Seven Days in Scotland, 2016 Edition

Scotland Isle of Skye Highlands

When we visited Scotland in 2016, this was our second experience. Our first experience in 2013 (you can read about the experience, although pictures are missing, about it here.) left a huge impression on our hearts. When we knew we had the opportunity to go out of town without children, we thought long and hard about where we would want to adventure. We decided on Iceland (you can read about that part of this epic trip here.) since it felt like it would be quiet and empty of tourists, but we knew we had to go back to Scotland.

I planned every element of our week in Scotland, and enjoyed every minute. I felt more comfortable planning our time in Scotland than I did in Iceland, so it was a months long project that I enjoyed working on in my free time.

If you are looking for a week in Scotland that is adventuring away from the traditional tourist areas around Edinburgh, this is a great post for you!

Cullen Beach Scotland
The beautiful Cullen Beach, a place that feels like home to us.

Our Seven Days in Scotland

Day One: The beginning of day one in Scotland is an ending of our lovely time in Iceland. We had an 8am flight for Aberdeen, so our driver picked us up at 520am to get us to the airport.

We landed around 1200pm in Aberdeen. It felt like we were landing back at home. Customs was a super easy process, and our luggage was waiting for us quickly after we made it to luggage pick up. After we had our luggage, we made the walk to the rental car offices. By time everything was complete, we were in our rental car and on the road a little after 1pm.

I had researched beforehand on a nearby restaurant for lunch, so our first destination was to the Brig O Don. We were very hungry, and the food was delicious.

Since the plane had been late, our schedule was a bit off, so we decided to head straight to our hotel. We were spending our first night in our favorite city in all of Scotland, Cullen, which felt so special. We arrived at our hotel, Cullen Bay Hotel, around 430pm. Our drive there had been a bit rough as the first day is always a bit of an adjustment getting used to driving on the left side of the road. We were surprised with an upgrade at our hotel to the nicest room in the hotel that had a gorgeous sitting area looking out over Cullen Bay.

Cawdor Castle Highlands Scotland
Cawdor Castle – known as the castle that inspired Shakespeare.

We drove all around Buckie and Cullen, reminiscing about our first trip to this area, and stopping multiple times off the coast to just look and enjoy. Our first time having Indian food was in Scotland in 2013, and we decided to do Indian takeaway from the restaurant where we first had experienced such yummy food for dinner. We brought it back to our hotel, and enjoyed it while looking out over the coast.

The first day was not filled with tons of adventuring, but we were happy for our overnight stay in Cullen, and looking forward to the adventures that were ahead the rest of the week.

Day Two: I slept the best I had experienced thus far the entire trip. I felt amazing. I was happy to get to sit and enjoy the nook while waiting until time to go downstairs for breakfast.

Clava Cairns Outlander Highlands Scotland
Clava Cairns

Breakfast started at 8am, and we were downstairs ready to enjoy it. Breakfast did not disappoint. It was a classic Scottish breakfast plus coffee and juice.

We left our hotel at 830am and started our journey west. Our first destination was Cawdor Castle. Since we were running a little early, my husband drove by Brodie Castle (that we could not visit on this trip) so I could take a couple pictures.

We arrived at Cawdor Castle right at 10am, and practically got to tour the castle alone since we were one of the first to arrive. This castle dated back to the 1600s, and was thought to have inspired William Shakespeare’s book MacBeth.

Culloden Battlefield Highlands Scotland
One of the many clan burial markers on Culloden Battlefield.

Upon finishing the castle, we made the short drive to Clava Cairns. I like to say we saw the Cairns before they became a trendy “Outlander” tourist spot. The prehistoric burial grounds date back approximately 3000 years. It was an awesome historical treasure to get to see.

A few minutes down the road was Culloden Battlefield. When you first arrive, you do a walk thru of a museum with history and artifacts that led to the Jacobite Uprising, and cullmination of everything at the Battle of Culloden. After the museum, we received an audio headset that we listened to as we walked around the battlefield. Doing the walk with the audio really made things come to life.

Loch Ness Hughlands Monster Scotland
Loch Ness

We had lunch right there at the cafe, and enjoyed potato leek soup with gluten free crackers. We even found a package of allergen friendly shortbread cookies that we purchased to eat later.

We were happy that we were able to accomplish all those things in a short period of time, as now we had an almost two hour drive to our bed and breakfast and our last castle on our schedule. Our drive was nice, as we got to see Loch Ness again. We noticed that the further west we got, the more rugged, and “Iceland like” the landscape got.

Eilean Donan Castle Scotland
The sun starts to emerge past the storm at Eilean Donan Castle.

We arrived at the famous Eilean Donan Castle at 330pm. The castle was very busy upon arriving we noticed. The weather was very much all over the place while we were there of stormy looking weather combined with beautiful sunshine. We got several amazing photographs of the castle before we ever got to the bridge.

