Thursday, May 16, 2019

Glasgow to Canada - May 14

Glasgow to Canada - May 14

We ate the final breakfast of our Scottish trip in the very efficient Grasshoppers Hotel, caught a cab to the airport, and said our goodbyes. It was a solemn moment. My heart cried at the thought of leaving Scotland and my friends. Robin and Peter went off to catch their flight to Toronto, and I caught my flight to London, and then on to Vancouver. I spent the day in a mindless state to avoid thinking about the tediousness of travel. On the London/Vancouver leg I did sit beside a lovely couple who were coming to Vancouver for the first time to visit their daughter and two year old grandchild. We couldn't communicate very well, but I know they were hugely excited, and it was fun to be caught up if only for a few moments in their delight. and then, I was arriving in Vancouver and there was Ray, waiting for me when I emerged from Customs and Immigration. Although sick as a dog, he managed a beaming smile, and it was good to be in his arms again.

In summary, Scotland was amazing. It is one of the most beautiful places I have visited; the people are lovely, genuinely warm and friendly; the food, although not the "healthiest" is definitely high on the taste scale. I loved the walking on the West Highland Way, the interesting and fun hikes on Skye, discussions with Robin and Peter on the state of our world ......and many other topics; visiting Katie and meeting her son in Edinburgh, meeting up with Ian my cousin, and meeting again with Iain Hope from our 2007 South America travels. It was all simply amazing. A big "thank you" to everyone who made our trip the success it was.

And, a big "thank you" to Robin and Peter for inviting me to join them and the amazing time we all had together.

Portree to Glasgow - May 13, 2019

Portree to Glasgow - May 13, 2019

It was with a heavy heart that we packed up the car this morning and started out on our journey to Glasgow. But you can't go far in this country before the scenery lifts your spirits and fills you with magic. We drove back down the road we came home on last night and arrived in Armadale in good time for the ferry ride from Skye across to Mallaig.

We drove from Mallaig down the side of Loch Eilt, passed the Glenfinnan Monument commemorating the start of the Jacobite rising in 1745; along the side of Loch Eil; through Corpach and Banavie into Fort William where we picked up Robin's hiking boots that we had managed to leave behind; then onwards retracing the steps of our West Highland Way hike passing through the the famous Glen Coe, still moody, and stunningly beautiful; past the tip of Loch Tulla; we stopped for lunch in Bridge of Orchy; passed the Green Welly in Tyndrum; passed through Crianlarich where we had made a detour from the trail for lunch one day; past the Falls of Falloch; through Inverarnan; through Ardlui and down the side of Loch Lommond; through Inveruglas, Tarbet, Inverbeg, and Balloch; across the famous Clyde River and into Glasgow Airport. Be prepared. both Edinburgh and Glasgow airports charge you a minimum of 2 bps to drop off or pick up!! We returned the rental car, much to the relief of Peter who did all the driving for us, and took a cab to The Grasshopper's Hotel in Glasgow. Our journey in Scotland was at an end.

We managed to walk around the immediate area for a walk before dinner and although parts of it were a little seedy, we noted the distinct Victorian architecture. We also noted the famous sculpture by Canadian Timothy Schmalz known as the Homeless Jesus. We ate dinner in the Revolution Glasgow, a hit to the senses after the peace of the countryside!! Then, fittingly, we had a final drink together in The Pot Still, a whisky bar that boasts over 700 malt whiskies. And that was that! As soon as the holiday had started, it was over.

Portree Day 3 - May 12, 2019

Portree Day 3 - May 12, 2019

Renewed after a good night's sleep we set off on another brilliantly shining morning to hike The Old Man of Storr, one of Skye's most famous walks. We clocked a distance of 5.51k in a time of 2 hours with an elevation gain of 340 metres. The Old Man of Storr is a collection of powerful rock pinnacles set against a background of the sparkling blue ocean of the Sound of Raasay on one side and rolling grassy hills on the other. It is not a difficult hike, starting out on clear hilly paths which become rocky, and steeper as you reach your reward. We took the alternate path back to the carpark and weaved our way along the side of a small lochan through a hillside of brown, grassy tufts. The scenery in Scotland never disappoints! The sheer grandeur of the rock, the serenity of the ocean, and the quiet and peacefulness of the hills on the return fill you with awe.

We ate lunch at the Cafe Sia in Broadford, and then drove down to the most southerly point of Skye, Point of Sleat on the Sleat Peninsula! Don't you love the names? For me they conjure up all of the magic that this part of Scotland holds. When we started down the peninsula, we were amazed by the vast deserted plains, that is deserted by everything except sheep!! There are pockets of life on this attractive peninsula in seaside towns such as Teangue, Kilmore, Armadale (where the ferry leaves from for Mallaig on the mainland), and Ardvasar. Gaelic is very popular in this area.

