Tag Archives: scotland

Scotland #19: Highs and Lows

Scotland #1: Welcome to Edinburgh!
Scotland #2: The View from Arthur’s Seat
Scotland #3: The View from Scott Monument
Scotland #4: Going Forth to Forth
Scotland #5: The Beauty of Fife
Scotland #6: Whisky Fail
Scotland #7: Defeat at Culloden
Scotland #8: Cawdor’s Not-So-Secret Garden
Scotland #9: The Loch Ness Loop
Scotland #10: The Road to Skye
Scotland #11: Old Man of Storr
Scotland #12: Pieces of Skye
Scotland #13: Rubha Hunish AKA The Hike from Hell
Scotland #14: Losing my Phone in Scotland and Other Adventures
Scotland #15: The Road to Glasgow
Scotland #16: Welcome to Glasgow!
Scotland #17: Street Art Scavenger Hunt in Glasgow
Scotland #18: Where to Stay in Scotland

Nineteen posts later, I’m finally wrapping up my trip to Scotland. Just in time for Vietnam! Lisa and I leave in a week, and – holy crapsies – I cannot believe we are going to Vietnam in a week.

But first, a wrap-up of my summer trip to Scotland.

The Highs

Beautiful scenery. Scotland is beautiful. End of story.

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Isle of Skye. The schizophrenic weather aside, the Isle of Skye is insanely beautiful and unique. I would love to spend more time there as long as the rain will hold off.

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History. I learned a lot about Scotland and England’s long and tangled history – a subject that had confused me for years. I love seeing history coming to life, and Scotland (especially Edinburgh) is a great place for that.

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Lisa. Sure, Lisa and I talk almost every day, but we only see each other once or twice a year (despite the mere three-and-a-half hour train ride between us). Amazingly, we don’t hate each other yet.

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Weather. We expected tons of rain, and we only got a a day and a half of traditional Scottish weather. Not too shabby.

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Our one truly rainy day

English language. I don’t think this one needs an explanation. 

The Lows

Getting sick three days into the trip. There is no good way to sugarcoat this. Getting sick sucks. Getting sick on vacation sucks balls. Lisa is a trooper for putting up with my gluttonous self-pity.

Driving on the left side of the road. It really wasn’t so bad. And it wasn’t even me doing the driving (thanks Lisa!), but it was nerve-racking at the beginning. And those damn traffic circles. Those never got fun. (P.S. Lisa would like to add that she really enjoyed driving our cute rented Audi – but she’s not writing this post, is she?)

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Spending money. The United Kingdom is expensive. While the Euro tumbled, the value of the Pound was one-and-a-half times the U.S. dollar. Everything in Scotland cost the same amount as in the U.S. in purely numerical terms, but when translated into dollars, it was rather expensive.

Jet lag. We were perpetually tired – a fatal combination of jet lag and wanting to see and do too much. I know, I know…first-world problems. 

 

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Scotland #18: Where to Stay in Scotland

Scotland #1: Welcome to Edinburgh!
Scotland #2: The View from Arthur’s Seat
Scotland #3: The View from Scott Monument
Scotland #4: Going Forth to Forth
Scotland #5: The Beauty of Fife
Scotland #6: Whisky Fail
Scotland #7: Defeat at Culloden
Scotland #8: Cawdor’s Not-So-Secret Garden
Scotland #9: The Loch Ness Loop
Scotland #10: The Road to Skye
Scotland #11: Old Man of Storr
Scotland #12: Pieces of Skye
Scotland #13: Rubha Hunish AKA The Hike from Hell
Scotland #14: Losing my Phone in Scotland and Other Adventures
Scotland #15: The Road to Glasgow
Scotland #16: Welcome to Glasgow!
Scotland #17: Street Art Scavenger Hunt in Glasgow

The goal of picking hotels for our Scotland trip was to spend as little money as possible while maintaining a basic standard of quality. I wasn’t expecting anything grand – I just wanted to stretch my points as far as they would go.

This is not the most interesting post, but in case anyone is planning a trip to Scotland and wants to see some options, I’m happy to be of service.

