A Travellerspoint blog


Isle of May & Bass Rock

Well worth the hassle to finally get here!

View Scotland & Lake District 2021 on Grete Howard's travel map.

These is a long story behind my gannet workshop to Bass Rock off the Scottish east coast, starting with one of our very first  first motorhome trips; during which we got as far as Sheffield before the van broke down. Instead of going to Scotland, we travelled back home on a recovery trailer. 

On the second attempt we managed to get the motorhome as far as Seahouses, only to be told the workshop was cancelled because of bad weather. 

The following year (2020), a photographer friend from the USA, Freddy, was planning to come over to visit us with his wife, so I booked TWO places for the gannet diving workshop. Of course Freddy never did come over, and the workshop was called off because of the Covid 19 pandemic.

After rebooking the workshop (again) this year (2021) for myself and Freddy, it becomes clear that visitors from the US are still not allowed to enter the UK, so our friend Paul from Scotland agrees to take over Freddy's place on the boat trip. A couple of weeks before the trip, Paul had a stroke so sadly will not be coming with me out on the boat (post note: Paul is recovering well). I suggest David takes his place instead, even if he is not really interested in photography.

Unfortunately the fishing boat we are supposed to be going out on, does not manage to get its certificate allowing it to carry passengers in time, so the workshop is yet again cancelled. I am now beginning to think we are jinxed.

Spending some time on the internet looking for a replacement boat trip, I come across BlueWild and arrange for them to take me - and David - out on a privately chartered trip to Isle of May and Bass Rock. 

The day before we are due to go out, their boat breaks down, so our trip is yet again cancelled (are the gods trying to tell us something?). Thankfully, they are able to get the repairs done in a day, and re-schedule us for a couple of days later.

On the sixth attempt, we finally manage to get out on a boat! All I will say at this point, is that it is so worth the wait!

This is the boat that will take us out, with skipper Alan, and crew Philip. It really does make a huge difference to have the boat to ourselves - we have given up group tours some time ago, as we prefer the flexibility of being just the two of us, so this is perfect from that point of view. Alan does everything he can to make sure we see what we want to see, and that I get the shots I want.


After a quick, but thorough safety briefing, we leave Dunbar Harbour and head straight across the Firth of Forth shipping channel to Isle of May.

Dunbar Harbour


BlueWild is one of the few companies that have a licence to land on Isle of May, and we are offered the opportunity to so so should we wish. As my main purpose of this trip is to see the gannets at Bass Rock, we decide to forego the landing on this occasion.

Isle of May

There seem to be plenty of people on the island on well defined paths

Until I spoke to Alan on the phone about this trip a few days ago, I had no idea that puffins make their home on the island. Alan explains that sometimes you see whole rafts of them on the surface of the water, but so far this year there have only be a few around.

The first birds we see, however, are kittiwakes - there is a colony of them roosting at the entrance to Dunbar harbour.


I get very excited when I see a small flock of gannets flying low over the water. Alan assures me that I will see plenty more later on. That has to be the understatement of the year!


I still get a bit carried away taking photos of them.



Alan does warn us that we are likely to get 'blessed' at some stage during this trip - he is right!


Being a great fan of puffins, I am delighted to just spot one single one.


They are so comical the way they run across the water when they take off!





We soon start seeing more and more of them floating in rafts too. Alan shuts the engine to an idle as we drift through them. Some take fright and fly off as soon as they spot us, others totally ignore us, and let us float right on by.




The experience of just sliding past a whole raft of puffins, is truly magical!


I get some really good close-up photos too!


Photography is challenging to say the very least. The birds are bobbing up and down on the swell, and so is the boat, but seemingly to a different rhythm. I manage focus on the puffin, but the next minute all I can see in the viewfinder is sky, followed by the bird being being 'swallowed up' by the waves.



My hit rate is appalling!


The area also has a great number of guillemots, and they remind me so much of penguins when they take off, the way they skim across the surface on their bellies, much like the stones we threw as kids!


Except, of course, penguins never do take off, unlike guillemots!


