With the weather finally improving and Erik catching a break from out of town work we decided to plan our next Adventure Squad trip. If you follow the blog you’ll know that we tried to take a trip to Scotland in January, but discovered virtually everything we wanted to do and where we wanted to visit was closed. But the beginning of spring gave us a renewed push to visit ole Caledonia. I will give this one pieced of advice if you want to visit Scotland, I highly recommend between March-December as many places are closed and the weather is less than predictable from January-February.
For this trip we were torn between flying north or taking a road trip through northern England and into Scotland. With only 10 days, and way too many places we wanted to see, we opted to fly up. This worked out better because the cost for all of our tickets was still cheaper than a car rental alone during our days. On shorter trips we make a categorized list of must see/do’s, would like to see/do, and we’re okay with seeing or not to help us formulate our trip. From here we created a map of our road trip to get a better idea of logistics and what was feasible. The focal point of this particular trip was whisky, as any trip to Scotland really should be. Erik and Jared are both BIG whisky fans, with a special fondness for the smokey, peat flavored spirits from Islay (pronounced I-luh). We made this the priority of our planning and worked the rest of the trip around it
If you are interested in a trip to Islay, or anywhere in during a holiday time, be sure to plan well in advance. Our dates were during the week of Easter and much of Europe has this time off, and many people choose to travel. Islay is popular with tourists and local Scots alike, and with limited lodging on the island it can be tricky to find a place to stay. Famous for its peat heavy whiskies, the true gems of the island are its distilleries. I’ve included a table with the contact information eight of the most popular distilleries on the island to give you a head start to booking your tours. And I highly recommend taking a tour when you can, they are a great way to learn more about the distillery and the potential get a few extra sips of the good stuff along the way. Additionally, the value you get in terms of experience and tastings is great as most range from £5-£7. Most places recommend booking in advance to ensure you get a place on the tour.
|Distillery||Phone [+44 (0)]|
|Laphroaig||On-line form||1496 302 418|
|Laugavulinfirstname.lastname@example.org||1496 302 749|
|Bruichladdichemail@example.com||1496 850 190|
|Bunnahabhain||On-line form||1496 840 557|
|Bowmorefirstname.lastname@example.org||1496 810 441|
|Kilchomanemail@example.com||1496 850 011|
|Coal Ilafirstname.lastname@example.org||1496 302 769|
|Ardbeg||On-line form||1496 302 244|
If whisky isn’t your thing there are no shortage of other places to visit and see. For the Harry Potter fans out there be sure to add riding the Jacobite Steam Train to your list of activities while visiting. The train served as the Hogwarts Express in the films, which may be enough for most people to want to ride it. However even if you aren’t a fan of the series, its said the terrain the tracks run through is some of the most beautiful in Scotland. That was enough to sell us. Be sure to cross reference your travel dates with the West Coast Rail schedule, and book early! Due to their short season, and for the reasons stated above, seats fill quickly.
Or do an inner Hebridean Island tour and see some of the history or wildlife in the area. We wanted to try our luck at seeing some Atlantic puffins so we added a day trip out to Lunga Island to our itinerary. Here you get an opportunity to be right up with the puffins, but they are only there from mid-April to late July so be sure to plan accordingly.
The final main must-see on our list was…….wait for it……Loch Ness! Surprised?! While it may be kitchy and a quintessential tourist trap, what is life without a few tourist traps? However, there is much more to the lake than just monster hunting, like Urquhart Castle. The ruins of the 16th century fortress that overlooked the loch still stand and provide an insight into life during that time.
If castles or historical monuments are more of your interests, check out the Historical Scotland site and their Explorer Pass. Like England, Scotland has their own historical society, Historical Scotland, that manages many of the historic buildings and monuments found in the country. While some are free, most have an entrance fee. Depending on how many of these sites you visit you could save yourself some cash by utilizing their Explorer Pass option. It functions much like the English Heritage’s Overseas Visitor Pass, and if you aren’t familiar with that you can check out our blog post to see how it works.
After deciding on these three items, we filled in the gaps with tours, cities, and even some camping based on our route. There appear to be no shortage of places to see/things to do and we can’t wait to share them with you in our coming series. The first stop on our Scotland adventure is the countries capitol: Edinburgh. Join us as we explore the Royal Mile, Edinburgh’s own castle, and our first sips of whisky.