Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Scotland - last days

After 5 days of severe stomach problems and with no more drugs left, I resorted to dear old mom's remedy of a days rest complete with chicken soup. By day seven the stomach is starting to get back in order but a bland diet is in order for a few days.

After a nights rest in the B&B in Inverness we were off back to Glasgow. We decided to follow the Scottish tourist route from Inverness to Braemar 'a land of superlatives'. It is the highest and most mountainous parish in the UK, with each of its 182,000 acres being more than 1000ft above sea level.

The area contains within its borders some 24 Munros, or mountains of over 3,000ft, with three over 4,000ft. Believe me the little rental car worked hard on these mountainous and in some areas very narrow roads. It has the highest 18-hole golf course in the country, and shares with Perthshire the Cairnwell Pass, at 2,100ft the highest through road in the country, which on the Braemar side passes through the Glenshee Ski Centre. Also in this area over 100 years ago Queen Victoria purchased Balmoral Castle as a summer residence which the Royal Family still uses today - in 1856 the original castle, deemed too small, was demolished and rebuilt. So I may not have seen Nessie but maybe I will see a Royal!

I highly recommend the Scottish Tourist drive as the scenery is spectacular and for those who like to hike there are lots of opportunities in this area. In 1996 when I visited Scotland with my mum I took her to Inverness - as I was driving the road to Braemar I realized we had followed this road at that time, I even recognized the little cafe where we had stopped for tea in 1996. Maybe my memory is not so bad after all.

Stop for coffee in a wonderful little village - homemade baked goods yummy (thank goodness my tummy is feeling better - so much for bland diet)

Coffee shop my mum and I visited in 1996


Notice the deserted buildings in these pictures - most likely deserted crofter homes. Crofter is term used, more particularly in the Highlands and islands of Scotland, to designate a tenant who rents and cultivates a small holding of land or croft. A croft is a small agricultural unit many crofts are on estates. A landlord may have many crofts on his estate. The rent paid by the tenant crofter, except in fairly rare circumstances, is only for the bare land of the croft, for the house and agricultural buildings, roads and fences are provided by the crofter himself. Since 1976 it has become more common for a crofter to acquire title to his croft, thus becoming an owner-occupier. The reason why these crofts are deserted is because up until 1886 crofters were subjected to unfairly being removed from their land. Since that time a number of Acts have been passed guaranteeing fair rents and allowing them to claim compensation for improvements should their tenancy come to an end.
It had snowed two night before we drove through this area
During some months of the year you can go on Balmoral Castle property for a tour (not actually in the castle just the grounds), but unfortunately not October as the royal family is in residence. However I was very excited as we came to the signs for Balmoral Castle - just a glimpse of Will and Kate would be very exciting. As we approached the castle grounds I realized there was no chance of a glimpse of the castle as you cannot view it from the road, the grounds are massive and completely fenced (not that I was contemplating trying to get on the grounds without an invitation) and you are not allowed to stop on the road beside the property. So I had to settle for seeing the Royal gates and the river where they fish between the road and the grounds - no pictures as I have not mastered driving and focusing a camera at the same time!

Off to the town of Braemar - maybe a Royal sighting in the village! No such luck but we did see one of the Royal butchers and I guess this is where they buy the Royal Haggis!

Don't think this is a Royal!

Royal view from village bridge

Braemar Village


Well there may have been no Royal sightings - but then again maybe I passed them on the highway but was concentrating too hard on driving!

Last day in Glasgow was time to do laundry and visit with family. Enjoyed my last night with Auntie Mary, cousin Pat with wife Debbie and daughter Hannah, cousin Joe, cousin Elaine with son Sandy, cousin Rosemary and daughter Roisan - thank you Rosemary for having everyone to your house for dinner.

Something I found out is that not only was Hannah my mother's name but also my grandmother's name and of course is now my dear little granddaughter's name.

I think my mum would be pleased that have taken the opportunity to visit and experience a good majority of her homeland with the area covered on this visit, plus on previous visits to Scotland I have been to St. Andrews, Perth ,Dundee, Aberdeen, Stirling andEdinburgh.

Thank you Rosemary for having me in your home and being my back up Sally SAT NAT (GPS in North America).

