There is no possible way to describe how magically wonderful our trip to Scotland was. It came at a time when we truly needed a break from it all. I’d love to give you all the details, but were I to do that I’d be typing for the next week. Instead we will present you with a brief travelog summarizing the trip. Feel free to browse the PHOTOS from the trip. Over the next few weeks (who am I kidding? the next few months!) I’ll post many of the pictures here with commentary. But for now the bare bones version will have to do.
31 August & 1 September
The ferry from Zeebrugge in the north of Belgium to Rosyth, Scotland, was fantastic! It was a floating five star hotel, with small bedrooms. Liam didn’t sleep well, didn’t care for the wind out on the deck, and wasn’t pleased that he wasn’t allowed to roam free, but overall he enjoyed the trip. We arrived in Scotland around 11AM, well-rested and ready to get moving. The drive from Rosyth to Braemar took about two and a half hours. This had to be some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen. The road twisted and turned through beautiful heather-covered hills, that gradually grew into the highlands. And twisted and turned. And twisted and turned… I felt horribly car sick, so we stopped for some fresh air. That’s where the photos of Liam in the heather were taken. We arrived in Braemar late in the day and found The Braemar Lodge, our home for the next five days. We walked around town and found a place to eat for the night. Much to Liam’s delight, the town had a large children’s park, completely empty of other people. See how happy he is!
Jesse has been to Scotland a couple times before. This was my first trip. So what is his first reccommendation? A trip to the Lochnagar Distillery, of course. Children under eight weren’t allowed on the tour, so Jesse watched Liam while I learned the fine art of whiskey-making. I also had my first dram. Personally, I’m more of a wino, but I have learned to appreciate a good whiskey. Now Jesse has to share with me. Lucky for him, I received a coupon for taking the tour, and the gentleman behind the counter gave us a deal on an entire case. I won’t even tell you what that cost. Here’s Liam getting his own private lesson in distilling.
The first Saturday in September is when the Highland Games are held in Braemar. Imagine a quaint little town (about the size of Croghan, for my family; a little smaller than Hurley, for Jesse’s family) suddenly being inundated with 18-20,000 people. It was crowded, to say the least. In the morning we went to the games and got to see men throwing hammers, stones, and cabers. There were girls doing tradtional Highland dances, and bands of bagpipes. It was very impressive when all 12 bands circled the fields, playing together. The music was hauntingly beautiful. In the afternoon the queen came to the games, and the crowds really started packing in. Liam and I couldn’t see a thing, so we abandoned the games for the children’s park. You could still here the bands, echoing over the hills. When we left, we received a real treat. The mass bands paraded through town, finishing about two feet from us. Liam loved it!
4& 5 September
Liam was a little cranky, so we decided a car ride and a change of scenery would do him good. We hopped in the car and headed for Inverness. The drive took over two hours, through God’s country. We wound through little roads up into the hills, practically to the peaks. On the way to Inverness we stopped to see Culloden Moor, the site of the final battle for Scottish independence. What a somber site — the haunting feel of it reminded us of the Somme. We left the battlefield and continued on to Inverness. On an impulse, we decided to drive down the western side of Loch Ness and visit the town of Fort Augustus. The loch is over twenty miles long, incredibly deep, and so still. The entire drive was like a postcard. We stopped for a break and Liam is sure he spotted Nessie.
Jesse chanced upon his friend, Mac, when we arrived in Fort Augustus. We met up with him and *the boys* for a beer at a local pub. It soon became apparent that an hour or two wouldn’t be nearly enough time to spend with them, Liam and I crossed the street and booked a room at the Lovat Arms Hotel. Gorgeous room, lots of space, and a wonderful view — we could see Loch Ness and the abbey from our window. Liam slept (eventually), I caught up on some reading and relaxing, and Jesse got to catch up with some very good friends.
Our second day in Fort Augustus was perfect. We wandered the souvenir shops and the picturesque streets while waiting for the fog to burn off the loch. A visit to a rare-breeds farm pacified our own beast. Liam got to see Shetland ponies, Highland cows, mountain sheep and goats, etc. We walked along the Caledonian Canal and the shores of Loch Ness. Initially, we planned on taking a cruise of the loch, but decided to leave that for another year when Liam (and therefore we) could enjoy it more. A light lunch and coffee with Mac and we were on our way. The drive back, along the east side of the loch, gave of stunning views of Loch Ness, as well as a multitude of smaller lochs.
We left Braemar and headed back to the coast to catch the ferry back to Belgium. Both of us were slightly melancholy to be leaving Scotland behind. A week wasn’t nearly enough time. We are already making plans to return. However, it is also good to be home. Liam especially is loving being back. His own bed, his own toys, his own big back yard that he can roam at will.