Friday, 27 August 2010

So it's Inverness

At least that's where we were headed that day, but the journey in the morning continued around Skye. Next stop Dunvegan castle.

This castle belongs to the McLeod clan, probably a very nice one, but of course me being me, i arrive there during renovation, the castle was suffering from a serious humidity hitting its walls and was being mostly covered in scaffolding and white protective sheets. It's got pretty nice gardens though, that was nice to go around, got some good photos out there.

What amazed me in all those castles is the size of the bedrooms and generally private rooms, these were tiny! All the clans just used to show off their lavish extravagant rooms where they received guests and stuff, and in the process took away all the space from a nice wide bedroom for themselves, i guess back then how people saw you was what mattered...I'm glad we care more about our own comfort these days :D

The drive from there to the bridge of Skye was uneventful, albeit full of Skye scenery, now the next stop was really cool! Eilean Dunan! A lot of movies have been shot here, and although the most recently rebuilt, it was by far the most impressive we've seen. It was built a few centuries back, can't remember the exact history but it's quite old :) Wings and towers have been added and removed throughout the years, until it got it's final shape in the 16th century. That though got totally destroyed until a McRae-Gilstrap bought the little island containing the castle in 1911 and started restoring it till he brought it to its original (16th century) shape in the 1930s.

So the exterior is awesome, very special, done in stone and looks like how you imagine a castle should, the interior on the other hand is very simple and practical, small rooms, modest furniture, etc...But still a very impressive castle, my favorite so far :)

After a nice lunch at the castle's restaurant, the journey was resumed passing the famous Loch Ness (no, didn't spot the monster) and heading to Inverness.

Inverness is pretty nice, a relatively small city, just guessing i would say the size of Bedford maybe, a river runs through the city and it's a very pleasant walk there around the city center, added to it the view of the Inverness castle (which contains a history museum) on top of a hill right in the heart of the city overlooking the river Ness. There's also a mini-Notre Dame de Paris cathedral in there that's worth a look :) St. John? Oh! St. Andrews!

It was cosy.

The morning after was the end of our journey. But just before heading back to Aberdeen, we decided to go back to Loch Ness, check their visitor centre and have a boat ride in it. Simple as that visitor centre was, i enjoyed it a lot, it describes the myths that surrounded that mysterious lake for ages and reveals some interesting facts about people faking them for publicity :) Followed by a beautiful boat ride. It's always different seeing the place from a boat, the different angle maybe...

Now back to Aberdeen, getting ready to jump from helicopters and survive in water.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

So it's Isle of Skye

There's a song by Aerosmith that has the line: Life's a journey, not a destination.
Well, this totally applies on (no, apart from my life) this 4 day trip we're doing. Ok, the Highlands are simply beautiful, really beautiful! And the road to Skye was really pleasant.

But it wasn't only a matter of getting to Skye, just enjoying the scenery was half the purpose of the trip, maybe 75% even, so that's what we did, aided by yesterday's taxi driver's advice and a mistake either by the GPS or the GPS user...can't say which for sure :p but we ended up driving along small inner roads, between fields, mountains, lakes and what not! Even ended up crossing a lock that was operating when we arrived, it was cool, i have to admit it's the first time i see one like this, a small bridge hinged at one end, that rotates from the "across the canal" position (Caledonian canal by the way) to the "parallel to the bank" position to let the boats pass, then back to let the cars pass.

Passing Braemar I remembered the driver mentioning the place, so we decided to turn into there, then on the way saw the sign for Blair castle on Atholl estates and headed over there instead. The castle (and estates) belong to the Dukes and Earls of Atholl as the name implies, what was nice about it is the little wood they had there, huge trees and silence, nice! Also the animals they kept around, they had deer, horses, peacocks and highland cows, plus gardens, etc. You don't know what a highland cow is? shaggy, red haired, big cows? Ok, you'll see it when i go back to bragging about the animals i photographed :p

After that we had continued the journey north to Mallaig to take the ferry to Skye, almost missed it, got there like 3 minutes before it went, and of course it was the last one of the day.

Isle of Skye has rough terrain, loads of rock, in all possible shapes and heights, and it wasn't a long drive to get to Portree where we were booked into a nice little inn called Marmalade inn, so small that in the morning they noticed that we didn't come down for breakfast and give us cereal bars for the road :)

Portree is like the capital of Skye, well, the main city, the drive from the ferry which pulls on at Armadale is along the east coast of the island, but what lies on the west coast is for the blog of day 3 :)

So it's Edinburgh once again

First of all, i would like to thank Scotland for having such amazing intercity roads, it's been a pleasure to drive them :)

I've been in Edinburgh before, and somewhere in this blog, there is an entry about it, probably in 2007. This time i was living on the Royal Mile, that's pretty much the city center and where things are happening, it's a pretty lively place, this is the street going from the Scottish parliament all the way to Edinburgh castle, and it's full of shops, restaurants, hotels and cafes and even more full of tourists, but hey, nice place.

Edinburgh welcomed us this time with amazing sunny and warm weather, and the day we spent there was used for doing what i didn't get the chance to do last time i was here, and the thing i promised to come back for: following the water down to Leath.

It's a pretty long walk, a bit longer than i expected, i think around 4 miles? i might be wrong but it was one proper walk. It starts by the Dean's bridge following a canal/river called "surprisingly" the Water of Leath all the way down to the actual Leath. If you ever read Glue by Irvine Welsh, that was all about that place. He might be from there...

These days Leath is considered a fancy part of Edinburgh, and there's a reason for it i understand, it stands by the sea, and is very cosy to be in, and having lunch in a little bar/cafe thingy by the sea was comforting for the mood as well as for the hunger from the long walk :)

Obviously the way back was in a taxi, with a very friendly driver who gave us tips about nice places to pass and nice road to take on our next journey, and i can't help smiling every time i hear the Scottish accent :) Sweet...

The rest of the day was spent climbing up to Arthur's chair, you probably get a great view of the city from there, but it was fogged over when we made it up and made the city look a bit gloomy, still it was a good exercise :) Tomorrow the journey continues heading north west and I am looking forward to that.

So it's Scotland once again

And particularly Aberdeen, as usual courses bring me here, i have two this time, both in Aberdeen, but the cool part is: There are four free days in between. What do you think i'm doing during those days? That's right, traveling around. I'm actually going on a road trip around Scotland.

The first interesting day (or rather evening) was during a course, me and Erik drove north by the coast in search of the awesome cliffs Scotland has in that area. I was left pretty disappointed, they weren't what i expected them to be :( But i got some nice photos of various animals, but I'll brag about that later :)

The drive itself was pretty cool though, tiny roads, the sea, tiny fishing villages along the way and some (albeit non-impressive) cliffs almost all the way to Peterhead.

Peterhead itself is a small typical UK town, i heard the accent up there is pretty rough, but the McDonald's boy i ordered my meal from was totally intelligible :D But by then it was too late (the reason why it was a Mac rather than a nice Scottish restaurant) and we had to head back to Aberdeen, had to get up early the next day.

But after the course was finished the real fun began! I drove down to Edinburgh, first time driving a "mirror" car, well... one with the steering on the other side etc... but that's to be continued in my next entry :)