HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 9 – Exploring Armadale

We had such a grand time exploring Isle of Skye and at Saucy Mary’s, that when morning came, we were sad to leave. 😔

We were happy to hear that we still had one stop before leaving the spectacular Isle of Skye.

Our first stop to start off Day 9 of our Compass Buster Tour was Armadale, a small village near the southern tip of Skye. Armadale is home to the Clan Donald visitor centre, Armadale Castle and the Museum of the Isles. And this was our first stop!

We were given a lot of time to explore here! But most in our OG group weren’t feeling up for exploring a castle or a museum today or tracing our genealogy…  So we spent our allotted time outside in the beautiful Scottish fall sunshine. Who said Scotland doesn’t get sunshine?!

And here, we met a most unusual and un-Scottish friend – a peacock!

He wandered around the estate like he owned the place!

He even strolled into the cafe to check it out!

We imagine the cafe was up to his standards!

Having explored the public space around the visitor centre, we decided to take a wee walk on our own.

We could see a glimpse of the coast and decided to cross the street, pass through the woods and explore the coast!

And boy, were we glad we went on this wee walk!

This rocky (and kelp-y) beach was beautiful in the sunshine!

This whole area reminded me of our Pacific coast and the intertidal zone. This made me want to explore more of our backyard – the beautiful British Columbia coastline and Vancouver Island!

As usual, there is always time for an epic gazing photograph!

Eventully, we said a reluctant goodbye to the beach and headed back up to meet up with the rest of our group.

~~~~~

Next, we were off to the ferry terminal. We got there much earlier than our ferry and, again, had lots of time to explore. We checked out a couple of cute clothing and gift shops near the terminal before heading out further for a wee Woodland Walk.

The area we explored is called Ruabh Phoil. The Woodland Walk promised to take us through the woods to explore faerie gardens, healing gardens, great viewpoints and even seals on Seal Island!

Note: it seems like Ruabh Phoil had been sold in 2016, but the current owner intends to keep the Woodland Walk open to the public. So if you happen to be near Armadale, we would heartily recommend a wee walk here!

We didn’t spot any seals on Seal Island but we did make more new friends!

I think this is decidedly one of the most well-placed benches I have ever seen!

Perhaps not so great in a storm but if you had a warm, waterproof jacket… this might be good for storm watching?!

It was really neat to explore Rubha Phoil – to feel that connection to nature. Definitely a good way to break up the bus and ferry travel!

~~~~~

Once it was time to board the ferry, we gathered at the terminal with our tickets and climbed on board.

Since it was a beautiful sunny day, we spent much of our time up on the open decks, soaking in the sunshine.

And what better to enjoy the Scottish landscape and the Scottish sunshine than with some local Scottish ice cream! We heard that this Honeycomb flavour is one of the most popular, so of course we had to try it! It was creamy and rich, with bits of honeycomb melted throughout the ice cream. The perfect ferry-crossing treat!

It was a short ferry ride and before we knew it, we were approaching Mallaig. As we arrived into Mallaig, excitement was building as we would soon be boarding the train to Hogwarts!

Hogwarts, here we come!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 8 – Hiking the Old Man of Storr

After enjoying our lunch in Portree, we were off to explore more of Skye on Day 8 of our Compass Buster tour!

First up was a stop at the village of Sligachan – a good spot for viewing and exploring the Cuillins.

This is River Sligachan. Legend has it that if you dip your face into the waters of the Sligachan, you will be granted eternal beauty. The important point is that you cannot just splash the water onto your face, you must get on your hands and feet to dip your face into the magical waters.

We scrambled down the rocky riverbank to have a look at this legendary river.

Even though we didn’t dip our faces into the waters, we did get some lovely photographs of the picturesque Sligachan bridge from this vantage point.

After some of our group attained “eternal beauty”, we piled back onto the bus headed for a wee hike!

Our destination? The Old Man of Storr.

