I am not going to lie, it was difficult to leave Skye with so much unexplored. However, today was a new day! We were off to the opposite side of the country, from Skye to Pitlochry. As we made our way down the winding roads, we couldn’t help but be in awe of how different each part of Scotland is from the next! Our first view of Loch Ness made us feel like we were in the PNW, not at all like anything we had seen in Scotland so far.
We ended up stopping in Ft. Augustus, partly by accident, but it was on our list of places to go. We are glad we did! Works were being done on the Caledonian Canal and we got to see it in operation. There is also a good amount of history here, old fort works, construction of the canal and the Clansman Centre. While it is a popular tourist stop and you can definitely feel that here, it is a charming place to visit. We enjoyed our fist bit of tourist shopping so far and scored a made in the UK wool cardigan on sale for 10 pounds.
From Ft Augustus, we made our way to Urquhart Castle. Urquhart Castle is part of the Historic Scotland Pass and has excellent presentations. We participated in the history talk with an overview of the castle and area as well as the Historic Reenactor talk. He was quite humorous and very informative. He gave a display of traditional highland weaponry and dress. He also pointed out some things of significance to do in the area. The castle itself is magnificently perched on a point near the deepest part of Loch Ness. It makes for a beautiful place to try to spot Nessie from. The castle’s old water gate takes you right down to the loch and is a fun photo op.
Loch Ness is one of those places that instills a sense of wonder in you. It is shrouded in a sort of mythical cloud that makes you want to never leave until you have solved all of its mysteries. From the clan fighting along this all important watery highway to stories of a monster in the deep, it’s no wonder that so many people visit this area. Urquhart is an excellent starting point to launch an exploration of this beautiful and mysterious area.
From Urquhart we made our way north to Inverness. We stopped for a late lunch and met up with some local geocachers. This was our second time to briefly be in Inverness. We realize now, after the end of our trip, that Inverness and Loch Ness deserve more attention and we should have taken a day each to explore them both.
From Inverness it was on to Pitlochry. The part of the Cairngorms we drove through was beautiful, even though not as dramatic as the Great Glen landscape we had grown familiar with over the last couple of days. We stayed in the Atholl Palace Hotel, a 19th Century Estate built specifically to be a hotel. We appreciated it’s lovely architecture and luxurious feel. We could have spent an entire weekend at this retreat without ever leaving the property. Happy to have two choices for on-site dining and laundry facilities, we were ready to take a slower pace here over the May bank holiday weekend.
One of our “ I hope this happens while in Scotland” items was crossed off in the pub situated in a tucked away corner of the hotel. We had a sing a long! Over a pint of Magners cider and a venison pie, we sang many songs with the entertainer who happened to be from Dunoon and was very familiar with the US Navy’s time in Holy Loch. His wife actually served up our fish an chips at Anselmo’s. We shouldn’t have been so surprised, it is a Small world, after all.