I prefer writing these posts at night but I have been off cycle and posting in the mornings because the hotel had no Internet and the hot-spot I rented is garbage… But hey bacon and eggs and haggis always starts the day out right!
Is it just me or does everything in Scotland look like a Destroyer from Star Wars?
It started pouring rain- again – but another pretty castle. Pink, but not too pink. Castle #39 – Fyvie Castle.
The rain stopped and this street sign tempts me. What the hell is on the Castle Trail? But NO – I will stay on my list! I have prints to photograph!
This next one is special because it is one of my prints. The problem is that this looks like a wheat field not a tourist attraction.
Oh look – tracks left by a tractor. I’m sure they won’t be muddy and the wheat isn’t covered with fresh rainwater! Sarcasm there. It is gorgeous and sunny and wet and muddy out there.
This castle took forever to get to. But TADA: Inchdrewer Castle – just like the print! Castle #40 – Print #6. Seriously, this is a ruin of a castle in the MIDDLE of an active working farm. I didn’t see anyone because that’s how big farms are. So my options are: the public roads, the private roads, the tractor paths, and right across the fields. The fields have crops so I can’t just go anyway I want to. And since they are muddy I am going carefully up and down these paths hoping to get the right angle. I got lucky.
I’m pretty covered in mud with little to no way of cleaning up. What is worse is that I can’t tell if I’m not going to get just as muddy at the next place. The adventure continues! Thank God it stopped raining or I never would have been able to march across those fields.
Back down the single lane dirt road.
I’m trying to find Boyne Castle. I stopped in a town where I thought it was and asked some guy. I am one lucky guy because he just happens to know all about it. He tells me that I am in the wrong spot and that there is no way to see any of it from any road but to get in my car and follow him. And then he shows me this path – can you see the path?
It’s where the 4 foot tall plants are only 3 feet tall. Like the last one I’m feeling blessed that it is plants and not livestock and I start hacking my way in.
Thank goodness for my ballet classes. This is a lot of delicate jumping and balancing.
I really hacked through the brush and trees and I finally came across the ruin. You can barely see what is in the print…
Look at the second tower from the left. I am in the right spot!!! Boyne Castle. Castle #41 – Print #7.
Such a nightmare to get to, but so much fun to photograph.
These pictures are all with my iPhone! And look – blue skies!
I don’t selfie too often – even though I had just shaved. I wanted to demonstrate the height of the plants that I was slashing through. Someone should yell “Stay out of the tall grass!” This is the part of the adventure that I really live for. A single shoot like this can make my entire trip! Then a black cloud started to roll in and I realized if I didn’t get back before it started to rain that I was going to get stuck. As it was I had to boot-scoot a few times to get down a wet hillside. I made it to the car and within seconds it started to downpour. #IamIndianaJones
Just an FYI: Boyne Castle is in this satellite image – dead center. You see it? Exactly. You might if you look close enough, but it isn’t obvious. That’s how overgrown it is and there is no clear visible path. And I didn’t find this satellite image until AFTER the trip by using the GPS coordinate from my iPhone which I only got from having gone there.
Better yet – here is the satellite image with the waterways overlaid. Makes it even trickier to find a path! Hidden dangers abound.
On my way to the next location. Look another bridge. Actually, the Cullen Viaduct – Historic #9.
For those that like heights. 🙂 It looks like I used a drone but they have a great tower you can climb at the palace!
Spynie Palace. Same castle – second print – Print #9. Apparently, and not related to the castle, Macbeth killed Duncan somewhere near here.
And speaking (or not speaking of Macbeth).
Trying to find the right spot for this one – another impossible rendering – Church #13. Elgin Cathedral.
The lady in the Cathedral shop points out that the arch in my drawing is still standing and directed me way across the street. Funny what else you can see and how badly draw the arch is – it is the wrong shape! She also showed me several other bad drawings that they had of the cathedral in the gift shop. But they also had teddy bears dressed as monks!
This place deserves some pretty shots too.
More Memento Mori.
This view, even though the arch is missing, is the closest. Print #10 – Elgin Cathedral.
Not only has the Pluscarden Abbey been rebuilt/restored over the years but it is now surrounded by trees! When I showed up the sun was in the worst possible place. Didn’t matter because the view was IMPOSSIBLE to shoot!
