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Old 1st July 2019, 15:38   #1
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Default Self-drive road trip across Scotland

A trip to Scotland had been in the works for a long time and finally started materializing in December 2018. After a lot of research and planning, dates in May were decided and tickets booked in January. I considered many self-drive rentals operating in the UK like Hertz, Europecar and Sixt and finally settled on a Skoda superb estate automatic from Sixt. The tickets were done with Jet airways which went into rough weather and luckily we managed to get new tickets in Virgin Atlantic in the nick of time at almost the same cost. We got the refund from Jet just before the trip started which we took as a good omen for the trip.

We were a group of five adults, my parents, my wife and a cousin sister. Our trip started from Aberdeen, a small city on the east coast in north Scotland. It is also known as the granite city as the old town has heritage buildings made up of granite which was quarried from mines on the outskirts of Aberdeen. It is also the base for oil rig in the North sea and has port and harbour. On reaching the Sixt car rental, which is about 300 metres from the airport terminal and very clearly marked, we came to know that the Skoda Superb estate is not available and was offered a car from the same group, a BMW 3 series estate. Unfortunately, our luggage did not fit in the 3 series estate. We were offered a BMW X5 automatic, but with extra rental costs. After checking that our luggage fitted in it, I paid the extra amount due and we were off . I was very excited as this was the latest 2019 model with a host of new features and what an experience it was driving over the next 9 days.

It was a short drive of 20 minutes from Aberdeen airport to our accommodation in the city centre. We had ensured that our self-service apartment had parking which is very important as parking is a bit difficult to find and quite expensive. After settling down in our apartment we went to the nearby store to buy daily requirements. After lunch we went to Aberdeenshire to drop our cousin at her relative's for the night. The drive to Aberdeenshire from town centre was beautiful with lush green fields and a golf course at the top of the hill. The next day we explored Duthie's park which is a lovely park near the city centre. It has a highly recommended covered garden which has different areas dedicated to various types of fauna. Overall, Aberdeen is a nice city with beautiful architecture and a good base for visiting places like Stonehaven, Ballater and Braemar if you want to do day trips. We went to Stonehaven which has a beautiful harbour overlooking the North Sea. After staying 2 nights at Aberdeen we moved onto our next destination, Braemar with a visit to the very beautiful Balmoral castle.

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Posing with the car at the SIXT office

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The granite houses at Argyll street, Aberdeen

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View from Golf course at Aberdeenshire

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The Aberdeen beach

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Stonehaven harbour

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Aberdeen architecture

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The river Dee before Balmoral Castle. It has a distinctive dark brown colour because of the peated rocks through which it flows.

A 40-minute drive from Aberdeen brought us to the Balmoral Castle, which is the summer retreat of the Queen of England. We were lucky to be there in May as it was open for the general public. It is huge estate but very disabled friendly. As my father suffers from polio in one leg, the staff allowed us to drive all the way up to the castle. There we were provided with electric mobility scooters which enabled our parents to go around the huge estate with its beautiful lawns and castle.

Some shots of the Balmoral Castle

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After exploring the Balmoral estate we had lunch at the Balmoral cafe and bought some souvenirs from the castle gift shop. I found a very good gin called Teasmith which is distilled in Aberdeen, at the Balmoral gift shop. I must admit it was one of the best gins I have tasted. Our next destination and halt for the night was the village of Braemar where we stayed at the Braemar Lodge. We had booked an independent 3 bedroom log cabin which was very beautiful and had all the basic amenities.

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Our log cabin at Braemar

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View from the property

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After settling down at our log cabin, we went around walking to explore the village of Braemar. It is a small and quiet village where you can hear and see beautiful birds and there are many hikes nearby for the ones who like to walk. The next morning we went to the Linn O' Dee. Linn in Scotland is for a waterfall or a pool at the base of it. It is a beautiful 30 minutes drive with panoramic views. The weather was a bit unfavourable with intermittent rain and very windy and the temperature going down to 4 degrees Celsius. The wind makes the temperature feel much lower and except for some photographs we enjoyed the comfort of the car especially our parents.

