Over the Sea to Skye

My Scotland Adventure: days 5, 6, and 7

Skye from ferry

With the wretched curse being broken on day 4, we experienced a wonderful two days on the Isle of Skye before crossing back over to the mainland and winding our way down through Glencoe, to arrive back in Edinburgh.

Glencoe vista
Jamie Fraser was nowhere to be found, sadly

Our first day on the Isle of Skye was packed to the brim with beautiful sights! In the cool misty morning we stopped at a picture-perfect waterfall

early morning waterfall

and drove past the iconic Old Man of Storr rock formation. It has many legends attached to it but our guide told us that it was thought to represent an old man (standing) and his wife (sitting) who made a deal with those trickster faeries and were turned into stone.

misty Old Man of Storr

We visited a prehistoric Broch that was located just off the side of the road

in a sheep pasture.

climbing to the Broch

Remember my fear of heights?

I was feeling a little shaky up on that hill!

view from Broch
that little blue rectangle is our bus

there was honest to goodness scottish thistle all around though,

so it was worth it.

clumps of scottish thistle

Historic Dunvegan Castle, with it’s many strollable gardens, proved enjoyable.

Dunvegan castle

My husband took a boat tour of some surrounding islands to view the seals. I thought that riding in a small motorized boat that only seated 8 people was just taunting our recent bad luck, so I declined.

baby seal
isn’t he adorable though?

The bridges and surrounding mountain views at Sligachan were lovely and one of my favorite stops of the trip.

stone bridges

We ended the day at our home-base of Portree, with enough time to grab dinner and wander around the picturesque port town.

Portree

The next day we took a ferry back over to the mainland. I had much more confidence in that boat…

ferry ride

and then we hopped on a steam train that took us to Fort William.

train winds over viaduct

We couldn’t resist sneaking into the first class compartments and pretending we were on our way to Hogwarts.

Hogwarts, 1st class

We then experienced unforgettable Glencoe

magestic Glencoe

before arriving back at our starting point.

Firth of Forth bridge

Our last day was spent exploring Edinburgh itself

curved streets of Edinburgh

and wandering around the base of Arthur’s Seat. We climbed the first little bit up to the ruins of the old chapel but after our last few busy days, I did not have the energy to attempt going higher.

Arthur's Seat

Oh well, there’s always next time!

foreground thistle

Murphy’s Law- part three

My Scotland Adventure: day 4

Edinburgh Castle, taken from Prince's street
Edinburgh Castle, taken from below in the shopping district

After finishing up our 3rd day by shopping for new clothes and a small replacement suitcase to take on our upcoming tour of Skye, we slept wonderfully! Because, you know, that tends to happen when you’re in a hotel bed instead of an airport cot or airplane seat.

FYI: the best way to combat jet lag is to not sleep for the first 48 hours.

it works!

Day 4 dawned bright and early. We were able to awaken and get ready with ease; not hard to do when you have one pair of jeans and three t-shirts to choose from, along with no styling products or makeup to fuss with.

so, the complete opposite of this.

While eating breakfast, Husband gave me an odd look as I slathered marmalade on my scone. “Why are you putting jelly on your biscuit”, he asked, “did they forget the gravy?”

Biscuits=Cookies, Scones=Biscuits. get with the program!

As we set off to find our tour company, we snapped a quick pic of the cafe where J.K. Rowling supposedly first wrote Harry Potter. Our 10 year old daughter would never have forgiven us if we had forgotten!

the Elephant House cafe

We checked into our tour company and went outside to wait with the group until it was time to load onto the small touring bus. Husband picked this time to suddenly need the rest room (didn’t we leave the kids at home?). So he wandered off in search of a Cafe, with warnings from me similar but not limited to “if you’re not back in time I will leave you, I am not missing this tour!” Of course the guide appeared soon after, ushering everyone down a side-street to the waiting bus, while I ground my teeth into dust waiting for Husband to come back.

