This post is a recap of our trip to Scotland from June 2016.
Leaving Fort Leavenworth has the reputation of being a bit of a cluster due to the fact that every June 1000+ majors graduate and PCS at the same time. But Clay and I didn’t let that deter us from squeezing in a week-long trip to Scotland while my parents watched the kids. We knew that Clay’s schedule would be crazy once he signed into his new unit so it made sense to vacation en route to Texas. So we made the trek to Georgia after graduation, chilled for a couple of days, kissed and hugged the kids, profusely thanked my parents, and then found ourselves at Atlanta airport drinking beers and waiting for a flight to Edinburgh.
An overnight flight ensured that we arrived in Scotland mid-morning with plenty of time to secure a rental car, drive to our hotel, and then explore before crashing due to lack of sleep. The first thing we noticed (aside from the gorgeous green countryside) was the cool air – the average temperature in June is in the low-sixties, which is one of the many reasons we chose to vacation in Scotland before moving to San Antonio (where it has been 100+ degrees for the past five days). Scotland is home to almost 5.3 million people. And as any guidebook is quick to point out, Scotland has more sheep than people.
Because we’re cheap, we didn’t pay extra for me to be able to drive on the other side of the road. While we have driven rental cars on the other side of the road in the Virgin Islands, it was our first time driving on the other side of the car as well. By the end of the trip, we felt like pros but I’d be lying if I said we didn’t scrape against a hedge or two along back country roads. We were surprised to discover that Scotland uses miles as a unit of measurement – we assumed they would have used kilometers. We also paid extra for a car with GPS, which proved to be an incredibly smart investment. As Clay can attest, I am not the most reliable navigator stateside…in a foreign country? Forget it.
Our hotel was in Eaglesham, a little village outside of Glascow. It had about 30 rooms and is a popular venue for weddings. In fact, we were the only Americans there for the duration of our stay – which we consider a plus! One of our favorite memories of our trip involves a trio of drunk Scotsman in kilts outside our window at 3am, continuing the festivities of the wedding they attended earlier that night.
Our hotel had a nice restaurant attached to it, which was the perfect place to have our first meal in Scotland. Our late lunch consisted of pints of beer, tuna and red onion sandwiches, and carrot and curry soup. We then fell asleep for a couple of hours in order to combat the jet-lag that had began to set in. When we woke up, we decided to ignore our foggy heads as best we could and drive down to Ayr to check out the water. We walked all along the coastal community (felt reminiscent of a little seaside Massachusetts or Maine town) and ended up eating dinner at Treehouse. Clay had braised beef steak and I had three-cheese macaroni. And yes, my macaroni and cheese was as good as it looks.
The next morning, we drove up to the Glengoyne Distillery in Dumgoyne. Founded in 1833, Glengoyne is a single-malt whisky distillery located on the highland line (the area between the lowlands and highlands of Scotland). The distillery’s water supply is Glengoyne Burn and they’re only one of two distilleries (the other being Macallan) that use Golden Promise barley.
I am not a huge whisky/whiskey fan so I was surprised to discover that I really enjoyed the 18-year variety. Sorry babe – we now know that I have expensive taste when it comes to whisky!
We ate lunch at a nearby restaurant popular with hikers and then set out to hike Dumgoyne, the picturesque hill located behind the distillery. While only 1100 feet high, the climb to the top was steep and included a couple of false summits. We were the only ones on the trail that day, which was amazing. And the views were magnificent – we couldn’t have asked for a more quintessential day in Scotland – a whisky distillery and a hike in the countryside.
The following day, we drove down to Ayrshire Coast to Culzean Castle (pronounced Kuh-lean), an 18th-century mansion constructed by the order of the 10th Earl of Cassilis. We paid to tour the castle and then spent our time walking the expansive grounds.
Our favorite part of the castle was the walkway between the castle itself and the carriage house. If we ever find ourselves in a position to build a castle (a likely possibility with service member pay…), it will be along a rocky coast somewhere.
We had Americanos and biscuits over looking the cold waters of the Fifth of Clyde – one of my favorite memories of the trip.
And then we climbed over some rocks to leave the grounds and found ourselves hiking along the shore. Afterwards, we decided that since we spent the morning looking at Isle of Arran, we should go there. So we found a ferry schedule and booked it up to Ardrossan (about an hour away from Culzean Castle) to catch the CalMac ferry over to Brodick on the Isle of Arran.
Leaving Ardrossan – cloudy and dreary.
Arriving at Isle of Arran – bright and sunny.
Isle of Arran is the seventh largest Scottish island and is home to hills known as the Sleeping Warrior due to their resemblance to a resting human figure.
We walked around Brodick and stopped in a bar for a couple of pints before making our way down to Brodick Castle to hike Goat Fell, the highest point on Isle of Arran.
Sadly, we ran out of time before reaching the summit (we needed to catch the last ferry off the island) but still managed to get a really nice and long hike in the books.
And thus concludes the first part of our trip to Scotland. Stay tuned for Loch Lomond, Edinburgh, the Highlands, Loch Ness, and more. Looking back on these pictures, my heart aches. But I find comfort in the fact that we will find ourselves back in the UK again because we left part of our hearts somewhere in the Highlands, along with many other travelers to Scotland.