live slow, love nature, be adventurous

Friday, May 24, 2013

Scotland: Snapshots from Stirling Castle

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After our stay in Balloch at Loch Lomond we headed to Edinburgh, but on the way we added a couple of hours in Stirling. After all the time we spent in the nature of the Highlands, coming to Stirling felt coming back to the world of mankind. It was a bit of a culture shock, because I really wasn’t used to the presence of a larger amount of people - and Stirling isn’t even that big!

Stirling’s most famous sight is Stirling Castle. Throughout the centuries, this castle was one of the most important political locations in Scotland and home to many of its kings and queens. Mary, Queen of Scots, was born and crowned here when she was only six days old and during the Jacobite Uprising Bonnie Prince Charlie tried to take control of the castle to benefit of its strategic importance, but failed to do so. Stirling Castle is an impressive relict of Scotland’s cultural heritage and visiting helped me learn more about the country and its rich history.

One more piece of practical advice: The entry fee to Stirling Castle (as with all the other big Scottish Castles) is pretty high and while I recommend visiting nonetheless, it is worth looking into purchasing one of the Combination Tickets if you’re planning to visit another castle (most notably Edinburgh Castle and Urquhart Castle) in the near future.

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The castle is located on top of a hill with views over all of Stirling. If there was an army coming, they could see it miles ahead.

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This is a reconstruction of the Great Hall. While most of the buildings are still in their original state, the Great Hall was rebuilt. I can barely imagine that there was a time when all the building were in this color! It’s something that I often forget to realize when I visit old monuments: Time does a lot to construction material and the way something appears today doesn’t necessarily have to be the way it appeared a couple of hundred years ago. I wonder what some of our iconic modern building will look like in a century’s time!


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The difference is quite staggering, isn’t it?

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What is the most impressive castle you have ever visited? And if you have never been: Which castle would you like to visit one day?

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Scotland: Balloch Castle Country Park

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While we were exploring Loch Lomond, we stayed in a wonderful B&B in Balloch, a small town on the Southern Shore of the lake. Balloch is home to the magnificent Balloch Castle Country Park where we spent our evenings, in the companies of dogs and views of the sunset. I wish there was a landscape park like this close to my home - I'm sure I would spent every sunny moment there.

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Looking back at these pictures, I wish I was living in Glasgow. I have never been, but a city that is so close to so much beauty? I am already sold.

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Do you know the feeling close to the end of a trip, when you know you're not ready to leave yet and wish you could stop time for a bit? This is how I felt when I viewed across Loch Lomond and saw the sun set over the hills. It wasn't a bad feeling. I wasn't dreading going home and I still had some more days in Scotland to look forward to. But in a way, it felt like the end, because we would be heading back to city life, away from the remoteness of the Scottish Highlands.

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These pictures evoke a feeling of contentment and pure happiness in me. This is life. Spending time with the person I love, being outside in nature and knowing that no matter what, I will always have this moment.

How do you usually feel when the end of a trip comes near?

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Scotland: Isle Inchcailloch at Loch Lomond

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On our cruise over Loch Lomond we stopped at the beautiful Isle Inchcailloch, a tiny uninhabited island in the Southern Part of the lake. Because we weren’t travelling during Peak Season, there were only a handful of other people and it really made me feel like we were the only people in the whole wide world.
The island is pretty small and can be explored in about two hours and it’s the perfect location for a relaxing walk with beautiful views, especially if you’re graced with sunshine like we were. 

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For the most part, the island is covered in trees and lush greens, with the blue of Loch Lomond hinting through the leaves. In order to get from one side of the island to the other, you have to climb a small hill on top of which you will be greeted with…

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…this view of the lake.

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On the other side of the mountain, you will find this gorgeous beach. I wept of joy and would have loved to jump into the water, but considering that it was still September and still Scotland that probably wouldn’t have been such a good idea.

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There’s also a helpful pamphlet published by the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park with a map and interesting information on the island that you should be able to get in the Visitor Centers or wherever you are staying.

Looking back at those pictures makes me long for two things: Scotland (duh, of course I want to go again!) and the sun. It’s the middle of May and for the most parts it still looks and feels like February in  Southern Germany. Germany may not be the Mediterranean, but come on, is a bit of sunshine really all that hard? I want to be able to go sit down in a park, enjoy the sun and a FroYo and read. Not that I have time for that, but let’s not think about that.

So until Spring/Summer finally rolls around, I’ll have to make do with memories of warm days (and conveniently forget that it was raining half the time we were in Scotland…) – and isn’t that the most beautiful thing about travel?
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