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Clare

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  1. We've just got back from a very exciting trip around the Scottish Highlands and Islands. It was a pretty adventurous itinerary, which took us to Orkney and Shetland, as well as both the Inner and Outer Hebrides, plus all the way around the north coast of Scotland. Having just put our entire route into Google Maps, I calculate that we have driven a total of 2,672 miles, which averages out at 167 miles per day. The longest day of driving was day 16, when we travelled from Hawick to home via Hadrian's Wall. The detour to Hadrian's Wall took us further west than I'd expected, so we ended up c
  2. After our late finish last night, we didn't make a very early start to the day in Hawick. It was around 10am by the time we checked out and our first destination was the nearby town of Galashiels, where we stopped off at McDonalds for breakfast We had another fairly long day of driving ahead of us to get home. Our plan was to stop off in Northumberland and try to track down Hadrian's Wall. We'd actually tried to find part of Hadrian's Wall previously, when we were in Northumberland for August Bank Holiday, as a lady at our hotel had recommended that we go to Hexham to visit it. We'd dri
  3. We had another early start on Saturday morning, with our alarms set to go off at 05.45. Our ferry back to a place called Mallaig on the mainland was at 07.35 and we needed to check-in at the port in Lochboisdale before 06.45. The port was probably only four miles away, but it wasn't the easiest of journeys down small one-track roads, so we wanted to make sure that we had plenty of time. When we stepped outside of the B&B to load our bags into the car, the sun was only just rising. We checked in without any difficulties and then had a bit of a wait before we could drive onto
  4. This morning was a very early start, with alarms set for 6am. We were due to catch a ferry at 08.35, which doesn't sound like an unreasonable time for a ferry, but it was departing from a port called Leverburgh which is situated at the bottom of Harris. Our booking confirmation with the ferry company stipulated that the latest possible check-in time was 08.15 and it was a journey of 56 miles from where we were in Stornoway to the south of Harris, so I had calculated that we needed to check out of the apartment at 06.45. In reality we ended up running around 10 minutes late but Tim managed
  5. It wasn't exactly sunny when we woke up in Stornoway this morning, but it wasn't raining either. The forecast had suggested that today would be dry but cloudy, which was good enough for us. With planning this trip at such short notice, I hadn't fully appreciated how large the island of Lewis and Harris actually is. The guidebook explained that it's the third largest island in the British Isles (after Great Britain and Ireland). That meant that seeing the sights we wanted to see today was going to involve a fair amount of driving. We set off around 10am and initially retraced our jou
  6. When we opened the curtains on Skye this morning we found it was a genuinely sunny day outside. Typical for the day we were leaving The good news was that our ferry to the Outer Hebrides wasn't until the afternoon, so we had a few hours to enjoy Skye in the sunshine before it was time to check in. As we checked out of the cottage and began driving towards the main road, the views towards the mountains were even clearer than they had been yesterday. We hadn't made firm plans for this morning, but the mountain views looked so good that we decided to start driving
  7. When I checked the forecast for today before going to bed last night, the weather today was supposed to be a mixture of clouds and light rain. But when we opened the curtains this morning, the world seemed to look a bit brighter than we had expected. Overnight, the weather forecast had changed so that it was now predicted to be dry and cloudy for the majority of the day, with rain only after 4pm. After the past few days of rain, we wanted to make the most of any small improvement in the weather so we made a prompt start to the day after breakfast. We'd really enjoyed the views as we'd bee
  8. When we woke up on Skye this morning it was rather damp and misty, but not raining as hard as it had been when we arrived yesterday evening. The rain had been so strong yesterday that we hadn't even taken a photo of the outside of the little cottage that we're staying in. The unpredictability of the weather meant that we didn't have firm plans for today, but we were keen to explore some of the island. We drove towards a village called Dunvegan initially, which is only a few miles up the road from where we're staying. There's supposed to be an impressive castle an
