The Scottish "roadie"

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September 8th 2010
Published: September 21st 2010
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Date Wednesday 8th September 2010
City Edinburgh to Aviemore, Scotland
Climate low 12c - high 16c - fine all day

Today was the start of the road trip, herein referred to as the ‘roadie’. Shaun and Richard walked down to the Waverley train station to pick up the car and then took half an hour to navigate the one-way system the 1km back to the Caledonian hostel to pick up Jen. Arriving back to collect Jennie and the bags was made a lot simpler as we were communicating via the walkie talkie.
All loaded up and just after 9.30am we headed North-East for St Andrews and Crail. We wanted to go via Kirkcaldy where Jennie’s relatives on her Mum’s side came from - the “Heggies”. Richard thinks that while we are in Scotland - our “family” (being the three of us) should be known as the Heggie-Crowleys (HCs)!
Once we arrived in Kirkcaldy we went straight to the town hall (via the scenic route Richard navigated us through). Here we took a couple of photos of the Heggie name on the honours board - a couple of Georges and a couple of James’ through the 1700s.
After the trip of nostalgia we ventured along the scenic drive route to St Andrews. This is a lovely piece of road but does get very narrow and winding at times through the tiny villages. In many parts the speed limit is just 20-40MPH. We stopped a couple of times - once for a lighthouse pic - that Shaun will add to his “lighthouse corner” at home - and a stop in Crail. Crail was a small quaint fishing village that had a couple of B&Bs and a gallery/tearoom. We stopped into the Crail Gallery Tearooms for a couple of teas and scones with cream and jam. A great setting with Shaun insisting that we sit outside in the chilly, windswept courtyard with a dramatic view of the waves crashing onto the jagged coastline. This actually turned out to be very lovely as the sun came out, the wind died down and the tea warmed us up.
On the road again to St Andrews with a quick walk around the St Andrews Cathedral ruins before the obligatory stop at the St Andrews golf course. Shaun couldn’t be bothered trying to find a park, so parked in the members car park next to Bentleys, an Aston Martin DB9, Lexus’s and common-as-muck BMWs. We watched some shocking tee-offs from in front of the club house before driving past the famous bridge crossing the 18th fairway.
Feeling a bit peckish about then we decided to stop at Tescos Metro in the town. After parking the car we notice the local Save the Children Fund shop and so took a quick photo for Mum! At Tescos we took the opportunity to stock up on all the provisions we would need for the evening meal and breakfast tomorrow as well. We always enjoy looking through the supermarkets overseas. Always some interesting products and prices. Armed with all we needed for a lunch in the park and everything else, we found a good spot to eat our salads watching the St Andrews world go by.
On the road again bound for Dunkeld, where we stopped by at Beatrix Potter’s Garden Exhibition and gift shop. Quite nice and we took some pics and Shaun bought some Jemima Puddleduck Lollies and Peter Rabbit fudge for Jennie!
Our last stop en route was The House of Bruar by Blair Atholl in Pitlochry. We just got there in time as it was due to close. We looked through the food halls packed with all sorts of goodies. We only purchased a couple of things to add to the Tesco supplies - some whiskey flavoured cheddar, some duck pate and some basil pesto. Very nice and a bit pricey - but all in a good cause (our appetites)! Richard almost talked himself into buying a swanky tweed sport jacket for 200 pound, but saw the light.
Aviemore was our final destination for the day where we stayed at “The Bunkhouse”. We shared it with only two other couples and they didn’t use the kitchen - so we took that over for the evening with dinner preparation, trip planning, internet researching and to keep us sane we had a few drinks Scottish Whiskey for the boys and Vodka for Jennie.

Date Thursday 9th September 2010
City touring Scotland
Climate low 14c - high 21c - fine with a short spell of rain

