5-Day Scotland Road Trip: The Highlands + Isle of Skye

In March 2016, I went on a five-day road trip with a close friend and my youngest sister through Glasgow and the Scottish Highlands. We hiked the Isle of Skye, rode horses around Loch Ness, and stumbled upon traditional folk music in small pubs. Planning a trip through the Highlands? Here’s our day-by-day itinerary and map.

5-Day Road Trip Map 

5 day road trip map scotland highlands

Itinerary Overview

Our destinations were based on the fact that we were all flying into Glasgow, and that we wanted to see the Highlands—more specifically, the remote Isle of Skye. With that in mind, here’s where we chose to venture:

Day 1: Glasgow > Glencoe > Fort William
Day 2: Fort William --> Glenfinnan Viaduct --> Fairy Pools --> Portree
Day 3: Portree --> Quiraing --> Kilt Rock --> Lock Ness --> Inverness
Day 4: Inverness --> Aviemore --> Dalwhinnie Distillery --> Glasgow
Day 5: Back to the airport

It was a jam-packed experience, but we wouldn’t have changed much. One possible alteration? Spend more time in Inverness or on the Isle of Skye than in Aviemore. It’s a cute vacation town, and we were there to have lunch on an old-fashion steam train that goes through the countryside. But if you’ve ridden a train before or don’t have children, it’s not a must-see. Still, the experience was nice for breaking up our long journey back to Glasgow.

Below is a breakdown of what we did and where we stayed, along with a brief history of each town. Enjoy your digital journey through Scotland!

Glencoe

Things to Do:
We simply pulled over on the side of the road and starting walking through the picturesque fields. It was a pretty gloomy day, so we didn’t stray too far from the car. But if you’re looking for more guidance, here are some hiking trails in the area.

Two-Sentence History:
This lush glen has a sordid past: Thirty-eight unarmed people from the MacDonald Clan were slaughtered by troops in 1692 because the MacDonald’s had not quickly pledged allegiance to the new English monarchs, William and Mary. You’ve also seen these memorable vistas in several movies including, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," "Skyfall," and "Braveheart."

 Glencoe, Scotland

Glencoe, Scotland

Fort William

Things to Do:
The next morning happened to be Easter Sunday. We were greeted with a momentary lapse in rain, a perfectly arched rainbow, and hot breakfast from our hosts. That day we explored the Glenfinnan viaduct and monument—another location that would be recognizable to any Harry Potter fan, as the Jacobite Steam train that blows above this field is also known as the Hogwarts Express. Other options: Ben Nevis mountain is one of the main attractions in this area. If we’d had time, we would have enjoyed the gondola ride that goes up nearby peak, Aonach Mor 

Where We Stayed:
We lodged at St. Andrews Guest House near Fort William’s city center. Once an old 1880s choir school, this stone mansion has been converted into a family-run, six-room bed and breakfast. During the evening, we dined at one pub and drank at another just a few blocks from this cozy castle—no driving needed. We met a group of nearly incomprehensible Scottish blokes, sampled some local beers, and slept off our jet lag.

Two-Sentence History:
While this small town is now a popular place for tourist to pass through, it was once where Jacobite’s fought (and failed) to take control in the 18th Century. Fort William and its surrounding areas have also been featured in “Outlander,” “Braveheart,” and “Harry Potter.”

 Glenfinnan Viaduct, where the Hogwarts Express flies by. 

Glenfinnan Viaduct, where the Hogwarts Express flies by. 

Isle of Skye

Things to Do:
We took a boat to the Isle of Skye on Day 2, and drove directly to the Fairy Pools. (By “directly,” I mean we missed the small sign, got lost, and had to ask an old Scottish man on the side of the road where to go.) The pools are beautiful crystal blue watering holes and waterfalls surrounded by ice-capped mountains. That evening, we had fresh seafood and cheap Talisker whiskey at a restaurant in Portree. On Day 3 we drove by the Old Man of Storr, took pictures of Kilt Rock, and did a 6-hour hike through the Quiraing. This was by far one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen on earth—but we got quite lost when the fog rolled in. I would suggest purchasing a map since there’s almost no cell service on the island. Read more about the Quiraing walk here. 

Where We Stayed:
Our Airbnb was located outside of Portree at this contemporary Scottish cottage. The house was beautiful, had strong wifi, and would have fit up to six travelers. However, you are out in the middle of nowhere, so prepare for the night before leaving town!

