Monday, August 28th, 2006

Exploring Scotland 2006

Tony doing a rainbow dance

note: Tony's edits are in blue.


We just got back from a lovely trip around Scotland with Tony’s sister, Frances. It was good to see the rest of the country that we have been living in for the last 9 months. We decided to rent a car again and I have to say I did much much better this time around with the driving, no Canadian moments at all! :) We really lucked out with the weather too, it only rained when we were driving or sleeping (for the most part). Had some sun too! Definitely can’t complain about the weather!


Drove to Glencoe the first day taking time to stop for lunch at Loch Lomond. We lucked out with our accommodation here as we had a caravan all to ourselves, kitchen, bathroom, two rooms and a living room! We were impressed! Glencoe is one of the great glens of Scotland and is one we had heard lots about, a must see when visiting Scotland apparently. We enjoyed the big mountains, rivers, lochs, and very green landscape… although not many trees. Different than what we are used to in BC when we hike there. Went for a hike on a mountain around here which ended up being gruelling as we ascended for hours along a tiny little trail which eventually disappeared on us and we just scrambled up to the mountain top. Turns out we weren’t on the trail we had wanted in the first place…. Oh well… It didn’t help that we are incredibly out of shape now that we are living like Brits :P hehehe The view was very nice at the top but I have to say we are very spoiled in BC cause it just didn’t compare. It did feel good though to get on our feet and do some exercise.


Met up with some of my physio friends who were camping nearby in Glen Etive. The experience was very Scottish but one we all hope to never live through again as we were attacked by midges…. horrible biting tiny little insects, similar to mosquitos, but a million times worse! They come in giant swarms and there is nothing you can do to avoid being bitten. We doused ourselves in the “insect repellent” that we had been advised to use (which was actually Avon’s Moisturizer “skin so soft”… our skin was very soft the next day) but that was still not enough protection. We had our hoods pulled up over our heads, fleeces/sweaters buttoned up completely, trousers on and still no protection. They are tiny so they get in anywhere, they get trapped in your clothes so you think you are safe but really they are in there biting you. Somehow we got bites on our thighs, stomachs, backs, chests… you name it :P Frances and I had it the worst, Tony seemed to think we were wimps because we were so itchy and for the rest of the trip if we even saw one midge we would get out our Avon Skin so Soft and cover ourselves…(Yup, it got pretty rediculous.  They would stop when they saw one fly and spend a good 10 minutes covering themselves with chemicals while they stood still and attracted more midges -- if there were any there at all that is -- before walking the rest of the 300 meters to get back to the hostel!)  The midges must’ve gotten caught in Frances’ scarf cause the next day it looked like she had a bad case of acne on her chest, poor girl! My friends were asking us about bears when camping in Canada and were shocked at how good their sense of smell was and the precautions you had to take in the back-country.  Eventually they asked us whether we preferred midges or bears when camping. Without hesitating, we said bears, which they were very surprised about! (Hmm, I'm not so sure...I’d take the midges) Hehehehe I guess you can’t truly experience the highlands of Scotland without encountering midges, definitely something we will never forget.


Went through Fort William, a very nice outdoorsy town at the base of Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in Britain. Will have to go back sometime to hike it, only hiked the base of it really cause we got too hot and started late in the day. Besides, our crazy mountain hike in Glencoe was much harder since there is a nice wide path to follow up Ben Nevis, little kids were doing it…


Went out to the Glenfinnian Viaduct to where they filmed part of the Harry Potter movies. We managed to time it just right and got to see the Hogwarts Express travel over the viaduct. You should have seen how excited Frances and I were, we dragged Tony out of bed early that day just to make sure we didn’t miss it. Everyone was cheering as the Hogwarts Express let us know it was just around the corner by sounding its whistle. It was definitely worth it!


