The Vatican City

Our last day in Rome was spent in Vatican City. Vatican City is an enclave, which is a country that is entirely enclosed within another country — when you marry a geography buff, you learn fun facts like this when you travel. 😉 So, even though we didn’t get another passport stamp, we did technically visit another country on this trip.

When we were researching for our trip to Rome, we saw that people spent anywhere from half a day in Vatican City to multiple days. This was a very important site for both of us, so we decided to set aside a whole day to be able to take in the everything without rushing. Let me just say, if your schedule allows for it, take a full day to visit Vatican City! There are a lot of famous sites to see including St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums, and the Sistine Chapel.

Vatican City is a short metro ride from the city center of Rome. Once we arrived, we headed straight to St. Peter’s Basilica. St. Peter’s Basilica is the most iconic structure in Vatican City. Entrance to the Basilica is free, so we decided to spend some time taking in this magnificent structure. If you want to avoid crazy long lines, go during non-peak season and go early in the day! By the time we exited the Basilica the line was noticeably longer than when we entered.

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Our next stop was the Vatican Museums. We decided to purchase a tour for the Museums and the Sistine Chapel. Due to the vastness of the Museums you could easily spend days checking out all the artwork and sculptures. Since we only had one afternoon (and Ryan and I aren’t  huge art people), taking a tour was a great way to see the highlights that the Museums had to offer. The Sistine Chapel was the last stop on the tour, and I still can’t get over how beautiful it was. After seeing many pictures of this famous site in history books growing up, it was incredible to actually see it with my own eyes. Since the tour ended with the Sistine Chapel, we were able to spend as long as we wanted taking in its famous ceiling!

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The ceiling in the map room of the Vatican Museums was spectacular!

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After our whirlwind tour of the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, the sun was beginning to set, and tiredness was starting to set in. We decided to head back to our hotel, get dinner, and prepare for our trip home the next day.

Visiting Rome was such an incredible experience! Ryan and I hope to make it back to Italy one day to check out more places and experience even more of what this amazing country has to offer.

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Just “Rome”ing Around

There are many benefits of traveling to a major tourist area during “off season,” but one major downside is that the weather is extremely unpredictable. You could get beautiful sunny days or it could rain your entire trip. Up to this point we had experienced a bit of both. Our first day exploring the city we had great weather and our second day only had a few scattered showers. However, we were not so fortunate for the third day of our Rome trip.

Day 3: Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Piazza del Popolo, Pantheon, and Piazza Navona

Even though they were calling for rain, we were excited to begin our day of exploring. We were really hoping the rain would be light like the previous day, but unfortunately that was not the case. As soon as we were on our way to the first site of the day the heavens opened up. If it wasn’t hard enough getting a clear picture of the Trevi Fountain, try adding in copious amounts of umbrellas! Even through the rain and umbrellas, we couldn’t help but admire the beauty of Trevi Fountain.

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See what I mean about the umbrellas?!
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Getting pictures throughout this rainy day was a team effort. I would be the one to take the picture while Ryan was standing behind me with the umbrella to keep the camera out of the rain. We also kept a lint free cloth in our camera bag to wipe the camera lens before taking pictures. This helped so much!

 

The Spanish Steps was next on the list. This was another impressive site, although I was a bit distracted by the beautiful lights along the street leading up to the Spanish Steps. After grabbing a few pictures, we were off to the Piazza del Popolo. Once we arrived at the Piazza, we decided that we needed a little pick me up (and a break from the rain wouldn’t be terrible either). We ducked into a little espresso bar and grabbed an espresso and snack to help give us the boost we needed to keep going.

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View from the top of the Spanish Steps. See what I mean about the lights along the street!

The Pantheon was our next stop and my favorite site of the day. I didn’t know what to expect, but as we rounded the corner and caught sight of the building I was in awe. Thankfully, we got a slight reprieve from the rain as we were checking out the Pantheon, which allowed us to stop and soak in this incredible structure. Also, entrance to the Pantheon was free!