Guillemots create rafts too!


We continue to the craggy shores of Isle of May.



Steep cliffs and basalt pillars greet us, with thousands of guillemots crowding into every available space.


In many places, the rocks are white with guano.


This would make an amazing jigsaw. For someone you don't like.


As we make make our way around the island, the odd puffin appears on shore too.



A couple of seals bask on the rocks, and a few heads pop out of the water to see what is going on.



The Isle of May is home to an incredible array of wildlife, with up to 200,000 seabirds nesting here.




Cormorants and Herring Gulls

The steep cliffs hide beguiling grottos, with tales of smugglers and pirates.


In a secluded bay stands the solitary rock pillar, known as 'The Bishop'.


From Isle of May we make our way to Bass Rock, the home of 150,000 gannets. From a distance the flying gannets look like a swarm of mosquitoes around a light – they seem to be completely surrounding the rock.


We can hear them long before we can make out each bird clearly: the racket is quite simply unbelievable! As we get nearer we can clearly see that the white dots on the top of the rock are in fact birds on nests. Wow!


These large, striking-looking birds are everywhere: on the rocks, on the water and in the air.


Launching themselves off the rock, they hang on the thermals before diving into the depths of the sea to gather seaweed for their nest building.



The dots you see are not water droplets on my camera lens, they are in fact other flying birds!




I spend the rest of my time at sea shooting anything that moves. Only with my camera, of course. Here are a few of my favourite shots:





Can you believe that each one of those dots is in fact a gannet!



One of my favourite moments of the trip is just sitting in the boat, gazing up at thousands of gannets effortlessly hovering overhead.


One of my main photography aims of this excursion, is to capture a flying gannet with nesting materials in its beak. I take literally thousands of photographs to try and get a good one. As I said earlier, the extremely difficult conditions means my hit rate is dreadful! I do have some success, however.




Another Surprise appearance – an Eider Duck

We finally have to say goodbye to Bass Rock and return to shore. I glance back and sigh with contentment, delighted that I finally managed to see and experience this wildlife extravaganza.


The circling gannets appear to be following us for a while, although I am pretty sure they are more interested in what is under the water than they are in us.


On our way back to Dunbar Harbour, Alan points out the ruins of the 14th century Tantallon Castle.


By the time we get back to solid land, I am soaked to the skin, slightly sunburnt, very cold, and covered in white spots from bird dropping; but I feel like I am floating on air with blissful excitement at what I have just witnessed. In all our travels I have never seen or experienced anything like it!

Posted by Grete Howard 11:18 Archived in Scotland Tagged birds cliffs scotland boat wildlife wild pirates seal seaweed gannets puffins cormorant smugglers boat_trip birds_nest bird_watching guano shag wildlife_photography flying_birds isle_of_may firth_of_forth dunbar dunbar_harbour guillemots bass_rock bluewild blue_wild eider kittiwake razorbill herring_gull smuggler_cove tantallon tantallon_castle Comments (2)

Achiltibuie, Coigach and Stoer Peninsulas

Mist and rain

View In search of the Hairy Coo - Scottish Highlands 2018 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Judging by the car this morning, it must have rained in the night.


In fact it is still raining.


It is also misty. Very misty. We can barely see land the opposite side of the loch. It may reduce visibility, but I do find mist very atmospheric.




Today we are heading north, following the coast road as much as we cab.


Dundonnell River

First stop today is to try and photograph the waterfall without getting wet. While I don't have a problem with being out taking pictures in the rain, I do just sneak a couple of shots from the car this morning.







We make a point of stopping in Ullapool to do some grocery shopping and are quite surprised to find that the usual Sunday trading laws that we are used to from home do not apply here in Scotland. The Tesco is very much smaller than our local store, but then, despite being much more well-known than our home town, Ullapool only boasts around 1500 inhabitants.

Some people are pretty desperate for a coffee.

Below are some images of the scenery and stormy clouds as we make our way north along the coast.









The Brochs of Coigach

This eco-friendly luxury accommodation is inspired by iron-age roundhouses, known as 'brochs' in these parts. It sure looks a fabulous place to stay, blending as it does with nature.


