A Travellerspoint blog

Scotland: Ullapool & Ardvreck Castle

Loch Broom and Loch Assynt

Ullapool is a picturesque small fishing village on Loch Broom that is a good base for day trips to places such as Ardvreck. There is a pretty port, some good restaurants and a handful of places to stay that book very quickly, so plan in advance if you go. There is also a campsite where you can pitch a tent or park your camper. There are quite a few restaurants, but they fill up quickly. A local specialty is mussels which is served in a creamy broth with fresh bread for dunking.
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There are many castles in Scotland. Some are in ruins, some are still lived in. They are often featured in movies such as Highlander and TV shows such as Game of Thrones. All of them belonged to to one clan or another and have long, documented histories. The Ardvreck Castle, a ruin of a three-story tower overlooking Loch Assynt, belonged to the McCleod Clan. During the late 1600s the castle was taken by the Mackenzies, and was replaced by the newer Calda House, a short walk south of the castle. Calda House was attacked and burned by the MacRaes in 1760. The property passed back to the Mackenzies...you get the idea. Clans in Scotland were constantly battling each other for power and land. Happily, some castles survived. Even the ones that didn't are worth a visit because their settings are so inspiring. The Ardvreck Castle is said to be haunted by the weeping ghost of one of the daughters of a MacLeod chief who threw herself out of one of the windows. Although the Scots I met all have a great sense of humor, there are no happy endings in Scottish tales.

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Posted by teethetrav 04:28 Archived in Scotland Tagged highlander game_of_thrones ullapool ardvreck_castle mcleod_clan mckenzie_clan macraes calda_house 007 Comments (0)

Scotland: Greetings from Achmelvich Beach

From Asbury Park to Achmelvich Beach

I live three miles from the Asbury Park beach. A run-down shell of itself for decades, Asbury was recently named second best beach in the US by Money magazine. Wow. Trust me. It's not. But it has been re-invented by hipsters and a New York crowd. There are new restaurants at every price point, three hotels, multiple new businesses, and expensive condos. Some old favorites remain: the boardwalk, Convention Hall, Madame Marie's, and even the Stone Pony where Bruce still makes an occasional unannounced appearance. But commercialism and overdevelopment have ruined this unique, small beach town. But that's a different post.

On the other side of the Atlantic lies the remote and lovely Achmelvich Beach. Bordered by white sand, tall grasses, craggy rocks, and steep cliffs, the water is a blue-green that looks more like the Caribbean than a bay off the Atlantic. Near the town of Lochinvar on the northwest coast, the pristine beach is a well-known and popular spot with camping and caravan sites. Even the car park is a bit of a hike from the beach area, so the beach itself is protected. I for one hope it stays that way.
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Posted by teethetrav 07:29 Archived in Scotland Tagged scotland caravan achmelvich_beach asbury_park best_beach money_magazine Comments (0)

Scotland: Corrieshalloch Gorge

Rain, Fog & Fear of Heights

Many of us have heard that there are multiple words in Eskimo for snow. I am amazed there aren't an equal number of words for rain in Scotland. Maybe they're in Gaelic. Anyone know? In the US, we have a saying that April showers bring May flowers. In Scotland they say, if it wasn't for rain there would be no whiskey. Personally, I think there is a need for so much whiskey because there is so much rain.

On yet another windy and rainy day in Scotland, I found myself standing in the middle of a very shaky suspension bridge, high over the River Droma looking at a breath-taking waterfall and trying not to think about how high up I was. I hiked through the woods to get to this point and I was not going to leave without pictures to prove that I had overcome my fear of heights and bridges to have this experience. Except when I looked through my viewfinder, all I could see was blur! Something was wrong with my camera lens. Stubbornly determined to get my shot, I stood on the swaying bridge, with nothing to hold onto and changed my camera lens. And still saw blur. I fished around in my pocket until I found my phone and finally got the shots.

