A Travellerspoint blog

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)

Scotland: Road Trip

Heading to the Highlands

The trip from Edinburgh up to Inverness and the Highlands is dotted with small opportunities to see samples of Scottish history. It is also a ride through ever-changing scenery that is green and hilly, then shifts to a brown and gray moonscape as you move out of the Lowlands across the fault line up into the Highlands. Layered over everything are clouds, mist, fog, and broody skies that can shift from dark to light as quickly as you cross a road. A road that gets slimmer the higher you climb and eventually becomes one narrow lane with small, paved sections that enable you to pull over so vehicles coming in the other direction can pass you on the curved mountain roads. Did I mention there was fog?

One stop is the historic town of Dunkeld on the River Tay where you can wander into the Dunkeld Cathedral, walk along the River, admire the town garden, shop a bit and get a wee snack in one of cafes.

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Another stop is the Folk Museum in Newtonmore. This reproduction village shows how Scottish Highlanders lived from the 1700s on. You can wander in and out of buildings that show how they built their homes, farmed, how they dressed, how they wove wool, and made their clothes. Set in a one mile long, 80 acre site, the scenic working farm has restored buildings that brings Highland history to life. There is a lovely trail to hike.

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No Scottish road trip would be complete with a stop at a whiskey distillery. There are around 120 distilleries in Scotland, so pace yourself. The Dalwhinnie Distillery is known for pairing single malt whiskey with chocolate, so it has double appeal if you are a fan of either, or both. You can take a tour and learn how whiskey is made, or simply sample from 1 to 6 drams of different whiskeys, each served with a chocolate. For 5 pounds you can get a cup of hot chocolate that is so thick it is more like pudding.

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Posted by teethetrav 04:02 Archived in Scotland Tagged scotland whiskey dunkeld highland_folk_museum dalwhinnie_distillery single_malt_whiskey river_tay Comments (1)

Scotland: Queensferry

Three Bridges Over Forth Firth

For anyone who doesn't like cities, Queensferry is the perfect place to stay. A tiny coastal village on the edge of Edinburgh, Queensferry boasts of three lovely bridges that pass over the Forth Firth. I have no idea why they need three bridges; there's not that much traffic. The oldest is a red suspension bridge that resembles the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The newest, also a suspension bridge, is a marvel of steel that sparkles over the water. Known as the Queensferry Crossing, this collection of pipes and strings opened in 2017 and runs 1.7 miles (2.7km). It is the longest three-tower, cable-stayed bridge in the world. Scotland, a country of around 5 million people, invested of over £1.3 billion in the new bridge that is not only functional, the structure looks like a sculpture.

Queensferry is also a place where walkers can pick up the John Muir trail that leads from coast to coast. It is only one of a number of lengthy walking trails in Scotland. I passed through this postcard-perfect town on the beginning of a five-day adventure to the Highlands. Although it wasn't raining, the moody skies foretold the dreadful weather that was yet to come.

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Posted by teethetrav 06:44 Archived in Scotland Tagged scotland edinburgh queensferry forth_firth queensferry_crossing three_bridges Comments (0)

Scotland: Day trips from Edinburgh

Melrose Abbey & Smailholm Tower

Edinburgh is a compact city and it's surrounded by lovely green hills. Once you exit the city, in under half an hour, there are various sites to visit including the Tweed Valley where you can see a statue of William Wallace who became widely known outside of Scotland thanks to the film Braveheart. Weirdly enough, Wallace wasn't actually Braveheart. It turns out that Robert the Bruce was and his heart is on display in Melrose Abbey in the small town of Melrose. The Abbey is a semi-ruin, but you can still go inside if you want to see the heart. Robert the Bruce lived in the late 1200s and fought with Wallace against the English. Robert later became King of Scotland and was known as Robert I. Along the way, he was excommunicated by the Pope for murdering someone in a church. Eventually all was forgiven.

The Abbey sits on a beautiful piece of land on the edge of Melrose, a small town with quite a few shops and restaurants. I ate at the Greenhouse Cafe where your dog is welcomed with a large bowl of water. The food is made on the premises and is fresh and delicious. I had a chicken salad with a freshly made chutney. If they put the chutney in a jar, I would buy it.

On the way back to Edinburgh, a brief stop at Smailholm Tower is worth a look. The four story tower was a favorite spot of Sir Walter Scott who visited there often and was inspired to write some of his poems and ballads there.
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Posted by teethetrav 05:26 Archived in Scotland Tagged melrose melrose-abbey smailholm-tower robert-the-bruce king-of-scotland greenhouse-cafe william-wallace braveheart Comments (0)

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