May 6

We were heading towards Loch Ness, but stopped overnight along Loch Lochy at a nice spot on the water.  There was yet another waterfall, so we did a short hike towards its base before returning to the shore of the loch where we were able to relax in our chairs outside – for about an hour or so before the wind picked up again.  We also came across our first "Scottish castle ruin on a loch", this one strategically located on a finger of land jutting out into the loch.


We continued on to the town of Fort Augusta where we watched a five-level lock in action.  We are familiar with the “art” of taking boats through the locks from our experience barging in France and depending on how you look at it, it can be a lot of fun or a lot of work.  When you have five to go through rather than just one, I think it is more like work.  New rules just went into effect requiring all boats to pass through the locks without using their motors.  This seems dangerous to us, the people on the boats had to pull the boats forward using ropes, dodging the cleats and other things that could cause them to trip and fall into the lock.  Most of them were wearing life jackets which seemed like a good idea.



This lock system brought the boats either into or out of the famous Loch Ness.  We even got to see the Loch Ness monster, well it actually was a wire sculpture of a monster. 


Continuing our winding route, we turned west again and headed towards the Isle of Skye.  There is a bridge crossing to Skye so we don’t have to take a ferry.  We’re saving our ferry route fare until we reach the northernmost point on the Scottish mainland so that we can visit the Orkney Islands.  Just down the road from the bridge we stopped at the perfectly situated Eilean Donan Castle.  The castle is on a small island in the Loch that is connected to the mainland by a triple arched bridge.  The castle is actually a 20th century reconstruction of a 13th century castle set to ruins in the 18th century.  Did we lose you, did that make sense?

We were hoping to be able to use our wireless broadband connection to get our emails and do some work online, but it turned out that our mobile provider, 3 network, doesn’t have as good a coverage for their mobile broadband service as they do for regular mobile/cellular phone service.  In fact, most of the Highlands has no coverage at all.  Luckily, many of the hotels and pubs have free wifi.  So tonight we enjoyed a drink in a pub while we caught up on emails. 

We spent the next three nights touring around the 50-mile-long island.  Most of Skye is roadless so most people come here to hike up one of the many valleys or climb one of the mountains.  The highest point on Skye is 3,325 ft, less than 1,000 mts, but the mountains are made of jagged basalt and the valleys were carved by glaciers during the last ice-age. 

Oh yes, the weather was cooperating too, although this is the windy season, the sun was out providing stunning vistas everywhere we looked.  There were lochs, standing stones, mountains, rivers, moors, waterfalls and, and so much more.  I even got a great (belated) birthday dinner at a small seafood restaurant that was great.  One night we spent at a campsite on another farm.  This site was very nice, right on a loch and wifi.  The farmer had a good sense of humor too, in the office he had a ditty on the wall that talked about his not farming the land anymore, but rather his farming the tourists!

Today started off rainy, but became partly sunny pretty quickly.  Since we spent the night parked next to a waterfall, it only seemed right to hike to the top of it for our coffee walk.  Since the ground was quite wet, we donned our “Wellies” (rubber boots) and hiked to the top.  By wet we mean we were hiking in the moors.  The moors are covered by low brush which is heather – it blooms in August/September – and the ground is boggy.  So every step is either very springy from the mosses, or we get this sucking feeling as our boots sink into the bog.

From the top of the waterfall, it was a lovely view, so we continued up a little higher.  The view never got much better, but our feet got a lot wetter!  So down we came to have breakfast.  While we were cleaning up, a tour bus came, disgorged a bunch of people and blocked us in.  They didn’t stay long however, so off we finally went for our last day on the Isle of Skye.

The good weather continued for the rest of the day and we stopped on and off to check out the great views and to take some nice hikes.  At the end of the day we stopped at Britain’s oldest nature reserve, Beinn Eighe. We did our last hike of the day, looking for Scottish Crossbills, but none were to be seen.  But while sitting in the truck in the parking lot, Kim spotted a Pine Martin, a nocturnal animal that looks like a weasel.  That was a nice spot!


Mon May 10, 2010

Driving along we were joking about the saying “4 seasons in one day”, because Scotland’s weather is such that you never really know what how the day will turn out.  It was raining at the time, then we got a light hail shower.  Believe it or not, by the end of the day we were actually getting snow flurries! But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Up here in the Highlands, most of the secondary roads are little more than one lane tracks.  They are paved though, so that is nice.  Unlike when we were driving in Morocco and had to drive in the potholed, dirt shoulder whenever we passed an oncoming vehicle, Scotland has Passing Places, paved wide areas, less than ¼ mile apart.  Most drivers are very courteous, so whoever has the closest Passing Place will pull into it and stop until the other driver passes.  Since we drive slow, we also use these spots to allow drivers behind us to overtake.  I wouldn’t want to be here in high tourist season though as there are probably so many vehicles on these small roads that we’d be stopping at every spot.

Many of these secondary roads are dead-ends so we retract our route, but the villages and views are worth going a bit out of the way.  One route we were told about, thanks Bill, took us to a nice sandy beach.  The camping was in a farmers’ field overlooking the water.  It was a lovely spot, too bad for us that the weather wasn’t cooperating.  The wind was so strong, and the temperature was in the forties.  If we stayed we’d spend most of our time inside, so we continued on. 

We found another great location, with a waterfall right out our window, where we spent the night – in snow showers in May.  This is spring isn’t it?  We’re surrounded by mountains covered in fresh snow.

By morning there was about ½ inch of snow on the ground.  Pretty, but not what we were hoping for.  When the snow started coming down harder, and the temperature started dropping, we decided to find someplace lower.  After a few miles we finally started coming down to where it was merely raining.  We found a grocery store (we hadn’t stocked up in a while) parked in their lot, had breakfast and then did a big shop.

After another beautiful drive with the weather alternating between, wind, sun, rain and snow, we ended our day in Lochinver where we could actually get a 3 signal, yeah.  This was another town that had “No overnight parking” signs up all over the place, so we back tracked a few miles out of town and parked on a spur or the old road right next to a river.


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