Forge Ahead:   Spring  2010 Edition   Page 6 and 7 and entire tour report 

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Monday, May 18th: Left Greenville on a beautiful, sunny Monday morning. The flight to Newark was a little bumpy most of the way. We rode the tram at Newark to get from "A" section over to "C" section of the airport. We got turned around some and left the secure area, so we had to check back in through Security. My C-pap is a pain in the butt to check through – they scanned it and tested it before letting me proceed. We hung out in Continental’s President’s Club, which is a lot nicer and comfortable than sitting in the terminal with all the masses and weirdos.

Our flight to EDI went well a little bumpy at times, though. We picked up our car (a Nissan Note?) and proceeded to Falkland Palace as our first stop. Thank God for our GPS! It led us out of the airport with no problem. The drive to Falkland Palace was nice. Lots of rapeseed fields of bright yellow flowers. Forms a patchwork landscape. Gorse is also blooming and at its peak, and believe me – it’s everywhere! Other than in a city I don’t think we have traveled down a road that didn’t have gorse blooming. Often there are large areas – ridges & mountainsides covered with gold blooming gorse.

We got there a few minutes before they opened so we walked around the little town. They had a portion of town closed off because they were filming for either a movie or a TV show. We toured through Falkland, which had guides in each room to narrate for you. The King’s and Queen’s beds were MASSIVE! All the Stuart kings stayed here – along with Mary Queen of Scots. She was a very good and avid tennis player. Falkland has the world’s oldest tennis court. Outside her room, above the door, they had her death mask – very good job.

From here we headed up towards Inverness. We stopped at the House of Braur (of course!) and did some shopping. Deb found a very nice amber bracelet that I purchased for her.

From here it rained on us most of the way to Inverness. I was getting sleepy at one point so we pulled over to the side of the road and took a nap for about 20 minutes, which helped a lot! The sun came out just as we reached Inverness. Our approach was kind of high-up and it gave us a splendid view of the city, the Moray Firth and the surrounding area of mountains. The GPS led us straight to our B&B – Broadstone Lodge. It’s rated 4 stars but we give it a 3.

That night dinner was at Bella Italia (of course!). Caesar salad and lasagna (very good). Then back to the room because we were both very tired. We both slept like a rock.

Wednesday, May 20th: Visited Culloden battlefield this morning. They have a new Visitor’s Center and we wanted to find the Clan Smith Society stone on the walkway leading from the parking lot to the building. We also found Debbie and myself’s names on the ceiling in the dining room. There were TONS of names of other contributors! Deb and I are on the 12th row and Debbie is on Row 18.

After much investigation they have totally re-drawn the battlegrounds. Had very good displays inside. The video depicting the battle was very life-like. The viewer was in the middle of the room and the battle went on all around you on the 4 walls. It was still sad though because history doesn’t change; the result was still the same – we lost badly.

From here we drove towards Elgin and stopped and visited Sueno’s Stone. It’s a 20 ft. high standing stone. On one side it has a battle scene carved into it. The other side is a Celtic cross and some other stuff. The whole thing has been enclosed in glass to protect it.

On to Elgin to see the abbey ruin that’s there – Elgin Cathedral. It’s been sprinkling on and off this afternoon. It’s a shame that the abbey was burned and destroyed by the Wolf of Badenoch. At one time it was a beautiful structure. It was once known as the Lantern of the North. We drove on a few miles to Lossiemouth to see the beach and ocean. It has a long wide, white beach – very beautiful. We returned to Elgin and had dinner at Ashvale Restaurant, which is supposed to be famous for its fish and chips. L It was okay but not the best that we’ve had.

Drove back to Inverness. Stopped off in Smithton and checked out a few flats for rent and the area in general. It was okay; the little town of Forres was okay, too. Parked in downtown Inverness and walked through the city before returning to our B&B. First time we’ve been here that the streets weren’t torn up and building going on. Very nice but we noticed a lot of the shops were for Let. We were ready for another good night’s sleep.


Thursday, May 21st:
Beautiful day and we drove to Aviemore this morning, to the Cairngorm Mtns. Rode the tram/train to the top. As one car is going up, the other is going down. Wonderful views. On a clear day the marker says you could see 70 miles. There was some snow on the mountain tops around and behind us. We had a cup of hot chocolate, sat beside the window and enjoyed the view from the restaurant. They told us that being in the Cairngorms is like being 700 miles into the Arctic!!!

From here we drove into Aviemore and bought 2 tickets for the Strathspey Steam Train. What a dud! The scenery, however, was beautiful! Pictures would not do it justice. Also had their version of a "high tea" on the ride – another 

dud. One (cold) scone each, butter, strawberry jam and whipped cream from a can (instead of clotted cream). Tea was too strong. We had never seen any scones like these before; they were like rolls. On the ride we saw the Glenbogle train station, of Monarch of the Glen fame! Don’t remember why we didn’t get a picture for Ann Marks!

