From autumn coloured forests to mountain lakes and mysterious castles – I fell head over heels in love with Scotland during our five day holiday!
Each year in autumn when the weather gets colder, and the leaves change their colours, I feel the strong urge to go on a holiday. Unlike you might expect though, I’m not longing to fly somewhere warm – Quite on the contrary!
By the time it’s getting grey and rainy outside, I’m dreaming about snuggling up on the couch next to a fireplace with a good book, a glass of wine and a beautiful autumn scenery outside my window.
Autumn travel mood
That usually makes me start thinking about countries that might be beautiful in autumn…
Finland maybe, where we could rent a lodge with our own private sauna?
Staying at a wellness hotel close to the cliffs in Cornwall, just like in one of those romance movies?
Or, as a complete alternative, exploring Moscow in the warmest boots and coat I possess?
The colder it gets the more creative my imagination becomes. In the end though, I have never booked a real autumn holiday – until now!
Let’s go to Scotland!
When the German government announced that there would be an additional bank holiday in autumn 2017, my husband and I had the same idea. This was perfect for a short holiday between summer and Christmas!
We started doing some research and one day my husband said:
“Why don’t we fly into Edinburgh and go on a road trip through Scotland?”
– And voila: I finally had my autumn holiday!
Who said it always rains in Scotland?
Having heard all the stories about bad weather in Scotland, I didn’t expect to spend much time outside. Instead, I made a list of audiobooks I planned on listening, and researched nice pubs for dinner.
While expecting the worst, I clearly wasn’t prepared for what I saw when I threw a cautious glance out of the window on our first morning.
Sunshine! Can you believe it?
It was cold enough to create a proper autumn atmosphere, and still warm enough to spend several hours outside without freezing our legs off.
For our first three days in Scotland we didn’t encounter a single drop of rain and thus, could enjoy the full beauty Scotland’s nature has to offer.
Scenic hiking trails
And that’s exactly what we did. On that first day, we chose to go hiking near Pitlochry.
We chose a well-maintained hiking trail that led along a river through an autumn coloured forest. I couldn’t stop marvelling about nature’s beauty.
This was all I had ever dreamed about when imagining an autumn holiday. The combination of coloured trees, lakes and rivers created the most romantic autumn atmosphere I could think of!
Changing landscapes – but water is always close
As we continued to Inverness and Isle of Skye, the landscape started to change. Slowly, the autumn coloured trees disappeared and made way for a bleak mountain landscape with hills and deep hanging clouds.
What really stood out were the numerous rivers and lakes. Literally at every corner we passed one of the so called Lochs – and each of them came with its own unique flair.
Some were surrounded by green grass, others were embedded into mountains. This area of Scotland bore a strong resemblance to Canada. Just without the very looong distances and dangerous animals.
Saying this, I haven’t even started talking about Isle of Skye and its variety of beautiful cliffs, waterfalls, lakes and viewpoints.
Road tripping through the Highlands
All facts considered, renting a car for our holiday in Scotland was a great idea. The Highlands turned out to be the ideal place for a road trip.
Compared to other road trip destinations, such as the US, everything is very close together. You don’t have to spend whole days in your car until reaching the next attraction but can visit lots of different highlights in just one day.
Another advantage is that the Highlands may look like real mountains – but in reality they’re more like large hills. This makes driving pretty relaxed, as you don’t have to climb up and down on narrow serpentine roads.
For me as a rather anxious passenger, that was really a big advantage! The only challenge was to drive on the left side of the road – but my husband managed it just fine.
Meeting Shaun the Sheep
Apart from marvelling at the stunning landscape, I was really excited to see all these cute sheep! They all looked exactly like Shaun – the sheep in the children movie I watched last year with one of my friends.
We even stopped once to pet one of them. They are really cute little fellows, don’t you agree?
Look – there’s a castle!
What’s true for the sheep is also true for Scotland’s castles: They are simply everywhere.
Growing up in Germany, I’ve visited my fair share of castles in my childhood. So I wasn’t planning to see any in Scotland. But the thing is: There are so many of them, that we passed by several castles per day just by coincidence.
The most iconic was definitely Eilean Donan Castle, where we were lucky to pass by at sunset on our way to Isle of Sky. In retrospect, I’m really glad about it. It would’ve really been a shame not to see this landmark.
Where even bus drivers are the friendliest people ever!
While the landscape, the sheep and the castles were highlights in themselves, it was the friendliness of the Scottish people that amazed me the most. Really every single person we met was genuinely friendly and helpful!
On our first morning in Pitlochry we took a public bus to go hiking at Killiecrankie. Upon entering the bus, the driver greeted us with a warm smile. He asked us where we were going and offered to indicate the right stop. All the way to Killiecrankie he was whistling and seemed to be the happiest person ever.
When it was time for us to get off he wished as a wonderful stay in his country – and I believed that he truly meant it. Considering that bus drivers in Germany sometimes don’t even greet me back when I wish them a good morning, that’s really something to remember.
Maybe it’s just me, being German and all that, but I’m really not used to that much natural friendliness.
Scottish B&B’s – Houses with a soul
Staying in local Bed and Breakfasts instead of hotels rounded up our Scotland experience. Both our accommodations in in Pitlochry and on Isle of Skye were located in beautiful old houses, with an eye for details.
The home-made warm breakfast was definitely a highlight – as were our welcoming hosts.
Waking up in a cosy room with a thick carpet, throwing a glance out of the window and seeing nothing but sheep and trees almost made us feel like real Scots. Of course my husband teased me several times, that I already look like one too, with my red hair 🙂
Unfortunately, both accommodations had another thing in common: Non-existent heating.
In Pitlochry the heating only worked during a short period of time in the morning and on the Isle of Skye it didn’t work at all. Obviously those Scottish are used to much colder temperatures than us Germans. In the end, bringing my hot water bottle, as I had originally considered, wouldn’t have been such a bad idea after all.
When the rain begins to fall
On the morning of our fourth day in Scotland it finally started raining and didn’t stop until we boarded our plane back home to Stuttgart the next day.
Driving back to Edinburgh through rain and mist we realised that, spending a rainy five days in the Highlands, wouldn’t have been that much fun after all,
A positive surprise
But I also realised, that you should never let yourself being kept from visiting a destination you want to see because of the weather. Even if the figures are saying that there are 20 days of rain per month – it’s nothing more like that: Figures and statistics.
Even with the most pleasant statistic ever, there’s no guarantee for good weather. On the other hand, if you don’t expect anything, just like I did, there’s a lot of room for positive surprises!
That’s exactly what describes my autumn holiday in Scotland the best – A positive surprise. From the unexpected good weather to autumn coloured forests, beautiful lakes, mysterious castles, cute sheep and friendly people we met: Visiting Scotland fulfilled every dream I’ve ever had about an autumn holiday.
This was my personal autumn romance – and I fell head over heels in love with this country!