Sunday, 10 June 2012

Scotland Highlands

Ah, another wonderful holiday/vacation.  We spend 8 nights touring the Scotland Highlands (and Lowlands).  I've been looking forward to this for some time as I was expecting a great mix of history and scenery.  What I didn't expect was the great weather too.

This was our first major road trip of 3 planned this summer.  Scotland is "close" but is a bigger country than some may realize and it was a challenge to choose what to see and not see for our week away.  Since we visited Edinburgh last year, I was able to focus on the more rural areas.

I choose 3 bases:  Callander (B), Portree, Skye (D) and Drumnadrochit on Loch Ness (E) for 3/3/2 nights respectively.  From our base in Derby and with all the touring around we logged just under 1400 miles.  With petrol around $8/USgal I was glad to have our mid-size diesel average 45 mpg (US gal).

We had 3 big driving days.  From Derby to Callander was about 5.5 hours and the return from Drumnadrochit was 8.25 hrs with a slight detour into Perthshire to avoid the Olympic torch relay on A82.  Callander to Portree, Skye took 11 hours but there were liberal, planned stops and a ferry ride that broke it up nicely.  The kids are pros at car travel and we had no issues.

Here's a zoomed in view of the Scotland bits.  The Callander base for the historic Stirling sites and the scenery in the Trossachs.  We picked up Glencoe and Glenfinnan on the way to Skye.  Loch Ness was also a good mixture of history and scenery.

I've trimmed my 500+ photos down to 200 or so.  I hope you enjoy it.  It is a long entry so hunker down.

Day 1 (Friday) -- Drive from Derby to Callander

The first stop was at the impressive Falkirk Wheel, a rotating boat lift that connects two major canals that are 79 feet apart in elevation.  It opened in 2002.

You can ride on a boat to experience it yourself but we passed on that.  The boat rides in a tub for lack of a more technical term (cassions) and they stay level by rolling within circular bit like a gyroscope.  It reminded Nicole of the Gyro Bowl advertised back in the States.

This turned out to be a great stop.  The kids got some ice cream and Alex was able to run around on the playground and water works exhibitions.  As you can see, we aren't exactly getting traditional Scottish weather here which helped as well.

Next stop:  Doune Castle.  The castle in its current form was largely built in the 14th century by/for Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany who was Regent of Scotland for over 30 years (a regent is the one who looks after things when the King is unable to, e.g. too old or too young).   Much more info on the linked wiki site.

But enough about history, this was were a good chunk of Monty Python's the Search for the Holy Grail was filmed!  The audioguide for the tour is done by MP's Terry Jones (link).   Like most in my age bracket, that had quite the following back in high school and we must have watched it 20+ times.  I'll have to go back and watch it again now as it has been some time.

 the troops preparing to storm the castle

The castle was in fairly good shape.  Here's Nicole in the oven.

The private loo off the Great Hall.

 Looking at the village of Doune and the wind turbines in the background.

tempting, but a photo only

  semi-artistic shot of the day (Scottish flag)

We carried on to our wonderful B&B in Callander.  I've grouped the food photos at the end as well so sit tight for those interested in that.

Side note:  Kuk was wearing a cheapie pedometer as part of the Global Fitness Challenge at work.  It's a crude measure but will give you some idea of our activity each day.  The goal is to average 10,000 steps a day which is hard to do during a normal work day but not on an active day off.

Day 1 total (with lots of driving):  9969 steps.

Day 2 (Saturday) -- Stirling area historic sites 

First stop was to Stirling Castle.  We were a few minutes early so we posed with Robert the Bruce.  The castle is very strategically located and has factored significantly in Scottish history.  The best shot is from below which I did not get.  Try this link instead.

You can see by the shivering that it's a wee bit cooler than your typical June vacation spot.  It was probably 50F (10C) in the morning with a nice stiff breeze.

hard to pass up a nice cannon photo

We took the free guided tour and enjoyed the commentary.  One participant asked why this interior building was an ugly color.  We tend to assume all castles are gray and dull, but they were often painted bright colors to impress.  The Great Hall has been redone in the King's Gold.

