Trip to the Highlands

Old Jul 1st, 2006, 07:11 PM
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Trip to the Highlands

Anybody interested in hearing how our trip was? Our itinerary was packed with lots of driving. It turned out to be a wonderful trip. We logged 1,456 miles in 13 days! Between 2 of us that love to take pictures, we shot about 3,000 digital photos!(some worth printing!)I'd love to share if anyone wants to listen!
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Old Jul 1st, 2006, 07:17 PM
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I'd love to hear about your trip, Susan! It sounds like a driving marathon---are you recovered enough to even talk about it???!!
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Old Jul 1st, 2006, 09:07 PM
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Would love to read a trip report. Post away! And a link to pictures would be a bonus. I usually take about 1500 for two weeks - you must have quite a collection.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2006, 06:24 AM
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Here goes... arrived in Edinburgh around 11a.m. Picked up our Renault Lagoona (5 passenger hatchback) There was plenty of room for us and our luggage. Hubby was a bit leary of the size knowing the single tracks we would be going on, but it turned out to be fine! We ditched our plans of going to Rosslyn Chapel since they say that thousands of tourists go there. We decided to head on towards Stirling Castle instead. We spent a couple of hours there.Afterwards we had tea and scones in a little shop just down the hill from the castle. We headed on up to Callander. We checked into a great B&B. We had fish and chips at Bridgend House Hotel Pub. Good food and super service. After supper, some of us headed down to the River Teith to take some photos. We saw the cutest kids and talked to a fisherman searching for salmon. The next day we stopped by the touristy Trossach Woolen Mill. It rained for about an hour, but then turned cloudy for the rest of the day. We drove through Glen Coe(too bad that it was cloudy, but that just kept the mood in check) We found a single track road with beautiful scenery of the mountains. Checked in to the Strathassynt Guest House in Ballachulish. The people of Scotland were so generous with their time and hospitality. WE had tea and scones at the information center next door. Since it was early afternoon, we decided to head west and south towards Oban. We stopped at Port Apin and took pictures of Castle Stalker. Then we backtracked a bit and found our old stopping place. It is a tiny dead end road that has some recycling bins to park next to. We walked very close to the castle to take pictures. Afterwards we headed down to Dunstafnag Castle ruins. There was a couple that was just married and was having photos taken in front of the huge foundation of the castle. It was a stunning background. We came back and ate at Lochrog Bar in Ballachulish. Good meal. I'm surprised that the barkeeper was only 15. He said that he couldn't pour the beer but he could serve it! We enjoyed the guests at the Guesthouse in the evening. Had a great chat with a British gentleman who gave us plenty of tips on what to see during our travels.
The next day we took a quick walk up to the slate quarry in Ballachulish. They stopped quarrying in 1955. Many of the headstones in the graveyards closeby are from the slate. We traveled on through Fort William and stopped at Spean Bridge. After that we stopped at the Commando Monument. The memorial site to the fallen heros was touching. We enjoyed the trip past the Five Sisters on our way to the Kyle.We took a journey up a small mountain pass that overlooked Kintail and back up the way towards the Five Sisters. It had a spectacular veiw! We had to stop by the ancient churchyard and memorial to Kevin (a 19 year old that was killed in a car wreck on 26 Dec 98) The churchyard has lots of old tombstones with gorgeous views. The weather held out for good photo shots of Eilen Donan Castle. Go across the bridge and park at the toilets to get some good pics. There was an old boat that I got in the foreground that turned out neat. We got to Kyle of Lochalsh around 2 and it started to get misty. The rain set in just as we sat down for tea at Sheilas. We found our way to Plockton. It's a beautiful village on the harbor. Our B&B (Tigh Nan Saur) was great. It has a little garden right on the loch or ocean (I don't know which without getting out my map) We had supper at The Plockton Hotel! It was great food and atmosphere. We walked over to the little island since the tide was out. Took some pictures and then the midges started to nibble away. Came back and walked around on the main street. It was hard to get to sleep since it stayed twighlight for so long! I'll write more later this afternoon. It's time for church now!
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Old Jul 2nd, 2006, 06:44 AM
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Great so far! Looking forward to the rest.