“oh where oh where has my little dog gone, oh where oh where can he be?”

Luckily we did not miss the tour but we did get stuck in the very back of the bus. Finally we are on our way, out of the city and over the Firth of Forth. Our guide told us informative things about the city and upcoming countryside, as he played a bit of music to start our day.

lowland countryside
“so Sally can wait, she knows it’s too late as we’re walking on by…”

Our first stop was the small village of Dunkeld. We were afforded a little time to look at the old cathedral, grab a snack, and use the toilets before heading off on our way again. This was my first experience paying to use the public facilities. I found it odd at first but I quickly got used to it, as I did seeing the little half sinks in the Cafe’s and Pubs with the brand name Armitage Shanks.

Oh, the irony.

these shanks are anything but little

Two hours after leaving Edinburgh behind, our bus crashed. Yep, you read that right. We rear-ended the car in front of us, pushing it into the car in front of it. Evidently car #1 was slowing down as an ambulance passed, causing car #2 to stop short, and our driver didn’t react quick enough. A fellow passenger who was sitting in the back row of seats with my husband and I was banged up some because she didn’t have her seat-belt on, but the damage was minor.

Buckle Up!

The next two hours were spent by the side of the road as the accident was cleared and a vehicle came to collect us. I was unusually quiet throughout the ordeal which worried my husband a little. I answered his concern by revealing my fear, “I think we might be cursed”. Now, I generally don’t believe in bad luck but things were adding up at an alarming rate! Something was trying to sabotage my dream vacation. Or maybe I just had magic on the brain because: Matthew Clairmont.

reading book at side of road
me, reading about vampires and witches

A stand-in bus drove us to the nearby village of Pitlochry, where we had time to wander and eat lunch while we waited for our replacement bus and driver. Our original driver was shaken up but still took good care of us, remaining his personable self while continuing to wait with us.

Pitlochry
I had a cheese toasty with crisps for lunch, in case you were wondering.

For wait we did. There was another accident on the same road (the A9, which I’m told is notorious for accidents) delaying our incoming bus in stopped traffic. Three hours later, our intermediate driver showed up with the replacement bus (with the row of back seats covered in plastic because someone left the sun-roof open in the rain. just a fun little fact) We bid driver #1 farewell as he caught a train back to Edinburgh, and now driver #2 was tasked with getting us to Loch Ness to meet up with driver #3, who would be our guide for the rest of the tour.

“walk, sing, do anything! try spinning round like tops, just be right there by an empty chair when the music stops!”

Driver #2 gave some interesting commentary on our drive but he made me car sick, so I shut my eyes for awhile. I don’t blame him because he needed to get us from point A to point B in a reasonable amount of time to make up for the 5 hours that were lost. Luckily I opened my eyes at just the right moment to see a filming location from one of my favorite television shows, Monarch of the Glen.

Monarch of the Glen gatehouse

After taking a peek at Loch Ness and being judged for not believing in the monster, we had time for a quick dinner before meeting up with our new driver. This is when I decided to try Scotland’s favourite soft drink, Irn Bru. Sadly, I cannot recommend it. unless you enjoy drinking bubble-gum.

Dusk was now upon us, which unexpectedly gave us a nice lit-up view of Eilean Donan Castle… while we got attacked by midges. I had to pull the hood of my jacket tight around my face, covering my nose and mouth as I tried to take in the ambiance of the location. Thank goodness for pictures!

“Adventure is no more than discomfort and annoyance recollected in the safety of reminiscence” ~ Gary Jennings

Eilean Donan Castle with bridge

Then we found ourselves winding through a beautiful Highland Glen (valley), green mountains looming up on all sides, as our guide told us tales of mischievous Fairies. Her accented voice, the soft background music of bagpipes, and the rocking of the bus lulled us into a relaxed state. Twilight in the Highlands is so serene, so magical. The curse (if there ever was one) had finally been broken.

