UK vacation

Tower Bridge

We’re just back from a great vacation trip to England and Scotland. This trip has been in the works for several months, and it’s nice when a much-anticipated excursion comes off even better than planned. We started with a trip to see a couple of musicals in London, as advertised in the DPAC’s programs for last fall’s performances, but then added on an extension to visit the Scottish highlands.

We left NC on May 23rd, flying to London’s Gatwick Airport from Charlotte. This was an overnight that brought us to London at about 7am on the morning of May 24th. Our driver, Alton, met us and whisked us in to downtown London (“whisk” is perhaps a bit much to describe a nearly-two-hour ride through morning traffic!). We stayed at the Chesterfield Mayfair hotel in Mayfair, which was a wonderful location. Our room wasn’t ready, so we left our luggage and walked by Buckingham Palace right at the time for changing of the guards (check!), and headed down to the Thames. We went by Westminster Abbey and Parliment, heard Big Ben strike noon, and wandered along the riverside. After lunch, we headed back to check into the hotel. Over the next 2 days we walked probably 25 miles around downtown London, and saw Warhorse and Les Miserablés. We saw the Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, Platform 9 3/4, the British Museum, Hyde Park, Regent’s Park and many other things.


On Sunday the 27th, we had a bus trip to Bath, Lacock, and culminating with an after-hours entrance to Stonehenge where we could actually walk into the circle. This was really cool!

We really enjoyed London! The city is vibrant, and we felt perfectly safe walking all around, even in the late evening after the theatre. The Theatre District after shows is incredible, with people everywhere. The weather was phenomenal, with warm temperatures, blue skies, and pleasant breezes.

On Monday the 28th, our driver Alton shuttled us to Gatwick to catch a flight to Inverness. On the approach to Inverness, we could see winter snow still on the Highlands, and as we banked into the clouds to land at Inverness, we thought the weather might not be as salubrious. Our driver, Bill, picked us up and headed across the Moray Firth and then west. As we headed west, the clouds lifted and the sky cleared. We turned south at Kinlochewe, and travelled via a single track road toward Torridon.

The Torridon Hotel

Our hotel in Torridon was the Loch Torridon Hotel, built in the late 1800’s as a hunting lodge and turned into a hotel in the 1960’s. It sits right on the shore of Loch Torridon, and provides expansive views of the rugged terrain. It’s an outstanding place to stay, both from the standpoint of amenities and things to do. We hiked, biked, kayaked, wined and dined!

I had the opportunity for an afternoon of fishing on the Coulin Estate, just a few miles from Torridon. I really enjoyed the opportunity to catch Scottish brown trout and talk with the estate gamekeeper, Neal.

Fishing on the Coulin Estate

The hiking was spectacular. The “hills” around Torridon rise almost vertically from the Loch to 3000 feet or more. The trail up one, Beinn Damph, leaves from the grounds of the hotel. It’s just under 3000 feet (2963 feet) but was a quite challenging walk with a roundtrip distance of about eight miles.

Beinn Damph summit

We stayed in Torridon for 4 days, before our driver picked us up for the return to Inverness. On the way to Inverness, we skirted Loch Ness and stopped at the Glen Ord distillery. From Inverness we flew to Gatwick overnighting in the airport hotel before heading back to NC. All in all, a wonderful trip!

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