Day 11: March 23, 2018
We woke up for another full day of driving. We had a really good time at Llanfair Clydogau. It was very nice to have our own space that felt homey. The seven hour drive to Fintry, just north of Glasgow, was uneventful. We stopped and ate sandwiches for lunch and got groceries for the next couple of days. Sometimes it feels we spend more time grocery shopping than anything else. We’ve gotten better at planning our meals so that we don’t have to shop as much. Trying to think of easy meals other than sandwiches for lunch has proven a bit difficult.
We had planned a detour up to a castle, but with already a full day of driving we opted out. The roads in Scotland seem to have more potholes than the near perfectly smooth roads of Wales. The fields here don’t have rock walls though which makes observing the landscape much easier.
We arrived at our Airbnb in the Fintry and were pretty excited. The outside looked like a fancy estate house, but when we walked in we were pretty disappointed. The whole place just felt dirty and really needs a deep clean. There were splatters on the kitchen cupboards, stains on the living room floor and a drip pan for the grey water on the toilet. It made me feel gross being there. We have stayed at our fair share of gross places, but I was really hoping to avoid them with the Airbnbs. Lesson learned: always look at the cleanliness rating and if it’s not a five star, don’t book it.
Day 12: March 24, 2018
We had a bit of a sleep in and a fancy breakfast of bacon and eggs. Danny had to do the cooking because going into the kitchen made me want to gag. I know I’m a bit OCD about cleanliness, but I can usually handle most places. We packed a lunch and headed into Edinburgh. The drive made Danny pretty stressed out. We had no idea where to park so we had to drive around aimlessly for a bit. We found a place to park and paid for a very expensive hour.
We walked to Stockbridge and then along the Water of Leith to Dean Gardens. We went up to Dean Village, which is a former village northwest of Edinburgh. We didn’t really see much so we walked back down the river and to the car.
On the walk we saw a potential parking spot that we wouldn’t have to pay for. We drove there and looked around. We decided we could get away with parking there so walked up to Princes Street Gardens and ate our wraps for lunch.
We walked up to Edinburgh Castle, but it looked too busy for us to want to go in. We walked down the Royal Mile and looked in the shops at the wool and cashmere wares. We stopped for a chai latte, hot chocolate and some treats at a café.
We walked up the street to Real Mary King’s Close where we had booked a tour. We were able to go through three different closes (narrow, steep alleyways off the Royal Mile) from the 1600s. The closes were normally named after a memorable occupant of one of the apartments on the close. Mary King was a widow whose husband had given her his right to vote and his title as merchant.
The housing off the Royal Mile was about 10 stories high. When the Town Chambers were built they closed the housing to fill some of the closes with cement to act as a foundation for the new building. The closes are now beneath the buildings, but were never originally underground.
The tour gave you a better idea of how people would have lived during that time and gave examples of actual people who had lived there. One room we walked through would have had fifteen people calling it home. They would have had straw on the ground as mattresses and one communal bucket in the corner that was emptied into the street twice a day by the youngest member of the family. Luckily I was not born in this time as I was the youngest member in my family for a very long time. Cows lived in the closes and all their excrement was also thrown into the street.
We walked into one room that showed a family’s experience with the plague. Pneumonic plague caused you to cough and puke until you had internal bleeding causing external bruising. This is where the term “Black Death” comes from. Bubonic plague resulted in boils that when they popped would leak inside you and infect you internally. Doctors would have to drain the boils then cauterize them with a hot poker. The plague doctors wore long beaked masks and robes thinking the plague was spread by smell. They would stuff the beaks with mosses and spices. While their belief was incorrect, their attire still protected them.
There was also a room preserved from the 1700s which still had the original plaster. The plaster used horse hairs which you could see poking out on the roof. There was original flower stamping on the walls that would have been used in place of wallpaper which would have been too expensive. We very much enjoyed the tour. We walked back to the car and drove back to Fintry.