After the train ride we rode a few miles to the Speyside Heather Center/Clootie Dumpling Restaurant. The restaurant is inside the heather center. We both had clootie dumpling with Devon cream. Pretty good, too. I laughed at the two fellows working on a closed circuit TV, which were showing various bird feeding stations on the grounds there. They were cracking on each other – one said that there was nothing wrong with it until the other started messing with it and laughed!

We left the Heather Center and drove back to Inverness in a very round-about circuit! We drove to Plusgarden Abbey and walked around there. Very peaceful. Lots of old and big trees. We saw lots of grouse in the fields around there. There was a male and female grouse in the parking lot when we drove up. Got a picture of the female but the male ran off. It was through farming country and we saw lots of green fields and we saw several large fields of bright rapeseed fields blooming and the sun was shining on them. We drove between two at one point; we were right in the middle of them! Was beautiful. Debbie was just ooohing and aahhhing. Saw a rainbow in the distance because of a passing rain shower.

Finally got to the A9 North and drove over the Kessock Bridge (Moray Firth) and made a big loop through Muir of Ord, Beauly and then back to the city.

We stopped in town and had Caesar salad and pizza at Bella Italia (was very good). Deb had a glass of wine – she said it was wonderful! She got the waitress (same one we had last night. Cute, very sweet) to write down the name of it. She said she could become a wine-o if we had this stuff back home! Haha

Friday, May 22nd: Today we drive to Polbain & Achiltibuie and the Wee Mad Road. We read the book by the same title and wanted to visit. It’s a beautiful day in Inverness! Before we left the city this morning we rode and looked at 3 different flats that were for rent. Dell Place and Culduthell Ct. were both good. But Stratherick Gardens was just "ok".

From here we struck out to Polbain & Achiltibuie. We stopped in Ullapool and purchased petrol (£1.01 per liter) and the Visitor’s Center to purchase a poster/print of GlenCoe Valley so we can have it framed. Bought Sharon Painter an address book full of scenes of Scotland.

Well……..we found the Wee Mad Road and we both understand why it’s called that! Now Debbie is MAD at me for the mad way that I drove it! She had numerous heart attacks! It’s been sprinkling on and off. But we found Polbain, Castle Hill and the Fuaran Bar that we read about in the book. It was a very desolate area – but beautiful – right on the water (Loch Broom and the ocean). Decided we would not want to live there because we couldn’t stand to drive that road all the time just to get somewhere! We got some pictures of Stac Polliadh, lots of gorse, Castlehill and Fuaran Bar so we could see them when we read the book again! We had a snack on the side of the road and decided to drive on to Tarbet/Scourie in the Northwest Highlands, to the Shorehouse Restaurant for dinner – one of our favorite places. I had smoked salmon and Deb had a salmon steak. Which also came with new potatoes, salad (assorted leaves, as they call it) and bread. For dessert I had rhubarb crumble with vanilla ice cream and Deb had a lemon tart. She said she wished she had ordered the rhubarb crumble – it was delicious; the lemon tart was "okay".

On our way back to Inverness on one of their single-track roads, we saw 10 red deer to our right. They crossed the road in front of us. I was so excited I almost dropped the camera – got 3 pictures of them. We watched them for several minutes. All the way back to Inverness was typical beautiful Scottish scenery. Huge mountains, lochs, moorland; the land changed back to farmland a few miles outside Inverness. More large green fields and fields of rapeseed mixed in here and there.

Back at our room it is "pack-up time!" Tomorrow we head to the Orkneys. We both hope the weather stays the way it’s been for the last several days; mostly sunny and mild. We only experienced a few intermittent showers today; nothing serious, typical Scottish weather.

9:03 p.m. We’re drinking a bottle of wine that Will gave us and laughing because the sun is shining and it looks like it might be about 5:00 p.m.

Saturday, May 23rd: We are leaving Inverness this morning, driving the east coast up to Gill’s Bay to catch the ferry to the Orkney Islands. On the way up to Gill’s Bay we saw more gorse blooming, including one entire mountain! When we got to Tain we stopped at Tain Pottery (of course!). Deb bought a piece for her and a piece for our friend who took us to the airport, is ADT’s contact person while we’re gone in case anything happens, and checking the place while we’re gone. We reached the ferry terminal early and had about a 45 minute wait, which was okay – it gave us time to snack and rest. The ride across the Pentland Firth went fairly smoothly. We were anticipating it to be a rougher ride. Deb and I both became sleepy while on the ferry. Takes about an hour to make the crossing. Our ferry is a big catamaran.