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Funny story about this picture: I realized that I wanted our picture taken in front of the Pantheon, so we took a look around to try and find someone to ask. Of course there was no one when we needed them. Ryan said, “Just give it a minute. I’m sure we’ll find some American tourists soon.” Sure enough two teenage girls with their selfie sticks came strolling up and were happy to take our picture. 🙂  (Also if you want to get a feel for how rainy it was take a look at the bottom of Ryan’s pants in this picture. haha)

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We were quickly losing steam, but had to keep going to check out the last few sites on our list. We made our way to Piazza Navona and enjoyed checking out the various sculptures, fountains, and shops there.

Ryan and I collect Christmas ornaments from the different places that we travel. I still had not found the right ornament for Rome and was starting to get a little nervous that I wasn’t going to be able to find what I was looking for. As we were roaming around, Ryan saw this little shop full of Christmas items and suggested we take a look inside. Thankful to get out of the rain for a minute, we went inside and admired all the hand-crafted Christmas decorations inside. I found a beautiful nativity scene carved out of a piece of wood (I later found out that it was hand-carved from olive wood which is native to the area). I instantly knew it was the ornament for us. I really wanted the word Rome added to the ornament, so Ryan encouraged me to ask the shop owner if she would add that for me. I went up to the shop owner and asked, “Parli inglese?” (Do you speak English), but she said she spoke little English. She did say that she spoke Spanish. I studied Spanish in college, so my face lit up knowing we could still communicate. I asked her in Spanish if she could add Rome on the ornament, and she was quick to do that for me. Before I knew it, we had spent 30 minutes talking in Spanish and learning more about Rome from this sweet shop owner. This is my absolute favorite experience from the whole trip.

By this point we were pretty drenched, so we decided to head back to the hotel to change out of our wet clothes and let our tennis shoes dry for a bit. It was a little frustrating of a day, but a memorable one nonetheless.

 

When in Rome

It has been a little while since I last posted about our Rome trip. I’m excited to share more about what we did and saw a few months ago!

After getting settled into our hotel and familiarizing ourselves a little with the area, we were itching to start exploring the city. We began each morning of our trip with a cappuccino and breakfast, which was provided by our hotel.

Day 1: The Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, Circus Maximus, Baths of Caracalla, and Altar of the Fatherland/Terrace of the Quadrigas overlook

We decided to begin our morning at the Colosseum, since the crowds tended to be worse later in the day. We did visit Rome during “off season,” but there were still larger crowds than I was expecting. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like to visit during the summer months when it is considered “peak season”!

The Colosseum was spectacular. It truly took my breath away and made me tear up a bit. I cannot say how glad I was that we decided not to pack our days too full of activities. It allowed us to take our time at each attraction and soak everything in instead of rushing through to make sure we made it to the next place in enough time. Ryan and I spent about an hour and a half walking around the Colosseum and taking in the vastness of this iconic structure. This was my favorite site of the trip, hands down!

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Your ticket to the Colosseum also gives you access to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Naturally, those were our next stops. After entering the grounds of the Roman Forum, we decided to head up Palatine Hill first so we could enjoy the lookout and stake out what sites in the Forum were most interesting to us. This is another instance where we were glad we set aside the time to soak in everything around us. There is so much to see in the Roman Forum that you could easily spend a good amount of time exploring.

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View of a portion of the Roman Forum from Palatine Hill

The jet lag was catching up to us, so we decided we needed a little espresso break to help us keep going. We found that we looked forward to grabbing an espresso in the afternoon each day since espresso cafés were everywhere!

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Our first Italian espresso

On our itinerary, we listed a few sites that were a little more out of the way just in case we had the chance to check them out. As it turns out, we found ourselves with some extra time and decided to make our way out to see them. We walked along the track of Circus Maximus, an ancient chariot-racing stadium located adjacent to Palatine Hill. Next, we headed to the Baths of Caracalla. We did end up purchasing a 48-hour Roma Pass for our trip, which gave us discounted admission to the Baths. The Baths of Caracalla were very expansive and offered us a nice reprieve from the crowds (since its location was more out of the way).

