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Kilts and Cockaleekie - a Yank wanders through Scotland

Kilts and Cockaleekie - a Yank wanders through Scotland

Old Jul 15th, 2008, 12:47 PM
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Ha, ha. Sorry I confused you. I meant "Are you in Lewis now in your report?"
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Old Jul 15th, 2008, 12:59 PM
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Yup, in Lewis in my report! That makes much more sense!
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Old Jul 15th, 2008, 03:01 PM
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Hi Green Dragon
I am enjoying your report immensely. You have been to so many places I remember from my trip in 2005. North west Scotland is my favourite place in Britain I think. We had iffy weather in Orkney as well, but I had been waiting forever to get to Skara Brae and the Ring of Brodgar.
I could not make it down to Smoo Cave (arthritic knees) but I did see the waterfall cascading into it from above.
We stayed in Lochinver for three days and drove all over on the little back and coastal roads. Wonderful.
Keep it coming!
Rosemary
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Old Jul 15th, 2008, 03:32 PM
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What a wonderful trip report, GD. I hope you will be able to scan a map in when you put this on your website. Either that or I'll print this out and read it along with my map.

Love the details!
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Old Jul 16th, 2008, 01:00 AM
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Hi GD. So glad you had some nice weather at last !

That's a good summary, "to an American, 100 years is a long time while for a European, 100 miles is a long way.". As regards distance much of course depends on the roads, and as you know the roads on these small crowded islands are generally very slow. Unfortunately my PILs live 425 miles & 10-11 hours away so we don't get down there as frequently as we'd like. We do sometimes go south 250 miles for the weekend but I wouldn't go north that far for a weekend.

However, hearing all your fantastic descriptions of places I haven't been, you are making me think !

What are sheep butts ? Sheep - er - bottoms ?
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Old Jul 16th, 2008, 04:09 AM
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Yup, sheep bottoms. It seems they preferred to 'bare' that portion of their anatomy to us above all others, so we saw more of them than anything else

Tuesday, 6/24:

Graham¡¦s wife, Jean, served us a yummy breakfast and we headed out around the ¡¥loop¡¦ that first day. We saw the Arnol Blackhouse Museum, where they had both the blackhouse set up, but also a later vintage house ¡V which I could have easily pictured my great-grandparents in (even though they were from Ohio). My great-grandmother was the McKenzie, so I kept picturing her everywhere along this trip, even though to my knowledge she never set foot in Scotland. After Arnol, we moved on to Dun Carloway, which K, C, M and I climbed up and scrambled about. It was easily accessible, with a little climb but nothing punishing, and incredible views of the area around it. The land undulated like a disturbed swimming pool, but there were no sharp corners anywhere, just smoothness and the colors. The sun deemed to come out here and there, and you saw yellows, golds, oranges, purples, everything jumped out of the peat bogs and fields at you.

Along this trip we saw all sorts of animal butts sticking out to greet us on the way along the road ¡V cow butts, sheep butts, pig butts (we found the only pig in Scotland near Calanais), even hairy coo butts. They must think that¡¦s their best side.

We moved on to the piece de resistance, the Calanais Standing Stones. Again, fairly easy to climb to, though the wind decided to pick up a bit on our way up. There was a crowd of people when we arrived, but the wind drove everyone else away and we had it to ourselves for quite a while. It was nice to walk around first, and then explore the inside of this famous circle. Unlike other circles I¡¦d been to, the stones formed a cross in the center, as well as around the edge, like a huge Celtic cross if you looked down on it from above. It was smaller than I thought ¡V perhaps the fence right around it and the farmhouses very close helped that impression. I had always thought of it in the middle of a windswept plane, like Stonehenge, but that wasn¡¦t the case. There was a point on the outside edge that, if you walked down the path, the horizon line obliterated the houses behind it, and you could imagine you were in that lonely, windswept field, miles from anything and anyone. It was quite exhilarating, once you fooled your own mind a bit.

We went on to visit Calanais II and Calanais III, smaller stone circles within sight of the largest one. There was a big triangle made by the three sites, and this lovely old dead tree near one of the stone circles. It was like something out of a horror movie, with the now darkening sky behind it, the branches white as dried bones standing out in the dim light.

There was one more stone circle we found a sign for while driving around, and K was the only one with enough stamina and gumption to go find this one, while C and I awaited her return in the car. This is when disaster struck ¡V C accidently deleted all her photos from her camera when looking to see how much memory she had left. I would have died, and she wanted to, right then and there. I tried to reassure her that data recovery could retrieve them, just don¡¦t try to use the card again until the computer folks could get hold of it. Eventually K returned, and we headed right back to Stornoway in the off chance that someone there could retrieve the data. There were 1200 photos she lost on that card, I don¡¦t blame her for being upset!

