May 2004 Scotland Trip

My dad had a conference in Edinburgh the week before Memorial Day, and my sister and mom were planning to travel to Scotland with him.  I decided to join them as well.  They were planning on spending the week in Edinburgh, but I had to get out in the highlands, and so I planned a 3 day road trip (still leaving 4 days in Edinburgh) and made a rental car reservation.  My route would take us to Glen Coe, Fort William, Glenfinnan, and to the Isle of Skye.
I arrived in sunny Edinburgh around noon on Saturday, and took a shuttle bus to the rental car office.  My family was flying into Glasgow (arriving at 8:30am), and I was to meet them at the B&B in Glasgow.  After I got my keys, I called the B&B to let them know I'd be there in an hour, and the guy on the phone said, "Your dad called, and said they won't be coming to Scotland today."  I was shocked for a moment.  What do I do now?  Am I going to be in Scotland by myself for a day or all week?  Well, might as well drive to Glasgow and await further info at the B&B.
Driving on the left hand side was a little stressful, and trying to find the B&B in Glasgow city streets wasn't fun.  The guy at the B&B decided to put me up in the attic, and still charge me $45 for the night.  Took a little care to ascend and descend this ladder while carrying my suitcase.  Found out my family would arrive the next morning at 8:30am (a flight delay cost them a day), so I was on my own for the afternoon in Glasgow. 

I really did not like the feeling of this B&B, so I eagerly decided to take a drive north in hopes of some pretty scenery.  It was ~3:45pm, and I left the B&B, bought a map of the surrounding area, and decided to drive to Loch Lomond, considered the most beautiful Loch in Scotland.  It's about an hour from Glasgow.  It was sunny out, and the grassy hills were very pretty.  I drove up the east side of the Loch (would be driving up the west tomorrow), and stopped at Balloch Castle park and walked around a bit. 
I could see Ben Lomond, a 3000ft mountain along the lock, and if I had more time, I would have loved to drive there and summit it.  I drove up the loch a bit more along very thin roads.  It was awkward driving on the left, or rather, sitting on the right side of the car.  I ran off the road a few times when oncoming cars passed by.  Found a lookout point, but it was nothing great.
My map had something called "Queen's View" off lesser road heading back to Glasgow, so I took it, and came upon a hill where I saw some people walking, and decided to stop for a short hike, ~8:15pm.  Indeed there was a majestic 360 degree view of the Loch, mountains, and even Glasgow.  Just past the summit, descending on the other side, were some giant rocks that created narrow passage ways.  This reminded me a little of pics from the Isle of Skye.  I met an older couple sitting on the hill in this area, and chatted with them for quite a while.  Was nice to talk to some friendly people when you are all alone in a country. 
I wanted to wait til sunset, but they said it wouldn't be til 9:30pm, and so I headed back, past some cows on the trail, and drove back to Glasgow, very pleased with this serene, refreshing, and oppurtunistic little hike with a magnificient view.  It made the day special, and to think I never would have seen it had my family arrived as planned.
Did not get much sleep that night, due to the time shift.  Was up early, ate breakfast, and left for the airport a little after 8:00am.  Glad to leave that place.  I had driven by the airport yesterday, so had no trouble getting there today.  My family had arrived early, and were at the curb.  Loaded up, and we were on the road a little after 9:00am, ready to start the adventure.
We drove up past Loch Lomond:
Continued up to Glen Coe:
Rather than doing a walk in Glen Coe, we drove to Fort William and drove into Glen Nevis (site of the Quidditch backdrop in Harry Potter).
Next we took a side trip to Glenfinnan, also a Harry Potter film site.  There was a short hill we walked for a view of the loch and train viaduct.
Next we drove up to our B&B in Inverinate, not too far from the Isle of Skye.  Pretty scenery all the way.
The B&B had a gorgeous setting.
Had a hearty breakfast, and went to the scenic Eilean Donan Castle, where we dropped my dad off to take a bus back to Edinburgh for his conference the following day.  We continued over the Kyle of Lochalsh bridge to the Isle of Skye.
We drove up the island, past Portree with the painted harbor houses, and on to the destination of our first hike of the day: Old Man of Storr. 
The "Old Man" is a 170ft rock pinnachle near the Storr mountain, where there are spectacular rockscapes.  My mom and sister were not hikers, and their footwear gave that away.  But we made good progress, and after a lot of work, and persuation, we all triumphed and made it to the Old Man. This was quite an incredible feat for my sister and mom.  Their first real hike, and it was certainly an adventure for them, both ascending and descending.
After we got back to the car, we drove up the coastline and stopped at various scenic overlooks. 
 A bit further on, we turned off onto a signle lane road that cut into the Trotternish Range, which led us to my most anticipated activity of the whole trip:  The Quiraing!  The name alone suggests an unusual landscape.  Slanty, sinking plateaus, rocky pinnachles, cliffs, and all sorts of other-worldly terrain.  The hike was full of drama, as we did quite a bit of scrambling (my mom and sis in lacking footwear), and made it up to The Table, a huge flat plateau that is the most amazing place I've ever been to.  A 3 page report of this hike would be necessary to give it justice, but to save time, I'll just show the pics.
This was the highlight of the entire Scotland trip.  We only saw 2 people the entire 4 hours we hiked, but were never alone, thanks to the omni-present sheep. Their peaceful, comforting presence, and gentle "mah-ahh-ahh" (my sister said it sounded like they called my name) made for a truly unique Scottish experience.  Even the remote Table had some sheep up there.
We spent more time than planned at the Quiraing, but worth every minute.  It was quite a challenge for my mom and sis to complete the hike, but they enjoyed it a ton, and my sister said, "Now I know why you go hiking every weekend."  Both my mom and sis got hiking shoes shortly after returning to NY.
We drove straight to the B&B, and had extremely achy legs when we got out of the car.  The B&B was on a farm.
This B&B was known for their large breakfast (one reason I picked them; "People don't know whether to eat it, or climb it"). It was indeed the biggest, best breakfast of any of the B&Bs we stayed at.
There was still a lot to do on Skye, and we decided on a drive to Glenbrittle, where there was supposedly an easy walk to a waterfall with the Black Cullien mountains as a backdrop.  We found the trail, and indeed the sight did not dissapoint. 
And it was now time to head back to Edinburgh, as we had about a 7hr drive to get there.  Sure would have liked to spend a few more days on this wonderful island.  My dad had sent a fax saying his bus route along Loch Ness showed nothing interesting, and he recommended we go back through the scenic Glen Coe and cut across to Stirling on the way to Edinburgh.  So we had one more enjoyable visit to Glen Coe.
Returned the car at the airport, and took a bus to Edinburgh.  My dad showed us the view around the corner of our hotel.
The rest of the week was spent in the city of Edinburgh.  Among the highlights:
We went to the castle and Royal Palace.
I met up with my dad for a whisky tasting event at his conference one evening.
My mom, sis, and I hiked up to Arthur's Seat, a 800ft mountain in the city.
We went to a Scottish dinner with music and dancing, and Haggis.
I walked to the Botanical Gardens, and elsewhere around the city.
We had dinner at a Pub, and I ordered a big fat Haggis Burger.

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