A Travellerspoint blog

Farewell to Scotland

......hello again England

sunny 13 °C
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We left Moffat with clear blue skies overhead and frost on the car windows. Moffat has gorgeous patchwork farms with lots of sheep. One sheep in particular was very surprised to see me stop and take a photo over his field to the town below. He stuck his head up when I appeared and kept staring as though he couldn't quite believe it!

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From there it was a leisurely 20 miles to Dumfries, a busy town with a cobbled market area in the centre. Sweetheart Abbey was our next stop. Built in the 1200's by Lady Devoragil ( I think that's right ) in memory of her late husband. The town has risen up around it and is called New Abbey, White lime washed houses with front doors that open right onto the narrow street. At the other end of the street we visited New Abbey Corn Mill. From there it was onto Caelaverock Castle and Nature Reserve; a 13th century castle complete with water filled moat. The castle has been basically left as it was back then, apart from natural decay and it's amazing to see something so ancient!

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We then took the backroads through Annan, Gretna Green, Longtown, Bothel and Keswick to The Lakes District. Narrow roads with hedges or stone fences on either side through farm land and small villages, beautiful country. Unfortunately it seems that every man and his dog has decided to visit the Lakes for the weekend! We are staying at Grange over Sands as `The Lakes' was booked out and even the place we are staying is packed! Hopefully people will head home soon after lunch today!!

Posted by thomastour 09:12 Archived in Scotland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

No surfeit of laudation is possible,

.. for in the Trossachs, the superlative remains absolute (North British Railway brochure - 1914)

sunny 16 °C
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Hi everyone, Geoff says it's my turn to write tonight.

What a gorgeous day! Blue skies with an occasional whispy white cloud. We said our goodbyes to Dave and Alex with a few quiet tears( on my side ). They seem to still be getting on really well ( after sharing a room for the past 7 months - full credit to them ) and look out for each other.

We set off for The Trossachs and the town of Callander. The Trossachs are beautiful gently rolling hills where the Highlands meet the Lowlands. Callander is another delightful old town located on the River Teith. We walked to Bracklinn Falls with views over patchwork farms on the way.

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Then onto Loch Katrine where you can cruise the lake or bike ride around the edge. Sir Walter Scott's famous poem `The Lady of the Lake' was inspired by this lake. We followed `The Trossachs trail' , enjoying the scenery before heading for the edges of Glasgow.

We found Grandma's old street and the area where Grandad lived before they came to Australia.

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Bothwell Castle appeared on a sign so we decided, spare of the moment, to go there. The castle dates from the 13th century and what is still standing mostly dates from that time. A well exists within the castle walls which is probably how they were able to last 14 months of siege before giving in!

Moffat was our destination for tonight so we headed there. I was delighted to find a lovely country town with interesting craft and gift shops and many beautiful walks. We had tea at the `Balmoral Hotel' ( it was delicious and very popular with the locals judging by people cueing at the bar waiting for a table, fortunately we got there just before the rush! )I'm looking forward to walking one of the trails tomorrow............ God is so good!!

Posted by thomastour 11:03 Archived in Scotland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

It never rains on the Isle of Skye

- but it drizzles a lot!

all seasons in one day 13 °C
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The host of the B&B we stayed in on the Isle of Skye had 2 comments about the weather.

    1. It never rains on the Isle of Skye, it only drizzles - but there are 6 levels of drizzle from very fine to very big drops.
    2. The forecast is either 'wet' or 'going to get wet'

But despite the weather we had a great time on the Isle of Skye - the rugged landscape and constantly changing views. It must have been a hard life for the early crofters and fishermen, especially around the north of the island.

Anyway our time on the island finished this morning, so we made our way down to Armadale and caught the car ferry across to Mallaig on the mainland. Then it was a 1 hour drive onto Fort William.

From Fort William it was back across Scotland via Crainlarich (where Dave first worked when he came over here) but not before we stopped for photo's in a number of places and also for lunch. It was a time of driving through some more breathtaking countryside and around numerous loch's as we made our way across the highlands. Just rattling off some names (and this wasn't all of them):
Loch Eil
Loch Linnhe
Loch Leven
Loch Tulla
Loch Lubhair
Loch Tay

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We had lunch at Glencoe (on the banks of Loch Leven) at the only cafe in the town and boy was it busy.

We also stopped at the Crainlarich Hotel - but nobody from Dave's time there was working today (in fact virtually no-one from then still works there), but talking to the restaurant manager, it seems that there are changes for the positive being made.

