Scotland - Day 5
Day five began with breakfast in the dining room and a group of happily groggy folks. The weather had turned cold and wet and everyone seemed quite happy to be feeling the heat of the fire crackling in the fireplace.
I indulged in the Scottish breakfast of champions.. cold cereal, a spot of tea, orange juice, scrambled eggs, toast, potatoes, tomatoes, mushrooms, soldiers (sausages), bacon, and haggis. Loved every bite.
Check out was at 11am, so I put my father in charge of organizing the checkout. Tracey and I had already packed and I started pack-muling our eight bags down flights of stairs to the car. After I had hauled the last of the bags down, I climbed back up the stairs on wobbly legs and went from room to room with Tracey saying are goodbye's and thank you's to all of our guests.
We had one last thing to do before we started our long drive. We walked out to the bank of Duns Loch and I handed Tracey a silver coin to throw into the lake. She took the coin and reared back. Her arm shot forward with the power of a medieval trebuchet. A small grunt accompanied the ferocity of movement. I looked skyward to watch the gentle arch of the coin as it hurtled toward the loch. I watched as it landed with a "plop" four feet directly in front of us, glistening under 3 inches of water. I searched the collection of coins in my pocket and, luckily, found one more silver piece. I tossed the coin out into the center of the lake. Tradition held that a newlywed couple should toss a piece of silver into a lake (body of water) as a lasting symbol of our having been there.. leaving a piece of us behind forever. This was now our place too.
The wind was blowing rain sideways and the temperature was cool enough to wrinkle jewels. T and I drove away from Duns with big smiles. Our first stop was at the local petrol station, where I paid for the most expensive tank of gas I have ever purchased. $80.00 US.
Our destination lay seven hours northwest, the Isle of Skye. The geography of Scotland is stunning in it's variety. The strikingly abrupt change in elevation passing between the Lowlands and the Highlands is almost too unbelievable to comprehend even as you are driving through the divide. Rolling pastures vanish into soaring peaks in the blink of an eye. Streams and rivers empty into glistening lochs. Quaint towns along the waters edge spring into view around each blind corner. Rainbows appear each time the sun breaks through the clouds.
The deeper we drove into the Highlands, the more varied and rugged the terrain became. The lack of developed land was as remarkable as the land itself. This is a wide open country.. even considering the "populated" areas of the lowlands were still sparse in comparison to anything we are accustomed to. Streams, rivers, and waterfalls were everywhere. I have never seen so much water cascading across a landscape. Four or five narrow streams straight-lined down from virtually every peak coalescing in a mass falls at the base. Single homes, cottages, or inns could be found standing alone shrouded in mist tucked away in vast valleys next to a stream under brooding peaks. It is fairy tale country and helps explain in large part why 95% of the Scottish people, to this day, believe in fairies (Faeries).
There are dozens of interesting things to see on the road to Skye, including the Well of Seven Heads (which we drove right past), but due to the distance we had to travel, our only tourist stop along the way was at Eileen Donan Castle on Loch Duich. Said to be the most photographed castle in Scotland, this castle is the former stronghold of the Clans MacKenzie and MacRae. While the island had been a fortified site for over 800 years, the present castle was re-built between 1912 and 1932 by Lieutenant Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrap. Reclaiming the glory of his family home from the ruins of two centuries of neglect. It is, however, the unfortunate consequence of reconstruction that the majesty of this historic building is lost. The exterior is spectacular from every angle. The interior is another matter.. Precisely, because the castle was a working residence for the Colonel for many years during and after he finished reconstruction. His "improvements", while having the effect of protecting his family heirlooms, had the corollary effect of modernizing the space for his families comfort. It was rather disappointingly modern. Not to mention, the super creepy wax people in the this-is-how-the-kitchen-functioned exhibit in the former kitchen of the castle. Eileen Donan is also famous for having been the site where the movie The Highlander was filmed.
An hour and a half of magnificent vistas later, we pulled into the muddy parking lot of our hotel, The Lodge, in Edinbane on Loch Greshornish located on the northern end of the Isle of Skye. Edinbane is a tiny hamlet on a stunning body of water in an even more stunning countryside.
We met our host, Hazel and checked into our room. The Lodge is a 400 year old hunting lodge and coaching inn. It was a stop on the road from Portree, the capital of Skye, for travelers on their way to Dunvegan. The history of the building includes a murder and the requisite ghost who apparently surprises unsuspecting or exceptionally inebriated guests. The only apparition that visited us during our three nights at The Lodge was the foul blood pudding cloud that emanated from our cozy Dutch Oven.
Tracey and I had a drink at the bar (I had a well deserved Isle of Skye Red Cuillin beer) and then had a fantastic dinner in the dining room. Hazel is also the chef. Peter, her husband, is the bartender and breakfast chef.
We turned in early, exhausted, and excited for our adventure first thing the next morning..