So much has changed!
I did get a couple of good shots with the real camera. It took forever as I waited for the sun to dip behind a cloud or I snuck into the shade. Not the exact POV – which is part of what happens – Church #14 – Print #16. Pluscarden Abbey.
A strange mix of era and styles Castle #43 – Brodie Castle.
The print looks nothing like the castle! That’s because Brodie Castle was completely renovated in the mid 1800s! Print #12.
I found a place to stay and, instead of having Chinese delivered, I went and got some salmon and stuff from the grocery store. Saw this and thought of my brother Brian and his love for Bearnaise.
I could have eaten the entire thing. But I was good and ate a ton of custard instead!
Feeling productive, 2 weeks done and I’m up to 12 prints!
Pulling into Aberdeen! The sun is out and I slept 11 hours – thank you Meclizine. I appear to have Internet and just found a quarter (well 20p)! This might be a good day!
I am sitting in Aberdeen Harbor and I really feel like I am all caught up! It is amazing what a good nights sleep can do. I am done with ferry boats – I think. I stopped at Tesco and loaded up on junk food for driving and I might have even found a place to get a massage. Now back to my original list. A quick summary: I am just past the half-way point. I have visited 67 places, though only 26 from my original list). I have driven 1400 miles and have seen 34 castles. The bad news is that I have only photographed 4 out of my 58 prints! I still have a lot of work to do!
And look, a mall! I get so distracted.
So similar to home and yet just a little different!
As I said I can get easily distracted. It is first thing in the morning and I almost abandoned my plans for the day. I almost veered off the path! But I was strong! You can’t blame me, I just discovered that there is a place, a real place, called “Deer Abbey”! Next time!
The Lantern Tower – Church #10 – King’s College Chapel.
Damn these trees! That’s what 200 years gets you though. Better pictures with my real camera. But I am back to re-photographing prints! Print #5 – Church #11 – St Machar’s Cathedral.
So I stopped for a refreshing massage and came out to find this on my car! I was bad and didn’t pay it within the 14 days and I had to pay them 30GBP!
Let’s have some lunch. Mmmm salmon and Hollandaise sauce!
The world keeps changing doesn’t it?
I made my list of which castles to visit back home. But I didn’t annotate the list with notes on why each place was on the list. And then you get to a place like this and go “Yeah – I picked some good ones.” Castle #35 – Dunnottar Castle.
That’s the road back UP to the car park!
Such a great day for castle hunting! I was already a member of Historic Scotland, which I joined before I left. At this castle I became a member of the Scottish National Trust another society that gives you free stuff like admission & parking. Castle #36 – Drum Castle.
They had these all over the grounds – The Cleveland Museum of Art needs to do this!
The Chapel at Drum Castle. Church #12
The perfect pink – yeah it’s pink – tower castle – Castle #37 – Craigievar Castle. I arrived there too late to go inside.
Then again, sometimes you don’t WANT to go inside. 🙂
So that should have been the end of a lovely day – everything I did was was on my list but… I’m driving down the road and on the top of this hillside I see something. Something huge and stone. It looks like an archway – like right out of Star Trek. I can’t seem to get a good picture of it – it’s just small and the hill is so big. The photos aren’t doing it justice and I have no idea what it is! I ask a couple that is walking by what it is and they tell me to hop in my car and follow them to the base of this enormous hillside.
The giant arch on the hillside, isn’t an arch at all. I climb this hill and at the top is the ruin of a 13th century castle!!! Castle #38 Dunnideer Castle. While it was not on my original list, I felt it was fair game because everything else was done for the day!
It was truly epic!
This was a very dangerous walk. In fact, it was worse going down than going up. You cannot see in this photograph but there are rabbit holes everywhere!
People ask me what I think about as I’m hiking through these ruins. I think a lot about my life and the future – and I also think about the lessons from my dance instructors. This is tricky landscape. I can hear Rachel Stoneking telling me to do it even if I don’t know what I’m doing. Kristy Clement telling me to lead with a different foot. Heather Young telling me to keep my head up high. And Amanda Clark Tanruther telling me not worry that the ground will catch me. And then I just keep going!!!
