Start the day in a leisurely fashion, with breakfast on the lawn of the manor? Tick.
Coffee in the sunshine? Tick.
A quick inspection of the flower beds? Tick.
Had a walk around Manchester city and saw a few interesting old buildings. What I would’ve given for the 3Ts - tripod, tilt-shift lens and time to play.
From one priory to another, I give you….Pleasington Priory. Yeah, it meant nothing to me either….and then I discovered some of my ancestors are buried there. It’s in Blackburn, where my parents are from and where the rest of my family were born.
We hadn’t planned to go here but it looked interesting so we sauntered in…and were still there an hour later. And not just because it ended up bucketing down...
Because we hadn’t had enough of climbing about on stone walls and walking around fort ruins, we spent the morning at Birdoswald Roman Fort in Gilsland, doing exactly that. Another chunk of Old Man Hado’s fabulous wall set up, Birdoswald used to be called Banna (it means something geological but I can’t remember what) until it became farmland and was renamed.
Birdoswald has two big claims to fame: it boasts the longest continuous stretch of Hadrian’s Wall and it’s been on Time Team!
So this bloke Hadrian, right…comes into the north of England like he owns the place and starts putting up this long wall from one side of the coast to the other. It’s the most northerly frontier of the Roman Empire and it’s called ‘The Wall’ and guess what? Now Game of Thrones has one.
Off the north east coast of England is a wee tidal island that can only be accessed by car twice a day. Or you could probably swim across to it if you’re that way inclined. It’s a bit famous – some religious types were hanging out there minding their own business and drinking mead, until a bunch of Vikings came and destroyed the place in the late 8th century.
Back in the day, Dad was a Coldstream Guard. So we figured ‘we’re close enough, we shall go to Coldstream and see what all the fuss is about’.
We knew there was a museum there about all things Coldstream-y and Guard-y, and it was easy enough to find coz the village is weeny, but of course we arrived literally 5 minutes after it closed. 5 lousy minutes! Thwarted by a museum that closes at 4pm.
Channelling Dad’s words when we were annoying to “go play in the traffic!”, we played on Coldstream Bridge. It’s what he would’ve wanted!
Aberdeen is Scotland's 3rd biggest city by population. We went to the Maritime Museum on a Sunday morning and had a walk around Old Aberdeen in the afternoon and it seemed really quiet. Where is everybody?
The museum is set up like the inside of a ship and contains exhibitions and displays about the North Sea including models of oil rigs, full size diving suits and plenty of information about Aberdeen’s growth as an oil capital. Aberdeen’s got the highest concentration of millionaires in Britain and most of 'em made their cash in the oil industry. Bet you didn’t know that, eh? See, here you are learning stuff.
So there we were, minding our own business after leaving Skye bound for Aberdeen, when we saw a sign proclaiming the tallest waterfall in the UK was a left turn away. Tallest waterfall? No idea exactly where or how far away it is? Don’t deny it – you’d have turned too.
After a meandering drive along a long lake, appropriately titled Loch Long (you'll be disappointed to know that long=ship, not distance in the Scottish Gaelic parlance), we found ourselves 12 kms later at a dead end. No waterfall in sight, no hint of a car park from which one might walk to said falls (as is typical in Australia), no signposts, no tourists, no hikers. Not even a solitary cranky sheep. The area seemed to contain little more than half a dozen houses in various states of disarray and a couple of B&Bs. Strewn along the roadside were tractors, cars, trailers, concrete mixers, old tyres, chunks of trees and other bits of household and garden debris that were probably discarded at the beginning of the Industrial Age.
As it turns out, the other thing here is the beginning of the 10 KILOMETRE HIGHLAND HIKE to the Falls of Glomach.
So, naturally, we got back in the car and drove to Aberdeen.
And........the next day wasn't much better in terms of weather. We were heading back to the mainland and already behind schedule (too busy gasbagging with Scottish Rachel) so we opted not to attempt walking to Storr. Instead we meandered down towards the Skye Bridge but took a detour across the Kylerhea hills on the Sleat Peninsula.
