"bLog means boring-Log"
day 11 in braveheart land (0 comments)
day 11, and thus the last day in scotland for us, ownoez. time flies, and so will we. soon.
but first we had a last scottish breakfast for nina, and a continental one with porridge for me. then, five minutes to nine our host came to us, warning us that the power will soon be out, due to works at some high voltage line in the area. we were a bit confused and thought the power out would be later, but we misunderstood the lady, as it seemed. she tried to inform us yesterday evening, but it seems the both of us were too tired to get her exact message.
well it was no problem to us, and it turned out the power out was only about 10 to 15 minutes, and not two hours as officially announced, so we even could finish our breakfast with lights on. we would not have needed electricity anyway, because there was nothing to plan or book today.
our agenda for today was quite short. it only included cleaning our car, which we did at a gas station on our way to the airport, which was our second item on the list. there we returned the car.
then there was plenty of time for waiting. so we did exactly that - waiting for our first flight to bruxelles for several hours. we spent our last few british pounds at the shops at the airport. then we had to hurry to catch our transit flight to vienna - timing here was not really well done. but we made it, and got on the flight home.
here are a few numbers for the statistics department:
* we drove 1650 kilometres (1021 miles) with our rental car,
* i took 3805 pictures, from which 1167 pictures were used in the galleries,
* i spotted two cats on the entire trip, nina spotted three,
* we have seen two castles from the inside (the explorer pass definitely did not pay off for us),
* we had not a single haggis (unfortunately),
* we spent new year's eve in the most northern point of our journey, in ullapool
, or split track
for the entire trip.
day 10 in braveheart land (0 comments)
the curse of the indian man also hit me, as my gps tracker refused to process any satellite signals. during the last few days i had problems a few times, but turning it off and on again (sometimes multiple times) always fixed it so far. but today it did not help anymore.
that is why today's track is not really complete, i switched to tracking with "runtastic" on my mobile phone. thus the first one and a half hours are missing. good old navin minihomer, i really loved this practical little gadget - too sad.
right after leaving our hotel, which had a nice view[01-02] over loch linnhe, one of scotland's longest sea lochs, we stopped at loch leven[03-10], where one could look over to the eilean munde island[05,07-09], which is an ancient burial ground. the island has three landing places, one for each clan that buried their dead there. and although the clans were at war most of the time, they took care of the island together.
next stop was an torr[11-30], an area where we wanted to do a little hiking, but all three tracks were closed due to lumbering. the sign was from october 2014, but the gates were still closed, so there must have been a huge need for lumbering we guessed.
change of plan, we walked around without a plan, and while exploring the area and enjoying nature, we came to river coe[20-30], which we walked up a little. in the meantime nina cried a river because it was so beautiful here and our journey is almost at the end. i understand exactly how she felt.
to get our share of hiking for today, we stopped at the three sisters[31-75], three peaks at glen coe, a big mountain. between each pair of sisters, there is a path one can walk. we decided to take the "hidden valley"[34-75] path, that goes between the east most and middle sister (so you have a rough orientation of where we were going). on our way up we found many lovely little water falls[43-48,50-51,64-71]. also the road got more steep the longer we walked, and also more difficult to walk. we soon ended at a spot where we would have had to climb to get on. we decided to return to the car park instead.
on our way back to to edinburgh we had another short stop along the road[76-80], and one more at the loch tulla viewpoint[78-80], each one providing a great view over the landscape and mountains.
over four hours of driving later, we arrived in falkirk again, after i suggested we should have another stop at the kelpies[81-92], this time at night. and it was worth the stop, because the horses were lit in a colour changing light. from white to blue, yellow, and red. they looked like they were glowing when the light was red. really great.
it was already late, when we arrived at our last accommodation for this trip, the "ashcroft farmhouse", that seems to specialize in golf fanatics, because the golf theme was everywhere. and while watching british tv, we fell asleep.
track for day 10
day 09 in braveheart land (0 comments)
being the only guests, our host had not much to do today
in the morning. the usual scottish and continental breakfasts for the two of us. and again, an amazing sunset at guest house[001-007], but this time the view is from our room. with a cute sheep included this time. isn't that lovely?
after checking out we drove a few kilometres, had a few random breaks to take pictures of the landscape[009-013], or another fluffy sheep.
next stop was a little burial ground near cill chriosd[014-052], right next to the road. i was pretty amused by the sign "passing place", which usually refers to the broader spots on the roads on the pretty common single track roads here in scotland. so for two cars to pass, there are the passing places, this one was for people too. as most grave yards we have seen so far, this one was very green too, with very very ancient tombstones, dating back many hundred years, and the almost always present ruin of a chapel; seems obligatory.