My car is the spec at the bottom of the hill – crazy!
Driving down these one-way dirt roads through the forest by myself I keep wondering if there are any big wild animals I should be worrying about. And then I remembered the movie “Brave” and thought to myself: There are BEARS out there!
I pulled up to the hotel and discovered that I am the ONLY guest! The owner made me a nice big steak dinner!
With some yummy profiteroles for afters.
No Internet in the room 🙁 Technically no bathroom either, but I was alone so it was like the entire hotel was my room. That was my crazy day – back to the list in the morning!
Time to ferry from Orkney to Shetland. This boat is huge. All of the cars and trucks pull into the lower level and then you spend the rest of your time on the other parts of the boat. You have to remember to grab what you need because you can’t go back down there!
I pray this means what it says! I love pigeons. Wherever I go on the world. There they are!
The ferry ride from Orkney to Shetland is almost 8 hours long! I reserved a “sleeping pod”.
Or I can hang out in the “cinema”.
That’s the North Atlantic!
You can’t get this preshredded at home!
Landed safe it Shetland. Let’s get started! I love self service castles, it is kind of like those honesty shops.
Even when I am way too early! I only have the one day so I better make the most of it! My boat leaves for Aberdeen tonight!
I did get in to see the castle though! Castle #31 – Scalloway Castle.
Those are ponies. I am in Shetland. OMG – those are Shetland Ponies!!!
I came to see the Broch of Mousa. It is an Iron Age fortress on the Island of Mousa. What you can barely see in the picture is the ruin of the historic Knowe House. Which of course still counts! Historic #7. I’ve been running from ferry to ferry to get to Shetland just to see this iron age fortress. This is not it. It is however located on that island. The boat leaves from Shetland to Mousa at 10am.
However, the island doesn’t have a dock and when the seas are rough they cancel the boat. Today it is pouring rain with rough seas. They cancelled the boat! I couldn’t even see it from the main island. My first official “miss” for the trip. I failed. It’s over. This one won’t even show up on my final list! Roll me up and send me home. This was always the risk. Actually there are always risks of time weather access and construction. But I really did just take a boat into the North Atlantic to see this and it’s closed due to the rain. I was kinda bummed. That little kid bummed where you think if you wish long enough the sun will shine and boats will magically appear just for you.
So I was staring wistfully at the sign at the side of the boathouse for a while when I met this family – who seemed very ‘meh’ about the boat getting cancelled. The father suggested that we all go to Scatness instead because they have a nice site. So unroll me and start me on a new path!
It was pouring whipping & stinging rain and they still toured us outside for 30 minutes.
Scatness Broch. The central tower was defensive, so I am calling this Castle #32.
They warmed us by a smouldering peat fire inside a replica wheelhouse – still freezing – now I am dry but smokey!!!
They discovered the site when expanding the airport in 1975. They were digging for an access road and started finding a stone wall and went – wait – and uncovered an entire village with tower. Best part is that the road goes through the runway! When planes take off or land you have to wait at a red light before you can cross. The islands here aren’t all connected by roads and some of the flights are only 10 to 15 minutes.
Look an oil rig!
Further down the road another site. A fortified medieval farmhouse – Castle #33 – Jarlshof, Sumburgh.
So many things to see here at Jarlshof – Viking – Medieval – Prehistoric – These are great examples of Pictish Wheelhouses – Historic #8
Went off to look for puffins – instead I found more insane wind and rain!! Nature #9 Sumburgh Head.
And right as I was heading to the ferry I found a Fortress! Castle #34 – Fort Charlotte, Shetland. It really was a good day after all!
Summary of my day. Pouring rain – harsh mean rain – in the 40s – and the boat to the fortress I wanted to see was cancelled due to the rough weather. Almost no Internet & difficult shooting in the rain. Heading back to the mainland! Just a 14 hour boat ride to Aberdeen. Aberdeen, here I come!
This detour north to Orkney and Shetland is completely willful. I just needed to see the islands. I dreamed that I would get to see some of the Northern Lights, but it was the wrong time of year and the odds wouldn’t be in my favor. After these pit-stops I will get back to the mainland and start hunting down the prints again Orkney is kind of an epic day. I am here for one day and ONLY one day. The ferry takes me there in the morning and tonight I catch the ferry north to Shetland. Again a tight schedule because they only run some of these ferries every other day and I don’t want to get stuck and throw everything off.
