Thursday, February 28, 2013

Holiday in the Highlands - Part 2 (Applecross and Strome Castle)

“What are men to rocks and mountains?”
― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

On Saturday we drove to Applecross. However, first, breakfast! The cool thing about Ardoch Bothy is that it had a fully stocked kitchen so I was able to get up early and make some coffee. Then, I'd wake Steve and start breakfast.
It's always best to let me have my coffee. Anyway, moving on. The drive to Applecross involved crossing through the Applecross mountains. There was a sign before the ascent that said, "Not for learner drivers." Good thing I've been driving here for 3 months! ;)
Just what I opportunity to reverse the car on a cliff, which I did to allow a car to pass.

Look I can see a waterfall way over there!

Steve at Bealach Na Ba Viewpoint. 2053 ft.
Once we got to Applecross, we stopped at the Applecross Inn (totally recommend) for lunch. We shared a crab salad and fish and chips (of course with peas because fish and chips here seem to always come with peas.).  I saw a picture on the wall of Gerard Butler with one of the owners.

"Steve! I could be sitting on the same stool he sat on."
"I know! And just think, you might be eating with the same silverware that he used."
"I doubt that..."

After lunch we took a walk. Applecross Bay is beautiful and has some very interesting geology (I guess?). Steve spent lots of time looking at the rocks. I finally managed to get a picture that didn't have him bent over... if you know what I mean. HAHA.

Applecross Bay


Applecross Bay with Isle of Skye in background

Walking to Milltown
We headed back a little early because we didn't want to make that drive through the mountains of Applecross in the dark.
There were sheep in the road just like in the movies!

By the time we got near the Ardoch Bothy, we realized that we still had a while before sunset so we decided to visit Strome Castle. Steve and I are so alike. We wondered around the ruins trying to guess what they did in there. :o)

It's interesting to see what they put in their "concrete"
Loch Carron surrounding Strome Castle

At the end of the day, we relaxed in the warm bolt-hole and decided to play Monopoly. I was setting up the board when Steve said, "Ummm... this is very British Monopoly."

"What do you mean?"
"Look at the names of the properties..." hehe

It was an amazing day with an amazing ending. Beautiful isn't it? I told Steve that it was like taking a holiday in a painting. The photo below was not edited. :)

Just for fun:

Here is the full video of us descending the Applecross Mountains. You can hear me at the beginning of the descent (and video) say, "Whooooooa." HAHA. Enjoy the drive and Steve's filming. :o)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Holiday in the Highlands - Part 1 (Dog Kennels, McDonald's, and the Drive)

My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart's in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer;
A-chasing the wild deer, and following the roe,
My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go.
-Robert Burns-
My Heart's in the Highlands.

So we had a terrific journey ahead of us... and we had no idea how terrific, but first, I had to drive the puppies to the kennel. We took them to Cairnview Boarding Kennels and Cattery. I'm not going to lie, I missed them.
How could I not miss two creatures that are this cute? (Thanks Randi for the picture.) They did really well. The owner said they were very relaxed. It cost us £96 total for the two dogs' boarding for 4 nights. It was about a 45 minute drive from Aberdeen even though it was only 28 miles! It reminded me a little of Houston, except the drive was prettier. The place is a little difficult to find. It's about 2 miles before you get to Laurencekirk. When you get to that point you should see a large, blue, tin building on the right (going South). At that point, slow down and turn left down the road just past the three houses that are across the duel carriageway from that blue building (seriously, these directions saved me after 30 minutes of not being able to find it.. SATNAV you suck... You too Google). I turned onto several dirt roads including one that ended behind a barn. (*sighs*)

When I finally got home, we loaded the car and were ready for our holiday, but we were hungry. McDonald's here we come. This was our first fast-food chain stop since we've moved to Scotland. I had a sudden moment of panic as I tried to figure out the drive-through in my mind. I like to picture things as a way of planning. 'It must wrap around the building in the opposite direction of the US...' When we got there, we decided to just park. What did I learn at McDonald's in Scotland?
  • The menu has different stuff on it.
  • They don't have numbers for the meals so you can't say that you want a "number one."
  • The paper containers for ketchup are really small...smaller than in the US. For somebody like Steve, that meant about 2.5 dunks emptied the container. I filled up 7 little containers. Steve started to eat his fries with all 7 in front of him. "I know you are going to share those." hehe
  • BBQ sauce is NOT BBQ sauce
  • The food tastes the same.
What can I say? Yep, still yummy... except the "BBQ" sauce.

We made the entire drive in the dark (I drove... I like to drive, and Steve doesn't. It works.). We had to go through so many round-o-bouts. The GPS kept saying, "Stay on A96 for 2 miles." Then, after a round-o-bout, "Stay on A96 for 3/4 of a mile." Then, "Stay on A96 for 5 miles."

"Sweet!! 5 miles without a round-o-bout? We might hit 70 mph this time..."

It went on like that for a while. It was so dark that we really couldn't see much around us. There's not a lot of light out there. After a while, my ears started popping. I told Steve, "We must be getting higher in altitude."

"Yep, I can see the reflection of snow on tops of mountains."

Eventually, we came across a sign that said, "Caution. One-track road."

"Are we going the right way?"
"He (GPS voice) says we are..."

