East coast and the Lothians

This is part 4 of our road trip through Scotland.

We spent the last part of our trip to Scotland heading back to Edinburgh and visiting the Lothians region.

Urquhart Castle on the shore of Loch Ness

The morning started with some traditional Highland mist, which gave the ruins of Urquhart Castle an eerie feel.  Founded in the 13th century, Urquhart played a role in the Wars of Scottish Independence and it was later held as a royal residence. The castle was raided on several occasions by the MacDonald clan and partially destroyed in 1692 to prevent its use by Jacobite forces. We visited the tower and the prison cells, taking in the views over the iconic Loch.

After a short coffee break at the castle’s café, we drove east towards Stonehaven and yes! another Scotish castle, called Dunnottar Castle. I recommend going to Glenfiddich Distillery first, then making a detour by taking the road that leads through Cairngorms National Park, to enjoy beautiful scenery and an encounter with wild reindeer.

Dunnottar Castle

Situated on a rocky headland, where ocean waves crash into dramatic cliffs, this ruined medieval fortress is simply breathtaking to behold. Known as the place where the Scottish crown jewels were hidden from Oliver Cromwell’s invading army in the 17th century, the castle is connected to the mainland  only by a narrow strip of land along which a steep path leads up to the gatehouse. The cliffs in the area serve as nesting grounds to many sea birds, so it is a good opportunity to take some wildlife photos.

From Dunnottar we drove to Edinburgh, crossing the iconic  Forth Bridge, glad to be back in this beautiful capital city.

We woke up well rested and ready for new adventures. Just south of Edinburgh there is a small but famous chapel called Rosslyn Chapel. Since the late 1980s, the chapel was featured in speculative theories concerning a connection to Freemasonry, the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail. It was also featured in the 2003 bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code. What is truth and what is legend I don’t know, but to me, this chapel remained most notable through its architectural features. It is a short drive, so I would definitely recommend a visit here.

Rosslyn Chappel

Driving further south we reached Melrose Abbey and then made a quick stop at Tantallon Castle, on the south-east coast of the Lothians.

In the afternoon we joined a speed boat tour from the Scottish Seaboard Center that took us to visit bird colonies on the remote cliffs of Bass Rock. It’s a great experience, but don’t try it if you get sea sick. The waves are high and rock the boat pretty hard.

Tour to Bass Rock

Late in the evening we returned to Edinburgh in search of a hearty meal and joyous company, which was easy enough to find in one of its traditional pubs. Walking the streets back to the hotel we started to realize just how tired we were at the end of this road trip, but what an amazing experience this has been! Our hearts were filled with beauty and emotion, with the smell of mists and the song of the ocean, with legends and nature and with the hope of one day coming back to Scotland.

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