Scotland: Day Trip to Loch Lomond and Stirling

As I mentioned before, I did a couple of day trips out of Edinburgh with Rabbie’s Tours. The first was to St. Andrews and the Kingdom of Fife. The following day, I went to Loch Lomond and Stirling. These two locations are actually part of the Highlands but still pretty close to Edinburgh and Glasgow, so they are a popular day trip option.

Stirling Castle from below
Below Stirling Castle
Below Stirling Castle

The weather forecast was looking good in the morning but rainy later in the day, so our tour guide rearranged the schedule a bit to give us decent weather while we were at Loch Lomond. We therefore started out by going to Stirling, but just stopping below the castle to take in the views, then returned later in the day to visit the castle. The sun was shining and the grass was very green below the castle.

Loch Lomond
Loch Lomond
Loch Lomond
Loch Lomond

From Stirling, we went on to Loch Lomond, stopping near Aberfoyle. From where we parked, there was a trail that led along the lake and then some stones that led up a hill. Our tour guide took several of us up that hill, where there were stunning views of the lake below. It was a slightly overcast morning, but we could see the lake quite well. It was so peaceful! After enjoying the view from the top, we walked down the hill and then had time to enjoy the peaceful lake and walk around as we wished.

Loch Lomond
Loch Lomond
Loch Lomond
Dukes Pass and the Trossachs

We stopped in nearby Aberfoyle for lunch (I grabbed a panini at Liz MacGregors), then took the Dukes Pass back toward Stirling. This is an incredibly winding road, but the views were wonderful, especially with the leaves changing colors. We could see the Trossachs in the distant.

Highland cows
Highland cows
Highland cows

At the bottom of Dukes Pass, we stopped at a farm to try to get a view of some “hairy coos”, or Highland cows. We were lucky and were able to call the cows over to the road to take pictures and feed them some treats. Though they are very hardy and look somewhat dangerous because of their horns, they are actually very friendly.

We went back to Stirling, and had a couple of hours to explore the castle. Stirling Castle is one of the largest and most important castles in Scotland. The castle dates from the 1100s, but most of the current buildings were built between the late 1400s and 1600. Built atop a crag and surrounded by steep cliffs on three sides, it had a strong defensive position and guarded a key crossing of the River Firth. Although it is a fortress, it has been used as a favored royal palace for centuries of Scottish kings and queens. Mary Queen of Scots was crowned here, as well as several other kings and queens, while others were born here.

What is unique about Stirling Castle is that much of it has been restored to its former glory, so that visitors can see the castle as it likely would have been several hundred years ago. This has been done based on extensive and careful research and more renovations continue to occur. The rooms really are stunning, and there are several exhibitions showing what life would have been like in the past. One of the largest undertakings has been the recreation of tapestries that once hung in the castle. They are truly impressive!

After walking around Stirling Castle, we headed back to Edinburgh, stopping for a bit at The Kelpies, massive metal sculptures just outside of Edinburgh. Keplies are mythological creatures from Scottish lore. Though they look like magnificent horses, according to lore if you get on the back of a kelpie, they will drag you into the water and eat you! These sculptures are also an homage to the strong workhorses that were a critical part of Scotland’s industrial past.

After walking around the Kelpies, we returned to the city for the evening. It was yet another beautiful day visiting sites!

Scotland: 2 Day Highlands Tour (Part II)

Read Part I of the 2 Day Highlands Tour here.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I took a 2-day tour with Rabbie’s Tours to Loch Ness, Inverness & the Highlands. This post will pick up with the second day of the tour.

Loch Ness
Loch Ness & Urquhart Castle
Loch Ness & Urquhart Castle
Loch Ness

After a good night’s rest in a quiet B&B in Inverness, we departed fairly early in the morning to the rather famous Loch Ness. While most people know Loch Ness because of its supposed Loch Ness “monster”, known as Nessie, it’s a beautiful and unique loch for other reasons as well. Of the over 31,000 lochs in Scotland, Loch Ness is the largest by water volume. In fact, it’s the largest by water volume in all of the United Kingdom. It stretches over 20 miles long and is incredibly deep (745 feet at the deepest point). Surrounding the lake are the mountains that the Highlands are known for, and it’s a stunning location.

As for Nessie, while no one has been able to prove that he exists, there are recorded sightings dating back as far as the 6th century. St. Columba, a monk that had come to the area to convert the pagans living there to Christianity wrote about the experience in which the monster tried to attack a fellow monk who was swimming in the lake. Since then, there have been numerous investigations and supposed sightings, but everything has been inconclusive. Who knows?

