We were picked up at the train in Pitlochry by a porter from our lodging, The Fonab Castle Hotel, said porter wearing a proper kilt.  Very posh hotel, but not our favorite on the trip.  Situated on the bank of the Tummel River, the hotel is conveniently located close to town, and just up the road from the Pitlochry Festival Theatre.  After checking in we had a beer, nap, then dinner in the casual restaurant.  Then we went to the Theatre for a performance by the Rachel Newton Trio.  Rachel, the lead singer, played the harp as you can see below.  Very good show.

Rachel Newtoin Trio

Our  driver for the day, Ronnie Owens picked us up at the civilized hour of 10:00 AM for a tour of Perthshire.  Ronnie is a retired Detective Inspector from the Met in London, I believe he said.  Could not have found a better tour driver. If you want a tour of the Pertshire area, use Ronnie.  Bespoke Highland Car Tours.

Boats on Loch Tummel, a loch formed by dam across the River Tummel at the location of our hotel.

Boats on loch tummel

One of our first stops was at the Dunkeld Cathedral which has been holy ground at least since the 8th century.

Dunkeld cathedral 1

Dunkeld 2

Dunkeld graves

Inside dunkeld chapel

Inside dunkeld 2

The Wolf of Badenoch’s final resting place is in the cathedral.

Tomb of the wolf of badnoch

We next drove the little village of Fortingall, the home of a very early Christian site, and the oldest living thing in Europe, an ancient yew tree, believed to be over 5000 years old. Here is an old font from the church yard.

Fortingall church font

We next visited Croft Moraig a religious or ceremonial stone circle dating back to maybe 4000 BC.

Croft moraig

And now I will bore you with some of the prettiest scenery in Scotland.  I think of all the Highlands we saw, Perthshire is my favorite.  Not dramatic scenery, but beautiful.

The road less traveled, or maybe the road we traveled.

Perthshire the road we traveled

Perthshire 2

Perthshire 3

Perthshire 4

Perthshire barn bldg

Perthshire 5

Perthshire field

After a great day touring Perthshire, we returned to the Fonab Castle Hotel, grabbed a quick meal and went down to the Theatre for another night of music, this time a Scottish folk group, North Sea Gas.  Truly one of the best groups I have heard in a long while.

The next morning, we wandered around Pitlochry for awhile.

Pitlochry mill wheel

Pitlochry mill stream 1

Pitlochry house wtih satellite dish

We then caught our train to Edinburgh.

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Inverness, the Central Highlands and Loch Ness (Nessie Lives!)

So I asked Donald, our driver,”Donald, do you believe Nessie exists?”.  Donald replied “Every time I have a bottle of malt whiskey in my hand, I believe.”

Donald Phillip was the taxi driver assigned to us by the tour operator, McKinlay Kidd.  McKinlay Kidd arranged the tour for us, their Premier Round Scotland by Train Tour.  The tour started in Glasgow and wound up in Edinburgh.  Everything about the tour was first class, from working out dates with Carol on the phone, to the hotels, train accommodations and driver/tourguides.  If you are inclined to visit Scotland, I can think of no better way to do it.  Everything worked like clockwork, we loved our trip.  They also offer tours in Ireland and England which I am sure are done equally well.

Donald  picked us up at the train station and took us to our hotel, The Bunchrew House, a haunted hotel on the banks of the Beauly Firth.

Bunchrew House B W Artistic

A couple shots of the Firth.

Beauly firth

Sunset over beauly firth

The next day started out with some blustery winds and rain.  Donald took us to our planned boat trip on Loch Ness, a small cabin cruiser with maybe 6 other passengers on the ride.

Wes and gina at loch ness

Lock Ness on a rainy day

Cruising quietly down the Loch in the soft rain, suddenly in the distance I spied a strange looking head rising from the water, followed by an undulating body.  It Was Nessie!!  I quickly raised my camera to my face, and as luck would have it, I was out of film.  By the time I got more film loaded, of course, Nessie disappeared.  Lost opportunities.  But, I believe.  Nessie lives.