One suggestion - It will be a bit easier if you use paragraphs - some narratives are really hard to read on a monitor. (a single return won't make a , you need to hit return twice)

Which B&B did you use in Callander? I'm always looking for new places to recommend in the area.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2006, 09:28 AM
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I'm enjoying reading about your trip, Susan. On our first trip to Scotland we stopped at a woolen center in Aberfoyle in the Trossachs - is that the same place? It was very touristy, but we really enjoyed the sheep show. My girls were 11 and 13 at the time, and the guy's corny jokes just cracked us up. Also, they had so many unusual kinds of sheep. Some looked positively primeval!

Does sun ever shine in Glen Coe? It has been cloudy every time I've been there. I think the mists contribute to the atmosphere of the glen's scenery.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2006, 11:42 AM
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Thanks for the tip Janis. I'll remember to make better use of paragraphs for easier reading. We stayed with Muriel at Southfork Villa in Callander. It was a block from the main road. It was reasonable in price as well, 22.50 per person.

Okay, on from Plockton... and over the FREE Skye Bridge. Last time we were there we paid 5 pounds to cross. The first time we were there in '82 we rode a little ferry. So we breezed across to Skye. Stopped at a woolen shop and at Skye Jewellery for a look. The sky was misty and deary so the scenery wasn't as breathtaking as it could be. It was a shame not to see the Cullins this time. I've only seen them once. Since there was so much rain, we saw lots of run off on the mountains. We stopped at a waterfall just by the side of the road that we beautiful. A stop in Plockton for tea and scones was pleasant. It was in a little cafe in a hotel across from the parking deck.

On to Uig. The ferry terminal area had several interesting shoppes. I enjoyed the Uig Pottery shop. I got an interesting flower container. I am going to show it to our local potter to see if they can make some. It's really a cool way to display flowers.

I prepared myself with Dramamine and sea bands for the crossing to Harris but didn't need them. The trip was smooth but misty. A shark was swimming right next to us into the harbour at Tarbet.

The mountains on Harris are impressive. The clouds actually broke up around the isle. We left Tarbet and traveled along a single track road through the mountains to a place called Amhuinnsuidhe. There was a large Victorian house right on the road. The surroundings were spectacular.We were going to go to the beach at the end of the road, but that would have been another 1/2 hour to 45 minutes of driving. The road surface was very good. The narrowness and drop offs were a bit unsettling to me though. We turned around at the "big house" and backtracked to the main road. There was a little school in that area for the kids. Couldn't have held too many... but then again, we didn't see many houses around.

We headed on up to Lewis and got to Stornoway by about 5:30. We ate terrible fish and chips at a restaurant that I have chosen to forget and then headed on to Calanis. WE got to the stones by about 7:00. The sun was actually shining and blue sky was apparent. There were lots of "New Agers" camped out waiting for the summer solstice which was the next day. Several guys were propped up against the stones smoking something that made them feel really good! We got some good pictures despite the people in the way. I could envision them dancing naked about the stones during the solstice (but I doubt that they did since it was raining and cold the next day)We checked into our B&B- Loch Roag. Our lovely suite had a king sized bed and a fantastic bathroom. The sun never did go all the way down to make complete darkness.

When we did wake up the next morning, boy had the weather changed. It was the summer solstice but it was super windy and cloudy. By the time breakfast was over, it started to rain. WE endured anyhow. The Blackhouse Village was interesting and worth going to. The crofters built low to the ground.. now I know why.. they would blow away otherwise. We headed to some sandy beaches on the western coast. We got to Dail Bhaeg which is a fantastic place to see huge rocks and cliffs at seaside. We were standing on a cliff before walking down to the beach. It was difficult to stand up since the wind was blowing so hard. Now I know why the guide books tell you to be careful when it is windy.

I didn't realize Scotland had white sand beaches with turquoise waters. It was a beautiful sight despite the gloomy skys. The sea stacks added drama to the photographs.

We headed into Stornoway again and picked up some food items to bring back. They have a great library just in town that allows you to use the internet for free. WE had to stop in the Stag Bakery for tea and scones before heading out. We parked in front of a woolen shop so before leaving I picked up some Harris yarn for sock making ((yes they will be scratchy, but my husband likes them that way)

James Smith has a gallery in Bru (Oiseval Gallery). It's worth stopping by. We were greeted right away with a friendly hello and I remember you from the ferry yesterday. James and his wife sat across from us on the ferry from Uig.

