Where: Scotland Road Trip – Part 2
When: October 2019
Hotel: Dalmunzie Castle Hotel
Why Scotland: Read the recap of Part one of our Scottish Road Trip here, and it will explain why we returned to Scotland.
The Trip: We woke up the next day to clear views, ready to return to mainland Scotland for a little visit to Loch Ness, Inverness and finally a drive through the Cairngorms National Park, which is where our hotel was – for a big circle of Scotland.
We arrived to Skye by ferry, but there is also a bridge on to Skye, which is right by the famed Eilean Donan castle. The castle sits on an island which is where three lochs meet – Loch Duich, Loch Long and Loch Alsh. Some of my favorite parts of the drive happened the first part of the day. Leaving Skye via the bridge was absolutely beautiful and the hills along the drive to the Eilean Donan castle were absolutely stunning. The castle itself is so pretty, and while you can make a visit inside (for 10 pounds!), as with most places, the best views are from the outside. In fact, for some of the best pictures, just go to the car park. We got crazy pretty pictures and stayed in the car park the whole time.
From there, it is about an hour until you reach the start of Loch Ness, famous for the monster and also for being the second largest loch in Scotland. It does seem to stretch on forever, and is very pretty. We made a stop at the Urquhart Castle, mainly to use the rest room, but to even do that, you have to pay 12 pounds…so we passed and again got pretty pictures from above. (One tip, though, if you are planning an extended visit to Scotland, you may want to purchase the Explorer’s Pass. It offers entry into a ton of tourist sites, to include Edinburgh Castle, and may be cost-saving instead of buying individual tickets).
We ended up stopping in an adorable little town for lunch and to walk around – including ducking into some of the cheesiest Loch Ness monster souvenir shops, and a glance into “Nessieland.” It was a really fun stop along the way to Inverness.
Now, our travel style has changed over the years – from a strict itinerary that we had to follow, to easing up a little bit and *maybe* enjoying a vacation more with a list of things to do, but allowing for detours and changes and deciding maybe we don’t need to visit a place just to check a box…which was what happened as we were driving to Inverness. I didn’t feel a particular way one or another, and really just wanted to enjoy the drive rather than find parking and walk around. So we skipped over Inverness and kept driving to the Cairngorms National Park.
This proved to be a KEY decision because as we were driving along the beautiful Cairngorms National Park highway, we passed a popular destination, the House of Bruar. We didn’t really think much about it, but I still googled what it was…and then I realized we had to turn around. My birthday present to John was going to be a Barbour jacket, a brand that originated in the UK, and the House of Bruar just happened to be the largest retailer of Barbour items in Scotland. Even if you aren’t a Barbour fan, it’s a fun stop. They have a large food hall and a country gifts store, and it was just a neat place to stop and stretch our legs…and buy John his new jacket.
We wanted to make it to our hotel before nightfall, because even though we were on a normal highway, we were quite certain we would find our way back to the one-lane highways soon. And we were right. The hotel is so far in the country that even the workers live at the castle because there would just be no way for them to drive to their homes and back. I wanted to stay in a castle, but also needed on that was on our route heading back to Edinburgh, and the Dalmunzie Castle hotel met those requirements. (There are a lot of options in Scotland for a castle stay though. I booked through Celtic Castles website, with options thoughout the UK and Ireland). The term castle was bit of a stretch, but we had a 4-poster bed and room that seemed authentic so I was happy. The real star of the hotel was the staff. We had a delicious dinner in the restaurant (complete with a Chilean Merlot that was fantastic), and the staff was so fun, they really made the stay. Even the next morning, as we were leaving, we kept telling them we didn’t need a to-go breakfast, but they wouldn’t take no for an answer. It was actually really sweet.
Final Impressions: Despite some of the early hiccups, this was such a fun trip. We got to see a lot of the country and just had a really good time. I would recommend to anyone a vacation to Scotland. You only need a day or two in Edinburgh, than a lot more time should be dedicated to the other parts of the country. I would go back to Scotland again and again. Especially as the pound has dropped a bit in the last couple of years!