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Isle of Skye and Loch Ness

Ø July 26 tour to Loch Ness and Skye (Friday) More photos can be found here.

[Well, this is going to be a challenge, I have one side of a page full of notes for a full day which started at 7:30am and got journaled at 11:30pm. Those pictures better help!!]

Besides the cathedral in #Inverness, I had one more site on my list. Mandra, who reads extensively, had hundreds. So while I was adjusting my itinerary well before my June departure, I began looking at alternatives to meet some of her goals. That resulted in our booking two day-long tours out of Inverness. So up early Friday morning for breakfast of a banana, scrambled eggs and toast with tea (I’m not really a breakfast eater.) The two women staying in the other room upstairs joined us, and it turned out they had been out waiting with us for the return bus at Culloden the previous afternoon. They too were off on a different tour for the day.

Mandra and I headed outside, down the hill and High Street, crossing the River Ness under perfect skies and headed down to the cathedral. I got a few more outside pictures with much better light, and then walked to the rendezvous point and met Gordon. When I’d booked this tour online with TripAdvisor, it stated it would be a van tour of up to 8 persons. Well, we were going to be 23 and on a 34-passenger coach. [No, I was quite displeased, but had no other options.] Our guide was Gordon, an enthusiastic Scotsman, dressed in kilt, sporran, tam and dirk, who theatrically spouted tales (periodically repeating himself) for the next 11 hours.

Departing Inverness, we headed southwest along the northern coast of #LochNess. Gordon talked of the fae, Nessie, and even related some history. We were one seat back from the front, and Mandra took the window, so my efforts at photography on the fly don’t include much in the way of close ups, despite the rather excellent and powerful zoom in the Nikon. Gordon’s plan was to bypass the typical stops to get enough ahead of the other tours that we’d not be queueing much. Turning westward at Invermoriston, we left Nessie and proceeded along a valley road with twists and turn, and stunning landscape. Near Redfern Pool we made a pit stop. After about 100 photos mainly from a moving bus with smears of trees and inopportune fence posts, we arrived in Kyle on Loch Alsh where we stopped for lunch on our own. We two wanted more than a quick “fast food” sandwich, so walked up a slight rise to Hector’s Bothy. With a view of the #SkyeBridge, I had a bottle of Skye Red ale and grilled panini of tuna and cheese with a green salad. Most of the others had fish and chips at the shack below.

Back on the bus at noon, we began a 40-minute ride through the wonders of Skye. We were regaled with more tales as we passed through small towns on our way to the #fairypools. We stopped to “steal some koos”, or rather we fed carrots to some of the hairy cows pastured near the road. After another hour, we stopped, instructed to return from the pools in 80 minutes. The stream Allt Coir’ a’ Mhadaidh descending from Bruach na Frithe, cascades through several pools fed by waterfalls. We had to descend to the base of the stream and then climb along it to reach the several pools. The younger folks on the bus braved the cold mountain water while the more staid stood and took pictures.

Reboarding the bus, we returned to the turnoff and proceeded to #TaliskerDistillery. We were offered a single taste (I was gratefully handed a handful by non-Scotch drinkers) and were instructed on the different aging methods. Depending on the intended market, the whisky is finished in different barrels: the Asian market in new oak, the American market in old oak and the EU market in ruby port casks. I brought home a bottle of the latter. From our distillery sampling, we headed north to #Portree, the capital of Skye. We were south of the geologic formation called the Old Man of Storr. The bus driver took his required 30-minute break and we all had a bit of a wander in the quaint town of pastel-colored buildings. We left at 5.

Pretty much at the sole insistence of a (obnoxious, officious) woman named Olivia, we skipped the ride to the Old Man and instead stopped 90 minutes later at Skye Antiques in Broadford, as Gordon had mentioned a craftsman who created and sold wands. After a bit of waffling, she purchased a walking stick named Gandalf, while the rest of us poked through various woodwork crafts and antiques. Spur of the moment, I also bought a wand, made of Scottish beech (one of two species of tree indigenous to Scotland) with an ammonite fossil at the hand end.

Leaving Skye, we stopped to visit and walk around the #EileanDonanCastle, at the junction of the lochs of Duich, Long and Alsh. As it was 7pm, the tourism staff had departed, so we marched over the bridge, limited to walking around the exterior 13th century castle. Back to the bus, and another hour ride as we’re heading back (Gordon was finally pretty much talked out), we stopped at the overlook for #UrquhartCastle on Loch Ness. It was still another half hour before we pulled up in front of the cathedral in Inverness, a bit after 9pm. All in all, it had been a full and interesting day, with excellent weather.

Slowly strolling the riverbank, we crossed the Ness and walked into town. Not wanting pizza again, we passed on the rather busy Black Isle pub and headed down a side street, winding up at the Ivy. Bushed, I opted for a simple fish and chips with a pint of Belhaven. Leaving the restaurant, a light rain had started, so under my mini umbrella we hauled our whisky purchases back to the B&B. Maurag and Don were sitting in the front room with the German women, so they invited us to join them, and Don poured me a wee dram from his liquor cabinet. When asked about my sleeping the night before, I remarked on the bed being a bit short for my six-foot frame, and we both went upstairs and took the other bed out of Mandra’s room and set it up in mine.

I began my photo transfers, and went in to sit with Mandra while we tried to straighten out our journals recording of the itinerary for that day. My notes were a bit scrambled, so between the two of us, we achieved a better order which a review of the photos has confirmed. We had another not-quite-so-early start, with breakfast at 8:00, as we’d be meeting Celia for a private car tour on Saturday morning.

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