The traffic is thankfully not heavy around here, despite this being the height of the summer holiday. We share the road with sheep, geese and deer as we continue to explore the Coigach Peninsula.





I am happy to see that the deer are traffic savvy and only cross at dedicated 'Passing Places'.

Achahaird Beach



Summer Isles

Summer Isles

We leave the Coigach Peninsula behind and continue north, initially passing a number of small boggy ponds, then later joining a magnificent scenic road snaking its way across the hills and valleys.




It's nice to see the Scots are such polite drivers. The sign is obviously aimed at people like us, who like to drive slowly, and will make lots of stops to photograph the scenery.





We stop for a break by a small pond and I go for a short walk to take some photographs.






Common Spotted Orchid - a fairly rare sighting

A sign telling us to be aware of frogs crossing - another fairly rare sight. We don't see any.




Stoer Lighthouse

Tall Cottongrass

Found all over this area, the tall cottongrass fascinates me, the way is blows in the wind and glows in the low sun when backlit.



Pied Crow

We see a large bird circling above and get very excited, but it turns out just to be a Pied Crow.




Spotted Flycatcher

A little bit further along, however, we spot a small bird that I initially think is a sparrow, but is in actual fact a Spotted Flycatcher. I guess this makes up for the crow.




Another traffic jam


The Summer Islands


Drumbeg Viewpoint





Atlantic Salmon Fish Farm


Ardvreck Castle

Ardmair Point

Ullapool - almost home

We return to the cabin after a lovely day out despite the dull and grey weather. The scenery is constantly stunning though.

Posted by Grete Howard 07:51 Archived in Scotland Tagged landscapes rain scotland road_trip scenery mist grocery_shopping stormy_clouds ullapool the_wee_barn inclement_weather Comments (1)

Evening Roadtrip

Around the coast

View In search of the Hairy Coo - Scottish Highlands 2018 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Evening road trip

As it is still early (and light out), we decide to go for a wee drive this evening (see how I am getting into the local lingo already?)

Before going anywhere, we check out what is at the bottom of the lane leading downhill from the cabin.

Little Lock Broom

Before we even reach the end of the lane, we spot something moving in the long grass in the field next to the road.

Red Deer

Then we spot another – can you see it?


Further down in the field is yet another one, this time a sika deer – the first time we have seen one in the wild.


There are further red deer in the far field, separated from the others by a couple of stone walls and wire fences.



Is she going to try and jump?


I get very excited at the prospect and am poised ready with my camera, but all this deer wants is to fill her belly.






She leaps effortlessly and gracefully to the next field.


She is now one step nearer her two mates.


As she contemplates the next fence, I make sure my camera is ready to catch the action again. I won't get a second attempt at this.




Reunited at last.


We leave the deer to do their own thing and continue to the water's edge, where we see a couple of Harbour Seals basking on the rocks. Another first for us.



On our way back up the lane we see a barn swallow on the line, preening himself.



From here we head out to the main road to make a small circuit around the coast.


One of the things about the cabin is that there is no mobile signal. Wanting to phone my dad, we stop in a lay-by where our lane meets the main road to make the call once we get a connection. It's not a bad view from here over Little Loch Broom.


Being on a mission to find a 'hairy coo' (long haired highland cattle), I am disappointed to see that the cattle in the field here are not what I am after. They are quite cute though.


The scenery along the way is nothing short of stunning, with new, exciting vistas around every bend.

Fish farms on Little Loch Broom

“The light is amazing!” soon becomes my mantra this evening (and for the rest of the trip) as the low sun lights up the already beautiful scenery.







We stop for me to photograph a couple of black horses in a bright yellow field.



One of them is obviously convinced that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.


Little Gruinard Beach

Scotland has some beautiful beaches, and this one looks very inviting, especially from a photographer's point of view, with its water-filled ridges reflecting the fading light. Did I mention the light is wonderful here in Scotland?