We found our B&B in St. Margaret’s Hope; it’s about 5 minutes from the ferry terminal. Checked-in. An extremely nice guy (David) owns and runs the B&B – Westend Lodge. He is originally from Yorkshire. Very quiet-type. His wife Maggie was not there; she was somewhere further down in Scotland with their daughter who had some health problems. Very big room and a huge bathroom with a royal blue roll-top tub! We drove around our island, South Ronaldsay, and stopped at the Italian Chapel. We were very impressed with the inside of the chapel and how it is painted. It is painted (by one of the Italian prisoners of war) in a way to make the walls look like real tile. Also had beautiful ceiling and the part up front where the priest stands had a lot of ornamental ironwork, which was also done by one of the other prisoners. It was all made out of several nisen huts. We then stopped at the little ice-cream shop, (and it is also a winery) which is very close to the chapel. He gave us a sample of the wine – very good, kind of strong. They use all organic stuff, no additives. REALLY nice folks. Orkney ice-cream is fantastic! Neither Deb nor I can really describe the difference – but we knew it after the first bite! That’s why it’s so famous!

David had made reservations for us at the Creel Restaurant. Supposed to be very good. I liked it but Deb did not.

Sunday, May 24th: A beautiful morning on Orkney today. Had a wonderful breakfast – David is spoiling us! He makes a bowl of all kinds of fresh fruit (already peeled). There is none left when we leave the table! Haha Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, grapes, and kiwi.

First stop was the Orcadian Saga Center & Round Church. It is known as Earl’s Bu. Got an overall picture of the Norsemen and Orkney’s history. Said this was a good starting point for the Orkney Viking Trail. Had a replica of a long-boat out front! Pretty neat.

From here we drove to Yesnaby, on our way to Scara Brae. Yesnaby is a must for unforgettable views of cliffs, stacks (castles) and geos, and the little Primula Scotica in season (and it was). Got lots of pictures here. Was a long walk out there but it was well worth it. The views were fantastic. Deb was fascinated with the way you can see how the cliffs are layers of slate. She took lots of pictures of it so we could show others. That’s one of the reasons places like Scara Brae were built out of the rocks from surrounding areas. Yesnaby is an area in Sandwick, on the west coast of Orkney Mainland, Scotland, south of Skara Brae. Yesnaby is renowned for its Devonian geology, its crumbly rocks, sea stacks, blowholes, geos, towering cliffs and boiling seas. The area is popular with climbers because of Yesnaby Castle, a two-legged sea stack just south of the Brough of Bigging. The stack is sometimes described as a smaller version of the Old Man of Hoy. Stromatolites, fossils from 350 million years ago, can be found on the cliffs. Yesnaby is also one of the very few places where the Primula scotica grows. Orkney folklore has it that a woman known as the "Yesnaby Healer" had the ability to stop bleeding in any person, even over a distance. The Orkney composer Peter Maxwell Davies has immortalized Yesnaby through "Yesnaby Ground", an Interlude for solo piano. Note: Devonian is a geologic period and system of the Paleozoic era spanning from 416 to 359.2 million years ago. It is named after Devon, England, where rocks from this period were first studied.

Orkney is very beautiful and has lots of green fields. You can see long distances here – no trees, so you can actually see the skyline!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scara Brae was really neat! Amazing! It is an incredibly well preserved stone village containing an intricate maze of dwellings, with stone beds, lintels and cupboards all intact, and dates back some 5,000 years. That’s older than Stonehenge and the pyramids! The site was revealed in 1850 by a violent storm and is now one of the most famous Neolithic sites in Northern Europe.

After Scara Brae it was off to Ring of Brodgar, the standing stones of Stenness, and then to Maes Howe. All of these were very good! Ring of Brodgar is one of the finest stone circle in the world. It is a stone circle and henge that was built in a true circle, and originally contained 60 megaliths. Today only 27 of these stones remain. It is generally thought to have been erected between 2500 BC and 2000 BC. The surviving Standing Stones of Stenness form an impressive Neolithic monument on the mainland of Orkney, Scotland. The stones are thin slabs, approximately 300 mm (1 ft) thick. Four, up to about 5 m (16 ft) high, were originally elements of a stone circle of 12 stones, laid out in an ellipse about 32 m (104 ft) diameter on a leveled platform of 44 m (144 ft) diameter surrounded by a ditch. The ditch is cut into rock by as much as 2 m (7 ft) depth and is 7 m (23 ft) wide, surrounded by an earth bank, with a single entrance causeway on the north side. The entrance faces towards the Neolithic Barnhouse Settlement which has been found adjacent to the Loch of Harray. The Watch Stone stands outside the circle to the north-west and is 5.6 m (18 ft) high. Other smaller stones include a square stone setting in the centre of the circle platform where cremated bone, charcoal and pottery were found, and animal bones were found in the ditch. The pottery links the monument to Skara Brae and Maeshowe, and the site is thought to date from at least 3000 BC.

