One reason I really wanted to visit Scotland was to see the land where my ancestors lived. If you can’t tell from my super dark, olive complexion (ha!)… I’m heavily Western European and in fact, my dad’s family primarily comes from Scotland. So, when we were planning our trip to Scotland, I knew I wanted to do a tour around the highlands because I’d read that my family lived in that area. So, when Rabbie’s offered to send us on a day tour to explore Scotland’s western highland lochs, and castles, I gladly accepted. Thanks, Rabbie’s!
We decided to book our trip for September and I’m grateful because we didn’t have to deal with the crowds that August brings. September through March is considered the off-season, but I think it’s a fantastic time to visit scotland and take a Rabbie’s tour. I read that Scotland in September was cold, but we were quite pleasant with light jackets!
This is going to be a very picture heavy post and I could go on and on and on about all of the things we learned on the tour. I’m going to try to keep it concise, so I’ll break our tour up into stops, tell you a little bit about what we did, and show you a few photos.
Rabbie’s West Highlands, Lochs, and Castles Tour
Typically Stirling Castle is the last stop on the tour, but because of the sunset time, our tour guide, Dougie, made it our first stop. We weren’t able to go into the castle because the mud was very thick, but we learned a little bit about the history of the castle while stopping for a photograph. My favorite tidbit of information from our tour guide here was that it is believed by many that this is the site of the original Camelot.
The placement of the castle is absolutely breathtaking. Honestly, I think it rivals Edinburgh Castle as far as presentation from afar goes.
It was here that I caught my first glimpse at a “Highland Coo”… and I have to admit that the coos were on my top list of things I wanted to photograph while in the highlands.
The next stop was Doune Castle, the home to the first Duke of Albany – Robert Stewart – which he acquired in the 1300s. Doune is also a popular filming spot. In fact, they filmed Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Outlander, and the pilot season of Game of Thrones here (Winterfell)!
This “small” castle packed a lot of punch. I feel like there was a lot to see! We made our way through the courtyard, into the kitchen, great hall, dining area, and lady’s chamber.
Can you even imagine walking up that tight staircase each day to go to bed? That’s one way to avoid the hankering for a midnight snack. Wow!
Our first loch stop was Lubnaig and it took my breath away. I loved seeing the fog in the mountains above the crystal clear water. If it were warmer, I’d have wanted to go for a swim! The pine trees littered the land behind the loch and it was such a serene sight. If I ever make it back to Loch Lubnaig, I’ll be bringing a picnic basket.
From Loch Lubnaig, we took a scenic windy road through the mountains called Breadalbane. We stopped near the most picturesque river. On the drive we saw mountains, waterfalls, and even a couple of rainbows! Dougie said his record is spotting 14 rainbows in one day.
Castle ruins are a theme in this tour, and I could not get enough!
Inveraray and Loch Awe
For lunch we stopped in Inveraray on the coast of Loch Awe. It’s the sweetest little coastal village with a historical jail and town strip. Dougie told us a tale of how a clan war led to the destruction of the village and its later rebuild out of sight of the castle. The Campbell ruling the area didn’t want to look at the village every day as it was an eyesore and many of his family members had been slaughtered there.
Inveraray Castle was rebuilt in the 1700s and it is currently the home of the Duke of Argyll. The grounds were beautiful and highland coos could be seen directly across from the castle.
There were many ships in Loch Awe and this one was just posing for me right in the harbor.
If you’re looking for a good place to eat, try George’s. Our tour guide, Dougie, recommended it and it did NOT disappoint.
Loch Lomond and the Village of Luss
The last stop of the day came with a visit to the Village of Luss and Loch Lomond. I wish I had read more of my family history before coming because, apparently, my clan – the Galbraiths – had a small castle on an island in Loch Lomond about 2 miles from this village. They probably visited the village from time to time. This blew my mind.
We returned to Edinburgh in time for supper. It was an amazing day tour and I was so impressed with the knowledge of our tour guide. Dougie was super hospitable and I enjoyed learning through his captivating stories. I also really appreciated that he was willing to talk about whatever we wanted. I really enjoyed learning about William Wallace and the Scottish wars.
If you find yourself in Scotland, do yourself a favor and book a tour with Rabbie’s and don’t discount those “off-season” times. I’m glad we didn’t.