Scotland Adventure: Day Three / Part 2

Our assent on The Storr was a wonderful beginning for our first full day on the Isle of Skye, however that was only the start of a full filled day of adventures.  

Map of Northern Skye and our adventure

Once back in our car we continued north on the road with some beautiful landscapes to enjoy.  We had lush green fields to the left and a mouth-dropping seascape to the right.  It was a gorgeous day for a drive with the sun shining and whiffs of clouds dancing across the sky.  Our next stop would be the Lealt Falls.  Part of the Abhainn An Lethuillit (stream) that feeds into the ocean.  Yet as beautiful as the falls and the landscape were, there was a window into the past of Skye just at the mouth of the stream. There we saw the ruins of an old diatomite drying shed.  

Diatomite is a whitish, clay-like substance made up of microscopic shells or diatoms.  There are large deposits in the area, locally known as Cailc.  It was discovered around 1886 and has a wide range of industrial uses including; insulation for ships boilers, filtration for beer and in the production of paints and polishes.  Yet it was also used in the manufacturing of dynamite.  In 1899 the Skye Diatomite Company was founded and diatomite was extracted and transported by railroad to the ruins of the drying shed we saw below us. From here the diatomite was prepared and then shipped to customers as for as South Africa.  

I was also able to indulge in a little Canadian fun by creating an Inuksuk that I placed on top of the cliff.  With the mountains, green landscape and ocean near by it seemed like the perfect place to leave a little reminder that I was there.  

We continued north towards another natural formation on Skye, Creag an Fhèilidh or Kilt Rock.  Around 61 – 55 million years ago, massive volcanic activity was taking place all along the coast of Scotland.  During this period the Cuillin mountains were formed and the northern half of Skye was covered in a series of layers of molten rock about 1,200 meters thick. The pillars of rock were formed around this time as molten rock forced its way between the layers of Jurassic sandstone rock.  This is what gives kilt rock its pleats.  

These massive cliffs stretch on for kilometers and are an unforgettable landmark to anyone who’s sees them.  In fact this area is know as Staffin which comes from the old Norse word stafrfor pillars.  In the 10thcentury sea-faring people from Scandinavia settled in the area and kilt rock would have been a memorable landmark for any sea-going people.  Even today, Kilt rock, with its massive pillars, high cliffs and gorgeous waters falls that dot the landscape, is truly an unforgettable sight to behold.  


Comic Strips: Social Justice

Definition:  social justice        noun [mass noun] 

justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society: individuality gives way to the struggle for social justice.

In every class we teachers try and instil a sense of social justice in the students with their friends, peers and people outside the school.  It is not an easy task yet I find the effort is necessary to help encourage them to become a responsible member of society.  

I find that in the older grades many of the students take this sense of social justice to heart.  Yet there have been times when they present a situation where I have to either; take a step back and think really hard about what they said or just laugh out loud.  A situation did happen to me that was very similar to this comic.  Instead of spoiling the comic, I will simply let you read it.  

I hope you enjoy April’sThe Craziest Things: Social Justice.

Scotland Adventure 2019: Day Three

The trip up to Portree on the Isle of Skye was quite a journey and I slept well that night.  It’s a good thing too because we had a fun filled day ahead of us.  We did so much that I cannot fit it all in this post but in the next few postings.  

Portree on the Isle of Skye
The Old Man of Storr

Our first destination of the day was a famous natural rock formation about 6.5 miles north of Portree.  It is called the “Old Man” of Storr, a large rock peak that stands high and separate from the mountain The Storr and part of the Trotternich ridge on Skye.   They say the formation was created by a massive landside that left the colossal rock creation behind.  It’s reportedly one of the most photographed landscapes on Skye if not the world.  

We arrived at the car park where we were lucky to get a good parking spot considering this is a well-known destination.  During the warm months in Scotland many of the mountains would be clear of snow, however because we are in early March the tops of many mountains are still snow covered.  Just my luck a Canadian goes on vacation and can easily find snow wherever I go.  Yet the landscape at the foot of the mountain was clear of snow with lush green scenery.  It was an enjoyable hike up but once we arrived at the snow line the footing got a little trickier.   We all had proper footwear and clothing of the elements but no matter how prepared you are, you still have to be respectful of Mother Nature.  