Two-Sentence History:
The island has strong Gaelic roots and ties to prominent Scottish clans, with the population peaking in the 1840s at over 23,000 inhabitants. But famine and Highland Clearances—or the eviction of tenants from common lands—during the 19th Century left the island’s population at about 7,000 by 1971. However, Skye and Scottish islands on the whole, are slowly growing in numbers again via a 2011 census. (Editor's note: I'd move to Scotland.)

 Taking the (unexpected) ferry to the Isle of Skye in the Scottish Highlands. 

Taking the (unexpected) ferry to the Isle of Skye in the Scottish Highlands. 

Inverness

Things to Do:
After our long Quiraing hike, we hopped in the car and drove toward Inverness, a town near the famous Loch Ness. On the way we took pictures of Skye’s incredible views and Eilean Donan Castle. Before heading to our B&B for the night, we stopped at the Highland Riding Centre and took a quick horseback ride to a viewpoint of Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle. That evening we found traditional live music at a pub, and enjoyed walking through the city streets.

Where We Stayed:
We stayed at Glendoune B&B. There was free parking available, and the house was a short walk from city centre. Our hosts were very kind and knowledge. They also tricked my sister into trying black pudding for the first time, much to the amusement of everyone in the dining room ;)

Two-Sentence History: 
Inverness has been dubbed the capital of the Highlands, and still maintains strong connections to the Gaelic language. It's also well-known in pop culture: Inverness has ties to Shakespeare's famous tragedy, "Macbeth," and is featured in "Outlander," a popular book series by Diana Gabaldon.

Highland Riding Centre in Scotland

Aviemore + Dalwhinnie + Glasgow

Things to Do:
On Day 4, we drove back to Loch Ness so we could explore Urquhart Castle on foot (and look for the infamous monster lurking in the deep lake). Then we headed south toward the vacation town of Aviemore where we boarded an old steam train for lunch and tea. After our meal, we drove to Dalwhinnie Distillery for an excellent Single Malt Scotch Whiskey tour and tasting. Finally, we continued on to Glasgow where we would spend our last evening in Scotland.

Buchanan Street, Argyle Street, and the boho West End are all popular destinations within this bustling city. We walked through the University of Glasgow over to Ashton Lane for dinner and cocktails. If you are looking for traditional live music, check out Ben Nevis, the Lismore, or Wintersgills depending on the night. When we were in town on a Tuesday, Wintersgills was hosting a live folk music session in their back room—and it was a highlight of our trip. We were the only tourists in the pub, and heard some fascinating songs and stories. 

Where We Stayed:
We opted for the Argyll Hotel, a family-run lodging in a traditional Georgian building near city centre. Parking was a bit difficult because we arrived during rush hour, but since we were so close to busy streets full of cafes and shops, we didn’t need to use the car again until it was time to go to the airport. We also got an upgraded room when we arrived due to a cancellation.

Two-Sentence History:
Glasgow is Scotland’s largest city and cultural hub: The national opera, ballet, theatre, and orchestra are all based here, as well as a large selection of museums and libraries. Artists like Belle and Sebastian, Camera Obscura, Franz Ferdinand, Mogwai, and Chvrches have also boosted the active Glasgow music scene.

On Day 5, we had a quick breakfast and headed to the airport. All of us were bummed to leave this beautiful country and swore to return to see the Eastern portion of Scotland soon. I hope this guide helps you plan your own journey—if you have any questions, feel free to sound off below!

 Urquhart Castle ruins on Loch Ness

Urquhart Castle ruins on Loch Ness

Here are a few more pictures from our Scotland road trip:



The Coats We Wear

I walk through the bone-chilling cold with a gray scarf tied around my neck and two layers of sweaters under a green, puffy coat that comes down nearly to the knees. My feet are wrapped in Merino wool socks, but they never seem to retain the right amount of heat during the morning commute. A faux-fur hood covers my hair, and the only thing truly left to the elements are my madly blinking eyes.

 Circa 2014

Circa 2014

These eyes have grown accustomed to New York City’s frigid months. But not all winters are created equal: some years it rarely dips below 25F during the day; other seasons the wind chill is documented in Central Park at a numbing -11F.

The last time I remember the weather being so unbearable for long stretches of time was in 2014. I’d just met the boy I was going to marry. We were planning romantic dates throughout the city—walks on the Highline, cocktails at fancy bars, first kisses in smoky, old lounges. The whole bit. But much to my dismay, the temperature hovered around 5 degrees for portions of that January. So I was stuck in my shapeless, fluffy parka. Bits of feathers would fall out of the sleeves if I sat down too quickly.

Like I said, romantic.

