Touring Edinburgh, Scotland

Below you’ll find a few of the images that tickled my funny bone while strolling Edinburgh, Scotland. At the very bottom of this post you will also find a short Youtube video featuring the sights of Edinburgh. My one regret is that I didn’t take a photo of our constant roommate for three nights in Smart City Hostel. Randy met his match in that this outgoing young English man out-talked him. Randy did happen to run into him in the hallway just as the young man was coming home from his night security job, so they did get a “proper” goodbye. Hope all is well…

Edinb_day3-1120104r

Hmmm… I’m not sure if we are “kick ass” enough for this hostel!  Smart City Hostel worked well for us.

Edinb_day3-1120099

Edinb_day2-1110970plcr
Edinb_day3-1120064

I also found the people taking photos of each other at tourist spots interesting…


Edinb_day3-1120066

Edinb_day3-1120070

Edinb_day3-1120073

Edinb_day3-1120076

Edinb_day3-1120058dmv

…and then you have the typical bored kids at a historically significant location ~ Edinburgh Castle.  Bored looks bored in any language.

The short video below features some of the typical tourist spots such as, The Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle, Palace of Holyrood House and Holyrood Abbey, St. Giles Cathedral, Grassmarket…

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:

 

 

 

St. Andrews Tourist Hostel

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qpDWK5o73M

9-11-2015:

We locate our hostel for the night in the town of St. Andrews, Scotland and find the beaten-in side entrance. It looks as though this dodgy site has seen its share of people in need of anger management classes.

Oh, no!! What scary experiences are in store for us now?

We creep up the stairway and find a nice common lounge area and a clean kitchen stocked with dishes, pots and pans. A friendly gal in the small office shows us our room filled with bunk beds and large windows facing the street for the best Beeking view ever. Add in a welcome party for new college students across the street and you have a recipe for entertainment plus! Randy had plenty of new people to visit with and we grew to appreciate our new home for the next couple of days at St. Andrews Tourist Hostel.

St.Andrews-1110328web

The friendly hostel manager has lived all over the world. Fascinating conversations, to say the least.

St.Andrews-1110327webMeet Laura Lizbeth, a face and body artist. She competed in the World Body Painting Festival in Austria in July 2015.  Another interesting pair was a father/son staying while the father competed in a St. Andrews golf tournament.  He won his regional competition to earn a spot to play on the prestigious course.

We meet so many interesting people by staying at hostels.  It’s kind of like camping with a roof over our heads.

 

Eating and drinking in Cullen, Scotland

Cullen-1110183e

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.

Cullen-1110185e

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.

Cullen-1100768ecr

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

Cullen-1100766ecr

Cullen-1100779e

Yes, we ate ALL of it… delicious!!

Cullen-1110172e

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

Cullen-1110168e

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)
inv-1100679r
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…

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:

 

West Highland Way: Glencoe Mountain to Kinlochleven

September 4, 2015: We pack up and leave our cozy hobbit house at Glencoe Mountain Resort to diligently start down the trail finding the air chilly, but the weather generally pleasant.WHW_Day7-1100155eSeems as though we are in the middle of nowhere and here appears The Kings House, which is thought to be one of Scotland’s oldest licensed inns, originally built in the 17th century. It is called the King’s House because British troops were lodged here following the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Coffee, please!WHW_Day7-1100195eThe challenge today will be the Devil’s Staircase which was named by General Wade’s road building soldiers who were lugging materials up and down it all day. ~ Wikipedia

WHW_Day7-1100218eIt’s a long hike with several switchbacks, but really not a terribly strenuous hike so far.

WHW_Day7-1100224We finally reach the top and the views are spectacular today with clear skies all around.

WHW_Day7-1100230ecrThe Love Rock comes out of my pocket for a little fresh air and is perched on a cairn at the top of the Devil’s Staircase.

WHW_Day7-1100288eBlackwater Hostel is named after the Blackwater Reservoir and is our home for the night after a little more than ten mile hike.  Nice drying room and kitchen with dorm type rooms containing cozy bunk beds. From a camping perspective, the name does not sound desirable to me since waste water is called black water. It’s not the case here, though.

WHW_Day7-1100293eSign on the side of the hostel warns dog owners to keep their poop in a group or the Paw Patrol will take action.

WHW_Day7-1100284eWe find ourselves at the Tail Race Inn at the end of the day to take advantage of their advertised special prices on meals. All eyes are NOT on us as Scotland is playing Georgia for the Euro 2016 soccer qualifier and local patrons are glued to the TV screen. FYI ~ Scotland lost.

Video below shows highlights from day seven. I was able to video the Grand Canyon Girls as they skipped across a stepping stone bridge. We have observed that they are like mountain goats when it comes to rock scrambling. One has hiked down and up the Grand Canyon nine times and the other has hiked the Grand Canyon five times. They are a couple of tough hikers with strong legs and determination.

