Monday, April 15, 2024

Scotland's Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle and the Old Bridge in Invermoriston

Last October, we went on a Cosmos Tour to visit the "Highlights of Ireland and Scotland." During our journey, we stopped at Loch Ness in Scotland and walked along the loch. Although we searched as far as we could see, we could not catch a glimpse of the famous "Loch Ness Monster." You may have better luck spotting it during your visit. (smile)

Loch Ness is a large freshwater loch (lake) in the Scottish Highlands extending for approximately 37 kilometers (23 miles) southwest of Inverness. It takes its name from the River Ness, which flows from the northern end.

Loch Ness is the second-largest Scottish lake by surface area after Loch Lomond, but due to its great depth, it is the largest by volume in Great Britain. Its deepest point is 230 meters (126 fathoms; 755 feet), making it the second deepest loch in Scotland after Loch Morar. It contains more water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined and is the largest body of water in the Great Glen, which runs from Inverness in the north to Fort William in the south. Its surface is 16 meters (52 feet) above sea level.

One thing we did find along Loch Ness was spectacular colorful autumn scenery! 

We stopped again at an overlook of Urquhart Castle. The present ruins date from the 13th to the 16th centuries, though built on the site of an early medieval fortification. Founded in the 13th century, Urquhart played a role in the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century.  Urquhart was partially destroyed in 1692 to prevent its use by Jacobite forces, and it subsequently decayed. In the 20th century, it was placed in state care as a scheduled monument and opened to the public: it is now one of the most-visited castles in Scotland!

While we watched above, a large group of visitors to the castle departed a ferry that docked on Loch Ness.

The buildings of the castle were laid out around two main enclosures on the shore. The northern enclosure or Nether Bailey includes most of the more intact structures, including the gatehouse, and the five-story Grant Tower at the north end of the castle. The southern enclosure or Upper Bailey, located on higher ground, comprises the scant remains of earlier buildings.

Not only was the view beautiful but so was the local flora!

Our next stop along Loch Ness was the Old Bridge at Invermoriston.

Built in 1813, the bridge was part of the main road between Drumnadrochit and Fort Augustus, until it was replaced in the 1930s with a new bridge. Today it’s a great spot for photographs and to see salmon leaping. 

The Old Bridge crosses the spectacular River Moriston Falls.

My husband and I and my sister-in-law and my brother-in-law posed for a photo on the bridge.

I believe that the fall season in Scotland is one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen!

In my next blog post, I will take you to Culloden, Scotland, the site of the historic Battle of Culloden. If you are a fan of The Outlander book and TV series, you'll recognize this historic place.

Monday, April 8, 2024

Inveruglas and Glencoe in the Highlands of Scotland

After visiting Alloway, Scotland --the birthplace of Scottish poet Rober Burns--see that post here--our Cosmos Tour of the Highlights of Ireland and Scotland traveled northwest to the Scottish Highlands. Our first stop was at Inveruglas, along the western shore of Loch Lomond, often considered the boundary between the lowlands of Central Scotland and the Highlands. Our visit was in late October and the fall foliage was bright and beautiful!

Please click on the collage above to enlarge it

These Informational placards are located at Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park visitor's center at the loch (lake) and the hills and glens of the Trossachs, along with several other ranges of hills.

There are many scenic trails located in the park and the scenery is spectacular!

The renewable hydroelectric schemes generation hall is located on the shore of Loch Lomond at Inveruglas, part of the Sloy/Awe Hydro-Electric Scheme. It was opened by Queen Elizabeth, in 1950

We could see misty clouds rising up off the colorful Trossachs mountains.

Our tour bus then continued driving north ...

...past rivers...

..and towering mountains.

We saw many waterfalls...

...and saw more clouds rising up off the mountains.

Our tour guide and bus driver remarked that they had never seen such bright fall colors as we were seeing!

We made another stop at Glencoe National Scenic Area to see the "Three Sisters" Mountains.

Please click on the photo above to enlarge it to read the informational placard at the site.

So named for the three distinctive Bidean Nam Bian Mountain ridges, the Three Sisters are the most photographed landmark in Glencoe.

We were able to walk around for a while to admire the scenery

"After getting back on the bus, we continued our journey to witness more of the enchanting and mystical views of the Scottish Highlands."

To quote, Robert Burns...

My Heart's In the Highlands...

"Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North,
The birth-place of Valour, the country of Worth;
Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands forever I love."

"My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here;
My heart's in the Highlands a-chasing the deer;
A-chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart's in the Highlands wherever I go."

"Farewell to the mountains high covered with snow;
Farewell to the straths and  green valleys below;
Farewell to the forest and wild-hanging woods;
Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods."

"My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here;
My heart's in the Highlands a-chasing the deer;
A-chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart's in the Highlands wherever I go."

I believe that I left my heart in the Scottish Highlands...

...just as Robert Burns did in the 1700s.

 One last look at all the beautiful fall foliage we saw as we traveled on to see more of enchanting Scotland. More on my next post.

