Map generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz
Where to go on honeymoon? In early 2012, my future wife and I took several destinations into consideration, but finally decided to make a tour around Scotland where we had always wanted to go on holiday. Finding a comprehensive one-week guided tour in June wasn't a problem, but flight options weren't overly attractive - and rather pricey. Well, the focus was on the destination this time, but the PlaneHunter can never rest entirely...
Finally, after searching for a while, I found a decent combo offered by Lufthansa: Munich-London-Edinburgh on Lufthansa and bmi and Birmingham-Zurich-Munich on Swiss (operated by Helvetic Airways) and Swiss European. What attracted me most was the flight on Helvetic Airways, an airline which was still missing in my log. Flybe offered a well-timed and decently priced "connecting flight" from Edinburgh to Birmingham, so it was time for action. While I booked the Lufthansa combo on Ebookers, I bought the Flybe tickets on that carrier's website.
Interestingly, the Flybe flight would be operated by an Embraer 175 - a type which I was planning to get for the first time six weeks before the Scotland trip. However, after that plan had failed (more details can be found here), the Scotland trip would suddenly bring a new type into my log as well.
After an eventless journey from Munich to Heathrow and onwards to Edinburgh on Lufthansa A319-112 D-AKNJ and bmi A319-131 G-DBCJ (two new registrations for my log), we checked in at the Hilton Airport and then took a public bus to the city to get some first impressions:
On the next morning, our guided tour started with an extended city tour. The majestic Edinburgh Castle atop the volcanic Castle Rock:
From the castle you can enjoy great views over the city:
The temporary stands for the annual Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo:
What would Scotland be without tartan and bagpipe players?
In the afternoon, we continued to Glasgow where we took a city tour and visited the Glasgow Cathedral:
On the next day, we headed north in lovely weather and made a stop at Loch Lomond, the largest inland stretch of water in Great Britain (by surface area). What a great place to relax:
"...on the bonnie, bonnie banks o' Loch Lomond..."
Further up into the Highlands:
Welcome to Inveraray, a nice small town on the western shore of Loch Fyne:
This is the splendid Inveraray Castle, the seat of the Duke of Argyll, chief of Clan Campbell:
Later in the afternoon, we continued the picturesque journey through the Highlands:
This is my favorite picture taken during the tour - what a scenery:
After spending the night at a hotel in Fort William, a town near Ben Nevis which is the highest mountain in the British Isles, we made a day trip to the Isle of Skye. On the way to the port, we stopped at the Glenfinnan Monument, located at the head of Loch Shiel:
The monument was built to mark the place where Prince Charles Edward Stuart ("Bonnie Prince Charlie") raised his standard at the beginning of the 1745 Jacobite Rising, a series of rebellions and wars.
The Glenfinnan Viaduct has been used as a location in several movies, including three films of the Harry Potter series:
Nice view over Loch Ailort:
Welcome to Mallaig, a port on the west coast of the Highlands:
Our ferry arriving from Armadale:
View from the highest deck:
"Over the Sea to Skye..."
The austere beauty of Skye:
This is the "harbor" of Portree, the largest town on Skye:
Back on the road...
Stunning scenery and a nice herd of Highland cattle:
After returning to the mainland via the Skye Bridge, we made a stop at the famous Eilean Donan Castle which is familiar from many photographs and appearances in film and television:
On the next morning, our first destination was Fort Augustus. The Caledonian Canal connecting Fort William to Inverness passes through Fort Augustus in a series of locks stepping down to Loch Ness:
How about a kayak tour?
The other side:
This is Urquhart Castle on the north shore of Loch Ness:
We tried hard, but couldn't see Nessie anywhere...
After the boat tour, we continued further north and visited Inverness:
Some miles east of Inverness, you find the field where the Battle of Culloden took place:
The battle was the final confrontation of the 1745 Jacobite Rising and the last battle fought on British soil. The devastating defeat of the Jacobites, led by Bonnie Prince Charlie, by the government forces led to wide-reaching consequences for highland life. The people weren't allowed to wear their tartans, playing bagpipe was prohibited by law and the clan system was destroyed…a dark chapter in Scotland's history.
Nice historic structure near Grantown on Spey:
The Craiglynne Hotel, our accommodation for one night, is located in a beautiful historic building close to Grantown on Spey:
On the next morning, we went to Aviemore...
...and enjoyed a short ride on a historic train:
Nice Business Class seating...
Place settings for the tea and shortbread service during the ride:
The steam locomotive after the ride:
I was told that these hard working guys are true train enthusiasts:
This is Cawdor Castle...
...which is known for its nice gardens:
Later in the afternoon, we visited a sheep farm and watched a herding dog show:
Cute, isn't it?
On the next morning, we headed south again. Some of our last impressions of the Highlands:
Lunch brake in a nice cafe in the small Victorian town of Pitlochry:
We had black tea and cake in style:
Then we visited the Edradour single malt whisky distillery, reputed to be the smallest legal distillery in Scotland:
The distillery's treasure hall:
1400 pounds for a bottle of whisky from 1968 - anyone?
Our excellent tour came to an end in the late afternoon when we arrived back in Edinburgh. This is the Forth Road Bridge...
...and this is the Forth Bridge which is often called the Forth Rail Bridge to distinguish it from the Forth Road Bridge:
After checking in online for our return flights on the next day, we went to a nice pub near our hotel and enjoyed the last evening in Scotland.
[Edited 2013-02-11 10:56:56]