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Scotland 2008

After last year's trip to Norway, I decided that the next destination had to be Scotland. So I did some research, booked, prepared my bags and let's go. The bags where, more or less, the same as last year's.

Packed & Ready

Lock & Loaded

I even test-drove the bike to see if there were any troubles with the loading, but it was ok, so saturday morning, jump on, ride the 50 or so Km to Rotterdam and get on the ferry. No problem, if we don't count a nutter (brits) that began asking idiotic questions (like "what you do if you have mechanical problems or a crash"... Dude, willyashutthefsckup?). Is it me?

The ferry leave me on british soil on sunday morning, right away the impact with the british trafic and the 'round'bout'... that I understand that brits make them, not because they like them, but simply because it make them feel more 'european'...

I reach Edinburgh, find the BB, drop my bags and go for a quick tour, the BB is about a Km from the city center, so next morning I get up (not so early, is rare to find something that is opened before 9.30) and go for a visit of the castle.

After the castle a quick tour of the 'royal mile', the road that connect the castle with the palace and was walked by the king in the good old days.

After this, Edinburgh's museum is waiting for me. The museum contains an eclectic collection of objects, and even the display is... strange...

Well... the whole museum is strange...

At one point, I decide to go visit the bar/restaurant, and it take me half an hour to figure out which stairs goes the right floor. I think they have tales about lost visitors and the ghost of some tour guide that is still hunting the place in search for the toilet...

The visit take me into the afternoon (no, not just 'cause I got lost), then I go visit Nelson's Monument on top of the hill.

Nelson's Momument (center)

Nelson's Momument (left)

Edinburgh's Castle


The next step should be the Old Music Instruments' museum, but is closed for renovation, so I decide to slowly get bet towards the BB and towards food.

Another day, another leg, this time direction Aberdeen, on the way I stop to visit Falkirk's Wheel.

If you're asking yourself what the heck is that thing, is a lock that connect two water channels, which in turn connect Glasgow with Edinburgh. The two waterways are 20 mt from each other (on the vertical plane). So, instead of a "normal" lock, they have this wheel. Ships enter one of the two 'pod', the wheel roll over and the ship gets into the other waterway. A complicated mechanical system allow for the 'pods' to rotate in sync with the wheel, so they stay upright.

I can almost imagine the Project's Start-Up meeting...
Engineer #1: Ok, we have waterway A that is 20 meters upwards from waterway B, we have to put them together, ideas?
Engineer #2: Well... we could build a system of locks and gates... with 3 gates it should be done, a simple, tested, reliable system...
Engineer #3: Aaaaaahhhh.. I've got an idea! Let's build a wheel!
#1: A wheel?
#3: Yes, like a watermill, but sideways, ships get on the top or on the bottom and then they roll to the other level.
#2: Heee... sounds complicated...
#1: And dangerous...
#2: Complicated, dangerous, lots of moving part that can go haywire and things that can go pear-shaped...
#1: A huge chance to mess up, fsck up, go over time and overbudget...
All together: FANTASTIC! LET'S DO IT!

After this, I go to Fraset Castle.

note: Scotland is litterally littered with castles and castles' ruins, so no surpise if lots of visits are to castles...

View from Fraset's Castle

Fraset Castle

The Throne Room


To make things more interesting, in the castle there are actors, with costums that re-enact parts of the local history.

After the castle, I go to Aberdeen, on the east coast. This ancient fishing town is now the crossroads where oil from the north-sea is distributed around. Unfortunately, the city museum was already closed when I arived (seriously, how the heck can you shut down everyting at 5pm??) so I just take a walk in the center and get amazed at the mixture between really old and supermodern.

One thing that is always strange to me, and Aberdeen in specific, is the size of hotels' keychains. I mean, ok, you don't want your guest to lose their keys, and you want the room number very visible, and the usual keychain/labels that you can buy a dime a dozen are... he... a dime a dozen... but seriously! This is no longer a keychain! you need a permit to carry this thing around!

The next day, I go visit Fraser's Castle Gardens, the castle itself was closed until 12 and I didn't wanted to wait. Then I go, across the Scotish landscapes, to Dufftown, where there are not one, not two, not three but SEVEN distillery. Because, what kind of visit to scotland is if you don't visit at least one distillery?