Maybe breakfast IS the most important meal of the day? Fried eggs and bacon!
That is a field of buttercups!
The walkway to Skara Brae had different moments in time to keep your mind occupied and get you in the mood to go back 5,000 years.
Very impressive – also very cold. If fully excavated the walls would be much taller. They had an enclosed reproduction which helped explain as well. Prehistoric #5 – Skara Brae.
Immense!!! Prehistoric #6 – Ring of Brodgar. This one is purely a giant ring. They don’t let you walk into the center part. It is a different type of greenery. Still just an enormous monument to see and experience.
You can only reach the Brough of Birsay across a tidal causeway.
The tide was coming in soon!
I had to hustle over – take my photos. And when I was done hustle back!
Ruin of a 12th century church – Church #7 – Brough of Birsay.
Ruins of Norse/Viking homes! On a side now “How to Train Your Dragon” was on TV last night in Gaelic! Historic #6
Castle #27 – Earl’s Palace, Birsay.
I think my gps is trying to kill me! This doesn’t even look like a real road! Single lane – no turnaround – dirt – huge holes and mud puddles – barely survived!
It’s like a mini Machu Pichu! Iron Age! Amazing! Because of the central tower, I am filing this as Castle #28 – Broch of Gurness.
St. Magnus Cathedral – Church #8
Memento Mori – “Remember that you have to die”. Commonly seen on tombstones: Skull, Hourglass, Scrolls.
Great ruin! Castle #29 – Bishop’s Palace, Kirkwall.
Castle #30 – Earl’s Palace, Kirkwall.
Church #9 – Chapel on Lamb Holm – The Italian Chapel.
Went to see the Tomb of The Eagles. It’s privately owned and kind of a strange operation. They make you (really required you) to go through a 35minute orientation before they let you go for the 1.5 mile walk to see their two sites… This is a real skull…
The first site at Liddle’s Farm is a Bronze Age Site – Prehistoric #7. It sucks. I mean I know it is historic but it doesn’t look well cared for and its just… there. Luckily, I really came to see the Tomb of the Eagles.
After a long long walk you arrive at the tomb. It isn’t an easy walk. It was cold and windy and a very long hike.
The only access is a small opening…
…and a skateboard which you lay on and pull yourself into this tiny little tomb.
I was alone – I mean alone – no one was there – I went in – on my belly…
I took my photos.
There was an opening and a flashlight…
I beamed the flash light and through the bars there were skulls! Real or fake I don’t know – I don’t care – I got out fast! Back on my belly and grabbed the rope and I was out… I’m gonna have nightmares – really… Prehistoric #8 – The Tomb of the Eagles. And now I have to do the long walk back. Except this time it is colder, wetter, and darker.
And then they locked me in! Well they closed the gate – I had to let myself out! I mean I was really alone!
To end my day and what a day – I saw 12 places! Fish soup.
Steak and ale pie.
Custard and cake!! Off to Shetland on the night ferry. Hellava day….
This is for my mom. She loves kippers. I didn’t eat these kippers – the guy at the next table did – note the coffee (which I also don’t drink). He was nice enough to let me photograph his breakfast.
I once again had bacon and eggs and salmon and porridge… mmm porridge. I don’t eat enough porridge at home.
Technically my second castle of the day – because I slept in Dornoch Castle last night. This place is immense – Castle #21 – Dunrobin Castle. Just getting down the stairs into the gardens to take the photo was exhausting.
And the gardens themselves were worth the hike.
This is another one that wasn’t on my list. I actually thought my day was going to be over by now but I misread when the ferry was leaving and now found myself with a lot more time on my hands. Better than the alternative though. Now I get to wind the rest of the day. The Castle of Old Wick – Castle #22. This cliff side castles are amazing. They look impossible to get to but it is more about improbable than impossible.
I was safe! And not only was I able to get close but I was able to get all the way inside it!
Meandering further up the road I came to another castle – Castle #23 – Castle Sinclair Girnigoe. This was a crazy ruin. Most of it was blocked off but there was still plenty to explore.
Castle #24 – Keiss Castle. I could only see this one from afar. It was only accessible via private roads. But I have a good picture from my real camera.
This one is kind of sweet and I feel like a heel for not having it on my original list. The Castle of Mey. The Queen Mother lived here. This was her private residence until she died in 2002. It was the most comfy real world lived-in place you can imagine. The people who worked there pointed out all of her photos and nick-knacks and said it really was like being at your granny’s house. She had a TV and VCR on a cart and they had her Faulty Towers video tape on top. Just delightful. Oh and it is Castle #25
I was heading out and stopped by the snack bar for a scone as a takeaway. She asked if I wanted butter and I said I couldn’t do because I was driving. She then took it in the back, cut it in half, and buttered it for me. I don’t know if she was being nice or judging me as uncivilized to almost eat it without butter!
I was just a few miles from the docks, and I should have been done for the day, when this just popped up at the side of the road. My 7th castle of the day!!! Private property though. The Gatehouse of Thurso Castle – Castle #26!!!
I made it to the docks to take the ferry to Orkney without any trouble. These ferries run on very tight schedules and some only on certain days!
This is a very from the ferry. It’s the Old Man of Hoy – what a climb! Nature #8.
I made it to Orkney! Now to drive off the ferry and call it a night!
To get to Kisimul Castle is very isolating. I don’t mean the boat to the castle. I mean the ferry that takes you to this half of the island only runs every few hours, so getting here pretty much means I am stranded for a while. So I guess that makes it laundry day! There was this building that was a combination co-op grocery store & community center that had a single washing machine and dryer in the back. They let me go into their store room and change into shorts so I could get all my pants clean.They gave me lots of change and then I waited for my laundry to wash and dry. I also found a post office to do my post cards!
Love this one – built in 1708 – burned down in 1715 – end of story! Castle #18 – Ormacleit Castle.
Neat ruin – Church #6 – Trinity Temple.
The amazing thing about Harris is that the sandy beaches on the west coast really could be anywhere . If it wasn’t so damn cold! Nature #7
I arrive at the Hotel Hebrides on the Isle Of Harris pretty late and all of the food places are closed. And at the bar they have no food either. When I tell them I’m going to just eat chips from the mini bar in the room they run and get me a giant bag of chips and 2 yogurts! Isn’t that sweet? Also, the water pressure was so strong at the hotel that I could barely hold the shower head. I am NOT exaggerating when I say I am very clean! The faucet was so strong that it overflowed everywhere at only half strength!
At breakfast in Dunvegan. My friends all complained that my breakfast photos didn’t have any tomatoes. Well look! Tomatoes! Are you happy now? And no – I didn’t eat them…
The porridge was just right!
Here it is! Ladies & gentleman the famous (or infamous) Misty Isle Hotel.
Dunvegan Castle. Seat of the Clan MacLeod (yes, you can all scream now) and still being lived in after 800 years! Unlike the others places so far, this castle has been greatly expanded and renovated since the print. Castle #16 – Print #4.
Today was lots of driving on very small roads …
I mean small roads – and steep too!
Kilt rock!! – Nature #5 and…
Mealt Falls (Kilt rock in the backround) – Nature #6
Isn’t it just pretty?
Never use your cell phone to try and take a picture of the timetable on the ferry sign! Today was a lot of ferries. I am trying to get to the Outer Islands which is especially tricky without proper planning or reservations. With a strike looming in several days (no kidding) I spent my downtime on the boats wisely – researching. I now have a complete itinerary for the next 7 days which will take me to Aberdeen and then afterwards if I have to make cuts – I will. Regardless, I am going to make it to Shetland!!
A good British lunch!
Finally the sun came out on the Isle of Harris – where they make the tweed. It’s not Harris Tweed unless it’s from Harris!!!
Did I mention it finally got nice out?
Yes, that’s an otters crossing sign!
That is a scallop – yum! With a foot – ick!
The Bread and Butter Pudding with Custard and Cream made up for the scallop foot (icky!) One can not live on Sticky Toffee Pudding every night! This entire side-quest has been about going to a friend of mine’s ancestral castle. It had better be good!
PANIC! I lost my Historic Scotland card! Before I left I joined Historic Scotland which gives you free admission to a ton of the historic places I was visiting (most of the castles and cathedrals) and also a discount at the gift shops! I emailed them and let them know what happened and they graciously wrote me an email which I showed to everyone for the rest trip which instructed everyone to let me in for free and to give me the discounts. Historic Scotland is a class act! Also the number of things I went to in their booklet is crazy.
Normally, I do each of these posts from my hotel room. But the B&B I stayed at had no Internet so I had to do this entire entry at dinner!
Breakfast – the patty on the right is haggis and it was yummy!!!
First thing I did was stock up today: An umbrella, A coat, Batteries, and some Ibuprofen
Stopped by an actual catalog store!!! I remember catalog stores.
Didn’t get the braces just liked the picture… because the called them braces!
Also some food 🙂 mmm salmon
I went back to Glencoe because it was on the way and also because the highlands are gorgeous – lots of rain and fog though…
This was right there on the way to Ben Nevis, but not on my original list. Castle #14 – Inverlochy Castle.
Ben Nevis Range. This is the tallest mountain in the UK! Nature #2
At the Ben Nevis Gondola Station.
You can take a Gondola about half way up the mountain. It was described to me as a proper James Bond gondola. It was awesome and I was alone in my own gondola. About 15 min up and 15 down. It was really weird when I went through the fog!
People were taking their bikes up the mountain.
Because there is a crazy crazy dirt bike path all the way down!!!
I went down via the gondola.
They claim that this is the most photographed thing in Scotland! I hate these types of boasts. It is silly.
Castle #15 – Eilean Donan Castle
People still live in part of it – they filmed the Bond film – The World is Not Enough and Highlander here…
Driving across the Isle of Skye and viewing the Cuillin Hills – Nature #3
The Highlands – Nature #4
So it’s getting late and I am racing across the Isle of Skye trying to find a place to stay – nothing. Every place is booked and I keep heading deeper into the island. At a hotel (with no rooms) I am told that the last city (where the castle I am going to in the morning) has 3 hotels. The man tells me this and then warms me “Don’t stay at The Mysti Isle”. I told him beggars can’t be choosers and he told me it would be better if I slept in the car. I laughed. 20 miles later I am at a B&B that has just sold their last room and the owner of the B&B also mentioned the 3 hotels and says to avoid The Mysti Isle. To told him I am running out of places to look and he said “If I saw you going in there I would call the police” then he laughed and with dead serious look said “If you stay at The Mysti Isle you leave with more than you came with.”
I found a B&B.
2018 Update: I’m telling you it was downright spooky. When I re-read this now, you are probably all thinking bedbugs. But it seemed a lot more haunted the way that everyone was warning me!
Last pictures for the night and a shout-out to the Waterside Cafe Bistro for letting me use their WiFi and making me an awesome dinner and more sticky toffee pudding. A friend and I once had an idea about cheesing it around France – now I am sticky pudding-ing it around Scotland.
So the theme of the day is “the road less traveled”. Having done what I came to do on the Isle of Mull last night I decided to have a quick adventure and then take the scenic road to Glascoe. I had hoped to see Glascoe either this afternoon or spend the night in or around it. In the spirit of “the road less traveled” I present what came with breakfast… If you don’t know what Marmite is – you should look it up.
Still on the Island of Mull. Such an inviting sign!!! However it had been raining and the grazing field (which is full of sheep) was very very deep and very very muddy!!
The gate and the very very large and muddy field (like a mine field of quick sand) leading to the stone circle.
After all the hiking in the mud it was totally worth it!! This is amazing. The Stone Circle in Lochbuie – Prehistoric #3.
Down the road from the stone circle Castle #12 – Moy Castle.
So instead of taking the ferry back to the mainland I headed north to Castle #13 – Aros Castle.
I was careful!
This is small town living!!
From one way country roads and sheep to ferry boats today was an adventure. Here are some highlights of the road less traveled…
Last photo for the night – a proper fish-n-chips!!
And now the irony. I arrived in the city I wanted to spend the night in but no hotels. There was a huge race in town and all the hotels were booked. I went online and the only hotel in a 50 mile radius was almost right back in the city I started from 12 hours previously! I didn’t fully backtrack to where I started but it was pretty close.