Off on a Wet & Wild (or wild and sexy) adventure with Haggis Adventures! And only the start of our highland induction too..
This was just after the Hogmanay celebrations and I was pretty eager to get acquainted with the beguiling highlands of Scotland, especially the Isle of Skye as well as Glencoe, where the famous scene from Skyfall (Bond movie) was shot.
the postcard perfect, Skye
But first, we passed some rather scenic routes – here are the Falls of Dochart in the Scottish Highlands..
Killin lies at the centre of the area known as Breadalbane (Gaelic Braghad Albainn meaning ‘the high ground of Scotland’) and the hills of the Tarmachan Ridge and Lawers Range can be seen clearly from the main street of the village. What Killin is most noted for, however, are the Falls of Dochart, where the River Dochart tumbles into the heart of the village beneath the Dochart Bridge. Apparently the worse the weather, the more pretty and dramatic the falls get, so many people flock here in the rainy season.
the William Wallace monument
The Wallace Monument is situated on the top of Abbey Craig, overlooking the river Forth and the Forth Valley. Only Stirling Castle, a few miles away across the river Forth, makes a bigger impression on the area. Abbey Craig at one time was the site of a hill fort and in 1297 William Wallace camped there before defeating the English attempting to cross the Forth at the Battle of Stirling Bridge.
And then, we reach Glencoe..
As the landscape and terrain morphed into something more eerie and quiet, I knew we were entering Glencoe. You can feel that this place might just be the birth place of superstitions and tales from the dark side. Oh, I was totally feeling the vibe. Wish I had a horror movie to watch that same night!
Sixteen miles south of Fort William this tiny village that is besieged by soaring mountains on one side and Loch Leven on the other, is not a vision I will soon forget. As we enter this rugged terrain, I realize just how tiny human beings are in the greater scheme of things, and just how dwarfed we can be by the surrounding natural elements, all the things that make the Scotland Highlands so marvelously unique and dauntingly beautiful. The setting near the Glencoe valley is quite historic as it is near the site of the Massacre of Glencoe in the 1690s, in which MacDonalds and Hendersons were killed by the Campbells acting on the orders of King William II. The village is not actually in Glencoe but occupies an area known as Carnoch. Native Gaelic speakers who belong to the area always refer to the village as A’Charnaich, meaning “the place of cairns”.
the hauntingly beautiful Glencoe
Glencoe is surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery and is popular with serious hill-walkers, rock and ice climbers. It has been seen in numerous films, including Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as the home of Hagrid, and the 2012 James Bond movie Skyfall. I totally fell in love with this place. I really want to come back and spend more time in Glencoe on my next visit as we really didn’t have much time here.
About 1.5 miles from the village, along the road into the glen is the excellent Glencoe Ski Centre a modern facility with an ecotourism bent. This is a great place to stop for lunch as the food is pretty awesome, service is zippy as well. I highly recommend the Venison stew or Venison Burger – 100% awesomeness on a plate!
the Glencoe ski center
Mike is too busy to care about anything else other than the 100% awesomeness on his plate!
Glencoe is also the perfect setting for individuals, families and groups who like outdoor sports. In summer there’s the option of mountain biking, archery, orienteering, hill-walking, climbing, chairlift rides, photography, trail building, guided walks and home cooked food in the log cabin cafe. In winter, skiing, snowboarding, sledging and even avalanche rescue training if that’s your thing. 19 runs across 7 lifts catering for skiers and boarders of all levels, including the longest and steepest runs in Scotland.
Evening arrived and it was time to party the night away in Morags Lodge. Once we had settled into our rooms, ate our fill of haggis, homemade vege and beef burgers, it was time to chill out with my 21 blogger buddies, over a couple of dram of whisky!
The next day we are blessed with a gorgeous sunrise
Everyday we drove past magnificent ruins & castles.. as though it was a normal occurrence.. we were spoilt! This is the Eilean Donan Castle – filming location for the movie Highlander
Then it was onward to Skye..
The Isle of Skye gets its name from the old Norse, that translates as the misty isle. This was the old Viking reference to the Cuillin Hills which was usually shrouded in mist. As we drove along the winding roads, we noticed a fantastic backdrop which included a 50-mile-long route of mysterious moors, jagged mountains, deep and luminous lochs and towering sea cliffs. The incredible scenery had us stopping and taking tons of photos, but once night falls, there are also plenty of well lit castles and cosy pubs and restaurants to retire to as well. Along with Edinburgh and Loch Ness, Skye is one of Scotland’s top three tourist destinations and a definite must visit in our books.
The water of Sligachan promises eternal youth
Skye is the largest and most northerly large island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. The isle is dominated by the Cuillin hills, the rocky slopes of which provide some of the most dramatic mountain scenery in the country. It is suggested that the Gaelic Sgitheanach describes the winged shape of the island.
Kilt Rock was my favourite site, this entire trip. Situated to the east of the township it comprises spectacular sea-cliffs 55 metres tall, made of dolerite rock strata in many different colours. It’s really pretty and boasts a dramatic waterfall created from the outflow of Loch Mealt.
Skye’s history includes a time of Norse rule and a long period of domination by Clan MacLeod and Clan Donald. The 18th century Jacobite risings led to the breaking up of the clan system and subsequent Clearances that replaced entire communities with sheep farms, some of which also involved forced emigrations to distant lands. The largest settlement in Skye is Portree, known for its picturesque harbour and we stopped here for a quick lunch and to take photos of the place. It was pretty quiet as this is off peak season with many places actually closed for the harshest period of winter (Jan – Feb).
