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Budget,care hire,sightseeing for 10 days around some magnificent scenery and quaint villages in early October 2010
We arrived by plane about 8pm from Australia via Dubai. Due to lack of sleep the night before we left and our plane departed at 3am, we grabbed a taxi from the airport which cost us about 20 pounds including a tip to take us to the Apex Waterloo Hotel ( read my review above). This hotel was convenient to all we wanted to see and co joined Princes Street, the main street in the city.
After a good breakfast, we caught the Green Edinburgh Tour bus at Waverley Bridge which was about 7 mins amble down the main street. We passed Scott Monument, the highest monument in Great Britian. Stopped for some photos over the old town which was amazing to us, being from a newer country. We really admired the architecture of Edinburgh and we fell in love with it, in such a short time. We went to the Edinburgh Castle and the history was amazing. We saw Greyfriars Bobby's statue and thought about how faithful this little dog was to his master. We had an interesting ride around the city hopping off where necessary to the sites required. Then we did a bit of shopping, had a drink in a bar and then I managed to scale Carlton Hill near the hotel for some wonderful photos over the town, Holyrood Palace and up to Arthur's Seat. That evening we went to the Thistle Hotel just around the corner for an evening of Scottish dancing, singing, joking and music with dinner included. "Jamies Scottish Evening". This set us in the mood for our drive around the country the next morning. It's a pity we didn't have more time in Edinburgh as one full day did not nearly cover it all.
Early the third morning we left the hotel, caught a cab back to the airport to pick up our hire car, a Ford Focus Zetec, which was quite new and in good order. It was a smaller hatchback and more economical to drive but it suited the two of us and took all our luggage in the boot, no problems. Alamo the company had us on our way in no time. Pays to get there early I would say.
We manouvered our way around Glasgow and then up the west side of Loch Lomond, where we stopped in a nice little restaurant and had brunch. A very good meal for the price. Luss is right on the lake and it is a quaint little village and rather tidy with lovely small gardens. There is one or two gift shops where we were offered a nice piece of shortbread to top off our meal. The storm clouds hung over the lake and so we departed chasing the sun. Along the way we saw lovely scenery and had a look around Arrochar which featured in one of the Relocation, relocation shows some time back. Approaching Inverary we came across a rather ornate bridge and if you stood on top ( couldn't drive over) you could see Inverary in the distance. Inverary itself has interesting little shops with statues outside, and a jail where you could be locked away just to get the taste of it...perhaps some may need this treatment! There is also the Inverary Castle which can be visited, but we bypassed this one.
This drive from Edinburgh passed many picturesque lochs, such as Lomond, Fyne, Awe as well as others. I got a lovely photo of Kilchurn castle on Loch Awe as the grasses in the foreground were quite orange. We arrived into Oban just in time to book into our Guesthouse for 2 nights. Alltavona Guesthouse ( see my review). We strolled along the waterfront of Corrin Esplanade which is about a 10 min walk from the town, saw Dunollie Castle ruins just up around from the guesthouse, browsed the shops and walked along the Piers. Oban was a bustling town as we arrived Friday and stayed Saturday night.
We spent the following day taking the huge car ferry over to the Isle of Mull but we left the car behind and bussed it up to Tobermorry which was a very pretty village. Just the ferry ride was worth it and it is not so expensive for passengers. We also drove up to McCaigs Tower in Oban which overlooks the town. This tower was built by a rich banker for his family and he employed the local stonemasons, It was never finished as he passed away. I took many photos around the 90 odd arches and out over the town and across the sound to Kerrera. Great scenery and a lovely sunny stay.
On our trip we always had breakfast at the first sitting...I know that the people from Gr Britian and Ireland seem to have breakfast very late to we Aussies, but we preferred to be on our way around the 8.30am mark...sometimes 9 am if staying in town. Taking photographs also meant I wanted to capture the shadows that stretch out in the early morning. We headed north through Fort William, but went in and out of Glen Coe first. Couldn't miss this overpowering, mountainous part of the highlands. It turned pretty nasty in there with sleeting rain, wind and it was literally freezing. We grabbed some really good shots of the sun streaming down through a gap in the mountains, some of a waterfall and one I am glad I took of the motor homes and cars lined up above us along the road while these huge mountains loomed over them, which really gave the idea of their size. Loved this area, but we needed to head out and onwards. Saw a father and son getting ready to trek out there and thought better you than me!
At Spean Bridge we saw the Commandos statue. These were the elite squad who were trained in the area for Europe during WW2 and had died and then there was Ben Nevis, Great Britian's highest mountain misty though it was at the time. We circled around Castle Stalker on Loch Lynne to get some lovely shots and thought about how people lived in times gone by. We drove up as far as Fort Augustus, which is a nice little village on the southern end of Loch Ness. Here we stopped for a break and I had a really good lunch of homemade mushrooms soup, a beef stew that came out cooking in it's own bowl with a pastry top and vegetables on side. Went down a treat after Glen Coe chilled me to the bone! Hubby had fish and chips which he also enjoyed. This was in the Loch Inn right beside the locks on the Caladonian Canal. After Fort Augustus we headed west past some smaller lochs and finally along Loch Duich on which the very attractive Eilean Donan Castle rests.Here we were staying for 3 nights in the wee pretty and quiet village of Dornie.