Monday, March 25, 2024

Robert Burns Birthplace Museum and Gardens, Alloway, Scotland

Robert Burns was the eldest of seven children born to William Burness and his wife Agnes Broun in this cottage on January 25th, 1759.  He was to become the national poet of Scotland who wrote lyrics and songs in Scottish and English. His song Auld Lang Syne is world-renowned, and often sung on New Year's Eve.

Our Cosmos Tour's first stop in Scotland was to the town of Alloway, where Robert Burns was born. We stopped at The Burns Birthplace Museum Monument and Memorial Gardens. designed by Thomas Hamilton, was completed in 1823.

Although our bus tour of the "Highlights of Ireland and Scotland" took place in late October, the gardens were still in bloom and the fall colors added extra beauty.

We discovered that the gardens are a highly sought-after location for wedding photography!

Our view walking across the "Brig o’ Doon," immortalized in Burns’s poem “Tam o’ Shanter.

Walking along the winding paths in the memorial garden and reading the signs on the monuments was a delightful experience.

The Burns Monument was completed in 1823 and soon became a destination for those wishing to pay homage to Burns. 
Inside the monument is a carved bust of Robert Burns and...

...statues of characters from his most famous poems--Tam o' Shanter, Souter Johnie, and Nanse Tinnock.

The Monument and Memorial Gardens were celebrating their 200th year during our visit!

An example of Robert Burns' unique Scottish dialect.

Some of the beautiful flowers we saw in the Robert Burns Memorial Gardens. They reminded me of words from a song/poem he wrote during his short life--Burns died in 1796 at the age of 37. 

Here is a well-known stanza:

"My love is like a red red rose
That's newly sprung in June;
O my Love's like the melodies

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Belfast, Titanic Museum and Ferry Ride to Scotland!

Our Cosmos Bus Tour of the "Highlights of Ireland and Scotland" last October made its last stop in Ireland in the late afternoon in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Belfast is the principal city and port of Northern Ireland standing on the banks of the River Lagan and connected to the open sea through Belfast Lough and the North Channel It is second to Dublin as the largest city on the island of Ireland. 

Our bus drove around the city so we could see the sights from our windows. I have been fortunate to visit Belfast for an extended period in the past and have written many blog posts about it. The first prior post shows an overview of the city and is on this link.  Another post about a few of Belfast's markets, bars, and a cathedral, can be found on this link.  I also wrote about a tour I took in Belfast that I took that profiled the nationalistic strife that was experienced in Northern Ireland in this post about The Troubles on this link.

As you can see from the photo collages it is a city comprised of both old and modern structures.

We checked into our hotel and then took a walk to find a good pub in which to have dinner.  I felt nostalgic about going to The Crown Bar, as I enjoyed a few meals there in the past.  It is one of the most famous pubs in Belfast and I enjoyed the atmosphere there, but it was very crowded with too long a wait the evening we were there.

Our tour guide had also recommended Robinsons Bars so we headed there instead, where we had a delicious seafood chowder, served with brown bread.

The next morning we had our last taste of the traditional Irish Breakfast! Breakfasts were included in our tour, as well as some dinners, and most of the hotels we stayed at served breakfast as a buffet, and the generous hearty food filled us up all day.

After breakfast, we checked out of the hotel and our tour took us to see The Titanic Museum!  

The last time I was in Belfast the museum was being built in a revitalized area of Belfast which is now called the Titanic Quarter,  I wrote this blog post in the past about The 100th Anniversary of the Titanic, and this blog post is about the famous "Unsinkable Molly Brown," whose home in located in Denver, Colorado.

As you can see in the lower right photo collage above, Titanic Studios are also in the area. This facility has welcomed international productions including ‘'Game of Thrones'’, ‘'Your Highness'’ and ‘'City of Ember.’'

Belfast was the largest and most productive shipyard in the world at one time and the city's main shipbuilders, Harland and Wolff, built the ill-fated RMS Titanic.  Although shipbuilding has been in a steady decline the twin Harland and Wolff yellow shipbuilding gantry cranes are nicknamed "Samson and Goliath," and still dominate the skyline as landmark structures of the city, as you can see in the lower left of the photo collage above.

I am standing in front of  The Titanic Museum!

We explored the main exhibit on the first floor of the museum, but unfortunately, we ran out of time before we could finish viewing the entire collection.  You can see some of the historic photographs in the museum exhibits on this link, and some of the Titanic artifacts in the museum on this link.  

Our bus tour had begun its journey towards the ferry that would take us across the North Channel and into Scotland!

It began to rain while we were on the ferry, but we had comfortable seats inside.

As we approached Scotland it greeted us with a rainbow!

Close-up of the beautiful rainbow.

We returned to our bus, which was also on the ferry, and we saw our first glimpses of the Scottish countryside.

An island far off the southwest coast of Scotland--it may be Ailsa Craig Island?

Our bus was on the way to our first stop in Alloway, Scotland--the birthplace of poet Robert Burns--on my next post.

This was our first visit to Scotland and I was so excited to see it!