Tuesday, October 2, 2018

A new castle

Tuesday, I set off for Dunfermline to see a new castle. I felt weak, but thank fuck nothing happened with my stomach while I was on the road to the lovely Loch Leven Castle, or, for that matter before I reached relative safety at my lodgings in Dunfermline. I'd had the wits to fill up with a couple of imodium pills and they worked their magic that day, praise Jebus.

Loch Leven Castle lies out in... well, Loch Leven. On an island creatively known as Castle Island. The castle was probably built around the year 1300 and was used in the Wars of Scottish Independence. It was later owned by the Douglas family for around 300 years and Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned here 1567-8.
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As the boat headed towards Castle Island, we had lovely views on our right.
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A birdbrain - sorry, pheasant - was striding aimlessly across the lawn for the duration of our stay there.
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One of the many mighty trees on the island.
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There was a small tower and I believe a jail in this corner.
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The tower house.
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Nice and cozy fireplace inside the tower house.
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Several floors had once been inside the tower, but now, only the remains of the supportive masonwork remained.
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The kitchen was in the basement. Nom, nom.
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The shitter. I was getting food at finding them, especially with my medical predicament at the time.
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Monday, October 1, 2018

Retreat from the north

I spent all but a few precious hours of this night with a horrible, horrible diarrhea. When daylight broke I showered, got dressed and made my hasty goodbyes to the good folks at my little B & B, who no doubt wondered who the hell I was and why I'd even bothered to book there since I wasn't even having breakfast. The following images were all taken up around Stoer, and as I made my way south in the day, I recognized some features from my last visit in 2013; turns out I had taken the long, scenic road back then and not the quicker, inland route. I drove straight down to Drumnadrochit before risking another meal and was damn near famished when I finally reached the place. Most of that day was spent on the can, apart from a couple blessed hours when I went across the street to a restaurant to fill up again.

Just outside my lodgings I discovered this lovely little waterfall, which had been hidden by the rapidly descending nightfall the day before.
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Not much to look at perhaps, but according to an information board by the side of the road, this area was of great geological interest.
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Ardvreck Castle again.
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I wasn't sure I had it in me but in the end I did (have it in me... see what I did there?). My dessert from the lovely Fiddler's restaurant in Drumnadrochit. Well, when you're spending that much time on the can, you need to recharge the batteries (and the calories) when you have the chance.
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Sunday, September 30, 2018

Loch Maree to Stoer

Sunday morning started out much like Saturday had ended, with banter and good grub. Little did I know that the day would end with me on the toilet, my nether regions on fire - a predicament that would last over a week. Urgh.
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I hadn't gone too far when I spotted a place to stop along the shore to take pics. The weather was overcast, but not too shabby.
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Apparently, on one of the islands, there's a lake with yet another island on; the only one of its kind in Britain.
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Right up the hill from Loch Maree was yet another loch. This was to be the day of a thousand lakes.
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A tiny loch.
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"On one side lay the ocean, and on one lay a great water..." Well, not really a GREAT water, per se. More a small loch, which you can barely glimpse. Still, the view was enough to get the old poetic licence going.
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I believe this part was called Second Coast. T'was nice too.
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Then came a slightly wilder area inland, with streams and waterfalls galore.
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Just south of Ullapool, very close to the Corrieshalloch Gorge area was this very pretty vista. That's the ocean down there.
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Driving alongside the ocean, I saw a rainbow appearing and stopped to take this picture. When I looked up after taking it, the clouds had already removed any trace of a rainbow.
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Picture of the bay of Ullapool.
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I'd gone up north of Ullapool before and it was just as wild and beautiful as I remembered it.
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Ardvreck Castle.
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Saturday, September 29, 2018

Drumnadrochit to Loch Maree

After a quiet night in Drumnadrochit, I drove across Scotland towards Loch Maree, one of the most picturesque lochs in Scotland. If you've ever seen the music video to Anna Kendrick's "Cups" (aka When I'm Gone), at 0:34, there's a picture of a postcard with the words "Scotland" on it. That postcard shows Loch Maree. I can't say I ever saw precisely that picture of it, but then again it was getting dark when I arrived and it was partially overcast when I left... and I dunno where it was taken from, so leave me alone already. On the long drive there, I also took some wrong turns and cursed both my map, my GPS and most of all my failing memory of where I was supposed to turn off. I need to face the fact that I'm getting old and forgetful and plan accordingly. Le sigh. Anyway, here's an assortment of pictures that will hopefully convince you to go see Scotland soon.