We found a wee computer store as soon as we got back into town, and let them try their magic, while we went back to the B&B to collect J for lunch. K and C went to the tea rooms, while the rest of us went in search of non-pub lunches (at 2pm). Well, predictably, there was nothing but pubs serving food at that time; J was sick of pub food, but we ended up at the tea rooms anyhow, for sandwiches and soups. We also dropped off M and D¡¦s laundry at the local launderette. The coronation chicken sandwich and scone at the tea rooms hit the spot, and we got J some more Migraleve (miracle migraine medicine!). We dropped M and D off and headed north to Point Ness and the Butt of Lewis.

On the northern part of Lewis, the landscape became 100% peatbog, a moonscape of undulating brown and gold turf, gently rolling along the top of the land. There were occasional villages along the one road up, with white and sandy-stucco houses dotted here and there like lonely outposts to a forgotten civilization.

First we arrived at the harbor, which had an idiot windsurfing with a stunt kite in the waves down near a tiny sliver of sandy beach, among sharp-looking rocks jutting out of the surf. We watched him for a while in morbid fascination, waiting for him to be dashed to little bits in front of our eyes, but the idiot was pretty good!

Then we went on to the Lighthouse, which was colder, windier, and more breathtaking. The cliff is about 170 feet high, and had some stunning views, despite the cold and the wind. There were perfectly calm little puddles in the rocks reflecting the turbulent skies. On the way in we pulled over in a passing place to let a group of motorcyclists go by, and they put their hands up in thanks ¡V each one had ¡¥Hi!¡¦ written on the palm of their gloves ƒº

We went back to find someplace that might be open for dinner, and settled on the Duone Braes Hotel, not far from Dun Carloway. We were salivating at the garlic mussels on the menu, but they were out, so we settled for salmon and scallops with roe. He really liked his scallops, and we determined that it might be fun for him to start writing a food critic blog about various places he ate. We headed back to the B&B, and I spent a while with the girls watching the Euro Cup Football semifinals. (hey, the German guys were cute).

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Old Jul 16th, 2008, 09:59 AM
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Wednesday, 6/25:

K and C were going to get up early to go see the sandy beaches in the sunlight, but alas, the weather refused to cooperate and was once again overcast and windy, with frequent promises of rain. We went into the breakfast room, surprised to see a group of young men finishing up their meal – we didn’t think there were enough rooms in this B&B to fit us and them! However, Jean told us they were staying in one of their other properties, a self-catering place, working on contract at the airport.

K and C went off to Uig in search of beaches and longhouses. The rest of us went searching for beaches as well, but headed south to Harris instead. It was rainy on the way down, and very misty on the way into Harris itself. As we went south, the terrain got rockier, higher, more mountainous, less peaty. There were surely some beautiful mountain vistas as we crossed the passes, but there was too much mist to see the mountain we were on, much less anything farther away.

First stop was Luskentyre beach, which is the most fabulous and beautiful. Even in the dark, overcast sky, the waters were a bright aquamarine, and the sand was white and pristine. It looked like a postcard out of some Caribbean vacation spot, so out of place on this northern, rainy, windswept morning. The bay was like a shining jewel set in pale, blond gold. I went down to the inlet and stuck my toe in the water, just to say I had – it was much less cold than I thought it would be. Perhaps some of this sand had traveled up the Gulf Stream from the Caribbean itself.

We drove around the other beaches on that one lonely road – Scarista, Leverburgh, and onto Rodel. There was a marshy area that looked like a puzzle maze near the shore, with dots of white sheep jumping around the twisted water channels. I saw a little black lamb and had to stop and take a photo of him, he looked so sweet just standing there, staring at us daft tourists.

The road north of Rodel to Tarbert is evidently called the Golden Road, and it is not for the faint of heart. There was only about 10 miles, but it took us about an hour to traverse the whole thing. By this time, we had gotten used to single track roads for the most part. However, usually one had some sort of shoulder on which to retreat if there was an oncoming car. This road was very narrow (though it looked like they had thoughtfully freshly painted the white lines on each side!), and there were several parts where there was NO edge on either side – just a white-edged black twisted ribbon going from one cliff to the next, with very few passing places. When there was a side, it was fairly sheer cliff on both sides, one going up and one going down (if we were lucky). It also went up and down steep grades at the same time. Yikes! It certainly honed my driving skills better than any other experience had yet done. I think I was in either 1st or 2nd gear the entire trip, especially when there was a small bus coming my way… a bus! On this bloody road! (whimper!)

After we got through the third circle of hell that is the Golden Road, we rested in Tarbert for lunch at the Harris Inn. I treated myself to a steak and black pudding sandwich (which was very tasty and savory) and a pint of cool, clear cider. Ahhh, cider never tasted so good and refreshing.

D drove the remainder of the trip home, to my great relief. We got back with little ado, and picked up laundry, and took a well deserved nap. We went out to walk around about 5:30, and couldn’t find anything open. Not that I expected it to be, mind you, but I still can’t get used to how all shopping is closed around 5pm. Don’t most people work until 5pm here? Anyhow, J and I decided to try the Indian place for dinner, Balti House, and it was fabulous. I had the chilli garlic lamb, and J had the chicken tikka curry. It was spicy, but not hot, lots of flavor, very tender. The couple next to us was from Sweden, it took us a while to figure out what language they were speaking (we had to ask, finally). The waiter, though obviously of Indian descent, was born and raised here in Stornoway (his brother had been from Aberdeen, the one that helped K and C the other night). There was a guy that sat next to us on the other side that looked a little strange, like he was homeless. He muttered a bit from time to time and had trouble talking when he ordered, perhaps he was foreign or partially deaf? Regardless, he ordered dinner and white wine (which doesn’t really fit the theory of homelessness).

After dinner, we staggered to our B&B and watched a show on a divorced woman with two daughters go to live with a South American tribe. She ended up being married to one of the locals while she was there, but still left to go home. There was also a Wallace and Grommit style cartoon on called Shawn the Sheep – one episode where the farmer wanted a brand new tractor, so Shawn had everyone build one (but it exploded), and another episode where the farmer had a metal detector – less said about that episode, the better; it was very strange, and involved a metal cow and a bull.
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Old Jul 16th, 2008, 10:51 AM
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&lt;&lt;&lt; <font color="blue">they put their hands up in thanks ¡V each one had ¡&yen;Hi!¡¦ written on the palm of their glove </font> &gt;&gt;&gt;

Somehow the symbols did not translate - what was written on their gloves?
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Old Jul 16th, 2008, 12:22 PM
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'Hi' was written on each glove palm
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Old Jul 16th, 2008, 12:23 PM
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Thursday, 6/26:

Oh, how we were tired of cold, windy, rainy mornings! We didn’t want to hear one more time how we had JUST missed 7 weeks of glorious weather – we would be happy with just one day of no rain. But alas, we were in Scotland, and I don’t think we got one all sunny day the entire trip. That’s luck!

We set off for Tarbert just after breakfast, as we had a ferry appointment at 11:50. Once again, the trip there was wet, misty and rainy. K and C took a stab at finding Luskentyre Beach before getting to the ferry, while we just relaxed and hung out near the ferry terminal, kind of pooped out about adventure at the moment.

On the ferry, C showed me a book she had gotten that looked really cool – Scotland the Autobiography by Goring. It was about Scottish history, but via written letters of people who lived it at the time. Definitely something I’ll be getting. OK, just ordered it on Amazon, done and done!

The girls had taken Dramamine again for the trip, but only took a half pill each. It still zonked them out for most of the trip. I went to the gift shop and got some music and a book on traditional Scottish tales to read, and while I was gone the area was invaded by a group of young travelers. They had evidently been to Turkey, Croatia, and a couple other countries already, and the Oriental girl was from Australia, by her accent. Another surreal picture.

The ferry was constantly at an angle due to the high wind we were going through, so it was strange to see the sea very close on one side of the boat, but only sky on the other side. However, we got into Portree on time at 1:30 and headed towards our B&amp;B at Edinbane.

The Lodge at Edinbane has got to be my favorite B&amp;B on the entire trip. It was wonderful! Large, rambling property, lots of rooms, a pub and dining room on property, everything run by Hazel, Pete and Cal. It even had resident ghosties to keep you company at night. And yes, even though all the rooms on the website were pink, she had some purple and even some blue rooms available!

After we checked in, we went in to town for some laundry. The launderette is behind the youth hostel – make sure to bring plenty of 20p pieces, though! That’s all the washers and dryers take, though the washers require some pounds as well. We got some extra change from the bakery across the street, and waited for our laundry to finish. One lady came in to transfer her horse blanket from a washer to the dryer – boy those bits and buckles make a racket in the dryer.

OK, laundry is done – where is the music and the food? How about internet access? Well, 5pm gives none of the above. Pubs don’t serve food till 6pm, music at 9pm, and internet access was the library, which is long closed. Ah well, we did hear that there would be session music (just folks playing together for fun) at the Dunvegan Hotel later tonight, so we went for a couple pints before heading back to the Lodge for dinner.

Since we were denied our mussels earlier in the week, we tried again, and scored. Yum! I had a chicken leek and mushroom pie, while K and C both had beef boulognese (sp?). Off to the Dunvegan Hotel for some music, finally! Well, it was really at the Cellar Pub next to the hotel. We were too full for pints, so had some Bailey’s instead. I liked the session music, but then again, I knew what to expect from session music… I think K and C were less than thrilled with it, expecting polished professional performances. It’s really just a group of musicians jamming together, and that means fairly well known and easy to follow tunes. We did recognize Mairi’s Wedding at one point, and I heard a familiar Strathspey, but that was about it. In the pool room there was an amusing drama going on involving a pool shark running the billiards table. We left after a couple drinks, and returned to the Lodge.
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Old Jul 17th, 2008, 05:05 AM
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Friday, 6/27:

Sunshine? Yes, sunshine! Woohoo! Alas, it was not to last, but it was nice to see the landscape of Skye – as beautiful as it always is – in the dappled sunlight peeking through the clouds now and then. We had 1:00 lunch reservations at Three Chimneys near Dunvegan, so decided to come at it from the south, and did a circle to Struan. There was a little B road that avoided Portree, so we got adventurous and took that – and came across our first true Scottish Traffic Jam (a herd of sheep in the road). We had previously seen several individual sheep (cavorting, of course) in the road, but this was the first full herd we had seen taking over the road. They were quite reluctant to give up their prime spot, as well.

We could see glimpses of the Black Cuillin and the Red Cuillin Mountains in the distance, and rolling green hills in the near foreground, but the mists kept threatening to snatch our view away again. I was rather cross with the mists, as they had been keeping the view to themselves much to often on this trip, and I figured it was my turn to have it for a while.

The first time I had visited Skye, 8 years ago, I almost got hit by an ambulance. Never one to oust tradition, we once again almost got hit by an ambulance. This was on a single track road to Struan, and it came right around the corner – lights on but no sirens. You would think sirens would be de rigueur on a single track windy road, so people knew you were coming, no?

The hills, what we saw of them, were beautifully soft, gently rolling. The few mountains we saw had strange flat tops on them, as if they were wearing pillbox hats of stone and rock. It was highly frustrating to KNOW in your heart what a fantastic view you would have if only the mists would lift or the rain would clear.

We stopped to look at a little chapel signed St. John’s Chapel. It had a beautiful iron gate, rusted almost away to nothing. The path down was very muddy and slippery, and I decided it was the better part of wisdom to forgo this part of the adventure – I probably would have fallen on my butt several times on the way down, which would leave me somewhat too muddy to have lunch at Three Chimneys.

We ended up in Carbost and Three Chimneys too early for lunch, so we explored the Carbost Folk Museum (a blackhouse set up for show) and gazed at seals on the shore. There wasn’t anyone at the ticket window, but a sign asking for the admission price and a small box – we put in our coins, signed our name on the guest list, and went up.

Having seen a couple blackhouses already, there wasn’t anything profoundly new about this one, so it only held our interest a short time. We decided to explore up the road a bit, and found the Skye Silver shop. I finally went ahead and made my big purchases of the trip, a pin/pendant set and a pair of somewhat matching earrings (the set didn’t have earrings that matched perfectly).

Back to Three Chimneys, we met up with K and C and settled down to a lovely lunch. Our table was near the front window, so half of us could look out at the bay during the meal. The wait staff was very attentive and helpful, and the food was simply superb. For starters we had the seafood bisque, fennel soup (bright green!) and roast pigeon. For lunch itself I had the roast lamb, which was lightly drizzled with a wonderfully savory/sweet sauce. Dessert was a simply melt-in-your-mouth lemon sorbet parfait. I also had a glass of tawny port, while K and C made the mistake of ordering the Gaelic coffee. I think they expected something sweet, like a latte – but it was not! C tried to sweeten it up by adding a piece of fudge (very sugary fudge) served with the coffee, but it didn’t help. Hey, it was worth a try!

After lunch, we decided it was time to tackle Dunvegan Castle and gardens. It wasn’t on the GBHC, but it was definitely worth a visit. By this time we were getting castled out, but the fairy flag is worth a visit, if only to say you had seen it. I was somewhat prepared for disappointment, as I knew it was not much more than scraps of fabric left. However, it was cool to see it and imagine that it may have indeed been the shawl of a fairy girl.

The gift shop had some neat things, and J decided to buy a nice pewter tankard and flask there (that had been what he was looking for in this trip, as far as souvenirs). However, the clerk took so long to fill out the paperwork for the VAT refund, I almost gave up and left. I did end up going out to the gardens to go to the bathroom while she went through her line of people before getting back to me. I am reasonably certain she was waiting for me to give up, but I didn’t. One woman also waiting did give up, but I stuck to my guns.

As lovely as the castle was, the gardens were fantastic. They were wild and wandering, filled with flowers and foliage, bamboo and butterflies. We walked up to the waterfall, to the walled garden, and all around the pathways. The sheer variety and beauty of the flowers was almost overwhelming. We even saw a bright colony of mushrooms growing in the knot of a tree, protected by some mesh screen from vandals (sad, isn’t it?). I felt like Alice in Wonderland, seeing plants I’d never seen before. I expected a caterpillar to be around every bend, smoking his hookah.

After a long and tiring day, dinner was a no-brainer. Back to the Lodge for some dinner and pints! Dad tried the cheese salad, which does sound strange, but looked tasty – a nice salad of greens and veg with several different cheeses on it, including brie, cranberry stilton, feta, etc. K, C, J and I continued to have drinks at the pub until almost midnight, out-waiting several locals who were shepherds drinking in the bar. One decided that he should start serenading us. It would have been lovely if we could have figured out what he was saying or singing!

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Old Jul 17th, 2008, 06:40 AM
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More great writing, JD - thank you for all this ! Are you doing it all from memory or did you write it as you went along ? Highly impressive, either way !

Just confused by your friend adding fudge to the Gaelic coffee - didn't they serve sugar with it ? Or couldn't she has asked for sugar ? I always thought that it came with sugar already added anyway, whether you want it or not, as it helps the cream float.
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Old Jul 17th, 2008, 07:06 AM
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I make notes in a small notebook every day or so as I go along, and then write this report from the notes.

There may have been some sugar, but not enough for her. I am sure she could have asked for sugar, but sometimes C is a bit impulsive and silly. This is why we like taking her on vacation!
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Old Jul 18th, 2008, 12:27 AM
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Old Jul 18th, 2008, 04:34 AM
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Still another week to go on the report, folks



Saturday, 6/28:


Today was our day to explore the Trotternish Peninsula, the fabled Quiraing, Kilt Rock, and the Old Man of Storr. Of course, we hoped for lovely weather – and of course we were disappointed. There were moments of sun and moments of not-so-wet, but for the most part it was rainy. However, we weren’t waiting around for some mythical sun. Off we went, forging ahead into the dim, grey beyond!

As per Hazel’s (our B&amp;B hostess) advice, we drove around the peninsula in a counter-clockwise direction. We got off at the Old Man of Storr, and walked up the muddy, slippery, but lovely wooded trail to see the famous rock formation. We climbed and climbed, slipped and slided, but when we made it to the clearing – the tops of the mountains were still covered with a thick fog, and it started raining again in earnest. We sighed, wrote it off as bad luck, and made our way down again. The woods itself were beautiful, memories of a children’s fairy tale, with mossy rocks and green light filtering through the leaves.

We did go along and took several stops to take pictures, but when we made it to Kilt Rock, the rain stopped for us for a while. We were very grateful! The cloud cover even lightened a little so we could see for a bit of distance. We saw islands in the mists, and I could readily see how myths of Tir Na Nog came to be in the minds of the ancients. Kilt Rock was beautiful, and would have been even more spectacular if the sun was hitting it. As it was, we saw the striations and colors in a reasonable light. More surprising was the music – yes music. The wind was howling around, and the fencing that kept people from falling off the observation deck evidently were hollow, and it sounded like lost souls crying for their empty lives. I don’t know if this was by design or accident, but it certainly put a surreal touch to the sights. We spent quite a while there, gazing out at the sea, and imagining how many thousands of people had done the same over the centuries.

We stopped next to explore an old diamantine mine, and the climb to the cliff was a bit chancy. Not because of the path itself, but as soon as you reached the top of the cliff, and started to climb down to the observation spot, the wind hit you so hard you had to grab at the rail to keep standing. One poor guy was trying to set up a tripod and keep his expensive camera out of the damp, fighting the wind the entire time.

After the mine, we lost track of K and C in their car – M, D, J and I stopped at the Columba 1400 caf&eacute; for a bite to eat and some warm drink (tea and coffee). We then went down to explore the Staffin Slipway, again on recommendation of our hostess. This was a black rock beach, and was almost the death of us. We finally came across the single track road where one of us had to back up – both of us had windy roads with no shoulders. The other guy did end up backing up, though I tried for a bit. But I was uphill, and someone came up behind me. His passenger got out to help him back up, and it took a good 5 minutes to get to the layby, but he did. We offered him a tip for his efforts, but he refused 

The beach itself was very rocky, but had all sorts of fascinating bits, and the pier was rather pretty. I watched birds playing in the rocks, looking for lunch for a while, while J combed the beach looking for interesting rocks.

We took a small road into the Quiraing for a while, and saw some spectacular scenery. This is the area that always looks misty and otherworldly in the photos you see of Skye. It is like it’s out of another time, another place, another reality. We stopped after an overload of beauty, and went back. Not because we couldn’t handle more, but because Hazel had warned us the road got worse farther on, and that we shouldn’t go too far along it. Besides, I wanted to check out Duntulm Castle, which is on the coast road, so off we went.

Duntulm was a bit of a climb, but perfectly doable. I was the only one of the group brave enough to face the wind and the bit of rain (about sideways, when it was there at all). There was, however, a tour bus each of MacBackpackers and Haggis Tours there at the same time, so I certainly wasn’t alone in scampering over the hills and bits of broken wall. It was a small coastal castle, in ruins, but extremely ‘picturesque’ in its setting and configuration. I can just see Vikings coming here to try to take the place over! (though I don’t think it was that old).

We went on around the coastal road, back towards what passed for civilization. We came into Uig and had lunch at the Uig Caf&eacute;, directly across from the ferry entrance. The sandwiches filled us up, and we laughed a bit at the touristy stuff on sale at the gift shop. Coronation Chicken always works 

J went to the small food shop next door and got some roasted chicken rosemary and thyme crisps (potato chips) and they were thick and tasty, but much too strong for me.

