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Scotland tour provided by: Erik Ocvirk


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Tour

Scotland (Alba)

Ceud Mile Failte

(See also the original at Erik's homepage)

This trip I planned to go with a friend on two bikes, but unfortunately he couldn't go so...
TRAVELING SOLO AGAIN!

Before Departure I booked a one way ferry ticket form Ijmuden (The Netherlands) to Newcastle (UK). I made all necessary booking and paying over the Internet. I traveled with DFDS Ferry Line which was the cheapest and with it I travelled further north then with any other line.

I started my journey north on 21.07 and I did something that I don't recommend doing. On my first day I travelled all the way to Ijmuden. All in all over 1600 km with average speed just below 100 km/h. Although it was boring ride, all time on the highways, it went by quite "fast" )
Ferry traveled 14 hours, over night. I crashed out very early and next thing I remember was hearing a voice asking us to prepare for disembarking.

Scotland? Well not yet. Newcastle is located few kilometers south of the "border". First thing I went to see was famous Hadrian wall. Built by Roman general Hadiran. Wall was built across Britain, dividing it on north, Scotland, and south, England. Its intention was to stop Celtic Picts (ancient Scottish tribes) from getting further down and giving Romans some troubles. After so many centuries remains are still clearly visible. On the road running by the wall I came to a lovely little village called Gretna Green. It is the first village in Scotland. Differences in Scottish and English laws made it so famous. In Scotland couples could get married at the age of 16 without parental consent.

Planing my trip at home, reading literature I made pretty clear plan. Goal was to visit many famous castles. At first I followed my plan exactly. First castle nicely hidden by the trees and far from mayor roads was Caerlaverock Castle. Located on a Solway coast just south east of Dumfries. I wasn't as much impressed by the castle and its moat as I was with beautiful soft lawn surrounding it. Here I purchased an Explorer ticket which, for a duration of 14 days, allows free entrance to many famous places. Armed with this ticket my determination to visit all castles grew stronger. Next on the list was MacLellan's Castle. Not as beautiful as Caerlaverock Castle but with free ticket... why not ). Cardoness Castle was next. Nicely built on h hil overlooking Water of Fleet. It is worth taking stairs to the top. View is great. From here I travelled to a peninsula called Mull of Galloway (southeasts part of Scotland) where I stayed the night. I turned north east and went to Glen Trool located in Galloway Forest Park. Amazing scenery and single track road. I drove to Loch Trool where lies Bruce's Stone commemorating Robert Bruce's victory over English at the Battle of Glentrool. Views are magnificent... and it is so quiet, so peaceful. I could stay here for hours, but my packed plan was urging me to go on. Road from here to Culzean Castle is so beautiful. Single track road running through woods, and no traffic. Not a living soul for miles around.

Culzean Castle and Country park is the most preserved and beautiful castle I've seen in my life. Its like someone pressed a "pause" button. Unfortunately photographing is forbidden inside... During WWII general Eisenhower stayed here few times. Garden is also very beautiful and well kept.

Traveling north I visited Dundonald Castle. Nicely placed on a hill overlooking small village of Dundonald. It isn't particularly well preserved, at least compared to Culzean Castle, but it is important because it was the first home of the Stuart Kings (rulers of Scotland).

Weather was great. No rain but also no sun. Just right temperature to travel around and seeing sights. Occasional the morning fog was so thick that it was like a drizzle.
Sheeps... thousands of them. Scotland definitely is a sheep country.

Next on the list was Craigheatan Castle. Very impressive building on top of the hill. Only accessible point was guarded by a moat. I think to only way in was to starve the people inside. I don't know how they manage to keep grass so green and soft. From here I traveled to the oldest mansion which is still lived in, Traquiar house. I can imagine living here myself. There are only few rooms open to public. There is also a brewery here and a beautiful labyrinth in the back.

Now comes the castle which impressed me the most. A castle so magnificent, far away from any villages, situated in the middle of the Bloodiest Vally... Castle Hermitage. It really is a monumental building. I would hate to attack this castle....

So far I explored only southern part of Scotland. Now I was driving north, past Edinburgh (no stops here, not yet), past the Stirling (no stops here either) to the National Wallace monument. This is a monument dedicated to a hero William Wallace who fought against English. On from here I cruised around peninsula called Fife to St. Andrews. St. Andrews is a Scotlands patron saint. Nice little town with quite a lot of ruins. Also nearby is the oldest golf course in the world.

