west side story

As I type up this post, Lauren is back at work and her Mom and step-Dad are en route to Edinburgh as they prepare to fly back to Canada tomorrow. Having spent the morning getting our place back in order after a great visit with the in-laws, it’s now time to drop a post about our recent adventures to Scotland’s West Coast. Since I was not able to be a part of the little trips to Stonehaven and Inverness [and since we’ve already covered those places on the blog], I’ll begin with me joining up with the rest post-exams.

After spending the night in Inverness, we hit the Costa in town for some breakfast [Lauren picked me up a Vanilla Latte, a new favorite], we made our way West to the Isle of Skye. On the way there, we stopped in at Eliean Donan Castle, one of Scotland’s most famous, most visited and most photographed castles. We then crossed the Skye Bridge over to the Isle, and, after a lunch break, ventured further onto the island to find our B&B. We stayed in Ferrinquarrie, a remote little cluster of farms on the North West end of the island. First of all, any cliche you might have heard about Scotland and sheep probably originates from Skye, as they are literally everywhere, including all over the very narrow and windy roads. The drive up there was amazing, through mountains and past the lochs, and with clear weather. We ate an incredible meal in the town of Dunvegan [where I had a very tasty red beer from the Skye Brewery], and then decided to drive to the most Western point of Skye, Neist Point, featuring a great old lighthouse. We absolutely lucked out because we were the only people there, and apart from some wind, the weather was perfect. The sun was going down as we walked with the sheep right down to the point, and I would put this spot up there on the list of ‘nicest places I have ever been.’ Our hosts for that evening, Ocean and Scotty, very earthy people – Skye is indeed a hippie haven. Truly a beautiful place, and I am glad we we were able to get to a more remote part of it – Neist Point was maybe the highlight of the trip, and up there in terms of the whole Scottish experience.

After a great breakfast chez Ocean and Scotty, we stopped in at Dunvegan Castle, home of the Macleod clan. This castle features a very cool relic called the Fairy Flag, an old piece of cloth with many possible stories of origin all revolving around it being introduced to the clan by a fairy. We then drove off Skye and down the Western part of the country towards Oban. We stopped in the town of Fort William for a WC break and for a look at Britain’s tallest mountain, Ben Nevis. We spent this night about 10 miles outside of Oban, at a B&B right on the banks of a loch. We rested for a bit upon our arrival there, and Lauren and I enjoyed the sunshine and some play time with the B&B’s 6 nice barn cats. We went into Oban for supper – what a nice town that is. The best view is from McCaig’s Tower, a Roman style monument built in 1897 that overlooks the town and the Isle of Mull, which was our next destination.

Friday was an awesome day. We made it just in time to grab the ferry over to the Isle of Mull, which we traversed in order to get to our ultimate destination, Iona, a very important place in the history of Christianity in Scotland. In the year 563, Columba came to Iona from Ireland and founded a monastery, effectively bringing Christianity to Scotland. So, after the nice drive across Mull, we boarded another ferry over the clear blue waters to Iona so that we could visit the modern Abbey, which was restored in 1938. I very much enjoyed seeing St. Martin’s high cross, which has been standing on the site since the 8th century. After touring around, Lauren and I found a quiet spot at the back end overlooking the water and out of the wind – it was a very peaceful moment, and it was incredible to rest on a spot where Christians have been devoting themselves to God for over a thousand years. After a few hours on Iona, we drove / ferried back to Oban, and made our way to Edinburgh, with a stop at a not-so-easy to find Nando’s in Stirling.

Edinburgh. While Lauren showed her parents the sights, I hit up a few used bookstores and found a great old copy of St. Augustine’s Confessions. The rest of the day was spent checking out the sights in the capital city, and eventually finding our way back to Aberdeen.

And that, briefly, is an account of our west side story. If I forgot something, Lauren will remind me and I can add some details later. Scotland’s West Coast is simply awesome – it has everything you could possibly want as a sightseer in Scotland, from castles and mountains to lochs, sheep, highland coos, the sea and breathtaking valleys. The weather cooperated for us as well, which is not even close to always the case over there. Overall, it was a great trip and a nice visit with Lauren’s folks. We took a load of photos which will be sorted and posted soon – a typed post doesn’t really do it all justice. So, stay tuned for a pictorial post in the near future.

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