The last major site we wanted to check off of our list for the day was the Altar of the Fatherland. Ryan did the majority of the research for our trip and discovered that there was an overlook at the top of the structure that gave you excellent views of the city. Ryan and I love a good overlook and couldn’t pass that up. We arrived at the top right around sunset and the views were spectacular. Definitely one of the highlights of the trip for me.

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View from the Terrace of the Quadrigas overlook

After a very full day of exploring, we decided to venture to Trastevere to grab some dinner. With our Roma Pass, we got unlimited rides for all public transit — metro, bus, and trams — which helped us get to Trastevere so much easier. Ryan and I love to take public transit wherever we travel. It helps us to get a real feel for the city we are in and experience even more of the culture.

Day 2: The Catacombs of San Callisto and San Sebastián

One of the first things I told Ryan that I had to see when visiting Rome was the catacombs. I remembered learning a lot about them in school and had to take advantage of this opportunity to check them out. After doing a little research, we realized that some of the major catacombs were located further outside of the city. It took some creativity and careful planning, but we figured out how to work them into our trip!

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Be sure to check the hours of operation before heading out to visit the catacombs. When we were preparing for our trip, we realized that one of the catacombs was closed on the day that we had originally set aside to visit. Thankfully, we were able to play with our itinerary a little to find the best time to visit both catacomb sites. The trek out to the catacombs by bus was a little lengthy but worth it (to us).

Pictures weren’t allowed inside of the catacombs, so we don’t have much to show of our explorations. I will say that it was incredible to take a tour of two of the most famous catacomb sites. It is truly a maze once you get down into the catacombs, and I am very glad we had a guide to help lead us through the narrow passageways.

After we finished our second tour, we decided to go on a little walk down the Appian Way, one of the oldest and most important roads of the ancient Roman Empire. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the best day to walk along the road (it was overcast and rained off and on all day), but we still enjoyed a relaxing day checking out some places “off the beaten path.”

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Walking along the Appian Way

Rome was most certainly living up to all of the hype, and we still had two more full days to explore even more!

Roman Holiday

Ryan and I had the unexpected opportunity to take a quick trip to Rome over Thanksgiving in 2018. One of Ryan’s good friends was taking a trip to Europe over the holiday and told us that he found a really good deal on plane tickets. That sparked our curiosity so we decided to do our own search to see what it would cost to take a trip during that time.

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Since we knew this trip wouldn’t be nearly as long as our last international excursion, we decided that whichever city we chose to visit needed to have enough to do to keep us busy for a few days without needing to venture out too much. We had an amount in mind of what we would like the cost of the round-trip tickets to stay under and decided to check out Rome, just for fun. We ended up finding an incredible deal and quickly booked those tickets. Rome has been at the top of our travel list for a while, but we never thought we would have the opportunity to visit this soon!

We arrived in Rome on a Thursday afternoon. The first thing we had to do was purchase train tickets to get from the airport to the city center of Rome. From the research we had done before the trip, it seemed like your credit card needed a pin number in order to complete the train ticket purchase on the self-service kiosk. We were a little nervous that we would not be able to purchase the train tickets with our credit card because of this, but we ended up having no issues. This made for an excellent start to the trip!

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Once we got to the city center, the next item on our list was to check into the hotel and find an ATM. Ryan’s sense of direction and map skills never cease to amaze me. He was able to get us to our hotel very quickly and gain a general sense for the city in no time. We had a little trouble finding the ATM, since the ancient Roman roads are a little confusing, but we eventually found one and were able to get out some cash for the few days we were there. We generally like to use credit cards while we are traveling abroad, but Rome can still be heavily cash based so we wanted to make sure we were prepared.

As crazy as this may sound, the cause of most of the stress we have when traveling internationally revolves around food. Ryan and I like to do a little research on a restaurant when we are thinking of going out to get something to eat. We like to know that we will be getting good food and make sure a particular restaurant is in our price range. We tried to prepare better for this trip and wrote down some good restaurant options ahead of time. That way when we were ready to eat, all we had to do was look at our list and choose one. If you are anything like us, I would highly recommend doing this for your next trip! Having a list of restaurants to choose from helped to simplify the dinner decision, hence alleviating stress.

