Saturday, June 23, 2018

Day 10: The Great Dip

Gooooood morning! Time to get the tire fixed up! Our hostess provided a lovely breakfast for us before giving us a ride to the tire shop to make sure Seamus (our car) got all fixed up. 

The men who worked at the shop were hilarious. They were as old as possible and in no sort of a hurry. The one that was setting up the jack kept stopping to tell the other one about how tires worked back in the olden days, and I swear he stopped at least three times. Zero hustle in his bustle. 

Luckily, a new tire can only take so long to replace, so we were on our way (slowly, carefully, and on High Alert For Potholes) within about twenty minutes. 

Impressed that we were on our way by 9:30 in the morning, our earliest start yet, we crossed the island to the Callinish Stones. These are big standing stones, much like Stonehenge, but less policed. We narrowly avoided a couple tour groups full of old people and walked around the three sets of stones scattered about the country side. 

KDew also tried to sneak up on some sheep, but they weren’t having any of her nonsense.

We continued northward to the Dun Carloway Broch to see what that even was. All the signs up here are in Gaelic so I actually have no idea what’s what. Apparently a broch is a defensible home that acient people lived in. This one is in ruins (wow, some craftmanship, guys, can’t even build a house that lasts past 1500...), but we were able to crawl around it a little. 

Not gunna lie, watching the little old men and ladies of the tour group try to crawl around it as well was prettyyyy entertaining. 

Next up was the Blackhouse village, a series of old stone and thresh homes set up to mimic life in the 1700/1800s. They show you what the homes looked like on the inside and how to harvest peat. One of them is even a hostel now. 

Lunch was at a restaurant called 40 North and was AMAZING!! Maple syrup and garlic roasted chicken salad, cheesy chicken pie with puff pastry, and a double nugget for dessert. We were stuffed. 

We then made our way up to the northern-most part of the island, Port of Ness, and explored a lighthouse called the "Butt of Lewis," which is quite unfortunate. 

Just along that road was a gorgeous beach, carved into a seaside cliff, protected from both wind, waves, and tourists. I had wanted to dip in the north Atlantic, and this was the perfect spot! KDew manned the video camera for me and I jumped in! (See Facebook for evidence.) So refreshing! And salty...we’re not in Michigan anymore!

But man, oh man. For the north Atlantic, this water sure is pretty. Crystal clear and turquoise, just like the Caribbean. Unreal. 

After I regained feeling in my limbs, we headed back to Stornoway to walk around town a little and see the Lewis Castle. I mean, it’s Scotland, you can’t not castle if there’s one nearby! 

It was an awesome day, and a great last adventure before I make my long journey back home! 

Friday, June 22, 2018

Scotland Day 9: The Isle of Harris and our Very Weird Day

It’s not a good vacation without a great disaster.

Day 9 started just about as good all the others. But boy did this one take a turn. We woke up to a mostly cloudy day, packed up all our things, and headed down to catch the ferry in Uig. 

The ferry took a little over an hour and a half, so we enjoyed some tea, some very slow wi-fi, and some beautiful coastal scenery of Skye. We were headed to the Isle of Lewis and Harris, west of Skye and a little north. I didn’t know anything about the island; I hadn’t even known it had existed until about five days ago. 

We landed in Tarbert and immediately headed south. 

And holy. Moly. Scotland has some spectacular sights--mountains, rock formations, rivers, lakes, but I was not prepared for beaches! White, sandy beaches that went on for miles and miles. We first came upon Luskentyre Beach which is one of the the most famous beaches up here. At low tide, the water receeds so far that beach opens up into the entire bay, so it’s like you’re walking in the middle of an ocean. We went all the way to the end and took in the view, teal waters, and purple jellyfish, before coming back up the bay to stop at this magical spot where the sand stretched all the way across. 

It’s better than a post card and has maybe earned top spot for Favorite Beach in the Whole World. And that’s saying something after New Zealand’s Abel Tasman. I told Katie this and said, "Quick! Do something to make this beach the best!" And she obliged right into a rediculous dance move for half of a second, and well, folks, that just sealed the deal.

We played in the sand a bit, walked out into the water, and then headed back to the car since the tide was coming in. It was seriously spectaular and is a highlight of my entire life. 

If that wasn’t awesome enough, we also saw Oreo cows!!

