HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 5 – Tomb of the Eagles

We started off Day 5 of our Compass Buster tour with a wee walk and a visit to the Duncansby Stacks. Then it was time to get to the ferry terminal and head for the Orkney Islands!

The Orkney Islands are a group of 70 islands to the north of mainland Scotland. Orkney has its own distinctive culture and tradition – being influenced both by Scotland and by its Norwegian settlers during the 8th and 9th centuries. Although many of its islands are uninhabited now, there is evidence that people have lived on some of these islands¬†since 5000BC.¬†The Heart of Neolithic Orkney is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, consisting of Maes Howe, the Stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar, Skara Brae and other burial and ceremonial sites in the area.¬†All of these provide a fascinating glimpse into life during the Neolithic era. We would be visiting some of these sites during our visit to Orkney – more on these in our upcoming blog posts! But for now…

We were enjoying a sunny crossing across the Pentland Firth from mainland Scotland to the Orkney Islands. The ferry crossing gives you plenty of time to enjoy the passing scenery and to try spotting some wildlife. (We were told there are always sea birds and sometimes seal and whale sightings – although we didn’t see any on our crossing today.)

As we sailed across the Pentland Firth, we were able to spot the island of Stroma in the distance. We learned that this island is sadly no longer inhabited, with the last of its residents leaving in 1962. You can still see abandoned houses and crofts, although some have lost their roofs and are ruins now. The island is still inhabited by sheep and some cattle – set out there to graze by the island’s current owner.

At the northern tip of Stroma stands its lighthouse, which is now completely automated. It was built to alert boaters of the most dangerous whirlpool, the ‘Swilkie’, in the Pentland Firth.

Although we didn’t spot any seals or whales, I did spot lots of interesting rock formations… (What a nerd! Haha!)

Almost vaguely reminds me of the basalt columns of the Giant’s Causeway…

On the ferry ride, we heard a little bit about the role that the Orkney islands played during WWII. We could see evidence of this in the gun batteries and defences as we approached our destination.

After we got off the ferry, it was off to the Tomb of the Eagles for a bit of a history lesson and a good hike!

The Tomb of the Eagles is a very popular and family friendly attraction located on the island of South Ronaldsay. This historic site was discovered by a local farmer, Ronnie Simison. In 1958, he noticed some stones that looked a bit… out of place on his farmland. Intrigued, he began digging near the drystone wall. He discovered “a cache of beautiful polished artefacts ‚Äď a mace head, three stone axe heads, a black ‚Äėbutton‚Äô and a small Chert knife”. After more digging, Ronnie then discovered some 30 human skulls in a stone chamber. This site was later confirmed to be a Neolithic tomb, which dates all the way back to 5000BC! Along with human bones, the bones and talons of sea-eagles were also discovered on this site. Thus giving it the name – “Tomb of the Eagles”.

Entrance to the Tomb of the Eagles was already included with our Compass Buster tour price. If you are visiting on your own, you can find the admission fee and all the other details here.

Before heading out to the actual tomb, we got a history and archaeology lesson on a guided tour through the Visitor Centre. We won’t spoil this visit for you but we will say that there were lots of fascinating 5000 year old artifacts that we got to see and touch!

After the tour, we headed outside. It was a bit muddy but we had the beautiful sunshine with us on our 1-mile long cliff-top walk to the actual tomb.


Before reaching the tomb, we stopped to look at the Bronze Age site. This site, a little bit inland from the Tomb of Eagles, is believed to be about 3000 years old. This site here consists of stone trough, water system and hearth. We don’t yet know for certain what this was used for. There are some suggestions that this was used for cooking or perhaps a sauna, with the hearth heating the water.

After this short stop, we continued on our way to the Tomb of the Eagles.

Just this cliff-top walk alone is well worth a visit! What a view!

We were lucky to have visited on a sunny day. I imagine it would be completely different on a windy, blustery Orkney day!

As we were hiking, I spotted this little guy, which looks to be perhaps an inuksuk. The inuksuk is a bit of an unofficial symbol of Canada, so it was really special and cool to find it here in Orkney, Scotland.

Inukshuk, the singular of inuksuit, means “in the likeness of a human” in the Inuit language. They are monuments made of unworked stones that are used by the Inuit for communication and survival. The traditional meaning of the inukshuk is “Someone was here” or “You are on the right path.” –¬†Inukshuk Gallery

Inuksuit can be found across the Canadian arctic, as well as Alaska and Greenland. Besides these areas, many monuments and statues in this likeness have been built all over Canada. We also have a well-known inuksuk monument in Vancouver, as well as another famous one in Whistler Рcreated for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. Although its use as a symbol of the 2010 Olympics was a bit controversial, I believe it brings forth a message of friendship and welcome.

