The first leg of our honeymoon in Edinburgh was so fun, meaningful and culturally rich that it was hard to imagine the trip improving after the first three days.
Somewhat on a whim, we decided to make a day trip from Edinburgh to St. Andrews on our last full day in the city. And wow, I’m so glad we did because it ended up being one of the most memorable parts of our honeymoon!
After bumbling around Waverley Train Station in Edinburgh, finally asking for ticket help (my husband) and profusely sweating due to stress levels and the underground stuffiness (me), we were en route to St. Andrews!
The train ride was just about an hour, and it offered a lovely look at the countryside. Or, so I hear. I was too busy doubling over my purse and trying not to hurl. Did you really think I was kidding about being the most vomitous person I know?
In the end, it wasn’t that bad at all, and I was actually able to look out the window for the last half of the trip. Nausea pro tip: Get a seat facing the “right” way on the train, versus facing away from the direction you’re traveling. Nausea pro tip 2: It’s not cool to refer to yourself as a nausea pro.
Upon our arrival at the train station, we had the option of taking the bus into the town center or taking one of the cabs lined up right there.
So, being the money-conscious, responsible personal finance blogger that I am, I immediately opted for the cab.
Call me Lady Big Bucks.
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Ten minutes and a few turns later, the best of St. Andrews was all ours for the taking.
St. Andrews was, in one word, perfection.
I kept thinking while we were there that St. Andrews is the perfect place to fall in love. I mean, it worked for Prince William and Kate Middleton — they met while at university there. Maybe it was the weather, or maybe the flowerbox-lined streets, but I was smitten.
Look at this cottage that overlooks the castle ruins and water. LOOK AT IT.
It’s for sale, and in my second responsible money blogger move of the day, I promptly proclaimed that we were moving in.
We strolled along the water, dodging college students and soaking in the absolutely gorgeous sunshine.
Eventually, we reached one of the main attractions: St. Andrews Castle. (Or, what’s left of it!) After popping in the castle’s visitor center for tickets and postcards that we 100% forgot to send, we set out to explore the grounds. It did not disappoint!
Not far from there, St. Andrews Cathedral looms moodily over the water.
Built in 1160 A.D. as a Roman Catholic cathedral, this construction has a confusing history steeped in superstition and religion (much like the rest of Scotland.) In one legend of how the city even came to be, St. Rule of Constantinople was instructed in a dream to bring the Apostle Andrew’s relics north. St. Rule’s boat wrecked not far from this area, and so — deemed a sign — Andrew’s kneecap, arm, some fingers and a tooth were taken to this site.
Imagine having a kneecap important enough to name an entire city after.
Suddenly, my goal of 25,000 monthly page views seems somehow insignificant.
Soon after the cathedral was completed, pilgrims made their way toward the special place that hosted such important relics. (After all, Andrew was connected to Jesus, making this a worthy pilgrimage.)
Like much of Scotland, the cathedral was caught in the crossfire of English persecution. Though it was picked apart over time, it was still awe-inspiring to see up close.
Eventually, we wandered through the world-famous Old Course — the oldest golf course in the world. Then, we made our way down to the beach.
This was the beach where they filmed *that* scene in Chariots of Fire! There were so many girls doing slow-mo runs for the ‘gram, but we just enjoyed being by the water. It’s where I belong, after all.
So you see all that sunshine, right? Well, about 15 minutes later, it was monsooning. We scurried into the closet shop — a bookstore that happened to specialize in first editions and author-signed books!
I’d accidentally sloshed off the street and into heaven.
I wanted to buy ALL of the things.
A first-edition Charles Dickens! An author-signed copy of The Black House! Pride and Prejudice (of which I have two copies but probably need another!?!?!?). I could’ve stayed for hours. The shop was TINY. But the nice man running it didn’t seem to mind me geeking out over a title every three seconds.
In the end, I settled for a single book that gave a nod to my Scotland adventure: a first-edition copy of Songs of the Road by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. (Remember how I stayed in a swanky hotel in the spot where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born?)
Best souvenir ever! And an all-around marvelous day trip.
St. Andrews is idyllic, and I can see us returning there some day.
St. Andrews — Faves, Saves, Mistakes & Splurges
Bouquiniste Books on Market Street.
We took the bus on the way back to the train station. But, we didn’t time it well. We arrived literally right as the train pulled away. Luckily, I’m a complete joy to be around when things don’t go my way and am known far and wide for my endless patience. Not at all huffy.
