At the beginning of June I traveled to the Highlands of Scotland with a family member who was attending a birding tour. After an overnight flight to Amsterdam, we arrived in Aberdeen and then drove down and over to Royal Deeside to the village of Ballater (near the Balmoral Castle). We visited the area for a few days before driving north thru the center of Aberdeenshire and the Cairngorn Mountains to Inverness and then up to the Fearn Peninsula to Nigg Village where we were to stay at Pitzcalzean House.
As is wont oftentimes on trips, due to unforeseen situations and unfavorable accommodations, we decided to leave the birding tour and thus, the house. Luckily for us we found quite enchanting accommodations at the Wemyss House – a delightful bed and breakfast in the area run by a charming couple An added attraction was that the wife is a singer (formerly performed and taught at university in England for many years) thus seeing the lovely grand piano in the house was a welcome sight!
From this base we drove (over 1200 miles in the 12 days) ALL over the Highlands and northern Scotland. Quite incredible sights were seen – this has to be the MOST beautiful country in the world – certainly the most beautiful I have seen. The views especially along the eastern coast of the North Sea were absolutely breathtaking.
The experience of driving (after the initial day's shock of "wrong side") was quite an adventure. The adjustment was fine but it was the ROADS – hairpin turns on one land tracks oftentimes over a hill or rise – much horn honking to ensure no head on collisions. I felt as if I could apply for NASCAR after this trip!
At the end of the week, we drove back to Ballater for another quick visit to the area and then sadly home from Aberdeen via Amsterdam.
The people of Highland Scotland are the most friendly and delightful that I have ever met while traveling – everyone was helpful and interesting and willing to stop and chat and have a conversation. My attempts at pronouncing was NOT ridiculed or looked down upon. The food was, with only one exception (guess?), beautifully prepared and served – even at the castle tearooms and restaurants in little villages – all well made and delicious! No fast food places!
Castles visited – Crathes, Balmoral, Dunrobin, Craigevar, Fraser, Castle of Mey, ruins of Skelbo, Urquhart Castle (Loch Ness)
Attractions – Handa Island, Achvanich Standing Stones, Laidhay Croft Museum, Loch Fleet, Dornoch Cathedral, Oykel Bridge and Hotel, Storehouse of Foules, Loch Ness, Pictish Stones of Nigg, Sandwich and Hitlton, Nigg Ferry Station, Cromarty Firth, Nigg Bay, The Souters, Old Edderton Church, Windmill farm near Thurso
Villages – Dornoch, Tain, Nigg, Golspie, Thurso, Wick, Lybster, Tarbet, Ballater, Bonchary, Kincardie O'Neil, Aboyne
Photos arranged by each day of the trip with annotations at Flickr here.
A very good companion website is Undiscovered Scotland here.