Sunday, July 19, 2015

Isle of Skye

Next up--our two-night stay on the Isle of Skye!

Where we stayed: Marine House, Portree
Why we wanted to come: A curiosity to see a rather remote part of Scotland that was said to be quite beautiful. Anyway, the name just sounds intriguing, doesn't it?
Major sights: Driving loop around the north end of the island, the Fairy Pools

The are no big towns on Skye, but Portree is one of the largest. Still, it's a pretty small place with a quaint harbor. Christina did a fantastic job finding us a B&B--Marine House was right on the harbor-front. You can see it in this picture--it's the little pink house on the left at the back of the harbor, in between the white and brown houses. The owner was another very sweet lady who served us a fantastic breakfast. An added treat was that our room had a window looking straight out at the harbor.

 We also climbed a hill and got a bigger view of the bay that Portree is next to. The land in the distance is actually another smaller island--the Isle of Raasay.

Sunset in the harbor.

 On our one full day in Skye we did a drive around the north side of the island.

On the right side of this picture you can see a rock formation called the Old Man of Storr.

The steep cliffs in the background here are called Kilt Rock.

At one point we turned off the main road to drive up to a pass over the island. This was another competitor for "windiest spot" during our trip.

Yes, Amber really did drive up this road!!

So wild and beautiful!

My favorite sheep picture. We saw lots of sheep and lambs, but I just love this picture. There were sheep everywhere--in the fields and sometimes on the roads.

You can just barely see a hint of more islands out there across the water. Those, I'm pretty sure, were the Outer Hebrides. The Isle of Skye is actually part of the Inner Hebrides.

After lunch, we headed south in search of the famed Fairy Pools, which have lovely turquoise blue water. It was a bit of an adventure finding them. We had to drive along another single track road (similar to the road we had been on that morning), dotted with many pull-out spots to let on-coming traffic pass. It wasn't really that far from Portree, but it seems like it took a long time to get there, because we weren't sure what we were looking for.

The Black Cuillin Mountains on our way to the Fairy Pools (at least, I'm pretty sure that's what they were). 

The road to the pools looked so remote, it felt as though there wouldn't be very many people there. And yet, we had been sight-seeing enough in the Highlands by now that I had a sneaking suspicion it wound't be that way. I said jokingly to the girls that when we finally found the Fairy Pools there would probably be a parking lot full of lots of tourists, complete with a food truck. As it turned at, there was a food truck (and a lot of tourists)--greatly to my surprise!

The path to the Fairy Pools.

The Fairy Pools are spread out along a fairly easy hiking trail that winds through a glen towards the mountains. Along the way we got to cross a few little streams.

 One of the pools with its signature turquoise blue water.

I was trying to imitate a postcard we had bought in this picture. It didn't turn out as vivid as the postcard, but it's still pretty!

You know you're in Scotland when you see a man wearing a kilt taking pictures across the way.

Driving Across the Highlands!

This post isn't about one particular city, but about a wonderful road trip from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye. It was our second adventure with a rental car, and again Amber did a fantastic job of maneuvering roads large and small!

We  stopped at a lot of fun places along the way. First off was lunch on the "bonny banks of Loch Lomond." There was a rest stop of sorts there that was a convenient stopping point on our road.

Our typical lunch--apples and Nutella or almond butter sandwiches.

I don't remember the name of this valley, but it was really pretty, and there was a pull-off at the top of a pass at this spot complete with a food truck (we didn't eat there).

Amber and Christina take in the view. As I recall it was really, really windy here. Not the first or last windy place we would experience on our trip.

We also made a short stop at Inverary Castle. It had a really pretty garden. Amber knew of it, because it was used in the Downton Abbey 2012 Christmas special.

Perhaps my favorite stop of the day was Kilchurn Castle. It was such a moody, atmospheric place. It was a ruin, and yet there were still parts left that you could climb around in.

This is the trail to the castle. It was really muddy!

We also stopped at an overlook above Castle Stalker, which was featured in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

That night we stayed at cute little Inchconnal B&B in Glencoe. The lady who ran it was delightful and we wished we could have stayed longer in her cozy little house.