The Schoolhouse B & B ( see my review) was a converted schoolhouse and it was right across the road from some mountains splattered with red from the bracken bush and right up against the backwater from the loch. We had the opportunity to do our own cooking here as there was a guest kitchen which we could share. Kyle of Lochalsh was only 15 mins or so drive west and there we got our provisions for meals. This was a nice break from eating out each night.
The second day here we headed the short distance via Kyle of Lochalsh ( Kyle) over the Bridge to Skye. We spent the day taking in the scenery on Skye, so interesting and scenic, went into Portree the main town which is a tidy town and has a nice little harbour. We drove north to around Dungarvan stopping quite a lot for photos of the wonderful scenery.
We settled into the B & Bfor the night but firstly sat in the small private garden across the road from the accommodation and had a glass of wine or two and some nibblies.
I went down to the castle around 10 am when it was due to open. Fortunately there was a bagpiper playing when I arrived, which was a very nice touch. I paid for my ticket in the info centre there and went across the stone bridge and looked around outside and inside. The castle sits on an island in three lochs although the tide was out on the northern side. No photos are allowed inside, but there were various items and the kitchen was interesting to say the least. Afterwards we drove up to Wester Ross which is north of Dornie. We firstly went though such heavy fog that the idea of taking the high scenic route up and then down into Applecross was definitely out of the question as we would have seen absolutely nothing along the way. As it was, we were creeping along around the narrow roads. Once down lower the fog was not so bad and it also created wonderful scenes with fog banks drifting along the lochs and around the white cottages. We stopped in Lochcarron, yes on the loch of the same name and watched some fishermen getting ready to go out. Then we called into the smaller villages of Achintraid and Ardarroch which the latter had a fog bank running along Loch Kishorn. Such scenery! Shieldaig was literally under cover and we couldn't even see the water, but people were out and about going for their morning walk with the dog.
Around Loch Torridon, I found it the most scenic and got a lovely photo of the loch with Little Red, Jewelled, Big Red and The Grey One (mts) in the background. Coming into Torridon the village, the scenery was breathtaking! Here was a stretch of tiny white houses tucked under the watchful eye of the huge Liathach 1054 high which reflected into the loch below. This is one of my favourite sights in Scotland. Anyway, we doubled back and finally caught Shieldaig out of the fog and then we ventured around to Plockton another village about 20 mins or so north of Dornie and is around the water from Kyle of Lochalsh. This is another pretty village, which due to the gulf stream and the Outer Hebrides and the Isle of Skye, it is harboured from the coldest weather and here palm trees can be grown. Some wonderful garden flowers, cottages and water shots here.
We were a bit weary that night and forewent cooking dinner and had a nice meal in the one and only pub open in Dornie. ( Other was under refurbishment) I really enjoyed this part of the Highlands and resting in the lovely little village of Dornie.
We backtracked in the morning up the same road but came out further north than Fort Augustus on the great Loch Ness. Following the lake, we eventually stopped at Urquhart Castle. My husband decided to wait in the car thinking it was just a ruin. Little did he know that the info centre there, was under the car park and housed a large gift shop and restaurant/cafe and a video room. The grounds of the castle are quite large and well looked after. There is no-one to guide you around but I did buy a booklet about the layout and followed it around as I didn't have time for the video as perhaps my husband may have thought Nessie had got me!. There is just something that draws me to castles. Anyway, a tour boat pulled in and I was informed that it could have been booked in the centre for a run up Loch Ness. Well perhaps they were looking for Nessie, but I had beaten them and caught her on my camera. There she was as bold as brass drifting through the water with her elongated neck...oh well a duck sometimes could look like Ness!
We intended to drive into Inverness and have a look around but from here on the weather turned miserable, dark and wet. It followed us all the way down to Aviemore, where we quickly grabbed a bite to eat, looked around town jumping puddles and settled in for the very wet night in the Ravenscraig Guesthouse ( another of my reviews). My intentions of getting out around the Cairngorms came unravelled and I am afraid it was a night of TV in the room.
Fortunately in the morning the rain had gone and we headed south passing the impressive Ruthven Barracks C 1721 when the Government of the day had it built to house 120 troops because of the Jacobite rising. The Jacobites did capture it and then left it in it's present state in 1746.
After Pitlochry where I did a bit of gift shopping, we turned south west to Aberfeldy and around this town we saw some lovely autumn tones on the hills. We headed down through Crieff and in to Tillicoultry. The reason for stopping there was for family reasons as this was the village where my father in law had grown up. We had a look around trying to pinpoint the cottages he had ived in. We then moved on down to more suburban type areas and along the southern side of the Firth of Forth. We had picked South Queensferry for the last night as it was about 15 mins from the airport and this afforded us another look at a small older waterside area out of town.
Priory Lodge was our B & B (review) for the night and it was only the next street up from the small main village street on the water. We dined in The Boathouse (another review)
I took some photos of the two Firth of Forth Bridges and the quaint street. It was nice to unwind out of the city without the worry of driving, parking and then driving back to the airport from busy Edinburgh.
In hindsight, I would say if you want to go to Scotland and see it all your own way, tack on about four or five more days to really appreciate it. We missed the far north, the east coast and the borders but then what we did see and experience, we really liked.
An atmosphere the complete opposite to Australia, with it's powerful mountain scenery, quaint villages and pubs, autumn colours, and helpful and pleasant folk, I could not help but enjoy this holiday.