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Scottish Castle Hopping // A Day Trip from Home

Balmoral Castle Scotland UK United Kindgom
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Disclaimer: this post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase from one of them I will recieve a small commision at no extra cost to you, which allows me to keep this blog up and running!


When my mother came to visit me at university this past April, one of the top things on her list to do was to take a day trip out of my little university town to visit a Scottish castle or two. Because I didn’t have class on Wednesdays this semester (score), I was luckily able to accompany her.

Early Wednesday morning on the week she visited me, we were met by our driver for the day (fancy, I know… that’s what happens when your parents come to visit!). Then, we were off! Our first stop of the day was Balmoral Castle, a good couple of hours drive from where we were. Sheep dotted the fields as we passed by – pretty usual for Scotland. But what really got me were all of the baby lambs that had suddenly popped up. They were literally everywhere, and seriously so friggin’ cute.

We stopped about halfway through the drive to get some breakfast and stretch our legs. It was at this point that I promptly found a nearby pharmacy to pick up some motion sickness pills. I don’t know what it is about those winding Scottish roads, but they always seem to get me. There was no way I was going to survive a day that was largely based on driving.

I fell asleep pretty quickly after we got back in the car, and when I woke up again I was feeling much better.

I slept a lot that day. It’s a blessing and a curse, being able to fall asleep so quickly in moving vehicles. It means the time passes quicker, but it also means that I miss the scenery. Thankfully, I was awake for two of the best parts. Number one, passing through Cairngorms National Park. I had done this by train a few months earlier on the way up to Loch Ness, and the rolling hills were no less impressive this time around – though perhaps not as beautiful as they had been when they were dappled with snow.

Cairngorms National Park Scotland United Kingdom UK
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And number two? Seeing my first ever HIGHLAND COW.

This was a BIG moment for me guys. I’ve been dying to see a highland cow ever since I moved to Scotland. They’re fuzzy and cute and are basically Scotland’s second national animal (after the unicorn, of course). My boyfriend literally gave me a highland cow stuffed animal for Christmas, that’s how obsessed I am (I named him Boof, by the way).

I was half asleep when our driver pointed them out on the side of the road and asked if we wanted to stop. My mother said it was fine if we didn’t, and that was when I came to. “YES,” I blurted out loudly. I couldn’t believe my mother was about to pass up the chance to hang out with highland cows! Thank goodness I hadn’t been completely asleep, or else I totally would have missed this opportunity and my life would have been ruined. No lie.

Highland Cow Scotland Hairy Coo
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Highland Cow Scotland Hairy Coo
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Highland Cow Scotland Hairy Coo
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Did I take more pictures of Highland Cows than the castles we visited that day? The world may never know… (The answer is totally yes)

In case you were wondering, my first highland cow encounter totally lived up to expectations. They’re adorable, and obviously dgaf because they were just chilling and eating their hay while we and another car full of tourists took pictures of them. Two of them were even getting it on in the background…

After the highland cow encounter, I was pretty sure there was no way that my day could get any better. And truthfully, it didn’t.

We arrived at Balmoral Castle – the country getaway of the royal family – shortly afterwards. It was cool and all, but there were no highland cows. Of course, the castle was beautiful, and we spent a good while exploring the grounds.

Balmoral Castle Scotland UK United Kingdom
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Balmoral Castle Scotland UK United Kindgom
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My favourite part was probably the gardens, mostly just because I can never seem to get over how pretty greenhouses are.

Balmoral Castle Scotland Gardens Greenhouse
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Balmoral Castle Scotland Gardens
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From there, it was another hour and a half long drive (back in the direction we had come from) to our next destination.

We stopped for lunch first at a restaurant in the village below Balmoral, and I indulged in some pretty delicious shepherd’s pie.

Shepherd's Pie
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Finally, we arrived at Glamis Castle (pronounced Glahms, which is super counterintuitive) and went upstairs to the meeting point for the guided walking tours. Because we were there pretty late in the afternoon, we were also the only ones there. This meant that we got a private guided tour through the castle, which was pretty dang cool. I learned so much about the history of the place. It’s amazing how much the guides there know. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take pictures in the castle, but I made sure to get loads of the outside!

