Archive for the ‘Scotland’ Category

After breakfast today we were all packed up ready for the ferry to Ireland.  We had about 3 hours to get there and it was only an hour down the road so the couple who owned the B & B we stayed at told us about a little road that led down to a beach that we could walk along to a castle.  From the beach we could walk about 10 minutes along the sand to Culzean Castle.  Once we reached it we could then get up into the castle from the beach without having to pay entry at the car park.  Sneaky eh.

Off to the castle via the sand / rock.

Culzean Castle sitting up on the cliffs.

Don’t stress Shaun it’s not that far to go….

So we had a look around the castle for a little bit before continuing on to catch the ferry.

The gardens of the castle.

Tina hanging out on the walls of the castle.

The front of Culzean Castle.

It took us about 2.5hrs on the ferry to reach Belfast.  We found some seats, had a drink and snack while we cruised.  We hit Belfast at about 5:30pm and went straight to our next B & B.  The rain had stopped and there was even glimpses of blue sky so we went for a walk to a little café for dinner.  After dinner we continued our walk around a few of the streets near where we were staying the night before calling it a day.

On the ferry Ireland bound.

Our first look at Ireland.

Goodbye Scotland – what a beautiful, friendly country with – ‘Hands down the best Salmon’ any of us have tasted…… the whiskey wasn’t bad either, beer was good too, kilts were pretty, great mountains, lochs and coast line….! Damn nice place – but your weather sucks.



Posted: July 25, 2012 in Scotland

Today we took off to Glasgow.  Staying in B&B’s we have all been taking it in turns booking our next stop.  We couldn’t give a bad wrap to any of the places we have stayed yet – they have all been great value, very nice people, good positions and great food.  This was all about to end.  Neil and Lea picked out this spot.  It fit into our budget, looked pretty central in Glasgow, they sounded nice on the phone – what could be the problem????  Off to Glasgow it is.

We called past Urquhart Castle for the mandatory photos on our way, then went down the exact same road that we shouldn’t have been on the day before – south to Glasgow.


Urquhart Castle.

One last view of Loch Ness before we head out of town.

Lunch time.

We plugged the address into the sat nav and made our way there.  Entering the city we ended up driving through a heap of different streets and they progressively got more and more dirty and haggard looking.  When we pulled up at our accommodation we were pretty much in the Bronx of Glasgow.  There was a seedy looking man sitting out the front.  A quick group discussion and we took off again – we didn’t get out of the car, we didn’t even turn the engine off.

It was only about 4 in the afternoon so we thought we could just head out the road a bit and find a nice B&B.  The next day we were catching the ferry across to Belfast from Cairnryan, which is south of Glasgow anyway.  We got down to Cairnryan to find there was a big golf tournament on and everything was booked out.  We had passed some B&B’s on the way so we went back their way.  It was now getting late and the option of sleeping in the car was looking more and more likely.  Lea had just about lost it at this stage, just laughing uncontrollably and saying, “What are we going to do?”


We were getting some nice scenery on the way.

We ended up somehow, on a kind of back road that ran pretty close to the coast.  There were mainly just farms around with not much else.  We came around a corner and all of a sudden there was a B&B sign out the front of a property.  We pulled straight in to enquire.  Lucky for us there was no one there and the price per room was exactly what we’d been paying.  This place turned out really nice, the couple was very friendly.  They are a Welsh couple that have travelled around for most of their lives for his work, and have now settled in Scotland.

Another nice loch we came across.

We finally had a bed for the night.

Loch Ness

Posted: July 23, 2012 in Scotland

We took off into town first thing in the morning to the visit the Loch Ness center.  It was geared towards tourists so we thought rather than going through the whole tour and being told all the myths and assumptions that we had already heard – maybe it would be better to buy a tourist map and find our own way around.  So we asked a few questions and planned a route then took off.


