Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Monday and Tuesday in Edinburgh

Our hotel, the Old Waverley, is our most expensive accommodation of our trip. However, it is certainly not the the nicest. It is a very old hotel with creaky floors, narrow hallways, a tiny elevator and staff that are not the most helpful. Our window has a view of the a tarred roof and the back of the adjacent building. However it is a great location on Princes Street just across the Waverley Bridge from the Old Town. One of the reasons for the high cost could be that we have arrived in the middle of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which is a really big deal here.

The Old Waverley is the building in the middle of the pictures with the white window frames on its upper floor. This picture was taken from the Edinburgh Castle on Tuesday.

To me, the most striking thing about Edinburgh is the history and the buildings. There are just so many beautiful old buildings and there are so many monuments. We did a bus tour on Monday morning. In the afternoon we met some friends of Cathy's and got another more personal tour. Such a beautiful city.

Edinburgh Castle sits on a hill at one end of the Royal Mile. It dominates the Edinburgh skyline.

We had planned to visit the castle on Monday but were discouraged by the crowds. We decided to get up early on Tuesday and try to beat the crowds. The girl who sold us our tickets to enter the castle was from Summerside. The castle ticket included a chance to view the Scottish Crown Jewels. Unfortunately, photos of the jewels were not permitted.

One of the interesting items in the castle is a medieval supergun which dates from 1449 called Mons Meg.

The castle buildings include St. Margaret's Chapel which was built by King David 1 around 1130 and is the oldest building in Edinburgh.

At the opposite end of the Royal Mile to the castle is an extinct volcano named Arthur's Seat. On Tuesday afternoon, we decide to walk up one of the trails on Arthur's Seat. Here are some photos from our walk.

This is the last day of our holiday. Tomorrow we fly to London and then on to Halifax.

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Sunday, To Edinburgh

This is our last day with the car. Today we drive to Edinburgh and drop off the car.

Before hitting the road, we walked around Inveraray again. it was a calm morning.

On our way through the country we passed some Highland cattle.

We stopped for lunch at Killin on our way. It is a small town with a river running through it. There were some interesting sounding hikes available from the town, but we didn't have time to do them. We decided to carry on to Edinburgh.

Near Stirling we got caught in a traffic jam for about an hour. We could see Stirling Castle in the distance.

We had to fill the gas tank before returning the car to the airport. The GPS came in handy helping us find a petrol station near the airport and then guiding us to the airport.

It was late by the time we got to our hotel.

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Saturday, Our Day in the Highlands

Our basic plan for the day was to travel north through the interior, follow Glen Coe (a valley) to the coast and then follow the coast south to compete a circular route. We had read that Glen Coe is one of the most beautiful glens (or valleys) in Scotland. It also has historical significance as the site of the Glencoe Massacre. After enjoying the local hospitality for 10 days in 1692, a group of Campbell soldiers attacked their hosts killing 38 MacDonalds. Hundreds of MacDonalds fled to to hills. The attack was triggered by a political misunderstanding.

Shortly after we started our journey north we saw the ruined Kilchurn Castle across Loch Awe.

We stopped at the Bridge of Orchy for a delicious cream tea (coffee in my case) at a very nice pub/tea room.

Sometimes when you are traveling, it is the unexpected experiences that are the most memorable. That is what happened Saturday. We had stopped by the tourist information centre in Inveraray before starting our day of touring and the person we talked to was extremely helpful. He basically planned our day for us right down to the suggesting a tea room for lunch and a restaurant for supper (both of which turned out to be excellent suggestions). However it was his suggestion for us to do a drive down Glen Etive that provided us with some of the most unique and impressive scenery of our trip. The drive was down a single track dead end road that followed a river to the beginning of Loch Etive

We turned off the main road through Glenn Coe to the Glen Etive road just before this impressive mountain.

As mentioned, the road was single track but in good condition.

In this photo, you can start to get some sense of the beauty of the valley, although the camera does not do it justice. You can also see the 'passing spot' on the road. We met some cars and one camper van, but fortunately there was not a lot of traffic.

Streams flowing vigorously down from the sides of the valley joined the river and added to its volume as we travelled down the valley.

Finally we reached the end of the road. The river flowed into Loch Etive.

On our way back out the road, we noticed a herd of red deer.

When we got back to the main road, we continued on through Glen Coe and indeed it was also quite beautiful.

We continued on to the city of Oban. Oban is a major ferry port with services to a number of the islands of the Inner Hebrides. It would have been nice to have a couple extra days to visit one or two of the islands.

We continued to follow the coast south before stopping in Kilmartin to look for another prehistoric stone circle. These standing stores are at a site called Templewood.

It was almost dark when we arrived back in Inveraray. A full day. Tomorrow we head to Edinburgh and drop off the car.

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Friday, Onward to Scotland

Today was mostly a travel day. We spent part of the morning in Keswick before leaving for the drive to Scotland. We picked up a couple of Cornish Pasties for our lunch before we left. The pasty shop must have had a dozen varieties and piles of each. We discovered pasties on our last trip to England. They are a savoury flaky pastry turnover filled with some combination of meat, vegetables and cheese. Basically a meat pie that you can eat with your hands. They were eaten by Cornish miners for their meals down in the tin mines. They would hold them by the thick crust and eat the fillings. They would throw away the heavy crust which would be contaminated by the poisonous tin dust on their hands.

