Category Archives: Scotland

Most Random Street Signs!!!

I can’t leave the Scotland section  without mentioning the street signs…  Aside from the fact that when we went to Skye all the street signs turned to Gaelic, they had a whole slew of other street signs that were quite interesting…

There were the usual ones that we are all familiar with: Beware of deer, or Beware of Elk/Moose or even Bear or Cougar (if you are from Florida:))

But since Scotland has literally gotten rid of any and all potentially dangerous animals in the Country (no bears, no wolves, literally nothing that could eat or be a predator to humans) they had to pad out their street signs a bit to extend beyond the boring ol’ “Beware of Deer” sign…

So they extended to:

“Beware of Sheep” (ok, I get that since there are a ton there)

“Beware of Hairy Coos” (these aren’t as common as sheep, but could still be dangerous if challenged)

“Beware of Squirrels” (???  Really???  Are there that many around that we should be that cautious of them?  It would be terrible to hit one but it wouldn’t be quite as dangerous as hitting a sheep or hairy coo…)

“Beware Families” (I get this one is designed to get people to slow down, fair enough!)

But my personal favorite of all of them:

“Beware Old People!!!!” I just had to find one on the internet to include for you!!  Totally cracked me up every time!!  I love the detail of it too, how the old man has a walking stick and both are hunched over… LOL!!!!  Loved it!!!

Beware Old People
Beware Old People

On to Gatwick & Airport Fun (leaving the UK)

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Lochgoilhead

As my time in Glasgow was coming to an end, and since again Anna and I do enjoy a good hike, we asked Anna’s dad if we could stay a few days in his cottage in Lochgoilhead.  Thankfully he said yes, and was even kind enough to let us use his truck to get there!!  He and his wife also happened to be going when we were planning to go, so we got to spend one of the nights with them:)

Her dad and step-mom were already at the cottage by the time we were able to go, so we took a cab to his house, picked up the truck and headed on out.  The drive there was all along normal 2-way lane roads, but just before we got to the turn-off where the road was only 1 lane (for 2 way traffic!!) with the little side pull-offs for people to pass, we stopped for a little lunch… There at the “Rest and be Thankful” landmark we had a bite to eat and I had my first taste of black pudding… Also known as blood sausage… Ick!!!  Is all I have to say about that!!!  I really didn’t like it at all!!  Perhaps it was mainly due to me knowing what it was to begin with, I don’t know… I think it’s just one of those things you have to grow up with to actually like…!!!  Anyway the “Rest and be Thankful” stop goes back from quite a long time ago!  Those words are inscribed on a stone (see the pictures) placed there by soldiers who built the original military road in 1753.  Apparently the original stone  was destroyed and replaced by a commemorative stone instead… This point marked the turning point to get to Lochgoilhead.  And after our nibble, we headed on to the village where the cottage resided.

Once we arrived and settled in for a bit, we headed off for our first hike!  Again, we aren’t really the kind that prepare the way we should prepare for hikes… Honestly though we didn’t really expect the hike we ended up doing!  We simply set out just behind the cottage on a trail that led to some lovely waterfalls!  From there we saw some signs pointing this way and that, and thought, why not?  So we headed uphill, and up and up… Eventually we came to an area that looked like it could be a good place for a ski slope in the winter!  Two older people were coming down the way fully geared in proper hiking attire including ski poles, proper wind pants and hiking boots.  As we passed them we stopped them and asked how long to the top?  We didn’t get an exact time, but they did warn us about how wet and mucky the way up was and how windy it was at the top, and they further warned us not to go past the stile!  We thanked them for their input and headed on our way, figuring that if/when it got too tough for us and our completely inept sneakers/clothing for us to continue, we would turn back!

Up and up we climbed!  The slope was pretty decent, nothing really to laugh at by any means and while the land did slosh under our feet (sometimes water did sneak into the sides of my sneakers from the amount of water that pooled from some of the steps) we made it to the stile (don’t cross it!!) in good condition and basically dry.

Once at the stile there really were only two ways to go… Back down or up past the stile… Neither of us was terribly tired at this point and though the view from the stile was nice, you really couldn’t see all the way around because we were surrounded by dense forest on both sides.  And since what appeared to be the top of the hill/mountain was just a little ways beyond the stile we thought, heck, why not??  So past the stile we went!

