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Kilts and Cockaleekie - a Yank wanders through Scotland

Kilts and Cockaleekie - a Yank wanders through Scotland

Old Jul 10th, 2008, 07:18 AM
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Kilts and Cockaleekie - a Yank wanders through Scotland

Here is my trip report for the trip we returned from on Sunday (well, Monday, really...)

I am still writing it, so it will come in sections, but all on this list.


Quick information:


Trip background: 23 days, 2 years in the planning. 6 people traveling: me, my husband (J), my mom (M), my dad (D), my friend K, my friend C. Our flights (which cost $800 including taxes) were JAX-PHL-MAN-GLA on the trip out and GLA-LHR-PHL-JAX on the way home. Me, J, M, and D were flying together on that trip, while K and C were flying MIA-LHR-GLA and back, as they were spending the last week of the trip in London.

The plan was three days each in Edinburgh, Grantown-on-Spey, Orkney, Stornoway (Lewis), Skye (4 nights here), Mull, and Killin. I arranged for B&Bs for all our stops except Edinburgh. We were taking a taxi to Edinburgh and then renting two cars when we left for Grantown. I did a lot of research, and found decently priced places with some charm and history, prepaid most of the ferries, and made a couple other arrangements here and there. I didn�t want to dictate where we would go each day, but a couple things did need pre-planning, like the lunch at Three Chimneys or the private tour of Castle Leod.

Lodging: All the places we stayed at were great, and many were exceptional. I HIGHLY recommend Killin Guest House in Grantown-on-Spey (Jane was a wonderful hostess, and it was walking distance from a pub with delightful pies). Also The Lodge at Edinbane on Skye was spectacular - 14th century haunted hunting lodge. Hazel and Pete run a pub with food on the property as well, and all was fantastic. Seaview in Fionnphort and Mill at Eryland in Orkney were also wonderful, and the apartment we rented in Edinburgh was perfect.

Food: The good, the bad, and the ugly. Most of it was great. A few shining moments: Three Chimneys restaurant near Dunvegan, Skye; Oakwood Restaurant near Inverness (on the A82); The Old Flax Mill near Killin; Pies at The Craig Bar in Grantown-on-Spey (and the owners are real characters!). The Reef Restaurant in Bunessan we ate at - expensive but fantastic fresh seafood! Some forgettable food moments: Tomato and lentil soup with pasta = Spaghetti-O's sauce with ketchup mixed in with some spaghetti noodles. Most of the dishes served at the Keel Row were disappointing to us.

Sights: OMIGOD! Why did no one tell me how breathtakingly stunning the north coast of Scotland was? This wasn't in anything I researched. As we drove along the coast road, we kept seeing sights, and saying "wow, that's the most beautiful thing I've seen!" - until we went into the next cove, glen, or cliff - and said it again. Wow! The Isle of Skye is gorgeous, but most people know that. The Lewis landscape was surreal - a moonscape of peat bogs under a grey sky reminded me of some old black-white film. The mountains in Mull were just as beautiful as the mountains in Glencoe. And the Grampians were so desolate they took your breath away.

Weather: Highest temp was probably 17C, lowest was 8C. It rained at least a little every day, and there were about 10 days of all day rain and gloom. Evidently we got there just after 7 weeks of glorious sunshine and a heat wave. Orkney gifted us with 8C temps, 40mph winds and rain - COLD! But we were prepared and wore lots of layers It IS Scotland, after all. The travel days (from B&B to B&B) usually ended up sunny and bright, though.
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Old Jul 10th, 2008, 07:19 AM
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Full-sized trip report:

Friday, 6/13:

Oh, I was so excited! I had to work a half day on Friday, but jumped out of there as soon as my boss said I could, and away we went! We started this trip by getting to the Jacksonville Airport (JAX) 3 hours early, per recommendation, and had a quick bite for lunch at Quiznos. We had very little trouble getting our boarding passes and getting through security, everything went rather quickly, especially for a Friday afternoon, and I was pleasantly surprised to have a 1.5 hour wait at our gate. The plane boarded a bit late and then sat for about 20 minutes on the tarmac before we went, so we arrived 40 minutes late – not tragic, but it did mean we had to make the mad dash through Philadelphia (PHL) to make our second flight. Since M has trouble walking fast, we got on a cart, but that only took us out of that terminal, and dropped us off at the start of Terminal A – when of course our flight was at the end of Terminal A. However, we made it out of breath, 5 minutes before the doors closed, whew! D and I made it first, followed by J and finally M, close to passing out. It didn’t help us much that it then sat on the tarmac and there was no air conditioning on.

