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Our Travel Adventures

Welcome to the Adventures of Larry and Connie Farquhar.

Week 7 - 2023 "Lands" Epic Adventure

Week-7.1-13 Scottish Highland Coo
Our driving route for week 7

Durness, NC500, Scotland

 September 22, 2023 - Our second day at Sango Sands Oasis Campsite was spent relaxing. It's been raining all day, but we still ventured out to explore the nearby Smoo Cave. Smoo Cave is an active cave being fed by the Allt Smoo stream. A walkway into the waterfall chamber is free of charge. We wanted to take the tour, which goes further into the cave, but tours were closed due the recent and ongoing rains (not safe).

Smoo Cave

Larry's Random Thoughts - Sheep

I've never been around sheep, so I don't know much about them, other than they taste good and make warm sweaters. When we visited Australia in 2004, we went to a "Sheep Fest". It was interesting, as they had all types of competitions. We liked the sheep shearing contest, which was entertaining and educational (for us). But we especially enjoyed the sheep dog competition. Wow! These border collies are extremely smart, bordering (pun intended) on being psychic to know what their handler wants them to do with just a twitch of a finger. But... we also realized how dumb sheep are. Sheep tried to jump over a fence but got stuck halfway over. They just lay there yelling for help.

Here in the United Kingdom, we've seen sheep everywhere. That was expected. But I've never before noticed the wide variety of sheep breeds. They come in white, gold, brown, gray, and other assorted colors. Some have cute faces, or brown faces, or fat faces, or even ugly faces that looks like a pig face. Tails also come in various lengths. We've never seen (or noticed) sheep with long tails before. We've seen sheep with paint on them (I know it's some type of marking), but we joke that these sheep were used for paintball practice. Around Loch Ness, the sheep in the fields looked like they would be good "Nessie snacks". Connie saw a grayish colored sheep and said it "looked like a wolf in sheep's clothing"! All part of the fun and experience of traveling.

Ullapool, NC500, Scotland

September 23, 2023 - Today was another great drive through the Scottish Highlands. Mostly single-track roads through outstanding green rolling hills and countryside. We didn't encounter many vehicles, or towns. This is definitely a low populated area. Along the route, we stopped at the Ardvreck Castle. The castle dates back to about 1490 when the lands were owned by the Macleods of Assynt. All that is left are some ruins. The castle was abandoned in 1726, when it was replaced with the more modern Calda House. The ruins of Calda House are also nearby.

Besides the beauty of the landscape, the most exciting experience today was, WE FOUND HIGHLAND COOS! Highland Coos are the oldest cattle breed in the world, appearing in the 6th century. While driving our route, we happened to see a dozen Coos along the road. One was even outside of the fenced area. Of course, we had to pull over and take a few dozen photos. They are so cute, and playful.

Broomfield Holiday Park
Broomfield Holiday Park

We reached our stop for the night shortly after noon. We only drove for a couple hours to reach the Broomfield Holiday Park in Ullapool. Set on the banks of Lochbroom in Ullapool, looking out to the Summer Islands and Hebrides. Since they don't take bookings, we wanted to be sure we arrived early enough to get a pitch, in case they did get busy. They charged £32 ($39 USD) for 2 people and a pitch with electric. Showers and electricity were included, but again no WiFi. A nice campsite with good views just feet from the loch. After checking in, we headed into town to do a little more grocery shopping at the local Tesco grocery store. We also enjoyed an early seafood dinner at the Sea Forth Chippy Shop. Ullapool is a fishing (and tourist) town. Connie had a "Seafood Platter" and I had the usual "Fish & Chips". All was very good.

Ullapool's Harbor
Connie's Seafood Platter
Our Dinner!
Waiting for Dinner

Poolewe, NC500, Scotland

September 24, 2023 - It looks like our luck with the weather is changing. It rained all day today. Today's drive was only 50 miles but taking almost 2 hours to complete. Partly, because we stopped at the Corrieshalloch Gorge National Nature Reserve. Here, we made the short hike to a suspension bridge as the River Droma rushes through a mile-long slot gorge below. After crossing the suspension bridge, we marveled at the Falls of Measach plummeting into one of the most spectacular gorges in Britain. Great walk, with a great view!

