Linda Urquhart

Monday, September 26th cloudy, windy, cool, rain by 2pm
From Thurso we visited Castle Mey which was built in the late 16th century for the 4th Earl of Caithness, George Sinclair. When his heirs abandoned the castle in 1889, it fell into disrepair until 1952 when Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, recently widowed, bought it for a summer home. It was restored to its current condition. and the Queen Mum spent her summers here for the rest of her life. It was very warm and homey, not grand and intimidating as most castles are. Each room was manned by a former staff member of the Queen Mom who told you all about what was in the room and had stories to share about the Queen Mum. The staff that we met had an obvious love for the Queen Mom and recounted her last visit with them, she seemed to know it would be her last and she was disappointed that the geese had not shown up before her departure. On the morning when she was leaving, the geese flew overhead, going the wrong way, they think that the geese came especially for her knowing that it was one of her last wishes. It was obvious that they loved her a great deal. Very moving. Gorgeous views of the ocean.

Just before we visited the castle we drove to Dunnet Head, the most northerly point of the British Isles mainland and walked to the ocean cliff to see the sea monoliths at the Stacks of Duncasby - large rocks standing beside the cliffs. I had to fight gale force winds to try and take a picture and the wind was moving me and the camera so much that it turned out blurry but I will never forget that experience. We gassed up back in Thurso and it started to rain. We were able to enjoy the beautiful scenery but it was too wet to take any pictures and we did not bother going to the caves at Durness as we had planned. We drove all the way to Ullapool through some very high hills, very sparse, no trees, just rocks and green grass and heather which by this time of year is mostly brown and there are sheep everywhere. Much of the road was single lane with a space to pull over if traffic comes the other way. Many of the sheep were grazing beside the road - near misses. The coastline was gorgeous with beaches for surfing - we saw a surfboard in a young man’s car. The water is exquisitely clean, in some places Mediterranean blue and in others a deep green.

Our B&B here in Ullapool is called Essex Cottage and is right on the water. We have a gorgeous view of the highland hills across the water.

Tuesday, September 27th rain and misty, sun out off and on during day
Happy birthday Mom, hope you are enjoying your day. We had a nice breakfast as usual and met a couple from Pennsylvania. Drove to Portree through some gorgeous scenery. Took some pictures, but had one heavy downpour where we couldn’t take pictures. Got to Skye, crossed the bridge, sun came out. The drive to Portree was thru a mountain range with very high hills, very beautiful.

Then we took the loop through the upper peninsula via Uige and saw more spectacular scenery, the Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls, the Old Man of Storr, some gorgeous views and some with rainbows. Tried to take lots of pictures.
Kilt Rock

Here is the Old Man of Storr

It was a marvellous day. Many miles of single lane traffic but Brian has the hang of it now, when to pull over, etc, not too difficult to get used to. I can understand why Drew said Scotland is the most beautiful country in the world. It is awe inspiring - barren one minute - green the next - rolling farmland - then mountains rocky and heather covered. And the seascapes are breathtaking. The lakes are so clear and always running so fast, maybe because we’ve had lots of wind and rain but there is so much water running down the hills, roaring rapids in the rivers, lots of lochs. Beautiful!

Wednesday, September 28th rain
Raining harder now, drove to Dunvegan and visited Dunvegan Castle, which is the home of Clan McLeod. Very interesting tour, the McLeods were driven off their lands during the clearances and lost everything but the castle was restored in the late 1800's and the grandmother of the current chief was the very rare female chief of the clan, Flora McLeod. She was named after Flora MacDonald, the wife of a former chief who was imprisoned in the Tower of London for helping to hide Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Then we drove to Ft William. It was raining fairly hard for most of the day. We could see the mountains that were close to us but the ones in the distance were very misty. Tried to take some pictures because the scenery was spectacular but it was near to impossible. The rain made the water rush down the mts and made the waterfalls even more forceful. The streams were also rushing frantically toward the lochs. Quite beautiful. Went for a short drive to Glen Finnian where they have a monument erected on the spot where Bonnie Prince Charlie landed in Scotland and proclaimed his father James as king of England. The clans that supported him met him there and they proceeded to fight the current king’s forces and were successful until they crossed into England, then they were turned back and driven to Culloden (just east of Inverness), where they were defeated. These Jacobite supporters were slaughtered there and every August Scotsmen gather at this spot in Glen Finnian to honor those who died in this struggle.

We went thru the Visitor Centre took a picture of the monument from inside - too rainy outside. We then took a ride further west to see the scenery. It was again very beautiful but the rain made it too hard to take pictures, I hope we can remember it. We turned around and came back to Ft Wm but on the way back found the railway bridge featured in all the Harry Potter movies and took a picture of it.

Now having dinner on High St - this is a main street for pedestrians but as usual almost everything is closed. Very nice B&B outside of town, Essex House on a farm road - very dark at night.

Thursday, September 29th early morning mist, then sun came out
Started the day with light showers, went to Speen Bridge to see the monument to the soldiers in the WW’s with Ben Nevis in the background, had to wait for a bright spot to take any pictures. On the way to Ft Wm the sun came out so we decided to do our Ben Nevis walk. We drove down Glen Nevis Road to the Upper Falls. Well we got about half way there and then we had to climb some high slippery red rocks and jump over some rushing water. I was afraid that I would fall so we turned back - disappointed that I am such a wuss. Had a nice short walk anyway. Went back down the road to the Lower Falls - great scenery and sounds all around.

Then we went to Invergary Castle ruins back in Ft Wm, then drove toward Stirling. We drove thru Glen Nevis and Glen Coe and it was breath-taking - I know that I keep saying that but every time we think we’ve seen it all, we see more beauty.

Drove along Loch Lomond and I sang for Brian “On the bonnie, bonnie, banks of Loch Lomond” I don’t think he was impressed.