Monday, 12 January 2009

Scotland Part 3 of 3

Finally, we'd made it to the part of our Scotland trip that we had been most looking forward to - a couple of days on the Isle of Tiree, the outermost of the Inner Hebrides. A nice change, as the island is in the Gulfstream, so it's very windy, but quite a bit (4-5 deg) warmer than most of the mainland, so it was a welcome break from freezing conditions to just standard cold.
We arrived after a 4hr ferry crossing, and were immediately a bit stuck... there was NO mobile phone coverage, and we were on foot, 7.5 miles away from our cottage...eeek! Not to worry though, a lovely couple of locals drove past us as we were walking from the ferry terminal and asked where we were headed and did we need a ride? They even stopped off at the shop and waited for us so we could pick up some groceries! This is probably due to it being quite a small community, so the people are very friendly... which showed again when we arrived at our cottage (which was cute-as-a-button, see pics) and there wasn't any coal for the fire, and I had to walk a mile or two to find a house with someone home to use the phone to order some... luckily, that lady was also very obliging. And again in the afternoon when we were walking the 3.5 miles back from the shop with a couple of things we'd forgotten, a woman stopped off and gave us a ride... so refreshing, and exactly what either of us would do in the circumstances if the tables were turned.
After a warm toasty night in front of the coal fire, watching a DVD we had a lazy morning, before heading off for a walk around the coast and up one of Tiree's two hills. The island itself is quite windswept and interesting - it's so windy that there aren't really trees, or proper gardens, which is quite different, and it really feels quite serene and sort of deserted, but in a good way. We walked along a beautiful white sand beach, up some massively steep cliffs and over the top of one of the peninsulas before tackling the hill - which was only 146 metres high, so not especially tough. Topped that off with a walk down it, through really marshy scrub getting completely sodden feet on the way, to Hynish to see the old pier and some older buildings from the construction of a lighthouse which is 12m offshore. We managed to spot a seal swimming in to shore here, but the little bugger wouldn't come onto land while we were there, so we began our walk home, rapidly losing light, with 4 or 5 miles ahead of us... unfortunately the Tiree-an desire to give us a ride back didn't rear it's head this time round.
We left the island the next morning determined to go back there for longer sometime... we definitely recommend it.
Our ferry the next day was a little later and we arrived in Oban mid afternoon for a jaunt around the town to see some of the sights, including McCaig's Tower, which was inspired by the Colusseum, and sounds as though it might be out of place perched atop a hill in a port town, but actually looks like it has always been there, even though its only just over 100 years old.
We popped into the Falkirk Wheel on the way across country; it's a massive structure that lifts boats between 115ft between two canals - quite cool looking.
Then we headed for a place that I've wanted to visit since I was little - Guthrie Castle. My family (on Mum's side) are Guthries, and it was only sold by some (I suspect very distant-) relatives 28 years ago. It's now privately owned, and a couple of cousins have tried to visit in past years with no luck. Fortunately I happened to see online that it does weddings, and seeing as we're having one of those soon, I called and asked if we could have a look through it as a potential venue. This was both great, as it was beautiful - the castle itself is very grand and the grounds are amazing - and depressing - as I now really want to get married there, but the logistics of tying the knot on this side of the world probably won't work. Never mind though, we can still say we've been there and seen it... including the Trophy Room, which features a full-size real stuffed bear, amongst other exotic (stuffed) creatures. Click on the photo below for the full experience!

We drove back to Stirling that night to stay in a hostel, where I watched Braveheart for the first time... which was quite timely and I did enjoy it, although it was pretty easy to pick out the bits they used a bit of artistic license and Hollywood-ised.
There was a farmers' market on the next morning, so we went to that, bought far more bacon, venison and Highland beef than was really necessary,and then walked up the hill from the backpackers' to Stirling Castle. The howling wind and pouring rain really wasn't helpful for walking between the buildings, but we did stumble across the Tapestry Studio, where weavers are recreating a series of seven large tapestries. Each one takes about two to three years to complete, with three or four weavers working on it full time! There was one weaver in the studio while we where there, and it was fascinating to watch her working, it's such painstaking work and not hard to see how it takes so long to finish.
It was hard to believe that we only had one day of our Scotland adventure left, and we still hadn't been to Edinburgh, so we left bright and early on Sunday morning, and called past the beautiful Tantallon Castle, which is further east along the coast from the city. It's one of those castles you see on postcards - perched on a clifftops jutting out into the Firth of Forth - lovely, and still in fairly good nick. We had to tear ourselves away from this to head into Edinburgh, where we made it to the National Museum of Scotland at about lunchtime and managed to see the bottom floor (out of seven!!) in the almost three hours we were there - not the best time management, so we will have to go back and see more of both the museum and the sights - before we had to start the trek back to Sheffield to hurriedly do some washing before our flight to Istanbul. It's quite tiring, all this holidaying!
Take care,
K & E x

1 comment:

Gordon Scott said...

Hello Kent and Eryn - Gordon here, from the Isle of Tiree - one half of the couple who gave you a lift to the shop and waited for you. I picked up your blog in Google Alerts. Hope you had a great time. Did you get your hat? We found it in the car and I tied it to the door handle as you were out when we called. My own Tiree blog is and my email, if you ever want to drop a line, is All the best from Gordon and Joanne.