We had the four middle seats, but there was an extra seat a couple rows back that I moved to after we were under way. I never did get the IFE to work, though – but I had bought the $5 earphones already, so I figured I’d use them on the way back. I got a little sleep I suppose, and used one of those inflatable pillows you lean forward on. I don’t think I’ll bring it again, it just added weight to my luggage, and wasn’t very comfortable. Breakfast was a wanna-be Danish, not much for a transatlantic flight, but at least it was fuel. For the flight from MAN, the gate agent gave us the exit rows, but we are large folks and need extenders, so couldn’t sit there – which is fine, we had no problem moving. There were plenty of seats. We got in at noon, about 5 minutes early (glory be!)

Saturday, 6/14:

We went to collect our bags – well, some of them. My bag and D’s were missing, so we filed a claim and waited for K and C. K’s bag was also missing, so we had 3 of the 6 checked bags. What a wonderful start! D’s medications were in his bag, so this might turn out to be a very bad thing – he takes stuff for his heart, his blood pressure, his diabetes, etc. We went to call the taxi I had pre-arranged to get us to Edinburgh, but the number wasn’t working. We did, however, find a minivan taxi that would fit all 6 of us (if we had had all of our luggage, it wouldn’t have fit, though!). Jim was quite nice and chatted to us all the way over about politics, energy crisis, The Knowledge, etc. He took us straight to our apartment on 87a West Bow in Edinburgh. The owner (Bill?) was there and showed us about the place. This place was fabulous! There are two apartments, one on the third floor and one on the fourth. The third floor apartment (the larger of the two) had 2 bedrooms, and a day bed in a room near one of the other bedrooms. It had two bathrooms, a dining room, a kitchen, and a large living room. The double room had a small sitting area as well. The property is 15th century, and the décor reflects this history – four-poster bed, tapestry curtains, etc. There was a small washer and dryer, the shower was the nautilus-shell type – you kind of had to fit in around the curved door to get in, but it kept the water in. The couches in the living room were comfy, and there was wifi available. The location was fantastic – the front door opened out to West Bow, a little side street that had pubs, restaurants, gift shops, and the liquid deli (more on that later). The back door (a half flight of stairs past the upstairs apartment) led out to a terrace that looked over the street, and had several pubs and cafés along it. One more flight of steps up and you were on the Royal Mile, not far from the castle. I don’t think my parents ever went down the front stairs after arriving, preferring the shorter walk up the back door.

We settled in to our respective places and decided we were STARVED! 24 hours of travel and we were more ready for food than naps (well, the parents napped). The first place we went to was the Bow Bar across the street, but that was drinks only, and we were ready to eat the bartender – so we moved on to the Steak and Mussel restaurant at the base of the street. That seemed a little expensive for a late lunch, so we moved on – Maggie Dixson’s was a nearby pub, and that fit the bill fine. We enjoyed some very tasty steak & ale pies – though that may have been exhaustion and hunger spicing it. The ciders went down REALLY well at that point! It’s a touristy place, but comfy. While at the bar ordering our food, C (who is Dominican) heard one of the other customers speaking Spanish, and couldn’t believe that she found Spanish in Scotland. Even odder – these were Mexican students studying in Sweden, visiting in Scotland on holiday. How multicultural can you get!

After stuffing ourselves on touristy cuisine, we went wandering around the castle and down the Royal Mile a bit. We marveled at the beautiful structure that is St. Giles Cathedral (not really a cathedral, as we find out later), and the touristy tat that is available on the Royal Mile – but what else did we expect? It was chilly, but very nice out – certainly a welcome change from the 96 degree weather and 100% humidity we left in Florida. As the evening went on, we decided to go down and sample the crepes on sale near West Bow – boy, was THAT a mistake! OK, J’s was tasty – roast apples and cinnamon. But my toffee crepe was just a bit of syrup on a broken crepe. It was a bit too floury and not what I was hoping for. A well – again, you pay for going to the touristy spots. The two French girls were quite indignant that we should interrupt their little chat to ask them to actually cook crepes for us.

