Travel with Wendy to Scotland

I can’t tell you the number of times over the past two years that I have longed to go somewhere. Anywhere. I’m not necessarily talking about a trip to visit family. But a trip taken just for fun. Where Hubby and I explore new places, drive tiny, unfamiliar roads, and are reassured that the world is full of wonderful towns and villages, interesting people, and beautiful countryside.

Wendy from York, who reads this blog, and her husband are travellers from way back. In fact, you might have seen an earlier guest post she wrote about a trip to India years ago. You can read that post here. Wendy and Max also love to travel closer to home, and both love Scotland. And since Hubby and I love Scotland too, I wondered if she might take a stab at another guest post, this time about Scotland. I’m happy to say she agreed.

So, put your feet up, my friends. Pour another cup of tea. Forget about the Christmas stress, and the Covid stress. And enjoy a little vicarious journey to Scotland with Wendy.

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My father was born & bred in Scotland. He began his working life as a garden boy at the largest inhabited house in Scotland, Floors Castle in the Borders. It was owned by the Duke of Roxburgh who had plenty of money to spend on his garden as he had married May Goelet, one of the American heiresses who propped up our aristocracy in the 1800s. Taking greenhouse flowers to the kitchen door was the only contact he had with ‘the big house‘ & in ten years he never did meet her ladyship. Although Dad later travelled south to set up his own landscaping business, his heart was in Scotland. He loved the Scottish countryside, the bagpipes & always wore the kilt for special occasions.

Dad and me with my younger sister, only just in Scotland.

On trips north it was tradition that we children all piled out of the car at the Scottish border & pulled heather to fasten on to the front radiator.  For some reason Dad’s Scottish accent was immediately much stronger once over the border. All this might explain my love of the place, but then my husband Max feels the same & he has none of these links. Max and I travelled the world a fair amount in our younger days, but for over fifty years we’ve been also leaving our Yorkshire birthplace regularly to explore Scotland. It’s more crowded now, as it’s far more visited than it used to be, but there are still many quiet spots.

Here are just a few of them. 

The Ardnamurchan Peninsula was our first love in Scotland. My dad’s sister lived there & I still have cousins there. A remote area of narrow single track roads, most easily accessed by a short ferry, it stretches out west into the Atlantic & on the tip of the peninsular is a lighthouse. This is the most westerly point of the British mainland & in stormy weather it’s difficult to open your car door & stand upright – well it was for us.

Before you reach that point turn north from Salen & you’ll soon be in the land of Bonnie Prince Charlie. It was here that he came ashore to gather the clans at Glenfinnan on Loch Shiel in his attempt to claim the British throne in 1745. He was ultimately doomed to fail and spent weeks hiding from the English Redcoat soldiers before eventually escaping back to France, but he left behind a romantic legacy which remains embedded in the area. 

Castle Tioram

There’s a tiny side road off to the left after the village of Acharacle which follows a little river to a hidden castle. Castle Tioram, my favourite Scottish castle, is spectacularly situated on a small rocky island & dating back to the 14th century, was the home of the MacDonald clan. Despite its bloody history this castle is a tranquil, beautiful place on its tidal island surrounded by wooded inlets. There is an ancient track hugging the Loch side called The Silver Walk, best followed in the moonlight they say – mind your step though, it’s pretty treacherous. 

Silver Walk, near Castle Tioram, Scotland.
The start of the Silver Walk

There are usually little surprises on our Scottish holidays. One time we came upon the annual rally of the Model T Ford enthusiasts, all original vehicles, tackling the private forestry roads of Ardnamurchan. As we were on foot we were able to watch them coax their precious vehicles up & down the 20% gradients. There was lots of engine tinkering going on. 

A few of the Model Ts

From Ardnamurchan there are short ferries over to the Isle of Mull. A beautiful island of weird geology & wonderful wildlife. The best ferry arrives on the quay at Tobermory, the only town on the island & a picturesque place where the houses are painted all the colours of the rainbow. Our first visit there was fifty years ago & it was a very different island in those days.

