To say Scotland has beautiful scenery is possibly one of the biggest understatements you could make. From historic charm in Edinburgh to the stunning lochs and glens beyond, Scotland's diverse landscapes are guaranteed to steal your heart. At Original Travel UK, we are always out and about exploring and re-exploring the UK & Ireland, and on a recent trip to Scotland, one of our experts, Breana, spent some time in Edinburgh followed by a long weekend aboard the Belmond Royal Scotsman. Read on to discover what she got up to on her trip and some of her favourite moments along the way…
Explore 900 Years of History at Holyroodhouse Palace
My trip began in Edinburgh with a crisp morning walk along the Royal Mile towards Holyroodhouse. Steeped in history, The Royal Mile sits in the centre of Edinburgh's Old Town, connecting Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. At the end of the Royal Mile, nestled in the shadow of Arthur's Seat, sits the Palace. Holyroodhouse has a history spanning 900 years and is still the official residence of HM the Queen in Scotland, as well as having important ties to Mary, Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie. For a truly special experience, enjoy the place to yourself on an after-hours tour, an experience fit for royalty!
Find Hidden Gems with a Local Guide in a Mini Cooper
In the afternoon, my local guide met me outside my hotel to enjoy a ride in style in a Mini Cooper. A true local, he introduced me to all the hidden nooks and crannies as well as taking me on a tour of the city's top sites. The truly memorable stops were the ones I would never have found alone, such as Dean Village, which is technically still in Edinburgh but feels miles away and is almost subterranean. The river setting was stunning and gave me a peaceful moment in this small village before heading up to Arthur's Seat for unforgettable views of the city. We also explored a small village called Duddingston on the city's outskirts. The pub there is said to be the oldest in Scotland - quite a feat!
Discover Harry Potter’s Edinburgh
The next day was all about one of my favourite things in the world: Harry Potter. Interestingly, Edinburgh doesn't come up once in the seven Harry Potter novels, yet it is intricately woven into the history and settings of the books. I began at the Elephant House Café, where Rowling is known to have worked on the early Potter tomes, followed by a visit to the nearby Greyfriar's Kirkyard, which is full of old and interesting graves including one which is said to have inspired the name of Tom Riddle and another with the surname McGonagall. Next on the tour was Victoria Street, which inspired Rowling's Diagon Alley with its curving lane and colourful shopfronts. Here, I stopped off in the Museum Context which is full of Potter-inspired art and prop replicas from the films. To complete a Potter day, I visited the JK Rowling Suite at the iconic Balmoral Hotel, where Rowling finished the final Harry Potter novel and left her mark on a bust in the room which is still there for guests to see.
Board the Belmond Royal Scotsman to Explore the Countryside
After exploring Edinburgh for a few days, it was off to Waverley Station, with our private piper, to board the Belmond Royal Scotsman and head west. Over the next few days, I explored Scotland in style; afternoon teas and relaxation in the Observation Car rolled seamlessly into delicious dinners and traditional Scottish entertainment. A real highlight of the journey was on the second day, when we stopped off at the White Sands of Morar for a short beach walk with a glass of bubbly. Back onboard, we went over the Glenfinnan Viaduct (another very important viewpoint for Potter fans!) and were met by our own Highlander guide to explore the Glenfinnan Monument and learn about traditional Scottish dress. A stop for a sumptuous cream tea at Inverlochy Castle followed, and later on I even treated myself to a massage onboard. On our last day, we took a ferry to the Isle of Bute for a guided tour of the stunning Mount Stuart - a 19th-century mansion with incredible interiors and grounds - and celebrated out final night with a formal dinner in our fineries (I would recommend a kilt hire for the gents). Ending the evening with a flourish, we stepped onto the platform to learn how to dance a traditional Scottish Ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee) - the perfect finale to one of the best trips I've been on.