Arthur’s Seat… Edinburgh, Scotland

9-16-2015:

Holyrood Park is a short walk from Edinburgh’s Royal Mile in the heart of the city. It is a 640 acre Royal Park adjacent to Holyrood Palace. The highest point of Holyrood Park is Arthur’s Seat, an ancient volcano that sits 251 m above sea level giving excellent views of the city.

Edinb_day2-1110824We begin trekking up the hill and Randy quickly finds a new friend. Local citizens of Edinburgh can be found hiking in the park ready to help with directions and are a valuable travel resource.

 

Edinb_day2-1110855During the last stretch to the summit we are joined by a doctor from Japan who has been attending a medical conference in Scotland. We engage in lively conversation, taking our minds off the strenuous task at hand.

Edinb_day2-1110834We triumphantly reach the top.

Edinb_day2-1110866rThe doctor has been photographing these two Lego dolls, representing his own two children, in Scottish locations as he tours the country. It’s his way of including them in his travels and I could tell from our conversation that he truly loves and misses his family.Edinb_day2-1110869After sharing the touching Love Rock story with him, he asks to use the rock I received while camping in the Black Hills of South Dakota and poses it with his two “kids.” Click on the link, Love Rock, if you are unfamiliar with the story.

Edinb_day2-1110808Spectacular views from all around…

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We savor this escape from our current urban travel life and enjoy the tranquility of the moment.

Fife Coastal Path: Anstruther to Elie with an angel

9-14-15:   I believe there are angels among us…  ~Alabama

Yes, so many times when we may be tempted to take a wrong turn down a difficult path, someone appears to help us find our way. Today was no different.

The cold rain is drizzling down on us as we shuffle our way along the muddy path. We approach a coastal church with high tide up to the gated cemetery in front with no easy path around. The sign points to the high tide path which goes away from the coast and is quite long, but we decide that is our best option. Out of nowhere and in the rain, an older woman appears and stops us from taking our chosen path. No, that path is a muddy mess with all this rain and very long. Take these steps up and go around the front of the church, inside the cemetery and go over the stone fence. That will connect to the path directly on the other side of the church.

Anst-1110590We also find the church open for viewing and take refuge from the rain for a while. Coincidence?  I think not. Thank you, Angel lady!

Anst-1110609I believe this structure may be the remains of Lady’s Tower built for Lady Jane Anstruther in the latter part of the 18th century and was used as a bathing house for her. She was a naturist and from this point she was able to enter the bay below without being seen by the local residents of Elie. ~ longdistancewalks.org

Anst-1110663After arriving back at Anstruther, we walk uptown for a rewarding pint and supper. According to this sign there is no need for a babysitter if parents need a night out!!

Anst-1110680rThe evening views in Anstruther are spectacular as we consume our hot, crispy fish & chips. We try NOT to feed the birds as instructed!

Anst-1110688rThe evening walk after fish & chips includes a visit with this gregarious Scottish fisherman. Mackerel are the fruits of his labors today which will be sold to area restaurants.

Anst-1110707rOur B & B includes a nip of sherry for a nightcap and a decadent chocolate treat. Ah-h-h-h…  Sweet dreams as we rest our weary bones for the bus trip to Edinburgh tomorrow.

Below is a YouTube link to a short video of our adventures today.

 

 

 

Fife Coastal Path: Crail to Anstruther, Scotland

9-13-2015: We hop on a bus in St. Andrews…

Crail-1110352… and get off in the quaint village of Crail, Scotland along the East Neuk of Fife.
Crail-1110349It’s a cloudy morning and the world is slowly waking up to ready itself for the day.

Crail-1110413The path follows the East Neuk of Fife with Neuk being the old Scots word for corner. The path is well marked and follows the coast along the former Kingdom of Fife. Our views are spectacular with the sea to our left and farm country with livestock on our right.

Crail-1110473Memorial flowers lead one to speculate… what happened?

Crail-1110512Interesting plaque in Anstruther. The Dreel burn divides east and west Anstruther and the song tells how in ancient times Maggie Lauder carried King James IV over it to keep his feet dry.

Crail-1110506We enjoy a beverage with the locals at the old Dreel Tavern. Sadly, it appears as though the Dreel Tavern has become a victim of the times and is now closed for business. Click on the Fife Today link for a little info on the current status of this historic pub filled with a unique ambience and character along with an interesting clientele. Visiting with the locals always seems to make travel experiences more memorable.

Below is a short video featuring our views along the Fife Coastal Path:

 

 

 

Eating and drinking in Cullen, Scotland

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We are told that this is a local tavern, so we enter cautiously only to see a dining area. An employee greets us and quickly figures out our mission: Oh, you want the bar? Follow me…  We wind our way through the dining area and walk up a narrow staircase. I’m beginning to feel as though I’m entering a speakeasy from the prohibition era.

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Instead, we find ourselves sipping pints with a few of the local guys. We are all cautious, at first, until one of them breaks the ice: From America, eh?  You aren’t seriously going to elect Donald Trump for President? By the end of our stay they offer to buy us a round and the conversation flows freely about locations in the United States.

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Next stop, Randy inquires about store hours at Linda’s Fish & Chips. It seems that every town has the BEST award-winning fish & chips.

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Yes, we ate ALL of it… delicious!!

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Cullen is the home of Skink (Scottish word for “soup”) and The Rockpool has bragging rites for its award-winning soup.

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No visit to Cullen, Scotland is complete without trying a hot bowl of Cullen Skink. (Smoked haddock and potato soup)

I enjoyed this experience so much that I decided to make my own skink on Christmas Eve in Minnesota. Smoked haddock is expensive here, so I substituted much cheaper pollock. It was O.K. and much better the second day, but let’s just say The Rockpool Cafe doesn’t have to worry about me whisking any awards away from them!

