Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Rees family trip to Europe - part 2: Scotland

If I had been blogging more regularly, then I would have told you about this trip already, but I don't think I have mentioned it here at all. About a year ago we started planning this swing through Europe, based around a visit to Elf's brother Chonk and his family in Switzerland - wife Irma, and kids Bea and Eric. We just got home on Sunday after seven weeks living in each other's pockets in amazing places like Venice, Florence, York and Inverness, finishing with ten days at their house in Winterthur near Zürich.

Here I'd like to send a special shout out to Irma, an incredibly loyal follower of this blog. At last there is a new post! I hope this makes your day!

You are probably wondering where Part 1 is. I am doing this post at work and I have access only to our photos from the UK, so I will double back later for a brief Part 1 about our first few days in Switzerland.

Our itinerary was: 
  • fly to Switzerland
  • 3 days later fly to Inverness
  • 2 weeks travelling through the UK stopping in Edinburgh, Alnwick, York, Cambridge and London
  • back to Switzerland for a few days
  • to Italy via the Bernina Express train over (and under) the Alps
  • 2 weeks travelling through Italy staying in Milan, Monterosso (Cinque Terre), Florence, Sorrento, and Venice
  • back again to Switzerland for another 10 days, then home
So here are some pics in rough chronological order

We did the UK from the top down, starting at Inverness. It was surprisingly lovely weather when we arrived and held up throughout. We stayed in an Airbnb near the centre of town; just across the street was an old church which was built on a pre-Christian mound. This is the spot where Christianity came to Scotland. I think the spire on the right is the one. 

Our two planned Inverness activities were a) visiting the Culloden battlefield and b) taking a day tour to the Isle of Skye. 

We took a local bus out to the edge of town near the battlefield and walked from there, on a gorgeous morning, past horsey paddocks and a lovely field of dougals.

By long family tradition we call these round haybales dougals.

This was one of the days when Michael took a long time to get into the right holiday spirit.
I found a suitable role for him at the visitors centre as 'unfortunate corpse'.
The battlefield is a vast flat grassy plain. It is very peaceful today.
The highlanders of Bonnie Prince Charlie were routed by the redcoats.
Our day trip to Skye with WOW Scotland Tours was fantastic. The bus left Inverness around 8.30am and returned after dark about 12 hours later. The guide Gordon and driver Karen were both really great at their jobs. Marcus left our camera on the bus and Gordon very kindly posted it on for us.

Lobster traps at Kyle of Lochalsh, our first port of call on Skye. 

Portree, the very pretty major town.

We stopped at a fascinating place called Fairy Glen, where mysterious conical mounds rise from the plain.

This place is called The Quiraing, and it is also mysterious and beautiful.
Various films I have never seen (Prometheus and Stardust) were filmed here.

This spot is called Sligachan. The water was 2 metres higher just a week earlier.
On our last day in Inverness we were catching a train at lunchtime for Edinburgh. The night before we were chatting to a man in a souvenir shop who told us about the prehistoric Clava Cairns just near Culloden. So we decided to go back out there and have a look in the morning. Here we are on our way back, carrying ALL our bags because I hadn't worked out that there were lockers at the train station. Later our train went over that beautiful bridge.

This rock at Clava Cairns was worked like this about 4000 years ago.
The train to Edinburgh was very interesting. We went through some very forbidding moorland, delightful little towns, and past beaches with people walking dogs in the sun. Kirkcaldy, just over the water from Edinburgh in Fife, looked particularly nice.

Our 2nd Airbnb in Edinburgh was on the major road in the suburb of Corstorphine (pron. cuh STOR fin) and we agree now it was our least favourite of the six we stayed in.

Edinburgh has a very stern air. There are a lot of jagged steeples and countless chimneys. Everything is stone, and stained dark with centuries of smoke, although now wood and coal heaters are banned.

The slice of the old town viewed from the parade ground in front of Edinburgh castle.

Inside the castle walls.

We went in search of Scotland Street, famous from the serialised stories of Alexander McCall Smith.
We found it, and this basement cafe that could well be Big Lou's. Needed more books though.
We climbed the Scott Monument to get this view of Edinburgh. 287 steps.
Before the trip we were visiting Michael's buddy Jono one day when his parents Shona and Mike suggested we should see a couple of things at Falkirk while we were in Scotland. It was a little bit out of our way but well worth it.

This is the Falkirk Wheel - devised to connect two moribund canals
and now a tourist attraction in its own right.

This shows how it works.

Nearby are The Kelpies, largest equestrian sculptures in the world.
They represent the Celtic legend of horrible monsters who live in a loch,
but turn themselves into beautiful horses to lure men to their deaths.

Jonathan Jones doesn't like them.
From Falkirk we were headed to Alnwick in Northumberland, England. We had picked up a hire car in Edinburgh with that modern infestation, a GPS. They don't give you a map any more. We had a miserable day on the road and Elf insisted first thing the next morning that we buy a map before doing anything else. We tried in vain to get south from Falkirk without being dragged back into Edinburgh but the GPS would not have a bar of it. At one point it directed us into a dodgy -looking council housing estate carpark in Airdrie.

We loved Scotland and would very happily return to spend longer. The weather down south wasn't quite up to what it had been in Inverness but no-one would believe us.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And here's a shout back at you!!! Thanks for the post and the great pics!! Big Swiss hugs, Irma