When buying a return ticket (one-way) the auto-option that appears on the screen is for a two-way trip, costing much more than what you’d need for one way. We saw this issue, but couldn’t figure out how to downgrade to a one-way ticket and purchased anyway. Since we had SO MUCH TIME to wait on the next train, we ended up getting a refund from the nice train lady inside the station. All you have to do is smile and ask.
Didn’t adhere to the time tables, or expect the train to be so prompt. I hunkered down to huff and puff, but eventually just read my new book and stopped being such a diva. Books. The new Xanax?
Can’t really think of any, unless you count the taxi ride.
The day after our St. Andrews excursion, my husband loaded up our rented Mercedes mid-size SUV and I loaded up on Dramamine. (Truly, the key to traveling on the winding roads of Scotland is anti-nausea medication and refraining from dramatically grabbing at the armrest while violently swearing during every lane change. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)
Histrionics aside, the trip west was scenic and memorable. For every inch of history that Edinburgh and St. Andrews held, the Highlands boasted an equal amount of breathtaking beauty. Black lochs around every bend, mammoth cliffs off in the distance and many more sheep than people.
Casual roadside stop en route to the Highlands.^
It took us forever to get anywhere because we kept pulling off every five minutes to look at the scenery and snap a pic!
Finally, we made it to Oban.
It was raining when we arrived, but that didn’t dampen our excitement for this new chapter. Maybe because we’re from a port city, but I just knew we’d love Oban before we even got there.
Fresh seafood, waterfront views, a charming town with plenty of whisky to go around — what’s not to love?!
Although the weather wouldn’t permit us to take the tour to the Isles of Mull, Iona and Staffa as recommended by Our Patron Saint of Travel Hacks and Day Packs™ Rick Steves, we managed to maneuver our way across the water anyway.
We bought tickets to Isle of Mull via Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac), and the helpful employee pointed us in the right direction. It was clear they were used to this sort of fallback plan for tourists, as if they were accustomed to rain or something. We easily navigated the Isle of Mull bus system to a town on the northern quarter called Tobermory, and were thoroughly entertained by our bus driver in the meantime.
We explored the tiny waterfront town, popped in a few shops, and got a delicious lunch (fish and chips for him, a big bowl of soup for me).
After reviewing the tour times, we were able to pop in for a tour of Tobermory Distillery. They were not in production at the time, so we were allowed to take as many pictures as we liked. I’m no Scotch drinker, but I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the process.
The tour concludes with a wee dram of the whisky, which we smelled, sniffed and sipped like we knew what we were doing.
We actually dipped out of our Tobermory tour a tiny bit early to guarantee we wouldn’t miss the bus back to the ferry headed into Oban. We had to sacrifice the second wee dram of a different year’s blend, but were glad we caught the bus.
Sad that we missed out on the second dram? Don’t be.
We booked it back into town to put our names in at Oban Distillery for the last tour of the day. We’d heard (OK, FINE, I read in Rick Steves) that if you’re going to do one whisky tour, Oban is the one.
Those tours fill up, so we lucked out in grabbing a spot.
Interestingly, the Oban Distillery was in production, so while we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, we did get to see all of the whisky-making in action.
Our tour guide was a magical girl named Shauna. She was so knowledgeable and beautiful and I think my husband and I had an equal crush on her, though we only understood every third word. Shauna was originally from the area, and her accent was strong and made the experience that much more distinctively Scottish.
We hiked up to McCaig’s Tower before dinner and caught an heavily clouded, stunning sunset. 10/10 recommend doing right after your whisky tasting.
Oban — Faves, Saves, Mistakes & Splurges
Oban Distillery tour is a true can’t-miss activity if you’re anywhere near the area.
Riding the ferry. The whole Isle of Mull experience was amazing, but literally just the ferry ride was so fun for us. Bundle up though!
The scallops and mussels we had at the restaurant Cuan Mor. Suhhh good. Suhhh buttery.
The first night we got in, it was rainy and icky and I just wanted to luxuriate in my waterfall shower. So, my sweet husband — hero, national treasure and friend to all — went out in the rain to find a grocery store. He brought back wine, cheese, crackers and hummus, and we sat and looked out over the water from our room eating the most delightful picnic. I’m a cheap date!
