I headed off on my mini-break adventure on Thursday morning. A fire in Edinburgh delayed my departure a bit because it backed up traffic so much that our taxi couldn’t make it through the middle of town to get to the train station and the rental car office. Finally, I arrived at the rental car office and began the driving portion of my trip…on the “wrong” side of the road! I had ordered a GPS for the car and bought an atlas, so I was doubly covered in case I got lost!!
Driving on the opposite side of the road really wasn’t as unnerving as I expected it to be. I upgraded to the automatic transmission (even though I can drive a manual transmission), so I didn’t have to deal with shifting gears with my left hand. I made a few stops on the way across the country for food and to take pictures.
Once I got to Arisaig/Morar, I had to stop and ask for directions because my GPS said I had arrived, but I couldn’t find the bed and breakfast. Eventually, I did find it, got checked in, and had a cup of tea and some shortbread. I got settled in and took a brief nap before I headed out to Mallaig (a nearby town) for dinner. My eyes were much larger than my stomach when I saw all the delicious options on the menu! I ordered mussels, a tomato and mozzarella salad, and Cullen skink (smoked fish, potato, and leek) stew. All of it was absolutely delicious, but it made me glad that I hadn’t really had much lunch!
|Mussels (top) and Cullen Skink Stew (bottom)|
On the way back to my B&B, I decided to make an impromptu stop at the beach I had passed on the way in. I couldn’t pass up a chance to put my toes in the sand! It was only 18*C (64.4*F), so the sand was pretty cold. The cold didn’t deter me from even testing out the water in the loch (which was even colder!).
|Nothing better than my toes in the sand!!|
|Loch Morar beach|
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The next day I headed off to the Isle of Skye, which meant another ferry ride. I decided to drive for a while before I went to the Clan Donald Skye Center, so I headed up the coast toward Broadmoor and back. During part of my drive, you could actually see the fog rolling in over the mountain. It was really beautiful!
|View from ferry, looking back at Mallaig|
|Statue on the dock at Mallaig|
While on this little journey, I realized that I should probably get gas if I was going to drive around since gas stations aren’t as prevalent in the UK as they are in the US. I found one and pulled in, at which point I realized that I didn’t know which side the tank was on. Thank goodness for a random conversation I had at the beach this year with my parents and my sister-in-law’s parents about most cars having an indicator on the dashboard that tells you where to find the gas tank. I looked, and there it was a little triangle on the left side of the tank symbol! Eureka!
The Clan Donald Skye Center has a museum, library, gardens, castle, gift shops, and a restaurant. There is also an area where you can participate in Highland games, but that part was closed the day I was there (too bad, I was really hoping to see how I did on some of those activities!!). The museum has exhibits about clan and local history. Although most of the items are specifically related to the family history of the McDonalds, there are some things that are more general in nature and would apply to general life in Scotland or the Isle of Skye at particular times in history. The library has 7,000 books, mostly about history: family, clan, local, naval, military, biography; although there are other books about geography and other subjects, too. They also have maps, clan lists, genealogies, etc. They have not digitized much, if any, of their collection; but they have some items on microfilm/microfiche.
|My dining companion for lunch|
The center includes ruins of a laundry building and the Armadale castle, which is where the McDonald clan lived long ago. Neither building currently has a roof, but the walls are still standing and the buildings are still beautiful. I spent a little time wandering around the outside of the castle and taking pictures.
|Front of Armadale Castle (former home of Clan Donald)|
|View through the ruin of Armadale Castle|
|View from Armadale Castle (basically the front yard)|
|Back of Armadale Castle|
The gardens are tranquil and full of ponds and flowers. They are a perfect place to sit and ponder the meaning of life or just sit and daydream for a while.
|Pond at Clan Donald Skye Gardens|
At the end of my time on Skye, I took the ferry back to the mainland and wondered once again why ferries are always cold…no matter what the weather is on land! I browsed through a shop or two in Mallaig before heading to a local inn for dinner.
Driving is becoming easier and easier. Parking…not so much! For some reason, I am having difficulty parking from the opposite direction (which is strange, since I pull into parking spots on both sides in the US). Who knew that parallel parking would ever be easier than parking in a traditional parking space?!
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The next day, I decided to explore the mainland a bit. I drove and drove and drove. I found beaches and lochs and coves and bays. I made friends with sheep and lovely old Scottish gentlemen who talked my ears off about fishing and family and golf and Virginia. I was being attacked by midgies (black flies), so he rooted around in his tackle box and gave me his extra bottle of “midgie cream” that he swore by…it was Avon Skin-So-Soft! I’m not sure it really worked, because I still have bites but maybe they came from before. He was such a sweet man, and I enjoyed talking with him. Though, I did have some trouble understanding some of what he was saying, and I felt awful whenever I had to ask him to repeat himself.
|I couldn't resist wading in a bit|
I continued driving around and finally got the picture of the waterfall that I had been seeing each time I went into Mallaig. Then I headed into Mallaig for lunch and to look at some of the shops that had been closed when I had stopped in before.
Once again, I headed to Mallaig to get food. Before lunch, though, I decided to check out the Mallaig Heritage Center, which is a museum and archive about the history of the town. It only took about fifteen or twenty minutes to look through, but it was interesting to see what they felt represented their town’s history.
After lunch, I went to Fort William (which is about an hour away) by way of Glenfinnan so I could try to see the viaduct made famous by the Harry Potter Hogwart’s Express movie scenes. Unfortunately, there really isn’t a good view from the road, but I got the best picture that I could anyway.
|Another viaduct at the Prince's Cairn, but a better picture|
I spent a little time in Fort William before heading back to the coast. I decided to stop in Arisaig for dinner on the way and then headed back to the B&B for the night.
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On Sunday, I decided to relax and watch movies and read all day. It was glorious! I hadn’t had one of these days in weeks, so I enjoyed every bit of it! I finally headed out into public for dinner and ended my Scotland trip with fish and chips. Because it was National Ice Cream Day in the US, I also grabbed a Magnum bar at the Co-operative Grocery Store and ate it while sitting on the rocks near the shore listening to the waves hit the rocks below. All in all, it was a wonderful end to my relaxing mini-break.
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Monday morning, I woke up bright and early to get an early start on my trip so I could easily catch my 2:30 train back to London. The trip from Morar to Edinburgh is only supposed to take 3 hours and 45 minutes, but I didn’t want to take any chances with traffic or getting lost. I dropped off my rental car and got a cab to the train station to await my train back to the city. My days of driving on the wrong side of the road are all over for now!
The train trip back to London has been full of excitement over the Royal Baby’s impending arrival, excitement over my first class seat which gives me extra leg room and other perks, and time and space to work on my blog! I used the free wi-fi to blog and to watch Netflix, while enjoying my reclining seat and the complimentary orange and chocolate biscuits (or cookies)!
The baby boy was born just before 4:30pm today, and he weighed in at 8 lb. 6 oz. Tonight was spent listening to the cheering and rejoicing in the streets and watching the BBC coverage on the television. My vote for a name is Alexander, but I might be a little biased since that is my nephew's name!!