– Kyle of Lochalsh, Scotland to Inverness, Scotland –
So much rain. So rainy. Many wet. I think I’m just now really drying out. It’s damp out there, folks. I said we expected it, and we did, but man… It was so nice on the way up here. The weather was gorgeous until late yesterday. In London we were wearing shorts.
The rain made Mark just the tiniest bit happy this morning, I think. Since we couldn’t go run in the bad weather and mud, we slept in. We didn’t get out of bed until 7:30, and we’ve been getting up at 6 or 6:30 every morning. Technically we set our alarm for 7, planning to be ready for breakfast at 8am, but we went back to sleep. Did I mention how lovely it was to sleep in?
The late start made us late for breakfast as well, though it lasted from 8-10am, so we were hardly in any danger of missing it. It was only 8:30. We once again had a vegetarian version of the same breakfast as everyone else, but this time it was a “full Scottish breakfast” instead of English, of course. For us, the only difference was the “tattie scone,” which is a hashbrown. Don’t let the name fool you.
For everyone else, the tattie scone (pronounced to rhyme with yawn, not the way we say it), is not the only new element. The full Scottish breakfast also includes black pudding and Lorne sausage. Black pudding is blood sausage, essentially, and Lorne sausage is a flat, square, disk-like sausage made with rusk, which is twice-baked bread. Apparently porridge is also considered a part of the breakfast, though we didn’t have that and not everyone includes it when they call something a full Scottish breakfast. The woman working in the dining area of our hotel was certainly flummoxed when we didn’t want any to start. I guess she thought we were doing it wrong.
After breakfast, we packed our bags into the car and left for the Isle of Skye, which is just over the bridge from Kyle. We promptly returned when we realized we hadn’t mapped a single thing for the day. We ended up sitting in our car in our hotel’s tiny parking lot, trying to use the terrible wifi to figure out how to get to the lighthouse we wanted to visit on the island.
A few minutes later we left again, only to stop for gas not long after. The woman behind the counter at the gas station was quite chatty, and she told Mark that, considering the winds, which were between 20-30mph sustained, they might close the bridge to the island at some point during the day. She also rather happily told him to possibly expect flooding. After all of her dire warnings, she explained that last week, she’d told a couple visiting the island that the weather would clear as they were leaving that morning. When they came back through that evening to her gas station again and it had not, she felt bad, so she wanted to make sure she didn’t tell anyone what she thought the weather would get better. It was amusing, if a little disheartening.
Spoiler alert: the weather did not clear. It rained almost the entire time we were there, with only a few brief moments of respite. Mostly, it poured, and the wind buffeted our little car, and we drove through huge puddles. Luckily, the bridge didn’t close, so I’ve made it to Inverness to tell you about it.
We’ve actually been anticipating the trip to the Isle of Skye for most of this vacation. During clear weather, the island is simply gorgeous. I’ve seen photographs that words cannot do justice. It has stark cliffs and bright skies and stunning views of the ocean. Had the weather been better, we would probably have taken a thousand photographs. Mark even brought his film camera just for this part of the trip. He didn’t get to use it once today.
With the weather looking so terrible, and the going so slow, we limited our trip to seeing the Neist Point Lighthouse. Google Maps told us it would take about 1 hour and 40 minutes to get there, but it ended up taking more than 2. The roads in most of Scotland have been narrow and winding, but not the nightmare we were led to believe. Almost the entire way to the lighthouse, the road had one lane in each direction.
In the final 15 miles to the lighthouse, during which, might I mention, it looked like the weather might briefly clear, the road was only one lane. Not one in each direction. Only one. From what others had told us, this would be a catastrophe, and sheep would cover the road, and we would never get anywhere. In reality, it was fine. Yes, you had to pull off into little side-humps to pass or let people pass you, but it was not a big deal. And the sheep, while present, rarely crossed the road. Maybe it is worse at other times of the year? I don’t know. We had no problems whatsoever.
When we arrived at the tiny parking lot for our lighthouse, the sky really opened up, and the wind swelled until I could barely walk in a straight line. It is a long walk to the lighthouse from the parking lot. We don’t know how far, because we did not go. In the five minutes we stood outside, I was nearly knocked off my feet by the wind no less than three times, our rain jackets were soaking-through thanks to the force of the rain, and our pants and feet were drenched. We couldn’t even turn to look out toward the coast without squinting into the gale. Mark couldn’t keep the camera lens clear enough to take more than a picture at the time. It was beautiful, is what I’m saying.
I wish we’d been able to go. If you look at the picture above, you can see two brave souls making the long trek out to the lighthouse. I’m assuming the survived. I wouldn’t have wanted to do it, even with my rain pants and hiking boots. We still wouldn’t have been able to see anything, and the wind probably would’ve pitched me into the sea. I can imagine what it must look like on a clear day. This was a big disappointment.
