Hey, come back here!
Welcome to part 2 of my vacation slides. This part will be about our trip to the Orkney Islands and down the northwest coast of Scotland. In order to keep this brief, I've left out a lot of the good parts like the time we stayed in a little B and B on the highway outside of Wick and it was just like staying at your Aunty Bee's house, with a nice couple in their 80s, lots of rules, old quilts, and a shower that ran on what sounded like an old weed whacker motor.
Let's start with the ferry trip over to the Island.
Drew bought us the special Big Spenders' Lounge ferry tickets. There were four of us in a lounge the size of an average bar, so that was nice I guess. There were shortbread cookies, some weird caramel bricks, plus a glass of wine. I felt quite posh as I Jansplained to Drew how the term posh was reputed to be derived from the old pleasure cruises down the European coast from London. The best tickets were for seats on the port side of the boat while traveling south (as one had a view of the coast as opposed to open ocean) and the starboard side of the boat when returning back up north (same reason). Hence, PORT OUT STARBOARD HOME were the best and most expensive tickets. POSH. He was, naturally, eager to learn and not at all humoring me.
You can take really awesome photos of the Standing Stones of Stenness, a small but impressive henge that archeologists are still studying, but if you look closely at unretouched photos, you can spot the farmhouses and sheep that crowd up around it on three sides (the road is on the fourth side). So it is hard to feel as if you are surrounded by the ghosts of the mysteries or whatever, especially when you read the interpretive kiosk and learn that a farmer had once planned to blow them up with dynamite to get them out of the way of his farm.
BUT STILL. They are big, impressive, ancient, and I touched them. You can walk right up to them and touch them. And I also want you to see this cool photo.
We got sidetracked at the Standing Stones because it was on the way to Skara Brae.
Skara Brae is a 5,000 year old stone age village that lay buried under sand for 4,000 of those years until uncovered after a particularly hard storm in 1850. It was fitfully and destructively excavated until proper study began in the 1920s. It has remained an archeological treasure ever since.
Skara Brae has been a fascination of mine since I first read about it, I'm guessing in National Geographic, some umpteen years ago. I don't know why it captured my imagine so fully, but if you feel the same way, you can learn more about it here.
There were other ruins, other henges, but there's just one more thing I want to show you from Orkney: The Tomb of the Eagles.
The Tomb of the Eagles sounds pretty cool, but I think I would have called it the Tomb of All Those Skulls Plus Some Eagle Talons, but they didn't ask me. The tomb was found on a farmer's land when he happened upon a cave filled with human bones and skulls. There were also a number of eagle talons mixed in with the skulls, so they theorized that maybe the eagles knew a good snack cupboard when they saw one and took advantage of the free food.
Of all the attractions I dragged Drew to, this one was one of the few not owned by either Historic Environment Scotland or the National Trust for Scotland. This one was privately owned (actually by that original farmer's family), and was much more cavalier about the artifacts found there. I TOUCHED A SKULL! I also touched some stone tools and maybe some eagle talons? I lost track. And bonus, the entryway is so small, you have to get in by scooting in on your belly, on a wheeled cart. Like this:
FYI, there are no bones left to discover in the tomb. (I checked.) But you can touch some in the visitors center. Tell them I sent you. (It will mean nothing.)
Thanks for visiting Orkney with me. If you ask me, I'll show you one hundred more photos I took.
We wanted to make sure we didn't miss Smoo Cave in the far northwestern tip of Scotland. Some of the reason was because I read about it, but some of the reason was because of the name.
I took this particular photo out of a moving car because I wanted to capture the colors happening to the water on this beautiful sunny day in the far north.
Whew. After a long day of driving on one-lane roads, it's time to choose a menu, wait in the drawing room of our posh hotel until called upon, then be served a number of courses with little bits of lemon sherbet in between to cool our palettes. I thought a lot about Rodney Dangerfield's character in Caddy Shack.
Whereas the northeast coast of Scotland seemed to alternate between sheep farms and industry, the northwest of Scotland seems to alternate between sheep farms, wild moors, and gorgeous seascapes. Our catch phrase for this area was SCENIC AF.
The heather hills are dramatic. The clouds are dramatic. And the roads are dramatic AF because there is only one lane, lots of corners and hills, and you never know when another car is going to come barreling toward you. There are turnouts for when you meet a car coming from the other direction, but they are not always there when you need them.
Hey, let's see more of that dramatic Scotland scenery!
Apparently mistakes were made when we got to the Torridon Hotel, the one real posh splurge we had planned, and they gave us the fanciest room in the place, the room with the big bow window looking out over the grounds of the estate. See the biggest room in this picture, the one on the second floor? That's our room.
I knew I overpaid, but I didn't realize by how much until I saw the room.
...and the bathroom.
In the morning it was time to remove our Nissan X-Trail from among the Teslas and move along before they realized their mistake. Next stop: Isle of Skye.
Now that we have driven many miles south on the west coast, we are now down closer to Glasgow and other population centers, which we noticed because of the amount of tourists we had to navigate through on the Isle of Skye. We no longer felt like we had the place to ourselves. Luckily, our hotel was tucked away on a less traveled thumb of the island and we had a nice evening there.
These castles sure know how to pose for photos. I dragged Drew to many more ruined castles, but I won't drag you there. I just want you to see this one last castle.
This is not the best photo of Castle Stalker, but it is MY photo of Castle Stalker. I made the hotel reservations in Port Appin for it, I hiked a couple miles for it, and I lugged my telephoto lens all over Scotland for it. So I'm going to leave you here with this photo of this ridiculous cardboard box of a castle, beloved for only one reason.
Thanks for watching my vacation slides and only yawning once or twice. If you like what you see, I have about 480 more where these came from.