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Adventures in Driving in Scotland

Tuesday, July 16, 2013 @ 09:15 pm from Scotland Scotland
Day 20

In order to tour the Highlands, Eric and I thought that renting a car for a few days would be the best way to see everything we wanted to. We found the Europcar rental station and picked up our car at the Edinburgh train station. It was rather exciting trying to get out of the city. After several stalls and issues getting into first gear, we made it onto the motorway and on our way into the highlands.

One of Eric's coworkers has a pen pal in a town called Sterling and he gave Eric something to drop off at his pen pal's house. We made our way there and Eric dropped the gift off and then we headed north to Inverness. The scenery was great along the drive. A lot of it reminded me of the pacific northwest mixed with a little bit of Colorado. We hit a little bit of rain here and there but it ended up passing pretty quickly.

We decided to head over to Loch Ness to get some photos before heading into Inverness to walk around. The drive to some viewpoints along the Loch was nice. We stopped at a gift shop so Eric could pick up something for his nephew and then went to the Urquart Castle. Unfortunately they wanted 7.80 pounds to enter the castle so we took a few photos and opted not to go in.

We navigated back to Inverness and found a parking garage and then walked around the town a bit. We saw the Inverness Castle and walked along the River Ness. Both of us were getting hungry so we found a sandwich shop to get some food at. We were thinking about getting a drink in Inverness but decided to head to Nairn where we had a hotel for the night.

Nairn is a tiny town on the North Sea. We got in around 4:30 and the place already seemed a little bit dead. The hotel is definitely a mom and pop run place. The rooms are laid out strangely and there's a really random mismatch of furniture. Fortunately, there are some really nice views from the window.

We walked down to the harbor and took some photos. I got to put my hand in the North Sea. It wasn't quite as cold as I was expecting but there were only two kids in the water and they both had wet suits on. On the way back from the hotel we grabbed some stuff at a local grocery store and then came back to the room.

Tomorrow we're going to go on a distillery tour and then head down near Dundee Scotland for the night.
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Loch Ness
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Inverness Castle
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Inverness Scotland
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Nairn Harbor

Sitting on Arthur's Seat

Monday, July 15, 2013 @ 06:29 pm from Scotland Scotland
Day 19

Today was the day we set out to hike up Arthur's Seat. It's the remains of an old volcano on the east side of town that once climbed, gives a great 360 view of the entire town of Edinburgh and surrounding areas. Last night we planned ahead and bought some blueberry muffins to have for breakfast. After eating we started our journey to the peak.

The walk to the base wasn't that bad. The route Google Maps said we could take didn't actually exist so we had to improvise a bit but we finally made it. The climb started out really easy. It was only a gradual climb and the path was paved. Soon after the path went to dirt and the real elevation started happening. After a few rest breaks we made it to the top and enjoyed the view. The wind had really picked up and it cooled down pretty good up there.

We ate a snack and took some photos and enjoyed the view before heading back down. There was an area called Calton Hill that we wanted to check out so we headed there. There were a bunch of monuments and an observatory at the Calton Hill park. I wanted to climb a tower to see some good views of the city but they wanted 4 pounds to enter. I couldn't justify it after just hiking to the top of Arthur's Seat so we carried on.

We then checked out the Scott Monument (again, I wanted to climb it but wasn't about to pay 4 pounds for the pleasure). After that we were both pretty hungry so we found a pizza place and had a good pizza. Being nice and full, we decided to go find a whisky tasting and after checking out a few places we ended up at a bar called Whiski. Each of us had a flight of 4 different whisky's. My favorite from this flight was the Aberlour 10 yr. It had the right mix of peaty, smooth and creaminess.

We felt pretty good after that flight so we headed to Sainsbury's (the local grocery) and picked up some more snacks and water (unfortunately you can't drink the tap water at this hotel for some reason... there's a big sign in the bathroom saying so). I also picked up a couple containers of mixed fruit and devoured those when we got back to the hotel.

We're just relaxing here for a while before heading out again in a little bit for dinner. Tomorrow we head north up to Inverness and Nairn for the night.
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Arthur's Seat
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Climbing up to Arthur's Seat
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Edinburgh from Arthur's Seat
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Arthur's Seat

Awesome Edinburgh

Sunday, July 14, 2013 @ 06:42 pm from Scotland Scotland
Day 18

Eric and I started the day by grabbing some breakfast at a local cafe. We walked up the Royal Mile towards the castle which we planned on touring. There was supposed to be a great view of the castle from the end of the Royal Mile but they had a big stadium set up there for some kind of event.

