HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 4 – Exploring the West Highlands and Inverness 

After a visit to one of Scotland’s most iconic castles, we were off to do some exploring in the great outdoors!

You have not visited Scotland properly until you have gone on an adventure through its wilderness!

Our first stop would be a view point overlooking Loch Carron. The views from the lookout were impressive to say the least!

The Loch itself is on the west coast of Ross and Cromarty in the Scottish Highlands. It is the point at which the River Carron enters the North Atlantic Ocean.

As you can see from the information board above the lake is surrounded by various peaks and even on a cloudy day is pretty spectacular.

After taking several gorgeous photographs, we were back on our bus headed off to our next stop.

This next stop would combine adventures and exploring with a wee ramble through the woods!

This is Rogie Falls!

We read that this is a popular salmon river – great for catching a glimpse of salmon leaping upstream to their birthplaces to spawn.

As you can see in this next photograph, a salmon ladder was created on the right hand side to aid the fish in going upstream!

In order to cross the river, we had to go over the suspension bridge pictured below!

The bridge is actually a great spot to take some epic pictures of the river and the falls below!

After crossing the bridge, Greg took us to another spot where we could take some good pictures and view the falls – and try to spot some salmon!

Below is a picture of the super tiny “bridge” that we would have to cross to get to that point.

I myself couldn’t cross it 😞. Vertigo hit and nope😨! I waited for Natalie while she went to explore the other side.  We now realize there were a couple of things that we did on this trip, which we’re pretty sure travel insurance wouldn’t have covered, had any misfortune come our way! Although these were all exciting things, we will have to make sure safety comes first.

Photo taken inadvertently while stepping off the teeny, tiny bridge – perfectly expressing the feeling of crossing said bridge!!!!

After the wee walk, we drove into the town of Beauly for a quick stop and an afternoon snack.

The town of Beauly is centered around the old priory which was founded in the early 13th century. The history of the town is linked with a number of Scottish clans:

“most notably the Lovat Frasers who owned much of the land around the village and had their base at Beaufort Castle. The Chisholms owned much of the land on the north side of the River Beauly and ruled from Erchless Castle while the Mackenzie clan ruled the lands to the North of Beauly.”

Mary Queen of Scots visited Beauly in the 16th century and was said to have said “C’est un beau lieu.” This is one of the more popular explanations for the name of the town.

Beauly Priory was built around 1230 for the monks of the Valilscaulian order. These monks seem to have come from France and settled in this area and two other priories around the same time.

The site was impressive both in architecture and size. Although it is in ruins today, the priory was only a small part of a complex that had a cloister to the south, complete with east and south accommodation and a west range providing the prior’s lodging.

The patron of priory was Sir John Bisset, who would later have his family joined in marriage by the Frasers of Lovat.

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

It was after the Reformation that the priory fell into disuse. It seems that much of the priory had become a quarry at the time, the stones being used for other buildings in construction during the 16th century, hence so many missing pieces.

Currently, Beauly is in care of the State and has been so since 1913. It is being looked after by Historic Environment Scotland.

After exploring Beauly Priory’s ruins, we decided to take a turn around the town before heading back to our yellow bus.

We were all getting hungry and craving something sweet so our whole group gathered at a little cafe and delicatessen – Corner in the Square for a snack!

After seeing all the delicious cakes and baked goods, we decided this would be the place for our snack. Natalie decided to get the cheesecake, while I got a plum coffee cake. Honestly, this was probably the best cheesecake we had ever tasted! It was so rich and creamy – it was literally like a cloud. The plum coffee cake was beyond delicious as well and very filling! As a result, we are definitely putting Beauly on our to-return-to list just for this reason!

We didn’t even manage to get a photo of the slice whole – we dug in right away! Hence the half eaten photo…

After our short stop over in Beauly, it was onward to our home for the night in Inverness. We stayed at the Youth Hostel, SYHA, and we were informed by Greg that this would be our last stop with him as we would be getting a new guide and new group in the morning!

As you may recall, this was one of our only issues with this specific tour. Due to the length of our 10 day Compass Buster tour, we were shuffled around to join several other shorter 2, 3 and 5 day tours. In the end, we changed tour guides a grand total of three times – making it feel a bit interrupted and disjointed.

