Friday, 2 January 2009

Scotland Part 1 of 3

We left Sheffield for Dumfries and Galloway on the 27th of December, just in time for the milder weather to stop and turn a bit nasty... this was fine though, as I managed to talk Kent out of camping and into wigwams (which are sort of like wooden tents, fully insulated, with heating and electric)... thank goodness too, as you might have heard that there's been a 'big freeze' on here over the last week or two - brrr.
Warmth sorted out, we called past various spots along Hadrian's Wall on our way up. It was built by the Romans in 122-123AD to mark the northernmost border of their empire (and perhaps to keep the Scots out?!) and used to run the entire width of the country. It was originally over 12ft high, and some parts of it are still very impressive. That took up our first couple of days, as we drove to quite a few sites along the Wall, including a wander up to the highest point, which we reached just at sunset.
We then spent a couple of days seeing the local sites before a bit of a drive to Crainlarich, on the way calling past Doune Castle, which, amongst other things, featured in 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail' (it's the castle they pushed the Trojan Rabbit up to), and the William Wallace National Monument near Stirling... surprisingly, he didn't look much like Mel Gibson, although I overheard someone saying that they re-made one of the statues at the memorial to resemble Mel's version of Wallace when the movie came out.
Our accomodation that night wasn't especially great, so we took off pretty early the next morning for the Isle of Skye - it was another fairly big drive, but broken up with visits to Glencoe, Fort William, Inverlochy Castle, Neptune's Staircase (a long series of canal locks) and Eilean Donan Castle. We had a good start when we drove past a massive stag just a few metres from the side of the road, with no fence to keep us out or him in. Kent even managed to get quite close to him to take photos and he hardly even moved - clearly not concerned in the least with becoming venison! The rest of the drive was even better, breathtaking, even - the frosts the preceding few days were SO cold that everything was white - it looked more like something from Narnia! We also stopped at one of the many lochs - as it had frozen over completely, and was solid enough for me to walk on (not bad considering how soon after Christmas this was!!), although Kent faced a few scary moments with a crack or two. I wisely stayed the hell away from him.
We arrived on the Isle of Skye well after dark and celebrated New Year's eve by going to sleep about 9pm... it's all rock'n'roll for us, I tell you. We started 2009 with a beautiful sunrise (the benefit of such long nights being that you don't have to get up early to see the most gorgeous part of the day) and realised there was quite a bit to see, so we had a wander to Neist Pt lighthouse, which we broke into for a better look. We did notice the 'towns' on the island are sort of unusual, the houses are very spread out and there's not a feeling of order or connection to them, which was a nice departure from the mainland. It wouldn't have been Scotland if there hadn't been a castle, so we headed back to Dunvegan Castle for a quick look - it's privately owned, so the admission charges where absurd, meaning we had to sneak in... rules? Schmules.
Right, now for the photos:

More to follow shortly...
K & E x

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