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


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


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

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