A Travellerspoint blog

Scotland

Up North

sunny 14 °C
View Speyside on IainT's travel map.

Spey Fishing

Spey Fishing

Instead of 10 days in Kyiv or Tirana for my September holiday, I ended up with 3 nights in Aberlour - Speyside in Scotland.

Aye, the virus rages on…

It was a fairly random choice. I decided on midweek because accommodation is easier to get than on weekends. I decided on this part of the country because I know people here. I have driven through Aberlour and this part of Speyside countless times, always thinking I need to stop and spend time here sometime.

Craigellachie Bridge

Craigellachie Bridge

So, Aberlour it was. The town is tiny. Just under 1,000 people. However, it is at the heart of Speyside whisky. The Spey is one of the country’s best salmon rivers, so the fishing is a big part of the economy too.

You find whisky distilleries around almost every corner.

Random Distillery

Random Distillery

You see fisherman dotted along the river at regular intervals.

Aberlour

Aberlour

I chose Dowans - a small, family hotel - to stay in. I was very happy with it. Good value, excellent room, good food and service, quiet and relaxed. Just as importantly these days, their hygiene measures were spot on. Even the other guests managed to comply.

Hotel Restaurant

Hotel Restaurant

Partly because I knew about the excellent hygiene, I chose to eat there in the evening as well. I ate/drank in two other places while I was away. The cafe (Fresh) in the village was also right on the ball with hygiene. So was the Captain’s Table in Findhorn.

Findhorn Bay

Findhorn Bay

Three nights is too short, but in the circumstances it has been a godsend.

Posted by IainT 06:33 Archived in Scotland Tagged whisky scotland findhorn aberlour Comments (0)

Hotel

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View Forres on IainT's travel map.

Knockomie

Knockomie

I have have been to a hotel. Can you imagine?

On Friday afternoon I decided enough was enough, and I had to get away from home. It was just for one night (Saturday) but then it was all very last minute.

The hotel is in Forres, which is 3 hours drive north. It is also where my father was from, so my memories of the place go back as far as I do. Grandmother. Uncle and aunt. Cousins. Summer holidays. Easter visits.

Findhorn Village

Findhorn Village

I have been driving past that hotel as long as it has been there (33 years), and never gone in. To be honest, I never saw it as my kind of place. Full of old people. Old people who think they are a bit posh because they can afford it.

I suppose I am one of them now, but without the posh bit. And the money obviously - a cheap last minute deal.

I enjoyed the drive to get there - the pure novelty of driving for 3 hours after weeks of living under restrictions.

I was perfectly happy with the hotel’s hygiene arrangements. My room was pleasant and quiet. I slept well. They provided an excellent dinner and breakfast.

Aside from the sheer liberation of the escape and staying somewhere which is away from home, I can pick out several highlights. First, an afternoon walk beside the River Findhorn. No sound except the roar of the water.

River Findhorn at Logie

River Findhorn at Logie

Next, an evening walk in Findhorn village. It had a real “end of summer” feel. The village was its usual mixture of busy but quiet, locals and visitors. I chose to go at that time hoping for a typical Findhorn sunset. I chose well.

Findhorn Sunset

Findhorn Sunset

Then my Couch to 5k session at 6am on Sunday. Session 17. I went to the town’s Grant Park, where my father played cricket as a youngster. His old school - Forres Academy - is across the street.

Grant Park, Forres

Grant Park, Forres

Finally, a Sunday morning 3 hour hike in Culbin Forest. For the first 2 hours of my hike I saw no-one. I had geese, butterflies and a seal for company.

Culbin Shore

Culbin Shore

The Forest is fascinating. It was planted to fix the sand dunes now beneath it, to stop them moving. Some are over 20m high. I loved being able to walk in solitude for 2 hours, surrounded by trees, with no noise apart from the geese, the sea occasionally, and my footsteps.

Culbin Forest

Culbin Forest

I wonder if the geese are resident or migrating.

Posted by IainT 23:13 Archived in Scotland Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises beaches skylines trees sky boats scotland life transport Comments (0)

Scottish Islands

all seasons in one day 13 °C

Lockdown Reading

Lockdown Reading

Earlier this month I was looking for books to buy and found Scottish Island Bagging. Click, click, click and it was on its way to me from the publisher (in Sheffield, oddly enough).

Apart from a summer job in an Arran hotel in 1972, for most of my life the Scottish islands were a blank spot on my travel map. I remember a couple of day trips to Stornoway for work, and an overnight business trip to Shetland when we worked for 16 hours out of 24.

I woke up to this a few years ago and started to put things right.

Vatersay/Bhatarsaigh

Vatersay/Bhatarsaigh

In the space of 5-6 years I have visited Gigha, Islay, Tiree, Colonsay, Mull, Iona, Staffa, Ulva, Lismore, Seil, Kerrera, Luing, Easdale, Eigg, Barra, Vatersay, Eriskay, Lewis and Harris.

I have been back to Arran a few times in that period, and to Orkney (which I first visited about 10 years ago).

St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney

St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney

From my home in Fife, just across the water from Edinburgh, all these places make for quite a long trip and careful planning is needed. If a ferry is involved, often it means getting to Oban first and that is a 3 hour drive. Mallaig - for Eigg - is a good bit further. Tayinloan or Kennacraig, for Gigha and Islay respectively are also a 3 hour drive.

Usually you have to be at the ferry terminal at least 30 minutes before departure, and with building in a bit of time for toilet stops and contingencies, you have to leave the house at least 4 hours before the ferry time. You will have to make a reservation if you want to take your car on the more popular routes, and well in advance in the summer months. On the smaller ferries you just drive up and get on the next one.