This year is proving to be another cold winter. I loosen my scarf as I approach the museum, and swipe a key card. My office is through the chilly Grand Gallery, where a massive canoe and a large amethyst geode greet me every morning. As does a security guard, who over the last few days has given up on decorum and dons full winter gear. “Hello, there,” he says while rubbing together his hands.

I walk up a large set of stairs and turn into one of the cultural halls that focuses on the people of Mexico and Central America. I’m the only person in the gallery, and my heels click loudly on the stone floor.

Throughout the museum, hidden doors and subtle staircases house secret passages to the hundreds of employees working on a spectrum of tasks, from discovering new species, to vacuuming the dust off of specimen. On the staff-only fifth floor, there’s a hallway said to be six city blocks long. It’s filled with artifacts in wooden cabinets, bones in large lockers, classrooms, and laboratories. It makes me think back to every New York institution I’ve visited—where does the MOMA keep their artwork? What hidden room does the MET use to refurbish its collection of Colonial furniture?

There is one downside to working in an architecturally fascinating building from the 1800s: That brisk winter wind loves seeping in through invisible means. I’m lucky to be in a turret office, surrounded by massive windows that fill the room with natural sunlight. Because of this, complaining is not an option (but it should be noted that “drafty” is a common adjective from visitors to my work space).  

I wrap a shawl around my shoulders, and keep the gray scarf on for most of the day as heavy winds beat into my glass tower. Later that afternoon, I glance out the window and see a girl lose her knit cap to the wind as she crosses Columbus.

She looks so cold as she chases after it, hands outstretched and gloveless.  

This visual takes me back to another winter. In 2011, I was working as an unpaid intern at Martha Stewart Living magazine. Her offices were off 11th Avenue, and just about as close as you could get to the Hudson River without jumping in. I remember the icy wind that would smack me in the face as I ran by the just-opened art galleries of Chelsea, and the old warehouses with their mysterious stories. It was my first winter in New York, and I was still learning how to layer. My face was often red for at least 30 minutes after I’d arrived to work, and small blood vessels had popped on my cheeks.

It was a hungry and lonely season. My grad school friends and I were trying to figure out what we wanted to be when we grew up—which, was supposed to be happening soon. We would be magazine writers, and journalists, and book editors… and literary agents? And…

And we did just fine. I’m not sure we actually grew up—but we’re all at least pretending to know what the next season will bring. Ivy is working as a digital editor at everyone’s favorite bridal magazine, and Clare has consistently worked up the ranks of one of the largest publishing companies in the world.

And me? I’ve worked in e-books, magazines, advertising, and now at a museum. My words are still my meal ticket, and there is something humbling about that.

So, I’ll cozy up in my drafty old office, and look out the big windows to the New York City that I adore. I get the honor of waking up every day, and observing people from hundreds of countries exploring our town. They come in droves, seeking the best hotdog, the best cocktail—the “best” and most authentic anything! It’s true that many of them never know which way is uptown or downtown on the subway, and that groups of tourists often cause pileups on the sidewalk—but most arrive with stars in their eyes. I admire this vulnerable traveler.

It reminds me of myself, from a New York past.

image1 (1).JPG

London is satisfied, Paris is resigned, but New York is always hopeful. Always it believes that something good is about to come off, and it must hurry to meet it.
— Dorothy Parker

The (Infamous) Quiraing Walk in Scotland

“We’ve been on this freakin’ mountain for hours... Hours! HOURS!!”

My sister was sitting on a steep slope in Scotland and having a full-blown panic attack. There were tears streaming down her muddy face. The fog surrounding us was so thick that all I could see was Grace, our travel companion, Alice, and my dirty, bloody hands.

Let me explain how we got here.

The three of us booked a five-day trip to Scotland specifically to drive through the Highlands and visit the remote Isle of Skye. The Quiraing is a massive landslip on said isle that includes high cliffs, plateaus, peaks of rocks, and small ponds. There’s a popular “Quiraing Walk,” as United Kindomers say, that begins at the car park and loops through scenic views. After looking at ethereal photos of Lord of the Rings-esque mountains, all of us were excited to spend a morning hiking through this epic landscape.  

 The Quiraing, Isle of Skye, Scotland

The Quiraing, Isle of Skye, Scotland

We started researching our adventure. The Quiraing was classified as a medium-level hike. According to one website, “It covers a distance of 6.8km, with the average time to complete the walk being 2 hours (with no stops).” Assuming we would take photos and pause along the way, we allotted three to four hours for the loop.