Little Ringed Plover




We continue on our planned circular trip, although after a while we realise that it is not going to be just a 'quick drive after dinner' as planned, the route is very much further than we realise.


Traffic jam, Scottish style



We see very few other cars, and are a little taken back when we spot these temporary traffic lights. They seem so out of place with the rest of the route.


Despite spending the first 15 years of my life in Norway, which is at an even higher latitude, I am rather surprised to find how light it still is at 22:30 at night.


Although there may still be a reasonable amount of light, there is not enough to get a decent photo of the deer alongside the narrow lane as we make our way back.


We reach the cabin over three hours after we left for a 'quick evening drive'. We go to bed tired but very content.

Posted by Grete Howard 08:07 Archived in Scotland Tagged road_trip horses scenery deer seals plover badluarach red_derr harbour_seals little_loch_broom little_gruinard_beah little_ringed_plover Comments (1)

Carlisle - Badluarach

We've finally arrived at The Wee Barn

View In search of the Hairy Coo - Scottish Highlands 2018 on Grete Howard's travel map.

We decide to forego the full English breakfast at the Premier Inn this morning, and just make do with some fresh fruit from Tesco. Cheaper and better for the diet.

After yesterday's traffic jam, we have some very pleasurable motoring today, and we soon find ourselves entering Scotland. Damn, I forgot my passport!



Look at these empty roads! What a change from yesterday!



On the way I spot a couple of amusing road signs.




The 10 metre high sculpture, nicknamed "Angel of the Nauld", overlooks the M80 just north of Auchenkilns. The female sculpture's large swooping arcs from her hands to her dress are based on the Gaelic name for Cumbernauld, “comar nan allt”, which translates as “the meeting of the waters”. Not quite sure how that follows, but so the story goes. The sculpture, created by Andy Scott of Kelpies fame, is part of the Cumbernauld Positive Image Project's aim “to create a distinctive image of Cumbernauld; increase residents’ pride in their town; raise awareness across Scotland of Cumbernauld’s attractiveness as a destination to live, work and play; create a sense of place and provide a positive statement about the town. Again I am not sure how this sculpture plays a role here, but she is pleasant enough to look at as we glide past on our way further north.


Pitlochry Dam and Fish Ladder

We park in the centre of Pitlochry town and follow the signs to the dam and visitors centre on foot. The road leads through the town, down a hill, under a bridge, along a narrow lane, up another hill and down a slope before it gets to a dedicated car park for the visitors centre. Doh. At least we get a little bit of exercise rather than driving to the nearest car park. We have spent enough time in the car the last couple of days.

I am officially intrigued by the Fish Ladder, as although I do understand that it facilitates salmon to travel upstream during breeding season, I have never actually seen one.


But first we stop for coffee and cake in the modern visitors centre overlooking the hydroelectric plant.



We walk across specially constructed walkways from one bank of the river to the other (not the one shown in the photo below), and although the power plant is certainly impressive, it's the reflections in the loch that first and foremost grab my attention.




Hydro-electricity is produced using the power of running water to turn the turbines in the power station.



Once we reach the fish ladder on the opposite bank, I have a feeling we have seen something similar before, possibly in Madeira in 2003. Either way, it is a pretty cool idea.


This is how it works: each of the 34 tiered pools has an opening below water level to allow fish to swim through to the next level. The ladder is even equipped with a fish counter (the sort that counts each fish, not sells fillets) so they can monitor the success of the ladder. Some 250,000 salmon have climbed those stairs since the ladder was first opened in 1952. That is very impressive.


I continue taking photos of the dam and surroundings while David goes back into town to collect the car. He's a good man.






We head for the hills of the Cairngorms (a mountain range and national park in Scotland) to find somewhere to have our picnic.









This will do for a picnic


Not a bad view


Cowboy Caviar (mixed bean salad) with chicken and Southwest Sauce


We are fascinated to find, as we make our way even further north on smaller roads, that each layby is identified by a number. I have not seen that anywhere else. There are plenty of them too, something that we come to appreciate a lot as the week goes on.


Hmm, but not today...

Highland cattle

As you may have noticed, I have called this blog “In search of the Hairy Coo”. 'Hairy coo' is of course the local slang for the adorable long-haired Highland Cattle. There are two reasons for this – I was tasked with getting some photos of me petting a highland cow by my friend Kay; and also because it reminds me very much of my first visit to Scotland in 1974 with my parents. My mum adored these cute bovine animals and used to call them 'hippy cows'.

'Pretend' Hairy Coo at the Ralia Highland Gateway Centre where we stop for a pee break.

Apparently, cuddling a metal coo doesn't count.

Sat Nav

Mid afternoon the Sat Nav dies, meaning we have to revert to the old fashioned way of finding our way using a map. Those of you who know me well, will realise that it is not a good idea to leave me to do the navigating while map reading. Not only do I get my lefts and rights mixed up, my sense of direction is so poor that I can get lost in my own back garden.

Let's hope we make it to the cabin this evening without too many detours and without having a major falling-out.


Love the roads and the scenery!




Loch Droma


The further north we get (and nearer our cabin), the narrower the road gets.


We find the turning off the main road without any major drama, despite me map reading, although I fear the credit has to go to David, who has a photographic memory when it comes to maps: once he has seen the route on a map, he can drive there.


The Wee Barn

I booked this holiday on a whim a few weeks ago. We have been talking about visiting Scotland for a while now, but no actual plans, and certainly not this year. I thought I would just do an internet search to give me some idea of costs, and then I saw The Wee Barn and fell in love. Ten minutes later I had booked it.


The Wee Barn is in what you could safely call a remote location. Some two miles down a single track road with a handful of other houses, a post box and telephone kiosk, It is situated down the lane leading to the landing where ferries take passengers across Little Loch Broom to the smattering of houses the other side. Surrounded by countryside on three side and water on the fourth, the setting is idyllic.



The cabin itself is small, of course (there is a huge hint in the name), but more than adequate for us, with a living room / dining room and a very well equipped kitchen.




As well as a bedroom and bathroom, the entrance hall has a comfy chair and a well stocked bookcase.


Once we have unpacked, I whip up a quick dinner of cold Black Forest ham, scrambled eggs and roasted tomatoes.


After dinner a settle down to relax, but David has other ideas, and suggests going out for a short drive. I shall make that the subject of the next blog entry however.

Posted by Grete Howard 04:16 Archived in Scotland Tagged scotland salmon road_trip sculpture seal deer motorway highland_cow pitlochry cairngorms road_signs premier_inn arria angel_of_the_nauld auchenkilns cumbernauld andy_scott power_station hydro_electric fish_ladder hary_coo sika_deer red_deer harbour_seal Comments (3)

Home - Carlisle

A slow start to our Scotland Adventure

-50 °C
View In search of the Hairy Coo - Scottish Highlands 2018 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Although we booked this trip some months ago, it wasn't until the very last minute (two days before departure to be exact), that we actually decided we were going to go. As many of you will know, my dad was very poorly recently, and we were unsure whether we were going to be able to get away at all.

Anyway, here we are, setting off for the long drive to Bonnie Scotland.

Apologies for the quality of today's photos, they are all taken with my mobile phone.

Motorway Madness

It doesn't start well. Just outside Birmingham we hit the first traffic jam. We see two fire engines, an ambulance and the Incident Manager go past. Oh dear, I hope it is not serious. At least we are just delayed, we are not involved in the 'incident'.


Without notice, the traffic starts to move again and within seconds we are up to normal speed, with no sign of the incident that slowed us to a stand-still in the first place. How very odd.

It doesn't last long, however, and soon we are slowing right down again. This is when motorbikes come into their own – we see the whole chapter of Satan's Slaves go past, some 50+ bikers, weaving their way in and out of the lines of slow-moving cars.

Leaving the M5 and joining the M42, we arrive into another stationary traffic jam.


Once we're on the M6, the story is the same – another load of slow moving traffic! There is one benefit: we may not be going anywhere fast, but at least we are getting in excess of 75 miles per gallon.


