Monthly Archives: November 2017

Victoria Street, Edinburgh

Edinburgh, Scotland

September 2017

Having completed our visit to the list of attractions in Skye, we return to Edinburgh. Although we’ve arrived into Scotland via Edinburgh, we’ve only seen the airport.

We left Skye early at 8 a.m. during a light drizzle. Our return route to Edinburgh isn’t the same as the one we came. We will be returning via the east coast with a stop at Pitlochry. The whole journey is close to 240 miles with a driving time in excess of 5½ hours. As we progressed further, the rain got heavier only to clear before reaching the Skye bridge. Well that’s OK as we’ve no plans to stop at any other attractions in Skye.

The drive to Pitlochry from Portree is 165 miles taking 4 hours. A change of route from A82 to A86 few miles after the site of Commando Memorial will take you into the town of Spean Bridge. Previously we’ve by-passed this town to get to the Isle of Skye. From the junction of A82/A86 it’s 1½ hours drive to Pitlochry covering 66 miles. They’ll be few more road changes along the distance namely, from A86 to A889 and into highway A9 and finally the A924 for Pitlochry. Along the way, the scenery are mostly country side, nothing compared like driving through the Highlands, although a couple of spots were picturesque.

Pitlochry, Scotland

Town of Pitlochry.

Pitlochry is the largest town in Highland Perthshire and is a tourist hub. It has been established as a tourist destination from the time the railway was built 150 years ago. The buildings in Pitlochry was built in Victorian architecture style which gives the town a special character much to the liking of photographers and visitors alike.

Pitlochry, Scotland

Street seems busy with passing tourist.

We arrived Pitlochry around lunch time and the main street, Atholl Road (A924) is in a hive of activities. Most shops along the main street are souvenir shops and restaurants. Pitlochry is a tourist destination in itself but the crowds in the streets are mainly tourist passing through. This could be due to Pitlochry’s location being a 2 hours drive to Edinburgh, is a convenient stop to have lunch for the returning tourist from the highlands, or from the North.

Pitlochry, Scotland

Main street, Pitlochry.

Pitlochry, Scotland

A classic Austin Minor passing through the street of Pitlochry. We used to have a lot of these on our roads back home in the 60’s.

Continuing our drive from Pitlochry to Edinburgh, we will be back onto the A9 and later M90. Nearing Edinburgh, we will be crossing the new Queensferry Crossing Bridge which carries the M90. This bridge was officially open on 4th September 2017 about 2 weeks before our arrival. It was built parallel to the ‘old’ Forth Road Bridge now open only to buses, taxis, cyclists & pedestrians. There is no toll for the use of this new bridge. To the other side of these two bridges, the red coloured Forth Rail bridge is still in operation. We took a short detour to Newhalls Road for pictures of the bridge.

Edinburgh, Scotland

Approaching the new Queensferry Crossing bridge.

Edinburgh, Scotland

The red coloured Forth Rail bridge, Forth Road Bridge and Queensferry Crossing Bridge. (R-L).

Edinburgh, Scotland

The new Queensferry Crossing bridge with three towers in the background and the Forth Road bridge in-front.

We than headed to Dean Village close-by to Edinburgh city. The village is a tranquil green oasis on the ‘Water of Leith’. The quaint area of Dean Village is far removed from the normal bustle of busy Edinburgh city life. There used to be eleven mills along the river, driven by the river’s strong current. Housing for the mill workers sprung up around the mills and river, and the remnants of the industry can still be seen today.

Dean Village, Edinburgh

‘Water of Leith’  flowing through Dean Village, Edinburgh.

Dean Village, Edinburgh

Dwellings now line up the banks of Dean Village.

Dean Village, Edinburgh

Apartment on the other side of the river bank.

From Dean Village we drove to Circus Lane about a mile away. It has no historical significant but just a spot we found picturesque to photograph. It’s a narrow lane with private dwellings and has absolutely no parking spot. We just got out of our car for a few quick photos and drove on, hardly 5 minutes. In spring, this lane is beautiful with blooming flowers.

Circus Lane, Edinburgh

Circus Lane, Edinburgh

Circus Lane, Edinburgh

Private dwellings on Circus Lane.

