Sunday, November 19, 2023

Scotland - August/September 2017

Photojournal from our wee bonny trip to Scotland.

Edinburgh was first on the itinerary but international flights in and out of Glasgow were considerably cheaper than alternatives, so we opted to take the 1-hour train from Glasgow airport to central Edinburgh. We arrived mid afternoon and had to keep moving to stay awake and weather the jet lag. After a brief stop for coffee we dropped our gear at our air bnb room and took off for a hike in Holyrood Park, walking distance from our hosts' flat.

atop Salisbury Crags

view of Arthur's Seat

remains of St Anthony's Chapel, age unknown, thought to have been built in the 1300s or earlier

We collapsed under our delirium that night but were rested and ready the next morning for our first all-day traipse around the capital city.
Old Calton Burial Ground

view of Salisbury Crags from town

Victoria Street

lattes and Set at Thomas J Walls coffee while a rainstorm passed

rooftop views from the National Museum of Scotland

Edinburgh Castle from below

sunset from atop Calton Hill is quite the draw

Next day we set off to the west side of town for an amble through Dean Village and to Stockbridge Market for a Scotch egg.
Dean Village

walkway over Water of Leith

rooftop layers


Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

a fine day to you good sir 
By chance we caught the end of Edinburgh's Fringe Festival featuring hundreds of performers and art exhibits. We sat like sardines in a tiny, makeshift theater at the back of a bar to watch a comedian's set, winced at an acrobat troupe's performance in a bigtop tent, and caught lots of art exhibits and live music around town.

The next morning we packed up and hopped on a bus out to Broxburn to fetch our campervan.

shiny and new and not a single solitary scratch on her 😬

Carl bravely got behind the wheel on the opposite side of the car and drove on the opposite side of the road through roundabouts in the opposite direction to our first stop, Stirling Castle.

one of many confusing intersections

William Wallace's spirit seeps from the stone

We left Sterling Castle as they closed for the evening, drove northeast towards the coast, and pulled into Tayview Caravan Park in Monifieth around dusk. Before we lost the light completely we ran to the beach for an evening stroll and a look at the North Sea.

Our first stop the next morning was the 800-year old, red sandstone Arbroath Abbey. Founded by King William the Lion for a group of Tironesian Benedictine monks and dedicated to martyr and Saint Thomas Becket, who was buried there in 1214.

The abbey is also thought to be the site of Abbot Bernard's drafting of the Declaration of Scottish Independence in 1320.
it was abandoned and looted for it's stone starting in 1590 after the reformation

We stayed in Arbroath for lunch to sample their specialty - the Arbroath smokie

smoked haddock from a bag

Continuing North along the coast we made our way toward the medieval fortress of Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar Castle grounds

We opted out of a castle tour and wandered the verdant surrounds instead.

Next we angled inland and headed in the direction of Cairngorms National Park

As the sun went down we turned up a steep, unmarked gravel road and found a secluded spot to bed down

realizing we might be van people

Our mission the next day was to go hiking hill-walking in the Cairngorms.
what can't she do (the van)
The Cairngorm mountain range is home to 5 of the 6 highest mountains in Scotland, the highest of these being Ben Macdui at 4295' (Ben Nevis is the highest in Scotland at 4413'). The summits here are close together creating the sense of being on a plateau and the weather can be harsh and change rapidly. We started at the Cairngorm Mountain ski resort and walked southeast to the shore of Loch Avon.

up up up


starting our descent into the lake basin

the shore of Loch Avon

heather coloring the hillsides

epic basin

Back in Edinburgh we had stopped into Golden Hare Books, an independent bookstore where I picked up The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd. Nan was a Scottish writer, poet, naturalist, and mountaineer who spent many years living near and exploring the Cairngorms. Reading her reflection, which is part field guide and part meditation, elevated an already transcendent experience in this landscape.
"I believe that I now understand in some small measure why the Buddhist goes on pilgrimage to a mountain. The journey is itself part of the technique by which the god is sought. It is a journey into Being; for as I penetrate more deeply into the mountain’s life, I penetrate also into my own. For an hour I am beyond desire. It is not ecstasy, that leap out of the self that makes man like a god. I am not out of myself, but in myself. I am. To know Being, this is the final grace accorded from the mountain." -Nan Shepherd, The Living Mountain 
With enough daylight left to press on we drove out of the park and to the far shore of Loch Ness (of cryptozoological monster lore) to get a glimpse of Urquhart Castle

Loch Ness

Urquhart Castle from the parking lot


Continuing westward in the highlands we found a nice secluded spot to park for the night and awoke the next morning to this view.

We were close to Corrieshalloch Gorge, a 60-meter deep glacial erosion and stopped to see it from a few angles.

Leaving the gorge in search of a corrie we dodged lochs and sgurrs as we drove slightly south and west toward the trailhead for Beinn Eighe.

plenty of practice yielding as much of the A832 was the width of a single car

This hill walk was one of my favorites. We crept through this quiet valley towards Coire Mhic Fhearchair, a natural amphitheater featuring 3 large rock buttresses.

got hit with some liquid sunshine on the way in

taking in the misty corrie

a grand landscape

crossing Skye Bridge

We drove up A87 then A855 on the East side of the isle to walk the hills around Old Man of Storr.

Not pictured: a lot of other people

We pushed through a bit of wet weather and were treated to sun and views

headed into Portree for neeps and tatties

walk from Torvaig caravan site to Portree

Our second day on Skye we pushed south to Glenbrittle campsite where, as we were checking in, the receptionist told us the hike we planned to do the next day would likely be tarnished by an incoming rain storm. She advised our best bet was to head up that evening.

approaching Glenbrittle with Sgùrrs Dearg, MhicChoinnich, and Alasdair in the distance

We set out near dusk, hoping to at least get to the top with enough light left to see the mordor-like lake basin

Coire Lagan

made it to Mordor

The lap of luxury.

As anticipated, the next day was quite soggy.
crags obscured by fog 

quick stop at the fairy pools

Leaving Skye we headed East and stopped briefly at Eilean Donan Castle which sits on a small island at the confluence of three lochs and is accessible by a pedestrian footbridge. The original castle was built in the early 13th century but was destroyed by the English government in 1719 when they learned that Spanish soldiers supporting the Jacobites were amassing ammunition there. Reconstruction of the site took 20 years and was completed in 1932. (  
Eilean Donan

Next we stopped for a hike into the hills around the stately Glenfinnian railroad viaduct, which has become a major tourist attraction, I think, due to the Harry Potter movies.
Loch Shiel beneath the viaduct

Glenfinnian Viaduct

Scotland's national flower, the thistle

More hill walking at a random pull out

This valley!

Heading South toward Glasgow we stopped for one final hike up Conic Hill above the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomand.

Our only view of Loch Lomond

Our last stop in the van was the Glengoyne Distillery for a tour and tasting. 

Warms the soul.

We ended our Scotland tour with a couple of days in Glasgow. While the city was jovial and lively, our minds were still wandering the hills and we neglected to take many pictures.
Glasgow Necropolis

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Irn Bru and sausage roll from Greggs, of course

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