After breakfast we checked out and drove into Edinburgh to drop off the car and catch a train back to London. We ended up driving around for an hour, circling around on one way streets and bus only zones…deciding driving on the left side in a big city was not such a great idea.
We ended up dropping the car off and getting on a very expensive train ride to Heathrow. The train was packed with people and took about 5 hours. We found seats and worked on the blog and read a book.
We arrived pretty late into Heathrow after having to switch from train to subway to bus. We were staying at an airport hotel since our flight to Israel is early tomorrow morning.
Tomorrow will be crazy! We are going to the Middle East…not exactly within our comfort zone.
We started our early morning again with hot porridge and chatted with the two other couples. One of the women shared with us that she was originally from Poland and wrote a book about her life under Hitler. We will be buying the book and if you are interested…it is: “Abandoned and Forgotten” by Evelyne Tannehill. The other women from France made us all smile as she used the hot fudge as a spread on her toast. We shook hands with everyone and checked out of the B&B. Due to the warning of bad weather, we wanted to get a good early start on our day of driving. We could tell the wind was already picking up in comparison to yesterday. We had only driven about 50 feet when we literally had to stop for the cows standing right in the driveway. They were not willing to move much because we were clearly in their territory.
Pushing past the cows we drove towards the bridge connecting the mainland highlands of Scotland in hopes they hadn’t closed the bridge yet due to the weather. The rain was coming down hard and you could feel the wind whipping around. Before leaving the island, we had one stop to make, the Talisker Distillery. The only whisky distillery on the island. We crunched into a small parking spot and squeezed into the next tour group. The tour was about 45 minutes and took us through the various areas where the whisky was being made out of barley and educated us on the process before leading us to the store to purchase their bottles. This was a huge distillery exporting tons of whisky used both in blends such as Johnny Walker and single malt specialties. They also reiterated that an ice-cube is actually bad for the taste of the whisky vs. adding a bit of water opens up the flavor. We purchased a bottle and got back in the car in hopes of beating the storm that seemed to be getting worse.
After a few hours of careful driving and seeing huge trees that had been pulled out of the earth from the wind and warning signs on the bridges we were crossing, we arrived in an area called Glen Coe. We had been told to stop for the views and although the rain and wind was still coming down, we pulled over at the tourist office.
Inside they gave us hot tea/coffee and a map of the area. They showed us an area to stop and possibly hike if the weather permitted and explained how this area was so amazing from a geology standpoint. A crater had been formed due to the shifting of plates, not a volcano…the road we were driving on would literally drive right through it.
The landscape again was beautiful…waterfalls on every side of us. We pulled over and Giff decided to spread some of his father’s ashes.
We continued driving a bit until we saw the area we were told to pull over. We both got out and climbed up a small dirt hill when it started to hail and rain again…the wind was whipping the hail so hard, we had to keep our backs to it. We were screaming and laughing all by ourselves as the hail pinched our skin and the wind threatened to blow us away. The 30 second video below that we managed to record out there gives you a pretty good idea of what we were experiencing. The hike was definitely out of the question.
We got back in the car drenched and continued our drive until we arrived back at the Edinburgh Marriott hotel. We got chinese take out and relaxed away from the stormy weather.
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.
Today is our six-year wedding anniversary !! After breakfast we checked out of our hotel and drove through the countryside to the town of Stirling, known most for the battle of Stirling Bridge and the William Wallace Monument. William Wallace (a national hero of Scotland) was fresh in our minds since we had re-watched Braveheart (one of Giff’s all time favorite movies) in our hotel room this week. He had insisted that I watch this movie while we visited Scotland. We first visited Stirling castle, then grabbed a healthy salad, soup and sandwich at an artsy cafe in the old town of Stirling called The Junkrooms.
Because we were running short on time, we drove straight by the Stirling Bridge towards the Wallace Monument. The monument was made of stone and stood 220 feet tall, towering above the city. We pulled into the parking lot of the monument and took the 10 minute hike up to the entrance. Once we walked in we saw a huge narrow spiral staircase winding all the way to the top. Each floor had an open room with various informational presentations on William Wallace and other iconic historical figures. It also had Wallace’s sword tall and proud behind a glass case. After listening and reading information on each floor we found our way to the very top where we enjoyed the breathtaking view of the city and the countryside. The wind was whipping hard and we had to ground ourselves as we took the camera out to snap a few pics.
After climbing back down the stairs and hiking down the hill we drove to a small deli to grab some munchies for the long drive to Inverness. The drive was about three hours which had us arrive at our B&B, the Strathness House pretty late. We checked in and quickly headed to an Italian (our favorite) restaurant for our anniversary dinner. The restaurant was cute sitting on the corner overlooking the river. They gave us a table right by the window. We enjoyed our dinner of fresh fish and vegetarian lasagna with an Italian wine and tiramisu for dessert. We then went to bed for a good night sleep after a busy day.