then we had a short stop on the east side of loch slapin[053-064] on the outbound journey. we found a message in a bottle, opened it, but could not make much sense of it. seemed like a love letter. so we stuffed the sheet back in, and put it back where we had found it.
a short while later, we reached elgol[065-071], another small, sleepy fisher village, that seemed more like a ghost village. looks like they heavily rely on summer tourism, thus off season everything is closed, and everyone is gone. but we spotted a few people here and there, some lights in the houses, and... even two cats. isn't that amazing? unfortunately they were too far away to cuddle, but at least we saw some.
since there was nothing to do in elgol, we drove on to strathaird[072-089], where we parked our car, and had a little hike. lots of sheeps were around us, but they were also pretty shy, and ran away if you got closer than a few metres. i managed to sneak up from behind on one sheep who was so absorbed in grazing, it did not see me until i was about one metre away from it. for half a second it gave me a surprised look, then ran away. so cute.
on our return journey we stopped again at loch slapin[090-116], but this time on the west side. we parked our car somewhere, and walked off road[095-102] over very soft moss, and had quite the nice view on the nearby mountains.
back in the car, we soon spotted a lot of little birds that flew in large groups of around 50 or more. but they were also pretty cautious and shy. only three birds[114-116] on one leg were courageous enough to wait for us to get as close as 50 metres (approximately). then they also fled and flew away.
at kyle of lochalsh[119-135] it was time to bid farewell to the isle of skye, as we got back again on the "mainland" of scotland. we had a coffee break at a small cafe, and when we left, we were very lucky as sunset[119-147] had just begun, and turned the mountains in a wonderful red, sometimes even pink. that was really a fascinating combination of colours and contrasts, especially with the bridge[126-128,130] to the isle of skye or the ones with the light tower[131,133,135] in the foreground. wow, that makes parting even harder.
while driving on, nina insisted on another stop, as the sunset was still going on. so we did not get very far, and had another stop at balmacara[136-147], where we also found big shells[140-141,143] on the beach. we took a few of them as a souvenir with us, because they really were big and looked amazing.
it only took us 15 more minutes to get to the very famous, and often photographed eilean donan castle[148-159]. of course it was closed already (and we do not know if it would have been opened anyway), but at least the bridge was open, so one could walk straight to the castle. surrounded by the waters of loch duich, the bridge is the only access to the castle (during high tide). the reflections on the water really looked amazing. too bad we could not see it from the inside.
well, then it was time again to make headway, as the gps navigator estimated the drive to fort william with three hours. driving past loch lochy (best name for a loch we thought), we finally arrived, almost three hours later, at "the willow" hotel, where we checked in, and went to bed early.
track for day 09
day 08 in braveheart land (0 comments)
the weather forecast for today
was promising. we had another really awesome breakfast at jon and pauline's guest house, due to the facts that they really have a relaxing and soothing playlist they play during breakfast, then there's the birds that chirp, caw, cry, and fly around in front of the window and then there is this wonderful view[001-003] which we had while sipping on our coffees and munching our food. we really wished everyday would start like that.
but this idyll did not last long. remember the indian man's curse? well, it struck again. this time nina's bank card was retained by an atm at portree. it was sunday, so the bank was not opened. fortunately there was a phone number to call if there are any problems with the atm. someone even answered the phone and told nina that this was normal behaviour for scottish atms. they do not return the card if any problem (which ever it might be) is detected, and there is also no way she would get back her card - ever. aha. we are on holidays, we need the atm card. how about that?
a local woman standing next to us tried her card, and it worked perfectly fine for her. i was afraid to use my card at this specific atm for we would be in real troubles if my card would be retained too. no, no, we did not want to risk that. so we decided to drive to a gas station or convenience store, where they also have atms most of the time. so time to hit the road...
first stop was when we spotted scottish highland kettle[004-008]. we even could pet them and touch their hairdo. turns out the fur is more like dread locks; that's why their parting can withstand even the strongest wind. pretty fly.
next stop was a bit tricky to find, but it was a place jon told us about. it was an age-old burial ground, and although, according to jon, there should have been signs, we did not find any. but we finally made it to the ancient st. columba's island and burial grounds[009-053], and it was worth the searching. signs[011,027] say that 28 chiefs of a clan are buried here. jon also told us about the graves[016-017,025-026] in the shape of a knight, which really looked awesome. furthermore some parts of the ground were still flooded, which made some nice reflections on the water. here it was really calm and quiet and, again, we were the only ones.
next stop was at dunvegan castle[056-104], which surprisingly was closed too. seems like we are not very lucky with opening hours at castles. too bad. but, as we by now had learned, there is almost always a way to get to the castle somehow. and so we drove away from the front entrance[056-057] and after a few minutes drive we found a good place to start our attempt. the castle is also believed to be the home that is the longest inhabited one by a single family in scotland.
