Scotland: Day 6

Scotland: Day 6

Our journey on Isle of Skye has come to an end. For a change of pace, and a break from driving, we opted to take the ferry back to the main land. This doesn’t really save you any time due to the waiting, checking in and actual ride, but it was nice not to be behind the wheel for once. We met a woman from Martha’s Vineyard and chatted with her for most of the boat ride over.

Once back on solid ground, we headed to the Glenfinnan Viaduct hiking trail. Yes, the Harry Potter bridge. There was a car park packed with cars and humans and no where to go, but the directions I printed for the hike suggested another parking spot by a bed & breakfast and ferry. We made our way, easily found a spot, and headed off.

The trail is beautiful. We made our way from the bottom of the bridge up top (need those aerial view shots!) and shared the path with another couple and their child. What people don’t do (including this trio) is continue on the path, and what a shame! While we were walking, a train came by and road over the bridge (sadly no Hogwart’s Express, but it will do). We continued on and were met with amazing views of Loch Shiel and the Nevis mountain range. It was truly stunning.

The trail in total is about an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes.

Eager to make it a bit further along on our journey, we headed towards Glencoe, which is famous for it’s amazing scenery (and for HP fans, it’s where Hagrid’s hut was filmed). We stopped at the Glencoe visitor center, had a quick ice cream pit stop, and then made our way around one of the paths, taking it all in.

Check-in at our next bed & breakfast was at 4 pm, and so finally coming to that time, we made our way there. I was driving at this point, and the road that took us from the highway to the B&B was…. not my favorite. It was 5 miles long, going about 10 mph, littered with sheep (some just ran in front of the car when they weren’t even in the road!!!) and extremely hilly.

We and the car made it in one piece. The B&B – the Blarcreen House – is definitely remote, but it’s stunning. Our room had a king size canopy bed (my inner 5-year old is obsessed with canopy beds) and beautiful furniture and decoration. The rooms overlook green fields filled with sheep (luckily not the suicidal ones that ran in front of my car) and is simply quiet. We both agree though that the most comfortable bed we’ve slept in thus far is the one in the yurt (which makes no sense whatsoever) and so here’s to hoping the AirBnb in Edinburgh is better!

For dinner we made our way down another single track winding road (no sheep though) into downtown Oban. We had a reservation at Eeusk, which is famous for their seafood. The food was good and fairly priced. James and I shared a massive bowl of mussels in a butter garlic wine sauce. For my entrée I had the king scallops and James had the seafood platter (which was filled with more mussels, oysters, langoustines, scallops and salmon – and only 20 pounds!).

Eager to get back before dark (these streets don’t have lights!), we headed back to the B&B and despite saying that we’d stay up later, I was definitely asleep by 9:30.

Scotland: Day 5

Initially I had planned to drive around Isle of Skye on our own. But then after thinking this through, I realized it would be better to let someone else do the driving and add in some story telling. We booked a tour through Real Scottish Journeys which promised to take us from top to bottom of the islands.

After a delicious breakfast, we headed to downtown Portree. Our bed & breakfast is about a fifteen minute walk away. There we met with our tour guide – Murray – and boarded the small (wee) bus and headed off to the fairy pools.

Most of the water on Isle of Skye is “dyed” brown by the peat. The fairy pools are these amazingly clear pools of water and waterfalls that line a crevice in a mountain. That said, these are really something special. To get to them, you must hike down through the crevice and back up the mountain a bit. Definitely worth the hike, even if James slipped and missed a rock at one point and submerged his foot in the icy cold river. Give yourself 60 – 90 minutes to explore, at least.

From the fairy pools we started North and stopped off at Café Lephin for lunch. Originally I had planned to eat a sandwich I made, but after walking in, I knew I had to have a bowl of their zucchini and leek soup with oat cakes and a gluten free brownie. James had a sandwich from the café, along with a piece of Victoria sponge cake.

Next stop was Neist (pronounced like east with an N in front of it) lighthouse. This was another short but mighty hike. James and I whisked down to the bottom along the left side, to visit the lighthouse, and then madly climbed back up a ridiculously steep hill so we could go along the other side to get the famous shot of Neist on the cliff. (worth it) Everything is so stunningly beautiful here.

Following Neist was the Fairy Glenn, which hadn’t even been on my radar. The Fairy Glenn is a section of a farmer’s croft where these beehive looking mounds of earth have appeared. Everything is green and amazing. We climbed as many as we could before boarding the bus.

The Quiraing was also on the agenda. This was where James and I originally had wanted to hike. And while we agreed that the view would have definitely been worth the strenuous work out, we were OK with the bus taking us to the exact spot to. The views here are STUNNING.

From the Quiraing we drove to Kilt rock, a cliff in which the rock formation looks like a Scottish kilt with pleats. A waterfall runs down the side of the cliff into the ocean.

The final stop of the tour was at Old Man Storr, a single rock that juts up into the sky.

We made our way back into Portree around 6:30. James and I raced back to our bed & breakfast so that we could change (we were covered in mud!) and then headed to Scorrybreac for dinner. This is one of the restaurants that is impossible to get a reservation at if you don’t book months in advance. The food did not disappoint. They served popcorn and a mushrooms leek soup to start. I had the basil crème brulee, Highland lamb and chamomile panna cotta. James had the beef tartar, halibut with vegetable noodles (sooo good!) and a chocolate whiskey cake. If you’ll be in Skye, make a reservation! Amazing!

And so we wind down our last evening in Skye. This is a beautiful area with an ugly history and past. Currently there are only 11,000 people who live on Skye, which was once thriving prior to the Battle of Culloden. (in the hundred years after the battle, about 30,000 – 40,000 people left)

The towns are amazingly cute, and there is a mobile bank, library and movie cinema that travels around so that folks can do what they gotta do to live here.

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.