The Scottish Highlands

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On our last day in Fort William we had planned to go hiking at Ben Nevis (also known as Mighty Ben) which is the highest mountain in the British Isles (but pretty tame by Swiss standards….).  Unfortunately it was rain, rain and more rain so we were forced to go to a whisky distillery.  The Ben Nevis distillery.

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I have to admit I wasn’t overly enthusiastic but it turned out to be quite interesting.  Whisky is distilled beer.  Who knew?  Also a number of famous movies had scenes filmed in the sheds at this distillery (eg. Braveheart).  At the end we sampled the whisky but I will still take mine with a mixer thankyouverymuch.

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The drive south to Glasgow through the Highlands was one of my favourites.  Kilometre after kilometre of gorgeousness.

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Some of these photos were taken with an ipad hanging precariously out a window…

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Scotland reminds me of the feeling you get when you visit Tasmania.  You can drive in the most amazing landscape and really enjoy it because the roads are relatively quiet.  It is peaceful and laid-back and perfect for reconnecting with nature.

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The lochs…..

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Endless fields of heather….

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So much undisturbed countryside.

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Loved this place.

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Fort William and more Harry Potter :)

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The drive from Inverness south to Fort William was picturesque.  This is a large dam where we stopped to take in the view of the mountains at Loch Laggan.

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The real highlight however was a train trip we took from Fort William to Mallaig (on the western coast of Scotland).  You may recognise the train from Harry Potter.  It travels over the Glenfinnan viaduct which is very famous from the movies.

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There were a lot of excited Harry Potter fans on the train.  It is said to be one of the most beautiful train trips in the world.  I would recommend taking the afternoon train because when the sun was starting to set over the Lochs I would absolutely agree with this statement.

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Mallaig is a fishing port and the best thing to do there is get yourself to a restaurant and sample the local fare.  Urs had hot-smoked salmon and I had prawns and both were delicious.

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This sign made me smile….

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The view of the Lochs with their glassy water and the image of the mountains reflected in them was beautiful beyond words.  There is such a peacefulness here.

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The famous Glenfinnan viaduct.  Everyone was trying to get the perfect photo.  All the Harry Potter fans anyway 🙂

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The colours were amazing.

We definitely saw Nessie

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After Edinburgh we headed north to Inverness, home of the famed Loch Ness monster.  We definitely saw Nessie.

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This is Loch Ness.  It is the largest body of water in Britain and is twice as deep as the London Eye is high (yes, we aim to provide interesting facts on this blog :)).

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We went to the local visitor centre and heard all the facts about the many sightings of Nessie and the theories about the photos that have been ‘taken’ of her.  But we decided to check it out for ourselves….

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And there she was in plain sight in the middle of this photo.  If you don’t believe that is the Loch Ness monster you will be stunned and amazed when you see the next one…

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Submerged, but definitely a couple of periscopic eyeballs visible for all to see.  (Disclaimer:  this photo may or may not have been doctored).

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With ‘find the Loch Ness monster’ ticked off our to-do list, we followed this odd windy little road just to see where it went.

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And ended up here.  This pink castle was right on the shore of one of the Lochs and turned out to be a restaurant/function centre.  So we popped in for lunch.  We were not able to eat in the restaurant as they had a private lunch underway but instead were ushered to the drawing room (so posh) for a delightful light lunch.  The food was excellent and it was a bit like having a bit part in Downton Abbey!

Edinburgh

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Hop-on hop-off bus tours are a really good way to get your bearings in a new place.  Unfortunately it was a bit more difficult in Edinburgh because it rained most of the time we were there but we did manage a bit of time on the bus roof.  We listened to the kids version of the audio guide because ‘Horrible Histories’ was much more entertaining than the adult version.

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Edinburgh is a lovely town.  The landscape is rugged, the buildings are historic, the cobblestone streets charming, and the people are friendly.  It has a more laid-back vibe than other places we have been.  This photo is Edinburgh Castle.

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The Royal Mile is the historic centre and with Edinburgh festival just around the corner there were many street performers in colourful costumes (despite the rain).

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All of the old buildings have a story behind them…..

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There are many pubs and restaurants with interesting names….

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And the audio guide told us tales of last hangings, terrible deeds, and the secrets behind the names of the shops.

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It was surprising to us to see the different levels that Edinburgh is built on, and that there are a number of bridges over the city (none of which have water beneath them).

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This is the House of Parliament.  A very modern building across the road from historic Holyroodhouse.

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And this environmental museum looks like it just stepped straight out of Australia.  Is it only me or does it look a little Outback here???

DSC_0579Arthur’s seat.  No-one knows why it is called this.  If you are a young maiden and go up there before sunrise and wash your face with the morning dew you will be beautiful forever.  But not if you lean too far forward and fall off.  Then you will be dead and not beautiful.  Ha, the Horrible Histories commentary – not my words.

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When it rained too hard we went here.  The Scottish National Gallery.

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And saw Dolly the cloned sheep.

DSC_0556And a little girl got to drive a Formula 1 simulator.  Which was only for kids.  Even though all the dads desperately wanted a go…… 🙂

 

 

A change of pace

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We said goodbye to the Johnsons as they left for the long trip back to Australia (thanks guys, we had a fantastic time x).  And we headed to Kings Cross Station to catch the train north to Scotland.

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We managed to snap this photo just before the crowds started lining up to do the same thing.  Oh Harry Potter, you really are everywhere and still so popular.

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The Scottish landscape is gorgeous.  While Switzerland is pristine and breathtakingly pretty, Scotland is rugged and untamed.   The weather was not so good in Scotland when we arrived.  It was raining in Edinburgh so we headed to the Palace of Hollyroodhouse (where the Queen stays when she is here).

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Lots of other wet travellers were doing the same thing.  You can always guarantee a crowd in the museums or castles on rainy days!

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You can’t take photos inside the Palace (needless to say it is opulent and there are a lot of very old things in there, except for the IKEA stools in the ‘family room’.  True story).  This was taken outside in the Abbey ruins.

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Zara Phillips got married here for those with a sliver of interest in all things royal.  If not, this is a photo of the Abbey ruins looking in the other direction.

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We did brave a walk outside in the royal gardens and were glad we did because they were really lovely.

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The Palace is actually built at the foot of the remains of a volcano – you can see it in the background.  It is quite a dramatic and interesting landscape.  Especially when you see the historic Palace across the road from the very modern Houses of Parliament.  None of it looks out of place surprisingly.