We stayed on a Croft, a small holding, where we had a decent sized, very basic bedroom. There were three other visitors, one of whom told us she was sleeping in an under-stair cupboard! As for the family, I went through to the kitchen late one evening to request a toilet roll & found the whole family of six bedded down on the kitchen floor. Some things have changed for the better. Also the sabbath was strictly observed in Scotland then. My aunt was ticked off for putting washing on the line on a Sunday & rules on the islands were even stricter. All shops, pubs & eating places were closed on a Sunday, plus B & Bs wouldn’t accept new arrivals. Travelling was difficult at times. 

Tobermory, Mull, Scotland
Tobermory

On a more recent trip, I was sitting in the sunshine at a little café on the island enjoying a coffee. Our old dogs needed a rest after their walk, so Max went off for the car. A large group of leather clad motorbikers arrived on their noisy machines & filled up the café. They were headed to Iona, a small island off Mull famous for its ancient abbey, & they asked me for directions. I showed them on my map & then pointed to a twisty road that would bring them back to the ferry via the best panorama on Mull. They thanked me & roared off in a cloud of dust. Max soon arrived & we were off too.

Later in the afternoon, we were parked up admiring that panoramic view when who should arrive but my biker friends. They spotted me & clustered around the car peering in, grinning & giving me thumbs up signs to show their approval of the wonderful view. Max had no idea what was going on. I hadn’t thought to mention meeting them at the café – his face ! 

Tiny coastal road on Mull, Scotland
Mull – yes, the road carries on.
Me relaxing on Mull

It was whilst we were staying on Mull in February last year that the pandemic began but we felt safe in the tiny village of Dervaig. Only to discover that one of the first covid cases in Scotland was a field away, the family having just returned from Italy. The small village shop immediately rationed their goods & set up hand washing facilities. The affected family isolated themselves & consequently it didn’t spread. Nevertheless we came home early to lock down. 

There’s lots more to tell you about Mull but we must get on.

We’ll head further north & east now to a place called Badbea. About 30 miles south of Wick, set high on massive sea cliffs, there’s little evidence today of the small community trying to survive there years ago. In the 18/19th century many Scottish landowners decided sheep were more profitable than people so, by fair means or foul (usually foul) , the people of the glens were moved out of the homes they had lived in for generations. Emigration overseas was encouraged, but groups of villagers were also resettled in very inhospitable places to fend for themselves.

Badbea must have been pretty grim on top of that wind blown cliff. Apparently it was so windy their livestock & even their children had to be tethered to prevent them being blown off the cliff edge. One of the residents was Alexander Sutherland, born there in 1806. In 1839 he emigrated to New Zealand. By 1911 his grandson Donald had become wealthy enough to erect a fine stone memorial  near the site of his grandfather’s cottage to commemorate the families who had lived there. It’s a sad place today with just broken down stone walls marking the old cottages. There are many, many such villages in Scotland. 

Caithness looking towards Badbea, Scotland.
Caithness, looking towards the cliffs and Badbea

I think I should finish on a more cheerful note so we’ll head south again where, far west of Glasgow and set in beautiful surroundings, is the Crinan canal. Built in 1809 to avoid stormy seas further south, it carried the fishing fleet & also the little Puffer boats from Glasgow delivering their cargoes around the Scottish coastline. Most of these hardy Puffers have gone, but the 9 mile canal is a tourist attraction for visitors on sailboats & walkers along the towpath. The canal is undergoing some reconstruction work just now but there’s still one puffer left, ready to travel along the canal carrying passengers on five day cruises. It’s called the Vic 32 & it’s a lovely sight. We were lucky enough to be staying in an old lock-keepers cottage by the canal one year when the Vic 32 came through, so we walked alongside & took far too many photographs. 

The Vic 32 on the Crinin Canal, Scotland.
The Vic 32

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little hop round Scotland. There’s far more to it than this of course. The coastline is so indented that together with the islands it measures 11 & a half thousand miles. There are reckoned to be 1500 castles to view, plus majestic mountains to climb, vast empty beaches for dogs to race round on, excellent whisky distilleries to visit, & some fine cities to explore.  

