Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Category Archives: Scotland

The hills are alive…at Glenfinnan Viaduct!

In July 2017, when I was still living in Glasgow, my friend Mini visited Scotland and I had the pleasure of hosting her and showing her around. We had a full weekend to go wherever in Scotland we wanted to, and Mini asked me for suggestions of places to see. I thought about it long and hard. There were lots of great places to see that doesn’t require more time than an overnight stay, but we wanted to pick somewhere that I hadn’t been to yet so that it’d be new for both of us, which was challenging because I had been to a lot of places!

Then I thought…hey! How about Glenfinnan near Fort William? I asked Mini, “Are you a fan of Harry Potter?” She answered, “Yes!” “Well then I have the perfect place – let’s go see the Harry Potter Bridge!”

Of course Harry Potter fans who have seen the movies would know that I was talking about the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which the Hogwarts Express crosses on the way to Hogwarts. I had known about it for a while with the intention to explore during a free weekend but somehow never got to it, so Mini’s arrival was the perfect opportunity.

We set out on Friday night and took the train to Fort William on the West Highland Way, which was around 3.5 hours from Glasgow. The West Highland Way has got to be one of the most scenic train routes in the world and I could never get enough of the views along the way. As it was mid-summer in Scotland, the sun was only beginning to show signs of setting even close to 9 pm (time that this photo was taken).

The next morning, we took another train westward to Glenfinnan, surrounded by lochs (Loch Shiel shown here) and mountains (Sgùrr Ghiubhsachain on the left) and beauty everywhere. There was a trail that would lead us to a designated viewpoint for the Glenfinnan Viaduct- seems like they’ve got it all figured out for us tourists.

Greenery, sunshine, companionship – seemed like a perfect day! The destination was the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which meant that we had to backtrack a little as our train crossed it before arriving at Glenfinnan station. Ordinary trains like the one we took regularly cross the viaduct, but we were there to see the crossing of the Jacobite steam train, the real Harry Potter experience!

We found the trail and started walking. We timed our walk so that we would arrive near the viaduct viewpoint well before the Jacobite was scheduled to appear. I think there were only two crossings of the Jacobite each way per day (the regular train crosses more often) so we definitely could not be late. Thankfully the trail was clear as day, and we were still surrounded by gorgeous scenery! We also had to make sure that we got back to the station in time, after the Jacobite crossing, to take OUR train back to Fort William, so it did take some planning ahead of time. But hey that’s what I love doing, and the anticipation was building up!

What’s that? A train on the viaduct? Yes, target in sight, though that was the regular train, not the Jacobite that we were waiting for. There was still a lot of time before it was scheduled to cross, and we were glad that we were not lost. Now to find the best viewpoint…

…this was a good place, but not quite close enough. Though, this perspective does show the grandiosity of the natural setting that we were immersed in. You could imagine how grand the viaduct itself was, but it seemed like a toy compared to the hills in the distance!

Ah, finally we arrived at the foot of the viaduct, right underneath it to feel its grandness close-up. We decided to split up to take photos from different angles, and I chose this place as I thought that it’d offer some great photos of the train and the viaduct together.

We kept looking and soon after saw a place where lots of folks were already set up and waiting. And we thought, that must be it, the official viewpoint that was sought after. It was about half an hour before the Jacobite was planned to appear, so our arrival gave Mini plenty of time to adjust her gear to take the perfect photos.

THIS. This is the place where the iconic photos of the Jacobite are usually taken. No wonder there were so many others guarding their spots. Those curves and arches on the viaduct look so smooth and aesthetically pleasing ❤

Mini's "gear" wasn't complicated or high-tech – just a smartphone, actually. We had to make things work by using what was available, namely Mini's backpack, wallet, and selfie stick, which all played a part in ensuring that her phone stood upright and still. Now all was set and we wait for the main character's appearance…

…but I had to run back to my spot, quickly because the train was coming! There it comes, choo choo! (Yes the train did make the sound.) I wonder if people on the train knew that outside their windows, many people were waiting for them to pass by 😛

Here’s a closer look at the Jacobite on the Glenfinnan Viaduct. I think I’d like to be on the Jacobite one day and travel from Fort William all the way to Mallaig, then take the ferry over to Skye instead of the bus. That’ll have to wait till I see my beloved Scotland again someday…

After the Jacobite has disappeared into the distance, Mini and I still had a bit of time left before our scheduled trip back to Fort William. We wandered a little along the shore of Loch Shiel and I became amazed again at how much beauty Scotland holds. And it saddened me that I’d be leaving in three months (till today I’m STILL sad that I am not in Scotland now!!)

