HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 6 – Exploring Skara Brae

We began Day 6 of our Compass Buster Tour with more Orcadian and human history, which I found fascinating! I had no idea there was so much history surrounding these islands!

Orkney is home to one of Scotland’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the Heart of Neolithic Orkney. This World Heritage Site includes Maeshowethe Ring of Brodgarthe Stones of Stenness and Skara Brae. These sites give us a glimpse of what life might have been like for the people living on the Orkney islands some 5000 years ago. Day 6 would be full of adventures, exploring and learning as we visit 3 out of the 4 major locations of this World Heritage Site!

From our hostel, we set out for our first stop of the day – Skara Brae.

Skara Brae is a Neolithic village that has been remarkably preserved. It is estimated to date back to 3100BC, which is older than Stonehenge and the pyramids! Skara Brae was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1999, as part of the aforementioned Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site.

If you are travelling around the Orkney islands, we would highly recommend making a visit here. There is heaps of history to learn about, plus the preserved settlement is in the great outdoors, meaning you aren’t stuck inside a museum for your whole visit! And… did we mention that the settlement faces a beautiful beach? Well, now you know! 😄 If you are travelling independently, more information on tickets, opening hours and location can be found here.

The visitor centre is the first stop – where you can learn more about the discovery, the history and the people who lived here.

Back in 1850, the Orkney islands were battered by a storm. In the aftermath, the outline of some stone buildings were discovered. It is said that the local laird decided to excavate the site. A number of stone houses were discovered, before work stopped on this project in 1868.

Fast forward to the 1930’s, when modern day excavations started at this site. At first, these buildings were thought to be 500 years old. But radiocarbon dating finally placed this settlement in the Neolithic era, much older than previously thought!

Inside the visitor centre are various artefacts, from jewelry to pottery, that were discovered during the excavations. It is incredible to think these artefacts survived some 5000 years! There is also a replica house, that you can step inside and imagine how your life might have been like back in the Neolithic era. After wandering through, it was time to head outside to see the actual village.

This village of prehistoric houses is viewed from a series of elevated walking paths, with informative signs sharing more details on what you are looking at. To preserve these delicate houses, you cannot actually walk through the village.


There appears to be 8 buildings in this settlement. Because this village was so well preserved, you are able to peer inside these Neolithic Orcadian homes and see the layout and furnishings.

Check out that inset wall shelf!

Each home had a similar design, with furniture that we would recognize today! What can you spot in this photograph?

There seems to be two beds, some shelves and even an inset shelf built into the wall that might be for displaying something special!

Remember that beach I was talking about earlier? Well, here it is!

Since this site is so close to the beach and the Bay of Skaill, there is a risk of erosion by sand and water, that may damage these prehistoric buildings. We hear, though, that there are measures being taken to minimize the damage and protect this UNESCO world heritage site.

After spending some time exploring these Neolithic homes, we were off to explore something that was built closer to present-day. Can you spot our next destination in the background of this next photo?

Also included in our ticket to Skara Brae was admission to Skaill House.

Skaill House is “the finest 17th century mansion in Orkney.” The mansion house was originally built in the 1620’s by Bishop Graham and subsequent lairds have enlarged it, added more rooms and wings to the mansion. This property has been passed down through the family for almost 400 years. Of particular note, it was the 7th Laird, William Graham Watt, who discovered Skara Brae in 1850 and started the excavations!

The current owner of Skaill House is the 12th laird – Major Malcolm Macrae. He inherited the mansion in 1991 and started renovations to restore it and eventually open it to the public. In 1997, Skaill House was open for visitors.

There are some spooky stories surrounding Skaill House… When the mansion was being renovated, skeletons were discovered buried under the house. It was discovered that Skaill House was built on top of a Norse graveyard. Tales of ghosts have been reported by the current laird, staff and visitors!

The mansion is styled as a 1950’s family home. After walking through Skara Brae and seeing homes from the Neolithic times, it was time to see what a home in the 1950’s would have been like.

What a beautifully set dining table! I think we would enjoy a nice dinner here. 🍷

This could be a cozy room to do some reading and writing, with a warm fire glowing in that fireplace!

A bedroom decorated in the fashion of that era.


I always love looking for Canadian connections when I’m travelling. And I found two just in Skaill House alone!

I learned that the Hudson Bay Company, previously a fur-trading company and in modern days more known as a top Canadian department store – the Bay, used to have an agent stationed in Stromness. And many Orcadian men and boys as young as 14 years old would go to Stromness, sign a contract and leave Orkney to work for the Bay in Canada. At one point in time, around 80% of the Bay’s employees were from the Orkney islands!

This artefact was something that was brought back to Orkney via the Hudson Bay Company.

Here’s another little Canadian connection that we found in Skaill House. If we ever find ourselves in Manitoba, we’ll have to make a stop at the town of Binscarth.

We had a grand time walking through Skaill House and imagining our lives in this mansion! For more information on Skaill House opening times and admission, check out this link here.

~~~~~

We really enjoyed our visit to Skara Brae and Skaill House. It was a unique opportunity to learn more about the history of the Orkney islands and also of human civilization. It was remarkable to see the furnishings – the beds and the shelves, that these Neolithic people had built over 5000 years ago! And this is what I love about travelling – learning more about the place I am visiting, the history, the human connection and impact.

Before we left Skara Brae, we had to try their scone, which Andy had recommended as one of the best! This scone was buttery and dotted with raisins – a nice mid-morning snack!

After our little ramble and archaeology lesson at Skara Brae, we headed off to our next destination. Check back next week for more!

From Vancouver with Love,
Ioana and Natalie

LettersofWanderlust3


© 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!

Advertisements

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

LettersofWanderlust3


© 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

LettersofWanderlust3


© 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 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.

14017963_1103669253025125_1599351390_n

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!

image

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:

image

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!

image

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:

image

image

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

image

image

Just trying to be artsy with the grass…

image

image

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!

image

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!

image

image

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!

image

image

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

LettersofWanderlust3


© 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!