HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 10 – The Kelpies and Goodbyes

As we got closer and closer to Edinburgh, we dreaded the end of this epic trip. But there was one last stop before this all ends!

Our last stop of this trip was the Kelpies! The Kelpies, two beautiful horse sculptures, are located in Falkirk at Helix Park.

What are kelpies, you ask?

Well, a kelpie in Scottish legends is a shapeshifting spirit that is said to dwell in bodies of water (though whether they dwell in streams, rivers or lochs, has been debated through the years!) Kelpies are said to take the shape of a horse, sometimes equipped with a bridle already. But beware, its magical hide means the rider will be stuck on its back. Then the kelpie will ride back to its watery lair and devour the human on its back. 😲

There is one bright spot… If you are able to grab hold of a kelpie’s bridle, you will have power over it and may capture it. It is said that a captured kelpie is highly prized, for it has the strength of 10 horses and stamina of many more.

The Kelpies at Helix Park are considered the world’s largest equine sculptures. Although these sculptures are named after the mythological kelpies, they are actually dedicated to working horses and horse power which helped to shape central Scotland’s early industries – particularly the canal horses who used to pull barges along Scotland’s many canals.

Each Kelpie weighs more than 300 tonnes and stands 30 metres tall. It was also built on site in 90 days. Check out this video for a really cool time lapse of the construction!

Each Kelpie was based on a Clydesdale horse – a breed of working horse. Duke and Baron, the two model horses were on hand at the opening ceremony of the Kelpies on November 27, 2013.

Since this was our last stop on this tour, it was fitting for our OG 10 day group to take a group photo. And it is one of our favourites from the whole trip ❤

Taken from good ol’ Facebook

After admiring the Kelpies and stretching our legs, we headed back to the tour bus. Once there, we were informed that we would be making a stop at Edinburgh Airport as some people from this tour guide’s group had flights to catch. We weren’t aware that airport drop off was included in this tour! (Perhaps we should have asked for personal drop off service to our hostels! 😞) This really didn’t seem like the best use of our paid tour time… but guess it was a nice service for those who needed to get to the airport right away. (Even though we were told not to book flights or onwards travel plans immediately after the tour ends, in case of any delays in getting back to Edinburgh!)

After a stop at the airport, we approached Edinburgh. We neared Edinburgh nearly 2hrs earlier than our expected arrival time. (Not sure whether people’s departure times and subsequently timing of the airport stop affected our earlier arrival?! 😯)

Our group thought that this time could have been better spent with a longer visit at one of our earlier stops, seeing something else on our way back to Edinburgh or perhaps going on a walk or exploring an area – even if it was just exploring an area near Edinburgh like Dean Village or Portobello beach. But unfortunately we were dropped off back on the Royal Mile early and feeling like we hadn’t gotten the most out of Day 10. 😔

Unfortunately, in speaking with our groupmates, we all felt like the last part of our Compass Buster tour could have been better, especially compared to the first two tour guides we had and the first 7 days of our trip. Our last tour guide did not make an effort to get to know the people in his group. Of course, it was a large tour bus full of people by this point and we definitely didn’t expect him to know everyone by name or know our life history, but he stuck with the passengers who came out with him and really did not make an effort to get to know the rest of us who joined his group for Day 8. He also didn’t try to engage us in any of the activities he planned for his group. (On the other hand, Sergio, the bus driver, was friendly to all of us!) Some of the stops that we had on the last 3 days also felt like they could have been arranged better. Some felt like “filler” stops – just making a stop to kill some time and just for the sake of it. Some stops were repeats for us and there were other stops that we would have loved to see instead. And Day 10… making 3 visits, a stop at the airport and arriving into Edinburgh almost 2 hours early… it unfortunately just felt like we had wasted half a day, if not a full day of paid travel time and experience 😔

But such is life and we did have an amazing time travelling all over Scotland. There were places that I know we would not have visited, had we travelled on our own – places like the Outer Hebrides and the Orkney islands. We also managed to visit a lot of well known attractions like Eilean Donan castle, Portree, the standing stones at Callanish and the UNESCO world heritage sites in Orkney. We were really glad we went with the 10 day tour instead of the shorter ones. Even though there were some repeat stops, we are really happy we got to see all the varied landscapes of Scotland – from the islands (where each had its own personality), to the rugged highlands to the scenic lowlands. We would recommend taking the 10 day tour if you have the time and are interested in seeing many parts of Scotland. We know that HAGGiS has changed up their 10 day tour itinerary, so hopefully stops are arranged in a better manner.