We marveled at the odd crowd walking about that evening. Lots of women in pink bras and t-shirts – evidently there was a charity walk for breast cancer starting the following morning at dawn, and many were jumping the gun. There were some very creative outfits walking around! Mix that with a good dose of hen parties in devil’s outfits and cowboy hats, and you had lots of great people watching. You could pay good money to go to Vegas and get less entertainment and variety!

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Old Jul 10th, 2008, 07:19 AM
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Sunday, 6/15:

We woke up refreshed (or mostly so) and decided to make some tea and go in a search for breakfast. Ha! We forgot it was Sunday morning! So, while we saw hundreds of girls walking around in pink bra tshirts, bras, and the odd corset, (some wrapped in thermal blankets on top of that, for a truly surreal look) we wandered around Victoria street looking for something that would serve us food. Everything was, of course, closed – foolish Americans! Looking for a Denny’s in Scotland – that’s not right!!!  We wandered around street after street, and finally decided that perhaps the Royal Mile, Tourist Tat haven that it is, might actually cater to foolish tourists like us. So we climbed up the road beside the mountain, and came to the Haggis café – not yet open, damnit. BUT! There was a light at the end of the tunnel – or the end of the Close, in this case. Along the Royal Mile was a man selling papers (he looked a bit ratty and might have been homeless). He directed us to a small café that served stuff in sandwich rolls – egg, bacon, etc. Just what the doctor ordered. I had a bacon and cheese bap with brown sauce, K had a brie and cranberry sauce sandwich, and we all had hot chocolate to warm our tummies. We chatted with a family we had seen earlier, also looking for breakfast – they had two toddlers in tow, and were from Newcastle.

Duly sated, we went off in search of today’s goal – the Hop on/Hop off bus tour of Edinburgh. We wandered down the Royal Mile, noticing that the shops were all starting to be opened by gangs of teenagers, all controlled by a couple Arab men – looks like many of the shops are run by one Arab family. Go figure.

We were a bit early for the bus, so we continued to window shop along the Mile. We ended up in Canongate, and drooled a bit on the glass of the closed fudge shop, saw John Knox’s house, and a couple other places. I didn’t feel like parting with money yet for souvenirs, so I just bought a couple postcards here and there. I know, I’m weird – I have to be in the mood to purchase anything, and the first day I’m not yet in the mood. I KNOW I can get anything in the Royal Mile elsewhere, and likely much less expensively. Though I rather wish that fudge shop was open, food is always good to buy.

The bus finally came around, and we took it around the city. We saw the controversial parliament building, Arthur’s Seat, New Town, etc. Edinburgh truly is a beautiful city, just the small areas we saw were full of majestic architecture and delightful history. I would love to spend some more time there. My mother lived there 40 years ago, and really enjoyed it then as well.

We got off the bus after a full round, and had soup and tea at the Holyrood Café. We decided to climb Arthur’s Seat, fools that we were. It’s all C’s fault – she was the instigator this time. Our first day on vacation, and she wants us to climb a bloody mountain! OK, not quite a mountain – 823 feet. Wikipedia claims it is easy to climb, I beg to differ! OK, I’m overweight and 40, and was wearing Croc sandals. My walking shoes were in my missing luggage, so I had to wear the Crocs – comfy but not exactly hiking boots. We kept encountering marathon runners that were evidently insane enough to be running over all seven bloody hills in Edinburgh. We all agreed they were crazy, especially the ones older than us 

The path was fine until the last 100 feet or so up. That’s when it got too steep for me, too much dirt and rocks for me to be sanguine about not falling. K and C continued up to the top, and I went down a bit and looked around from the ¾ up point. It was a fantastic view of the city, and I got lots of panoramic pictures of Leith. You could just hear the hum of traffic and the occasional cry of a seagull or sing of a siren as you stood up there and looked around. The wildflowers were winking in the dappled sunlight, and a cute guy was walking his dog down the path. I saw him later, and the previously yellow lab was dark brown – he had found some lovely mud to roll in! When the sun came out, all was warm and sweet in the world. I looked up when I heard K’s giggle tumble down from the top of Arthur’s Seat like a bubbling waterfall, and I looked up and waved at my friends.

I took much less time to climb down, but that’s when I slipped. One foot went back and to the left, the rest of me went down – scratched up my knee quite a bit, and left me a bit shaky, but I was fine. When I got back down, I headed back to the apartment, but got lazy and took a taxi back (hehe). Of course, we only had one key per couple, and I had given mine to J – and there was no answer when I rang either the downstairs or upstairs apartments. So I wandered around to Maggie Dixson’s again and had a pint and a snack (tomato, pesto and mozzarella Panini, not too bad).

