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Scotland - Castles, Whisky, and Reindeer

Sep 17

- Arrived at EDI and picked up our rental car from EuropCar.

- Drove from Edinburgh to Glasgow. Shifting with the left hand wasn't too bad.

- Tried to buy liquor before 10 AM. Not allowed.

- Had breakfast at Kember & Jones. Chris had smoked salmon with cream cheese on soda bread. Mine was ham & cheese on homemade sour dough bread. Both were tasty!

- Bought some cheese at George Mewes.

- On to Loch Lomond. Hiked up to conical hill. Pretty steep (360m elevation over 1 mile) The summit of the hill itself looked pretty crowded. We chose to go to a slightly different view point.

- Arrived in Oban. Tried to do the distillery tour but it was sold out. Did a tasting instead, Haven't acquired a taste for whisky yet,

- Went to the Oban Chocolate Company and had a chocolate fondue and a chocolate milkshake. Mmmmmm.

- Checked in, went to Tesco, bought ferry tickets.

- Went to Oban Fish & Chips, in the seafood capital of Scotland, and naturally Chris got the chicken..

Sep 18

- Drove up the hill to McCaig's Tower to check out the views of Oban, Found a well-fed cat roaming around.

- Drove our car on to the ferry to take to Mull. It started raining. On Mull, we had a picnic in the parking lot at Duart Castle,

- Drove across the island to Fionnphort, pulling over to the side many times, on their single lane highway.

- Took the boat over to Staffa island. Unfortunately the seas were too rough to allow us to dock, so we just circled the island instead, and viewed Fingal's Cave and McKinnon Cave.

- On the way home we spotted some seals lazing around on the rocks.

- Took the ferry back home, went for dinner at Cuan Mor. Chris had the salmon cakes and they were good. My burger tasted a little odd.

Sep 19

- Drove north from Oban towards Glencoe. Stopped in at 'The Ice Factor' to try out the largest indoor ice climbing wall in the world. Our instructor Joe taught us how to climb the ice wall. First we practiced on the small wall, and then moved on to the big wall, while learning how to belay. Chris made it higher. We warmed ourselves up with some hot drinks afterwards.

- Drove to Glen Etive, on another one of the single lane roads, where you have to pull over a lot for oncoming traffic. This area is where the James Bond movie 'Skyfall' was filmed. We drove to the end, and on the way back we pulled over and had a little picnic in the car.

- Next we hiked 'The Lost Valley' - or at least we thought we did. Looking at the pictures later on the Internet, we realized that we did a hike very close to the Lost Valley, but not quite the right one. Whatever hike it was, it had great views, and was pretty challenging. It was only 3 hours total, but non-stop ascending and descending.

- Checked into our Airbnb in at Ballachulish, which was very nice. Went for dinner at the Holly Tree. We both had the pumpkin ravioli. (after Chris orders the ravioli) "I think I will try...the ravioli!"

Sep 20

- Left the Glenco area and drove towards Ben Nevis. We thought we might climb a bit of it, but ran into a few issues, not the least of which was that we weren't exactly sure which mountain it was.

- We carried on, to Camusdarach Beach, one of the most scenic in Scotland, with white sand. We both thought it was a little cold for a dip. Chris had on her winter jacket and a toque.

- Headed towards the Mallaig ferry and crossed over to the Isle of Skye.

- Drove to the Fairy Pools. Saw some 'highland cattle' (furry cows) on the way. The Fairy Pools were pretty busy, but a nice walk, with the Cuillin Mountains in the background.

- Found our accomodation, relaxed in our room, and then went out for dinner to l'incontro, a pizza place in Portree. The wood fired oven had a camera hooked up to a tv, so you could watch your pizza being cooked. At first we thought it was a video of a log fire, like on Shaw.

- After dinner we decided to try some local Scotch whisky at Merchant Bar. We tried to acquire a taste for it, but did not succeed.

Sep 21

- Had our 'large Scottish breakfast' at the hotel, which consisted of eggs, toast, beans, sausage, bacon, tomatoes, and mushrooms.

- Drove out to see the Old Man Of Storr. We could see it from a ways off while driving. When we got there, it seemd to disappear but we realized that up close it was just camoflouged. We hiked up a ways, but soon realized it would be a pretty long hike to reach the Old Man, so we moved on.

- Next up was Kilt Rock. It was starting to get really windy.

- Went to the Staffin Community Center for a break, and ate some delicious carrot cake.

- That afternoon we hiked the Quaraing, which had some incredible rock formations and amazing views (The Needle, The Table, The Prison). It was really windy, but the hike to the top was still enjoyable. Once we got to the top, it started to rain, and the wind was even more fierce. The track was becoming extremely muddy. At this point, we couldn't really enjoy the views any more, and were glad to descend.

- Stopped by the Isle Of Skye Brewery to pick up a few beers. Tried to go for soup at a hotel, but missed lunch service by 10 minutes. Ate crackers and cheese and took in some Skye views instead. Bought a puffin soup cup at the pottery shop.

