A Europe trip was long overdue for this New Yorker. I managed to clear 19 days (flight time inclusive) to figure out how to plan such an itinerary and came up with:
Day 1 – Fly from NYC to London overnight
Day 2 – Check in hotel, brief sightseeing, sleep
Day 3,4 – Explore London
Day 5 – Daytrip to Paris via Eurostar
Day 6 – Travel to Edinburgh, sightseeing
Day 7,8,9 – Tour the Scotland highlands
Day 10 – Travel back to London, Harry Potter tour
Day 11 – Fly from London to Barcelona, sightseeing
Day 12-18 – 7 day cruise
Day 19 – Fly back home
The most challenging part is planning it all (and saving enough money as well). The flights, hotels, where to go, how to get there, things to avoid, not getting lost, saving money, optimizing time, eating, bathroom stops, what to pack, currency, backup plans for when things go wrong, survival, etc. Somehow, everything went according to plan with a few minor mishaps. Follow me on my travels as I cover the itineraries, highlights, and other random encounters and experiences.
I’ve seen images of the Highlands and I just had to do it. This was the area I looked forward to most. It couldn’t be done in a day and requires a 3 day minimum, so that’s what I went for. There are several tour groups to choose from. I ended up choosing Heart Of Scotland Tours since they had a 3-day itinerary that aligned with my interests. Our tour guide Colin was very knowledgeable of his country and had quite the humor. Scottish tunes played in the background to add to the experience. The blue path shows our round trip to the Isle of Skye.
Off we went with our new 16 person family to the Highlands and islands of Scotland. We drove across the Forthe bridge and put Edinburgh behind us. The first stop was Dunkeld cathedral.
The next stop was the Dalwhinnie Whiskey distillery. £4.50 can buy you a taste of their very own 15 yr old single malt, a handmade truffle, and the shot glass as a souvenir. They sure love their whiskey. Not too far away, we stopped for a wee wander into the woods by a river. The river appeared as a river of whiskey due to the brownish color (perhaps it is where their whiskey flows).
From the lowlands to the Highlands. Hills, mountains, and valleys get my adrenaline flowing. If only I could just go out and explore the landscape like it’s an open world video game like Skyrim. Colin showed us a particular loch (lake) called Quach/Garry Loch which looks exactly like the country of Scotland (apparently, faeries had something to do with that). And also, the faeries don’t like it when people whistle.
I’ve never seen an actual dam before. Laggan dam would be the first.
It takes 5 hours or so to drive to Skye, so we were treated to Scottish fun facts, historical stories, and tales about the times of clans. This kept us entertained all the way to the big one; Eilean Donan castle. It’s quite impressive since it is huge and has that stone footbridge bridge that connects the island castle to the land. There was a young bagpiper playing the entire time which added to the experience. There is a museum inside for the history lovers.
It wasn’t too long until we drove across the Skye bridge to the Isle of Skye. We stayed at a B&B for 2 nights in the town of Portree. By the way, the summer is super busy and no hotels had vacancies, so plan ahead if you wanna do this one. We were lucky enough to find a table at one of the restaurants called The Granary (I recommend). Before heading back, we stopped to see a local school bagpipe band in the town square.
This was a good warmup for the following day; the day we explore Skye.