Picnic lunch

The plan was to come off the motorway to find a small, rural place to have a leisure lunch in the countryside, but as we are making such slow progress, we are concerned about the distance we still have to travel, so pull into a Motorway Service Station where we have a car-picnic in the car park. Not quite the same.


Without notice the Sat Nav decides to give up the ghost, forcing us to get out an old-fashioned map. Thankfully, the further north we go, the less traffic there is, and David is a master navigator anyway, with a non-rivalled memory for routes.


Premier Inn and Beefeater at Carlisle


Finally, after over eight hours on the road (the journey should have taken us 4½ hours), we eventually arrive at our overnight stop in Carlisle, where a very welcome drink awaits the driver.


I ask for a pint of Morgan's Spiced and Coke (four measures topped up with Diet Coke). It goes down well.


We both have fillet steak, mine with a salad and David's with chips.


I'll drink to that!


So much for being good and only having a salad with my steak: a churros sundae with a large Tia Maria isn't going to do my diet any good!


When it comes to paying, we are really pleased when the waitress lets us use a discount code from an out-of-date voucher that doesn't even include steaks! Double success!

Full of good food and drink, we retire to bed ready for another long drive tomorrow.

Posted by Grete Howard 12:45 Archived in Scotland Tagged map cider birmingham steak sat_nav beefeater carlisle traffic_jam premier_inn churros_sundae tia_maria morgan's_spiced Comments (1)

Glasgow - Ripon - Sheffield

Ancient abbeys, water gardens and a lovely dinner!


Leaving Scotland and entering back into England, we make a first stop at Ripon in Yorkshire.

Fountains Abbey

Dating back to 1132 when 13 monks who fled from unrest at St Mary's Abbey in York built their new lives here, the Abbey was once a powerful and wealthy Cistercian monastery. The abbey operated for over 400 years, until 1539, when Henry VIII came along and ordered the Dissolution of the Monasteries.


The ruins of this once great abbey is now a 'listed monument' and a UNESCO Heritage sire.




Having been lucky enough to find a disabled parking space near the entrance in the extremely busy car park, we take my dad in his wheelchair and walk through the grounds of the abbey and onwards.


The grounds are very popular with families who bring their picnics to have on the extended lawns.



The Abbey buildings and over 500 acres of land were sold by the Crown in 1540 to Sir Richard Gresham, who immediately sold off lots of stone, timber and lead from the site.



Fountains Hall was built using stones from the monastery.


By 1767, the abbey and grounds were sold on to William Aisleaby who combined it with the Studley Royal Estate.



Studley Royal Water Gardens

The abbey grounds lead directly into the Studley estate water gardens, with a mile long path taking you right through the grounds.


When John Aisleaby (who has inherited the estate at a young age) was expelled from his political career in parliament, he diverted his energies into creating a water garden at Studley.


He created a romantic atmosphere and built viewing platforms for his visitors to admire the follies across the estate.



The walk is very pleasant, and despite the threatening clouds, we manage to stay dry for the duration.


At the other end is a small coffee shop, where we have some refreshments before making our way back. David, pushing my dad's wheelchair, hurries on back to the car as my dad was feeling the chill from the inclement weather; while I take my time strolling through the grounds.


I get chatting to one of the volunteers, and end up with a personal guide telling me all about the history of the gardens.



At to our hotel this evening, we check out the adjoining restaurant. We walk out again as quickly as we walked in. The restaurant is like a huge shopping mall food court, where you queue up to pay your entrance fee, queue up to get a plate, and then queue up to help yourself to buffet food from a multi-choice selection. The restaurant is noisy, busy, and not our thing at all!

Instead we drive towards the nearest big town – Sheffield. Near the out-of-town shopping centre I spot a Weatherspoon restaurant and we head for that. Oh, the irony: it's in a huge shopping mall food court! Next door is a Harvester restaurant, an even better choice! The service and food is excellent and we go home very satisfied!

