Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Macbackpacking It – Part 1

First things first – sorry about the break in posts. I have been on holiday (again…sigh Smile with tongue out), as most of you know, but more about that later. Also, did you know that if you click on a picture you can see a bigger version of it? I only recently found this out, so if there are any pics that are too small you can have a better look!

So, I’m up to Thursday 22nd December, which was the first day of our Scottish Christmas tour. Conveniently the tour departed from the hostel we were staying at, so we just had to drag our stuff downstairs and then into the bus Smile. Our first stop of the tour was at Dunkeld Cathedral, built between 1260 and 1501, and still used today, even though partly in ruins, on the River Tay. The river was really flowing while we were there – usually it’s not as full, but because the weather had been quite warm after a bit of snow there was more rain/melt than usual = higher river levels.

The River Tay just about bursting its banks

Gnarly old tree outside the cathedral

Next we drove to a forest, which unfortunately neither mum or I can remember the name of :/ The ground was really sludgy with melting snow here. I saw a sign for red squirrels – remember I had wanted to see them when I went to Wildwood – would this be the closest I would get to seeing one? There was another fast flowing river/waterfall at this place too, with a bridge that had a warning saying that only a certain amount of people could go on the bridge at once. I think it was about 6, but there was another bridge that we visited later that had a limit on it as well, so not sure if they were both 6, or only one was 6, but either way there was a 6 there somewhere! Anyway, the point is, did we take any notice of this limit?! Of course not, as you can see from the picture!

Yeah, there's only 6 of us on here!

Walking along the sludgy path

After the forest we headed on to the Ruthven Barracks, one of four defensive buildings built in 1719 after the Jacobite rising. We then continued on and saw the Bronze Age circular cairns or chamber tombs at Balnuaran of Clava. There have been stones standing there for 500 years longer than those standing at Stonehenge!

Our next stop was at the Culloden Battlefied, where the Jacobites (those dedicated to the restoration of the Stuart kings to the thrones of England, Scotland, and Ireland) of the Highlands fought the government. The field is separated from the carpark by a big tall fence, and both mum and I thought that you had to pay at the visitor centre for entry. Turns out you can just walk around the side of the building onto the field. You only pay for the museum/exhibition part. So we wasted a fair bit of time in the gift shop before realising we could have a walk around the actual battlefield. It has blue and red flags to signify the two armies locations, and many stone markers as memorials of the fallen men.

A bit cold, wet, and dark
After the battlefield we continued onto Loch Ness, where it was cold and windy! Richard, our tour guide was disappointed that none of our group wanted to go for a swim – apparently we were the first group he has had that hasn’t gone swimming. To be honest I was half tempted/half chicken – I wasn’t prepared for swimming; I hadn’t packed my togs. Well, that’s my excuse anyway…

As it was mum and I were about the only ones to brave the weather and have a walk along the shore. We were the last ones back on the bus, that’s for sure, but hey, someone’s got to be ‘the one who is always last’. But the others all missed an awesome sight: A dog had spotted something in the water… something big! And she had decided she wanted whatever it was in there. She was very determined, swimming out into the cold water, but she got what she was after. It was a huge, giant… MONSTER (stick). Well, it wasn’t just a stick, it was a full size fence paling. She looked so funny walking along the shore of Loch Ness with it sticking out about a metre either side of her mouth Smile with tongue out.
Ok, not the best pic, but you can see how big her stick is
'That's not a stick.. THIS is a stick!'

That night we stayed in Inverness, where went to to Hootananny’s to listen to traditional Scottish music, and eat… Thai food (as you do!).

Monday, 12 March 2012


139We got into Edinburgh in the evening of the 19th Dec, and after a bit of confusion and an uphill walk, which left mum a bit grumpy, we found our accom. We had dinner at a really good Asian restaurant that was really busy, and reasonably priced. On the way back we found ‘Cafe Viarna’, which is my cousin’s name! AND we found BUNDABERG GINGER BEER. In Edinburgh. Of course, after not having any for over 18 months, I just had to have some!! I love Gingerbeer, and Bundaberg make the best gingerbeer. Smile

OK, so maybe not quite Viarna, but pretty darn close
On the way back from dinner - what the??