  9. The weather forecast for today had predicted prolonged heavy rain across the entire Scottish Highlands, and sure enough when we woke up in Ullapool this morning that did indeed seem to be the case. It was the sort of morning where you really felt like staying indoors, but we needed to check out of our accommodation by 10am and we also had a fair bit of ground to cover today, so we had no choice but to venture out into the rain. We were driving south from Ullapool, through a very remote and sparsely populated part of Scotland, on a route which ought to have had amazing views. Sadly, it was
  10. The crossing from Shetland was indeed quite rough last night and I was glad that I had invested in some seasickness tablets before I went on holiday, just in case. They seemed to work really well and I felt absolutely fine (unlike most of the other passengers!) even when the ferry was crashing against waves so strong that it was difficult to stand up. The waves did become a bit less violent after Fair Isle as promised, although it wasn't until we started getting closer to the coast of Orkney that the sea truly became calm. We arrived in Kirkwall shortly before 11pm and promptly drove the
  11. The weather forecast hadn't looked great for today and when we woke up this morning we could hear the wind howling and the rain pouring down outside. We decided to make a relaxed start to the morning and go to get breakfast at the Fjara cafe where we'd eaten on Wednesday morning. It felt like longer than that since we'd arrived on Shetland! The view from the car park outside the cafe was still pretty, but the sea looked a lot choppier than it had yesterday. Typical when we have a ferry crossing this evening Breakfast was just as good as it had been on Wednesday and by the
  12. When we first planned our trip to Shetland, our intention was to stay on the Mainland island. But when we were killing time in a bar in Kirkwall on Tuesday night, the barman recommended to us that we try visiting two of the other islands, Yell and Unst, explaining that it was really easy to get across to them on the ferry. Once we were settled into our apartment in Lerwick last night, we started doing a bit of research on the ferries to see whether the journey really would be doable. Some of the details were a bit confusing, in particular the timetables, but it did look like it ought to be pos
  13. The sea was quite calm as we left Orkney and I think we both fell asleep fairly quickly, despite the fact that we could hear a chorus of car alarms going off somewhere underneath us. As we were boarding the ferry, one of things we'd been asked to do was to disable the alarm on our car. We weren't sure whether the car had an alarm, much less how to disable it. The helpful staff member had recommended that, if we weren't sure, we should follow a number of steps including leaving the car window slightly open to override the alarm system. At the point at which we were going to sleep, Tim remembere
  14. My alarm went off at 06.30 this morning, which I think is the earliest I've set it for since lockdown began! Breakfast in the hotel in Thurso was generous, and in fact for me it was probably the best breakfast of the holiday so far because it came complete with "potato scone" (potato cake). We were booked onto the 08.45 ferry to Stromness on Orkney, which was due to depart from the ferry terminal of Scrabster, located a mile or so outside of Thurso. Once we'd finished breakfast we packed up and were on our way. I'd pre-booked the ferry tickets online a couple of weeks ago, so when we arri
  15. The weather wasn't forecast to be quite as good today as yesterday and when we woke up in Culloden this morning, it did look a bit stormy outside. We had a relaxed start to the morning, checking out some time after 10am. Our ultimate aim for the day was to drive as far north as Thurso, but the Highlands and Islands guidebook didn't talk about many attractions on Scotland's eastern coast and our memory from our 2010 roadtrip was that there wasn't necessarily a lot to see. We therefore started out by driving in the wrong direction, taking the scenic road through the mountains towards
  16. It had almost been starting to get dark by the time we arrived at the hotel in Northumberland last night, so we hadn't really had much of a look around. When we woke up this morning, we found that it was in a really beautiful location. There were great views out across the fields... ...and a pretty garden too. I had a sleepy recollection of hearing a rooster at some point in the early morning, and sure enough there were chickens around the corner Plus also some rather noisy black sheep. It was definitely a place we could have stayed longer, but
  17. I had the first two weeks of September booked off work for what was originally supposed to be our Croatia-Montenegro-Albania adventure. Now that that obviously wasn't happening, we needed to come up with an alternative plan. We enjoyed our week in Scotland at the start of August so much that Scotland naturally came to the top of the list when were discussing places to go in the UK. In particular, we were conscious of the fact that, while we've explored a fair bit of the Scottish mainland now, we haven't yet been to any of the islands. I don't think we would ordinarily give up the opportunity t
