Road to the Isles

16th September, 2000
17th September, 2000
18th September, 2000
19th September, 2000
20th September, 2000
21st September, 2000
22nd September, 2000
23rd September, 2000

Saturday, 16th September, 2000

Abbey Court Postcard

Postcard from Abbey Court Guesthouse, Shrewsbury

Drop Cap ell, here we are in our B and B in Shrewsbury. It is rather further out along the Abbey Foregate than I had hoped, but there is a bus to the centre and the Abbey and Shrewsbury Quest are in walking distance.

Drop Cap e gave back the boat without drama and Black Prince gave us a plaque made of slate, to remember it by. We taxied to the station and caught the sprinter. We arrived at Shrewsbury at about 11:30 and organised our tickets to Edinburgh for Monday. Then a fond farewell to Neil, who is heading for Bristol and then Oxford, before getting a cab to the Abbey Court Guest House.

Drop Cap ac took to the place immediately because of the large cat sleeping on the couch. Our hostess tried to tell us he was not allowed inside, but he looked very comfortable and was still there at six o'clock. We have a pretty room, a twin with a folding bed put in for Geoff. Unfortunately, it wasn't up to the job and collapsed, so we put a suitcase under it and Mac will sleep on it instead.

Drop Cap e caught a bus up to the centre and ordered flowers for Mum's birthday sent Interflora, then had a pizza lunch at a Deep Pan place. We walked around, looking at the many black and white medieval buildings , then walked back to the B and B for a rest.

Drop Cap ater we walked out and had a delicious dinner in a wine bar called Cornhouse. It was an ancient looking building just over the English Bridge from the Abbey. Then back to watch some TV, a very entertaining show, Michael Parkinson compering 40 Years of the BBC TV Centre. Tomorrow we will go to the Shrewsbury Quest and pretend to be Brother Cadfael.

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Sunday, 17th September, 2000

Shrewsbury Abbey photograph

Abbey Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, Shrewsbury

Drop Cap um's birthday. I hope she's OK.
After a full English breakfast for the first time this trip we went off to the Shrewsbury Quest. This is a very careful reproduction of an Abbey in Cadfael's time, and is situated on ground that used to be part of the Abbey, just across the road that Telford demolished the cloisters to build.

Drop Cap t is very interesting, with a double function, telling pure and simply how the Abbeys functioned but also containing a murder mystery to solve. There were clues all over the place and Cadfael's notes to assist. We worked it out and were correct in our assumptions. There was a terrific herb garden and Cadfael's workshop and a scriptorium where you could calligraph with quills.

Shrewsbury Abbey photograph

Shrewsbury Quest Herb Garden

Drop Cap t was extremely well done and Mac's day was made by finding a ginger cat curled up on some old robes in the cellarium. I thought it was a fake, an exhibit put there for verisimilitude (after all a cat to catch the inevitable rats in a store room is logical) but when I touched it , it looked at me with such a glare! The attendants, some of whom are dressed as monks and ladies, say it is a pest, always coming in, but I notice they keep a soft bed for it.

Shrewsbury Abbey photograph

Shrewsbury Quest

Drop Cap e had morning tea there, then continued with the displays. When we left it was 12:45 so we walked on up the road to Fatty Arbuckle's American Diner (a chain which we have seen in several places) for a very large lunch. Geoff is snoring now and says he doesn't need any more food. Regardless, he will get some.

Shrewsbury Abbey photograph

Shrewsbury Quest, Stables

Drop Cap e walked down the Foregate and had a light meal in the Peachtree, a little bistro we found last time in Shrewsbury. It has a medieval facade, like all the houses along here, but inside it is modern as the space age. An interesting juxtaposition and the food was delicious.

Drop Cap e leave early tomorrow on the 9.22 train for Edinburgh, changing at Manchester Piccadilly and York. We will book a taxi and an early breakfast.

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Monday, 18th September, 2000

Drop Cap dinburgh! The trip was horrendous, the trains were chockablock and with only ten minutes to make the change, completely weighed down with luggage, we nearly missed the Manchester to York leg. There was no luggage space left and the reserved seats we had seemed to be filled so the guard upgraded us to First Class so the luggage could fit. The next change, however, York to Edinburgh, the train was late and we found that our reserved seats were in the smoking car! It was really terrible, though I respect the smokers' rights in their own car, it did not make it any better. Two and a half hours in constant smoke!

