live slow, love nature, be adventurous

Monday, March 25, 2013

Scotland: The Shores of Loch Lomond at Luss

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We left the Highlands behind to head south to Loch Lomond. Loch Lomond is the biggest lake in the UK and located just outside of Glasgow in Scotland’s second National Park, the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. Loch Lomond is very different from his little brother Loch Ness: It’s less rough and more friendly and the perfect place for a relaxing day. If I was living in Glasgow, I’d probably come every weekend.

We headed to Luss, a picturesque conservation village on the west shores of Loch Lomond, because we wanted to cross the lake with the Loch Lomond Water Taxi service and had a bit of time on our hands to explore.

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We first headed to the beach where we were attacked by a group of baby ducks. I oohed and awed for five minutes. We were also grazed by the most wonderful and unexpected weather, which was a nice change after all the rain from the Highlands.

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Luss is also a pilgrimage site with a beautiful Parish Church (built in the 19th century) and over a thousand years of Christian tradition.

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If it’s not obvious already, my boyfriend and me love to go on hikes and walks. I didn’t find this particular path online, but it starts just behind the church, so you shouldn’t miss it.

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It was getting time for us to head to the Water Taxi and continue this beautiful day… but more on that in another post!

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Scotland: Experiencing the Highlands in Glen Coe

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After our stay on the islands, we headed towards Glen Coe to visit one of the most famous and picturesque valleys in the Scottish highlands. We passed Fort William on the way, but didn’t manage to catch a glimpse of Ben Nevis – the highest mountain in the Great Britain – because it was raining cats and dogs all the day.
Glen is Gaelic for valley (whereas ben means mountain), therefore you’ll about these two words a lot when you tour through the Highlands. In many ways Glen Coe is exactly what you’d imagine a valley in Scotland to be like. It’s narrow and lined by rugged mountains, there’s lush green vegetation and Glencoe Village – which is located just at the beginning of the valley – lies directly at a beautiful fjord.
right on Glen Coe’s doorstep, there’s the end of a fjord. It’s picture-book perfect.
Glen Coe is arguably one of the most well-known valleys in all of Scotland. It’s not because of the stunning vistas, though, but because of its sad and violent history. When the British throne when William of Orange and and his wife Mary became the rulers of Great Britain after the Glorious Revolution, the MacDonald Clan that inhabited the area around Glen Coe didn’t pledge allegiance with the new rulers in time and around 30 of them were therefore murdered, leaving the women and children helpless behind to face the harsh and cold winter.
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When we set off in the morning we were greeted by the most beautiful rainbow. I was stoked.
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At first, we walked to the Glen Coe visitor centre and enjoyed a beautiful view. It’s ridiculously stunning.
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So stunning, in fact, that even the most camera shy couple couldn’t resist taking a picture for the family album.
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If you plan to go hiking in Glen Coe (and you should) make sure to look up some paths before and figure out how to get there. Coming from Germany, we are used to the luxury of just walking to a forest and usually immediately finding a path, but in Scotland you need to be a bit more prepared. There are tons of hiking paths in Glen Coe, but they’re difficult to reach if you don’t have a car just because there are no foot paths from Glencoe Village.
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We ended up going back to Glencoe Village because we knew of one trail that started there. There are two options when walking from Glencoe Village to the Visitor Centre: One path goes right along the A82 and therefore doesn’t exactly make for a scenic route, but with about 2 km it’s the shortest. You can also take a detour – like we did on our way back – which goes a bit deeper into the valley. It’s still an easy path, though, and I’d recommend it for everybody that doesn’t have a lot of time for hiking in Glen Coe.
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We opted for a path along the northern side of Glen Coe. You can find a description here. I wouldn’t describe the path as very hard, but there is a bit of altitude difference to overcome. Furthermore, most parts of the path are not paved in any way, so make sure to have proper equipment. This is not a path to be walked with flip-flops.
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As always, the weather was crazy and went from pouring rain to sunshine and back again in about five minutes. As a result, the path quickly turned into a stream… or so we thought. We quickly came to the realization, though, that we weren’t walking on a path that had become a stream because of the rain, but rather through an actual stream bed. I wish I would have pictures to show you, but unfortunately my camera died pretty soon. This experience did make for some funny memories, though, and some wet (and cold) feet.

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We didn’t end up hiking up the mountain all the way, just because the path got unbearably rocky, but had a wonderful view nonetheless. And whether it’s rainy or not, Glen Coe (or rather the Highlands in general) is not something you should miss out on when you’re traveling to Scotland.

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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Scotland: Skye II - Portree

Originally, we had planned to visit the Cuillin Hills, Skye’s gorgeous mountain range, but due to insufficient planning on my part and because it was Sunday, there was pretty much no public transportation, except for one intercity bus that was only stopping in the major towns of Skye.

Because the day before had been so stressful, we were pretty happy to get an opportunity to relax. We eventually settled on taking the bus up to Portree and I’m really glad we did.

Portree is a small, picturesque fishing town and much more beautiful than Broadford, the town we were staying at. It’s most known for its colorful harbor pier and the stunning view of the island of Raasay, just across Portree’s bay.

We went on the Scorrybreac Circuit, a nice walk just outside of Portree. The walk was neither very long nor hard, but exactly what we needed. If you’re into hardcore hiking this won’t be much of a challenge for you (there’s one ascension halfway through, but it looks more extreme than it feels), but if you just want to enjoy nature and have a stunning sight of Portree and the surrounding nature, I can’t recommend this walk enough. 

The first part of the walk was along the sea. In the back of the picture, you can see Raasay, a large island that’s located just a stone’s throw away from Skye. 

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I have been wondering how the people get to their boats. I’m not exactly familiar with harbor protocols, but I’m assuming they get taken there by another boat. Which still leaves the questions how they’re getting back on island. There’s probably an easy answer to that, but having grown up far away from the sea, I have a certain fascination with nautical-themed things.

The luxury of this walk was that there was a distinguishable path. I have learnt to not take that for granted in Scotland. Now, I don’t think there’s anything wrong about taking a more adventurous hike that involves elements of climbing and walking through streams, but every once in a while it’s nice to just be able to enjoy the surroundings and to not have to worry about breaking a foot. 
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And stunning the surroundings are. The nature just around Portree offers everything you expect to see in Scotland, from lush green hills to the dark sea. The farther we were getting away from Loch Portree (the bay Portree is located at), the rougher the landscape got.

I felt like I was in Middle Earth.

Eventually, the path went up a mountain (the only hard path of the walk) and back towards Portree. I found it fascinating how quickly the landscape changed. Down at the foot of the mountain, we were in a world that was almost devoid of human influence (it’s probably not, but at least it looked like that!) and 100 m higher up, there was cattle peacefully grazing on their fields.

We were barely done with the walk, when the rain started again. What else would you expect in Scotland? This time it didn’t bother us that much, though. And we happily continued back into town and then went back to Broadford. I remember us sitting on the Town’s Square waiting for our bus (the sun had come out again) eating Maltesers (the chocolate, not the people) and laughing about the notion of a Haggis pizza we had seen on a pub menu. A perfectly blissful day. 
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