Gigha Ferry

Gigha Ferry

I flew to Barra, Lewis, Tiree and Colonsay. Loganair was the carrier for most of those short hops, but I used Hebridean Air from Oban to get to Colonsay. All those flights are on small planes and lots of fun.

Waiting

Waiting

During the peak season accommodation is at a premium in these small places, so that has to form part of the advance planning. I think I have only once been disappointed by accommodation on the islands, but remember that it is a short season with relatively high demand (in normal times) so what you get may not always seem like value for money if compared with other parts of the country.

Where would be top of my list to return to? Iona. It is special. It has so much of the country’s history as well as being remote and slightly spiritual. I am not “spiritual” but on Iona I got it.

Jura Ferry

Jura Ferry

Where is top of my list to go to for the first time? Well, I will finish my book before I make up my mind, but at the moment Coll, Raasay or Canna.

Coll is a strong possibility because I loved nearby Tiree, and it is on Hebridean Air’s route map as well as Calmac's.

Raasay is easily accessible from Skye, which is a long drive from home but no ferries are involved. My late father had a long involvement with the buyout of the island from its absentee landlord during the 1970s, so I would love to see how it is now.

I loved my time on Eigg, and getting there and back by car, train and ship, so another of the Small Isles beckons. Canna seems right.

My View, Eigg

My View, Eigg

Meantime, I am staying at home and trying to stay safe. A good book helps.

Posted by IainT 23:31 Archived in Scotland Tagged beaches planes boats scotland ferries transport flights lewis airlines orkney barra lismore islay stornoway eigg calmac islandlife colonsay steòrnabhagh leòdhas na_hearadh barraigh vatersay bhatarsaigh eiriosgaigh eriskay Comments (0)

Holyrood

sunny 18 °C

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The last few weeks might look like a blank page in my travel journals, and it is true I have not been anywhere very interesting - with a notable exception - but I have been busy with planning for a holiday in September.

The exception was a visit to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh for a work meeting. It was 100% work, but in some ways a privilege too.

Visitor

Visitor

It was the kind of meeting my boss would usually attend, but he was away on holiday. It was a briefing from a Cabinet Secretary on a particular issue, and while a few other staffers like me were there, mostly it was MSPs and MPs around the table.

I have been to the Parliament as a visitor a couple of times, and for work several times, so any novelty about the place has worn off. It has been replaced with a sense of belonging coupled with a familiarity which does not obscure the unique architecture

Scottish Parliament

Scottish Parliament

Part of the experience is its location in such a historic part of the city, opposite Holyrood Palace. For me it means a 10-20 minute walk from the railway or bus station down the Canongate (part of the Royal Mile) either dodging the tourist throngs, or enjoying the fact that it is winter.

Entrance Hall

Entrance Hall

Some part of the building are open to the public, and guided tours are available. You will find a cafe and gift shop in the ground floor public areas. They often have exhibitions in this area over the summer when Parliament is in recess and the building is quieter. All visitors have to go through airport type security at the entrance.

Merchandise

Merchandise

The Parliament’s future is in doubt at the moment. The Conservatives hate it because under the system of proportional representation used for its elections, they will always be a minority. They see it as a platform for the SNP and the independence movement. They would love to shut it down, or emasculate it, and Brexit may be their perfect opportunity.

Saor Alba!

Saor Alba!

The current (minority) government in the Parliament is an SNP one and with support from the Scottish Greens (also pro independence) most legislation can be passed.

Posted by IainT 00:03 Archived in Scotland Tagged scotland edinburgh brexit Comments (0)

Orkney - Basics

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View Orkney on IainT's travel map.

Stromness Sunday

Stromness Sunday

Time for a summary of the nuts and bolts of my visit to Orkney in July 2019.

I flew from Aberdeen to Kirkwall (and vice versa) with Loganair. Aberdeen is not the closest airport to home (it is Edinburgh) and whilst Loganair does fly between Edinburgh and Kirkwall, the flight times from Aberdeen suited me better.

Loganair's Saab 2000

Loganair's Saab 2000

The flights cost £146 return, and that ticket class includes a checked in bag.

Kirkwall Airport Terminal

Kirkwall Airport Terminal

It is possible to drive to Orkney obviously, with several ferry options from the north coast. However, it is a journey of close to 7 hours each way and for a short weekend break, that makes no sense.

I stayed overnight at Aberdeen Airport on the outward trip, at the Moxy Hotel. It cost £51, with breakfast (£12) and parking (£5) extra.

Moxy Decor

Moxy Decor

I arranged parking at Aberdeen Airport with Park and Depart whilst I was in Orkney. It cost £20 from first thing Friday until Sunday evening.

Moxy Lounge

Moxy Lounge

In Kirkwall I stayed two nights at the Storehouse, which I did a stand alone review of.

Location, Location, Location

Location, Location, Location

I took the public bus between the airport and the town centre. It runs every 30 minutes most of the time - less on Sunday. The journey takes less than 15 minutes.

Kirkwall Airport

Kirkwall Airport

I also used the public bus to visit Stromness - a 30 minute trip each way. I am the proud owner of a Scottish Government bus pass (free to all over 60s), so I paid nothing.

I had booked flights to and from North Ronaldsay for the Saturday. It is the most northerly of the islands, with Loganair’s Inter Island service being the alternative to the twice weekly ferry. It cost £18 each way. Sadly, they could not fly that day due to mist and low cloud on North Ronaldsay.

Posted by IainT 02:25 Archived in Scotland Tagged planes food scotland restaurants flights aberdeen airlines orkney kirkwall islandlife Comments (0)

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