After some time reflecting on our trip with our group mates, we pulled into Edinburgh. As we grabbed our backpacks and prepared to head back to our hostels, we made plans for that night to meet up with our OG 10 day squad and our new friends we met from Andy’s group for one last hurrah.

We headed back to Castle Rock Hostel, freshened up and got ready to go for dinner. A couple of us decided to meet up for dinner and after wandering the Royal Mile looking for a restaurant, we ended up at The Advocate. As a last tribute, I ordered the vegetarian haggis. (I think the haggis I had in Portree was better!)

After a yummy dinner, we headed to the Belushi’s Bar to meet up with the gang. There was a birthday to celebrate, drinks to be had, our trip to reminisce, Facebook info to be exchanged and shenanigans with waterguns and sunglasses to be had. We decided to go for a walk and explore Edinburgh at night. Let’s just say navigating the many stairs of Edinburgh was an adventure that night! 🤣 We wandered through Grassmarket, where we were regaled with crazy stories and legends – that had us laughing our heads off. We eventually ended up at The Three Sisters, where we met up with more friends – including M, we became friends whilst visiting Orkney! We managed to snag a section of the long tables outside in the courtyard for our group. One of the moments that was the most memorable was impromptu karaoke – especially when we all sang 500 Miles (Andy’s version) together!

Because blurry photos are the best ❤

Alas, all good things must come to an end and there were hugs all around as we parted ways. There was also some waterworks… 😭 once one person started crying, more followed – we must have gotten strange stares from the other patrons of the Three Sisters! There were also promises of future trips together. With most of us being from Canada and Australia – 2 cross country road trips would allow us to easily meet up for more adventures!

As our little group wandered back up to the Royal Mile, it was time for more goodbyes. There was more tears on the Royal Mile 😢 as we said another round of goodbyes and headed off towards our respective hostels and M headed home. But with the wonders of Facebook, we still happily keep in touch with M and our OG 10 day squad + honorary members.

And there you have it – the end of our 10 day Compass Buster Tour. What an amazing trip! We are so glad we decided to go with this tour and are so grateful for the experience and all the people we met!

We had one last day in Edinburgh and we were going to make the most of it with a little daytrip out to Queensferry!

Check back soon for more!

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!

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HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 9 – Heading to Hogwarts!

This was the day that we had been waiting for…

Day 9 of our Compass Buster Tour would be the day we head to Hogwarts!

Didn’t think it would happen, did you?

But we got our Hogwarts letters and were about to take the Hogwarts Express!

After traveling from Skye to Mallaig on the ferry, our tour bus stopped near the Mallaig train station. Once there, our guide explained what would be happening. Those of us who had pre-purchased tickets were guaranteed a spot on the train. For those who did not pre-purchase tickets, they would try to source some tickets to accommodate everyone. And for those who did not wish to take the Hogwarts Express, they would stay on the tour bus, see the Glenfinnan Viaduct and meet up with the train in Fort William.

We were eager to get off the bus! We had an important mission – secure the perfect seats for this scenic journey! So as soon as we could, we all walked excitedly to the train station.

A tad different than Platform 9 3/4…

We were told which seats were reserved for our group and after snapping a couple of pre-journey photographs, we hopped aboard the Hogwarts Express!

Crossed off another bucket list item! Yessssss! As we settled into our seats, chatting with our group mates and some new traveler friends, we finally heard the engine rumble and the train come alive! Not to mention we had secured ourselves some wands for the journey and whipped them out as soon as we were seated!

We even tried to perform some spells…like Wingardium Leviosa. Whether it worked or not is another matter all together :P.

Even without the magic of Harry Potter, this train journey was still pretty special! This train would be taking us from Mallaig on the west coast through the Scottish Highlands and finally to Fort William.