Long after I was back on solid ground and my knees had stopped wobbling, I pulled apart my camera to try to figure out what was wrong. DUH! It was so rainy and wet that my camera lenses had simply fogged up. I was so rattled by being so high up in the air on a swaying footbridge, a steamed up lens had never occurred to me. Here are my pictures. The first two are my foggy camera pics. You can see why I panicked!
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Posted by teethetrav 11:11 Archived in Scotland Tagged rain scotland whiskey corrieshalloch_gorge suspension_bridge Comments (0)

Scotland: Faeries, Nessie, & Kelpies

Fact, Fiction, Whiskey & Beer

Scotland has 38,000 lochs (lakes). Some are fresh water and are landlocked. Others run into the sea. Loch Ness is the second largest loch in the Scottish Highlands. Situated in the Great Glen, the fresh water Loch runs from Inverness in the north to Fort William in the south. Loch Ness is approximately 25 miles long and incredibly deep, 750 feet at its deepest point. The depth plus the high peat content explain why the water is so dark it is almost black. It is here in the murky, dark water where "Nessie" hides. She is the infamous creature who is also known as the Loch Ness Monster. She occasionally makes appearances both in and out of the water. Stories about her sightings usually begin with a pub and there's whiskey involved. Whether or not you believe in Nessie, Loch Ness is one of a series of interconnected bodies of water in Scotland and it, like all the Lochs I saw, is spectacular. The water, the mountains, the rolling clouds reflecting on the Loch, the mist, and the fog are ever-changing and cast a spell that make you want to stay and binge watch forever.
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Scotland has a rich history of mythical creatures such as Nessie. Maybe it's the mystical scenery, or the wild and remote land. Or it could be the beer and whiskey that lead to creative stories told late into the night. Regardless, Nessie is just one of many creatures the Scots are more than happy to explain with entertaining tales. The kelpie is an animal that tricks you into thinking it is a horse. But beware…kelpies are mean! They are shape-shifting spirits who live in the water. The kelpie often appears as a tame pony beside a river. These water horses can also appear in human form. They may materialize as a beautiful young woman who hopes to lure young men to their death. If you are fooled, you will get dragged into the water and meet your doom. Scottish stories never have happy endings. Walt Disney would have been an epic fail here.

Other popular stories tell about the faeries. To be clear: we are not talking about Tinker Bell. Scottish faeries are mean and hate humans. There are faerie traps all over the country. They are openings in the earth that, should you explore them, you will be kidnapped and held prisoner. You might well disappear for centuries like Rip Van Winkle. Faerie Glen on the Isle of Skye is an enchanted place. There is no definitive folklore linking the land to the faerie realm, but some say faeries created the dramatic landscape and still dwell within its many crevices. It doesn't take much imagination to picture faeries, or possibly hobbits, hanging out here.

The Faerie Glen is well hidden on winding back roads, but it’s well worth searching for it. Even if you don't return for a few hundred years.

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Posted by teethetrav 11:53 Archived in Scotland Tagged beer isle_of_skye whiskey loch_ness nessie kelpies faerie_glen Comments (0)

Scotland: Claver Cairns

A Hidden Gem as Amazing as Stonehenge

Not far from Inverness, just a few miles from the Culloden Battlefield are the 4000 year-old Claver Cairns, one of my favorite sites in Scotland. The Cairns (rocks) are formations that are reminiscent of Stonehenge. Arranged in circles, they are thought by some to be a burial ground. Others think they were a calendar of sorts for farming. Whatever they were used for, they are mystical. Being there made me happy that there are still mysteries in the world that no one quite understands. Who put these circles of stacked rocks and huge stones in place? Why are they there? Surrounded by trees, with green pastures as far as the eye can see, hills loom in the distance and when you stand in the middle of one of the circles, you feel as though it must have felt centuries ago. There is nothing of modernity here (except a sign directing you to see the Highland Cows a short distance away) and I was struck by the hours, days, weeks, it took to stack these Cairns into mysterious circles that were carefully arranged to let sunlight stream through on the solstice.

For fans of Diana Gabaldon’s popular novel Outlander and the TV series of the same name, Clava Cairns has become a bucket list destination. It's been suggested that Outlander’s fictitious stone circle, Craigh na Dun was inspired by the site. This is where the main character falls through time and meets her Scottish love, Jamie. The show has become so popular, there are now Outlander bus tours that take you to all the places where the show has filmed.

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Posted by teethetrav 04:44 Archived in Scotland Tagged scotland stonehenge claver_cairns pre-historic_stones culloden_battlefield diana_galbadon outlander Comments (0)

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