Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

Bluebells and Blackfaced Sheep on the Single Track Roads of Scotland

Notices

Bluebells and Blackfaced Sheep on the Single Track Roads of Scotland

Old Jun 17th, 2015, 06:23 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 6,117
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Bluebells and Blackfaced Sheep on the Single Track Roads of Scotland

I tried to post this last night. Will attempt again.

Firstly I want to thank Sheila, Janisj, RM67 and GreenDragon for responses to questions over my last 5 years of planning. I'm sure they often wondered if we were ever really going to take this trip.

We had spent 5 days in Scotland (mostly whiskey trail and Edinburgh) in 1998 and I had always wanted to go back.

In late May we flew Alaska Air to Boston, then overnighted. Then we flew Iceland Air (with a one hour layover in Iceland) to Glasgow.

Before continuing, I'm going to hit the submit button and make sure this posts.
hopingtotravel is offline  
Old Jun 17th, 2015, 06:28 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 18,206
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
whisky (sic)

On for the ride
bilboburgler is online now  
Old Jun 17th, 2015, 06:32 AM
  #3  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 6,117
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
OK, so far so good.

Our overnight in Glasgow was the most luxurious of the trip. Unfortunately somewhat wasted on two people who could barely stay awake. We stayed at the Hotel du Vin (One Devonshire Gardens), a series of 5 old attached houses which had been beautifully restored to include both a restaurant and bar. Great customer service and the most beautiful bathroom of the entire trip.

Next day we picked up our Audi Estate wagon and headed out the highway which passes Loch Lomond. We had driven this road 17 years before but there is now MUCH more traffic. There had recently been heavy rains which washed out potholes and crumbled pavement edges. It only took 18 miles to destroy a left rear tire. Just as we were contemplating the jack, 4 hikers tumbled out of a trail onto our layby. It only took Peter of Glasgow 10 minutes to change the tire! DH could have eventually done it, but it would probably have ruined his 69-year-old knees for the rest of the trip.

We drove on the spare to the tire repair shop in Fort William which JUST had closed for the weekend as we pulled in. Foreseeing losing an entire day of our trip, I did my best wheedle. I'm sure the owner could foresee a nice sale, so he did sell us a new tire and get us off on the road again.

We repeatedly ran into the niceness of people on this trip.

We backtracked to Claichag Inn in Glencoe for the night. They were having live music in the bar, which was crowded. Two young girls offered to share their table and conversation with us while we had our dinner and drinks. DH enjoyed all the pictures of mountain climbers on the walls as he used to climb in the Cascades in the 1970's.

Next: Scotch broom in bloom and the roads get wilder
hopingtotravel is offline  
Old Jun 17th, 2015, 07:26 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 4,108
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
sounds like a wonderful trip! Hope we'll hear more!
irishface is offline  
Old Jun 17th, 2015, 07:42 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 67,206
Likes: 0
Received 50 Likes on 7 Posts
>>I'm sure they often wondered if we were ever really going to take this trip.
janisj is online now  
Old Jun 17th, 2015, 07:49 AM
  #6  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 6,117
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
The following day was one of our longer driving days. I had promised DH no more than 3 hour drives, but welched a bit.

Weather: we had occasional drizzle and clouds in Glencoe, and driving the next day. Locals later told us the month of May had been their worst in years and the sideways rain and wind had been worse than February. In case I forget to mention it, by about Day 4 of our trip, summer began to appear.

We drove the road from Ft. William toward the Skye Bridge, thus seeing the (exterior only) of Eilean Donan Castle which had long been on my list. Just past the castle we turned east heading for the Torridon. Scotch broom had been blooming all along the roads, and now there were bluebells too.

In an Oregon spring we see lots of baby sheep but they are always white and enclosed in their pasture. Here they were lounging by the roadsides, and had little black faces and feet.

Somewhere near Lochcarron we were flagged down by an Inverness man whose Range Rover had broken down, and gave him a lift into Strathcarron. So, our chance to 'pay it forward'.

I had recently read that the highway which goes by Loch Torridon, the gardens at Inverewe, and on up to Ullapool was going to be designated as Scotland's version of Route 66. Wow! A LOT of it is single track road, and I'll mention more about the local drivers later.

The Torridon is one of the most wild, rocky, and scenic areas I've seen (keeping in mind I spent 30 years in Alaska).

The Torridon Hotel has twice been voted #1 in Scotland. Pricey. However, a short distance away they have what they call the Torridon Inn where we elected to stay. We could still walk over for drinks, dinner, lobby lounging etc at the hotel. Our room at the inn was quite large and probably recently done. The steak and ale pie they served was so good I had it 2 of the 3 nights.

The 'hairy coo' (highland cows) were on my want to see list. The Torridon had Robbie the bull and several of his pregnant wives in the yard. The ladies have horns too, but are allegedly gentle. We had a 'coo burger' one night. I didn't care for it. Instead of tasting like it was grilled or fried, the texture was more as if it had been baked like meatloaf.