A few other tidbits from the tour:  as we've heard before, the safest thing to drink at the time was ale since the water was a little dubious.  A husband would therefore look for a wife that made good beer.  The wife would look for a husband with black teeth (which meant he was rich enough to afford sugar).

The castle workers in the day were rationed ale and bread.  Of course, they only received the harder/burnt bottom portion of the bread.  The "upper crust" was saved for the elite.

Some statues that partially remain

 King Alex!

view of the former King and Queen's gardens down below

one of my few castle shots -- it's hard to get an encompassing photo once on the grounds

fun with swords

 both in the act this time (those swords were pretty heavy)

they had some massive hounds as well -- my first thought was Irish Wolfhounds but then I remembered we weren't in Ireland (duh)!  Scottish Deerhounds rather!

more sword play

here's a view of the National Wallace Monument -- our next stop

After the long hard climb to the monument (we did drive to the parking lot but it still left a climb), we were entertained by this period actor -- one of William Wallace's men.

Now, if you are like most, your knowledge of William Wallace is based on Mel Gibson's Braveheart.  Obviously, that was a romanticized and fictionalized version of the facts but there are some (very) broad aspects of the truth in the story.  [I asked this fellow afterwards and he's glad it came out despite the liberties with the story -- it gets more people interested.]

From the wiki link

Sir William Wallace (born c. 1272, died 23 August 1305) was a Scottish knight and landowner who became one of the main leaders during the Wars of Scottish Independence.  Along with Andrew Moray, Wallace defeated an English army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, and was Guardian of Scotland, serving until his defeat at the Battle of Falkirk. In 1305, Wallace was captured in Robroyston near Glasgow and handed over to King Edward I of England, who had him hanged, drawn, and quartered for high treason and crimes against English civilians.  Since his death, Wallace has obtained an iconic status far beyond his homeland.

The Scottish and English had battled over the years but it wasn't until King Edward I started throwing his weight around and pissing people off by taking the Stone of Scone (1296) that things really heated up.  Wallace's victory at Stirling Bridge gave Scotland its Independence (momentarily).

posing with the guide

statue of William Wallace on the monument

the famous sword (link for more info)

view of the river (albeit not the bridge) that factored into battle -- part of the strategy was to let the English cross and then attack.  They could not effectively retreat over the small bridge.

of course, we climbed to the top (246 steps) -- the hike up the hill was harder

a view back to the castle and the King's Gold Great Hall

 and a nice shot looking back at the monument (another glorious day)

Continuing our historical journey, we drove to the Bannockburn Heritage Centre (link).  It's a rather drab looking building but contained a nice, small exhibition.  Bannockburn was a significant Scottish victory (1314) for the Wars of Scottish Independence.

 ready to battle (prop in exhibition)

Kuk with her battle face on -- also afraid to move because the hat and chainmail were really heavy

 Nicole's turn

 and Alex's (nice one)

photo with Robert the Bruce (again) -- Robert the Bruce was King of Scots from 1306 to 1329 during the time of the Wars of Scottish Independence (link)

After our enjoyable day, we made it back to our Callander B&B -- the highly recommended Annfield Guest House.  This has to be one of our favorites that we've stayed in.

Step count for Day 2:  14,881.

Day 3 (Sunday) -- Exploring the Trossachs

We take a history break to explore the great outdoors.  We set off to the Trossachs to walk Ben A'an near Loch Achray.  Our info says it's a 2.5 mile walk with an ascent of 340 m (1100') according to this site. That's a pretty healthy climb for novices like us.  It took about 3 hours (I think) counting lunch at the top.