We thoroughly enjoyed all of it. Especially Maes Howe. Deb did not accompany me there because you had to go through a long, small tunnel for about 20 ft or so before you enter the chamber and can stand up (she’s claustrophobic). Maeshowe (or Maes Howe) is a Neolithic chambered cairn and passage grave situated on mainland Orkney. Maeshowe appears as a grassy mound rising from a flat plain near the south-east end of the Loch of Harray. Maeshowe is one of the largest tombs in Orkney; the mound encasing the tomb is 115 feet in diameter and rises to a height of 24 feet. Surrounding the mound, at a distance of 50 feet to 70 feet is a ditch up to 45 feet wide. The grass mound hides a complex of passages and chambers built of carefully crafted slabs of flagstone weighing up to 30 tons. It is aligned so that the rear wall of its central chamber held up by a bracketed wall is illuminated on the winter solstice. A similar display occurs in Newgrange. This entrance passage is 36 feet long and leads to the central chamber measuring 15 square feet. The current height of the chamber is 12.5 feet, this reflects the height to which the original stonework is preserved and capped by a modern corbelled roof. The original roof may have risen to a height of 15 feet or more.

Deb visited in the Visitor’s Center while I was in Maes Howe. She struck up a conversation with one of the guys that works there; he was telling her all kinds of historical stuff about Scotland. He about talked her ears off. She bought me a book of Scottish birds in the Visitor’s Center. We (especially me) love birds.

The weather can and does change very quickly here; it has been sprinkling on and off all afternoon. We had dinner at the Sands Hotel on Burray and it was very good. While we were eating dinner they were playing all sorts of music and one of the songs was Patsy Cline! We got so tickled! Back to our B&B now, though. Talked to David for a little while and off to bed.

It never gets completely dark here at night. It gets just barely dark enough to make the street lights come on but that’s about it. You can still see very well outside, even at 3:00 a.m. We’ve been getting to bed late every night because we forget about it not getting dark!

Monday, May 25th: Cloudy and raining this morning on South Ronaldsay. We had another wonderful breakfast with fresh fruit, eggs and smoked salmon, toast and tea. We visited a broch this morning on the northern part of the Mainland. The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Dates for the broch are unclear, but it is generally agreed that it was built between 200BC and 100BC - possibly on the site of an earlier settlement. It’s neat to see all of the sites which date back thousands of years. How the people lived and adapted; the engineering involved on the construction of their dwellings.

From here we rode a few miles into Kirkwall and shopped a while. I purchased Debbie a pair of earrings and matching necklace. We toured St. Magnus Cathedral, which dates back 1000 years; it was built in 1064 and is believed to be where St. Magnus’s body was taken, after his murder, by his cousin Hakin in 1115. It’s nice to walk through a cathedral that is still intact and still in use. Most of them across Scotland have been burned and destroyed. It’s very nice inside; like the architecture and construction, as well as all of the history. Wonderful stained glass; beautiful arched stone and wood ceilings. It has rained here off and on all day. We had planned on visiting the Tomb of the Eagles but our feet were tired and swollen from all of the walking in Kirkwall. We didn’t think we could make the mile walk to and from the site, so we started scouting for a place to have dinner.

We settled on the Kirkwall Hotel and Restaurant which was advertised as "having the best tucker in town". The food was very good, but the help was not very warm and friendly. First time we’ve experienced that in Scotland. It was all in a very formal setting. Tourists, as well as locals eating there. Deb’s starter was fruit and sorbet. The sorbet was raspberry and that’s her favorite. She said it was wonderful! I had a potato and onion soup, breaded haddock. Deb had a pasta dish – both were very good.

Our drive back to St. Margaret’s Hope (on South Ronaldsay) was very nice. It had stopped raining; no wind. All of the bays were as smooth as glass. I got some pictures. The sun was popping through a hole in the clouds and shining on the water making it glisten in places. We leave for the Isle of Skye tomorrow so it’s back to the room to pack and get ready for our ferry trip back to mainland Scotland in the morning.

Tuesday, May 26th: Overcast this morning, but otherwise it seems like a nice morning. We are up early, getting ready and last minute packing because our ferry leaves at 8:00 a.m. The ferry ride back to the mainland went well. Saw beautiful scenery. From here we struck out for the Isle of Skye. Beautiful drive down the A9 along the coast. Rode right by Dunnett’s Head, which is a peninsula that includes the most northerly point of the mainland of Great Britain. The ocean was a deep, dark blue color. We stopped in Brora for snacks at the "Cooperative" grocery store. We rode by Brora golf course, too. It’s a links course. From this point down to Sutherland the road takes STEEP ups and downs (can’t see the summit most of the time!). But the coast is absolutely beautiful. As we drove through Sutherland and by Dunrobin Castle we could see a land mass WAY out there. We looked on our globe when we got home and it’s Norway! Amazing!

Right before we reached Skye we cut across over to the Loch Carron area. It’s a nice day and this turned out to be a beautiful drive down through the strath along Loch Carron. Stopped at the original Loch Carron Woolen Mill to see if they hand any single-width weathered Smith tartan, which they did not. L I bought me a pair of blue flashes while there. . . . . . which we couldn’t find once we got home!

