Scotland: 8/27 – 9/02

Glasgow [Housesit with Mr. Kitten, Dita, Madison, & Lola] >>> Edinburgh >>> Northern Highlands
8/27 – Cat Sitting Day 2
8/28 – Fantasy Football Draft and Skyping with Family and Friends Back Home!
8/29 – Exploring Glasgow and Dinner and Drinks with Belinda and Justin 
8/30 – Travel to Edinburgh, Explore Edinburgh 
8/31 – Day 1 Of Campervanning in Scotland: St. Andrews and Perth 
9/1 – Day 2 of Campervanning in Scotland: Hermitage Forest, Inverness and Loch Ness 
9/2 – Day 3 of Campervanning in Scotland: Loch Ness, Eilean Donan Castle, Kyle of Lochalsh, Fairy Glen, Isle of Skye

8/27
Cat Sitting Day 2
+ Today was going to be more of the same as it involved mostly researching and planning, as well as catching up on the blog and pictures. Every day can’t be fun-filled exploration and traveling as long term travel requires some days for all the grunt work.
+ For lunch we just traveled directly down 5 levels again to a burger place we’d had our eye on. It looked good and cheap and as we sat down to order, the waitress mentioned they had a spicy burger challenge. Corey was of course immediately intrigued and was seeking redemption for his failed attempt to conquer “The 5-Horseman Challenge” in Ecuador. So he ordered that and Liz ordered a normal burger like normal, boring people do.
+ Without sounding like gloating/bragging, Corey ate the entire burger very quickly and felt like it really wasn’t that spicy at all. A lot less spicy than even normal spicy wing sauce or hot sauce you can get at any restaurant. He thought maybe they gave him the wrong burger and he cautiously looked around the restaurant to see if any other poor soul was couching or wheezing from an unexpectedly hot burger. But nope, we think he got the right one and accepted the congratulations from the restaurant staff without saying anything. Because it would just sound bad if he tried to explain it to them. But the best part of finishing the challenge was he got a free chocolate nutella milkshake! And it was delicious!
+ From here we did a little bit of walking around town and checking out some of the shops. We also did some research on getting a Sim card for our upcoming travels as we’d need a way to communicate and GPS while roaming the highlands. Eventually we finished our sightseeing loop and went back to the apartment.
+ The rest of the day was spent, you guessed it,  doing more work on the tablet and computer. We also ate some more of the leftover chicken dinner and washed them down with some different Scottish beers we’d picked up from the grocery store.
+ Liz was particularly productive with the blog and managed to get caught up on about 10 weeks worth of blog updates. Although we’d already written them in Evernote, she still needed to go through and edit them, format them, write little recaps, and gather pictures before finally posting them online and sharing them on social media. We hadn’t actually published anything since before our cruise back in May! So now we were getting caught up.
8/28
Fantasy Football Draft and Skyping with Family and Friends Back Home!
+ Today we actually finalized all of our travel plans for the campervan in Scotland, the campervan in Ireland, the ferry from Ireland to Wales, and our hostel in Edinburgh.
+ This afternoon was going to be the fantasy football draft for Corey’s fantasy league. Having not had access to any American tv recently, we hadn’t watched any pre-season football games or ESPN Sportscenter to get caught up with what’s going on. So for about 2 hours before the draft, he did research online on who to draft and who to avoid while Liz worked on posting pictures on the computer. Then Corey had his fantasy draft which took another 2 hours to complete. It would definitely be an interesting season as he’d have to rely on short highlights online and weekly advice articles as opposed to watching complete games at a sportsbar like we’d normally be doing back in Orlando.
+ In the evening, we made a bunch of Skype calls to family and friends back home. We spoke with our friends Connor and Alexa, Liz’s family, our friend Doug, and Corey’s family (Corey’s brother Clayton was unexpectedly there too so we got to knock out 2 calls in 1). By the time we’d hung up the last call, we’d been on the phone for about 4 hours! But it’s great to catch up with family and friends back home and definitely makes us feel less homesick. Plus, Liz’s family put Tumbles on the Skype call too so we got to see him which really makes us happy! Because we can’t speak to him like we can our friends and family, we probably miss him the most! lol.
8/29
Exploring Glasgow and Dinner and Drinks with Belinda and Justin
+ Having been in Glasgow for a while now and not really fully explored the city like we’d like, today was devoted to visiting as many places as possible.