Bundled up in the crisp air as we start off in the woods.

  resting along the way up

we were overtaken by some mountain cyclists carrying their gear up -- we were curious as to where they were actually going to ride

another break

 . . . with some nice views back to Loch Achray

started out as a nice woodsy walk -- Kuk and Alex were on their own pace coming up

 as we cleared the forest we had a slight oh "shoot" moment when we saw what lay ahead

that deserved a side rock climb (and rest) before undertaking the final ascent

Alex's not exactly looking forward to it -- not sure that's even comfortable

 hey -- how'd this guy follow us from the Peak District?

future Darwin Award winner gives the descent a go on his bike -- full brake mode while skidding down and a complete look of fear and concentration on his face

the rest of his crowd were smarter and said forget this -- not sure it was worth carrying those bikes around but they probably found some areas to descend properly

ah, the reward -- Loch Katrine on the other side

the triumphant crew

another of Loch Katrine

a well deserved rest at the top

didn't realize the ominous clouds behind me -- too bad I'm not holding the Ten Commandments

next stop was the Inchmahome Priory on Lake of Menteith -- taking the boat out (wiki)

too tired to finish the second half of his sandwich

thought we'd start by making a quick walk around the small island

and climb a few gnarly trees

. . . and finally the priory (built in 1238)

From the wiki link:  The priory has a long history of receiving many notable guests. King Robert the Bruce visited three times: in 1306, 1308 and 1310. His visits were likely politically motived, as the first prior had sworn allegiance to Edward I, the English king. In 1358 the future King Robert II also stayed at the priory. In 1547 the priory served as a refuge for Queen Mary, aged four, hidden here for a few weeks following the disastrous defeat of the Scots army at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh during the Rough Wooing.

As with most, the priory went into decline in the 16th century in the time of Henry VIII and the founding of the Anglican Church. 

view back to the small pier on the main land

We made the stretch goal of the day which was a short hike in Callander out to Bracklinn Falls.

 new bridge (the previous one was destroyed by a flood in 2004)

and finally , a partial shot of the falls

Step Count:  20,345 (!) plus the 1100' ascent -- quite a day

Day 4 (Monday) -- the long drive to Skye

I knew it would be quite a drive to Skye but there were many things I wanted to see along the way so we made a full day of it.  Here's a random viaduct just outside of Callander.

and a nice view along the way (we still haven't gotten very far at this point)

The first stop was at Killin and the Falls of Dochart (link)

required pose in front of the site -- a had to wait for the bus load of Germans to clear

climbing on the rocks -- always a good thing with a lot of car time ahead

We hopped back on the A85 and took the A82 to Glencoe.  This shot was on the way.

happy family!

worst piper I've ever heard; stationed at a large layby near Glencoe.  Too bad, as I actually like listening to the pipes.  He kept stopping to shoo people here and there as well.   Oh well, I gave him a few coins for the photo anyway.

still some snow near the top (still near Glencoe)

out across the Moor (Rannoch? -- not sure).  I liked the eerie clouds and decided to leave this one dark in the foreground

close to Glencoe now

another glorious day -- are we really in Scotland?

We stopped at the very nicely done Glencoe Visitor's Centre to read up on history of the area and to take a short walk around the grounds.  You might have heard about the infamous Massacre of Glencoe (wiki) in 1692.  Thirty-eight Macdonalds were killed by the their guests (murder in trust).  The grounds for the killing were because the Macdonald clan was late in swearing allegiance to the new monarchs (William and Mary) and were made examples of in an attempt to bring the clans in order (i.e. government sanctioned murder).  Much more info at the wiki link. 

Beautiful surroundings.  This was certainly one place we wish we had had more time.  Perhaps a future trip will allow for a stay and some proper walks.

 more scenery from our short walk

We continued past Fort William on the Road to the Isles where we stopped at Glenfinnan.  A monument is erected to commemorate the place where Prince Charles Edward Stuart ("Bonnie Prince Charlie") raised his standard, at the beginning of the 1745 Jacobite Rising.  Stunning views up Loch Shiel on yet another gorgeous day.