We reached our B&B on Skye (Peinmore House). BIG bedroom – HUGE bathroom. Very nice – King size bed (a REAL king-size; not what Scottish call King-size!). Dinner tonight was at Harbour View Restaurant. Deb had langoustines and I had mussels – both were excellent. Crannachan for dessert for both of us. Took some photos of Rosemary’s stained glass piece that hangs in the entrance foyer. It was a work of our friend Rosemary Bruce, who passed away very suddenly April, ’09. We were going to be staying with them but Douglas closed the B&B after she died. Said he just couldn’t do it without his buddy. Talked to the owner of Harbour View, Richard, about it and about Douglas and Rosemary. Deb got weepy. Surprise surprise

Headed back to our B&B ‘cause we are both tired from the long drive. Hopefully we’ll get a good night’s rest so we’ll be able to enjoy tomorrow on Skye. Hoping for good weather!

Wednesday, May 27th: Had a wonderful night’s sleep. Decent bed for Scotland. Great bathroom and shower. It’s raining this morning on Skye L. Getting ready to go have breakfast.

Headed off to Dunvegan Castle (toured the castle), home of the clan Macleod, which were tied to the McCrimmons, who always supplied the piper for the MacLeods. They also provided piping instruction for the pipers of the clans. So….from here, the natural thing to do was to visit the Isle of Skye Piping Center and Croft Museum – which Deb and I both liked. Found a bagpipe CD in their shop that I have tried to find for a couple of years. I bought a bagpiper door knocker that Deb talked me into. Man – talk about tiny back roads to get there! That’s the way this peninsula we’re on is all over!

Next we’re over to Skye Silver, which was close by and Deb bought a Celtic Tree of Life necklace/pendant and matching earrings.

Drove back to Portree – the sun is out and I took some photos of Loch Dunvegan and Macleod’s Tables. Back in Portree we stopped by Douglas & Rosemary’s house and left Douglas a note.

Back to our B&B to freshen up for dinner tonight at the Three Chimneys! ££££L

Three Chimneys was very good – everything we had was excellent! It’s an old croft house that they have turned into a (internationally renowned) fine restaurant. It sits right in front of the bay. Little single track road between restaurant and the bay. Was beautiful weather. Our table was right in front of the fireplace. The dining experience here is kind of like Biltmore, they have someone who keeps bread on your plate, someone who changes cutlery, etc. They also have a wine sommelier and he helped us pick out our wine. We had a bottle of rose’.

Deb: Starter was smoked crab risotto. Main course was baked Lanark Blue Cheesecake (kind of like a quiche), which she said was wonderful! Also came with rocket leaves and bread. Dessert – the famous hot marmalade pudding with drambuie custard. ☺☺

Mike: Starter was a plate of 5 different things (small portions of each). Smoked salmon & smoked haddock with a quails ‘egg, and beet puree on the side L and don’t remember the others.

Main: grilled sea trout with scallops and rocket leaves. I don’t remember what I had for dessert but I do remember it was very good. £132 + £20 tip – also like Biltmore!

Footnote: The McCrimmons are who wrote most of the Piob Mhor for the bagpipe.

P.S.S. I have dubbed this the "jewelry buying trip!"

Thursday, May 28th: Heavy overcast/fog & misting this morning. We had planned on driving the Waternish peninsula today – but looks like we take a whiskey distillery tour instead and hope for better weather this afternoon. We have dinner reservations at the Stein Inn at 6:30 and it is about 2/3 of the way down the Waternish peninsula. When we were here in 2007 we were talking to a Dutch couple and she told us about it. Said that the sunsets are gorgeous – it’s right on the water (across from Dunvegan Head).

Breakfast was great (again). This is probably the best B&B we have ever stayed in – USA or Scotland! Deb wrote a review about it on TripAdvisor. She’s never done that before!

Well the weather was terrible! All day! FOGGY (THICK!!!) and misted; sometimes the mist was pretty heavy and others it was light rain. We toured the Talisker Distillery this morning in Carboast. And like everything else here, we had to drive on single-track roads to get to it; seemed like we were going to the back of nowhere! We had never been over on that part of the isle before. The drive would have been beautiful if we could have seen it! The tour was really interesting. We have never been on a distillery tour before – probably because we don’t drink scotch. The room where they smoked the barley over peat smelled really good. Deb wanted to stay in there. The fermentation room was very strong/wangy smelling. An interesting fact they told us was that the shape of the still contributes to

the flavor. And the tour guide wanted everyone to remember that they were a distillery – not a brewery. After the tour we bought a 10 year old bottle of Scotch. US$ = $54.

We started to Neist Point/Waterstein Head hoping the weather would clear up enough for us to be able to see some of the great scenery that all the locals have told us about – but it wasn’t to happen.

