A Travellerspoint blog

Scotland Slowly '19, Adventure Canada: Final Thoughts

What You May Want to Know

Joe and I really enjoyed our Scotland Slowly trip with Adventure Canada. Like any vacation it wasn't perfect, but we would do it again.

If you've stumbled upon this blog, thinking about traveling with Adventure Canada or booking Scotland Slowly (an itinerary that they offer once a year), we've put together a few thoughts that we would have found helpful as we were exploring our options for exploring the islands off of Scotland.

Pros:
1. Quick and efficient transfers, especially when using Zodiacs. This was one of the most impressive aspects of our voyage. We were extremely impressed with the job the staff did to get passengers from the Ocean Endeavor onto Zodiacs and then to the site.
2. Realistic Itinerary. Adventure Canada is very clear that the itinerary is not set in stone. Weather and other issues can require alterations. We were impressed that our trip was able to visit all but one or two of the stops listed in the itinerary. Along the way, there was one switch of days because of the weather, but this wasn't a problem for us.
3. Communication. Once onboard, communications are excellent. The daily evening briefing was really helpful. During the briefing, details were shared and any changes to the itinerary were explained in detail.

Not exactly "cons," but miscellaneous pieces of information:
1. In looking closely at the materials prior to booking the cruise, the phrase "reasonably good health" is used. We paused for a moment before booking, worrying that, though we are in good health, were we in "reasonably good heath"? We had been told that Adventure Canada cruises cater to an older crowd, but we wondered if the cruise would be full of 60-year-old marathon runners. It was not. In fact, there were quite a few people who were not in what we would describe as "reasonably good health." For the most part, though, this didn't interfere with our enjoyment. This situation made #1 above even more impressive.
2. Definition of "casual." The cruise lists the dress code as "casual." At best, the dress was casual (even at dinner). There were moments when I would say that the general attire of the many passengers bordered on sloppy. If I had known, I would have packed a little differently.
3. Average age-- as mentioned in #1 in this section, the average age was probably around 70 and retired. We were among just a small group of still employed people.
4. Lots of singles. I was surprised by the number of solo travelers-- both women and men. Some were traveling with a friend or a small group. But quite a few were completely on their own. If you are too shy or believe you are too old to travel on your own and you are looking for more adventurous travel, Adventure Canada may be a good fit.

The Ocean Endeavor:
This is the ship that Adventure Canada essentially charters for the season. AC does not own the ship. The Ocean Endeavor is an older vessel, built in the 1980s. Though it has been refurbished a number of times, it still seemed rather worn in some areas.

The OC is also in charge of hotel and dining services onboard. We rarely saw our cabin steward, but she kept our space tidy. The food was fine-- not great, but not terrible. The selections at each meal were very good, and the cookie station always seemed well stocked. The dining staff was, overall, very good. We noticed that the wait staff covered the same stations throughout the entire 10-day cruise. I would suggest experimenting over the first couple of days, sitting in different parts of the dining room, until you find a wait person you like, and then to try to sit in that section for each meal. Many thanks to Tomas who was so quick with the coffee each morning!

I think that's it for now.

Slainte!
Susan and Joe

Posted by LoonBin 10:35 Tagged adventure_canada scotland_slowly_2019 Comments (0)

Home

We arrived home on Monday, after a grueling flight from Edinburgh to Logan:
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It's so hard to decide where to start for a flight at 11:00 in the morning-- juice? wine? beer? Champagne? (well, champagne, of course)

Our last night in Scotland was spent at the Rutland Hotel, a very nice, but quirky, hotel. We had a lovely view of the Castle from our room:
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And, we had a lovely dinner at a Paris meets Scotland restaurant, Cafe Saint Honore, not far from the hotel.

We landed at Logan just around 1:30 local time, made our way through customs (our quickest experience ever with customs) and then figured out how to get to the bus stop. And, then we took the bus from Boston to Augusta. Margaret picked us up. We arrived at the house just after 8:00. I took the time to put on my jammies and brush my teeth before I fell into bed muttering "I think I'm going to die" and then slept for almost 11 hours.

Among the items we brought home with us, I somehow managed to bring home an ear infection. It's been an unpleasant and painful few days. But, after a visit to the doctor's office yesterday, I'm hoping to start feeling better in the next day or two.

I've spend the last couple of days updating some of the blog posts-- adding bits of information and photos.

Sometime in the next couple of days, I will put together a summary and a few other pieces of information, especially for anyone who stumbles upon this blog looking for information on the Scotland Slowly trip with Adventure Canada or walking the Speyside Way.

For now, Slainte Mhath!

Posted by LoonBin 04:35 Tagged speyside_way scotland_slowly adventure_canada Comments (0)

The Last Two Days

Rothiemurchus and Edinburgh


View Joe and Susan's 25th on LoonBin's travel map.

Hello friends,
I have time for only a very quick update. Yesterday was a very full (and epic) day of mountain biking on some of the trails in the Rothiemurchus Estate that is part of the Cairngorms National Park. At the end of the 17-18 mile day, I discovered that I had come down with a cold-- one that I've been feeling coming on for the last several days. I felt pretty miserable, so rested before we went off to get something to eat. So, no blog writing.

This morning, we caught a train from Aviemore to Edinburgh. We arrived at our hotel just after our tour guide did. We had just about enough time to drop our bags in our room before we set off on a long, but informative, tour of Edinburgh.

We are now back at the hotel, but have about ten minutes before it's time for dinner. Yikes. I'm going to need a vacation after all of this traveling.

