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About Me

  1. It was a bit damp again when we woke up in our lodge in Barstobrick this morning. This definitely hasn't been a holiday for sunny weather, although somehow I have still managed to pick up a bit of sunburn Even though it wasn't a sunny morning, the view from the lodge was lovely. We'd been provided with a leaflet about a local walking trail, so once we'd had breakfast and checked out we decided to give it a try. We were able to start walking right from where we'd been staying. The walk started off fairly sedately, but it soon began to climb higher. The good thing about climbing higher was that we had some good views out across the surrounding countryside. We were walking towards this monument, on the top of Barstobrick hill. It was erected in memory of the inventor James Neilson, who invented something called the hot-blast process which apparently increased the efficiency of smelting iron. The trail we were walking on was called the Hot Blast Trail We were rather out of breath by the time we got to the top, but the views were pretty. And we could see for a really long way The path uphill had been quite wide and easy to follow, but the path downhill turned out to be considerably narrower. I wasn't really thrilled about how steep it was Parts of the path were also quite overgrown, so we had to push our way through bracken at times. It felt like quite a remote part of the country and we didn't see anyone else doing the same walk. Once we got down the hill the path became more sedate again, leading us through a forest. We also passed through a pretty garden before ending up back at where we'd left the car. Before we set off on the journey home, we stopped for coffee and cake at the Barstobrick cafe The drive home was 275 miles - so rather long(!) - but we've had such a great holiday that it definitely felt worthwhile
  2. We had a long day of travelling ahead of us today as we left Mull behind and travelled back towards southern Scotland. It was rather cloudy and wet when we woke up this morning, so we didn't have much of view from the ferry as we headed towards Oban. It was a smooth trip though, and we arrived back on the mainland around 11am. We had around 4 hours of driving ahead of us before we reached our destination for the evening, which is just outside Castle Douglas. We wanted to break the journey up a bit, so after the first hour or so of driving we stopped at a place called the Falls of Falloch, towards the top of Loch Lomond. We were hoping for a bit of a walk here to stretch our legs and get some steps in, but it turned out that the falls weren't very far from the car park. We probably walked for less than 10 minutes before we arrived at the viewpoint It was a pretty little waterfall, but there wasn't much scope to walk any further, so soon we were back in the car and driving down the side of Loch Lomond. We had a journey of about 15 miles or so to our second destination of the day, which was in the Argyll forest park. I'd found a short circular walk which we could do, starting from a forestry car park outside the small village of Succoth. The walk didn't get off to the most promising of starts, leading us steadily uphill on a winding path. But once we got to the top, there were some beautiful views. We were able to look down to Loch Long, which is a sea loch. Once we were at the top the path flattened out a bit and was easier to walk on. We followed the track through the forest, with some great views of the surrounding mountains. Every so often we got glimpses of the loch through the trees. Eventually the path began gently sloping downwards. It led us back down to the valley and we had a pretty walk through the fields. We could see the village of Succoth where we'd started in the distance. And we could also look up towards the forest on the hill behind where we'd been climbing. Once we'd walked back to the car, we drove to a nearby hotel and had the first proper meal out of this holiday We ate out on the first few days, but only in Wetherspoons, and we've since been completely self-catering on Mull. Tim had an enormous burger and I had what might possibly be the world's cheesiest macaroni cheese! We were extremely full by the time we'd demolished the food, but still had about 3 hours of driving to get to our final destination. It was a bit of a tedious drive as it involved circumnavigating Glasgow and getting stuck in a lot of traffic. It was close to 7pm when we finally arrived at Barstobrick, near Castle Douglas, where we're staying the night in a wooden lodge. It's small but comfy, and there's a lovely view out the window It looks like it's set in a nice bit of countryside, so we're hoping to explore a little bit before we check out tomorrow morning
  3. The weather was quite grey and cloudy again when we woke up this morning, so it was hard to tell how the day was going to turn out. Our plan was to visit another small island off the coast of Mull today - Iona. Iona is located only about a mile off the coast of Mull, but off a part of the coast which was quite far away from where we were staying. The ferry leaves from the small town of Fionnphort which was about 40 miles away, so we started the day with a scenic drive across Mull. And it really was a scenic drive! We passed by mountains and waterfalls as we made our way down towards the very bottom of the island. The weather did all sorts throughout the course of the journey, and at one point Tim caught sight of this beautiful rainbow in the distance We arrived in Fionnphort and parked the car. Iona is largely a car-free island and so visitors aren't allowed to bring cars across on the ferry without a special permit. The car parking machine didn't take contactless, but luckily we were able to pay for parking via an app. Fionnphort was a pretty little place. The weather had really brightened up now too We had just missed a ferry so we had a bit of a wait. The ferry between Mull and Iona is a proper ferry, not like the small boat we took to Ulva yesterday, so it theoretically runs to a timetable. During the middle of the day the timetable just says "runs frequently", so it was a bit hard to know exactly when it was going to turn up. We bought tickets for the ferry from the ticket office in Fionnphort and I was pleasantly surprised at how cheap they were; it only cost us £7.20 for two people return. We boarded the ferry when it arrived and got a seat on the deck. We then proceeded to sit and wait for a very long time before it departed. It seemed to have been waiting for two things - the local postman and a coach full of tourists. Vast quantities of people got off the coach and onto the ferry, which was then rather full to say the least! Once we got moving the crossing to Iona only took around 10 minutes. First impressions were that it's a really beautiful place Most people come to Iona to visit the abbey and we had a great view of it from the harbour when we got off the boat. The population of Iona is around 130 people and most of them live in Baile Mòr, which is where we'd arrived. It really just seemed to consist of this row of houses along the sea front. Assuming that most other tourists were heading north to the abbey, we had decided to do a walk on the southern side of the island. Iona isn't a large island; it's around 1 mile wide and 4 miles long, which makes it smaller than Ulva. Our walk started on the east coast of the island, taking us along by the sea for a while. The sea was a wonderful shade of blue and we passed sandy beaches too. The route we were following eventually turned inland and led us all the way across the island to the western coast. The path we were following here was across a piece of land which doubles up as a golf course and grazing land for sheep There didn't really seem to be anyone playing golf today, so we were able to enjoy the views without worrying about being hit by a golf ball There were some fantastic views of the coast as the path led us higher, up a sandy bank. We followed the track uphill for a while... ...and eventually came to a small loch. The track led us around the side of the loch. We then emerged onto a piece of moorland, covered in beautiful heather. I really loved how purple it was From here the path led quite steeply downhill towards a beach. This is the beach where St Columba is said to have landed when he arrived in Iona from Ireland in 563. It was a rather rocky and pebbly beach! The walk description had said it was a beautiful place to relax but walking across this many rocks was really quite difficult. It wasn't a circular walk, so we decided to retrace our steps back towards the golf course. By the time we got back to the ferry port, the weather had taken a bit of a turn for the worse and the sky was no longer so blue. The sea was still a beautiful shade of turquoise though and we had some lovely views of the abbey as we waited for the boat to take us back to Mull. The ferry soon arrived and we had a final view of Iona as it pulled away. Then we just had to repeat the 40-mile journey back across Mull to our cottage. We'll be leaving Mull tomorrow morning to head back to the mainland. The weather might not have been perfect here, but it's definitely been an interesting place to visit and we've seen some really beautiful places
  4. It was rather grey and cloudy again when we woke up this morning and it looked like the sort of day when it might rain. It wasn't actually raining though, so we decided to set off and hope for the best. Our plan for today was to visit a small island called Ulva, just off the coast of Mull, and to get there we needed to drive across the island in the direction of where we had been yesterday at Loch Ba. A small ferry makes the journey from Mull to Ulva on demand between the hours of 9 and 5. It's a passenger-only ferry, so we needed to park the car. When we arrived at the car park outside the ferry terminal I was surprised by the fact that there were quite a lot of people also there, presumably waiting to take the ferry to Ulva. I had thought it was probably a minority interest, but we hadn't seen this many people on Mull outside of Tobermory! We got out of the car to put on our boots and that was when the heavens opened. The downpour was torrential and we got back into the car in the hope that it would pass. I was also hoping that the noisy crowds of people might get on the ferry ahead of us, leaving us to have a quieter and less busy crossing. The rain soon eased off and so we ventured out of the car and towards the pier which we assumed the ferry was leaving from. There was a long queue of people, which we joined and waited. We waited and waited and waited for what felt like a very long time, and I was quite surprised because I thought the crossing was only supposed to be quite short and that the ferry more or less turned up whenever anybody wanted it. The only saving grace was that the place where we were waiting was quite scenic. Ultimately it turned out that we were waiting in the wrong place The horde of people had been waiting for this boat, which was on some sort of sightseeing cruise. We should have been waiting a bit further around the corner for this little boat, which is the Ulva ferry. I knew it was a small boat, but I hadn't realised it was quite that small Once we were on board the boat, the journey to Ulva only took a couple of minutes. The distance between Ulva and Mull isn't more than a few hundred metres. There were some nice views from the boat as we went across though. The tickets for the ferry cost £6 each (return), which we paid at a small kiosk once we arrived on Ulva. In return for the £6 we also got a map of the island, showing a number of different walking trails. The island is bigger than I expected - about 7.5 miles long and 2.5 miles wide - so we certainly weren't going to walk around all of it today. We chose to do a walk called the Livingstone Walk, which was about 5 miles long so felt manageable. The route started off with a forest road, which was quite easy to walk on. All the different trails were marked with wooden signposts, which made it easy to follow the one we wanted. Once we emerged out of the forest, the views of the island were really beautiful. There was lots of bracken, plus yellow flowers... ...and purple heather everywhere There had been two other people on the ferry with us and they had decided to do the same walk. They were faster walkers than us, so they overtook us somewhere around here. We didn't encounter any more people on Ulva until we got back to the ferry terminal in the afternoon As the path climbed higher we had views of the sea and the coast of Mull in the distance. The signposts continued to let us know that we were on the right track. The path started to get narrower at this point, as it led downhill. At one point we thought we'd lost it, but some smaller arrows set us back on the right track and before long we were standing outside a ruined cottage, which belonged to the grandparents of the explorer David Livingstone (hence the name of the walk!). From here the path became really quite difficult to follow. It didn't seem like many people had walked this way recently and so in some places the route was almost completely overgrown with bracken. We persevered though and were rewarded with some wonderful views of the coast. There were some really unusual-looking rocks here... ...and some amazing cliffs. It was fantastic to have all these views to ourselves The population of Ulva is currently only 11 people, so it's not really a surprise that we didn't meet anyone else as we walked! The final section of the walk was probably the most difficult, as we descended quite steeply through woodland. I didn't really enjoy having to limbo under this tree, but I made it Once we got out of the woodland, there just remained a fairly easy stroll back towards the ferry. Then it was just a short journey back across the water to Mull. Ulva is a really beautiful island and definitely worth visiting