Before heading out, we were told that we only had a limited amount of time here and that we had better hike fast if we wanted to make it to the top and back in time. We had been so used to taking our time, enjoying the scenery and exploring with Andy and Greg, that this was a surprise to us! We were also used to having Andy and Greg leading our group on these walks and sharing tidbits of what we were seeing, the legends, myths and history with us. But this would not be the case today as we were sent off on our own for the walk with a stern warning to come back on time!

So with that warning, we ran out of the bus and started up the trail.

Even just a couple minutes up the trail, we were afforded this beautiful view!

We did have quite a ways to go! 😥

The weather was forever changing – with a mix of blue skies and then dark, angry looking clouds rolling in! We were just glad it didn’t rain – as we heard that it can get quite muddy and slippery in the rain.

Looks a bit different in a different light!

Still a long ways to go!

The dark clouds created some lovely shadows and lent a moody atmosphere to these photos – completely different from the ones bathed in sunshine and blue skies! We promise all of these photographs were taken on the same day!

Even way up here, we made an animal friend!

Here we are – getting closer to the Old Man of Storr.

There are many myths and legends surrounding the Old Man of Storr. Some say this is actually the thumb and fingers of a giant who died here. Another legend tells of a man and his wife who were running away from some giants. As they ran, they looked back at the giants and were instantly turned to stone. Yet another tale tells of a man who died of a broken heart following the death of his wife. This man had a friend in a Brownie – a mythical creature. And when the Brownie heard of his friend’s death, he carved out the man and his beloved wife here as a tribute. I’m sure if we asked all the locals of the surrounding area, they would each have their own version of the tale!

We made it!

Taking it a bit further, I scrambled up the rocks to get closer…

At this time, we had to make a decision… We wanted to keep going to what we were told was a spot to view the Old Man of Storr from another vantage point, but fearing that we wouldn’t make it back to the bus in time, we decided to play it safe and head back down. We didn’t want to get left behind! 😓

After seeing the photographs that our group mates took – looking across at the Old Man of Storr, I think we will have to come back to Skye so we can complete the hike!

~~~~~

Once we were all back on the bus, we headed off to our home for the night – Saucy Mary’s Lodge.

Ah Saucy Mary… Legend has it that a Norwegian princess named Mary lived around here, near present-day Castle Moil, with her husband who was a clan chief. She charged a toll to all ships for the right to pass through the narrow channel between the Mainland and Skye. She would then thank them for paying the toll by flashing the ships as they passed through – thus earning her the name of Saucy Mary.

What a gorgeous view of the sunset and Skye Bridge from the hostel – just breathtaking!

We reheated a quick microwave dinner and relaxed in the kitchen with some cider. Great way to chill and recap the day.

We headed down to the bar for some drinks after dinner. There was music, chats, jokes and we even met a guy who had apparently been wandering the wilds of Skye before being invited to stay at the hostel. We were so busy chatting and laughing away that we didn’t even realize when the bar closed. We only noticed when staff started putting the stools up and sweeping the floors… oops!

We were going to head off for some beauty rest (seeing as we didn’t dip our faces into the Sligachan, so didn’t gain eternal beauty 🤣), but our OG 10 Day squad was going to follow some of the guides/hostel staff to another bar and convinced us to go. Unfortunately, or fortunately, our OG group got left behind at the hostel – so we found a little lounge area and continued chatting, swapping stories and reliving memories from earlier in the trip. What a great night with these guys! (Even though we were confronted with the infamous beach incident again – Guys, honest we didn’t mean anything by our seating arrangements that day!) We were still smiling to ourselves as we wandered up to get some sleep.

Next up? Day 9 and a special day that we had been looking forward to since we booked the trip. This is the day we head to Hogwarts!!! (I knew I would get that Hogwarts letter one day!)

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 8 – Of Trees, Castles and Skye!

We woke up bright and early on Day 8 of our Compass Buster tour. We wandered outside and saw that a huge bus was awaiting us. We would no longer be traveling in our cozy wee yellow bus. Instead we were herded onto a packed, “your-typical-guided-tour” tourbus 😔 This time, we had a driver and a tourguide, instead of the driver-guide that we had for the first 7 days of our trip. With the music blasting (Walking on the Waves by Skipinnish – love!), we were off.

The Scottish Highlands are truly beautiful – with the mist, the mountains, the valleys and rivers coming together to create this spectacular scenery.


Our first stop was the HAGGiS grove in Glen Moriston. While this may not be a well-known attraction, it was a meaningful one.

We learned that thousands of years ago, the Highlands of Scotland was covered with native woodlands. Unfortunately through the years, human activities (humans are the worst!) have led to significant deforestation. Currently it is said that less than 1% of the original forests exist.

So HAGGiS Adventures has teamed up with Trees for Life UK to help restore the Caledonian Forest through their Stay Wild project. This project encourages passengers to support Trees for Life. And some trips, like ours, even have the opportunity to visit the HAGGiS grove and plant some saplings.

Once our bus was parked, we scrambled over some rocks and fences and walked a short distance to our tree planting site. There, we were met by a forest ranger who told us more about the factors leading to the loss of the Caledonian Forest, the Trees for Life UK organization and their goal of restoring the native trees and habitat. I thought this was a really inspiring and worthwhile cause and it was really neat knowing that we would be planting some saplings today which would become part of the forest here! Imagine coming back here in 20 years to see how our saplings fared!

Once our little saplings were safely in the ground, we waved them goodbye and headed back to the bus.

