Because we didn’t want to subject ourselves to a Bus Tour, we rented a car in Glasgow. We thought, Hey, we’ll pick up the car, hit the highway away from the crush of the in-town traffic and catch on to this driving on the other side of the road. 3 problems:
1. Highway? We had to navigate through residential Glasgow to get “out of town”. I was stressed from the word go.
2. We were travelling on a Saturday, when the entire population of Glasgow is headed up to Loch Lomond National Park. The highway is a little narrower than we’re used to here. The shoulder is about six centimetres wide instead of six feet wide. There was no place to pull over to change the flat tyre (notice the colloquial spelling) because crazy people were running a race through the glen, and the roadside pullouts were full of racers’ cars, and people-cheering-on-the-racers’ cars. So, we limped along on the ever-more-disintegrating tyre and rim for what seemed like an eternity, finally found a place to change the tyre, and then raced on the little scooter-sized spare (way faster than the tyre was rated because we didn’t want to hold up traffic) to Fort William where we miraculously found an open tyre shop and replaced the blown tyre. I will not play the blame game regarding warnings which may have been given and ignored about veering too far to the left.
3. I was never totally comfortable passengering on the left side of the car. Strangely, the ubiquitous single track roads in northern Scotland were not nearly as stress-inducing as driving through the cities and towns. Mike did accuse me of being more of an annoyance in the car than his mother (who, it is rumoured, can drive just as well from any seat in the car) and that just hurt. I tried to curb my gasping but I have to say I was more than a little relieved when we dropped off the car at the airport the night before we came home. (The fight with the car rental agency and our insurance provider regarding a cracked windshield which we didn’t see (because it wasn’t there) continues.)
Skye. Portree. There are few words to describe this village. (and no decent pictures that do it justice.) It is the largest on the island, and had the best Bed and Breakfast that we stayed in the whole trip. Douglas and Rosemary were wonderful, the bed was king-sized, the breakfast was great, the view was lovely. The weather was a little thick, but we braved the elements and saw a lot in two days. We saw Dunvegan Castle, which had some interesting photos and info about the island of St. Kilda (there was a fascinating exhibition at the Kelvingrove in Glasgow about this island), and I think that it is interesting ( and maybe a little spooky) that I have actually knit the Alice Starmore pattern St. Kilda from In the Hebrides. (I tell Mike that owning Starmore books is part of my retirement plan.)
We drove from Dunvegan to Carach on the Waternish Penninsula (look it up) and found Eva Lambert at the Shilisdair (pronounced more like “shilishadder”, or so Douglas tells me. His Gaelic is better than mine.) Like a bad blogger I forgot to take a picture of Eva, but we had a lovely visit and saw her dye shed. She dyes all her fibres (and they are all from Britain, with a bit of South American cotton thrown in) using natural dyes. This is not a high-tech procedure; I was delighted to hear her talk about letting her muse lead her, and I was amused when she said that she used dye stuffs from all over, because if she only used local plants, everything would be yellow.
I bought a little wool.
The pattern for the wool is a cardigan. Wallace was quite interested in the loot. We stopped at Skye Skyns on the way back to Portree, and I fantasized about a sheepskin rug in my log cabin (sadly, neither of which I possess) (yet).
We found a pub that night in the village, and after waiting for a table for an hour and a half (not to worry- there was a football (or soccer, as we call it here in the colonies) so we were entertained) we had dinner and were treated to live music. Three young men came in, ordered beer, got out their instruments, and regaled us with Celtic music. It was unexpected and one of the highlights of the trip for me. I just googled Harris Tweed Brogues, but there is no definitive website. I did come across “Drams in the Field”, which is a Celtic music festival. I am not ordinarily a folk or country festival kind of person (especially when it comes to camping in a field), but I think this festival might be fun. With the right air mattress and someone else to drive me there.
On our way to Inverness we stopped at Broadford on Skye, and sought out Teo Becu at Teo’s Handspun. He’s from Peru, and a very friendly and interesting fellow. He is from Peru originally. It amazes me how relocatable some people are. I did get a picture of him.
and here is Mike, actually talking to a spinner and his brain is not exploding:
I bought some Wensleydale handspun:
The colours are much richer; less grey and white, and more warm browns and beiges. I bought enough for a longish vest. In the meantime, I bring it out and freak out my sister who thinks it’s a little too dreadlockish and creepy for her.
I had no idea what Wensleydale sheep looked like, so in case anyone out there is as uneducated as I:
These beauties are from http://www.winddanceranch.com/wensleydales.html. This explains the dreadlocks. (Someone else took this picture. That explains the quality of the image.) They look like Kommondor dogs.
We found our B&B east of Inverness. It is just south of the Culloden battlefield. After this trip, I believe that history is best learned on the spot and not in classrooms. Of course, the cost of education would be a little higher. It’s a far better way to learn; walking the place, touching the place, closing your eyes and imagining the events.
What did we see around Inverness? Ruins, of course. Castles, of course. Sheep and cattle, of course. Here is a little of each:
Brodie Castle was turned over to the National Trust inclusive of contents, and the artwork and furnishings are amazing. The 25th Brodie gave tours himself, in full highland dress, until just before he died at age 90. That would have been an interesting tour, I’m sure.
They have an active falconry program at Dunrobin, but it was pouring buckets when we arrived and the demonstration was half over, so we elected to stay indoors. This was my favourite of all the castles that we toured. The lands endowed to the Sutherlands originally covered over a million acres. Even for someone from the Canadian Prairies where the farms are big, a million acres is still really really big.
Sheep: These are meat sheep, so are unnamed
Just down the road from our B&B we visited the Clava Cairns. We laughed at the sign, which indicated that the Victorian British attributed these formations (and any others that they didn’t understand) to the Druids. They imagined fairies in everything! I couldn’t help but think there was some sort of energy around the cairns, but I get that way in any cemetery.
Clava Cairn with Standing Stones
We drove down the west side of Loch Ness and visited Urquhart Castle.
We drove around the south end of the Loch and stopped for an unexpectedly pleasant visit in Fort Augustus. The Caledonian Canal starts there, and we enjoyed watching the locks in action.
Caledonian Canal Locks
We drove up the east side of the loch to get back to Inverness, and had the most beautiful sweeping vistas at our feet.
So, this is a really long post. If anyone reading it is still awake, stay tuned for the trip to St. Andrew’s and home again. Coming soon to this blog!
Read Full Post »