Honeymooning in Scotland: Last Day

And then, it was our last day…

How did today get here? Weren’t we just arriving? Wait! There’s so much more to see. And yet, I was glad. So glad to get home because, well it’s home and normal…except it wouldn’t be normal because I would be moving across the country to a new home in Nebraska. Trading in one adventure for the next. You know, I was okay with that.

We awoke early in Fort William. The town was much more charming and scenic in the daylight. Before exploring the town, though, we headed straight for the Glenfinnan Viaduct, aka the Jacobite Train, aka the train from Harry Potter!!

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We planned the time to go based on when the train would chug across the Viaduct. After parking, we hiked (yes hiked) to the scenic overlook. It was a nice path and not too hard, but there was bit of uphill, and we were still recovering from Skye.That being said, I found a lovely rock to perch on that provided excellent views.

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Path back down

Then, we waited…and waited. It felt like ages, but in reality was probably like 30-45 minutes of wait time. The longer we waited, the more crowded the hill became. Everyone wanted to watch. Be sure to get there early!

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Through the pass, we saw smoke billow. Then, we heard the classic train whistle and waved to the passengers on the train. It was pretty magical. I’m sorry to say, though, that it wasn’t Harry Potter magical. No wizards here.

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Seeing what we came to see, we headed back to Fort William for lunch in the city centre. The cobblestone streets were so quaint, and the shops so cute. Ice cream was excellent as well!

We decided it was too hot to hike the 2 hour trail to a waterfall we had originally planned on seeing. Instead, we headed to Locky Castle. It was in a bit of ruins, but still quite fascinating. When the owner tried to fix part of it for an upcoming visit by Queen Victoria, she said that it was quite a disappointment after seeing the alterations. Ooops!

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After the last castle of the trip, we headed to Glencoe. I found a folk museum visit in town. It was in a cool thatched roof, but wasn’t worth the 3 pounds each we paid for admission. It had an eclectic mix of antiques more than anything. I will say, it explained the MacDonald Massacre well and had an interesting exhibit on that.

Before heading out of the town, we stopped at the Glencoe Cafe for some cappuccinos. So delicious! If I could go back, I would have definitely have grabbed the shortbread to go.

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As we winded our way through the beauty of Glencoe, we stopped all along the way for pictures, because, well, it’s criminal not to capture and enjoy the splendor. Garrett said that he really wished we had more time to explore this part of Scotland. I don’t disagree.

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It seemed to take us forever to get to Edinburgh, but we made it to our last hotel of the trip. This was our only hotel during the entire trip that had ac! We felt so spoiled. We ate at the hotel and had delicious food. After packing, we were in bed by 10:30 to be up at 6:40 am for our flight home.

Nothing really to report on the flight home other than our plane got down-sized so Garrett lost his extra leg room, but they did give us chocolate ice cream so that made it better. I will also say that Garrett’s broken shoelace was a nightmare to deal with in security, especially at JFK where everyone seemed to be in a rather bad mood. However, we and our luggage made it to RDU safe and sound.

I must say that we have no regrets about our honeymoon. We loved every second (even the times I thought I would die) and every one of the 1,000 miles we drove. I’m so glad we not only chose Scotland, but we chose somewhere neither of us had been and somewhere that had loads of exploring opportunities. To me it was the perfect mixture of wonder and relaxation that a honeymoon should contain, but also great team-building exercises that helped us learn to work together.

Now, we have memories that we will forever cherish.

Honeymooning in Scotland–Day 7

Day 7 was quite the series of events. It was our last day on the Isle of Skye, which was a bit of a bummer. The day started with Garrett breaking his shoelace. This was only the start of a series of unfortunate/interesting events. Despite these events, it makes me smile and was so fun!

We started with a tour of Dunvegan Castle. It is the longest continuously inhabited castles in Scotland. Because of this, it was not in ruins, but did have some nods to other centuries. It was a combination of a castle and Biltmore Estates in NC. The MacLeods had a lot of family history in the castle which was very interesting. Outside were impressive gardens complete with waterfalls. They had been developed throughout the years. While the most expensive castle to tour, it was worth it in my mind.

