This last BandB we’ve stayed at in really nice. Jill and Bob are retired – she a schoolteacher, he a lawyer and diplomat….She’s English, he’s Scottish…hmmm I wonder how they voted. They live in this beautiful victorian house filled with books….She’s utterly charming and leaves little handwritten notes all over the house….reminds me so much of Ross’s mum……
We’re off to Glasgow for our last full day in Scotland. I canna believe our trip is almost over. Aye, it’s been a grand one at that.
We took the bus down to Waverley Station and took the train to Glasgow….it was easy. You’d think we were seasoned travellers 🙂 It was a mere 45 minutes ride making just a few stops along the way.
Once we made our way to street level, we decided the best way to see the city in just a day was to take a hop on-hop off bus. Round trip, it was almost two hours. Glasgow is certainly more spread out than Edinburgh and there is so much to see. I only took a couple of pictures and I know they won’t do the city justice…the architecture is utterly amazing.
On Glasgow’s coat of arms is the bird, the tree, the bell and the fish.
“Here’s the Bird that never flew, Here’s the Tree that never grew, Here’s the bell that never rang, Here’s the fish that never swam.”
This rhyme is based on the life of Glasgow’s patron saint, St. Mungo, and all are symbols of rebirth…a recurring theme in Glasgow’s history. There were once 43 shipbuilding companies in Glasgow and now there is only 1 left. I think the tourguide said that 20% of all the ships in the world were built in Glasgow, on the river Clyde.
The statue below of Wellngton on his horse Copenhagen has a cone on it’s head…..no one knows for sure who places it there. But everytime it is is removed,,,,it reappears. The feeling is that it brings Glasgow good luck…..
People talk about how Glasgow differs from Edinburgh……it’s a working class town and the people are really friendly. There is a certain buzz about the place that’s unmistakeable….We’d intended to take the tour and decide how we wanted to spend the afternoon. We went for lunch at the Counting House – a pub right in the centre of the city – and decided that since it was such a nice day that we’d just wander the streets and soak up the city.
I’m not sure how the vote went – city by city – but throughout our travels, I’d have to say we saw more YES signs than NO…and met more people who voted YES than NO. What an incredible time to be visiting this country. We attended a post-vote YES rally in Georges Square that was pretty well attended. People draped in the flag of Scotland….families, old people, young people. We listened to protest songs and speeches from the podium. It was really moving….
We wandered down pedestrian shopping streets and came across this band entertaining the crowd. I tried to upload a video I took of them but the file type wasn’t allowed. You have to listen to them. Google “Big Peat Pipe band” and watch one of the Youtube videos. I could have listened to them all afternoon.
There were tons of people in the streets – and not only tourists. Mostly locals…shopping, generally having a good time.
We topped off the day with dinner at a cafe close to our BandB.
We have a full day planned today……after checking out, we proceeded to town to buy some true Scottish wool :-). I couldn’t resist……and then headed over to the Oban Distillery for a tour.
It was very interesting…and included a tasting at the end. This time I DID buy a bottle of whiskey but just a small one. Ross was still not a fan. I’m willing to share when we get home…..it’s delicious with a bit of candied ginger.
Before heading out of town, Ross took a few pictures of the harbour…..you’ll notice that we had another beautiful day. I thought it rained in Scotland all the time…..
Our next stop was Stirling Castle….which was close to where the Ryder Cup is being played. Traffic was a bit tricky and of course we got lost again……
We both agree – that of all the castles we’ve toured, Stirling was our least favourite…..I’ve included a few pictures of the grounds which were truly beautiful…..
Here’s Ross – intent on listening to the audiotour……lots of information to take in……
What I found interesting were the artisans who have been commissioned to create some new tapestries for the castle…..
What i think was a bit disappointing was that the restoration didn’t seem as authentic as some we’ve seen. For example – I think that , in the past, these were probably tapestries….but now, the images are painted on the walls of the castle in the royal apartments…..beautiful paintings, but hard to imagine that’s how they once looked.
I just had to slip in another picture of King Robert The Bruce…..
From Sirling Castle, the GPS took us on a very merry way back to Edinburgh to drop off the car. And guess what – we got lost again – but this time trying to find a gas station to fill up before we dropped off the rental.