Posted by Grete Howard 07:01 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Falkirk Wheel and Loch Lomond

Boat trip and road trip

View A wee trip to Bonnie Scotland with my Dad 2015 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Every day this last week we have been looking at the weather forecast for this area, and it has not been looking good: severe storms and lashings of rain. Oh dear. This morning, however, it is dry, albeit with some pretty threatening clouds.


Falkirk Wheel

Up until the 1930s, the Forth & Clyde and Union canals were linked by a series of 11 locks which took the best part of a day to travel through.

In the 1990s, after 60 years of the connection between the two canals being closed, planners decided to create a dramatic 21st-century landmark structure to reconnect the canals, instead of simply recreating the historic lock flight. A number of options were considered for re-opening the passage between the two canals, including rolling eggs, tilting tanks, a giant see-saw and overhead monorails! The final design is claimed to have been inspired by a Celtic double headed spear, a vast turning propeller of a Clydebank built ship, the ribcage of a whale and the spine of a fish.

Hence the rotating boat lift was born.


Construction started in 1998, with 1,200 tonnes of steel parts assembled in Derbyshire and transported to Falkirk where everything was bolted together (each and every one of the 45,000 bolts was tightened by hand) and placed in position via a huge crane. Over 1,000 construction staff worked on building the wheel.

In 2002 the world’s first and only rotating boat lift was opened by Her Majesty, The Queen.

Here's a few screen prints taken from the official website.





Once the boat navigates to sit inside the water-filled gondola, the lift takes a mere 4.5 minutes to lift the us to the top level.








This animation on Wikipedia best shows the wheel in motion:

Falkirk Wheel

When we reach the top, we can leave the gondola: a barrier which has kept the water inside the gondola as we rose, is lowered, sealing the gap and filling it with water.


From the wheel we travel across the aqueduct at the top, with amazing views of the site and the surrounding countryside.



The canal then goes through the Rough Castle Tunnel before we have to turn around as the boat is too large to navigate up the staircase locks that would take us to the Union Canal.



Instead, the skipper skilfully turns the boat around in the winding point and takes us through the tunnel again.



And back into the top gondola, where we have to wait for another boat to join us before going down, in order to conserve the (small amount) of energy the boat lift uses. Truly an environmentally friendly operation.


All the while we get a useful and fun commentary.


Back on dry land and it looks like it is not going to stay dry for much longer!


The rain does, however, stave off while we stay around and watch a complete circuit of the wheel.


We are not the only ones watching the show – although I think these juvenile swallows are more interested in food from their parents than the amazing piece of engineering at Falkirk Wheel!




Firth of Forth

The Firth of Forth is the estuary or firth of Scotland's River Forth, where it flows into the North Sea, between Fife to the north and Lothian to the south. Geologically, the Firth of Forth is a fjord, formed by the Forth Glacier in the last glacial period.


South Queensferry

We stop for a while at South Queensferry to take some photos of the estuary, bridges and the cobbled streets of the village itself.






Forth Bridge

The main draw for us to here is the Forth Bridge, recently brought to our attention by its inclusion in the UNESCO Heritage list earlier this summer. The bridge – which dates from 1882 - is considered an iconic structure and a symbol of Scotland. It was the longest single cantilever bridge span in the world until 1917 when the Quebec Bridge in Canada was completed. It continues to be the world's second-longest single cantilever span.




The rail bridge was the first major structure in Britain to be constructed of steel and currently carries up to 200 trains a day. I you look carefully at the photo below, you can see a train crossing the bridge.


Loch Lomond

Time for a road trip along the shores of Loch Lomond. But first a stop at a rustic little coffee shop in Balmaha for one of the best carrot cakes I have ever had. We meet a lady who is spending the entire summer travelling around the UK in a campervan, who gives us some very useful tips for a time in the future we would probably like to do that.


Just loved the café's door-stop!


Loch Lomond is the largest inland freshwater lake in Great Britain at 39 x 8 kilometres. The loch contains many island and is a well-loved leisure area, popular with walkers, water-sports enthusiasts, cyclists, picnickers and sightseers like us.





Back at the hotel, we go for dinner, but are all struggling to understand the waitress – the local dialect may as well be a foreign language!

