Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Rain, Rain, Go Away

From 28 May:

Well, it is Scotland after all. But it was rainy most of the day. This got to be drag after awhile.

Today was meant to be a scenery day since we didn't have any historical or other remarkable sites to see. We took the roads closest to the coast; these are also slow roads. Many of them are single track with passing places. This means if you see someone coming towards you, either you or they need to stop at the nearest passing place. (The road resembles a snake that's digesting several rodents.) Even though everyone is generally very polite and each party gives a wave after passing, this charm wears off after stopping a few dozen times.

As it has been, the scenery was exceptionally striking for its vast and often barren beauty (barren of human evidence; often barren of trees). We took special care as we were driving through the area of Loch Laxford to find the roadcuts that contain Lewisian gneiss. We learned about the roadcuts here from the TV show How the Earth Was Made; Lewisian gneiss is folded into and appears above some sedimentary layers that are younger than the gneiss. Unraveling this geological mystery was the subject of the HtEWM episode. And indeed there are some very interesting examples of this type of folding.

We did see one castle: Castle Ardvreck on Loch Assynt. This is a small and minor structure, though it does have some interesting stonework. As with Dun Dornaigil the previous day, the center of the structure is filled with earth. Again I had to scramble up the wall and investigate. Thankfully getting up and down was not too treacherous this time, in comparison with yesterday's scaling of Dun Dornaigil. Since it was raining when we got out of the car, and I didn't want to get soaked through as I did yesterday at Urquhart Castle, I decided to don my rain trousers. What a great feeling to be covered from head to toe in water-resistant nylon! Nothing could stop me! Let's go! Even though we spent much of the day in the car I kept the rain trousers on the whole time. Just in case. And the day was cold enough that I did not overheat.

Pictures of Ardvreck Castle. The ruin from a distance:

A closer look:

Me, in full rain gear, looking out one of the upstairs windows:

By the time we arrived in Ullapool it had warmed up quite a bit. The highlight of this city was its yarn shop (there are surprisingly few of these to be seen in Scotland, one would think there would be more with all of the sheep). The shopkeeper is a lovely and eccentric woman who commanded me: don't knit with metal needles!! (Think Joan Crawford as a knitter.) One must always use wood! I spent way too much money on some beautiful yarn from Wales made from wood pulp, and a pattern for a casual jacket. But hey, lemme alone, I'M ON VACATION.

The weather was frustrating and I was feeling some frustration that we were spending so much time in the car when there were such gorgeous hills and trails to be walked, but Robin and I were endlessly cheered by seeing the sheep, and particularly their lambs near the side of the road. The lambs are probably a couple months old and they are still very attached to their mothers, always keeping by their side. Yesterday we saw a lamb that was on the other side of the road from his mum. We slowed down to take a closer look at him and he panicked when he saw our shiny metal box separating him from mom. I stopped then and seeing the opportunity he bolted across the road to be with her:

This was an incredibly endearing sight. The lambs have a mischievous look about them that reminds me of kittens. And we all know I can't resist kittens.

We finally arrived at our B&B for the night (our room is in view of a loch) at around 6:45pm, not long after the proprietoress phoned us to find out what was the hold up. (Thankfully Robin got himself a UK T-Mobile SIM card, so we have a local number.) We are a short walk from the Eilean Donan castle. This site has become a Scottish icon; its photograph is the subject of countless postcards, adorns the cover of many Scottish guidebooks, and is even the backdrop for the balloon in one of the BBC America spots.

We rewarded ourselves with another hearty dinner at a local hotel restaurant tonight, again including a pint of McEwan's 80/- and even a dessert of sticky toffee pudding.

Hoping for better weather (there are rumours of a mini heat wave) for tomorrow...

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