After a restful night at the adorable and comfortable 24 Royal Terrace (the address and name of the hotel) in Edinburgh, they also had the best porridge/oatmeal that I’ve had, my parents and I took a cab to the airport to pick up our rental car.
There was a little difficulty in getting a working GPS in our car there, but we were soon on our way!
Thank God I did not have to drive through the highlands is all I can say. My stepdad was the designated driver while my mom and I got to enjoy the scenery.
First, it’s really difficult to get used to driving on the opposite side of the car and the opposite side of the road. My stepdad did a great job, but couldn’t help often moving off to the left side. It’s difficult to switch and understand where that wheel’s at so we were hitting the curb a good amount. Thankfully, the amount of times have lessened as he’s been a quick learner and has gotten the hang of it.
Our first stop was The Kelpies. From what I can tell, they’re lesser known about and are 30 metres tall (nearly 100 feet!) horse head sculptures. They’re supposed to honor the horse powered heritage in Scotland and you can read about the myth of the kelpie here.
These guys were huge! They’re really impressive when you think about how to construct such beings and as you get closer you feel like they could rise from the water and gallop off. One of them is in motion of rearing back with its teeth showing and the emotion shown makes him feel real. They’re really incredible and a really quick stop if you want them to be. There’s a park around and you’ll see lots of people walking their dogs and strolling about.
Next up was Doune Castle!
Everybody in my family is a huge Monty Python and the Holy Grail nerd. It’s quoted weekly and is easily one of my stepdad’s favorite movies. We’ve also been big fans of Game of Thrones (I’ve read all the books and rewatched the series multiple times) and Outlander (I’ve only read the first book and seen the first season though). Scenes from each of these productions have been filmed at Doune Castle.
This is about a half hour up from the Kelpies and well worth the stop if you’re a fan of any of these. Unfortunately when we were there, the side where the French Taunter in Monty Python stood guard was under construction. It’s one of my family’s favorite scenes so it was a little disappointing that we couldn’t take a picture there. The castle wall needed to be restored though so it’s understandable.
There’s no furniture inside and so you’re free to take pictures. You do have to pay to get in and walk around though. While empty and a little drafty, it was really cool exploring this medieval castle. It’s crazy imagining feasts in the great hall and seeing where the bedrooms were located. The staircases are quite narrow and windy too!
We’d bought the headphone set to explain what we were seeing, but I didn’t pay much attention to it and eventually just took them off. It’s more fun just exploring in my opinion! But they can also be helpful to explain exactly what you’re looking at. It’s definitely a preference thing.
Tip: If you have time, explore the grounds too, there’s a path and river behind the castle. There was a local woman walking her dog there and while we didn’t have time to walk all the way down the path, it looked great.
Next we headed up to Dunblane for a late lunch before continuing on our journey. We had a great meal at Riverside Cafe and the town was super cute.
Our final destination for the day was our bed and breakfast that I originally thought was to be in Fort William. However, it was instead apparently in a village between Fort William and Inverness.
We couldn’t help stopping many times though because the scenery was absolutely beautiful. The mountains and lochs create insane landscapes where you can’t help questioning if they’re real.
Tip: If you’re unused to a country’s roads, try not to drive at night.
It soon got dark and driving on backcountry roads became incredibly stressful. The roads were narrow and twisting with headlights coming at you. It was also raining and you were often on the edge of a mountain looking directly down upon one of the rocky lochs. Getting used to Scotland’s driving on the left side became a lot more difficult and things were tense in our car.
We eventually arrived alive at our bed and breakfast, Spean Lodge, exhausted and ready to not drive for the rest of the night. Our host, Glen, was amazing though and informed us about where we could walk to for dinner that night. He helped us make a reservation at Russell’s Restaurant, less than a five minute walk away.
I believe this restaurant is a part of a hotel in this village. It was an amazing dinner though. For such a small village and being one of the very few places open at this time of year, it was a really high quality restaurant. My parents and I absolutely loved and devoured our food. It is a little more expensive as you have to do at least two courses, but the quality of food makes it worth it.
Spean Lodge as my first bed and breakfast was perfect. We were the only guests that night, but I slept like a baby and the breakfast was delicious. Thus far, it has had the only haggis (which contains sheep’s heart, liver, lungs, and spices) that my stepdad has liked. The owners are kind, generous, and helpful. Glen, the husband, is a historian and knew and suggested much for us.
This was honestly a perfect night with a great place to stay and an amazing dinner. It ended up being a village instead of the town of Fort William, but I still cannot believe that such a great restaurant is in that small village. I’m sure people commute to it though. That’s how good it was.
Spean Lodge’s wifi was pretty good thankfully and after journaling and blogging for a bit, I fell asleep almost immediately (my bed was so comfortable!).
Eilean Donan Castle and first day on Isle of Skye!