It dawned a gorgeous day. Richard tells us we are very lucky to see the countryside with such great visibility and sunshine! We departed just after 9am bound for Ullapool with many interesting stops along the way.
Our first stop was at Culloden Moor where the brave Jacobites led by Bonnie Prince Charlie were defeated by the government soldiers in 1746. We spent about an hour looking at the moor and placards commemorating the day when it took only an hour for the 7500 English troops to overpower the 5500 strong Jacobite force - 1200 dead before retreating. It was a lovely day and seemed unreal that on that day back in 1746 it was muddy and wet. Shaun couldn’t resist the jam and cream scones on our way back to the car through the cafe and ate this on the way to our next stop - Tesco “extra”. A quick DC shop (one hour) had us filling up the car with more goodies to make our lunch and dinner to cook at tonight’s hostel. We also used the Tesco petrol station to juice up the car.
We ate lunch on the side of Loch Ness at the ruins of Urquhart Castle. We looked for Nessie in the Loch but only saw midges (sandflies) and the odd boat. It rained while we were there for about 20 minutes - our only rainy part of the roadie so far! We stopped off at the Nessie gift shop to try to find a magnet but decided there would be more opportunity to find the right one at Fort William in a couple of days. Our journey ended in Ullapool around 6.30pm where we checked into The Ceilidh Place Hotel with additional bunkhouse accommodation that was our home for the night. 17 quid each. We checked in and deposited our bags in the 4 berth bunkroom. We were armed with our food goodies including the chilly bag containing our TV dinners for cooking in the microwave or oven. A quick look around the premises quickly revealed that there was no kitchen! Off we went for a look around the area and we called into another hostel where Shaun used his charm to ask if we could use their kitchen later on to cook our meals. They kindly agreed and so we felt relieved that we wouldn’t have to waste the food we brought. Before dinner we wanted to make the most of the good weather and daylight so we ventured a little further north to explore the gorgeous scenery. We took the coastal road up to a place called Knocken Crag, a National Nature Reserve. It lies about 21kms north of Ullapool on the A835. We were impressed with the globe shaped rock! The scenery was stunning and we took many lovely photos that didn’t do it justice. We went back and collected our food bag and wandered along the road, passing gorgeous fishing village cottages along the way. The hostel kitchen was quite busy but we had no competition for the oven. While our meals were heating through we took the opportunity to update the blog. We thoroughly enjoyed our 1 pound TV dinners (pasta, curry and lasagne) and we then returned back to our place. After being “told off” by a neighbouring house guest for being too loud - hard to believe I know - we went to the bar across the street to check on emails and do some accommodation bookings using the free wi-fi. A late night to bed - after 12.30am.

Date Friday 10th September 2010
City touring Scotland
Climate low 12c - high 19c - fine then rain then fine again

We all slept well in our quaint bunkroom. After showers, packing the car and grabbing a coffee at the pub we left for further exploration of the Western Highlands. It was raining a little when we left but this soon cleared to be another gorgeous Autumn day in Scotland.
Today was spent driving through mainly scenic areas, meaning slow progress on winding roads, offering awesome scenery and real back-road isolation.. A very pleasant day with plenty of stops to take photos and admire this gorgeous country. We only stopped a couple of times. One of these stops was to watch an RAF fighter jet screaming down a loch with vapour trails corkscrewing from its wing tips before skimming over the hills as it turned around and disappeared into the distance, hugging the contours. The most memorable stop was the visit we made to Eilean Donan Castle in Dornie by Kyle, on the banks of the Loch Duilch. A lovely castle bombarded in 1719 and rebuilt in 1932 with an interesting history. If you are, or have MacRae ancestry this would be of huge interest to you. It was the castle used in the movie “Highlander” amongst others. We arrived there to have a picnic lunch using our leftovers from yesterday out of the back of the car. It had started to drizzle a bit again and so we sheltered beneath the back door of the car and created our gourmet rolls and sandwiches and then ate them from the comfort of our warm, dry car. Once inside the castle we were impressed. An excellent display of memorabilia and displays that brought the castle to life. Even a sword that was discovered in Waipukurau, New Zealand. A visit well worth the 5.50GBP. Bound for our next hostel we ventured back towards the Isle of Skye. After crossing the bridge we were not far from the Isle of Skye capital, Portree. Here we stopped to yet again replenish our food stocks for dinner tonight. We were expecting to be in the wilderness with no access to any stores so we stocked up well - again! Almost at our destination is the viewing site for the “Kilt Rock” - we stopped for photos and then left for our final stop of the day. We were right. The hostel - Dun Flodigarry about 10 miles north of Portree was in a fabulous remote setting - looking our over the dramatic Staffin Bay to Wester Ross. It is beneath the Quiraing and is popular with hill walkers, families and travellers exploring the north of Skye. As the sun set the hostel was buzzy with guests creating their evening meal feasts. We had a five course meal comprising - quiche, cottage pie, sweet and sour chicken with rice, lasagne and a steak pie. Where are the veges you may ask? Well, we thought that the lettuce, tomato & avocado in our sandwiches at lunch would have to do! Our bunkroom at this hostel slept six and we made up three of the occupants - Jennie being the only female! A spacious room with a sheet parcel supplied to us for each bed. It was essentially two single sheets sewn together with a pillow section to slip the pillow into. While at the hostel we also caught up on a few days of washing. Great to get the housework up to date - even when on holiday!