Steve and I are pretty "go-with-it" types. We just assume that we'll figure something out if things don't go as planned. Now, driving on one-track roads in the dark with occasional snow, up and down and around sharp curves is a little stressful. I kept having to take deep breaths to remind myself to (A) breathe and (B) relax my shoulders and my grip on the steering wheel. Hey, I'm still new to driving on the left. Occasionally we'd come across another vehicle (maybe 2 cars in 30 miles.. hehe). On those one-track roads you have to pass at a passing place, so one of you may have to reverse the car... in the dark...possibly on a cliff if you don't happen across each other at the passing point.

Once I saw a slender thing that looked like a post by the road, but something wasn't right. I looked a little longer (with glances of course because I was driving) and realized that it looked like a meerkat standing up staring across the road. Yep, it bent down and crawled away from the road as we drove near it. Steve said that maybe it was a cat, but I told him it had a long body and was standing up. Not like a cat. I found out later that it was a pine marten! Look how cute it is:

Photo from:
 Anyway, after twists and bends, a couple of wrong turns, and a steep ascent up a rock driveway, we entered the realm of the Ardoch Bothy bolt-hole. It was perfect. The fire was roaring in the fireplace. The floors were heated throughout. We relaxed with a couple of beers and a game of Scrabble before bed. The bed was so comfortable.

This is from the next day. Steve kept the fire going each night. :o)

The next morning, I was amazed when I opened the shutters to see this:

Yes, it was cloudy, but it was still breathtaking. By noon, the clouds cleared completely, and we had an amazing day ahead of us.

Flashback is over for today. More tomorrow. Today I picked up two very excited dogs, and had our dryer inspected. The belt is broken so the dryer isn't working. I've been hanging everything on heated towel racks, door knobs and furniture near radiators, and on the banisters!

Later this afternoon, I went with a group of great ladies to The Marcliffe Hotel for afternoon tea to celebrate Pam's birthday. We sat on cozy couches by a fire. The tea was good. The sandwiches were de-crusted, cut into 4 squares, and served on a tiered platter. Then came the deserts! Oh yeah... super yummy. Afternoon tea for 7 there was about £120. That's not too bad, and it was really fun.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Holiday in the Highlands - West Coast Preview

We have been on such a relaxing, fun, and interesting holiday...which is why I haven't written in several days. We are pretty tired tonight, so I'm just going to give you a preview of our trip!

We drove from Aberdeen to the tiny town of Achintraid! It took about 4 hours.

Here is a map showing all the places/sites we visited while we were there.

Starting from the top of the second map:
  • Applecross
  • Ardoch Bothy location
  • Town of Achintraid
  • Strome Castle
  • Castle Moil (bottom left)
  • Eilean Donan Castle (bottom right)
We found the Ardoch Bothy on this website:
 It was so cozy, and the views were breathtaking! We will definitely go back to Ardoch Bothy. We were so sad when we had to leave. We spent 3 nights there. During the day we traveled around the west coast visiting castles, ruins, small towns, lake shores, and pubs. At night we watched the sunset, enjoyed a warm fire, and viciously competed for the win in Scrabble or Monopoly. Here are some site previews to get you excited:

Ardoch Bothy "bolt-hole" where we stayed

View of Applecross Bay

Eilean Donan Castle

On the way home we stopped to see Urquhart Castle at Loch Ness. Let me tell you... it was worth the detour...

Just for fun:

We recorded some video of our drive through the mountains of Applecross. This is just a short clip. It takes a while to upload the longer videos. Have fun!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Angry Boilers, French Bulldogs, and Dog Food Brands in Scotland

“As long as there was coffee in the world, how bad could things be?”
- Cassandra Clare, City of Ashes -

It was really cold this morning. Our boiler lost water pressure again... which = NO HEAT. Freakin-A. I put a blanket by the radiator for the dogs to cuddle, and then I stared at that coffee pot. I enjoy using it and the coffee it makes, but it does take some time, and I was cold.

"This is taking forever," I thought as I stood like a zombie staring at something it can't comprehend.

Speaking of zombies, we saw that movie Warm Bodies. Not bad. Not great. Worth renting. Yep.

Anyway, I took the dogs walking yesterday with a new friend I met who also has a French Bulldog. His name is Eddie. They were all so fun to watch. I took a couple of videos. It was hard to get good video because we were walking and having to keep up with all three of them. You'll get the idea anyway. :)

I think my dogs have received more attention and more walks since we moved here. It's been great for them. One thing we did struggle with when we moved here was finding good dog food. Let me first tell you what wasn't good for my Frogdogs. Frogdogs have special diet needs, so what works for them or doesn't, may not be the same for your dog.

The following list contains brands that caused them to lose weight and/or have terrible gas:

  • Butcher's
  • Iams
  • Harringtons

 I have finally found a brand that is giving that shine back to their coats, no gas, and seems to be helping Frog gain some more weight.

Two thumbs up for Burns. I think we'll stick to this. In the States we fed our dogs Natural Choice, and Burns seems just as good, if not better. I highly recommend it. I found treats that work well for them too. You know, you want stuff without a lot of by-products, and Frenchies don't function well eating lots of dairy and wheat.

Love this brand. They love it too. I break them up into smaller pieces to make them last longer.

Just for fun:

I always find it interesting to compare differences in how the UK and the US name things. In the US, it would be labeled "Black-Eyed Peas" also different... with capital letters instead of lower-case. In case you are wondering, they are actually beans, not peas. All these years...we've been lied to by US grocery stores. ;)

I got this from the Library of Congress website (