7/06/2016

The Isle of skye, Scotland


The Glenfinnan Viaduct

 We stopped off at the Glenfinnan Viaduct, on our way to catch the Mallaig Ferry to the Isle of Skye. Apart from the beautiful setting, and the history of the viaduct, it is popular because this is the viaduct Harry Potter’s train passes over, on the way to Hogwarts.


 David, Mart, and Dale under the viaduct.

We only had a short time before catching our ferry, so didn’t have time to see the old steam train crossing the viaduct; but, we did see a passenger train crossing over.


Unfortunately, we missed the Hogwarts Express.


 Barbs sitting on a seat made from an old tree trunk

The area around the viaduct is very scenic, and there are picnic spots too. We loved the way these fallen trees have been made into benches by planing, and polishing the cut surface.

We continued on to catch our ferry to Skye, and as we crossed the water, I am sure most of the passengers were humming, “Speed bonnie boat like a bird on the wing, Onward the sailors cry. Carry the lad that's born to be king, Over the sea to Skye". It’s almost irresistible. I know it firmly planted itself in my brain!


Our first sight as we landed on Skye


 We drove past glorious scenery, with lush vegetation…


…and fast flowing rivers

Scotland has no water shortage problems, due to the high rainfall. In fact, it rained most of the days we were there, but it was still beautiful.


We stopped off at this delightful old pub for lunch…


 …and were amused by the entry sign.


 Ready to go again after a great meal


 Highland Cattle known by the Scots as Heilan Coo

Driving through the Isle of Skye, we saw lots of these hairy cows, a Scottish cattle breed. They all have horns, and a long wavy coat in a variety of colours, ranging from black to silver; although we mainly saw this ginger version. They are prized for their meat and their low maintenance: their thick coats mean they can be left out in all weathers.


The Fairy Pools

We headed to the Fairy Pools. at the foot of the Black Cuillins, near Glenbrittle. These magical pools are a tourist magnet, and there were loads of people trudging up and down the hillside.


The pools are connected by a series of waterfall


Becca sitting by one of the Fairy Pools...


...and on top of the world, ready to fly!

We left Skye by the land bridge, to arrive at ou next stop, Eilean Donan Castle, an iconic image of Scotland, and a popular visitor attraction. The castle sits on an island at the junction of three sea lochs, in a glorious setting.


 Eilean Donan Castle


 The bridge to the Eilean Donan Castle

We crossed the bridge to the castle, which is open to the public. The tiny island where the castle stands has been settled since 634 AD, when this tranquil spot was chosen by Bishop Donan for the site of a monastic cell. During the Viking incursions in the 13th century, a castle was built here for protection, which has been expanded and contracted over the years, until we have what we see today.


 Me and Barbs looking over the battlements


 The view of the mainland from Eilean Donan Castle

What a trip to remember! There is so much more of the world to see, I think I shall have to keep travelling forever!

Elizabeth Coughlan

7/04/2016

Inveraray Castle, and Glencoe, Scotland


Our happy band at Inveraray Castle

The present Inveraray Castle, built between 1745 and 1790, is the ancestral seat of the Dukes of Argyll, Chiefs of the Campbell Clan, who have lived on this site since the early 15th century. Today, the castle is set in beautifully maintained gardens by Loch Fyne, surrounded by an area of rugged highland scenery. We visited the castle as part of our tour around Scotland, organised by our niece, Becca, after her graduation from Edinburgh University.

We began with a tour of the castle, starting with Armoury Hall, with its amazing display of some 1300 pieces, including Brown Bess muskets, Lochaber axes, and 18th century Scottish broadswords.


Brown Bess muskets, artistically displayed


Brown Bess muskets with Lochaber axes in between


Barbs, Mart, and Dale, admiring the Armoury


Becca looking at the family medals, with ancient spears behind her


The State Dining Room

This magnificent dining room was featured in the 2012 Christmas episode of Downton Abbey which was partly filmed here, as the fictional "Duneagle Castle".

After our tour of the house, we walked through the grounds, where Barbs fell in love with the beautiful old trees and felt like hugging one.


Barbs at one with nature…


…and framed by a natural tree arch

After visiting the castle, we were on our way to Fort William, to stay at the Myrtle Bank Guest House there. But Becca insisted we stop off at Glencoe to enjoy the view. We weren’t disappointed. This is Scotland’s most famous and most scenic glen, and a magnet for filmmakers looking for dramatic scenery. Braveheart, Rob Roy, Highlander, Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail, and the Harry Potter series of movies were all filmed there.


The dramatic landscape that is Glencoe


David enjoyed taking photos there…


…especially of Mart, Becca, and Dale, framed by the stunning scenery


The lush greenery and the many streams are testament to the constant rainfall


We saw Glencoe in summer. In winter the mountains are covered in snow, and the area becomes 
a popular ski resort with the longest and steepest runs in Scotland

What a wonderful day in the highlands!

