It’s been about 6 months since Mr. Brown and I traveled over “the pond” to my beloved Isle of Lewis, and I realized that I never shared our trip on my blog! Terrible.
So today I’m going to share some photo memories of our trip along with 5 travel tips that could prove useful if you’ve never ventured to the UK and would like to take a trip to Scotland in the near future.
- PACK LIGHT
Try to limit yourself to packing a carry-on sized bag and a personal item (like a backpack). If you’re heading to bonny Scotland from the US, you will most likely have a free checked bag, but my advice is to keep to a carry-on size if possible. Go ahead and check it if you’d prefer, but believe me, hauling around a large bag through the Highlands and Islands of Scotland is not the ideal scenario!
On our trip in September, I brought a carry-on and my husband brought a VERY large bag. Now this worked ok for us, because my husband makes hauling an oversized bag look like a piece of cake, but it’s good to only bring what you think you can personally handle.
- USE PUBLIC TRANSIT
Quality public transportation is something that we here in America rarely can take advantage of unless we live in a very large city. I happen to live in an area with practically no public transit, even though there are plenty of very rural areas in Scotland still serviced by buses and trains. It’d be easy for someone like me to completely overlook the possibility and convenience of using what’s offered in the UK, and I’d be missing out!
My husband and I used about every public transportation method available on our 2 week trip, including an Uber from the airport in Glasgow to our AirBnB, the Glasgow Subway system, trains from Glasgow to Edinburgh & then Glasgow to Inverness, a ferry from the mainland to the Isle of Lewis, and buses sprinkled in the gaps. My favorite method by far is a train. I never experience motion sickness on trains and I enjoy the relaxed atmosphere. On our train from Glasgow to Inverness we had the pleasure of chatting with a young couple from England about their tourism business and their new life in Sweden!
Here are a few links if they’re helpful:
- EMBRACE TOURS
Many people will tell you that need to step off the beaten path on international trips to really experience the culture and avoid tours at all costs. I say that you really just need to spend enough time in other countries to really experience the culture. I don’t think it’s a good plan to pop over to Scotland for 5 days and wander around aimlessly unless you’ve already spent time in the country or plan to return soon!
A first trip to Scotland is the perfect time to make use of tours, free or paid. These tours will introduce you to so many facets of the area that you would probably never stumble onto on your own. Plus, you can sit back and relax when you’re taken care of on a tour! When you’re experiencing a new country for the first time, it can take a toll on you. Joining a tour takes the pressure off while you’re on it.
My suggestion is to book a nice paid tour prior to leaving the US, then finding some free or paid tours to join once you’ve arrived. Free walking tours of major cities are WONDERFUL! Check online to see when and where they meet, and join up with one when you’re in that city.
Mr. Brown and I took a bus/boat tour of Loch Ness, and it was awesome. My favorite tour to date is a paid walking Ghost Tour I took in York, England years ago. I was on my own, and loved having people to chat with and finding out all about the history of this town.
- MAKE MUSIC A PRIORITY
As a music lover, finding places to hear good music always sounds good to me, but I’d suggest making music a priority even if you don’t find it that interesting personally. Music plays a huge part in Scottish culture, and if you’re interested in seeing locals enjoying themselves, find a pub music night to join in on.
Local concerts and ceilidhs are also great ways to experience the musical scene, especially in the Highlands and Islands. You will probably be surprised how much you enjoy what you see and hear!
- TRY THE LOCAL FOOD AND DRINK
Obviously, this tip applies to visiting anywhere in the world! However, many Americans will LOVE what they find in Scotland. Now I’m not much of a drinker, but Scotland is known for its whiskey, so if you’re so inclined…. Don’t miss out!
My favorite dishes are as follows:
Desserts of all kinds! Oh the meringue…
If you’re really feeling adventurous, try taking a peek at the locals around you. See anything different about how they use their silverware? Like, maybe they actually use all of it? Try out the method!
My last tip, which probably applies to anywhere you’d like to go, is find out what the weather is like year-round. If you’re going to Scotland, I’d recommend trying to stick to June through August. Yes, it will be busier and possibly more expensive, but it’s worth it! A trip from the US to Scotland will be more expensive than staying in country anyway, and you might as well ensure that you can enjoy it as much as possible! One of the best bits about Scotland is the scenery, and it’s wonderful to have some warm and sunny days to explore it!
That’s it! We had a wonderful wonderful time! We only had one challenging day…. The tale of the Clisham will have to wait for another time, but honestly, even though it involved Mr. Brown stuck on a mountain for hours, and my friend Catriona and I slugging through the mud and driving through pouring rain with Catriona powering the windshield wipers manually, it’s one of our best stories from the trip! The good news is that neither Mr. Brown and I were deterred from planning another trip over to lovely Scotland. Hopefully even by next year!