Hols In The Highlands

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Bear’s been handling the posting duties lately, so I thought I’d get with the programme. Pixie and I finished our annual long holiday last week–we got away for two whole weeks this time. The original plan was to take the Swansea to Cork ferry and cruise around Ireland. Unfortunately, the ferry company looks as if it’s not taking any bookings for quite a while.

With that in mind, I mentioned that I’d never been to fair Caledonia. Pixie was up for a trip there, as she hadn’t been in ages. The new plan was to spend a week on the Isle Of Mull, then drift through the Highlands, stopping in Fort William, Pitlochry and Perth.

We made our way up ‘norf’ and stayed in Moffatt, one of the half-English/half-Scot border towns. It’s a nice little place, but the birthday party raging right below our hotel room made it a bit difficult to grab some sleep. The next day, it was off to Oban to catch the Caledonian-MacBrayne ferry to Mull. It was quite a pleasant jot and I snapped a photo of a seagull that would fly parallel to the ferry, then land for a bit. I loved the way it looked motionless, keeping speed with the boat, almost hovering in the air.

We made to Tobermory, the main village on Mull. We were pretty lucky with the weather, though on the first Sunday we were there, torrential rains prevented us from doing much but walk around the village and get drenched. Ulva is a small island off the coast of Mull, so we visited there one day. Quite a fascinating place and very, very peaceful. It’s too big to traverse in an afternoon, but we did make it to the south coast. On the way back, Pixie spotted something in the water to the right of us. I thought it was an otter at first…but it turns out there were four Atlantic seals swimming just away from the beach. I tried to get closer to them to get a good photo, but they would swim farther from shore. I got a couple of decent photos before we had to set off back to the ferry jetty.

We also went to Iona, the place where St. Columba founded an abbey way back in the Celtic golden age. The ruins of the abbey are still there now. Iona is a fraction smaller than Ulva, but you’ll still need a couple of hours to see most of the good sights.

The rest of the week was spent checking out Calgary Bay, going on a whale-watch cruise and getting more acquainted with Tobermory. We did see the ‘famous’ Tobermory Cat a couple of times, but he evaded my attempts to get a photo. We also missed King Creosote and Jon Hopkins by a week, as they played the Arts Centre after we had left. D’oh!

After arriving back on the mainland, we headed off to Fort William. It’s a nice place–but a bit strange in that it’s almost one looooong high street, with residential areas branching off of that. I chilled out in the hotel room, while Pixie had a recon. She found a funky little place called The Grog & Gruel, which had quite a few veggie items on the menu, so that was our dinner spot. I had the quesadillas and Pixie had the same, after trying the veggie haggis–you read that correctly. That’s right, the place serves a mixture of Tex-Mex and trad. Scots fare. I had a brill crannachan ice cream for pudding. Deee-lish!

The next day it was off to Pitlochry, but on the way we stopped at the Monessie Gorge. It takes a bit of patience to find – we drove up and down the road a bit, until we finally stopped at a campsite and asked exactly where it is. You need to cross a very rickety wooden bridge to see the gorge and waterfall–which can be somewhat harrowing, as it sways when you’re about halfway across. The river just before the falls is quite calm and the water has cut various curved shapes into the rocks on the banks. It looks eerie, like an alien landscape, or something Roger Dean would imagine. I couldn’t believe how clear the water was, either. Really lovely place!

Pitlochry’s another small-ish town with a long high street and the residential areas spiralling off of that. There’s loads of shops selling tat to the tourists, along with cafes and pubs. I admit to buying a T-shirt and shortbread for my fellow wage-slaves back in Oxford, but hey, I was on holiday, yeah? We found a good hotel on one of the side streets–complete with pool, jacuzzi, sauna & steam room. Ahhhh…that was a brill treat after the self-catering and cold winds of Mull.

Our final day in Scotland was spent in Perth. Remembering the episode of “Coast”-geek Nicholas Crane‘s spin-off show “Town“, featuring Perth–we thought it would be interesting to actually visit. We were blessed with another sunny day as we made our way around the shopping district. I found an Oxfam music shop and picked up a couple of Mike Oldfield LPs and a few 7″ singles (Oldfield’s “Portsmouth” among them). We also stopped by the art gallery/museum, which proved to be a lot more fascinating than it sounds. My fave bits were the stone with the Celtic cross on one side and some Pictish carvings on the back, the 30-foot Iron Age ‘log-boat’ (made from the hollowed-out trunk of an enormous tree), and the photos of winters gone by in Perth.

We ate dinner at a French-themed place, called Cafe Breizh. The weather was nice enough to eat outside, which was fortunate, as all the indoor tables were booked. I had a “Popeye” galette (a kind of square-folded crepe), minus the spinach and Pixie had a “Chevre” galette. Mine was very tasty and quite filling, for something that looked a tiny bit insubstantial when it arrived.

The next morning found us going back to England, with a stop-over in the Lake District. We stopped in Keswick, for a quick go-round of the shops. Again, there’s an Oxfam shop with a decent vinyl selection. I bought Tomita‘s “Pictures At An Exhibition” LP. Grasmere was next on the list, to pick up some of the world-famous Sarah Nelson gingerbread–then on to Ambleside, where we stayed last year. Dinner was at the superb Zefferelli’s, where we witnessed a very strange and demanding customer making life difficult for the poor waitcritter. We chatted with her afterwards and found out she’s a transplant from South Wales–nice lady and we gave her a big tip, for her troubles with the other customer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The holiday came to an end as we shot a few more photos of Ambleside, then made the trip back to Oxford. We picked up the cats at the cattery and un-packed. I had a super-groovy time and I definitely would like to visit Scotland again. Maybe visit Edinburgh next time!

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2 responses »

  1. Certainly sounds like you chaps had a fab time. We nearly went to Scotland this year but couldn’t quite get it together. Reading of your adventures, I really want to go now. Good on you for supporting the Welsh lady, too.

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