Scotland Adventure: Day Eight


Day eight would be our last full day in Scotland and part of it would be spent traveling from the Isle of Arran to Glasgow.  Thankfully the weather cooperated, to a point (cloudy with some showers, a typical Scottish day) and we were able to board the ferry to the mainland. The biggest and most exciting parts of the day would be meeting up with a friend we met last year and some new ones.  

Our first meeting would be with a friend from last year at a local pub for lunch.  We meet with him twice last year and oh the laughs we shared.  This year we will have an extra bonus for he will be bringing his dog.  A beautiful animal that is part white wolf but quite gentle.  We also were able to go to a local beach where we let him run around while we enjoyed our time talking and laughing together.  

Unicorns for my Nieces

After we made our goodbyes, to our friend and his dog, then we continued to Glasgow.  Once at the hotel I was eager to walk around the downtown core.  Both for the local scenery but I also needed to get a couple of gifts for my nieces. My nieces, as many girls of their age, love unicorns. I told them and many of my students that the unicorn is the nation symbol of Scotland and I hinted that Scotland is the land of unicorns.  So I thought what better gift than a unicorn from the land of unicorns.  It took me a couple of hours of looking but I finally found some for them (which they absolutely adored). 

With that out of the way, I was able to relax a bit and look forward to our dinner that evening with more wonderful people.  We met up with friends from the Glasgow area and had a wonderful dinner filled with laughter and great conversation.  Once dinner was over we had to say our goodbyes but after we went for a walk around Glasgow to take in the nightlife.  I remembered Edinburgh was active with a busy nightlife but Glasgow was bustling with activity and people everywhere.  

With the night coming to an end and tomorrow we would traveling back to Toronto, I laid in my bed thinking about this wonderful Scotland Adventure.  I had seen many wonderful places in Scotland, filled with a rich history and tales that will continue to inspire me for years to come.  Yet again the most inspiring thing I found in Scotland were the Scottish people themselves.  They say the land moulds a people; these words were never truer then in Scotland. The rugged Highlands, breathe taking views from Skye and Arran, the streets full of history in both Glasgow and Edinburgh just to name a few things.  Scotland is a wonder not just because of its natural and historic beauty but the people who make this wonderful land shine so bright. I have also made some wonderful friends here, yet I have only scratched the surface of what Scotland has to offer.  This was my second trip to Scotland but I know is won’t be my last.    

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Scotland Adventure: Day Seven


Day seven and our last full day on the Isle of Arran and at the Auchrannie Resort.  Our stay at the resort has been everything we had hoped for.  Great rooms, fine dining and fantastic sporting facilities.  Every night of our stay we were able to enjoy the wonderful pools, hot tubes and saunas (a perfect way to relax after a day of hiking and exploration).  This morning we were greeted with wonderful blue skies again but the winds had picked up.  During breakfast we discovered that the ferries to the mainland were cancelled do to the winds.  Fortunately for us we would be leaving the next day but we still felt a bit of concern that the ferries would be cancelled tomorrow, but we did not let that affect our plans and excitement for the day.  

Our first destination would be the Arran Aromatics and cheese shop.  The aromatics store has many soaps and fragrances that are known the world over. Many of the soaps, hair products and hand creams at the Auchrannie Resort are from Arran Aromatics.  After getting a few things for my family we then got some wonderful cheese from the local cheese shop.  If you ever have the opportunity to visit the Isle of Arran, make sure you visit these places, you won’t be disappointed.  

With our shopping done we then moved on to some local sight seeing at the Brodick Castle, Garden and Country Park. Unfortunately the castle was closed to tours for the season but that did not stop us from walking around and enjoying the grounds and exterior views.  

Shopping, a castle and gardens not bad so far but the big fun was just ahead, the Machrie Moor Stone Circles. The Machrie Moor Stone Circles include six stone cirles that is east of  Moss Farm. Some circles are formed with granite boulders, while others are built of tall red sandstone pillars.  The area is covered with prehistoric remains, including standing stones, burial cairns and cists.  They say that these stones were placed there from 2080 – 180 BCE.  

Looking at these circles, they were rather impressive but they were not the largest or the most imposing example of prehistoric remains I have seen.  In Malta there is a place called Ħaġar Qim that have stones weighing several tonnes stacked on top of each other in an intricate design. Those are considered the oldest prehistoric temples in Europe dating back to about 3600 – 3200 BCE.  Yet despite that fact it was still impressive. 

After we made our way south to Blackwaterfoot for a coffee and some walking along the beach.  There I took the opportunity to make a little sign to remember our visit and to reflect on our time at the standing stones.

You see, standing at the stones it was interesting to think that our civilization started in places like this. That ancient people put in the effort to move these giant stones but for what purpose I wondered.  Was it ceremonial, a shelter or was there something else.  Whatever it was their efforts have stood there thus far and will continue for centuries to come.  And as I touched those stones, I am now a part of their history and it makes me think of where we as human beings came from. I remembered a quote I once heard and it seems appropriate for that moment.  

‘Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ George Santayana

Near Blackwaterfoot

For all our technology, our intellect we have to remember that we started in places like this with far less than what we have today.  If we are not careful with our stewardship of the Earth, we will end up back there and we will only have ourselves to blame.    

