Last week I shared photos from our weekend in Edinburgh, Scotland last November. I absolutely loved exploring the city by foot and learning about the history of the area. But for a change of pace, we also had the chance to take a Scottish Highlands tour and explore the dramatic landscapes of Scotland.
To make things easy on ourselves and maximize our time, we opted for a 1-day bus tour with Heart of Scotland Tours that took us all the way up to Lock Ness and back (about 3.5-4 hours one way if you don’t make any stops). Absolutely the right choice for us. Our tour guide was great, talking through all sorts of history of the areas, glens, and villages we passed. And our group was small, only 9 of us, so it felt easy to ask questions and take our time.
Of course, we did want to stop and take in the sights, and we had a chance to do so in a few places along the way to and from Loch Ness. Here are some photos from Glencoe on our way north…
We arrived at Loch Ness around lunchtime, and grabbed some fish and chips from The Moorings for lunch before the Loch Ness tour….
Felt good to eat something warm in the November chill! We explored a little bit of Fort Augustus, the village where the Loch Ness tour starts….
…and then headed for the boat!
Austin and I love a boat tour, and Loch Ness was no exception. It’s always interesting to me to hear all about a place.
We learned that the Loch Noss’ water is so dark and murky (and mysterious?) because it is full of peat from the soil all around the loch…
…and that the loch is so deep, it is actually the largest volume of water lake in all of the British Isles.
And if you are wondering whether we saw the Loch Ness monster… well, if you look closely enough….
After the Loch Ness tour, we headed back to the bus and back to Edinburgh. We made a couple of stops along the way, first at Spean Bridge Mill.
It was a nice place to stretch our legs, grab a bite, and pick up any souvenirs you might want.
And we stopped for ice cream in Pitlochry after dark. Plenty of flavors to choose from, including Scotch of course.
All in all, a great day and I loved all of our Scottish Highlands Tour. Just like Edinburgh, I already want to go and explore more!
Sharing some of my favorite photos today from touring the Tower of London. These are from my sister’s trip to visit and see London for the first time back in January – loved the chance to take in some sightseeing together.
We started our Tower of London visit with the Yeoman Warder tour (free with admission ticket). So cool to walk around and get an overview of a thousand years of history all around the Tower.
And of course, we saw the guards while we were walking around….
After the tour, we spent a couple hours exploring further on our own.
We saw tons of armor in the Line of Kings exhibit, a display that was originally opened to visitors in the 1600s! It has changed a lot over the years, but one thing you could always count on seeing there: so much armor.
After our visit, we crossed the Tower Bridge as the sun set. We took this photo across the river from the Tower of London. Love those views of the city lights….
Then caught the tube home….
You can find tickets to the Tower of London online here.
Crossed off a big thing on my sightseeing wishlist recently! We did a Stonehenge day trip in December and it was just as fascinating as I was hoping. We visited as a day trip from Bristol, but a Stonehenge day trip is also doable from London.
We drove from Bristol and after we parked, we had to choose whether to take the shuttle the rest of the way out to the site or walk – we chose the walk! It took us about 35 minutes at a leisurely pace. You can see Stonehenge in the distance in this photo…
I really enjoyed the walk as a chance to take in the landscape and scenery…
…and we passed some sheep along the way….
We caught the sunset at Stonehenge a few days after the winter solstice. The stone circle was built to frame the midwinter sunset as well as the sunrise at the summer solstice. The circle marks the passage of time each year.
Walking around the stone circle at this time of year – when the days are shortest and the air is chilled – left me feeling like part of a bigger cycle. Like I’d reached the middle of winter and was now ready to start planning for spring again.
The coolest thing to us was seeing that sunset line up with the Heel Stone. It lines up perfectly on the solstice itself, but it still seemed almost synced and special to us a few days after. Here is a photo with the Heel Stone in the foreground and the stone circle + sunset lined up behind it….
How cool is that view? I am so amazed by the engineering and understanding of the solar cycle that went into the planning and construction of this place.
Most of the site is organized to help remove modern visuals (for example, the parking lot and main road to the site were moved further away in 2013). It really helped me get a sense of how the stone circle might have looked in the wider Stonehenge landscape through the ages.
Even so, I still totally love how this photo turned out – juxtaposing the ancient monoliths with the modern motorway and car lights juuust visible in the background:
You can plan your visit and find tickets online here at the English Heritage website. We decided to go for the yearly membership with English Heritage in order to explore more of the sites, castles, monuments etc they care for – I’ve just started reading through their guidebook and I can’t wait. While I’m learning about all the sites to see, I’d love more suggestions of places to see in England – leave a comment! 🙂
It has been a whirlwind of changes that happened crazy fast. So now we are based in Bristol while my husband works here & in London, and meanwhile I’m traveling for a new corporate job I’ve taken in the Netherlands.
Moving to the UK…. Lots of change! Exciting! Overwhelming! In the middle of it all, I’m trying to make an effort to slow down some and get to know this city.
Here is a pic snapped one morning while crossing one of the bridges downtown….
What makes a new place start to feel familiar for you? Any tips for settling in? So far we are trying to find new favorite restaurants, coffee shops, a local grocery…. you know the drill.
Exploring Bristol is so fun to do. Every side street has something new to find….
My husband catches the train to London every other week. He loves traveling by train – they run frequently and (bonus!) no need to measure out your liquids like when taking a flight.
As for me, I travel every other week to the Netherlands with a quick flight to Amsterdam and a 2-hour train north to Groningen. Here’s where I walk into work at the hospital in Groningen….
We synced our work schedules to travel the same weeks and then hang out together in Bristol on our weeks in town. So far, so good! We think we can keep this schedule up for the rest of year.
Moving to the UK has been such an adventure so far. Can’t wait to settle into this new season of life.
This week, my study abroad program is taking us around on regional trips in the EU, and so… I’m posting this blog live from an internet cafe in London! : )
The program split us all into three groups based on which region of the European Union we wanted to study more indepthly: I’m on the North Trip visiting London, England + Stockholm, Sweden + Tallinn, Estonia. There’s also the South Trip heading to Rome, Italy + Madrid and Barcelona, Spain. And lastly, the Southeast Trip is exploring Greece + Bulgaria + Romania. It’s an exciting week for everyone!
One of the striking things about England is the way they drive on the left side of the road. To help pedestrian visitors, lots of crosswalks are painted with helpful reminders….
This way, you’ll know which way to look before crossing the street. I never realized what a natural instinct it is for me to double-check in a certain direction until everything was flipped in the other direction here! Now, I notice it at every crosswalk.
So far, I am looooving London! Can’t wait to post more later : )