~~~~~

Our next stop was actually a site that we had already visited earlier on Day 4 – Eileen Donan Castle. I think our group would have appreciated visiting something that we hadn’t already seen, but seeing as some of our new group mates hadn’t been here yet, a stop at this iconic castle was up next!


We were glad to have another chance to see Eilean Donan – because this time, it was sunny! And we got to see the castle in a different light.

A piper photographed with the one of the most iconic Scottish castles in the background – perfection!

Because we had already visited the inside of Eilean Donan Castle, we spent our allotted time here trying to capture the castle from different angles!

After finding our tour bus in the busy parking lot (much harder to find this bus compared to our bright wild and sexy yellow midi-bus!), we piled back onto the big blue bus.

~~~~~

Our next stop was another repeat – the charming village Portree on the Isle of Skye. This time we were just stopping for a quick lunch.


We went down to the little harbour and grabbed some fish and chips. We had a lovely lunch by the water – despite having to defend our lunch from the aggressive seagulls!

Lunch with a side of this view was just amazing!

Amazing panorama!

Next up? A hike up to one of Skye’s most famous attraction! (Note the upgrade to a hike, instead of a wee walk 😥🤣) Check back soon for our next post!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 4 – Eilean Donan Castle 1.0

I’m sure if you’ve heard anything about Scotland before, you will have heard about the epic castles that are sprawled about the landscape. These castles and keeps are obviously romanticized in many novels, but once you see one for yourself – you’ll understand why.

After visiting the Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye, we headed towards Eilean Donan Castle for our first visit! (We would return later towards the end of our trip – due to the circuitous nature of this particular tour).

Eilean Donan Castle is located in a spectacular location – on a small island where three lochs meet.

Even before our yellow bus was parked, we were already giddy and ready to go exploring! It was an anticipated stop on our tour and we obviously couldn’t contain ourselves from taking loads of photographs!

To get to the castle itself, you have to cross a lovely bridge that adds to the picturesque nature of the location. (Note: Whilst the castle is open to visitors, you do need to purchase a ticket to cross this bridge! Even if you only want to walk across the bridge or wander around the castle grounds… ) 

The castle was apparently first inhabited around the 6th century but not fortified until the 13th. Since then:

“at least four different versions of the castle have been built and re-built as the feudal history of Scotland unfolded through the centuries.”

Today, the castle is owned and maintained by the MacRae family, whose ancestor had purchased the island that the castle was built on in 1911. There are four generations of the family that still inhabit the castle today (though not on a daily basis)!

The name of the castle seems to come from the Irish Saint Bishop Donan who came to Scotland in 580 AD.

As you’ll notice, the castle has varying layers of protection around it.

As mentioned before, it was fortified in 13th century BC in order to defend against the Vikings who raided Northern Scotland at that time.

We had already decided when we arrived that we would definitely be taking the tour of the inside of the castle. (Eilean Donan Castle was not an inclusion on our Compass Buster tour, so you could choose whether you wanted to go inside the castle, or just admire it from the outside.)

So, after we bought our tickets and made our way across the bridge, we finally got up close and personal with Eilean Donan Castle’s history.

If you are travelling independently, the admission fee is £7.50 for an adult. More information about opening hours, admission and visiting Eilean Donan Castle can be found here.

Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures inside the castle itself – seeing as it is still inhabited by the family who owns it. But we can say this, the inside is lusciously decorated and befits the castle’s history! As you go through the various rooms, you get a sense of what it may have been like to live here during differing time periods and also gain some knowledge on some of the previous inhabitants of the keep.

