Oban

Following our stay in Edinburgh we took the train to Glasgow and transferred to a second train to Oban. You can see a photo here of me with my carry-on bag and daypack in the Glasgow train station. We wanted to avoid checking luggage for air travel, so we packed light, or at least light for our purposes. That roll-on bag has my travel tripod and laptop computer, spare batteries, chargers, as well as clothes. For travel photography I use a Sony RX100. I also had a GoPro and a waterproof Olympus TG-5 for kayaking.

Our itinerary had us in Oban for just a couple of days before joining Wilderness Scotland for a kayaking adventure. Check out my other Scotland blog posts for more about that. While we were in Oban, we hired a guide to take us around a few of the sights nearby. Martin, our tour guide, did an excellent job of showing us some of the sights despite a grey rainy day. And then on the evening of August 25 we celebrated our 49th wedding anniversary with dinner at Ee Usk, an excellent sea food restaurant on the pier.

After our kayaking adventure and hunkering down a few days with COVID, we returned to Oban where we rented an apartment. This gave us the opportunity to rest. Once we were feeling better, we explored more of Oban taking in a tour of the Oban Distillery, visiting the island of Kerrera, and visiting Dunollie Castle.

While Oban has some very fine restaurants, one of our favorite places to eat was MacGillivray’s Seafood on the pier. They serve excellent fish and chips, scallops and langoustine.

You can view many more photos from around Oban onlne.

Edinburgh

We landed at the Edinburgh airport on August 22 after flying from San Francisco to New York and then transferring to a flight to Edinburgh.

Our flight from San Francisco was delayed an hour and a half. Fortunately our connecting flight from New York was delayed as well. Transferring planes in New York was a bit stressful since we had to hoof it from one terminal to another, then pass through TSA inspection again with our luggage in tow in fear that we’d miss our connecting flight.

We spent three nights in Edinburgh; hardly enough time to see the city, but our preference is to minimize our time in cities and to explore the countryside. We found a Bed and Breakfast just off The Meadows that was convenient for walking to many of the sights we wanted to see. We also found the public transit system worked well. I wrote about our walk to Aurthur’s Seat in an earlier post. Edinburgh has so much to offer that it demands at least a few more words.

Having checked into our accommodations we were anxious to explore the city. We didn’t get far before hunger took over and passing a pizza joint we opted for pizza and beer to celebrate. Pizza on our first night in Scotland seems a bit lame, but so it goes. Over the next three and a half weeks we had the opportunity to enjoy much of Scotland’s culinary offerings from seafood to black pudding and haggis.

On one of the evenings in the city we made our way up the Esplanade at Edinburgh Castle where we found our reserved seats for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Wow! What an extravaganza; so many bagpipes. The performance included military bands from all around the world as well as a Mexican Dance troop, Banda Monumental De México. This was quite an entertaining event. Highly recommended.

And of course, as a photographer, one of the things I like to do is to explore the city at dusk. Another adventure took me to Victoria Street and to a viewpoint of Edinburgh Castle.

And no visit to Edinburgh is complete without a visit to Dean Village. We had a lovely walk across town to Dean Village, a beautiful village right by the Water of Leith. You can view more photos online and read more posts about our Scotland trip as well.

Gylen Castle

Getting sick while traveling put a kink in our plans. On September 2, about 12 days into our trip, I woke up feeling quite ill. We had a COVID test kit with us and I tested positive. We were able to extend our stay at the Pennygate Lodge in Craignure. After a few days there we moved to an apartment in Oban for a few more nights. This meant we would not be spending time at the Iona Abbey as planned, but it did give us a few more days to explore Oban. Once we were feeling better, we decided a trip to the Isle of Kerrera was in order. To get to the island we walked the short distance to the Oban wharf where we hailed a taxi to take us to the Kerrera Ferry.

This is a small ferry that can only carry a dozen or so people. We ended up having to wait for a few crossings, which didn’t amount to much time since the ride across the channel takes all of 10 minutes. That said, if you do plan to visit the island allow plenty of time in the event that you end up waiting.

