Sunday, February 28, 2010

UK Vacation (day 6)

(July 21, 2008)

Day six--Isle of Skye to St. Andrews

Woke up early, had another AWESOME breakfast, packed up the car and headed down to the south of Isle of Skye to get a view of the Cuillin Ridge.

On the way, we hit Talisker Distillery where we indulged in some tasting...

This also helped later when I would pay tribute to Saucy Mary at Castle Moil. =)

The whiskey we tried was.......flavorful. I swore I tasted flowers...and soap?

I found out I'm not really a whiskey kind of girl.

Purchased some whiskey as gifts from the distillery where a cashier proceeded to tell us we could get the tax back on the purchase at the airport. Another cashier explained the policy and then said, "The UK really needs all the tax it can get you know, to pay for your wars."


My husband and I kind of laughed and could see this guy wasn't joking.

"Well, we're here on vacation paying twice as much for that should help."

We smiled and walked away with our purchase. If we really wanted to make something of it, we should've just made them go through the hassle of taking the whiskey back and refunding our money, but I was ready to move on, and I really did want to bring some whiskey continued on.

We could see see the red cuillins on the drive (apparently there are red and black cuillins)...and numerous stone bridges....

Finally, we reached Elgol and had a great view of the black cuillins.

Took in the view for a little while and then headed for Kyleakin, home of Castle Moil.

We continued on the scenic path for awhile and there it was....Castle Moil calling to me from the hill above the town...

As we started the trek toward Castle Moil, we saw Saucy Mary's lodge, hostel and tavern...snapped a few shots and then searched for the trail that would lead us to the castle.

The trail wasn't easy to find, we kind of guessed where it was and happened to guess right.
We had to walk through a neighborhood to get to a dead-end dock where the trail picked up behind a parking lot next to the dock.

We walked through seaweed stuff.......pushed our way through thick greenery...and finally, we could see the castle...

Climbed to the top of the castle and had an awesome view of Kyleakin and the Skye Bridge that connects Isle of Skye to mainland Scotland...

There was nobody else at the castle....we had it all to ourselves...

Sat at what once could have been a window for a little while wondering if Saucy Mary had once lingered here...taking in the view....

Ok, ok, you're wondering if I paid tribute to Saucy Mary......

of course I did! However, I'm not about to post a picture of that on a public blog. =)

I will say though...after "paying tribute" I did feel this wonderful sense of freedom....
I was really sad to leave Isle of Skye...we had been there only 2 days and it already felt like home....I long for it even as I type this blog.....

but alas, I must move on.

After Castle Moil and saying cheers to Mary, we started the journey back to St. Andrews.

On the way, we drove through Glen Sheil to snap a few photos of the most photographed Castle in Scotland...

Eilean Donan....

Continued on to St. Andrews and slept really really well that night.

UK Vacation (day 5)

(July 20, 2008)

Day five--Isle of Skye

Sunday morning we woke up to a fantastically filling Scottish breakfast. (Fried egg, Canadian bacon, scotch pancake, grilled tomato, toast, juice, cereal and coffee) YUM!!!!!!!!

After scarfing down breakfast we asked Tracy where the best places to hike were and she directed us north toward Uig and Staffin. She said there would be a car park between the two towns with trails that lead into the highland mountains and along cliff-side hikes.

We packed up the camera, got our hiking shoes on and hit the road.

What should have been a 25 minute drive ended up taking about 40 minutes due to all the....traffic:

The drive north was beautiful. Everything on this island is beautiful.

We reached the car park Tracy told us about but we didn't see any clear signs for trails....we did however see another couple in front of us that parked and ended up hopping the fence of a farm and hiking that we followed them.

Apparently in Scotland you're legally allowed to walk on anyones property so long as you're not damaging it or doing commercial activities. Free reign baby! Whoo-hoo! I was starting to feel like one of the sheep since they get to go anywhere they please on the island! =)

The ground was very mushy because of all the rain but it was still absolutely gorgeous!

With water to our left, rolling green hills to our right and mountains straight was a little bit of heaven for both of us.

Apart from a few sheep and the couple that was hiking well ahead of us (we kept falling farther and farther behind because we kept stopping to take pictures) it felt like we had the entire island to ourselves. There was no noise aside from the ocean, a few birds that apparently live in holes in the hills, some sheep bah'ing and the wind.