I’m not sure whether someone had built this to be an Inuksuk intentionally or whether they just happened to build a human figure out of rocks, but I like to think we have a little bit of a connection to it!

In between photo stops, we continued on our way towards the Tomb, following our guide – Andy.

There is always time for a gazing photo!


Finally, we arrived at the Tomb. The space inside the Tomb is small, so we had to take turns going in. It has a rather unique way of entering!

There is a wooden trolley/board on wheels, which you lie on. And using the rope, you are able to pull yourself into or out of the Tomb.

Once inside the tomb, you can see chambers and shelves that was once built to hold a variety of human bones and skulls.

In addition to human bones, the remains of at least 8 sea-eagles were also discovered inside the tomb. It is still not clear what the significance of the sea-eagles was. And were these sea-eagles placed into the tomb by the original builders or were they added over the years? We may never find out, but that adds to the mystery of this tomb.

It was fascinating to see something that was built over 5000 years ago and is still standing today. You really have to admire what these Neolithic people were able to do with the knowledge, materials and resources they had in the New Stone Age. After a couple of minutes inside the Tomb, we headed back out to the sunshine to enjoy the view some more.

Eventually, it was time to head back to the bus. The cliff top walk back to the bus was just as beautiful as our walk out – perhaps even more so with the setting sun as our backdrop!

Before we left the Tomb of the Eagles, I think pretty much everyone in our group bought a little cup of Orkney ice cream from the gift shop to try. Creamy, rich and delicious – it was the perfect post-exploration snack!

After a really interesting visit to the Tomb of the Eagles and the scenic, cliff top hike around the area, we drove towards the sunset!

And what a gorgeous sunset it was!

But our day wasn’t finished just yet! There were two more stops before we headed to our hostel. More on Day 5 to come in our next post!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 4 РExploring 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 ūüėě. Vertigo hit and nopeūüė®! 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 РA 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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© 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 – Eilean Donan Castle 1.0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 3 – Coo’s, Seals and Historic St. Clement’s Church

We left Stornoway on Day 3 of our Compass Buster tour and boarded our Wild and Sexy yellow bus, headed leisurely towards our destination for tonight – Portree, the largest town on the Isle of Skye! We were excited because this meant more adventures and exploring, of course.

Day 3 started with more epic skyscapes! You could literally be driving anywhere in Scotland and mother nature will treat you to a beautiful landscape.

We actually stopped by the site to take some pictures because of the particular beauty of the clouds and the rays of sun beaming through. It was a somber scene, because of the cemetery, but it was made even more epic because of the clouds above!

After getting back on the bus, Greg told us we’d see a number of different sites that day including a few beaches- which we would be surprised were located in Scotland, and a historic church, before heading to Portree and finishing our night there.

We were literally just back onto the road when Greg SLAMMED the brakes on our yellow bus and we thought perhaps we had hit something!!!

Little did we know we had finally come upon some of Scotland’s most majestic creatures (after the unicorn, of course!): the Hairy Coo! (Or also known as the Highland cow, Heilan’ coo or just… coo)

Just look at the stylish hairstyles these coos’ have! Adorable!

A little backstory on these Highland Cattle:

They seem to have originated in Scotland and are mentioned as far back as the 6th century. They are certainly in no danger of extinction!

“They are a hardy breed due to their native environment, the Highlands of Scotland. This results in long hair, giving the breed its ability to overwinter.”

As you can see below, we were more than a little excited to find some Hairy Coo!

After this, we would constantly be searching for Hairy Coo wherever we went! We fell in love with them!

Sidenote: we even went as far as searching for a hairy coo back at home! And voilà Рhere we are meeting a new friend at a farm about 20 minutes away from us. A little piece of Scotland in the suburbs of Vancouver!

The landscape and clouds continued to be amazing, matching our shadowy Hairy Coo on the cliffs.

Just look at that light glowing on that small loch. Mesmerizing! Somebody take me back to Scotland right now!

As we drove on, we continued our animal spotting and actually came across some geese…

And then we had to actually stop the bus because we found SEALS! Take a look at all those little heads bobbing in and out of the water greeting us. We took way too many pictures to count, even though we had seen seals on our trip already…

Leaving our new animal friends behind, we made our way to one of our main destinations for the day: St. Clement’s Church on the Isle of Harris.

St. Clement’s Church is very well preserved and built around the 1520’s, named after Pope Clement.