We waited in line for about 45 minutes for tickets (If you're going, buy your tickets online... it gives you FastPass access so you can skip all the lines) and then we entered the castle. As soon as we got in they were starting a tour so we jumped onboard and walked around the castle for about 30 minutes listening to the guide give us information about the various buildings on site and the history of the castle.

After the tour we hunted down some water (apparently water fountains in public places in Europe don't seem to exist). We went into a cafe that had carafes full of water and glasses next to it for free drinking. I ended up pouring several into my own water bottle (and didn't feel a bit guilty after paying the 16 pound entrance fee to the castle).

We got to see the Scottish crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny (the rock that's used in all coronations in the UK) and then toured through several of the other buildings and walked through the various museums and memorials they had on site.

After the castle tour we left and walked down the Royal Mile again. We passed a few whisky shops (It's not Scotch here... it's just whisky) and decided to do some sampling. We didn't want to pay for the tour at the Whisky Experience shop so we found a restaurant that was offering some flights. For 11.95 pounds each, Eric and I each sampled 4 different whisky's. I had a Highlands flight and Eric had the Speyside flight. I really enjoyed one of mine in particular and will probably try to hunt it down and buy a bottle before I leave Scotland.

We also went into several wool shops. I'm tempted to buy something woolen but I'm not sure what I want yet. I've been happy to see all of the labels say that the stuff is produced in Scotland and not imported from overseas for tourists.

We stopped into a Sainsbury's to pick up some snacks and breakfast for tomorrow and now we're just relaxing in the hotel a bit before heading out for dinner and another drink or two.

Tip of the Day:
I've heard the name of the city pronounced many different ways, but the majority of people here seem to pronounce it "edin burrow."
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Old buildings on Cockburn Street
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Edinburgh from the castle
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Me at the Edinburgh Castle
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Edinburgh Castle

A New Country - Scotland

Sunday, July 14, 2013 @ 12:00 am from Scotland Scotland
Day 17

Today was a long day of traveling. I started in Galway, Ireland this morning and jumped on a bus to Dublin Airport at 9:45am. I got to the airport about 5 hours before my flight but wasn't able to check in until 2 hours ahead of time. I ended up spending the entire time reading another mystery novel I picked up from the hostel.

I finally got checked into the flight and headed toward the gate area. When it finally came time to board I saw that I was going to be on a really small prop plane. The flight was fine but it was definitely one of the noisiest commercial flights I've been on. Everything inside the aircraft was shaking around.

When I landed I had a couple hours before Eric showed up so I just hung out at the Edinburgh airport. Eric's flight got in a little earlier than expected so we jumped on the bus to the city center and checked into our hotel (the Royal British).

Both of us were pretty hungry so we set out to find some food. It was pretty late already and most of the restaurants had closed down for the night. We ended up finding a place that had a pretty wide variety of food and I got a calzone (I had been craving italian for the last few nights). By now it was after 11 and pretty much all the pubs had their last call so we just came back to the hotel.

Tomorrow we're going to check out the Edinburgh castle and walk the Royal Mile. There will be some amazing photos tomorrow so stay tuned!
So amazing. #europetrip2013
Cardiff City Hall and National Museum. #europetrip2013 #cardiff
Why did it take me so long to get to Italy? Warm weather. Mountains. Amazing architecture. Great food and wine. This is great. #lucca #italy #europetrip2013
Free paella at the hostel in Barcelona? Yes please! #paella #barcelona #europetrip2013
Churros y chocolate. #valencia #churros #chocolate #europetrip2013
Goats. #llandudno #europetrip2013
Back in the Brecon Beacons. #europetrip2013
Giant light display at Puerta del Sol in Madrid. #madrid #puertadelsol #europetrip2013
St Mary Radcliffe #europetrip2013 #bristol
Literally the only person here. 2 hour hike starting at 6:30 am but I beat the tours! #europetrip2013

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Where I've been:

Good Evening… Planet Earth
All the countries I visited on this trip (in yellow).

What's this about?

Traveling is something I've loved doing for as long as I can remember. I've been lucky enough to travel out of the US a few times but never longer than 2 weeks at a time. I decided that I should go see the world and experience all it has to offer. I booked a one-way ticket to Dublin, Ireland to depart on June 26, 2013. After I get to Europe I'll let serendipity take hold and see where I end up. No schedules and no itinerary… just go with the flow. That's as close to a plan as I'm making.

Who am I?

My name's Brandon O'Brien and I'm a travelholic. Before this journey I've been to 11 countries and put over 17,500 miles on various motorcycle trips through the USA and Canada. I'm a self-employed web developer so I'm fortunate enough to be able to work anywhere there's an internet connection. That's what truly made this experience possible.

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