With thanks… Beautiful Scotland… And a tiny bit of NaNoWriMo-ing

November 11, 2013 at 11:02 pm (Uncategorized)

With thanks… Wednesday November 6… Edinburgh…

This morning it was drizzling a little, for the first time since we got here, and it was nice to see Holy Trinity Church against the grey sky, all moody and oppressive. We got up and did Jillian yoga, then packed up and sadly farewelled pretty Stratford, then headed off on our long drive to Edinburgh. It took us a little bit to get our bearings and get back to the motorway, but once we did it was fine – we’d bought the new Michael Monroe CD cos we forgot to bring any, so we turned it up loud and headed north. The countryside was so pretty – all green fields and autumn coloured trees and cute sheep with black faces, and no more than a sprinkle of rain all day. We didn’t even have to rug up when we stopped for coffee breaks. It is weird that it’s dark by 5pm though 🙂 It was full dark by the time we got to Edinburgh, but we could see the outline of Arthur’s Seat silhouetted against the sky, which was very cool. We found our little flat surprisingly easily, and discovered a sweet café around the corner, before we collapsed into bed for another early night…

 

With thanks… Thursday November 7… Edinburgh…

Today I am grateful for blue skies and sunshine, the chill in the air, and the perfect weather to explore Edinburgh. We walked into the city centre after both yoga-ing, a brisk stroll, admiring the city skyline as we went – the monuments up on Calton Hill, the cathedrals and the castle, and the small volcano that broods over the city. We walked up and down hills, through beautiful old cemeteries, past Ministers buildings and Parliament House, and Holyrood Palace, then we paused briefly to drink tea before climbing Arthur’s Seat, the main thing I’d wanted to do here. It was an awesome climb, steep and windy, and dramatically beautiful, with incredible views all around the city. There was a sweet lake low down, with swans and geese, then the ruins of a church partway up, and crazy winds that dropped then swelled as we wove our way around the sides. It was a bit higher and steeper than I’d expected, which I liked. We finally made it to the top, and it was sooo windy, and pretty cold 🙂 Amazing views though, over the harbour, around the city, as far as the bridge north, and closer in, to the castle. It’s a beautiful city. Then we made our way back down, and wandered along the Royal Mile, and up to the castle, which is so drastically set above the town. We walked for about six hours all up, which made us feel a bit better about all the scones we’ve been eating 🙂 

 

With thanks… Friday November 8… Edinburgh to Inverness…

Today I’m grateful for the magical day we ended up having. It was just supposed to be a travelling day, making our way from Edinburgh to Inverness, but it was amazing. The day dawned bright and sunny again, and we did our Jillian yoga then packed up and headed across the Firth of Forth. The sky was amazing – blue above us, but black to one side, and cloudy yet sunny to the other. The trees were so beautiful, all autumn red-gold-brown, and there were dramatic crags rising up from the fields, and lochs here and there. Then we saw a snow-topped mountain to the north, which we were excited by 🙂 We pulled over and put on our gloves and scarves and beanies, and got out to take a photo, and it was pretty chilly. And as we drove further there were more snow-clad mountains – and the temperature started dropping, from eight degrees to six, then four then three, then one point five. It was kind of cool (no pun intended) to stand outside in that, although we didn’t last long. We kept driving, and it started pouring with rain, huge black clouds overhead – before it all cleared again, the sun came out, and the temperature started to climb again.

We got to Inverness, but kept driving, down around Loch Ness, such a beautiful drive, and finally got to the Loch Ness Monster centre, and around to the ruins of Urquhart Castle, at the end of the loch. It was perfect timing, we were the last people they let in, and even though it was only 3.30pm, it wasn’t long until the sky started to colour in preparation for sunset. I love exploring castle ruins, and there were so many cool bits to see, including the dungeon under the gate house. There was a little movie afterwards, about the history of the castle and the surrounding lands, which was cool, then we headed back to Inverness in the dark, had dinner in a cute little pub, then found our cute little B&B and chilled out for a while before crashing out.     

 

With thanks… Saturday November 9… Inverness to Orkney…

Today I’m grateful for Juz, and our fun adventures. After our massive B&B brekkie we wandered around Inverness for a while, admiring the beautiful old buildings on the water, the castle looming over the town, the adorable medieval looking streets and the festive decorations. Then we headed north, across the Moray Firth to the Black Isle, across narrow bridges, past old castle and alongside lovely lochs, before stopping for lunch in Dornoch. It’s the most beautiful village, all medieval and cobblestoned, with tiny stone buildings and a huge cathedral, little green squares, old-fashioned street lamps and winding lanes. It’s also the place where the last “witch” in Scotland was burnt, in 1727. Janet Horne allegedly provided “proof” of her guilt by stumbling over a recitation in Gaelic of the Lord’s Prayer during her trial – the accusation that she turned her daughter into a horse, rode her around the town then took her to be shod by the devil would have been much harder to prove. There is a stone, the Witch’s Stone, that commemorates the place where she died – it’s in the garden of a house in Carnaig Street, which took us a little while to find, but it was a beautiful walk, past the most adorable little cottages. When we finally found it, it was really chilling. The stone just has the year written on it. Not so long ago, that such superstition and cruelty existed…

We had lunch in a little café there, then continued on our way up to the top of Scotland, to catch the ferry over to Orkney. We both felt a bit sick, so no catching up on writing for me, but we made it across, and found our little cottage on its own pier in Stromness, the little fishing village on the harbour. The streets are TINY – I was terrified a car would come the other way, cos I wouldn’t know what to do, the lanes are that narrow, with houses on each side directly on the street. But we made it without mishap, and unpacked in our cute little cottage, our home for the next week, grateful for the open fire and the heating upstairs in the cute little bedroom…

 

With thanks… Sunday November 10… NaNoWriMo – 1100 words – Orkney…

Today I am grateful for the gorgeous views from the windows of our cottage out over the harbour and across to some of the other islands – and another blue sky morning. We did our yoga then headed off to the Ring of Brodgar, an awesome and pretty massive stone circle standing imposingly on the strip of land between two lochs. There were originally sixty stones, but only thirty-six remain – enough to imagine how it was though, and create a beautiful atmosphere. And there’s a cute burial tomb behind it, all grass covered and mysterious looking. A little way down the road are the Standing Stones of Stenness, originally twelve arranged in a semi-circle, but with only five remaining today. They were still very impressive though, absolutely massive, and really imposing. Nearby is the Watch Stone, standing guard by the waterside, as well as Barnhouse Neolithic Village, which was really cool – another ancient village they’ve uncovered the foundations for, and have the bare bones of. There were heaps of swans on the lochs, and the water was like a mirror, so beautiful and calm and reflective and pretty.

Then we made our way to Maeshowe, the finest chambered tomb in Western Europe, older than the pyramids, and so amazing. I love the look of them on the outside, all green grassy mound, but going inside them is so magical, yet slightly creepy, and kinda mindblowing. It’s astounding, how they built them so perfectly, with no cement or other binding agent, just perfectly fitted stone, brought from miles away, with three L-shaped chambers inside, plus the main area and the cute little tunnel we had to stoop down and practically crawl along to get inside. So much fun, and so fascinating.

And I’m grateful for salad! I know that might sound weird, but I’ve been struggling to find healthy food – it’s hard being a vegetarian allergic to tomatoes at the best of times, but it’s been especially hard here. So this afternoon we went grocery shopping, and I made a big salad for dinner, with avocado and the best falafel I’ve ever tasted, which made me very happy. (I know, small things and all!) Then I finally got back to my NaNoWriMo-ing, and wrote 1100 words. Each one was a terrible struggle, and I’m really behind still, and kind of stuck, but at least I got some done!

Then we went upstairs to the cosiest little bedroom ever, and listened to the howling wind as it stormed around us. It was all blue skies until nightfall, then the wind picked up. It was amazing to us that no matter how strong it was (and I imagine in the dead of winter it will be crazy strong), our little house on the pier didn’t shake, the window panes didn’t rattle, not even the tiniest bit of cold air got in. Guess they know how to build for the weather here 🙂

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