Several of our hotels had 'full Scottish breakfasts': sausage, bacon (more like our ham), tattie scone, warm tomato, warm mushroom, tons of toast, eggs of choice, and sometimes haggis or beans. You could elect to have bland, runny porridge instead. (not like Bob Mills steel cut oats that Portlanders can buy).

Next: a world class garden
hopingtotravel is offline  
Old Jun 17th, 2015, 07:59 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 18,206
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Was it just the water and salt porridge or had they gone mad and used milk as well?
bilboburgler is online now  
Old Jun 17th, 2015, 08:11 AM
  #8  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 6,117
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Bilbo, I don't know. I only had it one morning (because the menu promised honey and whisky with it)which didn't appear. Here at home we put a bit of Irish honey whiskey in our oatmeal.
hopingtotravel is offline  
Old Jun 17th, 2015, 08:32 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 2,850
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Signing on for this - and looking forward to more.
LCBoniti is offline  
Old Jun 17th, 2015, 09:08 AM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 6,140
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Very intrigued to see what someone else thinks of some of my favourite bits of the north, and a bit childishly excited to be remembered and thanked! Signing up for the ride
RM67 is offline  
Old Jun 17th, 2015, 10:07 AM
  #11  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 6,117
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Yes, I first came on here in 2000 or 2001 (before we had to have names), and I was planning our 2001 trip to Ireland. So many of you are very familiar to me.

During breakfast our first day at the Inn at Torridon we looked out the window and there was the wind and sideways rain my friend had described from her trip about 3 weeks earlier. Oh dear.

I had plans for the day.

Then, the rain cleared off, with sun and a few patchy intermittent showers. Off we went.

For many years I'd seen pictures of the National Trust garden at Inverewe (sp) approximately an hour north of Torridon. It was on my 'must do on this trip' list. DH had pretty much committed to being the driver, not the planner, and had actually hoped up until the last minute that the trip wouldn't take place. He just mainly doesn't like airplane flights--bad knees, etc. However, he did well, and admitted that the planning/timing/reservations etc all went off smoothly.

The sun came out at the gardens so we had an enjoyable walkabout. We could have seen more, but I did try to steer him off the steeper paths. For those who haven't been there, the warm nearby ocean current enables odd things like palm trees and Himalayan poppies which you wouldn't normally see in Scotland. The garden took 60 years to build--starting in the 1800's. It was coincidental that all the azaleas and rhododendrohns were in bloom all over Scotland while we were there. The drive along Loch Maree to get there was part of the beauty.

Now for those single track roads. They were less stressful to me than the highways near Glasgow. However, I wasn't driving. It's true you can see a car coming for a long, long ways, and there are LOTS of passing places. Tourists were always polite and pulled over. However, a lot of locals in their gigantic Scania lorries, I'm sure, felt 'time is money' and hurtled right past. Trust me, it's interesting 'passing' when there is no passing place. This, besides Torridon, was on other sections of the trip as well. Part of the charm of Scotland is that whenever an old stone bridge occurs, they haven't widened the road. I get that. I also understand the 'rent a small car'. DH wanted an Audi to guarantee we had an automatic. Actually, our friend had rented an Arnold Clark, then when they destroyed a tire, discovered they had no spare! Despite the occasional 1" whooshing clearances, I think we still preferred the single tracks. Very picturesque; but not real speedy.

Next up, over the sea to Skye
hopingtotravel is offline  
Old Jun 17th, 2015, 10:29 AM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 1,341
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
>

yes I'm OK thanks, how are you?
sofarsogood is offline  
Old Jun 17th, 2015, 10:59 AM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 8,156
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Delighted to see this report; and a lovely report it is too.
sheila is offline  
Old Jun 17th, 2015, 02:16 PM
  #14  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 6,117
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
After leaving Loch Torridon, our next stay was 3 nights at the Cuillen Hills Hotel in Portree, Skye. Again, a nice place to stay, good customer service, food, and an absolutely incredible view from a hilltop above part of the harbor.

On one of our days we drove out to tour Dunvegan Castle and its garden. I think this was about the point I discovered I was getting bronchitis. After Dunvegan, we drove on to Talisker (a favorite drink of DH). We did not sidetrack to the Three Chimneys. The following morning we drove out to look at the Old Man of Storr but it was obscured by clouds. I actually think we had seen it from a distance a day or two before. I spent a lot of my Portree time searching for the perfect picture of a Highland cow, as when I photographed they wouldn't look at the camera.

We left Skye by the ferry to Mallaig. Yes, in answer to a question on another post, Skye looks very much like the rest of Scotland, with shorelines, etc. The drive out to the Armedale ferry was pretty. So we drove 'The Road to the Isles' backwards I guess, but it was still gorgeous--though bits of rain that day.

I somehow missed the Glenfinnan Viaduct and of course DH waited about 10 miles to offer to go back so I didn't let him.

Back via the maze that is Fort Williams again. Somewhere past Ballachulish and the turn-off toward Oban we stopped in an old hotel and had some tea. Did I mention that by this time I had given the bronchitis to DH? Actually, for the interminable questioners of 'why can't we stay in Fort William', I would suggest maybe finding a hotel or b&b in Ballachulish overlooking the water. It's a pretty area.