Dinner at a hotel outside of Calanis was okay.. really wasn't much choice of places to eat!!!

The next morning took us back out to Dail Beag. We found gorgeous water, cliffs and sea stacks. The surf was really rough so the waves were crashing in at probably about 20 feet high. If you are ever on the Isle of Lewis, check out the coastline. It's fantastic.

Our ride to Ullapool was smooth. We landed around 4:45.. 15 minutes late since there were strong wind guest. It was raining again but we drove on up the western coast to Keoldale (just outside of Durness) We stopped before we got there to have a bite to eat in Scourie. The landscape is always changing. If you don't like the looks of it now, just wait a few more miles and you might like it better. (same thing goes for the weather)

We drove on up to Durness and went to the beach. There was a very wide cove that had a headland where military manuvers are held. We saw a helicopter land and take off at Faird's Head.The old cemetary by the beach was facinating.

There isn't much to do at Durness. We skipped the shopping area in old WW!! baracks. Instead we were facinated by Smoo Cave. It is Britains largest opening of a cave mouth. There was a huge area that poured water out to sea. The rains made the waterfall spectacular. It crashed so loud and hard through the cave opening it was hard to hear anyone speak!

Next was Sango Bay. Sango Bay is an award winning beach. Once you go there, you can tell why. The granite cliffs and boulders are awesome.

The drive to Thurso was fantastic. You have to drive all the way around Loch Eribol. It's a long way! We stopped in Tongue. Mark Edwards has a studio there. He works in acrylics and does scenes of stalkings (deer stalkings that is) We bought a limited edition print of 3 Highland cows at Skibo Castle. He was commissioned to paint this scene for the castle.

We walked around Thurso and had cappacino and focacia sandwiches at a little italian cafe. It was a nice change of pace from the usual scottish fare. The trip to Orkney was uneventful. We arrived in Stromness and our B&B was just 100 yards to the left. I highly recommend Miller House and Harborside House. Maureen was a most lovely hostess. Our rooms were fine and the breakfast the next morning was suitable for royalty!

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Old Jul 2nd, 2006, 12:06 PM
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Thanks for all of the information about the islands, the beaches, the landscape and the galleries too.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2006, 12:18 PM
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Our time spent on Orkney was most enjoyable.We saw the Standing Stones of Stenis and Ring of Brogdar in a mist with gray skies. Headed north to Marwick Head. We had a brochure that led you on a craft tour. It is well worth doing. We stopped at a few nice silver jewelers. The second one really pleased us. Roger Philby of Fluke Jewellery was so personable and talented. He is inspired by nature so it is reflected in his craft. He showed us all around his studio and then we started talking about all the animals he has. We love Spotted pigs and he has some. He showed us all around the sty. The conversation moved to Puffins since one of the people we were traveling with insisted that we find them. Roger said to come back at 7 pm and he would personally take us out to the cliff just below his farm and assure us that we will see them! We took him up on the offer and came back. We saw 3 Puffins come in to roost for the night. He told us about the other birds that were nesting too. The razorbills were fantastic to watch as well.

Before we went back to Roger's in the evening, we went to the Broch of Burray. It's a large outcropping that you cross using a footpath when the tide is out. The tide was out so we walked out. It started to rain harder and the wind began to howl, so we came back to the car and headed for Kirkwall. It's a great little town. Lots of shopping and nice cafes. We checked into our B&B, The Mill at Eyrland. Ken and Morag were fun hosts. The house is a renovated mill. It is filled with beautiful antiques and whatnots! Ken is also the cook at the Standing Stones Hotel, so he recommended eating there. I had mince and clapshot..... it was tasty! We had to eat early so we could go puffin hunting. After seeing the puffins, we had to buy something in the shop. I got a beautiful silver bracelet with a fluke on each end (tail of a whale) Roger's wife, Jo told us the cehileh(sic) was that evening. We had to experience that so we headed up to Harray to the community center. There was lots of good music and dancing. The food and drink was interesting. A cog was passed around. It was a barrel with two handles filled with steaming hot whisky, beer, sugar and spices. Everyone in the building sampled it....several times! What a fun and exciting time!

