Okay, true confession: the theme of our recent trip to Bonnie Scotland (aye ‘tis true, it is truly bonnie), was a tour of the whisky distilleries. But one can only sample so many “wee drams,” so our secondary theme was to get out and see the countryside. As you may know, nature, quiet, and seclusion are an on-going theme at Newton Fork Ranch. So naturally, when we travel, that’s usually what we search for (Paris, ah Paris, not withstanding!). Anyhoo… we found those qualities in abundance in Scotland. A few miles outside of any city seemed to put us squarely in the country.
The adventure began with the flight touching down in Edinburgh and soon had us on a northerly trajectory. Following a costal route, our tour wound through stately St. Andrews (sorry, no golf for us), Arbroath, Aberdeen, Buckie, Elgin, Findhorn (made famous in the 1960s commune era), Inverness (no sign of the Loch Ness Monster). Following the heather, we lodged at a castle hotel in Dornoch, across from the cathedral where Madonna and Guy Ritchie had their baby christened (no sign of Madge either). Journeying up the rugged coast to John O’Groats, the northern most point in Scotland (hoping, but unsuccessfully, to see the Northern Lights), we then pointed our car west.
I should mention the food here because, for so many of us, travel is all about sampling different foods, isn’t it? And if you love fish, this is your country. We lived on fish: salmon and eggs for breakfast, fish chowder for lunch, and every manner of preparation of fish for dinner. And each time, it was as if the fish had been caught and instantly cooked. It was that fresh! Oh yes, and the haggis: about the haggis. We stopped in a lovely little restaurant in Dufftown whose wildly animated chef wanted us to try it. We declined. He said we couldn’t. We said we could. But, we lost. Would you like to know how the haggis tasted? It was very, very good, a bit like meat loaf. Our strong-arming culinary ninja of a chef was right. It was tasty and was served in the traditional way: on an oatcake with “neeps and tatties” (potatoes and turnips).
Back on the road, after Thurso, at times the road turned to single track and the scenery changed from rocky and desolate to more pastoral. At Durness, we commenced heading south towards the Isle of Skye. It felt like at that point, all of Scotland heaved a collective sigh because everyone kept telling us that the west coast was beautiful. Go west, go west! And it was; still, the charm of the rocky isolated, wind-blown northern coast was a strong draw. But, the many sheep with the adorable freshly-minted lambs, angus cows, and Shetland horses on the narrow road kept us alert and smiling at all times.
After the Isle of Skye, it was back up into the Highlands to visit a few more villages. We couldn’t resist hiking the highest mountain range, Ben Nevis. After stopping for fish and chips, we drove the length of Loch Lomand (singing the famous “You take the high road, and I’ll take the low road”). The Trossachs National Park took our breath away!
One last B & B, Fernbank House in charming Aberfeldy, had us coveting our two full Scottish breakfasts with to-die-for oatmeal made with milk, honey, whisky and cream floating on the top. We returned to Edinburgh on full stomachs via a quick stop to visit the lovely, and magical Rosslyn Chapel of, more recently, “Da Vinci Code” fame. Would we go back? In a New York, no wait, make that a Moray Firth minute!
The first stop was the City of Edinburgh where spring was in full bloom.
Interior view of St. Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile between Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
Ruins were in abundance with this one standing on the shores of Loch Ness.
This Highland bull was built for the heavy rainfall and strong winds that are the cornerstone of Scotland weather.
Speaking of weather, here comes a change!
This horse was well draped and ready for the wind and rain.
Ah, just another lovely start to a tour of Scotland.
The beautiful Highland heather in all its glory.
Needless to say, the grass is always greener…
The most northernly point, per the locals, on mainland Great Britain. It’s also the beginning or ending point of the renowned John O’Groats to Lands End walk.
Truly, it seems there are ruins around every corner.
And some ruins just beg for exploration.
The perfect image of a rural life, close to the sea, in Scotland.
A pristine and uninhabited stretch of beach along the northern coast.
Ben Nevis, at 4,409 feet, is the highest mountain in the British Isles and abounds with hiking trails.
On the way to Skye Bridge, we just had to stop and take photos of the area foliage reflected in a lake.
And yet another reflective photo (you are being spared the other half dozen!).
So… can you find the sheep in this photo?
It must have been a simple and solitary existence.
The life of leisure.
The requisite photo of a fisherman’s cottage, yes?
Just look at this poser!
We assumed this was the nearest “land line” for area inhabitants.
Perhaps the sheep follow the signs too?
Is this a quintessential photo of Scotland, or what?!?
Clever window decoration in the charming town of Pitlochry.
A decorative gate near the castle in Stirling.
Spring was all abloom in Stirling Castle.
Another landscape scene watched over by an ancient oak.
Speaking of watchful eyes, they were everywhere in the castle.
Many chimneys and many reasons to stay warm during a long winter.
A spring view of Wade’s Bridge over the Tay in Aberfeldy.
Photos are not allowed inside Scotland’s famed Rosslyn Chapel but here is a lovely entry into the church.