Heading south from Drumnadrochit (which put us in an anti clock wise direction) we headed towards Fort Augustus.  We pulled in for a look around.  Walking through town we noticed a sign to an animal park, it had rare breeds including Highland Cattle.  It was really a kids park but the sign had Tina sold from the start.  We walked down the path and after a 2 pound donation to get in – we came across goats, chooks, sheep, pigs, rabbits, geese and yes Highland Cattle, aka ‘Furry Cows’.  Photo time for the next hour and we were back out again.  Although the furry cows were not performing for us – just laying there in the middle of the paddock and not looking.

The advanced one – Look familiar Matt and Rach?

Furry Cow.

Get the 243 out Jono.

Baby goat and Shaun.

After a look around the town we jumped back in the car and continued on our way…. or so we thought.  The next couple of places we wanted to visit had us go inland for a little bit then back to the edges of Loch Ness.  We were all just taking in the scenery and talking away when we noticed the names of the towns didn’t really match the ones on the map that we should have been passing through.  After about an hour or more we realized that we had missed a turn and were heading in the wrong direction.  So we turned around and went back again.  One positive that came out of this was, however, we found more highland cattle really close to the road and Tina got some great shots of one in particular.

Loch Ness.

In the forrest around Loch Ness.

Another ‘Furry Cow’.


We drove back to were we took the wrong turn and made our way back home.

Highlands and the West Coast.

Posted: July 22, 2012 in Scotland

We drove from Stirling to Carrbridge, which was a nice drive.  We were heading into the highlands now.  Finding our B & B for the night we found they also ran a restaurant.  Being fairly late we decided to eat there rather than heading out again.  The couple that ran it were really nice, they had a large sitting room where they told us to relax with a couple of drinks as they prepared dinner.

While waiting, a group of 3 came to join us.  One couple and an older man.  They were all Irish, the older man and his wife had been coming here for over 20 years, however his wife had passed away and this was his first time back since – so his daughter and her husband came with him.  We got talking and they were asking us about our trip.  Malvern, the older man had travelled extensively around Scotland and of course Ireland so he went right through our itinerary we had planned.  Malvern pointed out a few things we should really not miss and a couple of things we could probably skip.  So things have changed slightly but it looks like we are generally on the right track.

After dinner I went for a walk to have a look around Carrbridge just before it got dark.  I found the old bridge that crossed the river, it was about 200 years old.  A large arch shape it had been damaged over the years from major floors.  The parapets and side walls had been washed away but the rest was still standing.  Looking at how high the water must have been to damage the top of the bridge they were obviously major floods.


The Old Bridge.

The next morning we took off calling past the bridge again so the others could have a look – then into the highlands and across to the west coast.  We drove north west towards Inverness and headed to the coast from there on a route Malvern recommended.  Tina is in love with the ‘furry’ highland cattle and was desperate the find some so we had our eyes open ready for them.

We came past signs to Rogie falls, which had hiking tracks and BBQ area so we called in to stretch our legs and have a look.  Checking out the information in the car park area it said that salmon could be seen jumping at the falls trying to make their way up stream.  It was only a 5 minute walk to the falls so we went for a look.


The Salmon can actually jump up this section of the falls.

We got to the falls and there was a large viewing platform with information boards about the salmon and the journey they make from the river to the ocean and back again to breed.  We watched for a while but couldn’t see any action.  There was a path that led down to a suspension bridge that crossed the river so we walked across.  There were 2 men working on the other side building a board walk along the edge of the river.  We got talking to them about the salmon and they said that yesterday they were jumping all day at the waterfall, but had only seen a couple today.  They showed us a path to walk a bit further where we should so them so we took off to have a look.  After waiting for a while and taking some photos we still hadn’t seen any and we had to keep moving so we decided to make our way back.  It would have been good to see them jumping up the water falls but it was good to get out and have a walk around anyway.

Rogie Falls.

Lea trying to conquer her fears walking over the suspension bridge – Neil is enjoying this.

Shaun and Neil resting at the falls.

Tina – how’s the serenity.

We kept driving making our way through the bottom part of the highlands past Inverness and out towards the west coast which everyone had told us was the best part of Scotland.  The scenery was really amazing, so many photo opportunities – we stopped every so often and took a few shots then kept driving.


