The Highlands of Scotland

We ventured to the Scottish Highlands for the last week in July. On this trip, Shep came along as a travelling companion. We left the house after Mike got home from work on Friday night. We stopped for the evening in Oban, a small town on the west coast of central Scotland or Argyll as it is known. Oban is famous for the Scotch whisky distillery there. On Saturday, we were able to visit the distillery and walk around Oban.. We also stopped in the small village of Taynuilt to observe their highland games. The highland games go back ages and have various categories and interpretations, but the best events to watch are the playing of bag pipes, Scottish dancing and the strength competitions. Mike’s favourite competition is the Tossing of the Caber. The Caber is a huge log that has to be thrown end over end and is rather impressive to watch.

Saturday evening found us finally arriving at our “base camp” for the week. We rented a small cottage right on the west coast of Scotland directly across the sea loch (Loch Alsh) from the Isle of Skye. The cottage was in the area known as Avernish in the community of Nostie. The views were fantastic! Our back window from our breakfast table and sitting area looked directly over the river Allt Gleann Udalain entering into Loch Alsh and we were able to see the various migrations of birds and sea life during the tidal changes around the shingle shoreline. We enjoyed our surroundings Saturday evening and only travelled a short distance down the road to pick up a few groceries.

Sunday found us travelling over the bridge to the Isle of Skye and up to the trailhead for the Old Man of Storr. This was a fairly easy hike and provides exceptional views from the top of the Isle of Raasay and the Applecross peninsula all in the distance. The Inner Sound and the Sound of Raasay were clearly visible and it was a great day for this hike. Shep enjoyed the hike as well, blazing a trail through the woods and chasing rabbits. He didn’t care much for the sheep though. We don’t think he'd make a very good sheep dog! The Old Man of Storr is a large rock that sticks straight up and is part of similar formations along the northeast tip of Skye. That evening we stopped for dinner in the town of Portree on Skye. Mike had a huge seafood platter with fresh scallops, mussels, salmon and small lobsters. It was delicious.

Monday we set off in the car for the town of Aplecross on the Applecross peninsula. We enjoyed the sight of it in the distance so much from the “old man” that we thought we'd visit. The journey also happens to be along the highest public road in the UK. And the road becomes very narrow in spots! Along the way we stopped in the small town of Plockton on the other side of the Kyle of Loch Alsh. The drive over the top on the way to Applecross is one not to be missed. Tour buses are not allowed on this road due to its steep nature and numerous switchbacks. It affords some magnificent scenery.

Tuesday we spent back on Skye doing a tour of the western side of the Island and looping back across the top past the “old man”. Our first stop was at the Talisker distillery. You know, when in Scotland. . .After that we headed for the Neist point Lighthouse, which is the eastern most point of Skye. This lighthouse and the cliffs on either side of the point were magnificent. We also stopped at Dunvegan Castle, home of the Clan MacLeod. Our last stop before sunset was a view of the Kilt Rock Falls pouring into the sea near the “old man”. We left Shep back at the cottage on this day as we thought he could use a rest and we knew this would be a long day in the car.

With Shep rested up, we went for a strenuous 8-mile hike in the Kintail mountains on Wednesday. Our objective was to reach the Falls of Glomach and return. Glomach is one of the highest waterfalls in the UK. The day started out at bit too nice, as temperatures climbed along with us. The falls were great and we made it back safely to the car.

Thursday was spent on the River Oich with ghille James Couts. Gabi and I spent the day fly fishing on a private estate. Gabi was fly fishing for the first time and she caught two brown trout! Mike was fishing for Salmon and wasn’t able to catch any salmon but did manage to catch three brown trout on a salmon fly, go figure. This was a very enjoyable day for us, but was miserable for Shep. Everything started out OK, as Shep was able to watch us from the shore. We had the great idea of tying Shep’s leash to the handle on the cooler and this would allow us to move him gradually down stream with us as we fished. Unfortunately, Shep decided to stretch his leash a bit too far in pursuit of Gabi and the cooler fell over. He took off like a rocket dragging the cooler behind him. This scared him even more and as he twisted and turned to get away from the cooler it would sling around behind him like a person on a tube behind a water ski boat. Finally, the handle of the cooler broke loose and Shep bolted straight for Gabi and didn’t leave her side the rest of the day.

Our last day in Scotland, Friday, we decided to leave Shep at the cottage to recover from the cooler incident and drive to Inverness on the eastern coast of the highlands. This was a pleasurable drive as we spent several miles driving along the shores of Loch Ness. Once we crossed the country we travelled North from Inverness to the Black Isle and out to the Rosemarkie lighthouse viewing point where we were able to see Dolphins playing at high tide in Moray Firth. After this we drove across the Black Isle to Cromarty Firth, through Dingwall and back to the cottage via a more Northerly route that took us past Loch Carron and the route we used to travel to Applecross.

All in all in was a great first trip to Scotland. Three distilleries, two good hikes, lots of sightseeing, and a day spent fly fishing would have to be near the top of anyone’s book. We can’t wait to go back, enjoy the pictures.

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