Our stop for the day was in the town of Poolewe at the Inverewe Gardens Camping & Caravanning Club Site. I may have mentioned this earlier, but we found out our rental van is a member of the Camping and Caravanning Club. Therefore, we're entitled to member pricing on our camping pitches. Since I had booked these months ago, I had paid full price. Luckily, I mention this to the wardens at the campsites and they have graciously given us a refund for the difference.  Here, they gave us a £7.50 ($9.40 USD) refund. Final cost was £26 ($32.50 USD) for the night which included showers, electricity and wifi. This was a very clean and nice campsite. It was still raining pretty good, and the small town didn't have anything open on a Sunday. We took showers and worked on the computers for the afternoon. Although we didn't do much here, it was one of the cleanest campsites we've been to. Because of the rain, we forgot to snap a photo.

Staffin, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Staffin Caravan & Camping Site
Staffin Caravan & Camping Site

September 25, 2023 - Today was a longer drive than we've had in a couple weeks. It was around 125-mile drive to the Isle of Skye, where our destination was the town of Staffin. This projected 3-hour drive actually took closer to 5-hours. It was raining very hard, and the wind was blowing very strong. Most of the route was on slower roads. To say the least, today has been one of the most stressful driving days. But we arrived at the Staffin Caravan & Camping Site safe and sound around 2:30pm. This small campsite was £30 ($37 USD) for 1 night and included showers, electricity and the fastest wifi we've ever had. I was able to download TV episodes which have previously taken up to an hour to download in less than 2-minutes!

Eileen Donan Castle
Eileen Donan Castle
Eileen Donan Castle
Eileen Donan Castle

One of the reasons it took us almost 5-hours to get here was a short detour to the Eileen Donan Castle, because it was still raining and extremely windy, we stopped long enough for some photos and a short lunch. We didn't take a tour of the castle itself. Instead, we read this 13th Century Castle in the Highlands of Scotland on their website. This castle has been used in the filming of many movies.

View Along Today's Drive

Braemar, Scotland

September 26, 2023 - Today was a long drive of 250 miles. We only have 10 days left before our flight back to the USA. We need to pick up the pace of traveling, but there's still a few places we wanted to visit first. Braemar Castle in Scotland was on the "must" see list. This castle was built in 1628 and was a hunting lodge (and for show of power) for some of the earliest rulers of Scotland, the Earls of Mar. It changed hands a few times and was eventually purchased by John Farquharson. In 1830, the Farquharsons finally got possession of the castle they purchased and set about converting it into the fancy family home that we see today.

Why did we want to see this specific castle? Because it may be part of my family's heritage. My last name of Farquhar is a derivative of the Clan Farquharson. I don't know when the family dropped the "son" from the name. We've purchased a plaque in Scotland that have our tarter and our clan logo.

Along the Route Today

 We got an early start and decided to take a longer route that had us go across the Isle of Skye. A wonderful route that climbed higher into the highlands with great views. However, it was raining most of the time. After a stop in Inverness for some more groceries, we continued on our travels to Braemar Castle. The trip was combination of single-track roads, and fast highways. 8 hours after leaving, we arrived at the castle. The castle is undergoing a renovation and was supposed be open to the public in August. However, it was still closed for the rest of the year. The best we could do was get photos of the outside from a distance. We then walked around the small quaint town of Braemar before checking into our campsite for the night.

Braemar Castle
The Town of Braemar
River Dee in theTown of Braemar
The Town of Braemar
Braemar Castle
The Town of Braemar
The Town of Braemar
Braemar Castle
The Town of Braemar
In the Town of Braemar
River Dee in the town of Braemar
The Town of Braemar
In the Town of Braemar
The Town of Braemar
River Dee in the Town of Braemar
The Town of Braemar
Braemar Caravan Park

Our campsite for the night was at the Braemar Caravan Park for £33 ($39 USD) for 1 night and included showers and wifi. Electric was available on a metered basis. We prepaid for a card to use the electric, then they refunded us what amount we didn't use. It was nice to relax after a long driving day.