Edinburgh: Radisson Blu Hotel Edinburgh

I booked this hotel back when Club Carlson offered an insane deal to anyone who held the Club Carlson credit card: Last night free when you book a hotel with points. Our three nights in Edinburgh, in the heart of Old Town, was only 80,000 points (40,000 points per night).

Dundee: Double Tree by Hilton Dundee

For a mere, 20,000 points, we got a free stay at the Double Tree en route to the Highlands. The room was nice, but on the small side.

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Inverness: Holiday Inn Express Inverness

There was only one points option here: The Holiday Inn, and probably not the best points value, but better than paying $200 a night. We stayed three nights here. Nothing to write home about, but it got the job done.

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Isle of Skye: The Bosville Hotel

This was the nicest hotel we stayed in, and the only one we paid for. There are no points options on the Isle of Skye, and the hotels can get pricey here. We chose a mid-level boutique hotel at about $250 a night, and it was quite lovely with a very large space and complimentary breakfast.

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Glasgow: Radisson Blu Hotel Glasgow

We barely spent any time in the hotel. We just wanted a place centrally located, so I unloaded another 40,000 Club Carlson points and booked a room at the Radisson Blu Glasgow.

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Scotland #17: Street Art Scavenger Hunt in Glasgow

Scotland #1: Welcome to Edinburgh!
Scotland #2: The View from Arthur’s Seat
Scotland #3: The View from Scott Monument
Scotland #4: Going Forth to Forth
Scotland #5: The Beauty of Fife
Scotland #6: Whisky Fail
Scotland #7: Defeat at Culloden
Scotland #8: Cawdor’s Not-So-Secret Garden
Scotland #9: The Loch Ness Loop
Scotland #10: The Road to Skye
Scotland #11: Old Man of Storr
Scotland #12: Pieces of Skye
Scotland #13: Rubha Hunish AKA The Hike from Hell
Scotland #14: Losing my Phone in Scotland and Other Adventures
Scotland #15: The Road to Glasgow
Scotland #16: Welcome to Glasgow!

Glasgow is well-known for its street art. So much so, that you can find a walking map of a kind-0f mural scavenger hunt. Lisa and I had a great time hunting them down and inserting ourselves into the art.

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This map is a little dated, but it’s what we used.

Let’s the hunt begin!

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Artistic interpretations on Argyle Street

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Artistic interpretations on Argyle Street

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Artistic interpretations on Argyle Street

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Artistic interpretations on Argyle Street (I love this one)

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Life imitates art!

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Aren’t we silly?

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The giant panda on Gordon Lane (another favorite of mine)

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“The World’s Most Economical Taxi” on Mitchell Street

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“Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” on Mitchell Street

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Interesting clientele at the Argyle Street Cafe

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Lisa ponders like an elephant

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The mural wraps around the corner!

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The badminton mural on Wilson Street was created in anticipation of the 2014 Commonwealth Games

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“Space Man” by Recoat and Ali Wyllie

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A fascinating mural at Howard and Dunlop Streets that wraps around three sides of a building!

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Impossible to photograph, but really fun to see

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This amazing mural was created by Rogue-One and Art Pistol

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That cat looks mighty hungry…

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“A View of the Clyde” gives passersby a view of what really lives in the River Clyde

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This is a redo of the original tiger displayed along the Clyde Walkway

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“The Five Faces” can be found along the underpass under Central Station

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I desperately wanted to capture the moving traffic, but I left the travel tripod in our hotel room

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That would be me – trying (dismally) to take night photography without a tripod

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Scotland #16: Welcome to Glasgow!

Scotland #1: Welcome to Edinburgh!
Scotland #2: The View from Arthur’s Seat
Scotland #3: The View from Scott Monument
Scotland #4: Going Forth to Forth
Scotland #5: The Beauty of Fife
Scotland #6: Whisky Fail
Scotland #7: Defeat at Culloden
Scotland #8: Cawdor’s Not-So-Secret Garden
Scotland #9: The Loch Ness Loop
Scotland #10: The Road to Skye
Scotland #11: Old Man of Storr
Scotland #12: Pieces of Skye
Scotland #13: Rubha Hunish AKA The Hike from Hell
Scotland #14: Losing my Phone in Scotland and Other Adventures
Scotland #15: The Road to Glasgow

Most people skip Glasgow. I’m so glad we didn’t.

We spent one long day walking all around Scotland’s largest city. And I mean walking. Our nearly seven-mile walk gave us a great overview of the creative, industrial energy that Glasgow is famous for.

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An approximate map of our Glasgow walk.

The city rose to its heights during the Industrial Revolution, serving as a major trade hub for Great Britain. Its gritty, industrial roots permeate the city today. Known for its entrepreneurial music and arts scene, we didn’t have to walk far to find a plucky street performer or an impressive street mural. In fact, Glasgow is well known for its street art, and we tried to visit as many murals as we could (coming up in the next post).

It is also a city that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Like this restaurant. Sometimes, you just gotta call it like you see it.

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After walking for a mile or so, we made our way through Kelingrove Park…

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…And then through the University of Glasgow campus.

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*IMG_6804Then, we made our way back to the heart of central Glasgow. We strolled the Style Mile – a pedestrian-only strip, filled with stores, restaurants, museums, and street performers.

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And my first video – a Scottish band performing on the Style Mile. Clearly, I need to work on my video taking skills, but you’ll get the idea.

Remember what I said about Glasgow’s sense of humor? This iconic statue of the Duke of Ellington is located outside the Gallery of Modern Art. The statue (and the cone) is so beloved, a 2013 effort by the Glasgow City Council to refurbish the monument and remove the cone was met with protests and social media backlash. The online petition stated: “The cone on Wellington’s head is an iconic part of Glasgow’s heritage, and means far more to the people of Glasgow and visitors than Wellington himself ever was.”

Hahahahahahaha. I. Love. This.

**IMG_6855Posing in front of funky mirrors at the Gallery of Modern Art…

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Glasgow signs

We headed south to the River Clyde to check out the last street murals on our list, and stumbled upon this beautiful reflection of St. Andrews Cathedral.

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The River Clyde at night:

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We passed by this school on the way back to our hotel. I’m keeping my options open in case my day job doesn’t pan out…

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Scotland #15: The Road to Glasgow

Scotland #1: Welcome to Edinburgh!
Scotland #2: The View from Arthur’s Seat
Scotland #3: The View from Scott Monument
Scotland #4: Going Forth to Forth
Scotland #5: The Beauty of Fife
Scotland #6: Whisky Fail
Scotland #7: Defeat at Culloden
Scotland #8: Cawdor’s Not-So-Secret Garden
Scotland #9: The Loch Ness Loop
Scotland #10: The Road to Skye
Scotland #11: Old Man of Storr
Scotland #12: Pieces of Skye
Scotland #13: Rubha Hunish AKA The Hike from Hell
Scotland #14: Losing my Phone in Scotland and Other Adventures

The road to Glasgow was five hours long and filled with iconic Scottish scenery. We were supposed to hike through Glencoe, but my misadventures with my phone set us back. Plus, we had trouble finding the trail path. Plus, we were lazy. It was definitely one of those reasons.

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After leaving Skye, we stopped briefly at Eileen Donan Castle – the second visit of our trip. We wanted to take pictures without the deluge of rain.

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Next up was Glencoe, home to Ben Nevis, the UK’s tallest mountain at 4,409 feet. We didn’t get to see Ben Nevis, but we did get to see plenty of other mountains. We stopped at the famous Three Sisters of Glencoe: Gearr Aonach (Short Ridge), Aonach Dubh (Black Ridge), and Beinn Fhada (Long Hill).

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We were supposed to take a hike between the first and second sisters, but we were running out of time. Instead, we walked for a bit and collapsed in the grass for some desperately needed nap time.

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Lisa hates this picture, but I love it. The guy taking the picture was – I think the word is shocked – when I scooped Lisa off of the ground in my arms. For the record: This is not weird at all!

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Lisa could have stayed at Glencoe all day, but we wanted to get to Glasgow before dark. We headed south through Trossachs National Park, home to the beautiful Loch Lomond, the largest land-locked body of water in Great Britain. We didn’t have much time, but we managed to stop for a couple of photo ops.

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One hour later, we were in Glasgow – our final stop of our trip – and the end of driving on the left side of the road!

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Scotland #14: Losing My Phone in Scotland And Other Adventures

Scotland #1: Welcome to Edinburgh!
Scotland #2: The View from Arthur’s Seat
Scotland #3: The View from Scott Monument
Scotland #4: Going Forth to Forth
Scotland #5: The Beauty of Fife
Scotland #6: Whisky Fail
Scotland #7: Defeat at Culloden
Scotland #8: Cawdor’s Not-So-Secret Garden
Scotland #9: The Loch Ness Loop
Scotland #10: The Road to Skye
Scotland #11: Old Man of Storr
Scotland #12: Pieces of Skye
Scotland #13: Rubha Hunish AKA The Hike from Hell

There’s nothing like losing an expensive piece of technology to put a damper on a vacation. Welcome to my life. Have no fear, this story has a happy ending. And tons of beautiful pictures to boot.

Wednesday morning, we headed out of Skye for a long day of driving to Glasgow. It was our longest drive of the trip, with little time to spare. So what did I do? I threw a wrench in our plans. It all started when we pulled over to take a picture of this landscape about 20 minutes into our drive.

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We got back into the car, only to pull over 10 minutes later at one of most beautiful scenes in our entire trip. The early morning fog mixing with the mountains… the lush greenery.. the moody river… Yes please!

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Forty-five minutes passed easily while I escaped to photography heaven. Then we got back to our car and — crap. Where was my phone? I tore the car apart to no avail. I retraced my steps, desperately pawing through the wet grass. Nothing.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

At this point, we had few options. Lisa’s phone had no service so I couldn’t even call myself. We decided to keep driving in the hopes that the phone was buried in the mess in the backseat. Half an hour later, Lisa’s phone got service, and I texted every person I know who might be up at 6:30 a.m. U.S. time. Luckily, my boss has two little kids who like to wake up with the sun. He went into my Apple account only to discover that Apple’s Find My Phone feature could not find my phone at all. That meant my phone was definitely not in our car.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

That’s when we remembered our first stop of the morning. These mountains:

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We turned around and headed north, while I grumbled, “There is no way my phone will still be there.” Forty minutes later, Lisa pulled off to the side of the road and shouted, “There’s your phone!”

Holy crap. Lisa was right. There was my phone on the side of the road, a little worse for wear, but still working perfectly. All was right with the world. Happiness restored!

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P.S. It took me two months to realize that only the plastic protector was broken. The phone itself was perfectly intact. Talk about an even happier ending to a happy ending.

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Scotland #13: Rubha Hunish, AKA The Hike From Hell

Scotland #1: Welcome to Edinburgh!
Scotland #2: The View from Arthur’s Seat
Scotland #3: The View from Scott Monument
Scotland #4: Going Forth to Forth
Scotland #5: The Beauty of Fife
Scotland #6: Whisky Fail
Scotland #7: Defeat at Culloden
Scotland #8: Cawdor’s Not-So-Secret Garden
Scotland #9: The Loch Ness Loop
Scotland #10: The Road to Skye
Scotland #11: Old Man of Storr
Scotland #12: Pieces of Skye

Rubha Hunish

The hike along Rubha Hunish (literally the head of Hunish) is located at the tippy top of the Isle of Skye.

Ironically, we chose to hike Rubha Hunish because it was billed as an easy, flat stroll to Skye’s northernmost point. I was still feeling under the weather and didn’t have the energy to huff and puff up a mountain.

That was our first mistake.

The hike started out fine enough, but grew a little treacherous as the “path” became increasingly muddy and wet thanks to Skye’s persistent wet weather. Every couple of minutes, one of us would screech when we accidently stepped in a pool of muddy water. The hike instructions were the opposite of clear, but we followed the stream of people in front of us and what looked like a reasonable path.

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This is a path. So far so good.

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Pretty views. No complaint here.

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Ditto.

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The aforementioned muddy puddles. You see how the “path” is a little more mysterious here?

It all seemed worth it when we got to this stunning view.

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And took these pictures.

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After taking way too many pictures (of course), we decided to follow the book’s instructions for a loop back to the starting point instead of heading down the same path we had started on.

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Heading back

That was our second mistake.

We hiked down to low land, walking along the beach. By this point, Skye’s infamous wind picked up, and it began to mist. The guidebook instructed us “follow a faint path diagonally inland, aiming for a corner of the [stone] wall to where it becomes a wire fence.”

UH…IS THAT SUPPOSED TO BE CLEAR???

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Walking along the beach…

Those would have been fine instructions if we could make out either the stone wall or the wire fence. Failing to see either of those things, we decided to move inland anyways.

That was our third mistake.

As we moved inland, the weedy grass grew taller – sometimes as tall as our waists – making it difficult to walk and impossible to see the mud puddles lurking throughout. By this point, our feet were soaked through and through. Our socks were black, and our pants weren’t much better. Every step we took made a sad squish sound. And, we had no idea where we were going.

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My poor sneakers…

I reread the instructions in our hiking path, finding little amusement in the authors insistence that the path may be faint, but still there. Faint my ass. If there was a path, it was long, long gone.

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This looks like a stone wall, but where the hell does it meet a wire fence?

We finally reached what appeared to be the aforementioned stone wall and wire fence. But there was no obvious door or path toward the “row of houses which were once the home of the coastguards.” We climbed over the wall and wandered for 10 minutes until we decided on a new plan: Make for the hotel in the distance in the hopes that someone – anyone – could point us back to our car. We turned around, climbed over the fence, and wandered in the opposite direction. Guess what? The elusive hotel was unreachable, barricaded by a wall meant to keep away nomads like ourselves.

So… we turned around, climbed over the fence and walked in the opposite direction. Again. At this point, we decided to simply keep going. I suspected we were headed in the general right direction, even if we had no idea where our car was.

After some period of time we came across a man herding sheep on the side of the road. He was very nice and accommodating even though we sounded a bit desperate. Okay, a lot desperate. He pointed us in the right direction, and a few minutes later we saw…

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…The red phone booth right near the parking lot. Lisa was so overjoyed, she gave the phone booth a hug.

Tired, cold, and wet, we made our way back to the hotel and promptly declared our socks unsalvageable.

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Our disgusting socks

And then I blow dried my sneakers, which is a) a bad idea if you’re trying to avoid a fire and b) not good for the sneakers, but desperate times… (Side note: When I got back to the U.S., Saucony was kind enough to send me a new pair of sneaker inserts after my original inserts mysteriously shrunk on my trip to Scotland.)

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And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how a pleasant Scottish stroll turned into the hike from hell.

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Scotland #12: Pieces of Skye

Scotland #1: Welcome to Edinburgh!
Scotland #2: The View from Arthur’s Seat
Scotland #3: The View from Scott Monument
Scotland #4: Going Forth to Forth
Scotland #5: The Beauty of Fife
Scotland #6: Whisky Fail
Scotland #7: Defeat at Culloden
Scotland #8: Cawdor’s Not-So-Secret Garden
Scotland #9: The Loch Ness Loop
Scotland #10: The Road to Skye
Scotland #11: Old Man of Storr

I know I’ve said this already, but here goes: The Isle of Skye is fucking beautiful. The weather is crazy, but that scenery – it is worth it. In case you don’t believe me. Look at this picture.

LOOK. AT. IT.

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Oh my god. So beautiful. This is Mealt Falls at Kilt Rock, a slab of rock cliff along Highway A855, between Valtos and Staffin. We discovered it by accident. Let’s just say, some accidents are good ones.

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Is this water even real?

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And here is the famous Kilt Rock, so named because it’s said to look like a kilt.