The next morning we headed out to Scapa Flow. We stopped by the Italian Chapel and then over to St. Margaret's Hope. We had to go to Sheila Fleets gallery and pick out a piece of Orkney jewelry. I chose a silver ring from the Flagstone collection.

We had to go to Yesnaby. The high cliffs and windy conditions were a bit unsettling. After dinner at the Stromness Hotel, we went back to the B&B. Since the sun was still shining brightly at 10:00, I thought I'd take advantage of the good light. I went for a walk around the countryside and took some more pictures.

The ferry left from Stromness at 9 the next morning. It was sunny so we sat out on the sundeck. Time was passed talking to a couple from Inverness. Their golden retriever, MacKenzie entertained us for the trip.

We headed out of Scrabster and through Thurso on our way to Muir of Ord near Inverness. This was going to be a long drive but we broke it up by stopping along the way. We stopped at Dunrobin Castle for tea. We also had to gas up so we asked where Skibo Castle was. It was less than 5 minutes from the fuel station. It isn't marked in any way, but we found it from the lady's description. Stopped for a quick photo and headed on down the road. We saw seals in the Beauly Firth. One actually struck a pose on a rock.

No one was at our B&B (Home Farm)so we decided to head down to Loch Ness. We took a back way to get there and got to Drumnadrochit and the sky was bright blue. Lots of photos were taken from the parking lot of Urqhart Castle. I can't see paying 6 pounds to see those ruins! I liked the view from the wall. We headed back towards Muir of Ord and had dinner at a fabulous restaurant. I have to find the brochure to remind myself what it was called. But it was great.The owner/barkeeper was so personable. He recommended the Bambi and Thumper pie! Only one of us had that!!!

Home farm is a lovely, modern B&B. Sue and Stuart have a lovely home and make you feel very welcome. We took a walk around the area which was the homestead to an old family (name slipped by me) Stayed up and watched the World Cup. (sorry to the Brits that they are eliminated now)

I'll have to tell you about our trip south to Linlithgow in another posting. It's time for tea and a nap!!!
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Old Jul 2nd, 2006, 01:10 PM
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Thank you for the detailed report. I am considering a trip to Scotland in 07 or 08 and this post will be a good resource.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2006, 02:30 PM
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"Our ride to Ullapool was smooth. We landed around 4:45.. 15 minutes late since there were strong wind guest. It was raining again but we drove on up the western coast to Keoldale (just outside of Durness)"

Are you saying that you arrived at Ullapool at 4:45 PM, had time to drive all the way up to Durness, and go to the beach before dark? For some reason, I thought the roads between Ullapool and the extreme north tip of Scotland were extremely slow and difficult to navigate.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2006, 02:41 PM
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Since you just returned, I would appreciate your advice on an upcoming trip that we are going to take next month. We are also up for a "driving marathon" as one poster put it, but I have gotten some good feeback from people in the know that say that certain portions of my schedule seem un-doable. Since you mentioned some of the same areas we want to visit and just drove some of the routes we want to do, would you look at this and give me whatever feedback you might have related to how difficult the driving is (or slow) in any of the areas we mentioned? I am especially interested in anything you can tell me about the area near and around Ullapool as that area doesn't seem to be visited by as many tourists as other areas. Thanks.

3 days in Edinburgh area (visiting Stirling also)
1 day to drive from Perth to Stonehaven
1 day to drive from Stonehaven to Inchnadamph (1/2 way between Ullapool and Inverness)
1 day to drive from Inchnadamph to Foyers (other side of Loch Ness) stopping at Clachtoll beach (near Lochinver)
1 day to drive from Foyers to Glasgow

Thanks.

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Old Jul 2nd, 2006, 02:43 PM
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PS - You did over 100 miles per day - was it too rushed? Did you have fun? We want to see as much as we can and are also big photography nuts.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2006, 02:57 PM
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dbaker, you might want to read the posts when susanmc was planning the itinerary:
http://fodors.com/forums/threadselec...2&tid=34753681
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Old Jul 2nd, 2006, 03:07 PM
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Thanks, I'll check it out.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2006, 03:30 PM
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dbaker something is wrong with your driving itinerary or it's misposted.

Perth to Stonehaven - about 2 hours on the A90

Stonehaven to Inchnadamph (1/2 way between Ullapool and Inverness)- first of all coming from Stonehaven Inchnadamph is not 1/2 between Ullapool & Inverness, it's west of Inverness and North of Ullapool. Stonehaven to Inchnadamph in one day would be an insanely long day of driving. I would guess > 8 hours.

Inchnadamph to Foyers (other side of Loch Ness) stopping at Clachtoll beach (near Lochinver) - This is why I don't think your itinerary makes sense, going from Stonehaven to Inchnadamph would pass very close to here. Why would you pass it up to back track to it?

Foyers to Glasgow - single track road until you get to Fort Augustus then you could take the A82 into Glasgow.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2006, 05:13 PM
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This is in response to the questions posed by dbaker... "Are you saying that you arrived at Ullapool at 4:45 PM, had time to drive all the way up to Durness, and go to the beach before dark?"
Yes, we did have time! Remember that the sun doesn't set until past 11. We made the most of every minute that we had. We had plenty of time to stop along the way. In fact we stopped and took pictures and had a meal. We were in Durness by 8:00. There were some single track roads, but there was hardly any traffic at all on them.


As for your itinerary... I'm really not sure of the places that you are going. Refer to a map. We had short driving days and then some longer ones. It seems like the trip from Muir of Ord(close to Inverness) down to Linlithgow was long. It was on good roads but there was a lot of traffic. I absolutely adored being in the Highlands and could care less about the cities. I detest traffic and have my worst days when I have to be in it. I haven't posted my trip from Muir of Ord yet.. it's not as breathtaking as the trip in the Highlands.

So dbaker, I don't think 100 miles a day is too much as long as you stop to smell the roses and not expect to do all the touristy things. I think you will enjoy the area around Ullapool. It is a beautiful town. The roads aren't bad at all. In fact I was commenting to my husband as we traveled to our little country church here in Virginia. The roads in Scotland are way better than our little dirt lane over the ridge to get to church. I think if you keep a clear head and while driving not try to take in all the scenery, you will be fine.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2006, 05:31 PM
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According to aaroadwatch, Stonehaven to Inchnadamph is about 200 miles. The driving times that they quote are: Stonehaven to Elgin = 90 miles, 1 1/2 hours, maybe because most of this is on main roads. Elgin to Inverness = 40 miles, about an hour. Inverness to Inchnadamph = 70 miles, 2 1/2 hours, due to the nature of the road, some of which is single track. Total driving miles for the day = 200 or so and about 5 hours drive time. So, assuming 10 hours of time per day (9 am - 7 pm) we are planning to drive 1/2 of the day and sightsee for the other 1/2 of the day. That is assuming that the drive times coming up on aaroadwatch are anywhere close to accurate. Anyone who has done any of these routes - I would appreciate knowing if these are accurate. I have been told that aaroadwatch is the most accurate resource I can use to make plans.

Anyway, I just wanted to find out from the original poster if it was possible to do long days of driving if that is what one prefers - and was surprised about being able to get from Ullapool all the way to Durness while only leaving at 4:15 pm. That gives me hope on being able to keep most of my original plans! Thank you for the great trip report. It just goes to show that everyone likes their vacations a little different. I recently read a very good post on a recent trip to Europe and all the poster mentioned was where they stayed, and what they ate in extraordinary detail. Just goes to show that we all travel for different reasons! I'm with you on making the most of every moment. I can't afford Scotland probably more than once or twice in a lifetime, so I have to make the most of it while there. As odd as that sounds to some, we can "rest" from vacation when we get home.

I'd love to see some of your pictures when you get them posted.


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Old Jul 2nd, 2006, 05:33 PM
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"Dail Bhaeg" - Where is this?
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Old Jul 2nd, 2006, 05:40 PM
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". . . as long as you stop to smell the roses and not expect to do all the touristy things"

We have already had over 100 posts about dbaker's itinerary. We aren't going to solve her problems here.

A couple of major differences - susanmc has been there before (more than once) and knew exactly where they wanted to go and how to get there. Plus they went over the summer solstice when sunset is about 10:30. By the middle of August sunset is about 8:45.

Also - dbaker wants to visit all sorts of castles and such. While neeps is correct that Perth to Stonehaven is only about 2 hours - not when you go via Glamis and Dunnottar. And when you add in stops at Huntingtower, Elcho, Scone, Glamis, Dunnottar you are talking about 2 days worth.
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