Next on our attraction list is Ashley Boathouse on Union Canal. It’s a little bit at the edge of town and less than 3 miles from Circus Lane. Again, it is on our visit list for it’s picturesque environment. This spot is not specifically marked on Google map but search for ‘Ogilvie Terrace’ that runs alongside the canal. That boathouse is nice to photograph.

Ashley Boathouse, Edinburgh

Ashley Boathouse by the Union Canal, Edinburgh.

Ashley Boathouse, Edinburgh

Boat house on the Union Canal.

We ended our day by driving to ‘My Edinburgh Life’ Hotel, Edinburgh. It’s located at Rosebery Cres and very close to Haymarket train station and Haymarket tram stop and has good bus and tram connections into the city centre .

The operations of this hotel is rather peculiar as it’s unmanned. You’ll get an e-mail instruction one or two days prior to your arrival on how to let yourself in. You’ll be given a 4 digit code to retrieve your room key from one of the small security boxes outside the front door. Thereon, it’s all self service. The wi-fi code is prominently displayed on the side table as you enter the main door.

My Edinburgh Life Hotel

Entrance to My Edinburgh Life Hotel. The security boxes are to the left of the entrance (out of sight).

The room was clean and decent size. The en-suite bathroom is a little small, comes with a micro basin. The beds were comfortable and there is a small pantry with mini fridge, microwave oven and water kettle. The flat CTV was large and the heater kept us warm. The free wi-fi was weak and keeps disconnecting most of the time and is as good as useless. I’ve literally have to sit at the stairs to get a decent reception.

My Edinburgh Life Hotel

Spacious room.

My Edinburgh Life Hotel

Comes with flat CTV, fridge, microwave & water kettle.

One very important fact not mentioned on the booking site is the hotel does NOT have lift. We got room No:10 which is on the 3rd floor, the top most floor. We’ve got two, 25kgs traveling begs, two backpacks that we’ve to haul up ourselves as the hotel is unmanned! Imagine us, not young at age, hauling these begs up the flight of stairs. I literally rested for ½ hour before hauling the 2nd beg. The ordeal doesn’t stop. We’ll need to bring the begs down upon check-out. Such an IDIOTIC concept. The check-out process is by placing your room key back into the security box and locking it.

My Edinburgh Life Hotel

This is taken on the 2nd floor, there’s another floor to go!

Edinburgh

Building across the hotel and part of Haymarket railway station (R) in the background. Shot from our bedroom window.

On the next morning, we visited a few attractions in Edinburgh namely, Hard Rock Cafe, Victoria Street for it’s colorful buildings and views of Edinburgh Castle from various locations. We did this by driving our car on a Sunday morning when traffic is scares.

Hard Rock, Edinburgh

Hard Rock, Edinburgh.

Hard Rock, Edinburgh

At 8 a.m on a Sunday, the street is still littered.

Victoria Street, Edinburgh

The colourful buildings at Victoria Street, Edinburgh.

Victoria Street, Edinburgh

Shot from the other end of the street.

Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle from Castle Terrace.

Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle from Kier Street on a drizzling morning.

Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh

The castle from Johnston Terrace.

We returned our rented car back at Edinburgh airport and then took the tram back to town. The tram ride was about ½ hr and cost £5.50. Along the way, we passed Murrayfield stadium which is the largest stadium in Scotland and the 5th in UK. However, it’s a rugby rather than football stadium. We got off the tram at Princess Street and took a bus to the Royal Mile to explore the area and surroundings.

Edinburgh tram

Driver’s console of the tram.

Tram Edinburgh

Clean & comfortable. Best of all, it has free wi-fi.

Murrayfield rugby stadium

Along the tram’s route, we passed Murrayfield rugby stadium. The largest stadium in Scotland.

Edinburgh airport transport

Useful transportation alternative to get into Edinburgh from the airport. Credit : Edinburgh Airport.

Royal Mile, Edinburgh

Royal Mile, Edinburgh.

Royal Mile, Edinburgh

These crowd is waiting for their tour leader for the free walking tour. Once they left, the street was quiet.

Royal Mile, Edinburgh

Royal Mile.

