5 Scotland Travel Tips

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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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:

https://www.calmac.co.uk/

https://www.scotrail.co.uk/

http://www.citylink.co.uk/

  • 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!

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My favorite dishes are as follows:

Steak Pie

Victoria Sponge

Indian Curries

Desserts of all kinds! Oh the meringue…

Seafood

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!

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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!

Happy Travels!

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Trip Tips: Visiting an Estate

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned that I love to travel, but I LOVE to travel.  If I won $10 million in the sweepstakes, I would be booking trips around the world the next day.

I’m also one of those people that loves to research destinations, and tries to find memorable places to spend time.  In my various travels, I’d say that my favorite places to explore are grand estates.  I love wandering around the grounds and buildings, and imagining what the lives of its past owners must have been like.

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A few reasons why I love visiting estates…

  1. It’s easy on the wallet.  Visiting an estate is often cheap, and sometimes even free.

IMG_0152      2. It’s a great way to connect with the past.  When you walk through the     house/mansion/ruins and outbuildings of these old (rich) families, you are able to imagine them living their daily lives.  Many estate homes have the original furniture and possessions of the owners, and seeing these (sometimes quirky) items allows you to gain a deeper understanding of just how different and similar their lives were to ours.

IMG_0153       3. It’s good for your health!  An estate just isn’t an estate without its “grounds.”  Every estate I’ve visited includes landscaped gardens and walking paths that can allow you to feel like you’re in another world while getting all your steps in for the day.  Visiting an estate on a sunny day makes getting fresh air and exercise easy and fun.

IMG_0156      4. It gets you off the beaten path.  If you’re like me, sticking to the well trodden tourist spots can get a bit boring after awhile.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against visiting the most famous attraction in the area, it’s usually famous for a reason, but adding a lesser known destination to your list can be refreshing.  Wandering through an estate lets you feel personally connected to a place because visiting someone’s home is always a bit personal.

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Have you visited any estates in your travels???

 

 

DIY Personal-sized Traveler’s Notebook

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For the past few months, I’ve been seeing “personal-sized” traveler’s notebooks popping up on the Midori Traveler’s Notebook Resources Facebook group and YouTube.  Apparently, this size is based on the Filofax Personal-sized planners, and people seem to be loving the option, which sparked my curiosity!

I honestly have absolutely NO experience with Filofax planners, but I do find myself wishing my Field Notes-size TN was a tad bit bigger.  I sometimes feel a bit cramped in it, but don’t want to be lugging around my full-sized version.  Believe me, I’ve tried just using the larger one, but always go back to the Field Notes for the everyday carry.

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The Traveler’s Notebook essentials: Steel ruler, corner cutting guide (aka coin), leather hole punch, elastic cord, Stanley utility knife, hammer…for punch!

Before I invest in a nice Etsy-made TN, I thought I’d try out the size with a DIY version…  Of course, that’s what I said with my first ones and I’m still in them…

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I found it a bit difficult to decide on an exact size for this version, and after messing up the remaining leather I’d procured from a leather shop in Kansas City, I high-tailed it to the nearest Michaels and bought one of their sheets of veg-tanned leather***.  With the 40% coupon they’re only 6 bucks!  Not bad, not bad…

***Checked online for a link to the leather piece, and couldn’t find it!  But it’s at the store, cross my heart!

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Pretty simple, and with the popular 4 elastic option, this little guy ought to give me the opportunity to try out this newish size!

I cut down some Piccadilly notebooks that I found in a trip to Barnes and Noble last year to start me out…  I’ll probably also transfer my a couple of my field notes books into the new guy, it seems a waste to just abandon them!

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How about you?  Any TN users out there with a personal-sized version??

Interested in learning more about the personal size?  Here’s a post that I found very helpful in my quest:

Ray Blake at My Life All in One Place is incredibly helpful when it comes to traveller’s notebooks.   http://www.mylifeallinoneplace.com/2015/06/the-new-personal-size-travellers.html

A Bit of Art Journaling

Once upon a time, I sketched in my art journal almost everyday!  I filled 3 books in a fairly short period of time, and I cherish those books more than most of my possessions because they’re lovely and they let me glimpse into the past when I look at them.  Amazingly enough, I really improved throughout those books, and coming up with ideas was easier and easier.

Obviously, my art journaling has slowed a lot…  Almost come to a screeching halt to be honest, but I’m not going to beat myself up about it.  Why?  Because punishing myself for not spending enough time being creative will make my art journal into something I HAVE to do instead of something I WANT to do.  So I’ll keep crawling along, trying to rebuild until it picks up again, and post along the way!