A Week in Scotland

A Week in Scotland

Soaking up the sound of Scottish bagpipes and marveling at Highland dance routines over dinner in Inverness.  Take a private tour of Glenturret Distillery and a private cruise on Loch Ness.  Traveling through pretty-as-a-picture Glencoe, surrounded by forest, mountains, and moors.  Exploring historic castles, from Blair to Edinburgh.  This is but a wee glimpse into what a week in storybook Scotland could look like for you with our esteemed supplier, well-versed in everything the country has to offer and guided by regional experts.

Let’s take a closer look at what you can look forward to during a week in Scotland.

Glasgow

glasgow

With a historic landmark hotel as your home base, explore Glasgow at your leisure.  Stirling Castle is a delight – a remarkable example of Scottish Renaissance architecture and how a town can develop around a castle.  Here, too, you’ll take your exclusive tour of the Highlands’ oldest single malt distillery, where you can enjoy a sample and learn the art of whisky making.  Before venturing into the wild Trossachs region, attend an impressive falconry presentation.

Inverness

river ness- highlands scotland

Move through Glencoe and Loch Lochy to Inverness, the capital of the Highlands, after an iconic cruise across Loch Ness.  Spend a couple of days here, going back to the medieval days of the Cawdor Castle.  Macbeth fans will recognize the castle’s connections to Shakespeare’s Scottish king’s tragedy.  History buffs will enjoy a visit to the famous fields of the pivotal Battle of Culloden, which divided families and clans in the region.  Later, learn about clan tartans and Scottish kilts during a typically Scottish evening, complete with Highland dancers and bagpipe music.

Edinburgh

bagpipes-scotland

After your insightful stay in Inverness, continue on toward Edinburgh, stopping first for a traditional sheepdog demonstration at a picturesque Highlands farm.  Then, move on to the beautiful Blair Castle, passing through the granite Cairngorm Mountains and the soaring Grampian Range.  In Blair Atholl, get your first glimpse of the namesake castle, where you can imagine life in 16th-century Scotland as you tour 30 historic rooms.  Then, head south to Edinburgh.

Spend a couple of hours on the Royal Mile before an exclusive visit to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the home of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Queen’s official residence when she is in Edinburgh.  Take in the sights at Edinburgh Castle, where Scottish kings were crowned on the “Stone of Destiny.” 

Note: if you visit Edinburgh during August, you can attend the world-famous Edinburgh Military Tattoo, performed in front of the castle by Scottish military units.

Edinburgh/St. Andrews

the kimpton blythswood-square-lobby

Photo credit:  The Kimpton Blythswood Square Hotel lobby

If you’d like, spend even more time in enticing Edinburgh and visiting its myriad museums, historic sites, galleries, and gardens.  Or, if you’re a passionate golfer, visit St. Andrews by the sea, where you can soak up the regional golf lore and play some of the finest greens of your life.

Stay in Stately Scotland Accommodations

Your overnight stays in Scotland put the finishing touch on a delightful week. Depending on availability, you may stay at:

The Kimpton Blythswood Square Hotel

Settle in at this prestigious address overlooking a private garden square. While it has been brought firmly into the 21st century and is renowned for its esteemable service, it’s easy to feel the history of the square, once lined by townhomes that were homes to wealthy merchants.

Kingsmill Hotel

Join the legions of royalty, heads of state, celebrities and savvy travelers who have enjoyed the warm hospitality of his charming hotel just outside Inverness. Venture out for whisky tours, fishing and golf, then head back to your spacious, comfortable guest room to unwind.

InterContinental Edinburgh The George: A five-star gem comprising five, connected Georgian townhomes on the city’s best shopping street, just a short walk from Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace and Waverley Station.

Ready to spend a memorable week in Scotland? Get in touch with us to help you plan the trip of your dreams!  

Scotland Travel Guide

Scotland Travel Guide

To describe Scotland, in a nutshell, would be a huge disservice to this intriguing UK country. With its stunning natural landscapes, historical settings, pristine lochs, countryside castles, and more, it is a destination of myriad highlights. Consider this a brief primer on Scotland travel and its many wonders. Get outside the purple heather of Cairngorms National Park and the Highlands, or liven things up in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Get inspired, then let’s chat about getting you there.

