A Travellerspoint blog

Day 34 Orkney, Scotland

sunny 22 °C

Tuesday, 16 August 2016… What a great place to wake up. No creaking floors, no slamming doors and a bed that doesn’t cripple you. The sun was shining brightly very early. I must have forgotten how to make toast as I almost set the fire alarm off. Ross came to the rescue of course and gave me a look. We were at the ticket shop at 8am and it was so quick that we returned to the room for a bit. We headed for the boat at 8.30 and found everyone on board. We had to stand down the back. Yes, we were off to Orkney.
The ferry ride across the Pentland Firth (links the Atlantic Ocean to the North Sea) was memorable. It took us towards Stroma and then across to the port of Burwick. It was a very pleasant boat ride indeed - blue skies and a rolling sea. A tour bus met us there and we were off. I was surprised to see much the same views as John O’Groats – farms, flat land and blue ocean. It was very beautiful. The bus driver said that we had managed to experience their “one day of Summer”. We don’t know how we were so lucky to have such glorious weather.
The guide (and driver) pointed out Scapa Flow, Churchill Barriers and the many ships that were sunk here during the war. Our first stop was Kirkwall. We managed to find the main church where a flower festival for books was being prepared. From Kirkwall, we went to Stromness. We were able to see the Island of Hoy. Apparently, yesterday, the top of the island was shrouded in cloud. Stromness was very quiet. We were taken to the Ring of Brodgar and Standing Stones of Stenness. One of the main visits was to Skara Brae, the Neolithic village unearthed after a storm. Finally, on our way back to the ferry we called into the Italian Chapel, built for worship by Italian POWs during the war.
Now the trip over was marvellous. The ferry was late getting us. The wind had increased quite a bit. I tried to be brave and sat on top of the ferry. It was the longest 40 minutes I have experienced for some time. I kept my eyes glued to the side as the boat was rock and rolling. If I looked ahead, it would just go up and down. I could not speak. I just hung on. Finally, we got through the cross currents and into the smooth water near John O’Groats.

Posted by gpric6 14:48 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Day 33 John O’Groats, Scotland

Monday, 15 August 2016

sunny 20 °C

It’s sad sometimes to leave hotels, especially the ones that don’t have threadbare carpet and don’t have a rumbling chimney outside your window. Even though we only had one night at Dornock, it was a memorable stay with a game of golf on a beautiful course followed by a delicious dinner and of course, the best breakfast we have had for some time.
The people we met yesterday at golf have been coming to Dornoch for many years so they told us to visit the Dunrobin Castle at Golspie which was on our way north. As we were a little slow getting going, we were there just after opening time at 10am but ahead of the tourist buses! What a beautiful sight this castle was. The sky was blue and the sun was shining so there is not much more you can ask for. The castle has several different sections that date to various centuries but it was one of the best castles we have seen. It was not over the top with decoration, but illustrated life of the rich as they lived their daily lives. In one part, the walls were plain sandstone - stunning. Several rooms impressed me – the playroom, the nursery and the nanny’s room. No photography was allowed inside. Some beautiful china was on display. From the grand house we went to a balcony that looked over a garden and the North Sea. At 11.30 we were able to see a Falconry display. The Scottish guy was a scream and his birds – a hawk, Greenland falcon and eagle owl – were beautiful. He explained how these birds are trained following injury. There was also a museum attached to the property which had lots of fossils and old trinkets. However, the walls were lined with trophies of the past – heads of elephants, tigers, deer etc – and I didn’t like what I saw. Even in the Castle the floor had skins of lions, tigers and cheetahs with their heads attached. Not nice.
Back in the car the drive north was stunning. The North Sea was a glimmering blue and it was like glass as we followed the coast most of the way to John O’Groats. There were a few vantage points along the way. The camera can’t capture the view that you see. We stopped for lunch at Helmsdale at a little restaurant called La Mirage and we had the best fish and chips yet. It came with peas and a cup of tea.
The next stop was to be the Whaligoe Steps and I presumed that there would be signs on the road. Of course, there weren’t any signs and hence, we missed them. So we will have to go and look again on our way south. It would have been great with the weather like it was today. We made another stop at Nybster Broch, rings of belonging that have been excavated. This ancient site was situated right on the edge of the ocean.
The final stage of the drive to John O’Groats was like driving on a plateau. This area at the top of Scotland seems very sparsely populated but it does have farms. There seem to be a lot of houses abandoned. You can see the Orkney Islands as well as Stroma and of course, lots and lots of water. On a day like today you can only describe it as stunning. Now our accommodation is at Natural Retreats. It is a two-bedroom apartment with a kitchen and lounge area and best of all, a washing machine. What a pity there is no one to share it with. So we will have to get our own breakfast tomorrow. It is situated right on the water’s edge and we only have a small walk to get to the ferry tomorrow. Ross was pretty impressed when he saw the unit. It is a bit expensive but there is nothing much else to get so …

