Three Winter days in Scotland – not enough, but enough to make us want to visit again !
We have been meaning to explore the mysterious highlands and numerous Lochs of Scotland ! However we had a super packed trip and were only able to squeeze out 3 days to spend in Scotland! Needless to say, we were so mesmerized by the foggy castles and snow capped Alps, we are sure to come back!
Below is how we spent our 3 days in Scotland:
Day 1 – Glasgow
Day 2 – Castle Hunting : Greenock, Dumbarton Castle, Balloch Castle, Loch Lomond, Balmaha, Stirling Castle, Falkirk, Lithlingow Palace
Day 3 – Edinburgh
We visited Scotland in the dead of Winter, and much to our surprise, we LOVED the experience. It was cold, rainy and so so romantic, my husband in fact wants to go back in winter again!
Day 1- Glasgow:
So breaking down our itinerary, we took an early AM flight from London and got to Glasgow by 9am. Glasgow is a charming urban city with so much character. With shopping malls and multi-cultural restaurants interspersed with distinct early 20th century Victorian architecture.
The airport shuttle was quick and convenient and brought us right into the city center. We checked in to the incredibly efficient citizenM Glasgow located centrally right off Buchanan Street.
I highly recommend staying here and you can see all the wonderful reasons why here.
We grabbed some fantastic breakfast in the hotel and decided to spend the next 24 hours exploring Glasgow.
Started out by visiting the Glasgow Cathedral, a magnificent example of Gothic architecture and the only mainland Scottish cathedral to have survived the Reformation intact.
If the weather’s fine, take a stroll through the park-like Necropolis, where Glasgow’s wealthy industrialists were buried beneath elaborate memorials on a hill overlooking the city.
George Square and City Chambers:
George Square is the principal civic square in the city of Glasgow, Scotland, named after King George III. Laid out in 1781, George Square is surrounded by architecturally important buildings – exploring around you’d work up quite an appetite for lunch!
Dim Sum Restaurant:
I can’t remember the name of the restaurant, but we were both craving Dimsum and found a fantastic Dim Sum heaven only minutes from Buchanan street. I know this is an unusual choice in Glasgow, but I highly recommend it. If not, Cafe Gandolfi is another really popular choice for fine Italian.
One wonderful way to work off the jet-lag and the calories is a walk through the Botanical gardens. Located in the West End of Glasgow, Scotland, it features several glasshouses, the most notable of which is the Kibble Palace.
We were a little exhausted from the early morning flight and walking around all day that we decided to come back for a little nap.The evening breeze started to get a little chilly, so we bundled up and headed out for a few drinks by Buchanan St – so lively and full of fantastic choices for food and drinks. We ended up having the best Italian we’ve had in a long time at Cafe Napoli and headed back for a good night’s rest!
Day 2 – Castle Hunting:
Okay, so everyone told us Scotland is Edinburgh. Edinburgh is Scotland. And we had to decide if we’d want to spend the next 2 days in Edinburgh (which was just a 1hr away from Glasgow by train), or we take the scenic drive through Lochs, chasing castles all the way to Edinburgh.If you know my husband at all, this is no surprise to you, he LOVES driving – especially through misty remote country roads. So we picked up a rental car from Glasgow and started to make our way toward the highlands… well not all the way, but if my hubby had his way, we’d end up there 🙂
We started our Castle hunt journey by making a pitstop at Greenock. Not only is it a beautiful town in the historic county of Renfrewshire, in the west central Lowlands of Scotland, the main reason we swung by here is to get glance of the magnificent line of hills and castles across the River Clyde. With the mist rolling in, the entire scenery was completely unreal!
Dumbarton Castle –
Dumbarton Castle has the longest recorded history of any stronghold in Scotland. It overlooks the Scottish town of Dumbarton, and sits on a plug of volcanic basalt known as Dumbarton Rock which is 240 feet high. What was my hubby’s fav part – the backyard is actually a public dog park 🙂 We actually spent some time in the rain playing with a couple poodles haha
Balloch Castle –
This was actually my FAVORITE! It was smaller than the others we saw, but the walk up through the country park, the rolling estate that extends all the way to the River Clyde… the whole misty experience was mesmerizing! Balloch Castle is an early 19th-century country house situated at the southern tip of Loch Lomond, in West Dunbartonshire, Scotland.
Balloch was a property of the Lennox family from the 11th century, and the old castle was built in the 13th century.Also note, this is Loch Lomond’s only country park and commands impressive views over its waters, spanning 200 acres which include walled gardens, nature trails and guided walks!
Loch Lomond –
one word – Breath taking!! okay 2 words, but you really need to be there to really experience it! Essentially Loch Lomond is part of the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. The surrounding highlands area is home to red deer and oak woodlands. On the eastern shore, footpaths and cycle trails criss-cross craggy Ben Lomond mountain and the smaller Conic Hill. Across the loch, Luss Heritage Path winds through rolling countryside and ancient Luss village, with its stone cottages. You can spend a whole day just hiking and biking through this gorgeous scenary.
