Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Arrival in Edinburgh

So we got into town and realized that a certain person formerly known as Purpleworms had mislaid the address info and we had no idea where we were going. Luckily the couple across from us in the train had a data phone and after searching for awhile we were able to guess the name of the Guesthouse and get an address. So we headed off to the Guest house and walked the long way there asking every so often if anyone knew the direction.

We  passed this sculpture of Oliver Cromwell on the way.  Edinburgh is a fine old city.

with a really long park along its northern side. It used to be a kind of loch where the waste would be dumped and they credit this with making it a very fertile green space and park.


Eventually we found our place (but not until after we had walked ourselves to death.) 
Here is a garden next door.

And here is the Cruachan Guesthouse that we would make our home for the next 3 days.

And of course there was no one there. We placed a phone call and were told that they had to go to the optician and would show up as soon as possible (in about 15 minutes). And a very sweet gentleman did show up and finally let us in. 

We were informed that our rooms were not en suite which I didn't mind, but of course it turned out the loo was a floor down a treacherous circular staircase, which I did.

Still it was clean and not too horribly far from where we wanted to go (but not as close as we had hoped either.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

The Road from Inverness

All too soon it was time to leave Inverness.  I had to model one of my new sweaters in the mirror before we left!

I have to thank Violet for the idea of going to Inverness. It was by far the highlight of our trip to Scotland. We said goodbye to the B & B's beautiful hydrangeas and  prepared for our train ride to Edinburgh.

In the train station we met a variety of Scottish dogs. Violet has the family affinity for the canine.

We boarded the train which was comfortable and fairly full.

Once on the train we discovered that the Scottish countryside was varied and nuanced.

We were seated across from a lovely Scottish couple who told us a lot about the places we were seeing and who also exchanged trivia with us about old television shows and films.

I'm including some of the pictures of the grogeous countryside that we passed. 

Occasionally there was a brook and of course a little village.

Sometimes the terrain was rough and rather  inhospitable, but still beautiful.

I was going to leave this image out but then I noticed the little blue and white speck on the left side.  (If you click on the image you can enlarge it).  That is the sign of a vote for independence. We'd been seeing it all over and not realizing what we had been seeing. (By next Thursday they will have voted and it will be interesting to see what happens.)

The mountains were beautiful.


We passed this interesting little monument very quickly and I wondered what it was.

I love the varied palette of colors in the Scottish hills.

This was a station clock at the stop before Edinburgh.

And then we could see the Firth of Forth.

There are large craggy rocks and mountains jutting out of the water.

This is the bridge into Edinburgh. The couple near us told us that this is the bridge that  Richard Hannay jumps out onto in Hitchcock's The 39 Steps.  I was terribly excited to see this bridge!

We arrived at the station ready to experience some more new adventures.

Urquhart Castle and a little bit of Heaven

So work has gotten in the way with my fun and I never did get to finish writing about our trip on Loch Ness. We were just about to dock at the famous ruins of the castle of Urquhart. The pictures really tell most of the story. Urquhart is a 13th century castle and was important in the struggle for Scottish independence as Wikipedia will tell you.

We approached it from the side of Grant's tower on the Loch.

Here are a couple of shots of the larger ruins as we came in from the Loch.

The guide recommended the film at the visitor's center, so Violet and I headed away from the castle and learned about the terrible MacDonalds (hmmm - I knew they were empire builders!) and their assaults on the the fortress Urquhart.

The grounds are laid out like this (courtesy of Wikipedia. 

A Site of drawbridge
B Gatehouse
C Nether Bailey or Outer Close
D Chapel
E Inner Close
F Grant Tower
G Great Hall
H Kitchen
I Water gate
J Upper Bailey or Service Close
K Motte and shell keep
L Doocot
M Smithy
N Loch Ness

On the way to the visitor's center we got to see this gigantic trebuchet (what most of us call a catapult).

I headed down to the ruins while Violet sat down to draw,

There was a piper at the base of the ruins. His music vibrated throughout the grounds and lent an atmosphere of olde Scotland to the viewing.

Near the remains of each area, there were very nice information signs.

Here are some random images of various parts of what is left of the castle.

Here is a shot from the tower that shows the nature of the ruins a little bit better.

This is a shot looking back from the castle to the visitor's center.
That little red speck on the right is Violet who decided to sit down and do a drawing.

You could go all the way up to the top of Grant tower, from which you got a really wonderful view of the grounds. 

Far too soon it was time to go. Violet had gotten so engrossed in the aura of drawing the castle that she didn't have much time to  see the sights, but she valiantly raced through the grounds and then back to the bus at our alotted time.


On our way back to Inverness we kept a sharp look-out for the famous Highland Koo. These were obviously not cows.

We did finally see Nessie, but it wasn't in the Loch (and besides we had given up on monsters and now wanted to see big hairy cows.

 Maybe that one on the left is one.


And these guys were pretty far away, but was that orange hair on that one on the left.

 Yes, it was! We'd spotted a Haighlan' koo.

After we got back to town we stopped at a little hard rock cafe that featured Jim Morrison and Blondie pictures on the wall and electric rock music for ambiance. It also had some Scottish food and the most interesting man. I would swear it was Truman Capote if I didn't know better. He was quite dapper wearing a white tie and straw hat and he carried a cane and I even heard someone mention to him that he was the best dressed man in Inverness.

He didn't seem to be the type for hard rock music, but he loved the cafe and in fact came in more than once while we were there.  I didn't want to photograph him obviously, so all my images were blurry, but in the one below you can see the resemblance to Capote.

The food was very nuanced and quite good, although I feel a bit weird saying so as I ordered a salad with blood pudding. Violet had courgette soup that was also beautifully done.

The real special thing however was the dessert. I don't think I have ever had food that was a s delicious as this:

I have no idea why there was a tomato with dry leafy things on top of this, but it's cute, isn't it? This is sticky toffee pudding, the most wonderful, orgasmically delicious thing I have ever had in my life. It is a moist date cake with caramel sauce and served with cream. Violet and I were in heaven! There is no more to be said!