29 June 2017

Braemar and Ballater

Sunday, Pat and I headed west to the Cairngorms once again in a Co-Wheels car.  Our intention was to start our adventure with a walk and a picnic, which we did.  Our options for the second half of the day were another walk, a whisky distillery, and/or two castles.  Rain postponed things, but we found coffee and cake!  We decided the weather conditions would eliminate the enjoyment of the walk, so we opted for more leisurely pursuits.

Our walk was about four miles through Muir of Dinnet National Nature Preserve near Ballater. The highlight of the walk is the Vat.

We stepped over the stones leading to the hole in the rock in the center of the photo...

...which opened up into the Vat, apparently an ancient hiding place for outlaws.

Waterfall inside the Vat

After our picnic we headed through Ballater toward Braemar.  After our coffee and cake and deciding to forego the second walk.  We drove to the edge of town to see Braemar Castle.  We did not take the tour; we just looked around outside and visited the castle shop.  Apparently, people were still living in it in 2008.  Now it is just for tourists.

Our next stop was the Royal Lochnagar Distillery.  Again, we did not take the tour, only visited the shop.  No tasting without paying for a tour--boo!

My eyes are shut, but Pat caught both herself and our car in the reflection.

The distillery, is just up the road from Balmoral Castle, Queen Elizabeth's Scottish summer holiday home.  Again, no tour, just the shop...and some wildlife shots.

The gate to the castle grounds

A red squirrel! Apparently greatly declining in numbers in the UK.

Wood pigeon...not endangered

The River Dee

26 June 2017

Cattle Grids, Home Bakes, and WOW! Moments, Part 2

Tuesday was a wet day, a lot of which was spent in the car.  We drove to Ullapool for lunch--another beautiful drive--stopping when the scenery called for a photograph.  One planned stop was at Corrieshalloch Gorge which we had just seen on TV soon before our holiday.

The 46m Falls at Measach, Corrieshalloch Gorge

On Wednesday, the primary goal was a visit to Smoo Cave in Durness on the north coast of the Scottish mainland.  I had just seen this too right before the holiday, on Facebook.  The cave was interesting, but our time on the cliffs was the highlight of my week.  As with our recent return to Bullers of Buchan, despite the wind and the noise of the waves and birds, I found it serene. Perhaps the white noise just drowns out everything else, within me and without.  It was another long day in the car with lots of single-lane, curvy, and hilly roads, but oh-so worth it.  The day started off overcast with a few breaks in the cloud cover; the afternoon was beautiful.

Ardvreck Castle, first sighting in the morning

Smoo Cave, Durness in the background

Inside Smoo Cave

There's a hole in the roof!

The nearby cliffs

The north coast of Scotland

A grey seal

Big splash!

The beach near Durness

Big waves!

More big waves

Ardvreck Castle on the way back south

The very distinctive Suilven, peaks at 731m

Chillin' on the cliffs

A few of my favorite moments of the holiday

Part 3 coming soon...

*Partial photographic credit to Pat and Stan.