  5. The weather forecast had said it was going to be cloudy with a light breeze today. It certainly looked cloudy when we woke up but it wasn't raining, so after breakfast we set off in the car across Mull to the small village of Calgary where we were planning to do a walk. We parked in a small parking area next to a teashop and art gallery, which is the starting point for a woodland sculpture trail. A series of paths leads through the woodland, taking you past a number of sculptures and artworks. Some of them were better than others This one was a fairy house in a hollow tree... ...this one was a mosaic, possibly representing the local beach... ...and this one was called the Leaf Seat. We passed through a willow tunnel, which was quite fun... ...and then around the corner we found what was definitely my favourite sculpture We haven't seen any real deer, although there are supposed to be a lot of them on Mull, but this was definitely a cool substitute We walked through a second willow tunnel... ...then exited the woodland, walking towards the main road. The main reason for coming here was actually to see the local beach. The beach at Calgary is supposed to be the largest and most attractive on the Isle of Mull. Our first impressions were that we have probably seen better beaches in the Hebrides! Luskentyre Beach on the Harris was bigger and West Beach on Berneray was more isolated. On our last holiday we'd also seen some pretty impressive beaches at Kiloran Bay on Colonsay and Machir Beach on Islay. Compared to these, the beach at Calgary didn't wow us. But we may now just have impossibly high standards for beaches In fairness, I think Calgary wasn't helped much by the weather. Despite the forecast saying that it was going to be cloudy but dry today, it had started raining pretty much as soon as we got out of the car at the start of the woodland trail. That meant that everywhere looked rather damp. I can imagine it would look different on a sunnier day We followed a track around the edge of the beach. The sandy area is really quite small; the rest of the coastline is rocky. We made it as far as this little pier, before we turned around to retrace our steps. It was pretty walking back towards the sand We walked back into the woodland and followed a higher path this time, which gave us views back out across the bay. Then we just had a rather long set of wooden steps to negotiate before we made it back to the car. From there we drove along the coast of the island for a while. It was supposed to be a really scenic drive, but it was raining quite torrentially for a while and we couldn't see very much! We did, however, get a glimpse of a waterfall from the road and pulled over into a small car park to take a look. This is Eas Fors waterfall. We only had to walk a few steps to get a great view of it Then it was back in the car, heading towards our final destination of the day: Loch Ba. This was supposed to be an excellent place to walk and see the mountains of Mull without actually having to climb any of them. Unfortunately, although the rain had eased off a bit it was still rather misty, so we weren't going to get all the views today! It was still a really pretty place to walk though. There was an easy flat path to follow around the edge of the lake. We could have continued for quite a long way but the weather was starting to get worse again, so we turned around once we got to these trees. Then it was time to retrace our steps back to the car and get back to the cottage to dry out Tomorrow is forecast to be cloudy with a light breeze too, so it remains to be seen how much it's going to rain
  6. It looked like it had been raining overnight when we woke up in our expensive hotel this morning. The room definitely wasn't up to much, but the view from the window was good; we could see the port of Craignure where we'd arrived last night. Breakfast was included in the price of our room, because I'd got some sort of deal by using the booking.com app. When I'd been looking at booking online originally, breakfast was going to cost an extra £25 each per person Despite the fact we hadn't had to pay that, we definitely wanted to make the most of it this morning. It did turn out to be quite a posh breakfast offering. We could have started with oysters if we'd wanted to! Instead we opted for a breakfast platter as our first course; I had the pastry platter (which consisted of a pain au chocolat, a cinnamon whirl and a croissant!), while Tim had the cold cuts platter (which consisted of ham, cheese and salami with toast). That was only the first course and was followed by a full Scottish breakfast. I opted out of having haggis with mine, though Tim was brave enough to try it. I was happy to get potato scone with mine We may not have eaten £25 worth of food but we definitely ate enough that we weren't going to need any lunch! We checked out of the hotel and drove a few miles down the road in the direction of Craignure. Our first stop for the day was Duart Castle, which I had seen from the ferry yesterday evening. We didn't want to actually go into the castle, which at £8 each seemed rather expensive, but I'd read on the internet that you could park for free and there were a number of marked coastal trails. We followed the first path we found, which led us into some woodland. However, after two minutes it led us out of the woodland and back to where we'd started! After consulting the map, we eventually found a path towards the coast. The weather was starting to improve and there were some really lovely views. Describing the grounds as having coastal trails turned out to have been a bit ambitious, but we were able to stroll down to the beach. There weren't exactly marked paths, but we wandered around and enjoyed the views. From down here there was a good view back up towards the castle too. It looked a bit more impressive from this angle than it had from the car park. It seems like they are doing some work on it; there was quite a lot of scaffolding. Duart Castle definitely isn't somewhere to come for a long hike, but it was a nice place to come and stretch our legs From the castle we drove about 25 miles north across the island in the direction of Tobermory. We were looking for a Forestry Commission car park called Aros Park where I was also hoping we could do a short walk. We parked and after walking into the forest for two minutes, found ourselves at a viewing gallery for this enormous waterfall From the viewing platform there were some lovely views out across the coast too. We followed a marked waterfall trail through the forest... ...and soon found ourselves at the bottom of the falls. It turns out those were the Upper Falls and when we continued walking along the trail... ...we eventually found the Lower Falls too From the bottom of the Lower Falls we could see out across the sea to Tobermory. It's famous for the colourful houses along its sea front, so I was excited to just about be able to make them out We followed another path round the corner, towards an old pier. From here we had a slightly better view. We started heading back to the car park, but took a detour when we saw another trail signposted around a small lake. It was pretty and we had a nice stroll around it... ...before climbing back up to the Upper Falls. Then we got back in the car and drove another 5 miles or so past Tobermory, to a place called Glengorm Castle. The castle there isn't open to the public, but there's a coffee shop and it's possible to walk around the grounds. The walk instructions we were following took us along a grassy path below the castle. It didn't take long before we had some amazing views of the coast. The weather had definitely picked up now and I may have been overly cautious in bringing my coat on this walk Once we'd walked for a while we had a view back up towards the castle itself. The path continued around the corner... ...and we had a view towards three standing stones. From there we walked through some fields of sheep... ...and I was really glad that we didn't have to walk through the adjacent field of cows! They had some really big horns Once we had walked through the fields, the path began leading us down towards the sea. It was really pretty here in the sunshine There was supposed to be an ancient fortress here somewhere, but we didn't start climbing up the rocks to explore. I had initially expected this walk to be circular, but now it was clear that it wasn't. We turned around and started walking back the way we had come. Soon Glengorm Castle came into sight again on the horizon. Once we got back to the castle we visited the coffee shop, where we enjoyed some ice cream and iced coffee. After the torrential rain yesterday it was a surprise to be able to sit outside in the sunshine with ice cream Then it was back in the car to drive a few miles back down the road to Tobermory. There's a free car park on the outskirts of Tobermory and from there we had some great views of the colourful main street. It was rather sunny, hence the squinting It's a really beautiful little town Our plan was to walk along the main street to the Co-op. We found it without any difficulty, though had to queue for 10 minutes or so to get in. They are taking social distancing more seriously in Scotland at the moment, so there was a limit to how many people were allowed into the store at any one time. It wasn't the end of the world waiting with views like this though Once we'd stocked up on some mince and chicken, we had a drive of another 5 miles or so down the road to checking into the cottage where we're staying for the next few days. It's a lot more spacious than the hotel room we had last night! We've got a kitchen... ... a rather colourful living room... ...and a choice of two bedrooms. There's also a little garden with some beautiful views out across the sea First impressions of the Isle of Mull today have been really good and it seems like this is going to be a really lovely place to stay
  7. We had a long day of driving ahead of us today so we made a fairly early start, setting out straight after breakfast in the hotel. We were due to catch a ferry from Oban to the Isle of Mull in the early evening and the journey from Whitehaven to Oban was around 227 miles. The first part of the journey was not very exciting as we drove across Cumbria towards Carlisle, then onto the motorway which would take us across southern Scotland towards Glasgow. We navigated the outskirts of Glasgow, before driving on a bridge across the river Clyde towards Dumbarton, where we wanted to visit the Asda superstore This is where we stopped to stock up on food when we were on our way to the Isle of Islay earlier this year and, while I hadn't seen any specific advice this time about it being difficult to buy food on the Isle of Mull, a bit of googling had identified that the biggest supermarket on the island seems to be a rather small Co-op on the high street in Tobermory. It seemed to make sense to stock up in advance! Once we'd bought a reasonable amount of non-perishable food and wine, we got back in the car and began the more scenic part of the journey, which took us along the shores of Loch Lomond. The weather forecast today had been sunshine and showers. The further we got into Scotland, the more we seemed to have showers rather than sunshine! We parked at the small village of Luss to stretch our legs near the lake. It's a pretty little place, but as you can see it was rather damp today. And Loch Lomond itself was looking rather misty! When the shower turned into heavy rain we got back in the car and continued northwards towards Oban. The rain was torrential for a while, but the sky began to clear up a bit as we got closer to our destination. We stopped about 25 miles outside Oban for a short walk. The path took us alongside Loch Awe; not as well known as Loch Lomond, but this is the third largest freshwater lake in Scotland. Behind us we could see a mountain with a large waterfall running down it... ...while in front of us we had a view towards Kilchurn Castle. The castle is a ruin but it still looks quite impressive And it's definitely in a really pretty location. As you can probably tell, the weather was still a bit windy even though the rain had eased off We walked around to the opposite side of the castle to get a better view of the loch. The rain was starting to pick up again by this point, so it was time to head back to the car. It took slightly longer to drive the remaining miles to Oban than I'd expected; the roads were quite slow and winding. In the end we arrived around 16.50, which gave us just an hour until the final check in time for our ferry. We'd been hoping to get a nice meal in the town, but given the time constraints all we were able to do was park the car and rush to the local Wetherspoons where we at least knew we'd be served quickly. Oban looks like a pleasant little town. Slightly bizarrely, there's what looks like a replica Colosseum on a hill behind the town We made it through our meal with plenty of time to check in for the ferry and soon we were on board for the short ferry journey to Mull. The trip only takes around 45 minutes from Oban, so it wasn't long before we got our first views of the island on the horizon. We sailed past what looked like a castle on our way into the port of Craignure. Before long we had arrived on a brand new island It's difficult to find accommodation on the Isle of Mull; at least, it's difficult in August and at short notice. So I'd struggled a bit with making bookings for this holiday. I managed to find what looked like a nice cottage to stay in, but unfortunately it was only available from Saturday night, and all the Saturday ferries to the island were completely booked up. I could get a slot on a ferry for this evening, so in the end I decided to go for it and spend the first night in a rather overpriced hotel just outside Craignure. As it was the only place on the island with availability when we needed it, we ended up paying a rather extortionate £200 for one night. This is what £200 gets you on the Isle of Mull Not exactly worth what we've paid, but we intend to try and get our money's worth out of breakfast in the morning!
