Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Scotland for ever ….

Hi All,

I’ve been asked (persuaded and pressurised, actually) by Laura to write a holiday Blog, as an interesting filler and to make the numbers up, as it where. So here goes ….
I gave my daughter away at her wedding towards the end of August, which was held east of Inverness in the lovely seaside town of Forres.

The last time I was in that area was in 1963 when I was invited to go to stay with my brother and sister in law, who was stationed with the RAF at Kinloss, which by the way cost me (or my parents, more so) £12 (in “real” old money) for a return train ticket to Liverpool.
Anyway, while on the way up the A9 and just after Aviemore. I stopped off at Carr Bridge.

As I had seen photographs in photo magazines of the old Packhorse Bridge and wanted to take some for myself … so was fortunate that it was en route.
When I arrived there the sun was just about out, so got some nice photos of the old bridge. At this point I wondered if anyone has ever fallen off of it in the past … perhaps maybe after calling in at the local pub for a wee dram... hic!

Seeing that the railway station was just up the road I decided to have a look at it and see if there were any old Victorian buildings there… sadly there wasn’t really but what was about to arrive was the Royal Scotsman special train
A site to see even with sore and blurry eyes, with all the silverware laid out on white linen covered tables and the plush lounge area but all at a hefty price though.

I arrived at the hotel to see that the wedding preparation were well underway and on the actual day everything went well and even the sun came out to which was a bonus.
After the joyous wedding and celebrations. I was at a loose end and on the spare of the moment, decided to go north and tour the “Top” end (and some believe the edge of the world) of our beautiful country.
During the previous weeks the weather had been terribly cold, windy with copious amounts of horizontal rain but fortunately that was all about to change.

From Forres, I drove up to John O`Groats following the coast and only to be disappointed, as I found that at the (accepted) and one of the most famous and furthest points of our country, was a roundabout and a signpost pointing to distant locations around the globe and depicting their respective mileages.

I found a nice B&B and crashed for the night after the long and tiring drive.
The next morning I awoke refreshed and attacked a full Scottish breakfast (be so rude not to) overlooking a sun bathed Orkney Islands … I thought seeing that I was so close and could nearly touch them, that I should visit the Island and all what it had to offer and especially with the nice change in the weather.

I managed to finish off my breakfast just in time to catch the 9:30 ferry, which took just about hour to reach St Margaret’s Hope on Orkney. The sun was getting up, the air was warm, the sea and sky where blue as blue could be and I had that feeling that it was going to turn out to be a great touring holiday.
While passing the Orkney headland, I noticed the concrete WWII gun emplacements overlooking Scapa Flow and a poignant reminder of those terrible war years.


After disembarking from the ferry, I drove towards Kirkwall and on the way called in to see the beautiful “Italian church” which was a converted Nissen hut buy Italian war prisoners, and with their expert talents, hand painted it and made it into a “work of art”.

From there I continued onto Kirkwall and visited the Wireless Museum which was located near the quay side there. It was a fascinating place to see all the old Bakelite radios etc, communications equipment and posters, brought back many memories of my youth and bygone days when radios ruled the world and our imaginations (not to mention Lord Haw Haw).
 Fortunately the original curator had the foresight to save and collect these objects for posterity.

I only wanted to stay on the island for two days and then catch the18:00hrs return ferry to the mainland on the following day, so had to forge on, as there was a lot to see.

I made a B line to Loons RSPB hide near Brough Head. I arrived at the roadside hide around noon but could only stay a limited amount of time and unfortunately didn’t see much at all apart from one Shoveller, a Moorhen and a nesting pair of Dodo’s, of all things ;-) but did look at the sightings log to see that, that morning a female Marsh Harrier had been spotted.

From there I continued onto the west coast of the Island and visited the old stone built fisherman’s huts to which I could imagine the rough and very unforgiving seas and hard times those men went thought to earn a mere living.

I then visited Yesnaby, a little further down the coast where there were remains of more WWII gun emplacement concrete bases and a few derelict buildings.

