Scotland June 2016

Scotland June 2016

Newcastle - June 6

We spent one night in Newcastle (my birthplace) so Kristine could stay at the place where she had her first job, The Royal Station Hotel.

Happily, the hotel has been renovated and updated since Kris worked there. No private bathrooms in those days !

Still quite impressive in an old fashioned sort of way.

For reasons I can't explain, they have named one of the meeting rooms after me (or perhaps my Dad - who knows ?)

The hotel adjoins the equally impressive railway station.

Newcastle station - still a major transportation hub.

Edinburgh - June 7

Before getting to Edinburgh, we stopped to have lunch with my Uncle Barry. We didn't stay long, but it was nice to see him again.

We stayed in the hotel that evening and went into Edinburgh the next day for a quick look around. We weren't planning on being there very long as we had to get to Inverness the same day.

Edinburgh Castle. Although now a tourist attraction, it was heavily fortified in it's day

We are definitely in Scotland. A kiltmaker !  Not something you see every day.

The Royal Society of Edinburgh dating back to 1783. One of the many grand buildings in Edinburgh.

They still use trams in Edinburgh 

Inverness June 8

Leaving Edinburgh, our next brief stop was Pitlochry.

It's a nice little town and popular with tourists, but like many small towns in Scotland, the traffic just overwhelms the main street.

We stayed here for about an hour and grabbed a snack for lunch.

We stopped to see part of the Caledonian Canal, which connects the sea to Loch Ness.

Caledonian Canal

Loch Ness. No monster on this day

Urquhart Castle with Loch Ness behind. 

The castle dates from the 13th to 16th century. We looked from the road but didn't actually wander round.

Finally, we made it to Inverness, where we stayed in a very typical B&B,  Moyness House.

It does look a bit "Fawlty Towers" to me, but it was actually very nice.

Inverness was quite a nice city, with the River Ness running through it. 

Inverness Castle - a lot less forbidding than Edinburgh Castle

On our way out of Inverness, the next day,  we back-tracked and went to the Culloden Battlefield. This was where the army of Bonnie Prince Charlie was defeated in 1746. This was the last pitched battle on British soil and ended the Jacobite rebellion. The Jacobites were mostly Catholic and this marked the end of any attempt to restore a Catholic monarchy. Between 1,500 and 2,000 Jacobites died in a battle lasting less than one hour.

The battlefield today. There are markers all over the battlefield showing where different groups of men fell and were buried.

Modern marker

Memorial Cairn erected in 1881

Then on to John O'Groats - not quite the most northerly point of mainland UK, but the furthest point from Lands End in Cornwall.

You have to wait in line to get this picture - at least on the day we were there

There is a small harbor here and you can take a passenger ferry to Orkney, which is in the distance. However, as we had a car, we had to drive down the coast to get the ferry from Scrabster.

Car ferry from Scrabster to Stromness on Orkney

The  Old Man of Hoy from the ferry. It's a 449 feet high sea stack and was first climbed in 1966.

On board the ferry after a long day on the road

Orkney June 9-11

We arrived late in the day, although because it was summer and we were a LONG way north, it never really got dark. Our hotel, the Orkney Lodge, was in the middle of nowhere and was rather odd in many ways. We were in the honeymoon suite, but it didn't FEEL like a suite of any kind!

However, we made the best of it. Good thing we had a car !

Next day, we explored the only town on Orkney, Kirkwall. It's a  nice little town with an impressive Cathedral.

St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall

By chance, there was a display of the "Weeping Window" at the Cathedral, to commemorate the Battle of Jutland which took place in Orkney in 1916. The poppies, which are made of ceramic, were first displayed at The Tower of London in 2014.

Across the road from the cathedral was the Earl's Palace, built around 1601. It was built as a private residence for Patrick Stewart, Earl of Orkney. 

Although now in ruins, it's easy to see what a splendid building it would have been at the time. Unfortunately, The Earl could not afford such luxury and had to steal the money he needed to pay for it. He was found guilty of treason in 1610 and beheaded in 1615.

Orkney was a major naval base during WW2 and to keep German submarines from sneaking in between the various small islands, stone barriers (Churchill Barriers) were built between several islands. They are still in place.

The Italian prisoners who helped to build  the barriers also built a small chapel using two Nissen huts joined together. It was restored in the 1990's and is now a tourist attraction.

The interior. All the decorative elements are painted - there is no tile or plaster anywhere

The altar. The light holders hanging from the ceiling are made from corned beef tins

Orkney is full of very interesting and important archaeological remains. There are over 200 sites. Although we aren't archaeologists we thought we should make an effort to see some of the major sites.

The first one we visited required a hike across the moor and then a certain amount of dexterity to get in. First, you had to get down on your hands and knees to get into the narrow entrance. Then you had to lay on your back and pull yourself through the entrance on a board with wheels.

Then you had to pull yourself up inside

Before you could finally stand up and inspect the interior

And then  of course you had to repeat the procedure to get out !

The second site we visited was The Broch of Gurness, an iron age village about 15 miles north of Kirkwall. This site was much easier to access.

One of the remaining towers

A reconstruction of the interior of one of the towers

The third site, Skara Brae, is one of the most famous in the UK and is over 5000 years old. 

It's not difficult to tell from the way everyone is dressed that this was a chilly, windy day and I'm afraid we didn't linger. Glad we went, but a little goes a long way !

Remarkable how much has survived five thousand years of history

Then on to the next site, the Standing Stones of Stenness. Also chilly and windy. So much so that Kris wouldn't get out of the car, so she did her sightseeing in comfort. I, on the other hand, braved the elements !

There would originally have been 11 or 12 stones arranged in a circle surrounded by a ditch and beyond that a circular mound. There would have been a hearth at the center of the circle. Although clearly used for ceremonial purposes, the exact use is still unclear.

The Standing Stones of Stenness

Our last stop and actually one of the most interesting, was Maeshowe, which is a neolithic chambered cairn and tomb built around 2800 BC. The exterior isn't terribly interesting, so I have stolen a couple of photos of the interior from the internet.

The exterior Maeshowe

The interior of the tomb showing the long passageway to the outside

The sun shining into the passage

The runes scratched on the wall were added by Vikings who sheltered here in the 12th century

Besides the archaeological sites, the island itself was very beautiful, although rather barren There are virtually no trees and it was ALWAYS windy. Even in June, it was chilly. However, the views were impressive and there were wild poppies growing everywhere along the hedgerows.

After three days, it was time to get back to the mainland.

Lochinver - June 12

Now we were heading home. As we drove south along the west coast of Scotland, the scenery became less barren and more typically "Scottish".

Couldn't really be anywhere except Scotland  except perhaps New Zealand

We stayed the night at a B&B in Lochinver, a small fishing port on the west coast. The domed hills were reminiscent of Yosemite National Park.

The view from our bedroom

The room was VERY small but actually quite comfortable !

Altguish - June 13

Continuing south, we drove through more dramatic scenery and even an abandoned castle.

We stopped for lunch in Ullapool, which is small port town with ferry service to the Outer Hebrides. It seemed to be a pretty sleepy little place. although I imagine it gets busier when the ferry arrives.

The fishing port, Ullapool

The main street in Ullapool

Just a few miles down the road, we stopped to see a significant waterfall known as the Falls of Measach in the  Corrieshalloch Gorge. It was a steep walk down (and back) to the bridge which crosses the gorge and then a stroll on the flat to get a view of the waterfall.

The bridge across the gorge

The view down into the gorge

Then you walk to a view point where you can look back and see the bridge and the waterfall below. The falls are about 450 feet high. It's all very damp and noisy. You can just imagine Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty struggling at the edge of the falls!

That night we stayed in under the roof of an old coaching inn, the Aultguish Inn. It's in the middle of nowhere, but it's also a pub, so we didn't need to drive anywhere for dinner. Just the way an inn should be !

The Aultguish Inn

Loch Leven - June 14

Heading south once more, we stopped at the western end of the Caledonian canal and watched a few boats passing through a series of stepped locks.

Locking up into the Caledonian Canal to head east

When Bonnie Prince Charlie returned to Scotland in 1745, he called for the clans to meet him at Glenfinnan. This was the start of the uprising which ended at Culloden in 1746. There is a memorial to the event on the edge of the loch. The figure on the top represents a lone highlander who fought and died in the uprising.

The Glenfinnan Monument built in 1845 with Loch Shiel behind.

A pretty spot for a monument

Across from the monument is a very famous railway viaduct, the Glenfinnan Viaduct and twice a day in the summer, a steam pulled passenger train crosses the viaduct. The train, the Jacobite, runs from Fort William to Mallaig. It happened to be scheduled soon after we arrived, so we had to wait and see it !

The Jacobite crossing the Glenfinnan Viaduct

The Jacobite after crossing the viaduct

The way trains should be - steam pulled !

Kris waits patiently as the nerds get excited to see an actual steam train !

Glasgow - June 15

Our last night in Scotland. The afternoon we arrived, we went to the rather disappointing Glasgow Science Center which was very close to our hotel.  The next day, on our way out of Glasgow, we visited the Kelingrove Art Gallery and Museum, which we enjoyed much more.

This is BACK of the museum. The front is even more elaborate.

A very impressive main hall

Every kind of art was on display from modern sculpture (if that is what this is)

To an old friend, L.S. Lowry

And that was the end of our trip to Scotland. From Glasgow, we drove back to Lytham before returning to the US a few days later.