When Is the Best Time to Visit Scotland?

city streets in Scotland

As with many European countries, the ideal time to visit is the spring and fall, once the weather has warmed up, but it’s not too hot, outside peak tourism seasons. Consider late March to May or September to November.

Springtime temperatures will fall between 43°F to 59°F. Expect lingering snow if you’re traveling into the mountains of the Highlands and the Cairngorms. In the fall, tourism dies down around late October. Capitalize on this and see Scotland’s gorgeous fall foliage without the crowds. Some sites will close mid-October, but you’ll still find much to do through November.

Getting to and Around Scotland

take the train in Scotland

Scotland is easily accessible from the rest of the UK and overseas. Travel into and around the country by road, rail, ferry, and air, with a little more careful planning for reaching the more remote areas and islands. Scottish towns, cities, villages, and ferry ports are almost all serviced by public transportation. And there is an extensive road and rail network throughout the country.

Top Things to Do in Scotland

st-andrews-golf course Scotland

Here are just a “wee dram” of the countless attractions throughout Scotland: 

 

  • Ride the world-famous West Highland Railway (you’ll cross the Glenfinnan Viaduct you know from Harry Potter).
  • Hike at Portree Bay, Creag Bheag, and Fort William for mesmerizing views of Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest mountain.
  • Browse the art galleries and craft shops of Kingussie, or go golfing or horseback riding nearby.
  • Visit the Eilean Donan Castle, first inhabited in the 6th century and known for its picturesque island setting.
  • Taste and tour whiskey distilleries on the Isle of Skye.
  • Learn about Glasgow’s history at the Riverside Museum and enjoy a fish supper in Merchant City
  • Explore Edinburgh, its imposing castle, the Royal Mile, the fairytale-esque Dean Village, and eclectic portside Leigh for shopping and dining.
highland-cattle-in Scotland

Best Places to Stay in Scotland

Scotland castle -eilean-donan

From storybook guest cottages to lavish countryside estates, family-run B&Bs to sleek city stays, Scotland offers a host of accommodation options. Here are some of our favorites:

The Torridon 

For pampering and prestige, stay at this family-owned and -operated retreat where outdoor pursuits range from clay pigeon shooting to mountain biking to kayaking in a sea loch. The award-winning Whisky Bar and the 3 AA Rosette-awarded dining room are a must. 

Arden Country House 

On the beautiful grounds of Belsyde Country Estate and close to the Royal Burgh of Linlithgow (birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots), this peaceful yet modern country house B&B provides easy access to Edinburgh and central Scotland. 

Glenapp Castle 

Live out your royal fantasies at five-star Glenapp Castle with just 17 indulgent bedrooms and a renowned dining room. Tucked away in Ayrshire, the castle boasts period furnishings and interiors, breathtaking gardens, mystical forests, and luscious seascapes surrounding the grounds. 

Blythswood Square

This Glasglow city center hotel is a sophisticated stay after a day of sightseeing, with the city’s first luxury spa, 100 elegant guest rooms, a delightfully casual restaurant, a couple of convivial bars, and even a private screening room. 

If you’ve enjoyed this taste of Scotland, stay tuned for our upcoming blog post, “A Week in Scotland,” for inspiration and ideas for your own trip.

If you’ve enjoyed this taste of Scotland, stay tuned for our upcoming blog post, “A Week in Scotland,” for travel inspiration and ideas for your own trip.

Exploring Amsterdam:  The Ultimate Travel Guide

Exploring Amsterdam: The Ultimate Travel Guide

Exploring Amsterdam is a fantastic experience you should add to your travel itinerary. Its characteristic canals (UNESCO World Heritage) surrounded by narrow, low, and crooked 17th-century houses make it one of Europe’s most charming capital cities most travelers want to visit. Despite its full-scale city size, Amsterdam maintains its small-town feel thanks to its vibrant culture and numerous entertainment options.

With over 50 museums, of which many are famous across the globe, this city is a real treat for art-lovers: highlights include the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, and the Stedelijk Museum.  Use my travel tips from this Amsterdam travel guide to plan your trip!

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link.

Best time to visit

Summer is the most popular time for tourists to visit Amsterdam. To avoid crowds, come in April–May or September.
The spring season is characterized by mild temperatures, while golden trees indicate autumn.

The peak tourist season occurs in April and May. Regardless of the season, be prepared for rain. Locals use websites like buie.nl to predict when the weather is down to minutes.