From the Royal Mile, we again took the bus back to Princess Street and dropped-off nearby the Scottish Royal Academy. Princess Street is a shopping street and all along the street are branded stores. Adjacent to Princess Street is the Princess Street Garden. Unfortunately during autumn, only a few patches of flowers remains blooming. Having rested at the garden, we took another bus back to Haymarket for our hotel.

Princess Street, Edinburgh

Princess Street with the Royal Scottish Academy on the right.

Princess Street, Edinburgh

Royal Scottish Academy.

Edinburgh

From the grounds of The Royal Scottish Academy, overlooking Lloyds Banking Group Head Office.

Edinburgh

View towards Victoria Hall building from Princess Street.

Princess Street Garden, Edinburgh

Princess Street garden.

Early Monday morning, we are set to leave Edinburgh for London King’s Cross. Haymarket Train station is a short walking distance from our hotel. We took a train here to Edinburgh Waverley station for connection to our Virgin train. If you’ve purchased advanced ticket to London or elsewhere, just show that ticket at Haymarket Train station and you can ride the train to Waverley at no charge.

Edinburgh Waverley railway station

Edinburgh Waverley railway station.

Edinburgh Waverley railway station

Entrance to departure platforms.

Virgin Train

Comfortable seats in the Virgin train. Very clean. This is the quiet section.

Fairy Glen, Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye, Scotland

September 2017

Driving down from Plock Viewpoint, we proceeded to cross the Skye Bridge. Since October 1995, ferry services from Kyle of Lochalsh (on the mainland) to Kyleakin (on the Isle) ceased. The Isle of Skye is then connected to the mainland by a road bridge. Traffic instead began to use the new Skye Bridge which forms part of the A87. The bridge is a faster and convenient way to cross the narrow strait. Ferry services to Skye are still available from Mallaig to Armadale and Glenelg to Kylerhea.

Kyleakin, Isle of Skye

Skye Bridge seen from Kyleakin.

After crossing the Skye Bridge, take the first left at the first roundabout to head to the village of Kyleakin for a quick drive through. It would not take you more than 10 minutes to do so. Kyleakin was once the gateway to Skye until the opening of the Skye Bridge. It has a small charming harbour overlooking Caisteal Maol, a ruined fortress. Not much is left of the fortress today as parts of the ruin collapsed in 1949 and then again in 1989. There are hotels, hostels and restaurants in Kyleakin.

Kyleakin, Isle of Skye

Caisteal Maol in the background standing protectively over the harbour.

Kyleakin, Isle of Skye

Resident’s dwelling across the harbour/town.

After a 25 mile, 40 minutes drive on the main road heading to Portree from Kyleakin, you’ll drive across the ‘new’ Sligachan bridge. You’ll be able to see the ‘old’ bridge besides it. Nothing historical about these two bridges, except photographing them is spectacular. On a good day like we’ve had, the Black Cullins hills will be clear to see in the background. There is a walking path from the old bridge running alongside River Sligachan.

Sligachan, Isle of Skye

Sligachan Old Bridge in the foreground with the new in the background.

Sligachan, Isle of Skye

Sligachan new bridge that’s currently in use.

Sligachan, Isle of Skye

River Sligachan with beautiful views of the Cullins hills. The walking path is on the other side of the river bank.

About 10 miles from the bridge, a slow 20 minutes drive, takes us to Grenitote B&B in Portree where we will be staying for two nights. Accommodations are difficult to get if you do not book in advance and are rather expansive in Portree town vicinity. Our B&B is a 2-storey semi-detached bungalow. Rooms are located on the first floor and are moderate in size. Free strong and stable wi-fi is provided. The town centre is a 10 minutes walk away and a co-op run grocery store will be the first you’ll encounter.

Grenitote B&B, Portree

Grenitote B&B, Portree. Located just off the town centre in a quiet residential area.

Grenitote B&B, Portree

The lobby of Grenitote.

Grenitote B&B, Portree

Our bedroom with a splash of pink motifs.

Grenitote B&B, Portree

Flat CTV and free wi-fi provided.

Grenitote B&B, Portree

The neighbourhood through the window. Large heater in the room.

Grenitote B&B, Portree

Small, cozy breakfast room. Will serve early if you notify in advance.

