Scottish highlands

Road Trip Through the Scottish Highlands

 

Scotland, UK is a breathtakingly beautiful country that can make you feel like you’ve taken a step back in time with the vastness of its untouched lands and the old style buildings you’ll see in the towns.

The best way I think in which to see it all is a road trip to the Highlands.

So, grab your snacks and buckle your seats for the ultimate road trip adventure.

The Ultimate Scottish Road Trip

Preparing Your Road Trip

Route: Edinburgh to Inverness
Distance: 318 km
Driving Time: Around 5 hours
Length for Trip: 2-3 Days

Road Trip Highlights:

  • Fun, windy roads, in great condition most of the way
  • Epic views on every corner with plenty of designated places to park and take some great shots
  • Fresh seafood if you’re feeling hungry
  • The friendliest locals around to help you if you get lost

Renting a Vehicle

After years of collecting Aeroplan points, I was able to cash mine in with a one week car rental at Avis for 25,500 points. Yippee! For those of you who are still struggling to get those points, you can find cheap options on Skyscanner. Often if you want to rent for 3-6 days, it’s cheaper to just ask for a one week rental. My favorite rental companies are Avis and Enterprise.

Tips:

  • Many credit cards often offer car insurance for rentals so check if your’s provides this option to avoid insurance fees at the rental office which can often cost you more then the rental itself!
  • You will need an international drivers permit to rent vehicles abroad. Getting a permit is very easy in most places. In Canada you can visit your local CAA and apply for $25.
  • If you are a Canadian renting a vehicle in the UK, you do not need to get an international driver’s permit and will only need to show your local driver’s license.

Tunes for the Road

To make your road trip even better, make a Scottish playlist. Some great tunes for driving include:
•    Highlander’s Farewell by Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas
•    Johnny Tarr by Gaelic Storm
•    Hug air a’Bhonaid Mhois by Julie Fowlis
•    Hinba by Lau
•    The Cruel Sister by Old Blind Dogs
•    Celtic Pipes & Drums by Peatbog Faeries & Folk Police
•    Lough Erne’s Shore by Old Blind Dogs
•    Shooglenifty by McConnells Rant

The Route

Road Trip – Scottish Highlands – Day 1

Start in Edinburgh and spend at least a day there before hitting the road.

Fishers Leith

As soon as we arrived in Edinburgh, we headed straight to Fishers for a seafood lunch. Scotland’s seafood is so good, a large majority of it is actually shipped to Spain. We ordered some oysters, mussels, calamari which were all fresh and delicious. If you go Monday-Friday between 12:00-6:00 PM you can get a great deal with their set menu of 2 courses for £15 or 3 courses for £18.

Old Town

Next on our stop was to head into old town to walk off our great meal. Old town is an architecture enthusiast’s dream with every building having its own unique look and dates back to the medieval times. Make sure to look out for the Castle of Edinburgh and the Royal Mile.

Beer Sampling

As we strolled through old town, we popped into a few pubs to sample the local beers. Try the Fraoch which is a Heather Ale (Leann Fraoch) that’s been brewed in Scotland since 2000 B.C. Also try the Tennent’s Lager which is the local’s choice in pubs.

Ghost Tour

When it got to the evening, we booked a free ghost tour with CityExplorers. Our guide was Max who somehow managed to turn stories of murderers, dungeons and witch hunts into a walking comedy skit which was a lot of fun.

Road Trip – Scottish Highlands – Day 2

A Scottish Breakfast

The next day we started our morning at The Abbey, which is a proper Scottish pub offering a great breakfast starting at £4.95 and an unimaginable selection of whiskey (if you’re up for some early drinking). I went with the Scottish breakfast which includes egg, haggis, sausage, bacon, black pudding, white pudding, hash brown, tomato beans and toast. It was my first time trying haggis, and it  wasn’t’t bad at all!

In case you don’t know, haggis is made from sheep’s stomach and is stuffed with liver, heart and lungs of the sheep. Despite the name and what it’s made of, I would eat haggis again.

Arthur’s Seat

After breakfast we headed to Arthur’s seat which is around a 30 minute hike to the top of a hill,and over looks the entire city for some fantastic views.