Walking inside and outside the castle to get to various rooms, you hear stories about what had taken place within its walls. It turns out there are literally skeletons in the closet in this castle – but we won’t spoil it for you!

And even in the windows! A little spooky, right?

Looking out from the castle, you are rewarded with some spectacular views of the lochs and the mountains of the surrounding area.

This castle has seen a lot of changes over the centuries – having dealt with Jacobite raids, Spaniards, English and many other attempted invaders. Thank goodness for the MacRae family and all their efforts in rebuilding and renovating such a beautiful example of Scottish castles.

If you want to learn more about Eilean Donan’s history, you can do so here.

Visiting one of the most photographed castle in Scotland was definitely a highlight of our trip! (And we would be returning in a few days for a second visit!) We hope we gave you enough of a sneak peek that it entices you to go visit the site as well =D.

But for now, we leave this iconic castle as we headed off to our next destination. Check back next week for the rest of Day 4!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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© Letters of Wanderlust, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 4 – The Faerie Pools

We got an early start to Day 4 of our Compass Buster Tour, in an attempt to get to our first stop of the day before the other tourists! 😏

This was one of our favourite stops on the tour!!! We were so excited to actually be visiting this site with its magical name and amazing scenery.

On the drive towards the Pools, we were greeted by the Black Cuillins. The pools are at the foot of the Black Cuillins and make for some amazing photos – as you will see shortly =D.

It wasn’t long before we reached our first stop for the day!

The Pools are located in Glen Brittle on the Isle of Skye and not a very far drive from where we were staying in Portree.

Can you spot our destination?

It is roughly a 2.4km walk – roundtrip to Pools and back! It is not a long walk and neither is it hard to get there. It should only take you about 20 mins or so to reach your destination – depending on how much you stop to admire the scenery and take photographs! 😉 There is a little hill getting down to the gravel walk (which I only remember because I had a hard time climbing back up it on the way back 😥). There are a couple of places where you do have to jump across some streams or use the stepping stones to cross the river, but other than that, it is relatively easy to access this site.

As you walk along the River Brittle, you start to anticipate the magical Pools. It is unclear as to why their colour is so vivid and bright, making them all the more magical!

While walking, you will notice heather and peat alongside the river, adding to the beautiful scenery surrounding the Pools.

The water truly is see-through!

Apparently, there are some brave people who would take a swim in the freezing waters! Seeing as we went at the beginning of October, we were not very inclined to dip our feet in…

As you walk along, you see various waterfalls and arches – another reason some people like to swim here!

Just look at that colour! And it wasn’t even a sunny day.

Once we got to the very highest point, we were in awe of the beautiful waterfall below.

We even got some mandatory gazing pictures 😉.

We highly recommend making a stop here to take in the Fairy Pools, if you are already planning to visit the Isle of Skye. Definitely consider visiting early in the morning, or perhaps at sunset – to see the dramatic Scottish sunset reflected by the fairy pools! For more information on visiting the Fairy Pools, check out this website here.

Even though we didn’t have a gorgeous blue sky day, we still loved the time we spent here and all of the photographs we took! We’ll have to try and come back on a sunny day and take some more photographs. If the fairy pools are this beautiful on a cloudy day, just imagine how gorgeous, shimmery and reflective they would be on a blue-sky day!