Up and up and up we climbed!!  And it was during this hike that I was properly introduced to Scottish hills!!!!  You see, what appears to be the top of any hill/mountain in Scotland isn’t at all the top once you actually reach it… For once you get to what you thought was the top, you realize that the top is actually just a wee bit further on… And again just a wee bit further on… And again!!!  So literally we went from one “top” to another and another and another until finally what looked like would be the actual top appeared, but by that point it would probably take another hour to get to it and as it was starting to get late in the day (sun was getting lower on the horizon) we opted to give up that mountain top and do the sane and safe thing- turn back toward town!  First we had to take some picts of the surroundings and later estimated that we had probably walked about 20-25 kilometers on that hike!  We never could actually see on a map where the heck we went, but isn’t that part of the fun??  However, from the position that we made it to, you could see the town below, so we had at least some perspective of where we were!

We made it back to town just as the sun was setting, and after a pint in town we headed back to the cottage for a homemade meal!  We watched a YES!/No Thanks debate on the tv, then headed to bed (after Anna’s step-mom cleared a rather large spider from our room!!!).  The next day we rose at the rear-crack of… about 11am, lol!!  Anna’s dad and Step-mom were downstairs with trail maps/paths of the area and they gave input on where we should probably go.  We took their advice and around one or so (after packing something to nibble on- how sensible we became!!) headed out again for a hike.  Her dad and step-mom joined us for the first half-hour or so of the hike, then headed back while we headed up the trail to the steep/climbing bits.

After the hike from the day before both Anna and I were interested and pumped to climb a hill/mountain once again!!  And we thought that this particular trail would allow us to do just that… However, the trail never really led to any mountain base.  It simply wound around the base of several mountains.  Each time we tried to get to a base we were cut off by marshes or terrain so thick with heather/brush that who knew what was under!  Finally we did come to the end of the trail that basically dead-ended on the tip of a kind of peninsula.  Yet we were still quite determined to get up a hill!!  The end of the trail happened to end at the base of a mountain, but the way up was quite steep!  Did that stop us??  No, not really… We scaled part of some sheer rock on the side of the mountain up a little way… Then we came to our senses… That we were probably being really daft!!  So we gingerly made our way back down.  Seriously, the only real way to get up that particular mountain was with proper mountain climbing gear!  But again, once at the base we thought surly there MUST be a way up!  Anna happened to find a little sheep path, which we followed for several yards until it literally dead-ended at a drop hundreds of feet below us!!  Yup, we were being daft in trying to follow the sheep path…

Again we had to give up our quest for the day and headed back.  All the while that we headed back we kept looking for ways to get up a dang mountain to no avail!  It was probably best though that we didn’t find one… By the time we got back (after a brief scare with some hairy coos- well I wasn’t scared but they are known to be aggressive when babies are around, and as we walked through the field one of the coos spotted us, turned and started walking toward us.  I thought it odd behavior and then spotted some baby coos to the right… yea… we hustled a little bit out of that field!) it was almost dark again.  We had some drinks and dinner in town then wandered back to the cottage in pitch beautiful darkness!!  The kind of darkness where you can see every star!!  Just wonderful!!  Though Anna was scared out of her wits over walking in the dark and barely let me a few feet away from her, especially when it came time to cross the river, lol!!  All in all that day, we estimated we walked about 30-35 kilometers that day!  We left the next day and headed back to town (with a brief stop in the lovely town of Luss) where we had a lovely and delicious curry dinner with Anna’s mum!  Good times!! 🙂

I almost forgot about the ticks!!!  While at the Cottage, Anna’s step-mom left us an article about ticks… Beware the ticks when you hike!!  You can get Lyme disease from them!!  We laughed it off and didn’t really get bothered by the potential for ticks, though we did check ourselves for the potential of some… I never found any until a few days later when I was in Gatwick!!  4 on my arm!!  Ewww… I know!!  But they were babies and I plucked them out, watched for signs of Lyme disease, and luckily I can report I’m Lyme disease free!!  Yay!!