“The church was built using local Lewisian gneiss rock. Its ground plan is cruciform and there is a tower at the west end, accessible through a door at the west end of the nave and a set of stone staircases and wooden ladders.” – Wikipedia

The church was supposedly built for the Chiefs of the MacLeods of Harris, probably around 1520. Above is a photo illustrating the wall tomb that Alasdair Croatach MacLeod built for himself in 1528.

It is rather eerie how the shadow of the body still looks so present in the space!

The art work is exquisite and very well preserved.

The church had many uses throughout the centuries, from supposedly being a monastery to being used as a cow byre.

The 9th chief’s son William built his grave on the south wall of the church, while the 10th chief built a third grave in the south transept.

The graveyard which surrounds the church contains a number of MacLeod tombs.

It was in 1873 that the Countess of Dunmore restored the church and in 1907 the tower was rebuilt after being struck by lightning!

Here’s how it looks today – standing fast in the Scottish landscape.

The church was truly different than what we had seen before. It is currently under the care of Historic Scotland. For more information on visiting St. Clement’s Church, check out their website here.

The Isle of Harris was already proving eventful! The scenery was much, much different than on the Isle of Skye and we also came across some Harris Tweed which we will comment on in a future post!

Next up is some beach combing!

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‚Äôs 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 2 – Callanish Standing Stones

And we’ve finally reached my favourite part of Day 2 of our Compass Buster Tour: The Callanish Standing Stones <3.

After finishing with Dun Carloway Broch, Greg told us we’d finally be making our way to the standing stones! If you’ve been keeping up with the blog, you’ll know that we did come across some standing stones at Blarney Castle in Ireland. Since then, I had been more than a little excited to get to Scotland and see these standing stones up close!

Again, as you may know, we have been searching for Jamie Fraser…yes, yes we tried again here. Obviously and sadly, it didn’t work but it was a lot of fun!

From the moment we stepped out of the bus, I knew this place would be magical! Just look at that view as we approached the site:

It’s not often you get to see a procession of standing stones so greatly preserved!

“The Callanish Stones (“Callanish I”) are an arrangement of standing stones placed in a cruciform pattern with a central stone circle. They were erected in the late Neolithic era.”

They are near the village of Callanish on the west coast of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.

It was a great feat for the people who lived near the site to be able to build it over 4,000 years ago. The stones were supposedly moved with rollers, wooden frames and brute strength. This cost them a lot of time and effort, to be sure!

It is still a mystery as to why these stones were built. This is obviously not the first and only site to have standing stones. During the Neolithic period, many communities across north-west Europe constructed these monuments!

It is most likely they were built for worship or religious reasons. Another common finding is that they may have been built according to astronomical events such as the midwinter sunrise and sunset.

It’s so exciting to still be able to see these standing stones and to speculate as to what the site was constructed for and what the stones mean!

As noted above, this particular site is built in a cruciform pattern. Inside the circle is a stone burial cairn. Supposedly, the cremated bodies were despoiled with pots and beakers which dates to between 2000 to 1700 BC.

“The Callanish Stones consist of a stone circle of thirteen stones with a monolith near the middle. Five rows of standing stones connect to this circle. Two long rows of stones running almost parallel to each other from the stone circle to the north-northeast form a kind of avenue. In addition, there are shorter rows of stones to the west-southwest, south and east-northeast. The stones are all of the same rock type, namely the local Lewisian gneiss. Within the stone circle is a chambered tomb to the east of the central stone.”

Perhaps, the site being used for ritualistic purposes is the most realistic explanation for the stones after all.

Of course between the two of us, our imaginations got away with us again and took us on a hopeful journey towards finding Jamie Fraser. We tried several stones which we thought might work to transport us back in time, but alas, it didn’t exactly work.

Searching for Jamie was getting tiring! We tried several stones that called to us but no Jamie resulted :(.

That being said, it was amazing to be able to touch these stones, which had been erected by people thousands of years ago and it was even more incredible to be able to stand on the same land they had stood on, but for obviously very different reasons!

It was such a pleasant day out and our Irish Rainbow luck still hadn’t evaporated! We took the opportunity to fool around a bit and take some epic photos for our collection :).

Today, the stones, as with Dun Carloway Broch, are managed by Historic Scotland.

Perhaps the Historic Scotland website has the best way to explain the stones:

“This is a story with no ending. Against the backdrop of their 5000 years, the stones have witnessed countless changes in the people and the landscape around them. The story tells about developing landscape, the evolving environment, a land of circles, stones, archaeology and conservation along with many other topics.”

The site was so peaceful, with so very few tourists buzzing about, I am very grateful Greg let us stay and absorb the power of the stones for so long! He basically told us to ponder our lives within these surroundings :P.

