Our Scotland Trip – June 22nd 2011

It’s our first trip to Scotland and we are really excited. Our plan is to fly into Edinburgh, spend the night at a smart hotel, eat out at a really nice traditional Celtic restaurant – then travel by train up to Inverness to spend our first week with our good friends Gary& Nikki at their wonderful house near Roseisle Beach.
We stay at the Channings Hotel – formerly the home of Sir Ernest Shackleton, the Antarctic explorer.

Wonderful rooms with beautiful heavy drapes, high ceilings and Victorian style bathrooms

That night we eat at Slainte Mhath a traditional Scottish Ceilidh Restaurant and Bar and what a treat – wonderful Cullen Skink starter with Smoked Haddock,  Rump of Lamb main with homemade Pea & Mint Jus and a delicious Cheeseboard all washed down with an excellent Chilean Pinotage – thanks ever so much Hazel & Colin (two of our walking guests at Carrascal who kindly bought the meal as a treat for us)

We only have an hour the next morning to stroll to the station, but we still have time to admire the architecture

Passing Edinburgh Castle as we walk down Princess Street

Stopping briefly to listen to a lone piper, before jumping on our train bound for Inverness

On the way we cross the Forth Bridge – spanning 1447 metres!

The journey takes just over 3 hours and we pass some amazing countryside, before being met at the station by Gary.

A 35 min drive brings us to their lovely house

After enjoying a great meal (courtesy of Nikki) we stroll down to the beach

Then it’s back to the house to watch a wonderful sunset – amazingly it’s still light at midnight!

Next morning Gary produces a great breakfast to set us up for a days walking – Nikki has to work (somebody has to do it!) – so the 3 of us set off to Hopeman Beach, part of the Moray Coastal trail.

Almost as soon as we are on the beach, Sue and Gary claim someone else’s sandcastles as their own!

We then follow the rocky coves

Passing sandy bays

Wonderful inlets

The colours of the blue sea and sky contrasting with the green of the trees are stunning!
The path goes way down the coast, but we have set ourselves a 5 hour walk and are stopping constantly to take in the views. We are watching out for dolphins, but unfortunately today is not the day – we do however see Oyster Catchers, Fulmars, Herring Gulls, Shags, Guillemots and Linnets

On the way back Gary stops off to “Knock on Heaven’s Door”

It’s part of an impromptu beach art construction – we wonder who built it?

Its then about turn and back to the start point

Enjoying an array of orchids including Early Purple,

Heath Spotted

and Common Spotted

As well as some Pink Foxgloves

Then the final leg

Almost there! – Sue and Gary looking suitably pleased with themselves.  It has been a fantastic walk and we have been blessed with some really good weather.

It’s then back to freshen-up before a 10 minute drive to Lossiemouth to have a fantastic fish supper. Then we walk along a rickety bridge to the beach. Looking up we are amazed to see an Osprey being mobbed by seagulls – a sight to behold

The wind is picking up and its getting a little chilly

But the sight of the waves crashing makes it worth while

And we are suitably “rugged-up”

It’s then back to base for a coffee and brandy and a spectacular sunset – what a great day!

The following day we are off again – today’s trip takes us right across Scotland from the East to West Coast.

We follow rivers and lochs – the views are stunning

Including probably the most famous – Loch Ness – this is a picture of Urquhart Castle on the shore of the loch. No sighting of the monster so onwards and westwards!

Climbing higher into the mountains as we head towards The Isle of Skye, the views become even more dramatic.

We then catch the ferry (6 cars maximum!) to the island

As we cross we see a group of seals swimming – having Googled the collective name for a group of seals, apparently you can choose from: a bob of seals, colony of seals, crash of seals, flock of seals, harem of seals, herd of seals, plump of seals, pod of seals, rookery of seals, spring of seals or even a team of seals!

We take in a walk on Skye

The contrast of colour is fantastic.

We walk around the tarn spotting birds and finding clumps of orchids – the weather has improved and the skies are clearing

We then start the drive back home, stopping off at Eilean Donan Castle, situated on an island at the point where three great sea lochs meet. It was built in the 13th Century and is considered to be one of the most beautiful castles in Scotland.

The following day we decide to chill – we stroll the local country lanes, spotting birds on the way and by chance fall upon a lovely country pub (not planned at all!).  After a couple of pints we wend our way back home and are rewarded with a fantastic Sunday Roast which Nikki has prepared – the Roast Potatoes and Yorkshire Puds are top draw!

It’s Monday now and with Nikki and Gary working Sue & I decide to go back to Hopeman Beach in search of Dolphins!

The weather isn’t brilliant so we decide to catch a coffee at the golf club before we set off.  We then head for the beach but the weather is blowing in and we are getting a bit wet so we decide to retreat back to the golf club for another coffee and contemplate our next move.  Nikki’s father, Sid, happens to be there and buys us a welcome coffee, then we decide it’s time to “rug-up” in our full wet weather gear and face the storm.  Almost immediately the weather improves – isn’t that always the way!
So it’s back to the beach, scouring the horizon with our binoculars ever hopeful of that elusive sighting.  We were told by a local that it was a perfect day for it – but we’ve heard that before!
Then we see a small sailing boat in the distance and some movement in the water around it – our first Dolphin!

This was to be the start of an amazing 90mins of Dolphin watching

They were a little too far out most of the time to get great photos, but through the binoculars they looked fantastic. All in all we saw about 80 – a combination of Common and Bottle-Nosed.  It was a truly wonderful experience and we felt very privileged to have experienced this amazing sight.
To see a few seconds of one in action Click Here

Today we are travelling over to the Cairngorms to walk a 5 hour challenging trail on Glen More.

We start with a gentle walk through the woods alongside babbling brooks

The scenery is very green and although it’s almost July, there are still traces of snow on the mountains.

We follow a flat path -(that’s why we look so happy and relaxed!)

Then we start the ascent – and what an ascent!

We are quickly gaining height and the views over the many tarns are magnificent

On the way up we get a dog fix (boy we miss our 3!) – We meet Charlie a Flat Coat Retriever

And his sister Mollie

We make it to Base-Camp 1 and after a short celebration have lunch.

We then set off along the ridge gaining more height and admiring Heath Orchids

We arrive at Base-Camp 2 – one more ascent to go!

A bit of downhill – bliss!

We make it to Base-Camp 3 –  from here on it should be downhill all the way!

After about another hour we are in sight of the lake – not far to go now.
It’s been another great day – the week has flown and we have fallen in love with Scotland!
The scenery is spectacular, the people friendly and miraculously the weather has been really good – but best of all our friends Gary and Nikki have been the perfect hosts – their welcome has been second to none and the food and wine we have enjoyed over the last week has been amazing – thanks so much Gary & Nikki  – can we come back next year?

We are really sad to leave Gary & Nikki, but also really excited about seeing our girls Kathy and Claire.
The next leg of our journey is via Edinburgh to Norfolk where the family will be staying together riverside on the Norfolk Broads – watch this space!


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