On to Most Random Street Signs

Back to Glasgow

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Loch Lomond (Conic Hill)

Though there was lots of drinking throughout my trip to Scotland (and Glasgow was no exception) I was at least countering some of the calories I was ingesting via beer in the form of hikes!  As Anna is also a big fan of hiking, we set off for Loch Lomond to take on Conic Hill!!!  Markie also joined us for the day of fun!! 🙂

Now, while we are fans of hiking and walking in general, we aren’t necessarily the most organized of people… Real hard-core hikers are prepared in advance.  They pack the necessities, make sure they have the right shoes, get up at the rear of dawn to make it to their destination so they can get in a good hike before lunch.  Yea…. this was not us at all!!  We woke around 10, made our way out of the house maybe around noon?? Left in jeans and random everyday-use sneakers. Then went to get Markie, headed to Conic Hill to climb the “mountain” (it’s really just a hill!!) got some candy bars and some water at the little store at the base of the hill, then headed on up!  Actually, had it been completely up to Markie, we would have just stayed at the base where there was a little restaurant and had some whiskey and beer instead of climbing at all (he was like “you were serious about hiking??” lol!!).  So after convincing him that yes, we really were going for a hike, we headed off!

Though again we kept calling our hike “a hike up a mountain” it literally was just a hill.  The climb was not tough or really that steep, just cold and quite windy at the top!!  The more movement we made though the warmer I felt (of course from circulating the blood) but the second we would stop, I would freeze!!  It only took about 45 minutes to get to the top at a very leisurely and relaxed pace.  The view from the top was splendid as you could see all across the Loch and each of the little islands in the Loch.  Sadly, that particular Loch is quite popular for parties in the summer and such… I say sadly because apparently there are a lot of deaths that occur in that Loch due to people getting too drunk, then getting on their boats or trying to swim or what have you… And because of the currents/depth/clarity/size of the Loch, it’s more like people just go missing… The bodies aren’t always found:(  In fact, not that long before we were there, a news report had come out that a foot had washed ashore on one of the beaches on the Loch… Joy!!  It was thought to be from a case years before of a child that had apparently drown, but the body was never found…

Another interesting thing to note about Loch Lomond for those seriously into hiking and camping out during hikes… It is the start of the West Highlandway which is a 4-5 day walking camp route!!  It is quite a popular route and in fact even as we were coming down off the Hill, we passed several younger people with their backpacks, yoga mats and wee tents strapped to them.  Obviously they were off to tackle the West Highlandway!

For sure had it been actually warm weather I could see being interested in doing something like that… But you all already know how much of a complete wimp I am in the cold!!  Good times!  In any event, once we made it back down, to reward ourselves we just had to stop in for a pint and some whiskey to warm up!!  Since Anna was driving though, she could only have coffee… poor thing!!  Don’t worry though, she caught up to us later that evening once we ditched the car! 🙂  We hung out for a couple of hours enjoying our beverages then headed back to town for the evening festivities!

Almost forgot!  On the way back we actually stopped in to visit with Anna’s dad for a few moments where we were scoffed at each time we called “Conic Hill” a “mountain” 😉  Obviously we were trying to sound tougher than we actually were and her dad knew better!!  Lol!!!

On to Lochgoilhead

Back to Glasgow

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Necropolis & Heelers

While there are lots of place to wander around and sight see in Glasgow (Buchanan Street for shopping, the Royal Exchange Square where the statue of the Duke of Wellington somehow always has a street traffic cone on his head, George Square which is the principal civic square and is named after King George III, the Clydesdale Amateur Rowing Club where we met Anna’s friends then went for drinks at West nearby, and the People’s Palace and Winter Garden which boasts the World’s largest terra-cotta fountain out back!) perhaps my favorite was the Necropolis…

I’ve always enjoyed a good cemetery, and this one was not disappointing!  It literally went on forever!!  One could seriously spend the entire day trying to see all the tombs and plots!!  I’m just kicking myself for not having brought my camera though!!  While not every tombstone was hugely impressive, there was one of a person who was obviously involved in theater that still sticks in my mind… His tombstone was so well decorated and huge!!  It literally looked like you were in the audience of a theater ready to watch a show!  The curtains were drawn, you could see the side balcony areas where the seats for the wealthy were located.  There were the classic faces of comedy and tragedy adorning the top, and a lovely and lively poem written across the curtain… Like I said, it was really impressive because even though I didn’t have my camera, I still remember those details today!

I was joined at the Necropolis by two of Anna’s friends, Davie and Markie.  Anna had to work that day so she gave me her phone and I ended up making plans with Markie to meet in town and go to the Necropolis.  Davie just happened to be joining, but it was just as well because though he has lived in Glasgow for a long while (he may actually have been born there) and he had been to the very lovely church nearby the Necropolis, he had never actually been to the Necropolis!!  Funny how we never take advantage of our surroundings where we live…  It’s the same with me too though, I’m not any better for when I was living in Costa Rica, even though I was literally across the street from the beach, I actually went to the beach maybe a dozen times a month!!  Terrible, I know!  But you all know what I’m talking about!!