And ponder we did. I literally sat there in the quiet landscape listening to the wind and looking at the stones and the sky and the surrounding lochs, not wanting to leave!!!

It’s true when they say Scotland is magical. It’s just a feeling you get when you are out and about viewing the natural and ancient landscape!

We unfortunately had to leave our lovely Callanish I stones and move on to the Callanish II and III, which were not quite as extensive as Callanish I, but made supposedly with the same purpose in mind.

Callanish II and III are located not too far away from the main stones site and comprise of similar stone rings. Callanish II, which was dug out of the peat in 1858, is in the shape of an eclipse, while Callanish III consisted of two concentric eclipses.

It was rather difficult to get to the Callanish III site as it was extremely muddy and not as touristy as the main Callanish site. Nevertheless, we were in Scotland! Which meant we must adventure and explore as much as we could! It was still worth it to get pictures like the ones below!

All in all, this was a definite experience. I don’t want to say once in a lifetime, because I know I will go back again! If you travel to the Outer Hebrides and to the Isle of Lewis, you MUST visit the Callanish Stones. Information on visiting this amazing site can be found here.

This is not a site to be excluded from your Scotland trip! And don’t just spend 5 minutes, take a photograph and leave! Make sure to allot enough time for you to take in the standing stones, explore the area and take some time to reflect and think – as was recommended to us! We think it would be an amazing place to experience a sunrise or a sunset – the rays of light dancing between the stones. Or even to spot the Northern Lights here, with the Callanish stones as a backdrop? Amazing! We’ll definitely have to come back for another visit!

This was one of our favourite sites and is likely to be one of yours as well!!!

We end day 2 with a little evening stroll around Stornoway!

Stay tuned for more on that coming soon!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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HAGGiS Adventures Compass Buster Tour: Day 1 – Corrieshalloch Gorge and Falls of Measach

After visiting Dunkeld and finally waking up (maybe) with the help of some coffee, Greg told us that our next major stop for the day would be the Corrieshalloch Gorge and the Falls of Measach. After that, we would be heading to the port at Ullapool to take the Ferry to Stornoway, our stop for the night!  Our excitement level was starting to increase!!!

Before we reached our destination, we had another short stop that would definitely give us a taste of what we should be expecting from our tour around Scotland. Greg pulled to the side and we got views of a landscape that was exactly what I had hoped to see!!!

Through a wiki search (always accurate, right?!), google maps and a list of dams in Scotland, we figure this is probably Loch Glascarnoch.

The mix of hills and lochs and Scottish Heather made for a spectacular view!  I think it was at this point that I finally realized we were going to travel around SCOTLAND and see sights like this all over the place Рif not even more impressive!

It also happened to be World Ballet Day at the time, so Natalie took the opportunity to do an arabesque with a beautiful Scottish landscape behind her!

It was at this point that we found out that Scottish Heather is specific to this landscape and that it can be used to make rope! That’s how strong it is.

At this point I was a bit reluctant to leave this calming landscape. I literally just wanted to sit there and absorb the scenery <3.

Greg burst my bubble by informing us we had to get a move on for we had more sights to see. This leads us to our next stop: Corrieshalloch Gorge and the Falls of Measach.

We would be walking across a suspension bridge that day to get to the Falls! The bridge was actually:

“Built by John Fowler (1817-98), joint designer of the Forth Railway Bridge.”

The gorge itself is 61 metres deep and is one of the best examples of a boxed canyon in Britain. It is located on the River Droma, south of Ullapool. It’s actually 1.5 km long and there are two walking paths to explore the area. We took the shorter, less strenuous one that would lead to the viewing platform, as we still had a lot of travelling to do.

Luckily for us,¬†the sun decided to stick around and we got great sunny weather to explore in. As we crossed the bridge, boys, of course, would be boys and they shook it. We already knew our trip mates would be a fun crowd! There was even a sign warning of the maximum number of people on the suspension bridge at one time! But we weren’t too worried… (Plus, we had an engineer in the group and he said it would be safe – so we believed him!)

The pictures we got of the Falls of Measach were gorgeous! It was another lovely example of what Scotland had to offer.

On our way back to the bus, we got another look at the River Droma and the gorge. The gorge was actually made at the end of the Ice Age so the rock formations we saw were very interesting and somehow reminded me of the geological formations in Ireland! Dare I say that the colour of the water and the foaming parts that hit the rocks reminded me of GUINNESS!? Because it really did ūüôā

This was another beautiful landscape to add to our list that day.

After snapping some epic pictures of water and sky (yet again), we were back on the road.

Our next stop would be something that I hadn’t expected in Ireland and again hadn’t expected in Scotland: A BEACH! More specifically at Ardmair Bay, overlooking Loch Kanaird.

