Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Category Archives: Scotland

Sunset over Loch Lomond, from the summit of Conic Hill

Time seems to pause as the silent waters of Loch Lomond wave good night to the golden globe that left us behind. Conic Hill is the only hill that I’ve walked every year since coming to Scotland, and the views of Loch Lomond and the surrounding hills and mountains continue to amaze me with every climb. The hills may be alive, but at this moment, even they seem to be getting ready to rest. I am going to miss this place when I’m gone.

Day trip to Stirling

A collection of photos from a spontaneous day trip to Stirling, Scotland in July, 2016 – enjoy!

The Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies

The wee town of Falkirk in Scotland is known mainly for two things: the Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies. Being a mere half-hour train ride from Glasgow, I’m surprised that Falkirk remained unvisited until last weekend. With the possibility of leaving Scotland by the end of the year, I decided that I had to see the Kelpies lit up during the night and that would have to happen before daylight savings time started, when it wouldn’t get dark till well past 8pm. That meant that a stop at the Falkirk Wheel was also anticipated, though it was raining ever so lightly on the day that I went. No matter – it was destination Falkirk, rain or shine!

The Falkirk Wheel

The Falkirk Wheel is the world’s only boat lift constructed as a part of the Millennium Link project (completed in 2002) to connect the Union Canal and the Forth and Clyde Canal. The two were originally connected by a series of locks, and the wheel was proposed as a replacement. I’m not an engineer so I’m not going to elaborate on the engineering aspects of the wheel, though I do remember the guide mentioning that it saves time and uses a significantly lower amount of power to move boats between the canals. Visitors get to experience the wheel in action by boarding a boat, which is lifted 25 metres from the Forth and Clyde to the Union Canal. The boat then travels a short distance on the Union Canal before returning to the starting point. To me the ride itself was nothing out of the ordinary, and it was more of a “been there, done that” thing for me, though perhaps true engineers would appreciate the wheel for what it is more than I do.

The Kelpies

I did look forward to the Kelpies a lot more than I did to the Falkirk Wheel simply because of my love for public art, especially murals and sculptures. The Kelpies are the largest sculptures of horse heads in the world, though I kind of wonder where else you’d find a sculpture of the head of a horse. Outside of high season (April to October, I think) the bus that usually takes you directly to the Kelpies doesn’t run, so I had to walk about 20 minutes from the nearest bus stop. It was a worthy walk, however, and I found the Kelpies to be rather impressive! I’ve seen other works by the artist who made the Kelpies, Andy Scott, including “Rise” in Glasgow and “Carmyle Heron” in Cambuslang, and I quite liked his style, so the Kelpies certainly didn’t disappoint! They were especially beautiful during the night, though I kind of wished that they’d be lit up in warm colours to have more contrast with the dark sky – but no complaints!

A stroll around Falkirk

Of course, I had a chance to walk around Falkirk a bit, so it wasn’t all just about the wheel and the horse heads. Top left: A beautiful house that I passed by near the train station. Top right: Spring time is coming? Bottom left: A row of trees reflected in water by a trail around the Kelpies. Bottom right: A lit path leading from the Kelpies to the town centre.

Though the weather wasn’t all that great when I visited Falkirk, I had a good time and especially enjoyed finally seeing the Kelpies after having told myself to go and see them for over two years! Better weather seems to be more promising in the upcoming weeks – bring it on, spring!

The hills are alive…on the misty Isle of Skye! (continued)

I couldn’t resist posting another entry about Skye after the first one. This time I shall let the photos speak for themselves. There were so many unforgettable moments and so many precious photos that it was difficult choosing just a set of them to share, but the selected few will give you an idea of the highlights from my first trip (13 people in total) to Skye, the Misty Isle.

I want to thank again Stuart from Misty Isle Tours for making the Skye minibus day trip possible for our large group by tailoring our itinerary based on our preferences and limitations – and the day turned out to be super lovely! And of course, my companions were beyond fantastic! Honourable mentions go to Amy the selfie queen, Henry the undefeated chef, Zed the self-proclaimed Pirate King, and my rival paparazzi, XM. Thanks for the memories, guys!

The hills are alive…on the misty Isle of Skye!

The Isle of Skye is perhaps the most widely recognized destination in the Scottish highlands and a hotspot for tourism, and it’s easy to see why. Before I had even stepped foot on Scottish soil, my friend has already recommended it as the number one place that I have to visit in Scotland because it was just so beautiful. His claim was supported by multiple other friends, and I finally had a chance to make a trip up north to the Misty Isle (Skye means “mist” in Norse) in July this year – with 12 other people!

We hired a minibus from Misty Isle Tours and were very fortunate to have the adorable Stuart as our driver and guide for the day. I think Skye probably deserves way more than one simple post, but for this first introductory post I’ll show you some of the stunning landscape that we were able to see around the island, courtesy of Stuart. Maybe it would convince you that Skye is indeed the place that dreams are made of.

Skye is a photographer’s heaven and there is no shortage of good photo opportunities. The Fairy Pools are one of the most visited attractions of Skye, and while I’ll be completely honest and say I was a little underwhelmed by the actual pools themselves, the Black Cuillins that served as the backdrop were simply magnificent and awe-inspiring!

Speaking of fairy, you can’t miss the Fairy Glen, reachable via a nice scenic hike close to the guesthouse where we stayed in Uig (which was excellent, by the way). This is the kind of place where you’d expect elves to magically appear and fairies to dance in the lush green – a place worthy of its name!

The Sligachan Bridge is something you’d expect to see on a postcard. This shot was captured hastily as we passed by the bridge on the bus from Glasgow to Uig, but I was glad that Stuart took us back to Sligachan during our day tour of Skye to take a closer look at the bridge!

Another view of the Sligachan Bridge, this time from the other side with the Red Cuillin hills in the back. The perfect symmetry of Glamaig adds to the aesthetic feeling of the picture!

And here we come to the “bald” hills on the way to Elgol, a perfect backdrop against the clear, dark blue waters. After searching on Google Maps and checking the corresponding time that the photo was taken, I have reasons to believe that the hills seen here are known as Beinn na Caillich, the “red hills” of the Cuillin mountain ranges.

Elgol is the departure point of the ferry to Loch Coruisk. I’d heard of Elgol from a random stranger I met during a hike and was keen to visit, especially since it is where Stuart grew up! What a tranquil little village!

With a bus we had a lot of flexibility in terms of where we could go, and Stuart also brought us to Quiraing, a location with stunning landscape and rock formations. The BFG was also filmed here, apparently!

Passing by a lone house by the shore, surrounded by nothing but grassy fields, calm waters, roaming sheep, and sheer serenity. I wouldn’t mind moving here when I retire…

Of course, Skye had to show us why it was named the “Misty Isle”. We were lucky that most of the day was rain-free but there were short intervals where rain hit us hard, and you wondered if it would ever stop. Still Skye looked gorgeous in the rain and mist and before you know it, the sky opened up again and we forgot that rain was ever with us!

Back at Uig, the group stayed in glamping pods on top of a hill, where we were able to get a nice view of the main village across the bay. These pods were so cosy and comfortable that I wouldn’t hesitate going back here the next time I visit Skye! Oh, and this photo was taken at around 11:30pm in early July. I think the sky was still slightly blue well past midnight – definitely the ideal timing for our stay!

Finally, I present you with a greeting (or a goodbye) from the Skye Dragon…breathing fire! OK, just clouds, but aren’t they amazing! You could probably tell that my first Skye experience was absolutely mesmerizing and memorable, and I hope it won’t be the last!

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