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Another stop at Killin broke the journey to Aberfeldy and back at the rooms of Dave and Alex.

A very enjoyable 4 days seeing the highlands of Scotland and spending time with Dave.

Posted by thomastour 10:03 Archived in Scotland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Introducing our guest blogger

- Dave

overcast 13 °C
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Hello journeymen and journeywomen,
its with much pride i take the role of guest contributor to this blog and im sure its with much trepidation it was offered(partly owing to my current penchant for communist literature).
It had been many months since I had seen my parents and it was rather strange to have them walk into my workplace in rural Scotland as though it had only been days....
that reminds me actually, a quick update on my current circumstances; I am working and living in rural Perthshire at a small cafe with Alex. We are there storing up funds and sanity for the next travels.
So as you know we are on the wonderful Isle of Skye for a couple of days; seeing the scenery that makes up the west coast of Scotland and catching up on the time I've been away. Today saw us drive down every one lane road, park at every photo oppurtunity and distract Dad from driving everytime one of these opportunities occured. The roads around Skye are something special, its as though they were laid there by someone flicking a black ribbon across the landscape. Weaving around the long sweeping bend in such a dramatic landscape made me certain we were appearing in a car advertisement. The only time this dream was crushed was when the road narrowed to single lane and the most polite game of chicken occurred between us and other cars.
By following one of the long black ribbons we planned to do a large loop around the top of the island. The first major stop of the day was Portree, the largest town on Skye and it was strangely reminiscent of San Sebastion in Spain. Two headlands frame and protect a bay that is built up around the waters edge, it has a serene fishing village atmosphere (something that typifies every settlement on Skye).
Beyond this was a wonderful series of stops along the east coast with views across Raasay to mainland Scotland, It became difficult to know where to look. To the east was the expanse of sea and islands and to the west were mountians stretching into the mist.
Uig was next, its the gateway from Skye to much of the Outer Hebrides thanks to the ferry that happened to leave whilst we had our lunch (photo opportunity no.247).

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The afternoon was a great series of naps disturbed by scenery that beckonned more photos than any set of batteries could handle. We stopped in the late afternoon at Dunvegan Castle and I was not expecting to be impressed, having been in Scotland for a while I have seen some castles and it takes something special to standout amongst the throng of castles here. Eillen Donan has location, Edinburgh has views, Stirling has history but there was something about the combination of all these that made me quite like Dunvegan castle. Its nestled on a rock outcrop in a well protected bay, originally built by Norse migrants around 1000 years ago as they conquered or failed to conquer the rest of Scotland. For the last few hundred years it has been the Clan Home of the MacLeods, one of the more well represented Clans throughout the world. The Clan Chief resides there still, but has thrown open most of the castle and its grounds to the (paying) public.

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As the day and my time with Mum and Dad in Scotland draws to a close it I should say thankyou to them for letting me tag along and pay for me, I'll see them again in Austria at Christmas and maybe you'll all be reading a second guest entry from me then!
Dave :)

Posted by thomastour 11:31 Archived in Scotland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (3)

Thall's a Bhos An t-Eilean Sgitheanach

... translation: 'Out and about on the Isle of Skye'

rain 12 °C
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We woke to a fine Highland drizzle and mist on the mountains. Not daunted we headed out on the Glen Nevis road to be rewarded with rushing mountain rivers, trees clad in gold and green and tumultuous waterfalls. Every now and again the mist cleared to reveal heather clad mountains and lots of narrow streams of water cascading down the slopes.

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Then traveling along the shores of Lochs Cluanie, Duich and Aish we enjoyed beautiful Autumn reflections in the still waters before stopping at Eilean Donan Castle. The castle has featured in movies such as Highlander and James Bond and sits on its own little island in the Loch. They have done a great job of explaining the history of the castle in an interesting way; so many battles and wars in the history of Scotland!

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Stopping at Kyle of Lochalsh for lunch we then traveled over the bridge to Skye. All the signboards in the Highlands are written in Gaelic and English making for very interesting reading! We decided to head south on the island exploring along the narrow road until we couldn't go any further. Then we visited the Armadale Castle Gardens and museum of the Isles. More of the bloody history of the Highlands and romantic story of Bonnie Prince Charlie being rowed away to Skye through the mists. The gardens and castle ruins were lovely but then the rain decided to set in so we headed for Broadford and our accommodation at the Seaview Guesthouse B & B.

