Scotland, why go? For some reason it was on my bucket list, and I had to find out why. When Overseas Travel Adventure (OAT) offered a trip. We jumped on it. We spent 3 weeks in Spring/Summer 2023.
Scotland has a long history, with standing stones from ancient peoples, Vikings, cleared land that is now sheep pasture, peat bogs where digging for personal use is everywhere, and the rock walls that are “dry stacked”, i.e., no mortar. Much of our time in Scotland was spent travelling in a small coach with either 8 companions (on the pre and post trips, outer Hebrides and the Shetland Islands, 14 on the main trip) with destinations ranging from ancient ruins, larger cities with intricate old buildings that were 200 to 300 years old, good food, good scotch, and viewing the oldest golf course in the world, St. Andrews. I was slowly beginning to understand why Scotland should be on everyone’s bucket list.
We began our trip flying into Inverness with a drive to Nairn as a home base for a few days, then off to The Isle of Skye. Day trips and then off to Oban, more day trips. While in Oban we took a side trip to a Highland Cattle farm (hairy coos) of Jon and Queenie Strickland, Cladich (photos included) and lunch. Then off to Iona, a small island with the oldest Christian church in Scotland founded by St. Columba, and the supposed place where the Book of Kells was written.
A ferry to the Outer Hebrides and onto the Isles of Harris and Lewis. Harris Tweed is “home machine knitted” on Lewis which I did not know. We stayed in Stornaway with day trips out. Like much of Scotland, the landscape is now fields and sloped peat bogs separated by stacked rocks as “fences” to keep the sheep within their pastures. Next leg was to fly out of Stornaway into Glasco, Scotland’s largest city on the River Clyde.
Off to Inverness, for a few days ending with a drive to Aberdeen through the Speyside region where there is a high concentration of whisky distilleries. We spent two nights in this industrial city culminating with a drive to Edinburgh, passing through St. Andrews where the world of golf began. As we drove to Edinburgh we passed over the Firth of Forth an estuary with a railroad bridge that was constructed in 1890 and is one of the longest cantilevered steel bridges in the world. The first two photos are of this bridge. They were taken by Jackie, our team guide. Thank you Jackie. All other photos were taken by me/Jim, which means sometimes I was at the back of the pack working our way through the city streets and fields but sometimes on my own if I got up early enough.
Edinburgh, like all of Scotland, has many very old buildings, good restaurants and with streets that are easy to walk. We also took a side trip on our own to Roslyn Temple with tales of the KnightsTemplar and Freemasons.
Two thoughts on food. All the food was good to great. I tried the haggis which was not too bad. Fish and Chips were everywhere but my system does not appreciate deep fried anything although I did sample a lot of the battered Haddock. One of the best foods is Cullen Skink, a smoked Haddock based with potato and leek in a white base, delicious. The most romantic restaurant with a 5-star menu is the Witchery, situated a few minutes from the entrance of Edinburgh Castle.
After Edinburgh, we flew to and spent another 7 days on the Shetland Islands, yes, Shetland ponies do come from here. One important point, we drove to the south end of the Shetland Islands to a light house at Sumburgh head, situated on a high cliff with “a lot” of nesting puffins (photos included), guillemots, fulmars, and kittiwakes.