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. šŸ˜Š

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.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Scotland Day 10: Dunvegan Castle, hike, traditional music

 Our hosts Jerda and Jeremy had a week's worth of activities planned. In the Hebrides, the weather changes by the minute so we had to be flexible with the scheduled activities. The weather was looking to be not great, so they decided to do the mostly indoor organized tour of Dunvegan Castle, home of the MacLeod Clan.  

A cool room in the lower level of the castle

The castle was cool to see but the gardens were incredible.

Hydrangea flowers the size of my head

The weather was not horrible so we decided to go on a little hike called Scorrybreac near Portree, the biggest town on Isle of Skye. Two of the other wedding guests, Olga and Steve, were interested in hiking as well.  

After a little shopping in Portree we headed back on the Ferry to Raasay to make it in time for the Raasay Distillery Tour

The distillery is within walking distance of the Raasay House (a good thing after two tastings of single malt whisky, a gin, and a sour beer at the bar). We learned all about Scotch and enjoyed the upscale environment.

The tasting room

The evening’s meal was as delicious as the previous days. I had better watch it or I won’t fit into the dress I brought for the wedding. After dinner, another activity. For this one, we gathered in the bar to hear music and stories of music from three musicians. They played tunes that would have been played on Raasay and in the Highlands in the 1700s on instruments I’ve never heard: nickleharp, small pipes, and some type of Greek? guitar. It was amazing.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Scotland day 9: Fort William hike and transit

On Monday, the skies looked clearer so upon checkout we drove again around Loch Levin for the famous Glencoe views.

Not exactly guidebook worthy, but lovely nonetheless.  

We needed to be at the ferry to the island where the wedding would take place by 4, so that gave us a bit of time to sneak in another hike.

We drove up the most beautiful valley of Glen Nevis. 

Highland cows for real or just for the tourists?

The hike we chose would get us up off the valley floor with views back to Ben Nevis, the highest point in the United Kingdom at 4411 feet elevation above seal level. That is 3600 feet below where we live on a daily basis, but the massif rising from essentially sea level is impressive.

The trail though was something else, especially in heavy rain.

Then a drive through beautiful country

 to arrive at Raasay House, our home for the next week of wedding festivities.

Raasay House, Isle of Raasay, Scotland

The cozy library

Dinner our first night was delicious and I got to try Scotch eggs made with haggis. They, too, were delicious.

If the food is this good all week, I'm gonna need a real diet when I get home.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Scotland Day 8: Glencoe

 Glencoe is billed as one of the most beautiful landscapes in Scotland. It has superb hiking, biking, and winter activities. I still was not feeling super hot and the weather was supposed to move in this afternoon so we chose to do two short hikes after a wonderful full breakfast buffet where I tried black pudding.

Black pudding, a type of blood sausage, is the dark blob on the left of the little plate above my bowl of oatmeal (with prunes).  

The first hike was out of the village of Kinlochlevan to the Grey Mare's Tail waterfall.

For a closer view, you can scale along the walls using cables and rebar steps and over a pipe affixed to rocks across the stream. That was pretty fun.

The clouds wouldn't let up so this is the best view we got all day. Still, a nice walk. 

As an added bonus on the hike, we watched a moto cross adventure competition. The motorcycles go up the streambed and are scored on their skill. I couldn't help thinking the Sierra Club and the US Forestry Service would have a heart attack if this was done in Utah's precious few streams. 

After our hike we popped into the Glencoe Folk Life museum where we learned about slate mining, fishing, shinty (a game like field hockey popular in Scotland), and the Glencoe Massacre of 1692. I learned that even though Captain Robert Campbell gave the order to massacre the MacDonalds as they slept, he was only carrying out orders from the nasty British government, who wanted to punish the powerful MacDonalds. 

For our second small hike, we walked around the remnants of the Ballachulish slate quarry. The slate that was mined from this area covered roofs all over Scotland for 150 years. 

Inclined plane used to move slate in ore cars from the quarry to the lake/sea. 

A wall of the quarry that includes a basalt dike running from top left to bottom right. 

By this time, the weather was bad so we tucked into the Ballachulish Hotel for an afternoon of coziness.

Followed by dinner of comfort food while wrapped in my new wool sweater. 

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Scotland Days 6 and 7: hiking the Highlands

 We spent two nights in Cairngorms, which gave us a little more time to explore than our usual move-every-night pattern. 

Yummy leisurely brunch of meat pie and quiche at The Barn at the Rothiemurchus

First, we did a gentle hike around Lock an Eilein (lock is lake in Scotland) that had an island with a ruined castle on it. 

so many cool mushrooms

But Drew's feet were killing him. He needed some better boots, so we went into an overpriced outdoor gear store in Aviemore and bought him some "Italian boots" i.e. La Sportivas, which is a brand we have in the States. 

So with happy feet we could do a steeper hike to Meall a' Bhuachaille.

Trail building here is unlike that in the US. They don't believe in switchbacks. Instead, they just go straight up but build steps to do it.

We got sprinkled on - the first rain we had on any outing in 6 days!

With two hikes under out belts today, we needed some beer and dinner. I guess we should have clued into the fact that restaurants are so busy here you need reservations from our host last night, but we didn't. We were out of luck finding anywhere that had room for two diners. Not to fear, the grocery store had cold beer and there was an Indian take out close to our B&B. 

Dinner of champions of loch hiking

The unglamorous side of traveling for two weeks. Heated towel bars are handy for drying sort-of-washed clothes.

Day 6 with two hikes was a good one.

Day 7 the Great Glen

Day 7 would take us over to Glencoe, by way of Inverness. Yeah, not the most direct route, but we wanted to see the Great Glen and Loch Ness.

The hike we chose was the Abriachan trails. 

It had ferns as tall as Drew.

Heather or heath is everywhere we've been. Most of it has past the blooming season, but pockets of purple still exist. 

I thought this bothy (toilet) was interesting with its nice sized conifer growing ON THE ROOF. 

In addition to the wild vegetation, there were plenty of things to see on this hike, including a reconstructed sod house,

inside of the sod house

a thatch hut.

But the views were also very interesting. 

We thought there would be great views of Loch Ness, but there were too many trees in that direction. Regardless, it got us out to see the countryside before a longish drive down the Great Glen, alongside Lock Ness and the Caledonian Canal

I wasn't feeling so great so we hightailed it to our hotel in Ballachulish, near Glencoe. 

The Ballachulish Hotel is the fanciest place we've stayed yet, with a lovely sitting room and pretty rooms. 

I think the hotel is over 150 years old, and the staircase shows it. 

I don't know why but I giggle every time I climb or descend. 

Being on a sound connected to the ocean means we have access to fresh fish so I had the seafood sampler plate for dinner. Drew had curry. There has been an Indian curry on every menu we've seen. 

 So far our stay has been great. Tomorrow, we explore Glencoe, if the weather allows.