walking across country along ruined houses[058-064,081-083], we made it to the backside of the castle. additionally we had company again by several seals that were curiously watching every move we made. looked like they were happy to have a little distraction, since there were no people or boats around here on this sunday. we also enjoyed their presence.
turned out the number of seals[086-093,097-099,101] we attracted grew. from around five to eight seals we spotted in the beginning, the group was now at a size of around 20. pretty cool. and while walking away from the castle, we got closer to the seals. the closest i think was about 10 metres. then their caution was unfortunately stronger than their curiosity. but so cute, all of them. we waved good bye, and left them still watching us closely.
soon we arrived at our next stop, namely coral beach[105-160]. but it took a little walking to get there. and for the first time today we were not alone anymore. but the area is big and open, so all the other people - a mixture of tourists, locals walking their dogs, families spending a day at the beach - we barely noticed. again the landscape is awesome, and the wind is strong.
the beach looks just like some tropical beach, with white sand and cyan coloured water. in fact the sand on the beach is from coralline algae that can survive in these temperatures.
while climbing a little hill to get a better view we accidentally found a geocache
, namely "peter and christina's coral beach cache". ha, i think the last time i was searching for geo caches was in ireland back in 2010. we took something out of the box and left something in the box, as tradition demands.
walking back to the car and driving to the neist point lighthouse[161-172] took quite a while, so by now it was already dark again. at the coast the wind was that strong, i was really worried that my phone might be blown away if i do not really have a tight grip on it, while taking pictures with it. also everything else that was not strapped up tightly really was at risk to be blown away. even walking against the wind was a tough fight. at least the wind was blowing from the sea towards us, so there was no danger one might be blown away over the cliff and fall into the sea.
holidays and sundays here mean almost everything like shops, cafes, castles, etc. is closed. we did not think holidays would have such a big impact on everyday life here and on us.
so we also were the only guests at the "luib house", right on the coast of loch ainort, and our host told us she just reopened today, as she was also away visiting relatives in some other town. so lucky us we had a place to sleep tonight. also this will be our last night on the isle of skye, a really fascinating, astonishingly beautiful, stunning, wonderful, and fabulous place to be. definitely a recommendation where one should go one day.
track for day 08
day 07 in braveheart land (0 comments)
after a scottish breakfast for nina, and porridge and continental breakfast for me, we decided to stay at this guest house for at least another night, since it's well located, so we could make it our base camp and have trips to the rest of the isle of skye. also the hosts were really friendly, the rooms were comfortable, breakfast was ample and delicious, and one had a great view over the sea from the breakfast room. also there were several bird houses around the house, so the bushes were full of chirping and twittering. so cute.
while getting ready for today
's trip we had turned on television and saw reports about the flood damages, and pictures from the exact road we wanted to take on day 04
. puh, nasty. they said it was the wettest december for over hundred years. amazing how we got away with good weather so far. today morning it looked misty and cloudy, but no rain, with mild temperatures again.
usually i start my gps tracker, place it at the car window and start driving, and it soon catches up with the current satellite location. but not today. so when we arrived at the parking lot, it was still searching for a signal. turning it off and on again for several times finally fixed it. so today's track starts not at the guest house, but right at our first destination, the "old man of storr"[001-028].
walking to the old man took a while on a steep gravel road, but it was a really beautiful landscape. even some asian tourists were there, and people walking their dogs, so we were not alone this time. also we were very lucky, because when we spotted the rocks, the old man was standing out because there was a wall of fog[008-010] behind him. a few minutes later, the fog was gone, and the rock was hard to spot, because the rock face behind him had the same colour. wohooo, lucky us.
the hiking trail would have led on higher up the rocks, but we decided to go back to our car and drive on. daylight time is very limited here.
next we headed on to the lealt falls[029-033], where one could walk down the cliff to an abandoned diatomite mine, which we did not do. instead we stayed atop and looked down. that was when an older indian man approached first nina, and than me and was talking about how wonderful god's creation was and other rather scary things you don't say to a stranger. but he did, and also he warned nina that the ground is very slippery where she stood. well meant, but nina did not like the obtrusiveness at all and gave him a bad look. at last, he stopped. later that day, we came to the conclusion that this was when the indian guy lay a curse on nina. but more about that later in this bLog entry.
close to the lealt falls are the mealt falls[034-041]. seems like the scots are pretty imaginative with names. there we met the indian guy again. also there's a sign with dinosaur prints, since there were a lot of traces of dinosaurs all over the area. we placed the little plastic dinosaur we found on the first few days in edinburgh for comparison.
