Although we've only been in Scotland a few days, we have passed the halfway point of our trip. Fortunately, months of planning on both mine and Andrea's part insures that we aren't ever wondering "What should we do today?" While those kind of trips have their place, THIS is not that kind of trip. We have an itinerary and aside from the unavoidable snafu with the delayed flight at the beginning of the trip, everything else has been smooth sailing.
Or should I say "smooth ferrying" because that's what we'll be doing today!
Let's look at our map again to get our bearings:
Yesterday we travelled from our B&B near St Andrews (C) to Stirling (E) and then up to Birnam for an overnight stop (F). Today we drive drive drive to Ft William and beyond (G) and then down to Oban (H) to catch the ferry over to the Isle of Mull (I). We have a designated time for our ferry travel, so we can't dilly dally around doing nothing in the Scottish Highlands.
Of course, every day needs to start off with a good Scottish breakfast (albeit, we have not yet had a traditional Scottish breakfast). How about warm blueberry muffins, yogurt, and oatmeal with whiskey cream?
It will knock your socks off, let me assure you. So good. Or if you'd rather, there's also scrambled eggs with salmon? I heard it was rather delicious as well.
Either way, you won't leave hungry.
Our B&B for the night was Jessie Mac's (btw, their webpage has a great photo slideshow of the place). We did have a bit of trouble finding the place last night. You would think that with only a dozen buildings in the whole town, it wouldn't be that hard to find. But we looked and looked, and it just wasn't where it was supposed to be!
Finally Andrea called and the woman explained where the B&B was. We still couldn't figure it out, and so she came down to the street to wave at us. Turns out, she was a new owner and had recently changed the name of the B&B...and we didn't know it. Ha!
The top window on the left is where we stayed.
A charming church was right next door to the B&B, and our very comfortable room had this bed as well as a bunk bed that Andrea slept in.
Before heading out of town, we had to do what we came to Birnam for in the first place: go visit the Beatrix Potter Garden and museum.
What the garden and exhibition lacked in size they made up for in charm. The whole thing was darling. Jeremy Fisher was sitting near the pond; Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and naughty Peter were sitting up on the hill, and Mrs. Tiggy Winkle was in her house.
Beatrix Potter's connection with Birnam is that she spent summers here as a child, and got ideas for her famous Peter Rabbit characters from her time in the countryside.
Inside the museum/fine arts building, there was a sweet little tea room and Beatrix Potter exhibit. We didn't actually end up touring through the exhibit because of time (it also wasn't free), but it looked like the perfectset-up for children.
I did manage to get a few Beatrix Potter souvenirs, not least of which was a box with 100 Potter Postcards. In fact, if you would like me to send you a Beatrix Potter postcard just email me your address and let me know if you have a favorite Potter character/book (the email link is in the sidebar). I would be happy to send you one (or more if you have kids who would like one) because I bought them precisely to send to people who would find them as charming as I do.
Feeling sufficiently enchanted with literary sweetness, we begin our roadtrip for the day. And of course what's a roadtrip without a couple of quick, fun stops?
We made a quick stop at the Chocolate Centre, and although we got to sample some yummy chocolate the place itself was not super exciting.
A place that could have been exciting--though we opted for less excitement--was a stop at Dewar's World of Whisky.
We had missed out on touring a distillery in Edinburgh, so we thought maybe it would be fun to do this one (in Aberfeldy). But after wandering around the shop a bit, and noticing that the tour wasn't on the inexpensive side, and considering that none of us actually care much for whisky...well, we got a picture, and hopped back on the road.
Not lingering at Dewar's gave us a little bit longer to experience the Scottish Highlands.
It was absolutely gorgeous. The fog swirled around the mountains, so it was all very mysterious and moody. As we drove, we also passed parts of the West Highland Way, a popular footpath that winds through the western part of Scotland. People hike the WHW, like people hike the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail. It's mostly a single path through the mountains, and Andrea has even hiked parts of it.
You can see the path right behind Andrea in this photo. Some of the trail runs along the road, and some of it is in rather remote parts of the country. For those who are hiking where there aren't any towns, there's the option of camping or staying in a bothie, which is an unlocked hut that once upon a time belonged to itinerant workers but now is just open to whomever happens to wander in.
No hiking for us, though. We have places to be and pictures to take!
After a couple hours of driving we made it to our first destination: the Glenfinnan Viaduct.
Although the view is quite spectacular, we didn't go just for the view. We also didn't go just to see the Glenfinnan Monument:
(To give you some perspective on the geography, imagine taking the photo of the viaduct first, and then turning directly around and then taking a picture of the monument)
No, we drove all the way through Fort William to see the viaduct because...it makes an appearance in a couple Harry Potter movies. It's the railway for the Hogwarts Express! Another place not too far off had a whole Harry Potter movie set built on it, though it has since been torn down. It was a fun moment for three Harry Potter fans.
Our funny touristy story from the viaduct: While we were there, a group of Chinese students were also there taking pictures. Someone had the clever idea of getting a branch, and then they would take turns riding the branch (ala "a witch's broomstick style" as a nod to Harry Potter) by jumping off a rock and then trying to get pictures of each other in mid-air with the viaduct in the background. Eventually, the stick broke, and their little adventure came to an end.
I wasn't paying them too much attention other than to notice their commitment to creating a fun Harry Potter moment, but as we were walking back to the parking lot, Andrea mentioned that she was happy that she still remembered enough rudimentary Chinese to understand what they were talking about. She filled us in on some of the comments they had made, and proceded to repeat a few Chinese phrases to us.
As she did so, one of the Chinese students--who had been walking not too far in front of us--turned around, presumably expecting to see one of her friends, but her expression was one of being thoroughly caught off gaurd to see my ginger haired sister speaking Chinese. She hurried away, and when we got back to the car we had a good chuckle over the whole encounter.
All right! Enough hanging around in the highlands, it's time to get to Oban. We have a ferry to catch!
We get there in plenty of time, enough time to wander around the town a little bit before all the shops close (and they are prompt about closing). We were lucky enough to find a candy shop where we could grab a few snacks for ferry trip. Extra bonus: I remembered that British candy doesn't have red dye #40 (which we try to avoid), so I made a mental note to stock up on lots of candy when we return to Oban on Saturday.
Goodbye, Oban! We hardly knew ye. We're on our way to the Isle of Mull.
Can I tell you about my stocking hat? See, I knew we were going to be taking a couple of ferry trips, so I thought I'd grab this stocking hat just for those trips. What I didn't realize is that it was going to be so cold that I would end up wearing this hat for most of the trip.
If I had known that--known that the hat would make MANY appearances in photographs--I would have bought myself a properly cute hat and matching gloves. But, alas. I did not. And now plain gray stocking cap is immortalized forever in pictures.
Let this be a lesson to you: On a trip, do not take any article of clothing you are not committed to wearing in every photograph that is taken.
Hopefully my dazzling smile compensates for my dowdy cap. Yes? Okay.
Before too long, we are docking on the Isle of Mull and making our way to the far tip of the island to the Argyll Arms Hotel.
It was a gorgeous evening for a drive.
Wow! What a sight to end the day.
We finish off the day with dinner at Argyll Arms, a game of cards, and dreamy anticipation at tomorrow's visit to an island that holds so much history for the story of Christianity.