I wouldn’t say Ryan and I are foodies, but we do like to make sure we try dishes that are authentic to the area where we are traveling. We were so excited to try all the amazing food that Rome had to offer — we were especially excited about the pasta, gelato, tiramisu, and espresso, and it did not disappoint!

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In later blog posts, I will be sharing more about what sites we saw during our trip to Rome. If you don’t want to miss a new post, enter your email to follow my blog and get every post sent straight to your inbox!

 

Summertime New England Road Trip

Last summer, Ryan and I decided that we were going to take advantage of living within driving distance of New England and explore this area that had been on our bucket list for some time. After going over many different options and talking with local friends, we decided to visit Acadia National Park; Portland, Maine; and Newport, Rhode Island. It ended up being a crazy trip with a lot of driving, but we had an amazing time and can’t say how happy we are that we decided to check out these places!

Our first stop was Acadia National Park. We decided to stay in Augusta, ME to help cut down on our initial drive while still being within a few hours of the park. We got up bright and early on the first full day of our trip in order to maximize our time at Acadia. Acadia National Park is quite expansive, so you could definitely spend multiple days there and still not see everything. Unfortunately we could only afford to take one day exploring Acadia in order to maximize the amount of sites we could visit during the long holiday weekend. Thankfully there are many blog posts that detail the must-see sites of Acadia, so we were able to plan out the spots that we were most interested in seeing.

Once we got to the park, we decided to drive along Park Loop Road, which leads you in a loop around a small section of Acadia. There were spots to pull off along the way and take in some of the famous sites. The forecast was calling for an overcast day, and to be honest, we were a little disappointed at first, but we quickly realized that there isn’t really a “bad day” to go exploring at Acadia National Park. As we were researching all that Acadia had to offer, we discovered that there were a variety of different hikes with varying levels of difficulty as well as duration. We enjoyed the ability to take hiking breaks to stretch our legs and really take in the beauty of this national park. These pictures were only able to capture a small fraction of the beauty of Acadia.

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Next up on our road trip was Portland, Maine. When Ryan’s coworker heard we were headed to Maine, he told us that we needed to check out Portland. Portland wasn’t initially on our radar, but after some research we decided we should add it to our list. One place that really caught our attention was the popular donut shop The Holy Donut. Their donuts are potato based and the flavors are incredible. If you find yourself in Portland, Maine, don’t think; just go to The Holy Donut. You can thank me later. After picking up our donuts (once they sell out they are done for the day, hence we had to make this one of our first stops!), we spent the rest of the day walking around the downtown area and checking out a few lighthouses within driving distance (we are suckers for a good lighthouse). We were thankful that Ryan’s coworker encouraged us to check out Portland during our time in Maine.

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The final stop on our road trip was Newport, Rhode Island. This was my favorite of the three places that we visited. Newport is an adorable coastal city with cute shops and amazing water views. Ryan and I both agreed that it reminded us a little of Mackinac Island (located in the UP of Michigan) and Annapolis, MD. After fueling up with some delicious coffee, we headed out for our main activity for the day, which was the Cliff Walk. The Cliff Walk is a 3.5 mile path that follows the shoreline while taking you past some of the Newport Mansions. Ryan and I started halfway through the walk (at 40 steps like some sites suggested). The walk was beautiful, and the mansions were incredible! What we weren’t expecting was the treacherous terrain on certain parts of the walk. Ryan and I read up on the Cliff Walk a lot before our trip, and NONE of the sites said anything about being sure to wear the proper shoes for this walk. We both wore our Birkenstocks and wished we would’ve worn tennis shoes. Other than that, we both agreed that it was a great way to spend the afternoon!

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Views along the Cliff Walk

And with that, our road trip came to an end. It was a very packed long weekend, full of delicious treats and breathtaking views. We can’t wait for our next opportunity to check out even more of New England!

Have you visited New England? What spots are some of your favorites?

