Friday, July 02, 2004

The Scotland Report: Installment III 

Back to Scotland and to Urquhart Castle . . .

When you visit the castle, you enter the grounds through a visitors' center. We opted to hang out and see the 8-minute film on the castle's history before going outside, and we were very glad we did. At the end of the film, the screen lifted and the curtains parted, giving us a breathtaking panoramic view of the castle and the loch.

After the film, we zipped up our rain jackets and headed out to explore the castle grounds:

Once we got down to the castle, we all climbed up to the top of the tower you see in the picture above, and I was able to get a shot of the general overview of the ruin itself:

We had planned to go to Ullapool, a small fishing village to the north, the next day, but our hostesses said, "Oh, you simply must take the children to Plockton to see the seals!" We didn't have enough time to do both and still spend much time on the Isle of Skye, so Friday morning we headed off to Plockton.

The scenery along the road was truly amazing. We saw sheep in just about every field and a number of quaint little cottages with gardens like this:

For much of the drive the road was nothing more than a single lane with occasional wide spots to allow passing. Daddy pulled into one such wide spot so that I could get out and take a picture of this island near Plockton:

In Plockton we had our one and only day of truly glorious weather, and I'm sure that colored our perception of the town in general. Annabelle declared that she liked this part of Scotland much better than the rainy part.

Plockton is a tiny little village on the shores of Loch Carron. It looks as if one might use the word "sleepy" to describe it, but it's really not. The town is brimming with activity, and ever since it served as the set for filming of the BBC's Hamish MacBeth series, more and more tourists have been coming.

We drove past a herd of shaggy highland cattle that were grazing unfenced on the outskirts of town and made our way down to the waterfront. One of the first things we saw was a dog who was clever enough to be responsible for his own walks. As the saying goes, "Retriever, heel thyself":

The B&Bs along the main drag were filled, so we hurried up a side street to find a room. We wound up at a bed and breakfast run by Mrs. Janet MacKenzie, where we had 2 double rooms for 80 pounds total. Here's a picture of the front of the house and its garden:

Once we found our room, we hurried back down to the waterfront to catch the 2:00 p.m. seal-watching trip. When we got there, we discovered that the boat wouldn't be leaving for until 2:30, so we passed the time by talking to a local man, Geoffrey Malcolm Salt, who had recently published a book of his life stories. The next morning I bought a copy of his book, which he signed for me:

Finally it was time to get on the boat. Our skipper was Callum MacKenzie (pictured below with his first mate), who runs daily tours to look at the seals. Callum guarantees seals and doesn't collect payment until some are spotted.

Callum gave the kids on board an opportunity to drive the boat. Annabelle passed, but Mike happily took him up on the offer:

On our way out to the seals, we passed by Duncraig Castle:

We did indeed get to see quite a few seals, much to the delight of the kids. I enjoyed having the chance to play with the zoom on my new camera:

After our seal hunt, we got fish and chips from Grumpy's Takeaway and enjoyed them at a picnic table down by the beach before heading back to our B&B.

We had trouble getting to sleep that night, as the beautiful weather made the lateness of the sunset that much more dramatic. Here's the view from the room I shared with Annabelle, taken early Friday afternoon:

And here's the same view taken at 11:00 that night:

Next time: the Isle of Skye . . .


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