Saturday, December 3, 2016

Skye, Fort William and Back Home Again

 Dear Mom,

 Continuing (and concluding) my Scotland trip....
 We departed Inverness and made our way to the Isle of Skye.
On the way we stopped at Eileen Donan Castle. We learned that the correct pronunciation is El-len Duh-non. (not Eye- Leen Dough-nan)

The day, as you can see in the photos, was sunny and pleasant. We ate lunch here, outside!
Things didn't stay sunny as we crossed the bridge to Skye. It seemed that once we got on the island all was heavy mist. Our plan was to drive to the Talisker Distillery for a tour. Thank goodness for the Sat Nav- this was our first real exposure to narrow, winding, single lane (but two directions!) roads with lay-by's.  We twisted and turned and climbed and prayed our way to the distillery to find that many others had the same idea on that rainy afternoon and the distillery tours were booked. Somewhat disappointing, but souvenirs were purchased. and we drove to our home in Portree, the Duirinish Guest House. The weather cleared in time for our arrival.
The guest house was an easy walk into Portree. The host was very helpful in making dinner reservations for us and restaurant suggestions. We drove out the next morning to Kilt Rock-

 and two of us spent the afternoon lunching at The Granary, shopping, and wandering around Portree.
We met the most charming shopkeeper at a gift/craft shop and shared laughs over photo id's, and how we camouflage our yarn stash. Kindred spirits.

 We departed early the next morning in order to catch the ferry from Armadale to Maillag.  Our next destination is Fort William where we stayed in the Treetops Bed and Breakfast.
Stalker Castle
Treetops sits at the foot of Ben Nevis. Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the British Isles. We had a spectacular view from the deck where we enjoyed hot tea and shortbread upon our arrival.

When planning our trip, we'd included Fort William thinking we would be spending a day on the Jacobite Steam Engine- the train that takes Harry Potter to Hogwarts. Unfortunately, we didn't delve into the details until it was too late. Our journey had us in Fort William on one of the last weekends the train runs for the season and no tickets were available. Luckily, the steam engine chugged its way past the B&B and we were able to see the plumes of steam and listen to the comforting sound of the slow moving train on the rails.

Thanks to a recommendation from a young cab driver "who took his mum there" we had Afternoon Tea at Inverlochy Castle on Sunday. Having High Tea sometime on our trip was on my wish list, and this experience was more than I'd ever hoped for. I am so grateful to that young man for mentioning this- Inverlochy Castle was not on our radar.

We enjoyed our tea, on Wedgwood china, next to a warm, crackling wood fire. Heaven.

We also had a delicious meal at the Ben Nevis Inn, a 200 year old, restored stone barn. I had a lamb stew that was melt-in-my-mouth delicious. 

Our time in Scotland is coming to an end. We left Fort William very early so we could make quick stops at Stirling Castle and the William Wallace monument on our way to return the car in Edinburgh. We'd also hoped to see Castle Doune (which is used as Castle Leoch in Outlander, and was also used In Monty Python and the Holy Grail) but a road closure with no detour signs thwarted that plan.
Stirling Castle and its views were beautiful. 

 It was a short drive from there to the Wallace Monument. I did not hike up to the monument- only the youngest one of us had the energy! 
As we got close to Edinburgh we were surprised by the Kelpies- another wish list item we weren't sure how to locate. Bonus!

Edinburgh traffic and finding the rental place at the airport was almost more than our nerves could take. We were all happy- most especially our driver- when we got out of the car for the last time and turned over the keys. No dents, all mirrors intact, but very chewed up rims on the left side tires. 
We spent our last night in Scotland in Edinburgh on the Royal Mile, at the Radisson Blu. A very noisy last night. Visiting the Royal Mile by day and dining there is wonderful. Revelry continues into the wee hours, though, and is not the best place for a good night's sleep- especially when rising early to catch a flight. We had our last dinner in Scotland at Alba Nach, the sister restaurant to the famous World's End- no seats available there- dinner was delicious and another wish list item was on the menu- yummy Banoffee pie. 

