Another ‘Most Beautiful Place in the World’. There seem to be a lot!


Skye

I thought Skye was the most beautiful place in the whole world. Perhaps it is. It was sunny while we were there, with a fresh breeze that blew away the midges, and we walked in the valley between mountains and watched an eagle (a real eagle for goodness sake!) swooping. I have shared my photo, but brace yourself—I’m not the photographer my sister is.

We stayed at Sligachan Hotel for one night, and we had a room in a tower, which was pretty exciting as I have never stayed in a tower before. We then drove to Portree, through more amazing countryside, and stayed for a few days in a little Airbnb on the hill. It wasn’t very fancy, though I was delighted to find it had a washing machine after 2 weeks on the road. It also had a view down to the harbour, and across the hills to the mountains we had walked through. Really, you cannot get enough of looking at those mountains.

The harbour at Portree is pretty, with painted houses and hills. There’s a lump of land, called The Lump, which today is a viewpoint and in the past was where they used to hang people. Nice place to die.

We drove to the Quiraing one day, which is an area of interesting geology because the earth has sort of slipped off the rocks. We didn’t really see any of that, as the weather was bad (or possibly ‘normal’ for Scotland) and it was misty. There were clouds of midges, but luckily we had bought some clever pop-up hats with midge nets. It was actually quite fun to wear them (and better than having my face covered in midges dying in the Avon oil I had bought). We also saw a dead sheep (but that’s probably not a great incentive to visit).

There were some lovely walks from Portree, with footpaths next to the coast, past fish farms. We looked across the water to islands, searched for otters (didn’t see any) and always those mountains, standing tall in the background. Too beautiful to describe.

There is a waterfall on Skye where the water falls into pools made by the rocks. The Fairy Pools. They are lovely, but when we visited there were so many people it was spoilt. We slogged up the hill feeling hot and avoiding people, then walked back to the car. Better to visit in the winter I expect.

Fairy Pools

Our best dinners were at Dulse and Brose. We shared a wonderful fish platter, complete with pickled herrings and heaps of crab meat. We ate so much good fish in Scotland—worth visiting for that alone.

When we left Skye I promised myself that one day I would return. It was such a beautiful place. I wondered where we were going next, and whether it could possibly be as lovely as Skye. Well actually yes, it was! I will tell you about it in my next blog.

Thank you for reading.

Take care.
Love, Anne x

Scotland has lots of Rowan Trees
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The Isle of Mull


The Isle of Mull

We caught the ferry from Oban to Mull. It was very efficient; these ferries cross the water regularly and so although August brings more tourists, the service ran to time. We arrived too early to check into the hotel, so we drove the long way round the island. Mull is beautiful. I had thought Glencoe was the most beautiful place in the world, now I wasn’t so sure.

The sun glinted from the sea at every corner, and tiny islands grew from the surface. Birds swooped, and sea otters dived in the lochs. Actually, we never saw a sea otter, but the rest is true. I spent many peaceful hours searching the waters and not seeing an otter.

The island has about three roads. Only three. They are single track, with passing places and signs telling tourists to use the passing places so the locals can pass. I wasn’t sure the locals especially like tourists. We paused in a passing place—a big one that fitted three cars—and a passing local stopped just so he could shout at us and tell us not to use the passing place to take photos. We hadn’t left the car, and there was plenty of room for several cars to pass—like I said, I’m not sure that locals like tourists.

We drove to Tobermory. If you ever watched the children’s show Balamory then you will recognise Tobermory. Same place, but the inhabitants are way less bouncy. We were staying at the Tobermory Hotel (though they wouldn’t let us check in until the correct time—like I said, I’m not sure that locals like tourists). We wandered around the town, with its painted houses and pretty harbour. There were a few gift shops, but everything was hideously expensive. When we were allowed to check in at the hotel, we were shown to a lovely little room, with a view over the harbour. The bathroom window had no blinds, and only the bottom half was frosted, so I hope none of the many people in the harbour ever looked up. Nice view for us though.

