Monthly Archives: May 2014

Scotland, Day Three – Scenic Drive to the Isle of Skye

Monday, May 27

We’d planned to take a tour of The Glenmorangie distillery in Tain but unfortunately, a cruise ship tour was on it’s way in and there were no more slots available. The Dalmore distillery was close by in Alness and, although they don’t offer tours, we had taste test and a nice chat with the women at the visitor center.

While planning our trip, we’d decided against trying to see islands off the northwestern coast; we thought we wouldn’t have enough time to see them without rushing. When we ended up with a free afternoon, we decided to take a drive over to the Isle of Skye.

After a picnic lunch in Alness we enjoyed a scenic drive west. This is definitely sheep country. We live in a rural area and I see all kinds of livestock every day but I still get a lot of entertainment value seeing animals like this curious-but-cautious ewe and sheepletTM.

Scottish Sheep

We stopped at Loch Scaven on the Glencarron Estate.

Loch Scaven, 57°31′23″N 5°9′54″W

I initially thought this was a Highland cow.

Highland Cow in the Highlands

but after seeing this little dude,

Hereford Calf

I decided she must be a Hereford with a longer coat.

It started getting rainy near Loch Carron.

Loch Carron

But the sun peeked out when we stopped at the Strome Viewpoint overlooking Castle Bay of Loch Carron.

Loch Carron

Just to the left of the white house on the little rise is the ruined Strome Castle built in the 1400s.

We saw Eilean Donan Castle but decided it wasn’t worth fighting our way through the tour bus crowds. We parked at Dornie Jetty to take a look and stretch our legs.

Eilean Donan Castle

Someone had recycled an old rowboat into a pretty flowerbed.

Rowboat Flowerbed

We drove on towards Skye mindful of road hazards.

Caution Sheep

Caution Sheep II

MV Loch Striven is one of the Caledonian-MacBrayne ferries servicing the islands.

MV Loch Striven, Caledionian-McBrayne Ferry

I think these must have been oyster beds near Scalpay Island.

Oyster Beds

There was certainly plenty of wind for sailboats like these anchored near the Skye Bridge.

Sailboats near the Skye Bridge

We stopped in Kyleachin and saw the ruins of Castle Moil. Also known as Dunakin, the ruins date from the 14th century but there may have been a defensive structure here as early as the 10th century.

Castle Moil, Kyleachin, Isle of Skye

Another road hazard to look for.

Alert Feral Goats!

I though it was funny that the earlier sign appears to say “Caution: Sheep” but this shouted “ALERT! Feral Goats!” They must have a different breed of goats here in Scotland that we have at home.

We had a little supper at the Cluanie Inn and then headed back to Inverness by a different route. We passed Loch Ness and it was every bit as touristy as one might imagine. But, since we were tourists, we couldn’t resist the obligatory snapshot: “And here we are with that nice monster we met at the loch!”

Kate & Jim at Loch Ness


Scotland, Day Two – Doune Castle! and Inverness

Sunday, May 26

We got on the road at a decent hour and headed north. We meandered along, saw the Kencardine in Menteith Parish Church of Scotland and decided on a pit stop.

Kencardine in Menteith Parish Church of Scotland

It was sunny with some clouds in the sky and it seemed like a good time to try my infrared filter again.

Kencardine in Menteith Parish Church of Scotland

Originally, we had planned to visit Stirling today and Doune Castle on our way back south to Edinburgh. We saw the road sign for Doune and decided to change our itinerary. Doune Castle is better known as Castle Anthrax, Swamp Castle, Castle Lombard and Camelot of Monty Python fame. More recently, it was known as Winterfell, for any Game of Thrones fans out there. (And I’ve just learned that it is also being used in cable television version of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander.)

We timed it perfectly and were among the first people on the grounds.

Doune Castle

An infrared version,

Doune Castle Infrared

Terry Jones recorded the audio guide and mixed in filming tidbits in with the actual history of the castle. It was built c. 1400 by Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany and Earl of Menteith and Fife. Unusually, the castle was started and completed by Robert (rather than the normal path of evolving as others took possession and altered it to suit their tastes). After Robert’s death, the castle served as a summer residence and hunting lodge for the royals until James IV moved to London in 1603.

