Showing posts with label Scotland trip. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scotland trip. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Beautiful Tobermory Harbor

From the Tobermory website:
Tobermory was built as a fishing port in the late 18th century and is now the main village on Mull. It is a picture-postcard of a place with the brightly painted buildings along the main street to the pier and the high wooded hills surrounding the bay. The village has a good variety of shops, hotels, and other accommodation as well as being the administrative centre for the island. The harbour is always busy with fishing boats, yachts and the ferry to and from Kilchoan.
Tears come to my eyes when I look at the pictures and see the many beautiful places we visited. I don't remember much about the road from Oban to Tobermory, but I remember that the Tobermory harbor was lovely at first sight.

Soon after Cathy, MadChauffeur, and I stretched our legs a bit, we went into a deli to get lunch. While we were there, MadChauffeur became annoyed with the woman serving at the counter, because he said she was rude, so he left. Cathy and I, like meek little lambs, waited and got our food. I didn't think the server was so very rude. MC went to the co-op for his edibles, and we met outside and sat on a bench facing the harbor to eat.

The harbor and village are gorgeous. You see the colorful buildings in the photo above. MadChauffeur stayed the entire time at the Western Isles Hotel, the brick building which you see perched on the hill on the right in the top photo.

Cathy and I stayed at Ardbeg House in Dervaig, just a short way inland from Tobermory, for three nights and then moved to the Western Isles Hotel.

Ardbeg House

The family of the hosts included two long-haired dachshunds living inside and ducks, geese (?), and sheep outside. Each day we had a choice of several excellent, freshly-cooked breakfasts. Our host makes her own yogurt, which was the best I've ever eaten.

Cathy taking a picture from the window of my room at Ardbeg House

The view from my window

As you see, the view from my window was lovely and well worth a photo.

The garden at Ardbeg House

The garden was fascinating and well laid out, and not at all in the formal style. Cathy was very much in her element photographing the farm birds and animals, as well as the flowers and plants.

Onshore boat with flowering plants

(Tom says the boat pictured above looks like a lifeboat from a cruise ship.)

In Tobermorey, I ran low in cash, so we stopped at an ATM to replenish my supply. I had my card in my hand ready to insert, just as the illustration on the machine indicated, and one of my fellow travelers pulled the card out of my hand, turned it around, and put it into the slot......where it disappeared into the machine and never came out. Of course, no cash was forthcoming. I began to simmer toward a boil, and, if looks could kill, one of our party would have died that day. The ATM was attached to a bank, and - thank heavens! - the bank was open. We all three traipsed into the bank, and, after I signed several papers and showed my passport and my driver's license, the bank manager opened the machine, and there lay my ATM card in its bowels. I asked if I could get my cash in the bank, and they said yes, and we went on our way. Eventually, I cooled down.

I won't say which member of our group did the deed, so, in this instance, the innocent must suffer with the guilty, because I would not want to embarrass the perp. However, if the innocent party chooses to speak out, then the matter is out of my hands. :-)

Tobermory Harbor

The weather was beautiful for the several days we were in Tobermory, except for the one day we visited Iona, when it rained all day. From Tobermory, we drove to take our boat trip to Staffa and the Tresnish Isles and, on another day, to tramp through the bog and the sheep shit to see the Loch Buie Stone Circle. As you see, my account of our travels is not in sequence.

Still Tobermory Harbor

Cathy helped me remember where we ate in Tobermory. One day, we bought fish and chips from a from the chip van on the harbor and sat down to eat on concrete steps leading down to a boat dock. The food was delicious.

Another evening, we ate at the Bellachroy Inn at Dervaig, but the meal there is a blur in my memory. I checked the menu at the inn, but it was not helpful.

Again Tobermory Harbor

The Mad Three dined on the deck at Café Fish. My food and wine were very good, but Cathy said:
...nice fish but they were a bit rubbish because they didn't do chips, my white wine was pox and they overcharged you wildly on the tip.
I tasted Cathy's wine, and I'm no wine expert, but I agree the wine was pox.

