Michael and I went on a month long journey through the UK and Europe together in April of 2016. It was a trip we had both dreamed of for years and we finally made it happen after months of planning and saving. We started in Edinburgh, Scotland before driving to England, then taking trains to France and Germany. We traveled over 2,000 miles in about 3.5 weeks. Our feet were constantly sore and our eyes saw things we didn’t even knew existed. This is a big, beautiful world and God is an amazing artist. I wouldn’t want to have shared this life changing experience with anyone but Michael, who is the most fun, spontaneous, selfless, loving, smart life/business/travel partner ever. We’re excited to talk about our precious, priceless memories from this trip for the rest of our lives!
A map of our journey:
It’s going to be really difficult for me to put into words how much we loved Scotland. I know that’s hard to imagine because 1. I love to talk and 2. clearly I still found plenty to say (scroll down…) We knew we would love it. Michael and I have both dreamed of castle ruins and rolling hillsides. The history and scenery is what drew us there. But we didn’t know we would be completely captivated by it. The very first night we arrived, it was dark and we walked around the streets of Edinburgh at night and were fascinated by the dark stone walls and streets. The next morning, we heard bagpipes playing as we walked to get breakfast. From then on, each day in Scotland made us fall more and more in love with it.
We dream about it, constantly talk about it, physically ache with wanting to go back. I’ve never been to a place in my whole life that drew me in as much as Scotland did. I recently read a quote by one of my favorite authors that sums it up perfectly:
“Scotland was crumbling castles, rocky coasts, soaring mountains and green valleys, fairy pools and sea caves and wild, blustery skies. I was a goner. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.” – Julianne Donaldson
If you want particular highlights, places we visited in these pictures, links, our hotel information, etc… just scroll to the bottom!
-I’m not sure if I would have called this a “highlight” at the time, but we had delayed and missed flights trying to get to Edinburgh and once we were finally there, our luggage was back in Newark, New Jersey. We didn’t have the GPS we brought for the rental car (and our phones didn’t work there) so we had to buy a map in the airport and try to navigate the old fashioned way to our hotel. This was also the first time Michael has ever driven on the right side of the car and the left side of the road. We pulled out of the rental car place right into city traffic of downtown Edinburgh with more roundabouts than I’ve ever seen! It was pretty stressful… but also kind of hilarious and quite an adventure! We got lost 2-3 times but eventually found our hotel which was like a beacon gloriously shining in the night sky. After 20+ hours of travel, taking a hot shower and laying in a comfortable bed was literal heaven. And our luggage arrived the next day!
-Steak and ale pies. All day every day.
-Seeing the North Sea for the first time in a quaint coastal town by Portobello Beach. We bundled up in coats, walked the boardwalk and saw the sunset.
–Fraser Suites in Edinburgh was probably our favorite hotel of the whole trip. It was right in Old Town Edinburgh. We could walk to cathedrals, shops, cafes, pubs, Edinburgh Castle and other attractions. We opened our windows in the morning while getting dressed for the day and could hear bagpipes playing on the street. The cafe next to the hotel, Saint Giles Cafe, was a particular favorite. The ham and swiss croissants were to die for.
-We hiked Ben Vrackie, a hill with a scenic backdrop to the historic town of Pitlochry in Highland Perthshire.
-The Scottish Highlands were everything I dreamed of and more. It was one of the parts of this trip that didn’t just exceed my expectations, but totally blew them out of the water. It was mesmerizing. The best days spent in Scotland were driving through the Highlands, stopping in small towns for an authentic Scottish lunch (like cheese and pickle sandwiches!), getting out of the car and walking around taking pictures, discovering castle ruins and breathing in the crisp air. It was one of the best things we’ve ever done together and the happiest memory.
-Visiting Kilchurn Castle is probably one of my most treasured memories from this whole trip. It was the first castle ruin we discovered that week. The castle was built in 1400 and sits in the middle of Loch Awe. It was used as a garrison during the Jacobite Rising then abandoned in 1700. The ruins themselves are incredible. We touched the stone walls and imagined what they have seen. Every where you look around the castle was incredible – snow capped mountain peaks, a serene lake and rolling hills with that whispy Highland grass. It was without a doubt one of the most beautiful places I have ever been in my life and I was so in awe of it. We stayed for hours walking around and exploring. I want to live there.
-Discovering Scotland with no plan at all was the best… just walking or driving around, spending 3 hours at a local grocery store on a Friday night (that really happened) because the food names are so funny and different (coffee creamer = coffee whitener), stopping in small towns, finding new pubs and trying local dishes like haggis (oh yes we did!)
-We did a few touristy things: toured Edinburgh Castle, visited the Scottish Whiskey Experience with tastings, had a blast in the Camera Obscura museum with it’s weird illusions.
-We drove north through St. Andrews to visit Dunnotarr Castle in Stonehaven. This castle was open to the public certain days of the year and we got to explore it’s dark hallways and climb the stone stairs. Every window had views of the North Sea crashing on the rocks below the castle. We also stayed here for HOURS (like 6-7 hours) exploring the castle, the cliffs around it and watching the sunset.
-We couldn’t help ourselves… on our last day in Scotland, we checked out of the hotel and drove slightly out of the way to stop at one more castle – Dirleton. This one was really fun. It was the most in-tact castle we saw and it was such a blast to walk around, see the rooms, figure out which room was the kitchen, look into the fireplaces. One of my favorite spots was a kitchen cupboard area where you could clearly see the notches etched into the stone to put shelves. That kind of history just blows me away. I love thinking about what life was like.