After about an hour I went back, and J was just woken up, K having called just called him looking for me. We watched some TV and relaxed a bit, waiting for K and C to return after touring Holyrood. I headed up to the castle to meet them, and waited near the Camera Obscura (there was a bench). I watched a French and Australian family try to gain control of their rampant children amongst screams and screeches. I then went up to the castle itself, and the guard David told me the last admission was 20 minutes ago, so I went down to get K and C, got J from the apartment, and tried to call about our luggage. They said they found one of my bags, woohoo! We don’t know which one (mine or D’s) but one is certainly better than none. I hoped it was D’s, so he could get his medicine. He hadn’t done much sightseeing yet because he was listless without his meds, and couldn’t sleep well.

The four youngsters went to Deacon Brodie’s Tavern for dinner up on the Royal Mile. Yes, it was touristy, but the food was relatively tasty and the atmosphere well-engineered. We had venison steak, smoked salmon and prawns in rose marie, and some ciders. C got a bit drunk, and we were all highly amused by this phenomena – and told her so, which made her even MORE amusing!

K had made reservations for the Mary King’s Close tour, and we met the parents there for that. Yes, it was cheesy, and touristy, but it was kind of cool to go underground and see the alleyways and holes people lived in. The information given in the tour was great, lots of realism. C was horrified and traumatized by this time regarding all the descriptions of what went into the North Loch (what is now Prince’s Street Gardens), and was very glad it had been drained prior to her visit (by about 180 years). A warning to intrepid explorers – if you are clumsy or have trouble walking, this might not be the tour for you. There are lots of dark spaces, uneven floors and difficult stairs.

K and C went to the City of the Dead tour, while the rest of us headed back to the apartment. I really wanted to see it, but was just about pooped at that point. I had to do some laundry (I had packed one outfit in my carryon, and needed to wash that for tomorrow). Somehow I had acquired a bit of a sunburn from my day up on Arthur’s Seat.

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Old Jul 10th, 2008, 07:19 AM
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Monday, 6/16:

This morning started later (around 10am) and I tried to call about the luggage, both the one found and the one not yet found. The number I was given was always either busy, or a recording answered. I left a message, and called Flybe – they gave me the courier number that had our found bag. They said it would be delivered by 2pm today, excellent! I called Enterprise to arrange for our car the next day. I had reservations at the airport, but they said they couldn’t come pick us up in the city – they would have to transfer my reservation to the city office. So I called the city office, and luckily they informed me that they couldn’t waive the CDW insurance there, only the airport could – so back to the airport it was. I called for two cabs to come pick us up in the early morning to make it to the airport. What a mess! (a needless mess, as we find out later).

The castle was first on the list this morning, so off we went to explore. We sampled haggis (my second taste, everyone else’s first taste) at the Haggis Café, and it was quite good. Creamy and spicy, on a piece of melba toast. Everyone rather liked it, despite themselves. We went into the castle (which was covered by our Great British Heritage Cards), and chatted with Japanese tourists while in line. I showed off my 5 words of Japanese and they all laughed, probably at my attempts. We each bought the audio tour, and agreed to meet at a particular time. We were loose!

Mons Meg, the cannon that goes off every day at 1pm, was quite impressive, but my favorite area was the little St. Mary’s Chapel, the oldest part of the castle. It was very cozy, and notwithstanding the people crowded in it, very quiet and peaceful. I’m a sucker for pretty stained glass windows, and was not disappointed. I wandered around the grounds, the halls, the war memorial, sucking in the tidbits of history and trivia from my audio guide. It was great, because you can request additional information on most of the subjects – I think I listened to every scrap of information it was willing to give me. I had a scone and some water at the café, and watched the birds try to convince me I should share.

After meeting up with everyone, J and the parents went back home while K and C and I went shopping in New Town. K and I were still missing luggage (so was dad, but he was unconcerned) so we had to go get some toiletries and essentials to make up for the lack in our toilet. Princes Street, here we come!

After more than an hour at the drug store, we chatted with the shop clerk and the security guard about the weather differences between Florida and Edinburgh, and the different celebrities we had all met. Finally K finished her sacking of the place, and we went in search of clothes, cash, and water. We finished up in another café, got some sweet pastries and drinks, and unfortunately sat next to an older woman that probably hadn’t had a bath in a long time.