Look familiar?  This is the "Hogwarts Express" steam train and viaduct used in the filming of Harry Potter.  Not sure how often it passes, but we only had to wait about 20 minutes to see it pass.  Pretty cool.

. . . and another

shot of the viaduct looking back from the monument

at the top -- Charlie's seen better days; hard to clean off the bird poo at this height

From the wiki linkThe Jacobite rising of 1745, often referred to as "The 'Forty-Five", was the attempt by Charles Edward Stuart to regain the British throne for the exiled House of Stuart, and recreate an absolute monarchy in the United Kingdom. The rising occurred during the War of the Austrian Succession when most of the British Army was on the European continent. Charles Edward Stuart, commonly known as "Bonnie Prince Charlie" or "the Young Pretender," sailed to Scotland and raised the Jacobite standard at Glenfinnan in the Scottish Highlands, where he was supported by a gathering of Highland clansmen.

More on the Jacobite rising later on in the blog . . . 

absolutely stunning


what a day!

 one more -- very picturesque location

We continued on until we ran out of land in Mallaig.  Knowing that we had a lot to see, I pre-booked the last ferry of the day.  We just missed the previous one and were 2nd in the queue.  That gave us some time to walk around Mallaig (and find a pub for some liquid refreshments).

The 30 minute ferry ride landed us in the southern tip of Skye at Armadale -- still a ways to go to our apartment in Portree.  It was a pleasant drive with plenty of breathtaking views.  We arrived about 8 pm (11 hours or so after leaving Callander).

Note:  we are into some long days here as we approach the summer solstice.  Given that we aren't really night owls, we did not really see darkness as sunset was well after 10 (and darkness was after 11).  Sunrise was around 4:30 -- we didn't see that either.

Found this little guy on our way to the grocery store that night.  A young girl on her bike found him and showed us.  He was scared stiff and closing his eyes in hopes that we wouldn't see him <g>.  Can't say I've seen a hedgehog in the wild before.  Nicole was disappointed that she stayed in the apartment -- the photo will have to do.

Step count:  15,308 -- not bad for being in the car most of the day.

Day 5 (Tuesday) -- the Trotternish Peninsula (Skye) 

The goal for the day was to tour the Trotternish peninsula which has a roughly 50 mile perimeter in the NE corner of Skye and is known for its geological formations.  One could drive it in a couple of hours and tick off the sites but we opted for a slower pace and fit in a few walks.  The first was up to the Old Man of Storr.  It's another decent climb (~500m) and this photo is just into that ascent looking back at the Isle of Raasay.

Yet another magnificent day.  Could we make it all week without rain in Scotland?

The path starts off in a wooded area.  It was actually quite dark under this canopy.

This city boy found the new evergreen growth fascinating.  You can still see the tip of the bud/cone on the one spur.

more amazing scenery

Again, another "oh shoot" moment as we clear the forest and see the climb ahead.  The Old Man is hard to see in this photo though the Needle is nearby at the top of the path.

Alex had to climb this rock first though.

the girls started up the path

 while Alex reach his summit

another look back -- the photos barely start to capture it


there's the Old Man -- you have to see it from the side rather than straight on

 getting closer

 made it!

 and the look back and to the right

snack time

getting down was a little more treacherous, particularly at first -- Kuk wasn't as big a fan of this one for that reason

crumbling rocks everywhere

 quite a few in this direction . . .