Now, in reality, the train is called the Jacobite Express. It boasts to be the greatest train journey in the world! A one-way journey from Mallaig to Fort William is about 42miles and travels through some of the best landscapes of Scotland – from lochs and rivers to mountains and viaducts. The train is a steam train and makes for that iconic photo of steam billowing out from the chimney of the train.

The Jacobite Express does provide seasonal service only – so make sure to check the schedule to plan your trip accordingly! Information on train schedule, times and fares can be found here. This train journey was not included in our basic HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster tour fees. This was one of the Add-Ons offered on top of our tour fees. We knew we wanted to take this journey, so we had pre-purchased this ahead of time to guarantee our seats on this epic train journey!

The scenery was just spectacular!

Initially we stayed in our seats, admiring the passing scenery and snapping some photographs through the glass window. When we got up to stretch our legs a little, we saw that some people had stationed themselves in the connecting space between train cars. This space had open windows, which provided the perfect, glass-free spot to take photographs! Now, we are not sure what train rules or etiquette is around this, but we ended up spending some time by the window here. Especially since the Glenfinnan stop was coming up!

Here we are – approaching the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct! This was made world-famous by the Harry Potter films and is now a huge tourist attraction. This concrete viaduct is said to be the longest concrete railway bridge in Scotland and towers over River Finnan at a height of 100m. Set against the mountains, it makes for a gorgeous picture!

Our little group huddled by our little window and hurriedly and politely took turns taking photographs of this iconic viaduct. This way, we all got a chance to see the viaduct and to snap a couple of pictures.

I’m just imagining Ron and Harry driving the flying car over our train!


And just like that, we had traveled over the viaduct and continued on our way to our final destination.

I think we lucked out on our seats. Our train car was towards the middle/end of the train. When the train travels along a bend, we get this beautiful view of the steam engine and the cars in front of us.

We couldn’t help taking some train portraits!

It was interesting to see the change in scenery as we traveled in from the coast. It seemed like after every bend, there was a different vista to admire. We can definitely see why this is described as one of the greatest train journeys in the world!

I’m always on the lookout for a Canadian connection, when we are travelling. Can you spot our flag there? It was pretty cool that we were able to spot our Maple Leaf all the way in Scotland!

Alas, the train journey had to end… Here we are arriving at our final destination – Fort William. (Unfortunately, not Hogwarts…)

It seemed like no one wanted to leave the platform! People of all ages enjoyed the train ride and everyone spent a couple of minutes taking photographs of this steam train. Regardless of whether you are a Harry Potter fan or not, this train journey through the highlands was pretty cool!

And although we didn’t actually arrive at Hogwarts, the train journey on the Jacobite and the amazing scenery was enough to make this one of the most memorable highlights of this trip!

We thought this train journey was worth it – being Harry Potter fans and also fans of the beautiful Scottish landscape. If we were to return, we probably would not take the train again. Instead we would probably find the perfect spot by the Glenfinnan Viaduct to capture the Jacobite Express crossing this iconic viaduct and perhaps make a visit to the Glenfinnan Monument.

We were a bit reluctant to return to our tourbus and back to reality.

When we got back on the tourbus, we swapped stories with our friends who didn’t take the train journey. Although they didn’t get to board the Jacobite Express, they told us of how the bus raced the train to make sure the group was in the optimal place to watch the Jacobite cross Glenfinnan Viaduct. They did take some spectacular photographs of this iconic steam train gliding over that iconic viaduct – made world-famous by the Harry Potter films.

After such an exciting adventure, we chatted excitedly and looked through our photographs as our tourbus took us to our next destination. Stay tuned for more of Day 9!

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 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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© 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 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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© 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 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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© 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 7 – Searching for Nessie!

After our wee walk around Invermoriston, it was off to Loch Ness for some monster spotting to end off Day 7 of our Compass Buster tour! 🐉

With or without Nessie, Loch Ness is famous in its own right. Loch Ness is the second largest loch in Scotland by surface area and the second deepest. This freshwater loch is the largest by volume and contains more water than all of the rivers and lakes in England and Wales combined!