Highland glen at dusk

Next time: I’ll wrap up my saga by sharing some thoughts (and photos) from our tour on the Isle of Skye, a steam train ride, and our last day back in Edinburgh.

steps where Margaret gets rescued by Higgins

Murphy’s Law: part two

My Scotland Adventure: days 2 and 3

(continued from here)

lone flower

After trying to get some sleep at the airport and failing miserably, Minute Suites called to say that a room was available for us, if we still wanted it.

Woo-Hoo!!

The room was Hobbit-sized, just wide enough for a small trundle couch, but it was quiet. And dark. And ours for the next 8 hours! I was dead to the world as soon as I laid down. A few hours later, I felt much better but was it enough to venture out into the city? The only thing that even vaguely interested me at that point was the Rocky Balboa statue, but my spirits weren’t quite recovered yet.

“gonna fly now” my ass!

So we freshened up in the nearest rest room, which was under construction as well, and then just relaxed in the room. Our flight wasn’t until 9pm that evening, so needless to say, we became very familiar with all the ins and outs of the airport.

Blue Mountain Beauty Shop: beard braids 1/2 off!

Finally we were on the plane and flying to Scotland! We were seated next to a friendly Englishman who enjoyed talking up his adopted home city of Edinburgh. Being an avid backpacker, he warned us about the midges. He urged us to purchase some Skin-So-Soft if we happened to run across it. This would not be the last time we heard about the miracle that was Avon’s Skin-So-Soft. We’ve been using it for years to fight off mosquitoes, but I doubted it was warm enough to need it yet (we should have listened).

gnats are not supposed to bite

The flight was long with little sleep achieved but I was getting used to viewing the world through puffy eyes. As we neared our destination the skies became unbelievably clear, which afforded me a lovely view of the islands that we flew over. Then the mainland came into view *girly squeal!* We circled round, which acquainted me with all of the bright green hills, golden fields, white windmills, and grey stone houses. Oh, look: the cars were moving on the opposite side of the road. I was here. really, really here!

windmills

We bid our travel companion good-bye and set off to collect our luggage. The conveyer belt went round and round and round some more, but our luggage was not on it. Surprised? I wasn’t. My husband looked like he was about to have a stroke but I wasn’t phased. What papers do we have to sign? Let’s just do this and get on with things.

Customer Service Rep: is there anything of value in your bag? Me: my pillow

Next, we caught the city bus to transport us to our hotel. I made the mistake of sitting on the bottom of the two-tiered bus. every city street=motion sickness. blah. We weren’t sure which stop was ours but luckily several locals discussed it amongst themselves to find us the best path to take. Scots are so friendly and helpful ❤ This was something I would experience again and again throughout our trip.

this way is quicker but if you go this way instead, you’ll get a better view

After checking in to our hotel we needed to grab some lunch and then buy clean clothes. My guidebook suggested a tavern that was relatively close, so that was our first destination. We were seated upstairs with a perfect view. The window was open (no screen!)

Deacon Brodie's Tavern

the window box was in full bloom and I could finally breathe easily again.

view out tavern window

Things could only look up from here, right?

to be continued…

**this post has been brought to you by Thorin, because he’s all about determination

Next time: I think I might be cursed

tour bus crash

Murphy’s Law- part one

Anything that can go wrong

Will go wrong

My Scotland Adventure: day 1

We arrived at the Indianapolis airport early so that we would have ample time to say our good-byes to children and parents before going through the process of checking in and going through security, etc. We noticed that flights out of New York and New Jersey were getting canceled. How far away is Philadelphia from New York, again?

Geography has never been my strong point

While we patiently waited for time to pass, we heard our first announcement: flights to Philadelphia were being delayed due to bad weather, updates would follow by the hour. Two delays later we realized that we were not going to make our connecting flight to Edinburgh, Scotland. We rerouted to London, with a connecting flight up to Edinburgh, putting us in Scotland just a few hours behind schedule.

slow breaths, in and out

One more delay and we were finally on the plane. And then we weren’t. We were herded off the plane and made to wait some more, due to a missing air-conditioning clamp. Another hour later we were on a different plane and on our way to Philadelphia. As an added bonus, we were fortunate enough to have a screaming two year old on our flight. I really couldn’t hold it against her though, if I could have thrown a public tantrum, I totally would have.

oh, what fine lungs you have!