  8. We had a long day of driving ahead of us today, with approximately 300 miles to cover. We didn't want to just drive straight home though, so we made a reasonably early start from Newton Stewart. While overall we probably prefer staying in Hawick, the advantage of overnighting in Newton Stewart was that we could drive home via the M6, and that meant that we would be able to stop off in the Lake District without making much of a detour Tim had found some National Trust walks in the Lake District online and we decided to try one which started from the small village of Hartsop. It wasn't a place we'd ever heard of before but we had a really scenic drive there, starting with a drive through the Galloway Forest Park as we left Newton Stewart, and then driving along the shore of Ullswater as we got closer to Hartsop. The walk instructions started from a car park in the village, but that was unfortunately full by the time we arrived. Luckily an enterprising farmer had opened up a field and was charging £5 for parking. £5 felt a bit steep, but it did give us an opportunity to get change from some of the Scottish bank notes we'd acquired during the holiday. We'd deliberately taken cash out in Dumbarton in case we weren't able to pay for things by card on Islay and Colonsay, but then we hadn't actually ended up needing to use it. Just the views from the car park itself were impressive. From where we'd parked it was only a walk of five minutes or so towards the official start point for the walk. The walk was quite easy initially, taking us along a small tarmac road. The views were already spectacular without us needing to walk anywhere. The road soon started to lead uphill. It was a bit tiring, but the scenery made it worthwhile We climbed increasingly higher. The track was leading us alongside a small stream. Before crossing the stream, the route unexpectedly required us to climb over a stone wall. This hadn't been mentioned in the National Trust instructions! I made it across in the end and then thankfully there was a proper bridge to cross the stream. The path was then quite narrow for a while, taking us up the hillside and away from the stream. This then led to a wider track, which was much easier to walk on. We were walking towards Hayeswater reservoir. The lake is actually natural, but was dammed and used as a reservoir for the town of Penrith until 2005. It was in a really beautiful location and definitely worth walking to From the reservoir we had to turn around and retrace our steps a bit. We passed the steep little path where we'd come up from the stream... ...and continued on a wider path which ultimately took us downhill. On the way we passed little waterfalls on the stream. The path led us back towards the village of Hartsop. On the way we had to negotiate a field of cows. I wasn't a huge fan, but luckily they just stared at us as we went past! Then we were pretty much back where we had started and it was time to set off on the long drive home. The Lake District is really beautiful and it was a great place to end the holiday
  9. Last night we made the most of our final views of the sea from the cottage on Islay. We were leaving on a very early ferry this morning - 07.00 from Port Ellen, with final check-in at 06.30. Our experience with driving on the narrow roads on the island over the past few days meant that we felt we needed to leave a full hour for the drive to Port Ellen, so we checked out of the cottage at 05.30. That was a pretty early start and we hadn't had any breakfast before we left, so I was pleasantly surprised when we boarded the ferry and found that the canteen was serving a full cooked breakfast, complete with "tattie scones" The sea was very smooth this morning and we had a scenic journey back towards the mainland. The journey back to Kennacraig on the Kintyre peninsula took around 2 hours and 20 minutes. From there we had a drive of around 4 hours to our ultimate destination of Newton Stewart in the south of Scotland. We broke the journey at a National Trust place called Crarae garden. Crarae garden is just outside Inveraray and from the car park we had great views of Loch Fyne. There weren't very many other people in the car park; this definitely seems to be a lesser-visited National Trust place. So much so that it wasn't actually manned; the visitor centre was closed and we were just able to walk around the gardens without showing our membership cards. The gardens themselves were really beautiful, with a series of colour-coded trails. We followed the red trail initially, which took us alongside a river... ...from where we had a view of a little waterfall. Every so often we caught glimpses of the loch... ...and there were some really colourful trees and bushes. Once we'd completed the red trail we attempted the white one (of course, not choosing the easy route!). The hard version of the route involved quite a few steps, but we were rewarded with some good views. In general there was probably a bit more climbing up and down than is usual in National Trust gardens... ...but it was a really lovely place to visit, and so cool that we had it almost to ourselves. The final trail was blue, taking us towards views of Loch Fyne. The views from the marked viewpoint weren't necessarily much better than the views from the car park, but never mind We retraced our steps back towards the car... ...and confirmed that we had successfully completed all the trails From there it was a fairly long drive to Newton Stewart, where we are staying overnight in a hotel. We managed to get booked into the hotel restaurant for an early dinner, which was good, and then went for a brief stroll around the town. We've got another fairly long day of travelling ahead of us to get back home tomorrow, but the travelling has definitely been worth it for the experiences we've had on Arran and Islay
  10. When we woke up this morning we were relieved to see that the weather looked significantly better than yesterday It's hard to make them out in the photos, but when we stepped outside the cottage there were several seals in the harbour again. Portnahaven had been pretty even in the torrential rain yesterday, but this morning everything looked even better. We went for a stroll around the village to enjoy the sunshine. From the far side of the harbour we could look back towards the cottage again. And at one point we spotted seven different seals Some were sunbathing on the rocks, while others were just little heads bobbing up and down in the water. It was really cool to see them - Portnahaven has definitely been a wonderful place to stay Because the weather was so good today, we decided to try and revisit some of the places we went to yesterday in the rain. First stop was the Oa peninsula, where we tried to retake a photograph in the same position as yesterday - in yesterday's picture, the hill behind me wasn't visible! The Oa peninsula is supposed to have some of the most spectacular scenery on Islay and we were optimistic about actually seeing some of it today At the end of the peninsula is an RSPB nature reserve with a marked circular trail of a couple of miles. The signs for the trail were easy to follow but I was slightly concerned when they started leading us through a field of cows. I mean, look at the size of the horn on these Luckily the cows seemed fairly placid. And once we got past them there were some amazing views. The coastline is really beautiful here. And the sea seemed really calm today after yesterday's bad weather. The trail was leading us towards a monument on the top of a hill. This is known as the American Monument. It was constructed by the American Red Cross to commemorate two ships which sank off the coast of Islay during WWI. The monument was designed to look like a lighthouse and it definitely does. From the hill on which the monument is situated we had more great views of the cliffs. The cliffs were reminiscent of Shetland at times, although the waves definitely weren't comparable! It was a really beautiful spot and I'm so glad we came back today to see it in the sunshine The weather was so clear that we realised we could actually see all the way back to where we were staying. It was too far away to be captured properly by photos, but in the photo below the tip of the peninsula that you can see in the background is where Portnahaven is and in real life we could make out the lighthouse which is behind our cottage Once we'd finished the walk at the Oa, we started driving back in the general direction of Portnahaven. I wanted to revisit the beach which we'd also seen in the rain yesterday. As we were driving, we realised we were about to pass through Bowmore where we'd seen there was an Indian takeaway and we knew it was open between the hours of 12 and 2 for lunch... We ended up changing our plans, picking up a lunchtime takeaway and driving back to the cottage to eat it. A slightly unusual thing to have for lunch, but given the limited food options on the island it made sense to get a meal while we could Once we'd finished eating - and I'd spent a while sitting in the conservatory and watching the seals! - we set off towards Machir beach. Today we were more successful and found an easy path down to the beach which didn't involve crossing a river The good weather meant we weren't the only people at the beach today. But you couldn't exactly describe it as crowded The sand looked really beautiful in the sunshine. But although it was bright and sunny, it was still quite windy! We walked along the beach for a while, before heading back to the cottage for a final evening of enjoying the sea views. Islay has been a really lovely island to visit and I'm really glad we got to see it in the sunshine as well as in the rain
  11. The weather forecast did not look good for today and, although it looked dry when we woke up, by the time we had finished breakfast the first drops of rain were starting to fall. Our only plan for today was to explore Islay, so we decided to start with a short walk around the village of Portnahaven where we are staying. They didn't make it into the photos, but every so often as we walked along we could see the heads of seals bobbing up out of the water in the harbour The house we're staying in is right at the end of this line. If you look carefully you might even be able to make out our car parked outside the furthest house. The lighthouse in the picture is on a small island called Orsay, just off the coast of Islay. The rain had started off lightly but was beginning to pick up a bit as we circled back towards the cottage and got in the car. Our first destination was a place called Machir beach, supposed to be the most beautiful one on the island. For some reason there was no one else in the car park today as we parked and started walking towards it. Within a few minutes we got our first view of the sand. We didn't ultimately walk down to the sand, because it looked like it would require crossing this stream, but we walked along the dunes for a while We were well and truly wet by the time we got back in the car and drove the short distance to our next destination, an RSPB nature reserve at Loch Gruinart. Theoretically there's a circular walk you can do here but it was a bit too wet for that today, so we just walked down to one of the bird hides, from where we had a bit of a view towards the water, and then walked back. Our next stop was Bowmore, the largest town on the island, where we succeeded in finding a petrol station but failed at finding anywhere to get lunch. We drove on to Port Ellen instead, the town where we arrived on the ferry on Tuesday, and explored lunch options there. We drew a blank with lunch, but did find a hotel that was serving coffee and cake From Port Ellen a small road leads to the Oa peninsula, which is supposed to have the most spectacular scenery on the island. We made our way down the road but the further we drove, the mistier it became. We weren't destined to see the scenery today At that point we decided to call it a day and head back to the cottage to dry out! I think we made the best of the torrential rain today, but fingers crossed the weather will be a bit brighter tomorrow
