Next morning, we took the Hamnavoe ferry from Stromness back to Scrabster. We then headed west on the A836 along Scotland's north and western coasts, feeling a bit of trepidation. We had heard enthusiastic reviews of the scenery, but also warnings about lots of single track roads, and we had no idea how many miles we could cover before evening fell.

(...or for that matter what "single track" might actually mean in this far northern, remote region...we'd be finding out soon enough)

Indeed, there was plenty of starkly beautiful touring, with very little traffic. At first, it was mostly two lane roads, but later single tracks became the norm, albeit it with plenty of turnouts.

(Squirmy, single lane roads [or less] of tarmac laid out over the top of the rolling landscape without any discernible engineering involved. I felt that I was constantly creeping along [trying not to be distracted by the amazing scenery], watching the horizon for oncoming cars, shifting up, shifting down, pulling over, etc. It was exhausing)


Midday, we stopped outside the town of Bettyhill, where we enjoyed lunch and then a visit to the nearby church which has been turned into a museum.

Pictish "Farr Stone" in the churchyard, dated 800-850 AD.

In the excellent Strathnaver Museum, local school children had created a series of panels telling the story of the Highland Clearances. This crofters (small landholders) from this area suffered severely.

We found this "dogskin buoy" to be quite intriguing. It was found in the wall of a house while it was being renovated. The buoy probably dates from the 19th century and was used for tending fishing nets. (...and yup, it's made out of a dog...ack!)

This Croft House exhibit in the museum has a "crux" or roof truss that was once the hull of "The Thorwaldsen", shipwrecked nearby in 1838. It was retrieved for the museum when the house was being renovated.

Back on the road, we stopped in the town of Tongue to mail postcards (who could resist getting a postcard from "Tongue?"), then carried on, via the A838, across the Kyle of Tongue (loch open to the sea), through lakes and meadows, and then completely around another sea loch, Loch Eriboll. What lonely country this is, but spectacularly beautiful.

At last we arrived back at the sea, to the unexpected sight of spectacular beaches bathed in sunshine. We drove through Durness, where Beatle John Lennon used to vacation as a young lad and even later with Yoko Ono (or so we read in the Rough Guide to Scotland). The town now looks rather overrun with holiday camps; we did not stop.

We now headed southwest, towards the western coast of northern Scotland. Eventually we arrived in Kylesku, on the A894, thinking we might spend the night there in the Kylesku Hotel along Loch Glendhu, but the hotel was fully booked. We did learn, however, that in World War II, the lochs here were used for training in the secret "X-Craft" miniature submarines.


We decided that the next big town, usually called Ullapool but renamed "Ultrapool" by Gil, with his usual whimsical pronunciation reinterpretations, would be our destination for the night. We drove through vast passes through the heath, with spectacular mountains in the distance. Sheep and lochs were everywhere, along with white limestone cliffs and outcrops. We decided to call this the "Lochs and Rocks" part of our vacation. Driving down the hill towards the town, which lies along Loch Broom, was a lovely sight.

"The Ceilidh Place" had been recommended to us, so we were pleased to find they had rooms. It had its attractions (loch views, music downstairs, and decent food) but at 100 pounds (Becky is being far too nice about this place. 100 British pounds converted to about $160 U.S. at that time, by far the most we paid anywhere for lodging on this entire trip! And honestly, the food was mediocre at best.), we felt it was overpriced, especially considering the room had apparently not been updated since 1970 or so.

The best part of The Ceilidh Place was the guest lounge, on the first floor (above the ground floor), just steps away from our room. The lounge was huge, with splendid views and multiple comfortable conversation areas. We had the lounge to ourselves, and settled in to watch the sun set. Here, you can see the "back" side of the guest lounge.

The "loch" side of the lounge, where we brought samples of the Highland Park 18 and 21 year old single malt whiskeys that we'd picked up in Kirkwald, to have our own little "tasting."

Ooh, a little "whiskey magic."

Next morning, after breakfast (tasty enough, but nothing like Kay's!) and a walk to Ullapool's post office, we headed south on the A835.

We stopped at the spectacular Falls of Measach at the mile-long Corrieshalloch Gorge. The falls are nearly 200 feet high, and made even more dramatic by the vertical fern-covered walls of the gorge. Crossing the bridge over that gorge was scary, and I have to admit we both took little baby steps.

Travelers' Tip: In recent years, the Corrieshalloch Gorge parking lot and bridges have been completely redone, but there are still references online and in guide books that incorrectly describe the car park location and a "wobbly Victorian suspension bridge" which has evidently been completely replaced.

As we walked closer to the gorge, I invented a very special game...with lots of rules, of course. (Ah yes, so it is traveling with Becky...I love it!)

The view of the falls from the bridge.

The new observation platform was also VERY SCARY!! You can see right through the metal floor.


Continuing south on the A835, we drove south through Inverness, then on the A82 along Loch Ness, which is 23 miles long. That's a lot of Loch Ness (it would be much better if they shortened it). We stopped for a surprisingly good lunch in Drumnadrochit at the Courtyard Restaurant.

We did NOT stop at any Loch Ness Monster attractions and we looked only briefly at the very picturesque (and very popular and expensive) Urquhart Castle. From the car park, it's difficult to catch a photo of the castle (lots of new trees block the view, probably NOT by accident), but we managed a couple of "freebies."


Just south of the town of Spean Bridge is the Commando Memorial, a group of bronze soldiers initially commemorating the men who trained in the area during World War II. The view from the site was breathtaking, encompassing moors and mountains many miles away.

The handmade memorials nearby were quite moving. Some were dedicated to veterans of World War II, but others honored soldiers lost just a short time ago, reminding us that wars never cease.


Continuing our drive south, we found ourselves climbing up into astoundingly beautiful Glen Coe and the desolate hills of Rannoch Moor. Rain came and went, and we went up and up. Small waterfalls cascaded down the hills.

Glen Coe (literally "Valley of Weeping") was the site of a notorious massacre in 1692, when the Campbells of Glenlyon, at the instigation of the British government, fell upon the MacDonald clan. At least 38 MacDonalds were slain, and more than 300 were forced to flee in a blizzard. The photo below was taken in the little town of Glen Coe, where we stopped to buy cold medicine, but were told, "Sorry, all we've got is whiskey." (They just carried the bare necessities)

We were lucky to find Lochearnhead Bed and Breakfast, in the small village of Lochearnhead on the A84, at (appropriately) the head of Loch Earn. While the house looks fairly traditional, inside it was quite new and modern, which was a pleasant change from our 1970's stay in Ullapool. The bathroom was huge, the view over the loch was lovely, the hosts Matthew and Dianne quite convivial, and the wifi signal very strong.

Gil was quite tired after doing all the driving, so I went off alone on an early evening hike. Our hostess and the nice man in the village post office/shop gave me directions to a bicycle/footpath, so I headed up the hills.

The bridge below used to cross over the rail line that was closed in the 1950's and later converted to a bike/walking trail.

Up, up, up! The view of the valley below, and Loch Earn, were quite magnificent. I began to wish that I could continue on, rather than have to turn around and retrace my steps. Surely there was a way to go downhill - our Bed and Breakfast was somewhere down there...I saw a faint footpath and followed it for a short distance, but decided that a steep somewhat muddy path to who knows where was probably not a good idea, since no one knew where I was. So I reluctantly turned back...

...when suddenly I saw a friendly black lab, followed by his two people, who asked if I was looking for a way down. As it happened, they were just about to go down the hill themselves, so they took me under their wings, helping me through the steeper muddy bits. My new friends were Sharon and Peter. Peter shared all sorts of fascinating historical information, including the original train's story. They told me to access BBC iplayer online, to watch the BBC show "Railway Walks." Episode 6 tells the story of this particular stretch of the railway. Alas, those of us outside the UK cannot access iplayer video, but our friends in the UK can!

Our path took us to the old Lochearnhead Train Station, which, like so many others in the 1960's, would have been demolished or converted except for the efforts of the Hertfordshire scouting group, who bought the facilities and turned them into a scout camp in 1962.

Peter and Sharon told me how the train used to arrive with city workers out for a holiday, and showed me the original platforms where they detrained. The passengers would then descend a staircase (below) and go through a tunnel, before exiting a gate and walking to the hotel. While the hotel is gone, the tennis courts can still be seen if one is looking carefully in the woods across from the highway. Too bad we didn't have time enough to do some more exploring!

We reached the end of the path, and I said good-bye to Peter and Sharon and walked just a short distance back to our Bed and Breakfast.

Next morning, Gil and I enjoyed a hearty breakfast, including treacle scones baked by Matthew, who was a hotelier and chef for many years before "retiring" to run the B and B. Then we were on the A84 road again, at least for a few miles. We turned west on a very narrow road through a lovely wooded valley, to explore the church and grave of infamous Rob Roy in the tiny village of Balquhidder.

Apparently there is some uncertainty about this burial site, according to the signage near the church. Rob Roy may or may not be buried here, but still it's a lovely, very atmospheric place. Surprisingly, there was hardly anyone else there, although the guide book certainly prepared us for crowds. Perhaps May happens to be a very good time to visit! "MacGregor Despite Them!"

Back on the road; Gil drove us through Callander, then across the Kincardine Bridge to the town of Culross (pronounced "Coorus"), on the north side of the Firth of Forth, to the northwest of Edinburgh. Culross was quite a wealthy in its 17th century heyday. Today it still has narrow lanes and cobblestone streets. Our time was limited, so we just wandered around a bit.

Gil found, to his great delight, a 1960's Triumph TR3. He owned a '62 model back in the 1970's, complete with peace symbol on the trunk lid.

We had fresh hot potato chips/crisps from the trailer below, on the edge of town. It's quite a neat little business setup - limited menu, potatoes cut before your eyes, many seasonings to choose from.

We drove south across the Firth of Forth bridge, following the signs all the way to Edinburgh Airport, and turned in our car safely. Whew!

(I was never so happy to pedestrianized once again in my entire life...who needs that kind of stress?!?)

In the Terminal, we found the Ryanair counter for our flight to Dublin, Ireland, and we ran into some problems. We each had one carry-on bag and one bag to check. Back in Lochearnhead, we had carefully weighed our luggage and tried repeatedly to prepay the "checked" baggage online, knowing that it would save us considerable money. The website allowed us to enter all the information up to the point of the credit card, where it refused to accept the information. We used different cards, different ways of entering our address and names (apparently it has to match everything exactly), but no luck. So...having to check the baggage at the counter meant the fee per bag went from 15 euro each to 35 euro each (let's just call that an extra $50 U.S. fee for EACH for both of our carry-ons)! In addition, the Ryanair representative sent me across the terminal to a different counter, supposedly to register a complaint. Below, you see me trying. Gil took the photo, which made the ladies behind the counter very angry. As you could guess, I was told there was nothing to do, so we returned to the Ryanair counter, where I was chided for not paying the baggage fees back at that second counter!! So back we went, paid the fees, then back to the now very long line at Ryanair.

(Becky was very angry! You don't see that often and it's impressive when she is. I stood wa-a-a-y back and took photos of all the action)

There are no reserved seats, and we loaded (slowly) directly from the tarmac onto the very crowded plane. (still angry)

At last, we were on our way to Dublin! (...and happy once again)

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