We broke for lunch at the picturesque town of Portree, the largest town on Skye in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland…
It is the location for the only secondary school on the Island, Portree High school. Portree has a harbour, fringed by cliffs, with a pier designed by Thomas Telford. I loved the colorful buildings built by the harbour. Once you leave the town heading north, you will pass through villages such as Achachork, Staffin and the rocky landscape of The Storr before reaching the landslip of the Quiraing.
A pit stop at Tobhta Uachdrach for a quick “Scotland Wild & Sexy” Photo moment! Yes it is freezing and yes, some of us were mad enough to just wear the t-shirt !
Early the next day we head out to Loch Ness..
Deep, dark and narrow, Loch Ness stretches for 23 miles between Inverness and Fort Augustus. Its bitterly cold waters have been extensively explored in search of Nessie, the elusive Loch Ness monster, but most visitors see her only as a plaster statue down by the loch. It’s all rather touristy and I didn’t really expect to spot nessie. However, some of the people how had taken the tour, say that the Loch Ness tour is among one of the most enjoyable tours especially when they get to stay down by the village with the locals. We really didn’t have enough time to rub shoulders with the locals on this trip. Would like to come back and take my time visiting these places for sure.
Urquardt Castle — perched on the banks of Loch Ness.. nope didn’t spot Nessie.. as you might have guessed
Loch Ness itself is a large, deep, freshwater loch in the Scottish Highlands extending for approximately 37 km southwest of Inverness. Its surface is 15.8 m above sea level. Loch Ness is connected at the southern end by the River Oich and a section of the Caledonian Canal to Loch Oich. Loch Ness is the second largest Scottish loch by surface area at 56.4 km2 after Loch Lomond, but due to its great depth, it is the largest by volume. Its deepest point is 230 m, deeper than the height of London’s BT Tower at 189 m and deeper than any other loch except Loch Morar. This was told to us by our cool guide (Kay) and driver (Chris), of Haggis Adventures. It contains more fresh water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined, and is the largest body of water on the Great Glen Fault, which runs from Inverness in the north to Fort William in the south. There was also a gory story of how many bodies you could lie in the loch and not even make a dent in filling it up.. but I won’t repeat that here!
We also stopped to see the Culloden Battlefield
On 16 April 1746, the Jacobite forces of Charles Edward Stuart fought loyalist troops commanded by William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland near Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. The Hanoverian victory at Culloden decisively halted the Jacobite intent to overthrow the House of Hanover and restore the House of Stuart to the British throne. Charles Stuart never mounted any further attempts to challenge Hanoverian power in Britain. The conflict was the last pitched battle fought on British soil.
And what is Scotland if not the home of Whisky! So we had to try some before we left..
Tomatin distillery is a single malt Scotch whisky distillery in the village of Tomatin
Although it is thought that whisky has been distilled on the site since the 16th century, when cattle drivers would buy from a local still, the distillery was not established until 1897, under the name of Tomatin Spey Distillery Co Ltd.
Around eighty percent of Tomatin’s whisky goes into blended whisky, including its own brands of Antiquary and Talisman. In 2003, Tomatin’s basic 10-year-old malt was replaced by the 12 Year Old. In 2009, a 15 Year was added to the lineup, which also includes an 18 Year and a 25-year. Other limited releases are often made, including a 30-year, a 40-year and single-cask offerings. I’m not really a great connoisseur of whisky but I could see what the fuss was about. A smooth, elegant tipple that even the ladies would love.
Soon it was time to leave for lunch.
And then, our driver Chris got wind of a traffic jam that had occurred on our route, so we had to travel via a short detour. This was a blessing in disguise because a terrific photo opportunity presented itself on this detour. Check out the spot of sunshine, breaking over the rolling plains of Scotland.. the stuff that postcards are made of. Totally breathtaking!
Finally we reached Edinburgh at nightfall. A quick photo moment by the Forth Bridge (incidentally, most places we visited on this trip that was called Forth something or other.. was not a typo on “Fourth”.. but indeed Forth, just like the bridge!)
When traveling North towards Aberdeen the railway turns ten miles out from Waverly and Travels over the Forth Rail Bridge. The well known local landmark has dominated the local view since it was opened in 1890 by the Prince of Wales. The one and a half mile bridge dealt with fifty thousand trains in its first year alone and has never looked back since.. amazing! This is also the famous site for the Loony Dook celebrations on the 1st of Jan each year, where over one thousand take the plunge in the icy waters of the Forth in costume, but that warrants another blogpost on its own, so stay tuned!
Me, Frances and Kirsten.. feeling the vibe.. oh yeah!
That night we meet up with the organizers (Frances and Susan) and have a gala time at Forth Floor (not a typo, seriously) at Harvey Nics in Edinburgh..
A swanky joint for cocktails and dining, Forth Floor has a spectacular view of the city of Edinburgh on one side and the Firth of Forth on the other. The Forth Floor has three distinctly different areas – the bar area for standing around and looking cool with your cocktails, a more business like area for lunch in the brasserie or a gourmet dining area in the restaurant- all sharing Harvey Nichols signature style and sophistication. Tres chi-chi! I loved it!
A massive thanks to our sponsors for doing such an amazing job and for all the kind arrangements. We were online 24/7 via internet hubs and this was so useful for us..bloggers being bloggers! One of the great ways to travel and to book your airtickets is via Skyscanner. They made all this possible for me, and their airfare is amongst the most competitive internationally.Very happy to have been a part of this experience!
‘This campaign is brought to you by Edinburgh’s Hogmanay and is supported by Visit Scotland, ETAG, Edinburgh Festivals, Haggis Adventures and Skyscanner. Skyscanner provided our flights to Edinburgh. As always, opinions are my own.’
The #blogmanay blogging posse.. dinner on the final night in edinburgh before half the group had to leave for home..
ALL PHOTOS WERE TAKEN WITH THE OMD EM5
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