Our next stop was the Fairy Glen. Hazel gave specific directions on how to find it – just behind the Uig Hotel there is a small road going up, take that all the way in and you’ll find it. And yes, it was a very small road, and it went up and down and around and boom! You’re there. The Fairy Glen is an area you really have to see to believe. It is strange and alien, with perfectly conical hills, rambling trees with exposed roots, and green simply everywhere. Again, we found the MacBackpackers bus, who went in and turned around somewhere up the road while we parked. I met the driver – Ewan Kenneth McLeod or MacGregor, I forget which. However, he was definitely of the hippie persuasion – long hair, Berkinstock-style sandals, etc. He was very helpful, though, and told us the best place to turn around up the road. I told him I had seen his bus at Duntulm, and that I was afraid I was following him – he said no worries, I could follow him anytime 

There was a very slippery path up the hill, but I braved at least the lower part of it. After all, these were the shoes that conquered (almost) Arthur’s Seat! However, it was still very rainy and muddy, so I didn’t go too far up. Just enough to see more of the surreal landscape from the clearing, little peaked mounds that could have been housing a dozen gnomes, and whispy trees reaching along the ground to grab at the ankles of unsuspecting children. One said tree was uprooted, and made a great chair for photo opportunities. The area underneath its exposed roots looked like it could easily lead to an underground fairy realm.

After a bit of exploration and wandering, we headed back to the B&amp;B. We had planned on dinner there, but K, C and I had concert tickets to the Peatbog Fairies in Portree, so we went into town for dinner there before the concert. We ate at a caf&eacute; on the main square, and I had a very tasty wild boar burger. They had Kopparberg Pear Cider, which made a nice variety from our typical apple ciders.

We wandered back towards the concert, and started to note the interesting variety of attendees. There were folks from all age groups – teenie boppers in their oh-so-fashionable outfits (one such girl was wearing a sky blue dress with three huge rings of ruffles… and brown mukluks. Great combo, really.) and older folks, including a older guy with a vast amount of bright white hair and a peg leg. Arrrr, pirates!

There were a couple of German tourists next to us that gave us dirty looks for who knows what reason. They didn’t talk to each other the entire time they sat there, though the woman finally got up and danced later. One girl, blond and very pretty, wearing a great outfit and a cowboy hat, had a whole flock of groupies around her. What impressed me is that many of her friends weren’t ‘beautiful people’ – back in my school, someone like that simply wouldn’t tolerate ugly friends. I’m glad that isn’t universal code. The couple next to me was a very young guy and girl (perhaps 17?) that seemed surgically attached to each other throughout the concert.

We sat in some of the chairs around the edge of the dance floor, and waited for the bands to start. There were several bands playing, though it appears one of those billed didn’t show up or play. The Hookares (pronounced Who Cares) had a wide variety of sounds, from western to blues to rock. They had great vocals, good stage presence, and a mad fiddler (looked a lot like my friend, Decado), but the balance was off to anyone on the side. Presumably it sounded better to the sound guy in the back of the room, but while you could hear the music fine (very loud), the lyrics were incomprehensible due to the acoustics. The second band was DJ something-or-other – Celtic house music. They got the house dancing, definitely! And then was the main show, the Peatbog Fairies. This could also be described as Celtic House Music, but they played their stuff live and had bagpipes and fiddlers, all sorts of interesting additional sound effects. It was mostly great, though occasionally I could here where one of the performers was just a bit out of step with the others, and it threw the whole mix off.

We decided at midnight that it would be better to leave before most of the drunks were on the road (we had seen many plastic cups simply tossed up in the air when the beer was drained of them, and while the staff tried hard to gather them up, there were always more added). So we navigated our way out the front door through the crowds of teenie-boppers and old folks, and went home.
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Old Jul 19th, 2008, 10:36 PM
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GD, I am enjoying your most recent installment at my daughter's home where we have welcomed my first grandchild, a beautiful boy.

I continue to enjoy your descriptions and look forward to more.
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Old Jul 20th, 2008, 05:54 AM
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GD: Do you have any fuel economy numbers that you can share with me? I am interested in what you paid for diesel in Scotland and how many miles you got to the litre. K and C's figures would be useful, as there were only 2 in the car. I previously budgetted on a fuel cost of GBP18 per 100 miles but that is probably out of date now, with the increase in oil prices.
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Old Jul 20th, 2008, 03:17 PM
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LCB, congratulations!!! What fantastic news!!!

Yelpir, I can only help in a general sense. Our car did tell us it was getting about 45mpg (Ford Galaxy, 3-4 large people plus luggage usually in it). And it was diesel, about &pound;1.30 per litre the whole way, on average. I don't know about K and C's car, as they did their own gas.