Next up: watching Bella the Border Collie at work
hopingtotravel is offline  
Old Jun 17th, 2015, 02:30 PM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 14,433
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
"we had occasional drizzle and clouds in Glencoe".

Based on my admittedly limited experience from two visits, this is its normal condition.

Enjoying your account.
Nikki is offline  
Old Jun 17th, 2015, 06:16 PM
  #16  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 6,117
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I forgot to mention that while on Skye I also went to the Edenbane Pottery and came out with a little lidded jar.

OK, back to the road to Oban. Our next two overnights were supposed to just be giving DH a driving break, and I didn't have any particular expectations in mind. Boy, was I pleasantly surprised.

We spent two nights at the Pierhouse in Port Appin, and our surrounding scenery was as pretty as anywhere on the trip. I can't remember--it may have also been my first experience with Cullen skink. That's something I had always avoided because of the funny name. Turns out it's a yummy, cream-based chowder like soup that usually has haddock and potatoes.

The Pierhouse had recently refurnished their rooms and we had a window overlooking the water. I became amazed at the waterways and islands in Argyll and Bute. (especially after we took the ferry to Mull and looked back toward the mainland.)

The foot passenger ferry to Lismore left from nearby, with two ferry attendants and Bella the Border Collie on every run. What a dog's life! I'm sure she got lots of petting on every trip, and probably assumed it was her job to make sure the boat was docked properly.

Lots of sailboats in the area, and of course they could be viewed from the dining room.

A pleasant morning walk down the little roadway to our hotel was lined in bluebells and buttercups, plus some pretty residential gardens. Of course the crowning photograph was Castle Stalker appearing on its own little island out in the middle of the view.

We drove in one morning to sort of check out Oban but discovered it had either REALLY grown in 17 years or our abilities to navigate the maze of streets had declined. We ended up at a large Tesco stocking up on cold meds. They are so descriptive there. One cough syrup was called 'dry, tickly, cough' the other was called 'big chesty cough'.

What became really confusing was that 17 years ago I thought the terminal for the ferry to Mull was right under the Columba Hotel. If so, it's moved, as now appears to be some distance on around the shore.

Next: off to Mull
hopingtotravel is offline  
Old Jun 18th, 2015, 04:37 AM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 10,168
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Great report!

We had better weather at Torridon and Inverewe than you, even worse in Glencoe, where the horizontal rain caught us.
Ackislander is offline  
Old Jun 18th, 2015, 07:00 AM
  #18  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 6,117
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Full summer sun had caught up with us as we took the ferry from Oban to Craignure on Mull.

The scenery was breathtaking and again I wondered how people felt when they saw Viking longships arriving in those waterways.

Duarte Castle (which has been in restoration since something like 1910) occupies a formidable and beautiful spot on the coast of Mull. Apparently it was one of a chain of fortresslike castles. There are a couple of ruins which can still be seen on the Oban side.

I was feeling just ill enough from the bronchitis that when we reached Tobermory (with the tide out) my thought was 'what did I want to come here for'. The next morning with the sun glistening on the water, and the view of the many sailboats which came in during the night, (and feeling much better) I could see the attraction.

We went to the doc's office upon their opening. Like in Doc Martin they refer to it as the surgery. Again, found it through the helpfulness of locals. Got our antibiotics which saved the day for us.

Had some luscious ale batter haddock and chips.

Met Tobermory, the local orange cat. It was so funny the moment you see him (and his swaggering walk) you know he is a personality. The little shops all have books and postcards with his picture on them.

We stayed at the Tobermory Hotel which apparently is under new ownership and gradually doing a gut job of redecorating. Nice little restaurant with a fire going.

We enjoyed watching the array of rather large sailboats coming and going.

Went to the gift shop at Duarte, down its obscure and tiny road, but didn't tour the castle.

Next up: a hidden gem down 7 miles of singletrack
hopingtotravel is offline  
Old Jun 18th, 2015, 07:10 AM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 7,313
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Great report so far! I'm also tickled to be remembered I'm so glad you've finally gotten a chance to go!

I'll also say that The Old Man of Storr shrouded in mists is a normal thing. We stayed in a B&B in Edinbane for 4 nights, and perhaps caught one glimpse of it from far away.
GreenDragon is offline  
Old Jun 18th, 2015, 07:16 AM
  #20  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 6,117
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Green Dragon, I remember you were the one who first mentioned the pottery. That's not my normal thing to pick up on a trip, but it was blue, so I'm a sucker.

I did remember that you stayed somewhere off the beaten path. Portree was a little bigger than I expected. I bought a couple paperbacks, the 'hairy coo' print, and a small tote. I was so pleased to get DH out of there without his buying a sweater or something.

But then at the Armedale ferry landing, there is just a great little clothing shop with things you don't usually see, and it snagged us both for a shirt, and a blouse.

PS, hope the book publishing is going well.
hopingtotravel is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information