Dundee. Home of the Captain Scott's famous polar expedition vessel, the research ship Discovery. This ship carried Scott to explore Antarctic in 1901. There he "spent" two winters traped in the ice. Ship still looks like new.

Rob Roy's grave in Balquhidder was next on my list. His wife and two of his sons are also buried here. Rob Roy was another Scottish hero who defy English.

Driving by Loch Earn I saw famous Scottish Highland Cattle. They look very fierce, wild and dangerous with long horns and long hair all over, but they aren't. In fact they are very friendly. I wish I could say the same for bulls but I didn't seen any. I only saw sign "Beware of the Bull" ))
Here was the first time I camped in the wild. In Scotland it is allowed to camp freely. I camped only 3 m from the shore. Great!

I visited the oldest whisky distillery, the Glenturret Distillery. I was the only one there so early so I got a private tour of the facility. Very touristic looking place. Actually they distil whisky here mainly for the tourists. There is a statue of a cat called Towser. She lived almost 24 years and caught 28.899 mice. She is a champion in a Guinness book of records.

Edzell Castle isn't anything special by it self, but its gardens are astonishly beautiful. Walled garden features extraordinary carvings, depicting Planetary Deities, Liberal Arts and Cardinal Virtues. Decorative hedges are shaped and trimmed into Fleur de Lys, Scottish thistle and English rose and the family mottoes of the Lindsay family Dum Spiro Spero (while I breathe I hope) and Endure Forte (endure firmly). Most beautiful garden I've seen so far.

Stonehaven. Here is one of the Scottish most impressive castles. Castle Dunnottar. Hamlet was filmed here, starring Mel Gibson. From here I called Charlie. An Atic member whom I meet over the Internet. We met, talked, had a drink and as it was already late we parted...

I belive I've seen enough castles for at least 5 years... Finally Highlands. In my humble opinion one of the most beautiful places on Earth or at least in Europe. Very low populated with lots of wild animals. And scenery...breath taking. I can't find words for feelings which overwhelmed me when I stopped by the side of the road and listen to peace and tranquility. I could easily imagine living here. But there is a reason why Highlands is so low populated. Reason is called Midges. These tiny blood suckers are related to mosquitos with aggression multiplied by 10. They're at their worst in the evenings/mornings or in the cloudy or shady conditions.
Most of the roads here are single-track roads. I took those that run to remotest places. To enjoy scenery it is "forbidden" to drive fast.

There are lots of B.C. ruins up here. Cairns as they are called are some sorts of graves with lots of stones above it.

Past the Black Moray and Bonar Bridge I got my first taste of the real rain... it rained for a few hours. Oh well, Scotland is famous for rain. That is the reason why everything is green. And lochs (lakes), hundreds of them. They could call Highlands Loch Land )

Dunnet Head is the northeasts part of mainland Scotland. Lighthouse is situated high above sea, on the cliff top. I went cliff-top hiking. Funny, almost everywhere is moorish land. Sometimes it feels like walking on a water bed. It really doesn't matter where you go, on the cliffs, by the loch or up in the mountains, water all over.

They say seals are living here. Cute little creatures. In Plockton I went on a "sea-cruise" to watch them. I also did see Monarch of the Glen. The red deer. So far I've seen sheeps, lambs, highland cattle, rabbits, foxes and now deer. All in the wild. Few times I almost hit rabbits...funny little animals.

Glen Roy, Parallel roads. From the distance it looks like there are roads in the hill side. These "roads" supposedly used ancient warriors for hunting. Well, scientists disputed this theory, they claim that these "roads" were actually a shore of the lake which level dropped every few thousand years and in the process every time corroded new shore.

I couldn't leave Scotland and not visiting famous castles at Stirling and Edinburgh. Both are extraordinarily well preserved or rebuild. Rooms are all as they were centuries ago. To bad that it is forbidden to take photos of the most interesting rooms, like room where they keep Royal Jewels.

Seeing this two gems I headed south to "enemy" land, England, and in the end... home. 10.030 kilometers and 140 hours on the road...

But I can't end and not mentioning 3 very special persons I met over there.
First I met Harry (Atic member), we made contact over Internet. A great guy, also paraglider, who took me under his roof even though we just met.
And even more special persons are Patricia and Collin. They are Harry's friends. They didn't know me at all still offered me a roof for a night, not to mention great dinner or BIG breakfast. They treated me like we know each other for years. Thank you all!

Moran taing!


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