Castleview Guest House photograph

Our Room (Robbie Burns) Castle View Guesthouse, Edinburgh

Drop Cap hen when we got to Edinburgh it was hot and sunny (raining hard in Shrewsbury) and we arrived at Castle View, which occupies the top floors of a city building without a lift. It does have a marvellous view of the Castle from our window seat, but after carrying the luggage up three stories, then another flight of stairs up to our room we were exhausted and in no mood to appreciate it.

Castleview Guest House photograph

Our Room, Castle View Guesthouse, Edinburgh

Drop Cap ur room, however, is lovely, spacious with a double bed and two singles, and plenty of room for them and the cases and an arm chair and coffee table, wardrobe and dressing table and chair. The bathroom, which has been cut off a corner of the room is surprisingly spacious and full of toiletries. We went out to explore and to get dinner, which we did at Garfunkel's . When we came out it was raining and freezing cold. So changeable. Hope the sun comes back tomorrow.

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Tuesday, 19th September, 2000

Drop Cap e slept a bit late, but after a full Scottish breakfast, (minus the black pudding) we set off along Princes Street. This time we walked on the garden side and they were looking lovely, still lots of summer flowers.

Edinburgh Castle photograph

Edinburgh Castle, from Princes Street Gardens

Drop Cap e picked up a tour bus, which took us round the New Town and then into the, to me, more interesting, Old Town, where we saw Greyfriars Bobby, St. Giles, and finally alighted at the Castle. We had a nice coffee at the Hub Cafe, the Festival Centre, and then walked on to the Castle.

Edinburgh Castle photograph

Portcullis Gate, Edinburgh Castle

Drop Cap ur English Heritage Cards let Mac and me in for nothing, saving fourteen pounds and Geoff in for half price, saving three pounds fifty. So that was a good thing.

Drop Cap hey have done quite a bit of tarting up to make the exhibits more interesting, in particular the exhibit of the Scottish Crown Jewels. When we saw it before they were just in a room, but now they have several rooms of previews, leading up to the exposition of the Honours of Scotland. These now, of course, include the "Stone of Destiny" otherwise known as the "Stone of Scone", which was returned a few years ago from Westminster Abbey. It was very interesting to see such a potent symbol, which has such an emotional hold on Scots.

One O'Clock Gun photograph

Geoff and Friend, The One O'Clock Gun(ner)

Drop Cap was getting footsore so I sat and waited for Mac and Geoff to come back from seeing the firing of the one o'clock gun and also Mons Meg. I had seen it before. After we left the castle we went to the Outlook Tower, and the Camera Obscura.

Edinburgh photograph

Edinburgh, from the Castle Ramparts

Drop Cap ince it was four or five flights up I didn't go up, having seen it before, also, but Geoff enjoyed it as I thought he would. Then we walked down the Royal Mile, past Gladstone's Land, an ancient (1600's) six story building, which I would have liked to see, but again, six stories!

Drop Cap eoff decided he wanted a new camera because his second hand one was giving trouble, so he and Mac located a camera shop with the help of a waitress in the coffee shop in which we were having afternoon tea. He went out and spent up big on a new Nikon. Extravagant lad.

Drop Cap e went out later and had a meal at TGI Friday's American Diner . Luckily it is right next door to our B and B because it is raining and blowing hard and cold.

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Wednesday, 20th September, 2000

Fiat Marea photograph

Our Second Hertz, a Fiat Marea Weekender

Drop Cap e are in Inverness, having picked up our second Hertz this morning. It is not a Ford Mondeo either, but a Fiat Marea Weekender, which seems more comfortable than the Toyota Avensis and is very easy to load.

Drop Cap he day was windy but the wind was clearing the clouds away most of the day. We zoomed up the A9 from Perth and stopped for a couple of hours at Newtonmore to have lunch, visit the MacPherson Clan Museum and Waltzing Waters. Of course, we have been to both of these attractions before but Geoff hadn't. He loved Waltzing Waters, which we enjoyed again as well, and found the MacPherson Museum interesting also.