Amsterdam is a popular tourist destination in the summer, so expect long waits at popular attractions. Regarding accommodation, summer is also the most expensive time of year.

As the temperature drops in the autumn and winter, so do hotel prices and tourist numbers. Museums and cafes are the perfect indoor attractions during this time of year. Seeing the city blanketed in snow is a spectacular sight. If the winter happens to be particularly cold, you can ice-skate on the frozen canals. Some cafes set tables and chairs straight on the ice.

Getting to Amsterdam

getting around Amsterdam by bike

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) is a modern, efficient, and traveler-friendly airport. 90 airlines depart from Schiphol to over 250 destinations worldwide. The easiest and cheapest way to travel from the airport to Amsterdam is by train. The train station at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is located directly below the airport. During the day, trains leave at least every 15 minutes for Central Station (less frequently at night). Purchase your ticket at the NS service desk or ticket machines.

Getting around Amsterdam

netherlands clogs

Taxi

You can take taxis to and from the airport when the trams stop running late at night or when you’re running late. During peak traffic times, however, public transport might get you there even faster. At tourist hotspots, you can hail a taxi or catch one at designated cab stands. 

Public transportation

A GVB day or multi-day ticket is the most convenient way to travel. In Amsterdam, you can choose from 15 tram lines, 41 bus lines, 7 ferry connections, and 4 metro lines to reach various destinations. These tickets are available at GVB Tickets & Info and tourist offices.  

Electricity

The Netherlands use the 220-240 Volt (50 Mhz) system that’s common everywhere in Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa. But since electricity plugs often still differ, visitors from some countries (e.g. the UK, Australia, Switzerland, Ireland) need to bring a plug adaptor.

Currency

In Amsterdam, as well as in all the Netherlands and many other countries of the European Community, the accepted currency is Euro (EUR, €), no other currencies are commonly accepted, so you will have to change your dollars, sterling, yens, etc to Euros.

Things to do in Amsterdam

Anne Frank House

During World War II, Anne Frank wrote her famous diary in the Anne Frank House. In this location, you can find quotes from a diary, photos, films, and original objects owned by the people in hiding and those who helped them. Anne’s original diary is on display in the museum as well. As a museum, it recreates the holocaust and war years.

Pro tip:  If you plan on visiting Anne Frank House we recommend purchasing tickets at least 3 weeks in advance or when the tickets come out on the 1st of the month before the month you plan on visiting.

 

anne frank museum in Amsterdam

Rijksmuseum

Rijksmuseum is the largest and most important museum in the Netherlands. After extensive renovations, the Rijksmuseum has reopened with a completely revamped layout. More than 1 million objects are displayed, including many masterpieces and artifacts worldwide.

Pro tip:  We highly recommend booking skip-the-line tickets for Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum along with any other major attractions.

Where to stay

Jordaan street Amsterdam

Amsterdam has a lot of hotel options for all budgets. Jordaan is the city’s most affluent neighborhood and home to world-class hotels and restaurants. For first-time visitors, the city’s center is a great place to stay. To help you out, here are a few of our favorite hotels in Amsterdam.

Pavilions Amsterdam, Hotel Toren – 4-star hotel in the canal district

The Dylan Amsterdam – a luxurious boutique hotel in a stunning location

Banks Mansion – 4-star boutique all-inclusive hotel

We hope that this travel guide has helped inspire you to visit Amsterdam.  If you have any questions about the city reach out to us.

The Perfect 7-Day Itinerary of Puglia

The Perfect 7-Day Itinerary of Puglia

Puglia is known for its crystal-blue coasts, whitewashed cities with authentic food and wine to cultural traditions. Traveling to southern Italy is exciting, but it can also be overwhelming. What do you see first? Can you fit everything in? The good news is that we’ve got your back. Here is the perfect 7-day itinerary of Puglia that will enchant even well-heeled travelers. 

DAY 1 

ARRIVAL & OSTUNI

plan your day at ostuni-church

Upon arrival at Brindisi airport, you’ll be transferred to Ostuni by private vehicle. Continue with a leisurely stroll through Ostuni’s stone streets. Looking for the perfect way to end your first day in Puglia? Try dining in the historic center. After a busy day of exploring, you deserve a good night’s sleep at the 5-star Hotel La Sommità.

There are a lot of great places to eat in Ostuni.

Dinner at Osteria Del Tempo Perso or Il Boccone.

