Scotland Adventure: Day Five

In comparison to the previous days, Day Five would be more of a relaxing day for us.  It would be a traveling day and we did have to drive about a 370 km from the Isle of Skye to the ferry docks for the Isle of Arran. Nothing like climbing mountains or facing hurricane winds and ‘Bar Code” rain, but it was still a great adventure. 

For me I was the driver for the first leg of the trip down from Skye.  As I have stated many times, I love to drive. For me the journey is as enjoyable as the destination.  Yes I have to be very aware of my surroundings and I do take my role as driver very seriously and at times it can be stressful.  Yet for me driving is exciting.  When I get behind the wheel it’s like I am at the helm of an old ocean vessel, embarking on a voyage of discovery and adventure.   The road ahead of me has endless destinations and wonders that can excite the soul.  

In Canada and United States I have driven hundreds of kilometres, going from city to city, state to state and province to province.  There have been days where I have driven over 1,000 km just because I can.  I have seen the vast beauty Canada has to offer and to this day no matter how many times I have seen it, it still inspires me.  Scotland was no different.  Driving up to Skye, even through the snowstorm, was beautiful. Now driving down to the Isle of Arran it was equally spectacular, but thankfully no snow.  Sometimes words don’t do it justice; therefore I will let some of the photos of Scotland speak for themselves.  Don’t worry, I wasn’t the one taking photos.  Another member of our Scottish crew was documenting the journey. 

In the end I was fortunate to be able to drive most of the trip down and our other driver took us onto the ferry and onto Arran.  I was grateful for the experience and the memories of Scotland’s vast beauty will inspire me for years to come. And though that part of the journey was over, I was looking forward to our last leg of our Scotland trip.  The Isle of Arran and at the picturesque Auchrannie Resort.  A few days of sight seeing and staying at a resort with a pool, hot tubs, spa and fine dinning.  I love the journey and it was great but the destination will be equally as enjoyable. 

Comic Strips: The Fundamentals

If you ask any of the students I have taught, what is my favourite sport, their response would undoubtedly be baseball. Therefore it makes sense to put in an instalment or two centred one the students and the game.  

I played baseball as a child and as an adult so whenever I can I love to help out with school softball teams (boys and girls). As a supply teacher I cannot be an official coach but that’s fine with me.  I find I have a tremendous amount of enjoy helping the students develop their love for the game.  People asked me, “Don’t you want to be seen as a coach?  Get the recognition?”  I say no, I am not here to get recognition.  I simply want to help the students learn the game and more importantly have fun doing so.  

That’s where this comic came from.  I help wherever I can and when I do it is usually with the fundamentals.  Pitching, throwing or batting. This situation came out of helping some students and I thought of this scene as a “What if” scenario.  And the rest as they say is history.  

I hope you enjoy May’s The Craziest Things: The Fundamentals.

Scotland Adventure: Day Four / Part 2

Our final destination for the day was the Isle of Skye’s only whisky distillery, Talisker.  About a 5 km drive from the Fairy Pools to the distillery, we were able to dry off a little, but we were looking forward to some tastings to help warm us up inside. 

I have always enjoyed Scotch whisky, since I was able to drink it. Malta being part of the British Empire/Commonwealth for over 100 years, many traditions were imported from the UK. The Royal Navy, RAF (Royal Air force) and British army has a long tradition in Malta and of course Scotch was brought over with the countless service men and women stationed there. My grandfather and father did serve at one time and they were very familiar with Scotch so of course they passed it down to me.  

However going to Scotland I discovered that Scotch is a lot larger that I previously thought.  Scotch is produced all over Scotland and can be divided into 6 whisky regions, Highlands, Speyside, Lowlands, Campbeltown, Islay and Islands.  Below are some brief points I discovered about each region thanks to Wineware Racks & Accessories –  . 

Highlands Scotch Whisky

  • Most famous Highlands Whisky: Dalmore and Glenmorangie
  • Number of distilleries: Over 25
  • Typical Highland flavours: Fruit Cake, Malt, Oak, Heather, Dried Fruit and Smoke

Speyside Scotch Whisky

  • Most famous Speyside Whisky: Macallan, Dalwhinnie, Glenlivet and Glenfiddich
  • Number of distilleries: Over 60
  • Typical Speyside flavours: Apple, Vanilla, Oak, Malt, Nutmeg and Dried Fruit

Lowlands Scotch Whisky

  • Most famous Lowlands Whisky: Auchentoshan, Glenkinchie
  • Number of distilleries: Under 5
  • Typical Lowland flavours: Grass, Honeysuckle, Cream, Toffee, Toast and Cinnamon