The SYHA itself was a great place to stay with plenty of rooms and close enough to the centre of Inverness so we could go out and explore a bit, as well as buy some food for the next day! It was a bit… institutional (?! if you know what we mean…) and wasn’t as cozy or friendly as some of the other hostels we had stayed at/would stay at later on – but it would do for the night!

If you would like more information about the SYHA or you want to book your stay, you can do so here.

After settling in, we decided to walk into Inverness for some dinner and dancing – bagpipes and crazy cardio dancing included!

We decided to have dinner at Hootananny – A suggestion from Greg! When we arrived, rather early, the place was quite slow and we got a table right away. Little did we know that as the evening wore on, the place would turn completely rambunctious and music and dancing would take over!

Excuse the blurry photos as we were all a bit excited from everything going on around us! At the end of the night, we walked back to the hostel with sore feet, ringing ears, the breeze cooling us down and still talking about this crazy night. It was an amazing night full of live music, some Scottish dancing (or perhaps what we imagined it to be?!) and more than a few entertaining dancers on the floor! We would definitely recommend Hootananny to anyone looking for a fun Scottish night-out experience in Inverness!

Overall, Day 4 was full of surprises and amazing sites. Stay tuned for Day 5 and many more adventures as we venture North towards a pretty special group of islands!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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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!

Exploring Dalhousie Castle

After a wonderful dinner at the Dungeon Restaurant, Ioana and I couldn’t resist taking some fun pictures before calling it a night.

How many Ioana’s can fit on the bed?!

This was the view from our window the next morning 😍

Waking up in a castle does have its perks 😉

Eventually we managed to pull ourselves out of bed and headed down for breakfast.

Breakfast is served in the Orangery. For breakfast, I had the scrambled eggs with Scottish smoked salmon. Delicious way to wake up! In addition to a cooked breakfast selection, there was also a selection of tasty pastries, muffins, juices, fruits and yogurts to help you start your day off right!

After breakfast, we packed up and left our bags with reception so we could explore Dalhousie Castle and its grounds a little bit more before heading back to Edinburgh.

It was another gorgeous day – perfect for exploring the castle grounds! (and having some fun…)


There were some trails around the castle grounds and we went for a wee ramble – walking past the neighbouring fields, ducking under tree branches, stepping over roots… It’s always nice to be outside, enjoying nature and the scenery.


There is a falconry on site at the castle. And you can book one of several experiences to learn more about these birds of prey and to hold and fly one! If you’re getting married at Dalhousie Castle, you can even get an owl to fly in during your ceremony and deliver your rings!

We didn’t sign up for a falconry experience. We just happened to be out on the grounds when this bird had a practice session with its trainer. (We won’t go into the ethics, animal rights or morals of this here. We are just stating what we saw.)

Back inside, there was more to admire…

Eventually, it was inevitable – we had to say goodbye to Dalhousie Castle. (We contemplated hiding in the room, or even in the woods behind the castle… But figured we would be found and booted out pretty quickly!)

We had such a lovely stay here – from the wonderful welcome we received, our conversation with the Castle Steward, our Afternoon Tea, our relaxing and rejuvenating spa treatments, our three course dinner at the Dungeon Restaurant to the friendly and hospitable staff! We can’t wait to come back for another visit!

But for now, it was back to Edinburgh for us, where another adventure awaited us. This adventure would involve our noses, our palates and… perhaps a wee dram!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. 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!

Exploring Holyrood Park

After exploring Seattle, let’s get back to Edinburgh!

In our last Edinburgh post, we had just spent the morning at Holyrood Palace. After a lovely and most Royal visit, we set off to explore Holyrood Park, right across the way from the Palace.

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The view of Holyrood Park from the Palace

Holyrood Park is right at the end of the Royal Mile. (On the opposite end of the Royal Mile is Edinburgh Castle.) Within the park, you’ll find lots to explore – St Margaret’s Loch, Duddingston Loch and Salisbury Crags to name a few. One of the most famous spots of Holyrood Park is Arthur’s Seat.

Arthur’s Seat is the highest point in Holyrood Park, at a height of 251m. It is the remains of an extinct volcano, right in Edinburgh! We had heard that the views of Edinburgh are amazing from here, so we decided to pay a visit!


