Hello, and welcome back to your annual story time of Ben and Sarah’s international adventures! Keeping with the tradition of the last few years, Sarah and I visited with her family, this year going back to Scotland.
Thursday, 26-Dec-2019 and Friday, 27-Dec-2019
After Christmas day, we packed up the van (Yep, there was a van!) and headed into the great unknown!
Well, unknown for us. Bill and Greta had made this drive a few times already, so they were our tour guides for the adventure! We set off from Aberdeen (on the Eastern side of Scotland) aiming toward the far Western side… though not all the way West, just pretty far West. The lovely isle of Skye!
To get there, we passed through the Cairngorms, a beautiful mountain range in the center of Scotland. We’d done a bit of hiking there the last time we were in Scotland, so we really enjoyed this chance to tour through the mountains in their entirety – we made a few tourist stops to get some amazing views, and enjoyed ourselves immensely.
The weather and conditions were actually quite mild compared to our expectations – There was some snow, but none near where we stopped off, and I don’t think we actually got any snow underfoot at any point. It was absolutely cold, don’t get me wrong, but it was somehow a more enjoyable cold than I was expecting… not quite the sharp biting cold that I’ve gotten accustomed to in the Pacific Northwest mountains. More of a seeping cold, that slowly creeps up on you through the various layers and jackets.
It was amazing.
Our final stop on the first day was the historic Loch Ness, where we stayed at the Ben Leva Inn. After a long day of driving through the mountains, it was absolutely perfect. We had amazing sunset views over the Loch, and the Inn had the exact warm and welcoming feeling that you’d hope for in a Scottish Inn at the end of a long travel day. The main room had excellent / hearty food, and the fireplace was warm and roaring. We ate, played some cards, chatted, and turned in for an early night.
The second day of driving took us past Loch Ness and on toward our final destination on Skye. It started early, but thankfully it also started with some very lovely bagged lunched by the Ben Leva staff – so absolutely a win in my book. Though… maybe not so much a win for the drivers, who had to navigate the dark Scottish roads hours before sunrise. But they handled the van adroitly, and we wound our way steadily toward the coast.
One quick side story here: The Loch Ness Monster.
We never saw Nessie, though I do now have a personal encounter story. You see, we stayed over at Loch Ness, and the morning that we left our hosts gave us some lovely bagged lunches. There was a sandwich, a fruit, and a soda for everyone. Cokes, Sprite, and even a few IRN-BRU Scottish drinks.
We stopped off to get groceries later on in the day, and when we came back one of the IRN-BRU cans was leaking everywhere. “Ohh no! I must have left it open on the seat!” I cried.
But no – the can wasn’t leaking from the top! It was leaking from a puncture mark on the side?
And wait a moment… there wasn’t any soda anywhere. No wet spots, no puddles, no sticky residue. It was as if the soda hadn’t ever even existed.
That was when I realized that the puncture hole bore a striking resemblance to a Plesiosaur tooth.
Now, any logical person will cite Occam’s Razor, and will tell you that the soda must have absorbed into the seats, or dried up, or something of the like. But I know the truth. In my heart of hearts, I know that Nessie likes IRN-BRU.
Anyways aside from Nessie, there was Skye.
Skye was beautiful. We saw it first from the shore, a bit after we stopped at Eilean Donan castle to see the most photographed castle in Scotland, but before we crossed the huge bridge connecting Skye to the mainland of Scotland. It was gorgeous, even with the omni-present rain.
Somehow, to me at least, the rain really makes the whole picture. Scotland in my mind isn’t sunny and warm… Scotland is harsh, and bleak, and has at least semi-constant mist. That makes the few rays of sunshine that much more poignant… and boy did Skye not disappoint that first day.
We started off with a quick stop at a beautiful seaside down, moseying inland past Sligachan bridge, and toward the Talisker Distillery. We even stopped in at a beautiful artists shop above the distillery, where Sarah got a chance to chat and talk shop with one of the owners.
We explored, photographed, got a bit rained on, and enjoyed ourselves immensely.
Later on the day, once the house we were staying at was ready for us, we headed into Portree to the nice warm house…