  18. We enjoyed our trip to Bamburgh a few weeks ago so much that we knew we wanted to return and go inside the castle properly if we were ever in this part of the world again. When we booked this last minute bank holiday trip to Northumberland, one of the first things I did was to go on the Bamburgh castle website and book tickets for today. They've got quite a good system where you can pay online for a specific day and then enter the castle at any time on that day. It's a lot more convenient that the National Trust system of being tied to a particular arrival time! Although we didn't need to
  19. After I'd finished the blog last night we went out for a stroll around the hotel grounds. It was starting to get a little bit dark, but it was still a really lovely place to walk around. The interior of the hotel is really beautiful too. There are some gorgeous stained glass windows. And when we came down to breakfast this morning we found the breakfast rooms were rather grand too! We had the breakfast room almost to ourselves, so there were no concerns about social distancing! Ordinarily there would have been a breakfast buffet, but we'd been
  20. Our original plan for this weekend was to go to Luxembourg. We had visited once previously, on a day trip from an Esperanto event back in 2009, and we didn't either remember it very well or have any decent photos. But then, of course, Covid-19 happened and our flights to Luxembourg were cancelled by BA quite some time ago. We didn't initially make any alternative plans, but when we were driving back from Scotland a few weeks ago, we were pleasantly surprised by what a beautiful county Northumberland seemed to be. Tim did a bit of research on booking.com and found a nice hotel with a vacancy in
  21. We had a relaxed start to the morning in Hawick before setting off on what would be a long journey home. As with yesterday, we didn't necessarily want to travel by the most direct route, and instead had planned what we hoped would be a scenic diversion. Our diversion meant that, when we left Hawick, rather than driving south we actually drove slightly northeast toward the Northumbrian coast. In total it was a journey of around 50 miles on small roads, but it was extremely scenic as we travelled around the edge of the Northumberland National Park. Our destination was the small village of B
  22. We were always going to have a big day of driving ahead of us today, with the shortest route from Culloden to Hawick being around 209 miles. This route didn't look like it would be terribly exciting though, as it would involve retracing Wednesday's journey through Aviemore, Pitlochry and Perth. Although that had admittedly been a really scenic route, we felt like we'd rather try something different. Looking at the map last night, we came up with the idea of driving across Scotland to Fort William, and from there taking the road through Glen Coe. We had stayed in Fort William during both our 20
  23. When we woke up this morning it was immediately clear that it wasn't going to be such a sunny day as yesterday. The sky was quite cloudy, but the weather forecast suggested that it was going to stay dry until mid-afternoon at least, so we were hopeful that we could fit in a day's worth of activities before things turned wet. As this holiday was quite spontaneous we haven't done a lot of research in advance, so the plan for today was to follow two more recommendations from the tourist leaflet which we picked up in Aviemore. The first of these was to visit Craig Phadrig, a wooded hill above
  24. When we woke up this morning it was a bright sunny day in Culloden The place where we're staying is really beautiful. While I was still sleeping, Tim got up and had a stroll around outside. This is the house which has our apartment in it. Once I'd got up and we'd had breakfast, we went for another stroll together around the nearby roads. Although it was only about 09.30, it was already starting to feel warm in the sun. I should probably have taken this as a prompt to go back and put sun cream on, but I didn't think! We got in the ca
  25. When we woke up this morning we were relieved to see that it had finally stopped raining! Today we would be leaving Dundee behind and driving towards our final destination of Culloden, near Inverness. In total the journey would be around 137 miles and we were hoping that it was going to be a scenic one, taking us through part of the Cairngorms National Park. The first part of the journey wasn't terribly exciting, as we left Dundee behind us and headed in the direction of Perth. But from there things began to look more scenic. We had planned to make our first stop in Pitlochry and it wasn'
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