August 25th - September 12th 2016, SL-Trip to Scotland ...

After having seen a documentary on TV about Scotland, which looked absolutely beautiful and remembering how much we enjoyed our trip to Ireland, we decided that it would be a good idea to do the same in Scotland … take the SL and drive where our noses led us. Having made that decision, we also thought it would be a good opportunity to combine it with a visit to Beverley & Don and Steven & Gaynor in England …

So, off we started Thursday morning, August 25, with 0 kilometres on  the clock …
… and after endless driving on German and then French Autobahns …  
… after 670 kilometres, we reached our first destination, the Eurotunnel …
… the train to take us to England … here Cynthia enjoying a little sunshine …
… and entering our compartment in the train, where by the way, the air-conditioning wasn’t working and inside it reached temperatures of 38 degrees!!!
Well, after a couple of hours we reached England and our first destination, a lovely seaside town called Bexhill …
… where we had dinner … what could go wrong with ordering a filleted piece of local fish at a seafood restaurant, you ask? … well approx. 20 bones later and no sympathy from the restaurant owner, we mourned what could have been a wonderful dinner …
… next morning after breakfast, we continued on our way to Kings Langley to visit Don and Beverley for 2 days … we stopped for coffee along the way and saw this funny warning on the premises …
That night we enjoyed a lovely dinner at The Cricketers country pub …
… here us with Don and Beverley …
Next day, we visited the very nice city of St Albans, here a photo of the tower in the Town Centre.
… and the very impressive St Albans Cathedral …
… here something that caught Thomas’ attention (and sense of humour!!!)
… Beverley’s daughter Catherine joined us and that night after a lovely long walk, we ended up at the Queens Head Pub for a much earned drink and then on to dinner at a very nice Thai Restaurant …
After breakfast the next morning, it was again into the car and on to the Malvern Hills and Steve and Gaynor … as always when visiting Steve, it is a pleasure to watch him working out with his dogs ... 
… absolutely amazing to see the results he achieves …
We were very lucky that while we were there, we  were able to visit a Classic Cars exhibition, which was really impressive, a lot of money lying around in that park!!!!
… not to mention witnessing some English eccentricity at it’s best!!!
We also found some of the warning signs rather amusing …
After spending a wonderful sunny day out with them, we enjoyed a lovely dinner … at the Red Lion Pub …
Then next again after breakfast and a few valuable tips from Steve … it was off on our adventure to Scotland!!!!
… and of course, it wouldn’t be Scotland without a castle to be spotted along the way … this one is Caerlaverrock Castle …
… and as always during long drives, at some time of another, nature calls and here a sign Thomas found very amusing in the Men’s toilet!!!!
… we certainly saw some odd locals hanging around …
Although we weren’t greeted by wonderful weather, it was actually very wet and cool … the SL still shone!!!!
… made another stop at the coast …
… where as you can see by this photo, it was rather windy and just putting on a jacket proved quite challenging!!!!
We had originally thought of visiting the Lewis and Harris islands (on the west coast) first and then working our way to the east, but because the weather there was not very good, we decided to change our plans and start with the Highlands, so taking up Steve’s suggestion to visit Pitlochry, off we went …  here a rather picturesque Hotel we saw along the way …
… before arriving at Pitlochry, where on day 2 we enjoyed a long walk … visiting the fish ladder, which enables the fish to overcome a lock ...
… and this beautiful view of the Loch Faskally …
… here another wonderful scene …
The town of Pitlochry itself was also quite picturesque, here a nice little corner Restaurant …
… and us enjoying a coffee before walking back to our B&B …
Next day, we decided to drive to Grantown on Spey, so after a spot of rain …
… it cleared long enough for us to put the roof down for a while …
… before visiting the Glenlivet Distillery, where thank goodness we thought to put the roof up again (just in case), because … you guessed it, while the tour was progressing … the rain came back!!! We must point out, that by the end of the holiday, we had become masters at putting the roof up and down rather quickly, several times a day ;-) … anyway, back to Glenlivet, visiting it was a good suggestion from Steve, we enjoyed it very much and found it very interesting, even brought a bottle back home with us!!!
After Glenlivet, we continued on our tour of the Highlands, here at a cute little bridge …
… and through fields of heather …
… until our coffee stop, where although the coffee was undrinkable, the signs more than made up for it ;-)

We again checked the weather forecasts for Harris and Lewis and because unfortunately there wasn’t any change in the weather conditions, we had to make a decision. Feeling rather disillusioned with the experience thus far, we considered aborting the trip and going back home … but we couldn’t bring forward our reservation on the ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam and since driving through the UK, more than 1000 miles (incl. through London) didn’t appeal to us as well, we decided to continue on, but drive north to sunnier skies.