+ After a nice long 60 minute walking tour looking at the cathedrals and churches, we made it to the Kelvingrove Museum. This place had great reviews online and it certainly lived up to it’s reputation. It covered everything from the history of Glasgow (and Scotland) to a Natural History section, some art collections, and all sorts of articfacts and statues. We saw as much as we could, but only got to about 80% of the museum before it closed.
+ Our next walking path took us through the historic campus of Glasgow University to a neat pathway called Ashton Lane. This seemed to be the happening spot, especially among all the college students, and it had all sorts of neat restaurants and pubs and even a cool looking movie theater! Unfortunately we didn’t have time to see a flick as we were continuing our grand tour of all the tourist hotspots.
+ Just a little south, we went to the famous Brewdog Brewery. This was probably one of the most popular beers in all of the UK, and we’d even seen it around a lot back in the U.S.! So we popped in there and ordered a flight of 5 of their different micro-brews. They were all very tasty and even though we wanted to sample a few more, we were headed to the opposite side of town to meet up with Belinda and Justin, who’d just gotten back a few hours earlier from their vacation.
+ We thought we’d be smart and take the bus instead of walking 40 minutes, but it ended up backfiring on us. Not only did it cost a bit more than expected, it took us to the south center part of the city and we still had to walk about 25 minutes! By the time we made it to Drygate Brewery (our meetup spot), we were 15 minutes late and Belinda and Justin were already enjoying their beers.
+ Despite the fact it was us who invited them out and we were hoping to pay for them as a thank you for their hospitality earlier, they refused to let us pay and instead picked up the tab for dinner and drinks! They are certainly very generous people who we’re glad we met and got to spend time with and we hope to stay in touch in the future and return the favor when they visit Florida one day!
+ From the brewery, we all walked back to their place and had another drink or two before bed. Unfortunately it was back to work for them tomorrow and we had to say goodbye as we were traveling to Edinburgh. But it was very nice of them to let us stay at their place for another night and avoid paying for a hostel!
8/30
Travel to Edinburgh, Explore Edinburgh
+ Our morning was pretty leisurely as we didn’t buy bus tickets the day before and we took some showers and said goodbye to Belinda and the kitties (Justin had already left) and caught an Uber to the bus station. Then we got some lunch to go and hopped on the first bus we could to travel to Edinburgh. + The ride was pretty quick, only about an hour and a half and then we jumped off the bus when we got to our destination in Edinburgh.
+ We had a 15 minute walk to our hostel and it involved going down and back up a big river valley. One thing we noticed immediately was how much more touristy and scenic Edinburgh looked compared to Glasgow! With a majestic castle situated upon the biggest hill in the city, and other mountrains surrounding us, the entire city was very picturesque! But it was certainly crawling with tourists and very touristy shops and restaurants. Something Glasgow hadn’t been such an offender of.
+ Castle Rock Hostel would be our base here in Edinburgh and after checking in, we set off to explore the city. Some of the highlights of what we saw were: The National Museum of Scotland, The Elephant House (Coffee house where J.K. Rowling supposedly penned Harry potter!), the gift shop of Camera Obscura (the place was too expensive to justify a short visit), and St. Giles Cathedral.
+ They were all fun places and afterwards we wanted to catch the sunset so we headed up to Calton Hill. Here, they had many different overlooks facing each direction providing incredible views of both the city and Arthurs Seat (a nearby mountain top). At the top of the hill there was also the Scotland monument, and a few other monuments dedicated to important authors of Scotland’s past.
+ Having worked up quite an appetite by now, we were headed towards a place recommended by the hostel called Wings Edinburgh. As soon as we stepped through the door, we could tell this place had a TON of character. Each table was themed with different things such as Jurassic Park, Dragon Ball Z, Comic Books, and even a Naked Lady table! Plus the walls and shelves were filled with countless memorabilia and unique drawings. To top it all off, they served the best wings we’d had since the states and had about 100 flavors to choose from! Delicious!
+ Back at the hostel, we grabbed a spot upstairs in the hang out room to review routes and destinations for our upcoming trip and even just general advice for campervanning, since this would be our first time!
8/31
Day 1 Of Campervanning in Scotland: St. Andrews and Perth
+ We had a few more errands we needed to run in the morning before going to pick up our van. After a few setbacks, we managed to get a SIM card and get things sorted out the best we could with some other stuff, we took off in an Uber across town towards the Wicked Camper depot.