Next up was St. Clements church on the very southern tip of the isle. It was built way back when as a final resting place for that MacWhomever clan, so it’s mostly full of tombs and graves. We picked up sandwhich fixings at the local market (#foreshadowing) and found a nice little nook to park in while we ate. It’s a good thing we had bought groceries beacuse...

...we got a flat tire. In Scotland. On a remote island. In the middle of nowhere. 

As were we heading back up the southern end of the island on our way to our house, KDew steered around a couple hikers and their (very fluffy) pup, and POP! The tire (or, tyre, as it’s called here) popped and whizzed. We quickly pulled over and some passerbyers in another car pulled over to see if we needed help. They helped us find a safer spot to pull off the road and helped us figure out who to call. They were from the mainland of Scotland and were wearing The Flash and Superman shirts. Heros for sure. 

Being as were in a foreign country, and in the middle of nowhere, this would have been a excellent opportunity for a full meltdown, but luckily, I’m excellent in an emergency, and KDew stays cool calm and collected. I turned off airplane mode and we evantually got a hold of the roadside assistence people. 

(Hufflepuff over here had taken off the rental car key chain in favor of--that’s right--a Hufflepuff key chain purchased while on our Harry Potter train excursion, so it took a little longer than necessary to get the phone number...)

The rental people told us that the tow truck would arrived in a couple hours, so we thanked our new friends and they carried on. We settled into listening to Harry Potter while we waited, wanting to be able to flag down the truck as it approached. After about an hour, we found some special lug nut needed to unlock the tire, so we called the rental people back, but they said the tow truck would be there in an hour, so we waited a while more. After another hour, and another call, were then told that the truck was en route and should arrive within ten minutes. Half an hour later, after some stern Dragon Liz dialogue, an attempt at girlish sympathy, and a lot of confusion, we got a hold of the actual tow truck company and confirmed that they were going to a couple hours. 

So here we were, sitting on the side of the road, listening to Harry Potter, eating sandwhiches (thank GOD we had food!), and peeing in the bushes, waiting for FOUR HOURS AND FORTY-FIVE MINUTES until the truck finally arrived. Krodo was not happy. 

I had just said that I wanted to get out of the car and walk a little when the truck rounded the corner. We were able to flag him downand finally get rescued.

The driver loaded the car and we hopped in the cab for the hour drive to Stornoway, where we’d drop the car at a local tire shop and hitch a quick ride to our house for the night. There was no middle seat, so I ended up sitting on the mattress behind the front seats. It was all very late-night TV-esc, but alas, we survived. I giggled to myself about the whole thing once we were on our way, because life. 

So after an incredible morning at the beach and a rediculous afternoon of dealing with the flat, I was not looking forward to us being jammed into some lady’s spare bedroom for our AirBnb. 

Luckily, KDew is the QUEEN at accommodations (not to be confused with my dismal capabilities in the same department) and our house is one hundred percent charming. Annie, our host, built this lovely little home up on a hill in Stornoway, and it’s a complete oasis. 

The inside is a bit county, a bit chique, painted in a warm mint (!!!) and has pink and white accents throughout. Our room is so lovely, with two large beds, old trunks as bedside tables, and a beautiful wardrobe with extra blankets. I knew we’d have our own bathroom, but I didn’t expect much since all other bathrooms have been fine, but nothing to write home about. Well, this one? Better than any 5-star hotel I’ve ever seen. The whole room is like a spa--clean and fresh and modern without being out of place for an old, Scottish town. The bathtub could fit my entire family and the shower actually had more than enough pressure to rinse conditioner out of one’s hair! Dunt’s favorite part is the single tap, meaning you got to wash your hands in warm water, rather than icy cold or scalding. 

And, you guys. YOU GUYS. There’s a dog. A DOG! A little black lab named Beau who is as sweet as possible and loved on us the moment we walked in. I had no idea how much I’d been missing a dog until this one snuggled up with me and took all the worries of the day away. 

This is by far my favorite place we’ve stayed, and I’m obviously obssessed. 

Tomorrow, we’ll head to the garage to settle the car situation and then head around the rest of the island, avoiding as many potholes as possible! 

Scotland: Day 8: South Side of Skye

We woke up to the sun! And some blue sky! It’s a miracle! 