Bear in mind this is not a sunshine destination. All the greenery, busy rivers & waterfalls come at a price. We reckon that if we get a third good weather, a third bad weather & a third so-so then we’ve done OK. Rain & mist can be very atmospheric & often flatters the local scenery, but we think Scotland is beautiful whatever the weather. It constantly changes with the light. Perhaps you should come & explore it for yourself – best not in the height of summer though, the local midges are ferocious.

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Hope you enjoyed that as much as Hubby and I did. I’m still smiling at the image of Wendy and Max’s car surrounded by big hairy bikers. Hubby and I have dreamed of returning to Scotland every year since we visited there in 2005, and drove all over from top to bottom, from Jedburgh to the Orkneys. We’re sure there are roads and places we missed. Then again, we say that about every place we’ve been and loved and dreamed of revisiting. And lately all we are doing is dreaming. Sigh.

As always, folks, we want to hear from you. What travel are you dreaming about these days?

P.S. I hope you are able to receive and view the new posts on my blog at the new host. I’ve tried to solve the glitches that have sprung up since I moved. But some of you may be mistakenly directed to the old blog for a day or so, I’ve been told. As the internet gets used to directing queries for High Heels in the Wilderness to the new location. If that’s happened to you, I apologize

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54 thoughts on “Travel with Wendy to Scotland”

  1. Thank you Wendy for sharing some of your favourite parts of Scotland. My husband has some Scottish ancestry on his mother’s side, including a connection to some Macdonalds, who settled in Australia, where we were both born. I haven’t been to Scotland but my husband has. I know it’s very beautiful, as your photos confirm. I’d like to visit myself some day.

    1. I hope you do visit one day Maria . It’s a small country , which makes it possible to fit lots of sightseeing into a few weeks .

  2. What an amazing country! Wendy,you write so beautifully! Thank you both for a gem of a post
    My first wish is very simple-to renew my old normal life,navigating through all my favourite places in my town and my country with joy and without fear of Covid,as well as meeting all my friends.
    Dottoressa

    1. Thankyou Dottoressa . I did try to do Scotland justice & it was fun too . I know your Croatia is a beautiful country & you must know lots of it’s secret places ?

    2. Wendy, you write beautifully. We travelled to Scotland 15 years ago. My mother in law immigrated from Scotland to Canada and never returned to her home. We were on a mission to find the family home. Alas, the home was long gone but the church they worshipped at still stood. It was quite moving for my husband to see. Heather, Scotch, windy roads and the people…it was a wonderful trip.

      1. Thanks so much Wendy ( nice name !) I’m glad you & your husband managed the trip ‘home’ & I agree it is very moving to walk in the steps of your ancestors.

  3. Connection worked well for me, thank you. I live in the part of Ontario near the other “Tobermory”, so it was interesting to read about the Isle of Mull!
    Take care and Happy Christmas, as the folks from “over there” say.

    1. It’s always interesting for me to see places in the world , often great big cities , named after tiny little spots in the UK . There’s a lovely beach on Mull called Calgary Bay . I guess it shows lots of emigrants missed their homelands .

  4. This arrived glitchless thanks Sue! It was nice to see the pics of Tobermoray – my sister lived about 20 odd miles from there for a few years and I have cousins in Dervaig. Many thanks to Wendy.

  5. Oh the memories this brought up. Thank you so much for the return trip in my mind. We were there 12 years ago with my mom and could have spent much more time drinking in the scenery. I can almost feel the mist on my face as I stand on a trail looking up at the gorgeous mountains and following along a little stream in absolute heaven, not wanting to leave and then planning to come back and see more. Well, that was going to be 2 years ago, and now who knows when we will get back there. This post has shown me many more ideas to explore when we go back and I can only hope that I will have the energy to do it all. Such a fantastic post, thank you Wendy and Sue.

    1. Thankyou Diane . It’s so nice to learn of others who have come under Scotland’s spell . There are lots of us . You must visit again when the world settles down again .

