HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 4 – Eilean Donan Castle 1.0

I’m sure if you’ve heard anything about Scotland before, you will have heard about the epic castles that are sprawled about the landscape. These castles and keeps are obviously romanticized in many novels, but once you see one for yourself – you’ll understand why.

After visiting the Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye, we headed towards Eilean Donan Castle for our first visit! (We would return later towards the end of our trip – due to the circuitous nature of this particular tour).

Eilean Donan Castle is located in a spectacular location – on a small island where three lochs meet.

Even before our yellow bus was parked, we were already giddy and ready to go exploring! It was an anticipated stop on our tour and we obviously couldn’t contain ourselves from taking loads of photographs!

To get to the castle itself, you have to cross a lovely bridge that adds to the picturesque nature of the location. (Note: Whilst the castle is open to visitors, you do need to purchase a ticket to cross this bridge! Even if you only want to walk across the bridge or wander around the castle grounds… )¬†

The castle was apparently first inhabited around the 6th century but not fortified until the 13th. Since then:

“at least four different versions of the castle have been built and re-built as the feudal history of Scotland unfolded through the centuries.”

Today, the castle is owned and maintained by the MacRae family, whose ancestor had purchased the island that the castle was built on in 1911. There are four generations of the family that still inhabit the castle today (though not on a daily basis)!

The name of the castle seems to come from the Irish Saint Bishop Donan who came to Scotland in 580 AD.

As you’ll notice, the castle has varying layers of protection around it.

As mentioned before, it was fortified in 13th century BC in order to defend against the Vikings who raided Northern Scotland at that time.

We had already decided when we arrived that we would definitely be taking the tour of the inside of the castle. (Eilean Donan Castle was not an inclusion on our Compass Buster tour, so you could choose whether you wanted to go inside the castle, or just admire it from the outside.)

So, after we bought our tickets and made our way across the bridge, we finally got up close and personal with Eilean Donan Castle’s history.

If you are travelling independently, the admission fee is £7.50 for an adult. More information about opening hours, admission and visiting Eilean Donan Castle can be found here.

Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures inside the castle itself – seeing as it is still inhabited by the family who owns it. But we can say this, the inside is lusciously decorated and befits the castle’s history! As you go through the various rooms, you get a sense of what it may have been like to live here during differing time periods and also gain some knowledge on some of the previous inhabitants of the keep.

Walking inside and outside the castle to get to various rooms, you hear stories about what had taken place within its walls. It turns out there are literally skeletons in the closet in this castle – but we won’t spoil it for you!

And even in the windows! A little spooky, right?

Looking out from the castle, you are rewarded with some spectacular views of the lochs and the mountains of the surrounding area.

This castle has seen a lot of changes over the centuries – having dealt with Jacobite raids, Spaniards, English and many other attempted invaders. Thank goodness for the MacRae family and all their efforts in rebuilding and renovating such a beautiful example of Scottish castles.

If you want to learn more about Eilean Donan’s history, you can do so here.

Visiting one of the most photographed castle in Scotland was definitely a highlight of our trip! (And we would be returning in a few days for a second visit!) We hope we gave you enough of a sneak peek that it entices you to go visit the site as well =D.

But for now, we leave this iconic castle as we headed off to our next destination. Check back next week for the rest of Day 4!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie


© Letters of Wanderlust, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

Exploring Dalhousie Castle

After a wonderful dinner at the Dungeon Restaurant, Ioana and I couldn’t resist taking some fun pictures before calling it a night.

How many Ioana’s can fit on the bed?!

This was the view from our window the next morning ūüėć

Waking up in a castle does have its perks ūüėČ

Eventually we managed to pull ourselves out of bed and headed down for breakfast.

Breakfast is served in the Orangery. For breakfast, I had the scrambled eggs with Scottish smoked salmon. Delicious way to wake up! In addition to a cooked breakfast selection, there was also a selection of tasty pastries, muffins, juices, fruits and yogurts to help you start your day off right!

After breakfast, we packed up and left our bags with reception so we could explore Dalhousie Castle and its grounds a little bit more before heading back to Edinburgh.

It was another gorgeous day – perfect for exploring the castle grounds! (and having some fun…)

There were some trails around the castle grounds and we went for a wee ramble – walking past the neighbouring fields, ducking under tree branches, stepping over roots… It’s always nice to be outside, enjoying nature and the scenery.

