A Travellerspoint blog

Wednesday August 26th

rain 18 °C
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We left Stirling today and travelled southwest through torrential rain, apparently the tail end of a cyclone somewhere. It was heavy rain, and it kept up all day. We did a detour via the Lake District and stopped off for lunch at a pub at Troutbeck Bridge, opposit Lake Windermere and just before the town of Windermere. Eventually we arrived at a place called St Helens, somewhere in between Manchester and Liverpool, where we were to stay for the next five days. David and Margaret both originally came from the area; David from Widnes and Margaret from Salford, closer to Manchester. As they still had relatives in the area, their idea was to visit them over the next five days, as well as visiting some of their old haunts. We stayed in a Travelodge Motel, just off the motorway, and a few miles out of St Helens.
That evening after tea, we visited David's cousin Joan and her husband Keith, a few miles south of our motel. It was a surprise visit, and Joan duly abused us with a wicked smile on her face, then they both made us feel most welcome. During the course of the evening, I was surprised to learn that David was quite a lad in his day, as I carefully perused the many photo albums that were offered to me.

Posted by bryceb 06:53 Archived in England Comments (0)

Tuesday August 25th

semi-overcast 19 °C
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We left Inverness, and headed south, past the Cairngorm Mountains, stopped briefly in Perth, and continued on to Edinburgh. We were able to drive in to the city to a parking station which was within walking distance to the Royal Mile, the main tourist centre of the city. The Edinburgh Festival was in full swing; Edinburgh is usually known as a vibrant and slightly alternative city, and here we could see it in its full glory, with people milling around watching the many buskers and street shows along the Royal Mile. Someone gave us three passes which would enable us to go to the head of the queue at Edinburgh Castle, so we decided to go in (these promotional tickets must have worked, as we had not necessarily planned to go to the Castle). We spent the next couple of hours looking around the castle, and had some difficulty getting away as Margaret discovered a delicious alternative to Bailley's being sold, and David had to drag her away before she ordered several crates to be shipped to Australia.
We walked back along the Royal Mile, soaking up the atmosphere, then departed for nearby Stirling where we stayed the night.

Posted by bryceb 09:54 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Monday August 24th

sunny 20 °C
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We stayed at the Inveness Youth Hostel, which was again a short walk from the main shopping centre, so we spent today exploring Inverness, using a set of geocaches which took us to a variety of historical points of interest around the town.

Posted by bryceb 10:14 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Sunday August 23rd

Ring of Bright Water

semi-overcast 20 °C
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We left Portree and headed south over the Skye Bridge which connects the Isle of Skye to the mainland. We stopped off at Eilean Donan castle, considered by some to be the most beautiful castle in Scotland, and certainly one of the most recognisable. It is set at the meeting of three sea lochs, and is itself on a small island a short distance from the shore, connected by a stone bridge. It has been rebuilt many times over the centuries, and lay in ruins for many years before its latest rebuild early last century. We walked over the stone bridge and spent an hour or so exploring the castle. There are displays in many rooms, including a kitchen with gruesome models of various unfortunate animals being prepared for the day's menu.
We drove on to Shiel Bridge, and here I will digress to give you the background to our next excursion. In High School, we studied the book "Ring of Bright Water" by Gavin Maxwell.
It is about a man with a love for otters, who spent 20 years living in a house on a remote bay on the west coast of Scotland with his otters. The house burnt down in 1968 and he then bought and lived on the island which is now directly under the Skye Bridge, and provides a base for one of its pillars. Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to try and locate the beautiful Sandaig Bay where he lived for so many years. So we left the main road at Shiel Bridge, and then followed a single lane road, up and over Mam Ratagan with great views of the Five Sisters of Kintail, til eventually we reached the village of Glenelg. Here we turned south til we reached the point on the road where the GPS indicated that we were close to the bay. I knew there was a walking track through the pine forest to the bay so we drove on a little further and there it was - closed! The sign didn't say why it was closed, but as it was a Forestry Commission pine forest, we assumed that it as because of logging operations. The forest had been planted after Gavin had left the area, and was now quite mature. So we backtracked a short distance to another gate, with a slightly more ambiguous sign, half suggesting that we could walk along this track if we were careful. Because it was a Sunday we figured there'd be no-one around anyway, so we took off, eventually walking through piles of cut logs and logging machinery, then back into the forest, down a steep boggy slope, eventually emerging from the forest onto the beach. It was just as described in the book, with a waterfall in the background, a rope bridge over the stream, the mound where the house was once situated, and an old cottage in the background. There was also the grave of Gavin Maxwell, and also a separate grave of one of his favourite otters. We stayed down there for about an hour; Dave and Margaret headed back before I did as I looked for the waterfall back in the dense and boggy forest. I walked one hour back to the car expecting to find the other two there but there was no-one, so after waiting a while I headed back into the forest. Eventually they appeared; they had decided to explore a side route but I was there wondering how I would report two missing walkers in this remote place.
We took the scenic road back (the only road) to Shiel Bridge, then took the main road East to Loch Ness where I saw the brightest rainbow I had ever seen, sitting over the Loch. We continued on past the Loch Ness Centre, now closed due to the lateness of the day, eventually arriving in Inverness.

Posted by bryceb 08:12 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Saturday August 22nd

Over the Sea to Skye

semi-overcast 20 °C
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This morning we boarded the ferry and took the 10km trip across the sometimes rough waters to Skye. After disembarking at Armadale, we drove northeast to Broadford, the second largest town on Skye. There we left the main road, and followed a single lane road westward, along the base of the Cuillin Mountains, a very Scottish-looking set of peaks to the northwards. I saw on a recent program that they were privately owned and for sale, to pay for the repair and maintenance of the owner's castle. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/707546.stm)
We continued south-westward, past Cill Chriosd, or ‘Christ’s Church’, the roofless ruins of a 16th century church that once served as the parish church of Strath. Nearby are some deserted villages, a legacy of the Highland Clearances, a dark chapter in Scotland's history. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highland_Clearances).The winding road continued through Torrin, along the shores of Loch Slapin to the fishing village of Elgol on the Strathaird Peninsula, and the end of the road.. The location is superb, with views across Loch Scavaig to the spectacular Black Cuillins. Here we turned around and headed back to the main road at Broadford, where we turned north and drove to Portree, the largest town on the Isle, and our bed for the night. The owner was out the front of the B&B; and we couldn't have got a friendlier or more helpful host. Nothing seemed to be too much trouble for him. He would want to be friendly too, for the price we paid for the accomodation, but we couldn't complain about the service.
The day was still not too advanced, so we decided to do a loop trip around the peninsula north of Portree. This was very scenic, with gorges, ruined castles, and views to the Outer Hebrides. We dined somewhere in Portree that evening; I remember not where.

Posted by bryceb 09:11 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

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