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Travelzoo Experience: Getting to Know the 'Real' Scotland

One of the most coveted perks at Travelzoo is the Travelzoo Experience, in which Deal Experts and other employees take advantage of the same travel, entertainment and local deals we publish to our subscribers and report back on their experience.

Edinburgh, Scotland, is one of the most beautiful and historic cities in Europe. A walk through one of its castles or monuments brings travelers face-to-face with some of the most important moments in world history. But getting to know the “real” Scotland means stepping outside of its capital city and into one of the more rural communities in the Scottish Highlands.

Once the home of warring Scottish clans, the Highlands today are dotted with majestic mountains and the ruins of once-regal castles. A day trip from Edinburgh gives just a taste of the beauty and history that the Highlands has to offer. On a recent trip, we boarded a bus with 14 other tourists eager to get a peak at the famous Scottish Highlands. Here are some highlights we saw along the way.

  • Callander: Serving as the gateway to Trossachs National Park, and by default the Scottish Highlands, Callander is a tiny but beautiful town about 90 minutes from Edinburgh. Just north of the town are the Callander Crags, part of the Highland Boundary Fault and the entrance to the Highlands. Before leaving town, don’t forget to stop and say hi to Hamish, the hairy cow (or “hurrykew,” as a Scottish native might pronounce it).
  • Glen Ogle: Jaw-dropping vistas greet visitors at Glen Ogle, a short drive from Callander. Undulating hills sweep for seven miles in this glen, which stretches from Lochearnhead to Lix Toll. Running along one of the hillsides is the Glen Ogle Viaduct, part of a military road built in 1749 and used by the British Army during the Jacobite rising.
  • Kilchurn Castle: Situated on the banks of Loch Awe and next to Glen Orchy, the ruins of Kilchurn Castle give a glimpse of Scotland’s past as a hotbed of warring clans. Once the ancestral home of Clan Campbell, the castle was built in about 1450. Today, the castles is just ruins, but still proves to be a powerful reminder of Scottish Highland life of earlier centuries. Plus the views of the adjacent loch and glen are not to be missed.
  • Inveraray Castle: Those who want to see a Scottish Castle not in ruins will want to make a stop in Inveraray, nestled on the banks of Loch Fyne. "Downton Abbey" fans will recognize this castle as the location of the Crawley family’s trip to Scotland during the British show’s third season. The castle has been the home of the Duke of Argyll, chief of the Clan Campbell, since the 17th century (although our feisty tour guide described it as “too Disney” for her taste). The castle is reportedly haunted by the ghost of a harpist who was hanged for peeping at the lady of the house.
    While in Inveraray, stop for some of the town’s famous seafood (it’s on an estuary of the Atlantic Ocean), and cozy into a wool sweater from the Inveraray Woolen Mill.
  • Loch Lomond: On the return trip to Edinburgh, make a stop at Loch Lomond, on the Highland Boundary Fault. The largest body of water in Great Britain by surface area, the loch was made famous by the traditional song “The Bonnie Banks o’Loch Lomond.” The original author is unknown, but it’s said to tell the story of a Scottish soldier facing his imminent death. The loch contains more than 30 islands and is a leisure destination for Scottish natives.

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Deal Expert, New York
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
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Jonathan Rougeot