There is a falconry on site at the castle. And you can book one of several experiences to learn more about these birds of prey and to hold and fly one! If you’re getting married at Dalhousie Castle, you can even get an owl¬†to fly in during your ceremony and deliver your rings!

We didn’t sign up for a falconry experience. We just happened to be out on the grounds when this bird had a practice session with its trainer.¬†(We won’t go into the ethics, animal rights or morals of this here. We are just stating what we saw.)

Back inside, there was more to admire…

Eventually, it was inevitable – we had to say goodbye to Dalhousie Castle. (We contemplated hiding in the room, or even in the woods behind the castle… But figured we would be found and booted out pretty quickly!)

We had such a lovely stay here – from the wonderful welcome we received, our conversation with the Castle Steward, our Afternoon Tea, our relaxing and rejuvenating spa treatments, our three course dinner at the Dungeon Restaurant to the friendly and hospitable staff! We can’t wait to come back for another visit!

But for now, it was back to Edinburgh for us, where another adventure awaited us. This adventure would involve our noses, our palates and… perhaps a wee dram!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie


© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

Dinner in the Dungeon

After a lovely birthday tea celebration in the Orangery and some pampering at the Aqueous Spa, it was evening time at Dalhousie Castle and time for dinner!


Included in our package was a 3 course dinner at Dalhousie Castle’s Dungeon Restaurant.

“Awarded 2 AA Rosettes, our menu is a modern interpretation of classic Scottish dishes cooked and prepared in a classic French cooking style, whilst using locally sourced produce.”

We had been hosteling and adventuring for the past 2 weeks, so it was nice to be pampered a little bit at the castle and we were excited to get dressed up for dinner!

We were instructed¬†when we checked into Dalhousie Castle to head to the Library 30 minutes prior to our dinner reservation for drinks. Walking in, we immediately noticed how cozy it was. Ioana and I both LOVE reading and although we didn’t have a chance to actually sit down and read in this library, we could¬†definitely see ourselves enjoying a good read and a warm drink here! (On our next stay, for sure!)


We settled into a couch in the Library and were presented with some menus. We ordered our drinks (A nice rosé) and perused the dinner menu. Instead of ordering at the table, they took our orders for dinner here, even before we headed down to the actual Dungeon Restaurant. This meant the kitchen had adequate time to prepare our food, whilst we lounged in the Library with our drinks.


We were also served a selection of hor d’oeuvres whilst we lounged in the Library. We enjoyed our time drinking our wine, chatting with other diners, hearing their travel stories and enjoying the warm and cozy ambiance of the Library.



After about 30 – 35 minutes, we were led down to the Dungeon! (I guess hundreds of years ago, I wouldn’t be saying that with enthusiasm!)


It was a really neat setting for a restaurant. The barrel vaulted ceilings, the exposed bricks, with suits of armour, swords and shields on the walls… So now we can say we have dined in a dungeon! How many of you can say that? ūüėČ


The restaurant was not packed to the rafters¬†that night – it was a Monday¬†night afterall. But there were several other parties dining already. The tables were spaced out nicely and you didn’t feel like you were intruding on others’ conversations or bumping elbows with others.


The decor here was definitely more formal than when we had our Afternoon Tea in the Orangery earlier in the afternoon.




Blurry picture ūüė¶

Before we get to the food, here’s a disclaimer. We totally did not take notes while we were eating dinner that evening. And we also forgot to take a photograph of the menu… Hence one year later, we have a vague idea of what we ate, but we could also be completely wrong! We definitely have learned our lesson!! So here goes nothing…

For my starter, I went with the Roast Plum Tomato Terrine with a basil salad. Tomatoes and basil are the perfect combination in my books, so I really enjoyed this starter. The terrine had an nice, smooth texture and mouth feel. The balsamic and chutney pulled the dish together. All the different flavours and textures on the plate worked together to create a very enjoyable starter.


Here’s Ioana’s starter… which we think was the Glazed Perthshire Lamb Sweetbreads with balsamic and parmesan!


We picked the same main course this evening – the Pan Fried Wild Scottish Pollock with caper butter. (Ioana was saving her first taste of Haggis for later on in the trip!) The fish was cooked well – not overdone¬†and fell¬†apart easily. The sauce and the caper butter complimented the fish well – gave it more flavour but did not¬†overpower the dish. There could have perhaps been¬†more vegetables on the plate (there’s the dietitian side of me coming out!), but overall it was a quality¬†dish!