SAM_0698On Tues 20th we did a free walking tour around Edinburgh, followed by lunch at a pub recommended by the tour guide. Of course we had to have haggis, beening on a food tour and all. Well, seeing as I had already had some I didn’t have it again, but mum did. I think we both agree that while it’s not completely disgusting, it’s not something that we would go out of our way/purposefully order again. It’s not so much what’s in it that I don’t like, it’s the spices they add. I just don’t like the spice mix. In the evening we did a ghost tour. It was pretty interesting, and being locked in a tomb might have been a tad creepy..

Greyfriars Bobby

Where J.K. Rowling started writing H.P!

Edinburgh Castle

The soul of David Allan isn't happy...

We got locked in one of them :S - also note the 'orb' -
it's obviously a ghost, and NOT a speck of dust, or anything like that

Wednesday 21st we got up early and caught the first bus out to Rosslyn Chapel. I had wanted to go and see it since the 1st time I went to Edinburgh, which at the time was almost a year ago! The main reason I wanted to go is because I love the Da Vinci Code (as you will see in posts to come, it’s not the only Da Vinci Code location I went to). It was pretty cool, even though the outside is undergoing some significant restoration and most of it was covered with scaffolding. There are many rumours/legends of what is buried under the chapel, but the family that owns it won’t allow anyone to investigate, which further adds to the mystery of the little chapel. Unfortunately you can’t take any pics inside, so have a look here for some pics. The inside is full of intricate carvings, including the ‘apprentice’s pillar’ and many ‘green men’. Have a look at the wiki link above to find out the story behind the apprentice’s pillar. There is also carvings of what some people believe is coded music. Listen here.

In the afternoon mum and I split up and did our own things – she went to Edinburgh castle, which I had already done, while I went to the Edinburgh Camera Obscura and World of Illusions. It was a bit of fun, and the camera obscura showed a great 360 view of Edinburgh. I had wanted to go to the zoo while in Edinburgh, but unfortunately we run out of time. It was either the zoo (to see the pandas) or Rosslyn Chapel, and seeing as I had been waiting almost a year to see the chapel I chose that. Hopefully there will be other pandas in other zoos that I can visit Smile

View from outside the camera obscura

The castle... Is mum down there?!

A ladder to Australia -
if only it was that simple!

Shaking hands with myself!

This is awesome!

Back in Dublin

SAM_0669Remember when we were in Dublin the first time we had left for our tour without doing any washing? Well, a week later we definitely did need to do some washing now! So on Sunday 18th Dec we finally got to do some (but not all of our washing, as we had sooo much Smile with tongue out) – yay! On the way we walked past a park that covered with frost. So we had a walk on the crunchy grass, and I came to the sad realisation that I am now too big for slides Sad smile

After dropping off the washing we went to the Leprechaun Museum. Yes, it was as corny as it sounds, but it was fun. We went on a journey that day. First we had to go through a portal that shrank us to the size of a leprechaun (1/3 human height), coming out of a fireplace into the ‘giant’s lounge/dining room’. Then we travelled through the rainbow to reach the pot o’ gold. What a pity it was out of reach! Finally we travelled through the forest and back into the real world, and the museum shop. Here’s where we got to show our artistic side. Have a look at the pictures and decide for yourself whether mum and I could ever become famous artists Smile with tongue out

We did some more walking around Dublin after collecting the washing, and took some more night shots of the city (which I can’t seem to find now…). We were heading back to our accom, when we happened to come across the statue of Molly Malone. Both of us had completely forgotten about finding her, so it was a happy coincident Smile Here are the lyrics to the song, which explains who Molly Malone is:

In Dublin's Fair City
Where the girls are so pretty
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone
As she wheel'd her wheel barrow
Through streets broad and narrow
Crying cockles and mussels alive, alive o!
Chorus Alive, alive o!, alive, alive o!
Crying cockles and mussels alive, alive o!
She was a fishmonger
But sure 'twas no wonder
For so were her father and mother before
And they each wheel'd their barrow
Through streets broad and narrow
Crying cockles and mussels alive, alive o!
She died of a fever
And no one could save her
And that was the end of sweet Molly Malone
But her ghost wheels her barrow
Through streets broad and narrow
Crying cockles and mussels alive, alive o!
Or click here to hear the tune. (lyrics from

The 19th December was our last morning in Dublin, so we continued our food tour, and mum had a traditional big breakfast, complete with black and white puddings.