Day 6 Photos – Scotland

Our weather luck finally ran out today as heavy rain showers and even a few thunderstorms interrupted some plans mid-afternoon. But overall, our last full day in Scotland was wonderful. Off to Northern Ireland tomorrow.



Glencoe Valley VIDEO

There are no words, photographs or videos that do this area of Scotland justice. It’s truly awe-inspiring, breathtaking, hypnotic, haunting, majestic, and any other sparkling adjective you’d like.

Glens, Lochs, and Left Lanes

As Dave and I were getting ready for breakfast this morning at the Rowan Tree Guesthouse, I noticed the lovely rose garden they have outside our bathroom window. Very pretty and an unexpected surprise in this setting. We enjoying a filling breakfast, then had a rather LARGE errand to run.

Today was the first day Dave drove in Scotland in over 30 years. It didn’t start off well last evening when we got about a block and a half from the hotel and the GPS/SatNav that he bought a month ago literally croaked on us. Thankfully, Dave knew of a nearby store that could help. So, we drove over there this morning and they were stumped at what happened and were clearly amazed and amused by the sound emanating from the wee black box. They even gave us 25 pounds off the listed price on a replacement model. Nice, nice lady & gentleman there.

So, with another brand new GPS in hand, we headed west. It was going to be a pretty straightforward root, but we were not expecting the beautiful views, winding roads, and quaint villages we drove through. This was a good test on Dave getting comfortable driving on the other side of the car and the road. He did great though.

We made a very brief stop at Huntingtower Castle. It was basically just a look-see and not something we intended to enter. It was lovely though. We fell in love with the village of Crieff with is beautiful homes and commanding views.

A quick stop at Loch Earn to take a few shots resulted in some really nice photos of it’s tranquill waters.

The weather was just about perfect, if not too hot again. We were expecting rain and never saw a drop of it.

Then we had lunch at Mhor 84. Dave and I had stopped here before five years ago, and meals did NOT disappoint. Fantastic lunch! I had the Scotch Rarebit and Dave had Mac & cheese. He said it was the best he’s ever had.

I saw our next stop mentioned by a Twitter follower from the UK. We read about it and decided to find it and check it out, it’s Falls of Falloch. Found at a non-descrip sign and a short walk in the woods. What a delightful spot! Loved the sound of the water.

As the mid-day sun started to become intermingled with clouds, we entered the most exciting part of the trip for us…Rannoch Moor and Glencoe. Although the drive across the A 85 was brilliant in it’s own, the anticipation of not only seeing Glencoe, but arriving before any rain wear is needed, was high!

Stunning vistas, rolling hills, majestic mountains and the deepest valley’s you’ll find. Glen (or valley) Etive and GlenCoe provided us with today’s best scenery for sure.

We found a quiet spot away from the buses and people and just sat and enjoyed this priceless view.

Although Dave and I did NOT want to leave, we needed to get to our next overnight accommodation in Ballachulish on Loch Leven. The Tom Eachainn Guesthouse has lovely views over Loch Leven in a quite neighborhood. The owner Sue, greeted us at the door and gave us a recommendation for dinner, which we took.

The Holly Tree Hotel is 4 miles away on Loch Linnhe. The views from the restaurant were beautiful and they served Belhaven ale! The bartender was shocked that I was one having the full pint and Dave had the half pint. Dinner was great. I had scallops & Dave had lamb.

We saw two fabulous cars in the restaurant car park and contemplated which one we thought was the “hotter” set of wheels. I thought the green, soft-top British Kallistro Panther was hot and Dave chose the White Mercedes behind it.

Afterwards we took a stroll along the Loch edge and saw a seal in the water. Then on the drive home, we saw a rainbow. I think we may have had a few angels with us today.

The Heavenly Highlands with Helen

We awoke to yet another foggy morning, but it was dry and breakfast was waiting! And what a wonderful breakfast it was. Michelle and David were wonderful hosts as a lovely arrangement of fresh produce and other locally-produced goodies were on display.

Cold items like cereal, yogurt, granola, meats, cheese and breads were offered, but the hit of the morning was the rhubarb jam. It was so sweet and tasty. None of us opted for the full Scottish breakfast, but instead had mostly eggs & toast. Just the right amount.

After being invited into the kitchen and checking out, we had a wonderful chat with Michelle & David again and told them how much we enjoyed our stay, the B&B itself, and the room. They also exchanged business cards with Helen as I know she enjoyed it too.

Then we headed out into the foggy mist to drive inland. We made a very quick stop at Crathes Castle, but it wasn’t open yet, so Dave just got out and took a few pics.

