Category Archives: Scotland

Scotland #9: The Loch Ness Loop

Scotland #1: Welcome to Edinburgh!
Scotland #2: The View from Arthur’s Seat
Scotland #3: The View from Scott Monument
Scotland #4: Going Forth to Forth
Scotland #5: The Beauty of Fife
Scotland #6: Whisky Fail
Scotland #7: Defeat at Culloden
Scotland #8: Cawdor’s Not-So-Secret Garden

After Culloden and Cawdor Castle we embarked on a drive around the infamous Loch Ness. While we did not spot the Loch Ness Monster, we did get to experience some genuine Scotland weather and see a bunch of beautiful scenery. Throughout the day, the weather vacillated between sunny, blue skies and wet and windy. But the bizarre weather produced some gorgeous fog and some very scenic pictures.

We started at Inverness and drove along the southeastern shores of Loch Ness, stopping at various scenic spots and Urquhart Castle. Then we headed further east, deeper into loch territory, stopping at the moody Glen Gary. As we headed north, we looped around to the Loch Ness’s western shore, stopping at Suidhe viewpoint. After that, the road splits. You can take B852, a narrow, rural road along the shores of Loch Ness (our choice) or stay on B862 above the water. The two roads meet up at Dores and will take you north to Inverness.

Our first stop along Loch Ness was a small pullover with steps leading down to the water. The intense fog gave the area an eerie feel.



By the time we got to Urquhart Castle, the sun had returned – temporarily. We got to enjoy some blue skies before the rain descended on us and I finally, finally got to see a rainbow in Scotland.


Urquhart Castle played a role in Scottish history for hundreds of years as a key fortress in the region’s many bloody conflicts. The castle was ultimately destroyed in 1692, a casualty of the early Jacobite uprisings. Because of the Jacobite’s presence in the Highlands, the English used Urquhart as a strategic base. When English forces abandoned the castle in 1692, they blew it up.


Lisa takes a nap on Urquhart Castle’s comfy accommodations. Don’t judge – driving and taking pictures is exhausting!


My turn for a nap!



Oh me and my love of silly pictures.




RAINBOW! For some reason, this excited me to no end.


After we took a million pictures of the aforementioned rainbow, we continued on our way. By the time we got to Glen Gary, the fog covered the horizon. There were few people on the road, giving us the sensation of being alone in a thoroughly magical place.




Our trusty Audi on the side of the wet road.




I love this photo. At one of our Glen Gary stops, the sun began to force its way out of the clouds, demanding to make its presence known. If you look closely, you can see the beams of light raining down over Glen Gary. It is magical.


As we looped around Loch Ness heading to Suidhe Viewpoint, we came across a beautiful reflection. The clouds had parted for a moment, shedding a bright blue reflection on the water’s surface.


At Suidhe Viewpoint, the road rises to 1,200 feet with rolling hills and glorious fields stretching out before you, mixing with the on-and-off-again fog. There is an unmarked trail at Suidhe that gets rave reviews in the Lonely Planet guide book. The wind had picked up and I was freezing, so Lisa treked out by herself and came back with gushing reports. I managed to take plenty of beautiful pictures without venturing far from the warmth of our car.







After Suidhe Viewpoint, it was time to head back to Inverness. As we drove along B852, we marvelled at how narrow the roads were. Not only were they not wide enough for two-way traffic — they were barely wide enough for one! Lisa insisted I document our bravado with my camera.


Tagged , , , ,

Scotland #8: Cawdor’s Not-So-Secret Garden

Scotland #1: Welcome to Edinburgh!
Scotland #2: The View from Arthur’s Seat
Scotland #3: The View from Scott Monument
Scotland #4: Going Forth to Forth
Scotland #5: The Beauty of Fife
Scotland #6: Whisky Fail
Scotland #7: Defeat at Culloden

After our visit to Culloden, we made a quick stop at Cawdor Castle – not to see the castle, but the beautiful gardens. The grounds boast two gardens – the Walled Garden and the Flower Garden, and we enjoyed photographing both of them. There isn’t much to say other than – it was really colorful and lovely!