On the way back home, we stopped in a local music store to get my first dose of Scottish music CDs. I am so glad that the innovation of letting you listen to the CDs before you buy them is everywhere – I picked up a couple local bands and one I’d heard before (Runrig), and something for my friend M, who loves ethereal Celtic music. I wandered back to the apartment, but got waylaid at the Iain Mellis Cheesemongers. I tried about a half dozen types of cheeses before I decided on one I liked. The gorgonzola from northern Italy was too strong, the brie was too bland – the other was just right (I was keeping an eye out for the three bears). I got some oatcake crackers to spread it on and figured I’d have some for breakfast in the morning.

K and C had a more exciting detour at the previously mentioned liquid deli. That’s not what the name of the shop was, but what we called it from then on out – the shop made their own liquors and liqueurs, like raspberry gin and elderberry vodka and such. That took some time, as they were given samples as well, and came back wreathed in giggles and bottles.

We decided that tonight we would dine at the curry place on West Bow that had been tantalizing us with delightful aromas for the last several days, Kushi’s. The chandelier in the entry way was very grand and impressive, and the food was wonderfully delicious. However, there was a miscommunication between K and the waiters, and they kept trying to take her half-eaten dishes away when she wanted a take-away box for them instead. He kept saying ‘take away?’ and grabbed at them – she practically stabbed his hand with a fork to keep her food!  We had lamb sag, garlic naan, (which doesn’t go well with Irn Bru!), mango lassi, and it was all yummy.

Back home we reorganized what luggage we had (D had his bag delivered that afternoon, finally, mine was still no where to be seen). K called about hers, and they said they would deliver it tomorrow. However, we would be on our way to Grantown-on-Spey tomorrow, so that wouldn’t do. She was told she needed to pick it up after 9pm at the Edinburgh Airport, so she took a taxi out there after dinner, got there at 11pm – no bag. The guy at the counter called the courier, and the courier wanted her to come get it there. She said ‘no way, you bring it here, now!’ And they finally did. He kind of avoided looking at her as he walked all the way around her to deliver the bag to the BA desk. I think they finally got home around midnight. Two bags recovered, mine is still missing in action. Glasgow Airport still refuses to answer their phone or return my (by now) half dozen messages. The courier doesn’t have it, and Flybe doesn’t have it. Sigh. I did hear from someone that it had been found, but no one seemed to have it. GLA said they sent it on, the courier said they never got it, and no one was willing to actually take control of the situation and look for it.

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Old Jul 10th, 2008, 08:12 AM
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Yay! Your report! I printed this out to go read by the pool. Can't wait.
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Old Jul 10th, 2008, 08:16 AM
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This is an awesome report - I feel as though I am in Scotland (it is even drizzling outside right now). Cannot wait to hear more. Thanks for providing details - you type as though you were speaking and I appreciate that.
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Old Jul 10th, 2008, 09:57 AM
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Tuesday, 6/17:

We got up early for our taxi ride through the city to Edinburgh Airport to pick up our cars. The taxi drivers had trouble finding the Enterprise office, but eventually we found it. We were upgraded from the reserved Standard sizes to a minivan and a Standard (later known as the Car from Hell), which worked out fine. The last week of the trip, one of the cars had to fit me, J, M and D and our luggage, while K and C dropped theirs off and went to wander around London. There was a problem with my credit card covering the CDW (even if we hadn’t been upgraded, it turns out). The coverage only goes up to $50,000 vehicles, and these were £26,000, so we had to pay an extra £14 a day in insurance. Ouch! That came to an extra $560 on a $600 rental. Double ouch! Warning to intrepid explorers about this!

I went to the airport itself to find out if I could talk to someone in person regarding my bag, even though it was at GLA (hopefully). I spoke to the Premier Luggage Courier desk, who sent me to the Flybe ticketing desk, who sent me to the Servisair ticketing desk, who sent me to the Servisair luggage service. She almost dismissed me instantly, but I convinced her to have a look at the file. She said the file was closed, as they had delivered the one bag they had (D’s). She was able to look at the record and left a message for the GLA office, as she got the same maddening recording I did. She mentioned that since the file was closed the office didn’t return my calls – very annoying when the file shouldn’t have been closed yet!