only a few kilometres further northwards on the east coast of the isle of skye lies "staffin beach"[042-082] where we found a small group of seals[042-044,047-052,055,058-059,062,066].
while we tried to get as close to them as possible, they curiously watched our every move. so cute. one could also walk on a sort of artificial pier. this was really a beautiful place, so we spent quite a while there. again there were some fossil attractions around here, like dinosaur footprints one could see in the stones, but they are only visible during low tide. this meant we would have had to wait, which we did not want to; early sunset and such. also there was a big stone with such a footprint[077-078] right at the car park.
next stop was "the quiraing"[087-121], a still moving landslip. the landscape was very impressive and beautiful, and so we went on a little hike here. "the quiraing" consists of a few rock formations, like "the needle" or "the table". we were rather unsure what was what, so we took our guesses.
if you watched long enough you could see some people here and there also taking the hike, but they were all way ahead of us. so our only company were sheeps, which we sometimes surprised and then gave us a confused look to finally run away. too bad, i would have loved to touch one of those fluffy cotton balls on four legs.
also we did not walk all the way to the top, but rather turned around and walked back to our car again. also we did not walk all the way to the top, but rather turned around and walked back to our car again.
and while we were driving on, suddenly the sun came through the clouds and lit parts of "the quiraing"[104-119] which looked awesome, and forced us to stop again, jump out of the car and take more pictures.
we stopped at the sartle grave yard[122-124] from which one had a great view into the big open area below.
after a few more random stops[125-130] we reached the duntulm sea viewpoint[131-159] and duntulm castle[137-138,140,143-148,151], although the castle was already more of a ruin. again windy, again we were the only ones there, and again it was really beautiful there.
it was another 30 minutes drive until we reached the place called "fairy glen"[160-179], near balnanock. it was already pretty dark when we got there, but we still got an impression of how awesome and magical this place must be during the daylight. some scenes from the movie "stardust" (the one from 2007 with robert de niro, michelle pfeiffer, and claire danes) were shot here. we will have to watch this movie again once we are home to see it ourselves.
since it was so dark, nina wanted to bring her tripod, but she could not find it anywhere. we tried to reconstruct where and when she had seen or used it the last time today. turns out it was at the spot with the seals at ""staffin beach". and indeed a had a picture taken with my mobile phone where she has it in her hands on the artificial concrete pier we were walking on. so we jumped in the car, drove all the way back there, but unfortunately the tripod was already gone. we think it was the doing of the indian man's curse.
a little sad and frustrated we drove back to the "high beech house" in pitch black, as it was already past 18:00 o'clock when we left the beach again.
there is a commercial on tv that was filmed in "the quiraing", so the spot[096,101] we have just been to today. we were quite surprised to see this on tv. here is the ad on youtube
another unpleasant thing was that we did not make it to the hamlet "peinlich" today. but at least we got pretty close to it. too bad.
also be advised that there are not many accommodations opened during the christmas and new year holidays. many of the hosts are on holidays themselves, or take an earned out time. so told us jonathan and pauline, who will also go abroad to some sunny hot beach, somewhere south; lucky them. but after several months having strangers in your house 24/7 i can totally relate to that.
track for day 07
day 06 in braveheart land (0 comments)
uaaaah, what have we done? with a pretty bad hangover we jumped out of our beds, because the room maid thought we had already left. but we did not, instead we had overslept and made it very close to check-out time. breakfast was long over, we did not shower, we felt terrible, we had no bed to rest anymore. also we had no room for tonight. so we sat in the car in the hotel's car park where we still had a wifi signal, booked a room for tonight in the next best guest house we found on the internet.
surprisingly neil did not charge for all the whiskys we had the honour to taste. so the final bill was moderate - i thought it would have been way more. still, food, fuel, and accommodation is pretty expensive here in scotland. we did not think it would be that cost intensive.
but back to the miserable two of us. to get in a condition near to transportable we sought out something like a cafe. and while i took a walk in the harbour area to find anything that was not closed today, nina tried to get some sleep in the car. i found exactly one cafe that was open, so we had a coffee and a little rest there. besides an older lady we where the only guests and ullapool seemed like a ghost town.
what felt to be at least 10 hours later we felt a little better, paid, started the engine and our tour for today
, and headed towards our next destination. i think some time really must have gone by, because by now there were some people in the streets, or walking their dogs on the bordering shore.
more than three hours of driving will lay ahead of us. nina started to drive, since i was pretty sleepy and also most likely outside the legal blood alcohol level. so nina was driving for the first time since we had arrived, and had troubles with both the driving and the gearstick on the left side.