The village of Ardmair is a fishing village in Wester Ross, north of Ullapool. It is small, quaint and just plain beautiful! The houses were all white surfaced and fit perfectly with the bay it is situated on. I was just as shocked at the beauty of this beach and little town as I had been in Ireland when we traveled along the coastline.

The beach is full of perfectly smooth rocks, which are PERFECT for use as skipping stones!

We, of course, had to try our hands at it but we had to be careful because it was low tide and the moss on the stones made it extra slippery to get around, but it was so worth it to get to the water and look out at the landscape <3. It was just amazing. So, if I left part of my soul in Ireland, I was already leaving another part of my soul in Scotland!

Here’s a look at Ben Nor Coigach in the distance.

The sun didn’t fail us that day and came out in another glorious display of sky and water.

After getting our fair share of photographic opportunities, we were back on the road to Ullapool – where we would be catching the Ferry to our final stop of the day: Stornoway. Ullapool is a village in Ross-shire, Scottish Highlands which is nestled on the shores of Lochbroom. We didn’t have much time to explore Ullapool but it is supposedly a ideal place to stay on a trip to Scotland because of its proximity¬†to several other Scottish villages and sites, not to mention Inverness Airport!

If you want more information about Ullapool, you can find it here.

Ullapool would be where we had to grab a quick bite to eat before our 2+ hours Ferry ride to Stornoway. We wandered the streets for a little while, before deciding to eat some fries (chips?! ūüėČ) while getting to know some of our group mates better.

We were treated to another amazing light and water show. I honestly have never seen such beautiful sky scenery as I did in Scotland. Just look at how that ray of Sun comes out of the clouds specifically on that spot on the water -truly magical!

We would be taking the Calmac Ferry to the Isle of Lewis and we only hoped the waters would be calm! The clouds that were rolling in looked a bit threatening but I was really excited to be on the water and experience Scotland in this way. The Calmac Ferry runs both in the summer and the winter out to Stornoway and you can find more specific information on the rates and the schedules here, in case you are planning your trip to the Hebrides!

As we left Ullapool, we made sure to take a seat by the window to snap some more shots of the beautiful scenery before us!

After first exploring the Ferry a little bit, we decided it was time to eat our dinner. The Ferry had a rather good selection of food from their cafeteria! I believe both Natalie and myself got the fish and chips and I finally gave in and wanted to try the Irn Bru that seemed to be a popular drink in Scotland. Greg had talked it up enough on the bus ride that a bunch of us were willing to try it. Apparently Irn Bru is good to cure anything :P. Whether this is a true or false statement, I will leave it up to you to decide once you try it. In my opinion, it is a rather acquired taste!

Before we knew it, our Ferry had docked in Stornoway and we were on the road to our accommodations! Our accommodations for the next two nights, as we explored the Outer Hebrides, would be the Heb Hostel in Stornoway. It was a pleasant little hostel with enough room to house our whole horde of people. There were quite a few of us in one room and there were washroom facilities on each floor but, even so, it took quite the coordination for us all to share, especially with more than 10 girls under one roof!

Once settled into our respective rooms, we decided it was time to shower and make use of the Wi-Fi they have in place in order to tell our families back home what we had seen that day! One thing about the Heb Hostel was that the Wi-Fi worked perfectly in the common room but not so great in the rooms themselves. But it really seemed to depend on the phone you had, as some people could catch the Wi-Fi and other people not so much (I was in the not so much category).

It was already dark outside by the time we had all showered and gathered in the common room. I was so tired out but our group mates were insistent in going out and finding a pub to grab a drink from! Greg informed us of a specific pub that would be hosting a karaoke night that we might enjoy going to. The only store open so late would be Tesco so we wouldn’t get to see much of the city itself at this hour. We decided to go to Tesco first to grab some snacks for the bus ride the following day and told our group mates we would go to the Pub that was recommended after.

Unluckily for us…we didn’t manage to find the pub. We wandered around a rather quiet Stornoway (there was nobody on the street so late) but couldn’t find the pub! We did stumble into an empty pub and got stared down by a bar lady! We did meet a cat along the way which I befriended and hesitantly left behind though. Having been unsuccessful, we decided to go back to the Hostel and turn in early so we would be refreshed for tomorrow.

Overall our first day in the Highlands was amazing! We were even more excited for what was to come the next day. You’ll notice that our days were packed with different stops and adventures and this is because of the number of places there are to be amazed by in Scotland.

Stay tuned for Day 2 where we explored some cliffs, finally saw some standing stones (Outlander shots to come) and found some historic ruins!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

LettersofWanderlust3


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