We spent a few days in Edinburgh in 2013 and this time were determined to see more of beautiful Scotland, so after a night with our good friend Sheila in Edinburgh we picked up our hire car and headed north. Our first night was at Fort William on the shore of Loch Linnhe, and in the shadow of Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis. The town is a delightful mix of old and new and we took advantage of one of the many pub to have a welcoming glass of wine. The Church of Scotland is a wonderful old building, equally impressive inside.
We then drove on towards the Isle of Skye, via Invergarry Hotel for tea and scones, and toured the stunning yet eerie 13th Century Eilean Donan Castle situated on an island in the Loch. Partially destroyed in a Jacobite uprising in 1719, the castle lay in ruins until the island was purchased by Lieutenant Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrap in 1911 and restored. Several Hollywood movies have been filmed there including Highlander and The World is Not Enough.
We drove to the top of the Isle of Skye and enjoyed the amazing scenery: mountains, pastures, villages and dramatic coastline. Our B&B was just lovely and we had great views of the water from our room. The next morning we discovered the owner, John, built model ships and had a model railway in his shed out back, so our departure was delayed somewhat as he and Jim discussed matters of importance.
We then drove down to Armadale which is the main ferry stop from the mainland and walked through the Castle grounds where we learned a lot about Scottish history at the onsite museum. Back on the mainland we drove to Fort Augustus on Loch Ness and were just in time to see the town’s locks in action as a yacht waited patiently to travel down the Caledonian Canal. We were however disappointed that whilst following Loch Ness all the way to Inverness we didn’t see the mysterious Nessie…
From Inverness we drove even further north to visit the stunning French-styled Dunrobin Castle. We followed a fascinating falconry demonstration with a walk through one of the most unusual museums we’ve seen – wall to wall taxidermy! The castle itself was most impressive and we were joined for lunch at the café by an eccentric and well-known local character who told us he once taught at Geelong Grammar.
The Inverness surrounds are picturesque farming lands with huge amounts of Gorse covering the hillsides. Unlike us, the Scots don’t seem to mind it and as it is currently out in flower it added to the views.
We spent our second night in Inverness at a B&B in Daviot, and what luxury! The house is beautifully appointed and we felt like Lords of the manor as we watched pheasants frolicking on the lawn. It was there we met Sydney couple Gail and Glenn who joined us for dinner at the Culloden Moor Inn, close to the famous battleground where, in 1745, the last pitched battle took place on British soil. A pitched battle is where both sides choose to fight at a chosen location and time and where either side has the option to disengage either before the battle starts, or shortly after the first armed exchanges. At this particular battle over 2,000 were either killed or wounded.
After a walk through the city of Inverness we headed back to Edinburgh via Dunkeld, one of the best preserved historic towns in Scotland thought to date back to the sixth century when a monastery was founded beside the River Tay. Building of the present day Cathedral began in the 12th century and additions were added up to the 16th. Although partly in ruins, it is still the Parish Church and holds regular services and concerts in its beautiful riverside location. The Cathedral museum has an interesting collection of artefacts and photographic memorabilia.
Katy Hulme, once a member of the Lonnie Writers group, currently resides in the town of Alnwick in northern England and works at the castle there. We took Sheila down to the castle for the day and caught up with Katy and her mum Mandy who was visiting from Tasmania. Amongst other duties, Katy is a guide in the staterooms, so we were privileged to have her expertise as room by room she brought the castle alive for us. And what a magnificent castle it is. Between 2006 and 2009 the staterooms were renovated at a cost of $250,000 per room! Unfortunately no photos are allowed.
The 18th Century furnished Library holds an enormous collection of historic texts, as well as antique taxidermy in the form of dogs, squirrels and rats. And it hosts an enormous TV and beanbags. You see, the owners still live in the castle. A Christmas episode of Downton Abbey was filmed there and the place cards are still on the dining room table. And part of the first Harry Potter movie was also filmed there so out on the lawns we watched broomstick-riding lessons in progress. A truly remarkable experience.
Sheila’s parents live in Stirling where another marvellous castle stands. We walked the city streets and had tea and scones at the Old Town Coffee House in a 17th Century building before joining the MacCallums for lunch at their local golf club where Sheila’s dad has been a member for 68 years! On the way home we called in at ‘The Helix’, a green space whose main attraction is two amazing 30 metre high stainless steel horse heads known internationally as 'The Kelpies'.
We spent our last day wandering through Edinburgh city, perusing the shops. Jim was delighted to discover Harburn Hobbies who specialise in all things model train, and he purchased a couple of items. Then we lunched at the wonderful pub ‘The Conan Doyle’ just up the road from the birthplace of the famous author and enjoyed a parting glass of wine.Now its London here we come!
Eilean Donan Castle
Isle of Skye
The locks at Fort Augustus
The gardens at Dunrobin Castle
Falconry - with a Hawk
Gorse covered hills
Daviot Lodge near Inverness
Window cleaning - Inverness style
The village of Dunkeld
Dunkeld Cathedral and grounds
Mandy, Katy, Sheila and Penny at Alnwick Castle
Penny and Jim with Sheila
Around Alnwick Castle
Sheila, Jim, Penny, Gail and Glenn at Amarone Restaurant in Edinburgh
Old Town Coffee house, Stirling
Lunch with the MacCallums
Penny with Mr Holmes
The Conan Doyle