Sunday, October 9, 2022

Scotland Day 15 and 16 and homeward bound

 Sunday was our last full day in Scotland. After breakfast and short but poignant goodbyes, we loaded on the ferry and drove almost straight through to Edinburgh.  We had just enough time to check out two other attractions.

 The Falkirk Wheel

Three shots of the Falkirk Wheel rotating to exchange boats from one canal to another.

The Falkirk Wheel is “an engineering marvel” built in 2003 to connect two large canals. It replaced 29 locks that had been decommissioned decades ago.  One rotation of the wheel lifts a boat up from the small lake at the end of one canal to the aerial portion at the end of the other canal. Quite cool to watch.

 The Kelpies

A few miles away, connected by paved paths alongside the lower canal are The Kelpies, metal sculptures of horseheads standing almost 90 feet high. One of the other wedding guests said he didn’t think The Kelpies were worth the short detour off the freeway. I completely disagree! They are really, really cool! 

We got lucky with the sun and clouds - made for beautiful pictures.

A close up showing the metal structure of the sculpture.


The mane.

The inside of one Kelpie

Look how huge they are!  That is me standing under the head.

I'm really glad we stopped to check out The Kelpies.

The Kelpies visit made for a beautiful evening to end our tour of Scotland.

 We checked in to our hotel by the airport for a little bit of rest before flying home the next day.

The hotel had tiny eclairs waiting for us. Coffee creamer cup for scale.

Cheers to you, Scotland!

Day 16 return

I had a 3 am wakeup call for my 6 am flight to Paris. Because of thick ground fog in Paris, we were not allowed to take off until 7:45 am, making my 70-minute connection in Paris unlikely. My personal travel agent husband was attempting to fly standby from Edinburgh to Newark, so I was on my own. Luckily, Delta held the Paris to SLC flight for me and several others and my checked luggage even made the connect.  By 3 pm I was back home and Drew followed 6 hours later. 

That wraps up a fantastic trip! My take-aways for our Scotland adventure: friendly people, easy to navigate, surprisingly good food (I had heard otherwise but never had a bad meal, even at the truck stop), beautiful rugged mountains covered by grass and moss, not very many people, interesting skies with always a pretty cloud to make for amazing photographs, rain of multiple types at all time of the day lasting from 5 minutes to 5 hours, OK mountain biking but not what we expected, game trails turned into hiking trails, quite affordable, and loads and loads of history on display. I am content to have visited by ancestors' homeland.  Goodbye, Scotland!

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Scotland Day 14: You guessed it, more hiking, but surprise! Bollywood.


Saturday was our last full day on Raasay, but there was still so much to do! Drew took the ferry and car up to Portree to run some errands for the wedding couple and get a better vacation haircut than he got in either Vietnam or Costa Rica, while I did a solo hike.

 Dun Caan hike

I intended to peak bag Dun Caan, the highest point on Isle of Raasay, but I also wanted to be back by 2 pm for an activity, so I did the abbreviated route to the base of Dun Caan. Dun Cann means hill of the bucket in Gaelic.

 Friday’s big storm and continuing showers turned the trail into either a small stream,

or a bottomless mud pit. I had finding purchase for my feet, nevermind the bike tracks on this extreme example of a mountain bike trail.


For most of the hike, I couldn’t see the tippy top, due not to forest, but to topography. Near the top, I understood why. There is a ridge before you get to the base of the mountain top. At the bottom of the ridge lies a valley and a large lake. At the top of the ridge lies a small lake. I repeat: the top of the ridge holds a small lake! What kind of crazy combination of climate and geology has occurred to make a lake on the top of the ridge?  

Dun Caan is the flat-topped high point right of center. The large lake down in the valley left of center is Loch na Meilich. The small lake left of that is the one I am perplexed by. I'm standing at the high point south of the lake and you can see the small hill on the opposite side of the lake. That's the entire drainage basin for this ridgetop lake.

My guess is that the granite is nearly impermeable and there is so much rain that a shallow depression that would probably collect soil in other regions holds a small lake here. In my rough estimate, the drainage basin for this lake is only about 4 times the surface area of the lake. It is the most bonkers hydrology I’ve ever seen.


