Scotland: Day 3 + 4

Scotland: Day 3

Our fire lighting experiences from the previous evening took a toll in the morning. Unable to light the fire and take off the chill, I trudged to the “Hub” to take a shower and get ready for the day. The Hub is the facilities area of the campground. There’s a few bathrooms, showers and a sink to do your dishes. Getting there involves a walk up a very steep hill, and so one only goes to the Hub when one must.

Cruising on the Loch Ness
Cruising on the Loch Ness

Afterwards, we headed to our boat cruise on the Loch Ness. We gave ourselves an hour to do a 40 minutes drive. Not even two miles in, we were held up by a giant cement truck that was parked on a road that only one car can use at a time (despite it being two way). The truck eventually moved, but it took about 15 minutes. Now nervous about getting to our boat cruise on time, we called to give them a heads up. The UK oozes politeness and the company actually held the boat for us! We weren’t late, but we were about two minutes before the boat was scheduled to leave. Thank you Jacobite cruises!

The cruise we booked took us out onto Loch Ness, and then dropped us off at Urquhart Castle. The castle is currently in ruins, but there is a nice tour that highlights what rooms they were likely to be, and shares the history of the castle and it’s inhabitants. The castle was built in the 1200s (though parts may have occurred even earlier) and was a point of battle and angst throughout it’s 500 year history. Eventually the castle was blown to smithereens as the English thought that the clans living there were Jacobites.

Highly recommend checking it out if you have a chance – and getting there via boat is definitely the way to do it!

Following, we headed over to Cawdor Castle. We were feeling a bit of castle fatigue, but decided to forge ahead anyway. I’m glad we did. Cawdor Castle is cool – but so are the other castles. What makes it stand apart was the sassy sign writer who described each of the rooms with amusing quips and detail. We found ourselves giggling throughout. To all the people who breezed through, I am sorry, you should have read the descriptions!!

We headed to Inverness afterwards to check out the city. It looks a lot like Dublin, or Copenhagen, or Cologne or any other European city with roots in the medieval times. We headed to Velocity Café and Bike Repair shop which is one of the top rated cafes in the city, and also had a wide range of gluten free treats. The almond lemon cake was AMAZING.

We weaved in and out of a few stores and then headed back to the yurts (with a quick pit stop at the Cooperative grocery store, where we have gone every day since arriving). Back at the yurts we made dinner, enjoyed some more cheese, showered and packed up, as tomorrow we move on to Isle of Skye.

Scotland: Day 4

Au revoir yurt! We spent our final two hours in the yurt lighting a fire successfully with fire starter (provided by the hosts who finally recognized that we suck at making fires from newspaper and wood), making breakfast, cleaning up and packing up.

One of the many stops along the way to marvel at how beautiful this country is.
One of the many stops along the way to marvel at how beautiful this country is.

We hit the road by 9 am and headed toward Isle of Skye. At first we were intending to stop along the way to do things, but the scenery quickly took over and we discovered that an hour would go by without even noticing. We did however, stop along the way to take breathtaking photographs. A pit stop was necessary to buy some cheese from a local dairy shop as well (with a friendly dog, and a part of the Scottish cheese trail to boot). We enjoyed the cheese for lunch along with some leftover salt and pepper crackers.

We stopped at Eileann Donan Castle on our way to Isle of Skye (okay, we had to back track a few miles, but it was 100% worth it). This castle and backdrop is breathtaking. But rather than tour the castle, we were good to go after some photo opps and a bathroom break. Definitely recommend stopping by if you’re ever en route.

Isle of Skye is magical. It’s incredibly beautiful and every turn brings something new. At first, we were hoping to hike the Quiraing, but unfortunately, rain came about that could potentially have made for a dangerous and uncomfortable hike. So we headed to the Castle of Dunvegan instead. This castle surprisingly surpassed our expectations. While the commentary in each room wasn’t as pithy as Cawford, we found the descriptions to be thoughtful and interesting. But the best part of this castle is the seal tour by the boat house. Seals line the property where the castle sits, and bask for hours at a time in the sun, digesting their latest meal (according to our very un-chatty captain who we had to pry information from). We spent 25 minutes driving around the waters to look at gluttonous seal do their thing. It was amazing.