Then we headed to Balmoral Castle, the private royal residence for members of the British Royal family since 1852, when the estate and its original castle were purchased by Prince Albert, consort to Queen Victoria. Balmoral remains the private property of the royal family and are not the property of the Crown.

As we headed west, the fog started to rise and sunshine greeted us by the time we reached the car park at the castle…just as Helen said it would. However, we did make one small detour right before going to the castle by visiting Crathie Kirk (Kirk means church) which is best known for being the regular place of worship of the royal family when they are holidaying at Balmoral castle, which is right next door. It’s a wee church with some wonderful history. Then onto the big house – Balmoral!

The castle is an example of Scottish baronial architecture, and after many additions by successive family members, it now covers an area around 50,000 acres. It’s a working estate that employs around 50 full-time employees. There are grouse moors, forestry, and farmland, as well as managed herds of deer, highland cattle, and ponies. The Queen DOES love her horses.

Helen, Dave and I picked up the audio tours and set out to explore the sprawling estate. Helen had never visited here either, so it was fun to experience HER first time there as well. The tree-lined roads and paths offered a lovely respite from the hot sun. Yes, I said hot sun!

The working vegetable gardens were compact, but highly efficient. All planted to be ready for harvest during the Queen’s annual August holiday. They were growing a lot of potatoes, root crops, leafy greens, peas & greens.

There were also hundreds of wee flower seedlings just freshly planted to be ready in time for fresh floral bouquets in August as well. The rose garden was just getting started with new growth. It must look lovely in the sunken garden when they’re in full bloom.

We didn’t hit all of the tour highlight, but many of them within a comfortable distance. A water garden area was lovely and many of the perennial bushes were blooming throughout the grounds.

The castle itself is small, by castle standards, and because it’s also a private residence the only room open to the public is the Ballroom. And because of that you spend more time outside, so we were truly blessed with great weather.

The ballroom is actually the last stop on the tour and it has some wonderful artifacts like all of the Queen’s Christmas card photos on display. And for those fans of the Victoria series on PBS, there is a painted portrait of her beloved dog Dash hanging there. We were NOT allowed to take photos, but it certainly gives off a warm, cozy feeling as it was not very large. I found a fun video on YouTube of the Queen, Queen Mother, Princess Diana. and Prince Philip dancing in this ballroom. WATCH VIDEO ON YOU TUBE.

Lunch was next and we enjoyed some meat pies and sandwiches from the small cafe then we were on the road our last adventure visiting, but not going in to Breamar castle and driving through the stunning Glenshee area.

Helen is often accompanied by a wee stuffed sheep named Morag and she was featured in many photos from Helen’s tours. Five years ago on our first trip to Scotland, Dave and I adopted Duncan. Well, Duncan and Morag had a lot to catch up on. Mainly little Morag, who is now traveling with Morag. We allowed them some privacy to get reacquainted before parting ways again.

As we left Breamar, the fog was starting to move in quickly. We were able to see some amazing mountain vistas before it overtook the glens and stopped in one area to take some photos.

Perth was our destination city for the evening and wouldn’t you know it, the sun came out again. Helen dropped us off at the car rental office, so Dave and I could pick up our rental car for the rest of our journeys in Scotland. Many hugs all around and many, many thanks to Helen for her hospitality, friendship, and touring expertise. We are blessed to know her.

Our B&B for the night is the Rowanlea Guest House where we checked in, met the owners, ordered our breakfast, and settled in. Unfortunately, the brand new GPS Dave bought is suddenly not working. We may have to go old school and use Maps! Stay tuned!

Castles, Views, and a Wee Lass

Today we were greeted by more cloudy, cool weather, but it wasn’t raining! After enjoying another breakfast at the Ibis hotel, we checked out and set out to meet our friend/guide for the next couple of days.

Although we found the hotel a little too modern & European for our tastes, it served our needs sufficiently and we would recommend it to any of our smaller and thinner friends because the room & specifically the bathroom was very small. Figuring out the lights was 15-minutes we won’t get back and keeping the bathroom door open was annoying. Other than that, the hotel was in a great location for us and we applaud their efforts to create an environmentally friendly atmosphere and establishment. Fewer towels, lighting restrictions, and one-size fits all “bubbling” cleaner are a great start.

As Dave & I waited outside on the curb with our baggage, we were transported back to five years ago when we met up with Helen from Afternoon Tea Tours for the first time. Then her smiling face appeared in her car. Hugs all around, and we were off.