 

DAY 2

OSTUNI – MANDURIA – LECCE

Begin the day with a guided tour of the ancient quarter in the town of Manduria, including its historic synagogue. Transfer by private car to Lecce, the “Florence of the South,” in the afternoon. Head to a local trattoria for dinner in the evening before staying overnight in Lecce.

DAY 3

SANTA MARIA AL BAGNO – GALLIPOLI – NARDÒ – LECCE

rock houses Gallipoli

Ready to discover the seaside gems of Gallipoli, Nardò, and Santa Maria al Bagno with a local guide?  Don’t forget to ask them about their favorite place to dine.  Tonight you’ll save time by staying another night in the city center of Lecce.

DAY 4

LECCE

No visit to Lecce is complete without a guided exploration of Lecce’s rich past, including the remains of the Roman theater. Enjoy a walking tour of the center in the afternoon, including food tastings. Tonight we suggest you choose a new restaurant you haven’t tried yet.

 Dinner at Blu Notte or Corte dei Pandolfi

DAY 5

GALATINA – OTRANTO – SANTA CESAREA TERME

otranto italy

Next, after breakfast, transfer to Galatina for a guided exploration of this historic hilltop town.  Head to the seaside jewel of Otranto after lunch— famed for its medieval buildings and blue seas.  After dinner, stay at the scenic Masseria Montelauro in the countryside near Otranto.

DAY 6

SANTA MARIA DI LEUCA – OTRANTO

The perfect day includes exploring the stunning sea caves near Santa Maria di Leuca by private boat. A charming fishing village in Puglia, Specchia is the ideal place to spend the afternoon. You’ll have dinner in the countryside near Otranto and spend another night at the Masseria Montelauro.

DAY 7

ALBEROBELLO – MATERA

alberobello on bike

During your last full day in southern Italy, take a guided trip to Alberobello, where you will see its iconic stone “trulli” homes.  After lunch, a private transfer will take you to Matera.  Here you will explore the mountaintop city at sunset. Dinner in an authentic ristorante in Matera and overnight at the luxurious Hotel Sextantio (5*)

DAY 8

DEPARTURE

Private transfer to the Bari airport for your departing flights.

Ready to plan an itinerary of Puglia together? Let’s start planning!

A London Primer

A London Primer

Captivating in countless ways, London is one of the most popular cities in the world. Between world-class museums and historical monuments, you can duck into charming pubs or picnic in peaceful urban parks. You can search for treasures in Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill or eat your way through the bustling Borough Market. Attend mesmerizing theatrical performances and stroll through characterful neighborhoods like a local. Here’s a primer for your trip to London. In addition to these tips, I have a great deal more information.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link.

When to Visit London

big ben view in london

Similar to the Pacific Northwest in the United States, London can be overcast, foggy, and drizzly for much of the year. It doesn’t tend to get heavy-parka-cold. But when the temperatures are cool, and it’s raining outside, it can feel colder than the thermometer registers. The winter/low tourism season is from December to February when temps can dip below 41°F.

Summer/high tourism season is July and August when the temperatures (and prices) are at their highest (but typically no warmer than 86°F. Consider traveling to London during the spring (late March-June) or autumn (September-October), when the temperatures are moderate, and the crowds are thinner. No matter when you visit, bring along a light jacket and travel umbrella.

Getting to London

getting around London

London is one of the most well-connected cities in the world. Direct flights from the US depart from Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Washington, DC, Orlando, Las Vegas, Dallas, Houston, and other gateway cities. London’s largest airport (and the busiest in Europe) is Heathrow Airport (LHR). Gatwick Airport (LGW) is the second largest airport in London. Both are convenient and linked by public transit to the city center.

London is also readily accessible by Eurostar train. A nice option if you travel elsewhere in Europe before or after visiting London.

Cuisine & Culture

mcmullen-london
english tea and scones
bangers and mash

Whatever your palate prefers, you’ll find it in London. There are haute cuisine options in many of the more upscale hotels and neighborhoods. But if you’re seeking something more authentic and local, you’ll find it here, too. From Indian in the East End to Turkish at Green Lanes, from the up-and-coming eateries of Soho to Chinatown, foodies find much to love in London.