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On the way to the Linn O' Dee

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At the Linn, captured from both the sides of the bridge.

After coming back to our accommodation and having a hearty breakfast, we took off to Glenshee which was recommended to us by a family friend and is a 45 minute one-way drive from Braemar. It is a scenic drive through the winding roads and brings one to Glenshee which is a popular skiing and hiking destination.

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At the Dalmunzie estate, Glenshee. We were not able to stop and take photographs at Glenshee as it was raining quite hard.

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Last edited by CrAzY dRiVeR : 10th July 2019 at 01:23. Reason: Typos
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Old 6th July 2019, 10:21   #2
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Default re: Self-drive road trip across Scotland

After returning from our drive we rested for some time. We had booked the log cabin for two nights as they don't give it for less than that. After buying daily needs from the Braemar convenience store we started for Inverness through the Cairngorms National Park. A very scenic drive with stunning views. Inverness is about 2 and a half hours from Braemar and the drive takes you through the heart of the highlands.

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The colours in the sky and on the ground are mesmerizing.

Inverness is the capital of the highlands and is based along the Ness river. We took a short walk along the Ness river and settled in for the night. Next day we had a train journey to the Kyle of Lochalsh, which is a beautiful trip in itself. There we went to see the Eilean Donan Castle which was bombarded by the British troops to quell a Scottish uprising and then rebuilt in the 20th century by the descendant of the clan who owned it after 20 years of labour.

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The river Ness

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Inverness Castle

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All set to board the train from Inverness to Kyle of Lockhalsh

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A bagpiper playing against the backdrop of Eilean Donan Castle

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The Scottish flag at the Eilean Donan Castle

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The Eilean Donan Castle

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The iconic Skye Bridge

We arrived back in Inverness by dinner time and settled in for the night. The next destination was Oban, a small little town on the west coast of Scotland. Our route took us along Loch Ness and we stopped at Fort William where we took a short detour to hike upto Glen Nevis. It is a beautiful hike although a bit demanding with amazing views. Fort William is the gateway to Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the UK.

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Parked beside Loch Ness

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Panorama of the A82 beside Loch Ness

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At Glen Nevis

Stopped for lunch after the hike. Hike is recommended for physically fit adults and there are warning signs at the start of the hike. Our parents stayed back in the car to rest. After lunch and a short rest, we continued onto Oban where we reached before sunset. Our accommodation was right on the seaside in the centre of the town. The second-floor apartment at King's Arms Holiday homes had great views and parking was close by as well.

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The Oban distillery. A very good single malt by the same name.
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Last edited by CrAzY dRiVeR : 10th July 2019 at 01:25. Reason: Typos
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Old 7th July 2019, 22:25   #3
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Default re: Self-drive road trip across Scotland

We did the three island tour of Mull, Iona and Staffa from Oban, which is a full day excursion. A ferry took us to the island of Mull from where a double decker bus took us to the other end of the island. The bus tour took an hour and the bus driver gave lively commentary on the way with a lot of information and humour included. From Mull another ferry took us to Iona which has the famous Iona Abbey. The last island was Staffa which is uninhabited and the most fascinating of the three. Apart from the unique landscape it is famous as a nesting area for puffin birds and seagulls.

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At Iona

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The Iona Abbey

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The island of Staffa. Fingal's cave can be seen on the right side of the island and is famous for its natural acoustics.

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The vertical columns of basalt inspired the Vikings to name it Staffa.

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A puffin collecting for its nest

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The weather on the way to and back from Iona became quite bad and we had choppy seas. it rained all the way and we were freezing by the time we returned to Oban. After a hot meal, we settled into bed to get ready for our next destination, Arrochar, near Loch Lommand via Inveraray.

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The very beautiful Inveraray Castle

After Inveraray, our next stop was the little village of Arrochar on the banks of Loch Long. We stayed at the Lochside guest house which is a beautiful place with views of the Loch and mountains.

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View from our bedrooms at the Lochside guest house.

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The X5 parked at Arrochar.