Tagged ,

Scotland #7: Defeat at Culloden

Scotland #1: Welcome to Edinburgh!
Scotland #2: The View from Arthur’s Seat
Scotland #3: The View from Scott Monument
Scotland #4: Going Forth to Forth
Scotland #5: The Beauty of Fife
Scotland #6: Whisky Fail

If you’re an Outlander fan (the books or the TV show), this post is for you. I read Outlander in high school and jumped for joy when Starz turned the novels into a TV series. For years, everything I knew about Scottish history came from the Outlander books – sad I know. The first two books center around the Scottish rebellion against the English and the Scots’ unglorious, bloody defeat at Culloden.

Throughout the first half of the 18th century, a group of Scottish rebels (or Jacobites as they were called) attempted to overthrow the House of Hanover and restore the House of Stuart to the thrown. They deemed Charles Edward Stuart, a.k.a. the Bonnie Prince Charlie and the great grandson of King James the VI and I, the rightful heir to the Scottish and English thrones. At the time, the Bonnie Prince was safely ensconced in France while the Jacobites gathered funds and French support for their rebellion.

In the first book in the Outlander series, Claire Randall accidentally tumbles through time to the year 1743. When she falls in love with an eighteenth century Highlander, she warns Jamie of the defeat to come at Culloden. They hatch a plan to convince the Bonnie Prince Charlie to resist the Jacobites’ call for a leader.

I don’t think I’m spoiling the book when I tell you that their plan failed, and the Scottish dream of independence died on the wide open field of Culloden on April 16, 1746, along with thousands of Jacobite forces .

Culloden is located about 10 minutes from Inverness. Today, there is a visitor center that explains the history leading up to the Culloden battle and the battle itself. Outside, you can walk through the battlefield while listening to detailed explanations on a handheld device that is triggered by a GPS signal.

I thought the museum was very well done, and the walk through the field is a sobering experience.


Old Leanach cottage, which survived the battle and has been restored several times over.


The flags are used to mark where the Scottish (blue) and British (red) forces stood.








The memorial cairn was built by Duncan Forbes in 1881.


The inscription on the memorial cairn: “The battle of Culloden was fought on this moor 16th April 1746. The graves of the gallant Highlanders who fought for Scotland & Prince Charlie, are marked by the named of their clans.”



A diagram of the battle lines.


A description on the battlefield.

Tagged , , ,

Scotland #6: Whisky Fail

Scotland #1: Welcome to Edinburgh!
Scotland #2: The View from Arthur’s Seat
Scotland #3: The View from Scott Monument
Scotland #4: Going Forth to Forth
Scotland #5: The Beauty of Fife

When you tell people you’re going to Scotland, they ask about two things: Golf and whisky. I don’t play golf, and I don’t like whisky (or any alcohol really). But when in Scotland…

Lisa strongly felt we should check out at least one of Scotland’s many whisky distilleries. We picked the Benromach distillery mostly because it was on our way north to Inverness (and because Lisa really likes their website design). I did not have high hopes for my inaugural whisky tasting.

I was right.

But first we had a three hour drive north, as we made our way through the Scottish countryside to the Highlands.


Driving like a champion on the left side of the road!


Stunning Scottish countryside


Looking pretty!



There is so much green everywhere

We finally arrived at the charming Benromach distillery.



Our guide gave us a tour of the distillery and a detailed explanation of how whisky is made. There were no pictures allowed of the actual whisky-making, so you’ll have to settle for a detailed photographic account of my failed attempt to acquire a taste for Scotch.

As you can see, I did not like anything about this process. I found the smell… less than enjoyable. And it kind of tasted like drinking liquid fire. Now, this is not meant as an insult to Benromach. I’m sure they make a very fine whisky if you are a whisky drinker. I am decidedly not. I do not think they will be using these pictures in their next advertising campaign.

*@@DSC01772 *@@DSC01775 *@@DSC01781
*@@DSC01782 *@@DSC01785 *@@DSC01788
Tagged , , , ,

Scotland #5: The Beauty of Fife

Scotland #1: Welcome to Edinburgh!
Scotland #2: The View from Arthur’s Seat
Scotland #3: The View from Scott Monument
Scotland #4: Going Forth to Forth

The Fife Coastal Path is a stunning walking path stretching 113 miles along the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Tay on Scotland’s eastern shore. Some people walk the entire path over several days, but we budgeted a couple of hours for a short walk on our way north. The hardest part was choosing just one small part out of 113 beautiful miles. After extensive research, we picked a four-mile stretch from Elie to Pittenweem.