They also make a good lunch to eat in the car.

We had a long drive ahead. Unlike the past couple of day when we were driving on narrow twisty roads, today's drive would be on motorways and unfortunately our route takes us through the center of Glasgow, Scotland's largest city. Though we were on a motorway the exits to other routes came fast and furious for about a 30 mile stretch. This signage shown below was typical. Thank goodness for the GPS.

After Glasgow, our route took us north past Loch Lomond, Scotland's largest fresh water loch. The land was starting to become more mountainous as you can see.

We arrived in Inveraray in early evening. The village is very different in appearance from the English towns we've visited.

Once again we have been fortunate with our selection of B&B's. This house is a former manse.

The house over looks Lock Fyne which is a sea loch. This will be our view from the breakfast room.

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Thursday, Grasmere, Gingerbread and Latrigg

Thursday is our last full day in Keswick.

We decided to drive south from Keswick to the village of Grasmere. Our hosts gave us suggestions of what to do and where to go. Grasmere is a little more quaint that Keswick and is obviously a tour bus destination.

By 11:00, there were four tour buses in the car park. It was the first time we heard people speaking American in a while.

Besides being quaint, Grasmere is famous as the home and resting place of the English poet, William Wordsworth. We visited the beautiful and ancient St Oswald's church with its timber frame roof.

Wordsworth is buried behind the church.

Grasmere is also world famous all over Cumbria for gingerbread and specifically Sarah Nelson's secret recipe Cumbria gingerbread. This distinct gingerbread is make from a recipe that has remained secret since it was developed in the mid 19th century. We did the tourist thing and dutifully bought a package.

Grasmere is full of cafes and tea rooms, but our hosts had recommended Baldry'sTea Room, so that is where we had our lunch of jacket potatoes (stuffed baked potatoes). The main reason for having lunch at Baldry's however was their warm sticky gingerbread pudding with rum butter sauce and ice cream. Different from Sarah's, but in a word; magnificent!

It would be a shame to visit Keswick without doing some fell walking, so when we returned from Grasmere, we decided to walk off the gingerbread with a walk up Latrigg fell. Latrigg is one of the smaller fells with a summit of about 1200 feet. It is mostly tree covered. The higher fells such as Cat Bells, have heather higher up. We were able to begin the walk from our B&B. Although we had detailed instructions and a good map we had some trouble getting out of town. However once we found the trail head, we had no problems.

Keswick and Derwent Water from Latrigg.

It was warm and sunny when we started the walk. But by the time we reached the summit, the sun had disappeared, the wind had come up and the temperature dropped. Cathy is having fun, really.

We went to the George pub for supper. Feeling a little guilty for eating a large lunch with a large dessert, I innocently ordered a half portion of the Cow pie. What I didn't realize is that a cow pie apparently contains the meat from an entire cow! Lets just say that I wasn't lacking for protein in this meal.

Friday morning,
I'm sitting by a park on a bench writing Thursday's account while Cathy explores the shops. But I have company.

Soon we will hit the road again and head north to Scotland.

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Wednesday, Derwent Water and Mysterious Stones

This is our first day to explore the Lake District. It is an area that is as much characterized by mountains as it is by lakes. It is very picturesque and is England's land of outdoor adventure. Keswick is full of tourists, mostly English from other parts of the country and they are here to walk the fells (mountains). In some ways, the town reminds me of Banff, although the mountains are smaller and it is not as touristy. There must be a dozen outdoor and hiking stores in town.

Our hosts, Arthur and Pam gave us some excellent suggestions for some hikes and loaned us a copy of an Ordinance Survey Explorer map for the region. We decided that we would do the walk around Derwent Water, which is the name of the lake by Keswick. The walk is about 8 miles long, however there are 7 docks around the lake that are served by a water taxi service. We decided that we would walk part way around and then take the water taxi back to Keswick.

Like many walks in England, this one is a combination of trails, fields, sidewalks and roadways. In England many public foot paths cross private land. To allow access to these public foot paths, gates are installed in fences that allow walkers access, while keeping sheep or cattle in their fields. This particular gate ingeniously used the weight of a stone on a chain to automatically close the gate with enough force to trigger the latch.

About half way around the lake, we came across a water fall. This is near the point we decided to get the water taxi back to Keswick.

We got back from our hike in early afternoon leaving us time for some more exploring. On our last visit to England, we saw both Stonehenge and the Avebury stone circle. So when we heard that there was a prehistoric stone circle at Castlerigg near Keswick, it was added to our must-see list. We allowed the GPS to guide us. It unnecessarily took us down the narrowest road yet. This road was so narrow, that a some points the tips of the branches of hedges were touching the car on both sides. I just prayed that we would not meet another car. The Castlerigg stone circle consists of an astrological significant arrangement of 38 stones. Dating back from around 3000 BC, it is one of the earliest stone circles in England.

From Castlerigg, we decided to visit another unusual stone. Bowder Stone is a 2000 tonne boulder believed to be from Scotland that was left by a glacier. The 30 foot high stone, sitting precariously on it's edge, has become an attraction.

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