Besides being an incredible body of water, Loch Ness is also surrounded by the spectacular scenery of the Scottish Highlands. There are beautiful little villages on its shores – like Drumnadrochit, Fort Augustus (our home for tonight), Foyers and Invermoriston. There is even the beautiful Urquhart Castle on its Western shore. Even without Nessie, all of that would be enough to convince me to visit!

Because we arrived here towards the end of the day, we had this view pretty much all to ourselves!

The weather was forever changing… When we first arrived, it was a bit cloudy. Then the clouds parted slightly and we were bathed in the rays of the setting sun.

Can you see that the water of Loch Ness is not crystal clear – but a bit murky? That is due to the high concentration of peat particles in the water. It is said that visibility in the loch is only 4 inches. We didn’t jump in to test this fact – so we can only assume this is true!

Murky waters might be a reason why it is so difficult to get a clear photograph of Nessie!

We did try to look for Nessie, but I think she was being shy today! I like to imagine her popping her head out of that wave in the middle of this photograph.

Nessie is indeed a famous Scot – with hundreds of thousands of searches on google each month. The first recorded sighting was in 565AD, where St. Columba supposedly encountered a water beast and banished it into the waters of River Ness. In more modern times, thousands of people claimed to have seen Nessie, with some providing photographic “evidence”.

There she is! This is evidence enough, eh?

Many of these have now been proven false, yet Nessie continues to capture our imagination. Various searches and investigations using modern day technology have been conducted and the scientific community is leaning towards Nessie being a myth. But then again, you never know – Nessie might just be very good at hiding. Or there are also whisperings that she can move between lochs and rivers and even that she can teleport to different bodies of water around the world! Perhaps Nessie is friends with our own Ogopogo – who supposedly lives in Okanagan Lake a couple hours drive from us! Who knows 😉🤔

She’s not behind me, is she?!

Walking back from the edge of Loch Ness, we came upon the Canal.

Loch Ness is part of the Caledonian Canal – a series of 29 locks spanning the 60 miles along the Great Glen between Inverness with Fort William. This canal system crosses the entire span of the Scottish Highlands and provides a way to get from the East to the West coast of Scotland. Nowadays, you can explore the Caledonian Canal by boat, canoe, bike or on foot!

For more on how you can explore the Canal, check out this website here. I think this would be a really unique trip and it would be a great opportunity see the beauty of the Scottish Highlands and to see this engineering marvel.

The Caledonian Canal was engineered by the famed Scottish enginner Thomas Telford – the same man behind the old Telford bridge that we visited earlier in the day. Telford’s work took him to England, Wales and even to Sweden, where he oversaw the construction of the Göta kanal – sister canal of the Caledoninan Canal. Although his work took him to places far and wide, he never forgot where he came from. He undertook lots of projects in Scotland – from bridges to churches to entire towns. He also took on the task of making communications and travel throughout Scotland easier by building miles and miles of roads in his home country. I’m sure within our 10 days exploring Scotland, we must have traveled on one of his roads. Check out this Visit Scotland post on Telford’s top 10 greatest Scottish Constructions!

