Project Scotland [3]

Long-awaited return to my ultimate destination, which finally took shape in September/October 2013.

Day 1:
-          On September 27th, we took the 8:17pm train from Braşov to Budapest (return ticket: EUR 38). The journey was quite pleasant, with a working restaurant car, heat, and plugs for our electronic devices.   
Day 2:
-          We were supposed to arrive in Budapest at 8:30am but were there some minutes after 10am (these delays are apparently normal).
-          We walked to our accommodation, Artist Residence [EUR 62/2 persons/3 nights]. Because check-in usually starts at 3pm, we left our bags there and went to exchange money, have lunch, and then roam the streets of Budapest.
-          We took Budavári Sikló [Budapest Castle Hill Funicular; one-way ticket: HUF 1000] and then strolled to the Fisherman’s Bastion, took in the marvellous views, and went back to our studio to get some rest.
-          We planned to go to some thermal baths outside Budapest with my cousin and her boyfriend, but skipped it and spent a wonderful family evening instead.
Day 3:
-          After lunch, we met my cousin and her boyfriend and went by car to Leányfalu, to enjoy the benefits of thermal water [ticket (after 5pm): HUF 800].
-          We met our kayak trainer for dinner and some jazz music in downtown Budapest’s Ladó Café [the cheese dumplings (túrógombóc) here are spectacular!]. We continued our evening in another trendy bar/pub, where we got all our drinks at half price (Sunday evening Happy Hour?).
Day 4:
-          Happy with our breakfast (delicious butter croissants from a bakery near our studio), we went to TRAP a.k.a. the world of puzzles [do book in advance; we did | HUF 12000/team (2-5 persons)]. We were locked in the basement and had to go searching for clues, find keys, and open doors to get out of there within 1 hour. It was one funny, smart, and creative endeavour and we were so close to getting out, but in the end, didn’t.
-          A bit disappointed and hungry, we had the best traditional Somlói galuska of our lives at Számos Cukrászda, wow! We then continued with some breaded Ratatouille at the very cosy vegetarian café called Macska and with a very tasty gulyás at another great animal-name café, Csiga. We slept like babies afterwards.
Day 5:
-          Our final day in Budapest could not pass without those butter croissants we’d grown so much into. We were off to Nyugati Train Station afterwards, but couldn’t resist stopping for another taste of the marvellous Somlói galuska. Same incredible sensation, same sweetshop.
-          We got the train tickets to the airport [one-way ticket: HUF 370] but were a bit puzzled by which train to actually take. So, make sure and consult the board, then double-check with the railway personnel. The journey was fast (approx. 40’) and there are announcements in English, too, so people not speaking Hungarian needn’t worry. We then took a bus to Terminal 2 [one-way ticket: HUF 450; we were actually lucky to find some more coins in our pockets!!] and that was that.
-          Landing in Edinburgh felt again like landing home. We quickly withdrew money from one of the cash machines at the airport, found the bus to Glasgow [one-way ticket: GBP 10], and were off.
-          Euro Hostel Glasgow [GBP 20.40/2 persons/1 night (student concession)] was pretty easy to find and we didn’t let the rain stop us from walking around the city centre and grabbing a bite. I had heard a lot of stories about Glasgow, but ended up really liking this city, with a more colonial feel than other Scottish cities and with a different (but not bad at all) vibe.
Day 6:
-          We took the 6:15am shuttle to Glasgow Airport from Buchanan Bus Station [one-way ticket: GBP 6] and, once there, prepared for the flight to the Isle of Barra, which was going to be the most beautiful of my life!
-          Our host Helen waited for us at the airport and then drove us to Croft 183’s camping site [GBP 12/2 persons/1 tent] and then on to Castlebay. It was such a windy day and we were a little bit afraid that the tent wouldn’t make it. We went on a mild trek to Allasdale Beach/Seal Bay, where we actually spotted a seal, and then back to Castlebay, where we did some shopping and then had some hot beverages at Kisimul Café [it was October 2nd, my name day :)].