Our journey began with exactly what was promised: beautiful views of sharp cliffs and rolling green fields. The slope was gradual, but the edge of the path was somewhat steep—not enough to harm you, but maybe enough to roll your ankle. About ten minutes in, we reached what our travel website said was “one of the more difficult parts of the walk.” After scrambling over a rock gorge to cross a stream, we relaxed. That hadn’t been so bad.

 The Quiraing walking path at the beginning of our hike. 

The Quiraing walking path at the beginning of our hike. 

“Man, those people have some legit gear,” I noted to my fellow adventures as we passed a group of English hikers. They had metal walking poles, some rope, and were chowing down on protein bars.

We were now wandering through a valley of strange vegetation, and awed by its otherworldly appearance. The murky ponds looked like black craters on an unknown planet. It was a lighthearted hour: We screamed “Sound of Music” lyrics into a rock formation that produced echoes over the canyons around us, and laughed at our ridiculousness.

Then, we made a mistake.

The term “cairn” is Scottish Gaelic for a human-made stack of stones. These are often used as trail markers. After leaving the Valley of Happiness, we walked up a Rock Bed of Doom and came across a cairn that highlighted a split in our path. To continue our journey up the mountain, we knew we needed to take the gravel road to the left. However, we did not foresee the turn in Scotland’s moody weather that would make this trek immensely more difficult. 

 Example of a cairn on our hike.

Example of a cairn on our hike.

Our first sign of danger was when I slipped on fresh mud, and nearly took a bad tumble. I caught myself on a barbed wire fence, which promptly sliced my hand open. It wasn’t a terrible cut—but our overall mood shifted.

We had now been traveling through the Quiraing for three some hours. After consulting a sweet (lost) British man and his son, we determined that we were only at the halfway point. Both parties decided it was best to continue on rather than turn back and see repeated views.

I snapped some photos as we continued up the mountain, but suddenly a wave a fog washed over our unsure group. Visibility was next to nothing, and the slope got much steeper. A smattering of rain intensified the situation. Grace and I began climbing like four-legged animals with our hands and feet both touching slippery surfaces. We looked like little monsters, with mud on our fingers and faces. 

 The beginning of the end. 

The beginning of the end. 

Suddenly, disaster struck. Grace put her foot into a cutout groove of earth, but the ground gave way and she momentarily slid toward the edge. While none of us were in true danger of falling to our deaths (I think?), there was a moment of panic as we assessed our mud-soaked situation. And that is when my youngest sibling began to sob.

“Put your butt on the ground,” I said repeatedly. “Sit down!”
“It’s wet! It’s freakin’ all mud!” she said, near hysterical.
“Grace, we’re already covered in mud. Sit down. You don’t like heights, and this is more difficult than we thought. You need to connect with the ground for a second.” I peered over the edge and got my own wave of vertigo.

She listened, and we both sunk into the mud while rain freckled our faces. The group of hikers with their damn metal poles stepped around us, and I almost laughed.

 The panic-inducing path (and Ledge of Death).

The panic-inducing path (and Ledge of Death).

“We only have a little further to go. I’m sorry... just up a few more steps,” I pleaded. Grace reluctantly agreed to move and we made our ascent to the flat peak. We saw Alice and our (lost) English friends. We saw a lone sheep. We saw another man who had guided us at the basin of the Quiraing—everyone seemed a little out of breath. But most importantly, we saw the car park. The end was in sight, and a wave of fresh motivation fell upon our hodge-podge group.

Fickle sunshine appeared as we made our way down the mountain. Alice was much quicker than us sisters, and hopped toward the finish line like a billy goat. But my ankles give out and Grace’s knees pop. The journey down this blasted slope was taking an insufferably long time.

“Grace.”
“Yeah?” she called from up above me.
“I'm sliding down the rest of the way.”
“What? Sliding?”
“Yep. The rain has already turned this path into a stream and I’m tired of trying to keep my balance.”

We were now on hour six of this adventure.

I sat on my butt and pushed into the ground. I bumped my way down the Quiraing at a pleasant speed, then turned around and shouted at Grace. “It’s so much easier!” She, too, plopped onto her bottom and began a quick descent.

Now, I am aware that we looked like idiots: two Americans in puffy coats, smiling and sliding down a slope of wet grass. But one does not simply “walk” the Quiraing. In our case, this full-on hike was more of a beautiful slip-n-slide, with moments of exhaustion, awe, and terror.

“Yer doin’ alright there, then?” a Scottish man asked as we Mud Monsters passed him and his child (his child!) walking up the mountain.
“Absolutely!” I responded.