After our dinner, we were presented with a complimentary pre-dessert treat! I won’t even guess at what was on this plate – besides the mini madeleine, that we know for sure! (Although it could have been a crazy flavour, which we have since forgotten… ūüė¶ )


Then came our desserts – our favourite part of any meal! We were glad the portions of the starters and mains were not too large, or we wouldn’t have room for dessert!

Ioana had the Iced Apple Parfait with Toffee and Walnut Sponge. The apple flavour was very refreshing and balanced out the sweeter flavour of the toffee. The crunch of the walnuts also added another texture to this lovely dessert.


I went with the Dark Chocolate Delice. The dark chocolate delice was delicious – smooth, rich and indulgent! There was also a bit of ice cream to add a different flavour and mouth feel, compared to the delice. Yum!


After a lovely dinner in the Dungeon Restaurant, we went for a ramble around the castle. We peeked into various rooms, looked at the paintings and photographs on the walls and learned a bit more history about Dalhousie Castle and Clan Ramsay.


Love the curtains, the ceiling, the windows the chandeliers, the carpet… basically loved everything!

We continued down a hallway and came upon this:


Everything set up for the wedding that Andrew, the Castle Steward and Piper, was telling us about earlier this afternoon.



As it was getting late, we headed back up to our room for some sleep. We also didn’t want to run into any… “special guests!”

It is said that Dalhousie Castle is one of the top 10 haunted castles in Europe. Among the sightings of animal ghosts, butler ghosts and some even say the ghost of Sir Alexander Ramsay, perhaps the most famous is that of the “Grey Lady.” The Grey Lady is also known as the ghost of lovelorn Lady Catherine of Dalhousie. She is said to haunt the castle, wandering through doors, hallways, guest rooms and the Dungeon. Guests and staff alike have reported seeing glimpses of her, feeling her ghostly antics and other strange, paranormal experiences.

To avoid meeting Lady Catherine, however nice she may be, we headed back up the stairs and into our room, hoping she would stick another part of the castle tonight.


Since¬†we only had one night’s stay at this beautiful hotel, we were definitely not leaving early in the morning! We were determined to enjoy as much of Dalhousie Castle and its beautiful grounds before we left. Stay tuned for more of our stay in our next post!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie


© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

Birthday Afternoon Tea at Dalhousie Castle 

Almost exactly a year and 2 weeks ago, we were in Edinburgh for Ioana’s birthday. What better way to celebrate than a stay at the historic, luxurious and beautiful¬†Dalhousie Castle!


First up in the birthday celebrations was Afternoon Tea!

Tea was held in the Orangery – which had a lovely view of the greenery surrounding the castle. In addition to serving Afternoon Tea, the Orangery also serves a contemporary menu for lunch and dinner in a ‘relaxed bistro’ setting.


The Orangery was lovely – it had large windows all around, that let in the autumn sun. We got a table right by the window so we could bask in the sunshine.

The Orangery is more relaxed than the Dungeon Restaurant, which we would be visiting later that day. I might call it casual elegance? It was decorated in a simple, yet beautiful manner. I liked that it had a bit of a rustic feel, with the exposed bricks and the simple but pretty fresh flowers on each table. Yet, there were also chandeliers hanging from the ceiling for a touch of elegance.

Love the pretty pink carnations!

Here was the menu for Afternoon Tea in Fall 2015. I’m sure the menu has changed since then. Has anyone been to Dalhousie for Afternoon Tea recently? How was it?

We took a look at the tea menu and after much pondering, finally decided on our teas. (Good thing we got a standard tea set of sandwiches, scones and sweets! If we had to choose… oh boy! ūüėę)

Soon, our teas arrived. Ioana had the Sapphire Earl Grey and I chose the Darjeeling. The teas came with this – something we had never seen before. A tea timer hourglass. We were instructed to look at our respective tea timer to know how long to steep our tea for.

After a couple sips of tea, the Tomato Consommé with Basil arrived. It was a chilled soup, which was very refreshing and flavourful. I love basil Рso I thought that was a lovely way to start off our Afternoon Tea. It was also nice to get a chilled soup as it was getting quite warm inside the Orangery Рa bit of a greenhouse effect with all the glass windows!

Next, our sandwiches, scones and sweets arrived on a very contemporary stand – definitely different from what we were expecting… But we thought the wooden stand matched well with the setting of the Orangery.

