Exploring Scotland – Part II: Inverness to the Orkney Islands

Day 2, 27th August 2013

This day we were headed to the Orkney Islands, going up the northeast of Scotland, looking at the beautiful scenery as we went. We headed up across the Black Isle and up to Dornoch for a break to get something to take for lunch later on, and a chance to wander about. We were able to get into Dornoch Cathedral, a 13th Century red sandstone Parish Church, to wander through. The architecture is just beautiful.

Dornoch Cathedral, Dornoch, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Dornoch Cathedral, Dornoch, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Dornoch Cathedral, Dornoch, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Dornoch Cathedral, Dornoch, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Dornoch Cathedral, Dornoch, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Dornoch Cathedral, Dornoch, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Dornoch Cathedral, Dornoch, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Dornoch Cathedral, Dornoch, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

As I continued to walk about the town before we headed off, I spotted this house with a gorgeous garden and I had to grab a shot.

Dornoch, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Dornoch, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

After that, we continued on and stopped at Dunrobin Castle at Golspie Sutherland. We went around back and got some shots of the opulence of the castle, though some of the shots were quite bright due to sun shining through the mist.

Dunrobin Castle, Golspie, Sutherland, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Dunrobin Castle, Golspie, Sutherland, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Me at Dunrobin Castle, Golspie, Sutherland, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Me at Dunrobin Castle, Golspie, Sutherland, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Dunrobin Castle Beach, Golspie, Sutherland, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Dunrobin Castle Beach, Golspie, Sutherland, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

We stopped briefly in Helmsdale to visit The Emigrants statue, erected as a memorial to the thousands of Scots who were forcibly removed from their homes during the highland clearances; some sent to the coasts, the Scottish lowlands, others sent to Canada, the United States, New Zealand, Australia, and many other places around the world.

The Emigrants, Helmsdale, Highland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

The Emigrants, Helmsdale, Highland. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

There were times as we travelled along the A9 road along the coast where you could see the mist over the water so that it looked like the clouds were below us and sunny skies above, then turned and headed up to John O’Groats for a quick break before we waited to take the ferry at Gill’s Bay to South Ronaldsay in the Orkney Islands.

Arriving on South Ronaldsay we passed over the causeways, known as the Churchill Barriers, to Burray, and then over to Lamb Holm, where the causeways were built and ships were purposefully sunk to prevent further German U-Boats from passing through the Scapa Flow, though the Churchill Barrier causeways were completed in Sept 1944 but were not actually officially opened until May1945.

Sunken Ships, Scapa Flow, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Sunken Ships, Scapa Flow, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Much of the work on those causeways was completed by Italian prisoners of war. While prisoners of war are forbidden for working on the causeways though it had been justified as improvements for communications between the islands. On the island of Lamb’s Holm, the Italian’s built a beautiful chapel, known as the Italian Chapel, where we stopped for a break to take in the wonderful design before stopping for a short break. These are some of the pictures taken at the chapel.

Italian Chapel, Lamb Holm, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Italian Chapel, Lamb Holm, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Italian Chapel, Lamb Holm, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Italian Chapel, Lamb Holm, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Italian Chapel, Lamb Holm, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Italian Chapel, Lamb Holm, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

POW Memorial Statue at the Italian Chapel, Lamb Holm, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

POW Memorial Statue, Lamb Holm, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

I spotted a lovely bunch of daisies as we walked down to the little shop not too far away, and had to take a shot.

Daisies, Lambs Holm, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Daisies, Lambs Holm, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

We drove on to Kirkwall, the capitol of Orkney, where we were staying over night for two nights. After we were shown around the town and got our Orkney Explorer Passes, we had a bit of a break to wander around town. I took a walk around town by the shops, and to the St. Magnus Cathedral. Unlike on the Scottish mainland and Outer Hebrides, one of the primary things that you notice in Orkney is that the town names and locations have more of a Norse influence on the area than Gallic.

St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Cemetery Entrance at St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Cemetery Entrance at St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

I also went round to the Bishop’s and Earl’s Palaces, as it had looked quite intriguing in the Orkney Explorer’s brochure. The Bishop’s and Earl’s Palaces were built about the same time as the St. Magnus Cathedral, mid-12th century to provide a home for the Bishop. I walked around the remnants of the palaces taking in the structures.