  12. We only arrived on Islay late last night and this morning we were already scheduled to depart it for another island. This was just a day trip though, to the nearby island of Colonsay. There are only two days per week when a ferry from the mainland to Islay continues on towards Oban, stopping at Colonsay on the way. Wednesday was one of those days and we had decided to make the most of the ferry timetable to have a short trip to Colonsay. The ferry wasn't until 12.15, so we had a relaxed start to the morning in the cottage before driving across Islay to Port Askaig, which is where this particular ferry leaves from. The weather forecast is not great for the next few days and so it was quite damp and misty as we drove across the island towards the port, although not raining heavily. The ferry was on time and we were one of the few vehicles directed towards the queue for Colonsay, with most of the other vehicles boarding the ferry being destined for Oban. We had been expecting just to drive onto the ferry, but had a bit of unexpected excitement when Tim was told to reverse onto it instead We made it on board and soon were on our way to Colonsay, a journey of just over one hour. The ferry lands at Scalasaig, the biggest settlement on the island. The entire population of Colonsay is just 124 people, so Scalasaig is definitely not a metropolis. The island itself is not physically very big either, being around 8 miles long and 3 miles wide, so we didn't have very far to drive to get to anywhere we wanted to visit. The main attraction on Colonsay is Kiloran Bay. This is a huge beach with golden sands. It was a little bit damp and windy today, but I can imagine that on a sunny day it must look tropical here. The beach came highly recommended by our Scottish guidebook. What the guidebook hadn't said was that getting down to the sand was a bit of a challenge. At least, some of us found it a challenge The problem was that on a slightly wet day like today, the rocks were a bit slippery to clamber over. Once I'd made it down we were able to start exploring the beach properly Our next challenge was to cross this stream of water, which runs all across the beach. We followed the stream for a little while as it led into the sand dunes behind the beach. There were some great views out across the sand. Eventually we found a spot where we could cross the water and walk down to the main sandy part of the beach. And there was lots of sand to explore. Lots and lots of sand! We were able to have a good walk along the beach and ultimately get up to 10 000 steps. At the far end of the beach we came across these remains. Not sure whether they're real or some sort of sculpture! From the edge of the beach we walked up along the sand dunes for a bit. We only had to share the views with some sheep. This one in particular was very keen to protect her lamb from us. Some of the sand dunes were quite unusual - look at the ridges on this one. Eventually we had to turn around and retrace our steps back along the beach. It was still really pretty, despite being so misty. Then we just had to get back across the water... ...and climb back up to the car. From there we did a bit of a road trip around the island, finally ending up at Scalasaig again. There was a pretty community garden there. We walked around Scalasaig for a while, admiring the views of the coast. We could look back towards the ferry port where we'd arrived. After a while it became clear that we'd well and truly left Scalasaig behind. We turned around and retraced our steps back to the town. Before it was time to catch our ferry back to Islay, we just had time to drive down to the far south of the island. A tidal causeway here connects Colonsay to another smaller island, Oronsay, so if you're here at a full or new moon you can apparently walk across. There was so much water here today, it was hard to imagine that being possible! Then it was time for us to drive back to Scalasaig for the ferry across to Islay. It's been fun to visit Colonsay today, but it really is quite a small island; I think we would have struggled to spend more than half a day here!
  13. We had another long day of travelling ahead of us today, involving two ferries and a drive of around three hours in between. We woke up in the hotel on the Isle of Arran, where it was still lovely and sunny. After making the most of the hotel breakfast, we just had time for a quick stroll to enjoy the views for a final time before setting off across the island to Brodick. We were booked on a ferry from Brodick back to Ardrossan at 11am. As the ferry pulled out of Brodick, we had some great views back towards the Isle of Arran. We arrived in Ardrossan around midday. From there, we had a drive of 120 miles towards the ferry terminal of Kennacraig on the Kintyre peninsula. Our first stop was not a very exciting one - an Asda superstore on the outskirts of Dumbarton. When I booked the cottage on the Isle of Islay, I got a message from the owner telling me that it would be advisable to stock up on food on the mainland, because there were reports of queues for groceries in the island's shops Dumbarton was more or less on our way anyway, so it made sense to stop off there and stock up on some essentials for the next few days. After we'd done the shopping the journey became a bit more scenic, with the route initially taking us along the shore of Loch Lomond. We stopped at a small village called Luss, where there is a good car park and beautiful views of the loch. We had a short stroll by the waterside. Loch Lomond was a wonderful shade of blue today. It wasn't completely peaceful though, as there were some people out on speedboats It was still a lovely place to visit though And the village of Luss itself is really pretty too. We could have stayed for longer, but we had to press on because we needed to be in Kennacraig for our second ferry by 17.30. We still had around 75 miles to cover, so we got back in the car and began driving towards the small town of Inveraray. We stayed here during our very first Scotland roadtrip in 2010. Today it was just a convenient place for us to stop and get some lunch After lunch we were back in the car to cover the final 40 miles to Kennacraig. We arrived just on time to check in for the ferry and soon we were on our way to the Isle of Islay. There were some great views of the Kintyre peninsula as the ferry pulled out. The journey to the Isle of Islay took 2 hours 20 minutes. The sea was still pretty calm, so it was a pleasant crossing. Eventually we saw the town of Port Ellen appearing on the horizon. It's quite a big town by Islay standards, although it doesn't look huge. We're staying in a cottage I booked via Airbnb, around a 45-minute drive from Port Ellen. We've got a conservatory with amazing sea views! There's also a good-sized kitchen... ...and a cozy living room It's in a fantastic location. And as we were unloading the car, I caught sight of a seal in the water just outside the house I think this is going to be a fun place to stay, even if the weather isn't quite as good as it was on Arran
  14. When we woke up today it was a beautiful sunny morning on the Isle of Arran. The view from outside our hotel is really wonderful. We had a quick stroll around outside to enjoy it, before jumping in the car to start our Isle of Arran roadtrip. Our first destination was actually only a couple of miles down the road. We parked in a small Forestry Commission car park, from where we were planning to do a circular walk. The trees were really dense here and the forest looked so dark! From just outside the car park itself, we had some amazing views. An info board told us that this mountain used to be a volcano. We set off on the walk through the forest. Before too long the path opened up and we started to get glimpses of the sea. It looked such an incredible shade of blue! We were really lucky that the weather was so good today As we progressed along the walk the path became narrower... ...before leading down through some rocks. The route then continued along the shore of what was quite a pebbly beach. As we walked along it we had a great view towards some big cliffs in the distance. The reason for the walk was that it leads to a place called King's Cave. I'm not necessarily a big fan of caves, but this is the one where Robert the Bruce allegedly watched a spider spinning its web. Fortunately, the spider we found there today wasn't too scary The path then led us through another cave... ...and back out into the sunshine. We'd climbed down quite a long way to get to the cave, and now we needed to climb back up. It was quite hard work at times in the sunshine... ...but the views were still superb Ultimately the path was leading us back towards the forest where we had started. We'd walked about three miles by the time we got back to the car. It was barely worth getting into the car, because our next destination was only a mile or so down the road. We parked in a small car park, from where a path led to the Machrie standing stones. Initially the path led us through green fields full of sheep. When we turned around there was a great view back to the sea. After 10 minutes or so of walking we came to this... I was slightly concerned that these were the standing stones, in which case they didn't really seem worth the walk. Fortunately, the path continued to the main standing stones, which were still a bit further along. All in all, walking to the standing stones was probably a 90-minute round trip and we clocked up another 3 miles or so on our Fitbits. It was beautiful walking towards these views though. We came to another small stone circle. And then finally we got a glimpse of the real thing These stones were a much better size. There were only a few of them, so not quite as impressive as the Ring of Brodgar which we'd seen on Orkney last year. They were huge stones though - here's me for scale We enjoyed the views of the stones and then began retracing our steps back to the car. We also caught sight of this solitary stone, standing on its own. This one was quite an unusual shape! We got back in the car and had a longer drive this time, around 14 miles to the village of Lochranza, which is the most northerly village on the Isle of Arran. We parked beside a loch where we had views towards a ruined castle, although quite a small one. There was another circular walk we could do here, towards a place called Newton's Point. As we followed the path we had more beautiful views. We reached a point called Hutton's Unconformity, where the 18th century geologist James Hutton had located a junction between two different types of rocks, enabling him to deduce a theory that the Earth's surface had evolved over a long period of time. I didn't quite understand what we were looking at, but it was interesting anyway The path ultimately led around in a big loop, bringing us back towards Lochranza. We'd walked over 9 miles by this point so I was definitely starting to feel a bit tired. It was definitely worth it for the views though - we were really lucky with the weather today, but I'm amazed about how beautiful the Isle of Arran is, as it's not really an island I've heard a lot about before. We stopped for some much needed coffee and cake on the way back to the hotel, before continuing our drive around the south coast of the island. We didn't get out for any more walks here, but we did get a lovely view towards the small Holy Island which is just off the coast of Arran. Then it was back to the hotel to relax for the evening and enjoy the sea views from our bedroom
