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.