Edinburgh, August 9th and 10th, 2008
I had a good flight through Amsterdam to Edinburgh, the real nerves started when my luggage did not appear on the baggage belt. Apparently I had missed it and it had fallen off in the back, out of sight. After being reunited with my bags slightly later and getting the car I made the arduous trip to the "hotel". The "hotel" was the Heriot-Watt campus, which was neither sign-posted or easy to find. After making a few circles through the neighbourhood, I managed to find it. However, finding the campus wasn't the only issue -- 30 minutes later I finally had found the reception in a pitch black night. Sleep commenced very soon after that.
I got up early in the morning for a light breakfast and unhappily discovered that it was raining. Not something you should be surprised about in Scotland. I took the bus into town to meet up with Lorna and after a cup of tea Scott as well. Without any real plan we wandered around the city and taking in the views. This quickly turned into looking for food. While having some drinks over lunch we chatted a bit more, and more walking occurred in the afternoon. We got tired, had some more drinks and by that time Lorna had to leave for home again.
Scott and I dropped of our gear at his room and went looking for a comedy show to go to. The Edinburgh Fringe festival was happening, so the biggest problem was to which of the 640 shows we wanted to go. We settled for "Des Clarke - Desire" at the Pleasance Courtyard. After a cup of tea in a café full of loonies, we left for the show. We had a great time, although his accent was sometimes a bit hard to understand for me. A cab brought me back to the "hotel".
After sleeping in a little bit, I took the bus again to downtown Edinburgh. I took a quick bite to give me strength to visit the Edinburgh castle. I took the long route through Princess Gardens up the hill. The queue for tickets took a little over hand an hour. The tour at the castle itself, was interrupted by the occasional shower, but the weather had improved a lot since the previous day. The castle is a must see. I liked the "prison of war" exhibitions best, and the crown jewels where the anti-climax.
After visiting the castle I was quite hungry and went to have a lunch of stir fried scallops at the Mussels hut. With the new found energy I climbed Caston hill. The last hours in Edinburgh I spend at the various street theaters of the fringe. After a light dinner at "bar One", consisting of swordfish and an apple/carrot salad I left back by bus to the Heriot-Watt campus.
Edinburgh to the Isle of Arran, August 11th, 2008
I started the day with a simple though hearty breakfast at the newly opened Mensa. From the hotel I travelled first slightly south to visit Roslyn's chapel. Unfortunately the chapel is mostly hidden by a roof to protect it from the rain. Inside photography was not allowed, so I didn't manage to take any pictures. In the church I listened to a guide explaining all the interesting art from the chapel. From pagan green men, the apprentice pillar and the Hollywood circle, the church appeared to house much more than I expected. From the church I left for Falkirk, home of the Falkirk Wheel.
The wheel replaces many locks between the Union and Forth and Clyde canals, and is quite an engineering feat. For some time there was even some blue sky which made watching the wheel turn more pleasant. I continued my journey after a quick lunch towards Glasgow and to Ardrossan where I would take the ferry to the Isle of Arran. I was a bit early and wandered about the really windy harbour. They also tried to fool me that my ferry would be two hours later, but that I didn't go for. The trip of the Firth of Clyde was windy, bumpy and slight sunny.
When I got the Brodrick on the other side, I shopped for essential energy suppliers for the upcoming walks around the island. I was staying at the Catacol Bay hotel on the northern point of the island, where I had breaded haddock for lunch. The wine that came with it "forced" me to walk around a bit along the windy coast. The heavy rain that had plummeted down when I arrived was gone. Before I went to bed I prepared a bit for the hikes of the following day.
Isle of Arran, August 12th, 2008
Hiking on an empty stomach doesn't work, but a full Scottish breakfast might be a bit too close to suicide. Way too much artery clogging goodness for me. Of course, the rain had returned but that was not going to stop me from a little hike around the "Cock of Arran". From my "parking place" I spotted a few seals, but they were obviously not sun-bathing. I didn't walk the whole planned tour as there was simply too much rain. In the end I was happy that I didn't continue, as I would have missed some many other things during my really short stay on Arran.