On our way to Edinburgh through Loch Lommand and Trossachs National Park. We gave up our car on reaching Edinburgh. Will try to upload photos of Edinburgh at a later stage. Thus an amazing road trip in a fantastic car came to an end. :-)

My brief review of the car - BMW X5 30d, 2019 model. Rented from SIXT car rental, Aberdeen airport. Returned at SIXT car return at Waverly, Edinburgh city centre.

The total cost came to about 1,37,000 INR inclusive of all taxes, different destination charges and comprehensive insurance with tyres also covered with a liability of 1500GBP.

The car was automatic with the all-wheel drive technology. The power of 394 bhp was more than sufficient and came handy when joining traffic from side parking on the highways. It had smart hybrid technology which shuts the engine at stops and restarts as soon as the accelerator is touched. It is quite common these days but the smoothness of the start and stop was very good as was the transmission.

The ride was quite good although most of the roads we encountered have very good surface and we did not venture into off-roading anywhere except for a few turns off the tarmac in Linn O'Dee. The suspension setup gave us no trouble and nobody was car sick on the windy roads of the highlands. In fact, the three people in the back were mostly sleeping during drives for more than an hour.

This model had a very good touchscreen infotainment cum GPS. The GPS was quite accurate and we drove using it on the whole trip. In addition to this, there was a display behind the steering instead of the analog dials and gave updates on approaching speed limits and current speed. The lane departure avoidance system was also fantastic although a bit scary the first time it kicked in. The rear view mirrors light up when somebody overtakes from respective sides.

The boot was quite big and accommodated 4 suitcases of 24inch size plus 2 laptop bags and 2 big rucksacks apart from other small bags of raw food material. We had to remove and stow away the parcel tray to fit the suitcases. The remote boot opening was very helpful and the lower lid also opened to give access to a totally flat bed which made it very convenient to load/unload luggage.

A great car, a bit heavy on the wallet but very comfortable for 5 adults and luggage and great fun to drive on the highlands. Bigger MPV's were not available at the Aberdeen airport and because we could not fit in the car category initially booked, this was a blessing in disguise and we thoroughly enjoyed the car.

Last edited by CrAzY dRiVeR : 10th July 2019 at 01:27. Reason: Typos
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Old 8th July 2019, 23:09   #4
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Default re: Self-drive road trip across Scotland

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing, Udai!
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Old 9th July 2019, 00:25   #5
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Default re: Self-drive road trip across Scotland

Absolutely stunning pics of Balmoral castle. Lovely pics of the other castles and Abbeys.
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Old 9th July 2019, 05:59   #6
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Default re: Self-drive road trip across Scotland

Awesome travelogue there!
That X5 you rented is fully loaded!
I recently rented one in San Francisco but it was a poverty spec car with no air suspension or the 21 inch rims. Albeit I paid almost half the price at $10,000/-
I got the X5 for the same reason as you, we had a lot of luggage.
Here’s my travelogue link :
https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/trave...s-america.html (Exploring the United States of America)
Do read when you get time.
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Old 9th July 2019, 10:15   #7
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Default re: Self-drive road trip across Scotland

What gorgeous countryside views! Every time I travel or see pictures of these countries, I just wonder how it would have been like if India was similarly clean and people had the civic sense to keep roads and tourist places as clean as they are in other countries.

Thanks for sharing, I plan to do a self drive across Scotland sometime soon as well. How was the acclimatisation process, in terms of getting used to driving on these roads? How did you familiarise yourself with the rules and regulations?
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Old 9th July 2019, 10:47   #8
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Default Re: Self-drive road trip across Scotland

Quote:
Originally Posted by Udai.Sharma View Post
A great car, a bit heavy on the wallet but very comfortable for 5 adults and luggage and great fun to drive on the highlands. Bigger MPV's were not availabe at the Aberdeen airport and because we could not fit in the car category initially booked, this was a blessing in disguise and we thoroughly enjoyed the car.
Stunning pictures, car and travelogue! Hoping to manage something similar next summer :-)

UK rentals are always expensive unless one opts for the el cheapo (but risky) ones. If you don't mind sharing what was the earlier rate for the Superb/3 Series estate range? Was it substantially lower?
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Old 9th July 2019, 11:29   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by arindambasu13 View Post
What gorgeous countryside views! Every time I travel or see pictures of these countries, I just wonder how it would have been like if India was similarly clean and people had the civic sense to keep roads and tourist places as clean as they are in other countries.

