Search

Through the Highlands

Updated: Nov 12, 2020

We resume our journey through Scotland on the Isle of Skye, where we had an action packed day of adventure! After a hearty breakfast of juice, tea, coffee, porridge, fruit, breads, eggs, local fish, sausage, bacon, and black pudding (which is made of blood, we both tried it but Catherine had more than I did), we set out north on the roads. We hit a few more one lane roads but within 15 minutes made it to the Old Man of Storr.

~

The Old Man of Storr is actually a jagged rock formation that sticks straight up out of the ground. Legend has it that an old man was turned to stone here by a friendly mythical creature because the old man wanted to always be able to look out over the island. I’m starting to lean towards the myth though that it is the thumb of an old giant sticking out of the ground, giving a thumbs up as he became one with the earth. In any case, we made the quite challenging hike to see this rock amidst some foggy conditions. Definitely created some mythical vibes.

Thumbs up dude

~

Up close and personal

~

Next we visited Meilt Falls and Kilt Rock, where legend has it that the local giant rested his massive kilt to dry and apparently never reclaimed it. I hope he has two of them. After Kilt Rock we headed further up the road and inland where we stopped at planet Quiraing. Okay, it’s not another planet but the landscape feels rather otherworldly. Even the name has an otherworldly feel, doesn’t it? Ethan led us the entire way on our hike up and down through the area, and he climbed up and down without any help from anyone. To be honest, he was going so fast I could hardly keep up with him, and he absolutely loved every moment of it. When we decided to head back to the car, he wanted to continue further! I couldn’t tell you how proud I was.

Meilt Falls with Kilt Rock in the distance

~

Kilt Rock, can you see it?

~

The surreal Quiraing

~

The Quiraing

~

After lunch back in Portree we headed west this time to the home of the MacLeods, Dunvegan Castle. The most outstanding castle in Skye, we got to see how one of the more prominent Clans of the island lived. The area is heavy with fairy mythology and created a sense of wonder as we wandered through the castle and the gardens.

Dunvegan Castle

~

A glimpse inside Dunvegan

~

We got an early start the next morning as well, and after an equally delicious breakfast, we drove south across the bridge at Kyle of Lochalish and were back on the mainland in the Scottish Highlands. Just off the Isle of Skye we stopped at Eilean Donan Castle, the residence of the MacLeod Clan. Still in use today as a residence, it has also been featured in films such as Highlander and James Bond’s The World is not Enough. We got to walk through the castle and see how it looked.

Eilean Donan Castle

~

Eilean Donan from the bridge

~

No photos inside, I snuck one anyway

~

From Eilean Donan we drove north where we met Loch Ness, and drove more or less its entire length as we headed towards the city of Inverness. We made a stop to see the ruined Urquhart Castle, which dates from the early 1300s but was destroyed by the English in 1700. It’s still in ruins today. We eventually arrived in Inverness, the unofficial capital of the Highlands with a population of around 50,000 people. We spent the rest of the day walking along the River Ness and exploring the town.

Urquhart Castle

~

Inverness city

~

Waking up in Inverness, as we were headed to the dock we saw some young Hairy Coo in a pen near the road. Hairy Coo are cattle exclusive to the Highlands, and as I’m sure you’ve guessed have very long coats to keep them warm in the winter. They have long, curved horns and are very docile animals. From what I understand they are not milked or eaten, but are used as show animals.

Hairy Coo

~

Hairy Coo number two

~

With the Coos behind us, we jumped on a boat in the man-made Caledonian Canal and a few moments later were out on Loch Ness, searching for the elusive Loch Ness Monster. While we unfortunately didn’t see Nessie, we learned that sightings date back as far as the 6th century and popularity greatly increased after a late night sighting in 1933. With the Loch so deep and murky, Nessie could be hiding out just about anywhere down there and we’d be none the wiser.

Beautiful Loch Ness

~

Anyone see Nessie?

~

In the afternoon we visited two sites, the first being an ancient burial site. The Clava Cairns are 4000 year old large mounds where the people of this area buried some of their dead. No one really knows any more about the site other than the igloo shaped mounds were built in such a way that light from the sun fully illuminates the inside of each cairn on the shortest day of the year.

One of the cairns

~

Let the light shine in (this used to have a roof)

~

Just over a mile from the Cairns is the site of the Battle of Culloden. In the 1600s a Scottish king assumed the throne of the entire United Kingdom, which was great news for the Scottish people, as the English were in the business of oppressing them. By the early 1700s however the Scottish kings were deposed from the throne, so the Scottish formed an army with many of the local clans, led by the deposed King’s son, “Bonnie” Prince Charlie. The Scottish strategy was simple, but effective – the big, burly men of the clans would stand at the tops of hills and charge the English with spears.

Culloden Battlefield

~

However, when the Scottish met the English at Culloden, it was on very flat ground. The Scots could not perform their battle charge, and the battle was quick and decisive. Unfortunately it was here at Culloden that this army was ultimately defeated by the English, and the hopes of the Scottish were dashed. For quite some time, the Scottish Clans were asked to disband, and things like kilts and bagpipes were banned for a time.

Flat land between The blue flags (Scotland) and the red flags (England)

~

The following day we drove to Cairngorms National Park, about 45 minutes southeast of Inverness. There we started the day with a walk through the woods around Loch Morloch. The 90 minute walk took us along the water with the mountains in the background and trees around us. We were going to visit a whiskey distillery, but found out that it was the one day every year where the Highland Games are held in this area. There we were able to see a lot of the traditional Scottish events, most notably the caber toss, where the athletes throw large logs end over end, and a race up a nearby hill. It was best to see everyone out, wearing their kilts and embracing the Scottish heritage.

Loch Morloch

~

A wonderful walk

~

Throwing a 44 pound weight overhead (and over that bar...hopefully)

~

Getting ready to toss the caber

~

Can't have a Highland Games without a pipe band or five!

~

On our last day in Scotland, we decided to detour a bit and visit the distillery that we didn’t get the chance to see the day before. The tour was an impressive 75 minutes and took us through all the stages of making whiskey. With all the rain feeding the rivers, it’s apparently the perfect area to grow the barley and gather the water needed to make the stuff. At the end, since I was driving, Catherine got to try three different types of their whiskey. I don’t think she’ll be having more any time soon!

Just a £10,000 bottle of whiskey!

~

Distilling

~

What a good year

~

After the tour we battled the rain down to Blair Castle, which is just south of the Cairngorms but still on the southern edge of the Highlands. The castle has stood on site for 750 years, and has been home to a few different Scottish clans. The outside of the castle is impressive, but the inside is really amazingly preserved. Even though people still live in the castle, we got to pass through over 30 different rooms, seeing artefacts and learning about the clans.

Blair Castle

~

Inside Blair Castle

~

After the castle we had a lengthy drive to the Edinburgh Airport made longer by construction and rain. The weather would go from heavy rain to fog to light clouds to sun in a matter of moments, and then repeat the weather patterns in random orders. Sunglasses one minute, headlights and wiper blades the next. The drive took us over the bridge over the Firth of Forth. Although this was the fastest way to the airport, I would have gone out of my way to say I crossed the Firth of Forth. At the end of the day, that’s just a fancy way of saying the Forth River, but leave it to the Scottish to make it sound so fun!

The Forth Bridge

~

In any case, we made it to the airport with time to spare. Don’t worry, we’re not headed home yet. Our next stop is to the emerald Isle of Ireland. Stay tuned!

96 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All