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A family vacation to England 2010- Scotland

How this trip started.

Dear Hubby wanted to do a gastro tour of the UK n scotland. We had been planning a holiday with my in laws since forever… 
So finally, our friendly neighbourhood trip planner started off..

Initially DH wanted to do Edinburgh, Speyside and some isles as part of a whisky trail.. I let him dream on and plan on… Then two months before leaving I asked him what else would we do in Craigallachie, Speyside.. And I got..”we could play golf, maybe see some castles..”. I tried to bring him slowly to earth.. Four of the five us don’t drink whisky, and if he was driving, neither would he :)..

Back to the drawing board..Along the way, I heard from one of my friends about Arran Aromatics, and it took a few gentle nudges to shift our trip northward.. Some complaints later..”we aren’t getting accommodation for five people”, to which I quipped, why not drive through… A few days of grumbles, and looking up ferry schedules and we were set.
We eliminated Loch Ness (a big lake without any Nessie), Inverness (who wants to visit a war memorial), and sundry other tourist places.

After struggling with train schedules, and trying to get us on the Harry Potter train ( we’d end up wasting a day going there, and promptly getting back), DH decided to rent a car.. We heard awful tales about how bad the roads were and how foolish we were to cram so much into so less time, but after doing it I can only say that the roads were be-u-tiful.. A pleasure to drive without a single bump, even in the most remote villages..

I felt that driving at one’s own pace also gives one, freedom to tweak your itinerary if something interesting comes by…and a lot more adventurous…like driving the car into a giant ferry to cross a bay, and ability to explore the islands which can’t be done otherwise.

William Wallace monument 







We wanted a mix of Highland and Island experience and started our Scotland trip from Stirling, reaching here, from the Lake District on Day 1. This is a beautiful small town with the William Wallace monument as a highlight.







our tour guide.. guy posing as wallace for last 50 yrs…






River Forth.. spectacular view of Stirling, from atop the William Wallace monument



We decided upon a night stay here as we wanted to catch the next morning ferry to Isle of Arran from Ardrossan, which is a short distance from here

Relying heavily on trip advisor recommendations, we booked 2 rooms at Argyll House B & B, http://www.argyllhouse.com/ While only few hours away from Stirling, we, as a routine, called up Argyll house to announce our impending arrival. Our, to-be host, Joan seemed very surprised on the phone, as she didn’t have any such booking in her calender. Why I am mentioning this at all, is to highlight that, despite making bookings way in advance, one can be in for a mighty surprise! 
Thankfully, Joan was an exceptionally friendly lady who despite the mix up, went out of her way to arrange for rooms to host our family, in her friend’s B & B’s. Here, I may mention that the makeshift arrangement was in no way inferior to the standard we were expecting and we had a comfortable nights stay!



On her recommendation, we had one of the most outstanding meals of the entire, month-long, England trip in this small town of Stirling, at a local gastro-pub called “Birds n Bees” 


http://www.thebirdsandthebees-stirling.com/ .. a must try!!


Next morning, DH was sweating bricks, because we had to reach the port of Ardrossan on time, en route to Arran…
Predictably, a wrong loop on the highway.. and we were in the middle of a bustling jam in Glasgow, (which we had planned to bypass) at peak commute time! Somehow, extricated ourselves from the mess and reached the port on time…

 




























At Ardrossan, we positioned our car at the driver of the que, all the while hoping that someone else would be ever first person driving in.. The ferry itself was a humungous ship that offloaded 121 vehicles, including cars, trucks, trailers… When the time for boarding came, predictably we were asked to lead the way, and it actually turned out to be a breeze… Very well coordinated.. By the time we had parked, put the hand brake down and informed the sailors that someone behind us hadn’t put on the hand break.. Everyone was loaded and set to go..

After landing we promptly put Arran aromatics in our GPS.. and toddled off.. Bought a load of toiletries, tried about eight types of cheese at the creamery next door (including chilli, pepper, garlic, burnt onion, grape!) 

 We then drove around the island (it’s a miniature island with a kind of ring road encircling it..) and seeing the change in micro-climate from point to point.

























We then drove around the island (it’s a miniature island with a kind of ring road encircling it..) and seeing the change in micro-climate from point to point.

 

 From Arran.. we crossed back to mainland via another ferry (Claonaig- Lochranza) ..which was a mini-adventure on its own.. We got so  busy soaking in the beauty of Arran..that we nearly missed our ferry from Claonaig!! When we reached the port, we saw the ferry already pulling out and our hearts nearly skipped a beat as we hadn’t booked a nightstay on Arran, which is such a small place anyway… Luckily brought attention to ourselves by a couple of car honks and one wouldn’t believe.. they brought the ferry back for us!! Can  anything be sweeter than that!! (BTW, DH insists on mentioning that he had honked so frantically, because he’d read on a blog of this ferry being helpful enough to accommodate people !)


…and so we reached Oban in the evening… This is one of the most beautiful drives as well as a very beautiful quaint bay town…. All the more so because we had very low expectations.. It’s often described as a fishing town!