Posted by gpric6 13:19 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Day 32 Dornoch, Scotland

Sunday, 14 August 2016

sunny 20 °C

After being woken at 5.24 with the blower from the kitchen, the day looked to be off to a bad start. Breakfast was ok and we were packed and on our way as soon as possible. We saw a sign “Cawdor Castle” and we thought it might be worth a look. It was a bit off the main road and unfortunately it was well hidden by trees. We felt that it was not worth the money or time to stay here. So off we headed.
Now I decided to make a detour south today to lighten our travelling on our way back from up north. We headed for Inverness and just outside of there is where we saw Loch Ness for the first time. We stopped at a point and climbed down a set of stairs to be at the water’s edge. It’s a very scenic place, but it was quite overcast which was a pity. The water was cold. Continuing south, we located Urquhart Castle. The carpark was full but it didn’t take too long for us to get a spot. We paid to go in and that gave us entry and the viewing of a movie that set the scene telling us some of the history of the castle. They actually gave up on this castle and blew up the front entry. Fortunately, it has been taken care of to protect it now. Also in the early 20th century, some effort was made to fix the walls and it says that this has actually ruined some of the accuracy of the record of what it looked like. Anyway, we had a good walk around and once again there were those winding stairs to climb and all the time, a marvellous view of Loch Ness. The castle was built here as a point of protection.
Following a bite to eat, we headed north again, on route to Dornoch. Suri took us on a back track but it was ok. At one stage we were 800 feet above sea level and the heather on the hills was beautiful. We had to cross two long bridges, one crossing the Moray Firth and the other Dornoch Firth. We also saw some oil rigs in the Moray Firth. A surprise on the trip was that we saw the signs for the Glenmorangie Distillery. We called in but didn’t take the tour.
We checked into our hotel and fortunately, it was better than yesterday. It’s called the Royal Golf Hotel and it is right next door to Royal Dornoch Golf Club. Once bags were out of the car, we headed straight down to the pro shop to see if Ross could get a tee time. Four o’clock was the time so it was back to the room for a short while.
Then the walk began. You have no idea how beautiful this part of the world is when the sun is shining. The golf course runs along the edge of the ocean so at different stages the view was amazing – northwards and across the firth. It was a challenging course, with lots of undulations. It was very slow as the groups ahead of us were playing like old women. We made our dinner reservation at 8.45 by the skin of our teeth. Three people playing behind Ross caught up to us so Ross invited them to join us. They were very pleasant people.
Dinner was very enjoyable, the restaurant looking out over the first tea. In the distance we could also see a lighthouse come into action. What a wonderful day.

