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A Scottish Tour

See also: Scotland photos, Full slideshow, Favourites slideshow

 

Summer 2009 we decided to do a motor tour of Scotland. Well, as much as we could do in a week without frenetic non-stop driving. Fortunately we have very good friends in Graham and Jan who live near Dollar and who pretty much arranged the whole show for us.

Thursday 6 August 2009

Set off before 6am in torrential rain to arrive in sunny Bala for a day at the Welsh National Eisteddfod. Met cousin Berwen and Hywel's family with Mair there. Only Welsh spoken (and sung) and I only just about got by. The big pink tent housed the main show, with poetry recitals and other characters and cultural glories. Mae'n hyfryd.

Headed back to Hywel's house for the night, leaving them to the tender care of Rhydian Roberts.

Friday 7 August 2009

Another nice day. Trekked up to Dollar, stopping at very nice Tebay services near Kendall for sausage in a bun and Nice View.

G&J live in the middle of nowhere, but the trusty satnav got us there ok. They have a beautiful house with a garden room to die for and views in all directions.

Saturday 8 August 2009

Off to Edinburgh its glorious castle and the fringe! Wandered around for a bit. Busking pipers at every corner. Squillions of people milling about, with street performers and weirdly dressed folks handing out trees of flyers and posing for the thousands of plays, comics and theatrical events. We went to two.

The first was  by a young group ('Z theatre') about Chaucer, with witty interpretations of three of the Canterbury tales. The rule at the fringe is not to sit in the front row as you'll get suck into the improv. We were a couple of rows back, but I was still singled out to explain what women want most. I quickly passed the buck to my wife, who agreed with another women that it was popcorn. I'm still trying to figure out what the deep meaning of this is. I'm sure it's in there somewhere...

The second performance, at the purple cow 'Udderbelly' was a one-man, one-hour rendition of Lord of the Rings. It was utterly hilarious, with brilliant mimicking from key scenes, including an astonishing Golum and ad-lib wit.

In betimes I did the usual photo madness, snapping edifices, parks and people to my geeky heart's delight.

Dinner started amusingly as we sat outside and it began to rain, so we upped brollies and grabbed forks. Fortunately space appeared indoors and we were able to finish our meal in the dry.

Sunday 9 August 2009

Sunday was travel to Spean Bridge day. Graham and Jan kindly joined us for most of the way, giving directions via sites such as the SAS founder's statue (oddly by itself in a backroad), MMM and commentary on places and mountains climbed. Mostly lovely weather with sun and cloud and mountains -- just right for roof-down wind-in-your-hair bowling along the swooping roads.

We stopped in the 'piper carpark' where a lone piper busks away every day in Summer, most profitably, it appears. Nice view from there and we had our pic taken.

After the beauty of Glen Coe, G&J headed back and we went on to Fort William, where it was raining, which is what it should do there, of course.

Heading out to Spean Bridge we hit the back of a queue where we sat stationary for an hour whilst the emergency services cleaned up the remains of a nasty accident just a mile from our destination of the wonderful Heathers B&B with its glorious view, where at last Andrew and Liz gave us a friendly welcome. Settled in and then back to Russell's yummy restaurant in Spean Bridge.

Monday 10 August 2009

Early rain but after a monster breakfast headed off to Glenfinnan where it dried up and we went for a splendid cruise down Loch Shiel on a restored old naval launch, with wildlife and historic commentary from skipper Jim, who also handed out decent binoculars to spot the stags and eagles on the distant crags. Lovely views to lochside glens and simple rocks and trees. We also spotted the Hogwarts Express (filmed here) and some naked bathers in the distance (we exchanged waves).

Blue skies as we swooped along the beautiful lochside road out to Mallaig, with its ferry to the isles and fishing boats and dockyard. Then back to Glenfinnan and up Charlie's tower and the hill to photograph the loch and railway bridge (no Harry Potter this time).