Although we only got a glimpse at one section of the Canal, we were impressed at how something built in the early 1800’s is still functional almost 200 years later!

~~~~~

Having had a full day of adventures and exploring, we were on our way to our home for the night – Morag’s Lodge. This hostel had cozy rooms, homecooked dinners available for purchase, a large communal dining area, a bar and tartan throughout its building!

When we sat down for dinner, we noticed another large group of people with the yellow Haggis Adventures wristband. This was when we realized another change in tour group and tour guide was coming tomorrow… 😔 Part of our group would be returning to Edinburgh with Andy and the rest of us would be joining another group to finish off our 10 day tour. It wasn’t off to a good start when our new group mates were already insisting that they had reserved certain seats on the bus and would not be allowing anyone else to sit in those spots… We decided to worry about them tomorrow and just enjoy tonight!

After dinner, we wandered over to the bar. Our OG 10 day squad (❤) would be continuing on together but a couple of our new friends would be leaving us tomorrow. (Don’t worry – we would all be reunited in Edinburgh in a couple of days!) So it was time for some drinks, chats, some live music and dancing to cap off our time together!

Some time in the evening, a loch monster costume was brought out, along with a chest of tartan fabric. Andy helped all of us to fashion our own traditional Scottish wear – kilts for the guys and a kind of “earasaid” for us girls.

We loved it!

We came to Scotland prepared for a night like this. And tonight was the perfect night to break out these socks and matching red flats to finish off our outfits!

Modelling the latest in tartan with our dear friends D and M!

Whilst wandering the halls of the hostel, we can across this poster – which quickly became a favourite 😉🙄😍

We ended off our night stargazing outside – chatting with our friends, wrapped in our tartan and gazing at the Milky Way. It doesn’t get any better than that 💙

Day 8 is next – 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!

HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 6 – Adventures in Yesnaby

After visiting Skara Brae, the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness, we headed out for another wee walk to end off Day 6 of our Compass Buster tour! We loved being outside and experiencing the amazing scenery of Scotland – instead of being cooped up on a bus!

This time, we headed out to Yesnaby.

We left our wee yellow bus behind as we set off to explore the wild, unforgiving and beautiful landscape of Yesnaby.

This was probably my favourite wee walk of our trip. Coastal walks are my favourite – the crashing waves, the open water and the never-ending views! It was a bit gloomy and cloudy earlier in the day, but when we arrived here on the west coast of Mainland, the sun came out! And it was all thanks to the STRONG Orcadian wind blowing all the clouds away.

Walking away from our parked bus, we were immediately blown away by the coastal cliffs and the views out over the water.

We couldn’t help but start taking photographs right away!

There’s always time for a gazing photograph!

As we walked farther from the car park, we marveled at Nature’s unrelenting power in shaping this land, the cliffs, the arches and the sea stacks that we were headed towards.

Another photo stop – this time with our friend M!

Remember how we said earlier that the winds had blown the clouds away? Just to show you how windy it was – you could literally lean back and the wind would support you! 🌬 (Also, check out the windswept hair – not staged at all!)

Continuing on, being blown this way and that, we found a lone Standing Stone in the middle of a field. I wonder what its story is…

Besides spotting a Standing Stone, we also passed by inlets, rocky beaches, little streams and of course – more cliffs!

As much as we enjoy exploring and adventures, we do have a safety message… These cliffs and the area here are truly epic and spectacular. So they make for great photo opportunities! Having said that, do be careful – these cliffs can be dangerous. Especially if you are visiting in inclement weather or if you have little ones in tow! Make sure to stay a safe distance away from the edge and be careful of your footing. We also advise wearing good walking/hiking shoes or boots.

As we paused for our next photo stop, we turned back to check our progress and this view took my breath away! This landscape doesn’t even seem real! It almost seems a fake photo backdrop. But we can assure you that it is most definitely real and if you enjoy coastal walks as much as we do, we would definitely recommend you visit!

Can you spot our wee yellow bus off in the distance?

Here’s the nerdy side of me coming out again… 🤓 The rock formations here were really interesting – from the layers of rock pressed upon each other over the centuries, to the way the cliffs were “cut”, to the fragments of rock that are strewn around the cliffs. The Old Red Sandstone of Yesnaby hides a lot of history, I’m sure.

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We were a little bit drawn to the rock formations… just a wee little bit! We may or may not have scamper around and climbed over rocks to have a mini photoshoot…

And finally, we saw it – our destination. Yesnaby Castle.

No, it’s not an actual castle. But Yesnaby Castle is the name of the sea stack you see here. We hurried along to get closer…