Riding CalMac and then getting the bus was actually really inexpensive. The whole packaged-up tour to the three isles is much more, but I’d assume worth it if you’re going beyond Mull. Since we couldn’t due to weather, our consolation prize was saving money, at least.
We didn’t buy whisky there. The tour guide basically told us that it’s readily available in the U.S. (in fact, their Scotch has become so popular in the States that they’re testing a new release here that the tour guide hadn’t even tried yet — and she works there!) With about 1 million bottled per year, Oban is a small-scale production compared to a larger name like Macallan, which bottles nearly that same amount monthly. So although it’s incredibly special and not sold on every corner, it is possible to get here in the U.S. That way, we didn’t have to pay the £50 to ship it.
For those curious, we rented the car through a Costco-affiliated link and were able to get an incredibly low rate to keep the car for one week.
Should’ve gone with the small bucket of steamed mussels for sure.
Not buying Calgary Castle on Isle of Mull, an ACTUAL CASTLE on over 27 acres of land for sale for the same price as many waterfront homes in Charleston, South Carolina. Y’all, I could’ve had a castle. Would be terribly difficult to get to and fro, but, like, CASTLE! Alas, it’s now under contract. Le sigh.
Perle Oban - a boutique hotel that was absolutely perfect for what we needed. Killer waterfront view, fluffy comforter and did I already mention the waterfall shower?!
After three days and two nights in Oban, we packed up our little rented car and hit the road headed north. Again, just the ride itself was scenic and spectacular. En route to Isle of Skye, we passed right by Eilean Donan Castle — one of the prettiest we saw during the whole trip!
With about four hours riding in the car (well, one of us was driving, one was blissfully subdued thanks to Dramamine), we decided to crack into the second season of the podcast Up & Vanished.
The dark clouds, craggy hillside and desolate winding roads were almost TOO perfect for listening to the creepy crime story unfold.
Finally, we found our little B&B in the town of Portree. Our hosts were about 108 years old and the absolute sweetest people — I highly recommend Willowbank B&B! We immediately felt right at home in our space that was simple, yet clean and comfortable.
I don’t recall exactly what we did that evening, but I’m pretty sure we just had a few pints down in town for dinner and then turned in early. We wanted to be fully rested for our hike to…
A fan of hiking but not a fan of other hiking fans, we were determined to beat the tourists heading to this same spot. So, we woke up long before sunrise to start our trek up to the Storr.
It was muddy, very rocky, and — once you get about half-way up — unstable and slippery. And, not quite midway into our journey, it started raining. I mean, really raining.
But gosh, were we rewarded.
It was so surreal to look at these giant rocks. And by surreal I mean that when I looked around, I thought I was in The Lord of the (Wedding) Rings.
Got back in the car and continued the tour around the Trotternish Pennisula, which is absolutely the best way to get a feel for this expansive, rural isle.
We stopped at a few different places, though sadly not a breakfast joint because nothing opens til 10 or 11. We started to understand why our B&B host was so flabbergasted that we were skipping her breakfast in order to hike.
Finally, we found a store (that was also a community center?) and treated ourselves to the absolute worst coffee I’ve ever tasted. Let’s just say it came first in powdered form. So that, a power bar and the salt & vinegar crisps I’d packed served as the breakfast of champions that day.
After our artisan meal, we pulled off to see Kilt Rock. We saw lots of kilts in Scotland, but this is the only one that incited curiosity about what was going on underneath.
We wound our way up and up and up a treacherous mountainside, and the Lord and I have never been closer. These single-track roads were TRYING to kill me.
My husband drove swimmingly and kept us all from dying, thankfully, because otherwise I would’ve missed the otherworldly views of The Quiraing.
This was hands-down the most uniquely beautiful place I’ve seen. Its vast depth and rugged beauty was overwhelming, and well worth the brush with death (haters will say it was an average car ride, but I know better).
We didn’t do the full hike because 1.) up at dawn, 2.) had already hiked Storr and 3.) we didn’t really have the right gear. This hike was a wee bit more dangerous and slippery, and we didn’t quite feel we were adequately prepped to do the full trek.
We made it back to our B&B in time to take a quick snooze before the best dinner of our whole honeymoon — but more on that below!
This is apparently the northernmost point of Isle of Skye, and the crumbled castle has some historical significance. I honestly didn’t remember either of those facts, because I have never experienced a more biting wind.
I’m not a good judge of temperature, though, seeing as how I wilt in anything cooler than 60 degrees F.