Unfortunately, as soon as we started hike it started raining…hard. On the positive side, there were very few tourists and those we did encounter were retreating down because the rain was making it difficult to hike up.

By that point we saw it more of a challenge against mother nature to make it up to the top and pressed on. By the time we reached the top, not a single person was there and we had the entire spot all to ourselves.

After hearing stories from the ghost tour the night before about people hiking to the top of Arthur’s seat and then falling off, it felt very eery to be there on our own. Not to mention being surrounded by fog, mist, and then getting hailed on (in the middle of summer) which is when we decided it was time to go!

Tips

  • Arthur’s seat is located in Holyrood Park which is a great place to cycle in or have a walk around.
  • It’s also close to Holyrood Palace, which was the home for Mary Queen of Scott’s and is the official residence for the royal family when visiting Scotland.
  • Tickets for admission into the palace cost £12.50/adult.
  • If you don’t have much time, it might be worth just taking a drive around the road that circles the entire park and hill. The ride is no longer than 10-15 minutes and you can get some great views and spots for scenic pictures.

After conquering the hike up Arthur’s seat, it was time to hit the road to Inverness.

The Cairngorms National Park

Our first stop on the road was to the Cairngorms National Park which is the largest national park in the UK. The park itself contains the ancient Caledonian forest which has almost been wiped out from all of Scotland.

You can find many species of animals there including red squirrels and even wildcats. There are many different paths to go on for hikes, a couple estates to visit, Balmoral Castle and a steam train ride around the park.

Tips

  • We were short on time to catch a train ride but the Strathspey Railway runs a return trip from Aviemore through the heart of the Scottish Highlands which costs £14.25 for a 90 minute adventure.
  • If you are feeling like getting in touch with your nature side, you can find some great wild camping spots in the park.

A Hidden Beach

Just as you exit the Cairngorms National Park on the A86, there is a beautiful sandy beach where you can stop for a picnic lunch, do some fishing or even spend the night camping if you can brave the midges! The beach is located on Loch Laggan in between Quad Bike Tours and  Ardverikie Estate, you’ll be able to see the beach through the trees as your drive by with a designated parking spot to stop at.

Tip

Every encounter we had with Scottish locals they would always bring up “the midges”. They are similar to mosquitos but much smaller and will drive you crazy in the wild if you don’t have repellent on.

Apparently, the best form of repellent recommended by the locals is wearing Avon Skin So Soft. In truth we were fairly lucky considering the horror stories we heard about them, but we came prepared with repellant just in case, and you probably should too.

Road Trip – Scottish Highlands – Day 3

Glengarry Viewpoint

All along the road to Inverness you will find parking spots which are great to catch some epic views. As soon as you pass the sandy beach you will encounter three castle like buildings. Stop at Glengarry Viewpoint (about 1 hour after passing the hidden sandy beach) where you can stand on a rock and catch views of the entire landscape. Funny enough, one of the lochs is actually shaped like Scotland.

Invermoriston Waterfalls

Next, head to the tiny town of Invermoriston and leave your car at the local parking lot. Cross the street and follow the sounds of running water. This will take you to a waterfall for some great shots.

Searching for Nessie and Urquhart Castle

Head back to your car and make your way to Urquhart Castle which overlooks Loch ness for your chance to find Nessie. This is the site of an ancient ruined castle, one of the largest in Scotland which was built in the 13th and 16th centuries. Tickets to visit cost £9 per adult. Although we didn’t’t find the mythical sea monster we were able to catch the sun setting from the castle.

Inverness

This is the final destination for the road trip and is about a 30 minute drive from the Urquhart castle. For the best views of the city, head up to Inverness castle.

Exploring More in The Highlands

Your trip doesn’t need to end once you’ve reached Inverness. In the Highlands there are many things to see and do.

Dolphin Watching

Unfortunately, we didn’t’t get the chance to personally catch views of the dolphins ourselves but if you head to Chancery Point along the loch of Moray Firth you will have a good chance of seeing them there.

