Black Beauty

Saturday, June 22, 2013

St Andrews, Isle of Skye, and Back to Manchester

Well, I'm actually home now and writing to finish the last three days of the trip.  This post will cover all three days and hit some of the highlights of those days.

We left Edinburg and headed northwest towards the Isle of Skye.  We had been told that the Isle of Skye was a "must see" place, so we had to go there.  By the maps, it was an easy day's drive there.  However, although it's only about 250 miles, it seemed to be a lot more than that, and we didn't make it all the way to the Isle that day!  Too much to see on the way, and the roads are windy, narrow, and slow for a rookie driver on the wrong side of the car and road.

The big stop "on the way" was the St Andrews golfing area.  I think all of us wanted to see this golfing mecca, where one of the  oldest golf courses in the world is located.  It was started in the early 1400s and has been in use, more or less, since then.  There are 7 courses, but the most famous is "The Old Course".  So, we went to the Old Course.
Practice Green Near the Ocean

My brother, Jeff, had been to St Andrews many years , and I remember him talking about the rough, just how rough it was.  Well, he was right!  The rough is grass that hasn't been mowed in quite some time--maybe months if not more.  If I were playing there, I'd need a bushel-basket of golf balls to make it 18 holes!  The rough would be filled with balls I lost.

Gary on Bridge on 18th Fairway
The Old Course is located right on the ocean, so it's a very picturesque place.  We walked out onto the course and took some pics from a spot where a pretty bridge crossed a small creek, with shops and buildings in the background.  Gary is a golfer, so he had to pick up some souvenirs for himself and some golfing buddies.  We both found a lost golf ball to carry back home!

After a couple of hours of meandering around the shops and the course, we loaded up and started our trek towards the Isle of Skye off to the northwest of St Andrews.

The ride from St Andrews towards Skye was longer and slower than we anticipated; we realized mid-afternoon that we'd not be able to get that far today.  So, we started looking for a place to stay for the night.  We stopped at several small hotels along the way to find lodging, but they either did not have rooms available, or they didn't have accommodations to fit our needs.  Finding a room for 3 people is not an easy task in strange countries!
Shops at Old Course

Finally, Ft William, a town larger than most we had seen along the way, was in our sights.  We stopped at two locations there (both full) and decided to try one of the small hotels on the main street.  Ms. Smith  at the Ben View Guest House had exactly what we were looking for!  She was a delightful lady, and enjoyed talking with us about our heritage (there were 3 King Malcolms in Scotland).  It was a welcome place, and a very enjoyable place for the night.  On top of that, her rate was the lowest of all we used, and her breakfast (included) was very good.
Ms. Smith's Hotel, the Ben View

After breakfast, we headed north to the Isle of Skye.  It was a cloudy, overcast day, with low-hanging gray skies hiding the mountains in the region.  We rode by a bunch of Lochs (Lakes) and even touched the very southernmost tip of Loch Ness, the home of Nessie just before arriving at the bridge taking us to Skye.

Beautiful, High Cliffs at Skye
In truth, while the Isle of Skye was beautiful, it was not nearly as spectacular as I was expecting it to be.  I'm sure part of that was due to high expectations I had, and part due to having already spent three weeks looking at some of the most beautiful places on earth.  Again, it was pretty, and nice, but not as special as I wanted it to be.

There were some spectacular cliffs up on the northernmost part of the island, where the land dropped several hundred feet to the ocean below.  We had not seen those types of cliffs before.

One neat thing there, as well as other parts of Scotland, some of the road signs had the English name posted as well as the Gaelic name.  They are trying to maintain the native language for future generations.  That's good, IMO.
English and Gaelic

We had lunch at a place down close to the water.  Lots of people were standing out on the sidewalk,
Fish and Chips, Anyone
eating what appeared to be fish and chips.  Not in
newspaper (as depicted in pics and stories), but in white freezer paper.  They seemed to be enjoying the fish, so we went inside and had a good meal.  I think they got fish and chips, and I got a hamburger!  I'd had enough fish and chips to hold me a while.  The burger was pretty good. The beer was excellent!

So, it was time to leave the Isle and start heading back towards Manchester, where we'd catch a plane back home in two days. It was a bit of a bittersweet moment when we were leaving Skye; bitter because the trip was pretty much done, and sweet because home was coming in a very short while.

Snow in the Crevaces
We rode south, through the mountains on curvy, mostly good roads.  A few peaks (which were around 1,500 feet high) still had small patches of white snow laying in grooves in the terrain on the top.  Gray clouds shrouded the tops of many of the taller mountains, so we'll not know if they had snow or not.  B
ut it was a scenic ride south.

I don't remember what town we spent our last night on the road.  It was a small village near a railroad (rail station nearby), and we stayed in a Best Western hotel, the first chain hotel since London.  It was okay; nothing special, and not bad either, except the shower.  The shower was a walk-in (as a number had been), but the slope on the tile floor towards the shower drain was very slight.  This resulted in a flooded bathroom floor!  We finally resorted to piling towels just outside the shower as a way of keeping the rest of the bathroom floor somewhat dry.  Not a good arrangement...
Towel Dam on Floor
 We had dinner and breakfast there as well.

The following morning, our last full day in the UK, brought sun and blue skies.  Temps were comfortable, so it was a nice day for the ride back to Manchester.  Most of the ride was fine; we spent much of it on the Motorway, except for one side trip.

Gary wanted to do a distillery tour, to visit a true Scotch distillery.  We had passed several that did tours up in the more northern regions, but didn't stop to do a tour.  We had time to do a tour, so we started searching for one open to do tours.  After two false-starts, including one disappointing trip to a distribution point for Scotch whiskey, we gave up.  It seems that almost all of the distilleries that do tours are in the more remote areas.  Had we known that earlier, we'd have done a tour then.  Alas...

Back to England
We had our final lunch in a pub very close to the England/Scotland boundary.  It was very typical of many of the ones we'd been dining in for the past three weeks.  We all had our final fish and chips meal and a beer.  I can say that I enjoyed the food for the entire trip.  None was BAD; a couple were ok, and most were very good.  The Gretna Inn in Gretna brought the last of the pubs for the trip.

We rolled into Manchester with no problems.  Drove to the Etrop Grand Hotel near the airport and checked in.  Th
Our Last Road Meal
e trip was now essentially over.  We still needed to return the rental car to the airport, so we got the shuttle driver to guide us to a gas station near the rental agency.  We filled the tank (since I'm home and the bill has arrived, it cost $106.00 for that last tank of gas.  And this was a small car!) and drove to the agency and turned the car in.  The shuttle driver delivered us back to the hotel, where we had a quiet evening and packed for the flight home the next morning.

Packing was a bit of a chore.  I had things strewn in several bags, and they all needed to go into the big duffle, the backpack, and one small bag.  After about an hour of shuttling things back and forth between bags, weighing the big bag with a borrowed scale (which proved to give a falsely-high reading), I decided I had done all I could do in packing.

The following morning started at 7am with a quick shower, breakfast, and getting the bags downstairs.  The shuttle driver delivered us to the airport, and the trip was over.

It was a good one!


  1. Great pictures and enjoyed the details of the trip, almost like being there! Hope Gary had a great birthday while there too. That would have made it extra special to be in a wonderful place with Linda and you! Gives me hope that one day I might take a trip of a lifetime! Thanks for sharing this amazing adventure.

  2. Now that is a dream place....been there but didn't get to play. Someday, I will play the old course! What a great trip.