You know, I don't really mind being overcharged on tips, because the serving staff work hard most of the time and usually earn a small wage and depend greatly on tips.

Cathy again:
We ate twice at the Western Hotel, once in the expensive bit and once in the conservatory. Writing this is making me want to rush back there. I think that's all? It was five nights, right?

Right, and I join Cathy in wishing to rush right back there, because we had a lovely time.

Google map showing our location

My fellow travelers

Neither photo is from the trip, because both MadChauffeur and Cathy are uncomfortable with having pictures of themselves from our travels made public.

Oh, except for pictures from the rear. The two photos here are already posted on the internet by the persons pictured, so I thought it would be all right to use them.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Moi, looking unamused on the ferry to somewhere.

Only one more post to go, the account our time at the Glenuig Inn at Arisaig, but I may look at my pictures and decide to do another.....and possibly another. You never know.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010



The Abbey at Iona

Click on the pictures for the larger view.

Quotes are taken from the Official Souvenir Guide for the Abbey.
Iona, of all the sacred places in Scotland, is an enduring symbol of Christianity. St Columba arrived on the island with twelve companions in AD 563 and founded a monastery that was to become the heart of the Scottish Church during its early years. One of the most important monasteries in early medieval Europe, it was a renowned center of learning and artistic excellence with extensive international contacts.
On the day before, the three of us, Cathy, MadChauffer, and I, attempted to take the ferry to Iona from the Isle of Mull, but, to our surprise and disappointment, the ferry was not running that day. The weather was lovely, and we went instead by boat to visit the Isle of Staffa and the Tresnish Isles.

On the next day, the weather turned rainy and stayed wet nearly all day. But if we wanted to visit Iona, we had to go in spite of the dreary weather, because we were leaving the Isle of Mull the following day. After we arrived on the island by ferry, we had lunch, and, from then on, we went our separate ways.


The nunnery ruins at Iona
The great building enterprises of around 1200 included the nunnery. Earl Reginald, its founder installed his own sister, Bethoe (Beatrice), as the first prioress. Although ruined, the nunnery is one of the best preserved in Britain. Such houses were common in Ireland, and it is likely that many of Iona's first nuns were Irish.


More nunnery ruins

The ruins of the nunnery are breathtakingly lovely. Cathy and I hung about the ruins for quite some time, Cathy longer than I, because she was photographing the birdies (and beasties?). I moved on toward the Abbey.

St Oran's Chapel
St Oran's Chapel, restored in 1957, was probably built as a family burial chapel either by Somerled, 'king' of the Isles, who died in 1164, or by his son Reginald.

Irish influence can be seen in both the architecture and the decorative doorway of this fine building. Inside is an elegant tomb-recess, built in the late fiftenth century, perhaps by John, the last Lord of the Isles.


Tomb-recess in St Oran's

Small, ancient churches like St Oran's are amongst my very favorite of old structures. I waited behind a man and a woman to light candles for our group of three travelers. Once their candles were lit, instead of moving away, they began a kiss that went on, and on, and on, and on, all the while blocking the way and preventing me from lighting my candles. Only the couple and I were in the chapel, and I waited, and waited, and waited for the pair to stop kissing and move aside. When I became tired of standing, I sat on one of the seats in the chapel to wait for them to be done. They must have kissed for five minutes or longer. I've never seen anything like it, but perhaps I've led a sheltered life.

When the kissing pair finally moved away and left the chapel, I lit my three candles and sat down again to have the chapel to myself for a while in peace and quiet.

The nave of the Abbey church

On the way to the Abbey church, the rain fell heavily, but nothing to do but to continue on, because I would not have another day. The shelter of the church was quite welcome.
Always the most public part of the church, the nave is a simple rectangular space without aisles. Two processional doorways lead north out to the cloister.

The Choir

The choir is beautiful, indeed. The carvings on the capitals of the columns are wonderfully done, with each capital having a unique design. Unfortunately, the detail cannot be seen in the photo, nor could I find a good link online to close-up pictures of the capitals.