 

Inverness, Scotland

Sunday, September 6, 2015

We head through the Fort William tunnel and hop onto a bus…  Destination?  Inverness, Scotland!whw_day9-1100533eThe word Inverness is from Scottish Gaelic language and means mouth of the River Ness. Inverness is the administrative centre for the Highland council area and is regarded as the capital of the Highlands of Scotland.  ~ Wikipedia
Scotland_Inverness-1100582rInverness Castle is in the background overlooking the River Ness.

Scotland_Inverness-1100602rInteresting architecture throughout the city.

Scotland_Inverness-1100603rcrInverness Tourist Hostel  is our home for two nights. Filled to the max due to a music seminar at the university, but they provide coffee grounds, electric hot water pots and a well equipped kitchen, so life is good. (Life is not so good from 6-8 a.m. as we wait for the kitchen to be unlocked with no caffeine)
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Ivan, the hostel employee extraordinaire, is very friendly and helpful. He’s from France, studying extreme sports at the university and with his personality, I’m sure he will do well in life.

Scotland_Inverness-1100605rMeet the Outlander Girls!  Enjoyed visiting with them at the hostel and hearing of their adventures and interest in the Outlander series. They were even lucky enough to be part of the “Rob Roy” 6 a.m. serenade in the hostel lounge room. Such an interesting trio and so easy to converse with.

Culloden Moor lies nearby, and was the site of the Battle of Culloden in 1746, which ended the Jacobite Rising of 1745–1746.  Visiting the battle site sounds like a good plan to me. Tomorrow…

A Final Farewell to the West Highland Way

September 6, 2015:
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Living large at No 6 Caberfeidh B & B in Fort William with a huge Scottish breakfast featuring ham, sausage, eggs, black pudding, tatties, all kinds of cereal, granola, coffee and juice. Most of our nights are in hostel type accomodations so this is a real treat.  Too bad we aren’t hiking 15 miles or more today to wear off our breakfast.

 

whw_day9-1100528eIn front of the B & B, we find the couple from Austria that have been guiding a large group of about 18 people walking the West Highland Way. They are checking into possible lodging options for their 2016 West Highland Way tour.

whw_day9-1100541eShrieks of delight fill the air as we spot the Scottish mother and son on their way to the bus station.

whw_day9-1100542eOh, wow!!  It’s the Canadian minister from the bar last night on her way to church. What an interesting person with a charming, sincere personality. Her name is Donalee Williams and she has a blog which I linked to her name.

whw_day9-1100544eManchester, England claims these two hikers who camped all along the West Highland Way and this gentleman has been observing my hiking speed along the trail. At the bar in Tyndrum, I slowly crept past their table while carrying two pints of beer, trying NOT to spill, to which he commented, “Fastest I’ve seen you walk all day!”

whw_day9-1100550eFinally… It took us longer than expected to get to the new end of the trail sculpture due to all of the bonus socializing this morning. As we continue on to the bus station, we are grateful to have another farewell session with Mike and Stacy who are going the Isle of Skye before returning to Belfast, Ireland.

whw_day9-1100533eFor us, it’s time to catch a bus to pursue new adventures and explore Inverness, Scotland.  Stay tuned…

Here is the short video of our last day in Fort William:

West Highland Way: Kinlochleven to Fort William

September 5, 2015: Kinlochleven to Fort William

WHW_Day7-1100286e While gazing over at the campers cooking their breakfasts, I do a last-minute check to see if I have everything.  Yes, I remembered to get our sandwiches out of the hostel refrigerator and pack them in my backpack. (I have been known to forget!)

whw_day8-1100312eWe start our day with Laura from Berlin. I often find myself thinking of her and hope all is going well with her life.

 

 

whw_day8-1100333eWhat a beautiful site for wild camping, overlooking the town of Kinlochleven. Beautiful weather today and hikers seem to be going at a leisurely pace as if savoring their last day of hiking.
whw_day8-1100444eJoan, AKA The Beast, is ready to tackle the last leg of the hike with Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the U.K., in the background.

whw_day8-1100474eWe are fortunate to be able to share part of this last day with Mike and Stacy (Ireland/Ukraine) as we descend into Fort William. Such a lovely pair…

whw_day8-1100493eThis is the last we see of Leon and his gang from Holland as they are staying in the campground just outside of Fort William. We notice they still have energy to play tricks.  Oh, to be so young again.

We see many runners from the Ben Nevis race walking back to their vehicles with their medals and trophies.  Apparently, I didn’t have enough energy to pull out the camera. After walking 16 miles today, I don’t think we’ll attempt Ben Nevis.

Maybe, some other time.

Mike and Stacy are going on through town to pay homage to the new end of the trail, but we are close to our check-in deadline for the B & B so we must bid them farewell.  Sad to see them go.whw_day8-1100497eWe appear to be faking glee and excitement. Maybe we are a little disappointed to not have all of our WHW friends cheering with us at the end.

Hold on.. Who is that I see chatting in the distance? No, it can’t be.  Yes, it is!!!  Mandy just happens to appear along our route.

whw_day8-1100507creLater, we meet up with Mandy and Karen at a the Grog and Gruel Pub, popular with the Ben Nevis race crowd as you can see by the race numbers in the background. The fun-loving Scottish gentlemen in these photos are our photographers tonight so that we could get some group photos. You can’t help but love the Scottish people.

whw_day8-1100508dmvWe also spend time this evening visiting with a minister from Canada on sabbatical doing research. I can’t remember her research topic…  Could an evening in the pub provide inspiration for a few sermon topics?whw_day8-1100510eCheers to the West Highland Way!
96 miles and we did the WHOLE thing! We may walk slowly, but we never walk backward.

Here is the video of our last day hiking the West Highland Way: