21.11.2016 - 28.11.2016
From London we caught the train up to the Scottish Borders where friend and latest tour guide Esme picked us up and took us to her gorgeous wee stone house in the woods. We had a cosy sleep up in the loft after an evening of Monopoly with Esmes family (yes I was allowed to play, dont worry Mum no fights).
Esme had planned a whirlwind trip around Scotland with us, so we didn't waste too much time (or precious daylight) and started by heading to the town of Sterling. It was fresh out so we rugged up to visit the castle which was once home to the Kings and Queens of Scotland, before becoming an army base and now an attraction for tourists like us!
We took the guided tour and learnt a bit of history, although I must admit I had a bit of trouble getting my head around the numerous Kings with the same name especially as I was having to concentrate doubly hard on the guides accent! We watched the sun go down from here and take with it the little warmth it provided. With that we bundled back into the car and headed down the road to stay in a (converted) Bothy Esme had found.
A Bothy is a place where travellers with animals stayed back in the day. Its basically an A frame barn with a loft, the animals slept down on the floor while the traveller snuggled in the warmth up top. Naturally Tim and I slept upstairs with Hugo and Esme down in the animals quarters
We got up at sparrows fart next morning to go 'bag us a Munro'. The Munro's are what the Scots call any mountain over a height of 3000ft. There are a total of 282 of them. Unfortunately we didn't have time to do them all so we have settled for just the one. Ben Lomond sits above Loch Lomond at 3195ft.
It was a great walk, bloody fresh but by far the best weather we had in Scotland so we were very lucky. We were slowed down a bit by the snow on top and by Hugo constantly falling over but we made it up and back all in one piece.
Not to miss anything we hopped back into the car and continued up to Fort William that evening. We didn't see much of the town as it was dark on arrival, but enjoyed a good burger at a pub before crashing pretty early.
Thursday saw us (Esme in particular) taking our time to get up so we kept it close and went to see Ben Nevis (Scotlands tallest mountain standing at 4411ft). We didnt climb it... just looked at it then went for a walk in the valley (Glen Nevis) to the Steed falls. Was a nice pleasant walk through the Glen which didn't see the sun that day and I'm guessing it won't for the winter now. The highlight was crossing the frozen river on a wire bridge, nothing like fear of death to get you over safely!
We drove to the Loch Ness Inn that night (didn't spot the monster on the way - though I did look).
We began the haul to Edinburgh from Loch Ness stopping at one of Scotland's many whisky breweries (apparently Scotch whisky is spelt without the 'e'). The Tomatin Brewery is a small (ish) single malt whisky distillery which has been in operation since the 16th century although it only became a legal establishment in 1897. They still brew as they have for hundreds of years and was an interesting process to see. At the companys peak in the 70's they were producing 12.5million litres of whiskey per year, nowadays they only pop out about 2 million litres. As Whisky takes a while to age the have an estimated £3 Billion in their stores waiting to mature!
Anyway it was a great tour followed by the tasting of 5 of their whiskys which were all very nice.
We carried on towards Edinburgh only stopping at a creepy sculpture park on the way.
That night we went to a Cailidh (said like kay-ley) dance. It was super fun. Its basically just organised scottish dancing but was a hoot!
In Edinburgh we explored the streets, visited the Crown Jewels at Edinburgh castle, walked the Royal Mile, walked up Arthurs Seat and had a drink at Scotlands oldest pub (The Sheeps Heid est. 1360).
Well it was a quick tour of Scotland but we loved it!
Thanks so much to the wonderful Esme (and Hugo) for making it a great week!
Next stop the land of Leprechauns