Sunday, 12 May 2013

Day 6 - the walk video

Here's a short video showing some of the remote land we hiked through as part of our "more active" tour.

Day 6 - blazing the trail

Julia: We had an amazing hike today with truly beautiful scenery. We walked through glens, fields of heather, even a forest. Parts of the trail were flat while other sections had us climbing. Most of the time, the weather was great, overcast so it wasn't too hot - towards the end we had some rain, but nothing that slowed us down! My husband clocked us at about 28 minutes a mile and our total was 6.1 miles. We got some great pictures!
Horses and Daffodils herald our hike

Beth: I've lost track of the days and the rest of the world doesn't exist. A traveler can't help but be immersed in the land, the amazing views, the swiftly changing weather, the history everywhere, and especially the wonderful people. On our hike today I know the wee woodland inhabitants were with us today. Toni: Pictures can not come close to describing the beauty of the land we just walked through...We all tried. Those who come to this country and don't go for a walk like this or drive through the backroads away from the towns will miss the main beauty of Scotland. Dress in layers and bring a rain jacket (MAC) and water proof hiking shoes because you do go through some bogs and cross small streams, but those moments are fleeting. 

Melinda: I was in heaven today. Sleeping until 7am, (Sam here.. Melinda's an early riser even on our sleep in day!) waking up in a beautiful country house hotel, and then hiking. We went on the most wonderful hike today. Up in the hills, no one else around (if you don't count the sheep), spectacular scenery, and the bit of rain at the end was wonderful. I can't wait to see the pictures. Ale and potatoe leek soup at the end in a wee pub.....ahhhhhh! 

Demonstrating what Diana meant when she said "Claire sat in front of Jamie on the horse and he wrapped his plaid around her."
Alas tomorrow is our last day and we won't have time to blog afore we drop off our friends.  I will add some more photos and video in the coming weeks.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Day 5

Last night some of us again went to Hoots for the music.  Herein lies a story.  Julia is a girl of girlie tastes and has been looking for her favourite drink ( a Lemon Drop) since she got here.  In the Highlands?  Aye?

Here's what happened when she asked for it in Hoots, a REALLY Highland bar with trad music, a sawdust on the floor type of place.

Moving on, quickly.
Would YOU let them into YOUR castle?
Beth:  Off we go today to visit the next castle.  In the city it's a bit crowded, but the back roads are so wonderfully scenic, they are not to be missed.  May is wonderful, the Gorse is in bloom, the heather will be soon, and the brand new 'baa-baas' with their little tails a-wagging are everywhere. another lovely weather day for us.  We are so blessed!

Toni:  Well, haven't been on in a while but we have done SO MUCH.  Castles, Pony Rides, fantastic walks to let your imagination wander and wonder is this where that could have happened or this...My favorite has been the walking and looking and laughing with the people we have met.  We have been treated with special care...not being caught in large groups and getting lost in them.  Our group has gotten on very well together and since we are all here for the same reason creating the cameraderie of the tour.  I have also been loving the surprises...what are we doing today?!  Inverness has a fantastic path along the River Ness that everyone should do if they come to Inverness but do make sure you use the 'facilities' first.  It is a long walk with no place to stop.

Melinda: Wow! What an amazing journey in time!  In Castle Leod there was a window seat that I could picture curling up in with a cup and tea and Outlander.  And afternoon tea with the Lord and Lady, in their dining room.  What an experience.  I started re-reading Outlander before we left, so I'm visualizing Jamie and Claire everywhere I go.  Oh, I should mention Black Isle Honey Heather Ale!

Don:  First day on since day 1, we have had full days since and hard for me to put into words the great things we have experienced. Castles (beautiful and loaded with history), battlefields, some shopping and throw in great food, what more could you ask for. I am reading book 3 as we travel and in the evenings (hard to put down), amazed how we are actually experiencing some of the places Jamie and Claire travelled through during their lives. Accommodations have been fantastic and our last stay that we just checked into is unbelievable, photos a must see on the blog. I may skip out on the group tomorrow and try to get in a round of golf, will need to get one of those in as we are in the home of golf. Oh yes, the single malt stuff is a great experience as well (mmmmmmm).

Toni:  We are sitting in a beautiful parlor of the 1800s Scottish hunting lodge [see vid] that we are staying in, having a drink before dinner sharing stories of what wonderful things we have been doing as well as other stories of all our various lives that have been brought together based on a book series called Outlander.  We have talked about what to call ourselves as a group and have come up with the following: Just the Facts; Back to the Future; First Timers; Guinea Pigs (since we are doing some things on this trip that haven't been done in the past on this tour). I go again rambling but there is so much to say and do.
Video below is entitled "Approaching the stones and drinks in our hunting lodge

Thursday, 9 May 2013

DAY 3 - trail blazers

Excitements of the day:  We met the Chief of Clan MacKenzie; we rode ponies along Loch Ness.
The video shows just a little of our time taking tea at castle "Leoch" with chief of the MacKenzies. 