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After eating lunch at a cafe that overlooked a loch, we headed to the Fairy Pools. This was another favorite place of mine on our trip. It is a popular destination, so go early or prepare for some crowds. We had to park a quarter of a mile down the road and hike to the trail head. Keep in mind we were pretty dead from the day before; however, this hike was very pleasant.

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The trail follows water that leads to the Fairy Pools. These pools are deep, crystal clear, blue, and very cold. Many were swimming in the pools. We didn’t go swimming, but we did take our shoes off and dip our feet in. While there were a lot of people, we were still able to find secluded spots to enjoy the scenery. The hike back was equally as pleasant until we reached the hill to the road. That sucker was steep. I was sweating and out of breath by the time we reached the car.

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We found real fairy homes

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I will note that by now, Garrett is driving like a local and even made a 3 point turn on a one lane road. Today, though, his driving would be truly tested as we headed to Fort William. Little did we know that it would take an extra 4 hours to get there.

 

As we were heading out of Skye, we were remarking on how funny the mist looked up ahead in the mountains.

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As we got closer, we realized it was billows of smoke! This was confirmed when were stopped by the police and told to turn around due to a wildfire that had spread to the road and was quite large. He was very nice and even apologized for the inconvenience. We thanked him for not letting us get burnt!

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After getting directions from him, we headed back down a very curvy narrow one lane road to Portree. We had just been down that road that morning. It was much more busy now. Also, meeting a tour bus on such a road is a bit nerve-wracking. Garrett did great, though on the hour detour. As we were finally leaving Skye, you could see the line of fire run across the hills. I’m glad we didn’t get trapped on the Isle. There aren’t but so many roads.

Before we could make it to Fort William, we hit traffic on A85. People began turning around. A bus driver rolled down his window and told us there was a wreck ahead and there would be a 5 hour delay!! We were only 45 minutes from Fort William. Our choices were to hope it wouldn’t be a 5 hour delay or drive an hour to Inverness to go 2 hours to Fort William. We decided the 3 hour detour to Inverness was safer than waiting. It ended up being the right decision.

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We went to Inverness and ate at La Tortilla, a restaurant we had seen but didn’t go to a few days ago. I had a hankering for Mexican and was really hoping for some salsa and chips. Yeah… that’s not what this place was. It was Spanish. No chips and salsa. Just bread and an odd menu that we weren’t sure what was what. We asked the waiter how this works and ended up ordering 2 bowls of potatoes with spicy sauce, 1 bowl of chorizo sausage, and a bowl of garlic chicken. It ended up being cheap and very delicious. And yet, our adventures for the day were not over.

The alternate route to Fort William took us down a very scenic, but was very narrow and curvy. I was nervous, especially when on-coming traffic came. This was a two lane road, but the narrowness and curves made it scary. Garrett did good, but also scared me. I was white-knuckling it. What made it worse was it was 50 miles of it! It was all made more scary by impending darkness. Finally, we made it to Fort William.

We arrived at the cutest hotel, but had to park in the last parking spot–a bus spot at that. Inside the hotel was newly redone and very nice. We had to climb a narrow steep staircase to our room. It was certainly hot in our room (no ac) but the view out the window was over the water.

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Our adventurous day was over. It was absolutely crazy. To think, it all started with a broken shoelace.

Tips:

  1. If you go to Dunvegan and are a student, be sure to show your ID for a discount.
  2. If you can, go early to the Fairy Pools
  3. When the weather is warm, pack a swimsuit to the Fairy Pools and take a dip.

Honeymooning in Scotland–Day 6

I was really excited to start this day out. It was going to be all about exploring and hiking. Disclaimer: Garrett and I took charge of planning different parts of the trip. Today was one of the days I had planned. I may have overestimated my abilities. You’ll find out what I mean in a bit.

Our first stop of the morning was Fairy Glenn.

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We weren’t sure if we were in the right place at first. It was also a bit sketchy considering it was a one lane road. By one lane road, I mean that it is a two-way but there’s only room for one car so you have to pull over onto special passes. We’d get really used to these type of the roads as our adventures in Skye continued.