I'm including a few photos below. Unfortunately, the Rothiemurchus and Edinburgh photos were uploaded in one order, but assembled on the blog in a completely mixed up order (and I can't figure out how to change that, in a quick and easy way). But, you may be interested in knowing:
Photo #1: It's Edinburgh Castle, but if you look very closely at the lower part of the photo, you may be able to make out the large tent in which an Elvis impersonator is performing.
Next to the "Thistle do Nicely" photo: The ruins of the Loch an Eilein Castle in the Rothimurchus Estate.
For Outlander fans, a photo of "The World's End," a pub on the Royal Mile mentioned in Book 3.
For Harry Potter fans, the grave stone for "Thomas Riddell," who may have served as inspiration for J.K. Rowling, who wrote Harry Potter in a cafe not far away from this particular Edinburgh cemetery.

Slainte! And we are looking forward to seeing you!
Susan

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Posted by LoonBin 10:50 Archived in Scotland Tagged edinburgh aviemore cairngorms rothiemurchus Comments (0)

The End of the Speyside Way: Grantown to Aviemore

Lots of Walking, An Adorable Train, and a Bit of Vindication

overcast
View Joe and Susan's 25th on LoonBin's travel map.

Hello Friends,

We began our day with a delicious breakfast at the Strathallan Guest House in Grantown on Spey. Then, we loaded up our suitcases (which would be transported to our next b&b by someone else) and the backpack that we would carry for our big day of walking to finish the Speyside Way.

The first leg of the trip was the walk from Grantown to Nethy Bridge, about 6 miles.
Gate Count: 21
Slug Count: 1

This was a fairly easy walk, along the disused rail line-- a little greener, and a little softer than the earlier part of the trail that we walked. Although mostly cloudy, we experienced no rain.

We stopped for lunch in a small town called Nethy Bridge, just before noon. We ate at the delightful Nethy House Cafe.

We started the second leg of the day at 1:00, walking from Nethy Bridge to Boat of Garten, about 5 miles. We rolled into Boat just around 3:00. Our best and fastest walk of the trip! This was a nice part of the walk, with more trail-like conditions. We walked through some nice forest area, including a little field of Christmas trees. It rained a bit, but other than that, was quite pleasant.
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Our plan was that once we arrived in Boat, we would look into the adorable steam engine train that we had seen advertised. We learned that the next train for Aviemore was scheduled for just after 4:00. So, we took a few minutes to check out the very small town and then popped into the Boat Hotel and Pub for a pint and to celebrate the near finish of our big walk. While we were at the pub, we bumped into one of the Speyside walkers we had met at the hotel in Ballindalloch. She agreed that the trail mileage is woefully understated. She had done one of the other big walks and found that the mileage was right on track.

We took the adorable train from Boat of Garten to Aviemore and arrived in Aviemore around 4:45. Aviemore is sort of like the North Conway of the Scottish Highlands-- more touristy, more shops, and a range of outdoor activities on offer. We found our b&b for tonight and tomorrow night, settled in and then found a restaurant for dinner.

Here we are at the end of the Way:
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Unfortunately, there is no "You've Finished!" or "Congratulations, You're Done!" Sign. May we'll put that in the suggestion box, if we find one.

And, now it's time for bed. We are exhausted!

Slainte,
Susan

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Posted by LoonBin 12:25 Archived in Scotland Tagged boat of on bridge way garten aviemore speyside grantown spey nethy Comments (0)

The Speyside Way, Day 3: Ballindalloch to Grantown on Spey

Supposedly 12 miles, But Really 15 or 16, and Counting Slugs

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View Joe and Susan's 25th on LoonBin's travel map.

Happy Fourth of July everyone!

We celebrated the big holiday (obviously, not a holiday here) by reveling in traditional Scottish weather-- rain and wind. We've been here for over two weeks, so we really shouldn't complain that the weather took so long to find us. But still, it wasn't the best day to deal with rain and wind, as this was the day for the most challenging of our Speyside hikes. By itself, the hike is not all that horrible, but it was a rather difficult day for us (especially me) for a few reasons:
1. We hiked 17 miles yesterday.
2. The rain and wind made everything a real drag.
3. The Scots seem not to have any accurate way of counting miles. We noticed this yesterday as well. Today's example: Our map indicated that the hike from Ballindalloch to Grantown on Spey would be about 12 miles. Not even close. It was more like 15 or 16, according to Joe's Apple watch. And my very tired legs and feet.

We started the day with a nice breakfast at our hotel in Ballindalloch. One of the women who works at the hotel then gave us a lift to the start of the trail, a little over a mile away.

Today's hike started back at the disused railroad bed, but we didn't stay there very long. Before we knew it, we were climbing and climbing and then going down a steep, grassy (and wet and slippery) hill, then back up another hill, then walking a long not very pleasant old logging road, then back to the disused rail line, and finally into the woods that seemed to go on forever. Much of the day was spent on hiking trails, and that was a little more pleasant than yesterday. Except when it was pouring rain.

To entertain ourselves, we counted slugs. Total at the end of the hike: 20.

We should have counted strange gates, the purpose of which seemed mostly to interfere with our ability to proceed at a reasonable pace. Grrrr.

But, along the way, we saw plenty of sheep, birds, kine (cows), bunnies, a few deer, and, of course, slugs. And, almost no people.

We finally made it to our b&b in Grantown on Spey. The b&b, The Strathallan Guest House, is a lovely place with lots of nice touches-- all in its highland splendor. We had dinner at a nice little restaurant not too far (alas, I can hobble only so far) and now we are enjoying a wee dram of some Highland Park that we picked up in Kirkwall, before we pack up in preparation for tomorrow's walk toward Aviemore.

Here are a few photos that we were able to take when it wasn't raining too hard:
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Posted by LoonBin 13:21 Archived in Scotland Tagged ballindalloch speyside_way grantown_on_spey Comments (0)

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