By the way, I've gone back and titled each of my days:

Friday, 6/13: Mad dashes through the airport (of course!)
Saturday, 6/14: The Case of the Missing Luggage
Sunday, 6/15: Mountain Climbing 101 – don’t wear sandals!
Monday, 6/16: Takeaway?
Tuesday, 6/17: Highlands, here we come!
Wednesday, 6/18: Clan Chiefs and Monsters
Thursday, 6/19: Aberdeen Heck
Friday, 6/20: Ferry Tales
Saturday, 6/21: Tombs and chapels and wine shops, oh, my!
Sunday, 6/22: Hip deep in ancient sites
Monday, 6/23: Horton hears a Smoo?
Tuesday, 6/24: Tragedy strikes C
Wednesday, 6/25: The Golden Road
Thursday, 6/26: Over the sea to Skye
Friday, 6/27: Three Chimneys = three more pounds!
Saturday, 6/28: Misty Kilts, hidden men, and fairies



Next day:

Sunday, 6/29: Shilasdair and cullen skink


J had a migraine, so we left him at home to go chase the little sun we saw peeking through the everpresent clouds. Today we were heading south to explore that part of the island, but first we went to see Trumpan Church – this was a nice seaside ruined church with some lovely graves on the edge of nowhere. On the way back we visited Shilasdair Dye and Yarn Shop (http://www.shilasdair-yarns.co.uk/), where she hand dyes all her fibers, many from locally gathered plants. We got a fascinating tour of her workshop, and purchased some items from her – I got some yarns for my friend who knits. Oh, and K had to go scramble among the rocks at the shore to gather some of the abovementioned locally gathered lichens!

Afterwards we went to Skyskyns (http://www.skyeskyns.co.uk/), a leather tannery nearby. This, too, had a great tour of the workshop and the process each of the skins go through to become salable. Then we went into the loft shop, and there were so many lovely skins! Lambs wool and sheep wool, beautiful colors and shades of white, cream, grey and black. K and C bought some gloves and things, though the register computer seemed to give the clerks some trouble, we eventually made it out of the store in one piece (into the rain, of course).

We had lunch in the Sligachan Hotel, and I had some Cullen Skink soup – it’s like a smoked fish chowder, and very tasty, full of lumps and chunks. I also had a roast veg, pesto and feta grilled sandwich, and was quite full. I had a cider that was something 70, and a bit sour – I didn’t care for that one very much. We went into Portree to see if we could find some packing materials for K and C’s liquor store…uh, I mean the bottles from the liquid deli that they had to carefully pack to get home properly. Everything was closed, of course, because it was Sunday afternoon. However, we did get some boxes at the Co-op, and went on to the Fairy Glen.

K and C hadn’t visited it yet, so I guided them there. The sun was really trying hard to shine through at this point, so I wanted to see it in the sunlight. We ran into one of the women that had been dancing way too early at the concert last night (think grunge-fairy), but she was very nice and told us to make sure to go all the way to the top of the hill. We did, and found an area where people had been arranging stones in little shapes and piles for years. There was also a little cave, but we didn’t get up that far. I did slip a bit on the way down, but no real damage.

We headed down towards Broadford, and I pointed out the all-in-one gift shop, launderette, dental surgery, real estate agency building that I remembered from my other trip to Skye. About halfway down the road to Armadale, we took stock, and realized that the only thing we were really interested in was the gardens – and it was pouring rain. Who wants to tour gardens in the rain? So we reluctantly headed back.

Dinner was once again at the lodge, where I had a very strongly flavored smoked haddock – I don’t think I’ll chance that again. We watched the last game of the Euro Cup, and when Spain beat Germany we thanked our lucky stars we weren’t vacationing in Spain at that moment – the party looked like a riot! (and not the good kind)






Monday, 6/30: Single track roads that go on forever

Had a strange dream last night; I was hosting a party and it was pouring rain, but I forgot to unlock the door. All my guests were outside starting a riot and heading off to Spain. Hmmm.

Hazel once again wowed us with her breakfasts. She made Scottish pancakes for all, which are sweeter than the American version. She also served this crystallized ginger preserve with them that was simply delectable, and very addicting. K practically growled when we tried to take some of hers.

We bid a sad farewell to Hazel, and headed down through Portree, Sligachan and Broadford. We stopped so I could get some last photographs of a fabulous waterfall near Sligachan. I still hadn’t figured out how to slow the shutter speed on my camera to get that velvet moving water feel – there is such a thing as having too much automation.

We ended up meeting K and C at Eilan Donan Castle, but that was the last time we saw them (except seeing their car go by near Fort William). We took some pictures, but didn’t go into the castle. It wasn’t on GBHC, and we had been about castled out. Besides, J and I had been there before, and it was fairly typical inside, and crowded with tourists. We contented ourselves to some good photographs outside, and of the low tide, and of the piper entertaining the tourists. I did some more shopping in the gift shop, and on we went.