Anyway, the rest of that particular day was spent wandering around Glasgow on foot.  We ended up walking past Davie’s house so he was dropped off there and Markie and I continued our tour.  We came across a little park where there was an older gentlemen and three blue heelers (aka Australian cattle dogs).  It was obviously a training session and it was by far one of the coolest things I’ve seen!!  You could tell immediately which of the three dogs was the most experienced and which was the least… They were all in a large field, the older man standing on one end, the three dogs laying side by side down a way from the old man.  Suddenly the man would shout out a command and a name and one of the dogs would shoot up on all fours, race around in a large circle, then come to a resting crouch in front of the man.  The same command was called with another of the dog’s name and off he/she went!  Finally the last would be called (the least experienced) and often times during his/her turn the command would have to be called several times or she would have to do it again, lol!!  It was just so amazing!!  With no leashes, lines, treats, gimmicks, etc, these three dogs were at absolute attention and focus!  It was obvious they enjoyed their tasks and I believe that the more experienced dogs were really the ones helping to train the less experienced dog!  It was just such a treat for me to watch these dogs in action!  I was in complete awe!!!  Needless to say those dogs and their training session were gaining quite the audience from people walking by!!

On to Loch Lomond (Conic Hill)

Back to Glasgow

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Bar Fights and Store Fights

This really was quite humorous because though I’ve never been one to pick a fight or even be involved in a fight, my time in Glasgow is somewhat known for being riddled with fights!  No real violence was involved though so perhaps a better term would be altercation… It just seemed like everywhere we went one sort of altercation or another broke out!!

Quick example: first day I was there, we went out to the Horseshoe bar, which is most famous for having the longest continuous bar in Europe!  Another quick funny here, while Anna is a local Glaswegian, she knows nothing really of Glasgow!!  She kept trying to tell me all this interesting facts about Glasgow, but would only tell them half-way!  “This ceiling (Central Station ceiling) is the largest glass ceiling!!” She would say… Ummmm…. ok…. The largest glass ceiling… where??  In Glasgow? Scotland? Europe??  Turns out (after a Google search) that it is the largest glass ceiling in the World!!  Impressive after all!  And she tried to tell me about the “longest continuous bar” but again didn’t know the rest of the statistic (longest continuous bar in Europe) and at first she named the wrong bar!!  It took another of her friends to straighten her out, lol!!

I digress… Anyway, we were in the Horseshoe bar enjoying some beers when all of a sudden the very drunk woman at the table next to us turned and said… Well, I will just write out the conversation for simplicity sake:

Drunk lady: “How are you doing in the future?”

Us: “Uh, we don’t know, we haven’t been there yet”

Drunk lady: “Ugh!  Nevermind. F off!!”

Us: “Wow, F off??  That wasn’t very nice!”

Drunk lady: “I wasn’t trying to be nice!”

LOL!!  Seriously!!  I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or well, actually I did just laugh!  Though it was really annoying as we were just there minding out business then suddenly had to deal with her lunacy!  And the friend that was with her was even worse!  She wasn’t near as drunk and kept laughing every time her drunk friend said something to us, then would turn to us and say “sorry girls, she’s just drunk, she doesn’t know what she’s saying” only to go back to laughing with her drunk friend!  Strange!!  Needless to say we left shortly after.

The store fight was again just a confrontation more than anything.  We went in to buy something and when it came time to pay, the price was 2 pounds over the actual price shown for the item.  I was paying with my credit card and spotted the increase in price so asked why it was 2 pounds more expensive.  Now, we were a wee bit drunk at this point, so perhaps I asked in not a nice way… But the clerk said it was a credit card fee.  To which I said that was bollocks and outrageous because all other stores only charge up to 60 pence for CC fees!!  Then I said he should have told me about the charge instead of just charging so much extra!  Anna was chiming in too, and I think he just got irritated with the two drunk girls challenging him, so he kicked us out of the store… I threatened to dispute the charges on my card, didn’t sign the slip for the charge and stormed out.  I didn’t end up disputing the charge because I did take my purchase with me as we left, so disputing the charge would have felt like stealing…

So yea, there you go!  There were some other altercations but for the life of me, I just can’t think of what they were exactly… LOL!  Obviously they weren’t that interesting to recall…

