Monday, August 9, 2010

Better Late than Never, or Wet and Wild in Scotland

KT and I are returning to Edinburgh in August for more of the Fringe (Remember the 30+ shows we saw last year?). And that made me all the more embarrassed we never blogged about the post-Edinburgh part of our Scotland vacation. So...let's get it done.

First up, here's an Edinburgh recap in a photo-album. It includes some of the Military Tatoo where the famous Swiss Top Secret Drum Corps showed off their flaming drumsticks!
But enough about Edinburgh, We spent about another week up in the Highlands visiting castles (the one at the top is Castle Stalker, otherwise known as Castle Argh for its role in a Monty Python movie) and more.

After renting a car, we drove up to the highlands to the little cabin in Glencoe we had rented from the folks running the neighboring Clachaig Inn. We knew we had rented the right place when we saw the Inn had 8 beers on draft, none of which we knew, and boasted haggis on the menu (KT got her first taste there and loved it--I only had a nibble). The days that followed were marked by a lot more rain than in Edinburgh but we tried not to let that stop us. One day we went for a lovely walk to Steall Falls, hopping over rocks as water spilled down the slope. The trail ultimately led us into valley with the beautiful Steall falls at the end and a rope bridge over a stream; KT and I both crossed it very carefully. 

This trek was very close to Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British isles at 2300 feet and the location for an annual race to the summit and back. While it's not a major mountain, it's big enough (the picture at right only shows the base, not the full thing).  I and a friend had a decade ago taken about two hours to walk about two-thirds of the way to the summit (before snow stopped us). Amazingly, the fastest Ben Nevis racers go all the way and back in around 90 minutes!   It turned out we would be there for the race and even though it was pouring rain, we couldn't pass up seeing this crazy event.

500 runners on the way UP in the rain.
Heading DOWN now--that's the first woman, leading 7 men
One really needs to see the race live to appreciate it but here's a video showing an overhead view of the Ben Nevis route--many of the runner ignore the path as it's the not the straightest way up or down. Coming down they often slide down much of the mountain. I've included a video of some runners coming down in the 2008 race, and then one we took of the rainy 2009 race.

2008 race

And here's our video of 2009 race:

Ben Nevis race 2009 from dceditors on Vimeo.

When the rain let us, we did some more walks, and also drove around the some of the gorgeous lochs in the area, crossing one on a car ferry to see another castle.  A few more pictoral highlights here.
Highland cattle

Jimmie Gillies and his Moidart Smokehouse--delicious salmon

One of the many dramatic loch pictures

Made it to Steall Falls!

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