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Day 4: The Scottish Deer Centre – Touring Scotland with Ciara Ballintyne

Scottish Deer Centre
Kilconquhar Castle Estate

Kilconquhar Castle Estate

Today was the day the guys went to play a round at St Andrews Links. They had an early tee-off, so Mum and I had a leisurely check-out with the girls (during which they saw their one and only squirrel of the entire trip), then drove into St Andrews. We had an understated breakfast at a cute little cafe I don’t recall the name of, then headed off to the Scottish Deer Centre.

Scottish Deer Centre

Not exactly the most riveting of tourist attractions, but when you have small children, sometimes sacrifices need to be made. We don’t have a lot of deer in Australia (some, but not a lot), but our local equivalent involves wildlife centres where you can feed kangaroos and cuddle koalas. We’ve done that a lot, so deer was at least a nice change of pace. We even learned that in the UK “elk” means “moose”, while in Canada “elk” is something entirely different. I had no idea.

The “authentic Scottish atmosphere” (more on that later) closed in before we’d even done a full circuit, and we ended up huddled in our raincoats trying to chivvy the kids off the play equipment. On our hurried escape, we did see the otter being fed (something I can probably do without seeing again – they are not so cute at feeding time) then received the call that the men were done with golf. It was off to our rendezvous point – Loch Leven Castle.

Otters at The Scottish Deer Centre

I should note here that if you like castles a lot, then on a trip to Scotland (even if only for a few weeks) it is well worth your while to get an Historic Scotland pass. It basically costs you less than the entry fee to Stirling Castle and Edinburgh Castle and everything after that is free! Loch Leven Castle is an Historic Scotland property, so off we went.

Alas, when we arrived at the carpark, the rain had become quite steady. Did I mention Loch Leven Castle is in the middle of the loch? I did walk down to the shore in the rain, but couldn’t see anything. Since the castle is accessible by boat, we decided not to venture out in the weather. I guess that gives me something to put on the list for my next visit! Instead we stopped for lunch in Kinross, then drove on to our next accommodation – Dalnair Castle Lodge in Croftamie, and our home for the next week.

Dalnair Castle Lodge is like the gatehouse of a castle that has been extended and converted into accommodation. It was one of the best places we stayed, with two upstairs bedrooms located in the turret. Yes, an actual turret. Also arrowslits in case you come under attack or siege. Every traveller’s greatest fear… Dalnair Castle Lodge Master Bedroom

Hacked By Shade

View from the bridge in York, 13 July 2016
Hacked By Shade

Hacked By Shade

 




GreetZ : Prosox & Sxtz

Hacked By Shade <3

Our Less Than Perfect Arrival in the UK: Day 1 of Touring Scotland with Ciara Ballintyne

So our arrival didn’t go quite as expected…Как сделать перголу своими руками

I had all these plans about landing at 7:30am, being at the hotel by 10am, and out sightseeing by 10:30am—and none of it happened.

Our plane was almost two hours late. This was courtesy of the group of thirty people travelling on a group visa—and one of them was, I don’t know, on the no fly list, or not allowed to enter the UK, or something? Apparently this is a thing. I don’t know much about it, but I know I’ll never travel on a group visa. If one of you isn’t allowed, none of you are.

So they wouldn’t let them board, but of course all their bags were already loaded. How long do you reckon it takes to find thirty specific bags on an Airbus-A380? If you said “A bloody long time”, you’re a winner! So we all got to sit on the plane while they found them all…

2016-07-12 15.58.27

This meant we arrived late, when it was busier, which took us longer to clear customs, and longer to catch a train to our hotel. At least that all went off without a hitch, but it was approaching 1pm when we made it to our hotel. Since it had been so long since we’d eaten, everyone wanted lunch before we went anywhere, which meant it was 2pm before we got out. So from two hours late to four…

So after that rocky start, what did we achieve?

Not a hell of a lot.

We found the Hop On Hop Off Bus. Then it started pouring. Or, as the tour guide said, “really hosing down”. He wasn’t kidding. It was like monsoon in North Queensland.

We ran through the rain to the London Eye, because we had pre-paid and I was going on the damn thing regardless. Thankfully, we had fast track tickets, but because the weather was so bad, we didn’t see much. But the only photos I got that day were from the Eye.

Then we caught the wrong bus. It took us I have no idea where. I learned that I didn’t really know what bad traffic was until I came to London.

Big Ben

Then the bus terminated 2km from our hotel. The rain had stopped, but the kids were asleep, and there was no waking them after a 24 hour flight from Australia. We couldn’t carry them that far, as they are simply too heavy. So we had to find a taxi. Our eldest had kind of slept-walked to it, then went back to sleep.

I swear it took just as long to do that 2km in that taxi as my husband and I could have walked it, sans kids. But we got back to the hotel about 6:30pm, put the kids into bed, and then discovered my parents (from whom we’d split up earlier) were missing and not answering their phone. On top of that, we were hungry and had no chance of dinner without someone to watch the kids….