As we flew closer to Philadelphia, we started to encounter the predicted bad weather. Not a lot of turbulence, surprisingly, but plenty of lightening. I probably should have been scared, flying through a storm in a big metal box, but I wasn’t; it was actually very pretty! The Pilot announced that the airport was closed but they might let us land if the plane ahead of us did so without any problems. Oh, okay. Cool. Fingers crossed they don’t crash.

We had a rough landing but everything was fine. We were cutting it very close in regards to our connecting flight to London, so we pushed our way through the deboarding line as best we could.

I said Please!

Several of our fellow passengers sympathized with our plight and told us to be sure to tell the gate attendant to call ahead and let the other plane know that we were coming. We did so as we rushed by and were assured that the other gate was expecting us. It was in a whole other terminal, of course, and after sitting around waiting all day, my legs were one big cramp! We finally made it to the gate with two minutes to spare, only to be met with complete silence. The plane left. Early. Leaving 16 of us behind. This was not good, not good at all.

violence is not the solution, violence is not the solution, violence…

The ticket agent we found to help informed us that no other flights were going anywhere that night, the airport was closed until morning. I finally lost it and started crying. Not only was I going to miss my scheduled tour of Loch Lomond and Stirling Castle in Scotland but all the hotels in the Philadelphia airport area were occupied. I was going to spend the night in an airport!

good-bye Sleep, I will miss you!

It was Midnight and I hadn’t eaten dinner yet, so we wandered around the airport until we found a store open and I forced down some stale bread and fruit. We spied a Minute Suite establishment, where we could rent a cracker-box sized room for a few hours to catch some sleep, but it was all booked up. We put our name on the waiting list and went off to find the “refugee camp” where they had sleeping cots set up and were handing out free toiletries. We spent the next four hours trying to sleep under bright lights and crinkling space-age “blankets”, which had the added side-effect of reflecting the light back into our eyes.

Thank Cod I had my I-Pod and the soothing playlist I originally made for the night flight. Did I mention that they were repairing the moving walkway that was opposite our sleeping station? With Saws. And Hammers.

No, Sir. Not. At. All

Stay Tuned…

**this post has been brought to you by Lucas, who triumphs over adversity

Next Time: we make it to Edinburgh!

Edinburgh street

Scotland the Brave

I’ll be headed off to Scotland in a few days.

I’m excited but also a bit nervous too. I’ve never been overseas before. I’ve never even been out of my own country before. Well, that’s not technically true. I did cross over into Canada once, on a school trip. It was very educational. I learned that….well…umm…I learned that I’m very good at stalking–I followed my crush around, unseen, practically the whole time; I learned that I value my sleep–two of my roommates stayed up the whole night singing Biz Markie’s “he’s just a friend” at the top of their lungs. I threw the bedside bible at them. it’s what Jesus would have done too, trust me; and I learned that the walkways around Niagara Falls are very slick on cold April mornings–did I mention that was the one moment my crush chose to notice me? Ugh.

I never thought I’d actually find a use for this!

Everyone I talk to tells me I will have a wonderful time in Scotland, that it will be a trip worth remembering. I’m choosing to believe them. I hope they don’t let me down! I fell in love with Scotland, from afar, a little over 15 years ago. for the history, the scenery, and just the magical of another time quality of the place.

Eilean Donan castle image

 

Calton Hill image
if Margaret tries to follow me back to the hotel with a pity basket, I’ll gladly accept. this trip is expensive!

and in just a few days time I will be there,

for REAL!

Hopefully I’ll have all kinds of fun things to tell you when I come back.

In the meantime:

That man is so wise