Monday, January 4, 2016

That's all, she wrote

Monday was another gloomy day as we set off north for Eilean Donan castle. Jeff had been wanting to visit this castle for some time as it used to be owned by the McKenzie clan, from which I descend on the maternal side. I was like, ho hum, another castle, but you know how we play along with each other's whims, so I went along with good humour.
The roadside never failed to entertain. This little area was filled with imaginative cairns. I love serendipitous stuff like this. I always wonder who stopped and took the time to build them. 

And there it is. The pictures are not spectacular due to the lack of sunlight, but it is still an impressive sight. Eilean Donan means Island of Donan, and there have been fortified structures on this tiny piece of land since the 13th century. The size of the castle fluctuated over the centuries (for unknown reasons) and played its part in the Jacobite uprisings of the 17th and 18th centuries. It was finally destroyed by the British in 1719 when they were bombarding Spanish supporters of the Jacobites who were occupying the castle. The castle remained a ruin for almost 200 years until it was bought by Lt. Colonel John Macrae-Gilstrap. He, along with his Clerk of Works, Farquar Macrae, spent the next 20 years restoring the castle to its former glory, building it according to the surviving ground plan. 

The castle is still owned by the Macrae family, who have a clan gathering every year and also use it for family holidays. I am glad that we toured the castle, as it was full of interesting history and intriguing stories of the family. I wouldn't mind having this place for a family getaway, although the heating bills are probably pretty horrendous! The family seems to managing it rather well, as all of the tourism pays for the upkeep of the castle. 

This video came out a month or two ago. I was tickled when I recognised the castle and couldn't wait to show it to Jeff. 

This was our last planned stop in Scotland, so we wended our way back down to Glasgow in the afternoon. Our last airbnb night was in a very lovely flat in Dumbarton, hosted by a very voluble lady who seemed to think that conversation between host and guests was mandatory, so we complied, or at least Jeff did. I was tired. But she did feed us hot chocolate and some fancy biscuits, so there was that!
The next morning we headed off to a mall to buy some last-minute presents for grandchildren. We found just what we were looking for and then headed back to the airport to return the car. I was very curious how many miles we had driven. The total was 1,650, which doesn't count all the miles we drove with Lynne and Richard. Of course, I wasn't driving then, thankfully. Considering that the entire length of the island is only 600 miles from top to bottom, I think that was a lot of driving! I was just grateful that I hadn't killed or maimed us, because some of those roundabouts are really treacherous for the inexperienced. 
We felt very sad to leave Scotland and England and the people who are dear to us, but were excited to be going home, because look what happened when we were gone.

Little Scarlet Honor, grandchild number twelve, born to Sam and Charlie. And she is delicious.

Thank you for reading along with our adventures. I mostly blog for myself, but it does tickle me when people tell me they enjoy reading about our travels. And the best part is that as I write I get to relive it all over again.
Happy trails!

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Highlands

Sunday morning was very dismal indeed, weather-wise, but we had people to see and places to go, so off we went. First stop was a B & Q just the other side of Glasgow. It had occurred to me that if I picked up some anaglypta wallpaper to take home with us, it would completely solve the stupid-Susan-used-too-much-extra-glue-on-the-wallpaper dilemma in our bedroom. With five rolls of this wallpaper, which can be painted the colour of my desire, the ugly walls will be well hidden. And the pattern is just stripes, so no matching required. 

It was with great satisfaction that we continued our journey, which took us on this crazy road around Loch Lomond. A couple of times I thought we might die, I really did! Narrow and winding with nothing between us and the rocks on one side and the loch on the other. I was driving much slower than everyone else and had to pull over quite frequently to let cars go past, but I didn't care. Life is precious!

The day remained misty, which was unfortunate because things look so much prettier in the sunlight, but the scenery was still impressive.

The further north we went, the grander the scenery became, and once in a while the sun poked out its head. The mountains were awe-inspiring as they loomed over us. I was not expecting this.

We passed the Bridge of Orchy.

And many lochs.

In fact, we stopped so many times to take pictures that the four-hour drive took much longer. It seemed like every time we turned a corner there was another glorious vista just begging us to stop. We were definitely ruing our tight schedule.

We decided to pull into Glencoe, which is the site of a very famous battle. I think we were hungry, but there was no joy for us in Glencoe on that topic. But there was a street lined on both sides by very lovely houses, so we took a stroll down it before driving on.

On and on we drove, heading for our night in Fort William, which would only be a short drive from Eilean Donan Castle the next day.

The mountains became ever more rugged and impressive.

Every now and then, in the middle of these wild lands, we would see a lone house, and we wondered who was ferocious and wonderful enough to live there.

When we reached Loch Linnhe, the sun was doing its thing on the water. 
We pulled over.

Fort William is the second biggest town in the Highlands. It is surrounded by mountains and is so beautiful it almost hurts.

This was our most expensive night of the whole trip, partly due to my procrastinating the booking of the room, but I think also due to the fact that it is so remote that everything is more expensive. We stayed in a bed-and-breakfast owned by an old lady named Marie who had been running the place for several decades. I don't believe she had ever married and it is how she has earned her living all her life. She was a bit curmudgeonly, but in an endearing way. I asked if she minded my cooking our dinner in her kitchen and she was reluctant, but finally decided she could trust me not to take advantage of the situation. She sat in the kitchen and harassed me in a friendly sort of a way while I was cooking, and finally told me that one time she had allowed an Indian family to cook their dinner in her kitchen and they didn't finish until midnight and made a terrible mess, so ever since then she had banned it. So I guess I was lucky she took a liking to me!
Before dinner, we went for a walk down the river. Marie said it was a bit of a hike, but it was a skip in the park for us. Then she said because of her health she had rarely left the house in the last few years, so I guess it's all in your perspective.

The river was beautiful in the fading sun. There were several locks on it and they were all in the act of filling. We tried to figure out the mechanics of it all, but were not very successful.

This photo really gives you an idea of the size of those mountains. Ben Nevis is nearby, which, at a mere 4,409 feet, is the highest mountain in the entire British Isles.

This was one more place that we would have liked to spend more time and when I look at the photos I fall in love with it all over again.