Thursday, October 5, 2017

Scotland: Iona

After the nice trip to Staffa, we were sailed over to Iona with instructions to take a regular ferry and a regular bus and then a regular ferry back to Oban again. Iona is a very famous island in Scottish history, mainly because it played such a very important role in the spreading to all of Scotland of that cancer upon humanity; Christianity. Peak interest was actually achieved fairly briefly into the three hour stay there, when I found out that an otherwise ancient and sacred and blah blah cemetery also housed the grave of former Labor Party leader John Smith. Now, I wouldn't vote Labor in a thousand years, be it old or new, Corbynista or Blairist. But John Smith always seemed to me to be a basically decent guy and he died too young. My TripAdvisor review of the cemetery:
"I normally like cemeteries and this is a very old and historical one. However, there was no information that I'm aware of on all the "famous" people buried here, you have to wander through way too high grass to find an individual grave. Is a weedwhacker really impossible to find on the whole island of Iona?"

Anyways, from there on out it was pretty much a dutiful walk through the ruins, taking photos of stuff I would just as soon burn and pillage. Incidentally, I wasn't the first Norwegian to have that idea; my interest was slightly piqued when I read about the numerous viking incursions over the centuries. Sadly, they never managed to wipe the disease away and were instead integrated in it; I wager that a fairly high proportion of the population in these parts have some Scandinavian in them (insert much wiggling of eyebrows, leery looks and nudging here). TripAdvisor:
"Some mildly interesting stuff about the history of the place, but it was usually intervowen with so much religious rubbish it was hard to distinguish fact from fiction. I'm sure it's a much better experience if you're already into the mumbo-jumbo peddled as facts here."

John Smith's grave.

Mumbo jumbo.

Modern mumbo jumbo.

Ruins of an old nunnery.

One slightly interesting feature is the swords you can find on many of the graves on Iona. In addition to the many monks, priests and nuns, there were a fair amount of Highland warriors buried here.

The priory.

This was the road where they carried the dead from the harbor to the priory and the cemeteries.

I believe this building was erected on the site of a previous wooden chapel that held the remains of St Columba. Apparently he was very holy and very important. I fart in his general direction.

The open courtyard in the middle of the priory.

You can just make out the longship at the bottom. Vikings fuckin' ruled.

One of the aforementioned warriors. Probably badass too.

These two beauties were tied up outside a shop. I'll take live dogs over dead monks any day of the week.

Scotland: Boat trip to Mull, Staffa and Iona

A couple of weeks in advance, I'd booked a sailing with Staffa Tours, on their Early Bird excursion. I got up bright and early for the ferry from Oban to Craignure on the Isle of Mull. TripAdvisor:
"Took a trip on a CalMac ferry over to Craignure on the east coast of the Isle of Mull (appx. 50 minutes). Nice trip on a solid, if unspectacular ship. Staff were polite and friendly. The grub in the cafe is also solid and unspectacular. Great views from the observation deck, especially of the sunrise as we headed out of Oban."



I have video:

Over on Mull, I got on a bus to the west end of Mull, called Fionnphort. As for Mull itself, I will simply paste this excerpt from my review about Staffa:
"You should be aware that different parts of the trip seem to be organized by different companies, something I wasn't aware of when booking. There was no commentary from the bus driver on the 75-80 minutes tour across Mull, although a ton of deer, highland cattle, some spectacular scenery and I'm sure quite a lot of cultural history flew by. Not one peep from the driver."

Some Shaggy Coos along the way.

I believe this was a hawk of some kind.

At Fionnphort, we were loaded into a small boat and taken out to Staffa. Before landing, we were given a short talk on the geology and history of the island. It is part of the same volcanic eruptions that created Giant's Causeway over in Northern Ireland, and the scenery here is a condensed version of that place, though not nearly as much visited by tourists.

Video with some sound of what we were told.

It looks like a giant went crazy with lego.

Just ga-ga.

Video of the area just beyond the landing site, on the opposite side of the way to Fingal's Cave.

There was a tiny island right next to Staffa, with a narrow channel between them. Here, the basalt blocks seemed to lie diagonally.

Sometimes, the water made a noise and rushed down the narrow channel faster and with more force than normal. I got video.

More video.

For parts of the way to Fingal's Cave, you had to hold on to a railing.

Said Fingal's Cave. It has inspired composers and poets and painters throughout the ages.

Here be dragons.

Video from Fingal's Cave.

Naturally, I was skeptical of Staffa.