Topo map of the lakes and peak of Dun Caan. The small lake on top of the ridge is outlined in blue. The maximum drainage basin is outlined in red. Really crazy.

Down below, the large and clear Loch na Meilich holds the water supply source for the community of Inverarish where we are staying.  I'm not sure if Dun Caan gets its name from the shape of the peak or because the nearby lake is a "bucket" of water.

 The landscape was truly stunning and I took my time trying to capture a little bit of the atmospheric feeling.


Eventually, I had to hoof it down beside another sizable lake and a raging creek that quickly turned into a full blown river. This river is the size of a Utah River with hundreds of  square miles of drainage basin and here it has maybe one square mile.


My timing was just perfect to have Drew pick me up as I got to the paved road on his way back from Portree, where he had found doughnuts.


Or at least what looked like doughnuts. They tasted a bit more like cake, but at least now we have checked off Scotland on our "Married With Doughnuts" list.

Van Tour

 One of the owners of Raasay House schlepped us around the island in a 9 passenger van. He pointed out natural features and told us interesting stories about Raasay Isle history. Most of the facts can be gleaned from the Wikipedia entry


But the addition of individuals, back stories, and the consequences of history were fascinating.


The ruins of Brochel Castle on the east side of the island and a seldom occupied holiday house tucked into the cliff. 
David told us that Brochel Castle was probably not occupied as a residence but rather as a pirate stronghold. Pirates held control of the bay and extracted tithing from boats that sought safe harbor.

 I didn't get any pictures, but we saw a red deer (they are big!) and several sea eagles. 

Callums road was built by one man to connect the community on the north side of the island with the south but by that time the population has mostly left. The land is stony and rugged and I can’t imagine trying to live off this land.


We saw several areas where peat had been harvested. It isn't done much anymore. 

Low grade iron ore was mined for the World War I war effort. The kilns and mine building ruins remain. 

The workforce housing is still in use as housing for island residents and the general store.

Down time between the van tour and dinner was spent chilling and coloring in the library. 

Bollywood night

 For our last supper with the group, the chef prepared yummy curry dishes. With the colonial influence of the British Empire, there are loads of people of Indian descent in the UK and they brought with them their cuisine.    

To go with that theme, Jerda and Jeremy hosted us in full Indian garb and provided Bollywood dancers who performed and lead us in trying our hips and fingertips at Bollywood style dancing. 

The dancing performance was great.

These two have made sure we got the whole Scottish experience and then some!


Friday, September 30, 2022

Scotland Day 13 a change in the weather, but more hiking!

Sometime during the wedding festivities of last night, a big storm like a Nor’easter blew in. The weather on Friday morning could not have been more different from Thursday, nor less amenable to outdoor activities.

the lawn on wedding day


The lawn 20 hours later

The wind was too strong for ferries to run and we were both needing a rest day, so we spent almost the entire day in the amazingly cozy library, catching up on work, blogs, and business while chatting with the other guests and refereeing the games of Uno.


But Lucy and Drew can only sit still for long, so when the wind died down somewhat and the sun broke through intermittently, we ventured out to one of the trails that is accessible by foot from Raasay House.

Rugged Raasay shoreline and trail

Spooky woods

Drew wasn’t fully waterproof so when it started to rain again for real, he headed back halfway around but I continued along the path.

A crofters house ruins. I really can’t imagine trying to farm and feed a family here. It is windy and wet, and there was no such thing as Gore-Tex or quick dry fabric.

It was good quick hike for fresh air before the dinner gathering.

The evening’s activity during dinner was a "Burns night" featuring traditional Scottish haggis, neeps, and tatties, and poetry readings of Scottish poet Robert Burns' work performed by a few of the more eloquent wedding guests. More learning and fun for us.

A good relaxing day to recover and continue the celebration.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Scotland Day 12: the Wedding

Today was the day. The reason we are here. To celebrate the marriage between Jerda, of one of my dearest friends, to Jeremy, her wonderful man. 

The weather in the Highlands and especially the Hebrides (Scotland's western islands) is very often not good. All week we had all been watching the weather. On Monday, it looked like wedding day would be blustery and wet, but as the week wore on, the forecast got better and better. Thursday dawned mostly sunny, calm, and in the mid 50s, as good as it gets I think for late September here! Jerda had asked us all to ask the Universe for good weather today and it worked!