Date Saturday 11th September 2010
City touring Scotland
Climate low 12c - high 19c - raining then fine

The Isle of Skye lived up to its name (the “Misty Isle”) this morning with a light drizzle enveloping the island . We left the hostel just after 9am to complete the circumnavigation of the island and drove north towards the tip of the Trotternish Peninsular. Shaun and Richard got out of the car in the rain to go and look at a ruin on the side of the hill overlooking the Bay. Jennie was happy to view the photos from the dry car on their return! Our journey around the peninsular took us back past Portree and past the Cuillin Mountains. By this time the rain had stopped and we were yet again presented with fantastic scenery. Rather than taking the bridge back across to the mainland we decided a ferry trip might be interesting. We had a quick look at Clan Donald Skye - the Armadale Castle and Gardens. Very nice with some artists showing their sculptures throughout the grounds. The Trust that runs the property operates a 20,000 acre working Highland Estate. On site is an impressive Museum of the Isles which contained a lot of information and artefacts from the past few centuries. At about 1pm the ferry left from Armadale and took us on the 30 minute journey across to Malaig. The journey gave us enough time to quickly make a couple of sandwiches from yesterday’s leftovers before landing. Our next stop was at the St Mary & St Finnans catholic church, built in the early 1870’s and positioned on a secluded plateau with unobstructed views of the mountains and loch at its feet. Nearby is the
Glenfinnan Viaduct, featuring the curved viaduct used in various Harry Potter movies. Shaun and Richard scrambled through the boggy peat to get to high ground to take a photo after stopping for photos at the Glenfinnan Monument, where Bonnie Prince Charlie landed on mainland Scotland and began his 1745 Jacobite rebellion.
Approaching Fort William we had awesome views of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain, with only the summit in cloud. We also saw the cable car that clings to its side that travels to about 650 metres, approximately halfway up the mountain.
Next stop was Glencoe, known as Scotland’s most spectacular glen with huge craggy mountains dwarfing the valley below. This narrow valley is where the bloody massacre of the Macdonald clan took place in 1692. Our accommodation tonight was at a SYHA hostel set in an impressive historical 3 story grand residence in the town of Loch Lomond. Having run ourselves out of food other than a few breakfast provisions we thought we were due a meal out. Fish and Chips won the vote as we hadn’t yet tried these and Scotland is meant to be famous for them. We stopped and purchased some drinks and then went to ‘Palombos of Balloch’ in Loch Lomond, voted into the top 5 fish and chip shops in Scotland in 2009. Richard bought a Cod “supper” which is their way of saying Fish and Chips. Jennie had haddock with fritters and Shaun was more daring getting haddock and haggis. We stopped at the side of the loch and enjoyed our “Scottish roast”. Back at the hostel we relaxed in the large communal kitchen, reading, looking at photos and fighting off tiredness before crashing about 11pm. We were separated into men's and women's dorms each catering for 6 people. We all lucked-out with bottom bunks and had top bunks for the first time on the roadie.

Date Sunday 12th September 2010
City Glasgow, Scotland
Climate low 15c - high 19c - fine and sunny

The last day of the roadie and the day dawned bright and sunny-again! As Loch Lomond is close to Glasgow we planned on spending most of the day in Glasgow but on the way we called in the Dumbarton Castle set on a rocky outcrop with many steps leading to different parts of the Castle. This had a commanding view both up and down the Clyde river, with Glasgow visible in the distance. From our viewpoint on top of the fortification we could see the rain clouds rumbling towards us, so we made our escape and headed for Glasgow.
We navigated our way to the Kelvingrove museum with only one small detour off track. The road planners must’ve been having a few sly drinks when they placed the road signs for directions to this museum! We meandered around the museum for an hour but could easily have spent all day here. We would definitely recommend this for a day trip. Next highlight on our tour of Glasgow recommended by our tour guide Richard was to travel Glasgow’s underground. This felt almost like a fun park ride, with the miniature train rocking and bouncing along the underground track. The carriages are small enough that Shaun and Richard had to stoop when walking down the middle of the carriage! We stopped in at a gallery to view a Joanne Tan exhibition before meandering down the pedestrian area on the central city. At this stage we said our goodbyes to Richard, who was heading back to Edinburgh to continue his eternal search for a flat and to finish his doctorate. We hopped back onto Glasgow’s rollercoaster underground to pick up the car and make our way to our next digs an hour South to Prestwick. We were flying out of Prestwick airport on Ryanair the next morning so wanted to be down that way for our last night in Scotland. Jen found a great guesthouse called ‘The Beechwood’ ( only 3 km’s from the airport in a town called Ayr. We arrived, unpacked, rearranged, packed, rested and then headed out for dinner at the recently refurbished Carlton Hotel for a Sunday buffet dinner.

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13th October 2010

Catch Up
Hi guys, Great to see the awesome time you are having. Neat seeing all the places in Scotland and Italy we visited about 12 years ago, and seeing Richard make his appearance on your trip! Love and blessings form the Tate-Davis's

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