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Scotland, Travels

Leaving Scotland

Welcome to England This past week was amazing. Scotland is a fantastic place to be if you love nature. There is plenty of it and all the views are amazing. Usually when I think of Scotland I think of rain (pretty much like The Netherlands) but to my surprise the past week gave us beautiful weather. I even had to buy myself some new t shirts as I didn’t have enough with me (sweaters were way too warm!).

We drove from Stirling to Newcastle today back to the ferry to go back home. We dropped the car off at the airport and dragged all of our gear on the metro and then the bus to the harbour.  Another reminder that I’ve made a perfect purchase with my Vaude backpack, easy to carry, not too heavy and it fit everything including my purchases nicely!

It was the only day we had rain during this week, and to be honest I didn’t mind. I was in the car anyway and it was one straight drive to Newcastle. Although I can imagine Noëlla was a little less pleased as she was the one driving 😉

The only place we went off the main road was to visit Hadrian’s Wall, but since it was pouring we got out quickly took some photos and hopped right back in the car. At least we can say we seen it.

Hadrian's Wall

So goodbye Scotland, you’ve been amazing. I’ll probably be back some day, just like you can regularly find me in England. It’s close enough to visit again and I would really enjoy seeing the Edinburgh Tattoo or the Red Hot Chilli Pipers in concert, so expect me back!


Scotland, Travels

Fort William – Stirling

Danger of Death We were a little pressed for time today because we really wanted to do some last minute shopping in Fort William before heading out to Steall Falls at the foot of Ben Nevis and then driving a few hours on to Stirling where we wanted to go see Stirling Castle.

We have been looking for something specific since we saw it in Edinburgh and figured we could get it pretty much anywhere with so many tourist shops around. But we were wrong, it was almost impossible to get what we were looking for (a brooch to go with my tartan stole) but the final store we decided to visit had what I needed; a beautiful brooch that matched the colours of my tartan stole to keep it in place.

After purchasing the brooch we left to Steall Falls, this waterfall is located at the foot of Ben Nevis, and from the parking lot it’s a 45 minute hike over rough terrain and small waterfalls to get there. We followed directions giving to us by tourist information and parked our car. We found a path that according to a local would lead us to the waterfall. So climbing up the mountain following the river we walked for a good hour when we came to… a parking lot. Apparently the “end of road” sign at the parking lot we parked our car at didn’t really  mean end of road, it just meant “the road will eventually end in another parking lot that will get you to the right path to Steall Falls”

Yes, and the local didn’t really mention the second parking lot either. I really don’t think complaining about the extra hours walk would do us any good so on we went onto the path leading to Steall Fall. They had a lovely sign up to warn us about the dangerous path ahead and that it could be lethal but that didn’t scare us away. Keeping an eye on the time we decided to walk until we could see the waterfall in the distance, take some photos and turn around, as by now we had another hour and twenty minutes to walk back to our car and Stirling was a few hours drive away too.

As much as I regret not walking all the way up to Steall Falls it was a beautiful hike and I got to see some amazing views and climbed a few waterfalls along the way so it was worth it.

The drive to Stirling itself was pretty uneventful apart from all the beautiful views, all around Scotland the views are amazing it doesn’t matter where you are.
We could see Stirling Castle arise in the distance and before we knew it we drove into Stirling.

Stirling Castle is fantastic, it really is a great place to visit with kids too! They have games all throughout the castle for children to play and employees dressed up in period clothing doing tours and giving out information in different parts of the castle.
Speaking of period clothing, they not only thought of entertainment for the children; adults can have a laugh too. They have period clothing you can dress up with and take silly pictures with 😉

I think Stirling Castle is the best castle I’ve seen on this journey. It’s a full castle not just a ruin (although they were awesome too) and it was very pretty, well kept and throughout you could find a lot of information about the castle, its history and battles it witnessed.
Stirling itself is pretty picturesque but we didn’t get to see much, it was getting a little late and we still had to find our hotel. We tried walking into town but some funny person apparently switched some signs and we were directed out of town instead.

Luckily our hotel wasn’t too far away and easy to find. But to my surprise when I went to check us in, the door was locked. After looking around for a bit I noticed a letter next to the door directed to me, stating it was unfortunate they couldn’t put us up for the night and a phone number of a bed and breakfast in the area that was able to give us a room for the night.