The ceremony wasn't until 2 so we took a short hike on the south end of Raasay. Today, 163 people live on this island, but there is evidence of much larger communities and inhabitation way back to prehistoric times. 

Remains of a hill fort behind me.

Pictish stone. Picts are the people of ancient and early medieval tribes that inhabited the Highlands before the Clans.

A small chapel in a really old cemetery behind Raasay House. Inside lies the daughter of the 17th chief of the MacLeod Clan. 

Calm and clear

The view from Temptation Hill overlooking Raasay House and the sound to Isle of Skye.

A wide shot

The ceremony took place on the lawn in front of Raasay House, looking toward the Isle of Skye. 36 of Jeremy’s and Jerda’s closest friends and family were there to celebrate with them. It was a very, very beautiful ceremony in an equally beautiful setting.


Ceremony site on the lawn looking to Isle of Skye

All decked out in Scottish attire

The celebration continued into the evening. We were treated to a four- or five-course meal of fresh fish from the ocean, live music, and folk dancing. 

We even had professional dance instructors to show us all how to do a number of dances, including the Virginia Reel, which my mom remembers fondly from dances in the 1940s and 1950s. It was loads and loads of fun, especially because almost every guest participated in the dancing and the music was so good. Another fun factor was that over half the men were in kilts!  I think the novelty of the kilts made them feel more in the celebratory spirit. I know Drew enjoyed it, and he looked so handsome!

A note about our outfits. Drew has Cunningham blood in his heritage, so he is wearing the Cunningham tartan and a Cunningham crest on his sporran. The moto on the Cunningham crest is Over Fork Over and the animal on his sporran is a unicorn. I found it hilarious that a fierce Clan would have a unicorn as their spirit animal, but then we learned that the unicorn is the only animal believed to be able to defeat the lion. The lion, of course, is a symbol of the British Crown. Love that symbolism.

I am wearing the Campbell or Black Watch Campbell tartan as my sash and the Campbell crest on my sash pin. My great grandfather was a Campbell from Aberdeenshire. His parents may have been from the western Highlands of Scotland. The Black Watch tartan was one of the earliest tartans. It was worn by many of the earliest Highlanders in the Jacobite uprisings (Scot tried to throw off the British rule and keep regain their independence), of which many were Campbells, so it became the official tartan of Clan Campbell. There are two other Clan Campbells with slightly different tartans. Because I don’t know if I am descended from either of those, I chose to wear the Black Watch tartan. I also like the pattern and it is easy to find. I had ordered a poly-cotton sash to go on my shoulder 3 weeks before departing for Scotland. Delivery was attempted a week before I departed, but the delivery was rejected for incomplete address and there was no time to get the company to send me another.  So, I improvised and pinned two mini wool scarves together. The wool shed all over Drew’s nice white shirt, so by the end of the night everyone knew who he had come to the dance with. 😊

The Clan Campbell crest has a boar on it. Everyone who knows me knows I collect pigs and don’t eat pork. Maybe my ancient roots as a Clan Campbell woman have manifested as an affinity for the swine family.

I definitely felt in the spirit of the Highlands all dressed up for a Scottish wedding in our formal Clan attire.


Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Scotland Day 11: Isle of Skye

 Wednesday was going to be iffy weather, but there were no organized activities that we were going to do so we took the day to explore the Isle of Skye with our new hiking friends Olga and Steve. Drew especially wanted to see the Old Man of Storr. 

It rained and blew pretty hard, which made for a kind of miserable hike, but the scenery when the clouds parted was quite lovely. 

A very wet hike to Old Man of Storr

The Old Man of Storr

We wanted to do more hikes, but it was soggy so we just drove around the island.

Kilt Rock

Quiraing viewpoint

Thoroughly soaked, we dragged ourselves back to Raasay. Another amazing dinner was followed by some storytelling from a real Scotsman.  He also educated us a bit on the Highland Clearances, where landowners removed the crofters (tenant farmers) to replace them with sheep, a cash crop. Tens of thousands of Scots were removed to Canada in the mid to late 1800s. I have never heard that my great grandparents were forcibly removed, but at the time of their emigration to Canada, many Scots did not go by choice but by necessity because there was nowhere for them to scratch out a living.