Elizabeth Coughlan

7/02/2016

Balmaha, Scotland, UK

 

Barbs, Mart, Me, and Becca in Balmaha

After Becca's graduation from Edinburgh University, we set off on a trip around Scotland. Becca had done all the planning, so the rest of us just followed along.

Our first port of call was to be Balmaha, but on the way we stopped at Stirling for lunch, followed by a visit to the famous Kelpies.


The Kelpies, 30-metre-high horse-head sculptures

These dramatic horse heads, made of 600 tonnes of steel, can even be seen from the M9 motorway in Falkirk. They were built by the Glasgow artist Andy Scott. His inspiration was the traditional Scottish working horses, which used to pull barges along the canals, or worked in the fields where The Kelpies stand today.

Not everyone admires Andy Scott’s masterpiece, though. Jonathan Jones wrote in The Guardian, “Scott's horses are neither well observed nor powerfully imagined – they are simply stale equine symbols." Well, I have to disagree, I thought they were magnificent! …and you can see just how large they are from the image below.


Dale, Becca, Mart, Barbs, and David with a Kelpie

We drove on to the village of Balmaha, on the shores of Loch Lomond, where we were to stay in The Oak Tree Inn, so called because the inn stands in the shade of a 500-year old oak tree. We stayed in one of the little cottages belonging to the hotel, just a few minutes' walk from the main building. We really enjoyed our stay there with great food, and a bar made from a 300-year old elm tree, which stocks 50 types of malt whisky.

The Oak Tree inn is situated in the Trossachs National Park, which claims the largest loch in the whole of the United Kingdom. We climbed Conic Hill to get a better view. Wow! Absolutely beautiful!


There was a beautiful light, and a mist across the mountains

As you can see, we didn’t have much sunny weather in Scotland. In fact, it rained most of the time!


Another view from Conic Hill…


…and another…


…and yet another…


…and I love this one of Barbs and Mart

We descended from the hill (which felt more like a mountain), and walked along the side of the loch, back to the hotel. There we passed the boats we had seen from above (image below).


Boats in harbour, in Balmaha, Scotland

Thanks to Becca’s organisation, we had embarked on a memorable trip. Next stop  Inveraray Castle, and Glencoe.

Elizabeth Coughlan

6/26/2016

A Day in Edinburgh, Scotland


Bandsmen practicing for the Edinburgh Tattoo in Edinburgh Castle

Established in the 12th century (c.1130) by King David 1, Edinburgh is one of Scotland's earliest royal burghs (or borough, as it is known in England). Still overlooked by its Medieval castle, the Edinburgh of today is a mix of the old and the new. As part of our visit to Scotland, Becca gave us a tour of the city she has come to love during her university days there.


The firing of the one o'clock cannon from the castle a tradition dating back to 1861

Originally sounded to enable the ships in Leith Harbour to set their clocks accurately, the “one o'clock gun” is now a very popular tourist attraction.


Although we only had this one day, we just had to visit the castle itself


This is West Bow, Victoria Street, one of the most famous streets in Edinburgh

If you continue on downhill from the Royal Mile, you come to West Bow, leading to Grassmarket, and many of the oldest buildings in the city can be seen there. The word “bow” is the old name for “arch”, as this was the original entrance into the city.


Colourful houses in West Bow, Edinburgh

This area is now the trendy part of the city, with shops, restaurants and bars, full of locals and tourists alike.


This claims to be the smallest pub in Scotland

This public house has only been here since 2013, but its décor fits in very well with the rest of the street. It is so tiny, that it only has room for 20 drinkers, at most, as long as they are all standing up. In fact, it doesn’t even have a bar. Customers have to be served from a small drinks cabinet.


This café is very popular because of its tasty food, and literary connections

The Elephant House was a popular haunt of the authors Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall Smith. It was also where JK Rowling wrote the early Harry Potter books, and is now a place for the boy wizard’s fans to hang out, and probably try their hand at writing their own blockbusters.


St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh

Although St Giles Cathedral, properly called the High Kirk of Edinburgh, was built in the 15th century, its present appearance is as a result of the restoration carried out during the 19th century. This important archaeological landmark also contains over 200 memorials to distinguished Scots.


Memorial to John Knox,
leader of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland

John Knox preached his first sermon on the Reformation at St. Giles in 1559. And was instrumental in spreading the Presbyterian form of Protestantism throughout Scotland.


St Giles is also renowned for its beautiful stained glass windows

Other memorials to famous Scots can be found all over the city. The image below shows the enormous Gothic tribute to Sir Walter Scott, the writer. It is the largest monument to a writer seen anywhere in the world. In fact, the author Bill Bryson likened it to a ‘gothic rocket ship’. …and you can see why.


Memorial to Sir Walter Scott

Edinburgh is a fascinating city, and its rich history, together with its vibrant lifestyle, makes it a city you can visit over and over again. It is definitely on my list for future visits.


Good night, Edinburgh, and thanks for all the fun!

Elizabeth Coughlan

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