With an hour of daylight to spare, we headed to Portree Sailing Club for a view of Portree town. We are sure not many visitors ended up at this spot where you’ll see a different perspective to the town. Thereafter, we proceeded into town and spend sometime strolling around the harbour front and eventually up to Bosville Terrace for that classic shot of Portree town before heading back to our B&B for the night.

Portree, Isle of Skye

Portree harbour in the distance viewed from Portree Sailing Club.

Portree, Isle of Skye

The colorful buildings of Portree from a rarely photographed spot.

Isle of Skye

Portree harbour looking upwards to Bosville Terrace.

Portree, Isle of Skye

That classic photo of  Portree harbour from Bosville Terrace.

For the start of a fresh day in Skye, we were greeted in the morning with low hanging dark clouds threatening to ruin our day out. Weather forecast rain only in the late afternoon. Having no choice, we set out to explore the island as we will be returning to Edinburgh the next day.

Isle of Skye

The sun breaking through the low overhanging dark clouds.

Our first stop is Old Man of Storr. It is a large pinnacle of rock that stands high on the Trotternish ridge and can be seen for miles around. Old Man of Storr is a favorite hiking destination. A car park is located at the foot of the ridge right by the main road 7 miles from Portree.

Old Man of Stor, Isle of Skye

Old Man of Storr in the distance. It’s that group of pinnacles to the right albeit it looks small in the distance.

Driving onward from Old Man of Storr for another 8 miles with an unexpected clearing of the weather, our next stop will be at Kilt Rock & Mealt Falls Viewpoint. You’ll find a large car park nearby the waterfall. The Kilt Rock is a 90 meter rock formation, which looks similar to a pleated kilt. The other point of interest is the Mealt waterfall, which is fed from the nearby freshwater lake, Mealt Loch, which then free-fall off the cliff for 55 metres into the Sound of Raasay below.

Isle of Skye

Spot along the route from Old Man of Storr to Mealt Fall viewpoint.

Isle of Skye

Another spot along the same route.

Kilt Rock, Isle of Skye

Kilt Rock, more distinguished  in the background & Mealt Falls with a rainbow formation at the bottom seen from the viewpoint.

Kilt Road & Mealt Waterfall.

Aerial view of the Mealt Waterfall falling off from the Kilt Rock. Credit : theskyeguide.com

Next on our list is a visit to Garrafad 3½ miles away. This is another location visitors rarely visits due to it being off the main road and isn’t promoted. In-fact, if you google for it, you are unlikely to get much information. However, the views of the beach is picture postcard and the cliffs at Garrafad is something to adore.

Garrafad, Isle of Skye

Garrafad beach, overlooking the Quiraing in the distance.

Garrafad, Isle of Syke.

The cliffs of Garrafad.

Garrafad, Isle of Skye

The rocky side of Garrafad beach. In the distance, you’ll be looking towards the Atlantic Ocean.

From the coast, we now start an uphill drive to the Quiraing mountains. This will be a short 3½ mile drive for which we consider has the best stunning views for all of Skye. There is a large parking area just after the end of your uphill drive. From this location, you’ll be rewarded with magnificent views of the mountains as well as towards the sea. So beautiful are the scenery, we spend quite a while here before driving away with a heavy heart.

Quiraing, Isle of Skye

The start of the uphill drive towards Quiraing.

Quiraing

Mountain sheep by the roadside.

Quiraing, Isle of Skye

The road leading up to Quiraing. Not a difficult drive but the road tends to be narrow at some points.

Quiraing, Isle of Skye

The majestic mountains that surrounds and dwarfs you. It is an easy gradual walk for you to explore the mountain. Your sport shoes will suffice.

Quiraing, Isle of Skye

Tranquility of the Quiraing. Visitors roaming around the plateau.

Quiraing, Isle of Skye

Soaking in the tranquility of the environment.

The last attraction for the day is a visit to Fairy Glen in Uig. It is located in the hills above the town of Uig and is a lesser-known attraction on the Isle of Skye. The drive of 8½ miles from Quiraing entails driving from the East to the West side of the Isle of Skye. It will take about 30 minutes and most of the road is on single track just like the one going into Glen Etive, Glencoe. Here too, you’ll find plenty of passing places to allow overtaking or on-coming vehicle to pass or to take photographs. You will start your descend towards the town of Uig before proceeding to Fairy Glen.