Glen Ord Distillery

You can’t visit Scotland without some Scotch tasting. Take a visit to Glen Ord Distillery which offers tours and tastings. We went on the most basic tour which cost £6 and includes a tasting of a 12 year old whiskey.  Interesting enough, this distillery only sells their scotch in South East Asia and is not available anywhere else, including the UK.

Golf

Did you know that the modern game of golf was invented by the Scotts? There are a few courses around including Torvean Golf Club, Inverness Golf Club and Fairways Loch ness Golf Course.

Watching the Indigenous Scottish Game of Shinty

An ancient game said to predate Christianity, shinty is a team sport that Highlanders play and was previously used to help train boys for warfare. Catch a game with local Highland teams.

Continuing Your Road Trip

If you feel up for seeing more of Scotland, I recommend continuing your road trip through to the Isle of Skye. Skye is well known for its beautiful, unique landscape and best explored on a wild camping road trip.

Travel tip shared by Jenn
amapforkandcork.com

 

Road Trip amazing landscape

Road Trip Necessities: What You Need to Keep Your Family Sane and Happy

 

When you’re taking a road trip with the family, there might be times when you want to consider a vacation by yourself because no one seems to get along in tight quarters. With a little imagination, there are some ways that you can keep the sanity alive in the car until you reach your destination.

However, it might require a few miracles when it comes to communication between your children.

Road Trip Necessities: What You Need to Keep Your Family Sane & Happy

Feed the Crowd

Food can often keep everyone quiet, at least for a short time. Keep snacks in the car that are healthy and that won’t make a mess. Cheese sticks or granola bars are ideal to enjoy in the car instead of chips or crackers as these things don’t make such a big mess with crumbs and such. Make sure that you have a trash bag so that items don’t get tossed on the floor of the car.

Have Electronic Devices

Don’t forget to grab the electronics and portable chargers before leaving home. Children can play games while traveling so that they have something to keep their minds occupied. Another option is to install a portable DVD player for children to watch movies. Audio books are also an idea if you want to enjoy the quiet solitude of a car trip while catching up on a bit of reading that you’ve missed out on lately.

Turn the Seats Into Sleep Spots

Make the back seat a cozy spot for sleeping or reading. Put blankets on the seat and a few pillows so that it looks and feels more like a bed than a car. Kids can have stuffed animals so that they have something to snuggle up to while on the road. After stopping at the library for a few books, this is a perfect area for your children to read a book. A benefit of turning the back seat into what appears to be a bed on wheels is that children can go to sleep if you leave home in the early morning hours.

Use Fun Bags

To keep everyone from fighting over what to do in the car, each person can pack a fun bag. It includes items to stay busy, such as a book, favorite toy or even yarn to crochet for someone older. The bags can also include a few snacks. A disposable camera can be included as a treat to give everyone a way to take pictures.

Traveling as a family can be fun, but it can also be a challenge as you might not always see eye to eye. Keep plenty of items in the car to stay busy.

If needed, pull over to stretch the legs before continuing on the journey.

 

Antwerp grote markt

On a World Trip in Antwerp, Belgium

 

Do you need a holiday and would you like to get away from it all for a while, to tour the world?

Then come to Antwerp, a homestead for many different nationalities and cultures. Depending on what you visit, in Antwerp you could imagine yourself in New York, Japan, China, Africa or Italy.

From Chinatown to Japan

If you look over Astridplein from Central Station, you’ll see the Chinese pagoda gate on the other side, the entrance to the Chinese quarter. A must stop is the Sun Wah supermarket, where you’ll be surprised by the exotic offerings in every aisle. You’ll also find authentic Chinese and other Asian restaurants in this district. Join the Chinese walk and immerse yourself in the Antwerp-Chinese culture. And stop by the cathedral and the statue of Nello and Patrasche too. The story, well-known in Japan, is set in Antwerp and tells of the moving friendship between a boy and his dog.

It’s up to you, New York…

Fans of New York, take note. We don’t claim that Antwerp is a New York on the Scheldt, but still there is much in common between the two cities. There used to even be a literal connection, thanks to the Red Star Line that transported about two million fortune-seekers from Europe to America and Canada between 1873 and 1934. The journey to the new world began for many people in a port warehouse in Antwerp. Visit the Red Star Line Museum, the counterpart of the famous Ellis Island in New York, and discover the stories of millions of people with a dream.