  15. Breakfast was included in the price of the hotel we were staying at in Hawick last night, so we made the most of it this morning; both to get our money's worth and because we weren't sure when we would next find food. We had another fairly long day of driving ahead of us today, ultimately travelling to the ferry port at Ardrossan, from where we were due to catch a ferry to the Isle of Arran in the evening. Ardrossan is just under a 3 hour drive from Hawick if you go directly, but we weren't in a hurry and decided to take the more scenic route, with a diversion to visit Culzean Castle. The route which the SatNav ultimately took us on was very scenic indeed, initially taking us on small mountain roads through the Borders, where we had to keep our eyes out for sheep on the road. At one point a hare ran across the road in front of us and another time we saw something small that looked like a stoat. It was quite an adventure! As we got further across Scotland the roads became bigger and we eventually arrived at Culzean Castle sometime just around 1pm, after about 3 hours of driving. We've been to Culzean Castle twice before - once in 2010 and once in 2011 - when we were driving around Scotland, but we didn't have a blog back then. It's a National Trust for Scotland property and so we were able to get in for free with our English membership cards. The unique thing about Culzean is that it's right by the sea, so it wasn't long before we had some lovely views. It was a bit hazy today, but not raining at least Culzean is set in quite a large estate and there are various signposted walks which you can follow. We started following one known as the "Lion path", which led us past this ruined gate. Through here is the entrance to the main castle itself. We abandoned the trail after a while and started exploring the walled garden instead. There were some really pretty flowers here... ...and some slightly scary-looking vegetables! I always imagine walled gardens as being small, but this one was quite extensive. We did a complete loop around the edges of it... ...and I was surprised to find when we reached the far corner that there were even some palm trees here Some of them were really quite big! After the walled garden, our next stop was the Swan Pond. There is a trail which you can follow all the way around the pond, but we were looking for the start of a different trail, called the Dolphin Trail. The Dolphin trail was described as a coastal path, which sounded like a lot of fun. We found the signposts for it and soon had some great views out across the sea. There were some nice beaches in places, although at other times the smell of seaweed was quite strong! The signs for the trail were a bit confusing and we had initially walked in the opposite direction to the one I'd expected, which meant we ultimately came round in a loop and had to try the path again, walking in the other direction. In this direction the path was a bit more wooded. There were still some great views though. The path eventually brought us back around to the front of the castle. The grounds here were lovely too. We didn't go inside the castle; I suspect the best views are probably from the outside. Instead we followed a continuation of the Dolphin trail, which took us right down to the sea. As we walked along the beach we had some brilliant views back towards the castle. From there it was quite a steep climb up, back towards the car park. We had been going to get a snack at Culzean, but it was quite busy because of Father's Day and there was a huge queue for the cafe. We decided instead to drive in the general direction of Ardrossan, in the hope of finding somewhere to get a late lunch/early dinner. When we'd been looking at the map earlier, we'd identified Kilmarnock as a fairly big town on our route which might have restaurant options. Unfortunately, finding something to eat once again turned out to be a bit problematic. We tried stopping at what looked like a large pub/restaurant outside Kilmarnock, but were told that they had no free tables until 8pm When we drove into Kilmarnock itself, first impressions were that it looked rather run-down. We were greeted by a sign informing us that Kilmarnock was "Scotland's most improved town", but it looked like there might still be quite a lot of room for improvement! We ended up eating at a drive-through McDonalds, which may not have been quite what we'd planned but it was at least very filling Once we'd eaten we set off towards Ardrossan, where the ferry terminal for Arran is located. We had a bit of a wait until it was time to check in for our ferry. The tickets say that the last check-in was 19.30, with the ferry due to depart at 20.00, but when we got to the ferry terminal some time after 19.00 there was no one there. The ferry itself eventually turned up shortly after 19.30 and we were waved aboard. It's only a fairly short journey to Arran so I wasn't sure whether this was going to be one of those ferries where you're not allowed to leave your car. But it turned out that it was one where we were allowed up on deck, which was nice It was still quite bright outside and so we had some lovely views as we sailed closer to Arran. As you can see in the pictures, the sea was lovely and calm today so it was a very smooth crossing. The ferry pulled into Brodick, the main town on the Isle of Arran, at 20.55. From there we had a short drive across the island to the small village of Blackwaterfoot where we are staying. We pulled over to look at the beautiful views, then realised the hotel we're staying in is actually just across the road. I booked the hotel at quite short notice and chose it purely on the basis that there were two hotels on Arran with vacancies and this was the only one out of the two which served breakfast. It turns out to have been a really good pick, because this is the view from our bedroom window It's exciting to be on a new island and we're definitely looking forward to exploring more of Arran tomorrow.
  16. This is a holiday which has been planned completely at the last minute. I handed in my notice three months ago and yesterday was my final day at work. It wasn't finalised until quite recently that I would be able to finish yesterday and take the coming week off as holiday and that uncertainty, combined with the general uncertainty caused by Covid, meant that we hadn't booked anything in advance. I only starting looking at possible destinations on Monday night and it was Tuesday/Wednesday before I was actually making plans and bookings. But we do now have a plan and quite an exciting one, which involves visiting several new Scottish islands. We really enjoyed the islands we visited in Scotland last year, so hoping that this trip will be equally fun. The first step for today was just to get as far as Scotland and so I booked a hotel room to stay overnight in Hawick, which is fast on its way to becoming our most-visited Scottish town! While there isn't anything particularly exciting in Hawick itself to necessarily merit coming here so many times, it's in a really convenient location and around 260 miles from Nuneaton, which is about the limit that feels reasonable to travel north in one day. With so many trips to Northumberland and/or Scotland since the pandemic started, I've been running out of ideas for places to stop en route. There are plenty of National Trust places that look interesting, but you still have to book a slot on weekends and it's prohibitively difficult to predict what half hour slot you might arrive somewhere in when travelling such long distances. After a bit of googling for non-National Trust places on Wednesday night, I came up with the suggestion of stopping at a place called Aysgarth Falls in the Yorkshire Dales national park. It was in the right general direction, just a slight diversion from the A1M, and it looked really pretty in photos. We didn't start packing until this morning, so it was around 11am before we left home and probably about 2pm when we pulled up at the car park for the falls. Unfortunately, in what seems to be becoming a bit of a theme for this year's travels, the car park was completely full and, with numerous other people circling round trying to find places to park, there didn't seem to be much chance of finding a space. Slightly disappointed, we drove back up the small road we'd come down to the main road where we had just driven past what looked to be a pub serving food. I thought perhaps that if we had lunch now, by the time we'd finished eating then the car park might have calmed down a bit and we'd have more luck getting a space. This seemed like a good plan, but we made the cardinal error of committing to going into a pub and being allocated a table without actually seeing what was on the menu When the menu arrived it was.... limited. There were only four main options for lunch, of which the only one I could conceivably stand a chance of eating was a steak and mushroom pie. I wasn't wildly enthusiastic about this, but figured I could probably pick the mushrooms out and it was definitely the best available option. Tim asked for mine to come without the unspecified vegetables mentioned on the menu and to swap what looked like very chunky chips for skinny fries. Unfortunately, the day continued to go not quite according to plan when the kitchen was out of skinny fries. Tim negotiated for me to have bread instead, which seemed to cause great commotion in the kitchen and necessitate two further trips to our table by the waitress, first to ask whether I wanted sliced bread or homemade bread, and secondly to ask whether I wanted white or brown Eventually the food came and the pie hugely surpassed my expectations; the meat was really nice and I didn't find a single mushroom in it! The bread was very nice too, although slightly bizarrely after all the fuss of asking me whether I wanted white or brown and me asking for white, I got a mixture of both types. This had all taken quite some time, so by the time we'd also had pudding and then settled up, it was nearly 4pm and I was feeling optimistic that the car park for the waterfalls ought to have quietened down a bit. We drove back down the road and the good news was that there were indeed now a handful of spaces available We parked and started following a sign posted trail towards the Middle and Lower Falls. There are three parts to the waterfalls, with the Upper Falls being the smallest. It felt like we only had to walk a few hundred metres from the car park before we reached the Middle Falls. This time last week we had been in Wales, visiting the enormous waterfall at Pistyll Rhaeadr. This one didn't seem quite as impressive, although the view was perhaps slightly better from a distance. After another 10 minutes or so of walking, we came to the Lower Falls. Initially we saw them from a distance... ...and then we were able to climb down onto the rocks and get a closer view. From here we could look down the River Ure in one direction... ...and get a close-up of the falls in the other direction. Perhaps our waterfall expectations are just too high, but overall we found them a bit underwhelming and decided to give walking to the even smaller Upper Falls a miss! Instead, we got back in the car and drove onwards for another couple of hours towards Hawick. It actually turned out to be an unexpectedly scenic drive, because rather than taking us back to the A1M, the SatNav drove us through the Yorkshire Dales national park and across into Cumbria, before taking us over the border into Scotland. With arranging the holiday at such short notice, I'd been struggling to find accommodation even in Hawick, which normally has a reasonable amount of options to choose from. We're therefore staying for tonight in a fairly small hotel with a random extra bed in the room Tomorrow should be more exciting as we are driving further north to the town of Ardrossan, where we are catching a ferry to the Isle of Arran. Unfortunately, the ferries were also really booked up at such short notice, so it will be a long day; I think it will be around 21.30 by the time we are finally checking into our hotel on the island.
