After spending a very busy and exciting 24 Hours in Edinburgh we checked out of the wonderful G&V Royal Mile Hotel and headed back to the airport to collect our hire car. We immediately set off and spent the day driving through Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park where we caught our first glimpses of snow and drove through breathtaking scenery and past countless enormous lochs (I don't think Scotland will ever have to worry about droughts)! We'd had an incredible day in Edinburgh the day before but the moment we hit National Park territory we instantly fell in love with Scotland's beauty.
Both Glencoe and Glenfinnan were on my must-see lists for our roadtrip through Scotland. Glencoe was incredibly scenic to drive through but the weather was pretty horrendous at this stage so we didn't stop to do any hiking at this point, just enjoyed the drive. Glenfinnan was only a 30 minute drive away and my main reason for wanting to visit was to see the Glenfinnan Viaduct or as it is better known "the Harry Potter train bridge"! Yes, it is the viaduct where you see the Hogwarts Express pass over during the movies. Being a huge Harry Potter Fan, I am not embarrassed to admit I was a little speechless! Luckily mother nature had calmed down by this point and so we could put on our hiking boots and set off on an adventure! There is no shortage of incredible hikes in Scotland so make sure you take good (waterproof) shoes!
Our home for the first few days in the Highlands was Eagle Brae. Eagle Brae is the ultimate luxurious retreat in the Scottish Highlands and our stay in their log cabins is something we will never forget. We are convinced their log cabins are the best in the world. It isn't just the exterior of the cabins that is incredible, we were truly speechless when we stepped inside our cabin! Luxurious, unique and private, everything you could possibly want or need is provided for your stay. In addition to being luxurious and relaxing they are also completely carbon neutral and your stay there is environmentally friendly! Our review from our stay will be up on the blog tomorrow so stay posted because we're super excited to share ALL the details from our incredible stay, so for now we'll just leave you with a few photos as a taster!
When I first moved to England, I introduced Dan to the FBW (Fat Burning Walk), which is a walk you do on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. He suggested we do an FBW when we woke up to explore Eagle Brae during Golden Hour! We were stunned when these gorgeous deer strolled casually past us, literally metres from our cabin! Inspired by our exciting early morning start we decided to keep exploring and literally less than an hour later we were standing at the top of a mountain, knee deep in snow! Despite being a ridiculously long FBW it was the perfect way to start our day and we certainly earned our breakfast!
Mike and Pawana, our lovely hosts at Eagle Brae recommended we visit Glen Affric during our stay which was a nearby national nature reserve. So after breakfast we headed off on a short 20 minute scenic drive and spent the afternoon exploring ancient pinewood forests, enchanting glens, shimmering lochs and the incredible Plodda Falls, one of Scotland's largest waterfalls. The sun shone brightly during our walk and we explored until we were tired enough to head back and spend the afternoon relaxing in our cabin by the fireplace with a glass of red wine in hand.
On our last morning at Eagle Brae we woke up to a beautiful, light covering of snow with big, fluffy snowflakes still lightly falling from the sky! We quickly made a warm cup of tea and headed out onto our deck to enjoy the snow, which as an Aussie I don't think will ever become old for me! It was the perfect ending to a perfect stay, in our favourite place we've ever stayed!
One of Scotland's most famous castles, Urquhart Castle is located on the banks of Loch Ness and despite its ruinous state is incredibly charming. Urquhart was once one of the largest castles in Scotland and commands stunning views over the famous Loch and Great Glen. A great deal of restoration was taking place so we decided not to actually visit the castle but just admire it from afar for this visit. It truly has a beautiful location and is well worth stopping on your road trip around Loch Ness.
As we were driving between Urquhart Castle and Fort Augustus we parked up and spent the next hour hiking along a loop of the the Allt na Criche Trail. We walked at a serious incline until we reached the top and were rewarded with stunning views of Loch Ness and the surrounding snow covered mountains. The second part of the loop involved walking through beautiful forests and a magical fairytale like glen. We didn't see a single other person on our walk and it literally felt as if we had stepped into the pages of a storybook.
Our next destination was Fort Augustus, located on the shores of Loch Ness. Fort Augustus is a sleepy little town and we had a lovely stroll along the Loch and were lucky enough to be staying in a lovely apartment in the Highland Club which without a doubt has the most enviable location in all of Fort Augustus.
You know how you have those items on your bucket list that are there because you'd love to tick them off but in reality don't think you'll ever manage to? Well swimming in Loch Ness was one of those for me.
So as we were walking along the shores of Loch Ness searching for Nessie and Dan announced that this was the spot we were going to go swimming, I told him he was crazy! I mean it was the middle of winter!! But within a few minutes he'd convinced me and we stripped down to our underwear with GoPro in hand and waded in the icy water until it was deep enough to dive under. All I can say was that it was bloody cold and as much as I'd love to share the GoPro video we are in our knickers so I don't think it's completely appropriate to put on here for all the internet to see, but here is a picture of us post dip and shivering cold!
Swim in Loch Ness - TICK!
As I mentioned above we were staying in an apartment in the Highland Club of Fort Augustus. Luxurious, private and exclusive our stay was perfect. The Highland Club is located in an 18th Century Abbey which has been converted into luxury apartments. We loved relaxing in our spacious apartment, strolling the historic cloisters of the abbey and making the most of the facilities which included a beautiful, heated pool, steam room and sauna. It felt like we were living in Hogwarts and we loved our stay in Harry Potter land!
We had a night flight from Edinburgh so spent our last day slowly driving back through the Cairngorms National Park. The drive was incredibly scenic and we saw the most snow we'd seen the whole trip, stunning mountains and beautiful lochs.
We were so sad to arrive back at Edinburgh Airport and drop off our hire car, which we had become very attached to during our week exploring the Highlands. Scotland is one of the most beautiful countries I've ever visited and our holiday was my favourite UK trip we took during our time in the England. If you are planning a visit to the UK, make sure you add Scotland to your list - I guarantee you won't be disappointed!
Have you ever visited Scotland?
Did the charm of the Highlands win you over, like it did us? x