This week we discovered Scotland! Like many Americans, my genealogy begins here so connecting with the past and present was exhilarating. There is something about discovering your roots no matter how many generations have passed that brings wonder. It was absolutely thrilling to me because there is always a story. On our visit, we found the Scots to be the friendliest, most welcoming people and enjoyed our trip immensely. Every day, on our journey, we met people who were warm, funny, and shared great stories. We learned several phrases like, “How lovely!” “Haste ye back!” and “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”
While stationed here in Europe, if the U.K. is on your list, consider adding Scotland, you’ll be glad you did. If you are heading there this summer, here are a few tips to help you get to Scotland and travel around the countryside.
Flying to Scotland
From Stuttgart, flying to Edinburgh is quite easy. EasyJet has weekly flights that are very affordable, like €30/one way. We waited too long to book our flights, so they were roughly €100 round trip. Still not too bad for three of us to fly for spring break and it’s a direct flight and was only two hours of flight time, so we were here in a jiffy.
With all the low-cost airlines like Easyjet, RyanAir, Aerlingus, or Eurowings, it’s a good idea to always check on return flights, most fly only on certain days. Sometimes these flights are not at the most popular times of the day either. Our return flight to Stuttgart was at 7 a.m., think 5 a.m. security line up.
Word of caution: When flying these inexpensive flights check the fine print. Leaving Stuttgart, my purse and the girl’s purses were not considered “hold” luggage. However, when we were leaving Edinburgh, we were charged £135 extra and had to check our luggage because our purses counted as “hold luggage.” OUCH! Don’t feel bad about asking questions regarding service and writing a letter. After being in the tourism and hospitality industry for years, I can tell you most managers and executives are glad for feedback.
My advice would be these smaller airlines are good for weekends or overnights. However, traveling for a week or longer be prepared to pay for extra baggage. Also, remember to leave space for any souvenirs.
Visiting Edinburgh, from the airport you can take the tram right to downtown. This was £4/person for an all-day pass. The tram to Princes St. drops off right across the street from the amazing monument for Sir Walter Scott and the tourism office, major score. Edinburgh is AMAZING! I wish we would have had more time.
Because our flight only flew on certain days, we had an extra day to explore Edinburgh and booked an amazing Airbnb, Friendly and stylish Edinburgh. This was a delightful visit. We met Marianne, Terry and their dog, Titan, who live in the Morningside neighborhood. Considered the “posh” end of Edinburgh, we had no idea it was also once home to many authors like Ian Rankin, J.K. Rowlings, and Muriel Spark.
Great places to see in Edinburgh
- Writer’s Museum
- Edinburgh Castle
- Rose Street & Restaurant
- Walking tour map – Visitor’s Center
- Edinburgh Central Library – FREE, with book illustrator on exhibit now
- National Gallery of Edinburgh – FREE, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Monet, Degas and many, many Renaissance painters, sculptors, and restaurant and gift store!
Roaming around The Ayrshire
Scotland is known for lots of golf and whiskey. The Ayrshire has all these things and lots of hiking trails and gardens. When most people consider visiting Scotland, they tend to think St. Andrews, the Highlands and Edinburgh. But like military life, “Home is where the Army sends you,” well for several military families, who have Marriott points/timeshare our exchange sent us here to the Ayrshire.
Our stay at Brunston Castle (not a real castle) but a golf course resort was perfect for relaxation and revitalization. Like most resort properties there were several activities, a swimming pool and a game room for the kids. One of our days we were thrilled to join the activity, “Ramble with Ron.” In Scotland, “rambling” means to hike. Ron introduced us to the Dulquharran Castle, this castle designed by the famous Robert Adam is now abandoned but still quite beautiful. In the 1940s this was considered the nicest “castle hostel” in all Scotland. Today the town of Dailly and it’s residents hope the old ruins will become a Ritz Carlton property in the future with shops, stores, and accommodations.
Ron shared several stories, one of which included the “rambling law” of “Robert the Bruce,” which is known as the “Free to Roam” law. All grounds are public grounds in Scotland. As long as you are not creeping in people’s windows and minding your manners, you are free to roam. This was fortunate, because on several hikes, we found ourselves hopping fences and greeting sheep in open fields. Luckily, English is spoken here and all the farmers and residents were kind in helping us find our way. Something I wished we would’ve done is check out: Outdoor Access codes and carry a map, plenty of Scots told us about it afterward.
What to eat in Scotland
Here are some Scottish treats that were fun to eat…
- Fish n’ Chips
- Shrimp Scampi
- Fresh fish dish along the coast
- Steak Pie
- Pea & Ham or Potato-leek Soup
- Cider (light beer)
- Fruit scones and clotted cream
- English Tea with cream and sugar
Although the Haggis and Blood pudding were highly recommended by the locals, we just couldn’t bring ourselves to try it quite yet. Next trip, though.
One of the nerve-wracking things for us as American’s to travel to the U.K. is driving on the left side. I initially had a case of the jitters I admit, however, I watched a few YouTube videos and had a great co-pilot, my daughter, Katy, who helped keep me “left, keep left, Mom.”
Renting a car
We rented a car through EasyJet because they had a special deal. However, if you use USAA, rent your cars through their website. The cost is considerably less, I mean by half or more. Also, here are a few hints I hope are helpful to drive on the left.
- rent a small car, they are easier to navigate (we had a VW Golf)
- rent an automatic, unless you prefer messing with gears, clutches and maneuvering all those things, plus learning how to drive on the opposite side (too much for me)
- don’t drive for the first time after a really long flight
- one of the best tips that helped initially was when Katy mentioned following the car in front of me (this helped keep me centered in my lane)
- being my first time driving in the U.K. I rented with full coverage insurance, which was actually more than the car rental at £130/week (also check with USAA for a better price)
- most car rentals require a £250 deposit when you rent but get back upon return
Taking a ferry
With the many islands of Scotland taking a ferry is a must. One day we took the ferry from the town of Ardrossan to the Isle of Arran. Ardrossan is filled with castles, hiking and biking trails, quaint villages and whiskey! From Glasgow, it’s a short drive to Ardrossan then take the ferry out to the island.
- check the ferry schedule and website for accurate times
- round-trip tickets are good for a month
- check the weather (we were able to get to the island, however, because the weather was inclement, we were in danger of spending the night, island side)
- you can bring your car, ticket price varies
- there’s a restaurant, bar, cafe area and lounging chairs
- the ferry was a lot of FUN and we met a bunch of people!
Scotland was incredible and every person we met was unforgettable! If you have any questions about traveling to Scotland, please leave a comment below. I’ll try to see if I can help you out. Also, if you’ve been and would like to share your experience, I’d love to hear about that too. Haste ye back to Scotland!