Day 13: March 25, 2018
We woke up fairly early to get out of the Airbnb as soon as possible. We drove north to Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. On the drive we listened to the two versions of the song “Loch Lomond” that Danny had on his iPod. This one is my favourite:
We stopped at Luss for a view of the lake. There was no one around and the sun was still coming up. We walked out on the dock, but then it started raining so we headed back to the car.
We drove to Firkin Point which was pretty firkin’ boring, but had washrooms. We took a little drive up to Glen Croe which was supposed to have a very nice view, but the rain and clouds hid the view from us. Soldiers inscribed “Rest and Be Thankful” onto a stone here on the military road in the 1740s.
Next we stopped at Falloch Falls which was nice.
We drove from Glen Coe to Fort William and stopped a couple of times for some pictures.
We passed Eilean Donan Castle and got some pictures, but didn’t go inside as it looked busy. You may be sensing the theme that we don’t enjoy crowds.
We crossed the Skye Bridge from Kyle of Lochalsh and drove down the road to Torrin, population of approximately 100. We found our Airbnb and the host came out from drywalling to chat and show us the place. We walked in and I thanked the lord that it was clean. The host had quite a funny personality. He told us a story of how a couple of days before he had to wake up one of the guys staying at his place to help with calving. Apparently the guy was covered by the end. Our host was waiting for the bad review on Airbnb. We told him that it would be quite an experience and to wake us if there was another calf coming.
He suggested some walks around town so off we went up a hill in town through a random field. The view was amazing with mountains behind, town beside and ocean ahead.
We headed down and walked along the beach where we were told there was a loop back to our place. We reached a house at the end of the beach so we turned up a field and then ended up having to go back the way we came or we would have walked through people’s yards. We aren’t sure if that is just the way here or if we aren’t good at following paths.
Day 14: March 26, 2018
We left fairly early so that we could see as much of the Isle of Skye as possible. We drove up the west side of the north coast to Uig. To get to theFairy Glen we had to herd some sheep off the road.
We walked up a hill and there were more hills with terraces and we took some pictures there.
We walked up a bit farther and there was a ring of rocks forming a spiral with some coins in the middle.
We walked around and up a ridge with the sun still coming up. We barely spoke as we walked around because it was so much to take in. We both commented that it felt very spiritual there. The place reminded me of a Cree story that I was told. We walked to a little creek and sat down for a bit looking out over the glen.
As most people know, I left my job at the end of last year and took some extra time off. I signed up for some courses as part of an Indigenous Community Relations certificate offered by the Faculty of Extension at the University of Alberta. The courses started with me wanting to learn more about Indigenous culture, but really became a personal journey. I have never considered myself spiritual. I grew up with no organized religion in my life and very much rejected the idea of religion. The first couple of courses the instructors talked about the Indigenous tie to spirituality and the difference between religion and spirituality. As I attended the courses I was able to define spirituality for me. For me, it is not linked to a god or religion, but to my inner self. I recently finished reading The Alchemist which talks about following omens to your Personal Journey. It stresses the importance of listening to your heart or your heart will stop talking to you. As I was sitting there in the Fairy Glen, I thought about the Cree story told to me, the courses I had taken, and The Alchemist and it made me feel like I was on the right path of my Personal Journey wherever that may go.
We drove up to the Duntulm sea viewpoint and ran out to Duntulm Castle, but it was fenced off due to instability.
Then we drove on to Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls viewpoint. It had a nice view out to the ocean. At this point we both really had to pee. One thing about Wales and Scotland, there are not toilets at the rest stops.
We stopped at Lealt Falls where about four tourist vans stopped and people started flooding out.
Then on to Old Man of Storr (Bodach an Stòir) which is a very recognizable Scottish landmark according to Danny. We were a bit disappointed by the amount of people there. We like to feel like we have the place to ourselves when we are hiking. It was a good hike up and the view was quite amazing.
We found public toilets in Portree on our drive back down and stopped there for lunch as well. Then we got back on the road to Thurso.
We ran into a bit of trouble finding the Airbnb as we thought it was closer to Thurso. We both got a bit frustrated. We got a call back from the host who clarified the directions for us. We had an entire house that was quite old, but clean. Yay.
More Scotland to come. Orkney Islands!