So we decided to drive up the Trotternish peninsula to see the Quiraing; thought the weather might be better on that side – WRONG! The pictures we have seen of it are fantastic (see below) and we didn’t get to see it when we were here in ‘07. The Quiraing is a spectacular landslip on the eastern face of Meall na Suiramach, the northernmost summit of the Trotternish Ridge on the Isle of Skye. The whole of the Trotternish Ridge escarpment was formed by a great series of landslips; the Quiraing is the only part of the slip still moving, the road at its base near Flodigarry requires repairs each year. Well, we drove up there but we couldn’t "see" it because it was still so pea-soupy! We could see some of the really weird formations that had been gouged out by glaciers but nothing else. And the wind was blowing so hard that I was afraid to get any closer to the edge than 20 feet! But I couldn’t have seen anything, anyhow. The road was almost like driving the Pass of the Cattle in Applecross so you know it was even scarier (to Deb!) with all of the fog.

We had 6:30 reservations at Stein Inn and had to drive all single-track roads to get there! Haha There were tons of B&Bs and self-catering cottages up there because it’s at the tip of its peninsula. It is straight across from Dunvegan Head and pretty dramatic, even in foggy weather. Oh how we wished it had been clear because the scenery would have been breathtaking. We learned about the Stein Inn from the Dutch couple we mentioned earlier who had stayed at Douglas & Rosemary’s B&B the same time we were there in May, ’07. We both had haddock & fries and salad – it was all very good. Then we had rhubarb crumble and it was delicious! The topping tasted like they had used (the best tasting) shortbread. Deb told the manager that we had eaten at the Three Chimneys the night before (exact opposite of the Stein Inn) and had the famous hot marmalade pudding with drambuie custard but if she had to choose between that and their rhubarb crumble – she’d choose the rhubarb! The manager was very appreciative – they were VERY busy – packed. The Stein Inn has been there since sometime in the 1700s. One side is a small dining room with a small fireplace and the other side is the bar. People just kept coming in! They were hustling! Deb said she thought it would be a place that Britt & Min would really like, too!

Note: every morning on Skye I woke up hearing the cuckoo birds. Deb heard them the last morning we were there. We never saw them but one of the Canadian guys said he had. Deb has read about them before in all of the stuff she reads about Scotland but we had never heard them. Was pretty neat!

Friday, May 29th: We head to Oban today. Tomorrow we will catch the ferry to Mull and then go to Iona. We so hope tomorrow is going to be a pretty day. Deb absolutely loves that island and it was pouring rain when we were here in ’07. But it was sunny in ’05. NOTE: This was probably the most beautiful day we have ever had on Iona!

We caught the ferry at Armadale ferry and rode it across to Mallaig on the Scottish mainland. We had lunch at one of our favorite little restaurants there.

Today is absolutely beautiful! The drive all the way to Oban was great. The beautiful blue and aqua sea and lochs – I got out and took some pictures of the beach there. Then there were the mountains. Ben Nevis was stunning, being so tall and it had snow on its peaks, with the beautiful blue sky as a background. Took some pictures of Castle Stalker and of Glen Finnan, which I hope turn out okay. I’ve kicked myself ever since we were there in ’07 because I didn’t take a picture of Stalker.

We made it to Oban and stopped by the ferry terminal to purchase our tickets for tomorrow’s excursion to Iona. Town was packed and it seemed like we had to walk 10 blocks to get there. It had turned warm, too. We made our way to our B&B and when we walked up to the front door – the group of Canadians we had met at Peinmore House on Skye were staying at the same B&B! None of us could believe it! They had laughed the day they left Skye because we told them we were leaving the next day for Oban and the guy named Mike said they would look for our little car and wave! Ha! Well, here they were! They were very gracious to us and looked after us until the B&B owner showed up. William (the owner/manager) had gone to buy a new mattress for one of the other beds. We had dinner at the Eeusk Restaurant and it was great! Deb had salmon and prawn mornay (which she said was great) and I had mussels (surprise!). For dessert Deb had sticky toffee pudding with ice cream and I had ice cream (they brought 3 scoops so I had to eat it all!).

It has turned off warm today – about 75° I’m thinking. Back at the B&B we all sat outside with our new Canadian friends. Talked, sipped some whiskey (Deb didn’t – she doesn’t like it!) and just generally had a nice evening with them. Our B&B is way up high on the hill behind the town – right beside McCaig’s Tower – so we had the best seats in town! We sat and watched the sunset, which was beautiful going down behind the Isle of Mull. David, Ken and I took lots of photos – hope they turn out good. I bet David’s will – he’s a professional photographer. Off to bed for the night.

Saturday, May 30th: We said goodbye to the Canadians this morning – they are headed to Stirling for a day and then fly home the next day. It’s a beautiful morning in Oban. One of the ferries broke down so our ferry was about 30 minutes late leaving this morning. It was a great day for a ferry ride – it was beautiful! We stayed outside for most of the trip. A seagull kept flying suspended right above us - I got a good photo of him. But we were afraid he was going to poop on us – so we moved inside. We boarded our bus for Fionnphort. Had a great bus driver (Stevie), with a good personality and very knowledgeable about Mull and its history, wildlife, birds, and he spoke Gaelic! Mull was very beautiful this morning. Big green mountains – and lots of bluebells blooming. In the bus we were sitting up high and were looking down on the bluebells. In places they covered the whole mountainside – it was beautiful. Lots of ooohs and aaahhhhs. We saw 3 stags that still had the velvet on their antlers. Stevie wanted us to see a golden eagle; they can be seen flying above Ben More, but we never saw one.