It was a great choice. We walked past two ruins, through the tiny town of St. Monans and its incredible Wellie boot garden, and ended our stroll in the charming village of Pittenweem where we hopped the bus back to Elie. We saw everything from endless blue waters, to meandering cows, to adorable sculptures, to picturesque fields. I would be lying if I said we made an effort to limit the number of pictures we took.

We most certainly did not.















Approaching the town of St. Monans.


I quickly became obsessed with the Wellie boot garden in St. Monans. The evidence of said obsession is below.









Approaching the town of Pittenweem.


Pittenweem has a fondness for delightful bike sculptures.









Tagged , , , ,

Scotland #4: Going Forth To Forth

Scotland #1: Welcome to Edinburgh!
Scotland #2: The View from Arthur’s Seat
Scotland #3: The View from Scott Monument

After three days in Edinburgh, we picked up our shiny red rental car (more on that later) and headed for the country side. As much as I loved Edinburgh, I was excited for the open road and the adventures – and photography – it would bring.

I was not disappointed. On our way out of Edinburgh, we took the Forth Road Bridge north over the Firth of Forth. The Forth Road Bridge is pretty as bridges go, but the real delight is the Forth Bridge – a red cantilever railway bridge built in the late 1800s and is now a Unesco World Heritage Site.

As silly as it sounds, Lisa and I were in love. With a bridge. Yup.



You can see the Forth Road Bridge in the background here.



My obsession with birds continues.

*IMG_0429 (2)

A jellyfish! For some reason, this was super exciting to me.


Then it was time to take a million pictures of each other.




The dynamic duo at Forth Bridge! You can’t tell, but I’m sick as a dog in this photo.



Tagged ,

Scotland #3: The View from Scott Monument

Scotland #1: Welcome to Edinburgh!
Scotland #2: The View from Arthur’s Seat

We took it easy on our last full day in Edinburgh. I was starting to get sick (getting sick on vacation is no fun – in case you’re curious) and I collapsed in my hotel bed at 3 p.m. But before said collapsing, we headed to Scott Monument in New Town to check out the views of the city from the top of the most recognizable monument in Edinburgh.

It’s hard to miss the gothic spire that defines Edinburgh’s skyline. In 1858, Charles Dickens said, “I am sorry to report the Scott Monument a failure. It is like the spire of a Gothic church taken off and stuck in the ground.” Love it of hate it, the man for whom the monument is built – Sir Walter Scott – is beloved in Scotland. His Waverly novels celebrate Scotland’s rebellious history and are credited with reviving Scottish pride.


There are 287 steps to the highest platform, involving a narrow, slightly breathless climb. Luckily, there are plenty of opportunities to stop along the way and take pictures.

*@2015-08-04 18.33.01

The view of the romantic Old Town and Arthur’s Seat from Scott Monument.

**2015-08-04 18.18.33

**2015-08-04 18.22.40

Facing west, you can’t miss Edinburgh Castle.

**2015-08-04 18.28.53**2015-08-04 18.38.10

We had a great view of Princess Street, the wide boulevard bordering the New Town on the south.

**2015-08-04 18.29.00

Scott Monument is located in Princess Street Gardens, a pretty patch of greenery where Scotts relax, stroll and hang out.

*2015-08-04 18.23.43

Jenners is the largest and oldest department store in Edinburgh – the Macy’s of Scotland. It’s located directly across the street from Scott Monument.

*2015-08-04 18.29.47

And of course, some requisite pictures of the Dynamic Duo!



After Scott Monument we headed back to Old Town. My scratchy throat and headache were starting to get the best of me.


We discovered charming Victoria Street, not far from the University of Edinburgh, marked by cute cafes and colorful shops.

*2015-08-04 20.29.27

*2015-08-04 20.42.35
After that, it was back to the hotel for a nice, long nap. I could not have been happier.



Tagged , , ,

Scotland #2: The View from Arthur’s Seat

Scotland #1: Welcome to Edinburgh!

On our second day in Edinburgh, we headed east down the Royal Mile to explore the rest of Edinburgh’s famous street and climb Arthur’s Seat for its famous views of the city below.