- Changed out of our wet clothes and went for dinner at Sea Breezes. Chris had the baked salmon, topped with a really good pesto and tomato, while I had the chicken stuffed with haggis, which was surprisingly good. Dessert was also excellent, sticky toffee pudding and ice cream. Washed it down with some drambui and port.

Sep 22

- Woke up to the nicest day on the Isle of Skye since May (according to our B&B host)

- Drove by the Eilean Donan castle. They were filming a movie (new Transformers movie?), and a helicopter flew by.

- Made our way towards Aviemore. Tried to find some highland cows, but didn't succeed.

- Since Inverness seemed really busy, we had lunch at the Mountain Cafe.

- Took the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre tour and walked around a beautiful pastoral setting with a herd of reindeer. We fed them some food. Chris thought the reindeer would be friendlier, as they seemed to ignore us once the food was gone. We learned they can't kick backwards and they don't bite.

- Went to the candy store and bought some wine gums and chocolate.

- Stopped by the Cairngorms brewery and tried some samples.

- Checked into our place. Went for dinner at the Winking Owl. My burger was delicious. Chris's risotto was also very good.

- Went home and ate our beetroot chocolate cake from the Mountain Cafe. Sep 23

- Hit the road, and tried to go into Blair Castle, but got turned back at the gate (didn't have time to go in)

- Went for lunch at Victoria's in Pitlochry.

- Continued on to Glamis Castle and took the tour. It was a really great castle with an interesting history and tour.

- Went to the Eden Mill distillery and brewery and tried a flight of beers.

- Drove into St. Andrews and had fun putting on the 18 hole Himalayas Putting Course. Chris ended up winning by 1 stroke.

- Checked into our bed and breakfast, had a snack, and did the Rick Steves walking tour of St. Andrews. Started at the Old Course, and walked up towards St. Andrews University. Saw the ruins of the old castle and the church.

- Went for dinner at The Tail End. Good tacos!

- For dessert we had some gelato from Jannettas. Raspberry basil and oreo/peanut butter. Amazing!

Sep 24

- Got up early, had breakfast at our B&B, and made our way to the Falkirk Wheel. Went up and around using the Wheel on the Archimedes. It wasn't overly thrilling.

- Next we went to the Kelpies (giant horse head statues). We were impressed!

- Drove into Edinburgh, checking out a tack shop on the way. Managed to find a parking spot about 1-2 km from our accommodaiton.

- Grabbed a couple of smoothies and a delicious caramel brownie from Hula to give us some energy to do Rick Steve's audio tour of the Royal Mile. Walked from the castle to some churches and statues. Learned some history. Finshed up at the bottom of the Royal Mile at Holyrood Palace. Next we grabbed a potato from the Potato Shop, a baked potato topped with cheese, onion, mayo and pineapple and tried Irn-Bru, a favoutie Scottish pop. From there we walked all the way back up to near the start and went into Camera Obscura. Had some interesting exhibits including a mirror maze and a vortex tunnel that made us really dizzy! Chris also transformed himself to 74% Chimpanzee. The mirror show was sold out for that day so we took a rain check to come back again the next day.

- Made our way to Mother India's for some Indian food tapas, it was delicious and spcicy! After that, we stopped into the White Hart pub, allegedy the oldest pub in Edinburgh.

- Came back to our room and watched the Great British Bake-off, a very popular British TV show.

Sept 25 ------- - Grabbed a couple of pain au chocolates from La Barantine Victoria and make our way up to the castle for the 9:30am opening. There was already a crowd gathered at the gates. Luckily we had purchased our tickets online and were able to beat most of the crowd into the castle. Had some good views and a large cannon built in the 1400s that shot 350 pound cannonballs over 2 miles.

- Went back for our rain check at Camera Obsura, back through the vortex tunnel, and up to the rooftop where we gathered in a small dark room where images of Edinburgh were projected onto a table using a mirror.

- From there we walked to the New Town through the Prince's St Gardens, once a lake for sewage and drowning witches. It still smelled.

- Had some some gelato from Affogato, cardamom and baccio. After that, we were still feeling hungary so we walked down George St to El Cartel for some delicious Mexican food (quesadilla and sweet potato tacos). For dessert we went to Hotel Chocolate and shared a giant spicy chocolate latte topped with chocolate whipped cream.

- Made our way to Jenners Deptartment store, the oldest department store in Edinburgh, nothing too interesting there though.

- Next up, the National Museum of Scotland. Had some interesting exhibits, a re-created skeleton of giant sloth, cell phones that were newer then Chris's. And coincidently, on a scale that told you what animal you weighed the same as, Chris weighed the same as a chimp!

- Next we walked back to the bottom of the Royal Mile to hike up Arthurs seat. Made it to the top were it was very windy and then it stared to rain to the way down. Tried to go for Turkish food for dinner but the restaurant was closed for the week.

- Walked back home to re-evaluate dinner plans and ended up going to the Devil's Advocate. They had good music, interesting cocktails, good lighting and someone had everyone even brought their puppy there with them.

- After that we went to start our "Real Mary's of King Close" tour. Our guide, an entertaining poet, lead us though a series of underground rooms and we learnt about the lives of the people that lived there in the 1600's. The tenements were subsequently build on top of, leaving them closed off underground.