I have to say, Ross did remarkably well driving on the wrong side of the road…….but I think we were both happy to drop off the car and take a cab to our last B&B in Edinburgh.
Speaking of our B&B at 4 Morningside Place……beautiful. I’ll take more pictures tomorrow, but here is a photo of our room and the view from the window…it’s like a secret garden…..
Tonight we had a lovely Italian dinner at a nearby restaurant recommended by our hostess….our luck is holding. We got the LAST table without a reservation……
We planned our day tomorrow in Glasgow – our last day in Scotland. We’re going to take the bus to the train station and then take the train into Glasgow. We needed 3 pounds for the bus and were 1 pound short of the exact change. So Ross went into the Tesco to buy a pack of Scottish cigarettes for some coin. What a guy! What an excuse!! The clerk in the store wasn’t allowed – by law – to give out any information about what cigarettes they sold…..or even how much they cost. If you have to ask – you don’t need to know!
Looking forward to another great day tomorrow – the weather is supposed to be beautiful….again. I love this place!!
We kind of miscalculated the next step of our trip. We planned to spend only one day n Oban…and planned to visit the Isles of Mull, Iona and Staffa….only thing is we needed a full day to do that….so matter which way we tried to make the ferries work, there just wasn’t enough time. Oh well…we’ll leave that for the next trip 🙂
So…on leaving Skye, we decided to take a different route and take the ferry from Armadale to Mallaig across the Sound of Sleat (doesn’t that just sound cool in of itself). On our way to Armadale….you won’t believe what we camee upon..right by the side of the road. Some hairy cows….I was so excited. I just had to post all (well not quite all) of our pictures….please forgive me.
For heaven’s sale, you’d think I’d never seen a hairy cow….
Well after that bit of excitement, we proceeded to the ferry terminal and got lost following the GPS. That happens when you become too dependent on it…sometimes you forget to trust your own sense of direction. We knew were going the wrong way but followed it anyways. The ferry was only 30 minutes long and smooth sailing. It was a pretty rainy day…good thing we were mostly travelling from one place to another.
Along the way we passed this castle – “Castle Stalker” in County Argyle. It’s on an island…..looks beautiful in the mist.
Oban – is the capital of the Western Highlands and it was certainly was bigger than I thought it would be. We were early to check in so we hit the Visitor Centre for some tourist information. It was there were learned that there would be a ceilidh at Skipinnish that evening. Show to start at 9:00…an evening of Scottish music and dancing. Sounded perfect……so of course we went. What a riot!! There was music and piping and highland dancing….and scottish country dancing. There was a full crowd – mostly young people – and everyone was right into it. We watched the first set and joined in the dancing in the second set. I don’t know which was more fun – watching or dancing ourselves. But what great fun! We had an absolute blast! Lots of laughs.
Here is a picture of our B&B in Oban – nice room, but worst shower ever!!
We awoke this morning to this view….a bit of cloud but with the promise of blue skies…
The forecast called for a nice day though so off we went to meet up with our group for a day touring the Isle of Skye. We’re so glad we decided to do this tour with Bill. Not only was he funny and entertaining, throughout the day, he told us many stories – the history of Scotland, why he voted “YES, Skye’s place on the world….and he took us places we never would have found on our own. The route we covered was mostly one-way (Deb – they would have ALL been brown roads)…and most weren’t even posted as far as we would tell. It gave Ross a well-deserved break from the driving so he could soak up the scenery. He played lovely Scottish music to get us in the mood….and kept up a pretty steady banter all throughout the day. We took many, many pictures that we could be happy to share for anyone who wants to see them….we toured the northern part of the island – Old Man of Storr, walking to Lealth Falls, visiting Kilt Rock….we were especially captivated by Fairy Glen…
We were warned though – there are rules you must follow when visiting Fairy Glen
1) Never whistle in the glen
2) don’t walk with your hands in your pockets, and
3) don’t take anything with you out of the glen.
If you break any of these rules – bad luck will follow.
There are also magical spiral paths you can follow to bring you good luck. If you want to make a wish, you enter the spiral walking path…walking to the centre – leave something (we left a few coins) and then back your way out.
Ross climbed to the top of one of the rock formations –
Notice the blue, blue sky – were were so lucky with the weather.
