Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Honeymoon in Scotland: Day 1 to 4

Thanks to a generous wedding gift from my mother, Tam and I were able to travel to Scotland for our honeymoon. I'd always wanted to go, and since we were finally getting married, Tam decided not to raise too much of a stink about it. ;)

We flew out of Toronto on September 30th, 2005, and landed early in the morning on October 1st. It was our first trip overseas, and I was happy to have landed in Glasgow without becoming shark food. There was a bit of moisture in the air, but nothing too serious. Our first hurdle (or mine at least), was learning how to drive in Scotland. Let me tell you....once you've spent 14 years driving on the right side, driving on the left isn't quite as easy as one might think. Getting out of the airport was a nightmare, and I ended up getting onto the motorway (read: highway/freeway/interstate) headed in the wrong direction. The scenery was stunning least what I saw between lorry-dodging. Eventually, I got myself turned around and headed in the right direction (on the left side). We passed through Glasgow and made the 45 minute journey up to Stirling. The Bannockburn visitor centre was closed, so we proceeded straight to Stirling Castle. Withing a couple of hours of landing in Scotland, I was at the site of one of the most famous battles in the country's history. Wow....what a view. Looking out over Stirling Bridge and the surrounding area from the elevated plateau of the Castle, you could almost picture the armies massing on the battleground below. Across the river, the Wallace Monument stood tall. We toured the outside of the Castle for a while, including a stunning cemetary that sat beneath the walls. A little while later, we headed in and took the guided tour. It was interesting to hear all the history, and witness the damage to the walls from canons and musket shot. In the Great Hall, I got to sit on the throne (or a reasonable facsimile). We spent a good while there, just looking out over the breathtaking landscape. Then we hit the road again. The plan was to make St. Andrew's on the first day, but because we were so tired, we decided just to find some accomodations, eat, and get some rest for the following day. AFter some inquiries at a Tourist Information Centre (TIC), we booked in at a cute little B&B called Wyvis in Tillicoultry. We took a 3 hour nap in the afteroon, got up and went to get something to eat at the local pub, then came back and crashed again. Either it was the most comfortable bed I ever slept in, or we were really tired (perhaps a little of both)! In the morning, we decided against St. Andrews, as apprently there was a big golf tournament going on, and the place was difficult to navigate at the best of times. Given I was still wet behind the ears with my driving, we decided to keep it simple and head up the Coastal Trail. We passed through Dundee and travelled along the North Sea until we reached Arbroath. Here we stopped to see Arbroath Abbey. Now in ruins, the place is stunning nonetheless. Being from such a young country as Canada, the history of these places is overwhelming. It is mindboggling to think of the work that must have went into constructing these places without the benefit of modern technology. From Arbroath, we continued up the coast and stopped at Dunnottar Castle, just south of Stonehaven. Wow. Although a ruins, this Castle was on the most visually stunning piece of land. I wouldn't want to be part of the army laying seige to that castle! There were two great coves on either side of the outcropping the castle sat on, and you could imagine the longships pulling onto the shore hundreds of years ago. Oh....and there was about a million steps down to sea level, and then a million more up to the Castle. But let's not dwell on the negative! After Dunnottar, we had intended to stay over in Aberdeen, but we decided to continue on to Granttown-On-Spey and spend an extra night there. I ended up taking some backroad through the Highlands that was treacherous. A winding, narrow, uphill road filled with perils such as sheep and oncoming vehicles. We were driving so high my ears started to pop. In a town just southeast of our destination, I stopped and gave a boost to a guy with a dead battery (after popping the bonnet!). He was from Granttown, so said he could lead us to our B&B since he was driving that way anyway. Fantastic. He just failed to mention he was a Super Slalom Highland Car Racer. But...I managed to keep up as best I could. We got into Granttown and to our B&B without incident. We stayed at the An Cala Guest House which was excellent. The room, food and our hostess, Val were all great. She made our 2 night stay very enjoyable. The next morning after a delicious Scottish breakfast, we hit the road. It was past 9am, so it was time for some whiskey! We went to the Glenlivet Distillery which was great. It was located in a very remote area of the highlands, southeast of Granttown. They had a free tour where we got to walk through the distillery and see the whole process, start to finish. There was also a little whiskey tasting at the end. Tam didn't wish to partake, but I tried the 18 year. It was good, though I still can't say I'm a huge fan of Scotch whiskey. It's amazing how many casks of whiskey they produce. Millions. And that's just one company. In the highlands around Granttown, there is something in excess of 40 distillerys. Crazy. From there, we drove up to Craigellachie, where we took in the scenery near Telford Bridge over the River Spey. I really started to miss my dog, Rudy, then, as he would have loved it around there. It would have been fun to have been able to take him for a walk. We drove back towards Granttown, and tried to stop at Castle Grant. We were able to get onto the grounds, but the gate to the Castle was closed, and there were too many trees to get a good picture (dagnabit!). So, we drove back to town (after chasing a sheep with the car), and did a little bit of shopping on the main drag before going back to the guest house. We took a little walk to a nearby restarant for supper. It was early (around 5pm), and we were the only ones in the joint. I think traditionally people eat a bit later out there. I tried some Cullen Skink with my supper, and though different, it wasn't too bad. There wasn't much going on that night as far as entertainment, as it was early in the week, so we just made it an early night. The next morning we travelled south towards Aviemore, with a short stop at the Speyside Heather Centre. Not a lot of sight-seeing along the way, as we were headed for Glasgow. We passed through the Trossachs (Rob Roy country) and made a pit stop at Dewar's distillery, courtesy of our bladders, and had a slice of pie in the coffee shop. We made an unscheduled stop at the Falls of Dochart, since were were passing by and they looked pretty cool. We didn't quite make it to Glasgow, instead calling it a night in Balloch, which is at the southern tip of Loch Lomond. It was a cute little town which is growing and nearby an area which has just been set aside as Scotland's first National Park. We booked into our B&B, went out for some supper, and took a nice walk around town before calling it a night.

Next time: Day 5 to 7 (Glasgow and Edinburgh)


Anonymous Tammi Grant said...

As much as I wanted to go elsewhere for the honeymoon, I enjoyed it. Love you

11:55 AM  

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