This particular drive down to Fort William is well on the tourist trail, and really reminded me of our drive through New Brunswick last year. Trees, especially pine trees, lined the roads like soldiers standing at attention. Thousands of them, more and more everywhere you looked. Occasionally there was a break and you see a stunning mountain vista or a precious jewel of a lake nestled in a valley. At one point there was a fabulous view all around, and another piper waiting for tourist photos. I have to admit, he chose a fantastic spot – the mountains were indeed glorious, and the cloud cover was light enough to let through variations in the sky, and occasional sunspots on the mountain flanks.

We had lunch at a touristy spot near Fort William, the Ben Nevis Visitor Center. Nothing to write home about, just soup and sandwiches. J bought some whiskey in the gift shop (they had a great selection), and I bought more gifts and postcards. We drove down to Glenfinnan to see if we could get some shots of the famous viaduct, the one the Harry Potter movies filmed for the Hogwarts Express train shots. We came to the spot, but couldn’t get a great shot – there were lots of trees in the way. However, we did what we could. The GPS said there was another small road closer to it, but it was signposted a private road, so we refrained from trespassing this time.

Back along Loch Eil on a little one track shoreline road to Strontian, I had my patience tested once again. It was at least something with some shoulder, unlike the Golden Road from Hell on Harris. The area along the road did look like something out of the Hobbit, with golden sun rays (yes, sun!) shining through hayfields and green fields. The road was covered by trees arching overhead, and the sun just barely filtered through in greens and golds.

After about 10 miles of this, we switched drivers so D could take over, as my legs were beginning to cramp a bit. That was just in time to take the road across Glen Dubh to Lochaline, and the wider road, of course. It narrowed again as we crossed the emptiness of that area, but we made it to the ferry without any mishap.

The ferry only held 11 cars, and was the only one I hadn’t reserved ahead of time. They didn’t take pre-registration, and goes over about a dozen times each day. We got on board, and didn’t even need to leave the car – the ferry ride was all of 20 minutes. We did see a castle off to the side as we made the crossing, and of course it started to rain again. The town of Fishnish was basically just the ferry port, unless we missed something – we must have blinked. We pressed on through Craignure (which was a bit more substantial) to get to Fionnphort before dinner. Boy, what a mistake! The rain made it especially fun, as the 30 miles of single track road took on new dimensions when the visibility was low and people were coming the other way. Luckily, only about 10 cars came at us, but it was still a slow, frustrating and nervy drive. Glad D was driving and not me! It was an easy recipe for a heart attack.

On that trip, I took time to remember about how much sun we actually got on the trip. Edinburgh was mostly sunny for all three days, and it rained on and off the day we traveled to Grantown-on-Spey, so that’s four. The first day in Grantown was OK, and then the day we traveled to Orkney – 6 total. The day we traveled to Lewis was mostly sunny, half of the second day we were on Skye, half of the third day on Skye, and parts of the day traveling to Mull. So about 7-1/2 days all together out of 17 so far. Not great, but not as terrible as we felt it was.

I also recounted all the wildlife and domestic animals we had seen so far – Hawks, Red Kites, Eagles, Foxes, Otters, Puffins, Turkey, Partridges (including a roadkill one), donkeys, llamas, seals, whales, rabbits, hedgehogs, mice, deer, pheasants, red squirrels, swans, pigs and of course the ubiquitous cows, sheep, and horses.

Despite my attempts at taking my mind off the terrifying drive, I had a few moments of nail-biting fear, but we made it safe and sound in Fionnphort. Finding Seaview B&amp;B (http://www.iona-bed-breakfast-mull.com/) was quite easy, as there is just one road through there. We were duly welcomed by John and shown to our rooms, which were clean, beautifully decorated, and spacious. We headed down to the Keel Row for some well-deserved repast.

I had the venison, which was ok, but tasted not much different than beef. The desserts were mostly ice cream, which I don’t care for much, so I decided to pass on that. J had some, and loved it, though. We watched a little TV in our rooms, and discovered to our delight that they had cable.
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Old Jul 20th, 2008, 07:59 PM
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GD:
I am loving your report. What a trip! Can't wait for more. All the best,

d1
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Old Jul 21st, 2008, 12:06 AM
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More great writing, GD - look forward to hearing your thoughts on Iona, which is one of my favourite places.

Yelpir, DH (who is our driver) reckons that petrol for 100 miles costs us about &pound;10 when driving on open roads and &pound;15 when just driving eound town for a week. This is for 2 people in a small (old) car with a 2L engine but for petrol, not diesel. There's a website where you can compare fuel prices at nearby garages - www.petrolprices.com - and for our postcode it shows average prices of 117.5p for petrol and 131.1p for diesel, so c.12% more for diesel. I believe fuel costs more in very rural areas, though (and on motorways), but it looks as though your estimate should still suffice. You could try putting in the postcodes of the places you are staying to check what fuel costs round there.
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