Aberdeen to Skye.. Inaugural trip for #VanTrails

Heading out of Aberdeen, we decided to make our way up the coast over to Inverness, and then through The Highlands into Skye. Oh man the freedom of being in our own car.. no, our own van. How do we explain the giddiness that shook down to our souls, the joy streaming through the smiles on our faces, and the overwhelming sense of true adventure radiating through the van?



Being just the four of us- Isobel (the van), our God, and us two Arbours, meant we were going to experience one radical trip. There were no chains dragging us down of school deadlines, work requirements, or timelines to meet. We were free!! And we pushed that freedom to the limits!!


Our first day, we made our way up to (New) Slain’s Castle. Our friend, Stephanie, had told us this was a must see castle, and she was certainly right. This castle is completely open to the public at no cost, and seems to be somewhat of a secret in the area. We turned down the long dirt road heading to the beach and weren’t sure what to expect. Upon arriving to the castle we were blown away. How could such pretty ruins be such a secret? While the beauty blew us away, we were hesitant about exploring the grounds, as there are no safety measures erected to prevent serious injury or even falling to your death.



Ah what the heck… we had to explore it! We climbed the tower (where Heather had a freak out moment at the top, with her life flashing before her eyes) and then slowly made our way down the tower and around the rest of the castle.


{Traveler’s Tip.. While this castle is absolutely stunning and enchanting to explore.. Be careful! There are literally crosses around the castle from people that have fallen to their death while exploring! We can’t stress it enough to take extreme caution, and we definitely do not advise young children or unstable people to climb the tower!}



We spent the rest of daylight exploring the castle, and staring in awe of our new beauty, Isobel. We decided this location would be perfect for our first night sleeping in the van! Like seriously, can you think of a better place to stay than at the entrance of a castle?


{Traveler’s Tip.. From what we understand, you can camp anywhere in Scotland for free. There are a few regulations like not being able to be seen from the road and such, but take advantage of this awesome law! Read more about it here.}



Our first night in the van was everything we dreamed of. We both slept so peacefully, the temperature was great, and waking up to the sunrise over the ocean was spot on! We awoke and enjoyed some fresh brewed coffee and boiled eggs, then waved goodbye to the castle and hit the road.



Day two, while still great, and funny looking back on it now, did NOT go as planned. We needed to get gas, so our first stop of the day was going to be in Peterhead for a “quick” fill-up. This “quick” fill-up turned into a five and a half hour ordeal!! Any guesses on what happened at the gas station?!? Let us give you a clue.. In the states, green = diesel, black = unleaded. In the UK, green = unleaded, black = diesel. Need we say more??


{Traveler’s Tip.. Reread that last part!! It’s worth saying it again, be sure to read what the pump says before getting trapped in a huge disaster!}


Fueling a car with the wrong gas leaves you with two options. Having the car towed to the nearest garage to have the fuel drained (a super expensive option) or siphoning the gas yourself. We chose to do it ourselves. It’s supposed to be a fairly easy job once you get the fuel flowing, but we couldn’t get a constant flow, so we sat and pumped and pumped for five hours! Praise the Lord we were right next to a store that had a seasonal section containing a hand air pump, or this five-hour project would have been much, much longer! Ahh.. cringing now just thinking about it.



After getting back on the road, we decided to treat ourselves. This turned into the BEST decision ever. We stopped in the quaint town of Portsoy, and had their famous ice cream. After sampling over ten different types of their homemade ice cream, we went with three scoops each. Ooops!! What a healthy dinner on the road!


{Traveler’s Tip.. Stop and eat at Portsoy Ice Cream! You won’t be disappointed! The workers in there are so friendly and the ice cream is literally the best we have ever had.. And trust us we have had lots of ice cream!!}



After our delicious dinner, we made our way to Findlater Castle. We’re convinced it is named this due to the urge of giving up on finding it and simply just finding it later! Upon finding the castle, we were dumbfounded at how it was even built! It’s literally a castle built into the slant of a rock, with 50 ft drops on nearly all sides into the ocean below.


{Traveler’s Tip…This castle is about 2 miles east of Cullen. There are small, no tiny, brown signs to direct you to the castle. It’s easy to miss any of the signs, so drive slowly and basically head towards the ocean. You will park to the left of a house/farm building and then have a short walk to the castle from there. Check the map above for exact placement of the castle.}



Seeing how we could not camp at Findlater Castle, due to it’s proximity to someone’s home, we hit the road again in hopes of finding a stellar site for night two. This stellar site ended up being a parking way just off the highway. Surprisingly, we were able to sleep really well, and didn’t really hear any of the traffic around us.



The next morning was spent in the picturesque village of Cullen. We enjoyed breakfast at the beach and then walked around the town going in antique shops and exploring the viaducts.



Since our mishap the day before set up back quite a bit, we decided to basically drive straight into Skye from here. We first stopped at Bow Fiddle Rock, and then Spey Bay, a great place to see dolphins and whales, and then continued on the way to Skye.


{Traveler’s Tip.. Bow Fiddle Rock is a sight to see. It’s a really easy walk from the parking area on the street to the viewpoint of the rock! It’s worth a quick stop!}


{Traveler’s Tip.. Spey Bay is a bit out of the way, but the Dolphin Information Center there is fabulous - super hands on and great for the kiddos. And although we didn’t see any dolphins there are frequent recorded viewings.}



From there we went to Eilean Donan Castle, one of the most famous castles in Scotland. Arriving just after the castle closed was well to our advantage. This meant there weren’t many people there and we could walk around the castle for free. We were unable to see inside the castle, but walking the grounds was satisfying enough to us! From what we understand the castle is not the original building, but actually a remake of what the castle used to look like when it was originally constructed. Although this made the romantic side of the castle slip away, it was still enchanting seeing it!



After loads of pictures and exploration, we were ready to finally get on the island! Our first sights of the island were everything we imagined they would be. Even with the foul weather, the Isle of Skye is spectacular. We instantly fell in love with the place! After a few pit stops for taking in all the beauty surrounding us, we made it to Portree.


{Traveler’s Tip.. There is free parking down a small hill to the right immediately when you enter Portree. If it’s late in the evening or on Sunday, you can park for free in the visitor’s center parking area as well.}



We found a nice fish and chips place down on the harbor, and enjoyed our dinner with the seagulls flying through the harbor. This town was so cute, and definitely a place we wanted to return to, but for the time being we needed to get back on the road to find a spot to sleep for the night before it got to dark.


{Traveler’s Tip.. Go to the fish and chip take-out place down in the bright buildings on the harbor. It’s the cheapest we found, and they give you HUGE portions that are finger licking good! Don’t feed the seagulls though.. They tend to stay away from people eating for the most part, and the town is really keen on keeping it that way.}


We were able to find a great camping spot at the trailhead of The Old Man Storr where we camped next to multiple other stealth campers. The storm that was passing through rocked the van all night and peltered it with rain leading us to not get the best sleep. Our “neighbors” even had to take down the pop up bed portion of their van because how bad the wind was!! It led for an eventful night for us all!




Next up Spring Break Part Two: Read about it here -->> The Northern Loop of Skye <<--



Read about how we decided on this trip here..  -->> Spring Break <<--

Or about our decision to purchase a van here.. -->> So, We Bought A Van <<--



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