On the way out of the short term parking lot, the gate stopped working. While we were waiting for an attendant, there was a car behind us that just kept inching forward closer and closer, while we waved him to go around to the other gate. He refused to budge, and was therefore blocking anyone else from going around as well. When we mentioned this to the attendant, he said ‘Well, that’s their problem now, isn’t it?’ – this kept us laughing (rather hysterically at this point) for quite a bit.

We searched for gas, as we got the cars with a ¼ tank – the first place we went (Sainsburys) had no gas due to a 4 day Shell strike that just ended. The second place (Shell) wanted £1.66 per litre, and since we had seen it at £1.22 everywhere else, we passed. We finally gave up for the nonce and headed to Roslyn Chapel. Everything you’ve heard about this place is true – the carvings are amazing and incredible. It’s a small place, and yes, the outside is covered in scaffolding. But the carvings are mostly on the inside anyhow, and will take your breath away. There were little angels cavorting on the columns, devils carved upside down, seashells and sheaves of corn. I could care little about the connection with The DaVinci Code, but it was wonderful to be there and see all the artistic work. Outside there were some wonderful memorials as well. However, it started sprinkling, so we decided it was time for some lunch at the Roslin Hotel. Fish and chips and steak & ale pie were the favorites, and they were adequate – nothing special. The batter was the thick breadcrumb style. The dining room did rather remind of a great auntie’s parlor – rather stuffy and formal, too quiet for comfort.

After lunch we drove past Edinburgh and over the Firth of Forth on the Forth bridge, towards Perth. We stopped at the Hermitage to explore this primeval forest and waterfall – if you are in the area, definitely stop by! There are really three waterfalls in one, and the best spot to see it is a little terrace in Ossian’s Hall, a small temple-like structure over the falls. The bridge is a delight as well, though the muddy rocks kept me from exploring too much with my Croc sandals. I tried to fiddle with my camera to get a longer exposure time to make the waterfalls into velvet streams, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it. This whole area made me feel as if I was on a journey to the Shire, and could see hobbits and elves poking their heads out behind each moss-covered tree. The sounds of the forest were restful and sweet, and the green-dappled light made everything sylvan and silvery.

After a brief mishap with a falling laptop, we were on our way (officially) into the highlands. I’d been through here before, but it was just as stunning and beautiful the second time around. The browns, golds, purples and greys jumped out at every sunspot, and whispered back into the earth when the clouds came. It was like the subconscious mind of an oil painter covering the landscape. Half-shorn sheep were jumping over streams, little crofter cottages were nestled in deep glens. Shaggy Hieland Coos looked at us as we drove by, and we saw black sheep lambs cavorting around (yes, cavorting, really!). We stopped a couple times and just stood, stunned, looking at the alien landscape that surrounded us. Of course, we didn’t stand long – the wind threatened to blow us away, especially with our hastily-donned shawls and sweaters. It was also starting to rain, so we hastened back to our trusty carriages and hied on to a place for dinner.

We found a supremely ugly square castle (Corgarff Castle), which looked like a white box on a smaller white box. We opined that it was probably the home of some lawn-mover-driving psycho killer that terrorized the countryside, so we watched out for such a character, intending to run him over. We found a pub serving dinner called Allargue Arms – a peaceful place despite the name. The food was decent, but I think the poor lad serving us was brand new at the job. K was brave and tried the sweet & sour pork, while D tried the stir fry. I had the soup and sandwich, it was filling and warm.

We made it to Grantown-on-Spey with little trouble, and luckily our B&B was on the first street we came to. Jane was our host at the Kinross House B&B, and she was delightfully warm and helpful. The bedrooms were well-appointed, clean, and comfy. The beds had just the right pillow combo for my comfort (one small firm pillow and a larger soft pillow) and it had a sheet so I wouldn’t roast at night. I tried calling Servisair again once we got there, and the girl on the phone insisted that she personally gave the missing bag to the delivery service. I tried to get her name or ask for a supervisor, but she just hung up. So, rather than jumping through the phone and strangling her on the spot, I decided it would be more prudent to go wash out my outfits once again, and went to sleep.
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Old Jul 10th, 2008, 12:05 PM
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Number one rule when travelling - always have your medications in carry on luggage with you. Great report.
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Old Jul 10th, 2008, 12:41 PM
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Yeah, I know that and you know that - evidently Dad has found out. Mom didn't learn from him though - her meds didn't fit in her carryon, so she checked them on the way home. We just got the bags yesterday.
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Old Jul 10th, 2008, 02:13 PM
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I know! I can't believe he didn't have them in his carry on. How scary.