Road leading to the coast.

We made it to the coast in the early afternoon and were getting a bit hungry to we decided to look for somewhere for lunch.  We found a really nice little coastal town called Shieldaig.  We stopped for lunch at a small café called ‘Nanny’s’.  It was right on the water and there was a view of an island out in front of us.  According to the lady who served us lunch, there is a pair of sea eagles that nest on the island each year.  They are huge big birds and there is a group studying them who have set up a camera in the nest.  This year however there was a really bad storm and they think the chick was blown out or fell from the nest because it has been abandoned – they hoping they’ll nest again next year, the adult eagles are still around the island.


Hot chocolate and lunch at Nanny’s

The island on the right is where the Eagles nest.

We continued our drive along the coast and saw more of the amazing Scottish coastline and country side.  It was getting later in the afternoon when and we had gotten down to where you cross over to the Isle of Skye.  We had planned to go across if we had time but unfortunately it was getting too late.  We still had to drive back inland to Loch Ness and there was a castle we had planned on stopping at also – Eileen Donan.


Mountains and Lakes.

We made our way to castle Eileen Donan.  This was a really cool castle.  We didn’t go in but there were some great photo opportunities.  It was positioned right on the edge of a loch so we spent some time getting photos from either side, looking across the water and then down onto it.


Castle Eileen Donan.

Moving on we high tailed it to our next stop and on the way….. Yes! We found Tina some ‘Hairy Cows’ – or Highland Cattle to the rest of us.


Highland Cattle.

The place we stayed at was called Drumnadrochit, we were there for 2 nights and it is right on Loch Ness.  We got in at about 8:00pm and went straight out to the local for something to eat before the kitchen closed.  There was a sign out the front of the pub that said ‘Voted Scotland’s best whiskey bar 2007, 2008, 2009.  Inside they had over 300 different whiskey’s to choose from!  We had our dinner then Tina and I decided to try some of their whiskey.  They had a folder with info on all of them but we just said “Give us something local – whatever you recommend”.  We can’t recall the name, but it was really good – we were once again so tired, it turned out to be a nice little night cap.  We had a drive around Loch Ness planned in the morning so we all retired for the night.


Fiddlers – 300 different whiskey’s.

Neil and Shaun and Pints.

Lea and Tina.

Tina and her Whiskey!


Posted: July 22, 2012 in Scotland

First thing in the morning we went to the Wallace Memorial.  We have all seen the movie Braveheart and assumed it was a fairly glorified account of the William Wallace story.  We found that in fact it was not far from the truth of what happened.   His wife was murdered by the English, which triggered him to evoke revenge on as many Englishmen as possible.  He quickly attracted support, mostly from the North of Scotland and put together a small army.  He many used gruella warfare tactics.

William Wallace monument.

Stirling Bridge where he out smarted the English and defeated them completely out numbered and against all odds.  He was made guardian of Scotland however because he was not of Noble background he got no support from the Scottish army and in fact was betrayed.  So he retreated back to the forests using guerrilla tactics again for several years.  He initiated another big up rising and met the English army as they marched north into Scotland where again the Scottish army abandoned him on the battlefield as the English charged.  He was beaten comprehensively but escaped capture.  He was finally captured and charged with high treason among other crimes.  He was hung, drawn and quartered.

 Shaun and a member of the Wallace army.

Tina ready to goto war with her umbrella.

At the monument the full story was told as accurate as historians could manage.  The actual Wallis sword is on display and they have costumed actors doing regular shows.  The monument itself is a tall tower that you walk up through 3 different levels then out onto the top to get some great views out over Stirling and the surrounding country.

 William Wallace’s sword.

Looking over the Stirling River from the top of the monument where Wallace defeated the English.

After leaving the monument we went back to Castle Croft to park the car then walked up to the castle itself.  This was not as big as Edinburgh, however we got some great views from up on the walls.


Stirling Castle.