  6. I may never walk the backroads of Scotland but through your descriptive notes and my vivid imagination, it’s been another glorious trip for me. Thank you for sharing your love for a country with deep family roots. We should never forget how we got to where we are today.

    1. Thanks Jan & I agree , it’s good to remember where we came from & be grateful to the efforts of those who came before us .

  7. Loved the tour of Scotland, definitely a bucket list destination. My English Granny’s father was a Scottish fisherman. Wish I could’ve known more about him and the place he was born. Hopefully someday soon we can make that trip across ‘the pond’ and visit England, Scotland and Ireland. The longing to travel these last two years just grows and grows. Soon, hopefully, soon the world will heal. On a side note I received this post as normal, the Home Again post I did not receive but saw on the list of previous posts…but since this one arrived on Sunday morning maybe we are back to normal. Welcome back Sue.

    1. Thanks Heather . I also have Scottish fishermen in my family tree . That was a very tough life & very tough for their wives too . They would carry their men out to the boats so they set off dry on their trips & also pulled the boats ashore . That’s before they gutted the catch .
      Hope you are travelling again soon .

  8. What a fun post! Scotland is on our list (my sweetie is of Scottish descent; McMurry) so I look forward to getting there, post-Covid. It’ll happen, especially now that Wendy has made it more real and I can visualize it. Thank you both, and Happy Christmas!

  9. Wendy, would you write again, please? I would like to know a bit more about the people, the culture, the food…..

  10. Welcome home Sue! Your post arrived with no issues and I’m so happy Wendy agreed to another ‘guest post’. Wendy, I am from Nova Scotia here in Canada. Nova Scotia is Latin for “New Scotland” so I am very familiar with Bagpipes and Kilts. With all the travelling my Husband and I have done, Scotland is one place we have not yet visited but hope to in the future. I loved the biker story and as my Husband rides a motorcycle, your mention of “twisty” roads certainly got his attention. Thank you so much Wendy for sharing such a wonderfully vivid journey through the Scottish countryside. Happy Holidays everyone!

    1. Thanks Glenda . My dad was a biker all his life & I often ‘rode pillion’ as a girl . It was great fun . Your Nova Scotia looks to be a beautiful place – Wild like Scotland ? Enjoy your Christmas too .

  11. Thanks, Wendy, for your lovely descriptions of some beloved places in Scotland. Have to laugh at the thought of Max’s face at the meet up with your new “friends.” Momentarily wondering when his wife was ever a biker babe. 🙂

    Was fortunate enough to get over the Pond in October and spend some blissful time in Scotland–mostly on the Argyll peninsula–Dunoon, Inverrary, Oban, up and around Glencoe and back to Glasgow. Yes, plenty of rain and mist, but a few off and on gorgeous sunny moments, too. Love the moody highland scenery, the people and the sheer joy of being back there. My grandfather was born near Glasgow, but emigrated to the US in the late 1800’s. When I was a child, growing up in England, we often spent camping holidays in Scotland (midges, damp and all), so it is a place that holds fond memories for me–as it clearly does for you. Fingers crossed, hoping to get over again in mid-March, but this time over Edinburgh way to meet up with my Scottish friends.

    1. Argyll is lovely & that sounds a great tour , especially Glencoe which can be a wonderfully moody place . Ah yes those camping holidays …. Put me off tents for life 😁

  12. Such a lovely tour, Wendy. Scotland is fairly high on our “must visit” list – my husband is mostly Scots, and some of his Scottish ancestors were indeed kicked off their land in the Clearances and wound up in Maritime Canada. In particular, I confess I do want to visit the charmingly-named Isle of Muck!

    We actually did our first little bit of travel this week – we headed up to a cottage in the village of Marvão, in the mountains on the border with Spain. Beautiful place, with castles seemingly every three feet (okay, a slight exaggeration, but still, this region is known for its castles). We even ventured into Spain for lunch, where I discovered that my Spanish has been colonized by a smattering of Portuguese.

    1. You’re certainly not short of castles in that part of the world . I must admit I found Portuguese difficult compared to Spanish but anyone who masters Gaelic has my utmost respect .