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Cattle guards  on a one lane raod

Needless to say, we ended up in the right place and it was truly magical. You could really imagine fairies in the glen.

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After a quick jaunt, we headed to Quiraing. Wow! The scenery was gorgeous!

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We were amazed at the amount of traffic. You have to park on the side of a single car road. There aren’t large parking lots or car parks as they are called, so the side of the road it is. We would learn that sometimes that mean parking on the edge of a cliff or half a mile from your destination, and that’s not in peak tourist season.

The Quiraing was a wonderful hike. While we didn’t go to the very end, we hiked for over an hour on a trail that was just cut into the cliff.

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Garrett teased me a lot because I would often get distracted by all the sheep that were able to just graze anywhere it seemed. They often shared our path.

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I wanted to take one home. This pic is the closest I got to taking a sheep home.

We made the quick stop to Kilt Rock and the falls before eating burgers at a cafe.

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The next point of interest was Brother’s Point, also called Rubha nam Brathairean. We almost skipped this stop, but I had read on the Earth Trekkers blog that it was worth it and not as touristy. They were right! There was a small car park just past the Glenview Hotel. We had to cross the street and walk down the road just a bit to get to the trail head. We went down what looks like someone’s driveway, entered two gates into a sheep pasture.

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Don’t forget to close the gate behind you. Sheep are inside.

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We certainly were doubting if we were in the right place, but noticed a few people down towards the bottom. We also saw signs directing our path.

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We found ruins, lots of sheep, barnacles, and the most gorgeous of views. What’s better is it is secluded and not crowded. The hike is not too strenuous either. From here, you can also see Kilt Rock in the distance. We didn’t walk all the way down the point, but even still it would become my favorite place of the entire Scotland trip! I cannot recommend it enough!!

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Behind the scenes of the photo above.

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Our final stop was Oldman Storr. It was completely opposite experience than Brother’s Point. I straight died. Don’t believe me? Garrett documented:

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The trail to Oldmann Storr is all uphill, no shade, and a long way. In fact, we didn’t make it. I looked up at Garrett and said I can’t. In my defense, my foot ankle was not happy, I had a slight cold, and poorly planned a long hike at the end of a full day of hiking. I absolutely hated to call it quits, but I know my limits. I think Garrett was a bit relieved too. Moral of the story, rethink planning all major hiking on one day. That was my bad. I also suggest bringing sunscreen. You wouldn’t think that would be needed in Scotland, but we were blessed with warmer than normal weather and full sun.

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This is where we were supposed to go, but never reached.

After calling it quits, we went back to Portree to shop where I got some things for the boys. In my journal my exact words to end the day were, “we ate at Isles and called it early for bed. We wrote postcards and planned tomorrow. We are pretty dead.”

And that is the end of day 6 on Scotland. It was my favorite, but also the most taxing physically.

Tips:

  1. In order to plan different parts of the trip, but still collaborate, we used the website Inspirock. It was fabulous. It not only allowed us a venue to plug in our plans and information, but also gave suggestions. This is a great tool for any trip anywhere!
  2. Bring lots of water hiking.
  3. Visit Fairy Glenn in the morning before crowds hit. It makes for a more intimate experience that adds to the magic.
  4. Don’t hold out for a parking spot in a parking lot. Just go ahead and park on the side of the road.
  5. Kilt Rock was cool, but will only take you 10 minutes to see it. Plan for that as you travel.
  6. Make the time for Brother’s Point. You can also find dinosaur footprints.
  7. Beauty lies everywhere. Even on the side of the road. Stop to see it.DSC_0505DSC_0510

 

Honeymooning in Scotland–Day 5

The next morning on our honeymoon was early. We ate breakfast in our hotel’s sunroom and headed out to Loch Ness.

On a whim we decided to by tickets for a boat tour of Loch Ness that we had learned about through a pamphlet. It was a fabulous decision! We chose the tour that would take us through the canal, loch, and to see the outside of Urquhart Castle. We were almost late thanks to the GPS, but made it! The tour took a total of 2 hours and was filled with great facts and lovely views! It even had a Loch Ness detector.

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They said this was a lighthouse…
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Urquhart by boat
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We used the camera as binoculars at times. This time, Garrett was actually taking pictures, though!