Following the castle we headed to the Bed & Breakfast we’re staying in. The owners weren’t home but left us with a little welcome package, and so after checking ourselves in, we headed to downtown Portree to explore. The town shuts down at about 5 pm (wah!) but a few stores remained open. The best part though was discovering “the lump” which is a pristine little park that overlooks the harbor. A watch tower built in the 1800s is climbable as well.

On the Lump!
On the Lump!
Portree Harbor
Portree Harbor

For dinner, we had reservations at Rosedale Hotel. Reviews had raved about the restaurant, but James and I started to get nervous after walking around the hotel to try and find it (hotel did not look or smell so nice). The restaurant however, is amazing. It overlooks Portree harbor and the food is spectacular. We both had the scallops and the venison. The chef served a celeriac soup prior to the meal, with fantastic whipped butter for bread (mine gluten free) and flakey sea salt. After eating the last three meals in a yurt, cooked on a camp stove, this was a much welcomed treat.

We walked back to our bed and breakfast, full, and ready to have a bathroom available to us at any point during the middle of the night.

Scotland: Day 1 + 2

We have internet again! After spending a few days camping just North of Inverness we have ventured even further North, but staying in a Bed + Breakfast with wifi. So not quite back in civilization but making strides.

And without further ado…. the blog posts.

Scotland: Day 1

Our two week journey in Scotland started with a plane ride at 10:40 pm from Boston to London. Ultimately, the trip was painless, all considering and both James and I managed a few hours of sleep despite being upright. We landed in London around 10 a.m. on Sunday, had a leisurely breakfast and boarded a shuttle to Edinburgh.

We picked up our rental car in Edinburgh (a Mercedes!), loaded up the luggage and headed out of the city to Perth, which is about 40 – 45 minutes north. We stayed at the Huntingtower Hotel, a very Scottish bed and breakfast. After checking in, we went out for a quick walk before dinner. The hotel is near the Huntingtower Castle, so we made our way up there to see our first Scottish castle and hoping to kill some jet lag.

Given the crazy day of travel, we decided to have dinner at the bed & breakfast. The meal was decent (nothing to write home about, but good enough). I had mushroom soup and steak, while James had smoked salmon and steak with blue cheese (and cheesecake). We headed almost immediately to bed afterwards and proceeded to sleep for 11 hours.

Huntingtower Castle
Huntingtower Castle

In the morning we decided to go for a short run before being in the car for a few hours. The walk the evening before proved to be beautiful and pleasant. I gave James the task of leading us for our run. We spent the majority of it in a construction site….

Anyway… we kicked off the journey by heading to Scone Palace (pronounced Scoon), which is where Scone Stone once lay. This is the stone that almost every Scottish king was crowned on. You may have heard of it because a group of students in the 50s stole the stone from London in attempts to return it to its rightful homeland. (It ended up in England in the first place because one of the Scottish kings brought it there).

Scone Palace
Scone Palace

The palace was previously a bishops palace, but the family that runs and lives in it now, has done so for the past four hundred years. We strolled through the halls of the palace, admiring breath taking art work and even Queen Victoria’s chambers when she came to visit for a brief period.

Town graveyard (the only thing that wasn't moved two miles down the road when an earl decided the town was too close to his living quarters).
Town graveyard (the only thing that wasn’t moved two miles down the road when an earl decided the town was too close to his living quarters).
Old town gates (prior to being moved two miles down the road)
Old town gates (prior to being moved two miles down the road)

The castle grounds are also breathtaking, and so following our indoor tour, we wandered around outside – including complete a star shaped hedge maze, checking out the kitchen gardens and the town’s old graveyard.