UK Trip: Ireland

Our trip was quickly coming to a close, but we still had one stop left — Ireland. We were especially excited about this stop because we were going to see our friends, Josh and Annie. Josh and I were neighbors growing up, and our families have continued to stay friends throughout the years. Ryan and I joked with Josh and Annie a few years ago that we were waiting to take our UK trip until they made it to Ireland so we could visit them at the same time. Isn’t it great when a plan works out?! 😉

We made it to the airport in Glasgow, Scotland, returned the rental car, and took a short flight over to Dublin. We landed in Dublin around 5:30 pm and had a 2 1/2 hour drive to our friends’ house. It was a little crazy getting out of the city of Dublin, especially with once again having to acclimate to driving on the other side of the road, but the drive eased up significantly once we left the city. We arrived late that evening and headed to bed pretty quickly in anticipation of a full day of sightseeing the next day.

We did not make too many plans for our time in Ireland, since the main item on our agenda was catching up with our friends! We were only spending 3 full days there, so we decided to give free rein to Josh to show us around some of his favorite spots in the area. Our first stop was Rosses Point, which had beautiful ocean views and gorgeous green landscape. We thought it was pretty cool to say we had seen the other side of the Atlantic Ocean!

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After our time at Rosses Point, we decided to head to Strandhill to eat lunch at Shells Cafe, one of Josh and Annie’s favorite little cafes. Along the way, Josh took us on a quick pit stop to check out the grave of William Butler Yeats (a very well-known Irish poet).

As we were waiting for a table at Shells Cafe, we decided to check out the beach right outside of the restaurant. We truly enjoyed seeing more of the area where our friends live, and not having to plan the sightseeing made for such a relaxing day! Our meal was amazing; by far one of the best of our whole trip! The whole cafe smelled like coconut from their coffee bar, so naturally Ryan and I had to get some coffee to go. (It was delicious, in case you were wondering 😉 Ryan got an Americano, and I decided on a coconut latte — coconut is one of my favorite flavors!)

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Nothing like a windy coffee selfie 😉

We finished our day in the town of Sligo and spent time looking around at the shops and indulging in some delicious gelato.  Sligo is such a cute town, and you could tell it is a hub for locals. Josh introduced us to a woodworker who had his own shop in Sligo. We had a blast talking to him and listening to his stories. He even made us a woodcarving to take home from one of the scraps he had lying around his shop!

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The next day we attended church with Josh and Annie. Josh is the pastor at Carrick Baptist Church, and we were so thankful for the opportunity to worship together with the believers there. The people at the church made us feel so welcome, and we truly enjoyed the opportunity to get to know them! This was definitely a highlight of our trip, and we would LOVE to make it back again soon.

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Ryan and me with Josh, Annie, and Eva (unfortunately, Cian did not make it into the picture since he was napping 🙂 )
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We saw SO many rainbows during our stay in Ireland. This one was probably our favorite though!

Ryan and I left Josh and Annie’s house the next morning to head into Dublin for the day. We decided to spend the night before our flight in Dublin so we wouldn’t have to make the 2 1/2 hour drive the morning of our flight. Ryan was excited to explore Dublin a little, and thanks to Josh and Annie, we had a lot of great tips on where to go and what to see!

Our time in Dublin was a little limited, but some of the highlights were Trinity College, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and the Ha’penny Bridge. First we made our way to Trinity College to check out this famous campus. Unfortunately, we did not arrive in time to see the Book of Kells (next trip 😉 ), but we still enjoyed walking around and admiring the incredible architecture. Next, we saw St. Patrick’s Cathedral. This was a special site for us since St. Patrick’s Cathedral here in NYC was modeled after the one in Dublin. We were excited to get back to the States and check out the similarities! Finally, we ended the day by strolling along the river and checking out the numerous bridges in the city —the Ha’penny Bridge was my favorite for sure!

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Trinity College
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St. Patrick’s Cathedral
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The Ha’penny Bridge
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I could not let our time in Dublin go without quoting one of my favorite movies: “Dublin is a city of chancers and cheats and backstabbing snakes.” – Leap Year

And with that our trip to the UK and Ireland came to a close. The next day was a full, exhausting day of traveling back home.