  13. Thank you so much for that lovely description of Scotland! I found out later in life that my father, whom I never met, was Scottish. His parents came over when they were younger with a couple of small children in tow. I always loved the sound of the bagpipes even as a young child and I now think I know why. Lol. I’m not sure if I will ever get to see the country myself so thoroughly enjoyed reading about it. Thank you again!

  14. What a wonderful bit of vicarious travel, the only kind we’re able to enjoy these days! The photos are absolutely stunning! Thank you, Wendy, and thank you, Sue, for hosting this.

    Though there are several international destinations that beckon, I’m thinking that it’s more realistic to dream of travel within Canada right now. We’ve been to both Victoria and Montreal before, but not in recent years, so those cities are calling me. We also have acquaintances who recently moved to Newfoundland and her photos on Facebook have me dreaming of a return visit to that province. Last time was a cross country camping trip in 1991 with children in tow. It was already mid August and, both being school teachers, we were running out of time. We couldn’t do as much exploring as we would have liked. Ah, the joys of traveling in retirement, if only we could!

    1. Thanks Elaine . I think most people are having second thoughts about long haul travel just now & you are fortunate to have Canada on your doorstep – such a big country with varied scenery . You can throw a bag in the car & drive for thousands of miles !

  15. I am Scottish and live in Glasgow. I love travelling and have been lucky to have travelled to many beautiful places all around the world but I have a very soft spot for my own country. On a sunny day you can’t beat it. Wendy touched on a few of the beautiful areas to visit but there are many many more. It’s a wee country but it’s stunning. Just remember your waterproofs and your wellies!

    1. Ah yes , thank goodness for good waterproofs & wellies . Even our dog packs his raincoat for Scotland !

  16. Thank you, Wendy, for your lovely post! Like many others, I very much hope that my travels will take me to Scotland someday. (I was lucky enough to enjoy a couple of days in Edinburgh a few years ago, but would love to explore more remote areas.) My great grandfather, a dairy farmer, left Scotland in the early 1900s when his herd was decimated by disease and started a new life in Canada. I live in a part of Ontario that features many villages and towns bearing Scottish names.

    So enjoyable to have travelled with you at a time when life is keeping all of us at home!

    1. Thanks Denise . How brave emigrants like your Gt Grandfather were , heading off into the unknown . Farming members of the Yorkshire side of my family fell upon hard times too & set off for far away places .
      Edinburgh , now that’s a unique city .

  17. Lovely, thanks to both of you! Some of Wendy’s phrases make me miss a dear departed Scots friend.

    ceci

  18. What lovely descriptions of your trips Wendy. My parents were both Scots and although I wasn’t born there we did go back to live in a wee village called Dunkeld where I went to primary school – founded by James l over 500 years ago. The site of the school was Birnam which still had one old oak tree supposedly the remains of the famed “Birnam Wood shall March upon Dunsinane” from the Scottish Play (Macbeth to those not superstitious). The Cathedral there was very old and we used to play in and around it a lot. The church was the Primacy of the old Columban church and the tower was supposedly used to watch for marauding Danes coming up the river.
    The cold got to my mother after living in the tropics for many years and we all moved to NZ. Most of my family still live in Scotland with most in Callander – the gateway to the Trossachs. Luckily my husband and I have managed a few trips “home” to see the countryside and visit family. He is half Scots with his great grandmother coming from Loch Buie on the Isle of Mull. We managed to take our three teenagers on one trip and they had a wonderful time. Unfortunately we have always had to go in December and January as that is when the long holidays are in N Z – I was a teacher.
    We had hoped to make another trip once I retired but… The dreaded virus strikes so all that is on hold for now. It would be lovely to go in summer and enjoy the late sunsets and not have to battle with snow and ice.
    Thank you Wendy and Sue for stirring a lot of memories. If you can ever find it there was a tv series, possibly by the BBC, called “The cheviot, the stag and the black, black oil” which was a wonderful documentary about the clearances of the small crofts and the Scottish diaspora.