We made the short ferry crossing to Iona. Rough waters for that 10 minute ride. And this little ferry is flat-bottomed. Iona was beautiful – the prettiest we have ever seen it. Wonderful aqua blue water, white sands and blue sky above. We stopped in at Aosdana (pronounced Oshdana) to see Mhari and replaced Deb’s bracelet that she ordered the latter part of last year because it was too big and the finish didn’t turn out like the ring she had bought when we were there in ’07. We were very pleased at how it turned out.

We visited the abbey. Debbie purchased a brooch in the visitor’s shop which had 3 small round pieces of green Iona marble. It will be special to her. Then we had tea and snacks at a new little tea room there.

We went down and sat by the bay and just took in that wonderful view – the water was the most aqua we had ever seen it. And next to the white sands and those ancient rocks it was just beautiful. Deb said she could have sat there all day. Rode the little ferry back to Fionnphort, and then rode the bus back to Craignure where we were to catch the ferry back to Oban. On our bus ride back Mike pointed out 2 deer up on the ridge. We got stranded in Craignure - our ferry was almost 2 hours late coming to pick us up. When it arrived it was packed with people like us making the trip back to Oban. We made it to our favorite pizza place (right beside Eeusk – owned by same people) and somehow managed to find a parking place just steps away and got a table outside beside the dock. Pizza was very good. Dessert – ice cream (well….it was hot outside!). We had a wonderful day except for the ferry situation.

We just realized its 10:00 p.m. but it looks like it’s about 6:00 p.m. to us. So we better get off to bed.

Sunday, May 31st: Another beautiful morning in Oban. The bay is as slick as glass – lots of boat traffic in the bay. Couple of private boats/yachts have docked - and an old paddle wheeler (it’s a steamer) pulled out and left this morning. He sounded his deep horn. And then a big cruise ship came in and anchored in the bay. We leave for Edinburgh this morning after breakfast.

The drive from Oban to Callander was very nice. We planned to have lunch there at the Claymore Restaurant but they had removed bread & butter pudding from the menu – Deb said they had the best in the country! That was the only reason we side-tracked into Callander. L So we visited the Rob Roy Visitor Center and I bought Debbie a (THICK) book about Mary Queen of Scots.

We rode though the Trossachs to Aberfoyle but when we reached town, the Aberfoyle Woolen Mill was packed full of people and busses so we just drove on through town and headed for Bannockburn, near Stirling. We both liked the Bannockburn Heritage Center and visited the statue/monument of Robert the Bruce.

From here we drove to Edinburgh and found our B&B (Glenalmond House). Weather has turned off hot here for Scotland; guessing it’s about 78°F. Our room was very hot – it had a 10 ft. window and it was facing the sun. They have no air conditioning in Scotland – anywhere! Not in these old houses that they turn into B&Bs, the stores, restaurants, busses, etc. We tried to rest a bit but it was too hot.

Rode the bus downtown to LaPiazza – our most favorite restaurant in all of Scotland. We got there and they were closed for Sunday!! Bummer. So we settled for pizza and lasagna at Roma Restaurant. It was okay……but it was definitely not LaPiazza. I will say that the beer was very cold!

Back to our room. We turned on Deb’s little fan that she had brought (and had not used up until now) and opened the window and tried to cool down the room. We went to bed but we were both restless all night. Hoping for better tomorrow.

Monday June 1st: Still hot so we knew we didn’t want to walk up and down the Royal Mile or visit the castle. We decided to visit Traquair House today, which was somewhere Deb wanted to go but we didn’t think we’d get to. We loved all of the countryside down in Peebles – very beautiful. Seemed to be all back roads. And then up pops a golf course! Haha We both thoroughly enjoyed Traquair House. Everything is so authentic – the items in the house – the house itself – it’s history. Grandmamma stayed here (Mary Queen of Scots) on occasion, as did Bonnie Prince Charlie. Very nice (and knowledgeable) guides stationed all throughout the house. The original part of the house is 900 years old. This family was a branch of the Stuarts/Stewarts and they were loyal to the royal Stuarts. There was a brewery there and I sampled all 4 of their ales that they make there. It’s still a working estate and the family still lives there. I purchased a stag head belt buckle that Debbie talked me into for my kilt belt from a man and wife, who made it, along with sporrans, belts, etc. Had some pretty jewelry too but Deb held out! Haha Deb says it matches my cap badge. I took some photos of the Bear Gates for Deb and some pictures of a peacock spreading his tail feathers. The Bear Gates were closed when Bonnie Prince Charlie marched off for Culloden and they said that they would not be re-opened until another Stuart king was on the throne. And they have not been opened to this day.

