|Wednesday, 1 August 2012:
We didn’t really have any plans again, so we set out to see what we could get to by bus around Inverness. We were told that the Glen Ord distillery was a short bus ride away, so we decided to do that. Visiting distilleries is always fun (especially the sample at the end) and this one happened to produce a single malt that was not available in the US, so that was a real treat. From there, we took the bus a few stops back to the little town of Beauly where we had lunch and explored the old Beauly Priory. The priory is another ruin, so even though it was cold and rainy (again), I was still pretty happy to be there with the camera. We made it back to our hotel for a quick change, then it was off for a dinner, and a pint or two at our favorite pub in Inverness.
|Thursday, 2 August 2012:
We were up to catch a 7:30 bus from the Inverness bus station to go all the way up to Orkney. At the time, it seemed like a good way to get there without spending more than just the day there (bringing along luggage, etc). We probably should’ve made the trip to Orkney for a day or two, but it ended up being a nice primer, should we ever get the chance to go again and spend more time. The bus ride involved a tour guide, who did a great job explaining the sites as we went along. Finally we made it to a very foggy John O’Groats and hopped the ferry up to Orkney where we met a smaller bus with a driver/guide. We stopped first at Kirkwall, grabbed some sandwiches for the bus, and saw St. Magnus Cathedral. Then it was off to Skara Brae, a site I had wanted to see since I was a child and our school was visited by the author of a book about Skara Brae. Then it was off to the Ring of Brodgar, a quick stop at the Italian chapel, and then back to the ferry at 5pm. We made it back to Inverness around 8pm where we got dinner and then collapsed back at our hotel. The whole day was a whirlwind adventure, with lots of time spent on the bus, but both fantastic tour guides totally made up for the time spent sitting around. We got a ton of information that we might not have gotten had we hopped a quick flight up and stayed in Orkney a few days.
|Friday, 3 August 2012:
After much deliberation, we decided to rent a car for the day. We debated over it a lot – Doug was pretty worried about driving on, “the wrong side of the road,” whereas I was pretty confident that it wouldn’t be too difficult. The roads aren’t nearly as congested as ours, they don’t drive as fast, and I had a nervous co-pilot to help keep me in line. We picked up the car (a zippy little diesel, manual transmission Ford Fiesta) and made our first stop at the Black Isle Brewery. Really fascinating operation – all organic, grown on the property, brewed on site, complete with a sweet brewery dog. Then we were off, grabbed some food at a grocery store and found a nice spot in Elgin to have lunch. Then, with our Diageo whisky passports in hand, we made a stop at the Cardhu Distillery where we were given a sample of two of their whiskys, but skipped the tour. Our last stop was at Cragganmore where we took the last tour of the day. None of the distilleries allow photos anywhere inside, but we did get samples! We had dinner, watched a beautiful sunset, and had another pint at Hootananny, and then back to the hotel. I wish we had decided on the car earlier since we would’ve had time to see more, but it was still an incredibly fun day.
|Saturday, 4 August 2012:
We had signed up for an all day tour of the Isle of Skye, complete with an incredible guide/driver from the area. We had originally planned on having two other people with us who were unable to make the trip last minute, so it was a little pricey, but for what we got (the information, being driven around and not getting lost, the knowledge, special little stop offs that aren’t on the maps), it was WELL worth it! Our first big stop was at Eilean Donan castle, the famous castle that’s splashed all over travel advertisements for Scotland. Gorgeous! Husband wore his kilt for the day, so I managed to prod him to take a really great photo in front of the castle. From there we were off to Skye. We made some lovely, picturesque stops along the way including a quick stop to have a drink of fresh, peaty water coming off the hills before lunch. From there we grabbed some ice cream and head off to see more sights which included Kilt Rock (and a hilarious warning sign). The whole trip was amazing and I can’t get over how absolutely beautiful Scotland is. We just have nothing at all like it at home. We got back to our hotel around 7pm, and then were off to our dinner reservation at Hootananny. We timed it so that we were able to have a table and see Tweed when they came on stage that night. They’re a fantastic local band we had seen once before and couldn’t wait to see again. They didn’t disappoint! It was a great night.