I stood near the cliff edge looking at the beautiful views of the sun reflecting off the sea and roughed cliffs, to feel the sea air and had good intensions to make the trek the few miles further on to take some photo’s of the Old Man of Hoy, which isn’t really an old hermit type of a man but a 450ft rock stack which was climbed for the first time by Joe Brown (not to be confused with the singer) in 1966. Unfortunately I was wearing the wrong type of foot ware for the long roughed cliff path and by this time it was 18:00hrs and I still had to find a bed and a roof over my head for the night. So had to forgo the opportunity in seeing and photographing the awesome sight.

After several disappointing attempts in finding a B&B. I finally ended up in a hot and cold running water hotel for the night …. Here I felt like a Gannet and engulfed a few thirst quenching pints and a bar meal after a long hot day, then plenty of Zzzd’s. (By the way, do Gannets snore??)

The next morning after another good Scottish breakfast, I headed to the Ring of Brodgar, Stenness stone circles.

Then onto the Viking settlement Skara Brae and Maeshowe passage grave, all extremely interesting and was very fortunate to get there before a coach full of tourists, who engulfed the whole site.

By this time it was time to catch the ferry back to the mainland.
What a condensed and interesting two days it had been and I then looked forward to the rest of my tour of Sutherland and the west coast areas.

My next destination was Dunnet Head lighthouse and area, which was another WWII look out post. Also which is actually the true furthermost point on mainland UK and very accommodating, as they had twin cold water baths in the local field.


I drove south form the coast for some miles while following the river Naver and came to Forsinard Flows. This originally was a railway station, and had been converted into an RSPB site, which had just been painted and really smartened it up.
I was amazed and how nice to see for these days, the front door of the ticket office ajar, welcoming visitors. All the rooms were painted bright scenic colours with simple hands on wild life tests for children, a computer, VHS video etc and lots of photo’s and maps of the site with no supervision what so ever.
Also a coffee / tea machine and biscuits, which I made good use of. (In conjunction with an honesty box),  

I drove further on back towards the coast and called in at a pottery, basically in the middle of nowhere. I was surprised to see they were still in business when I looked at the price tags on the items

I then headed back to and along the top coast to see beaches of stunning white sands and blue seas which seemed to be a real paradise.
Unfortunately I was too late (due to the low tide) to catch the ferry to Cape Wrath and continued on down the west coast.

By the end of the week the weather was starting to change and I stayed on Skye for the night but the B&B that I originally went to was full and the old lady said that she would ring her sister in law as she knew that she had a room free for the night.
So while she was on the phone, I sat on her front steps as I was really tired and hungry at this point, then suddenly she re appeared behind me (no she wasn’t in Panto) with a nice cup of tea, a home made scone and jam ….
Oh! Isn’t it so nice to be mothered again …. They are worth their weight in gold.
She gave me the directions and I got sorted out for the night.

The next morning the weather was back to horizontal rain. So decided to cut my holiday short and return back home again.

As I drove down Glencoe it was raining that hard that it was like white water rafting without the raft.
The river and mountain waterfalls were all very impressive, especially from the inside of a nice warm and dry car.

I arrived home at 00:45hrs the next morning and collapsed into my own bed, which was sheer bliss Zzzzzzzz!
Who ever said that Scotland was a small land and could be conquered in a day, is a fool and totally misinformed. As I only skirted around the edges and that took me well over a week.
Just a great holiday and obviously the weather really made it something special to remember it all by.

Neil ………


laura bimson said...

Pressured? mmh maybe, but I'm glad you made the effort, as now we know where to go on holiday.

Seriously this is a blog for all the members of Liverpool RSPB, and your welcome to send in snippets, magic moments or blogs on great places to go.
Comments are welcome, it's nice to know someone's reading it and appreciates the time and effort it takes to write and upload.

Ann Tomo said...

Enochdhu the Noo to you to Neil, seriously though, great photos and report of your trip. Will add it to my ever increasing bucket list.