On to Necropolis & Heelers

Back to Glasgow

Back to United Kingdom

YES! Campaign

Quick post here about the YES! campaign… For those who don’t know, this past September, 18th 2014 Scotland had a vote on whether they would declare independence from England.  All while I was there during the month of August, the campaign on both sides was going on.  YES! stickers, posters, banners, flags, etc, etc were everywhere!  Much less “No Thanks” paraphernalia were seen, but as we now know, the “No Thanks” vote won.  While my friends in Edinburgh were for the “No Thanks” vote, Anna and just about every Glaswegian I met while there were for the YES! vote.  So while I was there, of course I had to help campaign:)

Literally this just meant sticking YES! stickers on a variety of places, and especially over any “No” stickers that were found, lol!!  Though personally I don’t have and didn’t have an opinion on which way the vote went (since it’s not my country nor business to have an opinion) it was fun to support my friend’s opinion while there.

I will say it was interesting that the silent majority were the ones to win… There was very little “No” campaigning going on, while the YES! campaigns were literally everywhere and in every town/city I had gone to!  Interesting indeed…

On to Bar Fights and Store Fights

Back to Glasgow

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Glasgow

 

Goodness, there are lots of things to say here… !!  First I will start with what I have been told about Glasgow long before I ever got there from several people in the States: Beware Glasgow!!  Seriously I had one friend tell me that Scotland in general was quite dangerous and that I should keep my head down, don’t speak to anyone and I should be fine.  Statistically there is some validity in that because apparently Scotland is the #1 producer of heroine.  And where there are the super hard drugs, there is a higher volume of potential for danger and violence.  But as we all know, danger and violence exist everywhere.  So I wasn’t going to let anyone try to scare me out of visiting Scotland!!  And honestly I never ran into any violence or danger in Scotland at all!  There were a few bar fights and a fight with a convenience store clerk, but I promise I didn’t use any violence in any of those situations!!

When it comes to Glasgow specifically, yes, even the Glaswegians (Weegie’s for short) have fear of certain areas and of certain people… Beware the Bams and Neds!!  There was actually a third category of people, but I can’t recall what they were called…  If memory serves correctly Bams are more dangerous than Neds.  Bams are easily recognizable… They are usually always spotted in two or more, they always have shaved or near shaved heads, and they have at least one if not several scars on their faces from knife fights.  These people are best avoided altogether because even my friend from Glasgow says that if you get in a tangle with one of them, there is no way to escape not being stabbed.  And it doesn’t take any provocation from the individual either!  As I’ve been told by locals (and my friend) you could simply be standing around minding your business.  If a Bam spots you though and for whatever reason doesn’t like the look of you, they come over to pick fights with you.  Joy!!  Again though, while I saw several Bams about, I never saw any violence or was never harassed myself.  Bams are also generally younger guys.  I guess you could compare them to street thugs with nothing better to do than start trouble… Neds on the other hand are “grown-up” Bams… They are just an older generation who are calmer and less likely to start violence, but are still thugs in their own way.  I guess you could say Neds and Bams are like pit vipers… Pit viper babies immediately bite and inject overdoses of venom in any little thing that strikes them as being a threat whereas adult pit vipers pick and choose what is really a threat and only deals out enough venom to subdue the threat… Hmmm…

Moving along…  the East End is also known to be dodgy by locals… When I was working in Key West, I had a couple of younger kids visit from Scotland (aside from my friends from Edinburgh whom I met there) who knew Glasgow very well and I asked them to write down places to go or avoid in Glasgow… the East End made that list!  Along with other areas including Drumchapel, Priesthill, Nitshill and England, LOL!!  Places to go in Glasgow included Byres road for pubs (did that for sure!) and Lochlomond (to be talked about later).

Now that you have a little bit of an interesting introduction to Glasgow, I’m going to back up a tiny bit to getting there… I arrived via train at the rear-crack of the morning (aka 9am) from Oban to Queen’s Station.  And I was met just outside the station from my very good friend Anna!  Anna is a local born and bred Glaswegian who one day will have a book and or movie made about her life, because seriously she’s traveled over 80 countries and had some of the most amazing/crazy stuff happen to her!!  I met Anna while living in Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica.  We were neighbors, became good friends, kept in touch and when I was going to Scotland, since she just happened to be there as well, of course I had to go to see her!

Now you know why I went to Glasgow:)  Because honestly, if it wasn’t for her being there, I don’t know that I would have had any other reason to go on my own.  Glasgow is an industry town.  It’s not necessarily very pretty nor is there really a whole lot to do there from the tourist perspective.  But since I was lucky enough to have a local perspective (via Anna) I had an absolute grand time there!  Of course most the time we were intoxicated, but only had one day of a real hangover!!  So all in all, I think we did pretty well;)

In the interest of not rambling on for decades, I’m going to break down the activities once again to links so I don’t drone on too long in a single post:)  Oh, and if you are looking for Glasgow pictures… I didn’t really take any:(  I’m terrible at taking pictures in places where I’m living more than visiting… And with having a friend there, it felt like the former… But, I did take pictures at Loch Lomond and Lochgoilhead:)  So skip to those sections if you are looking for pictures of surrounding areas.

YES! Campaign

Bar Fights and Store Fights

Necropolis & Heelers

Loch Lomond (Conic Hill)

Lochgoilhead

Most Random Street Signs!!!

Back to United Kingdom

Oban (Oh-Bin)

Oban!  Pronounced Oh-Bin… What a lovely little place to visit!  Sadly the weather was absolute crap during my stay, but at least I got a little sample:)

I took the bus from Inverness (or In-bir-nis in Gaelic) early and headed to Oban.  I skipped going to Fort William because I had heard there really wasn’t much to do there, but in Oban there is the opportunity to go to several neighboring islands via ferry or boat, etc.  So I was excited to check out the area for sure!  On the way there just outside of town there is the Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary!!!  I was quite tempted to jump off the bus right then and there as one of the stops was just in front of the facility, but that would not have been very sound seeing as I had my backpack with me… Plus, I figured I could always go back since I was staying three nights in Oban.

I spotted the hostel I had pre-booked to stay in (Oban Backpackers) as we drove down the main street to the bus station.  I headed easily out to the hostel and was greeted by a very accommodating and friendly German man.  I’m honestly not sure he took a single breath during his 5 minute “welcome introduction” lol!!  But just as the Inverness Student Hostel was, Oban Backpackers was also warm, welcoming and a generally great place to stay!!  They had large areas where people could hang out and chat and offered an area to put down the backpacks while one waited to check in!  Just love that feature in a hostel since many times I had arrived too early to check into my room but didn’t want to be stuck hauling my crap around or sitting at the hostel simply waiting for check-in!!

But I’m rambling again… Since I had arrived a bit earlier than the actual check-in time, I put my crap down in the designated area and headed out with a very detailed map of Oban, which I acquired from the very friendly hostel host!  The map itself was already very detailed (you know, one of those tourist maps provided by the city) but the host marked several areas of interest on mine before I left his presence so that I would know everywhere to go and see and do right off the bat!  Obviously he was used to a gazillion of the same questions from travelers, so in an attempt to stave them all off, he simply answered them all up front, lol!!

So with my map in hand and my bag no longer on my back I headed to the Oban Tower.  Located only about 10 minutes up the hill from the hostel, it provided a great place to take some aerial shots of the town!!  From there I just wandered around the small town just exploring and getting ideas on what to do for the next coming days while there.  The town itself is a little horse shoe shaped town located directly on the water.  It has a shipping dock and lots of varieties of boats bobbing in the harbor all for their various purposes.  There are even castles just a short hike up the way from the main part of town AND even a whiskey distillery in the center of town!!  Yes, Oban does offer quite a bit of activities for those looking to kill a few days in a cute seaside town in Scotland…

Now, even though there were trails to walk, castles to see, a Sea Life Sanctuary to visit, a whiskey distillery to tour and nearby islands to take a ferry to for a few hours… I did absolutely none of those… 😦

I know!!! I know!!  I’m totally bonkers!!!  And I promise I TRIED to go see the castles and the Sea Life Sanctuary and even the distillery, but alas no… I’m totally going to blame it ALL on the weather!!!  Yes, the weather!!  I already mentioned above that the weather was absolute crap while I was there… And yes, it was just cold and windy and blustery basically the entire time I was there!!  Ok, well the first day wasn’t so bad, but since I didn’t bother or care to look up an extended forecast for the area, instead of putting my rear in gear and actually doing some of the hikes and island visits on my first day (or half day, since I used the morning bit to get there!!) I simply spent it walking around and planning my activities for the next days…  So anyway, yea… The first day was quite successful in the sense that I had a solid plan on what I was doing for the next couple days…

But the next day, once I rose and dressed and stepped outside into the blustery cold and wet and WINDY weather, I realized that all my plans were about to go to right out the window!!  I first searched for something to nibble, then headed to the boat dock to see about catching a ferry to the nearby island of Kerrera, where there is a lovely monastery to walk around and enjoy a coffee in… But the docks were closed due to the windy weather.  No boats, no ferry’s, no island… So I wandered to bus station to find out about the Sea Life Sanctuary bus to see if I could catch it and at least spend some time there.  However, the majority of the park would have been outdoors and on the water basically, so if the weather was crap here, 20 minutes up the road wouldn’t be much improved… So I decided against that action… I thought ok, what about walking to the castles??

Finally an option that may work out!  So I headed back through town on the main road, then cut through a little side street to the trail that would lead to the castles and just as I rounded the corner got slammed with the biggest wind gust yet!!  My poncho flapped around me viciously while I got pelted in the face with rain drop after rain drop… This was not good!!  And after only a block of that nonsense I turned back up the next little side street and headed back to the hostel to warm up.

After inquiring about “what to do on nasty weather days” to the hostel host (whiskey tour is what he suggested… or just a pub!) I headed to the whiskey distillery and decided against the tour (I wasn’t really that in the mood for whiskey, plus had no way to carry the glass gift they apparently gave at the end in my backpack) so I did the next best thing… Went to the pub!

Turned out to be a fine rest of the day as far as I was concerned!!  Met an interesting guy from the States who was traveling all of the UK and Ireland on his motorcycle!!  He actually had his personal motorcycle flown over and was driving it all around!!  Needless to say he was being responsible and only had food and one drink at the bar, but it was really cool to meet someone who was doing something that brave!!  Well done on him!!

So that’s how I killed my days in Oban… Ate, drank, drank, ate, curled up for a movie on my Samsung Tablet, and generally found any excuse to stay out of the weather and stay indoors!!!  Some of my roommates had tried to go to the castle as well, and they succeeded!!!  Brave couple!!  However they didn’t really get to see anything at all since the mist was all around and the castles were closed… LOL!!  Poor things!!  They really looked wrecked when they came back!!  But I’m sure they still had a great time being adventuresome!!

On to Glasgow

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Isle of Skye

The Isle of Skye is absolutely breathtaking!!  Turn after turn it’s just filled with so many beautiful wonders of nature that it’s almost just too much to take!!  I’m so glad that I had the chance to get there!!  The tour itself was so-so, but what it lacked was made up by the beautiful surroundings.  But I’m getting a tad ahead of myself…

I’ve already mentioned that I booked my ticket at the tourist info center in Inverness.  When asking the employee at the desk about this specific tour, a 12 hour tour by WOW Scotland that cost almost 70 pounds (about $118 US), she seemed very hesitant to say anything about it… It was really kind of odd.  I wasn’t sure if it was just her or if she  just didn’t want to say anything negative about the tour.  So because of her hesitation, I hesitated too.  Then she went on to explain that she had never been on this particular tour from WOW Scotland so she couldn’t say too much about it one way or another aside what was advertised on the brochure.  But she had taken others that she enjoyed from WOW Scotland (though again she wasn’t very enthusiastic in her descriptions).  Against all the other tours of the Isle of Skye, it covered much more of the Isle and seemed to take us to more places.  And the tour itself was longer than any of the others…

My largest concern though was that we would simply be in the bus all day being carted from one site to the next, only let out for little breaks and to snap some shots.  I wanted to be able to spend some amount of time at each place.  And though there were numerous stops listed on the itinerary, I figured “heck, we have 12 hours and the Isle isn’t all that big.  I’m sure we will get some good time at each place!”.  So despite the lack of salesmanship by the tourist office employee, I talked myself into buying the tour.  Later I went on TripAdvisor and was further assured by my decision to book the tour because of the 5 star rating the tour had received.  Fast forward to the day of the tour…

All started off well, we were picked up in front of the tourist info center (nice central and easy location!!) in a mini bus that was quite comfortable and suited for our needs.  There were about 20 of us in total.  Though he didn’t show up in a kilt (a comment that a fellow tour-goer made later in the day that she was kind of hoping to see since we were on a Scottish tour) our guide was a local, was friendly and humorous and all.  He was knowledgeable and had stories to tell about each area…

But here is the kicker… Perhaps it was simply that the tour was as long as it was.  Or because of “the event” that happened later in the tour that sort of unfortunately out-shown the rest of the tour (for the better in my book, lol!!).  Or perhaps though funny and witty the guide wasn’t THAT memorable in the way he presented the info.  Or perhaps the pure natural beauty of the Island simply made everything else about the trip null and void in my mind… I simply just don’t know… But what I’m getting at here is that again, while our guide did have lots of history and stories to tell, I can’t recall a single one of them aside from a little disturbing statistic about Loch Ness and that the leopard man lives on the Isle of Skye…

No, I wasn’t drunk… I wasn’t hung over… I was completely present and alert and aware and listening just as I had on every tour prior (and all those after) yet I just can’t recall any of the stories he told.

And honestly I was a bit disappointed by the amount of time that we were allotted at each spot.  The original itinerary only allotted on average 15 minutes at each place, except for our lunch spot- 1/2 hour- then we were supposed to have an hour in one of the little towns.  Mind you, the brochure never mentioned how much time would be spent in each place so it was unknown at the time of booking.  Personally I would have given the little town less time since we weren’t there for a town!!  We were there for the sights!!!  We didn’t even get out of the van to walk around or near Loch Ness!!  We simply drove by it and had to take pictures out of the van window!!  That was kinda disappointing!!  But luckily or unluckily, as fate would have it we ended up having almost 3 hours in one of our locations… More on “the event” in a bit!

I know I’m going back and forth on how the tour actually was… Sorry for that!  But I guess if I had to be pinned down I would say yes, the tour was worth it if only for the sights of the Isle of Skye alone.  And having basically a chauffeur to take us around was quite nice (until “the event”).  Had it not been for the sights and being chauffeured around, well I wouldn’t say I would have been that crazy about it.

Oh, but for anybody planning on doing the trip, one word of advice: eat your lunch IN the van!!!!  Don’t wait for the break!!!  The only reason I say this is because you may otherwise be sharing your lunch with the midges!!  Or rather will also be eating the midges as part of your lunch!  Not to mention, if you eat at the lunch spot you will get less time to walk around!

Midges… for those who don’t know they are itty bitty teeny tiny little gnat like flies that come in swarms and will bite the absolute life out of you!  Before I went to Scotland I was warned about them but had never encountered them until the Isle of Skye.  Though they thankfully never actually bit me, they were so darn annoying!!!  They would swarm all around your head and mouth and body and hands and basically anywhere where skin was exposed just buzzing!!  So needless to say, as I tried to eat my sandwich they swarmed all around it and me and I ended up eating more midges I think than sandwich!  Needless to say about half way through I lost my appetite… So yes, eat your lunch ON The van!!!

The sights included: Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle, Hairy Coos, Eilean Donan Castle, Strath Bran & Strath Carron, Slighachan, Faerie Glen, Quiraing (sight of “the event”), Kilt Rock, Trotternish Ridge & the Old Man of Storr, and finally Portree.

Yes, as mentioned before quite a bit was covered so perhaps I should have expected just a few minutes at each place and should stop complaining about the lack of time spent at each location…  Not to mention, the majority of tourists really aren’t into walking around much or hiking on tours.  Most are happier being taken around so they can snap their shots and say they’ve been there (not me obviously).  It’s unfair to expect everyone’s needs to be met so perhaps I shouldn’t take it out as a fault of the tour so much…

In any event, enjoy the pictures of each place and a story of “the event” via the below links:)  Oh one last little bit about the Isle of Skye in general: it was the first place where Gaelic became basically the prominent language.  Road signs turned to Gaelic only (some also had the original or “English” names as well)!!  And about 8% of the population of the Isle of Skye still speak Gaelic today!

Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle & Hairy Coos

Eilean Donan Castle, Slighachan & Faerie Glen

Quiraing (site of “the event”)

Kilt Rock, Trotternish Ridge, the Old Man of Storr & Portree

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Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle & Hairy Coos

The disturbing statistic I recalled from the tour about Loch Ness??  Simply that some very bored (or disturbed) person worked out that Loch Ness has so much water in it that every person on the planet could be drown in it 3 times over… The joy!!!

But now when I heard that, the analytical side of my mind couldn’t help but wonder… Technically a person can drown in only 3 inches of water… So did that person mean by the technical standards of a person drowning or that physically every body on the planet could fit in the space of Loch Ness 3 times over and drown by being immersed in water…??

Eh, as you ponder that, enjoy the picts as well!

On to Eilean Donan Castle, Slighachan & Faerie Glen

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