Our friends Kathy, Doug and Conor just returned from a two week trip to Scotland and Ireland and kindly sent along their highlights/recommendations to share!
Kathy adds: If anyone is planning to go this summer, I’d be sure to bring layers of clothes and rain gear, since they’ve been having torrential rain and predicting it is going to be a “summer without a summer.” So saying, even though the weather was generally cool and rainy, we had some nice days and the weather was never so bad that it prevented us from doing what we wanted.)
Bed and breakfast: We stayed at Priestville Guest House [10 Priestfield Road, Edinburgh EH16 5HJ], a nice bed and breakfast with a friendly host, near the University of Edinburgh about a 20-minute walk from the Royal Mile and a short walk to Holyrood Park, which has plenty of walking and hiking trails.
* Salisbury Arms, a classy but casual restaurant and bar near the guest house with a nice patio area.
* Anna Purna, a vegetarian Indian restaurant that was one of the best meals we had on the trip.
* Ciao Roma, a nice Italian restaurant downtown. Had a great pizza for lunch.
* Leslie’s, a “real ale” bar and traditional Victorian pub.
* National Museum of Scotland: Highly recommended, huge and free. Everything from mummies to dinosaurs and quirky timepieces. You could spend all day here, especially if it is raining.
Glenfarg: A tiny village about an hour north of Edinburgh and Glasgow. “The gateway to the Highlands.” There isn’t much in town but the Glenfarg Hotel, a small (16-room) private hotel with a restaurant and several bars that is obviously the place to be in the area. The Saturday night we stayed there the local soccer team was having their annual “disco night” in the basement bar, another group of locals was watching European championship soccer in the first-floor bar, some senior citizens were having dinner in the dining room, and we camped out in the lobby bar to watch the action.
Drymen: About an hour north of Glasgow in the beautiful Loch Lomond national park area. A nice little village with several pubs and restaurants that would make a low-key base for several days of hiking, walking and touring. We stayed at the Winnock Hotel on the town square, a nice old hotel that catered to tourists (it hosted a traditional music “céilidh” one night we were there), and had a restaurant and a busy bar. We also had drinks and dinner in several restaurants and bars on the square.
Within driving distance:
* Doune Castle: “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” was shot in this well-preserved 14th-century castle. A fun, funny self-guided audio tour narrated by Python Terry Jones addresses both the actual history and the filming. We agreed that it was one of the best castle tours we’ve taken.
Howth: Scenic fishing village a nice day trip north of Dublin on the transit system. After wandering all over town, we ended up eating fish and chips at a tiny pierside seafood tapas bar called Octopussy, where we had literally the best meal of the trip. We are still talking about the light, flaky smoked fish.
Waterford: We stated at Dooley’s, an old hotel on the waterfront, which had large rooms, a nice bar and the best buffet breakfast we have ever had. Waterford crystal is made here, and there is a display room and tours available.