At around 11:30 we hopped over to the café onsite for a quick bite to eat (potato leek soup!) and then hit the road for our next destination: the Highland Folk Museum.

For anyone who watches Outlander, the scenes of Lallybroch (the town not the manor) were shot at the folk museum. So first things first, we headed over to the 1700s highland town. Similar to Plymouth planation or Williamsburg, Virginia this was a living breathing replica of a 1700s highland town, complete with actors and fires in the hearth. We wandered around, taking in the beautiful scenery and dodging the random spurts of rain. Afterwards, we walked around the rest of the museum (it’s outdoors), which included a village from the 1920s/1930s (weaving shop, tailors, post office, candy store, school house, church, clock store, etc.). It was definitely cool.

We opted to forgo the farming section and headed back on the road to the Black Isle Yurts. The scenery continued to be breathtaking and eventually we crossed the point in which the road was literally one lane with a “passing spot” every 100 feet or so in case there are two cars going opposite direction at the same time. Nerve-wracking the first time (though better with each subsequent turn), we eventually made it to our yurt.

The yurt is secluded and overlooks Moray Firth – which apparently houses numerous dolphins (yet to be seen). We stocked up at the grocery store on goodies, and had a dinner of gluten free pasta, pesto, asparagus and tomatoes. Given our two weeks of travel, we’re going to try and cook whenever it makes sense – and so peanut butter and jelly sandwiches will be the lunch norm for the next few days.

Scotland: Day 2

Our first night in a yurt was cozy and REALLY cold. The wood stove went out around midnight (according to James) and when I finally woke up around 6 am, I felt I could barely move because of the temperature. After mustering the courage, I finally pealed out of bed and tried lighting a fire. This is really not that easy, if you are left with a book of matches, some logs and newspaper.

Today was a hiking day. Originally I wanted to do a dolphin hike in Rosemarkie, but we discovered that we could walk to the majority of the hike from Black Isle, and so after checking the tides, headed off on our journey. The yurts are located on a cliff overlooking the ocean. We made it down the cliff and then walked along the beach for about 4 – 5 miles to a lighthouse at the end.

The lighthouse is supposed to be “the place” to see dolphins, but we actually saw many more along the way. Some were so close it felt like we could almost touch them. The sun was shining and everything was pleasant. As soon as we reached the lighthouse, a rain cloud floated over and POURED. We ran around trying to find cover, but there really wasn’t any. So we eventually decided to move on and walked through the 15th oldest golf course in the world into town for a bathroom break and bandaid expedition (some sand in the boot made for a nice blister sensation).

Along the way we popped into the Groam House museum, which is a local museum that houses stones found from 700-800 AD. The stones are intricately cut and believed to have once been part of a monastery in Rosemarkie. But the coolest part of the museum was the upstairs temporary collection – a series of drawings from World War I done by Celtic artist George Bain. They pieces were amazingly detailed and beautiful.

From the museum, we started down the Fairy Glen path, and were pleasantly surprised by multiple waterfalls at the end. The rest of our journey was up Eathie road, which we thought was significantly shorter…. Lesson learned!

Once we got back from our hike, we hopped in the car and headed to Culloden Battlefield. The museum is very well done – you go through the history of both the English and Scottish, learning about the Jacobites, Bonnie Prince Charlie and battle techniques of both side. I was really impressed. A short film immerses you in a recreation of the battle, and is quite disturbing and incredibly moving. We finished the tour by walking through the battle field, in which each of the clans that fought and lost their lives are depicted.

James' lineage can be mapped back to the Frasers.
James’ lineage can be mapped back to the Frasers.

I highly recommend a visit if you are in Scotland, whether you have a connection to Culloden or not.

We drove back towards our yurt, and spent the rest of the evening trying to light our wood stove (it was being very difficult this evening!), making dinner and doing dishes.