“Ah, bit muddy s’it?” another woman asked us as she ascended. 
“Yes, indeed!” I smiled.  

Grace and I were now deliriously laughing. We arrived at the bottom of the Quiraing with muddy butts, happy hearts, and hungry stomachs—which, are all the ingredients of a perfect adventure.

Later that evening I looked up the Quiraing Walk to see how the heck it was classified as “medium level.” Upon further research, we discovered that the loop is “medium level” in length, “hard” in difficulty, and “not recommended” in misty conditions. 

Well.
We made it. 


Tips for the Quiraing Walk 

  • Do your research, and invest in a walking map. Cell service isn't great on the Isle of Skye, so our digital guide didn't help much.  
  • Pack snacks. We were starving after our six-hour adventure and consumed an unhealthy amount of burgers, hotdogs, and fries post-walk.
  • If you choose to take the left path at the cairn, be watchful of the weather. Remember: when the fog rolls in you won't be able to see anything from the top of the mountain. 
  • If you're uncomfortable with heights, take the right path. We were told there are spectacular views of lochs and hills of Heather. 
  • Here are decent step-by-step directions for what to expect on your hike. 
  • Bring a camera, a rain jacket, some Band-Aids, and wear proper shoes. 
  • Despite how long the hike took us, the Quiraing was a highlight of our trip. 

Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.
— Gustave Flaubert

New York Tip #6: Know Your (Good) Neighbors

"Where are you looking next?" 

My husband, our neighbor, and a friend who lives down the road are all perched on a corner of our apartment's roof sipping wine and whiskey. It's a clear night, but a storm front is making its way through NYC. We have about 30 minutes left before the rain will interrupt our evening. 

new-york-tips

City dwellers have several types of neighbors. And in New York, since we live right on top of each other, these strangers intrinsically become a part of our lives—whether we like it, or not.

In Astoria, I had both pesky and enjoyable neighbors. Sabina and I shared a kitchen wall on the top floor of a three-story walkup. She lived next to me for a solid year before we developed any sort of relationship beyond, "Hi, how are you." By the time she gave birth to her first child, I was close enough to be invited to the baby shower. Our relationship was pleasant; we weren't in each other's business, but we liked to gab in the hallway about rent hikes and the delayed N train. 

One apartment building over was my slightly terrifying neighbor. Meet Payasito, a Latin American clown with a motorcycle and a painted van, complete with several circus-themed mannequins that sat in the passenger seat. This odd man walked around in a wife-beater with half a painted face on Saturdays, yelling at his yappy, little poodle while he loaded props into his decked-out vehicles. 

Payasito installed cameras all over the outside of his home, most likely because local teens messed with his clown paraphernalia. He also had the annoying habit of trying to flirt with anything in a skirt, so I avoided conversation when possible. His redeeming trait? One night my roommate and I had captured a giant cockroach about the size of my pointer finger with a folder and a glass cup. The bug hissed and whirled about, popping up its wings as if to say, "I dare you to try and flush me!" So we took it outside. Good ol' Payasito heard the commotion, swiftly picked up the glass, flipped over the folder, and repeatedly smashed the ill-fated insect to pieces. Turns out clowns with probable anger issues are good for something. 

In the East Village, I didn't know many of my immediate neighbors. The apartment complex was more transient and nearly triple the size of my place in Queens. But 7th Street was far from lonely. I had playmates scattered throughout the entire neighborhood, and my roomy was an old family friend. 

Our Super, Igor, greeted us every morning in his Ukrainian accent and tossed out gems like, "Don't work too hard!" or "Where are you going? Work? Ehh." On 2nd Avenue an old Polish immigrant sat outside of his bakery, rain or shine. If he was in a good mood, he'd nod in your direction. And in the little park by the F train was a man who collected compost for some NYC program. He would say "good morning" to commuters whether they had eggshells or not. I loved this strange community of familiar faces. 

Brooklyn has been my home for a little over a year. Just now am I starting to recognize my neighbors on the street—but I know their movements and preferences quite well. Our current apartment isn't insulated, so every sound is prevalent. For example, I know my upstairs neighbor watches "Game of Thrones" and plays video games after dinner. 

A few of our close friends live two blocks over, and another collection of our community lives one subway stop away. In New York, it's rare and yet so important to know people nearby. Want to go brunch? No Uber needed. Running some errands? Maybe your friends will, too. Nightcap on a Tuesday? Sure, why not. It's like college living, without the homework. 

