Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Travelling Scotland: The (Skye) Highland Games


Imagine school sports day for adults. Then imagine world class athletes mixing with the kid who forgot his kit. Then imagine that for every second you are watching, there is the sound of at least one bagpipe. That my friends is The Highland Games. And they are utterly brilliant.




The Highland Games take place in many towns in the Highland and Islands of Scotland. We attended the Skye Highland Games which were held on Portree. 





The morning is taken up with locals only competing against each other including the 2, 4 and 8 lap race for men and women (the circular lap is approximately 150m), the long jump and hop, step and leap (into a sand pit) and high jump (with no mat so 'old' style scissor jump is de rigour) and throwing events like the heavy and light stone and throwing a weight backwards over a height. 


What was brilliant about this was that some of the competitors looked nothing like sportsman, one young lad competed in jeans, Timberland shoes and a sweatshirt.

Meanwhile, there were local dancing and piping competitions taking place simultaneously, helping to ensure not one moment would pass without the sound of bagpipes. We were also entertained by the excellent Isle of Skye Pipe Band throughout the day.










The afternoon was an 'open' competition and this is where we saw some of the professional athletes. But, for some events it was open to all so we enjoyed some tourists competing too... also in their normal clothes.







The most popular competition in the games is 'tossing the caber' where competitors have to throw an enormous log in front of themselves which needs to land on it's tip before tipping over and hopefully landing straight in front of them, at 12 o'clock. 

used with permission from lauracookphotography
used with permission from lauracookphotography
used with permission from lauracookphotography

So, just to re-iterate. 

Imagine school sports day for adults. Then imagine world class athletes mixing with the kid who forgot his kit. Then imagine that for every second you are watching, there is the sound of at least one bagpipe. That my friends is The Highland Games. And they are utterly brilliant.
  
   





Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Travelling Scotland: The Isle of Mull

I wasn't sure what to expect from Mull. I knew there was the beautiful town of Tobermory in the north (which a British children's TV fictionalised as Ballermory) and the Island of Iona (the symbolic centre of Scottish Christianity) to the south west but I wasn't expecting the magnificent beauty of the coastal roads and mountains.


     
We got the Oban - Criagnure ferry crossing and decided to drive clockwise around the top circuit of the island to get to our accommodation just south of Tobermory, Arle Lodge an excellent b&b (continental) which offers the opportunity of self-catering and a large communal space for all guests. 








Calgary Beach is a beautiful white sand beach towards in the north of Mull




Tobermory






The View from Arle Lodge


  
 Glengorm Castle

We enjoyed a stroll around the grounds of Glengorm Castle which is NW of Tobermory. 



The Standing Stones are thought to be 4000 years old



The Route to Fionnphort

We decided to take the west coastal route to Fionnphort which again, was quite stunning. 








Iona

We stayed overnight in Fionnphort for our trip to Iona which lies approximately 1 km away. A regular ferry shuttles between Fionnphort and Iona all day. Iona is a small island which is easy to walk around. The highlight for many visitors is visiting the Abbey which "is the most elaborate and best-preserved ecclesiastical building surviving from the Middle Ages in the Western Isles of Scotland" (Wikipedia). In front of the abbey is the 9th Century St. Martins Cross which is one of the best preserved Celtic crosses in the whole of the UK.











Remains of the Nunnery

Our final journey on Mull before we headed for Fort William on the mainland took us to the Fishnish ferry terminal via Duart Castle (which was used in the film Entrapment). This is another very popular tourist destination on Mull, we didn't go in though, we prefer to look at them from afar.





Monday, 28 July 2014

Travelling Scotland: Around Oban

This blog follows Travelling Scotland: The Town of Oban 

Whilst staying in Oban, Laura and I spent a couple of days exploring the area around the town - a drive south to Kilmartin and Crinan and walking around the island of Kererra.


Kilmartin & Crinan 



Kilmartin Glen is one of the most important archeological sites in Europe with evidence of humans moving there after the last ice age. There are over 800 ancient monuments within 6 miles of Kilmartin. 

We visited the site of some stone circles which are believed to be 5000 years old and connected people to the heavens. 

Closeby, we visited some standing stones, believed to be 3,200 years old. The stones line up with he rising and setting of the moon and sun and certain times of the year.






Further south is the tiny picturesque village of Crinan, complete with locks as it sits at the end of the Crinan Canal. 























Kererra

Located directly in front of Oban, Kererra is an island that is often overlooked by visitors but is highly rated as a great destination to hike by those who do manage to get across on the ferry. I can also agree that Kerrera is well worth a visit. It is stunning. 
There are a two main routes to walk on the island, a circular walk and the northern walk which takes you to Hutcheson's Monument. 


While many visitors will head to Gylen Castle and then the tea room (1 hour each way from ferry), we decided to walk the circular path anti-clockwise (3 hours). A friendly local also suggested this was the better way to go as the inclines are easier that way. It also meant that the tea room would be toward the end of our hike...and when we would need it most.

The walk around Kerrera was fantastic.











Next up... The Isle of Mull