Loch Ness & Urquhart Castle
Urquhart Castle
Loch Ness & Urquhart Castle
Loch Ness & Urquhart Castle
Loch Ness & Urquhart Castle

Everyone in our tour group decided to do the boat ride over Loch Ness to Urquhart Castle, which we then explored. Urquhart Castle is now in ruins and the present ruins were built between the 1200s and 1500s. Despite being a ruin, some walls still exist and one can imagine how beautiful it must have been in the past. There is detailed information telling about the various functions the rooms would have had and an informative video in the information center. Despite being a ruin, I highly recommend a visit to the castle.

Fort William

After wandering around the grounds of Urquhart Castle, we headed on to Fort William, where we ate lunch. It was raining hard when we arrived, so I only walked around a little bit. In the late 1800s, it was decided to extend the railroad to Fort William in hopes of increasing tourism. The town had to decide where to place the new train station. At the time, there was an old and very large fort in the town, but the townspeople determined that no one would want to see such a thing, so they tore it down (one wall remains) and used the space to build the train station and other buildings. So, while a cute town and a popular place to stop on tours and road trips in the Highlands, there is no longer the fort that gave the town its name.

Glen Coe
Glen Coe
Glen Coe
Glen Coe
Glen Coe
Glen Coe

After lunch in Fort William, we drove on towards Glen Coe, which is arguably one of the most stunning areas in the Highlands. We drove long stretches without seeing any buildings or houses, and stopped at a couple of locations to take in the views. Because it was fall, the hills and mountains were quite orange in brown in color, but still gorgeous.

Glen Coe
Doune Castle

We drove through a small part of The Trossachs before reaching Doune Castle, an Outlander filming location. It’s not open to the public, but we got to see the outside before heading back to Edinburgh.

All in all, it was a fabulous day full of amazing sights.

Scotland: 2 Day Highlands Tour (Part I)

When I started planning my trip for Scotland, I knew I definitely wanted to get up into the Highlands. However, when I started to do more research, I decided not to rent a car and found that many of the trains and buses have limited access to the Highlands during the fall months. Although I hadn’t thought I wanted to do a tour, I started looking into options and stumbled upon Rabbie’s Tours. Rabbie’s has a bunch of tours throughout Scotland and all tours are a maximum of 16 people. The reviews were great, so I decided to schedule a tour with them. I wanted to do a several-day trip, but my dates weren’t working out, so I ended up just doing a 2-day tour to the Highlands and two separate day trips with them. I highly recommend their tours!

Forth Bridge
Forth Bridges

Our tour departed early in the morning, with our first stop of the day at Queensferry Crossing and the Forth Bridges. There are three bridges that cross the Forth River just outside of Edinburgh. The oldest (and prettiest) bridge, built in 1882, is a railway bridge built with 54,000 tons of steel and 194,000 cubic yards of granite. It is majestic and impressive, and our tour guide, Stefan, commented he believes it will last forever. The other two bridges are road bridges built in 1964 and 2017.

Dunkeld
Dunkeld
Dunkeld
Dunkeld
Dunkeld

From there we headed to Dunkeld, a picturesque village with an old cathedral. The cathedral is partly ruin and partly still in use. We were let loose to explore on our own, so I walked along a path to the cathedral, took in views of the stunning fall foliage, and walked along the bridge for views of the river.

Pitlochry
Pitlochry
Pitlochry

Our next stop was at Pitlochry, a slightly more busy town. Our tour guide recommended walking to the dam since the foliage was so incredible. When the dam was built, the fish couldn’t make it to their usual spawning location, so a fish bridge was built, which is visible from the dam. It was a beautiful walk. This was also our lunch stop, and there were several restaurants and cafes to choose from (I had a panini at Cafe Calluna).

Loch Morlich
Loch Morlich
Loch Morlich

From Pitlochry we continued on to Loch Morlich. Scotland has more than 31,000 lochs (or lakes), so you can’t visit Scotland without seeing several. We had time to relax or walk along a quiet beach near Glenmore. It was sunny but cold and windy.

Tomatin Whisky Distillery

After an hour or so here, we had a surprise stop with a free whisky tasting at Tomatin Whisky Distillery. We were only there for about half an hour, during which time we had a small taste single malt Scotch whisky and watched a short video about how the whisky is made.

Clava Cairns
Clava Cairns (while not where Outlander was filmed or set, it is believed to be the inspiration)
Clava Cairns

Our final stop before Inverness, where we were staying for the night, was just outside the city. Clava Cairns, a series of stone circles and piles, date from prehistoric times. They are full of mysteries and history. After some time exploring, we were dropped at our lodging for the night. I walked through the city center, then grabbed a bite to eat before having a relaxing night in at my B&B.

Not a sponsored post, I just really enjoyed my Rabbie’s Tour. Check out their website here, and the Loch Ness, Inverness & the Highlands Tour here