-          We were lucky enough to catch the bus (since none of the locals seemed to be aware of its schedule) heading to the north of the island and were back to Croft 183 in no time [one-way ticket: GBP 1.30]. Our tent was safe and sound, but one huge storm started. Luckily, the rain and wind quieted down by the time we went to sleep. After dinner, of course!
Day 7:
-          Our day started really early (shower, breakfast, packing) and Helen was very kind to drive us to the ferry terminal [Barra – Eriskay; 09:25-10:05; one-way ticket: GBP 7.75].
-          We then took the bus waiting at the ferry terminal in South Uist to North Uist [Eriskay – Berneray; 10:05-12:55; one-way ticket: GBP 6.20].
-          We arrived in due time for our ferry to the Isle of Harris [Berneray – Leverburgh; 13:30-14:30; one-way ticket: GBP 7.15].
Seilebost Beach; Isle of Harris, Scotland
-          After half of that day spent travelling, we were still high on luck, because we found a bus to take us from Berneray to Horgabost [one-way ticket: GBP 2.20]. We found ourselves standing in front of Horgabost Campsite. You are practically on your own when you arrive here, with limited cell reception, so bring plenty of supplies and make sure you leave the GBP 9/2 persons/tent in the honesty box at your departure.
-          Our afternoon on Harris was fantastic: the most beautiful beaches I’d seen in my life, a mild trek to the amazing Seilebost Beach, and the highest number of rabbits ever spotted. I was in love!      
Day 8:
-          Drizzle or no drizzle, we were off that morning to the Isle of Lewis by bus [Horgabost – Stornoway; 08:51-10:15; one-way ticket: GBP 5.20]. It was a bit cold and wet, so we decided to skip camping and opt for a hostel close to the ferry terminal instead. We chose Heb Hostel [GBP 32/2 persons/breakfast included] and didn’t regret it!
-          After some shopping, we took the bus to Carloway [one-way ticket: GBP 3.10], explored the beautifully-preserved Carloway Broch and then, realising we’d missed the bus, walked the 6 miles to Callanish Standing Stones.
-          We were lucky to catch the last bus to Stornoway (it stops right in front of Callanish Standing Stones Interpretation Centre, giving you some extra minutes to walk around the site) [one-way ticket: GBP 2.50].
-          Our evening ended with a walk to Lews Castle and with dinner at Stornoway’s very own Thai restaurant [how I’d missed pad thai!].   
Day 9:
-          We were in for a surprise that morning! Our ferry to Ullapool got cancelled and there was no information on how things would get fixed. So, we returned to the hostel and went to bed. We were stuck. Stuck on Lewis. :D My intuition guided me back to the ferry terminal a little after 10am. They had news: a bus was provided to take us from Stornoway to Tarbert (Isle of Harris). From there, we took the ferry to Uig (Isle of Skye) [11:50-13:30, GBP 5.90], where a bus was waiting to take us to Inverness.
-          We arrived in Inverness in the nick of time and caught the last bus (17:40) to Cannich [one-way ticket: GBP 5.10]. We camped for 2 nights there [GBP 28/2 persons/tent/2 nights].
Day 10:
Vegetarian Scottish breakfast
-          A glorious morning in Glen Affric, vegetarian Scottish breakfast, and we set off to do our trek! As there were 11 miles from Cannich to Glen Affric (we had our mind set on the Loch Circuit), we had to hitchhike (I don’t like that :/) and were lucky to be picked up by a really nice Dutch gentleman, who had been involved in the planting of 90000 trees near Glen Affric, designed to restore the Old Caledonian Forest. You might even say that we were given a private tour.
-          The track was very boggy, I had slipped and was full of mud, but happy and eager to complete that day’s trek. With superb and warm weather, I did. 16 miles walked and I was coming down with a cold.  
