Which Hawaiian Island is Right for You?

Article Written By Simone Zain

Being one of the most timeless travel destinations in the world, Hawaii is equal parts beautiful, welcoming and adventurous. With 8 main islands, including Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe and the Big Island- your options are endless. Each island has a distinct look, personality and overall vibe. We are here to touch upon 4 of the most popular islands for some inspiration on where to head first.

Kauai

Known as “the garden isle”, Kauai’s reputation does not disappoint. Arguably, Kauai has the most beautiful terrain of all the islands with its countless flora and fauna, sea cliffs, canyons and waterfalls. You will be amazed no matter where you look and sometimes might even recognize your surroundings from the numerous Hollywood films that have featured this beautiful island. In addition to the stunning landscapes, Kauai is also wonderful for those looking for active travel. Kauai boasts wonderful hiking and snorkeling, with award winning spas to allow for both activity and relaxation.

Restaurants you cannot miss:

Eating House 1849– 2829 Ala Kalanikaumaka Rd A-201, Koloa, HI 96756

Beach House Restaurant– 5022 Lawai Rd, Koloa, HI 96756

Porky’s Kauai– 9899 Waimea Rd, Waimea, HI 96796

Koloa Fish Market- 3390 Poipu Rd, Koloa, HI 96756

Great Hotel Options:

Ko’a Kea Hotel & Resort at Poipu Beach

Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa

The Lodge at Kukui’ula

Maui

For a combination of everything Maui is your best bet. It has fantastic restaurants, endless activities and some of the best whale watching in the world (from November- May). With two resort areas, Kaanapali and Wailea on the West side of the island and more remote options along the road to Hana (a must do island drive) you can have the best of both worlds. Maui allows for the option of quiet day trips and resort side nightlife in quaint towns like Lahaina, Paia, Wailea and Kihei.

Restaurants your Cannot Miss:

Honu Seafood and Pizza– 1295 Front St, Lahaina, HI 96761

Paia Fish Company– 632 Front St, Lahaina, HI 96761 OR 100 Baldwin Ave, Paia, HI 96779

The Mill House– 1670 Honoapiilani Hwy #1, Wailuku, HI 96793

Honokowai Okazuya Deli– 3600 Lower Honoapiilani Rd D, Lahaina, HI 96761

Great Hotel Options:

Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa

Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea

Andaz Maui

The Big Island

When I think of the big island three things come to mind, volcanos, pie and sea turtles. The least touristy option of the more populated islands, the big island has a lot to offer with little crowds.

Restaurants you cannot miss:

Roys– 69-250 Waikoloa Beach Dr, Waikoloa Village, HI 96738

Moon and Turtle– 51 Kalakaua St, Hilo, HI 96720

Da Fish House– 613659 Kawaihae-Mahukona Rd, Waimea, HI 96743

Merriman’s Big Island– 65-1227 Opelo Rd B, Waimea, HI 96743

Great Hotel Options:

Hilton Waikaloa Village

Mauna Lani

Four Seasons Hualalai

Oahu

Oahu, truly the island that has a little bit for everyone. Enjoy the city life of Honolulu, food, drinks, luxury hotels and hustle and bustle of Wikiki Beach. Feel like a local on the North Shore, grab some shrimp at one of the many food trucks, catch a wave or chase some waterfalls, this stunning island has no shortage of adventure. Take a tour at Kualoa Ranch and feel like you are in the set or Jurassic Park, because you are!

Restaurants you cannot miss:

Matsumoto Shave Ice 66-111 Kamehameha Hwy #605, Haleiwa, HI 96712

Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck– 66-472 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712

Ono Seafood– 747 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816

Duke’s Waikiki– 2335 Kalakaua Ave #116, Honolulu, HI 96815

Great Hotel Options:

Halekulani Hotel

Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina

The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort, Waikiki

Day Trip Add On

Molokai

For a local, quiet and historically rich experience, Molokai is the way to go. While it lacks in nightlife options, with authenticity it doesn’t disappoint. Seen as a once in a lifetime trip, some must dos include snorkeling and kayaking over the longest reef on any Hawaiian island, Molokai’s barrier reef, hopping on a mule and travelling to the Kalaupapa Leper Colony (by invitation) and touring one of the many coffee plantations. The stand out part of visiting this island in particular is your chance to really connect with the locals and experience the beautiful, but challenging history of the Hawaiian people.