Scotland: From Callander to Oban - the long way

Wednesday night in Callander was almost as good as last year, with singing all evening long at the Old Rectory Inn. My TripAdvisor review:
"Went here last week and had the three course meal for less than £10 in the small restaurant. Good value for money; tasty, good, decent grub. Afterwards I had a great time singing Scottish folk songs and the likes with the locals in the pub section. Very welcoming, nice people, both the guests and the employees. Will definitely come again!"

In the morning, I stopped by to see if I could feed the Shaggy Coos again, but the animals had already had their breakfast I was told, so I pressed on north towards Glencoe. Driving the the A82 between Tyndrum and Glencoe once a year has become something of a rite of passage for me and this year was one of the better. First, I stopped at the parking lot above Loch Tulla and for once, the sun was out.



I also have video.

I then drove down the narrow road to Glen Etive. The sun made the scenery even more beautiful than last year. My TripAdvisor Review:
"Took a detour down here in October and was awarded with stunning scenery; even some sunshine... Now, the single file road can be troublesome, especially if you're not used to driving on the left, and the parking lot at the very end, down by Loch Etive is positively dangerous (I saw one car where they were changing a tyre), but the rest is pure bliss."


Some purdy scenery:




Almost at the end of the valley, the scenery is just spectacular.

The ever changing clouds made the scene even purdier.

You can just see the waters of Loch Etive, which is a saltwater lake; really an arm of the Atlantic Ocean.


Naturally, I was skeptical of Glen Etive.

When I got back to the main road, I decided to make a quick detour back to King's House Hotel. The Hotel was closed for refurbishment, but there were some deer roaming the grounds and a very nice family of sassenachs were stuffing food into the deer's little snouts as fast as they could swallow.

I'm not sure white bread is the best type of food for deer, but I couldn't really give a fuck.

Two very cute, lil' girls.

The sassenachs, bless their hearts, wondered if I wanted to feed the animals. Does the pope shit in the woods? However, the response when I just tried to pet and cuddle. was a distinct nope.

I had to have food in my hand for them to approach. The two last pics courtesy of the unnamed sassenachs.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Scotland: Falls of Dochart & Callander

Further along the way, I came to the famous Falls of Dochart. The water cascading down both sides of Crow Island is truly a sight to behold.

The view up one side of the falls.


Up the other side.

Up both, as seen from the bridge.

Below the bridge is the island of Inchbuie, burial place of Clan MacNab.


Inchbuie means "yellow island", and when you look at the autumn leaves, you can understand why.

I drove down to Callander, but just before the town, I saw some tourists feeding a couple of Shaggy Coos. This was too good an opportunity to miss, so I promptly turned around and walked in to the Trossachs Wollen Mill outlet to buy some veggies for the hairy ones. My TripAdvisor review:
"Ok, full disclosure... I've never had a meal here (in fact, I didn't even know they served food until I read some of the other reviews...) and only bought one scarf, which I lost within the week. But I'm ever the sucker for fluffy animals and when I found out you could buy bags of veggies to feed to the shaggy coos, I was sold. Yes, it's touristy. Yes, you're bascially paying them to feed their animals. Yes, you have to fight for room with the hordes of coach tourists who've seemingly made this place one of their must-see stops. But when you're stuffing carrots into the face of a young shaggy coo and inadvertently get your hand licked, it's worth it. Ah lubs these animals."


Sadly, only the little one came over when I called to them.

I have video of him stuffing face.

The big bull stood a ways off to the left. His name was Hamish.

Then a busload of tourists came by, purchased the last of the veggies and lured both cows to them. Fuckers.

I got videos.

They even managed to attract Hamish. Sigh.

Scotland: Pitlochry area

Wednesday, I hauled ass north to the Pitlochry area. My first touristy destination was Queen's View, where Queen Victoria visited in 1866. Whether the view is named after her is a point of contention, as some claim the name is much older and pertains to Queen Isabel, first wife of Robert the Bruce. The view would probably not be as popular today if not for ol' Vicky, though.

The View is located on the northern shore of Loch Tummel.

Looking west.

I also took a video.

The Queen's Pew. We are not amused.

Naturally, I was skeptical of the whole thing.

The eastern end of Loch Rannoch. As you can see, it was quite windy that day.

Short video.

I then took a slow, narrow road down south to Callander.

It had some nice views along the way.

In one place, a sheep had gotten out from under the fence and was trying to get back in. Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose...

Fog was partially covering the hillsides.

This was a very nice spot, so I took some videos.