You can also go shopping like the film stars do on Fifth Avenue in Antwerp. Discover the various shopping districts in Antwerp. Or join a walk in the Jewish quarter that resembles in more ways than one the Jewish neighbourhood in the hip New York neighbourhood of Williamsburg. Don’t have that much time? A bicycle tour through Jewish Antwerp is also an option. Dine in the evening at one of the meat restaurants on the Slachthuislaan and you might imagine yourself to be in the Meatpacking District. How about a Manhattan or New York Sour as an aperitif?

African savannah in the city centre

Has it been a while since your last visit to the Zoo? Come and have another look, because the Zoo has been revamped. In the Valley of the Apes, you can walk among the chimpanzees and gorillas. In the Buffalo Savannah, Cape buffalo and birds live together in peace. Your African safari feeling becomes complete when you look out over the new Savannah with giraffes and zebras. Whether you are an animal lover or not, this green oasis in the city centre is a great place to be. Do you like African cuisine? Then TheFork  has four tips for you: Little Ethiopia, Black Sugar, Elsie’s Ethiopian and Eritrean eatery and Cabo Verde.

In Europe

From the Rubens House to the town hall and the numerous restaurants, Antwerp is full of Italian influences. On the Grote Markt, take a look at the relationship between the Brabo fountain and the work of Italian Mannerist sculptors. At Museum De Reede, you will also find numerous European traces. More works by the famous Spanish painter Francisco Goya hang here than at the Prado in Madrid. Do visit the ‘German Expressionists’ exhibitionists there too. Fans of Berlin shouldn’t miss PAKT. You’ll find locally produced coffee and you’ll enjoy meals made from ingredients grown in PAKT’s roof garden. As if you’re sitting on a lovely terrace in the German capital.

In Antwerp, you can enjoy a pocket-size trip around the world. Plan your trip and book a cosy hotel for an unforgettable holiday

 

My trip to Lanzarote, Canary Island, Spain – Travel in Covid-19 Times

 

I’ve just returned from a trip to Lanzarote, an island located on the Canary Islands of Spain. 

After self-isolation in Llandudno, North Wales for three months due to coronavirus, COVID-19, I was ready to travel again once it was safe to do so.

On Monday 6th of July, the Welsh Government lifted the 5-mile stay local rule, and I could finally travel outside of my local community again.

At this point, I would like to highlight that everything mentioned within this blog post is based on my personal experience, and you should seek government advice from the correct sources.

The reason why I mention this is because the rules are changing all the time and I wanted to share how my trip went to help paint a picture of what your trip could be like so you can make an informed opinion on if you should travel at the moment.

Why did I choose Lanzarote, Canary Islands

At my time of flying, Spain was on the list of countries you could fly to from the UK without the need to isolate for two weeks after returning from your trip.

Of course, this could change, but this was one of the reasons why I choose Spain.

I didn’t fancy flying to a Spanish city due to crowds, but Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands has direct flights from the UK and felt like a better option due to the current situation.

Plus the sound of the stunning volcanic landscape, hiking trails, sunny sandy beaches and locally sourced food all tempted me to visit the island of Lanzarote. It was just what I was looking for after being at home for so long.

With my bags packed and passport in hand (don’t forget your passport, it’s been a while!) I was ready to travel and explore the Canary Islands.

Around Lanzarote, not all businesses were open for tourism as visitor numbers are still operating on low capacity.

However, businesses are slowly opening up again for tourism, and many restaurants, visitor attractions, rental cars and a select number of resorts were open for visitors on the island.

You should book travel insurance before you travel around Europe

Please make sure you arrange suitable travel insurance for your trip before you depart. Some travel insurance providers have changed their policy to adapt to coronavirus COVID-19 so please read the small print and make sure that you have a cover.