West Highland Way: Bridge of Orchy to Glencoe Mountain

September 3, 2015:
WHW_6-1090962eAfter spending a night in the lap of luxury at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel, we are recharged and ready to tackle the challenges today has to offer.

WHW_6-1090958eWe cross the 18th century Bridge of Orchy and find some of the tent campers still waking up, including the group from Holland.  Wild camping is quite economical but the downside is the extra weight of carrying a tent and camping gear. Upside is extra money to spend on food and drinks at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel bar next door.

WHW_6-1090978eThe high point of this section, Mam Carriage, is marked with a cairn. A cairn is a human-made pile (or stack) of stones often used as trail markers or burial monuments. The word cairn comes from the Scottish Gaelic: càrn (plural càirn). ~Wikipedia

WHW_6-1090987eThank you to Wolfgang, a musician from Switzerland, for taking this photo for us.

WHW_6-1090994eIt feels eerily remote and I’m reminded of the Love Rock Story.

WHW_6-1090992eJoan adds a dash of color as she poses by the lone tree cairn.

WHW_6-1100017eBuilt in 1708, the Inveroran Hotel could also be named The Last Chance as this is the last opportunity for a stop before crossing the dreaded Rannoch Moor, the remotest and wildest section of the whole Way, according to Charlie Loram in his West Highland Way guidebook.

For the next ten miles we will have no escape from the elements should the weather become inclement. What have we gotten ourselves into?

WHW_6-1100013eVintage photo of the Inveroran Hotel and beautiful flowers brighten the views as we sip our hot coffee, hoping it charges our spirits for the next ten miles.

WHW_6-1100089eMichael, the Irishman, takes a moment to drink in the view. (Maybe along with some Irish coffee?!)

WHW_6-1100091eThe open feel of the terrain reminds me of South Dakota as you drive west from our home along the Minnesota/South Dakota border. The guidebooks give a warning of this awful section, but it reminds me of home and I’m especially enjoying the hike today.

WHW_6-1090976eThis boggy moorland measures 50 square miles and caused major difficulties to builders of roads and railways. When the West Highland Line was built across Rannoch Moor, its builders had to float the tracks on a mattress of tree roots, brushwood and thousands of tons of earth and ashes.  ~Wikipedia

So, don’t step too far off of the path as you may sink into the bog.

WHW_6-1100113eSnack break along the bridge before we tackle the last stretch for today. Thankful for good weather…it could be rainy, windy and cold. Lucky us!

WHW_6-1100127eLodging tonight is within a couple of miles and the quiet gal that didn’t want to stay in the haunted room at Drovers Inn briskly walks by me. I haven’t gotten her life’s story yet so I pick up the pace to get the full scoop:  From Taiwan, assistant professor at a university in Taiwan.

Can’t talk… wrong turn back at Bridge of Orchy and got lost.  Must get to Kinlochleven by tonight. 

She seems a little stressed and understandably so. It’s about 3:30 p.m. and she must hike another 12-13 miles through Kings House and over the challenging Devil’s Staircase before arriving in Kinlochleven. Scary thing is that she will likely be alone since most people will not be walking this leg until morning. Yikes! Hope she has a torch.

WHW_6-1100143eTwelve miles completed today and our home tonight is in a hobbit house at Glencoe Mountain Ski Resort.

WHW_6-1100137eCozy quarters tonight, but we have a space heater and a coffee pot for the morning brew of instant coffee. We now know from previous experience which water bottles can handle the heat of boiling water.

WHW_6-1100140e

Plus, locally brewed beer is available in the ski lodge.

Atlas Nimbus Blonde  and Red McGregor brewed by Orkney Brewery. Scelpt Lug dark ale brewed by Oban Bay Brewery

Cheers to another great day!

Below is the video of our hike from Bridge of Orchy to Glencoe Mountain:

Thank you to Charlie Roth for his beautiful rendition of Wild Mountain Thyme from his Tartan Cactus Heart album. For more information on this talented gem of the Minnesota prairie go to charlierothmusiccom.

West Highland Way: Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy

September 2, 2015:

We make our way to The Green Welly Stop  in Tyndrum, Scotland to pick up snacks for the short 7 mile hike from Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy.  I am quite sure that the hikers doing the long twenty-mile walk today are long gone and quite a distance down the trail.

WHW_5-1090816eSurprise! We are delighted to see Scottish friends, Thomas and Allan, just outside the shop. We get in some last-minute chatting and bid them farewell again with best wishes for the remainder of the hike. Sure going to miss those guys…

WHW_5-1090843e

According to Google, Tioraidh is a greeting similar to Cheerio in Gaelic. Not sure why it appears on this stone monument.