Scotland Adventure: Day Six: Part 2


On my trip to Scotland I have seen the natural beauty she has to offer. This day has not been a disappointment. Walking through the forest, along the shoreline, hearing the waves crash on the rocks and taking in the views of the countryside.  With all that behind us we had one last destination for the day.  

Once in our car we traveled north along the western side of the Isle of Arran. It was rather interesting, not because of the scenery but because of the road itself.  It was a typical road seen all over Scotland but it felt more like traveling on a rollercoaster.  Up and down, driving along the edge of the hill.  There were times I was glad I wasn’t driving, though it was still a fun drive.  

At the northern tip of the isle we came to a small village called Lochranza. There we stopped for two unique things. First to see Lochranza Castle.  It is an old castle ruin on an outcropping of land in the local bay.  The second was for a group of wild deer grazing on the side of the road. Amazingly these deer were simply munching on someone’s lawn in the middle of the village.  They looked up at us for a moment or two and then went back to their lunch.  Amazing, they had no fear of us and it looked like the locals thought that this was as normal as a dog sitting on the porch.  

Once we left the deer to their lunch we realized we too were a bit hungry. It was a good thing that we were not that far from our final destination, the Isle of Arran Distillery and Visitor Centre. There we enjoyed a nice light lunch and a couple of flights, though our driver only smelled and did not drink any.  The best way I could describe the two best tasting scotches would be as follows.  The first Arran Malt Amarone Finish had tastes of chocolate, honey and pears, where the second Machrie Moor Cask Strength Single Malt had a smoky, spicy taste to it. 

Yet while we were sitting there enjoying the food, whisky, scenery and conversation with the staff, I paused for a moment and reflected on the scene around me. There I was in that moment with three other friends having a great time, without a care in the world.  Yes Scotland had a lot to offer and I was on vacation but it was the company of the Scottish crew that really made this trip extra special.  I know that if it weren’t for the company, the trip last year and this year would be remarkably different.  These people, who had the same curiosity and wonder as I, made these small moments in Scotland all the more enjoyable and special.  

Henry Ford once said…‘My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.’ These friends have brought out the best in me on many occasions.  At that moment all I can think of to say to them was thank you.  Thank you for all the wonderful experiences and moments like this one.  For moments like this truly add colour to ones tapestry of life.  

Scotland Adventure: Day Six: Part 1


At the Auchrannie Resort we were able to truly put our feet up and relax.  After a long day of driving, we enjoyed a relaxing swim and a wonderful dinner before we went off for a good night sleep. 

I woke up to a wonderful sight.  The clouds had parted and I was able to see blue sky with clouds rolling by. I knew that the weather would be unpredictable, therefore I will enjoy the sun and sky whenever I could.  Even during breakfast, the rain rolled in and left quickly leaving us the hope for some sun and picturesque views of the Isle of Arran.  We would be driving along the coast of the island as two members of our “Scottish Crew” have been to Arran before and knew the best places to take in the natural beauty this lovely isle has to offer. 

As we left the resort we headed south along the eastern coast towards the town of Lamlash.  There we stopped and walked along the sandy beach.  We knew there was a ferry to the Holy Isle just across the bay, but unfortunately we were a little early in the season for the ferry crossing.  So instead we took in the wonderful views of the isle along the coast.  

We continued to the mouth of the bay to a place called Kingscross.  We made our way across country along small roads.  We then hiked the short distance to the tip of the bay area for some spectacular views. Once at the tip I took in the views, breathed in the salty air and felt the breeze and sea spray on my face.  I could have stayed there for hours but we had to move on to our next destination.  If only I knew how our next destination would kindle feelings inside me as I stood there at the tip of the bay.  

We continued our journey until we came to a park or forest area.  The place was called Tigh Righ Beag, I am not sure what that means but inside was a trail called the King’s Cave trail.  This spectacular costal walk visits a series of caves in the sandstone cliffs.  The historic King’s Cave is of several locations where it is said that Robert the Bruce had his famous encounter with a spider.  It was about a 5 km hike that you can do in about 2 hours.  It took us a little longer because we had to stop and take cover from a few passing rain showers.  But once they were gone the skies cleared and we got to take in the stunning views of the surrounding countryside.  

Once at the coast near the caves, we began exploring and taking in all the natural beauty.  The caves were amazing yet for me the sound of the crashing surf seemed to call me. For me, there has always been something magical, almost spiritual about the sea.  I felt a need, a longing for the salty air to fill my lungs, to feel the spray on my face and to hear the sea crashing along the shore.  I cannot fully describe it but at that moment I felt almost one with the sea.  Here with the forests, caves and history all around me, I am drawn to this expanse of water that I have never been to before.  The only thing I can think of is something inside me feels or recognizes the smells and sounds of the sea. Something more than a simple memory, almost a state of being.  Perhaps it is a genetic memory of the sea trapped within me, longing to come out at that moment and I have Scotland to thank for the memory. 

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. 

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 – https://www.wineware.co.uk/decanting/spirit-whisky-decanters/scottish-whisky-regions-guide  . 

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.” 

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