The Magic of Bhutan with Six Senses

Article Written by Dani Johnson

Bhutan has been on my bucket list for years. As a child, I dreamed of seeing the awe inspiring Himalayan mountains. I’d watch movies such as Seven Years in Tibet with Brad Pitt and think to myself, “I have to go to this exotic destination.” Experiencing this country not only left an indelible imprint on me, but has also restored my faith in traveling off the beaten path.

Before leaving on my trip, I was amazed by how many people asked, “Where is Bhutan?” This beautiful, harmonious and extraordinary country borders both India and China, with close neighbors such as Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal. Flights go daily on Drukair from Singapore and Bangkok, making it an accessible destination. If you have not yet flown on Drukair, you will enjoy its old world, very luxurious feel with attentive flight attendants and delicious food. The aircrafts are state of the art and wonderfully appointed making this a remarkably comfortable airline experience.

Traveling throughout Bhutan is similar to traveling throughout Africa, in the sense that it is a journey, albeit a spiritual one. Each Six Senses Lodge has its own unique temples, monasteries, treks and farmers markets. It is amazing to think that there are over 1,000 monasteries and temples in Bhutan. The Bhutanese are a warm, hospitable and joyous people. Bright smiles and a common prayer bow welcome you wherever you may go. The slogan in Bhutan is GNH (Gross National Happiness), which is remarkably fitting. Traveling throughout this country is an authentic experience that encourages you to take an inward glance at your own life and how you live it. Your pace becomes slower and more methodical and by the end of your journey you begin to notice the little things. Throughout the trip, the movie “As Good as It Gets” kept popping into my mind. I remembered Jack Nicholson’s character stating, “You make me want to be a better man”, which really represented the the Bhutanese people and their long lasting effect on those they encounter. They truly embody all that is good in the world.

Your adventure begins by flying into Paro and starting your journey in one of Western Bhutan’s four valleys; Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey or Bumthang. Circling back at the end of the trip, your last destination will be Paro. Ending back in Paro is done for two reasons. The first reason to end in Paro is so that you do not have the long drive back on the day you fly out, with the second being that this is the valley you access the infamous Tiger’s Nest in. It certainly makes sense to trek each day, building up to the most difficult and momentous trek of the trip to Tiger’s Nest.

Arriving into Paro and stepping off the plane, I was struck by the beauty and cleanliness of the country as a whole. You are greeted by a picture of the King, his wife and son painted on the side of a building, looking very regal. You can immediately sense these people are proud of their royal family, traditions and truly embrace the customs of their beloved country and Buddhist religion. While Jay and I traveled throughout Bhutan, we would continue to see pictures of the royal family and encounter locals who shared the adoration of the family by wearing pins with the royal emblem.

After being met by our guide and driver, we began our 1.5 hour journey to Thimphu. The drive had us meandering through valleys, across rivers and passing many temples and dogs. Dogs are everywhere in Bhutan and there is a saying that the first and last bite of food goes to the dog. Due to the fact that no animals are killed in Bhutan, all meat is shipped in from from neighboring countries.  Being an animal lover, I marveled at this and made sure to save a bite of my food each day for one of the dogs.

Arriving at the Six Senses Thimphu was simply astounding. We were greeted by warm, friendly and sincere smiles. Accepting our warm towels, we walked into the most serene lodge. Gorgeous hardwood floors and a roaring fire place greeted us as we marveled at a view of the snow capped mountains in the distance. I looked at my husband Jay and said, “How long are we staying?” We immediately knew that this lodge and our time spent here was going to be significant. The natural beauty of Six Senses Thimphu is hard to describe and resonates through each six senses property in the region. Simply put, it’s perfection. The General Manager, Sally Baughen, manages these properties like they are her own family. The staff adores Sally and she has the unique ability to be highly professional while at the same time being incredibly warm and welcoming, along with her loyal dog who is the most adorable creature ever.

Traveling throughout Bhutan is an experience like no other. From being invited to private prayers to visiting local farmers markets, to hiking at several iconic sites, to ending the trip at Tiger’s Nest, it is a trip we will not soon forget. We are very thankful for the opportunity to visit Bhutan and wish everyone would one day experience this magical place. It restores your faith in travel and touches your heart. The only other place in this world that has touched us so deeply is Africa. Bhutan is a must visit and Six Senses’ lodges will meet every expectation and leave you wondering, “When can I come back to this stunning country?”


