Today we sadly left the Isle of Skye behind. There is so much more there that we wanted to see and explore, but we just didn’t plan enough time. Our list of must-do’s for our next trip to Scotland is getting longer!
We loved taking all the side roads on Skye – each one had different views and different types of scenery. Today’s view was more of what we’ve envisioned the highlands to be, with lumpy rock strewn hillsides covered in low bushes and purple heather. There are sheep everywhere of course, some are color coded, some are recently shorn and all white, and some are puffy and scruffy! If we had taken the time to snap photos along the way this morning it would have taken many hours to drive the 40 miles or so to the bridge that takes you off the island. Too many WOWs to deal with!
The bridge is a gorgeous ride all on its own. It’s built very high to allow large vessel traffic below and the view (and the wind) from up top is amazing. From there we wound our way down into less dramatic scenery, but still beautiful with hillsides divided by rock walls into farming squares and homes. We arrived at Loch Ness and we were both surprised at how big it is! The wind was blowing pretty good, so the lake was rough so I think Nellie had gone deep and not showing herself today.
We arrived at Urquhart Castle and started out in the visitor area with a short film providing an overview of the history of the castle. This castle is managed by the Historic Scotland group which does an incredible job of maintaining properties all over Scotland. We’ve been very impressed with the quality of their displays as well as the way they keep the site and also how they do restoration when it’s needed. The castles that we’ve visited that are managed by private families or groups aren’t nearly as well presented as the properties that Historic Scotland manages.
The film was excellent, showing 1,000 years of history in 5 minutes (pictures are good for this history illiterate person!). Then the film ended with the curtains behind the screen opening and you realized that the theatre was all windows on one side with an awesome view of the castle! It was really “a moment” that was well choreographed, and brought a “wow” from the entire crowd. We were then directed out a different door that led right to the grassy area in front of the castle walls. Perfect.
This castle is different from many that we’ve seen in that it hasn’t been rebuilt. It’s one of my favorites for that very reason. I really enjoyed Stirling Castle where the rooms had been brought back with exacting detail to show how it would have looked in the 1500’s, but I also enjoy seeing the ruins still standing like those of Urquhart. To imagine that people worked and played, lived and died in the walls that we are looking at 500 years later is amazing to me. The walls are thick and are built with stones and mortar made from a lime base. The walls have been strengthened in some places, but most of them are the actual walls that have been standing all this time. Amazing.
After wandering around the castle and climbing up and down crazy spiral staircases, it was still fairly early so we decided to make a couple more stops before finding our B&B. We found a smaller distillery called the Glen Ord distillery and enjoyed a wee dram tasting.
We then headed a bit farther afield on more single track roads with amazing views and 15% up and down grades, to arrive at the Corrimony Chambered Cairn near Drumnadrochit. A chambered cairn is a “passage-grave” that consists of a central chamber within a larger cairn accessed by a narrow passage. This one has standing stones around it and is remarkably well-preserved when you consider it was built 4,000 years ago! Mind boggling.
So now we’re happily ensconced in our very spacious B&B that is right on the shore of Loch Ness. It’s been pretty amusing to see all the different B&B’s that we booked. This one is actually the old manse for the church that sits next door. You could fit two of the rooms we had last night into this one! We’re comfy and cozy and it’s time for some zzzzzzs…..slainte!