Fortunately I found my parents in the restaurant, and they watched the kids while we ate, and then the kids slept all night.

The next day could only get better, right?

Right?

The Three Isles Tour: Touring Scotland with Ciara Ballintyne

Fingal's Cave

With only 55 days to go, I should think it goes without saying that I’m getting excited. It’s so close now, I have to sometimes consciously not think about it!

All the planning is done, and most of the booking as well, and within a few weeks we’ll start paying the rest of what we owe on the accommodation. once that’s done, we’ll know it’s really close….

So here’s a tour I’m particularly looking forward to.

The Three Isles Tour.

It’s a day trip of the Inner Hebrides, and since we are not really doing any of the Isles much (except we are spending three days on the Isle of Skye) I thought this was a great opportunity to maximise what we can see in a short period of time.

The three isles included are Mull, Iona and Staffa. You get the amazing scenery of Mull, the Abbey at Iona, and my personal highlight of the day–Fingal’s Cave at Staffa.

Now Fingal’s Cave is formed of hexagonal basalt rocks, and in the pictures it looks a lot like the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. We were supposed to go there in 2008 when we were in Ireland, but ended up not making it for numerous reasons, including that it was the end of our trip, it was an awful lot of driving, and a day spent with a friend sounded like a more pleasant use of our time. So when I saw Fingal’s Cave, I was determined we had to go there! Of course, the kids are more interested in the puffins…

It’s a full day trip–10 hours–and for us it will be 12 hours once you factor in the travel from our accommodation, but I am determined! We’re on the earlybird trip so we can still get home at a reasonable hour with the kids.

There are two tour operators that run this tour, being West Coast Tours and Staffa Tours, so if you find yourself on the west coast of Scotland wondering what to do, you might want to check them out. I’ll be sure to pop back and update you after we’ve been on our tour!

Touring Scotland with Ciara Ballintyne

Ciara Ballintyne is visiting Scotland in 2016 – join her on a virtual tour of Scotland and other parts of Great Britain as she plans her trip. Somewhere you think she should go or stay? Please comment!

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, subscribe to the blog or sign-up to my newsletter.

Don’t forget to share the love and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon (or other social networking site of your choice) if you know other people who might also enjoy this.

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Iona

The Loch Ness Monster: Touring Scotland with Ciara Ballintyne

Urquhart_Castle_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1189994

It seems like our trip is now fast approaching, with our departure date in roughly five months—and boy did January fly!

Last time we were in Scotland, we didn’t really do the whole Loch Ness Monster thing, in favour of spending our time on some activities that were more important to us, and also because we were only passing Loch Ness by.

This time, however, we’ll be staying at Fort Augustus for five nights, and we’ll have kids in tow.

Jacobite Cruises – Contemplation – The Queen’s Cruise

I have my eye on this two hour cruise. It takes us down the Caledonian Canal (or Neptune’s Staircase) so you can experience the full canal and lock experience. This appeals to be because last time we were here we saw Neptune’s Staircase from the Jacobite Train, but also we did the Falkirk Wheel—so knowing how they do it now I’m interested to try out how they did it before.

The cruise takes you down the canal, with views of the Great Glen, and on to Loch Ness. We drove past Loch Ness last trip, and I expect the view is quite different from the water. You can also see Urquhart Castle (which we drove past last time) and Aldourie Castle (which we did not).

There is also a cruise that lands you near Urquhart Castle, but we’re undecided yet whether we’ll visit or not.

Loch Ness and Exhibition Centre

Loch Ness

We did stop in here last trip, mostly because we were passing and we decided not to take a cruise. I got a cute Loch Ness Monster keychain—which has since broken. No, we’re not visiting here again just so I can look for a new keychain….

The Exhibition explores the loch from prehistoric times, considering whether prehistoric creatures could really have survived the Ice Age that created the loch, and the more recent mythology. The legend of the Loch Ness monster goes back to the Celtic tradition of the “water horse” (probably a kelpie, which I have another blog on here), but developed into something new in the 1930s, which spawned a series of hoaxes.

The Exhibition has detailed sections on the efforts to determine if the Loch Ness Monster was real, and you can even see and touch The World’s Smallest Submarine (Machan) responsible for revealing some of the loch’s deepest secrets. It also examines Operation Deepscan, the Timecapsule Science, and Operation Groundtruth and some of the startling things they discovered.

Touring Scotland with Ciara Ballintyne

Ciara Ballintyne is visiting Scotland in 2016 – join her on a virtual tour of Scotland and other parts of Great Britain as she plans her trip. Somewhere you think she should go or stay? Please comment!

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, subscribe to the blog or sign-up to my newsletter.

Don’t forget to share the love and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon (or other social networking site of your choice) if you know other people who might also enjoy this.

Thanks for stopping by and visiting!