  19. Some familiar names there Kenzie . Dunkeld is one of our favourite places & I envy you having it as your playground . We try to go every autumn when the beech tree walk down to the Birnam Oak is at it’s most spectacular. The old tree is propped up somewhat now but still very fine . Callander is a lovely little town with such a variety of walks & we’ve loved walking our dogs on the beach at Loch Buie . I’m sure you will visit again soon . We find May the best month with long days , gentle warmth ( with luck ) & no midges . We always meant to visit New Zealand but I don’t think we’ll have the stamina by the time the world opens up again . I’ll have a look round for that TV programme , thankyou .

  20. Wonderfully evocative, entertaining, and informative writing, Wendy, and splendid photographs. I’d love to spend more time in rural Scotland, having visited only Glasgow and Edinburgh (excepting a bus tour around Loch Lomond way back in my teens). Thinking of our pre-Covid ability to travel, and in the context now of restrictions being once more imposed, I think of a visit to Middlesbrough in the mid-80s, when we invited our aunt to join us for a day trip to Edinburgh. In her late 50s, then, she’d never managed to get across that border into Scotland, although she’d lived all her life scarcely 100 miles away. She enjoyed the visit very much, but I’m quite sure she never headed that way again. Made a difference being a non-driving widow, I’m sure . . (she managed a beach holiday in Spain with her husband once or twice and the occasional trip to Lourdes with a church social group. . . and then was thrilled to accept her little brother (my dad)’s offer of tickets to Canada to visit him/us).

  21. Thank you Frances . Coming from you that is high praise indeed . I did ask Sue to check my commas , apostrophes & grammar as it’s a long time since I was at school !I don’t think she made many adjustments . Thinking of your Aunt , how wonderful that trip to Canada must have been . My dad’s sister was in her 60s before she took her first trip on a plane , when she visited her son in South Africa . She lived a country life in a tiny Yorkshire hamlet & the local weekly market was her usual excitement . It was lovely to hear how thrilling she had found it all . I remember reading that country people in Victorian Britain rarely travelled more than ten miles from their home . Our generation have been lucky .

  22. What a delicious post, Sue – thanks for sharing Wendy with us again (I remember that post about India). I’m hoping for a month in Scotland in the coming years. I especially like her caveat about the weather…
    Cheers,
    Mary Katherine

  23. Lovely post and beautifully written! So nice to escape the Christmas chaos. I visited Scotland 20 years ago but would so love to visit again. Breathtaking scenery with so much history! Thank you Sue and Wendy! Best wishes for the New Year!

  24. Thanks Catherine . Quite a lot of people head to Scotland to escape the Christmas chaos . You must come back . I hope we all have a good new year – we deserve it !

    1. We certainly do! Thanks Wendy for the great post. And for yeoman service in answering all the comments. And folks, I think we may be able to tempt Wendy to take us with her on her travels again in the New Year. 🙂

      1. Thanks for making it possible Sue . I really admire you for giving us two interesting posts every single week . I’m going for a little lie down now 😁

  25. Thanks Wendy for a wonderful armchair journey to Scotland! I’ve always wanted to go and your descriptions of the islands and castles, small towns and old Sunday rules (blue laws we call them here in New England), make me yearn to experience such a wonderful country.
    We haven’t traveled in quite some time and I yearn for an adventure. Things are looking pretty grim right now and I worry that we’re in for another bad year in 2022.
    I hope that we all see improvement soon and can venture forth.
    Happy holidays.

  26. Thanks Dottie . I have to admit to some nostalgia for the days when the only shops open in our local city were cafes & bookshops . There was such a lovely relaxed atmosphere . All different now . I hope you are travelling again soon though New England looks pretty nice to me . Enjoy your Christmas .

  27. thank you for such a lovely post which made me very very homesick. As a Scot I am of course very biased, but I do think my homeland packs a lot of magic into a very small country. We were due to meet up on Mull with a group of friends to celebrate a friend’s 60th birthday in April 2020 but ,since we live in Australia, we are still waiting!He has decided to wait until we can all get there to turn 60 which seems perfectly reasonable…

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