This castle has a lovely stone bridge that you cross to reach the entrance of the castle. It is all very lovely. We enjoyed the tour of the castle, and to see how it was restored to resemble what it might have looked like back in its glory days.

Eilean Donan Castle Scotland
The stormy clouds over Eilean Donan Castle.

We arrived at our B&B around 5pm. Our B&B was a home that dated back to the 1700s. After checking in, we went for dinner. We found a nearby pub that served gluten free fish and chips which made us so happy. They were delectable.

Day Three: Well, I most definitely would not recommend the Conchra House if they were looking for somewhere in the area to stay. The house was in desperate need of updated, the bed was very uncomfortable, other guests loud, and the breakfast was scanty at best.

Isle of Skye bridge Scotland
The famous Isle of Skye bridge.

Along our drive, we came across Kilt Rock, which is another natural beauty in Isle of Skye. Near there, we found this small dinosaur museum. It is worth a stop in. It does not take long, but it was fascinating to learn how they had uncovered dinosaur footprints in that area in the 1980s.

We came across this quaint coffee shop with amazing views that we had to stop at. It was a nice break and warm up from the cold weather. I enjoyed a dairy free hot chocolate that was tasty.

old man of storr Isle of Skye Scotland
The famous Old Man of Storr on the Isle of Skye.

Duntulm Castle was next on our agenda. It is a ruined castle in the northern part of Skye. The walk up to the ruin involves walking up hill through a sheep pasture to the ruined castle. The sea views once you made it to the ruined castle were beautiful.

Finding somewhere for lunch proved to be adventure, but we eventually found a hotel, Uig Hotel, that was serving lunch. Their lunch special was a two course meal of soup plus meat and vegetables. It was very filling.

Duntulm Castle Isle of Skye Scotland
Some of the ruins of Duntulm Castle.

Just up the road from the hotel was the Fairy Glen. I could see why everyone said it was magical upon arrival. There was mossy green grass, and hills and hills for days to climb up on down and capture different scenic views.

After we were finished enjoying the Fairy Glen, we headed to Dunvegan Castle. To this point, this was one of my favorite castles to visit. The first part of the castle was built in the 1300s, which was incredible to think about. The one thing I loved was how many authentic, true to date things remained in the castle. There were many things dating back as far as the 1400s. It was very cool!

Fairy Glen Isle of Skye Scotland
The majestic Fairy Glen in the Isle of Skye.

We arrived at our B&B, Kilmuir B&B, a little after 4pm. This B&B was superb. We had a huge king size bed, the B&B was lovely and update to date, and the hostess was so sweet and helpful. We felt right at home!

If we thought finding lunch had been hard, I had not prepared well for finding dinner! Yikes! There were very few dining options around town. We thought we had found a restaurant inside of a hotel, but the chef was so horrid that we did not feel comfortable attempting to eat there.

dunvegan Castle Isle of Skye Scotland
Dunvegan Castle

Our lovely hostess, helped us get dinner reservations for 9pm at a restaurant up the road. It was pricey, but the food was delicious. After the long day, we were hungry, and happy to find food.

Day Four: We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at our B&B! Breakfast was delicious and filling at 730am that morning, and then we were off for our day of adventuring.

Castle Moil Isle of Skye Scotland
Castle Moil

I have to say day three ended up being a morning of disappointments and confusion! Our first stop was to be Taliskar Bay. I had read where the parking should be, and how to access it, but alas we could not figure it out upon arrival. We parked somewhere quite random, but then the trail was not clear, so we gave up.

Next was to visit the Fairy Pools, which was something I very much wanted to experience. According to my research, the hike to the pools was not suppose to be very challenging. Imagine my disappointment to discover the hike involved hiking through a stream of slippery rocks. I am extremely clutzy by nature, and there was no way I would get through that stream and not fall.

Dunscaith Castle Isle of Skye Scotland
Dunscaith Castle

Since the morning was not going as planned, we drove towards our next destination, but found a little cafe to stop at. We shared some coffee and a gluten free pancake while reviewing our plans for the day. While looking, we discovered we were close to a ruined castle that we had not previously heard of, so we decided we would head their next.

Castle Moil is a ruined castle dating back to the 14th century, but potentially could be older. This was a neat, isolated castle to experience. We walked from where we parked to the base of the castle and hiked up. I was super impressed with myself for hiking almost to the top, but then remembered I had to hike down. In classic fashion, I slipped on a muddy rock, and smacked my butt hard on the rock. I had mud down my skirt and my butt hurt, but it is funny in hind sight! Not so much at the time!