Here’s the food. It’s funny because every time we go for Afternoon Tea, we look at it and always think it’s not THAT much food. Yet… we never end up finishing the entire tea service!

I did ask for some vegetarian substitutions, so some of the food we got was different from the menu above.

Here’s what we had:

Spiced Crabsticks on Milk Brioche Roll, Smoked Chicken Tartelette, Salmon Rillette – Filo

Cucumber on Farmhouse White, Home Roast Ham and Rocket on Farmhouse Brown, Hens’ Egg and Cress on Farmhouse White

Fruit and Plain Scone, with local preserve and clotted cream

Gateau Opera, Cream filled Meringue

Raspberry Cranachan

Dundee Cake, Citrus Meringue Tartelette

Nougat, Dark Chocolate and Praline Truffle, Macaron

We started with some of the sweets, because we noticed they were starting to melt in the warmth of the Orangery. I love nougat, so having this at tea time was a special treat – as I don’t think I’ve ever had Tea where nougat was served!

Next, we went with the sandwiches. This was one of my substitutions as I don’t eat meat. Taking out the meat and replacing it with cheese works for me any and all the time!

A nice refreshing cucumber sandwich…

Egg salad – one of my favourites! And also my staple during this trip, whenever we stopped at supermarkets or a caf√© for lunch…

Onto the scones – a plain and a fruit scone. These were paired with “Local Preserves and Clotted Cream”! I went for the Strawberry, while Ioana went with the Black Currant. I will have to say that we liked the scone we got in the Orkneys (stay tuned for that!) better than the ones here. These ones were good but a bit more doughy.


Last but definitely not least, the sweets!

The Gateau Opera was a really decadent cake. The cream layers were rich and the top layer was delicious, chocolatey goodness!

This is the Raspberry Cranachan – something we had never heard of before. As per Wikipedia (always a super reliable source…ūüėĚ)

“Cranachan is a traditional Scottish dessert. In modern times, it is usually made from a mixture of whipped cream, whisky, honey and fresh raspberries, with toasted oatmeal soaked overnight in a little bit of whisky.”

Since we haven’t had this before, we didn’t have anything to compare it to. It was almost like a yogurt parfait but richer – with whipped cream instead. We might have to find a recipe and try making this ourselves! Anyone got one to share?

This is the Citrus Meringue Tartelette – it was a light, simple but tasty treat, with a nice crust.

The aftermath… we tried really hard to finish everything but we just couldn’t!

We had a lovely Afternoon Tea celebration for Ioana’s birthday! ūüéČūüéā‚ėē

But the celebrations weren’t over just yet. We¬†were off for our spa treatments, which were included in the package we booked. We each got a one-hour spa treatment and were free to use the rest of the spa facilities afterwards. It was a quiet day, so we had the spa all to ourselves. We took our time enjoying the foot baths (we definitely needed that to pamper our feet after all of our walking, exploring and adventures!), the Turkish style steam bath, a sweating room and lastly, spent some time lounging in the sunny Tepidarium.

After all of that relaxation and pampering, it was time to get dressed for dinner! We would be dining in the dungeon that evening! Pretty cool to be able to say we have dined in a dungeon.

Stay tuned for more on this beautiful castle and some tasty food in our next post!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie


© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

The Splurge!

While we were planning our Ireland and Scotland trip, we noticed that we would be in Edinburgh on Ioana’s birthday.

And that called for a celebration! So we searched for something special to do… something that would give us an excuse to get dressed up on a backpacking trip ūüėÜ We thought of going to a nice place for Afternoon Tea, going for a nice dinner somewhere or a spa day, but those were all things that we could do at home. We wanted something a bit more special – since we were in Scotland after all.

When we came upon a package deal from Dalhousie Castle, we knew that would be our splurge for the trip!

The deal cost £300 for 2 people and included one night bed and breakfast stay, 2 spa treatments, use of the spa facilities, a 3 course dinner for 2 and drinks at the Dungeon Restaurant. We thought it was a good deal for a splurge, considering what was included in the package.

Plus! This was our chance to stay in a real CASTLE! Dalhousie Castle – a castle that reportedly dates back to the 13th century and holds the title of the “Oldest Inhabited Castle” in Scotland. If only those bricks could talk!

We excitedly booked our stay for Dalhousie Castle. We were looking forward to taking a break from staying in hostels and pampering ourselves for one night!


