I’m breaking this up in to sections due to amount of photographs that would slow down loading of the page.
I arrived in Edinburgh later than planned in that I got on the wrong train; two TransPennine trains leaving about 5 minutes apart. Got on the earlier of the two and by the time I realised my error and switched back to Manchester Piccadilly, the train I needed had left. So, I talked to one of the TransPennine agents and I could get on the next train departing two hours later. That was a bit of a fun ride as we were packed in tight, standing in the carriage aisles and door passageways with a group of young men and women heading to a music festival. About an hour and a bit into the trip I finally managed to get a seat and we finally arrived in Edinburgh around six pm. I took a taxi to the Castle Rock Hostel where I was staying for the night. After checking in, I ventured out for more photo-taking and a search for food. Unfortunately, Edinburgh Castle was closed to visitors in the evening – tours (walking or guided) run in the mornings and I was going to be off on my Rabbie’s Tour by then, so I wandered around a bit and got some distance shots of the castle. I finally ended up at the White Hart Inn, which as the oldest pub in Edinburgh, built in 1516, is a place I’d been before but it was well worth the return. Steak & Ale pie, wine, and listening to local live folk music.
Orkney & Outer Hebrides Tour – Day 1
On Friday morning, I headed down to the mid-lower end of High Street / Royal Mile to where the Rabbie’s Tours were to be departing. Like the Wild-In-Scotland Tour I took seven years ago, these tours also operated 16-passenger small bus tours around England, Scotland, and Ireland. The 10-day tour I was taking was essentially two tours combined in to one large one – Orkney & Outer Hebrides. The great thing with Rabbies is that they guarantee departures, even if it’s just one person taking the tour (aside from the tour guide). However, our tour was full. We had folks from Canada, Germany, Denmark, Taiwan (though living in Germany), United States, United Kingdom and Australia; and in the second tour there were four of us from the first tour also doing the second. Rabbie’s Tours took their name from the Scottish Poet Robbie Burns, and they’ve won several awards as a tour company. Our Tour guide for the first section was Gus, who was from around the Inverness area, and gave a great history of the areas that we were passing through.
Today we started out heading from Edinburgh and over to Stirling, where we went up to the Wallace Monument, standing on the Abbey Craig that overlooks the city of Stirling and was constructed in the 1860s.
The butterfly was taken just after the one of Stirling Castle, as we spotted it just before we were taking a path to head back to the carpark where our tour bus was waiting. Four of us, however, managed to take a wrong path somewhere along the way and headed in the opposite direction – the paths were not well marked – and we ended up coming out along the A907/Alloa Road. Two of us had mobile phones, so we contacted the Rabbie’s office and let them know where we were. Just as we got to a medical equipment supply shop the heavens opened up and the rain started to pour down. About 10-15 minutes later, the Rabbie’s van showed up to our great delight and much laughter was to be had.
Orkney & Outer Hebrides Tour – Day 1 (Continued)
Leaving Stirling behind, we moved through the Trussachs, Callander, Loch Lommand National Park, and headed into the Highlands. The further north we travelled, the place names on the signs changed from English only to Scots Gaelic, in larger font with the English in a smaller font beneath it.
Our first major stop was at the Ski Lodge where we stopped for lunch and two of us brave souls decided to go up on the lift to the top of the mountain for a look, not realising that it took about twenty minutes to get up, and then another twenty to return. The actual run up and back wasn’t so bad, and even, but the getting on and off the lift chair was a little nerve-wracking with the sudden lift up. I’m not a skiier so I’ve never done this before. In summertime, the Lodge often runs mountain biking tournaments…now, in looking at the trail as I went up the mountain – that’s some scary looking turns coming down. However, being up at the top did provide for some gorgeous views.
We drove along through Glencoe and as our guide gave us the history of the Massacre of Glencoe, it was at times hard to believe the beauty of the area was witness to such devastation 321 years ago as thirty-eight MacDonalds of the Clan MacDonald were killed by the king’s soldiers and another forty women and children died of exposure as their homes were burned to the ground.
After this, we went through the Great Glen, stopping at Spean Bridge along the A82 to see the Commando Memorial then along the length Loch Ness, stopping briefly at Urqhuart Castle to take a couple photos.
We finally ended up in Inverness for the night where we were dropped at our accommodations. I got signed in to the hostel where I had a booking, then headed out for food, picture-taking opportunities and souvenirs (not necessarily in that order). For supper, I met up with a few people from our tour group at Joy of Taste. It’s a really nice place where the staff, aside from the chefs, are volunteers that share in the love of serving fantastic food, they work one shift a week who are paid in food. And trust me, the food was fantastic 🙂
Stay tuned for more of my UK Vacation…