We started this hike from a farmyard, trying hard not to make "eye contact" with the two bulls who seemed to be roaming the hills! It was a much easier hike but longer: 7.54 k in 2 hrs 17 minutes, with an elevation gain of only 172 m. The path was either farm road, or on grassy trails, with a few rocky patches. There were two main attractions on this hike: first a sandy beach with beautiful aqua sea waters. Unfortunately the tide was in when we were there so we didn't get the full benefit of the sandy beach, but it was a beautiful little cove, protected by rocky cliffs, and filled with waters from the Atlantic Ocean. The second attraction was the lighthouse. Certainly not the most attractive lighthouse (it is fully automated and reasonably new) but it was a destination to aim for. Unfortunately, we were running out of time, and didn't get too close, but nonetheless, we seeped in the beauty surrounding us before heading back along the path we had come, and yes, eying those two bulls with lots of caution, to the car. A beautiful hike to end our visit to Skye.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Portree Day 2 – May 11, 2019

Portree Day 2 - May 11, 2019

I can’t find the words to express my feelings about today. It was simply “amazing” from beginning to end. First of all being with friends like Robin and Peter; second the stunning scenery; third the “fun” hike; fourth the amazing people we met on the trail; fifth the delicious dinner….and wine; and sixth  I am so grateful for the opportunity to be here in Skye, and for my family back home. Thank you Robin and Peter for inviting me.

Immediately after breakfast we changed B & Bs. Unfortunately, our first host, Catriona, couldn’t put us up for the 4 nights, so she connected us with a relative at “Easdale” in Portree, and we moved our stuff over there.

Phew! This morning we did the Skye “Quiraing” walk/hike. It wasn’t the easiest walk in that the elevation and some of the paths were challenging, but it was beauty plus from beginning to end. Here is the web site if you are going to be in Scotland and feel like doing it: The landscape is magical. There are pinnacles, plateaus, peaks, and hidden meadows all of which are said to be hiding places for the fairies. I should explain: fairy folklore abounds in Skye and of course it helps if you believe in the "supernatural!" It starts with Scotland's "unicorn" which you might say, is Scotland's national "animal." References to the "unicorn" go back to the ancient Babylonians and the Celts, and in the 12th Century the unicorn became the symbol of nobility and power. Now it is more the symbol of Scotland's freedom loving spirit and its hauntingly beautiful wild nature. But it is said that there is danger in the unicorn as well and in the Royal Coat of Arms of both Scotland and the UK the unicorn is wrapped in chains because it is said that it is too dangerous to be set free and impossible to capture. What better creature to represent the bold Scots and their scenery!!!

The walk is classified as medium in length, and hard in difficulty. I clocked 8.24 k, in a total of 3:45:54, with 2:22:31 of actual walking time. The rest was taken up with stopping for pictures and admiring the views.  I will leave the pictures to express the beauty….although no photo can capture the full impression that experiencing the walk gives you.

After the walk we drove around the coast to Uig. The road was a narrow one lane road with passing lanes. So beautiful but hair-raising if you are not a Scot!! We went to the Scheiling for lunch. An out of the way little cafĂ© with delicious food and a very informative owner. Very “pro” Scotland, and when you hear some of the stories he related to us, no wonder!!! On our journeys today we noticed lots of vehicles with the Scottish flag, and the symbol “YES” For Scotland! We took it as a demonstration of agreement for an independent Scotland. The Scots are feisty!! They don’t seem to be sitting back without voicing their opinions. They are also very “anti” Trump! Mainly because of his dealings regarding “his” golf course in Turnberry.

Uig is a really tiny town with a ferry service to Harris and Uist in the Outer Hebrides, and absolutely beautiful scenery.

After lunch we headed out to see the ruins of the Duntalm Castle high on the cliffs of theTrotternish Peninsula.The castle was built in the 14th and 15th centuries, and in the 17th century it was the seat of the chiefsof the clan MacDonald of Sleat.  The ruins are locked off as they are said to be very unstable, and as they are surrounded by steep cliffs and the ocean, we didn’t “jump” the fence to get a picture. The surrounding countryside is fields of sheep…and lambs!! It is all so pretty!!

By the time we got back to Portree, it was getting near dinner, and as we didn’t have a dinner reservation, we dropped the car off at the B & B and walked the short distance into town for dinner at the Portree Hotel. 

One of the unfortunate things about Portree, is the fact that there are not enough restaurants, therefore,  there is usually about an hour’s wait for dinner in most of the restaurants. I can’t imagine how the locals cope with all the tourism!! Our one B & B host suggested the increased tourism was partly due to the “safe” place that Skye represents!  And that is true. You feel as if you are tucked away from the rest of the world and all its horrors on this magical utopian island surrounded by ocean and protected by majestic mountains.

So, our early dinner, means I have time to catch up on writing my blog....but not to post it!!!