After a busy Day 2 in Edinburgh, we were ready for a bit of relaxation and luxury on Day 3! But first, we had to get to Dalhousie…

Dalhousie is a little ways outside of Edinburgh, near the town of Bonnyrigg. But it is accessible via public transit – we took Bus 31 towards Bonnyrigg and got off at Brixwold Bank. The bus journey took about 30 minutes. From there, it was a 15 min walk down the B704 to Dalhousie Castle.

Or you could always take a cab there, especially if you have lots of luggage. We were able to leave most of our luggage behind at our hostel, since we were only staying at Dalhousie for one night.

So, with our small day bags in hand, we headed off to the bus stop on North Bridge.

It was another lovely fall morning in Edinburgh. While we waited for our bus, we got another chance to admire the views and architecture of the buildings around us.



Calton Hill just looks beautiful from any direction!



The Balmoral and its clock tower


We boarded the bus and tried to confirm with the bus driver that our stop was on his route. He unfortunately wasn’t sure! Fortunately for us, another passenger informed us that we were on the right bus. He was even kind enough to let us know when our stop was coming up!

Once we got off the bus, we started the leisurely walk towards our castle – yup, I said ‘our’ ūüėČ

There were helpful signs along the way. The walk wasn’t long, hilly or difficult but the sidewalk is very narrow on parts of the walk, so if you have large rolling suitcases, taking a cab might be a better idea!


Here we are – turning into our Castle!


Definitely felt like we were approaching a fine estate!

We even made a new friend on our way to the Castle. This friendly horse was just grazing leisurely in a pasture by the road.

Here’s the first glimpse of the Castle from the road…


And once you rounded the bend towards the Castle, you are greeted with this…

It just gets better as we drew closer and closer to the red brick building.

Here is Dalhousie Castle. What a beautiful Castle – with the design, the ivy climbing up its walls and the flag of Scotland flying proudly atop the Castle.

Now… there was another reason we chose Dalhousie Castle. It has a wee Canadian connection!

Dalhousie Castle was the previous seat of the Earls of Dalhousie – chief of Clan Ramsay. In the early 1800’s, George Ramsay, the 9th Earl of Dalhousie, was the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia (a Canadian province) and later was also the Governor General of British North America. While he was in Nova Scotia, he founded Dalhousie University – which exists to this date. Once we found this little Canadian connection, we knew we had to stay at Dalhousie Castle!

The decision to stay here was also made easier by the romantically beautiful castle! The photographs on the website are great, but to see it in person was even better!

The beautiful drum tower, which is reportedly the oldest part of the current castle.

After checking in, we were scheduled to celebrate Ioana’s birthday with Afternoon Tea!

We were a little early though and they weren’t open yet, so we decided to take a stroll around the castle.

We had the pleasure of meeting the Castle Steward and piper – Andrew, who was so welcoming and friendly. He told us a little bit about the castle and its history, the wedding that was to be held here the next day and applauded me on the correct way I pronounced Edinburgh! (Who knew!)

Since it was a gorgeous day, we wandered outside for a glimpse of the castle grounds.

Here is the Orangery – where we would be having Afternoon Tea later on.

To continue the tradition started in Ireland, there was also to be some gazing at Dalhousie!

Just gazing…

And more gazing…

Since we decided Afternoon Tea would be our lunch, we had only eaten one meal that day so far.¬†By this time, we were feeling a bit hungry! Good thing when we were walking down the Royal Mile to the bus stop this morning, we were tempted to purchase some shortbread cookies at a souvenir shop! Ever since I was a little girl, Walkers has always been my go-to for shortbread (I’m guessing some nostalgia and childhood memories factor into this decision!) And this pack wasn’t just ordinary shortbread – they were mini Scottie dogs! Cute – almost too cute to eat!


But we were hungry… so to tide us over until Afternoon Tea, we broke open a pack of the Mini Scottie Dogs and enjoyed some shortbread in the sunshine, with a view of the castle grounds.


We couldn’t resist taking more photographs of and with this beautiful castle.

After a couple more selfies with our Castle as the backdrop, the Orangery was open and it was time for the celebratory Birthday Tea!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie


© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

Exploring Edinburgh Castle

Having taken an early morning flight from Dublin, we arrived into Edinburgh tired but excited! After dropping our bags off at Castle Rock Hostel, where we would be staying for the next 2 nights, we grabbed a map from Reception and headed off to explore the great city of Edinburgh.

