Sunday, June 29, 2014

100 Days Project -- Day 90

SCOTLAND -- Sunday, May 16, 2011

Ok, for real, I'm going to continue documenting our 2011 trip to Scotland for the Cape Wrath Challenge. If you need another review of my first, long-ago entry, here it is.

So, after a tiring but fun day in Edinburgh, we retired to the hotel, and slept SOUNDLY. Once we were settled, though, it really hit me that here I was. In Scotland. Where my dad's parents were born, and, as far as we knew, all of my ancestors on his side were from. And the country that my dad had visited -- with Mom, Jim, Missy, and Lacey -- just about 8 months before he unexpectedly passed away in October, 2009. So, just before falling asleep, I curled into a fetal ball, and, well, bawled like a baby. And Bob held me. And I knew he understood. 
Dad at Edinburgh Castle, Feb. 2009
On Sunday, then, we spent the day driving up to Durness, where the Cape Wrath Challenge would be the following Saturday. 
Edinburgh, of course, is a large city. We had rented a car at the airport when we'd arrived the day before, so now Bob had to immediately become proficient at driving on the left side of the road. Some might be suspicious that this is why I invited him to go along with get him to drive. It's not. But it was definitely a nice bonus. I took a few pictures out the windshield, trying to capture just what it's like to drive on the left side, but you really have to do it yourself to get the full effect; of course, please wait to do it until you're in a country where it's required.
It just feels weird.
The drive was pretty long -- over 250 miles, about 6 hours -- and I took some pictures along the way, mostly out in the country.
We saw many sheep along the way.
 Typical of Scotland, it was overcast most of our trip.
 Overcast, but beautiful.
As the map above indicates, Durness is in the far northwest of Scotland, so is in the Highlands, along the coast. As we drove further into the Highlands, the road became more narrow. You can see in the picture above that there are intermittent spots of wider road, where signs encourage motorists to share the road.
Gotta love that.
Finally, we started seeing evidence that we were very close to Durness.
And then we were there. Another cool thing about driving around in the Highlands is that many of the signs are in both English and Scottish Gaelic.
Durness is just a tiny village of about 350 people -- I like to think of it as our "Bridgeport-in-Scotland' -- and is the most north westerly village in mainland Britain. It sits along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. 
We arrived in Durness with just enough time to check into the Aiden House, before heading to the community center to pick up my Cape Wrath Challenge registration materials for the week, as well as attend a brief "welcoming" program. 
Pic of Aiden House stolen from their website;
we never saw blue sky like this while in Durness.
The Aiden House is a lovely B&B owned by Alexandra Thomson. Alexandra is a Thomson by marriage to Kenny, whom we didn't get to meet because he is a commercial fisherman and was on a fishing trip while we were there. She is a MacKay by birth, though, and taught us the correct pronunciation of this very-Scottish name: Muh-Kie ("Kie" rhymes with pie). I know...who knew? Durness was the land of the Clan MacKay, so though Alexandra didn't present herself this way, I like to think we stayed with -- and have now befriended -- a descendant of the "royal family" of Durness. Seriously, Alexandra is great, and we've kept in touch with her. Aiden House was built on family land in 2010, and has won an annual Trip Advisor award each year since 2012. In addition to Alexandra's warm and welcoming manner, I immediately felt at home in our room when I found Chocolate Chip Shortbread and mints waiting for us. That really was just the beginning, and I'll share more about the hospitality in subsequent posts.
After checking in with Alexandra, we had to head over to the community center to check in. This was the 10th year of The Cape Wrath Challenge, so they'd decorated like a birthday party.
 And there were traditional Scottish tartans and hangings in the center to welcome us, too.
I honestly can't remember where we had dinner that first night, but will definitely show you a variety of food pictures in the entries-to-come, as we really enjoyed the food. There was a lot still to come, but I already knew I really loved Scotland.

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