I spent some time yesterday filling in my content calendar and brainstorming blog post ideas for the next couple of months, and if all goes according to plan, most of my upcoming posts will be travel-related! I realized I have been taking so many photos of the old architecture and beautiful scenery here in Scotland, but I haven’t shared many of them on the blog yet. Today’s post is all about the guided tour I went on last weekend to Loch Lomond, Glencoe, and the Glenfinnan Viaduct (aka the Harry Potter Bridge!).
To be honest, my blog has been stressing me out more than usual the last couple of weeks. There are so many thoughts and observations I’ve had since being abroad that I want to share, but I wonder, will people even be interested? This is a fashion blog, after all, not a travel blog. And I don’t want to be too repetitive, either—since I share my outfits and daily activities in my weekly recap posts, does that mean sharing specific blog posts about day trips/cultural events is too much of the same content? So many questions…
Even though I have been keeping a personal journal, I don’t want to look back at the end of this experience and realize I didn’t document it in a way that will last for years to come (I love rereading my blog posts about the Camino and think it would be a shame not to have something similar from Scotland). I often have to remind myself that there are no rules when it comes to my blog—or at least, that I can make and break the rules as I please! So with that said, I *think* I will be mostly sharing travel posts for the next few months, and I am working on becoming okay with that. Hopefully you all enjoy this shift in content, too!
Now that I have that long preamble out of the way… I can tell you all about the amazing time I had last Saturday. The first week I was in Glasgow, I started browsing the internet for different events/tours to do while here, and I stumbled across the company International Student Tours Scotland on Eventbrite. They do several affordable day trips for students around Scotland and a few weekend trips (I booked the two-day tour to Isle of Skye for later this month). A bus picked us up at the main gates of the University of Glasgow at 7:30 am, and then we started our day!
Our first stop was a quick photo-op along the shores of Loch Lomond, which is the largest inland stretch of water in Great Britain. It is one of the most visited places in Scotland due to its beautiful scenery and the hiking in the surrounding areas. And, as I mentioned in my monthly recap the other day, it’s also famous because of the song “Loch Lomond” (while I had never heard it before, both of my parents seemed to know it; it’s also a common tune played on the bagpipes).
We stayed a few minutes at the banks for a bathroom break and to snap some pics—the tour guide brought a Scottish flag as a prop for photos, which was a fun idea. Although, as you can tell, it was cold, wet, and windy! Once we hopped back on the bus, we drove along the lake for a while as the tour guide told us some history about the area and played “Loch Lomond” for us. It’s cheesy to say, but it really did feel so magical to experience the song for the first time while driving next to the lake and learning about its history.
Our second stop was just at an outlook between Loch Lomond and the Glencoe Falls, and while the scenery of the Scottish Highlands was beautiful, I had never experienced such heavy winds in my life. One girl actually blew over! We didn’t stay long and decided to stop at the Glencoe Falls next, as seen above.
The Three Sisters of Glencoe
Just a few more minutes down the road, we stopped again at the Three Sisters of Glencoe, as these three mountains are called. I couldn’t fit all of them into a single picture, but you get the gist! It cracks me up because every postcard I have seen while here is a gorgeous photo of Scotland’s scenery on a sunny day… but I have yet to experience a sight without at least some clouds in the sky (and most of the time, rain has been involved, too). In fact, it was raining quite heavily at this stop, so my friend and I quickly snapped our photos before getting back on the bus.
There are lots of famous movies that have been filmed in this area, including James Bond: Skyfall—we drove on the road where Daniel Craig drives Judie Dench in the Aston Martin to the Skyfall mansion (you can see the scene starting at 2:00 in this clip). The tour guide even played Adele’s “Skyfall” to set the mood. I’m really excited to rewatch the film and all the Harry Potter movies now that I have been to some of the filming locations!
Our next stop was at the small town of Fort Williams, where the tour guide gave us just over an hour to explore and eat lunch. What I liked a lot about this tour company was that the students had a lot of say in how long we wanted to spend at each location—our activities weren’t on such a strict schedule that I felt rushed or controlled. My friend and I broke off from the larger group for a bit to explore the little stores and do some souvenir shopping. We both packed lunches, so we just decided to get a quick coffee with a few other girls. The hour passed much faster than I expected, so I can’t say whether or not Fort Williams is worth visiting—it seemed like a very small town, though.
Thankfully, the rain stopped just as we arrived at our main destination, the Glenfinnan Viaduct! The whole tour group first walked up to this viewing point to see Loch Shiel below, which is the fictional Black Lake from the Harry Potter movies (can you picture that scene at the Triwizard Tournament where Harry eats the gillyweed?).
Side note: I would say I am a very middle-of-the-road Harry Potter fan. My family and I used to play Harry Potter trivia at the dinner table when we were young—so I know quite a few details and have seen all the movies several times. But I’m also not a diehard Harry Potter fan who knows every name of every spell and keeps up with fanfiction (you may recall that I went to a Harry Potter Halloween party last year and did not know nearly enough). I am a Slytherin though, in case anyone was wondering…
After the viewpoint, we walked down under the bridge and then hiked to the top, which is arguably the most famous view of the Viaduct—and the place where it is most recognizable as the tracks of the Hogwarts Express! The tour guide gave us these little cards with scenes from the movies, so I tried to line up the train on the tracks (with the flying blue car next to it) but couldn’t get the angle quite right. Regardless of your interest in Harry Potter, it was a really cool site to see, and the views were even more gorgeous as we hiked down the other side of the hill behind the bridge.
I love this pic because I can totally imagine that ship coming out of the water (the one with the students from Viktor Krum’s school) at the beginning of the fourth Harry Potter movie! Also, on an unrelated note, I find it amusing that after five and a half years of blogging, I am still super awkward in front of a camera, mostly with non-fashion-related photos. When I take pictures of my outfits, I always put my hands in my pockets, or on my purse, or in my hair. But when I just take a normal picture? No idea what to do with my hands.
When we finished the hike and made it back to the main road, the sun broke through the clouds for the first time all day. I was so grateful that the weather turned around for our main stop, and the sunrays peeping through the trees and over Loch Shiel were absolutely gorgeous! This was exactly the kind of beauty I imagined before coming to Scotland.
We walked to the shore of the lake and watched the beginning of the sunset over the water before hopping on the bus and starting the three-hour drive back to Glasgow. The tour guide played a Harry Potter movie (naturally) on the TV, but I decided to take a nap instead. Overall, it was such a great experience, and I highly recommend International Student Tours to any students visiting Scotland. The tour guides were so friendly and knowledgeable, and it was a great way to meet other international students.
My tips for how to dress? Wear waterproof everything, bring layers, wear sturdy walking shoes (emphasis on the waterproof!), and for the ladies out there… definitely tie your hair back! Since my hair is short now, combing through the tangles wasn’t too difficult, but I’m sure it would have been an absolute nest if my hair was still long. It was too windy at most of these locations not to opt for braids or another tight hairstyle.
Thanks so much for reading today’s post and following along with my travels! Usually I edit my blog photos a little—either to lighten them or to make the colors more realistic to how they appear in real life (since sometimes phone cameras can distort them)—but I decided to leave todays photos unedited. I didn’t want to get caught up in the imperfections of pictures like I always do and instead just wanted to enjoy these special moments.
Let me know in the comments—are you a Harry Potter fan?! Die-hard? Or is it overrated? What’s your house, if you know? I can’t deny that nerding out over Harry Potter is fun sometimes.
Miles of smiles,