Posted by gpric6 14:56 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Day 31 Nairn, Scotland

Saturday 13 August 2016

sunny 20 °C

Scotland is an amazing place. Yesterday we had fifty miles an hour winds blowing us backwards on the golf course. This morning, we looked outside our bedroom window at the Fairmont and the view was just unbelievable – clear blue sky and the most beautiful view to behold.
It was sad saying farewell to our best-loved hotel but we had to move on. We did a little more shopping in the township and then headed north towards Dundee and Aberdeen. This was not the route I intended as I wanted to visit Balmoral Castle. However, on investigation, I discovered that the Queen was in residence having her summer holiday and it said that the castle was closed to the public. I figured that it would be senseless driving all that way only to be disappointed so we took this route. It was quite a pleasant drive, bringing us along the coast before heading inland towards Dufftown.
Now, Dufftown is the turn off that one takes to reach the Glenfiddich Distillery. Apparently our friends, the Rickards, missed this turn off when they were here so we made sure we knew where to go.
Our reservation for the tour was 2pm, hence our reluctance to try to visit the Queen, just in case the trip through the mountains was slower. We had a bite to eat at the café which was lovely. The tour itself cost £10 and it was well worth the money. We got very close to the whole process, seeing the copper vats, bubbling solution, timber canisters and kegs of aged whisky before the tasting. Now I don’t drink this so Ross got to have a double sampling.
This meant that I had to drive, my first on the trip. We headed north to Elgin where we met the freeway heading westward to Nairn. I had booked accommodation at Newton Hotel. The approach to the hotel was an interesting one as one has to drive up a long winding road to find it the way we came in. Once we arrived, Ross told me that I wouldn’t need to have a castle stay! It is a very old house turned into a hotel. The room we have is quite spacious. Unfortunately, the chap told me after we paid that the fan vent for the kitchen runs noisily outside our room until 9pm. Believe me, he was right. I went and asked what time this noise starts in the morning so I hope we don’t get woken up.
We took a leisurely walk to the beach and back before tea and that was another story. It really bugs me when it is expected that you pay 10% for tipping when the service is less than what you expect. There were some very rude ladies there as well. It was a bit like Faulty Towers. Apparently Charlie Chaplain stayed here – you get the picture of how old this place is.

Posted by gpric6 14:11 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Day 30 St. Andrews, Scotland

Friday 12 August 2016

sunny 16 °C

Today was one of those days when you just can’t believe how luck can come your way. Thirty-eight years married today as well. I timed out stay here at St Andrews to celebrate this special occasion.
Our day started quite early – up at 6.30, breakfast at 7 and off to town by 8am. Why you ask when the shops don’t open until nine? One reason only – golf. St Andrews Old Course is one of those courses that many people want to play but it is not a matter of turning up. People book a year or more in advance to play but it is not so easy as a single player. Investigations before we left suggested that you turn up on the day and see what is offered. Ross played with a young chap in Troon and he slept in his car so he could get a start. They come as early as 11pm the previous night – totally crazy. Anyway, we were not going to do any 2am. We thought we would head in and see what happened. Ross put his name down and we went and strolled around the town until 11am.
During our stroll, we revisited St Andrew’s Castle as the sun was shining. It was a lovely walk around the water’s edge to the ruins of St Andrew’s Cathedral. There were many interesting tomb stones. The town itself is very old, with university buildings featuring in the city centre. We took the opportunity to have a coffee.
Back at the course, it was a nervous wait and then the unthinkable happened. Ross was given the nod. It was quite panicky then as the lady didn’t realise that he needed to hire clubs so he had 20 minutes to get sorted. There were four in his group – one Mexican, two Germans and Ross. Even though we had some blue sky, the wind was horrendous. One caddie on the course estimated that it was blowing at around 50 miles per hour. I believe it. There was one section of the course that created a bottle neck as greens are shared. This concept is quite dangerous to say the least as there seem s to be balls coming from all directions. Anyway, we had a wonderful time out there. The outing was finished off with a drink at one of the club houses. This is certainly golf central. Quite amazing.

Posted by gpric6 13:40 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

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