MORE of SCOTLAND

Story and photos by Lisa TE Sonne

The word “more-ish” was unknown to me until I reached the Isle of Eriska in Scotland.  A blonde lassie there used the word to describe the food, the gardens, the spa offerings, and the walks on the beach. Pronounced “moorish,” it’s slang for “you want more of it.”

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More-ish was my overwhelming feeling as my husband and I drove away from The Isle of Eriska, a family-run resort on its own private island. I wanted more of the peace, the dreamy pace, the beguiling place.  I could understand why actress Judy Dench visits there to watch otters and rejuvenate.

My husband and I skipped the 9-hole golf course, elegant indoor pool, and even the Scottish Hebrides seaweed spa treatments, and enjoyed gentle beachcombing, ambles about the gardens, and the fireplace and Jacuzzi at our private mini-villa. Up at the “Main House, ” we savored the atmospheric, elegant, “other era” setting, the charming staff,  and great food from fresh local ingredients at the Michelin star restaurant. For us, this family-run resort haven was a delicious way to rejuvenate from long-haul flying before starting a remarkable cruise.

 

CANAL CRUISING

The word more-ish also set the theme for our week on a luxury barge through the Scottish Highlands, thanks to European Waterways, a company that has dozens of itineraries through Europe.  In Scotland, sweeping scenery, historic castles, the Lock Ness lure, and the engineering feat of the Caledonian Canal were all part of our week long voyage. The eight-passenger, 110-foot long Scottish Highlander had a stellar crew of four guiding and pampering us.

Imagine sitting at the front of the wooden barge, gliding through a valley with steep verdant walls, seeing grazing sheep and then hearing echos of a bagpipe. The music gets louder as the Scottish Highlander rounds a bend in the loch to reveal a lone, kilted bagpiper walking back and forth on the shore, sending out the rich poignant sounds.

 

Imagine light coming through blue poppies and looking up from those gardens to see the Castle of Cawdor, sometimes referred to as “MacBeth’s Castle” thanks to Shakespeare. Inside on a tour, a guard told us about the current owner, saying, “the trees stand up straighter when she is in residence.”  We picnicked in the gardens.

Imagine having hand on the wheel and being allowed to steer the barge from the Captain’s perch while looking for “Nessie” in the Loch Ness (a loch being a body of water including fiords and estuaries. ) No monsters were sited, but the Urquhart Castle (founded in the 13th century ) looked dramatic up on a cliff, and was fascinating to tour later.

Off the barge, we toured a Scotch distillery, classic clan battlefields, ancient burial cairns, and castles including the iconic Eilean Donan where three lochs meet. A comfortable van met the barge at each mooring, to take us on tours or into towns if we wanted anything.

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Onboard the chef expertly smoked and prepared local foods and shared some of her secrets; wines and beverages were superbly paired. Our guide historian was available to answer questions and inspire us.

RIVER- CANAL CRUISES
River Cruises are a big travel trend right now. Barging canals and rivers allows even more intimacy with authentic culture away from tourists, unique access to places, and far fewer fellow passengers. I have enjoyed barging cruises with European Waterways before. My husband and I celebrated a birthday cruising out of the Grand Canal of Venice to smaller waterways and the great charms of Italy’s people, food and aesthetics. It sometimes felt like time travel to other centuries –from the medieval to the Renaissance to lands that inspired the romantic poet Lord Byron.

On another barging voyage, a college girlfriend and I thoroughly enjoyed a leisurely reunion on one of the many rich regional itineraries in France. Everyday I got off and bicycled in the countryside and villages as well as joined the planned shore trips to wineries, villas and abbeys. Onboard, I thoroughly enjoyed the passing scenery, fantastic food and checking out what kind of “Keeper” would be at the next lock on the Canal to turn the valves, change the water levels and let us glide on. The Lock Keepers ranged from an artist with a gallery of sculptures in his garden to a grandmother roaring up on a motorcycle.

It was wonderful to experiences that in Scotland, European Waterways lived up to their great service, food, drink and side trips. Barging allowed access into the deep valleys and lochs, and seeing castles and the highlands from the water- a unique, treasured way to experience Scotland.

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CAPITAL EDINBURGH

More-ish was a word I used again when we stayed over in Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital,  before flying home.  We enjoyed Georgian elegance at the Nira Caledonia, one of the “Small Luxury Hotels of the World” (a high-standards collection of over 500 hotels in 80 countries- bring out your Bucket List!)

The Nira Caledonia’s sumptuous breakfast spread and our lovely suite’s enormous Jacuzzi tub were rejuvenating ways to book-end full days.  The hotel’s location allowed us to walk to New Town with its hopping restaurants, to some of Edinburgh’ great gardens and museums, and to the Royal Mile, a road dense with memorable sight seeing and shopping. We could even hang out hoping to get a glimpse of the Queen, reportedly in residence then at her Holyroodhouse Palace.

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It would have been great to see Her Majesty, but the truth is, we felt like we were treated like royalty in this marvelous more-ish land of Scotland.

LINKS

*Small Luxury Hotels of the World for Nira Caledonia

 www.slh.com/

*Scottish Highlander:

http://www.gobarging.com/scottish-highlander-barge

*European Waterways:

 http://www.gobarging.com

*Isle of Eriska

http://www.eriska-hotel.co.uk

Article’s author Lisa TE Sonne’s travel books

www.LisaSonne.com

Note: Like many travel writers, Sonne was an invited guest at some of the venues written about, but her evaluations are independent. For her husband’s perspective of the Scotland trip: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/victor-dorff/in-scotland-hospitality-i_b_8093874.html

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