WHW_5-1090821eRandy is striking up a lively conversation with young Leon towering over him at nearly seven feet. Not surprising that he is a basketball player from Holland.
WHW_5-1090896eScottish mother/son hiking together and going for a long twenty-mile hike today.  We have quite a bit in common since they are also farmers and the mother does daycare for her grandchildren.

WHW_5-1090912eIt’s about time I bring out the Love Rock.  This rock was given to me by a woman camping in the Black Hills of South Dakota and I’ve been carrying it with me on this journey. Click on the Love Rock link for more background information on this heart touching story.
WHW_5-1090856e

We enjoy the company of Laura, from Germany, who has just finished her master’s degree and is celebrating by hiking the West Highland Way. I feel as though we are celebrating along with her through this experience.

WHW_5-1090862e

The path isn’t too bad today as this is the only rocky, hilly section with uneven footing.

WHW_5-1090875

Sheep creep under the railroad.

WHW_5-1090889

Someone did not watch their step and found a monster sized cow pie. (Wasn’t anyone in our group).

Much of the route today follows a military road. In the years after the 1715 Jacobite uprising the government put a huge amount of effort into building roads and bridges over the length and breadth of the Highlands. Previously, drove routes had existed to move cattle to the lowland markets. This bout of road building was intended to provide a means of moving troops quickly around the interior to suppress rebellion. Those rowdy, high-spirited clans, right? They built some 1200 miles of road and 700 bridges in the years from 1725 and 1767.  ~Undiscovered Scotland.co.ukWHW_5-1090936e

We are tickled to see our Northern Ireland/Ukrainian friends, Michael and Stacy  catching up with us as we near Bridge of Orchy.

WHW_5-1090940e

Bridge of Orchy Hotel looks  a little like the background of a Harry Potter movie. We eat our dinner about 2:30 p.m. in the hotel bar while we wait for our room. Since we didn’t sleep that well in the hobbit house last night, we are weary and feel like napping.

It’s time to check in and they inform us that we have been upgraded to a cottage (Our own bathroom/shower, no less!) at no extra charge. Yippee!!  It seems as though two people were in need of a room and they figured the three of us would fare better in the cottage while the couple took the smaller hotel room. Little did we know it was Michael and Stacy who decided to try to get a room instead of waiting the rest of the afternoon for the hostel to open up. (I think they felt in need of a nap, as well.) Thank you!

WHW_5-1090942e

From the back door of our cottage, we can easily see the Bridge of Orchy which spans over the River Orchy and dates back to 1751 .

WHW_5-1090941e

Our lodging is very posh, it’s cold and rainy outside, so we really want to stay inside where it’s nice and warm.

WHW_5-1090945e

I mix some dehydrated peanut butter powder with water, slather it on a prepackaged (doughy?) baguette and we have supper.  Yum?

Laundry is drying, we’ve had hot showers and we are sipping hot tea which means a cozy night in luxury. Z-Z-Z-Z…

Below is today’s video:

 

West Highland Way: Drovers Inn to Tyndrum

September 1, 2015

WHW_4-1090643eThe air is still, so the midges (small gnat like flies common along the West Highland Way) are out in full force this morning and we see Joan sporting her stylish midge netting. Many years ago we would wrap netting around our heads similar to this as protection from mosquitoes, gnats and deer flies when hoeing weeds out of the soybean fields.

WHW_4-1090743eThe plan is to hike 13 miles today through the area of Crianlarich Hills, which are a large group of mountains in Scotland.

WHW_4-1090672eIt’s tricky ducking down through the sheep creep while wearing a full backpack.

WHW_4-1090753eWe pass by the ruins of St Fillan’s Priory, which is a small monastery or nunnery that is governed by a prior or prioress. It is from the 13th century and associated with Robert the Bruce.WHW_4-1090761eAcross the path is a graveyard dating back to the 8th century.

WHW_4-1090783eThis is a bench commemorating the battle of Dal Righ, or ‘King’s Field’ where Robert the Bruce was defeated by English troops in 1306.WHW_4-1090807eHome sweet home tonight is this cute little hobbit house at Tyndrum By the Way Campground.

WHW_4-1090812eQuite cozy and we have a microwave and coffee pot. What more could one need?
WHW_4-1090815e

We end our day at the Tyndrum Inn and meet up with several of our hiking friends with fun conversation peppering the air. Now we must bid a sad farewell to our current path mates since we are opting for a shorter hike tomorrow, while they are planning on hiking about 20 miles. Hugs all around and I feel a little tear in my eye as if saying a goodbye that is probably forever. We do hope they take advantage of our invitation to visit and stay with us at our farm on the Minnesota/South Dakota border. Randy and I may even whip up a batch of Rocky Mountain Oysters to go up against their haggis!

Following is a video of our adventures today: