McKinney Gypsy Caravan

One part travel blog. One part nerdy history lesson.

Category: Scotland (page 1 of 2)

Day 16 – Glasgow, Traquair House and Hadrian’s Wall

Well, the weather just isn’t giving us a break this week! It’s almost freezing and raining non stop. Only a 20% chance tomorrow with a temp of 45… So here’s hoping we can get out and explore without being miserable and cold!

We started this morning is Glasgow. Meh. I didn’t really feel like there was anything major I had to see or do. It’s a decent city…but sort of like Belfast- a little gritty, a little dirty, a little working-class… Lol (you know I can’t be around the working class! Haha)

There was some great old buildings, we took some pictures from the car. Because it was freezing. Lol

   

                

We were on a mission as we headed out of town. Destination: Traquair House. 

The oldest inhabited house in Scotland…and just so happens to brew my favorite beer on the planet in their cellar using tuns that are over 200 years old from when the original brewery on the grounds was shut down. The tuns and the equipment sat behind centuries of collected items in the cellar until the owner (the 20th in a line of family succession) decided to try brewing “real” cask ales using the old process in 1965. His daughter now owns the place and the brewing continues. 

Originally their website said “open April to October to the public”. Well, hot dog- what luck! We will be there on April 1! Then yesterday, while getting better directions on their website I noticed it now said “open April 3-October”. Damn.

I panicked a little. I mean, I’m in Scotland…in the middle of nowhere where this brewery is and I won’t be able to taste a fresh draft version of my favorite beer?? So I did what any normal beer lover would do- I gravelled and begged in an email to please take pity on us. Lol

And thinking all hope was lost, but heading there anyway- we received a response. “Sorry Erin, the house will still be closed but of you’re headed through feel free to come and explore the grounds and stop by the office- we have some ales here and we’ll see what we can come up with for you.”

Jackpot! 🙂

So, we were able to get 2 gift sets (Sorry- ain’t none of you getting a gift set. One is for my belly- the other is for Kegan’s) lol

The sets had 1 of the house ales, 1 Bear Ale and 1 Jacobite Rebellion. I’ll report later on Jacobite. The nice lady there told us if we headed to town we could go to the Traquair Arms pub and they had it on draft so we could get the full experience. 

They also found us some little “trickets” as they called them since we made the trip out and couldn’t tour the brewery. Then as we are piling back in the van, a lady comes out with a souvenir glass from a festival last year that she found for us. Very nice people! They thought it was so funny that this American girl was so into their little brewery. Lol

 

  

  The house is beautiful and has some amazing history. There is a set of gates with bears that have been locked since Bonnie Prices Charles went through them in 1745 during the Jacobite Rebellion. The owner of Traquair House locked the gates and vowed no one else would come through them until a Stuart was crowned King of England again.

(If you don’t know about the Jacobite rebellion and want to- comment and I’ll write up a synopsis. But it’s late tonight haha) I’d be happy to nerd out if anyone actually wants the info 😉

  

  

 

We then headed to the Traquair Arms pub to try a draft- turns out they only had the Bear Ale. But Kegan ordered one at noon anyway 🙂

 

  

  

 Lunch was on the go, but we did find the strangest chips. I have to say- not bad! Haha

 

   

Next stop was my history highlight of the trip: Hadrian’s Wall.  The year is 122AD. The Roamn emporor, Hadrian, is visiting the northernmost reaches of the Roman Empire, Britannia. The Picts and other barbaric clans keep attacking the Romans and now there is war in other areas as well. He needs to pull men from the area but needs it secured so he commissions his troops to build a 20 ft high wall from sea to sea across Britannia. They put a fort every Roman mile and finished it in under 6 years. It’s amazing. And even more amazing that so much of the stone of the wall remains two thousand years later. Some historians say it was just a show of power or a way to control commerce or taxation for entry/exit… I bet it was a combo of all of those reasons 🙂

                   

The rest of our day was pretty rainy and boring as we drove the 3 hours to Liverpool. 

    

               

Beatles museum in the morning and maybe an old  World War Two bunker! 🙂

Day 15 – Oban to Glasgow

Today we unknowingly went to the Rockies! Haha Not really but I was quite surprised to find myself in the snowy caps of the Arrochar Alps. When we were there I kept saying “it looks JUST the alps!” Having no clue the name of the mountains at the time.

We were supposed to spend today on the Isle of Mull but the ferries weren’t running due to the terrible weather around here today… (Apparantly its the coldest day of the year here today. Of course! Lol) Here is the ferry sitting in the bay. Sad.