With some major hills ahead of us I told my husband that we needed to bag our first munro. A munro is a hill over a specific height (I can't remember what the exact height is) and bagging a munro (I'm told) means climbing to the top of that hill.

We hiked in wide open hills for about an hour before we reached bigger hills and stronger winds...and then we knew we were getting close to the top when it started to rain.

Finally, we could see the top and we both ran for it (well, I ran for it, my husband hung back with the video camera).

The view was amazing from the top of the hill.

The cliff-sides were GORGEOUS!!!

I sat on the very edge of one (I know Mom, I'm not smart) and felt completely at one with the world.
We were so high we were looking down on flying seagulls!

Eventually, we started trekking back toward the car...which at that point was miles away.
We made it back to the car without incident (well, I did have to pee outside and at one point was almost charged by a sheep) and then we headed on to the next destination...Dunvegan.

On the way to Dunvegan...something magical happened.....


We spotted highland cattle and I nearly jumped out of the car! I'd been waiting the whole trip to see these guys up close!!!

Highland cattle are the CUTEST!!! And they're HUGE! I want one.

Ok, moving on.

Dunvegan Castle is said to be the only castle in Scotland that is still lived in by the owning clan. Members of the Macleods still reside here. Yup, you've heard that name before. =) Highlander baybee!

I actually read a lot of blogs and travel sites before we got to Scotland and most of them said Dunvegan castle was cool from the outside and not really that impressive we opted out of paying for a tour....we did however pay for a boat tour that would get us some great shots of the castle from the well as a few other inhabitants...

After our seal expedition and exploring the gardens at Dunvegan we tried our luck at getting into a fancy hotel restaurant in our dirty hiking problem! We had a great dinner (best salmon ever) and then headed back to the B&B.

After a shower and some dessert (our hostess left cookies and biscotti in our room with coffee and tea) I decided to walk around outside and shoot some photos. It was about 10:00 p.m. when I took the following pictures:

I tell you...I could live here.

UK Vacation (day 4)

(July 19, 2008)

Day four--St. Andrews to Inverness to Isle of Skye

Woke up early for breakfast at Northpoint (a neat little cafe in St. Andrews) with Shane, Si and their friend Sandra.  Great food, strong coffee.  The perfect start to the day.

We were quickly on the road again, heading to Inverness and Isle of Skye.

First stop....Urquhart Castle at Lochness.

This castle was beautiful!!!!!

The castle itself was amazing. You could walk through it and just imagine what it must have been like in full glory.

I loved the stone.

And I really loved that flowers were actually growing between the cracks in the stones.

What amazed me more than the castle ruins however, was Lochness itself.

Lochness is HUGE!

We didn't see any signs of Nessie....even when we grabbed some souvenir rocks...

After spending more time than we anticipated at Lochness we headed up to Inverness to catch what was left of the Highland Games.

Once we got to the Inverness Highland Games we were told by one of the security guards that most of the competitions had been rained out. The only activities left were stone-throwing and the closing ceremony with the Fife and Drum.

I really wanted to see the Fife and Drum and figured that would be worth paying $12 bucks admission....but when we got to the gate...another security guard took pity on us for arriving so late and let us in for free!!! We were THRILLED!

We saw a bit of the stone-throwing, grabbed some vendor food and then got first rate positions for the Fife and Drum.

I'd never seen so many bagpipers in one place! I was in heaven!!!!! =)

After the Fife and Drum we headed out to Isle of Skye where we'd be staying at a bed and breakfast for the weekend.

It started raining as we drove but my husband was still able to spot a rare sighting through the mist and pulled over in time to get a few shots....

It was a beautiful baby horse and Mom. He was AWESOME! He was still very shaky on his legs and he did NOT like being out in the rain.  Eventually he wobbled under a tree very close to where we parked.

We said goodbye to the black beauty and continued our drive through the Highlands...

We were surrounded by mountains in every direction that were beautifully covered with lush greenery and TONS of waterfalls....

Finally, we crossed the Skye bridge and shortly after arrived at our B&B.

We got to the B&B pretty late, though our hostess Tracy was totally cool with it, and only had enough energy for a shower and a nightcap.