After visiting the fairy pools, we were off to visit a very iconic Scottish castle! Can you guess what our next destination is?

Stay tuned for our next post to find out!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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© Letters of Wanderlust, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 3 – The Isles Pub

For Foodie Friday we thought we’d share with you our first experience eating Haggis! And what’s more authentic than having your first go at it in its country of origin: Scotland!

In our last post, we had just left Northton Beach and were heading for our ferry in Tarbert, which would take us to Skye!

Once on Skye, we would be staying at the Portree Independent Hostel in Portree!

The hostel was clean, welcoming and had WIFI!!! We all had different rooms on different floors and there were plenty of washroom facilities to go around! This is always a bonus when staying in a hostel.

That night we decided to have dinner at the Isles Pub at the Isles Inn! Portree is not a very large town so it was easy enough for us to decide where to eat. And it was also recommended by Greg as a place to get a good plate of Haggis and enjoy some live music! The Isles Pub and Restaurant also uses locally sourced ingredients so we’d literally be getting an all around authentic Scottish meal!

The Isles Inn was just in the square close to our hostel so it was an easy walk over and easy walk back at the end of the night!

We had already decided what to eat even before we reached the restaurant. It’s important to note that they were quite busy when we got there. We were a group of 9, so we had to wait quite a while. But all was not lost, as we grabbed some drinks at the bar and had a nice chat about today’s adventures.

Since we both decided to get Haggis, the main difference would be that mine was traditional while Nat’s would be vegetarian!

Now, if you don’t know what Haggis is… then prepare to be enlightened. I am pretty sure it’s the type of food you either like or dislike.

“Haggis is a savoury pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach though now often in an artificial casing instead.” – Wikipedia

Now if you aren’t turned off by the above description, you’ll be delighted to find out that it was actually quite delicious! It’s rather filling and it really does have a nutty texture. I don’t know if it’s something I’d like to eat very often, but when in Scotland, we may as well do as the Scots do!

This is what Nat’s Vegetarian Haggis looked like. 

We’re not sure what was exactly in this vegetarian haggis, but our guess would be perhaps lentils, vegetables, oats and various spices. This dish was served with neeps and tatties – that is mashed turnips and potatoes. The whole dish is finished off with a red wine and onion gravy to pull it all together. I’m so happy to be able to try a vegetarian option of this Scottish dish. The Isles Pub also had a couple of other vegetarian meal options to cater to those who do not eat meat. It can sometimes get complicated when looking for vegetarian food options on the road. But luckily for me, I found that most restaurants and pubs in Scotland, and Ireland, had vegetarian options – which saves me from eating egg salad sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner! 😥

We decided that we would definitely be having Haggis again.

After dinner, we thought we deserved to try something sweet and the dessert menu was calling to us <3.

Our table of 5 decided to share two desserts one of which we didn’t seem to take any pictures of, so we can’t quite recall it… BUT we did manage to take a picture of the Apple Pie with Drambruie. It was an interesting take on Apple Pie. I can’t say that it would go into our books as one of our favourite desserts, but it was worth a shot to try something new!

After our dinner, we decided to have a beer and listen to some of the live music they had playing! It wasn’t long until we started getting sleepy and decided to head back.

The next day would hold many adventures including the much anticipated Faerie Pools!

Stay tuned!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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© Letters of Wanderlust, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!