Spa and Wellness Destinations for 2020

Article Written by Sarah Dawson – Inspired by Leah Smith

Europe is an easy destination to travel back to time and time again, offering rich history, delicious food, and now, world class spa and wellness facilities. For those in search of a fully immersive wellness experience, Smith recommends SHA Wellness, located on the coast of Spain. Programs and treatments at SHA are personalized to help each guest reach their goal with a holistic approach incorporating nutrition, fitness, and of course, time in their renowned indoor/outdoor world class spa. For individuals who prefer mountainous and lake views, Smith suggests checking into Italy’s newest property in the Dolomites, Lefay Resort & Spa Dolomiti. The Lefay Spa features 5,000 square meters of wellness activities centering around energy healing, all with views of the beautiful Dolomite mountains. Last but not least, Portugal is definitely a hot spot for travelers of all types, but for those wanting a luxury take with a bit of wellness mixed in, Six Senses Douro Valley should be strongly considered. Guests will experience thoughtful spa treatments, a great night’s sleep thanks to a private sleep consultation, and farm-to-table dining complete with amazing Portuguese wines.

There’s been an explosion of new hotels in the Cabo area, most of which boast expansive spas that offer the best in pampering, as well as a long list of wellness activities. “With many nonstop flights to Cabo San Lucas, year-round great weather, and a variety of hotels and price points, the region is attainable for just about anyone,” Smith says. Luxury seekers enjoy the laidback atmosphere of Las Ventanas al Paraiso, where every room comes with its own butler. The Spa at Las Ventanas is a big draw, with many of the elements inspired by the ancient healers of Baja. For the workout-focused, the 2,900-square-foot fitness center offers more than 30 classes weekly, plus private training sessions. Those in search of a trendier place to stay should consider Chileno Bay, which offers daily fitness activities, including beach bootcamp, yoga with an ocean view, and spin class in the pool. Additional highlights include Chileno Bay’s signature Spa Journey in the resort’s holistic spa, wellness cocktails, and wellness weekends that include individual tarot sessions, mediation, yoga, and stargazing along with an ancient Shamanic Ceremony. As a third option, The Cape is one of the newest resorts on the scene, infused with a hip vibe and offering an award-winning spa along with an incredible food and beverage program. The rooftop bar makes for lively happy hours, while individual plunge pools in the suites make this a true getaway.

While many people initially begin planning their trip to Peru to explore Machu Picchu, they quickly realize the spirituality of this sacred place and all that is has to offer requires more than simply an afternoon with their camera. “The Andes Mountains provide a vast playground for those interested in hiking and biking,” Smith says, “while the Sacred Valley and history of the Incan people take clients on life-changing spiritual journeys.” For the adventure-seeker, Mountain Lodges offers the Wellness and Yoga Experience to Machu Picchu, during which guests will wake with yoga sun salutations, trek to hidden ancient ruins, and learn the history of Incan ritual. For those seeking a spiritual experience, there is Sol y Luna, nestled deep in the Andes, the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The stunning spa casita is surrounded by stained glass that makes this wellness experience as equally beautiful as it is spiritual.

With its year-round temperate climate and accessibility, San Diego continues to be one of the leading health and wellness destinations in the nation. Those looking to recharge should look into the Golden Door, which is set amongst the eucalyptus trees, and offers a completely tailored wellness experience with daily massages, personal training and nutrition coaching, a curated meal plan, and various other spa and fitness activities. It also offers various women-only and men-only weeks, as well as coed programs, making it a great option both for couples and getaways with friends. Rancho La Puerta Wellness Resort has a loyal following of wellness seekers who take the short drive across the border to Tecate, Mexico, to experience the warm Mexican hospitality of this family-owned wellness-focused retreat. The resort centers around a variety of daily activities, including salsa dancing, pickleball, painting, and legendary hiking. Lastly, the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort is ideal if you plan to bring the entire family for a wellness break. This option offers a variety of children’s activities, as well as endless active programs for adults, including tennis, golf, and fitness classes. Multiple times a year the Park Hyatt Aviara offers dedicated wellness weekends centered around resetting the body.

“If you’re just not sure where to go, but want the consistency of a well done wellness program, take a look at COMO Hotels and Resorts,” Smith recommends. The locations around the world include closer afield Turks & Caicos and exotic, far-flung Bhutan and Indonesia. The concept that weaves all resorts together is the COMO Shambhala holistic wellness programs, which have a strong emphasis on ancient healing. All resorts offer complimentary pilates, yoga, and meditation training, and for an additional cost there are classes on offer that take a deeper dive into wellness. When it comes to cuisine, these resorts offer health seekers balanced, nutritious meals, but options abound, so your more indulgent partner can still enjoy dessert. COMO Hotels and Resorts offers frequent retreats, seminars, and workshops centered around a variety of themes at all of their locations.


