Glens, Trains and Waterfalls- Scotland Trip Day 4

Our breakfast with a view of Loch Leven…

Our bodies protested going down to breakfast, despite how delicious we knew the “full Scottish breakfast” awaiting us would be.  We were quite sore and our thigh muscles didn’t seem to be very willing to allow our knees to bend.  We pressed on and just used bagging a Munro as our excuse for appearing as though we aged fifty years in one day.  Today was one of the few things Ben actually added to the plans of our trip. 

Not too far from the beautiful tourist laden Glencoe is the almost silent Glen Etive. Beautiful in its own right, yet very different.  We found this to be true of every glen we visited.  Not like the last and not like the next.  Glen Etive has some beautiful scenery accessed by a single track road that is dotted with sheep and houses we could only guess the ages of. 

The road to Glen Etive

The road follows the river and opens up to a beautiful loch bearing the same name as the glen. You are treated to several waterfalls on the river and many more meandering down the hills if it has rained recently or if any snow is melting. 

We wandered down this road for a small layby that was a 007 Skyfall filming location.  This is the particular road that M and 007 drive an Aston  Martin down to his “home”.  They pull off and look down the glen.   Ben wanted to recreate this image, unfortunately for him our travel budget didn’t include a fancy car.

Thinking James Bond thoughts…

From Glen Etive, we made our way northward again.  We had to navigate around tour buses and crowds not yet encountered on our travels.  This was our 3rd day experiencing Glencoe. We were sad for the busses of people who only experienced 30 minutes of this majestic and storied glen which presented a different personality each and every day.

After that, we were on our way to a beautiful place I saw on the Visit Scotland Facebook page. Glenfinnan Viaduct, a 21 arch viaduct from the turn of the century located near Loch Shiel, and its Jacobite train that crosses 4 times a day. Bonnie Prince Charlie landed here when he came to try and reclaim the Scottish throne, but more people visit here because the Jacobite train was the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter Movies.

The Jacobite Steam Train

It is a gorgeous glen and worth the visit, even if you aren’t a Potterhead. There is a monument marking the landing of the Bonnie Prince on the beach of the loch. You can buy a ticket to climb to the top at the visitors center that also houses a museum, cafe and gift shop. Parking fills up quickly, but if you are patient and willing to go back and forth a few times, you can park in the parking lot for a small fee.

To catch a glimpse of the train, you have to plan ahead. Forty-five minutes before the train is due in Ft. William, the train crosses the viaduct. Usually you can see the two trains, one going in each direction. If you want to see it up close, take the path that crosses under the viaduct and up the hill. If you want to see it set against the glen, try the path up the hill to the viaduct viewpoint. Or for the less adventurous, you can eat at the cafe set in a dining car with a view of the tracks near by. We opted for the hill, it was an excellent place for a picnic.

Don’t forget to look behind you at the viaduct viewpoint.

Our next glen on the list was Glen Nevis. Unfortunately we had fine Scottish weather today and Ben Nevis was hidden in a misty shroud or drizzle the entire time we were nearby. This glen had one of the most enjoyable drives we experienced in Scotland. Single track, curvy, low traffic and gorgeous views.

The winding road ahead…

Braveheart was filmed in this glen, all of the village and fort scenes. The back story before you get to the fighting. However inaccurate Hollywood depicted William Wallace, it was important for us to visit this glen because it was our introduction to Scotland and Scottish history.

We decided to venture past the fort and village location to Steall Waterfall. From the car park there is a rugged .6 mile hike up to a beautiful area that made me want to set up camp, and many people do. We could have stayed here for a very long time. The fact that the area around the waterfall is flat is amazing considering the elevation you gain. There is a cable bridge that crosses the river to appeal to the adventurous. I opted for my rubber boots and played in the creek.

Dinner consisted of the instant dishes courtesy of the in room kettle and several other items left over from our Morrisons run. We drifted off to sleep with the setting of the sun and the sounds of the bagpiper in the lobby. Scotland has been purely bonnie indeed and magical to boot.

Scotland Trip Day 3- Finding the Mountain Scene from Braveheart

Today we searched for a mountain. To be more exact, we searched for a specific part of the path near the Am Bodach peak on the Aonach Eagach ridge. This was one of our first views of Scotland growing up. It was home to the scene in Braveheart where Mel Gibson runs across the mountain and looks all around him. Ambitious, we knew, but others had done it, so we wanted to try.

Continue reading “Scotland Trip Day 3- Finding the Mountain Scene from Braveheart”

Scotland Trip Day 2

Bonnie Scotland indeed! So much happened on day 2. We were still exhausted from our travels and majorly sleep deprived. It’s not a terribly great foot to get started out on. As the cop on the Royal Mile told a lost Ben (who was trying to get to an April that was grabbing bags and checking out of the hotel) we carried on. And what carrying on we did!