Day 11:
-          An early bus ride and we were back to Inverness! We were delayed by those at Hertz, who kept us waiting at Inverness Railway Station for 2 hours. As our credit card didn’t work, we had some problems getting the car we had booked and the guys working at Hertz were rude and did not try for a single minute to help us out. Would not book with Hertz again!!
-          In the end, we got our car, did some shopping and were off to Durness. As we were heading north, the weather deteriorated and by the time we passed Ullapool, it had really become dramatic. That’s when I think I fell for the extreme north of Scotland [and I’m dying to return there!!]. We safely managed to reach Sango Sands Campsite [GBP 13.50/2 persons/tent] that evening.
Day 12:
-          What a splendid morning that was! Full of rainbows, jaw-dropping views, deer spotted in the meadows, and, of course – Cocoa Mountain in the crafts village of Balnakeil.
Glenmorangie Distillery; Tain, Scotland
-          Although a bit nervous, I was very happy to meet my MLitt History of the Highlands and Islands teachers in Dornoch. Marcel and I were invited to have lunch with them at the very classy ‘Luigi’s’.
-          Our afternoon continued with an exquisite tasting at Glenmorangie Distillery [I fell in love with Glenmorangie Lasanta!], a shopping session in Inverness... and then we left for Skye. Some more deer crossed out path while trying to get a panoramic shot of Eilean Donan. It had been such an amazing day and I’m crazy about animal spotting in the wild!
-          We finally reached Portree and made a right turn when exiting Skye’s capital, to Torvaig Campsite [GBP 14/2 persons/tent].  
Day 13:
-          That morning, we were supposed to trek: Old Man of Storr was in our plans. But it was very windy (probably the highest winds of my life!) and a bit wet. In-between two showers, we still managed to get to the top and back, but I was starting to be annoyed by the numbers of visitors on Skye... Even Portree was full of them [we had to get there to buy medicine and tissues because I was still down with a cold]. We didn’t even have Kilt Rock to ourselves... so we decided to press ‘Fast Forward’ and drove around the Quirang and then were set to reach Neist Point that evening, at sunset. Well, we did. It’s just that we had a flat tyre 1.50 miles to our destination. We left the car there, yet didn’t manage to catch the proper sunset. Marcel was sad, I was mad, we were both cold. Luckily, a couple from the Canary Islands gave us a lift to our car. It was dark and cold, but we managed to put our spare wheel on. By the time we reached Kinloch Campsite [GBP 14/2 persons/tent], the wind was blowing so hard and we were so frozen that we decided to sleep in the car (we found out in the morning that we could’ve taken our sleeping bags to sleep in a cabin next to the showers). 
Day 14:
-          It was one cold morning and only the hot water could help me get back into shape! That and some delicious scones purchased from the Oldest Bakery on Skye (1870). Our attempt to get our tyre fixed did not go well. We ended up driving back to Portree and buying a new one.
-          We then continued our journey throughout Skye. We reached Struan, visited Mòr Books & the Windrush Café Studio, where the kind Sandy recited to me in Old Norse, and then we headed to Dun Beag, not as well-preserved as Carloway Broch, but still well worth a visit.
-          We continued to Elgol and to an unforgettable view over Cuillin Mountains and a Lord-of-the-Rings feel and then hurried to Isleornsay for a whisky tasting and to Armadale for some shopping.
-          We reached the mainland that evening and camped at Ardelve Campsite [GBP 10/2 persons/tent], under a very clear and starry sky.       
Day 15:
-          The coldest night in Scotland was followed by a marvellous morning. Waking up to the sight of Eilean Donan Castle cannot be otherwise! We finally got to explore the castle on the inside [third time’s a charm!; ticket: GBP 6.50].
-          Unfortunately, we miscalculated our time and – although enjoying our drive through the Great Glen on such a splendid day –, we reached Mallaig too late. The next ferry to the Isle of Rùm was at 7:30am, too early for us to be ready. Consequently, we immediately changed our plans, checked the ferry timetable and the points of crossing and set off to Lochaline. Mull would be our home for the night and we managed to catch the last ferry [Lochaline – Fishnish; 17:45-18:03; one-way ticket: GBP 3.20; car: GBP 14.05].
