Friday, 14 July 2017

Scottish wanderings - part 4

Sunday June 18 - Loch Maree to Portree (Isle of Skye)

Finally a break in the weather ... looking across Loch Maree to a patch of blue sky
After some overnight rain we were pleased to see some blue sky. There were still plenty of clouds but at least there was a promise of some better weather.

After a cup of coffee we headed off from our cottage at Loch Maree and stopped at the small cafe in  Kinlochewe for breakfast. There we had a pot of porridge for a mere 99p each and another reasonable coffee. We were not the only ones fueling up for the day ahead. A young chap who was undertaking a very long walk which would take him to the far north west tip of Scotland and his walking companion, who I think was his father, was also breakfasting at the cafe. We had chatted to them when we had stopped for a coffee at the cafe the previous afternoon. They had talked about the trials and tribulations of the wet conditions and the challenges crossing streams, finding somewhere dry for the night and issues with drying wet equipment. I didn't envy them their challenges.

Today we were treated to some glorious scenery. With the sun shining, albeit haphazardly, we were finally able to see the extent of the mountain ranges. There were also some wonderful views across lochs.

Along with the watery views there were also rocky mountains.

There were other odd things, too.

A bridge that appeared to have absolutely no track to it ... still it was the only crossing point for quite some distance

One of the very familiar signs that we encountered in the highlands. Single track roads seemed to be the norm. Fortunately there were frequent passing bays.

Some of the lochs we traveled along where stunning. Here are views across Loch Carron.

When we were getting close to Lochalsh, where the bridge across to the Isle of Sky is, we decided to do a slight diverson and go to Eilean Donan Castle. Apologies if you read the original version of our Saturday travels ... I have now moved the info about Eilean Donan Castle from 17 June to the correct spot ... and have included my photos, too.

The name of the 'Eilean Donan Castle' comes from the Gaelic meaning 'Island of Donan' ('Eilean' being 'Island' and the 'Donan' believed to be named after the 6th Century Irish Saint, Bishop Donan, who was in Scotland during the later part of the 6th century AD). There were lots of saints wandering around Scotland at the time. Most were from Ireland and had come to convert their highland cousins.

This Scottish castle may well be the most photographed castle in the country, and is also often called the 'most romantic castle of Scotland'. Its' location is spectacular and isolated - set on a small rocky island at the point where three great lochs (Loch Alsh, Loch Duich and Loch Long) meet.

Although there are indications that a Pictish fortress existed at this location during the 6th or 7th centuries, the Medieval castle was built in the 13th century for Alexander II. The location itself was ideal defensively, and the castle was originally built as a defense against the Viking who repeatedly raided the north of Scotland during these times.

Over the coming centuries, this Scotland castle changed in size and shape, being built, destroyed, rebuilt and renovated, several times, with at least four different versions appearing during that time.

During the 16th century additions were made to accommodate newer weapons and allow for better defensive capabilities, but sadly the Jacobite uprisings of the 17th and 18th centuries eventually led to the destruction of castle, and it lay in ruins for almost 200 years.

In the early 20th century, members of the MacRae clan (the castle is now the ancestral seat of the MacRae clan), decided to restore the castle to it's former glory and the results of their hardiwork are what we saw during our visit.

View across one of the lochs from the castle

Some of the tenacious plant life in Scotland which we spied on the rock face near the carpark at the castle.

Leaving Eilean Donan Castle we headed towards the Isle of Skye stopping off in Lochalsh for some lunch. We opted for soup as the day was quickly turning miserable. Still, the views  across to Skye were OK.

The bridge across to Sky

It was raining by the time we arrived in Portree which is at about the halfway point along the eastern coast of Skye.

We were staying in an AirB&B in Portree. While it is the biggest town/settlement on the island Portree is still quite small and our accommodation was very near the centre. Rhona, the landlady greeted us when we arrived and filled us on things that were useful to know.

We did a lap of the town centre and called in to the Tourist Information Office and collected some brochures to help us plan what we would on the following day which we were spending on the Isle of Skye.

It was Sunday and Portree was very busy. Finding somewhere for dinner proved difficult as most places were packed out with waiting lists for tables. In the end we ventured in to the Royal Hotel whose dinning room was almost empty. The food was acceptable however the service was pretty poor.

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