Proper guidance is to check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website for up to date travel advice for UK travellers, and typically your travel insurance will follow along the lines of the FCO. So, if the FCO says not to travel, then your travel insurance usually is not valid, so please check the FCO website frequently for the latest travel advice.

Also, for those within the EU, make sure that your E111 card is up to date before you depart. For those within the UK, you can still travel and use your E111 card until the end of December. Remember that the E111 doesn’t replace travel insurance, but it’s good to have it with you at all times when travelling around the EU, especially at the moment.

Do you have to wear a face mask in Spain at all times?

Do you have to wear a mask all the time? This was a question I had before travelling to Lanzarote.

Of course, this advice will differ from other countries in Europe. But in Spain and on the Canary Islands, the simple answer is yes. You do have to wear your mask at all times.

After gathering some local advice, wearing a mask is not only to protect yourself from spreading germs but as a courtesy to protecting others.

Any situation where you’re unable to keep your social distance is when you should wear your mask in Spain.

This would be any place where social distancing is challenging, such as within shops, restaurants and public transport.

You can remove your mask when you sit down to eat or have a drink. You can withdraw your face cover while on the beach or when going for a swim in Spain, as long as you can keep your social distance.

Within your hotel room or rental car, you can remove your mask. If you’re going to the hotel breakfast buffet, you should wear your face mask.

I hope the above information clears up some questions you might have.

What is it like to fly at the moment?

It was a bizarre feeling only seeing five flights on the departure board of Heathrow terminal 5, usually the busiest airport in Europe. It did come as a shock.

Heathrow felt like a ghost town with limited passenger numbers flying on the day.

Throughout Heathrow, you will have to wear a facemask at all times from the entrance until you’ve exited at your arrival destination. It’s advised to swap your face mask every few hours, so you should pack a selection to use throughout your travels.

My temperature was checked as I entered Heathrow airport and I found hand sanitizer located all around the airport.

Check-in was rather swift, and many airlines are allowing free baggage check-in to free up space in the cabin, which is worth taking advantage of.

Security has never felt so fast; it was a swift experience and didn’t take much time at all.

Once airside, in regard to places to eat, I could only find one Pret open, which was enough to grab a coffee and a bite to eat before the flight.

Most airlines are not allowing food and drink service at the moment.

I did notice that a passenger requested a cup of water which was allowed but generally, nothing will be served on the flight unless you’re travelling business.

At the boarding gate, passengers were boarding individually based on row numbers, starting from the back of the aircraft towards the front.

At the check-in desk, the staff said to allow an extra hour due to additional boarding time. Be patient as it will take more time to board the flight, but you could always book your seat at the back if you wish to board sooner.

Once on the flight, cabin crew informed us that the aircraft used an advanced air flow filtration system that kills most germs. This, combined with a face mask and limited contact, helps to reduce the risk.

Once I was at my seat, I noticed that the airline had used empty seats to keep travellers at a safe distance from each other as best as they could.

They also blocked off and limited access to the number of toilets you could use. You can still use them but not as many so you might have to wait.

Generally, I found the flying experience rather relaxing and pleasant, indeed longer than usual, but the additional steps gave me reassurance rather than worry.

I wouldn’t want to take a flight with a connection due to the extra time it takes to board and go through the airport, but one direct flight wouldn’t be an issue.

What was your hotel resort like in Lanzarote?

I stayed at the Sands Beach resort located in Costa Teguise on the island of Lanzarote.

They had self-catering options for families with a large selection of swimming pools to choose from, which was great for social distance swimming.

Swimming is one of the things I missed the most, so it was a much-welcomed joy to have a few laps in the pool each morning.

The breakfast buffet was open, and you had to order each item individually. This will take some additional time, so be sure to arrive early to allow your choices to be accommodated.

I would visit the local supermarket and stock up on breakfast items to make in your room so you can relax in the morning and take the stress out of breakfast.

Not all resorts are open yet in Lanzarote, and some have chosen to stay closed until September so your choices will be limited.

The Sands Beach Resort chose to open early to learn about the extra steps needed to open up. The Spanish government have issued rules that resorts must follow to remain open to meet the health guidelines and create a safe environment for guests.