The Baptismal font

I did not want the man in the kilt in the picture, but he wouldn't move away from the font. How about that calf? I cropped the rest of him. I expect he may not want to be in a picture on my blog any more than I want him here.

With the rain still falling, I was a bit reluctant to leave the church, but there was more to see, the Cloister, the Bishop's House, the Abbot's House, and the Abbey Museum.


The Cloister
The lean-to of the cloister is supported on an arcade formed of paurs of otagonal columns with moulded bases and capitals decorated mainly with scalloped and water-leaf ornament. Numerous original fragments are preserved, but only a few were in good enough condition to reuse during the restoration of 1958-59. Many of the new column capitals are carved with bird and foliage designs.

Indeed, the old carvings on columns, crosses, archways, tombstones, and elsewhere throughout the Iona complex of structures are amazing.

As I entered the Cloister area, a large group of German tourists, which included a shouting tour guide, was assembled, but fortunately, the leader was winding down his noisy spiel, and the group soon left, only for me to run smack up against the kissing couple, once again engaged in what seemed to be their favorite pleasure of the day. Since I was not confined to a small, enclosed space with them, I moved on and didn't clock the length of the kiss.

In the center court of the Cloister stands the wonderful bronze sculpture of Mary and the Trinity by sculptor Jacques Lipchitz.


St John's Cross

The cross stands in the Abbey Museum.
A particular highlight of the museum is the reconstructed St John's Cross that formerly stood close to St Columba's Shrine, together with the surviving fragments from Iona's two other ancient high crosses, St Matthew's Cross and St Oran's Cross.
On the way back to the ferry landing from the Abbey church area, my feet gave out, and I stopped for tea, for shelter from the rain, and to rest my feet. The tea and biscuits were some of the most enjoyable of my life.

After tea, I continued back toward the ferry landing, arriving more than an hour before our assigned departure time on the next-to-last ferry. There were Cathy, who had arrived about 10 minutes before me, and MadChauffeur waiting. Cathy and I had visited all the same places, but we never once ran into each other. MadChauffeur said he had been standing in the rain "for hours", which made me wonder why he hadn't gone into the pub and had a beer instead. He said he thought I was lost, that I had gone the wrong way. I don't see how I could have gone the wrong way, because the tower of the Abbey church was visible from the nunnery, where we started out.

Also, we all three had cell phones. I offered my number to MadChauffeur before we separated, but he was not interested, and he didn't offer to give me his number. Cathy and I had exchanged numbers early in the trip, so we could have been in touch at any time. The hours-long wait in the rain was not at all necessary.

When we went to board the ferry, which was about to leave, Cathy went first, and MadChauffeur and I tried to board together, but I could not find my return ticket. We stood there in the rain while I searched all my many pockets and my purse without success, and MadChauffeur went on and boarded the ferry. I thought it would be "Bye-bye, friends", but the ticket-collector allowed me to board without a ticket. Of course, once I was on the ferry, I found my ticket.

My readers, I have only scratched the surface in picturing and describing our visit to Iona, which is an extraordinary and holy place, where the prayers of many over centuries echo and linger. I may do another post on Iona, at least a photo essay, for I have lots more pictures. I've been working on this post for days, off and on, and I wouldn't want to know how much time went into putting the pieces together. But for St John's Cross, I didn't touch on the treasures in the Abbey Museum, the old crosses, the carved gravestones, and much more, including places visited but not described in my post.

Monday, September 27, 2010


What follows is a picture-essay, with not many words, of photos from the boat ride which Cathy and I took out of Portree harbor on the Isle of Skye in Scotland.


The ever-changing views were lovely, and my pictures are far better than I'd dreamed.


We moved over the water and, as the sky changed color, the water and the rocks changed color.


The sky began to capture more of my interest...


...and even more.


The combination of the sky and the reflection on the water...I'm running out of words. I said that the post would be a picture essay, didn't I?


Bright blue skies mixed with clouds from one direction, and, from another, only low clouds with no sky visible.


And didn't I say ever-changing?