Then it was off to the Quiraing…..where the views were amazing……
Then it was off to Uig for lunch….after which we went to the most western part of the island to the Neist Point Light House. Talk about a climb….I don’t know which was harder – going down or coming back up. I took it at my own pace and didn’t suffer to much…..but it was truly challenging….but worth it for the views.
All day long, I was telling Bill I wanted to see sheep and hairy cows. Well, we saw so many sheep….probably more sheep than people…
….but alas, no hairy cows. Though Bill did a pretty good imitation of one…..and he was a wee bit hairy.
It was a long, long day….but an amazing way to spend our anniversary. One we won’t forget. Headed over to the pub for a bite of dinner and a pint..or two.
Here is a better picture of our B&B in Fort William..
The weather was a bit iffy when we left Fort William this morning to make our way to the Isle of Skye. Mist/fog shrouded the mountains across the loch. Since we’ve been on the road for the past few days, these things we can tell you for certain when driving in Scotland
1) the roads are never straight for long
2) there are many roundabouts in the cities, towns and villages
3) you’re never very far away from water
4) most of the road are two lane and everyone loves to pass…there are arrows on the road to tell you when to get BACK into your lane to avoid oncoming traffic
5) there are many signs reminding you to drive on the left……thank goodness
6) no shoulders to speak of – if you drive too far to the left – you hit the curb…..as we have a few times.
7) luckily, there aren’t too many roads,,,,,,which means it’s hard to get lost – unless you take the wrong exit on the roundabout (as we have a few times). Thankfully, the GPS is very quick when recalculating your route.
8) the posted speed limit is 60 mph most of the time….but you’re lucky if you hit 50…which means it takes a lot longer to get where you’re going.
9) there are parking areas at the side of the road every 450 yards so you can stop and take a picture.
10) there aren’t many radio stations…so we bought a CB (Scotland Rocks) to listen to.
…and the scenery is breathtakingly beautiful……if you can take your eyes off the road long enough to enjoy it (right Ross?)
Our first stop of the day….and there were only two…was the Eilean Donan Castle….one of the most beautiful and romantic castles in Scotland (they filmed Bravehart here and James Bond’s The World is not Enough here). The castle is owned by the MaCrae family (as it has been for years) and they have spent considerable $$$ to refurbish it. No pictures allowed of the inside…but feast your eyes on the pictures we took of the outside.
After we left the castle we made our way to the island…the land is so rugged and desolate…outside of the towns, houses are very few and far between…if at all.
Next we visited theTalisker distillery where we sampled some scotch……I really liked it, Ross not so much….so we didn’t buy any….yet. It was a single malt scotch…we’ll have to try some others before we make up our mind. The road to the distillery was single lane only with passing areas for cars to wait until it was safe to continue driving. Took some getting used to.
Here is a view as we approached Portree…..our base for the next few days.
Tomorrow, we have something different planned – to give Ross a break from the driving. We have booked a full day tour with Real Scottish Journeys (small groups in a minivan) and we will explore the northern part of the island. Can’t wait.
Tonight, we went to the pub for dinner…the portions are enormous…and for dessert we had sticky toffee pudding….my god it was delicious. When they brought us the bill, they gave us two pieces of fudge. I love this place!
We’re off again – and we’ve really enjoyed our stay here. The Maclean Guest House is run by Mark and Brandi Maclean, This house is brand new and our room was lovely. HUGE shower, great water pressure…modern decor. We were very comfortable here. Notice the Canadian Flag…husband Scotttish. It was well situated – about a 10 minute into town to restaurants, shops and pubs. Right on Loch Linnhe…Ben Nevis right behnd us…… a great area for hiking……
We headed out this morning with a full day planned. First we drove through the Great Glen (valley) to Inverness – the Capital of the Highlands. According to the GPS it was only supposed to take 1-1/2 hours to reach our destination…..but of course, that was assuming (i think) that we drove the speed limit the whole way. Of course, no road travels in a straight line here…and despite the fact that the speed limit was 60 mph…we were lucky if we were able to do 45 mph with all the twists and turns in the road. The city has an industrial feel to it….and it isn’t nearly as pretty as Edinburgh. We parked at the “mall” and wandered the old town…..all cobblestone streets (pedestrians only), quaint tiny shops and cafes. There is a castle in town, but it has been turned into a courthouse. I took a few pictures to give a sense of the city. Took a picture of the NO office because we haven’t seen many NO signs at all despite the outcome of the vote.