Uig, Isle of Skye

View towards Uig town from uphill.

Please be aware the road leading to Fairy Glen prohibits buses from entering as it is narrow and winding on some parts. Thus, you will never have a chance to get to Fairy Glen except if you drive or get on a tour that uses smaller vehicle like a coaster. This off the beaten path spot stands out from the surrounding farmland. You can hike up the hill or just take photos of the beautiful surroundings.

Fairy Glen, Isle of Skye

A pond nearby the hill.

Fairy Glen, Isle of Skye

The cone-shaped hill where you can hike up following a walking trail.

Fairy Glen, Isle of Skye

A bench for you to relax and admire the beauty of Fairy Glen.

We completed our visit to all our list of attractions by early afternoon and headed back to our B&B. A while later, true to the weather forecast, it rained till late evening. What else better to do than to cuddle up in bed with the heater running. Tomorrow we’ll return to Edinburgh.

Eilean Donan Castle

Scottish Highlands, Scotland

September 2017

Third day into our road trip of Scotland, we left Fort William as early as 8:00 a.m. for Glenfinnan. A 17 mile drive and a ½ hour later, we reached Glenfinnan Monument parking lot. It was drizzling lightly and we were able to park close-by to the visitor’s center. The parking fee is £2.

Glenfinnan

First itinerary for the day, Glenfinnan Viewpoint. A visitor’s centre is close by to the parking lot.

We are here to climb up the Glenfinnan Viewpoint which is just towards the back of the visitor’s centre. A 5-10 minutes walk up the gradual gravel footpath will take you to the viewpoint. From here you have a stunning scenery of the Glenfinnan Viaduct, the Glenfinnan Monument as well as Loch Shiel.

Glenfinnan

Way up to the viewpoint is clearly signposted. Although walking boots is recommended, it’s probably not required during dry condition.

Glenfinnan

Towards the back of the visitor’s centre, you’ll find the footpath up to the viewpoint through this woods.

Glenfinnan

The vegetation changes half way up. The gravel footpath is gradual.

Once up at Glenfinnan Viewpoint, you will be rewarded with a breathtaking 360° view of the surrounding. You’ll get a fantastic view of the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct with it’s 21 arches. It spans 1,000 feet in length and is 100 feet above ground. From the viewpoint, it looks like it was built straight but in actuality it’s curved, almost semi-circle to align it’s tracks with the contour of the hills. The viaduct has become well-known through its appearances in various Harry Potter films.

The filming of ‘Harry Potter and the Chambers of Secret’ and ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ took place in this area. The famous scenic railway with it’s Jacobite steam train runs to and from Fort William and Mallaig in the summer months. If you are lucky, you will be able to see the same train from the movies passing by. Be caution, up on the viewpoint there are midges that bites, even on your face.

Glenfinnan

The magnificent view towards the Glenfinnan Viaduct aka Harry Potter’s Bridge.

Turn yourself around and you’ll have the views towards the monument and Loch Shiel. The monument is situated at the head of Loch Shiel, an inland freshwater loch which stretches south for 17½ miles. The monument was erected, in 1815, in tribute to the Jacobite clansmen who fought and died in the cause of Prince Charles Edward Stuart.

Glenfinnan Monument

Up at the viewpoint, towards your back you’ll get a view of Loch Shiel and the Glenfinnan Monument.

Glenfinnan Monument

You cross the road in-front of the visitor’s centre to get to the monument.

Glenfinnan Monument

The visitor’s centre seen  from the monument. The Glenfinnan Viewpoint is only half way up the hill about where the pointed roof is. The parking lot is to the left.

Glenfinnan Monument

The Glenfinnan Monument.

Glenfinnan Monument

View of Loch Shiel behind the monument.

Glenfinnan Monument

House by the shore of Loch Shiel.

From Glenfinnan we backtracked to Fort William to check-out off Premier Inn. Continuing our drive, we will end the day at Portree, Isle of Skye. This will be a journey of more than 100 miles and would take almost 3 hours. Despite the early drizzle, the weather has turn out to been more brighter than the day before, however still cloudy in some areas. The drive to Isle of Skye is more stunning as you drive up the mountain and being able to see whats below compared to the drive on the previous day, that was mostly on flat plane.