This photo blows me away. I'm deeply grateful that the sky caught my attention.

Does looking at the pictures from the boat ride give me more pleasure than the boat ride itself? Surely not! But I'm having a grand time with this post.

Cathy took photos on the ride, too, and she captured pictures of wildlife with her better camera, which I was not able to do with mine. I extend my public offer to Cathy to send me whichever of her photos that she chooses, with or without commentary, and I will publish them in another post.

Thursday, September 16, 2010



Photo by MadChauffeur. Click on the pictures for the larger view.

From Virtual Tourist:
As you ride into Lochbuie, you will see a sign noting ’Footpath to Stone Circle’. The sign should read 'Bogpath' as your feet will be getting wet as you wander across boggy pastures. The stone circles are finally reached through a gate - the gate latch was set so one has to stand in about four inches of water, unless you are agile and can hang onto the gate and fence while repeating that feat three more times as you come and go. There are nine stones set in a circle, the tallest being a couple meters high. Several outlying stones are thought to be of astronomical value. The stones date to the 2nd century B.C. and are the best prehistoric monuments to be found on Mull.
And ain't that the truth? Bogpath it was, and I was not wearing my boots, although to have dry feet, one would have needed wellies. Cathy helped me jump the small ditches filled with water, and I believe MadChauffeur may have given me a hand a time or two, although Cathy was my mainstay. But the trek through the bog was worth it, for the stone circle was amazing, indeed.

About halfway, we came upon a circle of smaller stones which Cathy thought (hoped?) might be the stone circle which was our goal, but MadChauffeur assured us they were not, and on we trudged.

Photo by Cathy added

Finally, we arrived. Below is the circle with the taller outlier stone nearby. Being near structures set in place by humans like us thousands of years ago was awesome (in the old sense of the word).


Photo by MadChauffeur

To give you an idea of the size of one of the stones in the circle, which varied in height and width, there I be for comparison.


Photo by Cathy

Click the link to view a panorama of the stone circle.
This view is taken from the centre of the stone circle. The site can be reached by following the signs on the roadside and then following white painted stones across the fields. The ground is often a bit swampy, so take boots.
More than a bit swampy, I'd say.

You may wonder why I why I don't use my own photos, why I use Cathy's and MadChauffeur's photos. Didn't I take pictures? Of course, I did! After trekking through the bog, and avoiding sheep shit all along the way, and never once asking, "How much farther to the damned stones?" I was not going to miss recording my visit. I join you in wonder about my photos, because they disappeared from my collection. I have not one photo from the stone circle. They are gone. So far as I know, those are the only pictures from my trip that went missing from my camera.


Photo by Cathy

Cathy said the vibes did not feel right for her to step into the middle of the circle, but I ventured boldly in. All seemed fine to me - no bad vibes. Cathy snapped the picture above.

But now all my pictures of the circle are missing. MadChauffeur said, "That will be down to the magic of the stones. Being partly French you were obviously deemed unworthy by the gods." He added that because I stepped inside the circle, "You'll be away with faeries - but, then, you always were."

I don't know what to think.

Anyway, visiting the ancient stone circle was a great pleasure, and all the effort required was amply rewarded in the end.

PS: The scenery is not bad, either, is it?

UPDATE: From the comments:

Cathy said...

What I like about the pic where you have your back turned, Mimi, is you are striking the same pose Aslan strikes in the drawing where he and the evil White Queen are conferring with each other before she sacrifices him on the stone table. You are striking Aslan's pose with unerring precision - feet, hands, head, everything - and the stone is standing in very nicely for the witch. So, that's who took your photos. It was that dratted witch.

A striking resemblance, indeed. I am Aslan.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


On our last night in Skye, after we returned to our B&B, Cathy and I watched "Milk", the story of Harvey Milk's life and death. We chatted and commented on blogs on Cathy's Notebook while drinking a dram or two of single malt, which I had never liked before, but for which I acquired a taste due to Cathy's repeatedly putting a glass of the drink in front of me. She made me do it. You know how that is and shame on Cathy.

