Last Day in Scotland

July 8, 2017

Day 8

Today is our last day in Scotland. We want it to be relaxed, while we still make the most of it. We lazily roll out of bed. On the cards is a trip to Urquhart castle, a boat ride back across the Loch Ness and Inverness. From Inverness we will drive down to Glasgow to experience the nightlife and catch our flight out tomorrow.

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Once upon a time, Urquhart Castle was one of Scotland’s largest castles. Excavations have provided evidence of settlements in this area going back to as early as 2000BC. The castle is strategically located on a rocky promontory with an open view up and down Loch Ness. More than once during its troubled history the castle held out because it could be resupplied by ship. There is a miniature model of the castle in the little gallery, next to the gift shop. It’s got little bulbs that light up when you press a room/area on the legend. A super fun way to explore the castle as it once stood. There is a short video on the history of the castle which I highly recommend everyone sees before venturing out into the castle itself. It helps gain perspective. Control of the castle passed back and forth between the Scots and English during the Wars of Independence. The last of the government troops garrisoned here during the Jacobite Risings blew up the castle when they left. Today the castle stands in ruins, bits and pieces of solid wall and broken towers.  The husband correctly points out that Western Ghats of Maharashtra, India, have so much to offer in terms of both scenic beauty and history. If only we learnt the art of preservation and presentation.

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Our plan was to take the boat ride on the Loch Ness from the castle. We find this is not possible, as we need to buy tickets at another place a short distance away. Up and down the road we go, with our map insisting we go uphill to catch a ferry. Finally we identify the Visitor Centre, where we are told to buy tickets from across the road, right next to where the ferry boards. The next ferry is in ten minutes or so. The husband rushes off to park where instructed, while I make my way to the ticket booth. He manages to park and get to the jetty just as the ferry starts boarding. Loch is Irish, Scottish Gaelic and Scots for a lake or for a sea inlet. Loch Ness, immortalized by Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster is probably the most famous loch in the world. Loch Ness is a freshwater loch. It is the second largest Scottish loch by surface area, the first being Loch Lomond, but due to its great depth, it is the largest by volume in the British Isles. It is said to contain more freshwater than all the lakes in England and Wales combined. Nessie, the eponymous monster of the lake is described as an enormous green creature, with a long neck and snake like body with one or more slither humps protruding from the water. The ride around the lake is pleasant and offers a bonny view of the Urquhart castle.

IMG_0844We reach Inverness just in time for lunch. We walk around trying to decide what to eat, and shopping just a wee bit for you-know-who-is-coming-soon. I smell Chinese and it smells good. We haven’t eaten at a Chinese buffet for a couple of years now, and this seems like a good opportunity to find out what British Chinese tastes like.

IMG_0854It is raining, when we get to Glasgow. It takes us a while to locate our hotel and check-in. Having driven around the city while trying to get to our hotel, we decided to skip everything else in favor of a hot dinner and a good night’s rest. We pick an Indian restaurant, by virtue of it being open at this hour and because it’s called Usha. Both our mothers are coincidentally named Usha. Our next challenge was returning the car. The rental office is closed and won’t open until after our flight departs tomorrow. The hotel puts us in touch with the rental company’s on the road assistance team, who assure us, it would not be a problem at all. All we have to do is fill up gas and leave the keys in the drop box.

We tuck in for the night, filled with the loveliest of memories.

“Wherever I wander,

wherever I rove,

The hills of the Highlands

forever I love”

-Robert Burns

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A Heartful of Skye

July 7, 2017

Day 7

At breakfast, the lady at the next table can’t stop staring at my belly. Clearly, she thinks the baby is coming tomorrow (eye roll). We exchange pleasantries and strike up a conversation. She casually mentions that we probably won’t be doing any of the hikes. We laugh and say we intend to try the easy trails.

Old Man of Stor

The hike at Old Man of Storr is easy enough, but the path is steep. I find myself stopping for breath every few turns. I stopped at point the husband says was around quarter mark, but in retrospect I think it must have been closer to three quarters. He made it all the way to the top and came down around thirty (30) to forty-five 45) minutes after I did. I was slow, but I don’t think he could do it that fast. The way down is trickier than going up. The slope is steep, ground gravelly and my protruding belly works against me. I make my way down slowly and cautiously picking my steps. I nap in the car while I wait. When the husband returns, we drive on the viewpoint Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls. The weather is cooler now, and it is starting to rain. It is easy to see how Kilt Rock gets its name. The basalt columns resting on a sandstone base gives it an appearance strikingly similar to a pleated kilt. Against this eccentric backdrop, the Mealt waterfall plummets from the top of the sea cliffs straight into the ocean below, all of which gives  it that extra “wow”.

File_009(3).jpegA bizarre landscape of cone-shaped hills dotted with ponds and scattered waterfalls greets us at the Faerie Glen of Uig. There are no stories or fairy tales associated with the glen, but it is charming and otherworldly nonetheless. We drive up and down the bumpy path and settle on a delightful spot to make some memories. A small grassy   clearing surrounded by a low stone wall, ideal for a coven, a little waterfall with its own emerald green pool to the side and a knoll to scramble behind. I want to try going up, but the rains have made the ground slippery and the husband is wearing the worst footwear possible for this. We glance at the clock and find its time to move on.

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After much debate, we pick the lovely Café Arriba for lunch, where we find onion pakoras on the menu. Everybody knows rainy days = hot hot pakoras. The weather is simply calling for it.

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The Faerie Pools of Glen Brittle were on almost every must do list I found online, naturally they were on ours too. The hike to the lower pool is really an easy walk across grass and water. Conveniently arranged rocks allow you to hop across natural streams. The turquoise waters of the pool are so clear that we can see each moss covered stone at the bottom. We stop here, as a pregnant belly and poor choice of footwear make us ill-equipped to deal with the slippery path ahead. I had planned to go “wild swimming” but I luckily, I forgot to carry swimwear. The day is too cold and the place to crowded to swim. Had the pool been truly isolated, I might have even considered skinny dipping. What made the place magical for me was the distinct difference in the colour of the grass and the shrubbery on the sunward side and mountainside – neon bright on one side and a grimmer gruff grungy green on the other.

We knew we might be running late on our packed itinerary, so we had purposely held off on booking a stay for tonight. The husband quickly did a last-minute booking at a B&B at Loch Ness and we were on our way. Not wanting to repeat last night’s experience, we stop for supper at Portree and by the time we reach our B&B it’s close to nine in the night. The doors are shut and the lady there insists she only takes care of the dogs and knows nothing about our booking. She absolutely refuses to let us in, or put us in touch with the hosts, and even threatens to call the cops on us. We don’t have a choice. We make our way down the road and check into the only room available at Hotel Drumnadrochit. The hotel looks a little rundown from the outside, but it has the biggest room we’ve had so far, with an exception of the House on the Falls. The room is clean and comfortable too. It’s a twin room, so we have the luxury of individual beds. There is still light outside, but we happily sink into the inky blackness of sleep.