Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Fetchez la Vache!

After seeing all we could of Hadrian's Wall, we drove straight north to Jedburgh in Scotland. We had to buy a loo roll at the campsite because apparently people steal them.

The next day was a bit spontaneous. We weren't sure what we were going to do and when. It ended up being mostly driving. I kept an eye out for peat bogs, which were oddly fascinating to me. Peat is decaying plant matter, sort of like a fossil fuel. In the olden days, people would dig up peat, dry it out and use it on their fire like coal. Peat is famous for producing things called "bog bodies", or corpses that have fallen into peat and been preserved through the ages. The most well known is probably the Tollund Man, who lives in Denmark (not Scotland, I know, but Seamus Heaney wrote a poem about him, and he was Irish, so pretty close).
We found an information centre that had lots of free brochures on the area, so we grabbed those and read them at a lake (loch) we found. They recommended Glen Coe, as well as Inverness, so we plotted a course along the motorway A82. 

 Beautiful scenery with tall mountains and blue lakes, with green grass and trees. The drive reminded me of a drier version of Milford Sound in New Zealand.
Taking this picture, we were suddenly strafed by two fighter jets and were quite startled by it.

We settled in for the night just north of Fort William, which apparently looks out onto Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in the UK. However, all the mountains around didn't look much taller than the ones we'd seen so we may have been looking at the wrong one.

We passed by many lochs, and went and explored some of them. We did not, however, try to find Nessie at Loch Ness, but there were swarms of people who did. 
(This is not Loch Ness, but what's that I see in the distance?! It looks to me like a sea creature of immense proportions! Ah. Alas, 'tis only a motor boat.)

Further north, we set up camp at a site in Thurso, which was near where the ferry departed to the Orkney Isles. It was expensive to get the car across, but we bit the bullet as the bus service on Orkney looked a bit infrequent and we wanted the freedom of our own transport. (For Orkney Isles, see the post titled "That Feeling You Get When You Realise You're Standing Where People Stood Five Thousand Years Ago". A bit long, I know, but I wanted to capture the spirit of the place.) Upon returning from Orkney, we stayed another night in Thurso after taking the ferry back. We think now that we should have stayed 2 days in Orkney rather than do a day trip. We also would have booked Maeshowe in advance, as all the tours were full - this was a "chambered cairn", a well-preserved Neolithic tomb.


After Edinburgh (see post titled "Edinburgh" - shorter and more to the point), we headed straight for Doune Castle, which was the set for many scenes in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It even had an audio guide by Terry Jones - Sir Bedevere! It was so cool! The audio guide even played the triumphant music from Monty Python at the end of informative segments.
This angle shows where King Arthur and his knights wheeled up the large wooden rabbit in an attempt to infiltrate the castle.
My favourite bit was seeing the window where the Swamp Castle scene plays out. 
"One day, lad, all this will be yours."
"What, the curtains?"

We purchased a pair of coconuts for use in fake galloping.