Culturally speaking, you can’t go wrong in London. Visit the Tate Modern and the British Film Institute or take in a theater or musical performance along with the South Bank, and of course, don’t miss the West End if you’re a true theater buff. Move on to the Tate Britain in Pimlico, the National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square, and you’ve accomplished a more cultural day than almost any you’ve had recently.

Want more? Time your visit with the London Fashion Week in September or The Lord Mayor’s Show in November, full of pomp, circumstance, and processions.

Top Things to Do in London

british-museum-London England

While this is not an exhaustive list by any means (and we can chat about your personal interests and preferences), here’s a starter guide to the city’s top highlights: 

 

Pro Tips

buckingham-palace-

Stay Central: For first-time visitors who want to be conveniently located to the top attractions, consider staying in Covent Garden, Piccadilly and Leicester Square (all part of the West End). 

Pre-Book Attractions:  Consider pre-booking certain attractions with timed entry. This will save you heartache if something is super busy or sold out, and help you plan your sightseeing time overall. 

Travel in the Off Season:  Like we mentioned above, consider traveling to London in the spring or fall to beat the crowds. 

We hope you have found this London travel primer helpful. If you have any questions about the destination or need help planning a trip, let’s chat! Looking for more info? Check out my guide for your First time in London

Destination Guide:  One day in Dubrovnik

Destination Guide: One day in Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik is a Mediterranean city nestled on the coast of the sparkling Adriatic Sea in southern Croatia. This charming city captures your heart with its breathtaking old town filled with white limestone streets and ancient city walls. In addition to having plenty to do for every traveler, Dubrovnik is one of Europe’s must-see destinations. Read along to find out how we spent our day in Dubrovnik.

When to go

Although the city is undeniably beautiful all year long, it is best appreciated during the “shoulder season.” These months include May and June, as well as September and October. During these months, you can avoid the height of the tourist season (and the heat!)

How to get around

As you’ll be within the walls of the old town, where no cars are allowed, make sure you bring practical walking shoes. In the rest of the city, an extensive bus network connects all parts of the city. Buses run every 20-30 minutes, but the service does stop for 3-4 hours in the early morning. There is also a 24-hour taxi service available.

Where to eat

You’ll undoubtedly find fresh seafood in Dubrovnik no matter where you go! There are still plenty of places to find something delicious to rave about, even if you are not a fan of seafood. For the perfect end to your gastronomic experience, enjoy a glass of wine from a local vineyard.

dubrovnik beer
squid-Dubrovnik restaurant

What to see

Fort Lovrijenac

Fort Lovrijenac was our first stop of the day in Dubrovnik, built on a rock overlooking the sea. This fortress’s primary importance was defending the western part of Dubrovnik from attacks by land and sea. Be prepared to climb lots of steps to reach the top.

fort lovrijenac-Dubrovnik-cannon
fort lovrijenac
fort lovrijenac

The old town

A Dubrovnik day wouldn’t be complete without a tour through the old town! Within the walls, you will find a world of history and culture. The well-preserved city is full of places to pick up a few souvenirs, savor a cup of coffee, and examine the architecture. Here is where you will find the classic attractions such as the Franciscan Monastery, Rector’s Palace, and Dubrovnik Cathedral.

old town Dubrovnik-church
entrance to old town Dubrovnik

City walls

One of Dubrovnik’s most famous features, the ancient walls, have protected the city for centuries. We walked the entire length enjoying the many viewpoints. Shakespeare plays, and other performances can be seen at select forts along the wall during the summer. Be sure to bring sun protection and something to drink, as there’s very little shade found atop the walls!

a day in Dubrovnik
walking the city walls Dubrovnik
view from the upper walls-Dubrovnik
church tower-Dubrovnik
UNESCO city-Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik cable car

A ride in the cable car was an easy way to get some of the city’s best views. In the early 1990s, the original cable cars were shut down due to bombing. They were later reopened in 2010. The three-minute ride will whisk you up the mountainside, showcasing a panorama of the city and sea the whole way up Srd Hill. Once we reached the top, we snapped plenty of photos. There is a restaurant at the top to enjoy lunch and panoramic views. You can hike down or take a cable car which we did to return to the city.

cable car for panoramic views-Dubrnovik
mountains view in Dubrovnik

Adventure activities

For the adventurers, when you take the cable car or hike up the hill you will also find ziplining and ATVs if you would like to explore more of Dubrovnik.

Ready to discover spending a day in Dubrovnik for yourself?  Let’s get you there!