The next stop on my tour around Arran was a short walk to the standing stones and stone circles of Machrie Moor. During the two mile hike it was of course raining still. The last hike of the day was to the King's caves. I was silly and went the wrong way for nearly half an hour, but it finally stopped raining. After some dry period I finally ended up at the caves. There was even some sunshine. The rest of the day I merely drove around the rest of the island thinking I had no water with me. Back at the hotel I found six bottles in the trunk. I had dinner in the hotel's bar and the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy brought and end to the day.
Isle of Arran to Isle of Skye, August 13th, 2008.
A heavy Scottish breakfast started the day. I left quite early to catch the ferry at Brodrick back to the mainland. The day consisted of a lot of driving over narrowish roads. I stopped for a late lunch at a café overlooking Monty Python's castle Stalker. The weather was getting better the close I got to Skye. After the Skye bridge beautiful scenery appeared but I stopped only briefly to take some pictures as it was getting late too quickly. I didn't really settle in at the lovely B&B "Roskhill House" until after dinner at Hotel Dunvegan's bar.
Isle of Skye, August 14th and 15th, 2008
A nice breakfast at the B&B started the day. It was beautiful weather and excellent for my plan to hike to the Quiraing. A quick drive later over surprisingly good roads--although the last part was a one-file road--brought me to the parking place at the start of the hike. From there I walked for ca. 2.5 hours over the maintain range. Very strange rock formations and beautiful vistas. From there I drove on to walk to the Cave of Gold but was met by some bulls in a field that I had to cross. I gave up in fear of my life, and instead drove to Neist's point and enjoyed the view there in the setting sun.
I had dinner at "Old School" restaurant. Actually, I had dinner twice. For some reason my starter--duck--was misunderstood as another main course by the totally cute, but clumsy waitress (it could have been my accent of course as well). Both dinners were excellent; if you want to eat here as well, make sure you book on time, one, if not two days before hand.
The second day I was woken up by a little rain shower, but luckily the rain was gone before I was out of the shower. As the weather on the east coast of the island was supposedly going to be a bit better, I opted for climbing up to the "Old Man of Storr". A really nice walk with excellent views -- which got even better when the sun broke through. From the Storr I traveled up the coast and stopped a few times to enjoy the views and take some pictures. I ended up doing a walk to a lock, which was boring. With threatening rain I aborted the walk -- I got back to the car just before the shower would have soaked me. I had dinner at the Dunvegan hotel as my first choice, the "Loch Bay Seafood Restaurant" had no space for me.
Isle of Skye to Edzell, August 16th, 2008
Lots of driving again this day. I started off after brekkie for Scotland's east coast. I took a few compulsory pictures at Eilean Dohan castle and then drove along the shore of Loch Ness towards Invernness. I made a quick stop at Urquhart and but not manage to spot Nessie. I continued my way south from there through beautiful Aberdeenshire where all the heaths were blossoming. I was staying in a small village, Edzell at the Kelvingrove B&B. I had dinner at the Panmure Arms Hotel, which has an interesting setting. The food however was excellent.
Angus, August 17th, 2008
Breakfast was early at the B&B which meant that I had some time to kill before all the attractions opened -- it was a Sunday after all. So I decided to drive into Glen Clova, the supposedly nicest of the Angus glens. Unfortunately there was not much too see in the mist. I then proceeded to Glamis castle, said to have been the set for Shakespeare's MacBeth. It is very nice, with gardens all around. I found it a bit too commercial. From there on I visited the Pictavia museum in Brechin followed by a quick visit to Aberlemno to see a few of those Pictish stones. It was a bit of a bummer and lame. As last activity of the day I wanted to walk a little bit along the coast. But at the moment I started to walk, the rain started to pour down as well. So I aborted and went back to the B&B to eat, pack and watch a movie. The following day I was going home again.
I should definitely have spend more time on Arran and Skye - both beautiful places of which I've not even seen half.
The food is mostly great in Scotland, as long as you stay away from Haggis.
My best accommodation was Roskhill House , there were also lots of other hikers there, which added to the atmosphere.
I had the least amount of fun in the last day in Angus.
It always rains in Scotland, so bring waterproof gear.
My pictures from the trip are on flickr .