Introduced Scottish Rachel at our B&B to Vegemite on toast. It didn't go well.
Went to Mealt Falls at Kilt Rock last night just before bedtime. It was a beautiful evening and dead quiet (apart from the sound of the waterfall) but the place was full of midges (no surprises there really). I had to leave after 15 minutes before the little blighters picked my bones clean.
We ferried to Skye in the late afternoon and found our digs at Drumfearn, which is in the middle of nowhere. Well, maybe not nowhere...the island is small and you could walk to a main road in about oh….half an hour, but it just feels isolated. Posh dinner at Birlinn restaurant in Eilean Iarmain (aka the tiny village of Isleornsay). Nice place, overlooks a cute little harbour, the small tidal island of Ornsay and Loch Hourn. Big Sis had langoustines (that’s prawns to us less posh people). They looked like an alien invasion on a plate.
This, apparently, is Meall a'Bhuiridh, a mountain on the edge of Glen Coe, and obviously unpronounceable (something like Me All A Blueberry or Me Eyes Are Blurry, but don't quote me). So we'll just be calling it 'the mountain' henceforth, okay?
After hiring a car in Edinburgh, we made our way to Fort William in the western Scottish Highlands, via Glen Coe. The idea was to get to Fort William by mid-afternoon but we stopped so often to check out various mountains and lakes and glens and waterfalls and highland cows and...and...and we didn't get to Fort William until after 7pm.
Dusk in the Northern Hemisphere seems to last hours. It's after 11pm by the time the darkness truly comes in and most of the tourists have retired to their lodgings, so it's the perfect time for a night walk.
One of the destinations on our little Stirling tour was Stirling Castle. It's a bit of a drawcard so I was expecting more time here but it didn't happen that way - we arrived at 4pm and the place closes at 5pm!
Loch Lomond is the largest land-locked body of water on the United Kingdom mainland and is on the way to Stirling. So naturally, we had a little cruise. And it was sunny and then rainy, and then sunny again. And then rainy.
Stopped for a quick break in Glasgow on our way to Stirling and found Glasgow Cathedral, a weird gravestone and a TARDIS police box. You be the judge.
The Scott Monument, erected in honour of writer Sir Walter Scott, is about 60 metres high and stands watch over both Old and New Towns. If you're feeling energetic (or just looking to provoke a coronary event), 287 really narrow steps will bring you to the top. There's barely room for one person so wall hugging is necessary if you meet someone on the way down (or up).
Had a wander around Edinburgh Castle one afternoon, dodging rain showers and trying to avoid a million tourists. The view from the battlements over the city and out to the firth (that's a river to you and me) is worth the entrance fee itself*.
*That could be a lie. May not actually be worth the entrance fee, but pretty good nonetheless.
A week in Scotland, starting in Edinburgh’s Old Town - where many of the world's first high rise residences can be found. This image from the Scott Monument in the New Town shows the spire of St Giles Cathedral in the centre and the Pentland Hills in the background. Part of the purpose built grandstand at Edinburgh Castle, used for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo performances, is visible at the right hand side.
This place is nowhere near as impressive as it used to be. The cliffs are still massive but the width of the meadows down to the cliff drop-off seems much wider than on previous visits, so the cliffs don’t look so sheer from above.
I’m still sure that if you fell off one, you’d be mangled at the bottom.
Next stop: The Burren. The dark, forbidding Burren. It's all blue skies and sunshine til someone has an eye out.
Yeah, yeah, alright. It's tricked up to look like we're minutes away from the apocalypse. Which could happen. Maybe.
Right…have you noticed all that blue sky? That’s real. Real proper blue sky, no clouds - in Ireland! In the west of Ireland no less. Yes, I got a little bit sunburnt. And no, I didn't photoshop the blue skies in!