. . . but we don't always heed the warnings (this was around back of the Old Man so we could take a different route down -- as suggested by others).  Great walk.  2 hours maybe?  I didn't write down any of the times.

next stop was Lealt (I think) Falls

where you can also view the beach from above

 and the Isle of Raasay and the mainland

 still a happy family!

next stop:  Kilt rock

 and looking "down" the coast rather than "up" towards Kilt Rock

Next stop was the parking lot for the Quiraing.  Pretty much the entire peninsula was single track roads though the "main" roads have decent visibility and well marked passing places.  The road to the Quiraing was a 3 mile jaunt inland and a little tedious, particularly at the top.

 yikes--fortunately the car going down has a pretty good view of the cars coming his way

starting the hike to the Quiraing -- Alex's favorite.  Really nice views along the way, though not for those afraid of heights.  You can hike up from a lower lot or do what we did and park at the higher lot for less climbing

 the path beckons

Spectacular.  This was one of the wider paths -- you can see what I mean about heights.

 looking back

a few sheep up close

unique formation

tiny sheep down below

another shot looking back -- here comes Kuk

Nicole taking a break

more Wow

This was to be our destination (not sure if this is the Quiraing or not, but it seemed to be the peak).  There were several routes and we chose one that a tour of twenty-somethings took (Alex wanted to go that way--it's not shown here).  That was not the right choice.  It was steep and the footing was precarious and we did not feel safe (Kuk didn't even attempt it after the Old Man experience).  After gathering ourselves we backtracked to safety and called it good enough.  You can easily get yourself in some serious (and I mean serious) trouble out here.  I didn't want to be a statistic.

We backtracked to the main road and continued around the northern edge of the peninsula (after stopping for lunch).   We liked this sheep waiting for the bus in the bus stop.

After two decent hikes, we opted for a slower pace at the Museum of Island Life (link).  There were a half dozen or so thatched buildings like this with information inside.  It was a little heavy on the reading, but a good stop nonetheless.

a view to the NW and the Outer Hebrides

thistle is the national flower -- we purchased a thistle themed tea set when in Edinburgh last year

Grave marker of local legend Flora Macdonald.  She helped Bonnie Prince Charlie escape after his defeat at Culloden and became a national hero for her bravery and support of the cause.

back to Portree.  I had a stretch goal of walking the Fairy Glen but we were all pooped.

Step count:  23,901, a record!

Day 6 (Wednesday) -- Talisker, Dunvegan and Neist Point

Last full day on Skye and we decided to focus on the Northwest and the Dunvegan peninsula.  First a few photos on the way.  I'd been wanting to take a photo of the sheep warning but there was never a good pull out until this one.  Perhaps I'll use it to warn Jay of impending domestic animal photos.

Two sheep stories:  First, on the way up to Portree from the ferry there was a sheep between the road and the fence (i.e. not in the fence) and I was cruising along at 50+.  He feints towards the road and Kuk lets out a death scream as I react.  I remind her that screaming in my ear is not the best thing to do during an evasive maneuver and in fact caused more of a reaction than was necessary.  It was, however, a good reminder to slow down when you see the sheep.

Another time when I was going considerably slower we passed a sheep who looked straight at me and gave me the business.  Mouth open, eye contact, blaaaaaaaaah.  Take that.  That was a bit funnier than the first episode. 

Approaching the Cuillen mountains as we head to Talisker.  I mainly wanted to get a menacing photo with clouds!

I'm not really a Scotch (whisky) man, but I did want to venture out to the extremely remote Talisker distillery for a tour.

Before the tour we got a taste.  Here's my 10 year old son with my 10 year old whisky (actually with my empty glass).  No worries -- the kids wouldn't drink it if they could.

The tour was nice (no photos) though I think we could have had a better guide.  One tidbit of note was that they had actually stopped production because of a lack of rain!  Their water source (14 natural springs) had dried up and they had to wait for rain (can't use anything else or it wouldn't be the same).

The basics of whisky (Scotch) / whiskey (Irish/American/Canadian) are quite similar.  The differences are in the subtleties of how things are done.

