Travels Abroad Without Fear: Scotland – A Tiny Tale

Our favorite vacation to this day remains our trip to Scotland in 1998. We had no agenda and no itinerary. We just knew we wanted to see as much of Scotland as possible in three weeks. We elected to go in August because we knew that the weather would be best then. I am of Scottish heritage. My Dad’s mother’s maiden name was Mackay, which is a derivative of McKay (pronounced “mac – EYE”.)  Kirkley is English, but derives from Northumberland, which was also once part of Scotland so James and I were especially keen to see the country of our roots.

We arrived in Glasgow and rented a car. It is a bit freaky at first, driving on the “wrong” side of the road, but you get the hang of it; when in doubt, just do what the other cars are doing. Also be prepared, all the rental cars are manual transmission by default. The car we rented was a Rover, but it was basically a re-branded Honda. It was a great touring car. It was red so we called it our Red Rover.

We had booked a hotel in Sterling because we wanted to know we had a place to stay for our first night. The hotel was a real disappointment. I think our room was right above the kitchen and reeked of grease. The hotel was shabby and badly in need of upgrading. We vowed, from that point forward, we would never again book anything sight unseen.

The first B&B we stayed at was in Argyll, near Glencoe. It was called “The House of Keil”.


The little turret on the right was the loo for our room. The landlady called it “the loo with a view.” The next day we checked out of the House of Keil and set out for Glencoe. Wow. It is everything they say it is. See the featured image. We decided we wanted to stay another day so we called the landlady and asked if we could. She said it was good we called because we had left our coats in the closet of our room!

Going forward our strategy was as follows; we would drive somewhere, but would always stop around 2:00 PM. This allowed us to find a nice B&B, if you waited until 4:00 everything was booked. We would always ask to see the room first. If we were happy, we moved in. If not it gave us ample time to find something else. Actually, if I recall, we never turned a place down. In our experience, B&Bs in the Highlands of Scotland are all very nice. We developed a practical pattern. We would stay at least two nights. First day was a travel day and the second day was a hiking day, third day we would move on.

We chased good weather; if it started raining where we were, we would drive to where it was sunny and dry. We crisscrossed the country several times doing this. Scotland is not very big. It is slightly smaller than Maine. Stay tuned for some more travel stories from this trip.

Our fearless advice: Visit Scotland, rent a car, stop at a B&B early in the day, stay at least two days, and check the closets before you leave.


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