There was some water runoff and we had to be careful not to slip.  We kept going up and we were about 300 meters from the “Old Man”.  We passed a gate and began climbing a muddy/snowy path. My companions were ahead of me and I began going up, but then I slipped a bit and felt a sharp pain in my ache and said to myself “Ok that’s it.”  I broke both my aches long ago playing hockey and baseball and I did not enjoy both experiences.  The sharp pain was in the same areas and instead of pushing to the point where I would reinjure them I stopped and headed back to the gate area where I knew my companions would return for the climb back down.  

I know when to listen to my body when it says that’s enough, or it sends a sharp pain saying to slow down.  I was not disappointed because I stopped, I simply continued to breath in the clean crisp air and enjoyed the beautiful landscape all around me. My companions eventually returned and they had some wonderful close up images of the formation. 

We made our way back down, carefully, as we revelled in a wonderful experience.  To be honest I had never climbed a mountain before and even though this was more of a medium level of difficulty I did climb up more than half of it.  Our first experience on Skye was a great hit, but this would only be the beginning of a day full of wonderful experiences.   

Scotland Adventure 2019: Day Two

‘Enjoy the journey of life and not just the endgame.’ Benedict Cumberbatch

After a wonderful night full of new experiences and a day with only about two hours of sleep, I had slept soundly in anticipation for the next full day of adventures we were about to embark.  Yet even on vacation I woke up at my usual early morning start, but well rested. My day was about to begin, however before I could do anything I had to have something I was anticipating from the moment I landed in Scotland; my first traditional Scottish breakfast of the trip.  

A traditional Scottish breakfast

Last year I was pleasantly surprised when I had my first traditional Scottish breakfast.  I have been looking forward to the breakfasts as much as the scenery itself.  Just to wet your whistle; a traditional Scottish breakfast included a fried egg, Scottish bacon (similar to pea meal bacon, only better), sausage, a tattie scone/potato scone (potato pancake), a fried tomato, haggis and black pudding. Black pudding, if you are not aware if it, it is a type of blood sausage that is common to Scotland, Great Britain, Ireland and many parts of Europe. It is made of pork or beef blood and oatmeal and then fried. I grew up eating this in Malta and my mom would make it occasionally. With every bite the memories of last years trip and moments from my childhood came rushing back to me.  I know I was on vacation, but for some reason at that moment all I could feel was, “I’m home.” 

It might sound and looks like a rather large breakfast but what we had planned for the rest of the day, it was just enough to fuel my next little adventure. We would be leaving Glasgow and heading north to the Isle of Skye.  It would be a long journey of about 5 hours but we knew that the scenery would be breath taking.  

I was the second driver on our trip and I had no problem giving the other driver a rest on our long journey.  He drove out of Glasgow and once out of the city we fuelled up and I began a wonderful drive north to Skye.  

Our Ride

I have driven many places in Canada, the United States, Malta and Scotland was as wondrous and majestic a place as any.  I must admit I do enjoy driving and for me the destination has never been the most enjoyable part of the trip, but the journey.  Today was no exception.  I was grateful for the GPS and after about five minutes I felt comfortable driving, ever on the left side.  I took my job as driver seriously and focused on the road, but I stole a few glances at the wonderful scenery that Scotland had to offer.  We had to stop at a few parking areas on the way north to stretch our legs but also to take in Scotland herself.  The only thing I had to truly focus on was the fact that it had snowed the day before and at times it was snowing as we drove through the higher elevations.  Wouldn’t you guess, no matter where I go, snow seems to follow this Canadian.   

About half way to Skye we stopped at Fort William for some lunch yet we found out that the bridge to Skye was closed do to high winds.  We thought, crap we will have to take a detour to make the ferry. But after calling the ferry company they said that there was no more room.  We weren’t sure what to do so we called our Bed & Breakfast (B&B) Breton House.They told us that they don’t close the bridge unless it was severe weather and all we had was some wind and rain. Therefore we continued our journey reassured that our way onto the Isle of Skye would be open.  

I kept driving until we came to a familiar place we visited last year, Eilean Donan Castle.  We just stopped to stretch our legs and take a few pictures, but the place was as magical and memorable as the first time I saw it. I even indulged in collecting a few rocks from the area so I can incorporate them into my miniature Christmas town and train this year, as I did last year.  