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Our next stop was to explore the grounds of Urquhart Castle after seeing the outside by boat. We drove along the loch. Before touring the grounds, we stopped at the Nessie Cafe and had yummy sandwiches.

Urquhart Castle may seem like a bunch of ruins, and you may be tempted to skip it completely while in Scotland. DON’T! It ended up being Garrett’s favorite part of the whole trip and both of our’s favorite castle.

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The castle is rich with history and has just enough standing to be able to imagine it in it’s glory days. Besides age, the castle is mostly in ruins because it’s last resident blew it up. You see, Urquhart was prone to raids by the McDonald clan and others. So, on the last of the raids, the owner fled, and blew the castle up as he left. Pretty crazy, right?

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The great thing about this castle, is you can go everywhere. Nothing is off limits, and fabulous views surround you. Plus you can walk down to the loch and dip your toes in. After dipping his hand in the loch, Garrett claimed he had Nessie pee on him which was pretty cool. I married a goober!

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While we would have stayed at Urquhart longer, we had to get to the next castle of the day–Eilean Donan. After purchasing a souvenir painting, we headed on. We did stop along the way at some cool scenery. It was different than other places we’d seen.

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We also came across feral goats! I saw a sign that said look out for them, and just got out of my mouth, “I hope we see one!” Then, their they were! I was so excited I failed to get a quality photo, but as you can tell, they are hairy and have huge horns!

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The best way to describe Eilean Donan was beautiful on the outside and weird inside. Eilean Donan is the most photographed castle in Scotland, and rightly so. Just look at it:

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Inside, though, is a bit difference. Part of the oddity is that the castle was almost completely rebuilt in 1912 by the family who owned it. Inside was therefore, an odd mix of the 20’s, medieval, and a family home. While certainly not what I expected, it was still neat. They didn’t allow photography inside, so I don’t have any photos to show you of that.

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It was now time to finally be on our way to the Isle of Skye. Wow, is all I have to say. We knew that Skye was supposed to be beautiful. It did not disappoint. These photos were taken just on the drive in! Wait until you see the next day.

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We checked into the Portree Hotel. Super cute place in the middle of town.DSC_0699

The room was itty bitty, but beyond quaint and cozy. We walked across the road to the Cafe where we enjoyed a great meal of pork meatloaf with tomato spicy cream and fish and chips. It was one of my favorite meals of the trip.

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We finished it all off with ice cream and a walk around town and the harbor.

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We retired for the night to dream of castles and Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster.

Tips:

  1. We would highly recommend the Portree Hotel, but know that they don’t have a lift up to your room. It wasn’t an issue for us, but it may be for others.
  2. Personally, I would choose to pay to see Urquhart and not Eilean Donan, but that’s just my opinion.
  3. If you decide to go on a Jacobite Cruise, look up the docks before the morning of. They are not always recognized by the GPS. Refer to a good old fashioned map.
  4. Highland Cows are pronounced Coos. We had fun saying that.

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Honeymooning in Scotland–Day 4

You know, at the completion of this day, I was convinced it was my favorite. I would later say this about every day after.

The only thing that we had planned for the day was a fancy dinner in Inverness. I didn’t even know about it because Garrett had secretly planned for it. However, the night before, we had done a quick search and found a few options of things to do.

We drove to Beauly to see the Beauly Priory, an old abandoned monastic community established in the 13th and 14th century. Before exploring the Priory, we ate at the Priory Hotel that was right beside the monastery.

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Garrett and I ordered a pot of tea. He ate meat pie and the most delicious mandarin orange cheesecake. I was totally kicking myself for not ordering that for myself. He was gracious enough to let me eat a bite or two. I ate a bowl of soup and pork burger. We also had a lovely conversation with our waitress who was from New Zealand (she called herself a Kiwi) about places to go and the best routes to get there. I just love nice people!

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The monastery was in a bit of ruin. However, it was understandable considering its age and that most of its stone had been seized by Cromwell to build Inverness Castle. There wasn’t a roof and parts of the once expansive building were missing. Oh, but the history that was there was incredible. There were tombs, holy water vessel, wall cupboards, and more.