Rwanda- Africa's Hidden Gem

Article Written by Megan Trout

We found Africa’s hidden gem — a perfect blend of historic reconciliation, National Parks with volcanos and the “Big Five,” a lake so vast it looks like the ocean, and treks to see gorilla families in the wild.

Rwanda, tucked between Lake Victoria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is Africa’s hidden gem. With a history of violence, Rwanda is often overlooked as a tourist destination. But the genocide ended 25 years ago and the country has since transformed into a progressive safe haven filled with nationwide respect.

“I will tell you that it is the safest country in Africa,” said Andrea Ortega, a Coastline Travel advisor. “I honestly feel more unsafe walking through L.A. or New York than I ever did walking around the streets of Rwanda. That was a big surprise for me — it’s so safe and so clean.”

Ortega was invited by the Rwanda Development Board to experience highlights of the country with 26 other travelers from around the world. What she did not realize, was how much this trip would change her worldly perspectives.

HISTORIC RECONCILIATION

Rwanda is known for their large gorilla population and the 1994 genocide. A crucial part of the trip is understanding Rwandan culture and the tainted history of the genocide against the Tutsi. One of the first stops is at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, an educational hub and cultural center.

“It’s absolutely heartbreaking, but it’s an essential part of the visit to understand the country and also to understand where the people are coming from,” Ortega said. “And to see people living side-by-side now and not caring whether you’re Hutu or Tutsi is really astounding because it’s only been 25 years since the country went through this turmoil.”

Travelers will also see reconciliation villages, where survivors live among ex-perpetrators in a way to connect and educate visitors of their history. These villages are also used to discuss culture and provide counseling sessions. Ortega met survivors whose parents died in the war and are now in reconciliation villages to share their story, forgive and learn how to move on.

“BIG FIVE” AND CANOPY WALKS

For an adventurer’s highlight, no trip to Rwanda is complete without canopy walks and visiting National Parks to search for the “Big Five.”

Akagera National Park has it all — woodlands, savannah grasslands, mountain habitats, and the “Big Five.” Like the animals on your childhood bedroom wallpaper, the “Big Five” includes lions, elephants, rhinoceroses, leopards, and African buffalos. Akagera reintroduced lions and rhinoceroses in 2017, making the park a tourist highlight for animal sightings and bird watching. And if you’re looking in the right spot, The Akagera River has one of the highest concentration of Hippopotamuses.

But remember to keep your distance.

Nyungwe National Park, in the southwest, is entirely different but also worth a visit. Nyungwe is Africa’s largest protected mountain rainforest known for its diverse animal and bird species. It is also home to the only canopy walk in East Africa, on 70 meter high bridges that span across the tropical rainforest with the chirping birds. This is the best place to see chimpanzees and other monkey species in Rwanda.

Ortega took note that the canopy walk was not necessarily difficult, but visitors should be alert and mobile — the bridges were slippery, covered in rainforest dew. It was on this excursion where Ortega realized a rain coat would have been a good packing tip.

It did not rain often, but when it did, it rained hard.

CULTURE AND COFFEE

Rwanda is a country with rich culture that is not solely defined by their history and wildlife.

Azizi Life is a community experience offered in Muhanga, a district in the northwest near Lake Kivu. Community members show tourists a day in the life of a Rwandan, including learning about traditional pottery, construction and cooking. They also show tourists cow manure art, known as Imigongo, which is a technique to place geometric designs on canvasses, pottery or walls.

“Even though it was still geared toward tourists, it wasn’t hokey. There’s not that much tourism yet in Rwanda to spoil it,” Ortega said about her Azizi Life experience. “We were out on a dirt, bumpy road and they definitely lived in these homes, so if you want to see their bedrooms, they’ll show you. It was definitely interesting and not done up — it was the real deal.”

Rwanda is also known for their coffee and tea plantations. There are coffee plantation tours offered to both the coffee connoisseurs and amateurs alike. As one of the top 30 countries in the world to produce the finest coffee, watching the production process and trying out coffee samplers is a good morning excursion.

One of Ortega’s guides informed her that after the genocide, Rwandans developed a sharp sense of discipline. He told Ortega that communities adopted a code of conduct they all believed in and became the “Switzerland of Africa,” so to speak. So on the last Saturday of every month, communities participate in a monthly neighborhood clean-up — either with building development or projects to help preserve the environment. Ortega and the other tourists in her group were able to help with the clean-up and spent their day constructing a community building.

