Stirling Castle and Loch Lomond

Peter and I have just returned from another fabulous weekend in Edinburgh, Scotland. We both absolutely love Edinburgh so much to where we had a somewhat serious discussion about moving to Edinburgh for a year after our stint in England. The city is clean, the people are friendly, the Scottish accent is sexy, and the restaurants are great (both food and service). The downfall is, of course, the weather.

The city of Edinburgh is currently gearing up for the 2012 Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. I don’t quite understand what the Tattoo entails but I believe it includes military drum performances, dance performances and even concerts by Rod Stewart. Event preparation begins in late April and were clearly underway based on the ongoing stadium seat construction. It is widely known that Edinburgh’s population doubles (to one million) in the month of August during this event.

Having heard so many great things about the Scottish Highlands, we decided to book a tour of Stirling Castle and Loch Lomond. I really wanted to tour Loch Ness but Loch Ness is too far away from Edinburgh for our liking, therefore, Nessie hunting was not in the cards.

Our tour guide, Michael, kicked off the tour by saying, “Welcome aboard. I know many of you chose to book a tour because you were afraid to drive on the other side of the road but you should not have worried because the roads in Scotland are usually only wide enough for one car.”

Stirling Castle

The first stop on our tour was Stirling Castle which is located about 30 miles northwest of Edinburgh.

Stirling Castle is one of the largest castles in Scotland and resembles Edinburgh Castle perched on top of old volcanic rock with the city nestles below. It is surrounded by huge cliffs on three sides. Most of the buildings were built in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries but some structures date back to the fourteenth century. It is equal parts palace and fortress and was used often as a residence for the royal family before Scotland became best friends with England and joined together in the union that exists today.

Loch Lomond

The next stop on our tour was Loch Lomond. We drove along a small, winding road and visited the east side of the loch which is the less popular side due to accessibility.

There are over 30,000 freshwater lochs (read: lakes) in Scotland with Loch Lomond being the largest by surface area. At its greatest points, it is 24 miles long, five miles wide, and 620 feet deep. It is the second-largest loch (after Loch Ness) by water volume. Our guide informed us that if it stopped raining in Scotland today, the citizens of Scotland could survive off of the water in the lochs for 500 years. Blimey!

After a short stop at Loch Katrine, we drove back to Edinburgh. I think our guide/driver, Michael, was the only person awake for the journey back to Edinburgh. Even I dosed off and that never happens!

We spent the following day walking around Edinburgh and indulging in the thermal suite at the spa in our hotel. The thermal suite included several different heated rooms which included dry saunas, humid saunas, rainforest showers, heated stone beds, and a heated outdoor hydro-pool. We spent about two hours in the thermal suite and I was exhausted afterward.

It is weekends like this that make me feel that our move to England was the right decision. It is pretty neat to be in a different culture or even a different country by traveling only a couple of hours.

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