Seriously, speaking of cameras, I usually travel with one or two Fujifilm camera bodies and three or four lenses, wide angle, telephoto, etc.  I decided on this trip to take only one camera, the Fujifilm X100f, a 24 megapixel camera with a fixed 23 mm lens. I couldn’t have been happier.  There were only a very few occasions where I wished for a wide angle lens.  If one can love an inanimate object, I love this little camera.  In my not so humble opinion, the very best choice for street and most travel photography.  Now, on with the trip.

Situated on a headland jutting out into Loch Ness is the Urquhart Castle.  Dating back to the 13th century or earlier, it is one of the largest castles in Scotland in  terms of land area.

Urquwhart castle tonemapped

Leaving Loch Ness, we travelled across Inverness to the site of the last pitched battle on British soil, the Battle of Culloden.  The visitor’s center at Culloden is  very well done.  The center has a wall with a brick protruding for each death at the battle, one section for the Clans and one for the British soldiers.  The disparity is very clear in this depiction.  The battlefield is almost a sacred place.  If you are quiet, you can almost hear the battle cries of the Clans as they attacked and the moans of the wounded and dying.  History has not been kind to Bonnie Prince Charlie for his conduct of the battle and rightly so.  None can dispute the bravery of the clans however, and also the savagery of Lord Cumberland who ordered his troops to hunt down those fleeing from the battlefield and murder them.  “Working at their leisure, they proceeded to slaughter every Jacobite they had until the following day and continued to kill in round-ups for weeks following.”

Those killed one the battlefield were buried in mass graves by Clans, and a headstone placed marking the spot for each Clan’s mass burial.  An estimated three hundred British were killed and two thousand Jacobites.  The battle marked the end of the Jacobite movement, and the beginning of the end of the clan system in Scotland.

Culloden mcgillivary headstone

Culloden english dead

The battlefield is now a serene place with a monument in the center.

Culloden moor

Culloden monument

Culloden monument 2

This is supposedly the only structure left from the time of the battle.

Culloden house

Leaving our rather sobering visit to Culloden, we travelled further back in history to the Balnuaran of Clava, a group of three Bronze Area cairns east of Inverness.

At Balnuaran of Clava itself there is a group of three Bronze Age cairns which lie close together in a line running north east to south west. The tombs at either end are of the passage grave sub-type. The central cairn is of the ring cairn sub-type, and uniquely has stone paths or causeways forming “rays” radiating out from the platform round the kerbs to three of the standing stones. The cairns incorporate cup and ring mark stones, carved before they were built into the structures. The kerb stones are graded in size and selected for colour, so that the stones are larger and redder to the south west, and smaller and whiter to the north east. All these elements seem to have been constructed as one operation and indicate a complex design rather than ad hocadditions.

The central cairn:

Central cairn with stones

Central cairn

Passage cairn:

Passage cairn

On the way from the cairns to the Cawdor Castle, we passed this lovely viaduct, started in 1890, taking five years to build.  We traveled over this bridge the next day on our way from Inverness to Pitlochry.

1890 viaduct

We next visited Cawdor Castle, home of the Clan Campbell of Cawdor.

The name “Cawdor” is the English pronunciation and spelling of the ancient and original Highland name of CALDER. In the early 19th century, Lord John Campbell of Calder was residing in England and changed the name of the castle, town and clan overnight so that it would match the Shakespearean designation (reference: Cawdor Historical Society).”

Cawder castle

Cawder castle 1

Cawder castle 2


Cawder castle 3

After the visit to the Cawder Castle, Donald dropped us in the center of Inverness for some walking and sightseeing.  We walked along the River Ness and attended mass at St. Mary’s Catholic Church.  Some views of the city and river.

Inverness from above

River Ness 1

River Ness 2

Pedestrian bridge avcross River Ness

View from Inverness Castle

The next morning Donald took us to the train station where we departed for Pitlochry.

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The Isle of Skye

To regress, digress or backtrack a little, on the Jacobite Stream Train, we met a lovely couple from England, Sonya and Tony Rest.

Sonya and Tony

Tony and I traded places shooting out the train window during the trip.  He took these two great shots before the train pulled out.

Jacobite furnace

Jacobite smoke stack

They were on a bus tour to the Outer Hebrides, I think it was, and Tony actually helped us with our luggage on and off the ferry to Skye.  Really nice folks, fun to travel with.