Drop Cap oving right along, we arrived in Inverness about 5.30, rush hour, but found our way to Hawthorn Lodge without too much difficulty. So far we are unimpressed with the service here, the room is OK but would be improved by the removal of one of the two single beds, which make it rather cramped. We have a little room off the shower and toilet which holds the cases comfortably, however.

Drop Cap e have not yet met the lady of the house, the honours being done by a teenager with body piercing. There is an instruction not to ring the bell after 11 p.m. as there will be no-one to answer it. Seems a bit strange. It is, however, in easy walking distance of the town centre, and we walked in tonight and had a very nice Italian meal, quite reasonable as well. Saw the stars tonight, most unusual, it must be clear.

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Thursday, 21st September, 2000

Drop Cap ot a good night. Someone was locked out and ignored the instruction not to ring, yelling and ringing the doorbell repeatedly in the middle of the night, until presumably someone let him in. A car was blocking ours in the miniscule car park and the owner (the proprietor's husband, I think) had to be got out to move it. When we returned this evening we found that the cups etc hadn't been washed or replaced. Sloppy really, not very impressed. However, it is the only rotten one, so far.

Clava Cairns photograph

Early morning at Clava Cairns

Drop Cap e headed out of Inverness back down the A9 to Daviot, where we took some tiny B and C roads to find Clava Cairns. Geoff found them very interesting, as I thought he would. Mac and I found them last time we were here and found them just as interesting. There are two passage cairns and a ring cairn all surrounded by standing stones, at least 4,000 years old.

Clava Cairns photograph

Geoff at Clava Cairns

Drop Cap e came back through Inverness and out the other side, taking the road along the Loch (Ness) until we reached Drumnadrochit, where the Monster Museum is located. After morning tea we went through the exhibit, which has been streamlined a lot since last time, removing a great deal of the scientific detail, but still with quite a balanced look at the "monster" phenomenon. I suspect that, whatever the evidence to disprove the monster's existence, the legends will not die, because people want to believe it. To say nothing of the commercial aspects. Geoff bought a green plush Nessie!!

Corriemony Cairn photograph

Corriemony Cairn

Drop Cap fter this we branched off again to see another cairn, Corriemony in the Glen Affric area. This is similar to, but smaller than, Clava , and is probably part of the same group. It has a roofed passage, which Mac and Geoff crawled into, and is surrounded by a stone circle. Geoff was enthusiastic.

Loch Ness Far Side photograph

The Far Side of Loch Ness

Drop Cap fter a simple lunch in a little cafe well off the beaten track, we continued along the road to Fort Augustus, then took the incredibly scenic but narrow road along the other side of the Loch. The views from the summit of this road were spectacular.

Drop Cap ame home and had coffee and a rest, then dinner across the river. An interesting day.

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Friday, 22nd September, 2000

Measach falls photograph

Rosemary and Mac on the Suspension Bridge over Measach Falls

Drop Cap oday was marvellous! We took the Wester Ross Coastal Trail from Inverness and it was a scenically stunning drive. We headed up towards Ullapool, stopping at a hotel in the middle of nowhere for morning tea, huge hot scones, with jam and really good brewed coffee. Just before turning off on the Coastal Trail we stopped at the Corrieshalloch Gorge and walked to the Measach Falls. There was a viewing point and a suspension bridge over the falls. It was spectacular and lovely.

Drop Cap hen we turned on to the Coastal Trail. It was just breathtaking! Mountains, bare or rock covered, lochs and little burns and waterfalling streams. We passed through tiny villages and stopped in Aultbea on the coast to find some lunch. We went to a little woodcraft shop and cafe (The Hard Wood Cafe!) and the lady made us some sandwiches to go, homemade bread, wonderful, home cured gammon, tuna and mayo. Delicious, and we also bought two lovely boxes. Took it away and ate at a lookout point looking over Loch Ewe, a sea loch.