The best thing about the hotel (for me) was the breakfasts. Lots of fresh fruit, good coffee, a selection of hot food cooked to order. Husband ate the full Scottish breakfast, I had the porridge. This was very good porridge (I had eaten some pretty rough porridge so far on our trip). Probably not the reason most people visit the island for, but worth bearing in mind if you’re planning a trip.

One day we visited the little Tobermory distillery. The tours were all cancelled (due to Covid) but they offered us some whisky to taste (note: whiskey from Ireland, whisky from Scotland). One tasted much like other whiskies I have tasted, the other was like liquid charcoal. I am not a fan of whisky. Husband bought a bottle of the charcoal variety and raved about how lovely and smoky it was. (I was very pleased, as this unexpected extravagant purchase paved the way for me to buy all sorts of lovely things!)

Our best meal was at Cafe Fish, which is right on the harbour, with boats arriving to unload fresh seafood while we ate. Great place for a good fish dinner.

Another day we drove to Fionphort and caught a ferry to Iona Island. This was very small and peaceful and is where St. Columba arrived in 563 and founded an abbey. This was the first time Christianity arrived in the UK, and was not very long after the Christian Bible was compiled, so it is a significant place. It also has seagulls and grassy hills and ruins and a few cottages clustered near the water. The modern-day Abbey is used for ecumenical retreats, because the monks all left in the 1500’s. The island was nice, but I didn’t particularly rave over it. Maybe there were too many tourists. My favourite part was the Highland cattle that had wandered onto the beach.

We left Tobermory and caught the ferry to Skye. I thought the Isle of Mull was the most beautiful place in the world. I was wrong…

Thank you for reading about our road trip through Scotland. I will tell you more in my other blogs. We visited several islands, and even stayed in a castle. Such an adventure!

Take care.
Love, Anne x

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Onich


More stories from our Scottish road trip.

Lodge on the Loch

After staying in Crinan, we drove to an hotel in Onich, which overlooks Loch Linnhe. This was the first time (of many) that I asked: “Is this the sea?” because it was hard to know. It joins the sea, but is a lake (or loch, as it’s in Scotland).

We stayed at Lodge on the Loch. This is a hotel that has seen better days, but the rooms were large and clean, and the staff were friendly (there just weren’t enough of them). If they buy some beds that don’t sag in the middle, and employ a few more people, then it could be lovely again because the position is wonderful. Our room overlooked the loch, and we were a short drive from Glencoe (possibly the most beautiful place in the world) and Glen Etive (also beautiful and with fewer people).

In August, as well as beauty, Scotland has midges. Our first walk in Glencoe, once we had managed to find a parking place, we were beset with midges whenever we stopped walking. Tiny insects that float around—later in our travels we had one day when the air was thick with them. I had bought some ‘Skin-so-Soft’ from Avon, which was rumoured to protect against midges. In my experience, it didn’t keep them away, they simply died in the oil, so my skin was covered in oil and drowned midges. Not a highlight.

Not much could detract from the beauty of Glencoe though—not midges, nor the swarms of other tourists who were there. Mountains reaching the clouds, green valleys, waterfalls and rivers. Hard to think of a more beautiful place.

The following day we drove to Glen Etive. More beauty, with mountains, forests, waterfalls. We watched some canoes swooshing down the bubbling river, walked to a waterfall, enjoyed the peace.

Lodge on the Loch is near Ben Nevis, so I persuaded Husband (who had a headache) that we should stroll up the mountain for a short while. The day was sunny and hot, and we arrived as most people were leaving. The mountain is well-signed, with a clear path (if you choose the easy route) and a cafe at the base. We chatted to a man who had started the climb that morning, and it had taken about 8 hours to the peak and back. He was drinking his fifth can of lemonade.

We joined the flow of people on the path, and walked up for about an hour. It was easy walking, with no scary edges. But in the sunshine, it was very hot. I was wearing a thick dress, and switched it for Husband’s cotton shirt because it was simply too hot to walk. After an hour, we came to a point where the path grew steeper, and although going up would be fine, I knew it would terrify me coming down (plus it was only meant to be a stroll) so we turned back. Probably I cannot claim to have climbed Ben Nevis (not sure a quarter of it counts) but nice to have done it.