Rose through beautiful countryside over to Rosslyn Chapel on our way back to Edinburgh. We liked seeing the chapel again – but they are in the process of doing some major roof repair and other renovations (lighting and heating) to the place. So they have scaffolding everywhere, plus you can’t see the beautifully carved ceiling of flowers and stars because of the scaffolding. So glad we got to see the beautiful ceiling when we were here in ’07. This renovation will take approximately 4 years. It’s still worth a visit to hear the history of the Sinclairs / chapel and all the stone carved work that you can still see.

On to our B&B to freshen up a bit and caught the bus to LaPiazza. Dinner was wonderful, as expected. Debbie kept saying "uhhh, uhhh, uhhh". Our Italian waiter was very friendly and talked to us for a good while. We discussed his past and how he came to Scotland 29 years ago, when he was 17. We talked – or mostly he talked – about politics and how the UK government operates and how Scotland should have broken from the UK when they had the opportunity back in the late 80’s (and Deb was right in there with him on that!). He loved the Scottish countryside, just as we do. He said "what is not to love?" I tipped him £10 and he was very appreciative – told us we did not have to do that – Deb told him to buy some petrol. He said it would buy beer and we all laughed!

We caught the bus back to our B&B. On the way into town on the bus – I have never seen such mass confusion – along George St. there must have been at least 30 busses. They somehow manage to sort it all out though (that’s one of their sayings). And you will see some weird people in Edinburgh, and their dress also. Most are sloppy; about half don’t seem clean to me, either. But that’s just my observation and opinion. They are very well behaved, no kind of shenanigans, nor loudness. They look at us and think we’re weird looking too, I’m sure! Haha

Our GPS has been a life saver! It has led us to places through parts of towns and cities that we would never have gotten to see otherwise. We both really like it.

Tuesday June 2nd: Headed out this a.m. to Hadrian’s Wall, down in England (why you traitor! (a line from the movie The Quiet Man). Our first stop on our way down was to Scott’s View and it was beautiful! I understand why he loved it so (Sir Walter Scott). A very lovely view of the Scottish border country. The Border area is mostly farming, with rolling hills that are all really green. I think in all of our trips here that this is the greenest we have seen it – also the warmest!!

Made it to Hadrian’s Wall and the sites we visited along the way were Chester’s Bridge and Abutment, Chester’s Fort, Vindolanda Fort, Roman Army Museum and Lanercost Priory. The priory was constructed from stones from Hadrian’s Wall, as are a lot of things throughout the countryside. Vindolanda was a huge fort at one time. They have been excavating it for approx. 40 years and are still going at it. They have a very large display of artifacts to view. The wall itself dates back appro.1900 years or so. All very interesting and it was neat to see the wall running along a mountain ridge. You could see a couple of the turrets which were placed every 5 miles (I think), and each mile had its own marker.

As we crossed into England to see the wall we stopped at the England/Scotland border. It was HIGH up on a ridge – seemed like you could see forever from there – I’m guessing 30-40 miles would be close. There was a piper playing at the marker.

It all made for a long day – about a 2 1/2 hr. drive from Edinburgh. So it was late (8:45 p.m.) when we finally made it back to our room to start packing for the trip home LL We finally finished about 11:00 – we had a hard time trying to evenly distribute everything so none of the bags would be overweight but we made it. Thank goodness!

P.S. While at Vindolanda we saw a guy talking to a group of school children and Deb immediately recognized his voice as being one of the people that’s on the Hadrian’s Wall video she gave me for Christmas.

6/03/09 Wednesday The GPS led us straight to EDI airport and not too much trouble finding the Avis Car rental return – they’ve got it all kind of mixed up right in there.

I got pulled aside at EDI airport security as they were scanning our carry-on’s. They completely emptied my carry-on bag and scanned each piece, again. Long story short – they okay’d me and let me pass. The lady said my bag was "very busy" and there were some things they couldn’t tell what they were via the scan. Turned out it was my shoes! Haha

We met a nice, young Scottish girl on the plane; she sat beside me next to the window. She said she was on her way to Orlando to visit a friend that she attended university with (in Edinburgh, I assumed). She lives somewhere in the Linlithgow area.

We had a smooth flight across the Atlantic; made it through Customs & at Security at Newark (they still have creepy TSA people there!) and are now waiting at our gate for the flight to Greenville – which we are hoping is on time! And it was.

 

Notes:

• The Scots still drive very wildly!

• Their lilac bushes are the size of trees! And they are all kinds of colors, from blue to deep purple, to a light pinkish color) – very pretty.

•Scotland was beautiful this trip – we think this is the greenest we have ever seen it!

 

Debbie and Mike Clark's 2009 Tour of Scotland 

 

Elgin Cathedral

Thank you very much,  Mike and Debbie,  for sharing your tour of Scotland with us in such a fascinating way!  To see more pictures from their tour,   go to the Photographs page!

Email: clansmithsociety@comcast.com

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