Due to COVID, I have not been able to travel to visit the girls at their Universities in the UK. I dropped off our eldest, Madeline at University in September of 2019 and I had visions of travelling to visit every year, but like plans for so many in the last couple of years — that has not happened.
Our younger daughter, Cameron, started at the University of York in 2020 and instead of me, it was Madeline who dropped her off and helped settle her. That was so tough for me to accept — but the reality.
With this trip, my hope was to show both girls the beautiful countryside around the cities where they live and study.
Well, goal accomplished! The girls’ reactions to all that we saw made the planning and sometimes nerve racking moments in the car well worth the effort! (The narrow single lane, windy roads made for quite a travel adventure- let alone the fact that I was driving on the left hand side! Yikes.)
I first landed in Edinburgh where Madeline is studying linguistics. Edinburgh is an elegant city with impressive architecture, great restaurants and wonderful museums. Here is a link with ideas on what to do while visiting.
While in Edinburgh, prepare to walk and walk! There are many steep steps and alleyways to explore. If you don’t like the weather, just wait 5 minutes. It’s crazy!
Enjoy quaint cafes with delicious cakes, and have lunch at Jules Bistro with three courses for $7! Honestly, I don’t suggest you bother with Leith — it’s a pretty harbor but there is so much to see and do in Edinburgh.
Scotland is so beautiful no matter the season or weather. When I arrived, there was a serious storm warning in effect. We had a plan to visit the nearest island and decided to get on the road and see what happened. I’m so glad we did.
We took the scenic route out of Edinburgh towards Loch Lomond and the Trossachs.
If the weather behaved, our final destination, after the ferry at Oban, was the Isle of Mull. The Scottish countryside is beautiful but the Islands are just so magical and leave you speechless.
Our favorite stops around Loch Lomond were Balloch and Luss. You can spend days here hiking and visiting villages. There are also some fun and beautiful boat rides. Here is a guide to the area.
We drove through rain showers, sun and snow all within a twenty minute period. We drove around the loch, up into the snow capped hills and Douglas Fir forests, moss covered stone walls and a quick lunch in Inveraray which was Madeline’s favorite town.
From there, we headed to Loch Ewe which is stunning and an area that I would like to explore more. We also visited Kirk Conan which was built by a wealthy man on his property as his mother complained of the trip to the local church. Every type of architecture has been utilized and it’s surprisingly beautiful. Ben Cruachaninn Inn is also a great place to stay overnight and also has a nice restaurant.
Overall the weather was looking good, so I put the pedal to the metal and we arrived at the ferry in Oban with a minute to spare.
The Isle of Mull deserves three days of your travel time if you are visiting in the summer. We stayed at The Mishnish Bed and Breakfast in Tobermory which has rooms over the pub, and is also a great restaurant. I highly recommend this charming place. Madeline and I had a pub dinner by the fireside. (Make sure you try the local oysters. Best ever!!!)
Our room overlooked the harbor and we awoke to a spectacular sunrise.
Boat trips were out of the question as we were visiting off-season, so we drove around. Five hours plus of driving and not a store, cafe or gas station in sight,so be prepared! There is a small supermarket in Tobermory so stock up for the day!
Stunning is all I can say. Trip of a lifetime is what Madeline said.
All of it was spectacular — the beaches, narrow roads, up into the snowy mountains and down to the magical beaches. Calgary Bay is a breathtaking spread of white sand that you don’t want to leave. We chatted with the locals walking or rather running their dogs on the beach.
We have vowed to go back in the summer time to see more.
If you’re planning a trip, here is a link of the MUST DO’s during the warmer weather. Be sure to include a boat trip to Staffa, Fingals Cave and the Island of Iona. I would say we saw half of the island, and it was absolutely stunning. There were so many very memorable moments including having to stop for a herd of sheep who felt they had right of way. The nerve! LOL
I spent a couple more days in Edinburgh before heading south. Make sure you make the pilgrimage to Greyfriars Kirk which is famous for many reasons — the terrier who guarded his master’s grave until he died 14 years later, and also JK Rowling used the names of some influential people buried here for the Harry Potter characters.
For the second leg of my trip, I was excited to finally visit Cameron to see her campus and where she lived. York is a small and beautiful city, full of Medieval architecture. It’s a joy to get lost in the narrow, cobbled streets and stop from time to time at a bakery for tea and amazing cakes.
The city is partially walled with four beautiful archway entrances. The walls date back to the Roman times and I loved the walk and view of York from the outside looking in.
York Minster is a stunning cathedral dating back to 627 AD and has remarkable stained glass windows which are some of the best and largest examples in the world. If you can get to a service with the choir, that’s truly the icing on the cake.
We did not climb the ‘Minster’ tower as my daughter – who is studying Art History at the University – heard rumors that it’s bad luck before you graduate, but she did give me an information-loaded private tour!
The best place for breakfast and cakes is the Brew and Brownie opposite the York Art Museum. Stop for a coffee or lunch at Dyls or Sophie’s which are both charming, tiny cafes on bridges overlooking the River. There are some fantastic restaurants with tasting menus using local produce but make sure you research and book ahead. Here is a link for suggestions on what to do in the city.
Lastly, no visit is complete without a photo op on the medieval cobblestone street called the Shambles. It is home to the best preserved medieval buildings in Europe. And yes — there is a store on this street to purchase your wand!
We started our tour of the Yorkshire countryside with a day driving through the Yorkshire Dales which are to the West of the city. The beautiful stone walls are hundreds of years old. Our favorite town was Pateley Bridge where we picked up ‘world famous’ pork pies. Here is a link to a suggested scenic route that takes in the beautiful villages and rolling green hills full of sheep but it’s really too much for a day. It is a National Park and there are several centers with lovely people to advise you on where to go and what to see.
We stopped to hike to Malham Cove, a geographical wonder which I had studied in high school and was also featured in one of the Harry Potter movies. Stunning! It is remarkable to see the effect of the Harry Potter fever on tourism in this country.
Either stay in one of the beautiful towns, or head back to York after Hawes. We discovered that the trail to waterfalls at Ingle is two- four hours and so probably not realistic either.
On our second day of road tripping we drove North East and up to the Yorkshire Moors and through the most gorgeous little towns.
It’s a more rough terrain than the Dales and a smaller national park and beautiful in a different way. Please park on the moors and take a windswept walk — there are many public trails! In the summer it is a carpet of purple and pink heather which must be magnificent.
I suggest the following route: York, Malton, Helmsley, Danby, then Goathland (make sure you stop to visit the train station which was the Hogwarts train station in the Harry Potter movies). Between Danby and Whitby are some lovely country pubs to break for a late lunch. Whitby is famous for fish and chips so if you can hold on till then stop by Magpie’s for the very best! It’s a charming town, though full of tourists which we did not like.
Our last stop was Robin Hood’s Bay. Park at the top of the hill and walk down to the harbor exploring the narrow pathways in between the stone houses built on this steep hill and enjoy the gorgeous beach. I would suggest a pint at the pub with wonderful views of the harbor and bay to complete your day!
Cameron approved of the trip and was blown away by what we saw. She was a great co-pilot and advisor. We came across farm gates a couple of times and were not sure what to do — was this someone’s property? But both times Cameron built up the courage to get out and open up the gate. (We later discovered that this was allowed and the norm when we met other drivers along the way.)
I have to say that the British isles are stunning and the people were so friendly. It truly was a trip of a lifetime with my girls!
From these great adventures I then continued on to my mother in Cornwall — but that’s a story for another day!