We ate in a lovely pub called Laroch in Ballachulish. Ballachulish was a tiny community that grew up around a slate mine. There were information signs, and we saw the flooded mines, and white worker-houses and imagined a time when their hobnailed boots would have rattled through the village on their way to the mine. The food in Laroch was brilliant—worth a visit if you’re in the area.

We left the hotel at 7 the next morning. My back was painful due to saggy bed, so I wasn’t sure the day would go well. We were due to catch a ferry from Oban to the Isle of Mull. I had thought Glencoe was the most beautiful place on earth, and that I had seen the best of Scotland. I was wrong, so very very wrong…

Thanks for reading. I will post more blogs of our travels through Scotland in the next few weeks. It was all planned as a surprise, and we stayed in some amazing places (including castles) so I hope you enjoy sharing the adventure with me.

Take care.
Love, Anne x

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Scotland


Planning a Trip to Scotland

We went to Scotland. We had wanted to go back to the US, to hire a car and travel around for a month, the same as in 2019. But as we watched the governments changing their minds and making (illogical) decisions, we cancelled our flights while we could still get a refund, and changed our destination to Scotland. Husband planned it all, because it was his ‘thing’ and so when we set off, I had only the vaguest idea of where we were going and what we would see. It was quite an adventure!

First stop was Durham. Not a city that I know well, but we arrived in time for a wander around and I can tell you that it’s a lovely old city, surprisingly small, with a prison and a university (don’t get those in a muddle) and a very old cathedral. The cathedral is notable for its big knocker, which if criminals managed to touch in the Middle Ages, they could be granted sanctuary for 37 days. I’m guessing it didn’t work very well, as the modern prison is fairly large.

The other thing I should mention before we drive to Scotland, is the river. Durham has a lovely wide river, great for running next to in the morning.

We made it to Scotland the following day and drove to Seamill, which is fairly near Glasgow but on the coast. The scenery was pretty, Scotland has lots of bumpy land (not really hills, just bumps) and mountains and water.

We stayed at The Seamill Hydro Hotel, and they were hosting a wedding. We tried very hard to not be in all their photographs, but wherever we went there seemed to be a man with a video camera. The married couple will wonder forever who the strange couple were, looming in the background of every shot!

The Seamill Hydro Hotel and a slightly windswept Anne!

The hotel was on the coast, and we walked along the beach. Later, as we travelled through Scotland, my most asked question was: “Is this the sea?” because mostly it was impossible to know. There are so many interconnected lochs, and such rugged coastline, that you could never be sure if you could see the other side of a bay or an island. At Seamill we could see islands. We had booked to visit Arran (which I had thought was the home of the Aran jumper—because I cannot spell!) but our ferry was cancelled due to Covid. Instead we went to Cumbrae. Cumbrae is a small island, and ferries run regularly, like a bus, no need to book, just turn up and go.

We hired bikes and whizzed round the coast, then caught the ferry home. Pretty place, with boats bobbing in the harbour, a few shops, pretty hills.

We left Seamill, and drove north. Our first journey took us past a castle. I love castles, and Scotland has loads. Some are derelict, often the setting for battles between the clans or fights with the English in days gone by. Some are ‘modern,’ built in baronial style (like Balmoral where the royal family holiday) with pretty fairytale turrets.

Scotland also has lots of islands, and most of them have regular ferries pootling between them. Sometimes the distances are vast though, so we only ventured to a few islands off the West coast. Some were amazingly beautiful.

We spent some time driving North, up the Western side of Scotland, sometimes staying on islands, sometimes in glens nestling between mountains. Then we drove across country, through pine forests and over mountains to flatter, empty land. We stayed in posh hotels, and cheap Airbnbs, and hotels that had seen better days. And then, to my surprise, we stayed in an actual derelict/partly renovated castle full of stuffed animals and mice (and probably ghosts) and then a castle which was like a stately home, where I felt as if I was living in Downton Abbey. I will tell you all about it in my later blogs. It was such an adventure, and really fun for me to never know where we were going next.

Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoy travelling through Scotland with me (there are less midges this way!)

Take care.
Love, Anne x

Thanks for reading.

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