Once on the island it’s a two mile walk to Kerrera Tea Room and the castle. It’s a very pretty walk past farms and pastures overlooking the Sound of Kerrera. We passed through a number of gates, being sure to close them after passing through. At the top of a rise just before reaching the tea room we found a gate with a sign “It’s all downhill from here!”

It was just after noon when we reached the tea garden. Smoky Spanish Chickpea Stew and fresh bread were a welcome treat after the walk. After lunch it was a short walk to the castle where we spent some time exploring the ruins.

The castle overlooking the Firth of Lorn was built in 1582 by the Clan MacDougall, but was only occupied for a short time. It was burned by the Covenanters in 1647 during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms.

Once we had explored the castle and peeked through the windows, we made our way back to Oban and on to Kilmartin on the afternoon bus. You can view more photos online. Here’s the track of our walk on the island.

Arthur’s Seat

Our trip to Scotland started in Edinburgh on August 21. We spent a couple of days there to adjust to the eight-hour time difference. One of the popular things to do in Edinburgh is to hike to Arthur’s Seat. This is an ancient volcano in the hills in Edinburgh. This mountain was described by Robert Louis Stevenson as “a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design.” There are a number of car parks that give easy access, however, being on foot, we turned it into a healthy day hike. We started out from our accommodations near The Meadows and made our way across town to Holyrood Palace, then up the trail to Arthur’s Seat.

While only a 1000 foot climb, it was a challenge getting to the top. From there we had a panoramic view of the city below.

Our host at the Bed & Breakfast suggested we follow the trail down the far side to make our way to the Sheep’s Heid Inn for lunch. The sign over the door says the inn was established in 1360, making it one of Edinburgh’s oldest pubs. We ordered the Pan-fired Wild Scallops ras el hanout, smoked haddock Florentine bonbons, celeriac purée, apple & fennel tartar. A delicious lunch after our walk.

When we returned to our lodgings, we discovered that we had walked 8 miles. It was time to take off our hiking boots and put our feet up. You can view more photos online.

Ancient Ruins in Kilmartin

Kilmartin Glen is considered to have one of the most important concentrations of Neolithic and Bronze Age remains in Scotland. That seemed reason enough to spend a few days there. Some of the ruins date back more than 5,000 years. These include a multitude of cairns, standing stones, carved rock, stone circles, forts, and castles.

There are a number of walks in the area leading to some of the features. So Saturday, September 10, we donned our hiking boots to go exploring. The most prominent features are a series of stone cairns which served as burial sites. These are oriented in a north-south line through the glen. We started with the Glebe Cairn and followed the trail to Nether Largie North Cairn, Nether Largie Mid Cairn, Nether Largie South Cairn, and Temple Wood.

The Nether Largie North Cairn has been excavated and you can climb down into the burial chamber through a sliding trap door. Once inside you can see the capstone with cup-shaped markings.

What is here today is not necessarily intact. Over the millennia, a number of the stones in the cairns have been taken away to be used as building material. The sites have been excavated for archaeological research and reconstructed to their present-day form. Even with all these disturbances it’s remarkable to visit these sites and imagine what life was like here 5,000 years ago, with a society that had people of prominence worthy of such elaborate burial. It may be the flow of metals being traded through the glen that gave rise to this society.

The Nether Largie South Cairn is perhaps one of the most interesting. Here you can climb down inside and imagine what sacred ceremonies may have happened here.

In addition to the Cairns, there are a number of standing stones throughout the glen and a circle of standing stones at Temple Grove. Following our exploration of the Neolithic sites, we made our way to the Kilmartin Church to explore some of the gravestones in the graveyard. The church was closed, but it was still quite interesting to see gravestones dating back hundreds of years. The Kilmartin museum was also closed for renovation, which was a bit of a disappointment. It would have been interesting to have additional information to help interpret the history of the glen.