Thanks for sharing, I plan to do a self drive across Scotland sometime soon as well. How was the acclimatisation process, in terms of getting used to driving on these roads? How did you familiarise yourself with the rules and regulations?
Thank you for appreciating the photographs. To familiarise with driving conditions, I watched a lot of dashcam videos on youtube of the cities I was going to be driving in, specially of Aberdeen as that was going to be the first one. I also downloaded the manual of road signs and rules from the UK traffic department website which made me familiar with the road signs.

In the end the driving there is very disciplined and as long as you are in your lane, keep a lookout for speed limit and traffic lights, it is a hassle free experience. I must also mention the fantastic self regulating roundabout system where you just need to stop for the person coming from the right and the ones coming from the left stop for you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by itwasntme View Post
Stunning pictures, car and travelogue! Hoping to manage something similar next summer :-)

UK rentals are always expensive unless one opts for the el cheapo (but risky) ones. If you don't mind sharing what was the earlier rate for the Superb/3 Series estate range? Was it substantially lower?
Thank you for appreciating. It was my first proper post so I was a bit apprehensive but I am happy that senior members liked it and my experience may come handy for others planning a similar trip. The good companies are expensive but I believe are more transparent and provide superbly maintained cars with the latest models. The earlier cost for the SWAR - station wagon automatic group in which I had selected the Skoda Superb estate automatic came to about 91000 INR inclusive of all costs and insurance including windshield and tyres and 0 pound liability. The liability of 1500 pounds with the X5 made me think a bit before going for it but made me even more cautious while driving it.

Mod Note : Please use the EDIT or MULTI-QUOTE buttons instead of typing one post after another on the SAME THREAD!
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Last edited by Rudra Sen : 11th July 2019 at 12:40. Reason: back to back posts merged.
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Old 10th July 2019, 01:53   #10
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Default Re: Self-drive road trip across Scotland

First of all,

Second,
ARE YOU SERIOUS? This place has literally ZERO trash. Just by looking at the photos, my whole opinion about India being called a 'trash' country has changed. It is a 'trash' country, and will remain so, as long as middle class illiterates get richer by the day (sorry, but it's true).
My whole Manali trip got 'trashed'. Everywhere I went, every traffic jam I was stuck in, all I did was try to ignore all the garbage on the sides of the roads (Kerala is a lot better in these terms). I even felt guilty of not dictating it out to the man and his kids, to not litter the roads while we were stuck in the jam (I just didn't want to spoil my mood).

Anyway, Kudos to you! That's how I'd want to spend my mid-thirties when I'm a lot more established in my career, driving across the world.


[A pic from my Manali trip]
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Old 11th July 2019, 12:30   #11
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Default Re: Self-drive road trip across Scotland

Quote:
Originally Posted by Harjot37 View Post
First of all,
Thanks for appreciating the photos. Trash is a big problem everywhere. The solution lies where you throw it and how it is disposed. Unless the citizens make it a point to dispose it at designated places and the government provides more designated places and strictly penalises the ones littering around, the problem is bound to increase.

Last edited by Rudra Sen : 11th July 2019 at 12:31. Reason: Quote content trimmed
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Old 11th July 2019, 13:28   #12
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Default Re: Self-drive road trip across Scotland

Posting a some more photographs as we moved on from Arrochar to Edinburgh.

We stopped at the beautiful village of Luss by Loch Lommand. It has a lovely beach and has water sports as well as ferry excursions on Loch Lommand.

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View of Loch Lommand from Luss.

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With parents at Luss beach

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Another view of Loch Lommand

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Parents looking at ducks on the beach.

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Beautiful flowers outside homes near the beach at Luss.

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Wife enjoying the sunroof while parked beside Loch Lommand on the A82 before Balloch.

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Last photo inside the car. We continued from Balloch to Stirling via A811 bypassing Glasgow as this was a more scenic route and avoided the congestion of Glasgow. From Stirling we got onto the M9 motorway which took us into Edinburgh.