and so we drove through impressive landscapes and loads of beautiful areas[01-29], but did not not gain anything from it, as nina was fully concentrated on driving and changing gears, while i was pretty busy dozing away. from time to time we made a short stop to take some pictures and get some fresh air. thus, there are not many pictures for today.
once i felt better i took over the wheel. nina was relieved and already exhausted from the efforts. but still there was a long distance to cover.
it was already dark and late when we arrived in portree, in the middle of the isle of skye at the "high beech house". as usual we moved our luggage to the room, then asked for recommendations where we could get some food. the owner said they are going to an indian restaurant later, but we did not feel like having indian food this evening. so he sent us to the town's main square, where we found two pubs. the first one, the "antlers bar and grill" looked really good, but was full, and the waiters also said it might take a while until we get a seat. seemed like we hit the dining rush hour.
so we took the "isles inn", that was the prototype of a scottish bar. drunk lads at the bar, shouting and flirting with the waitress, shouts from the back of the bar every now and then. the restaurant section of the inn fortunately was way more quieter. each of us ordered a burger and had a soda with it. scots say you should drink the local speciality named "irn-bru", which helps with hangovers. but, to be on the safe side, we did it with a cola.
the burger was average, but it helped to feel restored and regenerated again. we walked back to our hotel and were lucky to see the official broadcasting of the holiday special of "sherlock" (that makes it "S04E00" on imdb) on BBC1. how awesome is that?
well, besides that, 2016 was not great so far. hopefully a good night sleep will fix that. also we haven't spotted any cat so far in scotland. but in even the tiniest grocery stores they have cat food and cat litter in the shopping aisles. so there must be cats somewhere. i hope we will spot some in 2016.
track for day 06
day 05 in braveheart land (0 comments)
it was a cloudy morning, when today
we checked out from the hotel. but before we had used the wifi to search for an accommodation that firstly is roughly in our direction we want to go, secondly is open, and thirdly still has vacancies. turns out this seems to be quite a problem on the last day of the year. as a last resort we found a rather expensive three star hotel in ullapool.
but now it was time for sights, like loch ness[01-04,82,85-86] for example. by far the most famous loch in scotland, and also a pretty long one.
we started at the north end[02-04], took the road that leads around the lake on the south side. for the first few kilometres we drove along the shoreline, then the road got farther and farther away from the lake. soon, it was not to be seen anymore.
approximately half way down to the south end of loch ness we took a turn to get to the falls of foyer[08-23], which included a short walk through the woods to get there. a few other tourists also made it to the falls, but all in all there were not many people.
then we drove on southwards, took some stops at random places we liked, like the one along river foyers[24-49], or one along the "general wade's military road". yep, that really is the name of the road.
next stop was at the suidhe viewpoint[55-81]. a little hike across country. because of the lack of trees it was very very stormy there. amazing how the plants can adjust to this harsh climate and conditions.
here we were totally alone, no one else was hiking here. also there were no animals to spot or hear. while walking was okay, nina got very cold when we reached a little hill. so after taking a few photos and getting very cold fingers, we decided to go back to the car.
then there was more driving to the south end of loch ness, where the street got close to the lake again. after a little pro forma scouting for the cryptid loch ness monster "nessie", which unfortunately and surprisingly did not surface, we drove on again.
we took a little break to grab a bite and have a coffee in fort augustus[87-94]. after that we continued our journey on the west shore of loch ness.
three quarters of the way up to the north end of the lake is the urquhart castle[95-96]. we just arrived when the last visitors left, and the castle entrance was already about being closed. oh no, too bad. we could have used our explorer's pass for that. there is a big fence with high trees and bushes that makes it pretty impossible to get a clear look on the castle from the parking lot. thanks to nina's tripod we were able to get a good angle and a clear view to the lit castle. with loch ness in the background, this really must have been an impressive subject for some photographs.
since it was already dark again, we kept on driving to get to ullapool, a town on the west coast. after a little more than two hours drive we arrived in a small, sleepy fisher village. we really were wondering what new year's eve here will look like, and mentally compared it to the massive crowds that might already have gathered all over edinburgh.
but there was still time until hogmanay, so at first we tried to get dinner in ullapool. turns out there are not many places to choose from, so we took the pub along the shoreline. we entered the pub at 20:45, kitchen closes at 21:00 o'clock, so we quickly ordered fish and chips. hopefully the cook wasn't too pissed because of us.
the staff at the bar was super relaxed and friendly, i think they all were already in party mood. we learned that all the locals go to "the arch inn", and that's also about the only pub that will be opened tonight. since there was still time, we went back to our hotel, and joined other guests at the bar. there we met a mixture of really nice people, from retiree, to a lorry driver, and a whisky connoisseur, namely the bar tender. so nina and i used the chance to get professional advice and consultation, as we really did not like whisky up to now. turned out once you get the right whisky, it actually is something we both could enjoy. neil, the bartender, seemed to be in his element and happy all over to help us out of our ignorance of good whisky labels.