Bishop's and Earl's Palaces, Kirkwall, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Bishop’s and Earl’s Palaces, Kirkwall, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Bishop's and Earl's Palaces, Kirkwall, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Bishop’s and Earl’s Palaces, Kirkwall, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Bishop's and Earl's Palaces, Kirkwall, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Bishop’s and Earl’s Palaces, Kirkwall, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Bishop's and Earls Palaces, Kirkwall, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Bishop’s and Earl’s Palaces, Kirkwall, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Bishop's and Earl's Palaces, Kirkwall, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Bishop’s and Earl’s Palaces, Kirkwall, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Bishop's and Earl's Palaces, Kirkwall, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Bishop’s and Earl’s Palaces, Kirkwall, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Bishop's and Earl's Palaces, Kirkwall, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Bishop’s and Earl’s Palaces, Kirkwall, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Bishop's and Earl's Palaces, Kirkwall, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Bishop’s and Earl’s Palaces, Kirkwall, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

After a bit, we were driven to our accommodations. This time I had a four bed female dorm to myself, and on ground floor so no needing to carry luggage up and down stairs. Thankfully. The hostel where I was staying wasn’t that far off from the centre of the city, so I walked back into the centre and poked around a bit before heading to the North Indian & Bangladeshi restaurant we found earlier. I had a wonderful dinner at Dil Se. Lamb Tikka Biryani with Naan bread with Gulab Jamun (warm rich luscious balls of soft Indian dumplings in aromatic cardamom sugar syrup, sinfully sweet & succulent) for dessert – it was awesome. Then I headed off to the city centre where there was to be the local performance by the Kirkwall City Pipes and Drums performance. I bought one of the band’s CDs as there was someone who was selling them as fundraisers.

Kirkwall City Pipe Band, Kirkwall, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

Kirkwall City Pipe Band, Kirkwall, Orkney. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 27th July 2013

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Exploring Scotland – Part I: A Journey Through Time

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.

Balmoral Hotel in the distance, © J. Lynn Stapleton, 25th July 2013

Balmoral Hotel in the distance, © J. Lynn Stapleton, 25th July 2013

Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 25th July 2013

Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 25th July 2013

Edinburgh Flower Clock, Princes St. Gardens, Edinburgh, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 25th July 2013

Edinburgh Flower Clock, Princes St. Gardens, Edinburgh, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 25th July 2013

High Street,  Edinburgh, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 25th July 2013

High Street, Edinburgh, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 25th July 2013

Old City, Edinburgh, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 25th July 2013

Old City, Edinburgh, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 25th July 2013

White Hart Inn Pub, Edinburgh, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 25th July 2013

White Hart Inn Pub, Edinburgh, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 25th July 2013

Stairway to Johnston Terrace, Edinburgh, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 25th July 2013

, Edinburgh, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 25th July 2013

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.

Stirling, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 26th July 2013

Stirling, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 26th July 2013

Wallace Monument, Stirling, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 26th July 2013

Wallace Monument, Stirling, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 26th July 2013

Stirling Castle, Stirling, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 26th July 2013

Stirling Castle, Stirling, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 26th July 2013

Butterfly, Wallace Monument, Stirling, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 26th July 2013

Butterfly, Wallace Monument, Stirling, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 26th July 2013

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.

Glencoe Ski Resort, Glencoe, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 26th July 2013

Glencoe Ski Resort, Glencoe, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 26th July 2013

Glencoe Ski Resort, Glencoe, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 26th July 2013

Glencoe Ski Resort, Glencoe, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 26th July 2013

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.

Glencoe, UK, © J. Lynn Stapleton, 26th July 2013

Glencoe, UK, © J. Lynn Stapleton, 26th July 2013

Glencoe, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 26th July 2013

Glencoe, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 26th July 2013

Glencoe, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 26th July 2013

Glencoe, UK. © J. Lynn Stapleton, 26th July 2013

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.

Commando Monument, Lochaber Scotland, UK © J. Lynn Stapleton, 26th July 2013

Lochaber

Urquhart Castle, © J. Lynn Stapleton, 26th July 2013

Urquhart Castle, © J. Lynn Stapleton, 26th July 2013

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 🙂

Inverness, Highland, UK © J. Lynn Stapleton, 26th July 2013

Inverness, Highland, UK © J. Lynn Stapleton, 26th July 2013

Inverness, Highland, UK © J. Lynn Stapleton, 26th July 2013

Inverness, Highland, UK © J. Lynn Stapleton, 26th July 2013

Inverness, Highland, UK © J. Lynn Stapleton, 26th July 2013

Inverness, Highland, UK © J. Lynn Stapleton, 26th July 2013

Stay tuned for more of my UK Vacation…