August in the UK, Part 2: Edinburgh and Braemar

This post is part of a series, you can read Part 1 here.


Warm weather met us in Edinburgh on August 25. I was feeling very lucky and grateful. Alistair's sister had planned and treated everyone on the trip to Scotland. Everything was arranged, all we had to do was show up.

We had a delightful driver who pointed out all the points of interest: the hospital where he was born, all the monuments, the dark history of the Burke and Hare body snatchers, and the cafes where J. K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter.

The sun was setting on our drive. I admired the sandstone buildings, the quaint facades and streets. We had dinner with Alistair's family (venison!), then drinks across the street from our hotel. It was the last day of Fringe Fest. The sidewalks were full. At the bar, Alistair passed me a glass of scotch and smiled.

"Well, we are in Scotland," I laughed.

The next morning I drew back the curtains and looked down at the commuters in scarves and tights. Oh, how different the weather in Scotland is! I put on a sweater and had breakfast, then joined the group for a drive. We rode north for lunch in the Highlands at Ballintaggart Farm, a restaurant with rooms and a culinary school.

The view from Ballintaggart Farm.

The view from Ballintaggart Farm.

We "oohed" and "ahhed" at the views from the farm. Big hills, hay stacks in neat little rolls, sheep and cows. The grass on the mountains was covered in purple Heather flowers. We visited Atholl Castle for a tour, then went for a hike to the Falls of Braur, made famous from a poem by Robert Burns.

Then we drove to our hotel, The Fife Arms, in the little town of Braemar. The Fife Arms hotel is a very special place. I told Alistair when we left that it was likely now my most favorite hotel. Its owned by two Swiss art collectors, which covered every surface with expensive, rare art. There's a Freud in the front hall and a Picasso in the adjacent room. Later that afternoon we discovered a Louise Bourgeois statue in the courtyard.

Every detail at the Fife Arms is unique. Each guest room had a theme, and each time someone checked in their key was procured from a fake book on a fake bookshelf, and each key hung on a heavy silver keychain made to look like an oyster shell. We stayed in the Geology Room where the ceiling was covered with framed pictures of rocks. The hotel stationery was beautiful and included an old-school map of Braemar made to look like the it was from the 1950s. There's a study (with a wax dummy of Queen Victoria), a spa, a space to dry out vegetables, and a "boot room" filled with wellies to let.

That night we had dinner in the hotel pub (fish and chips, of course!). I fell asleep at eleven o'clock. The next day, we’d go cycling.