The B & B is lovely, very comfy with our own lounge area and little canopy over our bed. It's great traveling with Dave and having a chance to catch up more with him, even though he and Geoff take great delight in picking on me!

Geoff's point of view:
There is really not much to add to what Cathy has already said - even though it has been a day with low cloud, drizzle and rain, the views have been fantastic and worth taking the trouble to see. Driving has been easy with most roads being of A road standard, with the exception of the short trek from Armadale to Aird of Sleat on aa road that required passing bays every 100 metres and which surprisingly carried quite a bit of traffic. This part of Scotland reminds me of the south island of New Zealand with very little in the way of trees, just heather. Also discovered that there are 284 munro's in Scotland - no that is not people called Munro, but mountains over a certain size (3,000 ft). Apparently there are people who set out to climb all of them as a challenge.

Posted by thomastour 10:00 Archived in Scotland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

“Stop looking at that,

… it's just rubbish, it's so old”. (child at Urquhart Castle)

overcast 11 °C
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A fairly leisurely start from the House of Menzies this morning – leaving Alex behind to work and Dave coming with us. Our first stop was Aviemore, an entry point to some of the Scottish ski-fields. This certainly seems to be a town with newer buildings in the main shopping area and is a bit like Jindabyne in Australia. Every second shop seems to be selling hiking or ski wear.

Moving on from there it was obvious we were in the highlands – great views, not many trees and according to the car - cold outside at around 7 degrees. Next stop was Inverness, Cathy was keen to look for dolphins and seals on Moray Firth, but apparently the prime times for seeing them around end in September. The waters on the Firth were really calm and there was no sign of either. We went around to Fort George and were amazed at the size of it. This is still a working barracks and not as old as some of the castles we have viewed. It was an interesting design, having been first set up to repel invasion from land and then having been added to to change the focus to attack by sea (from the French in the early 1800's). It did see action as a land fort but never fired it's cannons in anger out to the sea. However it had a strategic position controlling the narrowest part of Moray Firth.

We passed through Inverness and then headed down south again, this time along the shores of Loch Ness. We stopped a number of times for photo's and to admire the view, but not once did we see the monster – probably too cold! And anyway with the number of boats out on the Loch, no self respecting monster would bother coming up to the surface.

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We saw Urquhart Castle, but didn't go into it. Cathy heard a young boy say to his parents (this should be with a Scottish accent, but I can't write it) “stop looking at that, it's just rubbish, it's so old”'.

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At Fort Augustus (we didn't see any fort), but we had a walk around and saw a boat going through the locks which allowed it to move from the level of Loch Lochy to Loch Ness.

Finally we ended up at Fort William for the night – tea at an Indian Restaurant and a fairly early night.

Posted by thomastour 09:56 Archived in Scotland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Come let us spend the lightsome days,

In the birks of Aberfeldy. (Robbie Burns)

all seasons in one day 12 °C
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A day spent around Aberfeldy - as Dave had to work another day before he could start our short Scottish tour with us.

First up was a visit to the Birks of Aberfeldy, birks is Scots for birch trees and the walk took us for 2.1 miles up one side of a gorge and down the other - starting at stream level and climbing to be above the Falls of Moness. It was a really nice walk with some great views of the waterfall and other associated small falls. In fact the walk was so inspiring that the poet Robbie Burns was known to go and sit among the birks for inspiration and wrote the song BIRKS OF ABERFELDY
Chorus.-Bonie lassie, will ye go,
Will ye go, will ye go,
Bonie lassie, will ye go
To the birks of Aberfeldy!

Now Simmer blinks on flowery braes,
And o'er the crystal streamlets plays;
Come let us spend the lightsome days,
In the birks of Aberfeldy.
Bonie lassie, &c.

While o'er their heads the hazels hing,
The little birdies blythely sing,
Or lightly flit on wanton wing,
In the birks of Aberfeldy.
Bonie lassie, &c.

The braes ascend like lofty wa's,
The foaming stream deep-roaring fa's,
O'erhung wi' fragrant spreading shaws-
The birks of Aberfeldy.
Bonie lassie, &c.

The hoary cliffs are crown'd wi' flowers,
White o'er the linns the burnie pours,
And rising, weets wi' misty showers
The birks of Aberfeldy.
Bonie lassie, &c.

Let Fortune's gifts at randoe flee,
They ne'er shall draw a wish frae me;
Supremely blest wi' love and thee,
In the birks of Aberfeldy.
Bonie lassie, &c.

