A Travellerspoint blog

Night Night in Sunlight

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Our last drive in Inverness clocked up another 175 miles this morning when we loaded all our luggage into the car and went to the airport via Helmsdale in Sutherland. Of course there was a castle....more about that in a minute.
In the rain we took the A9 to Thurso so we crossed the Morray Firth to Black Isle and then we crossed the Cromarty Firth, which means we went into Rossshire. We headed north through Tain across the Dornoch Firth, entering Sutherland and passing Loch Fleet, Golspie, Brora and along the North Sea coast to Helmsdale. The rain continued to get heavier as we proceeded but lighted a little when we took our 15 minute walk along the River Helmsdale and drove around almost the WHOLE town....enormous...
Our return trip was less rainy and we visited The Duke of Sutherland at Dunrobin Castle. He was not in this morning but for a mere £10 each he was happy for us to have a look around!!! I want the dining room and Rob wants the library, I definitely want the manicured gardens and I would even share them with my Mum...... the Children's room was what every child should have, totally captivating with rocking horse, dolls house, books, everything beautiful. The nursery was divine. I could go on and on, sadly though we had to leave. We enjoyed elevenses by theopen fireplace in the tea room.
Passing Loch Fleet the sign warned us to beware of otters crossing!
Cromarty Firth had a collection of ships and oil rigs hard at work.
Arriving at Inverness airport early for our flight there were some very disgruntled passengers offering us sympathies and good luck for our Flybe flight. The only problem with our flight was our miscalculation regarding our weight. Which aircraft in the world would expect a girl to have less than 20kilos in a suitcase after 4 weeks, I ask you????? We had banked on 23 so got slugged for excess, and we only have 3 more little flights before we get to Emirates, who understand the need for higher baggage allowance.
Fortunately because we were flying between the islands it was only £10 each...cheaper than The Royal Mail to post it home! Keep in mind we already had 500kilo in our backpacks because we keep buying guide books at all the cathedrals and castles.......
Our lawnmower engine Flybe Flight went up then down and we were already at Kirkwall. It was rainy but has fined up for a post dinner walk. We ate at Lucano's. The MOST delicious Italian meal I have ever eaten. No kidding, the bruschetta was a magical blend of finely chopped ingredients, on toasted crusty bread with a fine olive oil drizzle topped with freshly ground pepper . The main courses were just as exquisite to the taste buds; Lucano pizza and Penne with king prawns in tomato and chilli...yum!!! REAL REAL coffee to finish with.....mmmmmmm
I have managed to pick up a sore throat somewhere and the snuffles. Regular doses of sudafed, nasonex, neurofen and strepsils to suck will chase it away.
Rob has let Geoff know we are here so no doubt he will met up with him tomorrow for a look at the hospital here in Kirkwall and the first of no doubt a few good chats.
First impressions of Orkney are very favourable, although I will need to remember my scarf tomorrow as the breeze has a nip to it. Ou stroll after dinner was at 8:30 and the clouds had given say to brilliant sunshine. More than we had seen all day. Nightfall will not beuntil 10:30 tonight and sunriswmwill be at 4:10am.
In town a number of stores were displaying locally made merchandise which will be good to look at. We will buy our Explorers Cards in the morning so we can set off and explore the island. We had to leave our Audi behind, but now have a nifty little Ford Fiesta, that groans under the weight of the cases ....just joking! It 's brand new and manual, so here's hoping we have as smooth a run in it as ' our ' Audi.
We are comfortably set up at Karrawara Guest House (Aboriginal name). The owners are a young couple with two young girls, a dog and a cat. They have renovated recently so we have all new facilities and the bonus is we are on the ground floor Room 2!
' See' you all tomorrow.
NIGHT NIGHT in the sunlight!

