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14 August 2005 @ 05:49 am
In Which Bill and Brenda Wander the Highlands  
Once again, long train journeys provide the perfect excuse to create LJ entries ...

Tuesday - Invergarry/Loch Ness/Dornie

Since we were right at the southwestern end of Loch Ness (or near enough to make no nevermind) at Invergarry, we decided to spend the bulk of Tuesday doing the touristy things in the area. We had good intentions of getting out of the hotel early, but only managed to be out by about 9.30. This put us in Drumnadroichit just a little too late for the 11.00 tour we had wanted to take. The 14.00 tour was available, so we bought tickets and headed into town to look for cheesy Nessie museums.

The first place we stopped was billed as the "Visitor Center". The exhibits were rather dated and the video concentrated on the mystery of Loch Ness without providing any real information. It included a seemingly staged conflict between a flotilla captain proposing to capture Nessie to take a small skin sample and a professed witch (in his red robe and white cingulum) who claimed to have cast a spell to protect Nessie from any capture - a bit embarrassing, that ...

After browsing the gift shop and picking up suitably tacky souvenirs, we headed to the Loch Ness 2000 Exhibition. This one was most definitely worth seeing. It was well put together and concentrated on the logical and scientific approach to the possibilities - raising questions like how a sea creature could be "trapped" when the Loch was basically melted glacier ice, and how a creature of that size could survive given the amount of food chain tonnage available (it couldn't). The presentation made no real conclusion but the final possibility raised was the occasional appearance of an extremely large sturgeon (explaining both the pre-1934 stories and the more recent sightings that did not involve questionable findings) that did not so much live in the Loch as come into it looking for spawning ground.

Our cruise on the Loch included a visit to Urquhart Castle, a ruin on a point of lan thrusting into the lake and a very typical "Nessie spotting" location. On the way out to the castle the rain began to fall, but it had stopped by the time we reached the dock. We had an hour to tour a very large area (which included a working trebuchet on the green in front of the castle) and were actually unable to get to the Visitor Center exhibits due to the crowds. On the way back, the skies opened up and it poured on us - once again stopping by the time we reached the starting dock.

From there we took off across Scotland to Dornie, inadvertently traveling one of the top 10 scenic routes in Britain. We stopped for pictures a number of times, as the mountain scenery was exquisite.

We arrived in Dornie just shy of 7 pm and were able to drop our things off at Tigh Tasgaidh guesthouse before going to dinner at the Dornie Hotel. Some very nice venison and mussels later and we were ready to take a walk down the seaside to see Eilean Donan castle under the floodlights.

Eilean Donan is one of the most photographed castles in the world, and ladyat has had a watercolor of it on her wall for nearly 20 years. In the evening they light the castle exterior and the gates are open so that you can walk around the outside. The evening walk definitely whetted our appetites for the next day's tour of the castle.

Back to the B&B and to bed for a good night's sleep.

Wednesday - Dornie/Isle of Skye

We knew the castle would take up only the last part of the morning (even not opening until 10.00), so we gathered as much information as possible (including Good Beer Guide listings, of course) regarding a probable side trip to the Isle of Skye. We were staying in Dornie Wednesday night, so we weren't worried about accommodation - only making sure we got home at a decent hour, as Louise (the owner of the B&B) had offered to wash some clothes for us when we asked about a laundry in town.

ladyat's birthday visit to her favorite castle was a definite hit. Eilean Donan was destroyed during the Jacobite period and was completely rebuilt post-WWI as a summer home by the heir to the clan that had commanded it prior to its destruction. The castle is therefore completely furnished in a more utilitarian style than many castles that are refurbished as pure showplaces. The exhibits in the castle include a recreation of the kitchen, including posed models of the staff making a dinner for the family and guests.

We finished at the castle about 11.30 and returned to the B&B to have some tea, hang the wet laundry on the line, and finalize our destinations for the afternoon. We weren't too sure of the actual time it would take us to get to various places, so we decided to limit ourselves to get to Portree and back. There is a Good Beer Guide recommended pub on the way at the perfect spot to refresh ourselves mid-afternoon (of course).

The Isle of Skye is beautiful but there aren't very many historical museums in the northern part. Because of this (and better roads than we had expected) we didn't spend very much time in any given place and had lots of time remaining to the day when we finished in Portree. To take advantage of the time, we continued up the main road to Uig, where the Isle of Skye brewery is located. Unfortunately, we arrived just as the brewery was closing, so we were unable to take a tour. We did, however, manage to stop at the Good Beer Guide listed pub for something to assuage our disappointment.

We traveled back to the mainland and decided to take a side trip to Plockton for dinner and drinks (again, pubs listed in the Good Beer Guide were there). The roads between Kyle of Lochalsh and Plockton were the worst we had seen so far - narrow one-lane affairs with passing places - so we were extremely surprised to see the crowds in what was clearly a rather popular seaside holiday spot. We were unable to get a seat at the first place we tried, so we ended up at the Plockton Hotel, which purported to have one of the summer Traditional Music sessions to start at 9 pm (when we left at 9.30 pm nothing had started yet, so we missed it). Food and beer were both as recommended, and they put a candle on ladyat's pecan pie for her.

We neither killed anyone nor wrecked the car on the way back to the B&B. We decided to take the camera with us to actually get pictures of Eilean Donan in the night lights. Little did we know that the lights are turned out at 10 pm, so between the time we drove down the hill into town (with the castle beautifully lit) and the time we actually got the camera and walked around to it, the lights were off. *shrug* These things happen.

At the B&B, Louise had taken our clothes off the line, folded them, and put them in our room. We spent some time re-packing and snuggled in for the night.

Thursday - Dornie/Glasgow

To vary our routine, we decided to cross back over to the Isle of Skye and head to the southern end (Clan Donald country) and take the ferry across to Mallaig. This would take little more time than driving the same roads we had used to get up to Dornie, and would have the advantage of seeing the garden and museum at Ardmore, the steam train on the line from Mallaig to Ft. William, and the photogenic RR bridge in Glenfinnan (the one used for the Harry Potter "Hogwarts Express" scenes).

The museum at the Ardmore castle and gardens is very well done. It tells an only slightly biased (*g*) story of the Lords of the Isles and the MacDonald's place as heads of the known universe. We spent nearly all our spare time there and made the ferry queue in time to get one of the last non-reserved slots for the 11.45 sailing.

When we reached Mallaig, the steam train was at the station but we really didn't have time to stop (since we needed to have the car back to Glasgow by 6 pm and wanted to stop for lunch somewhere on the way). We had a false alarm or two regarding the Harry Potter bridge but finally realized we were there when we reached Glenfinnan and pulled into the Visitor Center parking lot, only to see the bridge across the way.

Checking our timeline, the most potentially picturesque pub from the Good Beer Guide was the Clachaig Inn in Glencoe, so we decided to aim for Glencoe for lunch. Parking in Glencoe and walking around we were totally unable to find the pub, so we asked while buying batteries at the local Spar. Of course, the Inn was not in Glencoe per se, it was up a little country (read: one lane with passing sidings) road about 2 miles beyond the Massacre at Glencoe monument.

Before driving on, we stopped at the local small folk museum, which proved to be quite a find. The museum was very eclectic and had everything from a "Kidnapped" room (one of the scenes in the book is based on an event that happened in Glencoe at the time of the book) to the expected room (outbuilding, actually) built around the Glencoe Massacre to old medicines (herbal and patent) with appropriate tools and supplies. Well worth 2 pounds each, even if we didn't have time to pour through the multitude of bound volumes of various things like Scottish music and period advertisements.

We then headed on to the Clachaig Inn, finding it (just as I had figured) just before the point where the aforementioned one-lane road rejoined the main road. Never mind, the steak pie was good as was the pint, so refreshed we continued on our way.

Little of consequence (other than continuously amazing scenery) impeded our progress and we actually made it to the Glasgow airport well within the grace period allowed by the car rental company. This allowed us to unload the car at the airport Holiday Inn Express (a night paid for through frequent stay miles) before returning the car, thus avoiding giving the poor rental van driver a hernia trying to lift the suitcases in and out of the van.

Since we both would need to get to the train station from the hotel at various times (myself on Friday morning, ladyat on the next Monday) we decided to head into Glasgow Central and environs for dinner. There is no rail station at the Glasgow airport (yet), so we needed to cab to the Paisley station and take the train in to Glasgow Central. There we picked up our tickets for our various future journeys and tried to get to a pub before food service ended. No luck, each of the pubs we went to had finished serving food (and one even had no Real Ale, having shut the cellar down for the week for refurbishment). The first pub provided "entertainment" in the form of a somewhat inebriated Glaswegian woman who had been previously banned but managed to con one of the newer staff into serving her. As she sat bending everyone's ear in a slur even more unintelligible than the normal Glasgow accent, the landlord returned and reminded her she was not supposed to be there. He had one of the women behind the bar escort her out, but she kept reappearing at the door to curse the establishment and its proprietors, raining threats about how she would call her contacts on the council and the pub would no longer be in business soon. The landlord simply closed the doors and ignored her (after refunding the price of a half-pint of lager he had not allowed her to drink), though ladyat and I waited a few minutes before leaving just in case she was still out there ...