  17. The apartment we'd booked in Hawick was really lovely, but the blinds on the windows weren't very thick and the shape of the windows meant that the blinds didn't fully cover them. This was the resulting brightness in our room prior to 5am. That meant we had a reasonably early start to the day. We couldn't complain about how beautiful and sunny it was once we stepped outside in Hawick though After yesterday's failure to park, today we were planning to visit a (hopefully!) less popular tourist attraction; a small waterfall in the Kielder Forest. The car park was around 30 miles south of Hawick, and we were relieved to find when we arrived that there was just enough space left to park From the car park, a marked trail led us past a farm... ...and then towards the forest. From there we followed the path through the forest, alongside a stream. We crossed a bridge... ...and had a view of a tiny little waterfall. When we reached the main waterfall, it was much bigger Perhaps not quite as impressive as an Icelandic waterfall, but still very pretty. The best thing about it was that we had the views all to ourselves, which is quite unusual for a beauty spot on a bank holiday From the waterfall, the remainder of the trail took us back uphill... ...across the bridge by the smaller waterfall... ...and then alongside the river. At one point, as we were walking higher above the river, we could hear loudly gushing water nearby. We looked down and realised we were now walking past the top of the waterfall The path continued through the forest... ...finally coming back out in the open by the car park. It was a fairly short walk compared to our hillfort trek on Saturday, but a pretty one. And it was definitely a bonus to be able to enjoy the waterfall without hordes of other people
  18. It was a beautiful sunny day this morning when we woke up in Hawick. I'd decided it might be nice to do something in Scotland today rather than travelling to Northumberland again and when I was researching options last night, I found a National Trust place called St Abb's Head. It looked like it would have some beautiful coastal walks, and it was only about 50 miles away from Hawick, so we decided to give it a go. We had a lovely drive through the countryside towards the coast, with blue sky everywhere. It was only when we got within a couple of miles of St Abb's Head that we saw what looked like a large black cloud on the horizon. As we got closer, we found that the entire coastline was swathed in mist. And when we got to the National Trust car park at St Abb's Head, we found that it was both tiny and absolutely full. Oh dear! We didn't have a back-up plan for the day, so we weren't quite sure what to do. In the end we drove a few miles down the road to the nearby town of Eyemouth, where we eventually managed to park by the harbour. When we got out of the car I was slightly confused about why there was a crowd of people looking down into the water. It turned out there was a man feeding seals From the harbour we followed signs for a coastal path. It was quite windy and I was wearing my coat, but other people were getting ready for a day at the beach As you can see from the photos, it was quite misty here too. The coastal path led us along the top of a small cliff. From here we could see back towards the town. Or, at least, we would have been able to if it wasn't so misty! From the top of the cliff we could just get a tantalising glimpse of what the scenery at St Abb's Head would have been like on a different day. What we could see looked really beautiful The clifftop was supposed to be home to a fortress. It was another one of those fortresses where there isn't really much left to see. There were a few canon dotted around though. There wasn't a lot else to see in Eyemouth, so headed back to the car. Looking at the map, we realised that we weren't very far from Berwick-upon-Tweed, so we decided to give up on the idea of spending the day in Scotland and head back to England instead. Admittedly, Berwick is England's most northerly town. According to Wikipedia, it's located further north than Copenhagen We made it to Berwick without any difficulties and managed to park on the second attempt. The first attempt failed as, although we found a car park where parking was free, it required getting a special parking disk from the visitor centre. Luckily we then found a long stay car park, which was also free and didn't require a disk. The long stay car park was actually in a great location, because we were able to climb up straight from there onto Berwick's ramparts. There was a really nice path which led along the ramparts for quite a long way. On a clearer day I think there would have been some really good views of the sea. As it was, we could just make out a misty kind of blue in the distance I didn't know what to expect of Berwick, but it seemed like a really pretty little town. We continued past various fortifications... ...and came to a place where we had a view out over the river estuary. It was still quite misty in some directions... ...but as we turned a corner we could see that things were starting to look a bit brighter inland. At this point we got our first glimpse of a series of bridges across the river Tweed. First of all there was an old bridge, which looked a bit worse for wear. Beyond that was a more modern road bridge, which looked rather ugly. And beyond that was a very impressive-looking railway bridge. Once we got past the road bridge, we had a better view of the viaduct. There was a nice path along the river here, so we were able to stroll along, getting closer to it. At one point we were even lucky enough to see a train go across it The weather had definitely improved now and it was really sunny, though still a bit windy. We got closer to the viaduct and eventually walked underneath it. From the opposite side we could look up towards Berwick Castle. The path continued along the river, out of the town and into the countryside. It obviously wasn't a circular walk though, so we figured this was the point at which we'd better turn back. We had some clearer views on the way back, passing a lighthouse which definitely hadn't been visible earlier. The view of the sea from the ramparts was now a lot clearer as well Berwick was a really nice place to visit and we had a good time, even if it wasn't quite what I had originally planned
  19. When we woke up in Hawick this morning, the weather was not as sunny as the forecast had promised. The sky was rather cloudy and it looked distinctly like it might have been raining overnight. It was dry now though, so before we set off towards Northumberland for our main adventure of the day we decided to have an early morning stroll around Hawick. When we first visited Hawick last year, we were told to visit Wilton Lodge Park, which is apparently one of the best parks in Scotland. It's certainly a lot bigger than our park in Nuneaton. Once you get to the edge of the park and turn around to walk back to the town, there are some lovely views of the hills behind Hawick. I particularly liked this view with the bright yellow gorse. The park was so large that we accidentally got 7,000 steps walking around it So I was quite pleased to have an excuse to sit down for a while, as we had a drive of around 50 miles to get to our destination in Northumberland. We were planning to drive to a place called Breamish Valley in the Northumberland National Park. It was a very scenic drive, first of all through the Scottish Borders to Kelso, and then south into Northumberland. The day was still quite cloudy though and the views were all rather hazy. We were looking for a car park called Bulby's Wood, from where a marked trail was supposed to start. The car park itself wasn't terribly well marked so it took a while to find it, but we got there in the end and parked on a large grassy field next to a river. The walk was a suggestion from the Northumberland National Park website called the Breamish Valley Hillfort Trail. It was only 4.5 miles, which sounded like a manageable distance, although it did start by leading straight uphill from the car park. By this time the sky had cleared up and it looked like it might actually turn into a sunny day We certainly felt rather warm as we continued to trek uphill. Before long the river and the car park looked very far beneath us. Very far indeed! At the top of the hill was the Breamish hillfort. The walk was supposed to feature the remains of five different hillforts. This one was by far the most impressive; I ultimately struggled to even figure out where the final two were It didn't feel like it would be worth doing the walk to see the hillforts. But it was certainly worth it to see the views The good news was that now we had got to the top of the first hill, the path flattened off for a bit and the walk became a bit easier. We followed a grassy path across the top of the hill until we got to the remains of the second hillfort. There really wasn't a lot to see here, but in the photo below you might just be able to make out some bumps in the ground, which apparently were the remains of the fort's ramparts. From here the path became steeper and narrower, leading downhill through a small gorge. The path was well signposted, so there was no chance of getting lost. From here we had another uphill climb to the top of a hill called Cochrane Pike. There was supposed to be a hillfort here too, but to be honest we couldn't see it There were great views in all directions though From the top of the hill we followed a nice grassy path again. As you can probably tell, it was a little bit breezy up here! After a while, our path began to take us downhill. We had walked across the top of the hill above the trees in this photo, before climbing down into the gorge and back up again, so we could see that we were now starting to swing back round in a circle towards the car park. The path downhill was quite steep at times, but it was definitely easier going down than up. At the bottom of the hill was a little stream which had to crossed by stepping stones. It required quite a big step! Then it was another grassy path to take us back towards the car. Somewhere here we missed another hillfort or two! Even if we didn't find all the hillforts, it was a fun walk with some great views We were quite thirsty by the time we had finished, so drove to the nearby town of Wooler to find something to drink. Wooler was a pretty little town. And it had some patriotic bunting! From there it was another hour or so to drive back to Hawick. Once I got back inside the apartment I could see that I look rather... pink! It seems to have been a mistake not to wear suncream today, although it definitely wasn't obvious when we woke up this morning that the day was going to be so bright and sunny!