|Sunday, 5 August 2012:
We slept in a good bit after being out a little late the night prior. We decided to take it easy and take a walk down to Floral Hall, the local botanical garden. On the way there, we heard this strange sound, and as we turned around to see what it was, we saw a Border Collie bolting at top speed, dragging a sign behind him. At one point, I’m sure the sign was upright (it was weighted, but clearly not enough) in front of a coffee shop, but something spooked the poor dog and he took off running. He was coming straight for us, so as he got closer, husband and I lined up to block the path. I stuck my foot in the middle of the sign which was a big metal frame with a swinging sign in the middle, coming out with a REALLY badly bruised ankle, which stopped the dog. Moments later, a woman comes running around the corner yelling, “MY DOG! MY DOG! STOP HIM!” Good thing we already had! She came over, explained that he was a new rescue and had been badly treated on a farm before joining their family and was still easily spooked. She thanked us over and over. By this time, the coffee shop owner had come along to collect her sign while we snorgled the dog, applying liberal amounts of love. Then, we were on our way to Floral Hall which was really beautiful. The weather, unfortunately, was not – a persistent drizzle and chill – so the outside areas weren’t quite as nice as we’d have liked, but it was pretty nonetheless, and much bigger than it looks from the outside. We walked back along the canal, looking for blackberries, but it was a touch too early in the season. We went to lunch and took our time, and did a little shopping around Inverness. Then it was back to the hotel for more of the Olympics while we watched my ankle turn even funnier colors.
|Monday, 6 August 2012:
Hopped a train around 11am for Aberdeen. Arrived at Aberdeen around 1pm. Husband had a class to take which was our excuse for taking an extended vacation, so now it was time for him to get going on the class. We did lunch at our local favorite, and were back to the hotel somewhat early for dinner and more olympics coverage.
|Tuesday, 7 August 2012:
My ankle was still swollen and achy (not broken, just banged up) from the encounter with the dog in Inverness, so I took it easy and did some shopping. Husband had his class, so I was on my own for the day. We met up for dinner back at the hotel and got to bed early again since husband had to be up early again for class.
|Wednesday, 8 August 2012:
I decided to head out to the beach with my camera since it was a nicer day and I was feeling up to a good walk. It was still a little overcast, but the beach was empty and chilly which suited me just fine. I wandered around, finding that a bunch of bright purple jellyfish had washed up on the beach along with a few red/orange ones as well. The tide was out, so there was a LOT of beach to cover. I zig zagged back and forth, watching snails inch along the rocks, wee little fish trapped in tide pools, and took great big breaths of fresh air. I had finished my project for the Ravellenic Games, so I brought that along and grabbed some pictures of it too, since I had a nice background. Met the husband back at the hotel for dinner.
|Thursday, 9 August 2012:
Husband passed his class earlier than expected, so we were off for a day in Stonehaven, a really lovely little town I enjoy visiting when we’re in Scotland. We had a great lunch and some pints, and hten we were off to Dunnottar Castle. The regular route up, along the coast, was closed for construction which was a shame, because it’s a really beautiful walk, so we ended up taking the shorter, detour route. Then it was back down to Stonehaven and the railway station, and eventually Aberdeen. We had dinner at Slain’s Castle which is this really neat pub inside an old cathedral. It’s all decorated in a style Dracula himself would approve of – maybe a little goofy, but the theme works, and it’s definitely unique.
|Friday, 10 August 2012:
We were up EARLY to be at the airport by 5am. From there we hopped through London. On the way home, our flight was diverted to Bangor, Maine since weather, severe thunderstorms, has closed the Newark Airport. We sat there for I think two hours until the storms finally passed. A bunch of other planes had landed as well, so we weren’t alone. However, since it was an international flight, we couldn’t leave the plane, so it made for a boring situation, just sitting there waiting for the go-ahead to take off and then land again at home.
All in all, the trip was wonderful. If I could’ve changed anything, it would’ve been to switch days off Inverness and over to Edinburgh or take a few of the Inverness days off to Orkney. The little taste of Orkney did give us a hunger for more though, so hopefully on another trip, we’ll schedule in some more time! The rest of the photos exist over here on Flickr.