 

We drove up to the top of the hill in Oban to check out McCaig’s Tower. John Stuart McCaig was a wealthy banker in the late 1800s in Oban and he was obsessed with Roman architecture so he designed this large monument with the intention of having a museum at the center and statues of him and his family inside the outer walls. Now, as narcissistic as this is, I find it hard to speak totally I’ll of him since he employed local stonemasons during the winters to complete it, therefore keeping them working. He had a grand vision for the project…it just included him at the center of it 🙂 unfortunately he died a few years in to the project and only the outer walls were completed.

  

  

  

  

   View of the city from the top

 

  

  

Since we basically had a whole day we hadn’t planned, we just did a “choose your adventure” day where we just shouted out things we’d like to see along the way from signs or google. 

Norah wanted to see a castle. So we saw a castle:)

    

  

Next was the Bonawe Furnace. An old iron furnace in the middle of nowhere. (Apparently I had circled it on a map a few months ago and had no recollection. Go trip-planning me! Ha)

Back in the mid 1700s this would have been a happenin’ place. They were smelting almost all of Englands iron for over 50 years. Some men from the north came and established this furnace here…which at first glance makes you scratch your head because there is hardly any iron ore in the area. They had to bring it in by ship and then out to the furnace site. But what the site did have was tons of trees and in those days they used charcoal to power the furnaces.  It took the equivalent of 2 acres of trees to create enough charcoal and energy to run the furnaces for a full day. There were about 15 men who ran the furnace operation but closer to 600 that ran the fuel operation.

   

         

     They used gravity to run the finished iron “pigs” and cannonballs down the hill on tracks that are now covered by grass

  

Our trip was cut a little short due to a random hailstorm out of nowhere and me falling/skiing/sliding down a muddy hill and getting totally soaked. Lol No bruised bones, only bruised pride! I saved the camera but then bonked myself in the face with it when I didn’t stick the landing Lol

   

Hail accumulating within just a minute or two. 

 

Muddy and soaking wet pants! Haha

  

Next we drove through a little harbor town of Inverary. Cute little town.

   

           

And then started our trek into the Rockies lol

The road was called “Rest and Be Thankful” road. No idea of the story behind that one.

Amazing views. I forgot I was in the UK for a bit! Who knew…

   

           

   

  

But with the good comes the bad, we pulled over to eat our lunch and realized we were on “trash” beach. Why would the town leave it like this??

  

  

 

   

Ended tonight in downtown Glasgow eating carry out fish and chips from the same block because both Kegan and I both managed to catch colds yesterday. Hoping it goes quick and that Norah doesn’t get it. Damn you cold and snow and rain! This is why I live in Florida. Lol

Day 14 – Skye to Oban, Scotland

Well, the travel gods shined on us a little more today…but only slightly 🙂

We have wifi tonight obviously, because I’m posting this! And after basically 3 days of no internet, I need a 12 step program. I know I have an obsession with technology, I embrace it. Lol

We had breakfast this morning at our little hotel from The Shining. Lol our waitress, if I can call her that, since she said “coffee or tea?” And we said coffee, and she pointed and said “it’s on the counter” … Said she was “born, bred, buttered and toasted in Portree.” That it was a family tradition to work at the Tongadale Hotel… Her mother worked there. Even stopped in for a couple shots of vodka before she headed to the hospital to have her. She said “in,out and home in time for Dr Who” lol She was a witty one.

We backtracked first thing- trying to see the Old Man of Storr rock formation and dinosaur footprints and were successful on both!

The fog had lifted just enough to catch the formation…and it looked really cool with the fog behind it.   

 

We drove on up to Staffin beach. It took us 45 minutes but then Kegan found the footprint 🙂

More than likely, a Megalosaurus from the middle Jurassic period. A baby T-Rex looking thing…note the three toed print.

  

Low tide meant we could walk out over the planes covered yesterday

  

A carved replica on a rock at the beach  

The real deal.  

 

It had been sleeting and raining all morning so we needed this victory! 🙂

We then went back to Talisker Distillery so Kegan could get his special Scotchy Scotch.

 

Kegan saw his dream vehicle there in the parking lot. If we ever move to Europe, I can almost guarantee you that’s the vehicle he would drive lol a Land Rover Defender.

 

  

 

Finally we headed back towards real civilization, open coffee houses and wifi. 😉

Great views on the way back to the mainland

 

  

  

  

  

  

  

Most of our drive was pouring rain… So not many good pictures today

 

 

Because of that- its a good slow day to put in a couple random things I’ve forgotten around Scotland before we leave 🙂

Random animals- we keep seeing “stags” which we can only assume are Elk. Also, grouse and pheasants. Kegan managed to catch a pheasant on camera the other day. we’ve probably seen a dozen so far.

 

 Saw a swan on a little lake yesterday. That was cool.

  

Also, a couple days ago we found a little antique shop where we bought a couple small  things. 

I found an early 1900s copy of The Pilgim’s Progress by John Bunyan. It’s actually sort of a sacrilege to buy this in Scotland since John Bunyan was one of Oliver Cromwell’s Puritan followers in the mid 1600s. Puritan Britains were burning and bombing Scotland at that time. Lol

Mark Twain’s book that I based this blog on is “The Innocents Abroad or The New Pilgrim’s Progress” – referencing this book.

The book is an early fiction book of Christian allegory. Using symbolism to tell a story of religious pilgrimage and a deepening of faith through voyage and understanding. What makes it cool to me is that he wrote this while in prison for preaching without a license (yeah…that was a thing) and he had never read any other work of fiction supposedly- only the Bible. This story came to him in a dream/vision…and he wrote it as the dream of an anonymous main character. 

   

  

The inside front cover says:

St Thomas — Parrish Church  Prize Awarded to William A Melvin (?) for regular attendance 1914.

  

Kegan found a Highland horn whiskey glass set. I don’t think they’re very old…maybe 1960s… But still a pretty cool souvenir 🙂

  

  

Also, at a gift shop today, I bought Norah a junior bagpipes LOL Kegan is glaring at me like, you can’t be serious….” But have you seen this kid around music and instruments? It’s what makes her world go around… So bagpipes it is! 🙂 I cannot wait to watch her flip when she finds out we bought them and the sound they make! (After we get back to Florida of course…we would not be good hotel guests with a toddler playing bagpipes. Haha)

We were staying in the town of Oban tonight in what could be my great-grandmother’s house….complete with old ratty pink flower towels. (I mean, really? How expensive would a set of towels be??) Bed and breakfasts- hit or miss. This one has a bright turquoise blue toilet seat… I’m not sure if that’s a strike or a check in its favor…its gotta be almost as rare as the dinosaur footprints, right? 🙂

  

We are here because this is where the ferry over to the Isle of Mull leaves from…however we called the guy who runs the ferry out to the island of Staffa to Fingal’s cave and he said he wouldn’t be running the boat tomorrow because the weather was supposed to be terrible. 

Here’s what we are missing 🙁 sadly…

   

  

 

Oh well…you can’t win them all. Gives me a reason to come back 🙂

So instead we’re just going to head on to Glasgow and see what trouble we can get into there. G’night!

Day 13 – Isle of Skye

No internet again last night. Sorry 🙂

Today was a day of disappointing Murphy’s travel law. Lol

Nothing major happened, just annoyance after annoyance. 

First, we set out to find “proper” coffee. I can’t do standard drip coffee, I’m a total coffee snob. Has to be strong. Scotland doesn’t understand my need for espresso. We passed about 4 cafes- all of which have big signs along the road. Closed. All of them. lol 

So, we decided to go by the Talisker distillery and get Kegan a bottle of good Scotch that he tried the other night. Closed on weekends- until next weekend. Lol

Ok, on to the next item- Neist Point and Lighthouse. Couldn’t find it.

Ok, on to Dunvegan, there’s a cool castle there! Closed. Took these from down the road

    

    

At this point we were miserable because it’s pouring down rain and we are all going to pee our pants. We stop off at a pier that has a little gas station that is open. (We would later circle back to this gas station when we had under 1/4 tank of gas around 5pm to find that it closed at 4pm)

They had an instant coffee machine and Red Bull, so I was set lol

We continued on to Fairy Glen. Now this was our one success of the day! It was so amazing. This tiny miniature landscape- it’s easy to see why superstitious people believed the fairies lived here.

 

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

Next, we were bound for the Cave of gold, but after reading the directions better…it said it shouldn’t be attempted if the grass was wet and since it had been pouring rain all morning we decided to abort mission. We didn’t want to hike two miles to either fall off into the ocean or see nothing. We did see some cool scenery along the way.

   

 

This is the round tower in Uig also known as Captain Fraser’s Folly. Captain Fraser had it built in the 1800s as a show of wealth basically.  He had all of his land tenants come here to pay their rents. He was a hated man in his time and was one of the land owners responsible for “The Highland Clearances”- where the land owners evicted massive amounts of people, mostly the Gaelic people, from the Scottish Highlands to make room for large-scale sheep farming. Some of these people had farmed their land for hundreds of years and because of the lack of protections, most were forced to relocate to the sea lands or the lowlands immediately- leaving their crops in the ground and with no time to construct a dwelling on their new land.   

      

 

 

  

There is a big Alpine influence on Skye because the Alpine Climbing club from Switzerland spent at least 7 years on the isle in the late 1800s climbing and mapping the peaks. There are lots of thatched roofs and Swiss cottage style houses.

  

So, Dinosaur footprints. Kegan has been so excited for this. Staffin beach has a small little piece of rock that was uncovered/weathered about 10 years ago where you can see the tracks left by some big carnivorous dinosaurs. Like 2 ft long tracks…

   

         

So we looked and looked, but no luck. It’s one of those things that is really rare to find. You can only see the rock bed at low tide and only in the spring after the winter storms have washed away the sand off the beach and before it is deposited again in the summer. 

We decided to go to the Fossil museum just up the road  and ask for better directions and about the tides. Closed.

At this point we all had to use the bathroom again and it was still pouring so we headed to a portree where our hotel for the evening was. We dropped Mom and baby off there and we went back to a couple more things and to try to see the footprints agin at what we thought would be a lower tide.

We went back to kilt rock and Mealt falls which was really going strong since it was raining.

 

  

    

 We tried to see the jagged rock outcropping called the “Old man of storr” but it was fogged out. Couldn’t see that high up. Bummer. We’ll try again tomorrow.

We went back to Staffin Beach to find dinosaurs again. The tide was even higher! Magicseaweed.com says low tide is 10:51am tomorrow- so one last attempt!

We then realized that we would need gas before We drove back to Staffin tomorrow, so we searched the GPS. It showed only like 3 gas stations in the whole island. So we headed out to one. It closed like 10 years ago. Ok, we’ll go back to the one from this morning- closed at 4pm. Ok, check out the third- it wasn’t a real gas station. 

So back to portree….we started thinking- wait…surely a town the size of Portree has a gas station. And sure enough, they did. It just wasn’t on the map. But it was closed too. Lol but at least we knew we could go in he morning.

Apparently, Skye doesn’t really “open” until Easter…and even then really closes down on Sundays. 

However, the grocery store had Crabbies- this awesome alcoholic ginger beer I just found the night before…and then the bar had it. The bartender recommended the Indian restaurant across the street, so that’s what we had for dinner. 

Apparently Tikka Masala is not the same in the UK as it is in Irand or the U.S. ..or maybe this particular Indian restaurant just THINKS that it’s different haha they brought it out and it was so sweet with coconut that it was almost like a candy sauce over lamb. It was terrible haha but Kegan’s was good- so we split his. 

   

   

So…here is hoping that today is much better! Otherwise Scotland is not going to be remembered favorably! Lol

Other landscapes:

   

   

 

Cute little street we stayed on in Portree

 

  

  

  

Day 12 – The Highlands

Sorry for the delay. No interwebs last night. We can’t live in Scotland. They have terrible internets. Lol Kegan is calling it “free range wifi”- if you find it and can catch it, you can use it. Haha

Today was a day of great Landscapes as we made our way across the highlands to the Isle of Skye. Sorry if the photos are all jumbled… You can figure out where they go. No idea why this keeps happening.

Our first stop was Rogie Falls.  

 

  

   

   

  

  

   

I thought this one was frame worthy

   

 

Tons of great sites across the countryside today.

   

       

We found this great lodge in the middle advertising coffee. A new couple just bought it and is turning it into a hotel. It used to be an old hunting lodge and it had the greatest “old Scotland” character. I could just picture some old haggard men gathered drinking whiskey after a long fox hunt in here. And their coffee was awesome. If we ever come back- we’ll stay here for sure.

   

           

Of course, we met more of the locals today. They pretty much have the right of way on the west coast of Scotland. Lol

   

     

We even met NEW locals I wasn’t familiar with before today. Yaks! And we got up close and personal with a couple. So docile. I wanted to pet one. Lol 

  

   

   

We are staying in Sligachan tonight, or as locals call it, “The Slig”. We ate at the hotel restaurant. I had the Haggis and the lamb shank. Kegan had the Barbary Duck and I had the Sticky Toffee Pudding…not so much because I wanted it as much as after that meal at Johnshaven, I needed to know if all Sticky Toffee Pudding was that good or if it was just that restaurant 🙂 now don’t get me wrong, I rarely find a reason to ever skip dessert lol…but we didn’t even finish this one. That other place was just that good. 

   

    

 

We then sat in the den with a real peat fire crackling and drank a local Talisker Skye scotch. To me and my non-refined Scotch palette it tasted very spicy on the front, very smokey in the mouth and a nice rubbing alcohol finish. Lol Kegan rolled his eyes at me.

  

Also, I have had anonymous requests for more Norah. And more cowbell… Although I’m not sure how to accomplish the second… So- for your viewing pleasure- more Norah. 🙂

   

 

And more landscapes:

   

          

We’re calling this “Lake Titticacca” lol (hehe….we’re all 12 year old boys)  

 

Tomorrow we will sight-see around the Isle of Skye….just a lot more landscape and nature photos 🙂 if we are lucky, we might be able to see the Aurora Borealis tomorrow night. Fingers crossed for a clear sky!

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