During the return trip from the lighthouse on the single-lane road, the rain slackened a bit, though I expect it was still raining heavily on the shore. We stopped in a town back on the two-lane road for lunch, and ended up getting egg salad sandwiches and chips from a grocery store when the cafe where we stopped first didn’t have anything we could really eat.
At the grocery store, Mark came across an Irn Bru, which is a famous Scottish soda. He’d never heard of it, which surprised me. I can’t say where I’ve heard of it exactly, but I definitely knew what it was. Once he knew it was a famous soda, and also notoriously weird-tasting, he had to have one. I wasn’t surprised, since I’d had to explain to him that it was the Scottish version of Maine’s Moxie. They taste nothing alike, but the general idea is the same.
He tried it after we’d finished eating. I did, too. Despite the rumor that it is terrible and only crazy people drink it, it wasn’t bad. It is very sweet, and has an aftertaste of bubblegum, or at least it does to us. It isn’t bad, it’s just not something we would normally drink. Mark finished it, so he definitely didn’t hate it. I have a feeling that someday when we come back, he’ll have another. He has a Moxie and a Whoopie Pie every time we visit Maine.
We didn’t see much between lunch Loch Ness, I have to say. We stopped for tea and coffee and a bathroom break once, but that’s about it. The road is castle-free for this stretch, save for at least one that is not on our Historic Scotland pass. We would’ve had to pay more for that one, so it was off the table.
By 3:30, we were next to Loch Ness. It seems like everyone has heard of Loch Ness, even if they don’t know that it’s in Scotland. It’s famous, of course, for its lake monster, Nessie. It is 23 miles long and 755 feet deep. I guess I can see why people might think there’s room for a lake monster, but I find the idea amusing. The most famous photograph of the thing is a well-known hoax. But I digress.
About halfway up the loch, one comes across Urquhart Castle, and please don’t ask me to pronounce that. I am not sure I’m even saying city names correctly up here. It’s a lovely castle right on the like with a funny name, like most of the ones we’ve seen. Water, ruin, and funny name: the castle trifecta.
This one is quite popular, and one of the more expensive ones we’ve seen. As our previous castles, we were lucky to encounter 5 or 6 other people. We saw at least 50-100 at this one, and we even found several other American accents, which have been largely absent on the rest of our trip.
Urquhart Castle was built on the loch in the 13th century, and was used until the 1690s. When it was abandoned, locals came and took the roofing materials and stones and used them to build homes and shops in the nearby town. The castle came into state care in 1911, and it has been a tourist attraction for a very long time.
According to signage at the castle, it is the third-most-visited castle in Scotland. I can imagine it. While we were there, the rain died down, and we were able to enjoy the castle in relatively nice weather. It was almost warm, in fact.
The castle has quite a few remaining buildings and a number of staircases. The area it covers is quite large, since the buildings are spread out and some of the fencing remains. Signs at the castle indicated that parts of the ruin were rebuilt for tourists at some point it its past, so it isn’t clear what is actually correct with regard to building placement and the like. Moving the ruins removed some of their historical value, since it made it more difficult to tell what had happened at the castle in the past.
While we were there, I had Mark practice his brooding. We wanted to do it earlier in the day, when he could’ve brooded out across the moors, which is a romantic thing to do, or so I’m told. Books seem to make a big deal about it, though I can’t see the appeal. I do understand it, though. Watching it pouring rain over the moors earlier today made me feel a little broody, too. Perhaps the romantic poets were wrong: the people brooding out over the moors were brooding about the weather, not about their lost love or some such nonsense. They just wanted to see the sun. They had seasonal affective disorder and needed some Vitamin D. I suppose my theory isn’t a sweet, though.
Looking back at these pictures, I think it is important to note how truly green the grass is. The grass is a blinding, almost uncomfortable green. Being from Texas, I don’t thin kI’ve ever seen grass that was so green and fluffy. Not even manicured grass back home manages to be so spectacular. Maybe the clouds just make it look better than it is? I don’t know, but the pictures don’t even do it justice, and they already look over-saturated with green. Mark didn’t edit that at all. That is true to life, friends.
From the castle, we made our way to Inverness, which isn’t far away. We tried to find food before we made it to our hotel, which is on the other side of town, but we weren’t successful. We also ran into a surprising amount of traffic. They actually had a few stop lights in Inverness, which are lacking in many other places around here. They tend to favor traffic circles.
Dinner was instead more Indian food. It was not as good as last night. It was much spicier, but it had no flavor other than fire. We ordered it from a take-away place and brought it back to the hotel. It was a poorly-thought-out action, since we didn’t have silverware or plates, but we managed with the forks they luckily provided and our tea saucers. Don’t tell the English. It might be sacrilege to defile tea saucers in such a way.
Tomorrow we get to run, which has me excited. We’re also heading to Edinburgh for the night. We have a few things to see on the way, and it looks like the weather will be clearer, if colder. We only need one more castle to make back our money on our passes, and since we still haven’t seen Edinburgh Castle, which costs £16.50, it seems like we’ve done pretty well.
– Trip Total : 5,767 miles –