This is blog post #3 of our three part series about our UK vacation. You can read about the London portion of our trip here and about the Edinburgh portion here. You can also view our 4 Days in the Scottish Highlands travel guide here.
After picking up our rental car in Edinburgh, we headed to the Scottish Highlands for the remainder of the trip. The drive to the highlands was very….interesting. The whole driving on the other side of the car and road thing was something we were nervous about beforehand. I am very anxious in the car, so the drive was very stressful and anxiety filled for me, especially navigating the tricky traffic circles. Thankfully we survived and didn’t hit anything (although we almost got hit head on by a car passing) and only got lost a couple times. The drive was so beautiful though that it made up for all of the stress!
Once we left Edinburgh our first stop was in Inverness for coffee and lunch at Velocity Cafe & Bicycle Workshop. This is a joint coffee and bicycle repair shop that serves sandwiches, soups, and salads. We got two of their delicious soups, some coffees, and got back on the road. We drove through the main area of Inverness on our way out of town and it looked super cool! There was a castle and the town was on a river. Next time we will make sure to save more time for that area!
After leaving Inverness, we made our way to Loch Ness to find Nessie! 🙂 We drove around the west side of the lake, stopped at the Urquhart Castle to sneak a peek from the parking area, and visited the cute town of Fort Augustus. We had this town recommended to us by one of our Instagram friends and we’re so glad we stopped! The town was right on the south end of Loch Ness and was home to a multi level lock system. We have a lock in Seattle that we love visiting, but this one was next level! We hung out in the area for a little bit before making our way to our final destination: the Isle of Skye.
The drive continued to get prettier and prettier the closer we got to the Isle of Skye. And we got more and more excited for the next couple days of our trip. We stopped in Portree for groceries and then made it to our Airbnb, which was a hostel called the Cowshed. While it was technically a hostel, we had our own pod with a bed, couch, table, bathroom, and mini kitchen. It was the coolest space ever! We had a killer view of Uig bay and we were also given access to the bunkhouse kitchen where we cooked dinner both nights. We highly recommend staying here! Super comfortable (we slept like babies!), unique, and fairly close to the main sights!
Our first morning at the Isle of Skye was supposed to include a sunrise hike, but the alarm went off and we were too tired to get up, so we slept in a little bit. When we woke up, the weather looked nice so we hurried to the Old Man of Storr to hike. We got there at the perfect time and didn’t see many people at all (it was getting crowded once we left). We spent a couple hours here hiking all around, getting tons of photos, and being in awe of the crazy beautiful rock structures. The weather was so wild here. One second it was sunny and the next it was pouring. It made every single photo we took look different because of the constantly changing conditions and it made the hike extra fun!
We then headed to Brother’s Point, but after parking we realized we had no idea how to get to the point so we instead went to the Kilt Rock/Mealt Falls lookout spot. This is a super quick stop, but really neat to see the cliffs on the coast and the waterfall going down the side. While we were there, we managed to get enough cell service to look up Brother’s Point and find out how to get to it. So we headed back down the road, parked at the spot, and made our way to the point.
We’re so glad we found out how to get to Brother’s Point! It was a relatively easy hike through some farmland (we saw SO many sheep! The island is full of them!), down to the ocean, and then up on a peninsula. We hardly saw anyone during this little adventure, which was nice after dealing with crowds the majority of the trip.
Feeling tired once again, we switched up our original plans a bit and went to Single Track Coffee earlier than planned. Single Track is assumably named after the many single track roads on the island (which reminded us of the Road to Hana at times!). This coffee shop is the coolest one we have ever been to! It’s in a more remote area, is a cool building, and has the best views of the water. We had our new signature drinks, a flat white and long black, and relaxed a bit before starting our next hike.
Our final hike of the day was at Quiraing. This hike was gorgeous! You have amazing views the entire time of the island. There seemed to be a few different trails you could take, including one to the very top of the mountain, but we chose the trail that appeared to be the most common, which took us on the backside of the mountain. We wanted to head to the very top of the mountain, but we unfortunately didn’t have enough time. Despite not making it to the very top, we really enjoyed this hike. We got to see waterfalls, more sheep, and were surrounded by lush green landscapes the entire time.
We headed back to our hostel for dinner before we planned to go the Fairy Pools. We hear they get busy so we figured going at night may have less crowds. However, about 20 minutes into our drive, as we went through Portree, the road we needed was closed and we had to turn around. 🙁 We decided to give the Fairy Pools another try the next day and instead visited Rha Falls right by our hostel. It took us quite some time to figure out where to go, but once we did, it was a quick 5 minute walk to the falls. The falls were very impressive, although a tad brown from all of the rain.
The next morning, we woke up early, checked out of our awesome hostel, and drove to Portree for breakfast. As we mentioned before, everything opens much later than we’d like (by late we mean 8 AM, but we like to start our days early to avoid crowds) so we walked around town until the breakfast place opened. We ate breakfast at Cafe Arriba, which Adam said had the best black pudding of all the spots he tried, before trying the Fairy Pools again.
It appears that us seeing Fairy Pools wasn’t meant to be. We arrived to the Fairy Pools and it started pouring down rain. We sucked it up and begun the walk to the pools before realizing that you had to cross a river to get to them. I get very nervous crossing rivers after a traumatic experience a couple years ago in Kauai, so I wasn’t too thrilled about the idea. It also appeared that our feet were going to get soaked, which also didn’t sound fun. We decided to turn around, which was a bummer, but we figured the experience wasn’t going to be as great in the rain anyways.
After our failed attempt at the Fairy Pools, it was time for us to leave the Isle of Skye and begin the drive back to Edinburgh. We were so bummed to leave! The Isle of Skye was breathtakingly beautiful and we enjoyed every second we spent there. We felt like we were in a mix of Iceland and Hawaii with the rugged scenery and the ocean.
Although our time on the Isle of Skye was over, we still had a couple stops to make in the Scottish Highlands. The first one: the Eilean Donan Castle. This castle was awesome because you can get super close to it without paying. It would’ve been cool to go inside, but we really enjoyed seeing it from the outside.
Our last big adventure of the trip was in Glencoe, but along the way we made a quick stop in Fort William for coffee at The Wildcat. When we arrived in Fort William we were surprised by how adorable the town was! We quickly realized that every town in Scotland is adorable, which made us love the country even more! The Wildcat was a very unique coffee shop, as they don’t serve any animal products and they are also a waste free establishment. We wanted to walk around with our coffees, but they don’t have paper cups, so they gave us mugs to take with us and return when we were done. How cool is that?!
After a caffeine boost, we finally made it to Glencoe mid-afternoon and begun our hike to Lost Valley. The trail isn’t very long or hard, but is uphill most of the way. You cross a river (eeeek!) and go alongside waterfalls before reaching Lost Valley. The views of the valley, as well as behind us, were beautiful! You can walk down into the valley, but we were behind on schedule, so we just admired the views from the top. After getting back to the trailhead we made a quick stop at Glencoe Falls (which are right along the road) before heading to Edinburgh.
We had booked an Airbnb near the airport, but wanted to experience Edinburgh one last time so we headed to town for dinner. We were torn on where to go, but we remembered that our favorite Indian place from London, Dishoom, also had an Edinburgh location so we quickly decided on that. We were worried there would be a wait, but we only had to wait 15 minutes and got free chai while we waited. We stuffed our faces with Black Daal, Chicken Ruby, Chicken Tikka, and their Lamb special for the night. SO GOOD!
It was getting late, but we wanted one last walk in the city, so we walked towards the Royal Mile. As we were walking, we heard a concert going on in a park nearby. We enjoyed the music until we heard the song Pompeii and realized it was Bastille and freaked out! We tried to run closer to the concert to catch a glimpse, but we couldn’t get a view. As we walked back towards our car, feeling stoked that we just heard a band we really like play live, fireworks started to go off. It felt like a fairytale ending to the most magical trip.
We learned a lot during our 6 full days in the UK. We had a handful of things not go according to plan and had transportation headaches, but even with the imperfections the trip was perfect. We are now hooked on Europe and cannot wait to explore more countries next year. If you have any suggestions of where we should go next, comment below!