-          In Tobermory, we found out that the Mull Rally was on, so we had to drive to Craignure and camp there [Shieling Holidays, GBP 17/2 persons/tent]. 
Day 16:
-          I had my delicious carrot cake for breakfast while watching the carefree rabbits running around the campsite. It was one hour’s drive to Fionnphort, so we set off, but our drive was interrupted at the sight of a Highland calf [I had never seen one in real life and I can tell you that it’s one of the most adorable sights, so we stood and watched him and his parents for one whole hour].
-          The ferry ride to Iona took 10’ [return ticket: GBP 4.95]. No cars are allowed on Iona, so we left the car in the official parking lot (and paid about GBP 3.60 for 2 hours).
-          Arriving on Iona was a dream come true. I didn’t think I would get there – to this place I had read about in my history books – so soon in my life! We immediately made our way to the beach, which is superb and so peaceful and the Isle of Staffa can be spotted on clear days, and then returned to see the ruins of Iona Nunnery and catch the ferry back to Mull.
-          We then had another ferry to catch, from Fishnish back to Lochaline, so we took the scenic route to Tobermory down the coast and managed to get there in time. We saw dolphins during our crossing and then a stag passed our way just outside Lochaline, with deer grazing along the road. Not to mention one of the most beautiful sunsets of my life (Marcel was avenged for Neist Point!) and the pink skies.
-          We made it safe and sound to Oban after another ferry crossing to Onich [GBP 7/car] and camped in mysterious conditions at Gallanachmore Campsite. We found out the following morning that the campsite had been closed after the Mull Rally. However, they were kind enough to let us use the showers, free of charge. 
Day 17:
-          Our morning started with a great view over Oban from Pulpit Hill, followed by a drive along Loch Awe and Loch Lomond, direction Largs. I was pretty determined to sample a dessert that I had heard so much of-- Nardini’s ice cream!
Great Cumbrae National Watersports Centre, Scotland
-          Our Sunday afternoon was topped with a ferry journey to the Great Cumbrae [return ticket: GBP 5.40], a trek to the island’s capital – Millport – and back.
-          With some last shopping for our return home, we decided to drive all the way to Edinburgh. As the weather worsened, we had no idea where to camp that night. We were lucky [like all through our trip!] to find Mortonhall Campsite just outside Edinburgh [GBP 17/2 persons/tent] and for the rain to stop.   
Day 18:
-          We spent our morning in Edinburgh trying to get to Portobello via the Ring Road. We finally made it to Portobello Guesthouse [GBP 35/2 persons], but couldn’t check-in, so we decided to head into town and finally climb Arthur’s Seat. Which we did, after sampling some delicious pastries from Portobello’s Bayne’s Bakery.
-          Our last destination was my all-time favourite North Berwick. Marcel knew how much I wanted to get there again, so he drove me there, and left me watching the sea, playing on the beach, and visiting the Scottish Seabird Centre for minutes in a row.
-          Last-minute shopping and then packing: it was our last night in Scotland.  
Day 19:
-          After breakfast, we drove to the airport, dropped the car, and prepared for our flight to Budapest. I was once again bidding Scotland farewell.
-          We took the airport shuttle to Keleti Train Station [HUF 4790/2 persons] and waited patiently for our train to Braşov to depart at 7:10pm. 
Day 20:
-          Although we were supposed to arrive in Braşov at 9:31am, we arrived a little over 10:30am. Tired, but happy, after a trip that I won’t be able to forget. Did I tell you how much I miss the peacefulness of the Hebrides? :) I do.

Pictures © Olivia-Petra Coman

1 comment:

  1. That's really cute. And a real dolphin would really be very be a fascinating sight to see too. It would be perfect to dolphins oban watching in Scotland for that case.


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