I called the number and got directions to the bed and breakfast, which was a mere 5 minutes away. I have to admit the bed and breakfast was a great place, the owners are very friendly, the rooms were big and clean and the bathroom was perfect too. It was a really homey feeling to be there, and not being able to stay in our booked hotel but in this quiet bed and breakfast instead wasn’t a bad thing after all.

I have to say thumbs up to who really helped me out with confirmations and checking up to see if everything was in order for us. And of course to the owners of the B & B for being able to put us up on such short notice.

Scotland, Travels

Inverness – Fort William

Loch Ness I think today would be the route through the area most people think about when they hear Scotland, the area around Loch Ness.

The largest fresh water lake in the UK is obviously known for its scary inhabitant Nessie.
At 10 AM we got on a boat to do an hour tour of the lake. It was another sunny day up in the highland but around the lake it was very windy so coats weren’t a luxury.
The view from the lake is breathtaking, the mountains surrounding the lake are overgrown with trees and small streams run down to the lake in little waterfalls.
Castle Urquhart looks out over the lake, and even though it’s in ruins now still looks like a strong fortification.

After the cruise we drove to Urquhart Castle to look out over the lake from there, we even found a spot we could get down to the lake shore 🙂
The castle itself is in ruins after it was purposely set on fire by the last owners. It has had many owners in its past and it was attacked many times to either seize it or loot it.

The road to Fort William took us past the whole lake shore of Loch Ness and beautiful view points along the way. It takes a little walking up to the viewpoints after parking your car but it was worth it. We got a good look at Cherry Island, the only island (although it’s man made) in Loch Ness. It is namen for all the cherrytrees that (apparently) grow there.

There are many lochs in this area, we drove past Loch Lochy and our hotel is located on the shore of Loch Linnhe right outside Fort William.
After check in and before going for dinner we found out directions to Steall Fall at the bottom of Ben Nevis, which we’ll visit tomorrow.

As Harry Potter fans we had to see the bridge the Hogwarts steam train drives over and the lake they fly over on the big bird in the movies. Both are located here very close to each other (at opposite sides of the road). The lake is Loch Shiel and it’s even more beautiful than in the film. It’s a big climb up to the view point with large boulders sticking out everywhere but it’s doable and a must-do when you’re there.

After visiting the bridge and the lake it was time for dinner, we ended up at a local pub in Fort William for an ok meal (wouldn’t recommend it to eat there).

Tomorrow is our last full day here to see things, we are driving up to Stirling before we head back down to Newcastle on Saturday. Time flies but we’ve seen so much it doesn’t feel like a week at all :).

Scotland, Travels

Inverness Area

Memorial Plaque Culloden Battlefield We haven’t really done any shopping on this trip yet, and we do want to take some nice souvenirs home. So the first part of our extra day in the Inverness area today was spend walking around Inverness town and doing a little shopping.

We also visited a kilt maker; Fraser’s. It’s very nice to see how kilts are made, I had no idea they were made by hand. And everything has to be perfect; if it’s not it has to be redone. And so many different tartans too! What also surprised me is that the people working the shops know which tartan is from what clan, even ones that are very similar. Impressive!

After a morning of shopping, it was time for something more serious. We started by visiting Clava Cairns, a collection of stone structures used as burial sites way back in the day. The stone circles are build to match the light from the stolsis adding more meaning to the buriels and rituals that ever took place there.

Our next stop was Culloden battlefield, which is near Inverness. It is now a site you can visit and see what happened there, learn about its tragic history. It wasn’t always as peaceful here as it is now. Back in 1746, on April 16 to be exact, a very defining and bloody battle took place between The Crown (‘the English’) and the Jacobites (‘the Scottish clans’). The Jacobites wanted to have another Stuart King on the throne but the English wouldn’t have it. Bonnie Prince Charlie let the Jacobites into this devastating battle, which would end in great defeat for the Jacobites that day, and to the banning of tartans and kilts (until the English Queen decided she loved tartans and allowed it again).

You can also visit the graves of all the fallen Jacobites buried in mass graves arranged by clan. It’s a very surreal feeling to stand on the grounds once drenched with blood of those who fought for their cause.
Because it is such a big part of the Highlands history it really is a must visit of you’re ever there.