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From Aberfeldy we then went on a bit of a drive around the region and really enjoyed the views (Geoff enjoyed driving in the roads, even if they were a bit narrow).We went through Scotson, Milton, Ballinlick, Dunkeld, Pitlochry, Blair Athol, Killiecrankie, Tressait & Tummel Bridge.

Stopped for lunch at Pitlochry and had a good walk around the town and around to the dam and fish ladder. Then also stopped on the way home at a point called Queens Views overlooking Loch Tummel. This is considered one of the outstanding beauty spots in all of Scotland with a panorama of loch and mountain scenery stretches westwards as far as the Glen Coe hills, on clear days. There is just a little doubt about which Queen is meant. Victoria certainly visited it in 1866 and Mary Queen of Scots was know to visit the area.

Anyway we finished the day with a return visit to Pitlochry with the boys for tea.

Posted by thomastour 23:09 Archived in Scotland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Arrival at Castle Menzies Farm

... and meeting up with Dave & Alex

semi-overcast 15 °C

The big aim for the day was to get to Castle Menzies Farm (the temporary home of Dave & Alex) before 5pm - while the shop was still open and we could see Dave before he finished work.

First stop on the journey was the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens - they were great, a real variety of styles and plants. There was this massive hedge running through the gardens - it must have been 5 metres high and it provided the perfect backdrop for a number of semi formal gardens that backed onto it.

Then it was off to Stirling - and Stirling Castle in particular. Another interesting place, with a lot of history and changes through the ages. If you were to pick a spot for a castle - this would be one of the better ones with views over the surrounding areas and difficulty in reaching the walls. Some of the buildings, including the King's Great Hall have been restored (it has massive oak beams in the ceiling that have no nails or bolts - just wooden dowels holding it together) and the Queens residence is currently undergoing major restoration. Part of that restoration is the creation of a series of tapestries based on some originals from the castle - these are each taking a team of 3-4 weavers around 3 years to make (and that is using a coarser weave than the original).

After Stirling Castle - it was onto Stanley Mill, which was a water powered (taking it's water from the Tay River) cotton mill that operated up until the 1970's. The technology changed over that time - especially in terms of how the water was used to run the mill, going from simple water wheel driving belts to a water turbine. It has been set up as an educational display showing the conditions that people worked in in the mills (they preferred children because they were smaller and more nimble) and the technology involved.

Finally - we got to Castle Menzies (or more correctly - the 'House of Menzies' cafe and shop) just before 5pm.

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Dave made us a cappucino (Geoff) and hot chocolate (Cathy) and we had a look around while they closed up for the day and did the standard cleanup. Then it was the long walk of 5 metres over to the apartment Dave & Alex have beside the shop and which was to be our accommodation for the next few days. Tea cooked by Dave and an evening spent catching up finished another enjoyable day. Castle Menzies Farm is just 1 1/2 miles outside Aberfeldy in a beautiful location and from where I'm sitting now has a clear view of Castle Menzies - the ancestral home of the Menzies clan. The farm is separate to the castle but includes a working farm, chicken farm, accommodation (various buildings that were part of the old estate that are rented out as tourist accommodation) and a busy shop, cafe, wine seller (they specialise in Australian wines).

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Posted by thomastour 00:03 Archived in Scotland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Mary King's Close

The only street in Edinburgh where it never rains!

overcast 11 °C
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It was raining when we headed off on foot to explore Edinburgh this morning. Starting with Edinburgh Castle - which required a bit of a climb. It took quite a while to explore the castle - seeing and finding out all sorts of things about the movement of Scotland into and out of self rule. One thing I've come to realise with the castles we have seen is that a castle wasn't just built and then left as-is, in all cases they have had substantial changes and additions over the years/centuries as circumstances changed and rulers changed. One of the things we saw at the castle were the Scottish Crown Jewels - really fairly minimal being a crown, sword, scabbard, belt and sceptre. It was also interesting how the papacy controlled what symbols of kingship could be used.

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From the castle it was a walk down the Royal Mile. It took close to 3 hours - but Cathy insists that was because we stopped for lunch and had a look at St. Giles Cathedral (the head kirk in the Presbyterian Church) and looked through John Knox's house as well as doing a few more things. It's a pity the history of the Royal Mile is ruined by a modern monstrosity of the new Scottish Parliament.

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After the Royal Mile it was around to Princes Street which is the edge of the 'new city' - new meaning 19th century.

