With rain falling on the roof, it's good to be indoors, dreaming of Scottish castles and Icelandic vistas. Thanks for popping in last week for some tea and shortbread - the winner of the "Sharing Scotland" giveaway is the lovely and talented Patricia from PVE Design. Congratulations, Patricia!
And there's more to share. Elizabeth from Pretty Pink Tulips mentioned she'd love to know how we chose Scotland and Iceland as our destination. I think I've mentioned that we tend to go back and forth between my desire for arts and culture, and Mr. H.'s love of outdoors and adventure. I struggle with wanting to return to favorite spots (ahem, Paris) year after year, he is always craving something new. With a direct flight to Iceland (Iceland Air offers a free stopover) and a quick jump to the U.K., a Scotland/Iceland jaunt seemed like it might cover all those points (although the well-traveled Mr. H. had been to both spots).
But there are many, many reasons to escape to these dreamy places - here are my top six:
Spectacular Scenery: There is a rugged and compelling beauty to both Scotland and Iceland, where evidence of volcanic drama contrasts with verdant greens and sparkling blue seas.
History Lessons: We trod in the footsteps of Mary Queen of Scots and Bonnie Price Charlie. It seemed as if a chapter of Scottish history had been written wherever we went -- and with the vote for Independence being debated during our stay, a gripping story continues.
Arts and Culture: Just walk down the streets of the Scottish and Icelandic capitals to find evidence of a lively cultural scene. From Edinburgh's galleries and theaters (not to mention the Fringe Festival) to Reykjavik's indie music masters (Of Monsters and Men, Sigur Ros), these are cities where art is alive and well, not just something to see in a museum.
Chic Sleeps: Want to check into a urbane Grand Hotel? Fancy an elegant country house or perhaps a luxury resort? Or maybe a hip hotel is more your style. Edinburgh's beautiful Balmoral, Inverlochy Castle in the Highlands, Isle of Eriska on the coast, gorgeous Gleneagles in Perthshire and the super chic 101 Hotel and Ion in Iceland all exceeded expectations.
Good Eats: Pack your stretchy pants. From fish and chips to Andrew Fairlie's Michelin-starred extravaganza, Scotland cooks up some amazing meals. After the 2008 crash, Iceland restauranteurs returned to their roots and traditional foods. I'll pass on the reindeer burgers, but the bread and butter alone were worth traveling for. One of our best meals of the trip was at Dill, where chef Gunar Karl Gislason puts a fresh take on New Nordic cuisine with a different menu every night.
Fun and Games: Deer stalking, shooting, fly fishing, falconry - if it's something the Downton Abbey clan might have got up to while visiting Cousin Shrimpy, you'll be able to pursue it in Scotland. In Iceland it was soaking in geo-thermal pools, riding ponies through the lava fields and hikes across a surreal lunar-like landscape.
Both Scotland and Iceland are now firmly on the list list of well-loved places we'd return to again and again. Want to pull on the wellies and join me? Or pack the heels for a stroll down the streets of Edinburgh?
What do you look for in the perfect vacation spot?
Happy Wednesday! XOXO