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Each journey begins with a single step... Two kiwis escaping from the island to explore strange new worlds and boldly go where thousands have gone before... . .


UNITED KINGDOM | Sunday, 1 August 2010 | Views [846]

We started our tour of Scotland by going to Edinburgh and staying with Kents cousin Brian (on his fathers side). We took the opportunity of cleaning everything while we were there. Thanks Brian, hope your vacuum cleaner will recover! Brian lives in an extended and renovated old cottage in the countryside and we saw wild deer feeding in the wheat field just over the fence when they thought no-one was home.

Kents other cousin Andrew (on his mothers side) also happens to live in Edinburgh but he was unable to see us until the following weekend so we headed off and spent a day seeing Edinburgh city and castle and did a tour of the southwest for a few days seeing the countryside over by (but not including) the island of Mull. As we passed by Glencoe we were in mountain territory, these mountains are around 1000 meters and less so not very high and some are green to the top. Winding around the lochs and taking as many small roads as we could we managed to have some great views and met some interesting people. One road we went over (just because of the name) was called at one end 'Hell's Glen' and at the other 'Rest and Be Thankful'!

Back at Edinburgh we visited Andrew and his family and had a lovely afternoon with them on a brilliantly sunny day, unusual, each day is usually cloudy with some rain and just a bit of fine weather thrown is to stop you from completely dispairing.

North again, this time past the bottom of Loch Ness and over to the Isle of Skye picking up a couple of French hitchhikers on the way. The land as we move north becomes less like the picture perfect patchwork fields of England and more like the less perfect paddocks of home. The road took us almost to Fort William and from it we were able to see Ben Nevis the highest mountian in the British Isles standing at 1344 mtrs and its surrounding companions also over 1000 mtrs. These mountains are craggy and rocky, they must look cool in winter when they are covered in snow but today they just looked like interesting hills.

The Isle of Skye is a special place for Carol as it from this place that her grandmothers McRae (or MacRae, MacRa, MacRath etc etc) line hails in the long distant past. Kintail just before you cross onto the Isle is a MacRae stronghold and still full of this family. We were able to see the Eileen Donan Castle which is known as the MacRae Castle and the church in Dornie which was founded by and is maintained by McRaes. Also there was an amazing old cemetary on a hill looking back down toward the castle and town which was full of McRaes and inside the old derelect church was a huge clan plaque on the wall – cool.

We spent the next day driving all over Skye which is a pretty island and full of tourist of course at this time of year being school holidays. Carol visited two areas from which there had been clearances (forceful removal of families from their rented crofts in order to turn the land into sheep farms) but it didn't seem as if they had anything to do with her direct line family.

North again along the mostly coastal road we headed for Lochinver and pies. We just had to stop in Ullapool a picturesque town on the shore of Loch Broom, the sun came out as we arrived and made us welcome there. We had to get petrol, it cost £1.27 per litre, at large towns we can usually find it for around £1.14. Taking a tiny road from Drumrunie we wandered through a magical land of small lakes and hills. The road was like a paved walking track with passing places every 100 mtrs or so. Brian had told us that in Lochinver they made the most wonderful pies so of course we had to stop and sample them. We chose the most unusual ones and got a Haggis, neeps & tatties, a Chesnut, mushroom & red wine, and a Venison & cranberry. We were also unable to resist their Banoffee Pie, Chocolate & Baileys cheesecake, and Millionaires Tart. A yummy meal gone as quick as a wink! Haha. One thing we do miss is the good old Kiwi pies, nothing quite like them we must say, the pies here are made with a type of short pastry instead of flakey and it makes quite a difference.

As we continued on our northward trek the weather started to disintegrate and by the time we headed around North-West Sutherland we found we were driving in rain and mist and unable to see very much at all except for a couple of huge golden sand beaches. Our luck held when we turned into a parking area to use the toilets and the sun came out and we discovered we had stopped at the Smoo Cave! Excellent, we wandered down and visited it and also the top where a stream literally falls into a hole and into the cave, very interesting. But then the weather closed in again as we headed east along the northern coast towards Thurso. On an impulse we turned down a road heading south again and found ourselves in Helmsdale and drove down the coast to the area around Dornoch where Carol was able to get a photo standing by the grave of her 4 x removed great grandparents.

We have come to the conclusion that Highland men must wear something under their kilts otherwise with these biting midges there'd be no next generation! In fact with all this rain, mist and cold winters why would you even have a thing like a kilt...

Some names of places we have passed: Badcall (Upper & Lower), Coldbackie, Craggie, Farr, Brawl, Hope, and Duress – whoops oh no that should be Durness - kind of gives you a good idea of the places doesn't it.

On the southward journey we took in Dornoch History Museum, the Black Isle organic beer distillery, the Highland Folk Museum at Newtownmore, the Glenlivet Forest & Distillery. Out to the coast from just below Aberdeen to St Andrews and back into Edinburgh for another visit with Brian (yes, he had us back! Beggar for punishment :) and a chance for Carol to visit the new Family History centre there to try researching more of her family roots.

Next stop back into England and the Yorkshire Dales


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