Tim and I are back from our trip to Scotland. It was a lot of fun. This post is mainly just a chronology of the things we did. Stories will have to come in other posts.
This was our first trip with a tour. We went with the First Church Travelers from our church. There were 21 of us plus about 20 from another group on the bus.
We started in Edinburgh, then made our ways to the Scottish Highlands, a few of the Scottish Islands and then back to Glasgow (The tour didn't actually go to Glasgow, except to use the airport). Tim and I then broke away from the tour and spent the weekend in London. And, yes, we saw Mamma Mia! (again). Some of you may know we've been trying to get to London since the wedding, but various things have kept us away until now. So I guess the honeymoon is over (but definitely not forgotten!)
More about the trip:
Our first hotel was right in the center of Edinburgh, with a view of The castle. It was in the Grassmarket section of town, for those of you "in the know". We spent two nights there, and wandered around for a full two days. We saw Holyrood (Mary, Queen of Scots, anyone?), Edinburgh Castle, the birthplace of Alexander Graham Bell, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's flat, The Elephant House, Oink, and three different Starbucks.
After leaving Edinburgh, we went to St Andrews, the golf capital of the universe, apparently. There were some cool ruins where Henry VIII leveled a Catholic Cathedral, but other than that, this little college town is all about golf.
From St Andrews, we headed up to Aviemore (which we only stopped at because it was on the way to somewhere else, like Gresham). After spending the night in a horrid ski lodge hotel, we made our way on up towards Inverness. We stopped at the Clava Cairns, the Culloden Battlefield and a touristy wool factory.
After the wool mill tourist store (where we only bought 5 or 6 things) we headed back through downtown Inverness and up to Thurso. We drove past a McDonalds and that's when the craving for Mickey D's Fries started.
On our way up to Thurso, we stopped for a photo break near a little graveyard on top of a hill overlooking the ocean.
Once in Thurso, we stayed at The Royal Hotel for two nights. The Royal Hotel had lots of character, and it was the first of the hundreds-of-years-old hotels we got to stay at. After picking up our room key at reception, we had to walk down the hall, through a door, up some steps, around the corner, up two more flights of stairs, back around the corner again, down the hall, through another doorway, up two more steps, down another hall, through another door, down 8 steps, make a u-turn and go down that hall to get to our room. We spent much of our free time in Thurso trying to find shortcuts in the hotel. We stayed there for two nights and used it as a hopping off point to go to the Orkney Islands.
The Orkneys were sweet. We rode over on a ferry and then made the rounds. They have a strong Norwegian past there, so many of the folks spoke English with a different accent than the one we had already started adapting to. We had a special Orkney Island tour guide who filled us in on all the history of the islands for the day while we drove from spot to spot.
The next morning we drove from Thurso back through Inverness to our next hotel in Ballachulish. On the way we stopped and Dunrobbin Castle, Inverness (where we finally got our hands on some sweet sweet fries at McDonalds – and ran into the other half of the bus travelers at Starbucks), and Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness. Tim said I ran around like an 8 year old, freshly energized and climbing on everything. Sadly, we didn't see Nessie on this trip. Maybe next time.
From Ballachulish, we had a day trip to the Isle of Skye for a day. We drove up and took the ferry home. On the Isle of Skye, we visited the Donald Clan Castle. I talked to a librarian about the family tree. She suggested that McKinney – after you put it through the twisted scottish accent and lack of formal spelling skills from 500 years ago – might be spelled MacKennon or even MacKenzie. Achk. We'll never find all the ancestors.
The last day, we left Ballachulish and headed to Drymen, about 30 minutes from the Glasgow airport. For some reason, even though there were two reasonably priced hotels at the airport, the tour company put us up in podunk – and made everyone get up at 4:30 am to be at the airport on time. Fortunately Tim and I broke apart from the tour and had a later flight, so we didn't have to get up quite so early. Our flight left at 9AM for London.
Ah, London. that's another post.