Glasgow, Scotland

After visiting Stirling, we carried on to Glasgow. Our place there was in the city centre, less than a 10 minute walk to the main shops and restaurants. We were staying in an “infill” house, on a lane, in an area of one way streets. After we found our spot and parked the car, we left it until we drove to the airport.

It was bright, modern and spacious.

Of course, we walked to the grocery store most days. The biggish Tesco was on Sauchiehall St., a pedestrian mall for these few blocks.

On our first full day in Glasgow, Doug and Wendy went to visit Doug’s aunt, who he hadn’t seen for over twenty five years. Our visit coincided with Auntie’s birthday so it made it extra special. We also had the chance to meet Doug’s cousin, whom he had never met.

We visited her at her place in East Killbride, once a small village and now a suburb of Glasgow. Here’s a view of the village centre.

East Killbride is about a half hour train ride from Glasgow, which meant we got to experience Glasgow Central. The train ran right on time and it let us see a bit of the countryside.

While we were out of town, Joanne and Bill explored Glasgow on foot. Here’s a view of Glasgow Cathedral.

Glasgow is known for its art scene. There are murals throughout the city and Joanne and Bill found this one, titled: “Honey, I shrunk the kids!”

That night we recounted our day over beers and artisanal pizzas at Shilling Brewing Co., a brewery in the city centre.

The next morning, as we walked to see the sights, we got this view from the pedestrian overpass of the M8, the main highway that cuts right through town.

We headed over to Kelvingrove Park.

The rhododendrons were in bloom. You can see the University of Glasgow in the background.

The Kelvingrove Museum is adjacent to the park. We spent a couple of hours there and could have spent longer. The Spitfire was Doug’s favourite display. Wendy enjoyed the nature exhibits, especially the stuffed birds.

Here is a display of the life stages of the gannet.

Then on to the transportation museum, just a 10 walk away. Here’s Doug in front of the car he learned to drive on, called an Anglia, which was known as a Ford Cortina in Canada.

That day was our last one in Scotland. Next post will be about Bruges, Belgium and our bike/barge tour to Amsterdam.

Stirling, Scotland

We drove from the Glencoe area, on winding roads on the shores of Loch Lomond and on to Stirling. Stirling Castle was next on our list of things to see. This is a view of the James V’s palace from within the castle wall.

The palace is covered in remarkable sculptures. Look for the sun-like face in the shield of the centre figure. The upper figure holds a cross-bow. This photo is a closer view of the same wall (south) that was in the previous photo.

We walked along the outer castle wall. Unfortunately the views were obscured by haze.

The flowers growing on the castle wall were quite lovely.

Inside, the palace has been restored to look as if it did in James V’s time. The tapestries are reproductions that were done by hand that took four years to complete. Note the abundance of unicorns. Nowadays, the unicorn is Scotland’s official national animal.

Here’s a view of one of the ceilings in the palace. All the carvings are reproductions and painted as they believe they looked when the palace was new. The next photo below is of an original carving. There are many of them on display in another room.

And everyone needs a quintessential photo with a knight. Note that the knight is mounted on a pedestal, so is shorter than Bill, who is about 6 feet tall.

Doug captured a good view of the restored chapel, which is used for services nowadays. Wendy is at the far end, taking a photo of the hand embroidered cloth. See her photo of one of the medallions after this one.

After touring the castle, we headed down the hill, and found a cozy pub that served “artisanal” burgers along with traditional fare. Bill had “bangers and mash,” which actually is sausages and mashed potatoes.

We had enough time to go to the Wallace Monument, erected to recognize William Wallace, (“Braveheart” to filmgoers.) We took a shuttle up the Abby Craig (hill) to the base of the monument, then walked up to the top of the tower. We chose to walk all 246 steps in the narrow spiral staircase in one go, saving the displays that were partway along for the downward journey. Here’s a windy view at the top.

There was a display of Scottish heroes and heroines. The bust pictured below is of Sir Walter Scott.

We walked down the trail to the parking lot. You can see the Wallace Monument behind Joanne.