Went to bed with this view from our room...

This picture was taken at 10:30 p.m. by the way. LOL!

UK Vacation (day 3)

(July 18, 2008)

Day three---London to St. Andrews

Got up early, showered, packed up and grabbed breakfast at the hotel.

They serve grilled tomatoes with breakfast.


Started the drive from London to St. Andrews at approximately 8 a.m.

The country-side was.....magnificent.

Stopped off at an OK Diner for lunch...this was was an American-themed diner.  Too funny!

Saw more gorgeous country-side.....

Though I didn't get any pictures, we also happened to drive right by Sherwood forest (yeah, that Sherwood forest) and Nottinghamshire. So cool!

Finally, on the other side of Northumberland National Park and many hours later....we reached SCOTLAND!!!!!!!!!

Once in Scotland, we stopped off in Jedburgh for some fish and chips and then finished the journey to St. Andrews.

Once in St. Andrews, we invaded our good friend's (Shane and Si) apartment, met some of their friends, had dinner and then tucked in early....for the next day we would be traveling another lengthy journey to Inverness..........

UK Vacation (day 2)

(July 17, 2008)

Day 2--London

Seven hours after take-off we were approaching Heathrow International.
We landed at around 9 in the morning London time on Thursday and easily made our way through the airport. Thursday morning is a good time to travel apparently.
We went straight through customs, got our passports stamped for the first time ever and in about 30 minutes had our bags and our rental car.

Now…I was prepared for my husband to be driving on the wrong side of the car…I was prepared for the stick-shift to be on the left side instead of the right, etc….what I was not prepared for was being a passenger on the left side of the car.

It was wierd!

My husband had no problem at all getting acclimated to the vehicle….until the first roundabout.

Some roundabouts have traffic lights that tell you when to enter, some don’t. This first roundabout happened to be one of the latter.

We inched toward the roundabout and just as we started to pull in a truck (a TRUCK) sped by us blaring his horn at us.

He nearly clipped us.

We looked at each other, took a deep breath, laughed and continued on.

Driving right through London gave my husband a crash course in traffic behaviors in the UK.
With the exception of buses and EVERYONE on a motorbike, people there drive quite well...aside from that dang trucker. =)

We got to our hotel at around 11 a.m.

It was the smallest room I've ever paid for. =)

I took a shower while my husband napped and then we planned out what we’d do and see that day.

The British Museum was at the top of my list because I’ve wanted to see the Rosetta Stone in person for a long time (it's on my list).

I also wanted to see the London Eye, Buckingham Palace and whatever else we could cram into the day…however…London is a lot bigger than I thought and our time ran out very quickly.

We started by walking toward the British Museum which was about a half mile from our hotel. We stopped for food on the way at this wonderful outdoor café called Cafe Deco.

The café was run by Italians who apparently adored Americans and loved to sing as they prepared food.

It was awesome.

We sat outside eating our sandwiches and watching people duck-dive to avoid being hit by pigeons.

*Pigeons are everywhere in London…and they’re fat and lazy…they don’t fly very often and when they do it’s rare if they make it over your head. I saw at least 3 people get clipped by pigeons.

After lunch (and spending our first euros) we made it to the British Museum.

The British Museum was amazing...and we only saw a very small portion of it.

The Rosetta Stone was everything I'd imagined and was bigger than I thought...and much more detailed than could ever be recreated in movies and documentaries. It was amazing.

It honestly took my breath away...

After a few hours we realized we weren't going to be able to see much more of London...the jet lag was catching up to us so we decided to head back to the hotel via Russell Square Park.

The park was gorgeous and it had a wonderful outdoor cafe (I fell in love with the outdoor cafes in the UK) so we stopped for Cappuccinos and pastries.

After our treat we headed back to the hotel to get a head start on some much needed sleep...

The only problem was the hotel walls were so thin you could hear the guy in the next room cough. Also, in the summer time, the sun comes up at 4:30 a.m. in the UK and doesn't set until 11 p.m. So....there was a lot of noise out on the streets because the sun was still out...and so were the Londoners. Long story short, I slept maybe 3 hours that night. Maybe.

Luckily my husband is a heavy sleeper and was able to sleep through all the noise.