I think I know that "liquid deli", was it on Victoria St? Also, was the cheesemongers there too? I loved having an apartment in Edinburgh. We got cheese from a cheesemonger on Victoria Street and some wine and bread from some where and then were able to invite my husband's friends up before we went out that night (they live just outside of Edinburgh).

Can't wait to read the rest.
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Old Jul 10th, 2008, 03:46 PM
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"...It was like the subconscious mind of an oil painter covering the landscape."

Delightful! Looking forward to more...
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Old Jul 10th, 2008, 04:42 PM
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We always pack our medications in our carry on, along with one change each of clothes.

We have changed the way we pack - Half of my things go in DH case and half of his things go in my case. At least you have half your stuff if one case makes it.

If you have the URL's to any of the B&B's you stayed at would you please share.

Keep it coming. This is an excellent report and a great read. Looking forward to more.

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Old Jul 10th, 2008, 05:22 PM
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Sandy good comment. My husband and I also pack our items half in each others cases. I'm dying to know if you ever got your case back GD. I don't know what I would have done in your situation!
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Old Jul 10th, 2008, 08:03 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 2,472
Great report, GreenDragon! You seem to be carrying on with good humor despite the mishap with your bag. I'm excited that you're in the Highlands now, and will love your pictures WHEN you get to them (no rush, they will be worth the wait)
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Old Jul 11th, 2008, 02:20 AM
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 274
Amazing trip report! I am enjoying every word and looking forward to the north and west coast section. It is really wetting my appetite for September. Thank you
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Old Jul 11th, 2008, 05:12 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 7,313
Yes, amelie, those shops were right on Victoria street - just doors away from our apartment (which is upstairs, above Clarkson's Jewelry).

B&B websites:

Edinburgh apartment:

Grantown on Spey B&B:

Orkney B&B:

Lewis B&B:

Skye B&B:

Mull B&B:

Killin B&B:
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Old Jul 11th, 2008, 05:16 AM
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Wednesday, 6/18:

This morning I made another effort to find someone who knew where my luggage was. I called Premier Courier, and got hold of an angel by name of Lorraine (I think that was what she said). She, finally, was willing to actually make an effort to find out what happened to my luggage. She called me back in about 10 minutes, and said she had found the bag! The problem was that Servisair had sent the paperwork for my bag, but not the bag itself, so it thought it was done, and closed the file. Premier had the paperwork but no bag, so couldn’t deliver it. What a mess! Lorraine was able to assure me that they would deliver my bag tomorrow. This is a good thing, as that means they wouldn’t have to ship the bag up to Orkney, our destination the next day. I thanked Lorraine profusely, and will be writing some complaint and compliment letters.

In this joyful frame of mind, we enjoyed a delightfully tasty breakfast cooked by Jane and served by Dolly. She made this homemade concoction called muesli that had muesli cereal, yoghurt, fruit and cream in it – very addicting! We also had the normal full Scottish Breakfast choices, including haggis (which was tasty).

We had a 10am appointment at Castle Leod to get a tour of the castle, led by the Clan McKenzie chief, the Earl of Cromartie. My great-grandmother was a McKenzie, so it was nice to meet the head of our clan and see the ancestral seat, so to speak. The castle was from the 14th or 15th century, was rather small and compact, but nicely renovated. It was very interesting to see the paintings of my forebears done by famous painters, to see the first real ordnance map made of the area (by the English after Culloden in 1746, to keep the Scots in check). There was an enormous billiard table in one room, and evidently the room had been custom made to fit it. The Victorian dining room still had panes of the original 17th century glass in it. There was a lot of Jacobite historical items on display and even a little dungeon. The Earl has a remarkable knowledge of history and family details, and it felt different from other castles I had been in. Perhaps it was the personal connection – somewhere, somehow, all McKenzies are related, descended from the same clan chief hundreds of years ago. We were all distant relatives.