First up was John Knox’s house, or I should say, what is allegedly John Knox’s house. There is some evidence that his house was actually located in Warriston Close. John Knox was a clergyman who played a major role in the Protestant Reformation in Scotland and is credited with founding the Presbyterian branch of Christianity.


We stopped for some pretty views of Calton Hill, including the Political Martyrs’ Monument, erected in honor of five reformers who were imprisoned for advocating for parliamentary reforms.


Next up was Scotland’s new parliament.

For centuries, Scotland had its own parliament located in Parliament House in the Old Town – a building that now houses the Supreme Courts of Scotland. With the Treaty of Union in 1707, Scotland and England were united under the banner of Great Britain, and the Parliament of Scotland ceased to exist. As the rumblings of independence grew in throughout the past couple of decades, Scots clamored for more political control. In 1978, the United Kingdom Parliament passed the Scotland Act of 1978, but the proposed assembly failed to garner the required percentage in a public referendum. Finally, in 1997, the Scottish public approved an elected parliament in Edinburgh.

The modern, new Parliament building was built in 2004 on the eastern end of the Royal Mile – also known as the Holyrood neighborhood in reference to the Holyrood Palace located across the street.



Today, Holyrood Palace is the official residence of the British monarchy in Scotland and served as the residence for the Sottish monarchy back in the day, including Mary, Queen of Scots. The palace is open to tours aside from the one week Queen Elizabeth spends at the palace at the beginning of every summer.


We meandered through Holyrood Park where we took way too many pictures and I attempted to be one of those people who takes yoga pictures in awesome locations around the world.


Finally, we began our hike up the mountain up towards Arthur’s seat. At some point, it became abundantly clear that we had taken the scenic route – and by that I mean we went completely out of our way. But the views were beautiful so no complaints here.

Here we are looking down on Parliament, with views of Calton Hill and Nelson Monument.


Below is a view of Calton Hill with the Nelson Monument and the National Monument of Scotland poking out. The Royal High School is located just beneath Calton Hill. Founded in 1128, the Royal High School is one of the oldest schools in the world.


As we climbed higher and turned westward, we could make out Edinburgh’s Old Town, Scott Monument, and Edinburgh Castle.


The higher we climbed, the more beautiful the scenery got. And the more pictures I took.




**IMG_9436 **IMG_9473



Lisa standing in a field of flowers

Finally, we got to the top of Arthur’s Seat. I was mildly obsessed with this bird.




The Dynamic Duo!

We headed down – on the path we should have taken up – reveling in the views of the Firth of Forth.



We also had some pretty views of Holyrood Palace from above.


At the bottom of the trail, we came upon the ruins of St. Anthony’s Chapel. Little is known about the chapel, though it is thought to be associated with the Holyrood Abbey. Wikipedia dates the chapel to the 15th century, but I also saw reference to the 1300s. The chapel fell into disrepair after the Reformation in 1560.





The view of Arthur’s Seat from the bottom

Our version of the hike to Arthur’s Seat was certainly longer and probably more difficult than the correct path up, but we enjoyed the exercise and the fresh air – not to mention the views. We took the Radical Road past Salisbury Crags and then linked up with the path to Arthur’s Seat. Below is a map of Holyrood Park trails – something we probably should have googled before we started.

Holyrood Park Map

Tagged , , , ,

Scotland #1: Welcome to Edinburgh!

We packed for Scotland expecting this:


But once we landed, it seemed like we completely lucked out (minus a minor plane mishap). We were welcomed by sunny blue skies and started stripping layers faster than well, fill in the blank. After dumping our stuff at our hotel, we immediately set out to explore Edinburgh’s charming Old Town, heading westward down the Royal Mile – the famous street that runs horizontally through Edinburgh.

I fell in love with the historic Old Town, preferring it to the New Town’s wide boulevards and grid layout. Although the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe Festival didn’t start until the end of the week, the streets were already teeming with tourists and street performers warming up their acts.

*2015-08-02 18.10.25

Edinburgh’s charming Old Town – the center of Edinburgh life until the latter half of the eighteenth century when construction on the New Town began.

**2015-08-02 18.11.37

A bird hanging out with St. Giles’ Cathedral in the background.

*2015-08-02 18.15.14

The famous Scottish economist and a personal favorite of mine. LOOK AT THAT BLUE SKY!!!!

*2015-08-02 18.09.46

Bagpipers – of course!

*2015-08-02 18.08.31

Street performers getting ready for Edinburgh’s festivals.

The west end of the Royal Mile collides with Edinburgh’s most famous and imposing site – Edinburgh Castle. The castle is not just a pretty tourist attraction. It was the royal residence for Scotland’s kings and queens and played a crucial role in the many battles between Scotland and England. Built on volcanic rock, the castle provided an obvious strategic advantage. It is not surprising that it is one of the most besieged places in the world. Warning: With the pound’s soaring value, admission is a pricey 30 U.S. dollars.

*2015-08-02 19.26.52

Drumroll please – entrance to Edinburgh Castle.

*2015-08-02 19.46.18

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle provides stunning views of the city – when the weather cooperates – and its many landmarks. Touring Edinburgh Castle on our first day was a great way to orient ourselves and get a sense of the city. Here is a helpful map:

**2015-08-02 20.13.18

You can make out a lot of Edinburgh’s key landmarks in this photo. The funky, gothic spire on the left is Scott Monument, honoring the writer Sir Walter Scott. According to Wikipedia, it is the largest monument to a writer in the world. The ugly railway area is Waverly Station – named after Scott’s most famous novel. The imposing building with the clock tower is the ritzy Balmoral Hotel. The museum building in the left-hand corner is the Scottish National Gallery. And in the distance you can make out Nelson Monument high up on Calton Hill.

**2015-08-02 20.35.17-1

Here we are looking down on Princes Street Gardens and Edinburgh’s New Town. Even from this height, you can notice how starkly different the New Town looks from its older counterpart.

*2015-08-02 20.48.46

The New Town’s grid structure and wide boulevards

**2015-08-02 20.45.22

A view of the New Town with Scott Monument and the ferris wheel dominating the skyline.

**2015-08-02 21.05.38

Looking north on the New Town and westward toward outer Edinburgh.

*2015-08-02 20.34.29

Looking out towards Old Town.

*2015-08-02 20.51.39

It was a struggle to get pictures of the castle without random people in them. Here is a valiant attempt.

**2015-08-02 20.57.57

The Scottish National War Memorial

*2015-08-02 22.04.07

In the 17th century, Edinburgh Castle was used primarily as military barracks. The accommodations were not exactly five star.

*2015-08-02 21.31.39

One of the rooms inside the Royal Palace

*2015-08-02 21.40.25

Stained glass windows in the Royal Palace.


Hanging out on a cannon, because, well, why not?


I managed to convince Lisa to climb up here with me. I can be very persuasive.

@Lisa Prison - Edinburgh

Lisa taking a nap in the military jail. At this point we had not slept in over 24 hours.


Me taking a silly picture in the bread oven at the military barracks.

Tagged , ,


It was 1998. I was a terrified college freshman enrolling in an art class called Intro to Design, emphasis on the word Intro. I had no clue what I was doing. But at least there were two of us.

Lisa and I gravitated towards each other because everyone else in the class was drawing circles (and other shapes) around us. Wait – you want me to draw with dots? What the hell does an excited line look like?

dot drawing

Drawing with dots…

Thus, a beautiful friendship was born.

Many years and a bagillion birthday cards later, we still talk almost every day (texting counts as talking, right?) even though we haven’t lived in the same city since 2005. She’s the person I call when pretty much anything happens – big or small. Like: “Lisa, I only slept five hours last night.” “Lisa, I can do a headstand!” “Lisa, I spend too much on groceries.” “Lisa, I hate everyone.”

We’ve been to Croatia and Peru, and today we embark for Scotland. In a couple of months, we will circle the globe to Vietnam.

There’s a lot of things I would like to change about this fundamentally unfair world we live in, but this isn’t one of them. At the risk of being overly sentimental, I’m very lucky to have a friend I can literally and figuratively share the world with.

Off to Scotland, bitches!

River of Rocks-Me and Lisa4

The dynamic duo hiking in Pennsylvania circa 2009

$IMG_0254 - cropped

The dynamic duo in Croatia in 2012


The dynamic duo in Peru in 2014

two superheroes

The dynamic duo in 2015


Tagged ,
%d bloggers like this: