Scotland Part 3

Christmas and Boxing Day were busy but filled with so much fun.

We had a bit of a lie-in on Christmas Day, lazing about and ordering breakfast to the room before getting ready to head out. We had decided to take advantage of the lack of cars on the road to head south on an adventure.

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Driving through the Scottish countryside we happened on Jedburgh Abbey completely by accident – I spotted it out of the corner of my eye and shouted to G to pull over immediately (thank goodness he’s really good at doing that quickly and calmly as I have a habit of doing it frequently…) – and only realised what an important and historic site the 12th century ruins are after the fact!

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Having stretched our legs we continued south, passing fields filled with heilan coos (that’s ‘Highland cows’, to you and I) and having to make do with a wave and a ‘Hello’ as G wouldn’t let me herd any of them into the rental. Spoil sport.

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We paused briefly at the border to wave goodbye to Scotland and hello to England but it was brief as the wind and rain were fighting to the death outside our windows.

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Surprise! English fields look….exactly like Scottish fields.

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After driving through alternating rain and grey skies we finally arrived at Hadrian’s wall (specifically Housesteads Fort). The fort itself was closed but we took the opportunity to climb up to see the wall as G had never seen it before.

Built by the Romans, Hadrian’s Wall once stood 80 miles long crossing from one side of the island to the other and acting as a fortification against the Picts of the north (who the Romans saw as wild) with Roman forts built into the wall every 5 miles or so.

Though it’s nowhere near the size it once was it’s still incredible to see such a unique piece of history because you can completely imagine what it used to be and you feel the weight of all it’s endured.

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After a brief break to take advantage of the cell service so we could call home to Canada and wish everyone a Merry Christmas, we headed north as we were hoping to see Rosslyn Chapel.

The weather, however, had other plans and with the sun nowhere in sight it got dark really quickly so we altered our route and instead took advantage of the chance to see Jedburgh Abbey all lit up and to find our way to Melrose Abbey, which is another historic Scottish landmark.

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It was pitch black by the time we returned to Edinburgh and when our efforts to seek out Christmas dinner proved futile we decided to order room service and snuggle in for a christmas classic – Home Alone – which was the only festive thing on TV!

It certainly wasn’t a traditional Christmas day but it was so much fun to drive through the beautiful countryside while listening to Christmas carols and to see some gorgeous sites which were entirely new to us. I’d definitely say it was a Christmas to remember. 🙂

When we woke up the next morning the first thing I did was look out the window as this was the one day of our visit where snow had actually been forecast. I was so excited to see the flurries outside the window and basically rushed G out the door so we could start the day and get out to enjoy it.

The reality was that the snow in Edinburgh was freezing, wet and completely unpleasant. Plans to go for a walk in it were quickly tossed out and instead we got into the car and set out into the countryside. I was determined to find a true winter wonderland and wouldn’t stop until I did. Thankfully the weather gods were smiling on me as in no time at all we were passing snowy fields full of snowy sheep.

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It was picture perfect to look at but driving in it was another story. We passed through some truly treacherous bits but eventually emerged into clear air with some pretty brilliant views…and the sun even managed to poke its head out and say hello!

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We made our way past Inverness and continued northwest, heading towards Bealach Na Bà on the road to Applecross. I had read about the drive here and felt good about our chances of finding snow and dazzling vistas on what National Geographic has called a ‘best drive’.

The start of the mountain pass offered some breathtaking scenery but little did I know that we would face a breathtaking moment (of the panic attack kind) just around the bend…

 

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Our clear, grey day turned almost instantly into a foggy, wet, slippery night complete with hairpin turns on a one lane road and almost vertical climbs. I held my breath basically the whole way.

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Thankfully we only had to pass one other car on the way up!

The top of the mountain was gorgeous and other-worldly and we did our best to ignore the freezing wind and rain which seemed intent on pushing us (literally) back into the car.

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We returned to the car shivering but happy to have made the journey. Plus we had the drive back down the switchbacks to look forward to (she said, sarcastically).

Thankfully we made it without incident and were soon back at sea level for the long drive back to Edinburgh.

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Like the day before we were happy to stumble on an unexpected gem – Eilean Donan Castle. We came across it at the perfect moment as it looked spectacular highlighted against the darkening sky. (Also, yay to Scotland properly lighting their national treasures! London could do much better with this as major sites – like the Houses of Parliament – are often shrouded in darkness at night which is a complete shame.)

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A full but unforgettable two days!

Make sure you check back in tomorrow for my final post on our Christmas in Scotland.

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