We were about 10 km away from the Skye Bridge and we were relieved to see that it was open and we were welcomed to Skye by a rainbow.  So with that warm welcome we made our way onto the Isle of Skye.  For all the snow we had earlier in the trip, Skye was a lush green everywhere you looked.  The landscape reminded me of when i drove in Nova Scotia, which was funny considering Nova Scotia is Latin for “New Scotland”.  

After an hours drive with beautiful views, the sun was beginning to set on our final leg of our journey.  We arrived at the small town of Portree on the north-eastern side of the island at around sunset.  A beautiful town but exploring it would have to wait until tomorrow.  For the moment we needed to settle in at the “Breton House” which was situated on a hill across the bay from Portree.  Right away we were welcomed in typical Scottish fashion and we knew that the long wonderful journey to Skye was over, however the fun and adventure was about to being. 

Scotland Adventure 2019: Day One

For people in Ontario the second week of March is known as March break or Spring break.  It is a time when people take some time off school and work to go some place warm and sunny.  I for one did not.  This year I revisited a place I had first went to last spring break.  A place of castles, legends and history that will rival anyplace on the planet.  I am talking about Scotland, yes the land of castles, kilts, and dare I say scotch whisky. 

This trip started almost right after last years trip.  Then, I was fortunate to go with some amazing people who have visited Scotland on numerous occasions.  I had so much fun and learned a lot that going back this year was almost a no brainer.  

Our trip lasted 9 days and unlike last year with our trip being delayed because of our flight being cancelled do to technical issues, we fortunately had a smooth and dare I say uneventful trip to Scotland.  Just as last year, to put the entire trip in one post would be impossible because there was so much I saw and yes; we took a lot of pictures. Therefore in the next few weeks I will be posting my trip to Scotland one post for every day we were there. Think of it as a journal entry for each day of my trip. All right let us begin …

Scotland Adventure 2019: Day One

As last year, our trip comprised of four wonderful people including myself. Our flight was pleasant enough and the only grumble I would say was that I could not sleep on the flight over. Ever since I was a child I never could sleep for very long on a flight. Mind you I did sleep for about an hour on our second leg to Glasgow but that is usually all I can do.  I guess I was too excited to sleep just anticipating all the adventures I would have on my trip.  Therefore from Friday night when I left Toronto at 1930 to when I landed in Glasgow at around 1000 I only had 1 hour of sleep, but I was quite excited to be back in Scotland.  

On this trip we thought it best, because of the lack of sleep, to stay around Glasgow, Stirling and Edinburgh to visit and get reacquainted with the amazing friends we met last year.  As I have stated on many occasions, the one thing I loved about Scotland are the people. We had the good fortune to spend some time with fabulous people that would brighten any day.  

In the afternoon we met up with some fabulous people that we met last year. Once we saw each other it was like no time had passed between us.  The hugs and warm feelings came back and I can tell you that my jet lag instantly disappeared. We met them at a wonderful restaurant called the Robert Burns Cronies Bar and Restaurantin the Golden Lion in Stirling. The venue had a beautiful old world charm that only was enhanced by the company.  We spent hours talking, laughing and soaking up every ounce of the magic that is Scotland.  

Having a wonderful afternoon with amazing friends.

After that wonderful experience and we sadly had to say bye to our friends but their company energized us for the upcoming excitement.  It felt like I had been in Scotland for months not hours.  I was ready for some more adventures and experiences with the all the wonderful people.  We made our way to Edinburgh for an evening meet up with another friend. Our afternoon experience was a delight and the evening was no different.   We meet up with a wonderful couple that helped us experience the Saturday nightlife in Edinburgh.  

Last year we did a lot during the day and many other exciting things at night. However we never had the opportunity to truly experience the nightlife in Edinburgh, particularly the pubs.  I am not talking about drinking but the social interaction people have in there. You see in Toronto people go in with a group of friends and we usually stick together.  But here it was standing room only and people were literally standing shoulder to shoulder, talking, laughing and having fun with their friends but also with others in the pub.  It was fantastic to see people having a great time in such a crowded place. Yet the couple we were with had us in stitches the entire night and everyone around us was just as happy and full of joy as we were to be there.  

This day reminded me of when I went to Québec one summer.  I was amazed and overjoyed by there sense of Joie de vivre.  I think that the people of Scotland have the same sense of Joie de vivre in their lives too.  Mind you I was on vacation, yet I could not help but sense this every where I went in Scotland, both last year and on this first day. All I know is that this trip started off with a bang and I had the Scottish people to thank for it.  

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