A bit of time in the Art Gallery and then we had tea before visiting Mary King's Close. Back several centuries ago there were a whole series of closes (narrow streets) running downhill off the Royal Mile with buildings up to 14 stories high. In the 1800's they levelled these to the street level of the Royal Mile and built government buldings on top of the remaining parts - meaning that there were whole dwellings and closes forming an underground city, After a while these were deserted and forgotten, but now they are a source of interest and there are tours of them. Hence the street where it never rains - we walked on it. And when we got out - guess what, it was raining outside.

Cathy's thoughts: Well, here we are in Bonnie Scotland! It seems that just by crossing the border the temperature's dropped down heaps. Today's the first day I decided I definitely needed a singlet! Despite some fine rain to start the day and the same to finish the rest of the day has been dry but with a chilly wind.
Enjoyed Edinburgh Castle and all the history of the Kings and Queens. Edinburgh is quite small in comparison to London, the streets are lined with stone buildings usually several stories high.

I also climbed Nelson's monument for great views of the city and surrounding hills and Firth of Forth. There were several monuments in this area telling some of the history of Scotland.

Tonight's tour underground was fascinating and a real insight into how people lived there 400 or more years ago. We also visited the People's Museum earlier in the day for more visual history of Edinburgh's population, their occupations and lifestyles over the years.

Posted by thomastour 12:58 Archived in Scotland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Where is Berwick?

..or should that be North Berwick?

sunny 12 °C
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`You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest' Psalm 139:3

Cathy: We woke to another beautiful day and a delicious breakfast at our B&B. Off we set for Housesteads a well preserved section of Hadrian's wall and the most complete example of a Roman fort in Britain. How amazing that something built nearly 2,000 years ago is still around for us to see. The Romans were very industrious and advanced, even constructing their own version of flushing toilets! Hadrian's wall was constructed to protect Roman Britain from the barbarian Scots! It's built on a natural ridge, the Whin Sill, and you can see how difficult it would have been for anyone wanting to attack them.

Kielder Water was our next stop, a large man made lake surrounded by Kielder Forest, one of Britain's largest nature reserves.

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From there we traveled into Scotland, more beautiful countryside but looking a bit wilder. We loved the sheep grazing by the roadside and several times on the road! We followed the border for miles, Jedburgh was a surprise with an amazing abbey dating from the 1100's towering over the stone buildings of the town. On to Kelso for a quick look at Floors Castle and then onto Berwick.`Is that Berwick on Tweed?' says Geoff. Looking at the map, that was the only Berwick I could see so I said `Yes' and off we headed. The town right on the coast is another walled city, the walls built around the time of Elizabeth 1 and Mary Queen of Scots when England and Scotland were battling against each other. We enjoyed walking around the perimeters and the seaside and river. It was only as we headed to Edinburgh and I said can you add to go via North Berwick ( which I assumed was just north of Berwick on Tweed ) that we discovered North Berwick was 31 miles away! Apart from that we actually managed not to get lost today, even finding our accommodation without a hitch! It's been a glorious day, relaxing and full of delights.

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And Geoff's version:
Our B&B overnight was great - and it was good to have a conversation with the owner and other guest at breakfast this morning. Found out that there are many similarities with how university students end their courses with debts that need to be repaid once they start earning enough. Also starting to notice the accents - the other guest was a fellow from Newcastle who was doing a bike ride from Carlisle to Newcastle (the narrowest point of England) - we found him hard to understand at first, but gradually got used to the accent and could better understand what he had to say.

The Roman fort at House Steads was really interesting - it covered an area of 5 acres and was a town in itself. There were only the bottom layes of stonework for most buildings, but they had identifed what each building was and how it fitted in to the overall scheme of how the romans operated. Hadrian's Wall was also interesting - not much is left in anything like it's original state, I suspect that over the centuries, the locals have pinched the rocks to make their drystone fences.

Once again I loved the driving - mainly 'B' roads with little traffic, narrow and winding, but you're able to drive at a reasonable speed as well as enjoy the views.

Berwick-on-Tweed was interesting, having changed control between the Scots and the English many times up until returning to (and staying in English control) around 1485. that was when the stone wall was built and fortifications set up around the river to cover any invasion from the sea.

From there it was an easy run to Edinburgh and the GPS wound us through the streets in the older parts of town to take directly to our B&B where we are staying for 2 nights. We're staying just a few minutes walk from the Old Town (you might need to read tomorrow's blog to understand what I mean by that) and walked up there for tea tonight - only to be served by a young fellow from Canberra (yes the one in Australia) who is on a working holiday.

Posted by thomastour 13:25 Archived in Scotland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

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