"Where are we looking next? Mostly nearby in Brooklyn," my husband answers. I'm jolted back to our conversation on the roof. A few raindrops are making their presence known. 

Ryan and I will most likely have to move apartments in Spring. Our building has been sold and will either be torn down or converted into pricey condos we can't afford.

Wherever we end up next, I hope I get to know my neighbors.
And I hope my current community is nearby.
And I hope my friends in Queens will still come visit. 

New York City is a much more enjoyable town when you can share your sometimes strange and difficult urban world with other humans who understand it. So have a glass of whiskey with a stranger on a roof, and work to live near those you adore. 

 The view from our Brooklyn rooftop. 

The view from our Brooklyn rooftop. 

I have an affection for a great city. I feel safe in the neighborhood of man, and enjoy the sweet security of the streets.
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

What to Wear in Iceland: 15 Essentials for Cold Weather

I traveled to Reykjavik and through the south of Iceland in April of 2016 with two good friends. We hiked, we swam in hot springs, and we watched as Icelanders spoke out against their government during the Panama Papers protests. It was an incredible experience.  

Since then, I've had several people ask me what they should wear while visiting this Nordic country. First, travels should know the year is divided into three loose categories based off of tourism and temperature: Low Season (Oct - Apr), Shoulder Season (May & Sep), and High Season (Jun - Aug). Here's a graph of the average highs and lows by month:

 Source: Wikipedia 

Source: Wikipedia 

I went in between Low and Shoulder Season to avoid high prices and crowed attractions, so the below list is more tailored to those months. If you plan on traveling during High Season, just remember you'll still need a decent jacket and some of these essentials. Nights can be in the low 40s—plus, the weather is quite unpredictable! 

Merino Wool Socks

Hate having cold feet? Socks with a high percentage of Merino Wool are known for absorbing moisture—which means, your sweaty toes stay dry (and warmer). This fabric is also much finer than other types of wool, so it's not itchy.

Find these socks at DSW, or order them on Amazon Prime. This was one of those small, but essential purchases that made hiking for several hours more enjoyable. (And as a New Yorker, I now wear them in winter.)

Fleece-Lined Tights/Long Johns

During April, I actually didn't need to use my fleece-lined tights or Long Johns. But I packed them to wear under my pants, just in case jeans weren't enough to keep my legs warm. Layering is key when you're traveling to a place where the temperature can change by 20 degrees in a few hours.  

Waterproof Boots

You're going to walk through sand, slush, snow, and puddles while adventuring around Iceland. So don't mess when it comes to investing in some solid waterproof boots. I wore my L.L. Bean Duck Boots everywhere, and they did their job well. But, since this particular shoe is often backordered, here are a few other options from legit brands like Salomon and Sorel.

Down Winter Coat

Headed to Iceland during the frigid months? A long, down coat is pretty necessary for keeping you warm and for fighting off gusts of wind. I recommend both Michael Kors and Eddie Bauer's knee-length jackets—these were by far my best purchases after moving to NYC. Both coats have also kept me warm during my travels to Iceland, Scotland, Montreal, and London—and I've been wearing them for over 5 years. 

Lined Windbreaker

When you're hiking for a longer amount of time, you might appreciate a more breathable coat. North Face's Inlux Insulated Jacket was my go-to when the temperature rose to the high 40s. It's water-proof, lightweight, and has a warm liner—plus, it's easy to tie around your waste if you get too hot. 

Heattech Shirts

what-to-wear-iceland-undershirt

Under all of my sweaters and flannels, I wore a short-sleeved Heatteach shirt from Uniqlo. This article of clothing is supposed to absorb your body's moisture and convert it into heat.

Whether it works or not, I enjoyed being sweat-free and having an extra layer. On our road trip days, I'd also get hot in the car and just wear this teeshirt until the next destination. 

Other Considerations

Now let's get down to the basics: Here's a checklist of other items to pack for your Iceland adventure. Most of these are obvious, but it's easy to forget something!

  • Several sweaters or flannels 
  • Touchscreen gloves or waterproof gloves
  • Scarf + a hat that covers your ears
  • Microfiber towel for quick drying after hot spring swims
  • Outdoor pants if you're glacier walking or heavy-duty hiking
  • One "un-sporty" outfit for nightlife in Reykjavik 
  • Bathing suit and flip flops for the Blue Lagoon
  • Water-resistant backpack

I hope this quick guide helps you on your journey toward visiting the "land of ice and fire." Leave a message in the comments section if you have any questions. Happy travels!

 Oh hey, glacier. 

Oh hey, glacier. 

