I had the opportunity to visit Scotland with my husband and plan our entire journey. His only must-do was a visit to St. Andrews Old Course. We flew into Edinburgh and rented a car to drive to our first stop, Pitlochry.
When we arrived in Pitlochry, we went to our hotel, a cozy bed, and breakfast. From there, we walked to the Heather Gem store, which I had heard about and saw the process of collecting and molding the heather into jewelry. I love unique pieces of art, especially small ones that you can wear or use. I bought my mother a stunning green pen that she now uses every day. After the shopping, we walked to Blair Athol distillery and were delighted to be the only attendees for the Managers tasting tour that afternoon. We purposely walked to the distillery as Scotland has a stringent no drinking and driving law. The tasting was fantastic, and I gained so much knowledge about Scotch. I also surprised my husband when I enjoyed the tasting of various samples of Scotch. When given the correct instruction and glass, I very much enjoyed my tasting. Our guide answered all of our questions and has piqued my curiosity about Scotch.
The next day we left after breakfast and headed to our falconry experience. The day was rainy, so we were not quite sure how much we would be able to do with the birds, but being the first time we have ever done anything like this, just holding a bird of prey would make it worth it. When we arrived, we saw vultures, owls, hawks, and eagles on perches outside. When we went inside, we saw smaller birds and ferrets. This combination seemed strange to us, but the animals did not interact with each other in any way. Our guide was weighing the birds that would be with us that day. If a bird is not hungry, it has no reason to listen to the trainer.
We went out in the rain and tried to find a location with trees so that the birds could stay dry. It seemed odd to me as birds are usually always outside in any element. However, the birds that we with us were not native to Scotland. So they were used to drier and warmer climates. The first birds in our activity were three owls. They were full-grown and so cute! They were still learning how to interact with the trainer and each other. There are rules about holding your hands out, especially the one with the glove. Even though we were not actual trainers, we were helping teach the birds, and we wanted to do so correctly. Most people associate owls as wise creatures, but given the size of their brains, they are not the brightest birds alive. It was a fantastic feeling every time they landed on your hand and arm. I could not contain my excitement, even with the dreary weather.
The next bird was the hawk. For this bird, we had to hold food in our fist so that the hawk would land on our arm, eat the food, and then go back into a tree. Watching the hawk land on your arm or your partner's arm was incredible as their feet turn upwards so they can grasp the surface they are landing on. I was blown away with all these little details that I have never noticed before when just watching birds pass by every day.
The rain started coming down more substantially, so we had to stop the experience at a half-day instead of a full day. I am looking forward to another falconry activity when I visit Scotland in the future. Perhaps I can schedule my trip during the hunting season so that I can see the true capabilities of these magnificent creatures.
We left our feathered friends and started our drive to St. Andrews. I was meeting Stewart at the hotel, and we had lunch at the clubhouse and a tour of the Old Course. We were slightly worried about the weather but knew that golfers play in just about all conditions. Ironically, it was a beautiful day when we arrived at the coast. We checked into the hotel and ate dinner at one of the many restaurants on the property. We drove to the golf course and walked around the copious shops available all around town. The next day the sun was still shining, so we ate breakfast and had a wonderful tour of the Old Course. We got our picture taken on the famous bridge and heard so many stories about golfers and caddies and the reason for certain features on the course having the names that they do. It was windy, but I expected that having read about golfers' stories of playing St. Andrews. It was a fun experience eating lunch in the clubhouse and watching golfers tee off and be on their way for a once in a lifetime moment.
After all the excitement at St. Andrews, we drove to Glen Eagles resort. We checked in and showed to our guest room, which overlooked the front of the hotel. I met Ashley for a tour, and we had to use a golf cart because of everything to see. We did a stable visit and saw the horses that guests can ride, even ponies for the little ones. There is a ropes course, and bicycles by the stables.
Two golf courses are a part of the hotel as well. The number of places to eat was astonishing. It was hard to choose only a few during the time we were there. All the menus looked delicious, and the views from every seat were incredible. Once I was oriented, we took a shuttle into town to walk around and visit a tweed shop and tartan store. The hotel helped point me in the correct direction to find both of these locations. That evening we relaxed in the adults-only pool and then had dinner at the casual restaurant.
We had a fantastic breakfast in the main dining room, which had just finished a renovation, and the light from all the windows was genuinely magical.
That morning we experienced the gun dog activity at the resort. My husband and I were both given the most well-trained dogs I have ever encountered. We were able to give them commands to find decoys and stop or drop the duck right at our feet. It took me some time to get used to not smiling when I spoke to my dog because I wanted to treat him like a pet and not a hunting dog. The second part of the lesson was agility training. We had to help our dogs go through obstacles that might occur while on a hunt. Examples included a hedge, a fence, and water. I wanted to keep my dog and take him home. It was so much fun and such a learning experience at the same time.
After participating in the gun dog activity, we changed and went to afternoon tea. Oh my goodness, the delicious food never stopped while we were at Glen Eagles! The towers of food and quality of the drinks, along with our view of the property, were truly magnificent. Even my husband, who doesn't like tea, had the best time and was full when we left. I know that it afternoon tea, but it was so much more than a cup of tea.
That evening we dined in the Strathearn Restaurant and ordered the three-course meal. What a way to end this magical visit to Scotland. As a special treat, we were able to meet the head chef in his kitchen and the sommelier in the wine cellar.
I had no idea what to expect when I booked all our activities in Scotland, but I know I want to return and help others create these magical memories.
If you have any questions or want to plan a trip with me to experience Scotland first-hand, please reach out, firstname.lastname@example.org.