Wendy, Scot Lady Cromarty and Melinda listening to Lord Cromarty's stories over tea

And we have a tour name! Trail Blazers.  The name trail blazers comes from this tour being earlier in the year than any previous; that we are going to new places; that we shall boldly go where no outlandish spirit.. (oops, wrong genre).
Back to 18th century reality.  The trail blazers are doing a few firsts:  day one was a little known standing stone alignment we've never gone to before, high in the wilderness, fabulous.  And today a first for Lord & Lady Cromarty, aka John and Eve at castle Leod and the J & C tour - this is the first such visit to have tea with them in the castle, in the 18th century drawing room, surrounded by wonderful wood panelling and portaits of John's forebears looking imperiously down upon him, wondering whether he will keep the family honour and castle intact...and seeing what he and Eve have done so far, the ancients have nothing to worry about.

The ponies were next. I waved bye-bye to the troop as they set off into hail and rain.  Well, they wanted authentic Gabaldon.  Unfortunately the sun soon came out and they had a grand ride along the steep sided hills of Loch Ness with views below.  Think of the drover party travelling and camping with Jamie and Claire on the shores of loch Ness in book one, when Claire meets the water horse.  You get the picture.

Julia:  I was in awe of the scenery during our pony ride - and these were Highland ponies so they were quite large.  We had fantastic views of Loch Ness and the incredibly green hills and pastures.  I only wish we could have done a day long trek! [Julia's number two in the video below]

"Auld Alec" the farrier, shoeing horses at the stables

beth: MANY thanks to George Edwards, our Captain our on Loch Ness tour yesterday.  His voice evokes images of Sean Connery as he shares his extensive experiences and information about the Loch and the surrounding area, and  He's even seen Herself!  Our wee ride today was in the hills directly across the loch from his dock. The view is spectacular!


Arghh! No time to write...!
(Later) What can we say of today?  Some of our guests had their first GĂ idhlig lessons with Scot (see vid).  Very passable.  We'll get to ordering a pint in G. tomorrow.

We got married, then had lunch in the castle; there was a blustery visit to the shores of Loch Ness followed by an investigation of the water, courtesy of a boat skipper.  Our guests really enjoyed that as our skippers really know the loch's history, geology and so on so can explain the amazingness of this body of water.  Toni learned that if you emptied the loch, you could put the entire human population into the space three times over.

We spilt up for dinner tonight, but the "gurrls" invaded Scot's dinner with Julia and Ray and took him away for more ale.  That's his version anyway.  The music was good at Hoots (see vid).  

Perhaps we'll find time for the guests to write to you in their own words.  Perhaps not, for "we come to a castle".

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

May tour 2013 - day 1


And they're off!
We have an intrepid group of seven on this May's tour. I'll let them speak: 

The Posse of Outlandish Ones

Toni: Wow...I keep trying to imagine what it would have been like if I had gone through the rocks and experienced what Claire experienced. She didn't have shoes or pants like I was wearing today...And the confidence she had with dealing with the men she came across...I imagine the time she spent nursing probably helped there. The land is so vast and bare and lonely...It takes days to travel the distance they did. Melinda: What a great way to start a vacation! Hiking up a hill, in the middle of farmland, on a beautiful day! Doesn't get much better than that!!! 

Don---Much more than expected, then again not sure what I expected. Sightseeing, hiking and camaraderie with the group on day one was a great success and sets the standard for the rest of the week, confident expectations will be met as Scot and Sam are great.
Rock Chick in search of... stones?

In the wilds, the posse find stones

Wendy -- great day, lots of sunshine, hills and stones! Got my second *drop spindle class, teacher must have been better this time, seemed easier! 
(*Sam here - the drop spindle was a demonstration for us by a lovely lass of the 18th century on spinning yarn out of sheep's wool... Anything can happen when you travel through the stones).

Saturday, 4 May 2013

What's this, people?

Any Guesses?
Answer below
Answer below

Every home should have one.  It's a staircase.

And it leads to this. Got one? Want one? A genuine 17th Century bed. 

Why the photos?  We took them when on a recce to this castle because we're staying in it next month.  I thought to share the love of beautiful places with you a little.

Look again at the photo of the staircase.  Apart from it being spiral, I'll give some silly prize to anyone who can tell me what's unusual about it.