My Top Tens in Scotland

I’ve been fortunate to travel throughout much of Scotland during my tour. I spent four weeks in Edinburgh, followed by six weeks in the Highlands and islands. I was drawn to explore some of Scotland’s more remote areas and learn about its complicated, turbulent and often heartbreaking history. I found the story of Scotland made real by the preservation of its architectural remnants, some thousands of years old. At the same time, I was overwhelmed by the majesty of its landscape and the irrepressibility of the Scots themselves. I stayed in twenty-one different b&bs and hotels, visited thirteen islands and seventeen castles, took eighteen ferry sailings and seven train rides, and rented four cars.

Here are the “best-ofs” from my trip:

Isle of Hoy, Orkney Islands

Isle of Hoy, Orkney Islands

Most memorable experiences

  • Edinburgh Festival
  • Hike to Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh
  • Hike along the cliffs in Esha Ness, Shetland Islands
  • Hike to Old Man of Hoy seastack, Isle of Hoy, Orkney Islands
  • Skara Brae and Ring of Brodgar, Orkney Islands
  • Drive through Assynt, north of Ullapool
  • Drive through North Lewis, Outer Hebrides
  • Hike through Quiraing, Isle of Skye
  • Live ceilidh music, Pier Hotel, Portree, Isle of Skye
  • Drive through Ardmeanach Peninsula, Isle of Mull
Esha Ness, Shetland Islands

Esha Ness, Shetland Islands

Best scenery

  • Esha Ness, Shetland Islands
  • Isle of Hoy, Orkney Islands
  • Assynt, north of Ullapool
  • North Lewis, Outer Hebrides
  • Quiraing, Isle of Skye
  • Cuillin range, Isle of Skye
  • Ardmeanach Peninusula, Isle of Mull
  • Glencoe
  • Ferry from Craignure to Port Askaig, Isle of Islay
  • Train from Oban to Glasgow
Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

Best sites visited

  • Edinburgh Castle
  • Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh
  • Skara Brae, Orkney Islands
  • Calanais Standing Stones, Outer Hebrides
  • Eilean Donan Castle, Isle of Skye
  • Iona Abbey
  • Culloden Battlefield
  • Inverary Castle
  • Laphroaig distillery, Isle of Islay
  • Stirling Castle
Tobermory, Isle of Mull

Tobermory, Isle of Mull

Most appealing villages

  • Stromness, Orkney Islands
  • Ullapool
  • Portree, Isle of Skye
  • Tobermory, Isle of Mull
  • Inverary
  • Corrie, Isle of Arran
  • Skipness, Mull of Kintyre
  • The twin villlages of Portnahaven and Port Wemyss, Isle of Islay
  • St. Andrews
  • Anstruther
Kilchrenan House, Oban

Kilchrenan House, Oban

Best places I stayed

  • Ferry Inn, Stromness, Orkney Islands
  • Ardconnel House, Inverness
  • Mingarry Park Guest House, Acharacle
  • Carminish House, Leverburgh, South Harris, Outer Hebrides
  • Kilchrenan House, Oban
  • Struan House, Tarbert
  • Octofad Farm, Port Charlotte, Isle of Islay
  • Waterfront, Anstruther
Seafood stew

Best foods

  • Steamed mussels
  • Poached or smoked salmon
  • Pan-seared scallops
  • Fish and chips (haddock or halibut)
  • Marinated sardines, anchovies and herring
  • Bangers and mash
  • Venison sausage
  • Cream soups
  • Fresh-baked fruit scones with whipped cream
  • Single-malt whisky
Gaelic sign

Greatest difficulties

  • Finding fast, steady Wi-Fi connections in remote areas
  • Negotiating oncoming traffic on single-lane roads
  • Driving through roundabouts in a clockwise direction
  • Finding American-style brewed coffee (didn’t happen)
  • Finding a green vegetable other than mushy peas (rarely happened)
  • Reading road signs in Gaelic (but glad they’re keeping it alive!)
  • Making change in pounds sterling without holding up the line, er, queue
  • Remembering that light switches are located outside of bathroom doors
  • Trying to understand how cricket is played
  • Running hill repeats up Pulpit Hill with Oban’s running club

What I will miss

  • Jaw-dropping mountain scenery and seascapes
  • Fresh seafood on the piers
  • Narrow cobblestone streets in the old towns
  • Stone walls and bridges in the country
  • Dogs in pubs
  • Efficient public transportation via trains, ferries and buses
  • The smell of burning peat
  • Prehistoric standing stones, cairns, brochs and hillforts around every corner
  • Sheep in the middle of the road
  • The Scots’ dry sense of humor
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5 Responses to My Top Tens in Scotland

  1. Mike Pechinak says:

    I can appreciate that single-malt whiskey made the top-10 food list (that was not missed on me), but where is the truly helpful “Top 10 Pubs of Scotland” list to guide all those who follow your trail?

  2. Hugh Clark says:

    Thanks, Kirk. Move over, Rick Steves…

  3. Peter Luft says:

    Impressive 10 weeks!

  4. Anne R says:

    Your descriptions are ACE Kirk. I feel like letting all my friend read your Blog as it sends such positive vibes. Your top tens said it all – but you really have to be here to appreciate. Good luck wherever you wander but remember there’s ‘nae place like hame’……and you certainly have had something to write ‘hame aboot’. All the best. Anne R

  5. John Millen says:

    Kirk, though I’ve never been to Scotland, reading your blog makes me feel as if I have. Your vibrant descriptions and nuanced details give a true sense of place. Great work! Safe travels, John

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