Campbeltown Scotch Whisky

  • Most famous Campbeltown Whisky: Glengyle and Springbank
  • Number of distilleries: Under 5
  • Typical Campbeltown flavours: Brine, Smoke, Dried Fruit, Vanilla and Toffee

Islay Scotch Whisky

  • Most famous Islay Whisky: Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Bruichladdich
  • Number of distilleries: Under 10
  • Typical Islay flavours: Seaweed, Brine, Carbolic Soap, Apple, Smoke and Kippers

Islands Scotch Whisky

  • Most famous Islands Whisky: Highland Park, Talisker and Jura
  • Number of distilleries: Under 10
  • Typical Island flavours: Smoke, Brine, Oil, Black Pepper and Honey

Once at the distillery we enjoyed a flight to help warm us up after that blustery visit to the Fairy pools earlier in the day.  A flight tasting is when you get a selection of wines or whisky’s to compare and taste the different selections.  We only had a couple of flights (about 6 different whisky’s) that we shared among our little group, though our driver only smelled and did not drink any. The best way I can describe the selection was that they had a very smoky tasting types of whisky.  However the one series of whiskies that they had that was interesting was a special collection of scotch designed and created for the Game of Thrones.  

Talisker is part of a family of whiskies owned by one distributor and they created a series of scotch whiskies to represent the different houses from the show Game of Thrones, each from a different distillery.  We also tasted a couple of the Game of Thrones whiskies including the Talisker’s brand representing House Greyjoy.  You can see the wonderful artistry for each house on each of the different bottles.  That alone enticed me into tasting them.  Again the best way to describe them was a very smoky taste with an after taste that was a bit spicy/ peppery.  

After all the tasting we were indeed warmer inside yet we still needed to return to our loggings to clean up, dry off and change into clean dry clothing. Yet upon reflection, today we used all five of our senses to experience Scotland.  We started off by viewing the mighty Cuillin’s and then the breathtaking Fair pools.  We then felt and heard Mother Nature’s powerful presence with the 90 km/hr. wind gusts and driving rain, aka “Bar Code rain”.  Then finally we enjoyed the wonderful smells and tastes that Scotland has to offer with her world famous scotches.  Wherever I go, I always stop occasionally to “Stop and smell the roses” as they say.  This day we did all of that and more.  I could think of no better way to spend our last full day on the Isle of Skye then to see, hear, feel, smell and taste what Skye and Scotland truly had to offer.  A wonderful experience, that I would not change in the least.  

Scotland Adventure: Day Four / Part 1

After a fun filled day three, day four was more relaxed.  This would be our last full day on the Isle of Skye and we had two remaining places we had to visit before we leave this jewel of the Scottish isles.

Last year on my visit to Scotland we visited a lot of historical sites such as Eilean Donan Castle, the Culloden battlefield, Mary Kings Close and many other sites.  However on this visit we are visiting Scotland herself; the landscapes, waterfalls and sheer natural beauty that Scotland has to offer. On day three we began that journey with the northern part of Skye and on day four we continued with our adventure to the Fairy Pools. I say adventure because as it turned out it would be an experience to remember.  

We began our day a little later then yesterday but it was not that far of a trip from Portree to the Fairy Pools.  We stopped however at Sligachan to take in a wonderful view of The Cuillin mountain range.  Made up of two ranges, the Black Cuillin and the Red Cuillin, separated by Glen Sligachan.  The Black Cuillin, considered the most challenging mountain range in the UK, is over 11 kilometres long with peaks above 900 metres with the highest point at Sgurr Alasdair at 992 metres. The Red Cuilin is a more gentler “hill walkers” range with the highest point at Glamaig at 775 metres.   We had an amazing view of the northern most peaks of the range.  The highest peak we saw was Sgurr nan Gillean.  This iconic mountain with an enormous pointed peak formed by three ridges is south of Sligachan and is Skye’s most famous peak. Standing some 964 metres we took in this giant.  With our experience from climbing Storr still fresh in our mind, we were not tempted to climb this goliath.  Not just because of the size or distance but mostly because of the worsening weather conditions.  The images show that it was a cloudy day but what they cannot tell you is how powerful the wind was blowing that day.  We knew it would be getting windier as the day progressed and thought better than to climb a mountain in these conditions.  

Yet the mountains were not the goal for the day but the Fairy Pools further down the road.  The trip was as scenic as the rest of Skye yet we were also looking at the weather knowing we only had a small window to visit the pools before the bad weather hit.  

