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Sunday, February 21, 2010

SPRING BREAK - SECOND POST

SCENERY ON THE WAY TO GLEN COE







HOLLY ON THE MARSH AT GLEN COE (NO WOLVES IN SIGHT)


GLEN COE



BEAUTIFUL SCENERY ENROUTE

This is the second post of the trip to Scotland that Holly and I took. In a couple of days, I will post the last post of this blog. Hope you enjoy it.

The next morning, we left our B & B in the pouring rain. Happily, the weather cleared as we drove, and we entered the Highlands which boasted beautiful vistas, including sparkling white snow-capped mountains.

When we arrived in Glen Coe, we stopped at the Visitor's Center, ate lunch and visited the tiny museum. We were directed to a hiking trail near a ski center, where we walked 4 - 5 miles across a bog. The trail was an immensely rocky path which forced us to watch each step.

The hilly land rolled around the base of the snow-capped mountains. Just below winter-browned peat moss, cold water pooled and puddled, as Holly discovered when she stepped from the path and sank into the wet ground. Beside the path, a stream flowed with icy water -- snow-melt -- on this sunny, warm afternoon. As we walked higher, icicles began to adorn the sides of the stream, and, as we hiked higher, snow began to appear in patches.

We were the last hikers to leave and Holly grew concerned about being caught on the marsh in the dark, and being attacked by wolves (which have not existed in Scotland for 300 years), so we hurried along the rugged trail. In my haste, I stepped wrong, tripped and fell. Once I realized I was going to fall, I aimed myself at a patch of moss, which cushioned my fall, though it left me with wet hands and knees.

Later, as we left the B & B to go to dinner in the village, a herd of deer spotted Holly and darted over a stream and into a pasture near her. We did not see so much as a hare on our hike "nearly guaranteed to see game" but had a group of deer come right to our door! We recognized a large male, a young male, a mom and fawn, and a couple of other does. The little group stood still, with the large stag nervously keeping watch, until they realized we had nothing to feed them, then they faded silently into the dusk.

The next morning the snow caps had increased overnight, but rain poured on the B & B. The birds trilled as happily as on a warm, sunny morning. On the entire trip, we enjoyed the spring celebration of the many birds in Scotland. Rain, snow, or sun, they sang their little hearts out.

Holly tasted haggis at the Glen Coe B & B. It smelled like sausage, and Holly liked it, but could not persuade me to try any. Usually I am the adventurous one, but having read about haggis being "sheep's stomach," I just did not want to try it. Maybe next time. (Probably not).

As we neared Urquhart Castle, the rain gradually stopped. The wind blew, but we were not too cold. I began to believe that we had a Weather Angel (as well as a Driving Angel) helping us throughout the trip.

We explored the castle ruins and its grounds. Once again, I was puffing at the top of each climb. (Note to self: really, truly begin workouts . . . no, seriously!)

The castle lies north of one of the Great Glen's alcoves, jutting into the deep waters of Loch Ness. I excitedly scanned the famous loch, but no Nessie. Although a stronghold for over 1000 years, the castle ruins dated from well after the Dark Ages. But the earlier fort slept undisturbed beneath the walls. Holly wished all the other tourists away so she could envision the area as it was in 600-700 A.D.

However, later we pulled on our boots and walked through the forest near our B & B. This forest is old (representative of the one that existed in the late Iron Age). We tried to walk to Loch Ness, but the bridge was out and the Coiltie River too deep to wade. However, we enjoyed the trees, shrubs, and wild flowers which were just beginning to bloom. Here, at last, Holly could look around and imagine her characters living in a Dark Ages world.

The forest was quiet, only the susurration of the river and symphony of the birdsong disturbed the silence. As we wound our quiet way through the woods, Holly flushed a female mallard, which suddenly whirred up, followed by her mate. Holly squeaked and stumbled back, startled out of her wits. Her loving mother guffawed loudly. Later, a quail frantically flapped its way into the sky as Holly approached, causing another shriek. Then, at dinner on our last night in the Highlands, our booth was decorated with pictures of mallards and quails. It seems Holly couldn't escape her tormentors.

Our trip to Inverness (inver means river mouth in Gaelic, therefore Inverness is mouth of the Ness River) to find Craigphadrig Rock was much more pleasant than preceding trips. We rode on nice, wide-laned "carriageways", some of them "dual carriageways," like our expressways and interstate highways. Finally, I could relax and enjoy the scenery as I drove. From the white-capped mountain down to the rolling hills, spring was creeping up on Scotland. Daffodils bloomed on the lower slopes, while the yellow flowers of broom and heath brightened the roadsides. The dark green of the evergreens mixed with the hardwoods whose tender green leaves appear incandescent on cloudy days - seeming to glow from within.

We observed few cattle, but thousands of sheep and, since it was almost April, several tiny white lambs (some with black faces) trying out their new legs at their mothers' sides.

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