So if you really want to explore Loch Lomond, Balmaha is the ideal destination for exploring the area around Loch Lomond! The West Highland Way passes beside the village as it takes walkers along the eastern side of Loch Lomond. With tons of hiking trails, Balmaha was perfect spot for us to picnic and have our Fish & Chips take out 🙂
We decided to take the a long drive up and down the hills and along the river, as we tried to spot the Alps and spy castles in the distance. We shot this with the Stirling castle in the background… the next one on our list! 🙂
Stirling Castle –
Stirling Castle, located in Stirling, is one of the largest and most important castles in Scotland, both historically and architecturally. The castle sits atop Castle Hill, an intrusive crag, which forms part of the Stirling Sill geological formation. It is surrounded on three sides by steep cliffs, giving it a strong defensive position.
Its strategic location, guarding what was, until the 1890s, the farthest downstream crossing of the River Forth, has made it an important fortification in the region from the earliest times
Falkirk is a small town on the Fourth Valley between Glasgow and Edinburgh. I was really excited to see the Kelpies, but the area boasts some outstanding attractions, including The Kelpies, The Helix, The Falkirk Wheel, Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway, the Antonine Wall, and The John Muir Way to name but a few. We just made a little pitstop to checkout the Kelpies from close!
Lithlingow Palace –
This gorgeous construction wasn’t on our list originally as we were driving toward Edinburgh to catch dinner reservations, but on the way we caught sight of this stunning palace from the expressway! It was one of the principal residences of the monarchs of Scotland in the 15th and 16th centuries. Linlithgow Palace is perhaps best known as the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots.
As it turned out, the infant queen remained only seven months at Linlithgow before being taken by her mother to the greater security of Stirling Castle. It was another 20 years before she returned.The ruins of the palace stand beside St Michael’s parish church (right) on a natural hillock, which overlooks the town to the south and extends as a promontory into Linlithgow loch on the north (below). A royal manor house probably existed on this site from the mid-twelfth century. If you have an hour to spare, don’t miss this spectacular spot, about 15 miles form Edinburgh!
Day 3 – Edinburgh
Clearly, not enough! I know! We should’ve spent all 3 days in Edinburgh – but honestly, we loved our entire itinerary in Scotland. That being said, OH MY GOODNESS! From the moment we walked out of the train station, we were transported into the pre 20th century.
One day in Edinburgh will never do the city justice, but it’s time enough to get a good feel for its attractive city centre. This divides into the Old Town – which lies densely packed on a hill around Edinburgh’s landmark castle – and the Georgian-era New Town below.
From anywhere in Edinburgh, you are unlikely to miss this spectacular structure! Walking right out of the Waverly station, walking down the magnificent buildings, with Gothic charm and Victorian architecture turned into malls and hotels on Princes St, the Scott Monument is a stunning sight by day or sunset!On the death of Sir Walter Scott in 1832, the great and good of the city came together to agree on a fitting monument to this outstanding Scottish literary figure.
Scottish National Gallery:
The Scottish National Gallery is one of Scotland’s top free visitor attractions. It houses Scotland’s national collection of fine art from the early Renaissance to the end of the nineteenth century. Spend an hour strolling around this peaceful setting and you’ll find masterpieces from Raphael, Velázquez and Vermeer to Monet, Cézanne and Van Gogh. For a nation of Scotland’s size, the collection is rightfully regarded as one of the very best in the world.
When you spot the Edinburgh Castle, you’ll see why its a world famous icon of Scotland and part of the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site. It was recently voted top UK Heritage Attraction in the British Travel Awards and is Scotland’s number one paid-for tourist attraction. This most famous of Scottish castles has a complex building history.
The oldest part, St Margaret’s Chapel, dates from the 12th century; the Great Hall was erected by James IV around 1510; the Half Moon Battery by the Regent Morton in the late 16th century; and the Scottish National War Memorial after the First World War.
Scotch Whiskey Experience:
Gain insight into the process of distilling with The Scotch Whisky Experience. This unique museum is more than just a chance to sip the golden liquid, but also includes a ride that leads you through the story of whiskey and a room with possibly the world’s largest private collection of the drink.
St. Giles Cathedral:
Walking down the Edinburgh Royal Mile, St Giles’ Cathedral, also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh, is the principal place of worship of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh. Its distinctive crown steeple is a prominent feature of the city skyline, at about a third of the way down the Royal Mile which runs from the Castle to Holyrood Palace.
We didn’t really go in but we instead spent a ton of time on the Royal Mile shopping, stopping to watch the local artists perform and walked off the whiskey off our systems 🙂
Before the sun started to set, we decided to drive all the way out to Arthur’s seat, which is the main peak of the group of hills in Edinburgh, Scotland which form most of Holyrood Park. Arthurs Seat, an ancient volcano, and sits 251m above sea level boasting excellent view of the city; it is also the site of a large and well preserved fort. This is one of four hill forts dating from around 2000 years ago.We started to hike up the volcano in the evening as the sun was setting, but I highly recommend starting your day out with a hike up Arthur’s seat because the views from atop were unparalleled!
St. Andrew Square:
Tired, cold and hungry, we decided to satisfy our craving tastebuds with some fine tapas style legitimate bombay food at Dishoom! One of the Best Indian food we’ve ever had anywhere in the world, we concluded our wonderful visit to Scotland with a wholesome dinner at Dishoom! 🙂 All in all, I know we hardly got to spend enough time in each place… but we know for sure, we will be back to explore every mysterious castle and the cobble stoned streets of Edinburgh !