  20. We enjoyed our trip to Northumberland for the first May bank holiday so much that we were keen to return to the same part of the world for the second bank holiday. The only problem was that we hadn't booked anything in advance, and the second May bank holiday falls during school half terms, meaning there is a lot of demand for accommodation. When we started searching on booking.com at the start of this month, we couldn't find anything suitable available in Northumberland at all, just a handful of apartments which felt more like they were on the outskirts of Newcastle. That was disappointing, until we hit upon the idea of looking for accommodation just across the border in Scotland too. That turned out to be more successful, and we ultimately managed to book an apartment in Hawick, the small town in the Scottish borders where we first stayed last August. Driving from Nuneaton to Hawick is quite a trek (258 miles), so we wanted to make a stop en route. Last time we were in Northumberland we had looked into visiting a place called Hamsterley Forest in Durham. We didn't manage to fit it in in the end, because it was raining so much on our final day that we just had to drive straight home, so today felt like a good opportunity to make amends. We left home around 10.30 and it was some time after 2pm when we finally made it to the vicinity of the forest. It turned out to be quite a confusing place to arrive at for the first time, with numerous signs to different car parks in all directions. We eventually parked in a small car park which felt like it was in the middle of nowhere and found a picnic bench to eat our lunch. Once we'd had some food we set out to explore and soon found ourselves on a riverside path. Much to our surprise, this turned out to be a Gruffalo-themed trail. As we walked along we found several sculptures of characters from the book. First of all we found the owl... ...and then the snake. The view on the opposite side of the path was really pretty too, as we passed a field covered in bright yellow flowers. Having walked along this path for a mile or so, we came to the forest's visitor centre and main car park (where we probably should have parked!). There was a cafe here so we stopped to get a coffee and I had a slice of the most amazing chocolate orange cake, which tasted just like a jaffa cake! From there we retraced our steps back along the Gruffalo trail... ...and found that the path actually continued, higher, on the opposite side of the road from where we had parked. As we walked on this side, we had a beautiful view of the forest. We also found more Gruffalo sculptures. There was a squirrel... ...a fox... ...and my absolute favourite, the mouse The drive from the forest to Hawick was another two hours or so, so we needed to make our way back to the car. We arrived some time after 6pm and found the apartment we'd booked without any problems. It was self check-in, which definitely makes life easier. Considering it was one of the few available places left on booking.com, it really is a nice apartment. We've got a spacious living room... ...a small kitchen... ...and a bedroom with some rather startling cushions! It's really centrally located in Hawick too, so as soon as we step out of the door we have this view of the town hall All we've had time to do this evening is get some food in Hawick, but we're looking forward to exploring the local area on both sides of the border over the coming days
  21. 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 coming home via the M6 rather than the A1(M) as initially planned. The shortest day of driving was day 11, when we racked up a mere 92 miles on the Isle of Skye. The most painful day of driving was definitely day 15, with our unexpected diversion on the way back from Glen Coe Of course, this holiday hasn't just been about driving. We have travelled on no fewer than 11 ferries over the course of the two weeks, covering an estimated 445 miles at sea. The longest ferry journey was the crossing from Kirkwall to Lerwick, which took eight hours on the way out, while the shortest was the crossing from Yell to Unst, which probably took less than ten minutes. The choppiest crossing was without doubt Lerwick back to Kirkwall, where the waves were so big that it was hard to stay on your feet if you stood up. The ferry journeys around the Hebrides were a complete contrast, with the boats barely feeling like they were moving. The consequence of all this driving and sailing is that we haven't taken as many steps as we would on a regular holiday. My total for the fortnight is 174,088 which averages out at 10,880 per day. Perhaps the most surprising statistic is that this holiday surpasses Iceland as the most expensive trip we have ever been on I knew holiday accommodation in the UK was expensive, but I don't think I'd appreciated quite how bad value it was compared to what you could get for the same money in most other European countries we've been to. Over the course of two weeks we've spent the following: Accommodation £1,658 Eating out £483 Groceries £119 Petrol £373 Parking £10 Ferries £670 Total £3,313 £3,313 is without doubt the most we've ever spent on a single holiday. But, this trip was 16 days so the cost per day is £207. Iceland was £2,855 for 11 days, so at a cost of £259 per day it is still technically more expensive. The accommodation in Scotland feels like it was ridiculously pricey, working out at £118 per night. I guess in some cases that did include breakfast, but still... if we'd been able to go to Croatia/Montenegro/Albania as planned, the accommodation cost would have been around £45 per night. The ferries were also quite expensive, particularly the Northlink ones to Shetland and Orkney. The return fare for two people plus a car from Scrabster to Stromness was £191, while the return fare between Kirkwall and Lerwick was £331 (but the latter did include a private cabin on the way out, which was definitely worth the money). In contrast, the CalMac ferries in the Hebrides were pretty cheap. Uig to Tarbert was £46, Leverburgh to Berneray was only £21 and Lochboisdale to Mallaig was £81. Catching all these ferries did mean that we were able to visit an incredible number of islands. I've just been trying to add it up and, including those islands which we were able to drive to via a causeway, I make it 17: Orkney - Mainland, Lamb Holm, Glimp Holm, Burray, South Ronaldsay Shetland - Mainland, Yell, Unst, Trondra, Burra Inner Hebrides - Skye Outer Hebrides - Lewis and Harris, Berneray, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist, Eriskay Over the course of the holiday we've seen some amazing landscapes. One of the strangest must surely be the Gloup on Orkney... ...although the sight of submerged warships of the Orkney coast was also pretty surreal. The Fairy Glen on the Isle of Skye was so beautiful it didn't look real... ...and the views at the Quirang were pretty amazing too. We just about managed to see the famous Old Man of Storr before the rocks were swallowed up by clouds... ...and we saw another "old man", the Old Man of Hoy, on our trip out to Orkney. The holiday has also involved several waterfalls. We kicked things off with the waterfalls at Low Force... ...and High Force... ...before visiting the falls at Corrieshalloch Gorge later in the trip. On Skye we visited Mealt Falls... ...as well as the similarly named Lealt falls. The road trip has taken us past some historical sites too and we've visited no fewer than three different standing stones. We started with Stenness on Orkney... ...before visiting the Ring of Brodgar slightly down the road. Later, on Lewis, we also visited the Callanish standing stones. There have been some pretty towns too. We made an unscheduled stop in Dollar... ...had lunch in Pitlochry... ...and didn't quite get what was so special about Cromarty. Thurso was so grey we didn't bother taking any photos of it, but Stromness was much more attractive... ...and Kirkwall was memorable for its enormous cathedral. We admired the Scandinavian houses in Scalloway... ...and found Lerwick to be a sleepy little place... ...though admittedly there was more going on there than in the metropolis of Mid Yell Back on the mainland, we enjoyed revisiting Ullapool until we failed to get into a restaurant. Having microwave meals for dinner may have been the low point of the trip Once we got to the Outer Hebrides, we found Stornoway to be a colourful town. And of course, Glen Coe is a village with great views. Of course, the holiday involved a lot of driving north and we managed to visit several "most northerly" points. We started with John O'Groats for an obligatory signpost photo... ...before visiting the true most northerly point on the mainland at Dunnet Head. On the recommendation of a barman in Orkney, we then visited Britain's most northerly inhabited island, Unst, and walked along its most northerly peninsula. We also visited the Butt of Lewis, which is definitely the most northerly point of the Outer Hebrides, even though its not the most northwesterly point in Europe as the Bradt guidebook claims. However, the absolute star of the show as far as I am concerned is the sea. I suppose it should have been clear to me when we planned a trip which involved visiting lots of islands that we would see a lot of the sea, but that didn't really occur to me until partway through the holiday We have definitely seen some fantastic coastlines and beaches on the trip. During our day on Orkney we watched the waves crashing against the cliffs at Yesnaby... ...and the waves were no less impressive at Eshaness on Shetland. The sea was a lot calmer around the sea stacks at Mangersta on the Isle of Lewis, although my hair is testament to the fact that the wind was blowing just as hard The beaches on Shetland surpassed my expectations... ...but they were nothing compared to Luskentyre beach on the Isle of Harris. Meanwhile West Beach on Berneray was in a league of its own and definitely one of the highlights of the whole holiday Overall we've had a fantastic time and I think it's fair to say that we've had as much adventure as it's possible to have without getting on a plane! I'll finish the blog with my personal favourite view of the whole holiday: the old bridge at Sligachan on the Isle of Skye in the sunshine
  22. 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 driven through Hexham on the way back from Kielder Water one day and even followed a short driving route which was signposted as being a Hadrian's Wall tour, but failed to see anything which looked like a large wall! I think part of the problem was that there are lots of forts and other sites which you can visit along the length of the wall, but most of them are run by either English Heritage or the National Trust and in the current climate, you have to book your visits to both in advance. I'd thought about trying to fit in Hadrian's Wall when we were driving up through Northumberland at the start of this holiday, but when you've got a journey of more than four hours, it just felt too difficult to predict within which half hour interval we might possibly arrive at one of the sites. So ultimately we visited the waterfalls of High Force and Low Force instead. On the way back I was more confident of success though, having googled and found a car park at a place called Cawfields where the internet suggested that it was possible to park and walk to a part of the wall without having to pay to go inside anywhere. We put the postcode into the Sat Nav and off we went. It took around 90 minutes to get from Galashiels to Cawfields. The car park is owned by the Northumberland National Park and is located on the site of a former quarry. We paid £1 for parking and set off down a path in search of the elusive wall. After climbing up a slightly muddy track, we got our first glimpse. There was indeed a reasonable stretch of the wall here Finally, we'd found it A small path enabled us to walk alongside the wall for a while. We didn't want to go too far though, because we knew we still had quite a few hours in the car ahead of us to get home. Luckily there were no accidents or major delays today and we made it back home by 7pm after what has been a really exciting holiday