Spent a couple days walking and driving around the Isle of Skye. The scenery varies so much from one area to the other, with big mountains, coastal routes, nice beaches…. Found a very interesting place called Fairy Glen, the green hills had interesting lined patterns on them like rings surrounding the hills. It was so unique it definitely looked like fairy’s lived there. There was a big rock formation in the center which was called the castle. Spent some time wandering around there, it was so different from anything we had ever seen before, very neat. Went for a walk along the Coral beaches, which look like white sandy beaches from far away but when you get close are made up of tiny little shells, again quite different from most things we’ve seen. Very nice landscape once again. We saw so many highland cattle, which I still get excited about :P hehe

Spent a bit of time in Inverness, which we loved. Went out to Loch Ness, thought we saw Nessie, but turned out to be a boat :P hehehe It looked like any other loch, although we caught it on a bit of a grey day, so I’m sure it would’ve looked a lot prettier on a nicer day.


Drove around the northern peninsula of Scotland, stopping at John O’Groats, the supposedly most northern tip of Scotland’s mainland. The day was long and the scenery quite barren in areas but nonetheless quite majestic in its own way. The hills are covered in purple heather, quite gorgeous. And there are sheep everywhere! Visited Smoo Cave in the north of Scotland where we did a little boat tour into the cave to explore its caverns. Quite interesting. The guide was telling us they were scuba diving into one water hole and found another very large cavern under there, but they can't explore it very well as every time they go down there the slightest movement kicks up silt everywhere and takes visibility down to zero for hours afterwards.  They're currently raising money to rent a scuba-diving robot to go in there and explore further.


Now I know we haven't mentioned her yet, but there was another person on the trip -- Jane.  She gets a bit cranky when we take breaks and start going somewhere she doesn't like but for the most part she was a welcome addition to the trip... She's the voice on my GPS program that tells us where to go.  Nobody knew how to get to our next spot so I told "Jane" the address and she led us through some beautiful country roads for miles and miles, and when she finally announced "You have reached your destination!" we were rolling to a stop in front of the gates to a castle!  We couldn't believe our eyes as we drove into the castle walls and saw where we were staying for the night.  The haunted Castle Carbisdale was definitely one of the highlights of our trip! We felt so spoiled here. It cost us the same as all our accommodation but this castle was amazing! The detail in the furniture and pictures was great and there was a room filled with statues. The three of us were in awe. It was crazy enough driving up to it and through the gates up to the castle looming up above us. Even that would have satisfied us. But inside it was even better. We spent the rest of the night exploring every nook and cranny we could get into. There were so many rooms and passages to see. Saw no ghosts though, but did read about the different sightings in the castle.

Spent a day in Aberdeen, a lovely city with all its buildings (or at least what we saw) made up of grey granite. A very different look than the other places we visited on this trip.


Stopped by St. Andrews on our way home hoping to eat some good fish n chips that had been recommended to us, only to find the road was closed and we couldn’t get to the little town. St. Andrews itself is beautiful though. The stone architecture gives this town a very nice feel.


Did a ghost tour in Edinburgh. It was well done, a tour of the haunted underground vaults and lots of history of Edinburgh, about the plagues and the great fire, witch burnings…etc... Didn’t think we encountered any ghosts by the end of it, but mysteriously Frances’ phone died after entering the vault with the “poltergeist”….  We were all warned to turn off our mobiles and camaras before entering this specific vault as many mobiles die or phonebooks get rearranged or deleted after people go through this specific one. No scratch marks though… Was good for a little scare :)


Now back in Glasgow it feels good to be in our flat again. After 9 months of not eating sushi due to its insane prices here we went out and bought ingredients and made it ourselves. Had miso soup and everything! We feasted that night and it felt good!



Tony and I are heading to Italy today for three weeks before I start classes again at the end of September. We are looking forward to exploring Italy, a country I have wanted to visit for a long time. We are also looking forward to its nice warm weather and some sun and getting to wear some summer clothes for a change! Will be a nice end to our summer out here!


Hope everyone is well. Miss you all!



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