+ Our Uber driver was funny because he was from Edinburgh and when we mentioned we’d also visited Glasgow he went on and on about how he wouldn’t even want to talk to a Glasgowian and how much better Edinburgh is. It’s certainly a funny rivalry with these 2 cities being so close and yet wanting to have nothing to do with each other! Also, whenever we asked him a question, he would respond with a slow “Aye Aye”, lol.
+ We met with the Wicked representative who showed us to our van. The paint job that covered the whole van was of Jurassic Park!  It looked just like the van from the movie with the stripes, dinosaur symbols, everything! Although the van did look like the oldest one in their whole fleet, it definitely had the coolest paint job. Inside the van and behind our seats was an area the could serve as either a dining area with a table and seats, or turn into a bed with bag storage underneath. The back of the van had a cooler and cubbies for our food and a little sink and counter area to make food and wash the dishes. They also provided us with a stove, pots and pans, and other dishes we’d need. Although it was just a normal size van, they managed to squeeze everything you’d need into it and made use of every single area!
+ After getting the run-down of how our campervan worked and get everything set up, we packed in all of our things and set off on our tour through the Scottish Highlands!
+ Corey was going to be doing all of the driving while Liz navigated and handled the tunes. This was the first time in Corey’s life where he’d be driving on the right side of the van and the left side of the road! It definitely took some getting used to as he naturally wanted to position his body more towards the left side of the lane but had to make sure he now kept his body closer to the middle lane divider. This was important as many of the roads we were driving on were extremely narrow and made passing other vans a nerve-wrecking experience!
+ We also quickly noticed that as we drove down the road, people of all ages would stop and admire our van, with some even pointing and shouting “Look! It’s the Jurassic Park van!” We got lots of stares, smiles, and friendly waves. 🙂
+ Our first destination in our tour was the famous town of St. Andrews with it’s world-renowned golf course. We wanted to take the scenic route to get there however, which meant driving along the coast and through little picturesque towns instead of the main highway.
+ Once we arrived in St. Andrews, we parked and walked to the Cathedral Ruins. They were extremely old and parts of the ruins and cemetary looked exactly like they would’ve from hundreds of years ago! It was yet another area where the buildings were more than double the age of our country!
+ After that, we walked along the coastal cliffs and saw a few more old cathedrals and cemetaries. We then popped into a coffee shop to use their wifi and try to connect with an acquaintance of one of our friends back home. That ended up not working out, but it was ok since it gave us more time to explore the area.
+ Although we weren’t going to be actually playing a round on the golf course (because we’re both awful and didn’t want to embarrass ourselves), we did drive all around the course and take in the stunning views. We could definitely see why this course is a “must play” for all avid golfers.
+ From there, we drove back west towards the main highway and continued north towards Perth. We still needed to activate the SIM card we’d purchased as well as buy some food and drink supplies for the van, so we stopped at a Tesco supermarket.
+ While there, we were able to use the surprisingly strong Tesco wifi to call ATT back in the U.S. and get our phones unlocked and the SIM card activated.
+ Then we ordered some pizza from Dominos and tested out the headlights in the parking lot. While testing them, Corey pretended to be a deer by hopping around in front of the van with fake antlers and making different “deer caught in the headlights” looks. lolololol!
+ Drove into Perth and picked up the pizza and then found a secure looking parking lot with free overnight parking and set up camp. (Aka just parked the car!)
+ After eating piza in the car, we brushed our teeth in the parking lot and set up the van for bed. We were a bit nervous since this was our first time camping in the van, but once we shut the curtains in the van and laid down, we fell asleep almost immediately!
+ That night it did get particularly cold and since all we had with us were our bedsheets (no blankets), we woke up to put on a lot of our warm clothes, but still shivered for much of the night. It was clear we’d need to get a blanket or something for the upcoming nights.
9/1
Day 2 of Campervanning in Scotland: Hermitage Forest, Inverness and Loch Ness
+ Once we woke up and converted the van to be drivable again, we set off on our journey north.
+ Our first stop was to visit a waterfall in the Hermitage forest and do one of the shorter hiking trails around there. The forest was really cool and the wet green foliage made the hike really pretty and enjoyable. The waterfall itself was very serene, although we only had it to ourselves for about a minute until a large group of teenagers showed up and we abandoned our spot. We also saw a couple of old tree stumps that had thousands of coins pushed/hammered into them! We don’t know how long the coins had been there or what the purpose of putting the coins in there represented, but it was neat to look at.
