Ahhh Scotland land of Loch Ness, William Wallace, deep fried Mars bars, haggis, beautiful scenery, and DO NOT forget the Scotch Whiskey. Taking a bus tour to the Northern most parts of Scotland in February may not be the logical choice for a vacation, but I would beg to differ. Not only does the more extreme (and cold) weather keep many tourists away - I mean come on, seeing sites without stumbling over fellow tourists is a dream - but the rain and wind seem to be practically ingrained in the Scottish culture. Shouldn't it be the goal of all true travelers to find those destinations that aren't overrun by tourists? If only for one season of the year.
We dropped into Edinburgh, Scotland mid-afternoon and had a few hours to explore the city before most of the museums and (non-pub related) sites closed. First top was a pub fairly close to Edinburgh Castle for some of the LEGIT best fish & chips I have ever had in my entire existence as a human being...I'm by no means a connoisseur, but 5 months in Ireland taught me a thing or two. We spent the remainder of the afternoon trying to hit up the major tourist spots in Edinburgh, which for us ended up being a two block radius - damn you draft beer, and your delicious, delicious draftiness!
I would say this is a MUST see for anyone with even a small amount of time - if castles aren't your thing, just go for the view.
The Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre:
(That would be me flaunting my newly earned Scotch Heritage Certificate)
Okay, I totes admit it, the beers at lunch may have pushed us in this direction. While I definitely wouldn't say it is a must see for those with a small amount of time it was amusing, informative, free sample offering, and certificate giving. The staff seemed knowledgeable, and patient enough to attempt to teach 3 young women the difference between varieties of Scotch. They didn't even laugh when we pretended to judge the quality - "hmmmm, I think this has a peaty taste." Did I mention there is a barrel ride?
Our youth hostel, Castle Rock Hostel, was cheap, centrally located, gracious enough to allow us back in after our "whiskey sampling", and had a rather humorous way of naming beds in the dormitory.
(*I am convinced they are psychic too - ha).