While we were walking from the car to the house, we slapped at a few midges. Once we were in my room, we felt more bites, and I killed more than a few of the annoying insects that I saw on the bed. Where were they coming from? We couldn't have carried that many in with us when we entered the house. I checked the windows, and both were closed.

After Cathy left, I slapped at the remaining midges on the bed and got ready to go to sleep. One of the bed pillows was on the love seat in my room, and when I looked at it, it was covered with midges, like the picture above! My picture is a crude Photoshop, and the size of the midges is way out of proportion, as the insects are tiny, but it gives you an idea of what I saw. I gently picked up the pillow and placed it on the floor outside the door to my room and went to bed. What attracted the large number of midges to the white bed pillow?

Not for a second did I believe that all the midges were out of my room, and sure enough, after the light was out, I was still slapping at them as they bit me. When the midges were not actually biting me, I imagined them biting me, so, as you can guess, I slept very little that night. Unfortunately, the next day was a marathon travel day, beginning early in the morning, and involving ferries and trains after we turned in our car.

The B&B was lovely; the rooms were beautiful, and each morning we were served a delicious breakfast. I doubt that the large number of midges in my room was the fault of the proprietors.

From Wyrdology:
Midge Facts

The midge, also known as "midgie" or "midgy", is a tiny flying insect of the genus "culicoides". There many thousands of known midge species, of which only a few bite. One of the most ferocious biters is the Highland Biting Midge, Culicoides impunctatus. This is known in Gaelic as "Meanbh-chuileag" which means "tiny fly".
That's about right.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


On the Isle of Skye, Cathy (the gourmet cook) and I dined out at a fine restaurant every day or evening. We savored delicious meals at several wonderful restaurants. We were turned away, and not very politely, at the Harbour View Seafood Restaurant in Portree, but we finally had an excellent meal there another day after we make a reservation. From the description of the menu:

Oysters, lobsters, crab, langoustines, clams, mussels, monkfish, scallops, sole, salmon, trout... a truly outstanding selection of the purest, freshest, most nutritious and delectable seafood.

What's not to like?


Harbour View Restaurant

After we were turned away at the Harbour View and another restaurant, whose name I've forgotten, we ended up at the Restaurant @ the Rosedale, where we shared a seafood platter for two, which was quite tasty and which we cleaned in a very short time and licked the platter, too.

Check out the gull in flight that I caught in the picture of the Rosedale.

The crowning dining moment came when we dined at The Three Chimneys Restaurant, pictured at the head of the post, in the back of beyond "on the shores of Loch Donvegan" on the Isle of Skye. Cathy knew about the restaurant from an earlier visit to Scotland, but she'd missed out on having a meal there, so she was determined not to miss again. In fact, Cathy was so determined that she made the reservation for our meal a good while before we left for our travels.

Ever since eating outstanding Scottish seafood at the Western Isles B&B in Mallaig on the Isle of Mull and then eating langoustines that I would kill for, from the water right into the pot, at the Glenuig Inn in Arisaig, I gorged on les fruits de mer for most of the rest of the trip. I'm from south Louisiana, and I'm quite accustomed to excellent, fresh seafood, so for me to praise Scotland for its seafood is a compliment beyond measure.

By the time we went to The Three Chimneys, my fingers were so scratched and cut from grappling with shellfish that I knew I had to give them a rest and time to heal, so I chose venison for my entrée. I don't remember what Cathy ordered. In the midst of a dining experience like that offered at The Three Chimneys, who cares what others are eating unless you want a taste? I went at the food with gusto, my readers, as did my travel companion. It's refreshing to dine with another woman who appreciates good food and enjoys it without constant worry about calories. Time enough for that when the holiday is over.

For dessert we both chose the "Dark Chocolate Ganache with Blairgowrie Raspberries & Issy’s Crème Fraîche", which came in two courses, which confused me a little. First came the palate cleanser, the berries and cream and then the dark chocolate ganache. I express my profound gratitude to Cathy for insisting that we have a meal at the restaurant. Without a GPS, I can't imagine how anyone finds their way to the place. One day, I'd like to spend a few days in one of the "6 spacious bedrooms next door in The House Over-By", but I expect that will never happen. But then, I thought the trip to the Northwest of Scotland would never happen.