But before we got to Yesnaby Castle, we came across the “False Stack”, which looked epic in its own right. The False Stack is a little sea stack, which is connected to the Yesnaby cliffs via a little rock bridge. Even though the bridge was maybe 3 feet(?!) wide, it felt much more narrow when you are approaching it – or rather when you are standing there!

Again, if you do choose to walk onto the bridge and take a photograph, do BE CAREFUL! And you definitely do NOT have to walk over the bridge or even go near it. A photograph from afar would do just as well!

Carefully picking our way over the rocks to the little bridge, we did stop for a couple of photographs. And I think once in our lifetimes is enough! If we do return to Yesnaby, I think we’ll be taking photographs from afar this time.

And, of course, the ballet side of me couldn’t leave without at least doing an arabesque in this wild and beautiful location!

Safely back on solid and less-treacherous land, we continued on our journey.

Here is a closer look at Yesnaby Castle.

Instead of stopping here, we continued further. And we were rewarded with this stunning view of this famous sea stack. It was well worth the journey!

As we looked further south, we could just make out another famous Orcadian sea stack WAY off in the distance…

Can you guess what we were trying to spot?!

That is the Old Man of Hoy in the distance. Similar to Yesnaby Castle, it is a sea stack. Located off the coast of Hoy, it is said to be the tallest sea stack in the UK at 449ft! Experts estimate that the Old Man of Hoy is less than 250 years old, as there are old maps and paintings that do not depict this sea stack. The strong winds and waves here have carved this sea stack out of the Old Red Sandstone relatively quickly. It is said that the Old Man of Hoy once had two legs – an rocky arch for legs. But with continual erosion by wind and water, that arch collapsed – probably some time in the nineteenth century. This sea stack, and Yesnaby Castle also, is popular with rock climbers. Unfortunately, experts say that this sea stack will probably collapse soon. Although we didn’t get the chance to visit Hoy or the Old Man of Hoy on this trip, we were glad to have set eyes on it – even though it was from afar.

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As the sun started setting, it was time to make our way back to our bus and return to Kirkwall.

Before heading back to our hostel, we made a quick stop at St. Magnus Cathedral.

We did not go inside but admired it from the outside. The building is striking – with its alternating red and yellow sandstone from the Orkney isles. St. Magnus Cathedral has an interesting history – from the martyrdom of St. Magnus, to the founding of this cathedral by his nephew Earl Rögnvald, to the reformation. You can read more about its history here.

Across the street from St. Magnus Cathedral, are the Bishop’s and Earl’s Palaces.

This site is maintained by Historic Scotland. Information on making a visit can be found here.

Although we did not go inside, we had a wander around the ruins on the outside. We also read a bit about the history surrounding these two buildings and were intrigued by its Norse roots, its transition to Scottish rule and the tyrannical means that the Earl’s Palace was allegedly built. More on the history of these Palaces can be found here.

We tried to imagine what the complete building would have looked like…

After a full day of adventures, we headed back in the direction of our hostel, with a beautiful sunset leading us back.

Most of us decided to make a grocery store run (there is a Tesco near the Orcades Hostel) and prepare a nice dinner in the hostel’s well equipped kitchen.

Let’s just say there were a lot of cooks in the kitchen that evening! 😋 But we had a really lovely time chatting with our friends, cooking and sitting down to a nice dinner and some sangria🍷!

As we were chatting and cleaning up after dinner, we could hear and feel a storm brewing outside. The wind was something fierce! I guess they weren’t kidding about the unrelenting weather up here. And it howled all night… We were a little concerned about taking the ferry the next morning in this weather! I don’t think we would have been too heartbroken if the ferry got cancelled – it would just mean more time spent in Orkney 😉

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The Orkney Islands are full of fascinating stories and have a rich history going back to the prehistoric times. By no means did we traverse all of the islands, visit all the historic sites or see all that the Orkney islands had to offer, but we got a glimpse of its history, charm, its natural and scenic beauty. We are really glad we got to explore these islands on this tour. I’m not sure that we would have made it all the way out here, if we had made our own way around Scotland.

If you’re travelling around northern Scotland and have a couple of days to spare, we would definitely recommend catching the ferry over to visit Orkney. (Just be sure to check ferry schedules and weather conditions!)

Here are some useful websites if you are planning a visit to Orkney:

Visit Orkney

Orkney Events

Northlink Ferries’ Guide to Orkney

Pentland Ferries

John Groats Ferry – which also organizes some day tours

Orkney Ferries – if you want to explore the other islands of Orkney

Lonely Planet – Orkney

Heart of Neolithic Orkney

Orkney Explorer Pass

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Check back next week for our journey back to mainland Scotland.

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!