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From the inside

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Where holy water was kept

After our exploration of the priory, we made the decision to head to Fort George. Boy, am I glad we did! The fort was built in the 1700’s but is still a working military fort to this day.  There is plenty of history in this fort to explore, but there are also many building you cannot enter, because it is in current use by the military. DSC_0138

Fort George is on the North Sea. When we arrived to the fort, the mist was rolling in like clouds giving the whole thing a mystical feel. I hope you can see the mist in the photos I took.

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It didn’t stay too long which was good, because little did we know that Fort George is a premier place to dolphin watch. We didn’t really think we’d see any, but we hadn’t been looking for more than 2 minutes when one popped up. We ended up seeing a dolphin about a dozen times!

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While Fort George almost didn’t make it on our itinerary, I’m  so glad we went. It was not only interesting, but very beautiful, and a great place to take a stroll. They also offer free audio tours.

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Getting to write your name in a guest book is way more exciting when you are newly married

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Can you tell we are tourists?
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The slashes in the stone are from when soldiers would sharpen their bayonets

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We made our way back to Inverness to get ready for our fancy dinner. Garrett had made reservations to Rocpool, and we took a taxi to the restaurant. The restaurant was sold out. We were escorted to a corner table by the window with a view of Inverness Castle!!!

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The view out our window

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We couldn’t have had better seats. For our starters, I had fried gnocchi with duck ragu and Garrett had pork belly.  For our main course, I chose lamb on couscous with pomegranate, asparagus, and goat cheese. Garrett selected loin of veal with black pudding, haggis, and potatoes. Creme brulle was the final dish. It was all amazing. Garrett did good…real good.

We decided to walk back to our hotel rather than grab a taxi. That was also a wonderful decision. We walked along the river as the sunset, and it was all simply perfect.

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Tips:

  1. Go to Fort George. It’s worth it.
  2. Stop along the road. If you see something cool, don’t be afraid to take a photo shoot. That’s what we did, and I love them! This was on the way to Fort George. You can actually see a shadow of it in the right side of the first photo below.

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Honeymooning in Scotland–Day 3

Day 3 started with an early morning to hit some last minute Edinburgh sights before heading to Inverness.

Our first stop was the Scott Monument built to memorialize author Sir Walter Scott. It was built during 1841-1844. While you can climb inside it, we chose not to due to time constraints and for the want of saving our money.

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Scott Monument is in Princes Street Gardens, so of course we had to walk along the paths. You can even see Edinburgh Castle from some of the paths. It was a fabulous last morning in Edinburgh.

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We made our way back to the hotel to retrieve our bags and hop in the car. I wasn’t looking forward to driving the streets of Edinburgh again, but we had gotten the bugs out of the GPS this time.

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I’m happy to report, it was much less death like and minimal wrong turns were made. We did accidentally end up at Forth Bridge. The bridge was completed in 1890 and has been voted Scotland’s greatest man-made wonder. The only reason we saw it was due to a wrong turn. We were perhaps a little too excited about the whole deal.

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Another happy accident was our lunch stop. We were trying to find something quick to eat, and typed in McDonalds in the GPS. I know, I know…who eats at McDonalds when in a foreign country? My only defense is we were travelling. We followed the GPS and arrived in the town of Pitlochery. The GPS lied. There was no McDonalds, but there was the cutest town where we had the best fish and chips at McKay’s. We walked around the little town, got some ice cream, and went on our way. Best stop ever!

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As we drove out of the cities, the landscape began to change to rolling hills and farms. I snapped pictures through the window left, right, and center. Little did I know that this was nothing compared to what we were about to see.

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The driving was much easier in the country, but the roads were quite narrow (I would later consider these roads wide).

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We stopped at Dalwhinnie Distillery for a tour. The process of making Scotch whiskey is fascinating. Dalwhinnie was the highest (in altitude) scotch distillery in the world. It is normally quite cold, but we were there on a rare warm day, however, the mountains were still snow-capped.

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We continued to wind our way through the Scottish roads until we reached Inverness. I fell in love with this little town. We had the most adorable hotel.