Once at the car park we eagerly got out and began our hike.  Not that difficult a hike but the worsening weather conditions and the spring run off made crossing streams difficult.  The landscape was breath taking and we were able to view the Cuillin’s from this different vantage point.  The pools and waterfall made you feel that there was some magic in the air.  At the time you could almost feel that the place had little fair folk hiding under rocks or in a cave near by.  

However about a kilometre into the hike the winds picked up and we were being besieged by 90 km wind gusts.  We kept going until the wind was too much and then the rain began to fall. Actually the rain did not fall as it was blown horizontally at us.  All of a sudden rain mixed with ice pellets began bombarding us on the trail.  We said that was it and we began walking back. Occasionally we would look up and see the rain coming down and it looked similar to barcodes you get on products. Amazing, we could see sheets of rain and ice formed into barcodes in the sky. Barcode rain we called it.  Safe to say that on the way to the Fairy Pools we were dry but on the way back we were drenched.  On the way to the pools crossing the steams were difficult but with the winds and rain we had to take our time on the way back not to fall in and be washed away by the fast moving water.  

Soaking wet, we arrived safe and sound at our car and we know that any other outdoor activity for the day was out of the question.  Yet thankfully we had finished the outdoor portion of the day. The part I was looking forward to was just ahead of us.  A trip to the only whisky distillery on the Isle of Skye; Talisker.  What better way is there too warm up than to have a whee dram of scotch or as I like to say “A whee nip of courage.” 

Scotland Adventure: Day Three / Part 3

You would think after climbing Storr to see the “Old Man”, walking around Lealt Falls and viewing the massive cliffs of Kilt rock, that would be a pretty full day.  Yet because of our early start to this day it was around 1pm when we finished at Kilt Rock and discovered that we were a little hunger.  Therefore after a nice lunch at a local café we continued our journey to our final destination.  

We continued north to the very tip of the Isle of Skye.  The local village is called Duntulm, where we stopped at Duntulm sea viewpoint briefly to take in the view.  It was quite windy that day and the waves were rolling on to the beach below us.  On a nicer day we might have stopped closer to the beach but with the weather conditions we thought better.  However that did not stop us from enjoying the views and indulging in a few quirky poses with the help of the wind.  

We rounded the tip of the island and headed back south towards the town called Uig.  We arrived in town well enough but our final destination was off the main streets.  Actually we had to take a small country road about 2 kilometres into the countryside.  When I say country road I am still talking about a paved road but it was only one lane wide with passing lanes every few kilometres.  It was a tight fit driving at points but eventually we arrived at the mystical and very secluded Fairy Glen.  

Located on the west side of the Trotternish at Balnacnoc (the village or township in the hills), the Fairy Glen is a Quiraing / like a landslip in miniature compared to the rest of the area.  The rest of the Trotternish Ridge was created by a series of landslips. The Quiraing is the only part of the landslip that is still in motion.  The road at its base near Flodigarry has to be repaired every year because of the movement.  

The difficult part of the trip to the glen was that it was not clearly marked. I suppose they are trying and keep the area as natural as possible.  Yet once there a large natural formation sprang up out of the countryside. I thought the formation was what we had come to see but once we started climbing up a hill the truth of the area came into plain sight. 

Once you crest the hill to the right you see a larger hill with its basalt topping intact, which looks like an ancient ruin. Some have called it Castle Ewan for some mysterious reason though no one quite knows the story behind it.  Yet in front there is a small valley and in it is a formation of some spirals in the grass.  They are not a natural phenomenon but probably created my people to create some rituals in the glen.  Many would walk the spirals and then place a coin at the centre for the fairies.  Many have moved rocks to create other spirals but locals come to the area and try to keep the glen as natural as possible.  

There are many legends and stories about fairies on Skye especially relating to Dunvegan Castle and their “Fairy Flag”.  The Fairy Glen has no specific legend just that the location appears unusual and the nickname Fairy Glen was given.  Many have even gone into the cave at the base of Castle Ewan and placed coins between the rocks for good luck from the fairies.  Yet some believe that the fairies truly talk to them there. 

We were fortunate to have the enter glen to ourselves for about 45 minutes and I have to admit that there were times when I thought I could here voices on the wind.  Yet while I was there, I did feel something.  Maybe it was the fairies talking to me, but more than anything else, I felt that there was something magical about that place.  It felt like a special place that people have been coming to for hundreds of years, to maybe talk to the fairies or simply for self-reflection. I was in a place where nature reigned supreme and the noise and hustle and bustle of the modern world was nowhere to be found.  A place to simply listen to the wind, smell the fresh earth under my feet or to just look at the land all around.  If that isn’t enough of a reason to feel a deep spiritual connection to Mother Earth, then I don’t know what is.  

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