And homeward bound- through the delightful, cheerful, polite airport personnel in Scotland (gentle reminders to "remove your cardi"- to arrive in Newark to the unnecessarily grumpiest, rudest, barking commands "EMPTY YOUR POCKETS!", security and customs people who made me ashamed and embarrassed and sad- these may be the first Americans someone might meet. What a horrible first impression. 

I loved Scotland. I'd like to think I'll go back someday. But there are other places I'd like to see, and most importantly, be it ever so humble, There is NO PLACE like HOME.


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Tis The Season?

Dear Mom,

I hope I am not the only one who is this spaced out, ditsy, preoccupied. The Young Lady would say I am "riding the Struggle Bus".

  • I just texted you with a message meant for My Hero. Like my SMART PHONE should have known who the message was meant for without me telling it.
  • My Hero just hollered to let me know the tea kettle was ready. Manohman, it wasn't just whistling, it was ANGRY. 
  • And then, after allowing that tea to steep in Big Brown Betty, I almost put a dog treat into my cup rather than a sugar cube. Thank goodness some part of my brain was paying attention.
I am quietly retreating to my Sweet Haven to knit something simple.  I dare not touch my loom.


Friday, November 18, 2016


Dear Mom,
Before we go over the sea to Skye, I want to show you my latest knitting pattern which was inspired while waiting for the ferry from Armadale (on Skye) to Mallaig.

These fun, fingerless mitts are easier than they look. Only one color is used on each row and a simple, but tricky stitch pattern creates the polka dots. They are knit flat and seamed. I was able to knit one complete mitt on a road trip last weekend.
The sample mitts are knit with Baah La Jolla and Zauerball yarns.
I've put the pattern on ravelry and a pdf download is available to purchase.

We've enjoyed unusually warm weather, but the weatherman tells us that is all changing tonight. Fingerless mitts may be just the thing we need this weekend!

Be Warm!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Mystery and Mist

Dear Mom,
After getting a good night's sleep and an early breakfast, we got back in the car and made our way to Culloden Battlefield. The museum there was filled with artifacts, a timeline - both from British and Scottish points-of-view- and a solemn filmed reenactment of the battle. Another screen, this one knee-height, gave me an overview of the battle lines and troop movement. After touring the museum I headed out to the actual battlefield. The weather was appropriately damp and misty, but not actually rainy. The moors were what I imagined, but more haunting and beautiful, too.

The heather was beautiful. As you can see in all the photos, there are many colors of heather.
I learned that there are many varieties of heather and they don't all "peak" at the same time.
I couldna resist taking a picture of my feet on the walking path through Culloden.

Once we'd all collected ourselves (and our gift shop purchases) we made the short drive to Clava Cairn.  A cairn is a man-made pile of stones. They have been in use since ancient times and can be used as landmarks or trail markers. In this case the cairns are ancient burial markers. Surrounding the cairns are standing stones.

I tried getting through to Jamie Fraser. Clearly I am not Claire Beauchamp Randall. I was destined to stay in this time and come home to My Hero.

We spent our second (and last) full day in Inverness at Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle. I was eager for my first look at Loch Ness. We visited the more serious of the two Nessie museums. An impressive amount of time, money and fertile imagination has gone into Nessie research. I choose to believe. We all need some imagination and magic, right?
 Loch Ness is 23 miles long and 1 mile wide and contains more fresh water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined.
 Depending on the source,  the world's population will fit into Loch Ness anywhere from THREE to TEN times! The depth and murky water make for a good monster legend.

I was standing on the shores of Loch Ness on September 15.
This happened on September 16.

Along the western shore of Loch Ness is Urquhart Castle.

In the castle ruins, I particularly enjoyed this posted information:
We then journeyed to the southern end of the Loch to visit little town of Fort Augustus where we had lunch and witnessed boats traveling through the Lock system of the Caledonian Canal.

I had the most amazingly delicious fish and chips for lunch.
I'll confess that I never fully understood how locks work until I watched the process of the boats moving through the series of Locks at Fort Augustus.
It was a full day and time to return for one last night in Inverness.

The next day we are over the sea to Skye!