There were a number of wood carvings staggered along the trail and they were meant to signify a certain time period. The bear and other furry creatures denote the Ice Age, the pig is for Scotland’s first farmers and Joanne is posing with the carving for People and Invaders of Scotland.

Whew! All the pictures in this post were taken in one day. We saw a lot of castles on our trip to Scotland and we may have saved the best one for last. Next stop, Glasgow.

Walking in the Glencoe area

We came over to the mainland from Skye by ferry to Mallaig, the terminus of the Jacobite Steam train. The Glennfinnan Monument and the Glennfinnan Viaduct were on the way to our next place, so we had to stop. The viaduct is well known to Harry Potter fans and is the first and longest mass concrete viaduct in Britain.

We walked about 15 minutes in from the main road to find a good spot to take a photo. While we were waiting for the train, we entertained ourselves by taking photos of Lil’ Fox. Doug is really liking the portrait mode on his new phone.

We were not alone. Here’s a photo of some of the crowd leaving after the train had passed. We walked down the path to the other side of the viaduct in time for the second train to pass. (Okay photo, but no room for it here.)

We had booked a cottage in Ballachulish, a village just west of the community of Glencoe. Here we are walking back with our groceries. The cottage is managed by the guest house and is just around the corner out of the photo. Note the restaurant and bar across the street, just past Bill’s head in the photo.

Here’s a view from in front of our place on a day with better weather.

And here we are sitting on the deck of “laroch.” You can see our cottage across the street. (Between Bill and the other gentleman in the photo.) Even though we had cold beer in our fridge, we couldn’t resist stopping after our hike.

Now about the walking (as they call it here.) We chose to do lots of short hikes, but the Glencoe area is better noted for longer treks, like the West Highland Way. We started out at the Glencoe Visitor Center and did a short loop trail right from the door.

This is the view up the valley from the bridge over the River Coe on the trail to Signal Rock.

This photo was taken from our lunch spot up Glencoe, one of the most famous and iconic of all Scottish Glens. (We walked a short way along the path to Glen Etive by the Lairig Eilde.)

This one is taken from the same spot, looking west down the valley.

Here’s a view of Wendy walking along a path, which according to the sign was “Glen Etive by the Lairig Gartain.” We didn’t go the whole way.

We turned the car around and headed back to Glencoe. It was still early, so time for a short hike at Glencoe Lochan, a lake built by Lord Strathcona for his Canadian wife to help her feel a little bit of home. It did feel a bit like walking in Stanley Park in Vancouver.

Here’s a taste of our second afternoon walk just minutes from our place in Ballachulish, with good views up to the highlands of Glencoe.

And an interesting variegated broom growing wild.

The next day we hiked on a forestry commission trail near Inchtree…

and over to a view of the falls.

After our lunchtime ale in North Ballachulish, we walked on a trail from the old ferry and back along the shore of Loch Leven.

This time our afternoon walk was up the hill behind the town. This is a self-closing gate because of its angled construction. We saw quite a few of them in the area.

A good view of Loch Leven.

The forests here were so evenly spaced because they’d been planted probably about fifty years before.

We stumbled on to a ruin in the forest.

On our way to Glasgow in the morning, we stopped to take a last look at the Highlands.

To the Isle of Skye

We travelled northwest to Culloden, just outside of Inverness, en route to the Isle of Skye. We toured the amazing interactive visitor centre commemorating the battle that took place here in 1746, but were unable to take photos. After listening to the audio guide inside, we went out to the battlefield. The photo below is of the memorial erected about 100 years later to the commemorate the gallant Highlanders (Jacobites) who fought for Scotland and Bonnie Prince Charlie. Around 1600 men were slain, 1500 of them Jacobites. In the second photo you can see the memorial from across the moor.

We drove through Inverness and along Loch Ness towards Urquhart Castle. We stopped at the Fiddler’s Highland Restaurant in Dummadrochit, just minutes from the castle. The weather was still gorgeous so we ate outside. Here’s a photo of Doug (to prove that he is actually with us, he’s usually behind the camera.)

Urquhart Castle was next. It’s on Loch Ness and very popular, but worth seeing especially in the sunshine.