We set off through the castle exploring each area.  The first section was setup for kids with lots of hands on stuff like medieval instruments, arts and crafts and jester’s tricks and pranks.  There was a nice garden area out side then in the next building was a collection of artwork.

The gardens inside the castle.

Stirling Castle.

We walked through the King and Queen’s apartments.  The setup was similar to that of the English castles that we have been through, with waiting rooms and drawing rooms etc.  All decorated with artwork and detailed architecture.

Suit of armour in the apartments.

A fire place and some art work in the King’s sitting room.

A Jester in the Queens bedroom.

The kitchen was setup so you could walk through it and see the examples of how they prepared food and cooked it for the residents and guests of the castle.

Inside the kitchens.


After more photos out side we decided to move on, as we still had to drive to our next stop over – Carrbridge, now getting into the highland area.


Tina on the wall of the Castle.


Posted: July 21, 2012 in Scotland

Time to move on.  Edinburgh was really cool, we all had a ball there but it is now off to Stirling for a night before heading through some of the highlands then on to Loch Ness.

Yesterday at the people center we also got a form to fill out which enabled us to get another copy of Angus’s birth certificate, which had been lost in the floods back at home last year.  We filled the form out and dropped it in on our way through town – so that should get posted back home to Australia.

After getting all that done we headed off towards Bo’ness.  When we arrived we found a park and headed to the address where Angus was born.  It was a large block of flats right in town and he was in No, 115.  It was still there – probably had a few coats of paint over the years.  We took some photos then had a look around town.

115 North St Bo’ness – Angus’s birthplace and home.

Yeeeew – We found it!

Lea outside the 115 apartment.

On the way back to the car we decided to call into the post office and ask where the address of Angus’s parents is – we thought that might be worth having a look at while we were in town.  That is when our day took a very interesting turn…  Neil walked in and spoke to the person behind the counter, asking about the address we had written down.   Before he could really get an answer a man in the line jumped in and said, “I can help you! Come with me”.

This man spoke in a thick Scottish accent at about 100 miles an hour.  He asked about the family and Angus then said that he knew the old postmaster in town who had been here for all his life.  He is retired now but knows all the families and where they all live.  He then pulled out his phone and said, “They call me Sean Connery, but I’ve shaved my beard, now I’m going it back again, but look at this” He scrolls through some photos to 1 of him standing on a beach somewhere – and he did look very similar to Sean Connery.  He then started telling us about his family and so on.  He was one of those amped up, super enthusiastic people and really funny – just joke after joke.  His name was Brian.

He jumped in his car and had us follow him.  For the next few hours we followed him around as he knocked on random doors and spoke to all these different people.  We spoke to a lot of different Hamilton’s (Angus’s surname).  We found out that the Hamilton’s were all over Bo’ness.  There was a massive old estate that he took us to – abandoned now, but was once where Duke Hamilton lived it was huge, it even had the remains of an old chapel on it’s grounds.  We visited the Church of Scotland where most of the family got married and it had a stone carving of the Hamilton coat of arms above the door.

The local Church of Scotland.

The Hamilton family crest above the door of the Church.

Brian had by now assumed the roll of our own personal tour guide.  He would just stop the car in the street, jump out and run back to us and point out an old building, or distillery, or graveyard.  He gave us a full history of when the town was booming due to the coalmines.  We went to the local library where he had them pull all these old archives out and search for more info.  He told us about his wife and likened her to the Loch Ness monster hahahahaha.  He was out of control, did not stop talking the whole time.  We kept on saying, “Brian are we keeping you from something? You can leave us if you want”  and he is going, “No, no I love helping people”.  Then he said, “Let me show you my garage”.

We even found Hamilton Lane.

Duke Hamilton’s old estate.

