the peckhams visit
We did it. After years of thinking about it and months of planning it, we left Dean behind, hopped a plane, rented a car and set off for a 10 day adventure around Scotland. Exploring castles, old towns, tiny islands, and small winding roads, we drove hundreds of miles as we circled the countryside. We ate with old friends and met new ones along the way. We had an adventure. Our adventure.
DAY 1 (4/25)
Boringly, our first day was just traveling. We flew from Houston to Newark and then to Edinburgh. If you ever find yourself at Newark Airport, I'm sorry. After walking around for miles, we sat down at a Mexican restaurant donned with a yellow cab to a mediocre bowl of guac and an assortment of fried combinations of tortillas, meat, and cheese. We hopped on our flight to Scotland. I sat next to an old, fidgeting man name John. Samantha slept. Lucky girl.
DAY 2 (4/26)
Day 2. Glasgow. We picked up our rental car and drove to Glasgow. We dropped by the small (relatively) chapel in Kelvingrove, and then ate lunch with Malcolm. Malcolm joined the church when I was in Scotland. Malcolm is a king among men. We spent the rest of the day exploring the city centre, stumbling across bagpipes at a wedding, and walking around the old necropolis next to the stunning Glasgow cathedral. The evening was spent in the small, and seemingly always crowded home of Samantha. It was awesome. I cooked a mediocre feast for the family of folks who gathered. Seeing them was an unexplainably good vibe. To friends.
Overnight Flight. Haven't slept.
Drive To Glasgow. Time for a selfie. With the sun.
Left: This is where everything began for me. My first flat as a missionary is in a pretty rough area. Which is why Samantha whipped out the camera, took a photo, and we carried on our way. Still, so much of my life changed so quickly here.

Below: Great Western Road is nicer.
And old friend. Grabbed lunch with Malcolm on Byers Road. Superb.
St. Mungos is old. Super old.
Outside the Glasgow Cathedral.
Inside the Glasgow Cathedral.
The Glasgow Necropolis.
Our first night was spent here. Perfect place to relax in the city. Airbnb success.
DAY 3 (4/27)
Day 3. Arran. We woke up early to head southwest toward Irvine and eventually Arran. We stopped by some friends to take photos and say goodbye, and headed down an old familiar farm road toward the coast. Along the rolling green farms we saw ruins and some friendly sheep. We attended church in Irvine where I served for the last 9 months of my mission. The chapel was far smaller than I remembered. Surprisingly, people remembered me. Unfortunately we couldn't stay long. We dropped by some more friends before continuing on to catch a ferry out of Ardrossan. As the slow ship pierced through the fog that separated Arran and the mainland, we began to see what makes Arran special. "All of Scotland on One Island" is what the locals would say. We skirted around the northern coast stopping by Lochranza castle and eventually landing in the tiny town of Pirnmill. We ate dinner as the sun set over the water. It was perfect.
These sheep liked us. A lot. It was weird.
Stewarton (pronounced "stewt-ohn") Cemetary. Apparently some of Samantha's ancestors came from this town.
Ferry Selfie
Arriving at Brodick on the Isle of Arran.
After we got to Brodick, we set off north to drive around the Island to Pirnmill. We came across several small villages.
Car Selfie before a hike.
Left: We continued north and stumbled upon Lochranza castle.

Below: And walked inside.
Pirnmill. We spent our first night in this small Island village.
Walked about 10 steps out of the only (really awesome) restaraunt in the town to take this photo.
Just as we finished dinner, this old couple walked out to the pier holding hands for some evening activities. Awesome.
DAY 4 (4/28)
Day 4. Oban. We left Pirnmill in high spirits looking forward to a relaxing drive along the southern coast of the Island back into Brodick to catch our ferry. Unfortunately, I massively misjudged our time/distance requirements, and gave us about 45 minutes to travel over an hour's worth of time along the tiny roads. In literally any other scenario this would have been an absolute dream. However, Samantha's carsickness proved a worthy adversary for my otherwise enjoyably aggressive driving along the small winding, dipping, turning, twisting roads. Nevertheless, we survived. We drove up through the west part of Scotland, past Glasgow, alongside the massive Loch Lommond, and on to the bay town of Oban. Along the way we stopped to see Kilchurn castle and the powerfully silent, St. Conan's Kirk. Oban was beautiful. We ate dinner overlooking the quiet harbor. We continued on to our home for the night – Barcaldine Castle. A real castle. It was amazing. The rooms were beautiful and the setting was incredible. It was our favorite of the trip.
Above: Loch Lommond is one of the larger lakes in Scotland.