We didn’t consult a map beforehand and just decided to explore the park freely. Now in hindsight, that probably was not the best idea. At the base, we were faced with deciding which path to take. With no prior research on which was the most scenic, the fastest, the easiest or the steepest path up, we took the one that didn’t look as steep from the bottom 😆… Now that I’m reading more into this after our visit, I think we actually may have taken the steeper and harder route up?!

It wasn’t an overly difficult or strenuous walk but it certainly wasn’t… a walk in the park (even though it technically was a walk in the park! Couldn’t resist 😆) There were some steep areas and it was definitely a good workout – hello Legs Day!

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Besides not looking at the map of the area beforehand, we also incorrectly assumed all paths led directly to the same point – Arthur’s Seat. We didn’t know it at that time, but we ended up atop the Salisbury Crags instead. It was only when we turned around and saw people on another peak that we realized we hadn’t actually reached Arthur’s Seat. Oops! 😆

But some “oops” are good “oops”! The views from the path that we took, near the edge of the Crags, were breathtaking! The photo stops also made our walk much longer than necessary. 😉

Here’s one such photo stop:

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Just taking a break and taking a selfie in our matching shirts and team Canada sunglasses!

And no adventure is complete without a gazing photo/selfie!

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The Signature Gazing Selfie!

These photo stops became more and more frequent as we neared the top. (And as I was pretending to be a photographer and playing around with the different shots…)

Here are some of our favourites!

Holyrood Palace:

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Looking over to Calton Hill – our next destination on this busy afternoon!

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Just trying to be artsy with the grass…

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We climbed up a bit further to a bit of a flat area, where many others were lounging and enjoying the afternoon sun. We decided to stop here for our picnic lunch, while admiring the view!

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Boy, it is a long way down from here! It sounds like rock climbing is permitted in parts of the Salisbury Crags. I think that would be super cool, although I’m not sure I would do it. I’ve done a bit of outdoor climbing but definitely nothing like this rock face!

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The views from here were stunning. You can see straight across the city*, all the way to Edinburgh Castle – almost 2 km away!

*in good weather… No guarantees in inclement weather!

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It was such a lovely viewpoint and such a beautiful day with the autumn sun and a light breeze, that we stayed here longer than we planned to. (We may have also napped and reflected on life 😉)

We contemplated continuing onto Arthur’s Seat but since we also wanted to check out Calton Hill and the New Town that afternoon, we decided against it. This means we’ll have to add it to the list of things to do when we’re back in Edinburgh. And… We’ll be sure to consult a map beforehand to make sure we really make it up to Arthur’s Seat this next time!

Eventually we dragged ourselves up from our perch and headed back down – excited to explore our next stop – Calton Hill!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. 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!

Cheesecakes, Friends and Sunsets

As we blogged last week, we went down to Seattle for a short weekend getaway. We didn’t have much on our list of places to see and visit since we had all been to Seattle before… But one of our food stops for this trip was The Cheesecake Factory. Besides being known for the GINORMOUS (read: controversial for population health reasons!) portions of food that they serve, they are known for – you guessed it, their cheesecakes. They don’t have any restaurants in Canada or Australia. So since we were in the States, we thought we would try their ‘signature’ item and stopped by the Bellevue Cheesecake Factory for a visit.

Or, two.

Our first visit was for a late dinner the night we arrived into Seattle and Bellevue. However, after a poor attempt at finishing our HUGE dinners, there was absolutely no room for cheesecake. We decided to come back another time for dessert.

Here is round two… This time, it was brunch – hoping a lighter meal would leave a bit of room for cheesecake. Who are we kidding… the portions were still huge! (The three of us could have probably just shared two meals and it would have been an adequate amount.)

We all chose from their “Eggs and Omelettes” section of the menu, which is served all day.

This is the California Omelette with “Avocado, Mushrooms, Green Onion, Tomato, Garlic and Shallots, Sour Cream, Jack Cheddar and Swiss Cheese”, served with white toast and tomatoes.

Another California Omelette, with potatoes and whole wheat toast. The omelette was tasty. I liked the combination of ingredients – especially the avocado and cheese, with green onions, garlic and shallots for the sharp bite, flavour and crunch! Definitely something I would copy and make for myself at home.