Back to Skye now, Peggy Nicholson picked us up about 10 that next morning, and took us for a day long tour of Skye.  Peggy is a native, Gaelic speaking resident of Skye. (That is pronounced Gallic, hard “a”, as opposed to the Irish Gaelic which is pronounced with a soft “a”, Gaylic, and they are two distinct languages.)

Here are some scenes from around Skye.

Skye stream

Skye stream and bridge hdr

Bog and cuillin

We stopped in Portree, the largest town on Skye to stretch our legs and pick up sandwiches for lunch.

Looking down on Portree

Portree independent hostel hopper

Street in Portree

Another interesting stop was the Skye Museum of Island Life.

Skye museum famr implements and north sea

Skye museum houses

Skye museum hous and north sea

A few more from around the Isle of Skye.

Skye cliff

Skye cliff 2

Little town on lock on skye 2

Little town on lock on skye 3

We spent another night at the Kinloch Lodge with another fine meal.  The next morning an associate of the Nicholson’s, Cameron, picked us up and took us to the train station in Kyles of Lochlaish, this time crossing the water on the bridge to the mainland.  On the way to the train, Cameron took us up to the top of the Kyle Plock, a large hill overlooking the harbor.

Kyle bridge to skye

Cameron took this picture of us on the dock at the train station.

Gina and wes in Kyles of Locklaish

We boarded our train for the two hour ride to Inverness.

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Jacobite Steam Train and the Isle of Skye

After a delightful night at the Inverlochy, Mary picked us up and delivered us to the train station in Fort William.  We did not have a chance to see any of Fort William, but we probably didn’t miss much.  The main attraction, other than some long hiking routes, is the museum dedicated to Bonnie Prince Charlie, more about whom later.,_Highland

We were at the train station preparing to embark on the West Highland Line between Fort William and the small fishing and ferry port of Mallaig. The West Highland Line is called the greatest railway journey in the world, maybe a bit of hyperbole but as you will see from the pictures coming, passing through some of the prettiest scenery in the world.  And, to add to our barely contained excitement, we were boarding the Jacobite Steam Train, a steam powered train made famous in the Harry Potter films (none of which I have seen) as the Hogwart Express.

Jacobite Steam Train

Proud of their train, the whole engine and coal car were polished before departing.

Polishing the train   TRain Medalion

Stoking the boiler.

Stoking the fire

Rady to go.

REady to Go  Conductor

The day was overcast as we started out, but as you will see, it quickly cleared up to give us a beautiful ride  The pictures below were taken hanging out of the window on the platform between the coal car and our first class car, with the smoke and steam blowing in my face as the steam train barreled along.  I wound up with a face and head full of grit and cinders, but it was worth it.  Some scenes from the train ride.

Scenery 1 WHL tonemapped

Loch Eil  WHL

In the distance you can see the bridge we cross.

Bridge in distance bw WHL

On the bridge seipa paper WHL

A couple of views from the bridge. The first in the style of Georgia O’Keefe.

From the bridge Georgia okeefe WHL

View from the bridge bw WHL

A couple more pretty vistas.

Scenery 3  whl

Scenery 2  WHL

We left our steam train in Mallaig, and caught the ferry to the Isle of Skye.  Donnie Nicholson picked us up at the ferry terminal and took us to our lodging for the next two nights, the Kinloch Lodge.

Kinloch lodge

View from the front of the Lodge.

View from the kinloch lodge

Tomorrow we will embark on a tour of the Isle of Skye.

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Glasgow, Scotland

It has been a desire of mine for a long time to visit Scotland.  We finally started our trip with a flight from Orlando to Glasgow aboard Virgin Atlantic.  We flew Premium Economy, and the service was outstanding. Comfortable seats with plenty of leg room.  Highly recommend Virgin Atlantic.  We stayed at Hampton by Hilton in the center of town, and were only in Glasgow for two nights, basically a day and a half.  We weren’t expecting much but found we liked the city immensely.  From Wikipedia: 

The area around Glasgow has hosted communities for millennia, with the River Clyde providing a natural location for fishing. The Romans later built outposts in the area and, to keep Roman Britannia separate from the Celtic and Pictish Caledonia, constructed the Antonine Wall, remains of which can still be seen in Glasgow today.