Here, we stayed on for two nights..in a manor like B&B,  


http://www.tripadvisor.in/Hotel_Review-g186501-d218133-Reviews-Kilchrenan_House-Oban_Argyll_and_Bute_Scotland.html 


 Kilchrenan House. 


Very scenic with awesome views of the bay! This is a large B&B, with permanent staff, and near hotel like service.. DH, and dad appreciated the sherry and whisky after chilly walks.. Breakfast was black porridge and haggis and oats with whisky and cream for DH, and more civilised offerings for us.. Btw, DH had also made Atholl Brose, a concoction with oats, cream, honey and whisky in India… Resembling Baileys irish cream in taste…

There are multiple day trips from here to other islands like isle of Mull where u can do birding.. Golfing and stuff! Oban also has a famous distillery with some high end single malt whisky by the same name. DH and dad went for a tour while we ladies shopped….Oban happened to be the first place in England, after London, where we found some shops open after 5 p.m!!  Bought loads of Scotland trivia here, clan patterned mufflers, golf balls n likes.. Also had a superdelicious blueberry pancake that could fill the tummies of 5, by itself!

We had a good dinner at a local restaurant we remember as “Kua Mua” actually called Cuan Mor..

Oban at dusk!
Oban in the morning

From Oban, we started on day 4 and drove towards Isle of Skye via Kyle of lochalsh.. Amongst one of the most scenic drives of Scotland! On the way we saw the fairytale castle of Eileen Donan,  http://www.eileandonancastle.com/ and passed some very picturesque..Glens and Dales.  



Serendipitously, (again DH corrects me that he had eyeballed this festival, and even sent me a mail on this) on the way, caught the Glengarry highland games,  http://www.glengarryhighlandgames.com/history.html, which was a very authentic Scottish experience! Other than the Bagpipes, the games, the races, also saw a Dog show, here! Fun filled 3 hours!! 
















If you are a “Harry Potter” buff, you could alternatively take the famous train to Hogwarts. This train journey, I think begins and ends at Fort Mason and requires pre-booking as well as a day at your disposal. We couldn’t, unfortunately, fit this in our schedule but it’s again highly recommended!


Reached Skye by evening, after taking as many stops on the way, as possible and spent two nights in Skye. Staying at Skye is way better, again to soak in the place and I would highly recommend the B & B called Carter’s Rest,  http://www.cartersrestskye.co.uk/, one of the top rated ones on tripadvisor! 


The Hosts here are friendly and welcoming and have a sense of humor!




Awesome view from the breakfast table at the B & B, Carter’s rest

Room at Carter’s Rest
















This is if you are a nature lover wanting only peace, serenity and beauty to surround yourself. If you would rather see the main points and move on, you can see the city of Portree, the Talisker distillery, the Neist Point lighthouse and some famous waterfalls there.

We got dragged to the Talisker distillery by DH, but along the way had some brilliant “pub food”.. A biryani look alike called Nasi Goreng.. At the “Old Inn” at Carbost, along with some awesome coffee..

breathtaking Skye


Neist Point


Nasi Goreng

IIn Skye, we both (DH & I) set out at 10:30pm at night, in blinding daylight, with dregs of petrol in the car tank to see the Neist Point lighthouse.. Other than the lighthouse, the crazy scottish sheep and Highland Coos (long haired) cows were the attraction.. Even after so many years of marriage, we drove down there like giggly adolescents, leaving Dad to teach mom Snooker… And DH then got to taste unchilled, filtered Skye whisky (Port Dubhe) thanks to our hosts.. Another aside…our hosts were so sweet that they sent a scarf I had accidentally left behind by courier back home…
Another attraction at Skye included Skye silver, where I got a Jacobite rose earring..

After spending two nights at Isle of Skye and nicely exploring the island, we undertook, what we expected to be an arduous, long tiring journey to Edinburgh, via Pitlochry. But we were pleasantly surprised, as the journey took no time at all and what with all the beauty to behold, it became yet another trip to remember!

On the way, my over enthusiastic hubby with a very supportive “Parents-in-law”, chalked out a personalised whisky Trail (considering it to be a mandatory part of Scottish experience)..and visited small boutique distilleries like Dalwhinnie, adding on to our collection of single malts.


Pitlochry is a small, picture perfect, postcard town and also hosts the smallest Scottish distillery close to it, called Edradour.
Pitlochry
















We reached Edinburgh by evening. It’s a magnificent city with an old world charm. By the end of the trip, we were so overwhelmed by castles that had no real interest in visiting the Edinburgh castle. Yet, we ended up doing the same, as it is one of the most famous ones!! Zillion things to do in Edinburgh with an evening spent strolling on the royal mile and those underground spooky trips!!

From Edinburgh, caught a train to London (had booked this, way in advance and so got the tickets, dirt cheap for 5 people). On this picturesque train ride, we caught a glimpse of the Alnwick Castle, more famous as the Hogwart’s of “Harry Potter”.


Alnwick castle

Reached King’s Cross station at London, in the evening…did photo-op at the station “9¾”… reached our hotel in a glum mood because another memorable trip was coming to a close. Spent a sleepless night, coz we had to catch the international flight next morning…to Home!


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