To end our exploring around Inverness in a lighter manor we drove up to Dingwall. An elderly couple we met at Fort George told us it was a stunning place to visit. We drove all the way up there to find absolutely nothing. It seems to be a very dull town with hardly a city centre and the stunning views were missing too, Wendy told us she agrees do it is not just us 😉

After getting back from Dingwall we went for dinner in Inverness centre and prepared for an early night in. We’re both a bit tired from the long days, early rises and late nights so catching up on some sleep is welcome. We’ve watched ‘Brave’ to stay in the Highlands atmosphere and drank hot chocolate (and yes we ate the cookies Wendy gave us too :P)

Another long and exciting day awaits us, we’re going to see if Nessie is home; Loch Ness here we come!

Scotland, Travels

Aberdeen – Inverness

Elgin Cathedral When we planned out this trip we thought the longest part of the journey would be driving from Aberdeen to Inverness. Our planner showed us it would be over 3,5 hours without stopping along the way.

In reality this seems to be the shorted drive so far, even though we stopped a lot along the way! Going from Aberdeen back into the national park, taking the A96 to Inverness directing us past beautiful view points and cultural stops along the way on a drive they call ‘The Highlands Tourist Trail’.

We decided Huntley would be our first stop and see about visiting Huntley Castle if we could find it. Getting there wasn’t a problem, it was finding the actual castle that was a little problematic (or maybe we should both get our eyes checked when we get home!).

Following the road signs to Huntley Castle we arrived at a little road leading past schools under a pretty archway into a natural area right on the edge of town. We parked near a school to walk up the path to try and find the castle, but both decided to get the car and drive further up instead.
Narrow roads, many directions to go and looking for a majestic castle to appear made us look in all directions only to find the end of the road near a beautiful river.

Opting for river pictures instead now, since we hadn’t found the castle, we got out again and took some photos. We turn around and see… Huntley Castle right there! It had been right in front of our nose all this time and we didn’t see it!
To add insult to injury; I even pointed out a bench to Noëlla near the castle saying ‘I’m sure we can get up there somehow’. The somehow would be to just buy a ticket at the visitors centre we driven right past!

Even though Huntley Castle is mostly ruins it was pretty interesting to walk up the tower steps in narrow staircases (and a good way to lose those extra calories we eat here!)

The other good thing about Huntley is we finally managed to get our explorer passes so we can get in for free at different sights that are part of Historic Scotland.

Next part of our plan was going up to Elgin to see the Elgin Cathedral, also a member of Historic Scotland. The Cathedral is impressive although it is in ruins now, since it’s been under attack more than once and they’ve tried to burn it down to the ground back in the old days.
Unfortunately the cathedral shop and entrance were closed for lunch so we spend an hour waiting and eating our lunch on a nearby bench. Those who think Scotland only knows rain, I can tell you you’re wrong. It was a very sunny day and both of us got sunburned waiting for the cathedral to reopen.

The lovely Alistair gave us some background information about the cathedral before we made our way onto the grounds. Walking along the ruins and the graves is a very strange feeling, knowing so many years ago this was a very important place in the community.
They even put skulls and bones decorations, like pirates would, on their headstones back in the day!

Heading out we thanked Alistair again for his time and went on to the last stop of our day before heading to the hotel in Inverness. Fort George.

Fort George is still being used by the military, soldiers still reside and train there. It’s very big and right at the sea. Obviously we couldn’t go into all the buildings as some of it was off limits but walking around the parts that were open to the public cost us a few hours.

Fort George even has a dolphin lookout point, not thinking we’d see anything with the fog coming to shore we went up there anyway. And it’s a good thing we did too! The dolphins were splashing about, we got to see quiet a few jumping out of the water 🙂

After Fort George it was time to go to Inverness and find our hotel. It’s right near the city centre and very easy to find from the main roads. It’s more like a bed & breakfast and Wendy the hostess is a very friendly and helpful lady. The room is nicely decorated, fairly big and stocked up with supplies to make coffee, tea, hot chocolate and it even has cookies to go with it. This is the best place to stay we’ve encountered so far!

Tonight we’re off to Hootananny for some live Scottish music and to try the infamous whiskey :). Tomorrow we’ll have an extra day to explore Inverness and the surrounding area before we have to head down to the borders again.