Scotland is one of those places that almost doesn't feel real - like some magical fantasy land you read about in novels or see in movies, full of castles, lake monsters and unicorns. So, imagine the feeling when you finally get here and it's exactly like you've imagined - unlike many popular destinations around the world, Scotland absolutely lives up to expectations. Mysterious highlands steeped in clouds and fog - check. Ancient castles drowning in lush greenery as far as the eye can see - check. Kilts, scotch, dramatic weather - everything you've ever heard about Scotland is true.
In order to save time (and avoid driving) we decided the best way to see as much of the country as possible was to join a group tour. I'm not usually much of a fan of bus tours, but it's an easy and convenient way to cover a lot of ground if you're short on time. Our Highlands tour started with Doune Castle - the one featured in the TV show Outlander.
The second stop on the route is a castle yet again featured on TV, in this case - Downton Abbey. But not before stopping to pet some Highland cows!
The place is Inveraray Castle and it looks like this:
It's been featured in a Christmas Special when the Crawley family took a trip north. In real life, it's the official seat of the Campbell Clan, home to the Duke of Argyll - hard to believe anyone still lives like this in this day and age, isn't it? Does it feel strange to live in a place that looks like a museum, I wonder, or does it just feel normal because it's your home?
The last stop of the tour is a viewing spot poetically named Rest and be Thankful. You can certainly see why:
I didn't take a lot of pictures in the city, but I did spend a great day by the sea. Portobello Beach is only a short bus ride away from the city centre and it's incredible. Run around in soft sand, eat scones in a boardwalk cafe and enjoy the cool breeze on your face - if you happen to be as lucky with the weather as we were.
Interestingly enough, our second tour took place primarily in England, not Scotland - after a fairly quick ride through the Borders region, we headed to Alnwick Castle, also known as Hogwarts.
Of course, its Harry Potter history means that the place was packed with children, and was overall very busy. But who cares, if you can do some archery and take a broom-flying class.
Even though we managed to do and see a great deal in six days that we spent here, I really wish we had more time. Even though the entire country is rather small, with only 5,5 million people living in it, there seems to be an endless number of exciting things to do here. I didn't even get a chance to stay in a lighthouse! I guess that's a dream for another day.