A Travellerspoint blog

Scotland Slowly 2019, Day ???


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Greetings from the Shetland Islands!

It’s 10:30 am local time and Joe and I just returned from our first hike of the day on Mousa, where we learned about the Mousa Broch, Scotland’s most impressive Iron Age tower. Mousa is a small island with a lot of birds and sheep. I’ll admit that I’ve grown a bit weary of the crazed bird enthusiasts, especially at such an early hour (the Wake Up Call was at a very uncivilized 0600!), and dodging sheep poop, which is everywhere:

It’s been a very busy couple of days and we await word on what we are doing this afternoon and tomorrow, since Mousa was scheduled to be tomorrow’s stop. Today’s stops, Foula and Papa Stour (also part of the Shetland Islands) were scrapped because of wind and sea conditions.

We’ve been incredibly lucky with the weather. Today, the water is decidedly more active, and there was a bit of mist when we began our hike around 7:15, but it looks like another lovely day in Scotland.

The time we spent in and around Orkney yesterday was beautiful, once the early fog lifted. We visited another stone circle and the town of Stromness. We had free time in Kirkwall in the afternoon. Joe and I visited St. Magnus Cathedral and then wondered around the town, visiting the Highland Park shop, the local history museum, a café and a gin distillery:

Last night, we had a lovely dinner with two people we’ve been spending a bit of time with while on this cruise, a man named Jonathan who is traveling with his mother. We discovered that Jonathan is Harvard class of 1988 and a government major, so knew quite of few of the faculty that Joe knew. His mother is Radcliffe class of 1957 or 58 (I can’t remember). Jonathan, Joe and I spent some post-dinner time in the Meridian club enjoying a bottle of whisky that Jonathan had picked up in Kirkwall. Thanks, Jonathan!


Here are a few photos from our visit to Orkney yesterday:

Posted by ORWAT 02:49 Comments (0)

Scotland Slowly 2019, Day 7, Part 2

An Afternoon Around Stornoway: I Put My Hands Upon the Tallest Stone . . .

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Scotland Slowly 2019, Day 7, Part 2
An Afternoon Near Stornoway

After lunch, we boarded a bus to explore three important historical sites—the Standing Stones at Callenish, a small village of restored Blackhouses, and the Dun Charlabhaigh.

There are lots of standing stones in the British Isles, but the Callenish Standing Stones are the ones that serve as the inspiration for the Standing Stones of Outlander. The site is quite dramatic and, as you might expect, crawling with tourists. I took a few photos and then marched up to that imposing stone in the center and put my hands on it.

Nothing. Nothing happened. I was transported nowhere. I’m still here.

So, we wandered a bit more around the stones. Then, we got back on the bus to travel to the Blackhouses, one of the forms of housing used near the coast (up until the 1970s). We saw a Harris Tweed loom in use and the traditional Scottish house heating system (bricks of peat). We were also treated to a short, but live, performance of a Gaelic sailing song:

After the blackhouses, we traveled to Dun Charlabhaigh, an ancient stone tower likely used for fortification and/or storage:

And, then back to the ship for dinner. Tomorrow: Orkney!

Posted by ORWAT 22:21 Comments (0)

Scotland Slowly 2019, Day 7, Part 1

A Morning in Stornoway (plus, The Evening of Haggis and Explorers)

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Scotland Slowly 2019, Day 7
A Morning in Stornoway (plus, The Evening of Haggis and Explorers)

We’ll begin with last evening. It began just as the evening briefing ended (where we learned all of the details for the following day). Our trusty, kilted friend, David, offered the “Ode to the Haggis” by Robert Burns. And, then it was off to the dining room to enjoy that beloved culinary delight of Scotland: Haggis, Neeps and Tatties. Very tasty.

After dinner, it was time for the Dress As Your Favorite Explorer Party. The party was, unfortunately, not well attended. We are not sure if it’s just that we are on a cruise with a lot of not fun people, or if the ocean swell inspired otherwise fun people to take to their beds. But, Joe and I went. Joseph dressed up as Jean Luc Picard from Star Trek. I dressed as Dora the Explorer, which I thought would make a great costume. It turned out that one of the staff members also dressed up as Dora. His beard, though, made him a less convincing Dora, in my humble opinion.

We woke up tied to the pier in Stornoway, on the Isle of Lewis. No Zodiacs today. Joseph and I were especially excited to visit Stornoway, as we had learned a great deal about Stornoway through the series of novels called “The Lewis Trilogy” by Peter Mays. We highly recommend these, especially in audio format. Stornoway is also the home of the Lewis Chessmen.

Joe and I were in the group that had free time this morning. We rented bikes from the ship and went out to explore the town. We discovered that Stornoway is a busy place early in the morning, so I was basically terrified since there was no bike lanes and the roads are narrow.