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After that, we continued to Skye’s northernmost point at Loch Hunish, stopping for Highland cows and beautiful sights along the way. All told, we only got to see a sliver of Skye. And it wasn’t enough.

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Scotland #11: Old Man of Storr

Scotland #1: Welcome to Edinburgh!
Scotland #2: The View from Arthur’s Seat
Scotland #3: The View from Scott Monument
Scotland #4: Going Forth to Forth
Scotland #5: The Beauty of Fife
Scotland #6: Whisky Fail
Scotland #7: Defeat at Culloden
Scotland #8: Cawdor’s Not-So-Secret Garden
Scotland #9: The Loch Ness Loop
Scotland #10: The Road to Skye

We chose the Isle of Skye because of it’s known for its uniquely, stunning scenery. Don’t get me wrong. All of Scotland is beautiful. But Skye is weirdly beautiful. Everything about Scotland is exaggerated on the Isle of Skye – the erratic weather, the fog, the intense beauty, the solitude, the oddly shaped mountains and cliffs. I love seeing beautiful things. But I love seeing weird and beautiful things even more.

We started the morning with a hike up to the Old Man of Storr, a short drive from our hotel in Portree. The forecast called for no rain, but the Scottish weather gods had other ideas. Even as the rain fell on us, my weather app continued to say zero percent precipitation. We started the hike with a light drizzle, and proceeded to meet a range of fog, rain, and even a short dalliance with some blue skies.

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The Old Man of Storr refers to one of the rocky pinnacles poking into the sky. Which one? Good question. I think it’s the isolated rock standing aloof in the pictures below, but I’m not entirely sure. The important thing is that the Old Man and his friends are freaking awesome looking.

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The hiking path used to be filled with trees, but they were cut down. Personally, I think it adds to the desolated beauty.

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A parade of cows burst onto the scene, running across the hiking path.

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I went a little photo crazy when I saw the sheep. I know, I know. We have sheep in the U.S. But taking pictures of sheep in Scotland seemed like a necessity and they had been dodging me all trip.

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The clouds began to part…

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Oh hello there blue skies (sort of).

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Did I mention I’m obsessed with sheep?

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Scotland #10: The Road to Skye

Scotland #1: Welcome to Edinburgh!
Scotland #2: The View from Arthur’s Seat
Scotland #3: The View from Scott Monument
Scotland #4: Going Forth to Forth
Scotland #5: The Beauty of Fife
Scotland #6: Whisky Fail
Scotland #7: Defeat at Culloden
Scotland #8: Cawdor’s Not-So-Secret Garden
Scotland #9: The Loch Ness Loop

As we headed west from Inverness to the Isle of Skye, we had a packed schedule ahead of us. We wanted to stop at Eileen Donan Castle, cross over onto the Isle of Skye, head south to sample a short hike, and then head north to our hotel in Portree, Skye.

Road to Skye

The road to Skye

Our first stop though was completely unexpected. Somewhere, between Inverness and Skye, we pulled over to a scenic outcrop overlooking a river. We followed the stairs down to the water and found a boarded path layered across the marsh. For a while, we were the only people there, soaking up the beautiful solitude. We walked, we we relaxed, and, of course, we took a bunch of pictures.

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We were about to head back to the car when I shouted, “Oh my god! Look at the reflection.” The sun had shifted, and the bright blue sky reflected perfectly in the river. Hello there pretty picture!

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By the time we reached Eileen Donan Castle, however, our bright blue sky had turned a murky grey.

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Ten minutes later, the sky opened up, and the rain descended. And descended. And descended.

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It became abundantly clear that our hike was not going to happen. After a short nap in the Eileen Donan cafe, we jumped in the car and headed to Skye. But we would not let a silly thing like a downpour get in the way of taking pictures. Lisa even bought an umbrella. I was not so smart.

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Here, we are just about to cross over the bridge to Skye.

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As we drove through Skye to our hotel in Portree, the rain refused to let up. We marveled at this intrepid biker.

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Sheeeeeep!

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After some harried driving in the pouring rain, we finally made it to Portree, the largest town on Skye.

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