Thanks so much for following along on our adventure. This trip was absolutely incredible; it will definitely be one that we will remember forever.

If you missed any of my earlier posts, check out the links below!

UK Trip: London
UK Trip: Edinburgh, Scotland
UK Trip: Scotland Road Trip (Part 1)
UK Trip: Isle of Skye
UK Trip: Scotland Road Trip (Part 2)

UK Trip: Scotland Road Trip (Part 2)

Our time in Scotland was quickly coming to a close. Even though we had seen so much in the short time we were there, it only made us want to see even more. We hope to be able to get back to Scotland one day to take in its beauty again.

The first stop on our last full day in Scotland was Eilean Donan Castle. Scotland — and all of the UK and Ireland, really — is full of castles, but this was one castle that I REALLY wanted to be sure to see. Eilean Donan Castle is one of the most photographed castles in Scotland, and I can definitely see why! This castle was only 10 minutes away from our B&B in Balmacara which made it a super easy stop on our way out. Funny story, we actually stopped by on our way in to Balmacara to try and knock out seeing the castle before our trip to Skye, but we happened to get a windy, rainy evening to see the castle. We still stopped to take some pictures, but as you can see in the side-by-side shots, the sun a few days later made a BIG difference!

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Our last day was one of the longest legs of our road trip through Scotland. We knew we would be spending the majority of the day in the car, but thankfully we got a beautiful sunny day to drive. We both agree that Glencoe was by far the most beautiful stretch of our drive. As we drove through Glencoe, we were a little regretful that we didn’t plan out more time to spend there. (There is always the next trip, right? 😉 )

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Even though our day was set aside mainly for driving, we did have a goal to make it to our B&B in Stirling early enough to see the Wallace Monument before the sun went down. We were pushing it a little bit but made it to the monument just before sunset. I definitely couldn’t think of a better way to end our last night in Scotland than watching the sunset outside of the Wallace Monument looking out over the city of Stirling.

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Our flight to Ireland was scheduled for later in the afternoon which meant that we had time for one more stop in Scotland — Stirling Castle. We got to the castle soon after it opened and took the 30-minute complimentary tour which gave us a lot of info about the history of the castle. (We cannot recommend taking those complimentary tours enough!) We explored the castle for about 2 hours then decided to head to Glasgow to return the rental car and get on our plane to Ireland!

As sad as we were to leave Scotland, we were SUPER excited to meet up with some of our good friends in Ireland for a few days. More about our time in Ireland in a few weeks!

UK Trip: Isle of Skye

Ryan and I had spent most of our time in Scotland on the move from one place to the other exploring as much of the beautiful countryside as we could, but we decided that Isle of Skye deserved a day of its own. This was one place that kept popping up on lists of places to see in Scotland, and I now know why! This area of Scotland is absolutely breathtaking and is full of beautiful scenery and hiking trails.

Our day started off with a hearty breakfast at our Bed & Breakfast. We knew we needed to fuel up since our day would be packed!

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A traditional Scottish breakfast with a view

One of our favorite parts of the day was the unexpected sighting of a hairy coo (cow). Highland cattle (yes, I did look it up, and if you are curious and want to read about them, I linked the wikipedia article ;)) is the technical name, but they are more commonly referred to as hairy coo. Ryan and I had stopped on the side of the road to take a picture when all of a sudden we heard this very loud mooing. We looked around and saw the hairy coo in the distance and had to get closer to snap a few pictures.

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Isle of Skye has many different hiking trails available for all levels of hikers, but from this vast list of hikes, there was one that really piqued my interest — Brother’s Point. This was a hike that wasn’t as popular as others, but from everything I read it was just as beautiful as the more popular hikes with the added bonus of fewer tourists! With the detailed directions of this blog post, we had no trouble finding our way there. Ryan is usually the navigator on any adventure we take, but this time I decided to surprise him and led the way. This just goes to show you how detailed and accurate the instructions were from this blog post. The only thing the blog post did not warn you about was all of the sheep poo that you would have to dodge on your hike. (Fair warning to all of you looking to hike Brother’s Point) It took about 2 hours to get there and back, but it was definitely worth it. We both don’t regret taking the time for this hike!