We hustled out the door fairly slowly and were off to explore the south side of Skye. With the sun out, we made our way to the fairy pools with a stop in Sligachan, where we recieve a visual intro to the incredible moutains ahead. The whole village basically consists of three houses and a hotel. But there was this cool bridge, so we had to stop and snap some pics. 

We arrived at the fairy pools shortly after and parked right in front, thank you very much. The fairy pools are a series of pools and waterfalls cascading from the mountain range, creating a carving into the valley that is really spectacular. The hike was maybe a couple miles or so round trip. KDew and I climbed around the mud and muck and rocks and scoffed at the crazy people who jumped in for a quick swim. 

We wished we’d brought lunch and picnicked, but alas, you can’t have it all. The trail alongside the pools keeps going into the mountains and through the island, but lord knows we weren’t going to follow it that far. Back at our car, we agreed that it was a highlight for sure. And bonus: the sun was out the whole time. No rain or crazy winds this time! 

We continued south until we found a cafe for lunch which served pizza, and it was delicious!! I mean, we’ve been eating pretty well and pretty regularly, but the Scots aren’t exactly known for their flavors, so this was the best meal we’ve had so far. 

Our next couple of sites for the day were two castles: one of which we never found (I think it’s in ruins, so there isn’t any sign or anything), and the other was a big castle-turned-museum and gardens, which we’ve seen a lot of lately, so we just drove past. 

And if the day couldn’t get any better, we FINALLY found some heilan coos’!! We’ve seen a ton of sheep, and plenty of cows, but apart from the couple of cows at Inverary castle, all cows have been regular--short haired and far away. But on our way back north today, that all changed. I was just drifting off to sleep in the car when we came around a corner and KDew hit the breaks. After my eyes adjusted and my heart re-started, I saw them. There, right on the fence, were several heilan coos’ and their babies! We were so excited! I mean, just look at these guys! 

I named this one Biebs, because duh. 

Once we got home and washed our hands, our hostel owner came by and asked us some interesting questions about why we were in Skye and what drew us here. She wanted to know our thoughts on the island and what we wished the island had that was missing. Apparently Skye has seen a huge uptick of tourism in the last couple of years thanks to socia media, and the infrastructure is really struggling to keep up. Very few locals still live here and foreigners are realizing they can come here to make money. 

Our suggestions were to improve signage, like how to get places or to stay on the man-made paths. And to have a map showing distances, toilets, and places for tourists to get information. 

In the end, it sounds like Skye is just now getting discovered by the world, and I wonder how much it will change in the next 20-30 years, especially if the government doesn’t adapt quickly. Tourists are coming. Will Skye be ready for them?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Scotland: Day 7: West Side of Skye

I guess it’s been a week now! Good news, KDew and I have not murdered one another, and we’re having a blast. That is what forced friendship at a yound age will do to ya, kids. 

We attempted to rise early(ish) today and succeeded in getting out the door before noon! We first drove back down the Portree, the largest town on the island to check out the tourist visitor center and see the colored houses along the bay that are so picturesque. After getting our photo op and narrowly avoiding some bird poop, we indulged in some mid-morning bakery goods to fuel us for the day. 

After Portree, we drove out west. Our destinations: Dunvegan Castle and Neist Point Lighthouse. 

The drive took maybe an hour, so we listened to Harry Potter on the way, which is making the entire trip magical and entertaining! 

Dunvegan Castle is owned by the MacSomeone family (honestly, they all kinda blur together at this point), and boasts a beautiful home set on a quiet bay surrounded by gardens and lochs. I know I’ve said this a lot, but I would toooootally live here. Of all the castles so far, this one told us the least about their medeival history (only telling us about the family around the 1800s forward), so it’s pretty clear to me that they are definitely hiding something... it’s also set way back in a inlet, rather than on a peninsula that juts out boldly, telling me that these guys were the pansies of the Highlands. Just holeing up in their castle hoping no one finds them. 

After a beautiful walk around the gardens, we headed farther west to Neist Point. The point looks just like Pride rock a la The Lion King, and there’s a lighthouse behind it. KDew’s a lighthouse gal, so we had to check out. And in case you’re wondering, yes, we did hike all the way up there! I, always the cold one, had on leggings, rain pants, two long-sleeve layers, my rain jacket, a warm headband, and gloves. The Northerner over here was just fine in her hoodie. Cray. 

We climbed back down and crawled our way back to the parking lot, exhausted, but glad we made the journey. We stopped in a little cafe for tea before beginning the long trek back to our hostel. Dinner was at the (only) local restaurant in Uig, where we grabbed some wi-fi. 

And if Skye hadn’t been awesome enough, it treated us to this magnificent sunset. I was not expecting sunsets, seeing as Scotland is notorious for it’s overcast, rainy weather, so I was blown away. I’m a sunset girl through and through. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Scotland: Day 6: North Side of Skye

Day 6: North Side of Skye

If yesterday was full of sitting in the car, today was full of All The Things. Katie and I roamed the north side of Skye today! We got off to a slow start, sleeping in, cherrios at our hostel, and tea at a local restaurant for some wi-fi, which we used to make plans for the our days here. 

After setting off, we first stopped at the standing stones in Borve. We turned off to a single-track farm road looking for a mini Stonehenge. After several minutes of seeing nothing but homesteads, we came upon three rocks on the side of the road. Literally. Had we been looking to our left, we would have missed them. No sign, no marker. Just a couple boulders chilling on the grass. They were about three feet off the side of the road, and there were two rocks about 5-feet tall and a third maybe 2-feet tall. We both asked one another if this was it and kept driving. Well, after googling it later, yes, that was it. You guys. The stones looked about impressive as the rocks on my parents’ alley entrance that keep people from driving on the grass. Needless to say, we were unimpressed. The Isle of Skye is supposed to have THE best of Scotland’s sights! What the heck happened here, guys? If this was a yelp review, I’d have to give it zero stars. 

We continued on our way and made it to the Old Man of Storr, which is a giant rock face with some rocks protuding into the sky. Just as we parked, it started raining--hard. So we decided to wait it out. Luckily, the rain ended after about ten minutes, so we pulled on our jackets and headed out. The hike took us about two hours round trip (about two miles), and was absolutely stunning. The majority of the path was paved with gravel, while the last bit was rocks and mud. It was pretty steep, but totally worth it. We stopped multiple times along the way to take in the view. By the time we got to the top, we were met with an incredible view of the Old Man (the famous rock), and snapped a few insta-worthy photos. We sat for a while and soaked it up before heading back down. Though we enjoyed dry weather and even a little sun on our way up, a rain cloud rolled through on our way down and tried to take us with it! One section of the path is totally exposed to the elements, and the wind was more powerful than I’ve ever felt. Oklahoma has nothing on the Scots! KDew and I were blown off the path multiple times and couldn’t stop laughing. Check out the video I posted to see what it was like!

After returning to the bottom, the rain stopped and we shook off the leftover wet before climbing back into the car. Neither of us had expected such a long and instense hike, but we enjoyed it. I had been hoping for some hiking out here, so I was glad to have found it! 

The wind had us looking a little less than polished, though. 

After our hike, we stopped for lunch/snack at a cafe in Staffin and used some of their wi-fi. Then we continued along the top of the island. Dunt did an excellent job on the single-track road! 

We stopped by Kilt Rock, which is most appropriately named for the pleats in the side of the mountain. The wind was whistling so uniquely off the coast that it sounded like someone was using wine glasses a la Miss Congeniality. 

Next, we stopped at Duntulm Castle, which is really just some ruins in a beautiful bay. Again, the wind was incredibly strong, so we made a fool of ourselves roaming about like lunatics and trying to avoid all the sheep poop. 

We even came across Hudson’s sheep twin: so fat he was sitting down, but still eating!

We took in the beautiful coast and gave a lot of graditude that it was sunny and dry the whole time! 

We took a quick break at our hostel to refuel and then headed to Faerie Glen, a land formation tucked inland just a bit that looks exactly like where fairies should live. It was a series of cone shaped hills running a long a gentle slope, and I could just imagine Tinkerbell and her friends flitting about from hill to hill. 

Tired, but still grateful to have dry sunshine, we took one last drive out to Quiraing, which is another jagged rock face. We didn’t hike it, but we drove around it a bit to get some views. My photos were from inside the car, so they aren’t much. We may return to hike it anther day. 

Back at our hostel, we just finished dinner and are chillin’ up in our room. Sunset should be in about an hour, 10:30 or so local time, though it never really gets dark. Tomorrow we’re going to hit up Portree and then head to the west side of the island to see what’s out there. Can’t wait!