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The iconic Scotsman hotel in Edinburgh city centre.

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The Scottish parliament at Edinburgh with its modern and unique architechture.

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The Palace of Hollyrood where the Royal family stays when in Edinburgh.

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We hiked upto Arthur's seat, the highest point in Edinburgh from where you get panoramic views of the city and the coast. It was a 2 hour walk one way from our accommodation in the city centre. Beautiful hike through picturesque landscape and breathtaking views from the top.

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Some views of the city while walking through the city centre near Waverly railway station.

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Parents on the upper deck of the hop on hop off tour bus. The bus tours are the best way to go about the city and enjoy the views with live and recorded commentary. For people who like to walk, I would recommend walking around and exploring the city is even better.

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While going past the sea side near the harbour.

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Leith river

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We had booked tickets to watch the Spirit of Scotland Show on our second night at Edinburgh. A lovely evening with music and dance and local food and beverages.

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The towering bagpiper who played beautiful tunes during the show.

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Betting shops which one comes across quite often while walking through the city.

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Edinburgh is a mix of old and new architecture and has a lot of historical places of interest. We found the three days less to explore Edinburgh and plan to come again in the future.
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Old 11th July 2019, 15:02   #13
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Continuing with our Edinburgh sightseeing, we explored Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Yacht Britannia.The Edinburgh Castle dominates the skyline and has great historical significance. It is probably the most besieged and attacked places and was attacked both during the Scottish war of Independence and the Jacobite uprising. It also houses the 1 o'clock gun which fires at 1 pm everyday. The Edinburgh Castle also houses the Scottish National War memorial and Scottish crown jewels. Quite a bit of walking is involved and many areas are not disabled friendly.

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The Edinburgh Castle high up on the hill.

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At the entrance to the Castle

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Where the Scottish crown jewels are stored

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The erstwhile armoury of the Castle

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A scale model of the Britannia. It was the Royal Yacht of the Queen and was in service from 1954 to 1997. It is now permanently berthed at the Ocean terminal of Leith Harbour and is a popular tourist attraction.

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The equipment of the wheel house removed from the ship and kept at the museum before one enters the ship.

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Some shots of Britannia

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The Forth railway bridge which was opened in 1890 and is a UNESCO World Heritage site and continues to be the second longest single cantilever span bridge.

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Our train to London at Edinburgh Waverly station. Finally after spending 3 days in Edinburgh, it was time to move on to London for the last 4 days of the trip.
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Old 1st September 2019, 16:39   #14
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Default Re: Self-drive road trip across Scotland

Beautiful pictures Udai.Sharma

I must say you prepared an excellent itinerary for the trip and covered a lot in a short time. Even though I have been living here for some years now, I haven't seen much of the eastern Scotland but after seeing your photos, will definitiely plan something soon.

The highlands are heavenly when it comes to driving, with so many scenic roads. I am sure you had loads of in the X5. The only thing missing in your plan was at least a day trip to Skye especially since you went right up to the Skye Bridge. Although it also gives you another reason to visit Scotland Well, do let me know next time and I will try to help in anyway I can.

Cheers.
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Old 23rd September 2019, 18:30   #15
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Default Re: Self-drive road trip across Scotland

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Originally Posted by kopakabana View Post
Beautiful pictures Udai.Sharma

I must say you prepared an excellent itinerary for the trip and covered a lot in a short time. Even though I have been living here for some years now, I haven't seen much of the eastern Scotland but after seeing your photos, will definitiely plan something soon.

The highlands are heavenly when it comes to driving, with so many scenic roads. I am sure you had loads of in the X5. The only thing missing in your plan was at least a day trip to Skye especially since you went right up to the Skye Bridge. Although it also gives you another reason to visit Scotland Well, do let me know next time and I will try to help in anyway I can.

Cheers.
Thank you. Will definitely let you know the next time we are in Scotland the next time. We wanted to visit Skye but it has been left for the next trip and as you rightly said it gives us another reason to plan a trip again .

Cheers.
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