Day 103 of 400: Inverness, Loch Ness, and Urquart Castle
After an early home cooked breakfast of eggs, potato pancake, tomatoes and toast, we check out of our hotel and walked along the footpath of the river. It was a relaxing walk…at one point the river had a little island in it and the footpath had a bridge connecting to it where we walked among the trees and hiking trails. We continued to follow the path back off the island to the other side of the river and into the downtown area of Inverness. Our first stop was a whisky shop…they had hundreds of types of whisky’s specializing in the single malt options from various Scotland distilleries. We bought a unique bottle (we will share when we get home) and kept walking through town.
We walked into a large open warehouse type building called the Victoria Market which housed various vendors. It had antiques, wool items and touristy trinkets. After browsing we meandered around the small town a little more before getting in the car to drive north to the Isle of Skye (Isle of Mist)
Within a few minutes of leaving Inverness we found ourselves on one of Scotland’s most beautiful drives along the Loch Ness (there are no lakes in Scotland…they are called Lochs). This is the Loch in which the famous Loch Ness Monster allegedly lives. We drove the winding road along the mountains and Loch until we saw a castle right on the water. It was the Urquhart Castle (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urquhart_Castle ). We parked and bought tickets…this was one of the iconic castles of Scotland and what was left were well-preserved ruins.
We started the castle tour with a short film on its history and when the film ended the projector screen lifted to reveal a huge glass window showing the castle and water. Once outside, we took tons of pictures and read the various signs describing what had once been where we were standing many years ago.
Back in the car, we were heading straight for Skye. It was raining and we wanted to find the B&B before it got dark. The drive was beautiful even in the grey fog and rain. We saw another castle standing tall and took a picture as it passed by. Then there was a point where the terrain became unfamiliar. It was like Mars meets Hawaii. The landscape was this rocky volcanic, misty backdrop with waterfalls everywhere you looked. The grass was a mix of moss and tall clumps of beach grass…the mountains were stunning with the thick fog smothering the highest peaks. There is something magical about this place, it’s like nothing we’ve seen before…
As we started to get closer to our B&B we looked at the directions the owner had emailed us since our navigator could not find the house. We got to a tiny road with a blue sign stating, “single track road with passing places”. This road looked like a long driveway or private road but the directions told us to follow it. As we drove, we saw sheep and lambs everywhere. They were the cutest little baby lambs ever. They were white with black faces and blk/wht striped legs…it was enough to stop me from ever eating a lamb for dinner! The road was indeed a single lane and when another car came, one of us had to pull off the road.
After some searching through the farmland, we finally found our B&B-The Grasmhor ( http://www.grasmhor.co.uk ). There was a metal gate in front of it that had to be manually opened and as the owner reminded us…it also had to be shut behind us so the cows wouldn’t come in. After a quick check in, we went down to the tiny village of Portree to find dinner.
We settled in at the Cafe Arriba ( http://www.cafearriba.co.uk ) per the recommendation we were given. It was a quaint restaurant upstairs overlooking the pastel colored houses on the harbor. There were no menus, the food was only listed on the blackboard where each day the menu changes. On the other side of the restaurant, the blackboard listed the drinks and desserts. The 10 tables were full when we arrived so we were told to “start a queue outside”. We figured out that meant to start a line outside in the hall as there was a queue sign outside the doors and as people arrived they took their place behind us. It was definitely worth the wait. We ordered a crawfish lasagna and a chicken roasted in garlic served with warm brie and pine nuts. We also found a beer we really liked, Black Cuillin which was a dark beer brewed with oats and honey and made locally. We bought a small tub of local ice cream to go and drove back to our B&B where we relaxed a bit and got a good night sleep.