So off we went to Loch Ness, where although not being lucky enough to catch a glimpse of ‘Nessy’, we were able to visit this most impressive castle ruin … Urquhart Castle …
… here we are …
The town we headed for was Dornoch, where we were greeted by sign after sign of ‘No Vacancies’. Panicking a little, we visited the Information Centre and asked for help, where a really nice lady agreed to ring around for us and see what accommodation she could find!!!! Believe it or not, on the first call she found us a room ;-) … apparently the people that had booked it before us, just didn’t turn up – how lucky for us!!!! Here a photo of the B&B …
… and of course of the SL adding to the beauty of the place ;-) …
Dornoch was a lovely little town and after dinner that evening …
… we were lucky enough to witness a Scottish band playing bagpipes …
… obviously the front guy has a very important job …
… and also some Scottish dancing, which was really nice!!!!
… and this bonus one, just because it looks so pretty ;-)
Next day we decided to tour the north east, where at the recommendation of our B&B hostess, we visited the Whaligoe Steps …
… quite impressive!!!!
We visited Duncansby Head, the most Northen point of Scotland …
It must be said, that this day we were more than lucky with the weather, sunshine, blue skies and a WHOLE day with the roof down … an amazing view!!!
After Duncansby Head, we headed back.  The roads were quite deserted, so we were able to take in the atmosphere …
… and mingle with the locals …
Next morning we decided to take a walk along the beach at Dornoch, which was definitely worth it, just the two of us and some sea gulls for company …
… and believe it or not, while on a walk of this deserted beach and through a caravan park, to a sleepy little town … Thomas managed to lose his sunglasses!!! He noticed it on our coffee break and so we decided to take the same walk back and although we searched high and low … there was no trace of them L … it sort of fit the mood of our holiday!!!!
Another very impressive castle (after all it is Scotland!!), was the Dunrobin Castle which we toured and is still in private hands … not bad for a weekender!!!!

After our time in Dornoch, although the weather forecast for the west coast hadn’t changed, we decided ‘to heck with it, let’s just go there!!!’ … sounds pretty simple, right? … wrong!!!!, after checking for accommodation in Harris, Lewis and even Skye – no luck – everything booked out!!! Talking to the locals later, we found out that you can’t just ‘go there and decide on a B&B’, you have to book at least a year in advance!!!!

Well, with this little bit of information and our tail between our legs … we took the decision to go to Rothes (here crossing the Inverness Bridge) …
… the drive there was very nice …
… and it even reached a scorching 22 degrees!!!
We spoilt ourselves and stayed at the beautiful Station Hotel …
… were we enjoyed a very nice dinner at their Pagoda Restaurant …
and after dinner drinks at their impressive bar!!!
While in Rothes, we again went for a walk and were greeted with some wonderful scenery …
… before heading to the Glenffidich Distillery. This was especially nice for Cynthia, as Glenffidich was her beloved dad’s favourite Scotch. She had enjoyed many a drink of it with him and so visiting its ‘home’ was rather sentimental for her …
After a very interesting and professional tour of the distillery, we got to try the product … here we are enjoying it!!!
Then onto Speyside Cooperage, where we learnt all about how they make the enormous barrels, where the scotch is aged.
It was amazing to see how these are made, very hard work for the men, but as they get paid by the barrel, it’s important to them to not linger over one too long :-)
We also saw how they burn the inside (this process lasts around 2 minutes from start to finish) and it’s this that gives the scotch the amber colour …
Then came the last couple of days, which we spent in Edinburgh at the lovely Dunstane Hotel … here us enjoying dinner there …
While there we booked a walking tour of this really beautiful city …
… and, as of course in most cities around the world, we found the ‘Aussie corner’!!!
Here us on top of Edinburgh Castle …
Next day, it was a drive to Newcastle and onto the ferry to Amsterdam … and home!!!
… and after 4066 kilometres!!! … we were very happy to be back in Weinheim :-)

Resume:

People are very friendly and welcoming, the landscape is pretty similar everywhere in the East where we've been (unfortunately can't comment on the west for obvious reasons). So more tours with the car weren't our choice. Although a few villages were really pretty, in all honesty a number were rather dull (they seemed to lack greenery, eg. gardens!! - contrary to Ireland). Accomodation is really a problem in Scotland, being a fishing, hunting and golfing destination. Even in Dornoch we were just lucky, that someone didn't show up, so we could get a room in a B&B.

On the negative side, it's still really expensive. We tracked the cost last year in Ireland and this year in Scotland and it's roughly 20% more expensive. Taking into account that the pound dropped around 12%, this totals to 30% more expenses for a very similar holiday (and to add insult to injury, we found out that our local supermarket sells Glenlivet AND Glenffidich cheaper than their distillerires !!!).

So mixed emotions now, first bigger trip where we got stuck and pretty frustrated. Funnily we didn't read anywhere about the accomodation problems. One B&B owner said, the season is so short, that there's just not enough beds available.

So you live and learn!