Continue reading “Scotland Trip Day 2”

Scotland Trip Day 1

Our first day was one of the longest of my life. I of course couldn’t sleep very well, despite having been fully packed two days beforehand and my house being clean (which for me is a necessity before a trip). We even tried to sleep and wake up on Scotland time. I was very excited to wear my Very Hungry Caterpillar socks through security, although no one else seemed to notice.

Our flights from CHS-BOS-AMS were ok. Couldn’t sleep a wink on the long haul ove the pond. We watched Aquaman and more impressively saw all of the colors possible in a glorious sunsrise.

AMS is under construction and not at all like the gleaming pictures the internet shows (go figure). It was kind of a chaotic and confusing place. I feel my opinion is valid since they lost 1 of 2 of our bags.

Arrival in Scotland was everything we hoped it would be. Beautiful, cloudy and sunny all at once, green of course and yellow which was surprise. Some kind of pokey shrub that starts with g that I didn’t snap pic of yet.

Inverness was very welcoming and all of the people very nice and helpful. After dealing with the lost luggage we decided to splurge and get a cab. It was a brilliant decision. He pointed out landmarks and oddities of the road. Roundabouts make me nervous for Ben!

At the train station two other Americans were helplessly lost. I joked with ticket attendants “As Americans, are we all so lost?” “Aye I’m afraid so” he said. We joked about if he came to South Carolina he would be an instant celebrity on accent alone and would have many offers to be shown around and dinners at grandmother’s homes. (Thinking of my memaw and how she asks for us to bring home a man everywhere we go). We did get a pretty decent recommendation for lunch out of them too!

We took the train to Edinburgh and had lovely views of the countryside, when we were awake anyway.

Once in Edinburgh we checked in to our hotel with views of Waverly. We were thankful to not have to walk far.

We crashed, got refreshed and walked around Edinburgh with no other agenda than getting lost and finding dinner. A great little place on the Royal Mile called “The Clam Shell” was the winner, after Deacon Brodie’s had a terribly hot dining room and too long of a wait for the jetlagged travelers. We had fried haggis with chips, a deep fried Mars bar and Irn Bru.

Our adventure continues today with a car rental!

Tips for Packing (Planning)

Honestly, however you pack has to work for you. Because everyone is different, there is not one tried and true way to pack.

One thing I always do is start with a few good lists. One for clothes, one for all other items, one for last minute items and one as I pack each suitcase.

My clothing list consists of activity, each person’s outfit and PJs, miscellaneous items and accessories and a column to check for socks and underwear for each person. Writing it out by hand helps calm me down from my usual pre-trip anxiety.

I also create a list for which items are in my checked luggage, in case a bag happens to get lost, stolen are delayed. I send a picture of this to myself.

When it comes to what actually goes into the bag, that depends on what kind of trip we go on. When we flew to Arkansas via 36 hours in Denver, my husband and I shared a carry-on for 5 days. Going to Scotland for 10 Days we each checked a bag and had a carry-on. It’s all up to you and what you feel like lugging around.

Less is more.

  • Less is more freedom.
  • Less is more mobility.
  • Less is more thrilling.
  • Less is more bragging rights.
  • Less is more kind to your back.
  • Less is more blending in. Nothing screams tourist like someone lugging their huge suitcases through the train station.
  • Less is more awareness and safety. You are a lot less likely to be targeted for theft when you have less baggage.
  • Less is more time saved not wanting for a checked bag.
  • Less is more money saved if your checked bag isn’t included in a ticket.
  • Less is more creativity needed when packing.
  • Less is more organization when packing.
  • Less is more time spent packing your bag.
  • Less is more restrictions on what you can and cannot bring.
  • Less is more time spent doing laundry during your trip.
  • Less is more frustration when you don’t feel like wearing anything you brought with you.

It all comes down to your individual packing and travel style! If you want tips on how to pack less for your trip, follow my blog! That post will be coming soon!

Pre Trip Panic

This post is a little bit of writing therapy for myself. You have been warned.

For me, getting ready for a trip and planning it is half the fun. My everyday self is pretty much in love with charts, plans and lists of all sorts. As you can probably imagine, my travel self is almost obsessed with them. I pour over maps and research places. I plan for efficiency. I plan for the fact that something could go wrong. I plan for leaving time free of a plan. I plan the buget. All of that is thrilling to me! But as I get closer and closer to departure for any trip, I go into a pre-trip panic of sorts.

Deep down inside I know what is left on the to do list and the packing list. I know how many days are left to accomplish those things. I know there are areas of my trip that I am not as familiar with as I could be. I lose my map I bought and can’t stop thinking about it. (Wait, did I take to the ER? Is it in a bag somewhere from that night?!)

For me, it’s like a rollercoaster. I am the type that freaks on in line, but not on the ride. Once on the ride, there is nothing more than I can do. That is when I relax and enjoy it to the fullest. We are 6 days from departure for an international trip. Here I am, standing in line, freaking out. But I can only think about one thing right now.

Excuse me while I dig through all of my tote bags…

These Things are a Must for International Travel by Plane