A view through a “window” to the loch beyond.

As we got closer to the Isle of Skye, the skies became cloudier. We made a quick stop at Eilean Donan Castle for a photo.

We drove across the bridge to the Isle of Skye and followed the meandering road up the island to Portree. The island is only about 80 kilometres long and 45 kilometres wide but has about 700 kilometres of coastline. After dinner, walked down to the harbour. The pink guest house was the first to be painted brightly.

The weather was unsettled when we drove north. We had hoped to see the Old Man of Storr, but it was too cloudy and rainy to bother getting out of the car. It didn’t seem like it was raining much when we got to Lealt Gorge, so we took the short trail to the coast for the view of the interesting rock formations. We were quite wet from the Scottish mist blowing sideways by the time we were back in the car.

We could see Kilt Rock behind a 200 foot waterfall. Kilt Rock is a basaltic headland that gets its name because it resembles the pleats of a kilt. If you look closely on the patch of green on the cliff just beyond the falls, you might make out some nesting fulmars.

It was raining with intent by the time we reached the weird rock formations of the Quiraing. You can see the steep one lane road behind us. There were “passing points” at regular spots along the road. It means that one car pulls over and waits so that no one needs to back up. Bill did an awesome job driving.

We walked long enough to get some more photos of the formations through the mist and then lowered our heads and headed back into the blowing rain.

We continued on the narrow road over to Uig, travelling through rolling terrain of heather and whatever else the sheep can eat. Here’s a Blackface sheep calmly lying by the side of the road, on the wrong side of the fence.

We still had the afternoon ahead of us, so we drove another half hour to Dunvegan Castle and Gardens. The castle is the ancestral home of the chieftains of the Clan MacLeod for 800 years, and is still used as a residence.

The interior was ornate, with some rooms set up as they may have been used and some set up with displays.

We toured the impressive gardens even though it was pouring rain.

Back in Portree, we enjoyed a pot of mussels as an appetizer.

Although it was wet the next day as well, we had booked a tour at the Talisker Distillery, a 40 minute drive away, and it was mostly inside. We couldn’t take photos during the tour, but here’s a shot of the empty sample glasses with a jug of water and pipettes to allow visitors to add a few drops to the Talisker Storm whisky.

We spent the afternoon lounging in our apartment, reading and looking out at the rain. Just after dinner, the rain stopped and the sun came out. People poured into the streets and we joined them. Here’s one of several good pictures with the nice light.

The next morning we left Skye by ferry. Here’s the harbour at Armadale.

It was hard to leave “the misty isle” in such good weather, but we were glad to have sunny skies for the ferry ride to Mallaig and the mainland.

Speyside, Scotland

The good weather held for our stay in Aberlour in the Speyside region of Scotland. On our way north, we stopped in Pitlochry to visit the picturesque Edradour Distillery. Edradour is the only distillery that still uses the traditional methods to produce single malt scotch whisky. The distillery was on a hillside beside a clear running brook. John, our guide for the tour, entertained us with his knowledge and his dry sense of humour.

We arrived in Aberlour in the afternoon and walked a few doors down to the grocery store to pick up our dinner.

And back to the garden for wine and cheese.

The next morning we drove a short way to Balvenie Castle. It was built in the 13th century

There was an oyster catcher perched on a high wall, the first of many that we saw in the area.

We took a short jaunt up the hill to see the Highland cows, also known as “hairy coos.”

Then on to the next attraction: the Speyside Cooperage.

We joined a very informative tour of the facility where they repair and refurbish oak casks. It was fascinating to watch the coopers work. They would take out the damaged staves and find a replacement stave from the barrels that were too damaged to repair, but still had a some useable staves. The staves that were not good enough to be used for a barrel were repurposed into furniture or candle holders, etc. Nothing was wasted.

After lunch back in Aberlour, we walked from our doorstep to the River Spey and along an old rail bed.

It was two miles to Craigellachie and the Copper Dog Pub.