Fraser Castle

So I stop at Glenfiddich (pron: glenfiddik) and go for the guided tour, now you can say one thing: Scots takes their Whisky REALLY serious.

Glenfiddich Distillery

During the visit we can also see the supermodern, ultrasofisticated, stat-of-the-art computerized system to track the production... I mean... you're working with a process that takes hours, or days, or YEARS... what do you want?

After the visit I take the road along the hills and the smell of Whisky (that's why the cows looks so happy) and get to Loch Ness, the monster with the lake inside... no, wait... the lake with the monster inside...

Anyhow, we know that there is no monster is just a fantasy.

A visit to Urquahrt castle is due, like a trip on the lake itself.

Hummm... I want one..

After a volcanic cappuccino and a sandwich in the bar, I take a tour of the Loch Ness Center, where a number of videos shows the researches performed during the years to try to prove (or disprove) the myth of the monster.

The day after, I depart to Lairg on the Loch Shin, this is some sort of a 'pause' in the trip.

Along the road I stop to see Dunrobin Castle and his gardens, where a display of Hawks and Eagles can be seen.

Dunrobin Castle


After the visit I reach the Loch and take a walk in the park, where I can see a red deer, unfortunately, when I grab my camera the animal is gone.

The landscape changes and we are in the Scotish Highland. With 'single track' roads and signs that suggest to let people pass. And I have to say that if I knew the road and my bike was less loaded, it could be very funny driving on this road... if we forget about the little 'presents' left by the sheep that roam freely in the surroundings... and the locals that drives likes mad.

Got to the coast around midday and then follow the coast to Thurso, today's goal.

At Thurso I managed to find a laundy that is able to wash my stuff and get them back to me before 6pm, so I don't have to play the little laundry boy in my room. The next day, unfortunately, the weather forecast prove to be right: 110 Km/h wind and heavy rain. I go to see Wik's Castle, but after a while even my gps is picturing my position about 50 mt out from the road... that's his way to say "this is where you're going to be if you're not careful". So I give up and spend the rest of the day in the hotel's pub, getting to know the local Whisky and beers.

The next day I depart directed to the island of Skye, that prove to be fantastic.

From Skye I go to Glasgow, where I arrive wet because of the rain but happy since it doesn't rain anymore.

While I'm walking around before dinner, I got stopped by a (italian) tourist, that asks me if "is dis de road for de catidral?"... Dude, I just arived, but the Cathedral is EAST of the center and we're west, and you're pointing towards west, so...

The next day, I go visiting the Cathedral, the Art Gallery and the Science museum, that turn out to be a playground for old kids...

In the evening, while I walk around asking myself what is The Doctor up to, get blocked by a guy distributing menus of a nearby italian's restaurant. A couple of tourists asks me if the restaurant is good, and I say "let's see" and proceed interrogating the guy in italian. It turns out that he doesn't speak italian... now that's not good... an italian restaurant where the personnel doesn't speak italian...

The next day, via ferry, I go to Arran Island, that is described as "scotland in miniature", and that's right. The north looks a lot like the Highland, and the south resemble the hill around Edinburgh. Arran also sport his own distillery, that is both the joungest (1996) and the smallest of the whole Scotland.

Arran Heritage Museum

Brodick Castle...

...and gardens

The day after, during breakfast, I can see the attempt of a red squirrel to climb the birds' feeding point, obviously, when I grab my camera the squirrel is gone, but perseverance and patience are rewarded, he gets the nuts and I get the pictures.

After this, I go for a tour of the eiland, with visit to the distillery.

Arran's Distillery

Standing Stones

Unfortunately, the next day is time to get back home. On the ferry at 11, and then a very long ride following the A66 and the A6 to Hull. The A66 turn out to be a very nice and funny road to ride on a motorbike. Until the point it merges into the M6 and M1, then is just a motorway. Get to the ferry at about 5.30 pm, just when they start loading, at that point is just a matter of waiting until the next morning and then ride the last 50 km home. The counter says 3037 Km. All to remember.

Now, where do I go next year?