The Land of Fairies and Whiskey

Updated: Dec 6, 2018

Photos by Kendall Kaminski

We arrived in Edinburgh, Scotland and people-watched while we waited for our friends, Rory and Fernanda. Outside a beer garden, we could see The Fringe festival in full swing, with lots of street performers. Rory and Fernanda met us after watching the “Tatoo”, a royal Edinburgh military performance, and we settled into their apartment in the city center.

The next day, we celebrated our friend, Fernanda’s, birthday by walking around the city, seeing a towering castle on a cliff, cobblestone streets, and thin alleyways called “closes”. We went to a part acrobat, part dance, part comedy show in a circus style tent. For dinner, we joined some of Fernanda’s friends and ate at Las Iguanas, a restaurant that served Brazilian, Mexican, Argentinian, and Peruvian food and drinks.

We started the following day with a hike to the top of a dormant volcano overlooking the city called Arthur’s Seat, with lots of wind and good conversation along the way. Afterwards, we packed for our next camping trip and took a bus out to Dunbar. Right outside this small town, we walked down a lane, to a forest’s edge, along the ocean, and found a spot inland where we were protected from the wind to set up camp. We ate our dinners and stayed up late into the night around the campfire, roasting smores, and drinking local whiskey.

Dunbar is filled with rugged shoreline, grass meadows, and marshlands. We saw birds dive down into the ocean to hunt fish and admired the view of the village of Dunbar from afar. Rain gear is certainly vital on this coast, as there were constant gusts of rain and wind wherever we traversed.

We sprinted across town (backpacks loaded) and were the last sardines packed onto the returning train to Edinburgh. Soon after arriving, we went to an improv show in a dungeon. On the way back to the apartment, we stopped for fish and chips, and kebabs, which we ate on the steps of a museum while watching local skateboarders ride in the street.

Kendall rented a manual (right hand drive) car and safely drove us all to Glencoe through magnificent mountains and timeworn valleys. We hiked through fairytale woods, scurried up slippery rock faces, and crossed meandering rivers. The end destination was a beautifully tucked away valley with little waterfalls persisting through the mountains. We sat in this valley for lunch and marveled over how shepherds used to lead their cows through this terrain.

We got back in the car and drove the rest of the way to the trailhead for Steel Falls. We hiked in along another river and arrived in the valley where we pitched our tent facing the roaring Steel Falls waterfall. Crossing a single-cable bridge, we explored to the base of the waterfall and filtered water straight from the cascades. We shared dinner around another campfire and slept soundly to the rush of the falls.

We hiked a Monroe, which is an ascent over three thousand vertical feet. This steep and exposed trek was easily one of the most challenging and stunning hikes. The scaling over rocks eventually revealed more valleys in all directions and peaks from all viewpoints. We picnicked alongside the trail, constantly moving to avoid all the bugs (midges, ticks, and flying spiders!). We hiked back down in half the time, numbed our feet crossing the river, and fell asleep the minute we nestled into our sleeping bags.

The next morning, we strolled along the river and over a bridge to some ancient ruins: nine stone houses belonging to sheep herders. These houses had no roofs because Scotland requires taxes to be paid on any house with a roof. After packing up and hiking back to the car, we journeyed back to town for warm meals and tea. Two hours later, we were back in Edinburgh at a traditional Scottish pub with lots of wood, dimly-lit rooms, leather booths, and delicious burgers and beer, wine, and Scotch whiskey.

We then prepared to fly to Norway with Rory, where we would then camp on the Lofoten Islands in the southern rim of the Arctic Circle.