Scotland, part three

Our Scottish adventure continued through the Highlands with a stop for a few nights in Plockton.  Should you ever find yourself in this area of Scotland with a need for a nice village in which to spend the night, definitely put Plockton on your list.  The tiny town is just beautiful.  A perfectly small fishing village on the beach of Loch Carron, it has its own castle, but, no matter where I looked, I could find no reference to it being haunted.  Although, the castle was built by a family who made their fortune in the opium trade and the town of Plockton itself was the setting for the film The Wicker Man, so there may be no ghosts, but it was still a fine destination for our Halloween week vacation.

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We chose to spend a full day on the Isle of Skye with a hike to the Fairy Pools on the schedule.  We crossed over the Skye bridge, the only link to mainland Scotland and headed out into the wilds of Skye.  At this time of year, there was almost no one to be seen.  The roads were deserted.  Until you got to the car park for the hike to the Fairy Pools.  Evidently, the pools are a very (very) popular destination.  And rightly so.

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A fairly simple path, I can imagine that during the summer months there would be just too many people there for the hike to be enjoyable.  However, walk it in early November and you’ll find yourself with plenty of space between you and the next set of Fairy Pool viewers.

Even on a very cloudy day, the pools were a beautiful, clear blue.  AND, not one, single kid fell in.  A perfect hike.

We stopped again, this time in the town of Portree.  After a quick snack and coffee we strolled the tiny streets, found a geocache, then made our way back to Plockton, where we spent the evening searching the sky for the Northern Lights, but saw shooting stars instead.  Not a bad substitution.

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The next day we finally had Loch Ness on the schedule and the day’s weather was perfect for Nessie spotting.  Grey, misty and chilly seemed like just the right atmosphere for a supernatural sighting.  We stopped first at the ruins of Urquhart Castle (haunted by a ghost called Lady Margaret) and got our first real view of the Loch.  While everyone spent their time climbing around the ruins, I watched the Loch.  Waiting.

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After a run through the Loch Ness museum, we drove a bit more, winding up at the Tomatin Whisky Distillery.  We couldn’t leave Scotland without hitting at least one of them.

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Tasting complete, we headed toward our rooms for the night, the Richmond Arms Hotel.  Guess what!  Haunted.  The bartender was more than happy to recount stories of her own experiences and those of guests.  Stories of men sitting at the bar, only to be gone seconds later, noises, darts removing themselves from dartboards, and, my favorite, a ghost horse in the backroom.  Sitting next to the guest book by the front door was the ghost book, reserved for ghostly experiences only.  True or not, the Richmond Arms was my kind of place.

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The following morning, after no reports of haunted happenings in our rooms overnight, we let the kids run free for a bit before our last long day of driving.

On our way to St. Andrews for the night, we stopped by Balmoral to visit the Queen.  She wasn’t in.

A bit further down the road, we finally got a chance to mingle with some Highland cows.  We had seen several throughout the week but never close enough to really chat.

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Just before dark, we made it to St. Andrews, the birthplace of golf and home to University of St. Andrews , where Prince William met Catherine Middleton.  A very nice college town.  We wandered through the dark streets and campus, occasionally stopping to read a plaque about a ruined cathedral, or castle, or ghost.  Oh, yes, St. Andrews is full of them.

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 The next morning we braved our first real rain to catch a glimpse of play on the Old Links of the St. Andrews golf course then checked out the town in the daylight, mostly to kill time before catching our flight home.

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Scotland, thank you for allowing us to spend our last European vacation with you.

*******

Vacation participants: 10

Plates of haggis ordered: 5

Kilts purchased: 3

Castles visited: 5

Saber-tooth sheep stories told: 1

Number of times someone yelled “Freedom!”: countless

Loch Ness Monster sightings: 0

Loch Ness Monster stuffed animals purchased: 2

Whiskies sampled: more than 20

Ghostly encounters: 0

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