Selfie time! Thanks to Mini’s visit, we had a fun-filled day hiking and exploring the Glenfinnan area (and I still didn’t know where to look in the camera). Of course I didn’t know at that time that two years later, Mini would become one of my bridesmaids!

Finally, we hopped onto a train back to Fort William and another back to Glasgow, going in the reverse direction on the West Highland Way. The hills are alive everywhere in Scotland, a place that will always have a piece of my heart – or heck it could have all of it if it wants!

Footdee, Aberdeen

Aberdeen is the final Scottish city for me to visit before leaving Glasgow for good, and I went on such a perfect day! You really have to wish for luck with sunny weather in Scotland, and I was blessed with a full day of sunshine in Aberdeen. To be honest, my impression of a city largely depends on the weather on the day of my visit, which is unfair. As a result, I loved Aberdeen, while I could also say that I’d probably have loved Antwerp if I had visited on a good day and not gotten soaked…

Hidden in a corner of Aberdeen is the tiny fishing village of Footdee, reached by walking the entire length of the beach promenade and turning into a secluded section of the city. After having walked halfway, I reached what I THOUGHT was Footdee, and was about to turn back. But then, Google Maps told me that I had to keep going a bit farther, and so I did. And I’m glad I did, because Footdee was such a lovely little community!

There are 20 of these anchors scattered over Aberdeen for charity purposes, and this one, named Grace, stood at the edge of Footdee.

Upon entering Footdee, I was greeted with several rows of houses that resembled old huts. Everything seemed so tidy and each house was unique in its design and decorations, as you’ll see soon.

The owner of this house seemed to have a liking for birds, butterflies, and garden gnomes. And oh, look how blue the sky was!

Say hi to the official football gnome of Scotland!

Here’s another house whose owner seemed to have spent a lot of time decorating the front yard with lots of sculptures and toys.

A storage hut welcomes you with hugs and kisses…or maybe just kisses.

This has got to be one of my favourite displays – a kissing couple, a lady at the beach, and a superstar gnome. These were wiggling figurines but of course I could only capture still images, so just imagine that they were grooving left and right.

And on the other side of the house we have another lady (with a rather large derrière) at the beach, a bagpipe-playing Scot, and…what I could only imagine to be Mr.Trump!?!?!

Moving on to the next house, this one might have housed an old sailor…

…but this slightly strange-looking guy guards the door and says hi…???

On the other side of the green house stands a pretty peacock…

…and another (almost) kissing couple.

A happy family…

…and another happy family? Or is it the same family dressed differently? Hmmmm…

And that was the end of my random wanders around little Footdee, a walk that took no more than an hour but gave me plenty of surprises!

Something I don’t want to forget

In the blink of an eye, St. Andrews was 6 months ago. I’ve begun and stopped writing this post many times and always hesitated finishing it because I always feel very emotional when I remember that trip. The photos remind me of that weekend, such a short one but one that made me nothing more than content because of my companion. And perhaps I’ll leave it at that.

The ruins of St. Andrews Cathedral left behind signs of age and a glorious past. This would be the “touristy” part of St. Andrews, but it was a calm and quiet November morning. I felt like we could have been all alone in the world.

We took a short walk by the pier with the bluest sky, the bluest water, and a very blue me. The cathedral can be seen in the background.

St. Andrews is known as the birthplace of golf. We didn’t get to play, but at least we saw some people (who seemed to know what they were doing) take a few swings. I was just there to enjoy the nice weather, really.

The East Sands of St. Andrews (or was it the West Sands?) hid a wonderful surprise at sunset. It must have been raining the night before, and the sand at the beach formed an amazing ripple pattern, a scene made perfect by the fading light of dusk. I could have stayed in that moment forever.

Then red clouds covered the sky as if devouring it, and I could still remember how it felt, when my heart might have skipped a beat then and there, though it was not for the clouds.

Walking around the University of St. Andrews we passed by a grand courtyard, and wondering about the surrounding buildings, we asked the students what they were, to which they replied that they were residences for undergrads. We marveled at the luxury and wondered how much it would cost to live there.

The trip ended with a walk through the Lade Braes, a trail through the outskirts of St. Andrews. I didn’t hesitate to add a photo to my “Food and the Hills” series, although this was by no means a hill. Who would have known that such a serene place could be found here?

Then I had to leave. I didn’t want to leave, but I had to leave. And say goodbye. The air, the sand, the sunset, the company – thanks for everything.

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!

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