28 June, 2014

London, Final Day

So today is the very last day of the trip.  We head for the airport tomorrow morning.  We did a few things today but nothing crazy.  First, here was the view from our hotel when we checked in yesterday.

We're in the Grange Holborn.  Very cute hotel.  Large but doesn't feel too impersonal.  Great location.  Close enough that this morning, we walked over to the British Museum.  I won't go through everything we saw as many of you were with me last year when I visited.  If not, look back to Jan/Feb of 2013.  Here are just a few photos of some of the highlights.

We then wandered down to Forbidden Planet, one of the best nerd stores on the planet.  One whole floor of toys, games, t-shirts and figurines and another floor of books.  Best store ever.  :-)  I spent far too much money on Doctor Who stuff. 

The last thing we did tonight was a play called the Drowned Man. http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/the-drowned-man-a-hollywood-fable  It's a massive, interactive experience.  R had been to something similar in NYC and loved it.  So we explored the play for three hours.  I wish I were able to go again to really get a better feel for it, but it was amazingly detailed.  Quite a production. 

So that's really, truly it for me on this trip.  Hopefully there will be another big one towards the end of the year.  Until then, safe travels!

27 June, 2014

Inverness to London

Today was mostly a travel day.  We got up and headed out of Inverness to one last distillery of the trip.  Dalwhinnie. This happens to be R's favorite whisky of all.  So in we went and had a lovely tasting paired with chocolate.

 On the recommendation of the people there at Dalwhinnie, we headed to the next town over to discover the chocolate shop.  Unfortunately we couldn't get a tour as it was too late, but we did have a delightful lunch and an amazing cup of hot chocolate.

This guy really knows how to make some chocolate!

Then we raced back to Edinburgh and managed to catch a train within a few minutes.  It was a very long but peaceful ride into London.  We've now checked into our hotel and plan on taking it pretty easy tomorrow.  A few minor things to visit, but you've all seen these places before.  I'm sure I'll post one more time before I go home on Sunday, but this is pretty much it.  We've covered three major cities in Scotland and had tons of fun doing it.  Current count is 5 bottles of Scotch that are coming home with me.  Plus about 7 or 8 mini bottles for tasting.  Apparently in all we've tried over 40 different types of whisky.  For those of you who live or work near me, get ready for a tasting!

Inverness, Day 2

After several samples of whisky last night, we made a plan.  It was time to cruise Loch Ness.  No real need to search for the monster, but we we were after good views and a relaxing start to our day.  The cruise went down the Caledonian Canal and into Loch Ness.  It's almost impossible to see in the photos but the water is the most amazing shade of inky black blue.  Apparently there is a lot of peat in the water which makes it very murky.  It's also about 275 feet deep and seems impossibly long.  You really have to see it to believe it. It was also unbelievably windy out on the water.

The big moment is coming up to Urquhart Castle from the loch.  It's still pretty amazing even from the water.

After the ride back, we decided to just wander around town a bit.  (and shop and drink)

At some point, we also decided we hadn't seen enough distilleries and we headed out to the Glen Ord and tried some Singleton.

And back in town, we walked along the river and across the bounciest suspension bridge I've ever been on.  Honestly, I wasn't sure we weren't going to get bounced off.

That was it for a very full day in Inverness.  We ended up at a place called the Hootenany for dinner.  It was lots of fun and delicious.  One more short day and we'll be all caught up!

Oban to Inverness

Castles, castles everywhere and maybe a drop (or two) to drink.  That was the main theme of the day.  However, it's late and therefore tonight's entry is going to be short on text and long on pictures.

We packed up and got ready to head out of Oban.  First we made a quick stop at McCaig's Tower on the top of the hill looking down at Oban.  For the first time on the trip we actually had rain.  Not too bad, but we got pretty damp.

This "tower" was built between 1887 and 1902 by John Stuart McCaig.  He wanted something like the Colosseum in Rome complete with statues of himself and his siblings inside.  He died before it could be finished.  Now the town of Oban is left with this monument and grassy space on top of a hill overlooking the town.  It does provide some great views though.

On our way out of town, we also decided to stop by the first castle of the day.  This was Dunstaffnage Castle and Chapel just outside Oban.  It's pretty much a ruin like many of them at this point.  It was built around 1220 by the McDougalls.  Interesting fact... the castle was once besieged by Robert the Bruce during the War of Independence.

On the grounds of the castle is also a little chapel.  Apparently it's a "stunning" example of 13th century architecture. 

We then really hit the road and headed for Inverness.  Of course we had a few stops along the way.  The first one was a tiny little castle ruin called Old Inverlochy Castle near Fort William.   Apparently once upon a time, this was a very important castle through the civil wars of 1640.    There wasn't a whole lot to see there, but we stopped anyway.

Soon after that, we begin to hit the lochs.  This area was absolutely stunning.  First was Loch Lochy and then Loch Ness.  Also along the way, we stopped at the Ben Nevis distillery and paused to photograph the mountain as well. If I haven't mentioned it before, R and I have been having quite an education in Whisky.  This was one of many distillery stops on the road.

Along the border of Loch Ness, we discovered Urquhart Castle.  This one was amazing.  Huge and imposing, it overlooks the loch.  I'll talk more about Loch Ness in tomorrow's post.  In the meantime, enjoy the views of this 13th century castle.


We moved on to Inverness after that.  We didn't to too much that first night.  A few drinks in our hotel bar and a steak dinner at a lovely little place in town.  We did however finally eat haggis.  Surprisingly it was really good.  Very flavorful and not at all suspect.

In our walk around town we saw some lovely views.

Then it was off to bed.  Hopefully I can get one or two more posts done tonight and be up to date.  It took most of the train ride to London to get this one all together.  Cheers!