Iceland Guesthouse - Hv�t�

Where to stay: Iceland Guesthouse - Hvita

Situated on the riverwalk, this guesthouse is within 12 mi (20 km) of Deildartunguhver Hot Springs, Ullarselid -The Wool Hut, and Agricultural Museum of Iceland. High-speed Internet


The Wedding Video

It's here! Josh from WhiteFlair Productions just sent us our finished wedding film. I so enjoyed reliving this incredible day and listening to my dad's loving speech. Also, the dance party: I hope you find your sweating, happy faces in the crowd! ;) 

Thank you again to everyone who helped make this day possible. We love our wonderful community to the moon and back. 

Small Words

I don’t know how to share this video, except to say that it’s a very difficult and important watch. I am haunted by it, and I should be. The reporting is incredible. It feels as though I’m in history class, viewing clips from race riots of years past—you know, the “good ol’ days” of blood, and sacrifice, and injustice. Of white hoods, and lynchings, and terror. Of Godless men proclaiming their broken power.

But it’s 2017, and people still find themselves superior based off of skin color. How odd this is; how dangerous a thought. Those who believe they have an “advanced culture” and are losing “rights” squirm in the most unbecoming ways. Their blasé attitude toward a loss of life is damning.

This rally was no longer about a statue so don't hide behind that argument; it was about racism that is alive and well in this country. I’d love to close my eyes to it. I’d love to go to brunch, and talk about blah blah blah. But there is a sorrow that has seeped into my soul over the last several years, and it cannot be reversed.

Thank God for that.


The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.
— Elie Wiesel

Jade Mountain + St. Lucia: A Little Piece of Paradise

I blinked in momentary disbelief. 

Ryan and I were touring our room at St. Lucia’s Jade Mountain Resort. There were only three walls; the fourth was a wide-open view of the island’s famous Piton Mountains. An infinity pool near the far edge of the room completed the epic vista.

Our honeymoon was off to a fantastic start. 

 Infinity pool and view of the Pitons from room number JA4. 

Infinity pool and view of the Pitons from room number JA4. 

The Room

“At Jade Mountain, we call our rooms 'sanctuaries' be-cause, as you can see, 'dis is more 'dan just a room,” our Major Domo said in his island Creole accent. He then handed me a small mobile phone and explained how we could contact him for anything—from making us dinner reservations, to organizing our closet.

Ryan and I exchanged glances. Luxury travel is not my expertise (hello, cheap Airbnbs) but for our honeymoon, we had agreed to save up and spend more for an all-inclusive boutique resort. By the time the room tour ended, it was clear our expectations were going to be exceeded. 

The bed was wrapped in a canopy of mesh netting to prevent bugs from interrupting the sanctuary’s sleepy occupants. Besides the main entrance, there were no doors in the room (even for the toilet). But there was an abundance of white noise: the rainforest frogs would start their songs at twilight, the birds woke up with the sun, and our pool’s consistent waterfall muffled our voices even from each other. The sounds of nature were a far cry from the screaming sirens of Brooklyn.

 There were closets behind the bed, and a bathroom with jacuzzi on the top left platform.  

There were closets behind the bed, and a bathroom with jacuzzi on the top left platform.  

Dining Experience 

While our sanctuary (room JA4) was incredible, the biggest surprise was the quality of our meals. Ryan is a classic foodie. He appreciates the art of growing, preparing, and tasting food at a level I can only somewhat grasp. I’m an experimental eater and never shy away from something new—but I can’t tell you about the best cut of meat, or which herbs were used in the braise.

We had originally booked at Jade Mountain’s sister resort Anse Chastanet, and while the views still would have been picturesque, we wouldn’t have had access to the all the best restaurants. So I upgraded our room for Ryan’s Christmas present, and I didn't regret that decision in the slightest.  

Nearly every night, we made reservations at the Jade Club. This eatery is perched on top of the resort and boasts new creations each evening from James Beard award winner, Chef Allen Susser. Plates of fresh seafood, tropical fruits, and exotic spices delighted us all week long. We indulged in six-course meals and sampled the cocktail or wine menu during three-hour dining extravaganzas. My favorite foodie’s heart nearly exploded the night he tasted pork cheeks in a bourguignon sauce.

 The Jade Club and Celestial Terrace

The Jade Club and Celestial Terrace

All of this fluffy description to say, if you don’t love fine dining, Jade’s hefty prices may not be in your favor. But for us, it was perfect. What we would have paid every night for dinner was the daily cost of an all-inclusive package for a couple. So factor in breakfast, lunch, and afternoon cocktails? The all-inclusive plan paid for itself, and we never thought about the price of a meal—which is a beautiful convenience post-wedding. For more dining tips, scroll to the bottom of this post.