and so, with all the whisky talk and drinking, we almost missed new year's eve. we had to hurry to "the arch inn", because they would "bring the bell in". and while they don't have fireworks or sparkling wine or lucky charm thingies going on in ullapool, they have a bar owner who plays the bag pipes for his guests. now that was awesome - happy new year.
the inn was well crowded, and all people we met and talked to - among them the staff from the pub we have been to before - were very friendly. there was some alcohol involved too.
then... memory gets a bit hazy, any sense of time becomes a blur, but at some time or other the inn closed. so we finished our beer outside, where we met another very friendly guy, who seemed to take interest in us two tourists. turns out he was a sound technician who regularly goes on tour with all kind of bands. interesting guy we had a lot of fun with. nina even got a bottle of whisky from him, because he said he has plenty of booze in his car.
soon after the inn owner asked all remaining guests to leave the premises so he could close the gates. so we returned to our accommodation, the "royal hotel ullapool" to find the same gang still hanging out in the bar, just as we left them. well, we joined them again for another few lovingly selected whiskys and early early in the morning we finally made it to our beds.
puh, i wonder in what condition i will find myself tomorrow in the morning. happy hogmanay.
track for day 05
day 04 in braveheart land (0 comments)
the storm from last night continued today
in the morning. it was rainy and stormy, but rather warm. well, first day with a hint of bad weather - we are in scotland after all.
we had another scottish breakfast for nina, and porridge, toast, marmalade and cereals for me. surprisingly the porridge was very good; i did not expect that. if available, i will have that from now on.
our first stop after a short drive was in stonehaven to visit dunnottar castle[04-37]. to get there one has to walk a bit from the parking lot. on the parking lot we were the only ones, and it was still raining. but there was already a sign saying the castle is closed due to bad weather conditions. too bad. also i didn't think this was "bad weather conditions". still we tried to get as close to the castle, so we walked on.
the closer we got to the castle and the sea, the stronger the wind gusts became. there was a gravel path down to the sea and to the only entrance to the castle. so at least we could get close to the sea[23-27].
when we climbed up the hill again to get back to our car, there were some people, some of them tourists, some of them locals walking their dogs.
soaking wet we returned to the car, and drove on to crathes castle[38-47]. but, guess what, this one was also "closed due to bad weather conditions". we did not think scots were that weather-sensitive. but, again, one could have a look at the castle from the outside. crathes castle strongly reminded me of a love hotel i once saw in tokyo. its look is rather disney like, but what we saw in our guide-book quite a lot of things are named "castle" here in scotland. maybe i am influenced by "game of thrones" too much when it comes to expectations of castles.
again, soaking wet, we got into our car and wanted to drive on to inverness through the cairngorms national park. but while driving a lot of cars flashed their lights at us. nope, i was definitely driving on the right side, still they kept on flashing at us. so we stopped, because i began to wonder if there might be something wrong with the car. at the parking lot another guy parked there, and while we were inspecting our car, he told us, that the road ahead was flooded. aaah, so, that's why - okay.
although we were told the street was flooded and there would be no use in going on in this direction, we wanted to see that ourselves. and there really was heavy flooding[48-51]. two jeeps made it to the other side[49-50], but our car would definitely not make it. too bad.
so we turned around, flashed at oncoming traffic (just for fun) and took the "normal" road to inverness. too sad, we will not see ballater, cock bridge, bridge of brown, speybridge or the highlands in cairngorms national park.
just to make there is no other way to get to inverness, we stopped at the next police station, hoping that officers could give us a better overview of all the flooding and affected roads. but it seems all personnel was busy with the flood already, so the police station was closed. next we tried a local "tourist information center", which turned out to be a collection of leaflets and brochures in the local library. two elder ladies there tried to help us but it seemed there really is no other way through the highlands without time consuming detours. well, by now it was already getting dark again anyway, so we decided to take the ordinary route, because by now it does not matter anyway.
ah, did i already mention there are lots of roundabouts? yes i did? oh, okay. well, loads of roundabouts and approximately six hours of driving later, we finally arrived in inverness.
our hotel was right beside the river ness. the river's water-level seemed okay, so this should be a safe night - hopefully. after checking in, and leaving our luggage in the room, we took a stroll to inverness castle[52-53,57,59], that was only a few minutes walk away.
on the castle hill we spotted loads of little cute fluffy rabbits, but unfortunately it was way too dark to take a picture of them. oh, and we were wondering ourselves, why they put up a ionizing radiation hazard symbol with two reindeer at the backside of the castle.