We found the Nicholson Institute, which is featured in the Lewis books. And, then we cycled away from the town center, and found the Iolaire Memorial, also featured in one of the Lewis books.

We biked back to town and then over by the golf course, before heading into the center of town in search of coffee and a snack (and free wifi). After fortifying ourselves with delicious blueberry scones and coffee (and checking for messages), we started poking around in some of the little shops of Stornoway, including the Harris Tweed shop (Harris Tweed is actually from the Isle of Lewis, the northern part of this island; Harris is the name of the southern part of the island).

Then, back to the ship for lunch.

Posted by ORWAT 13:01 Tagged scotland lewis slowly stornoway trilogy Comments (1)

Scotland Slowly 2019, Day 6: St. Kilda

The Magical Archipelago of Feral Sheep, What Comes Out of Sheep (feral and otherwise), Ferocious Attacking Birds, and Carnivorous Plants

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Let’s begin, sort of, where we left off yesterday. The second half of yesterday was not an especially exciting afternoon and evening. We were both quite tired after the long hike. We got a pre-dinner cocktail, attended the daily briefing, had dinner, and went straight to bed. I think I was in bed by 9:30 and didn’t wake up until the official Wake Up Call at 0730.

Today, we spent the morning on the island of Hirta, part of the remarkable archipelago, known for birds, feral sheep (watch where you step!) and the remnants of a community of people who lived in this isolated place for many generations. The community was evacuated in 1930.

We had a great morning exploring the old houses and structures of the island, looking down from the cliffs on one side of Hirta, and watching the feral sheep that call this place home.

There are also lots of birds on St. Kilda. One kind of bird, the skua, protects their nests, eggs and young with great fervor, attacking any possible predator. Although we were not attacked, we were told in no uncertain terms to be cautious and to avoid certain areas of the island.

We were also introduced to some carnivorous plants, with small flowers near the ground that eat very small flies. Tasty.

Here are a few St. Kilda photos:

After St. Kilda, we visited a nearby colony of gannets, another sort of bird that lives on the small ledges on the enormous rocks that tower over the surrounding sea:

And, then it was time to relax a bit in the late afternoon, with a shipboard whisky tasting:

We are looking forward to this evening. After the daily briefing, we’ll hear the Ode to the Haggis and then enjoy a haggis dinner, followed by the “dress as your favorite adventurer” party. Should be a fun evening!

Posted by ORWAT 07:15 Tagged st. kilda Comments (2)

Scotland Slowly, Day 5

Skye: Sing Me a Song of a Lass That Is Gone

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Hello Friends,
Let’s begin with yesterday afternoon and evening. Joe spent most of the afternoon napping. I spent a large part of the afternoon on deck with several other passengers, chatting and watching the sea go by, along with a small whale or two and some dolphins.

At dinner, Joe and I sat with several other passengers who turned out to be a great deal of fun. We heard lots of very interesting stories of travel adventures, including:
• A man who accidentally crashed his motorcycle into a couple of bears and then spent several hours being transported, by helicopter, to the nearest hospital.
• A man who visited the Soviet Union with his family in 1968.
• Another man who went to Hanoi for work and had to exchange a $100 bill each week for two shopping bags full of the local currency.
• A woman who had to have titanium bolts inserted into her spine, and was pleased to learn that it didn’t cause any problems getting through airport security.

At some point in the storytelling, one of the men looked at us and asked us to share a story. We felt a little unprepared to match the tales that had been shared, but we still managed to entertain our fellow dinner companions.

Today, we woke with the Isle of Skye just outside the window, on a beautiful day—mostly sunny and around 60. A bit breezy, but that was good as it would keep the midges away.

Like yesterday, Joseph and I signed up for the Advanced Hike of the morning, which meant that we were among the first passengers to disembark onto the Zodiacs. Because the ship had to be moved to our “plan b” location, the whole process started a little later than expected.

Our hike on Skye offered stunning views of the island, with its mountains, streams, and lochs. We hiked along one of the lochs closest to where we came ashore. We saw a few red deer along the way, along with a lot of rocks, heather,ea2f1b30-9759-11e9-8483-6fb3761ce3aa.JPGDSC_0505.JPGDSC_0500.JPGDSC_0599.JPGDSC_0614.JPG and deer poop.

And, then it was time to turn around and head back. That’s when those of us who had failed to bring a snack started to suffer, learning the Scottish word of the day the hard way, “Blak Fantan,” the state of being very hungry.

We finally got back to the ship and had a late lunch. And then we went to one of the talks of the afternoon, given by the Nikon rep on board.

Now it’s time that I take a wee nap, before the evening events begin (briefing, reception, dinner, etc.).

Random fact of the day: Sunset tonight is at 10:24 pm.


Posted by ORWAT 07:56 Archived in Scotland Tagged scotland skye slowly Comments (1)

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