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For dinner we walked to the city center and ate at Bella Italia. While we got turned around walking there and didn’t get the river views going, we certainly got them coming back. Wow! Those walks with my new husband were some of my favorites of the trip.

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Along the walks are several pedestrian bridges to pass from the two sides of the rivers.

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One of the bridges led to a magical little island with a wooded area and river views.

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To top it all off, Inverness has a castle! It was all truly fairy tale feeling.

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Tips:

  1. It is ok to take wrong turns. Don’t freak out, but explore and have fun!
  2. While long, take the walk to the City Centre in Inverness, especially at sunset!
  3. Try Irn Bru soda. It is a Scottish drink and is similar to cream soda. Garrett loved it!

Honeymooning in Scotland: Day 2

Our second day in Scotland was all about experiencing the city and our very first castle!

The first stop of the day was a quick one to Greyfriars Bobby. Bobby was a Skye Terrier who guarded his owner’s grave in the Greyfriars Kirkland for 14 years until he died himself.

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After visiting Bobby, we headed to St. Giles Cathedral. It is as pretty inside as it is outside.

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We continued make our way down to Edinburgh Castle, our main attraction for the day. We had time to kill as we had pre-purchased tickets to the castle at a certain time the night before. We went in the Hub which ended up  being a convention center of sorts. You’d have never thought that from the outside.

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I saw a sign for Tartan Weaving Mill and just had to go in.

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Here, we explored 5 floors of tartan, wool, weaving, shops, and the history of tartan. I purchased a scarf in my clan’s tartan. I’m a part of the Gunn Clan from my grandmother’s side. We then grabbed lunch at the cafe at the top of the mill where we ate the most delicious club sandwich! So good!

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Scottish dress and tartan throughout the years.
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Garrett watching them weave

By now, it was time to enter the castle. Garrett and I were both pretty pumped to visit. Never did I realize there were so many nooks and crannies in a castle. It was huge and took the whole day to explore. We made sure to pay extra for the audio tour so we could hear additional information and stories.

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In the castle, we were able to see the crown jewels which were lost for a few hundred years. How do you misplace such a thing? They were found and later buried again during World War II to safeguard against the potential of Nazi invasion. They are now back in the castle and on display.

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We also saw the dungeons (my personal favorite) where you could see messages carved into the doors and learn about prisoners there.

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Garrett appreciated the many cannons…

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And we both appreciated the gorgeous views.

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The castle also features a pet cemetery…

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Museum…

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Grand hall…

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And a more modern prison.

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We were warned that Scottish weather is typically cold and wet, but our second day in Scotland would prove to be the only cold day, and never once did it rain! We were quite fortunate.

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Windy and a bit cold, but completely happy!

We ended our day with a stroll in the city, tour of the world’s largest collection of single malt whiskey, more views of the castle, and dinner at Biblo’s. We delighted in a meal of soup, chicken, and potatoes with chorizo sausage in it. Delicious!

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Tips:

  1. Give yourself several hours to do the Edinburgh Castle. You don’t want to rush it.
  2. Enjoy the shops on the Royal Mile on the way back from the castle.
  3. Beware of doorways. For tall people at least, castle doorways are rather low.

Honeymooning in Scotland: Day 1

I am officially a married woman! I am so excited to be married to the man of my dreams and my best friend. Our wedding day, while rainy, was the perfect day. I’m excited to share about that perfect day, but will wait until the photos are in. However, here is a quick sneak peek from the talented April Teceno Photography…

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I would like to share our fabulous honeymoon to Scotland with you, though! Garrett and I had a rather large list of potential destinations to honeymoon, but ultimately decided to explore Scotland. I was extra excited as my grandma immigrated from Scotland in the 60’s. I couldn’t wait to see where she had grown up.

Garrett and I worked for weeks to plan the perfect itinerary, but left room to be flexible and change up the schedule too. I love doing trips this way! It makes life less stressful, and you can enjoy the moment more. We would fly into Edinburgh, stay there a few days, make our way to the Isle of Skye, and then drive back to Edinburgh for a total of 2 days of flights and 7 days of exploring.