Posted by DeniseUK15 20:52 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

B & B & BB

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Last night it was still light outside at about 11pm when I looked and then the sun was on the rise again from about about 3am. Strange!
We did not hit the road, following breaky until 8:30 with Urquhart Castle on our itinerary as first stop. The trip alongside Loch Ness was wonderful on our sunshine day today. I had my camera poised for The Monster, but Rob seemed certain I would not be successful with that one!
We beat the coaches to Urquhart Castle and enjoyed walking the grounds and crumbling ruin in the quiet morning air. Views of Loch Ness were calm and the only ripples in the water were from the Jakobite tour cruise passing the Castle.
We finally had success photographing Swallows and House Martins (birds) in and around the castle. They were swooping and nesting in and around the exterior and interior walls. Obligingly they posed for the camera.
About 30 minutes further down the Loch, we discovered the sleepy little Fort Augustus. A gorgeous town with a functioning Loch systemas part of the Caledonian Canal flowing down the centre. Along with others we stood on the pathways watching two boats move through the lochs in stages, with gates and bridges moving accordingly. It was such a peaceful, gradually timed action that no one could rush. It took as long as it took and people just waited on the boats and observed on the sidelines quietly and with interest. Eventually the two boats were released out onto Loch Ness.
The Highland Club, an ex Abbey, had fields of Bunnies, bumble bees and birds all basking in the sunshine. One bunny was very photogenic, others just plain cute as they hopped away into an area that was sectioned off but we are sure beneath the wood, tin and leaves was a crawling mass of bunny fluff. A bird feeder distracted about 4 varieties of birds so we could get them. Our bird book will help us identify all these accurately later.
Twas not me who upset a scotsman today but another tourist. She was standing in the middle of a main road to take a photo....he wound down the window of his car and roared at her for the inconvenience she'd caused him. Just a touch dangerous.
We cruised the streets, stores and pathways in leisure. Fort Augustus was a beautiful place to visit
Our bonus at Fort Augustus was that the parking meter was broken, people were cheering in the parking lot as they read the sign saying it was free until June 1...
When the time came, we retraced our path along Loch Ness to Leakeys Bookstore for a second visit, in Inverness and purchased a Winnie the Pooh book in Latin, to add to the collection. The woodfire was burning in the centre of the store today radiating warmth amongst the books and readers.
When we returned to the hotel we tested our creative ability to keep our cases under 23 kilos for our flight tomorrow to The Orkneys. If anyone attacks me and I use my backpack as a weapon, they will be dead, or crushed under the shear weight of the contents....well the other 23 kilos had to go somewhere! Rob says I need to add at this point my/our notebook/journal weighs 7kilos on its own.
My physios name is Jarrad, I'd appreciate someone making an appointment for me with him when I return, tell him my shoulders will have strap indentations and I'll have a buckled spine. Both knees now need treatment!! But hey....gotta get it home without financing The Royal Mail any further!

Posted by DeniseUK15 21:15 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

To Date

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We have whiled away May being away. To date we have travelled 2400 miles by car, with Fred and a road map or two, on top of our 9340 miles with Emirates to get to the Uk.
We have slept in hotels, bed and breakfasts, a castle, 2 farm stays, 2 self catering places and eaten at pubs, cafes, tea rooms, restaurants and still managed to have a night of soup and toasted sandwich!
We've climbed mountains, not too big though, and gone down cellars. Tackled staircases ranging from 18 inches wide to 2-3 yards wide, some carpet some stone, and none so difficult as those with our cases. We have walked in rain, sunshine, hail, mud, and on pavements, fields, parquetry flooring, cobblestones and walls.
Roads and tracks have ranged from letters with one number two or three numbers, and then those that dont have a number. The most interesting are those on the map with bobbly lines, they are one car wide with passing points at intervals. Rob just loves them. Weve experienced straight roads, windy roads, sunny and rainy roads. Winding, rough and smooth roads, ones with livestock in the middle of it and those with the warnings of hidden dips!
We've supported the Uk road works and govt with paying more for parking in 4 weeks than I have in my entire life and toilets...lets not go there!
We've enjoyed showers over baths, ones without baths, soaked in a spa bath, ordinary baths and each one has had its own version of hot water system and operation.
Our rooms have been; 4245 in Heathrow, The Rose Room in Wincester, Jenny's guest room in Cheltenham, Room 1 at The Mecure, The Hussey Suite at Albrigton Hussey Manor, The Spinney, at Whitehorn Farm Stay, Room 5 in York, Room 5 in Penrith, Cottage 3 Auchedennan, Rm 24 at Clan MacDuff, Cottage 1 Redwood House, Room 245 at Inverness and 3 more to come for Orkneys and Shetlands and Cardiff.
We're being threatened with a train strike in our last week which may have impact on our next visit with Jenny, and hopefully it will end before we are due to train to Heathrow.....
Tonight we have juggled our luggage so we can meet the 23 kilo limit for our next 4 flights. The extra 23 will be on our shoulders as hand luggage, get the physios ready when we return:) We've already posted 4 packages of brochures books and gifts, costing us our next ? months salaries. We now own half of The Royal Mail.
To my horror I have survived 4 weeks with only one day of wearing make up and continually wearing a rain hood on my head....who would have thought!
No doubt the next two weeks will be even more interesting with the remoteness of the islands and the exploration of possibly living on them.