This 25 y.o. single malt was a little out of my range.  I did come home with a bottle of 10 year old single malt though.  I won't be drinking it every day (in fact, I have 2 years to finish it) so come by for a taste.  Even I could taste some of the unique characteristics (smokey/peppery) and I thought it was a worthy souvenir.

random shot between the distillery and our next stop in Dunvegan

And there it is:  Dunvegan Castle, home of the Macleod clan (here's to you, Kathy E.).  It's privately owned and occasionally lived it.  As with a lot of these, it's a struggle to keep going (and most end up with a trust because of it).

we had a tour of the grounds

 more grounds

we also took the extra boat ride out in search for seals -- Nicole's up front (savvy people call that the bow I believe)

Cool, seals.  We didn't know how many we would see.  The guide mentioned he thought there was 200+.

up close

next group

 one in the water

seals, seals, seals -- I think we saw 80 or so according to Alex's count

hasn't gotten old (yet)

one final close up

birds too -- Arctic terns I believe

and a nice shot of the castle on return.  Glad we took the boat trip.  We also saw the inside of the castle though no photos were allowed.

Next up was a trip out to the eastern most part of Skye:  Neist Point.  Here's a photo close to where we parked (not yet at the point).  This was the other tedious drive; slow, single track -- but worth it.

Here we are.  The lighthouse is on the other side of that cliff.  Ready?  Set? . . .

Hey, if you just slide over a bit you can see it just fine.  No need to walk all the way there.  :-)

still a happy family!

a special one of my photogenic daughter

and me

Our first actual sheep blockade.  You can also see the single track road (this was on the way back from Neist Point).

The famous Three Chimneys restaurant was along this road (albeit further "inland").  I had wanted to try it but the £60/person price point was even a little steep for me.  Not sure what the kids would have done and I didn't want to come during the middle of the precious day for the more reasonable lunch.  We'll save that one for the couples.

On the way back to Portree I had slowed to make a right turn and this very loud noise came from behind us.  Kuk and I tensed for the impending crash as it sounded like a huge truck screeching to a halt (but I didn't see one).  Turns out it was  fighter jet screaming low overhead.  Freaked us out!

Step count:  13,446

Day 7 (Thursday) -- Loch Ness

Alas, we bid the wonderful Skye adieu (still without a drop of rain) and headed to our final base at Loch Ness.  Along the way is the perhaps the most photographed Castle, the Eilean Donan.  It didn't make the cut for a visit but did make for a nice quick look.

kids, castle and sailboat -- another gorgeous day

First stop at Loch Ness was Urquhart Castle.  It used to look like this.

And now looks like this.  It used to be a formidible stronghold and traded hands between Jacobite/Williamite and the Macdonald clan.  It was finally blown up by the last inhabitant so that others couldn't use it (late 1600's).  More info at the wiki link.

ready to go explore

 Alex liked the trebuchet

this was an interesting hunk that had been blown to this spot when the explosives were fired -- note the garderobe (toilet) in the top corner

Nicole and the blue skies

looking back across the castle grounds

up top with Loch Ness in the background

and the vastness of Loch Ness (link) -- Loch Ness is the 2nd largest Scottish lake by surface area (Loch Lomond) but is also extremely deep (755').  As a result, it contains more water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined.

 mother and son

one more shot

I know it is touristy but I wanted to go.  There are a couple of sites like this but this was the recommend one.  The exhibition was a series of video clips in a half dozen or so rooms that explain the loch/lake, the loch ness monster sightings and the subsequent explorations.  I thought it was well done and I'm glad we went.

There were a few hoaxes along the way, but it's apparent that most people actually thought they saw something.  However, they showed how easy it was to mistake wakes, ducks, branches, etc. for a "monster".  They even showed how the underwater thermals can play havoc on sonar equipment.

Last stop for the day was a drive out to Glen Affric (link to guide) and a recommended hike around the craigs and to Dog Falls.

Here we go.  We combined 2 loops to go about 4 miles (link). 

Clouds are coming.  Would we finally get wet?