Armadale Castle Isle of Skye Scotland
Armadale Castle and Gardens

Since there was a restaurant nearby, we decided to go ahead and grab lunch while we could. We ordered hamburgers and fries, before heading to Dunscaith Castle.

Dunscaith is another ruined castle in the Isle of Skye. Keep in mind the roads on Isle of Skye are very narrow roads, some it is impossible for two cars to be on it side by side. The parking was on the road. After we parked, we had to hike through a cow pasture to get to the castle. It was a visit for the memories that is for sure. This was a coastal castle, and there were ruined remains of the castle scattered all about the hill overlooking the coast. It made me imagine how magnificent this castle must have been in the past.

Fort William Old Inverlochy Castle Scotland
Old Inverlochy Castle

Our last castle of the day was Armadale Castle and gardens. The information out there on castle misled us a bit, and we were disappointed to find so little of the castle that we could only look at for the price we had to pay. The castle dated back to the 1700s. The area did have a lovely museum that we enjoyed visiting.

Homeleigh B&B was our accommodations for the evening. The hostess was kind and helpful, and recommended a pub up the road for dinner. We enjoyed grilled haddock for dinner, our favorite type of fish, and then had a relaxing evening watching a movie to finish the day.

Fort William Highlands Scotland
Definitely visit the West Highland Museum when in Fort William!

Day Five: I had a lovely nights sleep at this B&B. The loch views were beautiful, and the B&B was quiet and peaceful. We had a lovely breakfast, and then relaxed in our room until a little after 9am. We were having to wait for our ticketed time to take the ferry back to the mainland.

We were impressed with our fairy experience. It was efficient, and even got us back to the mainland sooner than we anticipated!

We arrived in Fort William around 12pm, and had lunch at what we ended up discovering was a chain pub style restaurant.

Stalker Castle Monty Python Scotland
Chris with the owner of Stalker Castle, who also starred in Monty Python.

After lunch, we drove to the ruins of the old Inverlochy Castle. Despite the fact that is thought to have been built in the 13th century, a fair amount of the castle remained. Ruined castles have a special charm about them, and it was nice to stroll through this castle.

We stopped for coffee after in Fort William, and discovered the West Highland Museum. This is a must stop museum. It is a bit hodge podge, but with some incredible artifacts. The museum runs on donations, so we donated some money and bought the boys a couple neat books before leaving.

It was about 4pm, so we headed to check in at our B&B for the night, Cuilcheanna House. We had a room on the second floor that had an antique fireplace and a beautiful little nook overlooking the gardens.

Stalker Castle Monty Python Scotland
Chris holding a piece of history at Stalker Castle.

We quickly got settled in our room before heading out. Probably the most exciting part of the trip for my husband was the tour we were scheduled for at Stalker Castle at 6pm. Although Stalker Castle has some amazing Scottish history, this castle was also used in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and my husband as a huge fan could not wait to explore.

They only allow 10-12 people each evening for a tour, so you must book this far in advance. The man who owns the castle takes you on a boat over there, and gives the tour. What makes this tour so unique is you get a blend of the long ago history (this castle dated back to the 13th century), the history of the castle since the day his dad had purchased it in the 1960s, and the Monty Python relation and what areas were used for the film. Even though I am not a huge fan of Monty Python, this was a very unique castle tour, and really happy we did it.

Inveraray Castle Downton Abbey Scotland
Inveraray Castle and Gardens

Dinner was late that evening at the Hollytree Pub on the way back to our B&B. We enjoyed barley soup, grilled haddock and chips, and salad for dinner, and had great views as we watched the sun go down.

Day Six: Breakfast was served at 745am, and like most of the places we stayed, it was amazing. Our hostess has even purchased gluten free toast for us to have with our breakfast, which was so kind.

The night before we had made some spontaneous changes to our schedule. As fans of Downton Abbey, it was a shame to 90 minutes from Inveraray Castle and not visit it! Inveraray Castle is used as the families Scottish holiday location in the show. This castle did not disappoint. The original castle dated back to the 13th century. This castle has been remodeled, and was lovely to tour and learn the history.

Blair Castle Pitlochry Scotland
Blair Castle

We were happy to see this castle had a cafe, so we enjoyed some coffee before leaving.

Our drive to Pitlochry was two hours due to our changing up the schedule. We made the leisurely drive to the area, arriving at Blair Castle right before 2pm. We went to the cafe for a bowl of coup for lunch before touring the castle.

Blair Castle also originates back to the 12th century. This castle has been kept up to date. My favorite room was the exquisite ball room, which I am sure is splendid to hold events in. My husband made sure to ask about where the chamber pot was located in the dining hall, which really gave some interesting and educational answers.

Cairngorms Scotland
The beautiful sunset in the Cairngorms National Park.

