enough to enter the cold water. If you didn’t want to freeze to death then these magical Fairy Pools make some fantastic photos – however, upon arrival at the carpark we were advised that the whole area was flooded and visibility was incredibly poor. Yes, we sacked this off the itinerary and moved on.
From there, we made our way South to check out Castle Armadale located at the far Southern tip of the island. I was looking forward to seeing the castle but it was neary $20NZD to enter and we were both exhausted, so after a quick toilet stop we opted for driving the coast leisurely to get to our accommodation for the night.
Today was a disaster so I won’t even bother writing too much about it as we planned Ben Nevis, the largest mountain in the UK and we were super excited, but the rain and wind stopped us from completing the hike. It also stopped us from doing pretty much anything outdoors, so we opted for bowling and eating. All.day.long. DISASTER. To be honest, we wouldn’t recommend Fort William as a destination. The town itself is run down, apart from hiking Ben Nevis the area lacks charm and things to do, so we would recommend looking into one of the more picturesque smaller towns nearby.
Hopefully, moving forward we prayed this would not be a taster of what is to come but with positive thoughts we checked into our Air B n B and watched a marathon of Friends. This was the weather at Ben Nevis so you can at least see what we could have done:
Waking up this morning, we knew today had to be better than yesterday so after a lovely breakfast in our Air B n B (which was actually excellent and we would highly recommend), we hopped in the car and started our journey to the Isle of Skye. This has been on our Bucket list for years as Leo had never been and I haven’t for 27 years, so as I remembered nada and it seems to be the new place to visit, we made it the integral part of this trip. From reading blogs, looking on Instagram and seeing so many beautiful and awesome locations on the island, we couldn’t wait to get there and experience it for ourselves.
Our first planned stop was Castle Eilean Donan, but after about 1 hour drive we pulled over at Loch Garry as the loch was so calm, it made a perfect mirror lake and the most opportune photo stop. We have mirror lakes in New Zealand, but here to see the intense greenery reflecting off this atmospheric loch was incredibly inspiring.
After far too many photos and the start of the rain, we were off to Eilean Donan. Eilean Donan itself is a small tidal island where three sea lochs meet, Loch Duich, Loch Long and Loch Alsh. From there this picturesque castle which frequently appears in the movies dominates the island, which lies about 1 kilometer from the village of Dornie.
I have to admit, over the whole 6 days this was by far our favourite castle. As much as we didn’t pay the entry fee (which at $24NZD pp we felt unnecessary) we were able to take some incredible shots from the shore. It’s a perfect spot to stop, use the bathrooms if needed and grab a snack/ stretch your legs so 100% add this to your itinerary. Today so far was excellent and we can't wait to get to Skye!
We have been in Scotland now for little over a week and it’s been incredible. We have loved being home, spending time with family and enjoying Scottish Summer…haha, I joke, there isn’t one, but family time has been incredible. We have now set off on a 6 days Scottish Road trip where we will travel up North as far as the Isle of Skye and round the surrounding the area.
We set off from Largs in mum and dad’s car – thanks guys! And the first stop would be the stunning Loch Lomond and small village of Luss. The picturesque conservation village of Luss sits on the western shore of Loch Lomond where much of the village was created in the 18th and 19th centuries to house workers from the nearby slate quarries. It is beautiful! And the sun came out which was even better!
From Luss we made the drive about 1 hour North to Inverary to check out the infamous and brilliant Inverary castle and have a spot of lunch. The weather was actually amazing, and a wee travel tip – park at the Co-op supermarket and get 2 hours free parking instead of pay to park all over town. The Co-op also does lunch time deals for $5NZD so (3 GBP) so if you are looking to grab a cheap but yummy lunch then it’s a win!
Hey! I'm Ally. I left the UK in 2011 to move overseas and ended up in New Zealand - my new home. This year we are taking a gap year to loop the world stopping in some AMAZING destinations - and I'm passionate about sharing these adventures with you!