Given the lack of food situation and our far-flung wanderings for the day, we decided to grab some fish and chips and simply head back to the hotel.

Friday - Manchester

I left ladyat at the hotel early Friday morning so that she could go catch her plane to Cork, while I headed back into Glasgow Central to catch my train for Manchester and the third test of the Ashes series between Australia and England. As seen in previous entries, I spent the time writing LiveJournal entries and posted them when I reached the hotel (again paid for by frequent traveler points).

In Manchester, I found that my Scottish money was no good (they told us this might happen in the WorldCon travel info, but come on, now, really!). I had to go to a bank and exchange it before I could buy my low-fat Subway sandwich (ok, it's American, but I know what it has in it and I needed to eat something healthy for a change). I tried to get a longwave radio to use at the test match but the only place that had a radio small enough was unable to accept any credit card without a smart chip in it - and none of my cards have them yet. I once again went pub crawling looking for dinner, but all the pubs had stopped serving at 6 pm, so I was once again out of luck (though the beer was very nice in the two places I stopped). On the way back to the hotel, I stopped at (you guessed it) Subway for another low-fat sandwich before heading to bed.

Saturday - Manchester/Welbourn

Tell me - should I have considered the fact that I was checking out of room 1313 on August 13 a bad omen? I've never thought so, since I was born on the 13th and it should therefore be a lucky number for me. Unfortunately, the fairly optimistic weather reports proved untrue as rain marred the entire day. There was a short break at about 11 am - just long enough for the umpires to consider having the covers taken off before it started weeing down once more. At about 14.15 it looked like it was going to stop for the day - the clouds broke apart, some blue skies were seen, and start of play was set for 16.00. OK, so I was going to see only a couple of hours before I had to leave to catch my train, but maybe I'd try to see some more on Monday (since a Monday session was all but guaranteed).

At 16.30 or thereabouts the skies opened up once more, effectively ending play for the day. The "good" news is that at only 8 overs played, everyone gets their money back. I suspect I'll get micktim to send my ticket in for the refund so that I'll get at least some of my money back on it.

This means that I'm desperate to get to the Monday match day if at all possible. Signs said that tickets start selling at 8.30 Monday, but the earliest I can be there is at 9.30 or so. I also need to contact ladyat to let her know what is going on (since I doubt she'll want to come, but she might since it will be a very exciting day) - either her UK phone isn't roaming enabled for the Republic of Ireland (probable) or she just has it powered off or not charged (also probable). I can call her at the Glasgow Holiday Inn Express on Sunday night...

I met micktim and stevieannie at Grantham, with takeaway Indian meal occuring soon after. A trip to the Joiner's Arms (the late hour of our return was all micktim's fault, really it was!) and a sleep without an alarm clock setting brought me to the unusual state of being up to date in LiveJournal!

Whoda thunk it?
Current Mood: refreshedrefreshed
Current Music: "Follow Me Up to Carlow", Tim & Annie (live!)
msminlrmsminlr on August 14th, 2005 12:25 pm (UTC)
Not having haunted all the pertinent websites, Morris and I were speculating while watching our set of HP movies about the locale of some of the spectacular glaciated-valley scenery therein. Good to hear our deduction of "Scottish Highlands" was correct.
stevieanniestevieannie on August 14th, 2005 03:48 pm (UTC)
"late hour of our return"!!!

Who needs 24hr licensing when you live in the country? They crawled out at 2am... Dirty stop outs :-)
(Anonymous) on August 14th, 2005 06:08 pm (UTC)
check out this online dating site where i met my partner
DateClick.co.uk - UK Dating Agency For Singles (http://www.dateclick.co.uk/)
UK online dating agency. Send dating email messages to members, live online dating chat rooms, text, photo, video and audio profiles. Your complete dating agency!
Occam's Pyramidoccams_pyramid on August 14th, 2005 09:27 pm (UTC)
Re: check out this online dating site where i met my partner
/me sets my LJ account to screen anonymous comments.

The stupid arsewipe doesn't even know how to set his spambot to post a valid link.
fiddle_around on August 17th, 2005 08:24 am (UTC)
This is so cool! I didn't know you were on here. Love the travel journal.