Our first stop? Edinburgh Castle!

We could see this historic fortress and world famous attraction from our hostel and it was only a short walk (plus some stairs, of course!) to get up there!

The view from our Hostel’s front door!

Once we climbed up the stairs, we came upon the Esplanade – the sprawling parade ground that hosts a variety of concerts and events. The most prominent being the world famous Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which just started a couple of days ago on August 5! (Anyone going to the Tattoo this year?? It’s on our bucket list for our next visit! If you have any tips for taking in the Tattoo, drop us a comment below!)

The Esplanade and Edinburgh Castle

Before getting to the Castle, you have to pass through the Gatehouse. Standing guard at the Gatehouse are statues of 2 famous Scottish men РRobert the Bruce and William Wallace. Both had immeasurable effects on Scotland, its history and its course.

Once you pass the Gatehouse, on your right is the ticket office. Here, if you haven’t already, you can purchase your entry ticket, as well as audio guides.

Tips for Your Visit: We purchased our tickets ahead of time. This way, we wouldn’t have to wait in a queue and, instead, could go straight through to the Portcullis Gate. Tickets can be purchased online here and for no extra cost or processing fee – which is really nice! One adult ticket costs¬†¬£16.50 and when purchased online includes fast track entry, which can be helpful during peak season – like now in August, with Edinburgh’s many festivals and special events drawing large crowds of visitors. One drawback to purchasing your ticket online is that you must select a date when purchasing your ticket. So if you’re not sure when you want to visit Edinburgh Castle, you might have to purchase your ticket on the day of your visit.

Edinburgh Castle also hosts¬†special events throughout the year, such as¬†interactive and fun activities for the whole family! These are often included in the price of admission. For more details, check out “What’s On”¬†and plan your trip accordingly!

With our printed tickets in hand, we sailed right through to the Portcullis Gate where our tickets were scanned and we strolled into the castle!

Just inside the Portcullis Gate… Can you spot the Portcullis?!

We had planned on taking a guided tour of the castle to get our bearings. But, when we got in, we had just missed the start of one. So we decided to wander around a bit on our own, check out the views of Edinburgh from way up here and return for the next tour.

The view from Argyle Battery

Heading up to the Upper Ward of the castle…

The view from the Upper Ward…

It is pretty cool that Edinburgh castle is built literally on top of a “Great Rock”! And you still can see parts of the rock in various places around the castle grounds.

Heading back down for the guided tour!

We had a lovely guide for our brief tour of the castle and its buildings. He told us many interesting stories about Scottish history, the Castle’s history and its buildings. We won’t repeat the tales he told us – it’s better when you are standing there and facing this fortress in awe. It’s also 100x better when told with a Scottish accent ūüėČ But in all seriousness, taking the guided tour definitely helped us to understand what we would be seeing later on, as we explored the castle and its buildings on our own.


Our tour ended in Crown Square. Since we were already there, we decided to check out the Crown Jewels of Scotland¬†–¬†also known as the Honours of Scotland. These are housed in the Royal Palace.

The Royal Palace

There was a very interesting exhibition on the Honours of Scotland and at the end, you come face to face with the Crown Jewels themselves – including the crown, sceptre and the sword. These are considered the oldest Royal Regalia in the UK! Since you are not allowed to take photographs inside, you’ll just have to believe us when we say – there was a lot of gold, silver, pearls, diamonds, amethysts, other precious stones and velvet! The Stone of Destiny, also known as the Stone of Scone, has had quite an eventful past and it is also on display here.

No photographs allowed inside, so all you get is this sign!


Besides the Crown Jewels, we also visited the Royal Apartments to learn all about the building’s history, the kings and queens who have lived here and some of their stories.

Inside the Royal Apartments…


Next, we visited the Scottish National War Memorial. It allowed for some quiet reflection, contemplation and some time to pay my respects to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for peace.

The Scottish National War Memorial


Heading out of Crown Square, we came upon the Half Moon Battery and the Forewall Battery.

Peeking out from here gives you a really unique and cool view of the city! This is one of my favourite photographs from today!


While we were exploring the Battery, we heard some shouting and went to see what was going on!

A very animated actor, dressed in period costume, was teaching visitors how to use pikes and demonstrating war cries! We think this must have been a Special Event hosted by the Castle – perhaps the Renaissance¬†Schiltron? We learned some interesting information from the actor’s instructions on this fighting technique.

First, you had to learn¬†how to hold the pike…

Then you had to make a scary war face and yell a war cry to accompany it.

Then on top of all that, there was an attacking formation to remember… while holding your pike properly, making your war face and yelling your war cry!

The “Commander” even had a drum, to accompany the charge!

This would definitely be a fearsome sight to behold! It looked like a really fun and interactive activity and history lesson, with people of all ages participating – jabbing their pikes, scrunching up their faces, sticking out their tongues and yelling at the top of their lungs!

And no, we didn’t participate this time… Maybe next time! ūüėČ


After that entertaining display, we headed towards St. Margaret’s Chapel.

St. Margaret’s Chapel is the oldest surviving building of Edinburgh Castle. It is actually said to be the oldest building in all of Edinburgh, built in 1130 by King David I to honour of his mother – Queen Margaret, and later known as Saint Margaret.

This chapel is still in use today for baptisms and weddings.

Stained glass of Queen Margaret and later St. Margaret.


We planned our Edinburgh Castle visit so that we would still be at the Castle for 1pm.

Why? So we could watch the firing of the One O’Clock Gun. This tradition goes way back to 1861, when the One O’Clock Gun would be fired (at 13:00 or 1pm) to allow ships to set and synchronize the maritime clocks on board.

The One O’Clock Gun is located on the Mills Mount Battery. It was quiet and uncrowded earlier in the morning…

But by 1pm, a sizable crowd had gathered to watch the spectacle!

Getting the gun ready…

Checking the time…

Gotta make sure it’s right on the dot!

And BOOM! Even though I was expecting the gun to go off, it still made me jump – hence the blurry photograph! This was a cool piece of tradition and history and we were glad to have experienced it. If you’re at Edinburgh Castle around 12:55pm, head to the Mills Mount Battery to watch this spectacle!


Tips for Your Visit:¬†Besides checking out the many exhibitions and attractions at Edinburgh Castle, don’t forget to look out from the castle at the views of Edinburgh from way up here! Since the castle stands on top of Castle Rock, there are sweeping views of the city from here – like this panorama looking North towards Princes Street and out at the Firth of Forth.

What can you spot in this next photograph? The Scott Monument, Princes Street Gardens, The Scottish National Gallery…

And this one? I can spot… The Balmoral, Calton Hill, Waverley Station, The Dugald Stewart Monument, The National Monument of Scotland, The Nelson Monument…

If you look out from the South¬†side of the castle, a different view awaits you! We even spotted our hostel from here, with Arthur’s Seat in the background.


Tips for Your Visit: We spent a couple hours here and we still hadn’t explored all of the castle and its grounds. So if you have a couple of must-see’s for Edinburgh Castle, mark them down, along with their locations.¬†This way you can plan your visit route and make sure to see all of these, before spending some time leisurely wandering and exploring the castle grounds. The¬†Castle’s website also has some itineraries that you can follow, depending on how long you have for your visit and your interests. Hopefully the tips and suggestions on the website, along with our adventures exploring Edinburgh Castle, will help you out when planning a trip to this iconic fortress!

Review: We enjoyed our visit to Edinburgh Castle, learning a lot about Scottish history, Scottish kings and queens, its strife and conflicts but also its amazing culture and glories. The Castle is an amazing fortress and its architecture is exquisite Рwhether you are viewing it from the inside or admiring it from outside its walls. A really nice bonus? The breathtaking views of Edinburgh from the castle! We are definitely planning to come back to enjoy the Military Tattoo and all of its grandeur out on the Esplanade!

After grabbing a couple of souvenirs from the gift shop, we headed out of the castle and walked down the busy Royal Mile.

Now, it was onto our next adventure – a (Free!) walking tour of Edinburgh to get our bearings in this city! Stay tuned for more!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie


© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

Shamrocker All Ireland Rocker Day 2: Dunluce Castle

After wearing ourselves out wandering around Giant’s Causeway, our guide Dave and driver Fred took us on one last adventure before we headed to our stop for the night in Derry. Our second stop of Day 2¬†just happened to be what I’d been waiting to see the most on this vacation – a¬†castle!

Dunluce Castle is not just any castle. It is hauntingly beautiful, with what remains of its towers and structure on the edge of a cliff! It’s exactly what you expect from a trip to Ireland!

Hauntingly beautiful ruins of Dunluce Castle

At first sight, my heart soared and I almost forgot about my leg pain, windswept hair and windswept face! The ruins are in the most beautiful setting: green grass, rolling waves below, rain swept sky above – what more could you ask for in a castle setting?!

The landscape sure adds to the beauty of this castle!

We didn’t get much background on Dunluce Castle because our stop wasn’t for very long. The castle is¬†located on the edge of a basalt outcropping in County Antrim. It is not a very far drive from Giant’s Causeway and is an easy stop if you want to do both sites on the same day!¬†If you are travelling alone and without a guide, it is possible to actually go inside the castle ruins. It costs¬†¬£5.00 for an adult and you get to go inside and explore what is left of the rooms! I was sad we didn’t have time to go in, but again, this is another reason for us to return to Ireland!

The bridge is the only way to get into the Castle nowadays

Dunluce Castle has a very long and tumultuous history, much like Ireland itself. I won’t go into very much detail because of the many layers behind its ownership but I will say: like with any Irish story, there, of course, is an element of myth¬†and folklore!

A strategic and epic setting for a castle!

It is said the castle was originally built in the 1500’s¬†by the Irish noble Richard √ďg de Burgh, with a¬†written record in 1513. The earliest features of the castle were two drum towers, which were up to 9 meters high. In the 1550’s, the castle was taken over by the MacDonnell clan who:

set about stamping their mark on the castle under the leadership of the famous warrior chieftain Sorely Boy MacDonnell during an era of violence, intrigue and rebellion.

In the 17th century, the castle became the seat for the Earls of Antrim, which led to the establishment of a small town in 1608.

One of the remaining walls

There are many tales and legends of ghostly beings that have made this castle home.¬†One such story is that of the Banshee that haunts Dunluce Castle. She is Maeve Roe, thought to be the only daughter of Lord MacQuillan. Legend goes that Maeve refused to marry the man her father had found for her and was instead in love with another, Reginald O’Cahan. Her father then locked her up in one of the castle turrets and every night she looked out from her prison to the sea in hopes that Reginald would come for her.

On a stormy night, he did come:

With the wind whistling through the battlements and beating against the thick stone walls the couple secretly fled the fortress. Into the cold night air they descended to a large cave that opened in the rocks below Dunluce.  Their spirits high the two lovers set out in a small boat to cross the turbulent seas towards the seaside settlement of Portrush (Irish-Port Rois).

Sadly, they didn’t survive the storm and sank to the bottom of the sea. Maeve’s spirit is said to never have left the castle. She supposedly haunts what is known as the MacQuillan tower. Travelers often hear her shrieks and those who have heard the tale¬†before, know that it is Maeve’s:

soul forever looking out across the sea from her prison tower, searching for a rescue that will never come.”


Is this Maeve’s Tower? It sure is eerie enough!

Sad story indeed! There are many of the like that go along with the castle, including one regarding the kitchens, but I’ll let you all learn about that on your own. ūüėČ

The cave in Maeve’s tragic tale¬†may be this one we saw here, as we explored the ruins around Dunluce Castle:

Could this be the cave Maeve and Reginald sought refuge in?!

We didn’t go down, and it didn’t look very safe, but there were people who went and it sure looked like an adventure and a splendid view from below!

The castle served as the seat of the Earls of Antrim until about 1690 when the MacDonnell’s were left impoverished. Since then it has began to deteriorate. It’s interesting how what is now just a rock facade can have so much history and folklore behind it!

The architecture is amazing and even this original archway is a perfect frame to the sea beyond:

Wonderful piece of architecture leading to a glorious view of the Sea!

For anybody who is a Chronicles of Narnia fan, it is said that Dunluce Castle was the inspiration for Cair Paravel! It has also been used in several music videos and CD covers over the years. And more recently, it stands in as the House of Greyjoy in a little TV show called Game of Thrones. Its amazing setting is obviously the reason for its popularity!!!

Sadly, our time at Dunluce Castle had come to an end and we started walking back up the steps to our bus, but not before snapping a couple more shots of the beautiful landscape.

Leaving Dunluce’s beautiful view behind!

Being a romantic on the inside, my imagination continued to go wild with all the possible stories that may have happened at Dunluce Castle! I’m so glad we made the stop as this was one of my favourite locations in all of Ireland.

Have you read the Kitchen Tale? Can you spot the remains in the Sea?!

Now we started to make our way to the town of Derry! Stay tuned for more about its turbulent past and hopeful future!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!