This one here is the Chorizo and Avocado Omelette with “Chicken Chorizo, Avocado, Sauteed Peppers and Onions, Salsa, Cilantro and Cheese Topped with Sour Cream”, with an English Muffin and tomatoes.

Let’s just say… it was another “attempt” at finishing our meal. We felt bad for wasting the food 😦 They should offer half portions for all of their meals! (Or we should have been smarter and split two meals between the three of us instead…)

At least this time, we were able to save SOME room for dessert. We spent a long time perusing the menu and trying to decide on our cheesecake choices. In the end, we decided to each pick a cheesecake and share – so we could try 3 different flavours.

Here’s what we got:

  • ADAM’S PEANUT BUTTER CUP FUDGE RIPPLE CHEESECAKE – Creamy Cheesecake Swirled with Caramel, Peanut Butter, Butterfingers® and Reese’s® Peanut Butter Cups.
  • FRESH STRAWBERRY CHEESECAKE – The Original Topped with Glazed Fresh Strawberries. Our Most Popular Flavor for Over 35 Years!
  • MANGO KEY LIME CHEESECAKE – Topped with Mango Mousse on a Vanilla Coconut Macaroon Crust

I think we all agreed that the Fresh Strawberry Cheesecake was the best out of the three. It was the Classic Cheesecake topped with fresh strawberries. The cheesecake was smooth and when paired with the strawberries, was a simple, but classic and delicious combination. It wasn’t too heavy and would be a safe bet the next time we eat at the Cheesecake Factory!

I adore peanut butter – but even I don’t think I could finish the entire slice of Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple Cheesecake! There was a LOT of candy pieces swirled into this cheesecake. So there was a whole host of flavours and textures – from the gooey caramel to the crunchy candy bits and the smooth cheesecake. Definitely a good one to share!

The Mango Key Lime Cheesecake was a bit tart, so it cut through the sweetness of the other two cheesecakes. But even then, it eventually became a bit too sweet. Pair it with the other two cheesecakes and we were too full to honestly enjoy it!

Here’s the aftermath… It would be wonderful to have a “tasting” portion of the cheesecakes, so we can have a taste of several cheesecakes, without stuffing ourselves or wasting the cheesecakes. I guess the other option is to bring more people with us the next time we’re at the Cheesecake Factory so we can split the cheesecakes between more people! In the end, we couldn’t finish all three! Maybe if we hadn’t eaten the omelettes, there would have been more room to finish. We know for next time ;).

Too full to finish the rest of the cheesecakes 😦

After that filling meal, we stretched our legs and walked off our meal at the adjacent Bellevue Square. Read: we went shopping! (But with our poor exchange rate right now, shopping in the States wasn’t such a good deal anymore!) After the shopping expedition, it was time to head back to the hotel with M so she could grab her luggage and head off to the airport for her flight home! It was sad to see her go, but we are already plotting our next adventure! 😉

Until our next adventure!

Ioana and I hung out around Bellevue for a little while longer before catching our bus home. Before leaving Seattle, we had a mission to accomplish. We were in search of the elusive – Thistly Cross Cider! Searching for something a continent and an ocean away from its home in Scotland proved to be more difficult than we thought!

Did we find it? You’ll have to visit our blog in the next little while to find out!

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And just like that, our weekend away was over and it was time to head back home 😦

It was a gorgeous summer evening, making for some beautiful photographs on the bus ride home.

Goodbye Seattle!

I love watching the scenery flash by. The Pacific Northwest has some gorgeous views – even if just by the highway! (Clearly we’re not biased at all…….)

Today, we were treated to a gorgeous sunset against the backdrop of the beautiful Pacific temperate rainforest.

After some napping, blogging (free Wifi on the bus!) and reading, we were back on Canadian soil! But before we could get on our way home, we had to get through pass the “Border Security” test. There was a little bit of a wait, as there were several coaches in front of us. What else is there to do but take a selfie!

Eventually, we piled off the bus and went to talk to our friendly Canadian border guards. When asked what goods I was bringing back to Canada, I replied honestly with “one bottle of nail polish and alcohol.” Needless to say, we were waved through without any further questions!

With our Seattle trip over, we are itching to plan our next trip SOMEWHERE! Hmmm…. Where to next! Suggestions are always welcome 😉

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. 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!