Glasgow itself was founded by the Christian missionary Saint Mungo in the 6th century. He established a church on the Molendinar Burn, where the present Glasgow Cathedral stands, and in the following years Glasgow became a religious centre. Glasgow grew over the following centuries. The first bridge over the River Clyde at Glasgow was recorded from around 1285, giving its name to the Briggait area of the city, forming the main North-South route over the river via Glasgow Cross. The founding of the University of Glasgow in 1451 and elevation of the bishopric to become the Archdiocese of Glasgow in 1492 increased the town’s religious and educational status and landed wealth. Its early trade was in agriculture, brewing and fishing, with cured salmon and herring being exported to Europe and the Mediterranean.[21]

Following the European Protestant Reformation and with the encouragement of the Convention of Royal Burghs, the 14 incorporated trade crafts federated as the Trades House in 1605 to match the power and influence in the town council of the earlier Merchants’ Guilds who established their Merchants House in the same year.[21] Glasgow was subsequently raised to the status of Royal Burgh in 1611. Glasgow’s substantial fortunes came from international trade, manufacturing and invention, starting in the 17th century with sugar, followed by tobacco, and then cotton and linen, products of the Atlantic triangular slave trade.


Glasgow became a major industrial center, particularly in shipbuilding, being one of the biggest ports in the British Isles, and after the decline of industry, became a vibrant financial ad business services center.

As usual, we took the hop-on hop-off bus around Glasgow to get a good overview of the city.  Before jumping on the bus we walked along the shopping district on Buchanan Street.  

Buchanan street glascow


Here is the concert hall.

Buchanan street concert hall


A bagpipe band playing along the street

Clandonia pipe band


One of our first stops was the Glasgow Cathedral.  The cathedral is built on the site where the first bishop of the ancient British kingdom of Strathclyde, St. Kentigern or Mungo is buried.  It  is the only originally Roman Catholic cathedral on the Scottish mainland to remain intact after the Protestant Reformation. It now belongs to the Church of Scotland, an Presbyterian denomination.

Glascow cathedral

Glasgow cathedral from necropolis BW

Glascow cathedral crypt

Inside glascow cathedral


St. Mungo’s tomb. The patron saint of Glasgow.

Saint mungo tomb


An interesting site looming above the Glasgow cathedral is the Glasgow Necropolis, a Victorian cemetery.


The Necropolis is approached by the “Bridge of Sighs” pictured below.

Bridge to necropolis


A couple of shots from the cemetery.

Glascow necropolis

Necropolis 2


Some more from around Glasgow.

Spire of the University of Glasgow through the trees. One of the four oldest universities in the English speaking world.

Univ glascow through trees


A restaurant near the University where we grabbed some lunch. (Cottier’s Restaurant) In the basement of an old church.

Entrance to Cottiers Restaurant

IMG 1539


From the Riverside Museum of Transportation.

Steam powered tractor

Old street scene riverside museum


Unfortunately, we only had one full day in Glasgow, leaving the next day for a one night stay in Fort William.  We caught the West Highland Line train from the Glasgow Queen Street station to Fort William.  The trains are the way to travel in Scotland, clean, comfortable and run on time.  We both love traveling by trains, and that would be our whole trip this time.  A driver named Mary picked us up at the Fort William train station and took us on the 15 minute drive to our palatial residence for the night, the Inverlochy Castle Hotel.  The hotel is truly elegant with a fine restaurant to boot.

Inverlochy castle hotel

Drawing room at Inverlochy

Parlor at Inverlochy

Chess set on lawn of Inverlochy

Lawn at Inverlochy


The menu for our five course gourmet meal at the Inverlochy.  Notice the slow cooked duck egg.  If you have never had the chance to savor a duck egg floating in a brown sauce, consider yourself lucky.  Looked kind of like an eye floating in soup, and tasted slimy.  But obviously a delicacy which we were too pedestrian to savor.

IInverlochy Menu.pdf


After our night at the Inverlochy, Mary picked us up for our trip on the Jacobite Steam Train.  More to come.

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