Sheep grazing on the grassland off A82 about 6 miles after Fort William.

From the location of the grazing flock of sheep, you would need to drive towards the town of Spean Bridge. To head towards Isle of Skye, continue left to stay on A82 just after the bridge crossing River Spean. Soon you’ll be driving uphill and be rewarded with a beautiful views of the area below.

Spean Bridge

Looking downwards towards Spean Bridge and the mountain in the background.

A little further up, is the Commando Memorial just by the roadside to your left. If you miss this memorial, you’ve taken the wrong turn into Spean Bridge town. This area is dedicated to the fallen Commandos who gave their lives to the service of their country during the 1939-1945 war.

Commando Memorial, Spean Bridge

Commando Memorial, Spean Bridge.

Commando Memorial, Spean Bridge

Massive traffic build-up at the junction turning into Commando Memorial as police facilitated the journey of several wide load containers.

A further 7 miles from Commando Memorial on the A82, there is a large lay-by that ‘s difficult to miss. Here you’ll get a fantastic view of Loch Lochy.

Drive for about 14 miles from Loch Lochy and do make a point to stop at Glen Garry Viewpoint to see views of Loch Garry. At about ½ distance before Glen Garry Viewpoint, you’ll reach a ‘T’ junction at Invergarry. Turn left into A87 after crossing the bridge over River Garry. On reaching Glen Garry Viewpoint, If you hear sounds of bagpipe, chances there will be a lone bagpiper performing and he’ll be glad to take photos with you. Naturally, to show our support, we bought CDs he sells. It’s easy to miss this spot as it’s a little elevated from the road and hidden by overgrown bushes. When you search for this location in Google, type exactly this : Glen Garry Viewpoint

Glengarry

View of Loch Garry from Glen Garry Viewpoint off A87. You are no longer on A82.

Glengarry

A lone bagpiper earning a living at the Glen Garry Viewpoint.

A couple of miles from Glen Garry Viewpoint, we came across this charming view overlooking Loch Garry. The wooden fence (with a gate) leads to what seems to be a private land.

Picturesque view a little further ahead.

Same spot as above but looking uphill.

Yet a little further up, we came across these ‘Stone Balancing’ overlooking Loch Loyne. What a superb view.

Four miles ahead from the ‘Stone Balancing’ you’ll reach yet another ‘T’ junction. Turn left to continue on A87 toward Isle of Skye. Along the way, there are more beautiful scenery for you to soak in or photograph.

About 10 minutes drive from the last ‘T’ junction, you’ll reach this spot. About a mile before Cluanie Inn.

Mountain range in-front of Cluanie Inn.

From Cluanie Inn, it will be a 18½ mile, 30 minutes drive to Eilean Donan castle. This charming castle is just besides the A87. Ample free parking is available and do expect lots of visitors as it is a favorite tourist attraction. Castle admission is £7.50. Spend some time taking in the views and visit the visitor’s centre. Free toilet facilities are available whether in the centre or outside.

Eilean Donan Castle

The charming Eilean Donan Castle viewed from the parking lot.

Eilean Donan Castle

Front view (or is it the back) of the castle.

Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan visitor’s centre.

Eilean Donan Castle

As it says.

Another 9 miles or ¼ hour of driving, you’ll reach the Skye Bridge that will take you across to Isle of Skye. Before crossing the bridge, why not go up Plock Viewpoint to see the bridge from the mainland side. Plock Viewpoint is not marked on Google map although you can view it in street view. Search for Heathmount Pl, the end of that road that will lead you there.

Plock Viewpoint

At Plock Viewpoint, you get a hill view of the Syke Bridge from the mainland.

Skye Bridge

The Skye Bridge from Plock viewpoint. It is actually two bridges, which uses the island of Eilean Bàn as a stepping stone towards Isle of Skye.

Reaching Skye Bridge is ¾ of our drive to Isle of Skye and officially put us off the highlands grid. We will be putting up for 2 nights in a B&B at Portree before heading back to Edinburhg. The next posting will fully be on Isle of Skye.

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