The walk was more woodlands than hills some of which was on this large (and not so pretty) trail.

nice view of a small pond

 taking a break halfway through

near Dog Falls

 and finally Dog Falls

Kuk liked this one.  I found it a bit anti-climatic given our more dramatic hikes earlier in the week.  Still glad we went.

Look, rain!  We got a few sprinkles on our way back from dinner.  Kuk's in front of our B&B (Glen Rowan) in Drumnadrochit.

Step count:  19,284 (though easier steps than some of the others)

Day 8 (Friday) -- Culloden area 

Last day of touring.  The clouds and a little rain did finally come in.  I had to take this eerie photo of Loch Ness on the way to Inverness (and Culloden) in the morning.

 you'll just have to use your imagination

Back to history -- the first (and main) stop was the very good (and new) Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre.

As usual, we opted for the guided walk and were glad we did (the visitor's center is also very nice, but no photos).

A little bit more on our Jacobite rising.  As mentioned above at Glenfinnan, Bonnie Prince Charlie had gathered some interest in his cause to claim the throne for his father (James "VIII" & "III") in 1745.  Many of his followers were Highland clansman and there were also complicated Highland/Lowland and religious aspects to the rising.

As his following grew, he stormed his way towards London trying to pick up support along they way.  He was "undefeated" as he marched through northern England but failed to pick up enough support to continue.  (The English were also concerned with the French and other continental issues).   He turned around in Derby of all places (Swarkestone bridge for the locals -- that's caused many a people to want to turn around!).

He retreated all the way back to the Highlands near Inverness in Culloden (1746) while being pursued by the English commander William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland.  His troops were tired and hungry and he was completely out smarted at Culloden and met with resounding defeat (1500 to 50 in terms of casualties).   He fled to Skye and later France.  (more info at the wiki link)

This was the last battle on British soil.

The aftermath was just as gruesome as the highland clans were tracked down and killed.  It became illegal to wear traditional tartans, etc. and hastened the fall of the traditional Highland clansmen way of life.

Mass grave marking from the 1800's (I think)

similarly one for the English (though later found out to not be in the right place; nor were they necessarily all English)

Next stop:  the massive Fort George (link plus wiki).  This 18th century fortress was built after the Battle of Culloden and has never been attacked.  It's used as a garrison today.

We weren't that impressed with the displays but perhaps that was due to tourist fatigue.  We did enjoy walking the massive grounds though.  Another cannon shot pointing out to sea.

cold and windy -- finally some Scottish weather.  I was beginning to wonder.  We got a few sprinkles at Culloden but that had stopped by now.

 looking for dolphins

 there's one (tiny fin in the middle) -- my little camera wasn't up to the task but we did have fun looking and watching

 there's a pair along with some birds -- we probably saw 5 or so

 we were amused by the red telephone booths we kept seeing in the strangest of places -- like inside the fort

last stop was the Clava Cairns (or the Balnuaran of Clava) -- link 

these stone settings were burial grounds some 4000 years old -- the entrance was lined up with the sun during the winter solstice

 my rock stars

Step count:  10,383 -- a lightweight day

No photos on our last day, an 8+ hr drive back to Derby via Inverness/Perth/Stirling/Carlisle etc.  We made better time than I thought and were home for dinner.

Food, food, food 

Special section for any foodies out there.  We ate well and had some good but not necessarily great meals.  I always endeavor to try new things.

Lade Inn, near Callander.  Haggis, tatties and neeps.  I had to try it.  It was okay.  Not sure what it was supposed to taste like.  Kuk's meal was pretty disappointing so I assume this wasn't as good as it could get either.  It's best not to think about the haggis too much.  Overall, we wouldn't recommend the restaurant.

Full Scottish breakfast at the Annfield Guest House.  I usually try everything and down-select on subsequent mornings.  The mushrooms were unbelievably good.  Best breakfast I can remember at a B&B.

 Callander Meadows -- lamb.  Very good though slightly overdone.  Not quite as good as I had in Edinburgh which still rates the highest for lamb for me.

 Kuk's fillet at Callander Meadows.  Also a touch dry.  Good meal, though our most expensive.  

Mohr Fish, Callander.  Halibut and bacon with Hollandaise sauce.  Nice.  The seafood chowder was also very good.

Cafe Arriba, Portree.  Kuk's Thai crayfish curry.

salmon and rice for me.  Also good.  Funky, casual place.

Sea Breezes, Portree.   I always like it when I can start with a clean slate (ha, ha)

seafood platter at Sea Breezes -- yum, yum

Loch Ness Inn, near Drumnadrochit.  I had another go with haggis, this time as a starter.  More flavor (and better) this time.  Okay, don't need to try anymore.  [haggis recipe for the curious]

"Pork chop" main at Loch Ness Inn.  Pork chop?  Where's the bone?  Tasty enough but don't call it a chop; perhaps that's a cultural difference?  Rice was bland.

Cobbs Restaurant, Clansman Inn, Loch Ness.  I did well saving the best for last.  Roasted duck breast with carrots and beets.  Outstanding.  Also came with a nice view of Loch Ness.  5 miles north of Drumnadrochit (9 miles south of Inverness).

Well, there you have it.  Thanks for slogging through the long entry (assuming you made it this far).  It was another great vacation.  We really enjoyed Scotland and we might have to go back again before we head home.

Take care.


  1. Great post, love the scenary pics and smiling seal.

    As soon as you mention Monty Python I heard the galloping coconuts in the back of my head - Classic!

    Black teeth on the women also? Not important if she can brew good beer I guess.

    You should have told the future Darwin Award winner to look up, he is missing a great view. lol.

    Funny about Kathy's castle. Glad to see you enjoyed the trip.

  2. Great stuff! Many places I've been to, as well. You should have found the Fairy Glen - a nice little hike up, and bizarre sights. Also, Three Chimneys Lunch is WELL worth it :)

  3. Hello! Just came across this in my research/planning our Scotland trip for this August. The long drive from Callander to Portree...could you give me any specifics on your timing and the stops you made? We are flying into Edinburgh (for the Military Tattoo) with 3 nights there, one in the Trossachs, then off to Skye just for one night and to explore as much as possible the next day before heading to Inverness for 2 nights to use as base to explore out a bit, then drive back to Edinburgh to spend last night. I am a bit worried about the long drive from the Trossachs to Skye. We will be staying at Three Chimneys and having dinner there. Thinking if we catch one of the late afternoon ferries we can arrive in time for our dinner. Doesn't give us much time to enjoy the place, but will spend all of next day on Skye (hoping to get to the Fairy Pools). Of course I would like timw to stop along way through Glencoe and enjoy the scenic drive from Ft. William to Mallaig without running out of time. We won't be doing hikes (as much as I would like to). Any thoughts advice? First trip to Scotland (from the the states). Used to long distances and driving to get anywhere. Not used to the small roads and left side.
    Thanks! Oh and we are 2 couples in our 30s. Pubs, history, distilleries, good food, scenery.

    1. Hi Victoria -- glad you found the blog. That's quite a drive for just one day. Most would try to talk you out of it, but it is a wonderful place.

      It's been a few years so I don't remember all the details. We pre-booked the last ferry and actually just missed the next to last. You'll have a lot of daylight in August so that won't be a problem. I would assume you are also trying to make dinner at Three Chimneys?

      Driving in Scotland is easy but not quick. That said, we did a very leisurely drive with ample stops. We did the Falls of Dochart, Glencoe Visitors Center (+ a short walk), and the Glenfinnan Monument with a wait for the Harry Potter train.

      Once in Skye, you'll probably have another hour or so to get to Three Chimneys. That spur road is a little hairy if I recall (but maybe T. C. isn't that far out).

      Lots of great walks around Skye -- it would be good if you had another day.

      Not sure if that helps or not. Shoot me an e-mail if you have further questions.