Glamis Castle Scotland
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Glamis Castle Scotland
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Perhaps the most interesting thing about Glamis Castle is that it is Macbeth’s Castle (at least in the Shakespeare play – the real King Macbeth had no connection to it). As a tribute, there’s a pretty cool looking statue of the three witches outside.

Glamis Castle Scotland Three Witches Macbeth
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Finally, it was time to head back to the car and drive home.

To be completely honest, this tour wasn’t my favourite thing in the entire world. I’m a big proponent of day trips, don’t get me wrong. But when you spend the majority of the day in transportation, is it really worth it? I’m inclined to say no. Yes, it was cool to see these castles. But I probably would have much preferred spending time in a village near Balmoral (or even on the estate!) and visiting it that way. Glamis is actually close enough to where I live to be a day trip, but the combination with Balmoral made everything feel like one long car ride, and I didn’t really get to appreciate everything.

In reality, though, the main point of this trip was to spend time with my mom. And I can gladly say that that much, at least, was successfully accomplished.

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What are your opinions on day trips? Do you think they’re worth it? Or would you rather spend more time in one place? Let me know in the comments down below!

 

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Want to see Castles in Scotland? Read this post about visiting two Scottish Castles in a day trip.
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Balmoral Castle Scotland UK United Kindgom
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MY FAVORITE TRAVEL TIPS & RESOURCES

Booking Flights: The first place I turn when I’m searching for flights is actually just Google Flights - it’s great to figure out what sort of routes are available. Then, I check Skyscanner and Kiwi for deals. I also love Kiwi for its destination: anywhere feature!

Transportation: I love Omio for figuring out the cheapest way to get from one place to another, and Trainline for booking train tickets within Europe.

Accommodations: I absolutely love Booking.com for finding great hotel deals. After you stay a certain number of nights, you get Genius discounts! For hostels, Hostelworld is my go-to, and I use Airbnb occasionally as well (click here for $40 off your first booking!)

Travel Insurance: I knew that I shouldn’t travel without insurance for the longest time, but I really learned my lesson when I got an infected cut in Bali. Thank goodness I had travel insurance! I use and love World Nomads for their extremely comprehensive coverage.

Travel Insurance: I knew that I shouldn’t travel without insurance for the longest time, but I really learned my lesson when I got an infected cut in Bali. Thank goodness I had travel insurance! I use and love World Nomads for their extremely comprehensive coverage.

Tours: I always check Urban Adventures for great day tours of cities first–I’m obsessed with them! GetYourGuide and Viator are also great options. For multi-day tours, I highly recommend Intrepid.

Camera Gear: I use a Sony Alpha A6300 camera with an 18-105 mm lens and a 35 mm lens. My tripod is the MeFoto Backpacker Air and I loooooove it! I also use a DJI Mavic Air and a GoPro and which allow me to capture everything my regular camera can’t.

4 thoughts on “Scottish Castle Hopping // A Day Trip from Home”

  1. Aww, Boof ???? I can’t refer to Highland cows without turning “cow” into “coo.” And I’ve just noticed you tagged this post hairy coo! Brilliant!

    I definitely prefer to spend more time savouring a place, but often day trips are the cheaper option so I’ll compromise and accept the feeling of haste and tiredness just to get out there. Those castles look absolutely wonderful by the way! And hooray for greenhouses! I have a Pinterest board full of them (especially Victorian ones!) – it makes me so happy.

  2. You’re so lucky to live in Scotland! I’ve spent the past 10 days driving around the Isle of Skye, Outer Hebrides and Loch Ness and can’t quite put in words how much I loved it. Definitely with you on the day trip feelings though, I always travel by car so you can stop whenever and wherever you wish, especially when there’s so many highland cows or sheep to photograph! Balmoral Castle would’ve been good to see though 🙂

  3. I love Balmoral Castle – I went there with my mum a year ago and the gardens were just stunning!!! Not been to Glamis before, but itooks gorgeous.

    I think I agree with you – spending more time in the car than on actual activities really makes me wonder sometimes, what the day trip is for… But I still love going on day trips like that – it’s the only option sometimes! I just like others doing the driving, so I like trying organised yours 🙂

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