Off to Ireland!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Scotland - Inverness area

One thing that is interesting about Scotland is the weather. It can be sunny and then 5 miles down the road overcast with a Scottish mist and then 5 more miles and it is snowing. The weather has turned really cold in fact I am absolutely freezing even with leotards, leggings, socks, boots, undershirt, turtleneck, sweater, fleece, gortex jacket, scarf, hat and gloves - not feeling well does not help but onwards we go. Rosemary's younger son Lee and partner Sarah live in Inverness so we made our way there from our stay at Loch Ness. As we were about to leave the hotel at Loch Ness two very very attractive Brazilian boys approached us to give them a ride into Inverness so they would be in time for their bus to Edinburgh. So they got in the car (very small car) and had to have quilts and pillows on their laps for the 1/2 hour journey!

In 1996 I drove to Inverness with my mother. Inverness is a city in the Scottish highlands with a population of about 75,000 people, it is the northern most city in the United Kingdom. Inver is gaelic for mouth of - hence Inverness lies where the River Ness enters the Moray Firth (firth is a sea bay or strait). Lee (Rosemary's son) offered to take us to Dornoch for the afternoon and I was very happy not to drive especially with the weather. Like I said one minute sunny the next minute snow!

First stop the Glenmorangie Distillery - one of the numerous distilleries in the highlands - I now understand why there are so many distillery tours, kind of like the wine tours of Napa.

We reached Dornoch in the freezing cold - the church below was where Madonna and Guy Ritchie were married. Apparently the town was crazy with paparazzi during the wedding. They choose to get married here as Guy is from Scottish decent.

Dornoch is a lovely small town in the highlands of Scotland northwest of Inverness. It is best known as a vacation destination due to the lovely beaches and famous Royal Dornoch Golf (Sue I guess that is why ken wanted to play golf here). it is also notable as the last place a witch was burnt in Scotland. Her name was Janet Horne; she was tried and condemned to death in 1727.

Apparently the water is turquoise color and warm in summer

It is so nice to have someone tour you around who knows the area, we were able to visit the small towns of Evanton, invergordon, Alness, Strathpheffer and Dingwall.

Third day of stomach issues (need to stay close to a washroom) - but this will not stop me! Today we are to look after Rosemary's two grandson's. Brian and Angela are going to a friend's 40th birthday (or as Aaron his son would say - there is going to be beer drinking and nonsense) so they have booked the boys and us into a B&B for the night in Inverness.

I did not think it could get any colder but surprise surprise it can! We took the boys to Dores gateway to south Loch Ness - we thought it would be nice to walk along the beach and visit the playground - however it was bloody freezing so we ended up going into the Dores pub for lunch - how civilized that you can take children into pubs!

A fellow Nessie hunter

After lunch we took the boys to an indoor play zone - great some warmth and I can rest while the boys play
This is a picture of our B&B accommodation in Inverness. Thank you Brian, Angela, Lee and Sarah for being such great hosts as well as touring me around.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Scotland - beyond Glasgow

We made our way via rental car to Blairgowrie - a small picturesque town near Perth visited by many tourist coaches during the summer months. The area around Blairgowrie is famous for its exceptional fishing and hunting. Brian and Angela (Rosemary's son and daughter-in-law) are currently building a seven bedroom, seven bathroom holiday home on the river - the street name is Balmoral and if any of you are Royal followers you will know the royal family has a home in Scotland called Balmoral Castle. Well continue on Balmoral Road and you will come to Balmoral Castle - but I will leave that for another blog!

Holiday Home in progress

River beside holiday home

After a night in Blairgowrie it was off to Lochness in search of Nessie. On the way we stopped at a lovely little town called Pitlochry (yes Sue I made it few days too late for us to meet up). Pitlochry is largely a Victorian town, whose success as a tourist resort was due to Queen Victoria visiting the area in 1842, and the arrival of the railway in 1863. It remains a popular tourist resort today and is particularly known as a centre for hillwalking - we call it hiking

Although the temperature is slightly cool the sky is an astounding blue, making our way to Lochness a spectacular drive.

We arrived in Drumnadrochit on the west shore of Loch Ness to stay at the Lochness hotel and exhibition centre for 2 nights. Brian's friend owns the hotel so we got a B&B special price of 15 pound each per night.

We decided to take a drive around the area; up some of the back country roads ( what was I thinking) - these roads can be quite narrow and in addition to pulling over, where possible, to let those drivers go by who are aching to pass me, you have to watch for animals crossing the road or grazing on the road. However we did see some wonderful sites - Agnes and Terry this is certainly an area to look into hiking as the north of Scotland is full of trails.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped into a country pub for a brew beside the fire and then back to the hotel for a wonderful haggis dinner (one should be tiring of haggis by now, but it seems not).