After a pleasant chat with the Earl and the other guests, we headed down to the Clava Cairns to check out a site that one of my favorite books is set in (Outlander by Diana Gabaldon). In the book, the main character (Clair) walks around the circle looking for an unusual flower, and then accidently falls through a crack in the main stone, which propels her back 200 years to 1745. We looked at the crack – it was perhaps two feet wide at the widest, not exactly enough for a full grown woman to accidently fall through, but that’s poetic license for you, I suppose. There were several cairns and stone circles in Clava, and it was a neat place, even in the bright sunlight. The stones themselves had many interesting patterns on them – not necessarily carved patterns, but the stones themselves and the lichen growing on them were lovely. It wasn’t the same feeling I had had at Stonehenge; less reverence and more of a homey feel to them, I suppose. We chatted with another tourist who was from Wick, and told him we would be passing through there on the way up to Orkney in a couple days. He described his town as desolate and quiet, but I found it rather pleasant the 2 minutes we passed through later on 

After the Cairns we headed towards the A82 south of Inverness as C had arranged for a Loch Ness boat cruise at 3pm. We wanted something to eat, so stopped at the only place that actually placed a sign BEFORE you had to turn – the Oakwood Restaurant (no website, but their email is [email protected]). Surprise, surprise, we found K and C there already sitting and waiting for their food (only D, M, J and I went to the castle). The food there was superb. The owners are Gaby and Gus – Gaby is French, and cooks with French style. J had a chicken breast stuffed with haggis in a blackcurrant reduction. I had the smoked salmon fisherman’s lunch, K had the deer meat goulash, and D had the venison burger.

After such a wonderful meal, we went to the Jacobite Tour stop and took our 2 hour Freedom Tour, which was a half hour to Urquhart Castle, an hour at the castle, and a half hour back. The sun decided to join us for the trip, and it made the trip delightful. The castle was rambling stone walls draping over gently rolling green hills on the edge of the Loch. Despite the crowd of Japanese tourists, there were times I could be by myself on top of a ruined rampart, looking across Loch Ness in search of the monster. I don’t blame her for hiding – can you imagine the paparazzi clamor if she were to show herself? Yikes. When we headed back to base we had much fewer tourists, we almost had the boat to ourselves. It was also a bit rainier, so we bundled up. We decided to head to Oakwood for dessert – whiskey and honey crème brulee, cranachan (a traditional Scottish dessert with oatmeal, yogurt and raspberries, very yummy) and chocolate cake. At first, they didn’t want to serve us just sweets and coffee, she was afraid of not having enough tables for the dinner crowd, but it turned out fine.

Back at the B&B, Jane was very helpful in planning our next day out. She recommended Ballindaloch Castle, Aberlour Distillery, Culloden, Clava Cairns, etc. I had a lunch date with a fodorite named Sheila in Aberdeen, so needed to be there around noon. J was joining me, but the girls wanted to go on to Dunnotter Castle (I wanted to as well, but had made my plans with Sheila). M and D decided to go around themselves today. We started chatting with Jane about the rest of our trip, and she told us she used to work up on Orkney, and showed us some beautiful Sheila Fleet jewelry she had been gifted while working there. It was blue and silver with ogham writing on it - - very elegant.

She also recommended a place for dinner – the Craig Bar, which serves pints and pies. Sounded good to us! There wasn’t anyplace that night that had traditional music, so a couple of characters (which the owners of Craig Bar certainly are) were good enough. The owners are Beryl and her son Robbie, and boy, are they fun! We got pies – I got a Smokey Jo pie, with potatoes, spinach, cream and mushrooms in it – K got a Minty Lamb pie, and C had a Heidi pie (goats’ cheese, sweet potato, spinach, garlic and onion). Alas, Robbie was not the creator of these wonderful pockets of yum, but he gets them at, out of Bristol. Robbie regaled us with stories of incredible feats and impossible deeds and his dear, dear wife. His mom told us of her upcoming trip to China for the Olympics – at youth hostels, but flying over business class. We also met a delightful dog another visitor brought in – a Lurcher, a breed I hadn’t heard of before. He was very sweet and mellow and happy to be near the fire. We had a grand time, they made us feel very at home and welcome.
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Old Jul 11th, 2008, 06:51 AM
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2,337
My heart is aching for Scotland! You and I have very similar accommodation interests - small B&Bs. The one in Granton on Spey looks especially lovely. Oh, and so does the mill one.

Cannot wait to hear more!
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Old Jul 11th, 2008, 08:32 AM
Join Date: Mar 2004
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Old Jul 11th, 2008, 09:41 AM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 2,182
GreenDragon - This is whetting my appetite for my trip! Twenty more days until it's my turn.....
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