Our thirst quenched, we continued on the trail for a few more minutes, then turned on to a spur trail that led to the Craigellachie Bridge. This cast iron bridge was built in 1812-1814 by Thomas Telford and was the first bridge across the River Spey. (They used ferries before that.)

It was a pleasant walk back to Aberlour past fields of grazing sheep.

The next day, we drove half an hour north to Elgin and the Elgin Cathedral.

Across the street is the Biblical Garden. The garden apparently has every plant mentioned in the bible. It’s maintained by the Moray College horticulture students who were working in the garden during our visit.

A few minutes away was Spynie Palace where the Bishops from the Cathedral relaxed. We climbed the five story tower (David’s Tower). The second photo is taken from inside the tower, each window indicates another floor. If you look carefully you can see the screen above the highest window, at the level of the final floor, put in place to keep the birds from flying down.

We drove out to Lossiemouth on the North Sea, for lunch and a wander along the shore.

But we hadn’t finished yet! Dallas Dhu Historic Distillery was next. We followed an audio guide through the distillery. Here are Bill, Joanne and Wendy in front of the wash still. The windows allowed the still master to watch that the fermentation “foam” stayed between the two windows.

The next day, we headed to the Isle of Skye, and planned to stop at Culloden and Urquhart Castle. We truly are tourists now.

Edinburgh, Scotland

Our trip to Scotland was planned to celebrate our retirements. We had to wait for the youngest member of our group to retire, but it’s been well worth the wait. Our cute flat in the Stockbridge area of Edinburgh was close to everything. It looked ancient on the outside, and it was by Cranbrook standards, but it was modern inside.

Our jet-lagged bodies needed fresh air and exercise, so we chose a walk along the “Water of Leith,” a riverside trail close to our flat.

Sometimes we were close to the water with birds everywhere.

Sometimes we were above, with fantastic views.

We followed the route to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Here’s a photo of Doug standing in front of the gallery. Behind him is a landscape which unlike the traditional landscape actually is a landscape. It’s titled “Landform,” and is the modern art equivalent of an expansive front lawn.

We walked past St. Margaret’s Cathedral on our way to a pub in Haymarket for lunch.

After our lunch of meat pies, we were back to the Water of Leith, past Stockbridge to the Royal Botanic Gardens. Many of the rhododendrons were in bloom.

So were the azaleas.

Joanne has a degree in forestry and was interested in the labels on all the unique trees. This one is a dawn redwood (if we remember correctly.)

The next day, we attacked Edinburgh Castle by taking a taxi up the hill and being there before it opened. We took advantage of our Explorer Pass to avoid the ticket lines. Here are Joanne, Bill and Wendy waiting in line.

Without rushing, we got up to the viewpoint by Meg’s Mon a and had the place to ourselves for a few minutes.

Here’s a view from a view of the city from a few steps away. Notice the dog cemetery (for soldiers’ dogs) in the foreground.

Here’s the square outside the National War Museum Scotland with a statue of the Earl of Haig (that had been moved from the Esplanade) and the hospital behind.

Inside the Royal Apartments

‘Lil Fox’ found a friend.

Outside the castle, we joined the crowds coming up the Royal Mile.

We were pleased to find a garden just down an alley from the main street that provided a calm retreat and beautiful views.

We walked down to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, but it wasn’t open since there was a Royal visitor staying there. We walked all the way home, making it eleven kilometres by the time we were back at our lodgings. After dinner, we took a short jaunt to the park nearby to look for birds. We saw this grey heron who was not at all upset by our presence.

And this mother coot and her babies.

We’d had a couple of full days in Edinburgh with gorgeous weather but it was time to travel north. Next stop: Speyside.

On our way to Scotland

We thought we wouldn’t be writing a blog for our upcoming trip to Scotland, but so many people were hoping we were, so we did some research. Turns out there’s an app for Wendy’s iPad, so we’ll give it a go.

So we stay true to our name, “Travels with a Fox,” we will be bringing a fox with us. Lil’ Fox is a tiny fox that can fit in your hand. Wendy has had him since she was a child.

This blog post is really about seeing if this will work. So far, it seems pretty slick. So stay tuned.