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Thursday · September 11 2003

The trip is winding down into the days when we're taking a vacation from our vacation. Yesterday was a long drive down from Isle of Skye into Ayrshire. While we covered only 220 miles, the lack of multi-lane highways and the need to stop and look at the Glencoe landscape really slow down the driving. Stacy and I are slowing down today, checking the internet and then going over to the country park at Culzean. Today is a crappy weather day as well, so no harm. We've had incredible weather for the last week and a half, and for Scotland in September, you couldn't ask for more. Tomorrow we drive back to Edinburgh, grab the 4 hour train down to London and stop in a hotel near the airport before flying back saturday morning.

Since I wrote last from Pitlochry, which lies right in the central heart of Scotland, we really got into the unique and memorable parts of the trip. The highlights:

Saturday, we drove 90 minutes to the Royal Highland Gathering at Braemar. The highland games were as stereotypically Scottish as you'd imagine. Nearly everyone was dressed up in their kilt and regalia, even a bunch of the little guys, 3 and 4 year olds. The games took place on a central oval field and we bought the cheapie tix for the grass outfield instead of the grandstand. The highlights for me were the caber toss (huge guys tossing an 18 foot telephone pole end over end) and the all bands march. 12 bands of bagpipes and drums marched around the track twice. Stace and I literally had bagpipes echoing in our heads for several hours afterward. We didn't stick around to see Her Majesty, who was to award medals and prizes to the winners, but we spent the whole morning at the games and got a great taste of a unique Scottish event.

Sunday evening, we were in Inverness, the capital of the highlands on the Moray Firth. We had stopped at the Black Isle Brewery, an absolutely tiny (3 employees) brewery north of Inverness. The owner/brewmaster was pretty tired, but he gave us a quick look around his shop and recommended Hootananny pub in Inverness, where his product was featured. Bruce MacGregor, a local fiddle band, was playing there at 9pm and he assured us we'd really enjoy them. When we made it over to Hootananny, the pub was totally packed and the fiddle, accordian, and guitar players were up front sweating out the music. Stacy snagged a nice table in back and I ordered a couple of the Black Isle brews, Red Kite Ale. We stayed through three sets and had an awesome night out. Stace used her digital to capture a small mpeg movie of the band, which I'll post when I get back home.

On monday, we cruised down Loch Ness in a boat all to ourselves (always take the early trip when possible to avoid the elderly German tour buses). Monday was a very relaxing morning, writing in the journal while the boat drove us back up the loch. Loch Ness has incredible dimensions. I think it is something like 700 meters deep and the hills to the side rise vertically from its shores. The sign said that all the lakes and resevoirs in England could fit inside Loch Ness, which is a long, thin, deep, dark loch. The Jacobite cruise line that we were on even featured the Bruce MacGregor band on board. As I said, he's a local favorite.

Monday afternoon, we drove to Isle of Skye. The weather was windy and rainy on and off, but that's just how you want it on Skye. Everything, everywhere was green, waterfalls were rushing downhill and we saw the most striking, bright full arc rainbow we've ever seen. It started off a cliff, bowed skyward and plunged into the sea. The rainbow was so bright, it looked material. I could use qualifiers and superlatives in every sentence about Skye, but that would be redundant. Touring northern Scotland and missing Skye would be a crime. The scenery and sort of magical quality of the countryside on the isle is unlike anything I've ever seen with the exception of the rugged areas of Hawaii.

We stayed at the Glenview Inn on Skye, which was quite remote, about 50 miles from the bridge onto the island, but we enjoyed it more than anywhere else on the entire trip. The food was great and we met a Scottish friend, Hayden Donaldson. He was on holiday with his Weimeraner, Dali. The three of us talked during and after dinner and breakfast both days we spent there and really had an excellent time. This was our first extended conversation with a native Scot not involved in the tourism business. We traded all sorts of stories on everything American and Scottish. We thought it a bit funny that he's not into any of the stereotypical Scottish pastimes. He has never golfed, isn't a football (soccer) fan, and hadn't worn a kilt until last year. He has a baby on the way in a couple months and we certainly wish him well and were so glad to meet Hayden and Dali on Skye. Stacy celebrated her birthday, tuesday on the island, and I don't think we could have chosen a more suitable place to spend it.

One last note on Britain/Scotland: the gas prices. Jawdropping. 79 pence per liter translates to almost 5 dollars per gallon. When I paid 40 bucks to fill up half a tank, I almost passed out. So there's two reasons people don't drive SUVs here. One is that the roads are thin and it would be a gigantic pain in the ass on the single track roads, and more importantly, the price of gas would absolutlely bankrupt you.

We'll be home on saturday. Cheers.

What you had to say:
September 12 2003

What's a weimeraner?

September 13 2003

It's a dog. I don't know if I spelled right or not, but it's one of those German hunting dogs with the real glossy gray coat. They're beautiful dogs, though I understand a little hyper. Hayden had Dali trained very well, but Dali still had quite a personality.

© 2003 Jason Keglovitz