Scotland is the northern most part of United Kingdom. Many travelers visit U.K but never venture out north of England and totally miss out on what Scotland has to offer. This is true of even for the British people. What is great about Scotland is the wilderness, the nature, highlands, medieval castles, forests, free wild outdoor camping areas, loch ness, museums, golf courses, summer festivals and maritime history.
My travels in Scotland was planned right after the decision on Brexit referendum came out in favor of U.K leaving the EU. Why is this decision important? Because British Pound (GBP) collapsed against USD and it was the best time to go there to take advantage of the currency exchange rate.
- Isle of Arran w/Carradale
- Isle of Skye
Glasgow (3 days)
The main things to do in Glasgow is to check out the botanical gardens, Kelvingrove art gallery and park, West end, Riverside Museum, The glassgow and The Necropolis.
Glassgow is one of the first industrialized city in the western world. Also the first one to reach a million population in size in the early 20th century. Steam ship building was active in Glasgow. Many of famous ship building engineers (ones who built the Titanic) came from Glasgow.
Isle of Arran (2 days)
From Glasgow there is no direct connection to Isle of Arran. So what you need to do is take the train to Ardrossan Harbour and then walk to Ardrossan Ferry Terminal and from there take the ferry to Isle of Arran Terminal. From here you can catch a bus that goes around the island. The bus service is not that frequent and it may be wiser to check the schedule before you arrive.
Once you get to Isle of Arran there are a few things one can do in the island. Biking is always a favorite activity in the island. It can take up to a full day to bike around the island. Another activity (which i chose to do) is to go camping along the east coast. Just pick a hill with a nice view of sunrise overlooking the Firth of Clyde. When I woke up in the morning I was greeted with a beautiful sunrise and glistening waters over the Firth of Clydes.
Also worth checking out is the historic village of Carradale on the east side of Kintyre, overlooking the Kilbrannan Sound and the west coast of the Isle of Arran in the Firth of Clyde. In the 17th and 18th centuries there were small communities of crofters and fishermen working in and around Carradale. The introduction of steam ships transformed Kintyre and from the 1830s until the Second World War daily steamers went from Campbeltown to Glasgow, calling at Carradale.
Edinburgh (3 days)
There is a castle and there is the famous Fringe comedy festival. That is all one need to know about Edinburgh, Scotland.
Edinburgh Castle which is visible from the center of the city has been inhabited since the Iron age. The summit of the castle rock is about 400 feet above sea level. It sits atop an extinct volcanic crag. The castle mainly served as the residence of the Scottish monarchs. But now it is just a museum. Climbing up the craig can give you a great glimpse of the Edinburgh city. I recommend hiking when it is not too warm outside.
The best time to visit Edinburgh is in August (but the most popular season as well) to take advantage of the Fringe art Festival. This festival is the largest celebration of arts and culture in the world. One will witness the creative energy throughout the city. There are many events like stand up comedies, improvs and some special Asian themed comedy shows offered by BBC. Most are free to attend. Just show up.
The Fringe started life when eight theatre companies turned up uninvited to the inaugural Edinburgh International Festival in 1947.Source Wiki
Mallaig (1 day)
I wanted to get to Isle of Skye from Glassgow. So the best way is to get a train to Mallaig and spend a night there and take the ferry from Mallaig to Armadale the next morning. Once you are in Armadale you have two options. You can either rent a car if you want to explore the whole island or take the bus 152 from Armadale to Portree. Portree is the biggest town in Isle of Syke. It is definitely worth a visit.
Here is a sample itinerary of the train schedule. It is about a 5 hour journey and costs as low as 7 USD if you book in advance..
Isle of Skye (3 days)
Once you are in Armadale, you can catch a morning ferry to Mallaig. Check the ferry schedule below.
Isle of Skye is definitely in my mind is the crown jewel of Scotland. It is why many blockbuster movies like the James Bond Skyfall and Prometheus were filmed. Known for jagged mountain peaks (like the Old man of Storr), deep lochs (in the northern end), still preserved dinosaur footprints, towering sea cliffs, farm lands, waterfalls it easily makes the best place to connect with the nature.
One of the best hiking spots in Scotland (besides Ben Nevis) is Old Man of Storr. It is advisable to hike when it is not raining as it gets quite challenging to climb the rocky hills and much worse when coming down. At the top of the hill you will experience some strong winds. But you will be rewarded with some breathtaking views once you get to the top.
While you are in Isle of Skye try the local Fish and Chips. It is delicious.
One final note about weather. Scotland has a temperate maritime climate in which the weather is dominated by the moderating influence of both the Gulf Stream and the North Sea. It is better to carry a rain jacket with you and as well as a water proof rain cover for your backpack.