Scottish Sojourn

Last week we embarked on our much anticipated first International trip since the pandemic began. We had loads to do in order to abide by the new testing protocol which seemed daunting, but has since become even more so with the introduction of the Omicron variant. When we booked our travel we had to register with the British Government to receive a test at our hotel that we would take and send to the NIH on our second day in the UK. The test was sent to our Lodging in the Scottish Highlands, but because we were vaccinated we did not have to quarantine. To be overly cautious, we had a PCR test taken two days before we left, which thankfully was negative. Currently, a traveler is unable to board a transatlantic flight (we were on Delta) without proof of registry for this second day test, indicated by a passenger locator form which we printed and brought with us to the airport. We were also required to show our proof of vaccination. Since Omicron emerged on the scene these rules have changed, so be sure to check with your travel agent and airline to determine what is required, or check the British Embassy’s page here.

We were able to check in without too much trouble or confusion, and then thanks to Clear breezed through security. We parked ourselves at JFK’s Centurion Lounge in Terminal 4 which was pleasantly quiet. Before long we were called to our flight which was heading to Amsterdam, where we would change planes for our flight to Inverness after a two hour layover.

The lie flat beds were comfortable enough that I fell right to sleep, only to be awakened just before touchdown. Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport offers a wonderful VIP service that makes it a convenient choice to use as a stopping point when flying to destinations in Europe or the UK when you can’t fly directly. We were met at the plane and then whisked away to very sophisticated and inviting lounge with terrific service and breakfast choices. When it was time for our flight we were taken by car right to the aircraft. It was well worth the expense and made the change of planes stress-free. The cappuccinos were pretty delicious as well.

After a quick flight we arrived at the Inverness airport, collected our bags, and off we went to The Carnegie Club, otherwise known as Skibo Castle. I was fortunate to have visited Skibo two years ago, which you can read about here. Skibo is quite literally heaven on earth, from the unbelievable beauty of the surroundings, to the magical quality of the light, to the Castle itself, and perhaps most importantly the incredible staff who make you feel completely at home.

The Carnegie Club is not open to the public, but if you ever have an opportunity to visit along with one of the members, you must go. There are not enough superlatives to do it justice.

We spent 5 magical days celebrating a very special occasion at Skibo along with all of our family and it was superb. We were sad for the party to end, but we still had some adventures in store for us. When it was time to leave we were driven down to Edinburgh (a little less than four hours) where we planned to spend the night before continuing to London for Thanksgiving week.

On the way down to Edinburgh we asked our driver to make a comfort stop along the way and we found ourselves at The House of Bruar, about half way between Dornoch and Edinburgh. This is a fabulous destination in it’s own right, complete with an extensive selection of Scottish cashmere, an unbelievable Food Hall, and a Fish and Chips shop that turned out the most ethereal portion of fried Haddock and mushy peas. There was also the most impressive array of Tiptree jams and preserves (a personal favorite) that I had ever seen. All in all, a fabulous place to stop.

We pulled up to the Balmoral, a Rocco Forte Hotel which is decidedly “Old School”. It is in the perfect location to explore the historic part of city on foot. As a bonus, there was a large Christmas Market going on just outside which made it all the more festive. The Jr. Suite was tastefully decorated, but it was the view of the Scott Monument just out the window that was so impressive. We didn’t linger too long, as daylight was fading fast and we wanted to explore.

I have been to Scotland several times over the years, but have never spent any time in Edinburgh. Now that I have had a taste, I regret not staying longer on this trip. The city is magical and manageable! We covered a lot of ground, and once the sun set we were happy to tuck in to the Scottish National Gallery to enjoy some of the magnificent works they have on display. We only were able to witness a fraction of historical sights and landmarks Edinburgh has to offer, so I am confident we will return for a more lengthy visit.

After our run around town we returned to the Brasserie Prince at the Balmoral for some snacks. Our stay was on a Monday, and unfortunately we learned that many of the places we hoped to dine were not open (specifically The Kitchin which I have heard so many great things about). We fully intended to head out to dinner following our snack, but alas, it didn’t turn out that way.

The bar was intimate and cozy, and the food was heavy enough to make us all drowsy. My husband and I were happy to retire early, but our boys did find a local Pub to throw back a few Pints.

Our car was set to pick us up at 9 for our flight to London, giving us time to savor a proper breakfast before we bid farewell to Edinburgh. The Balmoral breakfast buffet was located on the other side of the Brasserie and it was bright and cheerful.

While we very much enjoyed our stay at the Balmoral, there is nothing particularly exciting or cutting edge about it; which is exactly what makes it so perfect. Old School Scottish service and decor. Oh, and the Scottish Whiskey Fudge they have in the rooms is killer!

Stay tuned for an update on London, coming soon!

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