+ When we exited the forest, we continued to drive north towards Fort George, a large military fort still in use! Unfortunately we showed up only minutes after they stopped letting visitors in so we only got to walk around the outside walls. We still had views out over the water but didn’t manage to see any dolphins in the water like the guidebook said was possible. It was just too gray and windy.
+ We then drove through the large town of Inverness and stopped to get a few more food items and a blanket for the van. It turns out the cheapest “blanket” we could find was a duvet! So we bought a duvet for the van and even though it felt silly, we knew we’d be nice and toasty for the upcoming nights.
+ Then we drove down the shore of Loch Ness! It was a large, long Loch surrounded by mountains on all sides. We kept our eye out for Nessie but only managed to see some lame old birds.
+ The Urquhart Castle was already closed for the day, but we did do a drive by to take pictures while no one was on/around it.
+ We decided to camp at an actual campground tonight to have a shower and take advantage of their kitchen and cleaning area. So we camped at Borlum Farm camping park right near Loch Ness. It was a bit more money than we’d hoped for considering it didn’t come with Wifi or towels, but still cheaper than a hotel.
+ For dinner, we heated up some chili on our gas stove. It was delicious and warmed us right up!
+ After some nice long hot showers and getting our thermal underwear on (we forgot we had that last night! lol), we got into our bed under the nice big comforter. We did have to kill a few giant scary mosquitoes that had managed to sneak their way in, but then we watched a couple of episodes of Parks and Recreation on the tablet before falling asleep.
+ Right before going to sleep and then in the middle of the night, Corey went outside to look for any signs of the Aurora Borealis, but wasn’t able to see anything. We had signed up for alerts through email in case there was a high probability and we’d had one for that night, but it must’ve been too cloudy for us to see anything.
9/2 
Day 3 of Campervanning in Scotland: Loch Ness, Eilean Donan Castle, Kyle of Lochalsh, Fairy Glen, Isle of Skye
+ In the morning we packed up and drove the short distance back to Castle Urquhart. We were able to get a few more pictures with the better light outside, but decided not to pay the exhorborant fee just to walk around inside the castle.
+ We had read that the Loch Ness Exhibition center and museum were worth the money so we headed there next. We were both pretty satisfied with our visit and learned a lot about the history of Loch Ness, both pertaining to the legend of Nessie and other interesting facts about the Loch in general.
+ From there we drove west toward the Isle of Skye. Along the way, we passed the “5 Sisters of Kintail”, which was a series of 5 mountain peaks along an impressive mountain range.
+ The Eilean Donan castle was the next destination for the day and were excited to visit because this had been a filming scene for some of our favorite movies, like Highlander and James Bond. We did pay the entrance fee for this castle and walked across it’s iconic bridge, as well as explored the inside of the castle. We learned about the clans that used to live here and were able to see many ancient artifacts. We even got to hold the giant sword that had been in the family for many generations!
+ Plockton Harbour was where we were headed now and we took a back road to get there. This road was a much narrower and curvaceous road and made for slower going, but the views were worth it. Then all of a sudden around a curve, we saw tons of Scottish Highland cattle! They were big hairy beasts that ambled along the roadway, only giving us half a look before they passed by inches away from our van. There were even two fluffy little baby cows! It made for a really cool experience and was one of our favorite parts of our whole campervan trip!
+ Just a bit farther down the road, we reached Kyle of Lohalsch, a big harbour dotted with different sized islands. Because it was low tide, we were actually able to walk all the way out to one island and then walk around exploring a bit. We had great views over the mainland and the water and we looked for seals (supposedly common in the area), but didn’t see any.
+ After lots of looks and finger pointing from the people on the street as we drove by (sometimes we’d forget what the van was painted like and only remembered when everyone stared at us), we took the fancy new bridge to the Isle of Skye.
+ This was the destination in the Highlands we were most excited about since it was supposed to be the most rugged and beautiful. It was a large island and we wanted to explore as many parts of it as we could, which meant lots of driving.
+ First, we drove past the town of Portree and continued on to Uig to visit the Fairy Glen. It was a gorgeous area with incredible overlooks and all sorts of little hills and waterfalls on one side and a giant drop off to a huge valley on the other side. We climbed a few of the hills and took pictures. Many people were camping but we wanted to continue on before we called it a day so we hopped back in the car.
+ Uig would be the Northernmost point we would reach on probably our entire RTW trip!
+ Afterwards, we tried to visit Skye Brewery but inexplicably, it was closed. (Weird since it was a Friday night)
+ A few hours of driving later, we camped in an area between Donvegan Castle and Niest Point right next to a lake.
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