The next day, we set our sights on the other “must-see” parts of Isle of Skye that we hadn’t hit yet, including Dunvegan Castle, Fairy Pools and Neist Point.
The gardens were definitely the best part of this experience, and well worth the price of admission. The sun came out as we started exploring the grounds, and so we spent a good amount of time looking at the gardens, playing with our camera and pretending to be a princess. Or maybe that last bit was just me.
On the drive through Skye, we pulled off the road to snap a pic of these adorable “heeland coos” as they’re called.
But then, my husband had to one-up me with what is maybe the greatest picture of all time, ever.
Next up: Fairy Pools. Maybe our favorite experience of the whole honeymoon!
We took our time here, and I’m glad. There were other people around, but it just felt so open and ours.
We climbed up and over many waterfalls, and took turns randomly exclaiming how cool this place was. It’s hard to tell from the pictures, but the Fairy Pools are at the base of the imposing, black Cuillin Mountains. Quite majestic.
Enough to make a girl tear up with gratitude for being there, or so I hear.
As our third and final day on Skye was winding down, we decided to make a pit stop for sandwiches and drive out to Neist Point Lighthouse to watch the sun go down.
Another harrowing journey filled with single-track lanes, sheep blocking the road, local trucks doing 18038476 MPH and my life flashing before my eyes, we arrived. And again, we were rewarded.
We sat and ate our sandwiches with this as our view, thinking that this day was going to be hard to beat.
Bellies full of BLT, we carefully picked our way across a muddy (or what I pray was mud) cattle field to a better viewpoint. That particular walk is not for the prim or the prissy; it was wet — I’m talking a 2x4 randomly laid as a crude bridge across some of the more indelicate ditches.
We weren’t the only ones who thought it was cool.
If y’all could see how mucky this walk was, you’d appreciate these guys carrying the tripods even more.
Isle of Skye — Faves, Saves, Mistakes & Splurges
Dinner at The Granary! Just when we’d convinced ourselves that the service in Scotland is generally polite but lackluster because nobody is working for tips, and The Granary swooped in and shook up the system. They were kind, helpful and attentive, and by the end I half-expected the waiter to ask where we should all head for the next round. And the food. We started with a fried brie appetizer for obvious reasons, and then my husband had lamb. I had a gnocchi dish with mushrooms and — because I am a glutton — a log of fried goat cheese on top. I still dream about that fried goat cheese. I wonder if I made a mistake in marrying the man and not the fried goat cheese.
Fairy Pools (see above paragraphs for why!)
Those gardens at Dunvegan (you get it by now)
Actually literally everything we did on Skye takes a top spot. It was SO fun. I could go on and on about Skye. I feel like I already have, in fact. This post is getting quite long.
We had another one of our picnic specials (more out of convenience than anything), which saved us money.
Didn’t buy trinkets, which saved money, but now means our families likely think we are heartless honeymooners for not bringing them treasures. Fam: We picked up like 59 items and put them back down because we only took carry-on suitcases and had no room, plus we’ve decided we don’t love you anymore and are, indeed, heartless.
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You have to eat early. In Portree, which is really the only populated place on Skye, everything shuts down by 9 p.m. So, one night, our PB&J sammies were out of necessity and a lack of planning, not frugality. Whoops.
Fairy Pool river rocks in my suitcase going through the airport security check. Suffice it to say that TSA knows how to throw a judgmental side eye, as does my husband. (But they made it home safe so THERE, TSA!)
I don’t know if this counts, but I had to pay for the B&B in cash, so I got a LARGE wad of cash out of the ATM and felt really gangster for like five minutes.
Dinner AND dessert at The Granary — We never opt for dessert, usually because we are stuffed from dinner. But my husband had never had meringue, and we had the most delicate, delicious dish of it with a strawberry sauce after our meal and it really was the icing on the cake of a perfect evening.
If you can’t tell from the way I’ve rambled on and on about this magnificent country, our honeymoon in Scotland is something I will cherish forever. It was a significant way for the two of us to embark on this new chapter in our lives. A trip of difficult but gratifying trails, roads with no end in sight and completely unmatched beauty.
I mean you never know how much you trust someone until it’s up to them not to put you over the side of a cliff.
Lots of trust-building exercises on this honeymoon, for sure.
So tonight I’ll raise up a wee dram to you, Scotland. May you stay forever wild, rugged, and enduring.