Even though it was an easy walk through the glen, we managed to log six miles.

Carnassarie Castle

Today, September 11, marks our 22nd day of travel in Scotland. We’ve had many adventures over the past three weeks. Some of those adventures will eventually make their way into this blog, but for today, I’ll share our walk to Carnassarie Castle. And, of course, at the top of the news is the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. That caused us to revise our plans for returning to the Edinburgh airport for our flight home. Nevertheless, it didn’t stop us from lacing up our hiking boots and going on a walk after a hearty Scottish Breakfast at our B&B here in Kilmartin, Old Manse.

Our track led us along several country paths, up into the hills, through woods and past babbling streams. Then we climbed a hill to the castle where we spent quite some time going up and down many flights of narrow circular stairs to admire the view. The castle was built between 1565 and 1572 by John Carswell who had been granted the land by the Earl of Argyll. Carswell would become the Bishop of the Isles and was instrumental in translating the Book of Common Order into Gaelic, which became the earliest book to be translated into Scots Gaelic.

The overcast sky with threat of rain provided some nice soft lighting to set the castle in a surrounding landscape of green rolling hills and woods.

After climbing all the stairs and poking into rooms and windows, we found a spot to break out our lunch of cheese and crackers.

We returned to the town of Kilmartin by retracing our steps, walking by an apparently abandoned caravan which seems to have a picturesque spot along the track. Back in town we stopped at the museum café for a bowl of hot lentil soup, muffins and coffee. The museum is closed at the moment for renovation, but that didn’t deter us from enjoying a cool pleasant day in the area of Scotland known for its archeological significance, with ruins going back over 5,000 years.

Kayak Around Iona

August 31. Our Wilderness Scotland paddling adventures included several day paddles exploring parts of the Isles of Mull and Iona. The day’s adventures usually started with a briefing by one of the guides. Here’s Howard explaining the route around Iona. Our land base for these outings was Achaban Houses which was a mile from Fionnphort, our launch point for the paddle around Iona. You can see the van with the kayak trailer in the photo.

It was a promising day as we schlepped boats and gear down to the water’s edge. Without much delay we were on the water but since we had the tail end of the ebb against us, we stayed close to shore looking for eddies and paddling inside the rocks that separate the Sound of Iona. Once we were around the rocks and on the sound, we picked up the pace a bit to make the short crossing to Iona where we paddled around the point and into a white sand beach for coffee and tea.

For the rest of the trip we had the current with us. We poked our noses into caves, paddling in and out of rocks admiring the clear and colorful water. Coming back into Fionnphort we had to hold up a few minutes for the ferry. And then it was off to the pub to celebrate.

More photos are available in an online gallery and you can view a video as well.

We logged 11 miles on calm water. An excellent day’s paddle.

Back to Oban

Day 16 of our Scotland Trip. Our plan was to spend the better part of this week at the Iona Abbey as part of the Iona Community. Circumstances have forced us to change our plans. Joann and I both tested positive for COVID-19 a few days ago. At the time we had booked two nights at the Pennygate Lodge in Craignure. We were able to extend our stay to four nights which was fortunate. The hotel has a excellent restaurant, and we were able to hold up in our room with excellent food delivered. Despite our current situation we have had some amazing adventures in the past two weeks. The highlight was kayaking around Iona with Wilderness Scotland. That adventure warrants a blog posting of its own.

So today we left the Pennygate and took the ferry back to Oban. We’ve booked an apartment for several nights. I’m looking forward to using some of the downtime to work through some of the photos and videos and to post more about the trip. While at Pennygate I was sick in bed with no energy to do anything more that sleep and read. The Seabreeze Apartment where we are now feels almost liberating with two bedrooms, living room, and kitchen. Plenty of room for two people to roam around while we rest and recover.

On our previous stay in Oban we celebrated our 49th wedding anniversary. I also spent one evening wandering around town looking for nighttime photo opportunities.

Stay tuned. I have more stories to share.

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