Posted by Grete Howard 11:22 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Bolton - Castlerigg - Lockerbie - Cambuslang - Falkirk

An ancient stone circle, the Air Disaster Monument, lots of hot firemen and a couple of impressive horse statues

View A wee trip to Bonnie Scotland with my Dad 2015 on Grete Howard's travel map.

The restaurant is a different world this morning.: the friendly, chatty manager goes some way to make up for the disinterested staff last night. We leave in a better frame of mind, and head for Scotland.

But first:

Castlerigg Stone Circle

Down a narrow country lane, in the middle of nowhere, atop a small hill with far-reaching views of the Helvellyn mountains sits the 4,500-year old Castlerigg Stone Circle. Popular with walkers, sightseers and families who are picnicking on this beautiful site; we are unfortunately not alone. This is one of Britain's earliest Neolithic stone circles , from around 3000BC. That is an unfathomably long time ago.


With the misty valleys and the rolling hills in the background, the site is incredibly atmospheric despite all the other tourists.



However, with lots of patience (and a little bit of Photoshop to remove a man in a pink T shirt who didn't look as if he was about to move away any time soon) I finally manage to get a couple of tourist-free pictures of the stones.






Lockerbie Air Disaster Memorial

On 21st December 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was destroyed by a terrorist bomb on its scheduled flight between London and New York, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew on board, in what became known to the world as the Lockerbie bombing. Large sections of the aircraft crashed onto residential areas of Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 11 more people on the ground.

The lady in the Visitors Centre here is a mine of information and incredibly sweet, offering tissues and hugs to distraught visitors.

The Air Disaster Memorial is part of Dryfesdale cemetery and remembrance garden on the outskirts of town. Seeing the list of names on Memorial I am acutely reminded that these are people whose lives were cut short, long before their time, in a cruel and 'spectacular' way.


These are the names of the victims whose remains were not found following the crash – I feel so bad for the families who never got any closure.


The whole thing is even more poignant for us, as we had actually met one of the victims, Siv Ulla Engstrom, a couple of times. I remember hearing about the terrible crash in 1988, and reading that she had been working on that fateful Pan Am flight.


If the list of so many names isn't enough, the individual memorials are too much for me as it brings home to me how each and every one of those names was someone's wife / husband / daughter / brother / child …...


Thank goodness for tissues.

Hippie Cows

On our very first visit to Scotland in 1974, my mum was captivated by the Highland Cattle with their long wavy hair covering their eyes; and promptly named them 'hippy cows'. The name has stuck ever since.


Highland cattle are one of Britain's oldest and most distinctive breeds, raised primarily for their excellent meat. They are also seriously cute.



Our hotel in Cambuslang, near Glasgow, is a vast improvement on last night. The surroundings, the clientèle, the staff, the food – everything is far superior to yesterday's offering. In fact, I am delighted to discover that the hotel is in fact full.... of firemen who are here for a conference! Always nice to have a bit of eye candy with dinner.

Sorry, no photos.

The Kelpies
After dinner we drive off to see the Kelpies, said to be the largest equine statues in the world. They stand at 30 metres tall (100 ft) and are the brain-child of sculptor Andy Scott.


Modelled on heavy horses, the Kelpies are 'mystical water-borne equine creatures' (they stand on the Forth & Clyde Canal near Falkirk) and are a tribute to working horses, once the powerhouse of the canals. Falkirk is also said to have been home to the worlds biggest horse: in the 1930′s Carnera hauled wagons laden with soft drinks around the town. Soft drinks? Scotland? Surely not!


As the largest public artworks in Scotland, the Kelpies attract huge numbers of visitors. Coming at dusk seems to be a good idea, as although we are not alone, it certainly isn’t crowded.


As we wait for the sun to go down and the lights to come on inside the horse statues, we walk around the sculpture for different angles.




I also try out different White Balance settings on my camera, coupled with the changing colours inside the horses, to see how it affects the results.


This red one is my favourite:


Posted by Grete Howard 07:00 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

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