Plockton photograph

View from Tigh na Fhaing, Plockton

Drop Cap hrough Gairloch and Loch Carron, tiny one lane roads with passing places till we reached Plockton, the home of Hamish McBeth. Our B and B Tigh-na-Fhaing is quite lovely, Mac and I have an attic with a dormer window overlooking the loch and Geoff has a double to himself because their only single was taken. The house is right on the waterside and the people are lovely. I wish we could stay longer.

Tigh-na-Fhaing Guest House photograph

Tigh na Fhaing Guesthouse, Plockton

Drop Cap e went for a walk along the main street on the harbour foreshore, where we saw the famous palm trees growing, courtesy of the Gulf Stream, and passed "Rory Campbell's Shop", which is really a craft and souvenir shop. It is a pretty village in a stunning location, where cows wander unheeded and unherded along the streets (makes the "clean up after your dog " signs a bit redundant)

Plockton photograph

Plockton, Scotland

Drop Cap e are going out for dinner to a restaurant called "Off the Rails" in the local Railway Station (converted ticket office etc, Plockton is another unattended station) which our hostess recommended.

Plockton photograph

Plockton, Scotland


Drop Cap e had a very nice meal - Geoff tried his first haggis, which he liked but found a bit rich and too much for a starter. I had crispy potato skins with tomato salsa, which was a nice non-filling starter and lemon chicken and rice which was delicious. Geoff had mixed seafood crumble for his main which he said was delicious but found hard to finish after the haggis. Mac had steak and mushroom pie which was nice but filled him too full for sticky toffee pudding, which was a shame.

Plockton photograph

Rosemary and Mac on the Harbour Wall, Plockton

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Saturday, 23rd September, 2000

Eilean Donan Castle photograph

Eilean Donan Castle, Loch Alsh

Drop Cap fter a lovely breakfast we left beautiful Plockton, with regrets that we could not stay longer.
It was a grey day, with occasional scuds of rain as we drove the few miles to Eilean Donan.

Eilean Donan Castle photograph

Geoff and Mac at the Water Gate, Eilean Donan Castle

Drop Cap he Castle has certainly had a lot of work since we were here last, with a new Visitor Centre, Tea Room and Gift Shop.

They have added to the display as well, last time we could only see the Billetting Room and Banqueting Hall, and no more, but they have opened up one floor of bedrooms and built a replica of the kitchens, which was quite interesting. We were a little disillusioned to hear that the castle as we see it now was only rebuilt in 1932 from the ruins. But it is certainly impressive.

Eilean Donan Castle photograph

Eilean Donan Castle, Loch Alsh

Dun Telve Broch photograph

Exterior Dun Telve Broch, Glenelg

Drop Cap ust four miles out of Glenelg are the two bronze age broch towers, or remains of same, Dun Telve and Dun Trodden (sounds like a terrible pun).

Dun Telve Broch photograph

Interior, Dun Telve Broch, Glenelg

Drop Cap or structures so old, they displayed incredible work-manship and were quite a lot larger, I think, than the one at Dun Carloway on Lewis.

Dun Trodden Broch photograph

Remains of Dun Trodden Broch (with Sheep)

Holmisdale Cottage photograph

1 Holmisdale, Our Cottage

Drop Cap rom Glenelg we took the tiny car ferry to Kylerhea on Skye, then drove up the precipitous track till it joined the new Trunk Road to Broadford. Here we had lunch and did the shopping at a massive Co-Op for the perishables. Then we followed the directions we had been given by the agents, to Glendale. along roads steadily getting narrower, arriving at our cottage, 1 Holmisdale, at nearly 5 p.m, to find the caretakers waiting to show us the place.

Skye photograph

View from our Cottage, Skye

Drop Cap t is a cute croft cottage on a hill, surrounded by sheep, with our own little burn and falls. The wind is whistling in the chimneys but every room has heating. The walls are very thick, the lounge is cosy and comfortably furnished. It even has Trivial Pursuit and a pile of books. Upstairs are two bedrooms with sloping in walls, like our attic last night. The windows are in the sloping wall. The bathroom is downstairs, unfortunately, and only has a bath, no shower. That, and the lack of a clothesline, seem to be the only disadvantages so far, apart from general remoteness. The view from the front is panoramic, valleys and slopes and occasional houses like ours. And sheep. We are tired but we have a week to see what Skye can offer us.

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