Left: On the way to Oban, we stopped by Kilchurn castle. It sat at the edge of a small penninsula.
The view from the tower.
Looking back on Kilchurn castle from a small boat ramp.
Above St. Conan's Kirk. I remembered stopping by here as a missionary.

Left Inside the Kirk. This particular spot was a powerful place to stand. The entire church was interesting.
Left: Oban harbor.

Below: Oban harbor, a bit closer.
Oban harbor, a bit closer still.
A couple of houses overlooking the harbor as we walked up to a large circular monument.
Our home for the evening. Yes, that is a real, actual castle. It's called Barcaldine Castle. And it was amazing.
The front door. This door was actually like 5'10" tall.
We loved it.
DAY 5 (4/29)
Day 5. Glencoe, Skye. The drive from Oban to Skye robs me of words. It is staggeringly rugged and strikingly beautiful. We loved it. We left our castle shortly after breakfast and took a slight detour to see Castle Stalker. It sits out in a bay of sorts. We then backtracked a bit to take advantage of larger roads. We drove through Glencoe and stopped to see Buachaille Etive Mor and other hills. We then drove north to Skye hopping from lake to lake as we raced through expansive, empty countryside. As we descended down to Loch Duich, Eilean Donan eventually came into view. A gem of Scotland, this castle's location alone commands the attention. We then drove over the Skye Bridge into Kyleakin, our home for the night. We ate a surprisingly good dinner in a small, cramped restaurant in what we could only assume was an apartment.
Above: Castle Stalker. A bit of a challenge to get up close to this one.

Left: Glencoe is immensely beautiful.

Below: Seriously, this place is unreal.
Glencoe is a strikingly beautiful village tucked into the foothills and overshadowed by looming mountains.
The sky began to clear slightly. The lakes we passed as we drove were empty. I think this one is Loch Garry.
Above: Pulled to the side on Loch Cluanie.

Left: We rested here for a bit. It was a little hidden perch with a soft floor of grass.
Yeah, it was really pretty.
Eilean Donan Castle was the gem of the day. It sits between Loch Alsh, Loch Duich, and Loch Long.
The thing is like 1,500 years old. Some guy restored it back in the 1930s.
View from the opposite side.
The tiny, almost forgotten town of Kyleakin. Kyleakin used to be pretty popular, but with the bridge to Skye built, visitors visit less.
Above: Skye is immensely beautiful. I regret that we were only able to see a part of it.

Left: We walked across the bay to see this ruin. We met a spanish couple as we attempted to walk to it. Both couples were unsuccessful.
DAY 6 (4/30)
Day 6. Inverness. As we drove into Skye to explore for the morning, the clouds parted, the sun came out, and the ocean turned a deep, rich blue. Despite the cold, it was beautiful. We went for a walk, and then retraced our steps to continue on toward Inverness. We drove on through quiet, dark forests. It began to rain when we arrived in Inverness. We walked around the cold city in the rain, stopping to get some pastries and do a bit of shopping. We spent the evening at the Beach Cottage (which, despite the weather, was amazing). Samantha loved it because it was immaculately clean. I enjoyed the proximity to the water, the view, and the friendly dog named Branston.
Above: Perfect. What a morning.

Left: Skye was unreal. We will return and explore further.
We walked along this path around a small penninsula. It was freezing, but the walk was perfect.
Samantha and I took about a million pictures of different boats.
Highland "cooos". Samantha didn't believe me that these existed.
Huntly Castle. We didn't really have the time or desire to venture much further.
Left: "This is what I imagined Scotland to look like" -Samantha

Below: We loved seeing these flowers as we drove through Inverness.

Below-er: A view across the main canal running through Inverness.
DAY 7 (5/1)
Day 7. Castles. We spent this entire day crossing over the top of Scotland from Inverness to Aberdeen. Along the way we dipped down to wind through small roads looking for castles. We visited the massive Castle Fraser and continued on to see the ruined Tolquhon Castle. Tolquhon really wasn't that exciting. We then drove on eventually winding up at Slains Castle. We walked what seemed like a mile out to the expansive ruin perched atop a cliff that overlooked the ocean. The cold Baltic winds bit harshly at any exposed skin. It was beautiful and sunny, but startlingly cold. We explored the ruin and continued into Aberdeen for the night.
Castle Fraser.
Castle Fraser agsin. We climed to the top of that tower. The view was amazing.
Left: We loved some of the architecture.

Below: More of the castle.
Tolquhon castle was tucked into the countryside and seemed almost forgotten.
Left: Slains Castle began to come into view after a bit of walking.

Below: The walking.
The walk along the cliffs to Slains Castle.
Left: A cold selfie with the castle.

Below: Castle Slains overlooking the ocean.

Below-er: It was a big castle.
DAY 8 (5/2)
Day 8. Aberdeen, Edinburgh. The drive to Edinburgh from Aberdeen was perfect for a variety of reasons. It was straight, along the coast, and the weather was perfect. We were greeted with bright blue skies as we made the trip along the west coast. We stopped by St. Andrews, and drove through small fishing villages. In Anstruther, we grabbed lunch and walked along the harbor. We spent time wandering through villages, and driving down small coastal roads. Eventually we found ourselves in Edinburgh. We stayed on Cockburn street in a small flat we found on AirBnb. It was awesome. We wandered a bit around Edinburgh, and I went out to grab dinner with some friends while Samantha rested for a bit.
Aberdeen is usually referred to as the Granite city. As opposed to other places in Scotland, most of the stone was quarried from one spot. Rendering most buildings with a grey-ish facade.
Left: More grey.

Below: Dunnottar Castle was awesome. Just near Stonehaven south of Aberdeen.
More of the Castle.
We actually used our tripod!
Left: Special grass. St. Andrews.

Below: Anstruther. Great fish and chips here.
The north coast along Anstruther.
Firth of Forth.
Pittennweem. Another Village.
Boats at Pittenweem.
Surprise, more boats.
Edinburgh. It was a beautiful night, followed by a cloudy grey day.
Grassmarket from above.
DAY 9 (5/3)
Day 9. Edinburgh. Sadly, the sun left us during our day in Edinburgh. Nevertheless, we loved our time here. Edinburgh is probably my favorite city. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote that Edinburgh is "what Paris ought to be". We spent the day walking the Royal Mile, ascending Arthur's seat to overlook the city. We snuck into small cafes and shops along the way. We spent a bit of time on Prince's street and walked the alleys behind the High Street. We ended our day with dinner at a small Italian café near our flat. We spent the evening with the Giboins. A family that never disappoints. Ever. Love them.
Cockburn Street. Our flat was here. Pronounced "Coh-burn".
Royal Mile.
We walked into a small card shop and struck up a conversation with the owner. We asked her where she gets lunch. She pointed us to this small cafe tucked away on the side of an alley. Turned out great.
Heading toward Arthur's seat.
Arthur's seat. A city surrounding a hill. This is a special place to me. As missionaries, we start, and end our missions atop this hill. It's beautiful, quiet, and full of memories.
Left: These plants/flowers/weeds smell really really good.

Below: Always loved grassmarket.
More grassmarket.
Buildings nearish the castle.
Left: Looking toward the back of Cockburn.

Below: The city.
Edinburgh's disgrace. Lot's of fun stories around to explain why this is only partially built.
Back toward the city.
Left: Some stairs at the foot of Cockburn.

Below: The Mission Home. I lived here for several months. Fitting that this was our last picture taken in Scotland. I still remember stickball and our 4th of July BBQ.
DAY 10 (5/4)
Day 10. Home. We did it.
BONUS. Doors. Samantha took lots of pictures of church doors.