Another issue is staff. The resort is running at low capacity and it’s been tough getting the team back to work as some have chosen to wait until it’s safer to return to work while others are happy to get back to work again.

Rooms are required to undergo additional cleaning after each guest which is why I would recommend staying for 1-2 weeks.

Also, the stock has been an issue as the supply chain for resorts has not been open on the island since lockdown and resorts are having to use supermarkets to purchase items they need to operate.

It will take some time for resorts to open up again but those that have chosen to open up as soon as possible will learn from the experience and adapt to the guidelines, which will take time for some resorts to adjust to.

What is it like going to a restaurant on the Canary Islands?

After cooking for myself for three months, I’ve simply run out of hot pot recipes and I’m also getting a bit bored of baking banana bread.

Being allowed to visit restaurants again and not have to do the washing up was one of the most enjoyable moments from the trip.

Getting to taste the local flavours again was an absolute pleasure. Enjoying fresh seafood and a glass of white wine that’s made on the island was pure joy.

If you wish to dine out, it’s best to call in advance to book a table as space within the premise is limited due to schedules and social distance.

I noticed that temperature checks took place before entering the restaurant, and hand sanitizer was always found at the entrance.

You must wear a facemask until you have taken a seat at your table, then you can take it off to enjoy your food and drink.

Also, I noticed that the menu could typically be found by using a QR code to access on your smartphone. Make sure you have your Roam Like at Home data turned on while travelling around the EU as it will come in handy.

If you can pay for your meal by using contactless payment, this would be the best method rather than using cash.

Do you need to fill out health forms before you travel?

Spain requires you to fill in a health form before you arrive. Once the form is completed online, you will get a QR code which will be scanned on arrival.

You must be checked into your flight and have your seat number before you fill out the form. This information helps with track and trace, and you will be contacted if needed.

Also, when returning to the UK, you must fill in a form explaining where you’ve been and where you will be going to in the UK.

After filling in the UK form and placing my address in Wales where I will be, I instantly got an email from the Welsh government asking me to quarantine and stay at home for two weeks. I was not aware that the rules in Wales required two weeks quarantine, but not a problem as I have been home for the past two weeks and will follow the guidelines as instructed. Something to think about as I was also aware that those from Scotland had been advised not to travel to Spain altogether. So, the rules are different depending on where you live.

Did I enjoy my trip to Lanzarote, Canary Islands?

The most important question. Did I have a great time going to Lanzarote? Were all the extra steps worth it?

My answer is for the most part yes. I do have mixed opinions about it though, as I enjoyed the trip, but travel is no longer normal like it used to be and some fun has been sucked out the experience.

But I do understand that this is for my own and others’ safety to allow tourism to open up again so I would say that it was worth it.

My issue was the length of the trip; I wish I could have stayed longer to justify the extra time you need to go through all the additional safety steps.

So, If I were staying in Lanzarote for two weeks, I would have said that it was worth it.

My advice at the moment to make travel safer during COVID-19

I would recommend only taking one direct flight to reach your destination. Avoid having to take connection flights as this increases your risk of a possible infection.

Stay in one resort and try to find a self-catering option so you can prepare breakfast and lunch from your room as buffets are not a safe environment at the moment.

Book ahead to reserve your table if you wish to dine out at a local restaurant.

Book a rental car to explore your surroundings and avoid public transport.

Use contactless payment and avoid cash when possible.

Stay for 1-2 weeks. Travel to your destination will take more time so you should allocate this time into your holiday to make it more rewarding.

Don’t forget to relax and enjoy your holiday. You will have to go through many additional steps to make your holiday safe so please have patience, remain calm and take your time.

For this reason, a weekend city escape might not be ideal at the moment as you won’t have enough time to enjoy the actual holiday.

Thank you for reading my blog post about my trip to Lanzarote

I hope all the above information helps you understand what travel and tourism are currently like in Europe at this moment in time, and I wish you a pleasant future trip!

This blog post was put together in collaboration with the UNWTO and the Canary Islands as part of the #RestartTourism campaign to help tourism recovery on the islands. I hope you’ve found this blog post informative.

Travel tip shared by Dave