we walked around the castle hill in a circle and stopped at a local chinese take-away, as it seemed everything else was already closed, and we did not want to search for hours for a good pub or restaurant. so we took it with us to the "glen mhor" hotel, ate it, watched tv for a while, and then fell asleep.
track for day 04
day 03 in braveheart land (0 comments)
we fetched our rental car. the pick-up station was only 15 minutes by foot from our guest house. i had to start driving, as usual, as nina does not like to drive on the left side. well, neither do i, but we have to get moving. so, trying to always have a car in front of me, we made our way out of edinburgh.
here is a tip to rent your car cheap and reliably available exactly when and where you need it: use adac/oeamtc. you do not even need to be a member, and it is still way cheaper than booking the car elsewhere. if you have a membership, it gets even cheaper. we were positively surprised by the price and availability. total recommendation. and for booking flights and stuff, we recommend sta-travel. no matter when/where we went on a trip abroad, they always found cheaper and more convenient flights than any online check site.
and a total no-go is opodo. do not ever use their services. any. ever. no. don't.
scots love roundabouts it seems. even on their highways they have roundabouts from time to time. weird concept, but it seems to work, once you get the hang of it (which took me a while). and in and around edinburgh there were loads of them to practice.
after about one hour of slow and cautious driving we arrived in falkirk, at the "helix park". there they have "the kelpis"[001-031], two huge equine head sculptures. they are a reminder of all the work horses that had to pull boats along the forth and clyde canal, that ends in the hub, where the kelpies are now.
really huge, really impressive, really amazing. their height is about 30 metres and each one weighs around 300 tonnes. in sunlight their are really awesome (we were once more lucky with the weather). if i should ever become an artist i might try that with feline head sculptures - i think i would like that.
fun fact: at the time of writing this bLog entry, google maps still shows a green field where all this is standing today. the sculptures were finished in october 2013.
after another hour of driving we arrived in stirling[032-128], parked our car, paid the parking fee, and headed towards the castle. to get there, we took the route through the cemetery at the church of the rude[034-055], a really beautiful grave yard.
entrance fee to stirling castle[056-128] is also included in the explorer's pass. it also allows you to use a fast lane at the entry. although there weren't that many people. firstly because it was off season, and secondly because it was already 15:00 o'clock again, so the sun began to set again. days are really really short here. sun rise is around 08:30 o'clock, and seven hours later it sets again. that's something we did not consider when choosing scotland as our destination. but the good thing is, we take way fewer pictures than on other previous trips.
fortunately sterling castle also got lit beautifully once the sun went down. so again it was beautiful to see the outside, and also the inside of the castle.
there weren't many people, and also due to the size of the castle, people are spread all over the area, so there is quite a good distribution of the visitors.
while wandering the halls with all their amazing interior furnishing, carpets, fire places, cupboards, beds, etc. a warden in the museum started to explain a lot of stuff and answered all our questions. he patiently followed us from room to room, and it took us a while until we noticed that he turned off the lights once we left a room. so we were the last visitors again, again escorted by the staff. but this warden, an older bearded man really was nice and did not urge us to hurry or leave immediately; maybe because we were so interested in his explanations, and asked so many questions. so we thanked him a lot for all the valuable information and insights and he left us at the castle gates.
two hours of driving later we arrived in stonehaven, checked in at the "shorehead guest house", a house right at the sea front. in stonehaven it was pretty stormy. when i had traditional fish and chips and nina had a variation of fish at the harbour restaurant next to our guest house, the windows were heavily shaken by the strong gusts of wind.
after the delicious dinner we went to bed, hoping the wind would not be any harm to our accommodation or our car.
track for day 03
day 02 in braveheart land (0 comments)
nina started this day
with a scottish breakfast, consisting of beans, bacon, scrambled eggs, black pudding, sausages, and all the stuff that comes with an english breakfast. not the stuff for me to start the day with, i went for the continental style and had corn flakes, muesli, yoghurt and fruits, toast slices and marmalade. everyone was happy, everyone was pretty filled.
time to explore edinburgh. we took the same route we had yesterday evening via waverley station, and headed to the calton hill[011-044]. there are some sights, like the national monument of scotland[018-019,023,027,029], the nelson monument[012-014,022,027,034], or the dugald stewart monument[036,039,043-044], or some ancient canons[020-021], or a view on the impressive holyrood park.
all over edinburgh, including the parks and sights on calton hill were fencings. we figured this will be for hogmanay celebrations, the scottish version of new year's eve. judging from the amount of fencing and other signs of preparations, this must be a really huge thing in edinburgh. although this might be nice to see, i am rather glad to be not in edinburgh at this time. this seems like a place with too many people for my taste.