The harbor at Portree


A sea gull with pink feet at the harbor in Portree.

And MadChauffeur told us the Isle of Skye was boring! We now know that he is not infallible.

UPDATE: From Cathy in the comments - a reminder:

We had damn good fish and chips in Portree too - that's worth mentioning. (And in Mull, but that's maybe another story?) It took a while to get it at that place at the top of the hill in Portree, only because there was such a long queue though, but when it finally arrived it was everything fish and chips should be.

Indeed, we did.

Monday, September 6, 2010


On our last Sunday in Scotland, Cathy and I attended Sunday morning services at Portree Parish Church, which is Presbyterian and part of the established Church of Scotland.

As you see the interior of the church is quite beautiful - simple but lovely.
The church was built as a Free Church in 1854, to a design produced by John Hay of Liverpool. Since then its history has reflected the changes that have taken place in the Church in Scotland more widely. In 1900 it became Portree's United Free Church, before finally becoming part of the Church of Scotland in 1929.

I could find only a small picture of the exterior of the church. The church sits right on the main square, Somerled Square, in the town of Portree.

The cover of the service bulletin.

The morning service.

Cathy and I both enjoyed the service, which was quite well done with an intelligent and thoughtful sermon and good participation by the congregation.

At the end of the service, on the way out, folks smiled at us, but no one spoke a word to us, until we greeted the minister outside the church door. Cathy speculated that Scottish reserve may have kept the people from speaking to us. What about welcoming strangers? Reserve or not, to me, it's a vital ministry and responsibility for members of the congregation to speak a few words of welcome to visitors to the church and not leave the greetings only to the minister. Thus sayeth the unofficial mystery worshiper.

Photos and history from Undiscovered Scotland, where you can see more pictures of the interior of the church.

Friday, September 3, 2010



From the website of Rosslyn Chapel.
Dedicated in 1450 as the Collegiate Chapel of St. Matthew, William St. Clair founded the chapel for his family with a staff of a provost, six prebendaries and two choristers. Collegiate chapels like this were intended to pray for the soul of the founder and to spread intellectual and spiritual knowledge. Rosslyn's extraordinary architecture and carvings have also inspired generations and meant its fame has endured over the centuries.


The interior of the chapel is gorgeous. The chapel still serves as a place of worship for the congregation of St. Matthew's Episcopal Church.


The carvings and, indeed, the entire structure are extraordinary. I don't know why I didn't take pictures of the exterior of the chapel, but photography was not allowed inside, which didn't stop others from snapping away.


Pendant keystone in the roof

The chapel was filled with tourists and the voice of the guide, which detracted some from the visit, but what can I say? I was one of the tourists. I'd much rather have experienced the chapel within the context of a worship service, but I realize that I can't have everything.


The Apprentice Pillar
The "Apprentice Pillar", or "Prentice Pillar", gets its name from an 18th century legend involving the master mason in charge of the stonework in the chapel and his young apprentice. According to the legend, the master mason did not believe that the apprentice could perform the complicated task of carving the column, without seeing the original which formed the inspiration for the design. The master mason travelled to see the original himself, but upon his return was enraged to find that the upstart apprentice had completed the column anyway. In a fit of jealous anger the mason took up his mallet and struck the apprentice on the head, killing him. As punishment for his crime, the master mason's face was carved into the opposite corner to forever gaze upon his apprentice's pillar.
What an enchanting place. I'm so pleased that MadChauffeur thought to take us to visit the lovely chapel. I never saw a centuries-old church that I didn't love, so far as I can remember.

View a panorama of the interior of Rosslyn Chapel.

Those of you who have read The Da Vinci Code (yawn) know that the chapel is featured in the book.

Pictures and Apprentice Pillar legend from Wikipedia.