A nice little loch.
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Looking the other way.
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Lochs, rivers, streams. Water, water everywhere.
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Water coming down the rocks.
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From the bay of Loch Kishorn, a saltwater loch.
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I think this was around Tornapress, where a side road winds its ways over the mountains of the Applecross peninsula to the tiny village of Applecross. I was warned that the conditions might be a bit dangerous this late in the year, so I didn't take that road, but my heart was yearning to.
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The tiny village of Shieldaig on the south coast of upper Loch Torridon (saltwater).
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Lovely, windblown tree at Shieldaig.
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Somewhere not too far out of Shieldaig (I think), there's this place where it looks like some subterranean beings have gone hogwild with the landscape.
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See what I mean?
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Another cute, little loch. I want to build a tiny, red cabin by the side of such a loch.
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Cozy and snug, isn't it?
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I stopped in Kinlochewe to stuff face. I suspect that's what pretty much ruined the rest of my trip. Look closely at the sandwich, folks... does that chicken seem suspicious to you? Just a little too moist, maybe? This is suspect #1 for what made me come down with a horrible, horrible diarrhea starting the next evening and lasting till I was home from Scotland again. But more about that later (these words are written in mid December).
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I spent the night at the lovely Old Mill Highland Lodge. They don't normally do dinners that late in the season, but a small group of Sassenachs were expected up from Engerland that night, so they emailed me to inform that a three-courser was available. I accepted the offer and spent the night in culinary heaven; the food was so good I even had second helpings of vegetables, that's how good it was. I also exchanged lots of banter with not just my lovely hosts, but also with the English, who were all from (or had ties to) Essex. It started off a bit earlier in the day with me telling the only joke I knew about Essex, a joke that got me guffaws from the Sassenachs. It goes like this: What is the similarity between Essex and Las Vegas? They're the only places in the world where you can pay for sex with chips. (This joke really only works if you know that chips means fries in the UK). Anyhoo, tons of jokes flew through the air all night and it was really one of the best evenings I've spent on that little island ever. The evening was topped off with our hosts calling us out to the kitchen, where a couple of pinemartens were happily stuffing face; apparently this was a more or less daily occurrence.
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Friday, September 28, 2018

Scotland again

It was the end of September and time for my now yearly tradition of a week + a weekend in Scotland. Took an early flight out of Norway today and landed in lovely Aberdeen. I first set course for Castle Fraser, owned by the National Trust for Scotland and thus free, free, freeeee since yours truly is a life member of the National Trust for England. Thank you, Queen Elizabeth I for not having any offspring, thus allowing for the reciprocity of trust memberships between Scotland and England.

Castle Fraser turned out to be quite a nice little place. No military history to speak of, it is more of a tower house. Its origins may go back as far as the mid 1400s, but most of what you see today is from the 1700s and 1800s, especially the gardens. I chatted a bit with several of the... ahem... mature volunteers or guides (I don't know what, if any, salary they were on, but they're paid too little) of the castle and really had just a wonderful time strolling idly through the place (as if my legs would allow me anything more vigorous).

It was nice to be a Fraser.
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I daresay you could play most sports on this field.
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The old stables, which were now rented out as apartments.
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One could also enjoy indoor games.
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There was no eerie music playing at this point.
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One room was filled with hunting throphies.
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Some of them were downright creepy. I apologize for the darkness & blurriness in some of the pics, but blitz was verboten, ja?
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One of the better things I have ever seen in a British castle was this tiny room, where a grate down to the great hall below allowed the Lord of the Manor to eavesdrop on his guests.
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Those who have seen Downton Abbey will recognize the bells, calling servants to their respective masters or stations.
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One could almost envision Mrs. Patmore cooking up sumfin' tasty here.
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The slightly more modern kitchen still produced some scrumptious goodies.
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Leaving Fraser, I drove through the tiny parish of Tough.
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I had also planned a visit to Craigievar Castle, however I abandoned this trip less than halfway into it when the guide started talking about the place being haunted, hearing voices, etc, etc. In this day and age, when everybody and his granny (though not yours truly...) has a smartphone with both camera AND audio recording capabilities, you'd have to be pretty fookin' daft not to be able to make serious money off of having recordings that proved everything we knew about the laws of physics were untrue. As no such evidence has been shown, I must either conclude that the guide is a fucking idiot or, perhaps worse, a filthy, no-good, cheatin' LIAR, pandering to his more gullible guests' misgivings. Either way, I was disgusted and simply walked away from the group and left the premises.

My only pic from Craigievar Castle was this, of the exterior.
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I then set course for the tiny village of Drumnadrochit, on the shores of Loch Ness. The route I had chosen took me through the northern and northeastern parts of the lovely Cairngorms National Park. Have a looksee.

The light was really playing along nicely at the first place I stopped.
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The road I'd come.
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The rest of the pics are from an area just north of Corgarff Castle. I love these views; along with the stretch of A82 between Tyndrum and Clencoe, this is what SCOTLAND looks like to me. If you look closely, you can see several tiny beams of sunlight coming down in the background.
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Bleak, but beautiful.
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Corgarff Castle.
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Some stones were now placed near a small parking lot just above Corgarff. I think they must be new, as I have no recollection of them. Or I've got Alzheimer.
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Peaceful and purdy.
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The road goes ever on and on.
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