We headed to our B&B, Northlands, to check in after that. We were immediately greeted by the owner upon our arrival. She was very welcoming, and showed us to our upgraded room. Her thoughtfulness about our needs was so kind. She went out of her way to have specific gluten free/dairy free treats in our room, as well as a dram of local whiskey.

After we were settled, we went for dinner at McKays where we had gluten free fish and chips.

We had to return to Blair Castle by 630pm as we had booked a safari into the Cairngorms for exploring. I had also been looking forward to this, but this is nothing what I thought I was paying for. We were crammed in a Land Rover for 2.5 hours where we saw a couple reindeers for the extent of the wildlife in the park. Our tour guide barely spoke, and it was overall boring and uninteresting.

Braemer Castle Cairngorms Scotland
Braemer Castle

We returned to our B&B late, and looked forward to some good sleep.

Day Seven: Today was our last full day in Scotland, which is so depressing! Our hostess continued her thoughtfulness at breakfast, where she had an entire basket of baked goodies that were allergen friendly, as well as cereals, milk, and yogurt. We had another delicious breakfast, and our hostess sent us on our way with a bag full of allergen friendly treats. Highly recommend this place.

On this day, we had four castles we want to experience for our last day. First up was Braemer Castle. We arrived right when the castle opened, and basically had it all to ourselves. The price to tour the castle also included an audio tour, which was very educational to our experience.

Balmoral Castle Cairngorms Scotland
Balmoral Castle – Originally built for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert as their Scottish vacation home.

Our next stop was a quick stop to Balmoral Castle. I have to say that you probably need to plan more time at Balmoral as you have to take a trolley to get inside, and the grounds are huge. You are only allowed into certain areas, but I thoroughly enjoyed touring the ballroom.

We made sure to get some lunch before heading to our next stop. We ate baked potatoes with beans and a salad, before heading to Crathes Castle.

Crathes Castle was awesome to me because not only was it once again built in the 13th century, this castle had some very authentic to the 13th century areas in the castle. Several of the rooms have walls and ceilings that remain untouched, and you can read actual lines written hundreds of years ago on the ceiling. This castle was full of interesting history, and I learned a lot.

Crathes Castle Cairngorms Scotland
Crathes Castle

It is almost as if we saved the best for last, but we did not know it. We drove into the lovely town of Stonehaven to visit Dunnottar Castle. This castle has a lovely car park, but be prepared to walk up and down hundreds of stairs to get to this coastal castle. If you can make the walk, this castle is absolutely worth it. There is so much of this ruined castle that remains, that you can really make it come to life in your mind, and the views are incredible. It is a worthy stop by just for pictures and the view even when the castle is not open.

Once finished at Dunnottar , we checked into our B&B, Ardurie, in Stonehaven. The hostess was very welcoming, and although the room was definitely adequate, it did not compare to some our lovely accommodations we had experienced that week.

We walked to the harbor, and enjoyed burgers and chips at a pub with harbor views. The walk to and from was beautiful, and I fought tears, wanting time to just stand still and capture these moments and not have to leave Scotland.

Dunnottar Castle Stonehaven Scotland
One of the most beautiful castles in all of Scotland – Dunnottar Castle

The next morning we enjoyed our last Scottish breakfast before heading to the airport to make our journey home.

In summary, our trip to Scotland was incredible, but once there, I think we wish we had made a few changes. We debated long and hard between going to Isle of Skye or Orkney Island this trip, and although we enjoyed Skye, I can’t help but wonder if Orkney would have been more what we were looking for on this trip.

We got to experience so many vastly areas in Scotland, and it was a fun experience.

Stonehaven Scotland
The beautiful Stonehaven coast.

In future adventures to Scotland, I would not mind at all spending more time around Fort William, Pitlochry, and Stonehaven. This towns had so much culture, and I would have loved more time to explore.

Scotland is truly my favorite place on earth, and if you are looking for a jam packed one week in Scotland, this is the schedule for you!

-Shannon

#stellhorntravel

Scotland Isle of Skye Highlands

2 thoughts on “Seven Days in Scotland, 2016 Edition”

  1. Wow, Scotland just looks like the perfect countryside. I have always wanted to visit and this post and pictures just makes that desire even stronger.

  2. Great post! I love Scotland and am itching to go back and explore more! I’m a big history nerd for the Victorian era, so I planned my entire trip around visiting Balmoral! It was well worth it. The Royal Lochnagar Scotch distillery is right around the corner from Balmoral and is well worth a tour. It is a really interesting tour and has a cool royal tie even if you’re not a Scotch drinker (I’m not and still enjoyed the tour).

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We are the Stellhorn’s, Christopher, Shannon, Cephas, Gideon, Silas, and Aibhlinn. We are a family of 6 who love to travel, and are excited to share our travel experiences with others!

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