Why I Gave My Heart to the Highlands

Back in October, I went on holiday with one of my best friends and her family to Loch Lomond in Scotland.

And guys – I fell in love. I fell in love with Scotland. I’ve been to quite a few countries now and Scotland is certainly one of the places I will cherish forever. I suffered from Scotland withdrawal symptoms for about a week afterwards and I still get the occasional yearning for that incomparable hit of fresh mountain air you’d get when you stepped out the door up there.

One of the best things about the holiday was The Skilton Family – comprising of my good friend Jess, her Mum, Dad, Sister and Sister’s Boyfriend, her two little brothers and not forgetting Scrappy the dog (complete with tartan jacket) and Pickles the kitten. That’s right, the Skiltons are the type of family who don’t bat an eyelid to the concept of a mammoth drive to Scotland with a 3 week old orphan kitten who needed feeding every hour. Pickles had a fantastic holiday and came with us in her little carry bed up mountains and on boat rides. Pickles is well hard.

So we left at 4 in the morning (I was so tired – that was a struggle – I really couldn’t work out how none of them were tired at that ungodly hour) in a convoy of three cars all driving along together up the country. Here’s what the journey looks like on Google Maps:

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The Skiltons made me feel so amazingly welcome, and I loved their sense of adventure and fun. My family sort of have to plan things, and have to be sensible and not take too many risks. The Skiltons saw a beaten track going up the side of a highland mountain? They were going up that beaten track. And it was more than likely that the beaten track would lead to an amazing waterfall or ancient memorial or something – Scotland and The Skiltons really worked well together, I thought.

Here are my Holiday Highlights:

The colours. I can’t put into words how beautiful everything was. I’m sure its wonderful in the summer too, but going in Autumn meant that everything was just lit up with beautiful colours – orange, rusty reds, rich browns. It was stunning even when the sky was grey:

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Edinburgh. We took a day trip over to Edinburgh and honestly there’s never been a city with more culture and history. The architecture is stunning, and there is so much to do! Here we are outside Edinburgh Castle – built on an ancient extinct volcano, no less. A gun has been fired from the Castle at one o’clock every day (except Sundays obvs.) since 1861. They call it The One O’ Clock Gun – the Scotts are great with naming things:

 

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Here is Greyfriars Kirkyard – the home of famous Greyfriars Bobby. This graveyard is where J.K. Rowling got a lot of her character names from by looking at the names on the tombstones, including Tom Riddle and the Potters:

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Here is a hot guy in a kilt playing the bagpipes, and two giggly girls trying to take a subtle selfie. Scottish guys are well fit – they are manly and strong and have great accents and fight for their freedom – probably:

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The Crannog Centre on Loch Tay. This was particularly magical. I can be a bit of a history nerd at times and I actually saw the Crannog on TV a few months before. I thought gosh – how cool is that! Fate is a funny thing, we only went and drove right past it! I got the whole three car convoy to pull over and just – wow!

A Crannog is an ancient wooden dwelling built over the water dating from about 2,500 years ago. People would live on the water because the trees in the forests were so dense.

This one is a beautifully crafted replica and visitors can enjoy a guided tour and the chance to have a go at learning some traditional skills like fire making and grinding grain:

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Doune Castle (AKA Castle Leoch from Outlander) This is Doune Castle – some people may recognise it from one of the Monty Python films but for me, this castle is the ultimate destination for Outlander fans. I am an Outlander fan. This is where they filmed Outlander. You can see why this was so amazing.

This is what the Castle looks like normally, without all of the special effects:

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Here it is in the background of a scene in Outlander as Castle Leoch, set in the time of the Jacobite Rebellion. The series is based on the series of books by Diana Gabaldon and more than 25 million copies of the books have been sold around the world:

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Here we are being Outlander groupies, with our audio guides plugged in. I’ve got a dazed expression on my face – it’s probably only just sinking in that I’m standing in the same spot that Sam Heughan stood in. #lovehim #jamieandclaireforever

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The Scotch – Dewar’s Aberfeldy Brewery. I was told by one of my colleagues at work that I simply had to try the Scotch and the seafood while I was in Scotland. Obviously the seafood was out as that’s the only food I don’t like but I certainly took his advice on the Scotch. Fun fact: Scotch is quite simply whisky made in Scotland. I didn’t know that until the cool tour guy told us. It was a ‘aha!’ moment.

We visited Aberfeldy Brewery which was built in 1898 by the Dewar family and produces Single Malt whisky which is made from water drawn from a natural spring about a mile and a half away. Distillery tours include access to the brewery’s interactive heritage centre and tasting bar where you get to try samples of different whisky and discover your own personal whiskey taste preferences. I was very good at this, and seemed to have many personal whiskey taste preferences.

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The Falls of Dochart in Killin. Killin is a small village built at the Falls of Dochart, an incredible series of rapids, at the far end of Loch Tay. We stayed at the Killin Highland Lodges and it was just the most perfect little town in the middle of the mountains. On the other side of where we are standing here, lies Innes Bhuidhe (The Yellow Island) Ancient Monument which contains the ancient burial ground of Clan MacNab. The clan lived in the surrounding area for almost a millennium and were involved in conflicts with Robert the Bruce and the Jacobite Risings during the mid 18th Century.

I had goosebumps every time we went there.

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This photo pretty much sums up the whole spirit of the trip. Tom putting a sneaky muffin on Maz’s unsuspecting head. Jess continuing her excellent selfie game. Me accidentally sneezing just as the picture is being taken. You can just see The Falls of Dochart in the background:

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Scrappy Rocking Tartan. This image needs no description. Just someone please spot this little guy’s potential and get him a YouTube channel:

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And finally: Spending time with my BEAUTIFUL friend xxx

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