  23. 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 the boat. The ferry didn't seem to be completely full, which perhaps wasn't a surprise considering how early in the morning the departure was, and so once we got on board there were plenty of places to sit. It turned out to be a really pleasant journey, on another very calm sea. It wasn't long before we had a view out towards the mountains on the Isle of Skye. The only disappointing thing about the boat was the lack of opportuntities to get breakfast. I think there normally is a proper restaurant but it was closed because of Covid-19, leaving only a small outlet called "The Coffee Shack" serving refreshments. That meant that our only options for breakfast were coffee and chocolate. Still, there are worst breakfasts you can have It was actually a fairly long ferry crossing from South Uist and we weren't due to arrive in Mallaig until 11.00. This was the best route for getting home though, because it would take us as far south on the mainland as possible. The other options would have been to take a ferry back to the Isle of Skye, which would then have necessitated driving across the entire Isle of Skye, or to take a ferry from Stornoway to Ullapool, which would have landed us quite far north. We arrived in Mallaig promptly at 11am. We were starving by this point, so our first plan was to drive to Fort William, about an hour away, to get lunch. We made it to Fort William shortly after midday and walked through the town centre until we found a nice pub to get lunch. It was nice to finally get a proper meal after our early start. Then we couldn't resist leaving having a little stroll by the coast before leaving. As we walked alongside the water, we found a demonstration in favour of Scottish independence. Support for independence seems to be strong in this part of the country and there were lots of people beeping their horns as they drove past. We also found a shop in the centre of town selling independence-related merchandise! Fort William is a really beautiful place and it was lovely to be here in the sunshine again. Once we'd finished admiring the views, we got back in the car and drove towards Glen Coe. Glen Coe isn't more than half an hour away from Fort William, but it's such a lovely place that I wanted to stop for a quick stroll and a coffee. I'd forgotten how long it took to get served in the Glen Coe cafe though, so the coffee break took a bit longer than I intended! It was around 4pm by the time we were leaving Glen Coe and getting back in the car to complete our drive to Hawick. We still had a fair few miles to cover, but we'd done the drive before a few weeks ago and we were planning to let the Sat Nav take us on the quicker motorway route this time, rather than a more scenic diversion we took through the Loch Lomond national park last time around. Unfortunately, what I didn't know was that there had been an accident on the main road, the A82, which leads out of Glen Coe and through Bridge of Orchy. We left Glen Coe on a small road, heading towards the A82. The views as you leave the village are really spectacular. We were expecting to get more great views as we continued through the valley, but we soon reached a huge traffic jam which stretched as far as the eye could see. It didn't appear to be moving and we could see lots of people ahead of us in the queue turning around. A bit of googling revealed that there had been an accident and that the road was closed in both directions for an unspecified amount of time. The accident had actually happened near Bridge of Orchy, which is 22 miles from Glen Coe, so the tailback was already enormous. We decided it would be better to turn around and take a diversion rather than wait. The only problem was that, when you're in the middle of the mountains, there tends to only be one road leading to the place you need to get to. Taking a diversion meant retracing our steps back to the village of Glen Coe and then continuing around the coast in the direction of Oban to a place called Connel, from where we would be able to get onto a road which would take us back to the A82, south of where the accident had happened. That was a solution to the problem, but the diversion in itself was 63 miles. The journey was complicated by the fact that we kept getting stuck behind ageing camper vans, who were driving at 30 on roads which should have been 60, and most of all by the fact that at Connel we needed to cross Loch Etive on a bridge. What we didn't realise when we started the diversion is that this bridge is single track So we spent around an hour in a queue of two miles or so waiting for our turn to get across. All this meant that it was around 10pm by the time we finally arrived in Hawick! Not the most enjoyable part of our road trip, but at least we were staying in a place that we've been to several times before, so we knew where we were going and had the code for the key box to check in
  24. 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 to make up the time on the drive and we arrived at Leverburgh around 08.10. I was fairly annoyed when we got there to find that there were no staff members to check us in at all and we needn't have bothered getting there more than 5 minutes in advance to be loaded onto the ferry! It was a fairly small car ferry and the journey across to the island of Berneray only took one hour. We had to remain in our cars throughout the journey, which was happily a nice smooth one I hadn't been planning for us to spend much time on Berneray. In fact, initially when I booked the ferry tickets I thought that Berneray was just the name of the port we were travelling to on the island of North Uist, as opposed to being a separate island in its own right. It was only when reading the Outer Hebrides guidebook over the past few days that I realised Berneray was an island, albeit connected to North Uist via a causeway. The entire island only has an area of around 10 square kilometres so it definitely isn't a big place but the guidebook had suggested that it had a very impressive beach, so we decided to investigate that before moving south to North Uist. Following the instructions in the guidebook, we drove down a tiny road with a signpost towards a picnic spot. This led to a grassy area where we were able to park and follow a path through the sand dunes towards the beach. The beach was marked on the map as "West Beach". The sands stretch for approximately four miles, all the way down the west coast of Berneray. As with Luskentyre beach yesterday, the expanse of golden sand and turquoise sea was incredible. I think this beach was slightly better than Luskentyre though, because at 10am in the morning we had it all to ourselves It was so beautiful that we couldn't resist going for a walk. We must have walked several miles down the sands and then several miles back, because by the time we left the beach we both had over 10,000 steps on our FitBits. It was one of those situations where you just want to get around the next corner. But corners on beaches can be quite deceptive When we eventually did get to the corner, towards the northern edge of Berneray, we had a view back towards where we'd come from on the Isle of Harris. It was a really lovely experience to have a beach like this to ourselves. And it even got so warm towards the end of the walk that I was able to take my fleece off Once we'd finished exploring the west beach, we decided to have a quick drive around the rest of Berneray to see whether there were any other sights we might be missing. We found that there is an east beach too, although its not as big as the west beach and seemed to have more seaweed. Otherwise, Berneray was mostly green and full of sheep Tim had noticed that the island had a shop and bistro. The impression I'd got from the limited research I'd done was that there weren't a lot of places to eat on either North or South Uist, so we decided to take advantage of having found somewhere on Berneray and get some lunch. I was particularly impressed when we parked outside the shop and found this weather-forecasting stone It turned out that the bistro had a lovely terrace and the weather was surprisingly warm enough for us to sit and eat outside. By the time we'd finished lunch and were ready to leave Berneray it was around 1pm and we'd somehow managed to spend 3.5 hours on an island that's about 2 miles by 4 From Berneray we crossed to the island of North Uist via a causeway. North Uist is a much bigger island and it has its own sandy beaches, which we'd probably have been more impressed by if we hadn't already had so much fun on the beach at Berneray. Our main plan on North Uist was to stop at a nature reserve by a place called Balranald. The guidebook had said that it was possible to park here and that there was a 3-mile marked nature trail. We found the car park and started following little red arrows around the trail. The path took us past more sandy beaches... ...through a grassy area with grazing cows... ...and then past an increasingly rocky coastline. We passed small lochs... ...some of which had to be crossed... ...and enjoyed the views out to sea. It was amazing, because one minute there was a bright blue sky like in the picture above and then the next minute a mist started to roll in and we could barely see the sea. Luckily we could still see the red arrows marking the path. The path led us up and down over sand dunes, before finally coming back in a loop to where we'd parked the car. Once we got back in the car we drove down to the bottom of North Uist, crossed a causeway onto the small island of Benbecula, and then crossed a final causeway onto the island of South Uist. We're staying in a small B&B on South Uist, not far from the port of Lochboisdale where we're departing by ferry tomorrow morning. The room is fine for one night and the host is a very friendly lady who booked us a table at a local restaurant so that we could get an evening meal. Our reservation wasn't until 19.30 so we still had some time to explore. It was a gorgeous sunny evening as we drove around the bottom of South Uist. When looking at the map I realised that there was one more island we could drive across to on a causeway: Eriskay. One final island was too tempting an opportunity to miss, so off we went across the causeway Eriskay is another tiny island, of a similar size to Berneray. It was really pretty though, and from here we had a few out across lots of little even smaller islands. It was beautiful, especially with the sun starting to set. Once we'd admired the views for a while it was time to drive back across Eriskay to South Uist. We had no idea what the restaurant which had been booked for us was going to be like, but luckily it was fine. Tim had a Thai curry, I had a chilli con carne and we both had a beautiful dessert. It was a nice end to what has been a fun but slightly tiring day in the Outer Hebrides
  25. 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 journey from yesterday, driving down to the town of Tarbert on the Isle of Harris. There's a famous gin distillery there and we'd wanted to visit the shop when we got off the ferry yesterday afternoon, but unfortunately it closed at 4pm and so we were just slightly too late for it. Once we'd completed our shopping we drove further south on Harris, towards a place called Luskentyre. We initially missed the turning we were looking for, because a lot of the road signs around here only have the place names in Gaelic and I didn't immediately realise that the sign to "Losgaintir" was the one we needed to follow. It wasn't too difficult to turn around and we knew we were heading in the right direction when we began to get views of golden sands. This is Luskentyre beach. It was recently voted as one of the top 25 beaches in the world in a Tripadvisor poll. A beach like this certainly wasn't what I would have expected to find in the Outer Hebrides. There were miles of golden sand and the sea was a beautiful turquoise shade of blue. If we'd had a blue sky, I think the photos would have looked quite tropical. But in reality it was a bit cold and windy It was lovely to visit though and amazing to find such a wonderful beach with so few people on it. Definitely a contrast to the pictures of Bournemouth beach which have been in the press this year! Once we'd been for a walk on the sands, it was time to get back in the car and drive towards Lewis. We were heading to the western side of the island, towards a region called Uig (not to be confused with Uig on the Isle of Skye!). This part of Lewis seems really mountainous and we had some stunning views as we drove. We were heading towards a small place called Mangersta, which turned out to be a little difficult to track down. With the help of Google maps, we eventually found the location we were looking for and parked up by the side of the road. Mangersta is famous for its cliffs and sea stacks and a picture of the sea stacks here features as the cover on the Bradt guide to the Outer Hebrides. There didn't seem to be a defined path here, so we just walked across the grass towards the cliffs. Here were the sea stacks which we recognised from the front of the guidebook They were really beautiful and the sea looked unbelievably calm again today. The view in the opposite direction was pretty impressive too. Sea stacks successfully located, we began to retrace our route back towards the centre of Lewis. There were more scenic mountain views as we drove towards a place called Callanish. We spotted more golden sands in the distance too. Callanish is famous for its standing stones, which are one of the most visited sites on the Outer Hebrides. The stones here are thought to have been erected around 3000 BC. They were interesting to see but honestly, I think the Ring of Brodgar on Orkney was probably more impressive. You could get really close to these stones though and there weren't many other people around. They're in a really scenic area too, with nice views down towards a loch. Normally there's a visitor centre here to explain more about the history of the place, but like many other things it is closed this year because of the pandemic. From Callanish we drove further north, towards a place called Port of Ness. From Port of Ness a small road leads a couple of miles further north to a place called Butt of Lewis. There's a lighthouse here at the northernmost tip of Lewis. The Bradt guidebook, rather bizarrely, claims that this is the most northwesterly point in Europe. It clearly isn't, but it is the most northern point of the Outer Hebrides and as we've visited a few other "most northern" points this holiday, it was fun to visit this one too That was the end of our whistle-stop tour of Lewis and Harris. Tomorrow morning we're taking a ferry to North Uist and working our way down to the bottom of South Uist, from where we're taking a ferry back to the mainland on Saturday morning.
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