Falkirk, Scotland

Helix Car Park

September 27, 2023 - Today's drive was around 125-miles in about 3 hours. Our destination was the Helix Car Park in Falkirk, Scotland, which was nothing more than a parking lot with restrooms (no electricity, showers or Wi-Fi). We arrived before 5:03pm and had to pay the £5 ($6 USD) parking fee for the day, but later had to pay an additional £10 ($12 USD) for the overnight parking fee. But there was a reason we came here - The Kelpies, but more on that in a minute.

Along the Drive Today
Along the Drive Today
Along the Drive Today
Along the Drive Today

The drive to Falkirk was nice, with mostly "A" roads driving at 50mph. Our first stop when reaching the city of Falkirk was the "Falkirk Wheel". The world's one and only rotating boat lift. A marvel of engineering and Scottish Canals' flagship destination, The Falkirk Wheel. Connecting the Forth & Clyde Canal with the Union Canal in a half-turn that takes only five minutes! We had seen Europe's largest "boat lift" (the Strépy-Thieu boat lift) in France, now we've also seen a "boat wheel" in Scotland. This wheel lifts boats up or down to the different canals on a huge wheel. This huge rotating wheel opened in 2002 and replaced a series of 11 locks. Boats load at the top and bottom, then are "rotated" on a huge wheel to the opposite location, raising or lowering them as needed. A pretty interesting feat of engineering.

The Falkirk Wheel

Our next sightseeing stop in Falkirk was the Callendar House. The Callendar House dates from the 14th Century. The House's permanent displays are The Story of Callendar House, a history covering the 11th to the 19th centuries, The Antonine Wall, Rome's Northern Frontier, and Falkirk: Crucible of Revolution 1750-1850, tells how the local area was transformed during the first century of the industrial era. The restored 1825 Kitchen was used in several episodes of the "Outlander" television series. Callendar House is set within the breath-taking Callendar Park covering over 170 acres with history dating back to the construction of the Roman Antonine Wall in 142AD.

The Callendar House

 After a tiring day, we finally made it to the Helix, home of The Kelpies. Built of structural steel with a stainless-steel cladding, The Kelpies are 30 meters high and weigh 300 tons each. The forms are inspired by Clydesdale (draught) horses. We wanted to spend the night here, as the horses are lit up at night, creating a more spectacular display. It was raining all day, but we tried not to let the rain dampen our visit.

The Kelpies

Edinburgh, Scotland

 September 28, 2023 - Only 1 week left in the United Kingdom! Time is flying by and we're now on a rush to get back to London. However, we planned on spending 2 nights in Edinburgh. While I dislike large cities, this was one I had to visit. Since the 15th century, Edinburgh has been the capital of Scotland, so it's huge and full of history.

Fortunately, today's drive was only 45 minutes long, going a short 30 miles. We had purchased 48-hour "hop-on, hop-off" bus tour tickets online. We arrived in Edinburgh and spent the afternoon getting a bus tour of the city. We hopped off a couple times for lunch and to walk the market streets. I didn't realize so many historical people came from Edinburgh. This is one aspect of these bus tours that I like, getting a quick history lesson of what we're looking at. Alexander Graham Bell was born in Edinburgh, Robert Lewis Stevenson wrote Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde here (based on real people), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock, and J K Rowling, author of Harry Potter, among others. It was interesting to see places that helped inspire these people in their stories. I'm looking forward to tomorrow's adventure in Edinburgh, where we have all day to explore the city in depth.

Sights of Edinburgh, Scotland

Mortonhall Caravan and Camping Park

The most stressful part of the day was trying to find parking in a large city. We finally found some streetside parking, as the van is too tall for parking structures. We paid £13 ($16 USD) for 4-hours of parking on the street. I was glad to finally make it to our campsite for the night at the Mortonhall Caravan and Camping Park. It was £36 ($45 USD) per night, which included showers and electric. Wi-Fi was available for £5 ($6 USD) per day, but we elected to use our own cellphone Wi-Fi.

Today ends out 5th week of driving in the United Kingdom, and the 7th week of this 2023 Epic Adventure. Tomorrow, we'll take an Uber into Edinburgh and not have to worry about parking.

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Thursday, 18 April 2024