Adventures in the Scottish Highlands!

02/20/2017
Panda Berries

Iconic Old Man of Storr

The best part about living in northwest England is that Scotland is only a 3 hour train ride away.  Tickets were very cheap during the winter which made it a great excuse to explore.   As with anywhere in Great Britain, it tends to rain a lot in Scotland during the winter, but that was not an issue because we were very well prepared for any type of weather, or so we thought…

Edinburgh City Center

Edinburgh

Our trip began in Edinburgh where we stayed two nights at the Apex Hotel right in the city center.  However, be forewarned that although our hotel was only a 0.6 mile walk, it took us over 20 minutes with our suitcases because we had to traverse through many stairs and uphill climbs.  Edinburgh is a city full of elevation changes.  Our hotel offered an amazing view of Edinburgh Castle right from our balcony.

Our view from Apex Hotel

Edinburgh Castle is an iconic fortress that sits atop Castle Rock and overlooks the entire city.  The castle is filled with history and do not forget to catch the 150 year old tradition of the “One O’Clock Gun” when a cannon is fired from Monday to Saturday at 1 pm.

Atop Edinburgh Castle

During the winter, Edinburgh is also very well known for their festive Christmas markets that has delicious food, drinks, and gifts.  The city has a lot to offer but the most memorable part of our trip was just beginning.

Edinburgh’s Christmas Market at night

Christmas Display

Streets of Edinburgh

We were quite looking forward to our journey to the Isle of Skye and the Scottish Highlands.  We both love the outdoors and the Highlands has so much to offer adventurers of every skill level.  With a lot of planning, we came up with a 4-day itinerary that consisted of 230 miles and 5 hours’ worth of driving.    Along the way we stopped off at one of the most photographed castles –  Eilean Donan.

Eilean Donan Castle

Fairy Glen (Faerie Glen)

We arrived at Isle of Skye fairly late and we only had time for a short hike.  We made out way over to Fairy Glen (57.583553, -6.325375) near the town of Uig.  Use the coordinates to navigate to the unnamed road and after passing the pond on the right, find parking alongside the road and walk over the hill on the right side.  It is a very short walk over the hill.

Fairy Glen

Castle Ewan from below

Getting closer to Castle Ewan

The terrain is something out of this world.  It is a small taste of what the landscape is like all over the Highlands.  Don’t forget to scramble up to the top of Castle Ewan to get a view of the whole valley.

View from Castle Ewan

Scarier than it looks!

After a long day of driving and hiking, we stopped off in Portree at a bed and breakfast.  We chose Portree because it was a great starting point to visit ‘Old Man of Storr’, Kilt Rock, Quiraing and Fairy Pools.   If we had more time we would have visited the lighthouse at Neist Point.

Old Man of Storr

The next morning we arrived at Old Man of Storr at dawn.  The legend of Storr was a giant who lived in Trotternish and after he died, he was buried with his fingers left sticking out thus creating the tall rock formations that has attracted many tourists.

Path leading up

The recent movie, Prometheus, also popularized the area of Trotternish.  The hike is about 3 miles but with several steep switchbacks.  The walk up can be a challenge to those who aren’t used to hiking.  We encountered an elderly couple who asked us to let their daughters know that they were heading back down to the parking lot because the climb was too strenuous.  After the switchbacks, the hike does become more manageable and we were rewarded with such amazing views of the sea along the way.

Hike with an ocean view

Old Man of Storr

Continuing on the trail

While we were at the summit, the winds were very strong.  We could barely stand upright so we had to find shelter behind some rocks.

Extremely steep climb to the base of Storr

Kilt Rock

After descending down Old Man of Storr, we drove over to Kilt Rock.  The basalt rock formation creates pleats that resembles a kilt.  The area is heavily fenced because the waterfall is a shear drop off the cliff and into the ocean.  It was difficult to see the waterfall at that angle but be careful not to climb over fence just to get a better view.  This was the tallest waterfall I have ever seen and the drop down would not be pleasant.

Kilt Rock Waterfall

Quiraing

The short stopover at Kilt Rock left us plenty of time to get to Quiraing.  The road to Quiraing became very windy, narrow and difficult to drive.  At some points the road was almost unpaved.  It was very stressful because there was no cellular service throughout the Isle of Skye and we had to rely on the GPS in our car.  We eventually saw a sign for Quiraing and found ourselves at a parking lot with many others.

Landscape of the Highlands

Road leading up to Quiraing

Quiraing hiking path on the left

Amazing Quiraing views

We decided to not do the hike because it was still very windy and we could be blown off the side of the mountain.  The terrain was magical.  Even in the middle of winter, the hills and plateaus were covered in lush green grass that created a surreal landscape.

Fairy Pools

On our last day in Isle of Skye, it was forecasted with 50% chance of rain all day.  We decided to take the gamble and drive out to the Fairy Pools which was 40 minutes away.  When we got to the parking lot, instead of a light rain, it was a heavy downpour! We waited in the car but the sky was so dark and the rain did not look like it was going to stop.  Since we were already there, it would have been a shame to head home.  We put on our waterproof gear and started walking down to the pools.  We had to use our GoPro to take pictures because the rain would have completely damaged our camera.   The weather worsened and we could not finish the whole hike.  We turned back and the wind became unbearable.  There were some gust of winds that stopped us from walking.  We had to hold onto each other so we would not get blown away!

Unique looking Highland Coo (cow)

Despite the weather, we had such an amazing time in Edinburgh and Isle of Skye.  Scotland has much to offer and we will definitely come back during the spring.