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!).