Awrite! from Scotland
We left Helsinki 8.50pm, our flight was running late due to an 180kph headwind and with the time difference (2 hours) we landed in Edinburgh at 9.30pm, found our way to the Airport Hilton and checked in. After 2 months in Europe it was wonderful to hear the English language and read the signs again! Next day we picked up the rental car….no GPS!…..(Angus!)….who needs one, we can read the wee signs! First stop, Stirling Castle…we found it without any dramas!
The Castle was fantastic and the views from the Ramparts over the countryside were stunning. A clear blue sky dotted with lovely white puffy clouds, the colours of the ‘tilled’ soil, the dry and almost ready to be harvested grain crops, and the different shades of green against the sky looked fantastic. We took the guided tour of the ‘Argyle Apartments’ (it was in Scottish, but we understood the guide) and visited the Cathedral before setting off to Ft William, our home for the next couple of days.
The trip from Stirling began well….follow the signs….go through the roundabouts…follow the bouncing ball, we can do it! The signs in Scotland are mostly very comprehensive with huge amounts of information to be deciphered as you tear through the towns and countryside. However most of the signs, with the ‘huge amounts of information’, are slightly hidden behind green things called trees…and are sometimes really close to the roundabouts or intersections and it’s quite easy to miss a couple of vital pieces of information…like….which way to go! It also appeared that no matter what direction you were travelling, all roads led to Glasgow! Unfortunately, that’s not where we wanted to go. There was a bit of frustration and tension in the air as we drove over one particular 15 miles section of road several times (4 times actually), sometimes following tractors, trucks and a lot of cyclists carrying huge back packs and saddle bags nearly always on the thinnest ‘blind’ corners. (We did notice how some cyclists made great progress.) Lucky we didn’t have a GPS on this trip….it might have gotten out of the car and walked! After we made a couple of bold decisions we headed in a different direction and started to see the road signs to Loch Lomond (our intended destination), and finally found it.
We had a brief stay, admiring the absolute beauty of the place before heading off in search of Fort William. We went through lots of little towns, all very beautiful, over mountains, through fog, rain and sunshine before making the descent into Glencoe, the view although shrouded in mist and fog was phenomenal! We stayed at a great little hotel right on the waterfront in Fort William, our home for the next two nights.
The next morning after a fantastic breakfast (Lance did the FULL English breakfast) we headed to the seaside township of Mallaig to catch the ferry to The Isle of Skye. The ferry ride was great, and we drove off the boat to explore Skye. After driving through more beautiful countryside, villages, hills and dales we stopped in Portree. We walked around the town and saw a sign that advertised the ‘Best Fish & Chips, on the island, so naturally we followed the arrow, down the stairs to a row of pretty little buildings and shops. It wasn’t hard to find the fish & chip shop there were about 50 or 60 people all tucking in to the fantastically fresh local product and for every person there were another 50 or 60 seagulls circling and scavenging for any hot treasures that had missed the mouths of the hungry hoards. We moved to a spot just down the boat ramp away from all the chip eaters (people) and were quickly surrounded by nearly all the seagulls, I’m sure most of them had to swim home…take off and landing would have been a problem with the extra cargo of our chips!
After two wonderful days in Fort William and surrounds we headed for Loch Ness…but first…we ‘double tracked’, (by choice this time) to admire the view into Glencoe from the mountain. It was stunning and worth the effort! This time the sun was shining and the fog had lifted, however we missed seeing Ben Nevis, it had a veil of fog, protecting it from the tourists. On the way we stopped off at Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness. The castle was blown up and the outside wall was breached in 1692. Since then the building was left open to the elements, lead from the roof and indeed the roof and a lot of the stone was pilfered for other building projects over the centuries. The castle is now managed and maintained for future generations to admire. It is also a favourite destination for ‘Nessie-watchers’ because of its fantastic and unique location on the banks of Loch Ness.
We arrived in the town of Drumnadrochit, at the northern end of Loch Ness, late in the afternoon and took a cruise on the Loch along with about six other Aussies who were part of a bus tour. We then continued up the A82 and stayed at Inverness in a fantastic hotel, which is part of the Premier Inns chain.
We began the next day with a visit to Fort George, then on to Elgin Cathedral and finally Huntley Castle. Fort George was completed in 1769 and has remained virtually unaltered since its completion, it was so well designed and it remains in use today as an Army Barracks. It is one of the finest examples of a Fort in all of Europe. Elgin Cathedral and Huntley Castle were both old ruins and fun to explore, and imagine what it was like all those centuries ago.
Our destination for the nights stay was Aberdeen. Being the end of the season we thought accommodation would be easy to find. Except there was a major conference in town and every reasonably priced hotel room within a 40 mile radius was booked, so we continued on to Dundee, another 57 miles, but on a motorway double lanes all the way. We arrived in Dundee, and as has been the case in so many places we have visited there were massive infrastructure works being carried out. We somehow navigated to a large Holiday Inn……booked out!…..but, ‘we have a deal with the Apex Hotel just across the street’…..a few phone calls and we had a room in a 4 star Hotel with harbour views…..home for 2 nights!