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We saw so many rainbows during our day in Skye thanks to the bursts of sunshine throughout the overcast day.
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The rocky beach we traversed on our way to Brother’s Point
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Brother’s Point (and yes, we did climb to the top!)
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The view from the top of Brother’s Point – Ryan described it as something from a fairy tale

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After our hike (half in the rain, half in the sunshine), we got back in the car to check out some other famous points. Kilt Rock was next on the list and a favorite of mine! This waterfall was beautiful, and it even had a car park right next to the lookout point.

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Ryan decided to enjoy a local favorite, Irn Bru, while overlooking Kilt Rock. It tasted like carbonated bubblegum (let’s just say we were not huge fans lol).

For the rest of the daylight hours, we enjoyed driving through Isle of Skye, soaking up all of the beautiful scenery. The host at our Bed & Breakfast told us earlier that morning that we didn’t get a very good day to explore Skye, but we were still blown away by its beauty. We cannot imagine how beautiful Skye would be on a clear day!

There is so much more to see in Skye than what we could fit into a day during our trip. Most people spend multiple days there hiking and exploring, and we can understand why! We would love to go back one day to explore other areas of the isle; however, we are thankful for the day we were able to spend there. This was one of my favorite days of our whole trip!

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I could not get enough of all the sheep we saw in Scotland!
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Saying goodbye to Skye

Sadly, our time in Scotland was coming to a close. The majority of our last full day in Scotland was spent driving, but it was the most beautiful stretch of our road trip! We also managed to make time to see two other major sites before leaving Scotland. More on those in a few weeks!

UK Trip: Scotland Road Trip (Part 1)

When our time in Edinburgh was up, we set off on a road trip around Scotland to check out some famous sites. This only made us want to check out even more of Scotland, and we hope one day to make it back to explore some of these places that we didn’t get a chance to explore on this trip. We decided to stay in Bed & Breakfasts during this portion of the trip, and we would HIGHLY recommend this to others looking to explore Scotland. At each stop we had lovely hosts, delicious breakfasts, and clean, tidy rooms. This helped us experience a little more of the Scottish culture which we loved!

First on our list was St. Andrews. Now, you may be wondering why St. Andrews is so significant — it just so happens to be the home of golf, and when your husband is an avid golfer, you make it a point to stop at the Old Course at St. Andrews. It was a cold, windy day, but we still made it a point to walk the entire length of the Old Course at St. Andrews. We spent a solid 1-2 hours there, and we don’t regret that decision one bit. Ryan was beyond excited to check out this iconic golf course, and I loved seeing him so happy.

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Ryan couldn’t resist getting a true feel for the course

Since we spent so much time at St. Andrews, we really didn’t have much time to explore anything else that day. After checking into our B&B in Aberdeen, we decided to take a walk into town to find a place to eat dinner. We found this little Italian restaurant, and it was so good! We decided to take our trip to the UK during the off season; one of the benefits to traveling during the off season is many places aren’t as crowded. As you can see from this picture, we had this whole section of the restaurant to ourselves! haha

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The next day was a long day of driving for us, so we decided to take a break at the halfway point in Inverness to stretch our legs and grab something to eat. After taking an hour to check out Inverness, we were back on the road again in order to get to our next B&B on time. One of the reasons we decided to drive through Scotland was to take in the beautiful scenery of the Scottish countryside. We thoroughly enjoyed stopping along the side of the road whenever we wanted just to take a closer look at something.

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Taking a quick break at Loch Ness to look for “Nessie”
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Some castle ruins we checked out along the way

We finally made it to our B&B in Balmacara, Scotland. Our plan for the whole next day was to explore Isle of Skye, and I was super excited. This was the part of our trip that I was most excited about, and it definitely exceeded expectations! More on Isle of Skye in a few weeks.