After we left Inverness, we went to the Clansman Hotel to take a boat tour of Loch Ness. It was pretty windy and cold….only lasted a bit upstairs and then we sought refuge indoors. Took some beautiful pictures of Urquhart Castle from the water. Just offshore of the castle is the deepest part of the loch (over 750 feet deep) and this is where there have been the most sightings of the Loch Ness monster. No appearance today.
The cruise was just long enough – only an hour – and from there we headed over to the Loch Ness Visitor Centre. The information centre was really interesting….presented all the facts…and left us to make up our own mind about whether or not there is truly a lake monster. We concluded that that we didn’t really think there was…..but, you never know.
I think the highlight of our day was the visit to Urquhart Castle…..which is in ruins. It was easy to imagine life there during it’s time. I won’t post all the pictures we took there 🙂 but if you want to see more…just ask us.
From there, we made our way back to Fort William….just as it was starting to rain. Here is a picture of the Great Glen…I could take a million of them…..each more beautiful that the next and the previous
We got back to our BandB just after 600…and headed back to the Stables for dinner …again….
Tomorrow, we head over to the Isle of Skye……..we’re almost at the halfway mark of our holiday here.
We left Edinburgh this morning after breakfast and took a taxi to the airport to pick up our rental car. I tell you – the car rental agents use scare tactics to try and get you to buy their really expensive insurance through them. Even though we purchased insurance through our credit card before we left Toronto, I was sorely tempted to buy extra insurance from them as well. What a raquet!!
The car they gave us was a Ford Focus – too much!! But it’s a great size – fits our luggage in the boot and easy to manoever….as least it looks like is as a passenger. Ross was really nervous…which made me really nervous. However, once we got on the road, he seemed to get the hang of
it quite quicky.
Thank god for the GPS – even though it has it’s limitations in pedestrian mode – we wouldn’t have done withut it. So many roundabouts to navigate our way through.
Our first stop was Falkirk – where there are enormous sculptures of Kelpies at The Helix…a recreational park just outside of Edinburgh. To quote the tour guide, the Kelpies pay tribute to central Scotland’s working horse heritage on the canals from years gone by. It was a beautiful sunny day and the park was filled with families – kids, dogs galore.
After a brief stop here – we headed towards Stirling to visit the site of the Battle of Bannockburn. There were bloody battles all over Scotland – but this year marks the 700th anniversary of the battle where King Robert the Bruce (of Scotland) battled King Edward II of England. This exhibit was really cool because it used 3D technology (holographs) to help you learn about the battle and there was an interactive game where visitors were pitted against each other to battle it out. We were on the side of the English…and we won this round. But in reality – 700 years ago – the Scots won even though they were vastly outnumbered through their brilliant battle strategy. Here are a few pictures of the centre and the status of King Robert the Bruce…
After lunch…we headed off towards For Williams through the Trossachs…an AMAZING forest. No pictures yet. Ross was too intent on driving to take much notice of the scenery…keep to the left, but not too far left….but when we make our way back though this area alongside of Loch Lomond, Ill take plenty for you to see. The views are breathtaking.
After passing through the Trossachs…we entered the area of Glencoe and the Mountains (Bens) here are majestic.,,,and green. Here are a few pictures of the type of scenery we saw here….Ross did stop to let me take a few pictures 🙂
I know, I know…..and I haven’t even taken any pictures yet of the lochs (lakes). The pictures don’t really do the scenery any justice…but you get the idea.
We arrived at our BandB in Fort William – Maclean Guest House….and it’s run by a young couple from Oshawa Ontario!! Really nice room…on the FIRST floor. Got to love it…no stairs to lug our suff up. We walked into town (10 minutes) and went to the Stable for dinner. No pub food tonight and had a nice meal. We just might come back tomorrow – the burger and onion rings look amazing…and then hit the pub afterward for a pint. This area is a mecca for hikers and bikers – there were about 5 outdoor stores in town…outnumbering the woollen shops. Tomorrow is another full day as we head to Inverness and Loch Ness…I think we’ll take a boat tour and search for the monster.
You may have noticed in that the sun came out yesterday afternoon,,,,and the weather was glorious. This morning – we awoke to the same….but the weather is so changeable here, who knows how long it will last. Here is a picture of our BandB in Edinburgh.