We were only stopping through for the night, so we didn't get to enjoy Glencoe as much as we would have liked. However, we did make a quick trip down through the glen after dinner at The Boots Bar at Clachaig Inn. Glencoe is gorgeous! It's a great area for hiking, though we didn't get to do any. It also has a tragic history: Glencoe was the location of a infamous massacre when a local clan was late in swearing allegiance to the king of England.

A rainbow outside the Clachaig Inn, looking up Glencoe valley.

Glencoe is full of little streams and waterfalls.

We were there in late May, and there was still snow on the higher hills!

The next day we were back on the road, enjoying more beautiful scenery on our way to the Isle of Skye.

Our road took us past Loch Ness! Sadly, we did not see any sign of Nessie. :-(

This was not the scenic backdrop I was hoping for (it was next to a rest stop), but we did see some Highland cows. They're very cute! 

Our last stop before the Isle of Skye was Eilean Donan castle. It's such a pretty castle--I first saw it on the front of our Rick Steves guidebook. It's actually not original; it's a recreation that was built in the early 20th century. It was still worth visiting, though.

Cousins selfie in front of the castle!

Next up--the Isle of Skye!


I'm sorry it's taken me a while to get back to my series about our trip. Work and more traveling have gotten in the way, but I hope to be able to push out some more here!

Okay, so I left off with us having a delightful time in Wales. Our next adventure was riding the train to Edinburgh, Scotland. We enjoyed our cross-country trip and the nice English lady who sat with us on the train. 

Where we stayed: Airdenair Guest House
Why we wanted to come: It seemed appropriate to start off our tour of Scotland with the capital. Also, perhaps more importantly, Christina is particularly interested in Scottish history, much of which is tied to Edinburgh.
Major sights: Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh Castle, National Museum of Scotland, the Royal Mile

Our B&B was on the south side of town in a neighborhood that was seemingly chock-full of B&Bs. It was also very close to the hill called Arthur's Seat, which our hostess encouraged us to climb. Arthur's Seat is quite steep and I'm afraid I complained quite a bit as we were walking up it. However, the view from the top was fantastic!

Looking down from Arthur's Seat at downtown Edinburgh.

From Arthur's Seat we walked down into downtown Edinburgh and walked up the Royal Mile, the streets that stretch between Holyrood Palace and Edinburgh Castle. Along the way we stopped at St. Giles' Cathedral, the church where the Reformer John Knox preached.

The next day we came back to downtown Edinburgh to see Edinburgh Castle. It's a spot that's been important to Scotland's political life for centuries.

This building within the castle compound holds the Scottish crown jewels, not to be confused with the British crown jewels in London. The Scottish ones are not as impressive, but they have a great story, including having been hidden away and forgotten for over a hundred years.

Looking back from Edinburgh Castle to Arthur's Seat. 

We also went to the National Museum of Scotland. It had a lot of artifacts that related to Scottish history, including stuff related to the time of the Scottish Covenanters. The Covenanters were a group in the 17th century that were known for placing their loyalty to Jesus Christ above their loyalty to the king. They wanted to keep the changes that John Knox had been influential in bringing to the Scottish church. 

One of my favorite pieces was this stool, which a little sign explained:
"An Edinburgh woman named Jenny Geddes is said to have thrown this simple church stool at the pulpit in St. Giles [the one we visited earlier] when the Prayer Book [a new one forced on the church by the king] was introduced, sparking a riot."

Yes, stools can be important!

We also saw this sword at the Museum. I know of no exciting story to go along with it, but look how huge it is!

Our last sight-seeing stop in Edinburgh was Greyfriars Church. It's also important to the history of the Scottish Covenanters, so Christina wanted to see it. It's where they signed their "covenant," which was a declaration of their stand against the king. It's also where many of them were held captive and where some died.

The gate to the courtyard where many Covenanters were held captive.

After that very heavy history, we ended the day with a fun stop at a little pub near our B&B called the Old Bell Inn. Christina and Amber were brave souls and decided to try haggis. Christina actually ended up liking it pretty well--I'm sure of it because she ordered it again at another pub on our trip. You can ask her why. :-)

Say "haggis"!