This year we decided to visit the country of John’s MacLennan ancestors…Braveheart & William Wallace. On August 16th we flew business class Luftansa to Edinburgh…a wonderful relaxing start to this 2 week hiking adventure in the mists of Scotland.
Our first day in Edinburgh, we headed up the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle, which is perched on top of a dormant volcano. We had tickets to the Military Tattoo that first night. There was a huge metal stadium constructed in the front courtyard of the centuries old castle. When night fell, we were huddled together at the very top of the stadium to view a spectacular display of military bands, horses, motorcycles, and fireworks.
There is so much to see in Edinburgh, especially during festival, so we planned to spend both weekends there enjoying the shows, pubs, & street performers.
On our second night we had dinner at The Witchery which is on the Royal Mile on the way to the castle. The Witchery is an elegant restaurant with superb food & wines. We had spent the day exploring all over Edinburgh & were too tired to go back to our B&B to change before our reservation, but it did not faze the staff when we showed up in jeans & raincoats. They were remarkably attentive.
During the week we traveled to Inverness, Loch Ness, Uraquart Castle, Culloden Battlefield, Cawdor Castle, Clava Cairns, William Wallace Memorial, Eilean Donan Castle, Isle of Skye, Dalwhinnie Distillery, and Glasgow.
Boat trip on Loch Ness to Urquhart Castle
Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness
While staying at the lovely Inverness Marriott resort, we were picked up by Island Cycles and driven out to Culloden Battlefield as a starting point for our day long cycling trip. Island Cycles is a new startup business & the owner was just a great guy to talk to. It was a very reasonable cost, included new bikes, all the gear, pickup and drop off, & when Kathy’s new bike lock was stolen at our first stop, there was no charge. Luckily they didn’t take the bike!
Clava Cairns prehistoric Bronze Age burial ground
Clava Cairns (for those of you who read Diana Gabaldon)
was our first stop on our cycling trip through the countryside around Inverness.
Our cycling adventure included a stop at Cawdor Castle, for a tour and a spot of tea.
Historial Peat Cottage at Culloden Battlefield
Our trip ended at the Culloden Battlefield moor where we enjoyed the museum & video reenactment of the battle. We walked around the battlefield and found the MacLennan markers where John’s ancestors were positioned for the last battle on Scottish soil.
We also took a side trip to Stirling to visit the National Wallace Monument. After a hike up to the monument, & then up many cramped stone circular staircases inside, we found ourselves overlooking the scene of Scotland’s victory at The Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297.
The view from the top of the Monument looks out across the countryside towards Ben Lomond, the Trossachs, the River Forth, and the city of Stirling.
After 3 days in Inverness, we moved on to our next destination. We took a scenic drive along many deep & desolate lochs on our way to the Isle of Skye. The skies were overcast & the weather turned wintry.
This was our first stop entering the area on the drive to Eilean Donan castle. By this point John was an amazingly skilled driver, always remembering to stay on the left side of the road, which was easier because a great deal of the time, the road was only wide enough for one car!
Scotland’s most romantic castle
Eilean Donan Castle – MacLennans are Keepers of the Castle
MacLennan Plaque on the 2nd floor of the castle
Portree Harbour on Skye
Viewfield House is still in the family. It is owned & operated by Hugh McDonald, the last heir. One of his ancestors, Flora MacDonald, helped Bonnie Prince Charlie escape the country after the uprising, with him posing as her personal maid. We stayed at Viewfield two nights & had a delightful time. One particularly cold & rainy afternoon we lounged in the family drawing room, read magazines, & enjoyed tea and scones. One by one, the other guests joined us, all with the same thought in mind. Hugh came in to make a blazing fire & chat with us for awhile. It was a lovely afternoon & a relaxing respite from traipsing through the mist. Later we walked into town for our dinner reservation at the Chandlery Restaurant in the Bosville Hotel. They are known for their skilled chef & wine list, & neither disappointed. The second night we walked around town, stopping in a pub for a drink, & settled on Sea Breezes down by the harbour. We shared a table with another friendly couple down on holiday from London…more wonderful wine & appetizers. Most people associate Scotland with whiskey, but they do import many wonderful wines.
Hiking on Skye –
The Old Man of Storr is the highest point on the Trotternish peninsula. We chose this Grade B climb after the young woman in the tourist office suggested we would be interested in a walk in the park
near our B&B. Being skilled adventurers, outfitted with new hiking boots & Thorlo socks from REI, we were prepared for any climbing challenge, & it was quite an adventure. The 2-1/2 mile climb 1,000 feet up to the top of the Old Man was extremely wet & windy. After ignoring the safety notice & laboring on, pelting hail/rain threatened to blow us off the top. We are smiling in this photo because we are on our way down…
Fringe Fest Street performers
Royal Yacht HMY Britannia
Our second weekend in Edinburgh we continued to explore the other end of the Royal Mile – Holyrood Palace, more shows at the Gilded Balloon & the Udder Belly. We had tickets to Puppetry of the Penis, an Australian Eagles tribute band, and a group of Canadian women comedians. We also had lunch at a new little restaurant on the way to Holyrood Palace, near The End of the World Pub, called The Wedgewood. We highly recommend this for wine selection & a nouveau French menu.
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