In 1745, government soldiers were imprisoned by the Jacobites after the battle of Falkirk. Six escaped by knotting bedsheets and lowering themselves down the walls above the kitchen. By 1800, the castle was a ruin. In 1883, Lord Moray had extensive restoration performed. In 1970 it was leased to the state.

We wandered through the castle for a couple of hours. It was great to get a behind the scenes view of one of my favorite movies. I learned that the kitchen served as Castle Anthrax:

Doune Castle Kitchen & Castle Anthrax

Bodiam Castle was used for the exterior of Swamp Castle (no singing!) but the interior scenes were shot here at Doune. Herbert’s chamber:

Doune Castle & Swamp Castle Herbert's Chamber

Princess Lucky dressed for her wedding here:

Doune Castle Swamp Castle Princess Lucky's Chamber

The wedding festivities were filmed in the courtyard:

Doune Castle & Swamp Castle Wedding Festivities

And one of the best parts of the whole movie, Arthur’s knights singing “Knights of the Round Table” was filmed here in the Great Hall. I still laugh every time I watch that part.

Great Hall, "We're Knights of the Round Table!"

We did learn some non-film factoids as well. For instance, as if personal sanitation wasn’t bad enough in the middle ages, since no one had gotten around to inventing toilet paper, they sometimes used strips of linen and broken shards of pottery(!). But the privies weren’t very refined (at least by modern standards) so I suppose bits of jagged crockery doesn’t seem that farfetched.

Doune Castle Privy

This was a private chapel in the Duke of Albany’s chambers:

Doune Castle Private Chapel

If I recall correctly from the audioguide, women were segregated during services and communicated with the priest through a hole in the wall. (I may be making this up. I can’t find a reference to it in my notes.)

Doune Castle Private Chapel Hole

Doune was my number one must see site in Scotland so as much as I dislike heights, I walked up the tiny spiral staircase trying to ignore the way the risers had shifted and eroded over the years.

Eroded and shifted stair risers

I made it to the top.

Atop Doune Castle

and at least got a nice view of the town for my trouble.

Doune Castle Rooftop View

And it was interesting to see how substantial and durable the slate (?) roof tiles were.

Doune Castle Roof Tiles

Since it was a special occasion (my elevation>sea level), Jim ran down, took my photo and then gallantly climbed back up to make sure I got down okay.

Doune Castle Kate

We finished our tour and made a stop at the gift shop for a souvenir,

Holy Ail Ale

Then drove north towards the Highlands. We took a break near Aberfeldy and saw a local farmer with his able assistants. (Our Henry won’t go anywhere near our ATV.)

Glenlyon Farmer Just before the Pass of Drumochter, we saw a sign welcoming us to the Highlands. The change in scenery was remarkable. Highlands  The Balsporran Cottage B&B looked like a peaceful, if remote, place to spend a few days.

Highlands House

We continued up the A9 to Inverness and checked into the Moyness Guest House. We took a stroll into town and had supper at a tapas restaurant called La Tortilla Asesina. It was noisy but I was happy to find a vegetarian paella on the menu. We finished up at McNab’s Bar and Bistro and did a little whisky tasting. (I can never remember if it is spelled whisky or whiskey in Scotland.)

We tried Glenmorangie Original which was very good. Jim tried Jura which I found only okay. The Lagavulin 16 year old Jim thought was ultra-smokey (peaty?). As soon as I tasted it I thought of Dad. He hasn’t smoked a pipe since I was young but I think that must have been the association. It’s interesting that that would have stuck in my memory all this time.

It was nearly 11 p.m. and still quite light out. Inverness is about 57 N latitude so the days were getting quite long at this time of year. And it was a Sunday night so hardly anyone was out on the street. It was a treat to sit on the bank of the River Ness and have a few drinks. This was one of my favorite parts of our whole trip.

Perfect End to a Perfect Day