With 15 glorious hours of daylight comes great responsibility. We decided to squeeze every drop we could out of most of our days in Scotland. Day 8 1/2 into the beginning of 9 was no exception! We left Blair Castle as the Highland Games were drawing to a close. To the sound of bagpipes on the wind, we left behind more than just our footprints in that damp grassy field in front of the castle, we left pieces of our hearts too.
The funny thing is, we hadn’t even touched the top things most tourists do yet. Looking back, I don’t think I would have done it any other way! Our love for Scotland had grown and become part of us by the time we made it back around to the eastern coast. Visiting Scotland in late May was perfect too, for us it meant minimal rain, minimal midges, more people still in school so smaller crowds and lots of daylight (at least half of it was partly sunny to boot).
After the highland games we drove through the Cairngorms National Park to Stonehaven. We chose the route that took us by Balmoral, but as it was late in the day, we only got to see the gates. Although we didn’t find it to be the prettiest part of Scotland, it was of course beautiful in a different way. We can see why the roaring river, rolling hills and peaceful fields make for one of the Queen’s favorite places to be.
Driving from Balmoral to Stonehaven was beautiful and full of wonder. I’m convinced that driving is the best way to see Scotland. We saw many castles, fields and quaint little towns. We eventually popped out on flat expanse that suddenly ended at the North Sea. We had reached an edge of Scotland and it was glorious! We of course had to sneak a peek at Dunnotar Castle, even though we planned to come back at sunrise the next day.
Stonehaven is a sweet little village with a harbor on the North Sea, many people have a good walk from the town to the castle. We stayed in a hotel with 12 rooms and decent restaurant below- The Ship’s Inn. We only made it out this far because a good friend told us Dunnotar and St Andrews were not to be missed. So we squeezed them in, between the Highland Games and our full day in Stirling.
We didn’t get to tour Dunnotar, but we had it to ourselves at sunrise (thanks to no sun, it turned into a “grey-rise”). Set on the edge magnificent cliffs right down to the edge of the sea, this impressive castle has an equally impressive guest book. The Honors of Scotland were kept here, Mary Queen of Scots and her son James VI visited and it was once even home to a pet lion! If ever in Scotland, you’ll just have to go and see for yourself the many reasons why it draws many visitors from near and far!
Just down the coast, St. Andrews Cathedral was awe inspiring. This once massive center of worship is now a cemetery with just enough left behind you can picture what is must have looked like in its prime. With very little effort, you should be able to imagine the pilgrims making their way to the largest medieval church in Scotland, until it was destroyed by protestants. Absolutely worth the hour and half we spent wandering the grounds. St Andrews itself was bustling with locals, tourists and students. We were only passing through, but would have liked to spend more time here.
From here, we made our way to Stirling, to truly start our day!