UK Trip: Edinburgh, Scotland

After spending 2 days in London, Ryan and I were excited to take the train to Edinburgh, Scotland. I have Scottish family roots, so this was the part of the trip that I had been waiting for! Taking the train to Scotland gave us the chance to relax while admiring the English countryside. (We highly recommend taking the train if you can!) The train ride took about 5 hours, so when we arrived in Edinburgh it was later in the afternoon.

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Boarding the train to Edinburgh

We decided to climb up to Arthur’s Seat to see the sunset on our first night in Edinburgh. In all the research I did leading up to the trip, so many bloggers and friends told us about this hike and how stunning the views were from the top. After dropping our suitcases off at the hotel and taking a few moments to get our bearings, we started to make our way toward Arthur’s Seat. The views throughout the entire hike were beautiful, but nothing could compete with the view from the top! The grueling hike was definitely worth it once you saw those stunning Edinburgh city views. We took our time taking in the views, but once the wind and cold got to be too much to handle, we decided to make our way back down. The hike to Arthur’s Seat was the perfect start to our time in Edinburgh.

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Amazing city views at the top of Arthur’s Seat

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One of the major events that we had planned for our trip was to go to a football (soccer) match (game). The timing worked out great to see two Scottish club teams play in Edinburgh while we were there visiting. After fueling up with a hearty brunch, we took the tram to the stadium. Ryan is a huge soccer fan and was very excited to be attending a match in the UK. This was the very first football match I had ever attended, and it was quite the experience.

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After the match was over, we headed back to check out the Scottish Museum. We didn’t have much time to look at all the exhibits, but the ones that we did get a chance to check out were very interesting. After looking around the museum a little, we headed over to Elephant House to satisfy my need to check out this famous Harry Potter site. For those who are wondering, Elephant House is a little cafe in Edinburgh that is known for being the “birthplace of Harry Potter.” Tradition states that J. K. Rowling wrote large portions of the Harry Potter books there.

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For our last full day in Edinburgh, we decided to walk the full length of the Royal Mile. The Royal Mile is a road that stretches from Edinburgh Castle all the way to Holyrood Palace (the residence for the Queen of England when she stays in Edinburgh). There were many sites to see along the way, so we had a full day ahead of us.

The first stop of the day was Edinburgh Castle. One tip we have from checking out multiple castles is to take the complimentary tour of the castle. We didn’t do this for the Tower of London, and it definitely made the castle feel more overwhelming. The quick, complimentary tour points out some highlights and gives some of the history of the castle. After the tour, you can go back and check out the exhibits that seem the most interesting to you. Edinburgh Castle was very impressive and my favorite of the 3 castles we visited on our trip.

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Edinburgh Castle

The next stop was the Scott Monument. This monument offers awesome open-air lookout points of the city of Edinburgh. The staircases leading up to these lookout points are narrow, and they just keep getting more narrow as you go further up the monument. Thankfully, we got a beautiful, sunny day to climb up and explore the monument.

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View from the top

After the Scott Monument we headed back to the Royal Mile and stopped to check out St. Giles Cathedral. The main draw to check out the cathedral — besides the beauty, of course — was that John Knox preached at St. Giles during the Reformation. It was the perfect spot to rest our feet for a few minutes before heading back out to the Royal Mile.

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We took the rest of the afternoon to check out the little shops that line the Royal Mile and really enjoyed browsing the many Scottish goods. One of our favorite memories from our time in Edinburgh was actually striking up a conversation with a shop owner. I was looking for a particular scarf and was having trouble finding it, so I decided to ask the shop owner for some help. He was very friendly and knowledgeable, and after receiving an answer to my question, I decided to buy a scarf from his shop. I was having trouble deciding which scarf I wanted (story of my life), and as I was deciding, the shop owner noticed that Ryan was wearing a football (soccer) scarf of one of the teams from Edinburgh. He asked Ryan if he went to the match yesterday, and Ryan told him that he did. The conversation just picked up from there, and before we knew it, we had spent about 15 minutes talking with this shop owner about sports, Edinburgh, and other places to visit in Scotland.

We loved Edinburgh. It was the perfect starting point on our trip through Scotland. For the next several days we planned to drive from one side of the country to the other checking out sites along the way. More on that in the weeks to come!