Scotland, September 1995

I was in London for the BBC Proms 95 "The Centenary Season" (or, more specifically for the last week of the proms and the "Last Night of the Proms").

Since I didn't have any other vacation in 1995, I decided to add two more weeks in the UK to the trip. I hadn't been in Scotland before, so I thought "Why not go there?" So I took a plane to Inverness and rented a car there and did a round trip of north-western Scotland for ten days.

Originally I was a bit worried about having to drive on the left side, but the actual driving turned out to be less of a problem than I feared. (Although I banged my right hand on the car door a couple of times, trying to reach for the gear lever.) Many of the streets on the route were single track roads anyway, so it often didn't make much of a difference anyway - until suddenly another car comes right at you and have to remember not trying to pass it on the right.

I started in Inverness - mostly because it was the most northern airport in Scotland that offered car rental. From there I drove along Loch Ness and Loch Lochy, visiting Urquhart Castle - what's left of it.

Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness, Scottland Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness, Scottland

I reached Fort William in the early afternoon, so I went for a short hike. After a short walk, the path led through a small gorge, which opened up into a very idyllic valley with grazing sheep and a waterfall.

Valley with sheep Valley with waterfall Waterfall

At that point I hadn't quite made my homework. Fort William is next to Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK, and if I had paid attention, I probably would have added another day in Fort Williams and hike to the top of it. But since I had to be in Kyle of Lochalsh the next evening, I didn't seem to have enough time for it, so I took the lazy route and took the cableway up to Aonach Mor next to it and enjoyed the view from there.

View from Aonach Mor

Then I drove to Kyle of Lochalsh, visting Eilean Donan Castle on the way.

Eilean Donan Castle Eilean Donan Castle Eilean Donan Castle, evening

I stayed in Kyle of Lochalsh for two nights, so I had time for a day trip around the Isle of Skye. The weather started out fine, with blue skies and whispy cloud formations, but turned rather foggy later during the day. First stop on the way was in Portree, which is an idyllic little village. Too idyllic actually, if you've ever seen "The Prisoner". Although it has nothing to do with the series (which had location shooting in Wales), the shop used the same fonts on their signs and also had the same generic names. But I managed to leave anyway and continue to Dunvegan Castle, which has a seal colony nearby, so I also went on a short boat trip to see the seals. Further sightseeing got rather dull due to the weather, so I went back to Kyle of Lochalsh and had an early dinner.

Approaching Skye, looking at Castle Moil Sky over Skye Portree shops Coastal waterfall, Skye
Dunvegan Castle Dunvegan Castle, old and new parts Seal colony, Isle of Skye Seal colony, Isle of Skye Foggy weather, Isle of Skye

The trip then continued mostly along the small costal roads around the northern end of Scotland, passing the Falls of Mesach on the way to Ullapool. I did a short boat tour to the Summer Isles (which are named with the same euphemistic spirit that came up with the name "Greenland"). Not much to see there, but the place seems to be (reasonably) well known among philatelists, since the place issues its own stamps. From there the trip continued along the coast, allowing visits to the Smoo Cave near Durness and Dunnet Head, the most northerly point of the British mainland. From there I headed back towards Inverness, with a stop at Dunrobin Castle

Falls of Measach, south of Ullapool Mountain, pretending to be a volcano Weather resistant cat, Summer Isles, Scotland Post office, restaurant, shop and basically everything else on Summer Isles, Scotland Smoo Cave entrance

While the other castles I had seen in Scotland had looked like fortresses, Dunrobin Castle has more of a playful style and looks like it might be located somewhere in France or Bavaria (or Disneyland, come to think of it).

Dunrobin Castle, Scotland Dunrobin Castle, Scotland Gardens at Dunrobin Castle, Scotland Gardens at Dunrobin Castle, Scotland

That more or less concluded my self-drive part of the vacation, so I drove back to Inverness, returned the car and flew to Edinburgh for a few more days of sightseeing. (And to which I returned five years later for the Year 2000 Hogmanay celebration.)

Sunset in Edinburgh Holyrood Castle panorama

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