We were instantly reminded of Helen’s passion for her homeland of Scotland and her generosity with guests in making each adventure special. Although we have kept in touch via social media, it was wonderful to catch up in person.

As we headed north, the morning fog over the water started to lift and by the time we reached our first inland destination the sun was shining and the air was warm…TOO warm in fact. That thermal shirt I wore this morning really wasn’t necessary here and jackets were soon shed.

Our first stop was at Glamis Castle (Pronounced ‘glams‘) in the county town of Angus. Glamis Castle has been the ancestral seat to the Earls of Strathmore since 1372. It was also where the mother of the current queen, was born and where the sister (Margaret) to Queen Elizabeth was born.

I had seen an older YouTube video of the spectacular entrance drive to the castle, so I decided to film it as we entered. Shot through the windshield, I think it came out pretty good.

The castle is really stunning and we arrived just as a guided tour was beginning, so we latched on to it and followed along. Our guide was wonderful and led the group through only a dozen or so rooms with humor and just enough history to keep one interested. The thickness of the castle walls was amazing and there are even a few ghost stories to be told. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed inside, but once outside we were able to shoot the castle and surrounding gardens and woods, which were spectacular.

We enjoyed a nice sandwich lunch outside on a picnic table with a view of the castle and continued to catch up with one another and discuss our trip. Glamis is lovely and I can see why the Queen Mother had such affection for it.

As we headed east for our next destination, Helen took us through her hometown of Forfar where she grew up before leaving for Edinburgh when she was 18. Forfar is famous for it’s meat pies called Bridies. What a delightful area amongst the rolling fields of brilliant yellow rapeseed and Hawthorne bushes. Looking across the Valley of Strathmore provided a wonderful view of country life and the large amount of farming that is done here. Potatoes, strawberries and raspberries are among the chief crops.

Our next stop on the east coast of Scotland is the highly-anticipated 13th century ruins of Dunnottar Castle. (Pronounced ‘done-otter’)

Dave and I had read and seen it was going to be quite a walk to get there, and it’s all true, but OH is it worth it! As we began the walk from the car park and approach the first view of the castle, we heard bagpipes and instantly thanked Helen for arranging that just for us…but alas, even her magical tour powers could not take credit. What a special surprise though.

There is a sandy path, wooden steps and then stone steps that leads one to the entrance to the castle. It’s a hike…especially for Dave and I. We are SO out of shape, but feel we’ll be in better shape when we leave Scotland than when we arrived here due to entrances like this.

From photos we had seen online, we weren’t prepared for the number of intact buildings and rooms we found and the views…well, there aren’t enough words to accurately describe it. Spectacular! And I’m always a sucker for the sound of the ocean crashing along the shore. Waves, a view, and castle ruins…perfect.

Of course as we finished our tour, then we had to walk BACK to the car park along the same sandy, wooden, and stone path. It was harder on the way back, but we did it. This is by far MY favorite castle we’ve seen in Scotland. Dave moved it up to 2nd on his list behind Urquhart Castle we visited in 2013.

Other than some gusty winds, which you’ll get on the coast you know, the weather couldn’t have been nicer for our two castles today. And Helen’s tour of her home town and areas she grew up around added that personal touch.

We then drove to the coastal town of Stonehaven where we checked into the Chapel of Barras Farm B & B for the night. Owners & cattle farmers Michelle & David met us at the door and gave us a lovely warm welcome to their beautiful 5-room B&B.

Dave and I had a very nice room on the second floor and Helen was below us on the ground floor. Our room was nice and roomy with a terrific view overlooking their fields and garden. It was so nice to hear birds chirping and no buses or people yelling outside your window as we did right in the city. And as we were resting for a bit, the cows sauntered into the field outside our window.

After a quick shower, we went in to Stonehaven Harbor and enjoy a lovely dinner overlooking the wee harbor…even though it was VERY low tide. No, I did NOT have a third try at fish n’ chips, but Dave tried it and said it was very good. I opted for lamb kabobs which were delicious.

We walked around the harbor a little bit and headed back to the B&B where Helen surprised us with a gift of Belhaven Black Scottish Stout (because she had read in my blog how the pubs we’d stopped in had none), also a bottle of Schiehallion Lager, a box of shortbread, and some Melrose Tea. What a sweet and thoughtful gift! But then that’s just Helen — sweet and thoughtful. Dave and I drank a toast to Helen with Drambuie and the three of us enjoyed each other’s conversation and planning for a potential return to Scotland and where we might go! That’s the spirit!

At 10 pm, it was still this light out.