on our stroll to high street[045-082] we came along the railway station[045-050] again, walked on the north bridge[047-055], and found st. giles' cathedral[068,070,071,076-082,083-133,134]. there they tore down a huge scaffold which might have been used for christmas decorations (we think).
next we went inside st. giles' cathedral[083-133], and bought a photo permit at the souvenir shop located inside the church. two old ladies happily handed me the stickers. nina had her tripod with her, i had to position my camera on all kind of stuff to get a focused shot.
the cathedral was built during the 14th and 15th century and is pretty impressive. there even should be a bagpipe playing angel somewhere, but we did not find this one unfortunately.
we stopped for a little break in a cafe[136-137], where we were seated outside, since inside there was no free table. fortunately it was not that cold, so sitting outside with hot coffee was bearable.
our next sight was edinburgh castle[140-204]. the entrance to the castle is pretty expensive, and it seems this is common amongst the castles, so we decided to buy the "explorer pass". its price is double the entrance fee of edinburgh castle, but once we visit other sights, that pass should pay off. we arrived at the castle at 15:00 o'clock, so it was getting dark again. but then the twilight added much to the gothic and dark atmosphere of the castle walls. bad for pictures, good for ambience.
we walked around the castle and took many pictures, but soon the castle was closed, and we were the last ones to leave, escorted by stuff that was happy to go home. yet they were very friendly and gave us some extra minutes to take some more pictures.
back in town we went to the edinburgh's christmas market[207-213] in the princes street gardens, where the big wheel and such is. we had a chocolate-coated marshmallow treat since they looked so delicious, and had over 20 flavours to choose from.
on our way back to the "eyre guest house" we stopped at the "jekyll & hyde" again to have a steak and ale pie. nomnom, that was really delicious.
track for day 02
day 01 in braveheart land (0 comments)
so this year we decided to spend new year's eve abroad, and we chose to go to scotland. the weather and climate should be mild at this time of the year, the amount of rain should be modest, and temperatures should be between 0 and 5 degrees celsius. or so the internet says. let's find out...
to get there, we went via frankfurt to edinburgh, and arrived in the early afternoon on day 01
. there's a tram from the airport straight to the centre of scotland's capital city. since we will stay here for (at least) two days, we bought a two day ticket at the conductor - our first encounter with the lovely scottish accent. took us a while to figure out all the words he said, but since it was a rather simple task to buy two tickets, we managed that easily.
we got off the tram but did not know exactly in what direction we should be heading. with all the luggage we wanted to take the shortest path, so we asked two ladies at a bus stop how to get to our accommodation. with a wonderful scottish accent they pointed us in the right direction. luckily it was just a 10 minutes walk to our guest house.
so far the weather was fine, we had no troubles talking to the locals, everything seemed to go as planned. but...
when we arrived at our hotel, we met a sturdy, grumpy looking guy at the hotel, who couldn't find our reservation. he said a lot of stuff but most of it we didn't understand. we figured he is in charge of three guest houses as there's currently no staff due to christmas holidays. a phrase we did understand though when he came back after leaving us for a few minutes was "found ya", with a big grin on his face, and seeming to be relieved and less grumpy.
turns out booking.com put nina's name first on the reservation, but i gave the guy my name, so of course he couldn't find us at first. also, nina's name was spelled badly wrong, handwritten by the guy on a piece of paper. but who cares, we got our room - yippieh. there we left our luggage, and decided to explore the vicinity.
turns out edinburgh is not as big as it looked on the map. only a few minutes walk took us right to the heart of the city. a problem though is the early sunset, which is already around 15:00 o'clock. one hour later it's already dark, and that is not good for taking pictures.
we started our tour on princes street[01-07] with the adjacent princes street gardens, in which the christmas fair was still opened. they also had an amusement part with a big wheel[01,14-15,36-37] and carousels, big ones[04-05,07,14-15,] and the smaller ones for the kids.
the edinburgh waverley railway station[08-17] is entirely under a big glass roof. at first we thought it was a glass house, but then we saw all the trains and platforms when we entered; really impressive.
we left the station and strolled along cockburn street[18-24], where there are loads of shops with all kind of fancy stuff, like the unicorn-bride and horseman-groom wedding-cake topper.
then we took high street[25-30] to get to the top of the hill to edinburgh castle[31-37], which was nicely lit, but unfortunately already closed.
so we headed back to our guest house, but first had a delicious hearty burger at the "jekyll & hyde" street. the interior was awesome, they had different sections, from steampunk decorations to mummies in sarcophaguses.
when we arrived at the "eyre guest house" we watched a little television and then went to bed, getting some rest. so far, scotland is pretty nice - hopefully it will stay this way.
track for day 01