So he took us to his house, he gave us all a can of his favorite soft drink and showed us his garage.  It was meticulously organized and clean – you could eat your lunch off the floor.  He had all the tools hanging in their place on the walls, every thing was in draws and labeled.  He even had 3 pairs of the same hedge trimmers 1 labeled ‘front hedge’, 1 labeled ‘back hedge’ and 1 labeled ‘front lawn’.  Yes he may have been a little obsessive, compulsive.  He then took us to his ‘summer house’, which was a shed in the back yard that he had fully furnished with a couple of armchairs and a radio.  By now he was out of control, so hypo and talking so fast – he even pulled a chair out from the wall to show us the power point behind it!  Tina and Lea were nearly on the ground laughing by this stage.

Brian also told us that James Watt lived and carried out research in Bo’ness.  Watt is responsible for revolutionising the steam engine in the mid 1700’s which pretty much changed the way factory’s operated throughout the UK then the world.  The cottage pictured below is built on the Duke of Hamilton’s estate because he owned the coal mines at the time and they were worried about Watt’s research being copied.

This is the James Watt cottage.

Brian was a great guy and was really proud of his home and his town – he really wanted us to see and enjoy Bo’ness instead of just passing through.  We tried to buy him lunch to say thank you but he would not accept he just kept saying, “No, no I just like helping people”.  Then just before we left him he did give us his address and say, “I’m not a writer so I won’t respond to you – however what you can do for me is send me a post card from the area you live in Australia so I can see your home”.  Hahaha good on ya Brian.

Neil, Lea, Brian and Shaun.

We left Bo’ness and travelled a short way to Stirling, where we were staying the night.  We had pre booked at a B&B right at the base of Stirling Castle called Castle Croft.  It was really nice.  A great price and very nice people ran it.  The lady there told us all the good places to eat and ran through everything we should do in our short stay at Stirling.


Edinburgh Cont.

Posted: July 21, 2012 in Scotland

We were hoping the rain would have stopped by now however it hasn’t.  Today we planned on going to the people center to do some research on Angus then have a look around Edinburgh Castle.

At the people center Neil went in with the small amount of information we had while Lea waited (they only had 1 computer free with rules of 1 person per computer).  Tina and I went for a walk around the streets.  We came back after an hour or so and when Neil came out he had found quite a bit of info.  Angus was born at his home in Bo’ness, which we knew already, however we now had the address, his parent’s names and address and grandparent’s names and addresses, also the church they were married at.  We had already planned to go through Bo’ness tomorrow on our way to Stirling, should be interesting to see if the old house is still there or not.

Edinburgh Castle is built on a large area of rock, which is an old vent from the volcano; it sits up looking out over much of the city.  We start exploring the inside first because the rain is getting heavier.

Edinburgh Castle.

Edinburgh Castle is home to the Scottish crown jewels.  We checked them out first and learned that they were actually buried for over 100 years when the English invaded.  They were then buried again during WWII.  They are now on display much like the English crow jewels we saw at the tower of London.

Home of the Scottish Crown Jewels.

Once outside again we found the rain had stopped so we took the opportunity to look around the grounds of the castle.  We walked through a courtyard area and up some steps to a massive canon called Mons Meg.

This massive canon was presented to the King of Scotland in 1457 and was used in many conflicts.  However the size of it meant it was too big and heavy to move around, so it was retired and used only as a salute gun.  There were reports of gun rocks being found up to 2 miles away.  It was last fired in 1681 when it’s barrel exploded.

Mons Meg.

The platform that the Mons Meg was setup on was near the center of the castle but was up quite high and overlooked Edinburgh providing some great views.  Just below was a small area of grass with headstones around the perimeter.  These were the headstones for dogs that had died in service.

Dog’s Graveyard.

We looked through the Royal Scots Museum, it provided information and paid tribute to the Scots in all the wars they have fought in throughout history.  One story that stood was of a young soldier whose wife had been in winter quarters and decided to return home to Scotland.  She gave him their baby and left.  He was on patrol and had nowhere to keep the baby so he put it in his knapsack and fought a battle with it.

Fighting with a baby on his back.

We continued around visiting the prisoner of war museum and the old prisons within the castle.

Down to the Prison.

The prisoners beds.

The prisoners would make models to pass time – This is a model ship.

Back outside the rain had held of so we got some photos from the castle walls before calling it a day and leaving.