Excursions 

When we weren’t stuffing our faces with some the finest food in the Caribbean, we were out exploring the island. Our favorite snorkeling spot was Anse Chastanet Beach. The fish were abundant, the cove was somewhat unoccupied, and the equipment was free to rent for Jade Mountain guests.

The most memorable excursion we booked outside of the resort was through Atlantic Shores Riding Stables. We received a private two-hour tour of the southeastern tip of the island via horseback, and took a dip in Savannes Bay. The real bucket list moment was when our guide waded into the water, clad only in his underwear, with a horse named Spice. Ryan and I took turns riding without a saddle through the shallow waves of the deserted beach. 

 Me, Spice the horse, and our guide Max.

Me, Spice the horse, and our guide Max.

After our ride, we were dropped off at a local restaurant on the shores of Sandy Beach. We ate local fish, and explored (in my opinion) one of the more beautiful coastlines of St. Lucia. We enjoyed views of Maria Island, a piece of land that was designated a nature reserve in 1982, and swam in the Atlantic. 

Ryan and I also did a half-day excursion with Real St. Lucia Tours. Our guide, Shane, was excellent. When we changed our plan and decided we didn’t want to go shopping in the island’s capital, he steered us on a more adventure-based path. We hiked the Tet Paul Nature Trail, saw the “drive-in” volcano, took a mud bath, ate lunch at a local cafe, went snorkeling in Sugar Beach, and saw one of St. Lucia’s waterfalls.

Note: Each of these spots requires a small entrance fee. I really enjoyed the nature trail, swimming in the waterfall, and the mud bath. The volcano tour was quite short—it’s something only worth doing if you're also going to take a dip in the mud. The classic white shores of Sugar Beach are stunning, but I wouldn’t need to go back. Our resort’s snorkeling reefs were more beautiful, and the sand is “fake,” in that it is pumped in from other parts of the Caribbean. Plus, we were required to buy drinks from the hotel bar in order to use their shuttle system from the parking lot to the beach. 

Overall, it was a very enjoyable day and our guide was extremely helpful is quickly transporting us from location to location while explaining island culture along the way. We talked with him about everything from his childhood, to his current job and appreciated his local perspective.

On our last day, we utilized Jade Mountain’s amenities. We booked an afternoon sailing tour through the resort that took us along the west coast. The captain filled us with rum punches and plantain chips while he pointed out facts about St. Lucia. Throughout the trip we spotted several fishing towns, as well as the island’s capital of Castries. Before heading back, our small group of four hopped out and snorkeled in Anse Cochon Beach. 

Jade Mountain Quick Tips

  • Tipping is a part of the culture so I'd suggest bringing at least $200 in small bills. You don't need to tip the traditional 20% on a meal. There is already a built in service charge through the resort, so we tipped one or two bucks for drinks and between five to ten for fine dining. That money goes directly to the server or driver. 
  • If you book with a Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, there is a chance you could be upgraded at check in. 
  • The road up to Jade Mountain is steep and bumpy. We were glad to have a driver take us from the airport vs. renting a car. Note: St. Lucians drives on the left side of the road, like in the UK. 
  • If it's your honeymoon or a special occasion, be sure to let the resort know. We received free champagne on our first night!
  • Walk to Anse Mamin Beach one afternoon. It's a quick stroll from the main beach area, and it was nearly deserted when we visited. Plus there's a small restaurant that serves amazing burgers and mojitos.
  • If you do the all-inclusive plan, spend the majority of your dinners at the Jade Club. The food (and service) is by far the best at the resort.
  • Anything not included in the all-inclusive plan will be clearly marked on the menu. We found most of the extra charges applied to certain liquors, and special dining excursions. 

Ryan and I had an incredible honeymoon in a beautiful country I’d love to visit again. It was both relaxing and full of moments of adventure. Between the food, the views, and the company, I couldn’t have dreamed up a better way to spend the week after my wedding. Below are a few more pictures of our trip.

Happy travels!


I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.
— Susan Sontag

Jade Mountain Resort

Jade Mountain Resort

Set on a lush seaview mountainside, this upscale resort with unique architectural design celebrates Saint Lucia's stunning scenic beauty. It is just a minute's walk from St. Lucia's Anse Chastanet Beach. Diving to Turtle Reef is 2 miles (3 km) away, while Castries is 25 miles (40 km) away. High-speed Internet