Wednesday, August 8, 2018

A Wintry Week in Scotland, Part One

Due to the delightfully unexpected appearance of Ellie and the subsequent cancellation of a long-awaited Paris trip for which plane tickets had already been purchased, we had some international flight money to use up before the end of February. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to get us all to Paris, but it turns out that traveling to the UK in the winter isn't as expensive as you'd think. While it may be considered off-season, winter is absolutely beautiful there, and we appreciated the opportunity to enjoy some cold winter weather and gorgeous snow, having left those days behind us when we relocated to Florida.

Using Airbnb for all our lodging so we could have a bit more space (we have multiple children now!) and getting a rugged little rental car, we set out an optimistic plan to see as much of the country as we could in just one week. Maybe a bit too optimistic...

Offseason travel perk- plenty of room on the plane to spread out. James had the whole row and slept pretty well.
Ellie's all strapped in and ready for her first big transatlantic flight.
Virgin Atlantic has these awesome bassinets available to use in non-turbulent times. It was really great!


We flew into Manchester, England (the budget option) and then picked up our rental car and drove about three and a half hours north into Glasgow. Chris enjoys the challenge of driving in the UK and I enjoy the scenery, so we didn't mind the drive. Plus, we had hoped that it would give the kids a chance to sleep if they needed it. It was early afternoon when we arrived and though we were exhausted from the red-eye, we checked in to our flat and took off on a walk in the neighborhood.

Hanging out along the River Clyde.
James ran to the top of the stairs and then posed like that. Funny kid.
That's me in the white hat with James and Ellie checking out St. Enoch Square.
Beautiful metal-work decorations and a stunning peacock made this building really stand out in Princes Square.


After spending the evening wandering about Glasgow, we headed back to the flat for some serious sleep. During this week, the Winter Olympics were going on and after getting up with Ellie once, I was having trouble falling back to sleep so I turned them on. James came in after a bit and we snuggled up together for a little while and watched curling. Such a funny sport.


Although we would have loved more time to explore Glasgow, the next day (Sunday) we packed up and headed northwest towards Oban, a beautiful city on the water. The drive would take us along Loch Lomond and through the Trossachs National Park so we were really looking forward to heading out into some beautiful Scottish scenery. 
It did not disappoint.

Morning sun shines on a sailboat on Loch Lomond.
I could have stayed and listened to the waves lapping at the shore all day.


After a morning filled with beautiful blue skies, as we headed north we encountered some gray skies and places with a lot of snow on the ground. Our GPS took us for a fun adventure on a road that apparently doesn't bother with winter maintenance. It was a beautiful accident and got us up and close and personal with some shaggy Highland cows, or "coos" as they are known locally.

The scenery definitely started to get snowier and more beautiful as we headed north.
You can clearly see the road which is good. Happy to have rented an SUV on this trip! 
Look at these cows! They are so amazing! 
Baby cow! So adorable!
Loved the perfection of this tree, alone on its hill. I bet it's glorious in every season.
I want to lie under its branches and read.


Between all the stops I require for picture-taking and the significantly slower speed at which we had to travel on the snowy roads, we didn't make it into Oban until much later in the day than we had planned. This was quite unfortunate because it basically ruled out most of the activities we had hoped to do. After checking into the flat and freshening up a bit, we headed out on foot to explore this little seaside town. It was so lovely!

This is the view of McCaig's Tower from the place we stayed. The weather did not cooperate for our hike up to it.
Getting our little miss all bundled up to head outside. Fuzzy hat and mittens, so cute!
Neither rain nor snow can stop the Shenks from exploring. Although, we will have to give Ellie time to get to that point.
A bit of blue sky peeped through and we could just make out the Isle of Mull in the background.


Monday morning we were off again. This time we headed northeast towards our next destination near Inverness. Our drive took us alongside multiple lochs and mountains off in the distance. We detoured a bit into the mountains past Glencoe which were just stunning, and then through Fort William and finally past Loch Ness- the thing James wanted to see more than anything else in Scotland.

Look at this sweet love! So lucky to have such awesome kids.
Caught a glimpse of this castle ruin out the window and had to stop. How beautiful!
Gray skies over an otherwise picturesque scene.
Heading into Glencoe.
Totally worth the detour to see these snowy mountains. And I got out of the car to take this one!
Me, hopping out of the nice warm car to take pictures. I love how happy I look!
Travel photography clearly agrees with me.
James brought his own camera and was excited to get out and shoot with me.
This is one of my favorites, with the sun breaking through the clouds. What a beautiful moment.


Our plan was to spend three days in the Scottish Highlands around Inverness to explore as much of that area as we could with the limitations we had (small baby, winter weather, etc.) and we found an amazing place to stay in Culbokie that was the favorite of all of us. It was a remodeled stone barn on a working "croft" or farm and they called it the Wee Tractor Shed. We LOVED it!

The stone building is where we stayed and the house and barns belong to the family who live and work there.
They were lovely, and we got to visit the cows and some new baby goats as well!
The kids enjoying some time in front of the woodburner. It warmed the whole place up.
James was super excited to spend time playing out in the snow. He LOVES it!
Made himself a little snowman and threw snowballs at us when we poked our heads out to check on him.
Having a little daddy daughter dance while we wait for our dinner at a local pub.


History is a great interest in our family and we try to look for opportunities to learn more and experience historical sites when we travel, so we took advantage of our proximity and headed out to Culloden Moor. The scene of the end of the Jacobite uprising in 1745 and considered by many to mark the end of the Highland way of life for clans in Scotland (due to harsh punishments from the English), the moor is a solemn battlefield where 1,500 men died in under an hour. It was such a sad but interesting place to visit and led to some great learning conversations with James.


James admiring the memorial cairn that honors the fallen.
There are trails through the moor that mark the positions of the troop lines and give you a feel for the battle itself.
It was so peaceful and quiet (even James was quiet!) save for the crunch of the snow as we walked.


In the afternoon, we explored a bit of the city of Inverness. We didn't see as much as we would have liked, but it had a great feel and we would love to spend more time there.

Inverness and the River Ness
Loved these old small white homes along the river. 
James and Chris pushing Ellie in the stroller heading across the bridge.


Coming up next... our week continues with Loch Ness, scotch, and Edinburgh.




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