I'm not sure why it took me so long to visit Scotland. I admittedly had the country lower on my list of places to visit, so despite living in London for over a year and visiting more than 10 countries in Europe and North Africa, I never got around to seeing Scotland. Fortunately that changed during a work trip that allowed me to tack on a few days in Edinburgh (side note: if you travel for work and you're not adding in a few days before or after, then you're doing it wrong!).
Within hours of arriving in Edinburgh, I quickly decided I loved this city. It doesn't hurt that the weather was unbelievably beautiful, but even on cloudy days, I loved the hills, with the Edinburgh Castle jutting out into the sky, and the amazing views from places like Calton Hill and Arthur's Seat. Not to mention all of my favorite UK stores are located on one street (Princes Street). In summary, Edinburgh made me a happy camper.
While there, I had the opportunity to do a day trip with Timberbush Tours, one of the more reasonably priced tour companies in the city. Timberbush offers a range of tours, so it wasn't easy choosing one, but after thinking about the things I wanted to see and the length of the day tour itself, I settled on the West Highlands lochs, castles and mountains tour. We left Edinburgh around 9:15 in the morning and returned around 7:15 in the evening, after what was a truly magical day in the Scottish countryside.
Our tour included the following: Doune Castle, of Monty Python and Outlander fame, as well as the pilot episode of Game of Thrones; a rest stop where we also got our first view of Highland cattle (love them!); Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe, the quaint town of Inveraray situated alongside Loch Fyne, Inveraray Castle (my future home), a stunning pass appropriately called Rest and Be Thankful, the village of Luss along Loch Lomond and a brief stop outside of Stirling Castle. In between that, we drove through acres of farmland and spotted more sheep, cattle and horses than I've ever seen in my life. I wanted so badly to tell our tour guide to stop the car so I could run up and down the fields à la Sound of Music with the animals watching. I realize this only sounds appealing in theory rather than reality, but I stand by it.
Overall the day was more than I could have asked for. What started out as a gloomy and chilly day gradually became sunnier and warmer as we traveled west. By the afternoon, when we arrived at Loch Lomond, the water was full of swimmers and boaters enjoying the sunshine. It was a great glimpse of summertime in the Scottish countryside.
Below are highlights from the day: