Europe & Britain | People & Stories

Team Trafalgar Diaries: Scotland is stunning in autumn

Recently updated on November 27th, 2023 at 06:25 pm

When the borders opened up some of our team at Trafalgar HQ took to the skies for a long-awaited vacation or trip home to visit loved ones. We asked them to share their experiences travelling in summer and autumn 2021 – the good, the bad, and what it was like on the ground. 

Meet Daniela, our Portugal-based copywriter. This autumn the Australian native skipped over to the United Kingdom to peep those autumn leaves, try haggis and attend a wedding. Here’s what her journey to Scotland was like.

Where did you go?

We flew into bonnie Edinburgh where I finally got to experience the gorgeous adopted hometown of one of my best friends! She’s been living there nearly three years, but, ah, a wee pandemic got in the way of visiting.

Why did you choose to travel to Scotland?

We’d been invited to the wedding of an old family friend in the Lake District of north England, so I used that as the excuse to take a two-week vacation and explore Edinburgh and Cairngorms National Park too. 

Cairngorms National Park, Scotland. Photo by Daniela Sunde-Brown

How was it travelling there?

Flying from Lisbon was very simple and it felt pre-pandemic normal, except for the masks. The shops and restaurants in the smaller Terminal 2 were all open. I even managed to buy a still-hot pastel de nata for my friend. The man at passport control in Edinburgh was so friendly and excited to see an Australian passport. “Ye as rare as hens teeth these days. Used to be a dime a dozen,” he told me with a beaming smile. Welcome to bonnie Scotland.

Do you think it was easier to travel now than before the pandemic?

I think it was similar to before. I travelled in October 2021 and the airport felt as busy as I remember it. Pre-departure was slightly more stressful as we had to fill out a huge pre-departure form for the UK government and book a Day 2 test. The return to Portugal was super simple. A short form and no test needed for fully vaccinated travellers.

RELATED BLOG: Team Trafalgar Diaries: ‘I went to Italy, and this is what it was like…’

What was your favourite thing about travelling again?

It was amazing to be back on the road exploring new places. From sitting in quaint British pubs, to wandering around Balmoral Castle to spotting red squirrels in the wild. Travelling again made me feel more like myself again.

What was it like in Scotland after the pandemic? 

Edinburgh turned on four days of blue skies, so I think she was happy to see us. Life in Scotland felt very similar to Portugal. People were mostly getting on with things: shops, restaurants, streets and tourist sights were all open and busy. We had to wear masks when indoors, but otherwise it felt normal. 

GET INSPIRED BY: Best of Scotland

Did you feel like you could enjoy travel to the fullest? 

Absolutely. We didn’t come up against any obstacles in Scotland or England. We hiked mountains, we tasted whisky at distilleries, we enjoyed a couple of Sunday roasts. We danced at the wedding like no one was watching.

Did you feel safe? 

I felt 100 percent safe. England was slightly ahead with opening restrictions so masks were not required indoors like in Scotland and Portugal, but I just did what made me comfortable like choosing to wear one in supermarkets but not in cafes or small stores. We’re all returning to normal at our own pace.

What was your favourite moment or highlight of your trip?

Talking to people. The Scots are so friendly and I just love hearing their accents. Whether it’s the local butcher, store clerk or tour guide, everyone was always up for a chat and happy to give recommendations for our travels. Just being on holiday and not having to think about emails or work for two weeks was amazing.

Did you feel like you were able to connect with the local culture and people? 

Absolutely. We were on the hunt for Highland Cows (or Heilan Coos), those orange fluffy cows with the double coats. They are extremely docile and after seeing them at a distance a couple of times, our hunt to see them up close continued. We ended up at the Highland Folk Museum, where we met two adorable fluffy cows that came right up to the fence and even licked my hand. Better yet, the museum had a 17th century Highland village with thatched roof homes (where they filmed a scene of Outlander!) and historians in costume. We learnt so much about Scotland and the Gaelic language while talking to them. It was an unexpected highlight.  

GET INSPIRED BY: Highland Trail inspired by Outlander

If you could do it again next week, what would you change about your trip?

Nothing. It was perfect – the autumn foliage, the blue sky and rainbows, the hearty pub fare.

What was the most enjoyable or relaxing part of your trip?

Exploring Cairngorms National Park was magical. We’re not keen hikers, but we walked a couple of trails, visited Balmoral Castle, ate an amazing roast lunch and wandered Craigievar Castle alone at sunset. October was the perfect shoulder month to avoid crowds.

Daniela at Craigievar Castle in Scotland

What surprised you about travelling again?

Just how happy and friendly people were. After feeling like we couldn’t be within two metres of any strangers, it was nice to meet and interact with new faces.  

How did you feel after returning home?

Grateful for the opportunity to travel. Right now most of our friends and family are in Australia with locked borders and no chance to take a holiday. Travelling is a privilege and I feel so grateful for the chance to explore the world again. I’m still experiencing the post-holiday blues, but feeling refreshed and reenergised as I sit here at my desk working again. 

GET INSPIRED BY: Amazing Britain

Walking a fell in the Lake District with scones as the reward.

Anything else eager travellers should know?

If you can travel again, the world is your oyster. Most destinations are returning to a new normal that looks much like the pre-pandemic world. There’s a little extra paperwork and perhaps a test or two to do, but plenty of countries are starting to loosen and drop those requirements for fully vaccinated travellers. If travel is part of your identity, get out there and reclaim who you are!

Did you travel this summer or autumn or are you waiting for 2022? Let us know where you want to go and how you feel in the comments below…

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Want to hear more from us?

Sign up to receive inspiring travel articles, offers & news

"*" indicates required fields

Receive All Brand Communications
Terms and Cons*
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Generic filters
Exact matches only
Search in title