And for all the feminists, Rwanda is the number one country with the most female representation in parliament. Just throwing that out there.

SUNSETS AND KAYAKS

For the vacationers and the adventure-seekers, Lake Kivu caters to everyone’s travel needs. Lake Kivu, on the western boarder of Rwanda and the Congo, is one of Africa’s Great Lakes. Much like the Great Lakes on the U.S. and Canadian border, Lake Kivu is so large it has the ocean’s appearance — rolling waves into the sunset with the occasional island splitting up the vast body of water. On the lake, tourists get to experience a sunset boat tour with local fishermen, as well as explore several of the islands.

There are also kayak rentals, but it is not advised to go swimming in the lake. While there are no real animal threats, the waters are untreated and it’s best to enjoy the lake sunsets from land or on boats. Ortega noted that the lake was gorgeous and would definitely recommend a visit.

GORILLA NAMING CEREMONY

There is only one event that will bring together Paul Kagame, the Rwandan President, and the early-2000s hit American singer-songwriter Ne-Yo (“Let Me Love You”) — that event is the annual “Kwita Izina,” or the Mountain Gorilla Naming Ceremony near Volcanoes National Park.

Each year, around the first week of September, the national park celebrates the birth of baby mountain gorillas. Babies are given names as a way to monitor each in the wild, as well as to expand the development of tourism and wildlife conservation. This year the event fell on Sept. 6, and like every year, guests across the world are invited to join — including Ne-Yo as entertainment.

As one of the country’s most popular events, community members in neighboring towns and villages walk miles to attend the ceremony. Ortega described the event as festive, with professional dancers performing to Rwandan pop music. Other big-name guests include Princess Basma of Jordan, English model, actress and businesswoman Naomi Campbell, and Dutch football manager Louis van Gaal.

Each guest gave a speech which ended in naming one of the gorillas. This year’s ceremony had 25 newborn mountain gorillas. Ortega’s favorite name was given by Louis van Gaal. He named a gorilla Ingogozi, “as a tribute to the remarkable recovery Rwanda has made, thanks to the country’s influential leadership that’s promoted unity and peace since 1994.”

If scheduling can be flexible, visiting Rwanda at the time of a Kwita Izina is one of the most memorable experiences. Plus, mid-September is still in the dry season, which is the best time to visit the country.

GORILLA TREKKING

The slowest tourist was in the front, setting the pace for the rest of the crew. There were eight tourists, a few trekkers (one was armed), one park ranger and several hired porters, or men to carry bags and help tourists with the steep terrain. Everyone had a bag full of water and snacks for the trek.

Ortega chose the medium trek, which meant three to four hours of hiking up steep terrain, climbing about 9,000 feet in elevation, and one hour with the gorillas — but every tour included one hour observing the gentile giants in their natural habitats. Some tours have a lower elevation climb and are more mobile-friendly, so all ages can enjoy the gorillas. Ortega took note when they passed from fields to muddy trails, then to walking through a bamboo forest. The terrain was diverse and ever-changing.

Volcanoes National Park in the northwest is Rwanda’s most iconic tourist attraction. With their developed infrastructure, it holds the safest, most tourist-friendly excursion to see gorillas in the wild. The trekkers are rehabilitated poachers and have a passion for teaching others about the negative effects of poaching in Africa. As they walk higher up the rolling hills and bamboo forests, the trekkers discuss poaching while holding machetes, for the safety of the group as a precaution to other animal threats.

And then, they arrived. The trekkers told Ortega and the others to put down their bags but bring their cameras. Ortega rounded one final hill and stopped in her tracks, amazed to see something she never thought she would see.

The group was standing in front of about 20 gorillas of all ages, chomping on bamboo and rolling in the grass. One gorilla held a one month old baby in her arms. The trekkers made noises to let the gorillas know that the group was not a threat. Ortega described the noises as someone clearing their throat.

“It was fascinating just to see them in their habitat,” Ortega said. “We saw one gorilla mom with a baby that was only one month old and the way she was cradling it, with such love and care, was incredible. It just warmed your heart.”

Ortega never once felt threatened or unsafe. The trekkers and park rangers gave clear instructions to give the gorillas space, and if they approached, to slowly walk away.

And in a blink of the eye, the crew took their final photographs and turned back down the rolling hills to return to the base camp and head back to their respective hotels. From 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. was an excursion of a lifetime — one that Ortega would hold onto and cherish forever.

As Ortega said, “I really feel Rwanda is a hidden gem.”

TOP 5 ACCOMMODATIONS 

While this trip includes multiple accommodations, Ortega gives her hot take on the top 5:

  1. Singita Kwitonda
    “The second stop was at the ultra-luxury Singita — you go there and then you never want to leave. It’s located at the base of these volcanos … in the morning you see the gorgeous views and in the evening when it gets dark, the buffalos actually come down close to the property and you can see them. On occasion the gorillas come down. And you can see them with binoculars that are already equipped in your room.”
  2. One & Only Nyungwe House
    “Set in the midst of a beautiful, rich green tea planation. Cozy and luxurious — right in the middle of the forest.”
  3. Magashi Camp in Akagera National Park
    “With superb views over Lake Rwanyakazinga, set in the idyllic sanctuary of Akagera National Park, Magashi Camp is a one-of-a-kind setting in Rwanda located in its own private concession area. Don’t let the word ‘camp’ fool you.”
  1. The Retreat-Kigali
    “An oasis of peacefulness in the middle of Kigali. Tranquility and comfort combined with top-notch service.”
  2. Bisate Lodge
    “Bisate is located in the natural amphitheater of an eroded volcanic cone, with dramatic views of the peaks of the Bisoke and Karisimbi volcanoes rearing up through Afro-alpine forests. This was Rwanda’s first eco-friendly lodge — thatched villas hidden in the hills with stunning views of the volcanoes.”


Sláinte! A Glimpse at Enchanting Scotland

Article Written by Cynthia Heath

Fairy-tale castles, legendary lakes and a fabled sea creature are just scratching the surface of my family’s recent vacation to majestic Scotland. We started in Edinburgh.  It is a hilly city with narrow cobble stone streets and a rich history.  The medieval Old Town and the mid 18th century New Town are both unique and fun to explore.  Edinburgh is referred to as the “Athens of the North” due to similar topography and intellectual focus. The Royal Mile in the Old Town connects two ancient royal residences and is busy with pubs, shops and enchanting historical sites, making it a perfect place for a casual stroll.

We were eager to experience Edinburgh’s food culture and history so launched off on a food walking tour where we sampled many of Scotland’s culinary mainstays.  Our guide entertained us with stories on the history of Scottish food and the city. The national dish of Scotland, haggis was sampled (just don’t think about what’s in it while eating it) along with wild boar bangers and mash, fresh smoked salmon, and Scotch whisky at a private society club.

Our chauffer Ian then whisked us northward to Inverness, regarded as the capital of the Scottish Highlands. Inverness is known for its natural landscapes, quaint towns, medieval ruins and prehistoric sites.  The mysterious Clava Cairns dating back 4,000 years and the poignant Culloden Battlefield provided a strong connection with the past and an appreciation for the lives of the Scottish ancestors and the beauty of the country.   A trip to Inverness wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the shimmering shores of Loch Ness – with a depth over 750 feet it contains the largest volume of freshwater in the British Isles.  Unfortunately we did not catch a glimpse of the mysterious sea creature Nessie but was still worth exploring for its beautiful landscape.

Heading south, into the heart of Highland Perthshire we enjoyed a special visit to Blair Castle that has stood as the gatekeeper to the Scottish Highlands for over 700 years.  The spectacular landscape here is rich with breath-taking views, peat tinted rivers, plenty of sheep and the one of a kind Highland Cows.  It’s a magical place and you can’t help but feel it, surrounded by powerful peaks with the fresh Highland air filling your lungs.

Our last few days were spent at Gleneagles, dubbed the Playgrounds of the Gods, set on 850 acres of stunning Perthshire countryside.  While well known as a golf resort we enjoyed practicing falconry, putting the adorable Gleneagles Labradors through their paces at the Gundog School along with the quintessential experience of British afternoon tea. With a history stretching back as far as the 11th century, Scottish whisky is an important part of Scotland’s identity, so we poked around a couple of the local distilleries for a behind-the-scenes tour of the whisky making process and enjoyed a dram or two of the local spirit.   Like the drink itself, the process is fascinating and complex.

Scotland is one of the most enchanting places on earth.  I believe it has something for everyone.  There is the stunning scenery, tiny islands, untouched beaches, ancient relics, spectacular golf courses…and a whisky tradition that has been crafted for centuries. The Scots are warm and friendly (especially our cheeky driver Ian) and their accents so charming! Scotland is a big wee country.  It is impossible to cover it in one trip and I can’t wait to go back and discover more. These are just a few of the many highlights from our incredible experiences.  I hope my adventure will inspire you to get out and explore.