Back via the commandos memorial, where there's also a small garden including tributes to recent fallen men in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Tuesday 11 August 2009

Dry start though cloudy as we cruise up along Lochs Lochy, Garry, Loyne, Cleanie, Duich and Alsh, stopping for a coffee and photos at the famous Eilean Donan castle, with its obligatory piper and classic position on a loch promontory. Apparently the views are good on a clear day, but it was on and off rain all day for us.

Then on to Kyle and over the bridge (and sea) to Skye. Rain and traffic, so we turned back and headed for the extremely exciting Cattle Pass. One-track road with (much needed) passing places going up into the clouds and then some. Endless bends, rock walls and bottomless drops. But still somehow fun. Then down, down into Applecross, a straggle of habitation at the end of forever. Found B&B, with another great view.

Wonderful meal in pub, where we met Graham and Anna who are staying in same B&B (and kept meeting them all the way to Ullapool the next day). Went for walk around front, past wittily changed sign, to church where we found an odd gravestone.

Wednesday 12 August 2009

North to Lochinver, first via the long and single-track Applecross coast road, stopping at the splendid Whistle-Stop Cafe in Kinlochewe then up through more one-track road along Loch Maree. I discovered the way to do this quickly: let a local driver pass you (that's the car that suddenly appears behind you) then hang onto his coat-tails. He'll regularly force oncoming traffic to pull in, giving you time to catch up and get through too. Super zoomy fun!

Stopped in Gairloch for a walk along quay, obscure photo-taking of nets, nets and more fishing nets, plus occasional seal spotting. Met couple from Applecross again.

Next stopped at Corrieshalloch Gorge, with its wobbly bridge, to look at the deep chasm and roaring water. Also photographed an interesting toadstool there.

Quick walk along the front by beach and fill the tank in Ullapool (and met Graham and Anna yet again). Gaelic street signs are unpronounceable -- we christened the translation of Argyle Street as Arg! Street.

We also stopped along the way to enjoy the the endless scenery, water and blue skies. You can't accuse Scotland not of having weather.

Finally on up to Lochinver, past pines and down more swooping roads. The Inver Lodge Hotel is wonderful, with friendly staff and an incredible view out of the harbour and to the isles beyond. After a 6-course dinner (included in the price), we did a three mile hike down the road and out to the pottery.

Thursday 13 August 2009

We heard there was a comet going over and that northern views would be good. So we got up at 2am and wandered around the car park in our bath robes. Stars were visible but a thin cloud layer obscured the target.

At a more realistic time we set off across the bay, first stopping off at famous Lochinver Pantry for a couple of its pies, and the pottery, with its splendidly random sofa and car sculptures. Then major hike out over headland with beautiful gullies, lochs and views back to Lochinver and distant mountains. Eleri struck a fine pose as an intrepid explorer and we only met occasional other ramblers. One had a nice camera and we chatted photo stuff, with me rambling on about good views and things until I found he was a professional. Oops.

Eventually got to beach at Achmelvich, where we watched the holidaymakers swim in the frigid waters whilst we munched the pies. About eight miles all in all, but with major ups and downs it felt like twenty.

Then another huge and delicious dinner and Lochinver sunset before conking out early.

Friday 14 August 2009

Time to head South, so went east first, with long blast across @@@ Glen with the obligatory narrow road and trying to hang onto the coat tails of a barrelling local driver.

Then south, stopping in Inverness and Pitlochry. Getting petrol in Crieff we saw a rather perplexing newspaper headline.

Eventually got to lovely B&B in Georgian Manor ('Quarter') just north of dingy Denny. Went up to Stirling for dinner and back through a rather dodgy area, where we passed two police holding a young person up against a wall whilst others watched on with interest, with a drunken driver in front of us waving about the road in a slow meander home. 

Saturday 15 August 2009

Heavy rain as we set off south, pausing only in picturesque Penrith before we continued with our next holiday in Cumbria.

See also the Cumbria blog and photos for more detail.

 

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