On to the Magical Isle

Tuesday, August 1, 2017
The Highlands, Scotland

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We’re up early today, eager to get to the Isle of Skye, to see my McCloud (MacLeod) family’s ancestral castle, Dunvegan. I’ve heard about MacLeod of MacLeod, the chief of the clan (Flora when I was a girl, Hugh now), and the castle, seat of the clan for over 800 years, since I was a child and have always dreamed of visiting.
In search of the first cup of coffee to wake us up, we drive nearly an hour from Argarry Farm through dramatic and desolate landscape until we finally round a corner and spy a village  – coffee, please???! and a well-known castle, Eilean Donan. Set at the confluence of three lochs, it’s a favorite photo of any Highlands traveler, and appears on more postcards than probably any other Scottish castle!
Crossing the bridge over one of the locks, we get another view of the castle from beside the Wee Bunk House – yes, that cute word “wee” pops up several times a day! 
The colorful hamlet of Dornie glimmers across the water around the corner from the castle – we tried to find breakfast there with no success.
Screech, we come to a halt beside a red sign advertising Manuela’s Wee Bakery – yes!! Beside a quirky cottage (can you read the sign on the door? – Grumpy Old Man Lives Here ;)) Manuela’s hard at work, and we choose some fragrant sweet breads to go with our morning cappucinos.
Back on the road, we realize that the land we see on our left, beyond the loch, is Skye – and there’s the bridge ahead! Here we come!
Finally on the island, I’m shivering with delight to be on the land I’ve heard so much about…but we’ve got another hour, at least of driving to get to the northwest peninsula where Dunvegan castle reigns.
Guidebooks tell us that the Isle of Skye is a composite of all that’s most beautiful and dramatic in the Highlands, and we gobble up the sights as we drive the one-lane roads in our trusty red Jeep (thanks, Europcar, for the upgrade!). Heather flowers beside lochs, and waterfalls tumbling down the steep hillsides, and a shepherd and his border collie keep a herd of sheep in line. MacLeod Castle, we’re almost there!

 

 

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Scotland Journeys – Lochs and Locks

Monday, July 31, 2017, continued
The Highlands, Scotland

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As we continue northwest to Ardgarry Farm in Invergarry, our first lodging on this journey, we keep finding new reasons to pause – such as a flower-bedecked fence, then a ferry crossing Loch Linnhe to a cute lighthouse across the water. A sign for locks onto Loch Laggan? Let’s see that too! We admire the lock-keepers garden,and watch as the skippers patiently wait for the water to lower. Our cottage awaits us at Ardgarry Farm – it’s a jewel inside and out! Countryside views, clucking chickens and quacking ducks remind us we’re not in Reston anymore 😉 Dinner’s down the road at the Invergarry Hotel beside the river, where we enjoy some Scottish salmon and fish and chips. Yes, we were so hungry that I forgot to take a pristine photo before we dug in 😉
Now for a good night’s sleep before we head for the Isle of Skye tomorrow!

 

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Scotland Journeys – The Highlands

Monday, July 31, 2017
from Glasgow to Glencoe, Scotland

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  How about an unforgettable holiday with us at  New Years’ Jazz in Italy?

“Keep left” is our motto as we head out of Glasgow airport, getting used to the reverse-to-us traffic as we make our way northwest through a moody drizzle to the Highlands. In no time we’re driving along one of Scotland’s most well-known lochs, Loch Lomond, enjoying glimpses of water through the trees on our right before we pull off for a cup of coffee (and an irresistible pastry or two!) What a beautiful way to begin our trip! Scotland Hydro takes advantage of the abundant and powerful water pouring into the loch – we’ll see this often throughout the Highlands.
Climbing up a perfectly placed perch we take in the views before continuing the drive – our destination for the night was around 3 hours from the airport, but we’ll more than double that with frequent stops to enjoy our surroundings – it’s even more beautiful than we imagined!The dramatic valley of Glencoe, where the river Coe winds between towering mountains,  has been the scene of epic battles through the centuries, and epic films or series (Harry Potter, Skyfall, Highlander)  as well. Water tumbles down each hillside  – I don’t believe there’s ever a day without at least some rain!We choose the more casual of the two places in the entire valley for lunch, Boots Bar (catering to hikers and ice-climbers) in the Claichaig Inn, and the smoked salmon is some of the best we’ve ever had.Tiny Glencoe village is just a row of homes beside the river, strung below the brooding mountains.The gardens thrive in the abundant moisture – guess we need more rain than we have in Virginia for hydrangeas like these!There’s plenty of charm to go around in the stone or thatched houses. This roof is thatched with heather! A terrific introduction to the stunning Highlands – we can’t wait to discover more!

 

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