Over the years, the many sightings of the Loch Ness Monster, or Nessie, have produced a rather uniform description of the creature. It is said to have a long, slender neck that attaches a flat, rectangular head to a rounded body that possess four large flippers. Some report Nessie to have a long, slender tail while others insist it is shorter and thicker. One of the most prominent features attributed to Nessie are the eyes, large and situated on either side of the head. The color and length of the creature seems to be a point of contention, possibly due to the fact that the loch is dark and murky, sunlight not easily penetrating through the peat moss concentrated in the water. Reports have Nessie appearing grey or a dark tan color, ranging from the size of an elephant to as large as a whale.
The number of reported sightings of the Loch Ness Monster is extremely large. However, there are several that are worth noting, especially the earlier reports that led to Nessie's world wide celebrity. The first reported sighting during modern times was in 1880, by a diver named Duncan McDonald, who had an alleged underwater encounter with a creature that left him quite shaken. But it was not until a string of sightings in the 1930s that Loch Ness received world attention. On July 22, 1933, Mr. George Spicer and his wife saw “a most extraordinary form of animal” cross the road in front of their car. We are hoping to have our own Nessie sighting.

Lochness at its deepest point is 230 m (755 ft), deeper than any other loch except Loch Morar. It contains more fresh water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined, and is the largest body of water on the Great Glen Fault, which runs from Inverness in the north to Fort William in the south of Scotland.

On the shores of Loch ness lies the ruins of Urquhart Castle that dates back to the 6th century. Though extensively ruined, it was in its day one of the largest strongholds of medieval Scotland, and remains an impressive structure, splendidly situated on a headland overlooking Loch Ness. It is also near this castle that the majority of Nessie sightings occur. Aye perhaps we will be in for a Nessie sighting!

Can you see Nessie in the background? Sorry I think she went underwater just as I was taking this photo!

We have picked another beautiful day for our 158km journey to Portree on the isle of Skye. The only problem is my stomach is a little upset today - I will blame it on too much haggis. The highland views are so spectacular and certainly should not be missed. I was hoping to see some heather covered mountains but I am a few weeks too late and the first frosts have turned the heather brown.

Yes this is an actual picture I took with a little canon camera! The colors are unbelievable I feel like I am looking at a postcard.

Our first stop was Eilean Donan castle. As one of the most iconic images of Scotland, Eilean Donan is recognized all around the world. Situated on an island at the point where three great sea lochs meet, and surrounded by some majestic scenery, it is little wonder that the castle is now one of the most visited and important attractions in the Scottish highlands.

Although first inhabited around the 6th century, the first fortified castle was built in the mid 13th century and stood guard over the lands of Kintail. Since then, at least four different versions of the castle have been built and re-built as the feudal history of Scotland unfolded through the centuries.

Partially destroyed in a Jacobite uprising in 1719, Eilean Donan lay in ruins for the best part of 200 years until Lieutenant Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrap bought the island in 1911 and proceeded to restore the castle to its former glory. After 20 years of toil and labour the castle was re-opened in 1932.

It is nice to visit a castle that is still in use today. Unfortunately we were not allowed any inside photography. However when I got to the great banquet hall I recognized it from a movie and found out from the tour guide that it was used in the movie 'Maid of Honor' - yes my movie professional friend Vernette we did see this movie and now I have seen the castle. The castle was also used in other films such as James Bond and Highlander - for a mere 1500 pound (about $2300) it can be rented for a wedding ceremony!

Well at about lunchtime I have come to realize that my stomach problems are much more like flu symptoms as every inch of me is starting to ache and I am feeling very warm. However, I will not be deterred from our mission and so it is onwards to Skye.

Although I did not feel well during this drive (and I am the driver), I would not have missed these spectacular views of Scotland.

The Skye Bridge is a road bridge over Loch Alsh, connecting mainland Highland with the Isle of Skye, Scotland.

The water is really this blue!

Made it to Portree on the Isle of Skye - not sure how because I really feel sick now and I still have to drive back, but this scenery is worth every ounce of discomfort. However I am freezing now as it is really cold here and I definitely need more layers!

Portree is the largest town on Skye in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. It is the location for the only secondary school on the Island, Portree High School.

Portree has a harbour, fringed by cliffs. The Royal Hotel is the site of MacNab's Inn, the last meeting place of Flora MacDonald and Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1746.

  • Portree is the home of a fictional professional Quidditch team operating within the Harry Potter universe.

    The film Made Of Honor partially takes place in Portree. A sweeping shot of the town's main street is shown.

    Not quite sure how I did the drive back but we arrived back at the hotel at 6pm and I took drugs and was in bed fast asleep by 6:30pm until 8 am the next morning. When I was feeling a bit better!