Posted by DeniseUK15 20:22 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Natural Beauty

all seasons in one day
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Yesterday (28/5/15) rain lead the way from Redwood House to Inverness. We stopped at Eilean Donan Castle...where the rain stopped for us and sunshine lit the walls and bridge for us. Looking inside we had no idea how the women of the day, with their enormous skirts, could have possibly maneouvered the teensy staircases that wound around the inside of the castle.
We came in via Invermoriston along Loch Ness through Drumnadrochit with a glimpse of Urquhart Castle arriving in Inverness at about 3pm. After booking in and dumping our gear we headed for 'town' and found Leakey's Bookstore! Walking in was one of those "where do I start " moments. Rob started with history and me with Childrens books! We stayed until closing time....we'll return!

We were lightly hailed on this morning (29/5/15) as we explored the streets of Inverness. Prior to this we dodged heavier showers and trekked on through off and on drizzle. My waterproof jacket from Mountain Designs has proved to be value for money.

While the laundrette was doing our washing....gotta love that bit... we mooched along Ness taking in sites of the Cathedral, an NHS building that Rob felt an allegance to acknowledge on film, the Castle that now has been rebuilt and is used as the Sherrifs Courts, surrounded by bus loads of tourists...of course we are not!

Considering the tourist season has not really kicked in yet, we dread to think what the roads, parking and shops will be like in a couple if weeks. Weve noticed those tourists doing it by coach all seem to be getting on and off buses with quite expressionless faces, make a camera dash to THE point of interest, then a dash to the souvenirs before their time is up.

We feel very fortunate that we can feel our way along each day measuring the length of our stay according to our interest level. One drawback today was our Fort Georges visit. We arrived later in the day and we only had an hour before closing. We would have stayed for hours otherwise. Its strong well designed and maintained structure is enough to make any coastline feel protected from invasion. The Museum housed an extensive collection of historical memorabilia from Regimental kits, uniforms, letters and logs to medals, musical instruments from a number of Highland Regiments. The artwork graced walls and staircases and original posters encouraging men to join up resembled an invitation to join a cricket club. One went so far to advertise free board and keep.... what more could you want besides your life, especially for a Scotsman.

The Scotsmans fate was portrayed graphically at Culloden's Battlefield and exhibit earlier in the day. A 4 walled projection of the battle that took about 90 minutes to wipe out a side played around us, the viewers, as if we were standing in the midst of the battle. I just watched asking myself why those men saw it as an honor to fight and give their lives away in such a savage manner. Walking around the battlefield after that was quite sobbering. Appropriately there were many grey clouds and drizzle falling, as if out of respect for what had hapened there on 16 April, 1746.

Weve been surprised at the quietness of Inverness itself. Many shops don't open until 9:30am, carparks are half empty and peak hour traffic is very insignificant. Rob refers to it as peak minute traffic. It is very easy to navigate around both the city and the outer lying areas.
We were both speechless today at the area between Culloden and Fort George. Ardersier and the Morray Firth are nothing short of stunning. Clouds create scenes and pictures that would leave painters busy for a lifetime. The sky can be clear blue in patches and 10 degrees away can hang black grey clouds bursting onto the ground beneath them, then white puffs of clouds blend in with the snow caps on mountains and islands sitting just across the water. The water ranges from deep blue to grey, green and reflects colours off the surrounding banks and shores. It can only be described as a natural beauty. Our photos can't capture the beauty or the unpredictability of the changes, no two minutes are the same.

Darceys Tea Rooms at Cawdor served us home cooking with a smile and freshness for a late lunch that topped off our visit to Cawdor Village. Its famous for its castle, due to MacBeth but we preferred to look at the local streets and buildings with its tiny doors, unique old church and grounds, lovely little gardens and neat homes with only a few businesses spotted through the village.

The Snow Goose prepared the BEST crumble for dessert tonight, rhubarb, plum and cherry....devine!

On the whole we've met some very pleasant people to chat to and beautiful wildlife that resists being photographed. Today though, unintentionally, I upset a Scotsman in my attempt to photograph the magestic eagle attached to his left arm. What an opportunity. A bird that could not bugger off when I 'shot' it. Instead the gent 'gave me the bird' in the form of a comment. Me, being me started talking to the eagle asking if it was not keen to be photographed and to my surprise a response came, "Can sae I'm not wee keen on the idea myself!" At this point I still did not twig he was offended, the look and turn and walk off however helped me catch on. Rob and my eyes met as I mouthed 'Oops' to Rob. The eagle and its caustic trainer were gone.
Hopefully tomorrow I will not upset anyone!

Posted by DeniseUK15 21:22 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Tip of the Skye Isle

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Having programmed in the desire to see the Skye Museum of Island Life into our holiday diary, we swapped keys and camera so Rob could photograph the coast line between Greshornish and Lub Score. Our plan was then to return via Portree.
Turning off our local road, with its little lay byes, we went left onto the A850 and drove to Borve turned left on the A87 to Revisit Uig. We made our way up the narrow bobbly A855 to the museum, almost at Duntulm, close to the top of The Isle of Skye. The drive up was very friendly, everyone waving thanks to each other, out of gratitude for pulling over to let each other pass as the road was one car wide. The bobbly bits on the sides allowed for this as everyone knows the road drill so it all worked well, even with buses, motor homes and of course rubbish trucks.
From that top point The Isles of Harris and Lewis could be just made out in the drizzle, off the coast line.
The Museum was a collection of Black Houses complete with thatched roofing, displaying life and times of the 1920s on the Isle Of Skye. A collection of photograps, machinery, household furniture, weaving and blacksmith workshop tool were a few of the exhibits. Gaelic was being spoken by the two museum assistants with an elderly gent and then a younger man. Both must be locals in the area. We of course could not understand a word but it sounded interesting.
The driving highlight today was having to stop while some shepherds moved their sheep from one paddock to another, across a one laned road, quickly filling with cars and campers. The three Sheepdogs would have made Buster proud, they were herding the sheep just the way Buster herds Dad....and there was as much noise. The Shepherds gave mighty whistles and the dogs were fast on their feet and got all the flock safely across the road including the few he hooked out of the gully on the side of the road.....except for one little lamb who outsmarted them all and took off in the other direction. I wound down my window to alert the shepherd that he had an escapee. The man in the car behind us got out and gave as good a whistle to the shepherd as the shepherd was giving to the dogs and passed on the information. The shepherd assured him he'd go back for him later, poor little lamb:( Whilst crossing in front of our car, they were all going in all directions, including around in circles until the dogs got them under control. They really did look daft and we could not help laughing at them. With the flock moved safely we went on our way again.
The coastal and Loch drive also made us privy to the right hand side of the island to Staffin Bay, which is part of Trottenish Reserve and Kilt rock waterfall. Despite the rain and strong wind there were many sightseers trying to get a glimpse of the enormous rock structure and the waterfall that cascaded into the sea. At this stage the tourist season has not officially opened so in a couple of weeks, photos will be more challenging to take. There are people scattered all over but fortunately its not too crowded in the best spots yet. Many tourists seem to be on motor bikes for ease of access.
Elevenses was served with panoramic views and home made apple crumble yum, at Columbia 1400 just out of Staffin. We saw the sign and decided to stop which proved to be a wise choice. Apparently it supports local cummunity and appears to promote positive support and programmes for youth, calling it The Young People's Leadership Academy.
The Western Ross coastline was visible off the coast as we motored along, stopping intermittently with Rob leaping out for photo opportunities now.
We continued south along the coast where you can see the Island of Rona and Raasay. We tried to photograph the Old Man Of Storr through the mist and clouds....success was ours.
Arriving at Portree we hunted out a parking spot in a busy little town, then boosted the economy a little in gift shops as the rain started to increase. There was a colourful row of guest houses and restaurants overlooking the bay, where a French cruiser had settled (Rob said no doubt the French were up to no good, probably pulling off a raiding expedition). I was concerned about the bright pink front wall of one of the guest houses, clearly owned by Barbie or some other Pink Princess, and those of you who know me, will understand my reaction to that! To add insult to the wound it was called The Pink Guest House!
Yet again our timing was to perfection because it was only after we'd seen everything and climbed back into our car did the promised rain for this afternoon settle in.
Back at the ranch, I suggested to Rob the sheep and lambs should be given umbrellas as they were all getting wet. I got a similar look to the one Ian will be giving if he reads this blog. Well, they were getting wet! He did ask about the birds, so I saw it only reasonable to extend the gesture to all of them in Scotland as well. The trees he said ?????? He is so silly, trees like rain!
Chris, who runs Redwood House where we are staying, said he's moved here from The Midlands and could not imagine moving back to the city with people, cars, traffic lights etc as life is so peaceful up here. We can understand why. He was interested to hear about the next stops of our travels. He says The Orkneys has a lot to offer and we will enjoy that.
Whilst we've had internet available the last couple of stops, the phone range is not operational. It is my friend Jenny's birthday today and though closer that ever for her birthday, I would have had more hope talking to her from Perth. So close but so far!
We pack up the suitcases in the morning light and point the car in Inverness' s direction. Ally has another exam tomorrow and then she will have dinner and spend the nights at Willetton, to catch up with Erik, Meika and Milly.
Night night all from us......until tomorrow....

Posted by DeniseUK15 19:50 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

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