The day after our wedding we headed to RDU airport to catch a flight to JFK then to Edinburgh. As we watched the flight updates, we became increasingly nervous. The flight to JFK kept getting delayed. It soon became clear we would miss our flight to Edinburgh if we waited for the JFK flight. Garrett talked to the airline folks, and we ended up rebooking our flights completely. We flew to Heathrow in London and then to Edinburgh. It wasn’t what we planned, but it would only put us 2 hours later than our original plan rather than a whole day! Sadly, this meant Garrett lost his extra leg room seats (tall people problems), and we wouldn’t be able to be seated together on the flight from London to Edinburgh. We took it anyway!

Our flights were without incident (minus me balling in the middle of the flight due to watching a movie). I started to get way excited when we flew over Scotland, and I saw the scenery. I was so excited to be there!

We waited in line for our rental car for more than an hour and made our way to the lot. Garrett was really dubious when he stopped in front of a tiny smart car. I told him it was the next car over which was a much better fit for G.

We climbed in the car and prepared to drive on the wrong side of the road. I was to navigate. The trip from the airport to our hotel in Edinburgh was the scariest one of my life. We ended up going downtown Edinburgh! Bad idea to new European drivers. I was sucking at navigating. To Garrett’s credit he kept his cool and made several u-turns thanks to my navigation. When we got to the hotel, we parked and didn’t get back in the car for two days. My feet were much safer.

While we were pretty exhausted from the flight and time change, we decided to explore the city after a quick shower. We grabbed lunch at Starbucks (risky right?) and headed to Calton Hill. Edinburgh streets are gorgeous and filled with history. We could actually appreciate them now that we were on foot.

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Calton Hill views were a fabulous place to start in Edinburgh.

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We climbed on the National Monument and climbed to the top of Nelson Monument. I would definitely recommend spending the money to do that. The views are stunning!

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Nelson Monument
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The top of Nelson Monument
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Nelson Monument door

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National Monument

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While we saw Arthur’s Seat, we voted to not climb it. We were pretty dead on our feet.

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View of Arthur’s Seat

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We then walked to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Sadly, we weren’t allowed in as it was occupied. It was still cool to see the guards and area, though.

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We ended our day with dinner at Tollbooth Tavern. We happened upon it and thought it looked good. The neat part was it had a long and interesting history. It once collected tolls for a bridge, was a prison, courthouse, and even a site for an exorcism. It now serves yummy fish and chips  and bangers and mash with other menu items.

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While it wasn’t late, but we called it a night at 8:30pm. I had already fallen asleep standing up at Calton Hill and walked 5 miles around the city. We managed much the first day in Scotland, and I was very pleased. We would sleep for 12 hours. Day two of Scotland awaited…

Tips:

  1. Make sure you know how to operate the GPS before leaving the parking lot.
  2. Rent a special GPS that does European roads.
  3. Push through the time change and tiredness. You can sleep later.

Best of 2017

As 2017 comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on all the many moments that have happened. It is hard to believe all of it fits into one year. Busy is an understatement, but I am so grateful for every moment…

Along with teaching at two colleges and holding communication contracts for several companies, I’ve been able to  photograph more than ever before this year.

A spur of the moment photo shoot turned into some of my proudest pictures to date. These sheep in fog pictures went on to win three contests and are going to hang in my future office.

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It wasn’t all animal and farm pictures, though. I was able to take pictures of some very dear people. From the engagement of Brooks and Jennifer…dsc_0774

To Jennifer’s bridal portraits a few months later…

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I was so excited to photograph some amazing college seniors like Alec who graduated from UMO with a agri-business degree. He is now in the middle of an MBA at Methodist and will start a new job in the beginning of the year! Where did my little brother go?

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There were also several NCSU graduates like Cary…

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And Bradley…

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Garrett also graduated with his master’s degree after spending countless hours crunching numbers and writing a thesis. He didn’t walk the stage, but that’s alright…18156656_1861747867172347_6783422891837931030_o

I’m still just as proud and was able to go back to campus to take engagement pictures of his roommate Colin and his fiance Mallory.

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I also was able to capture some real cuties…

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And real beauties…

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As well as some amazing people…

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A new favorite subject to photograph has been bling…

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My favorite bling of all, though, is my own…

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One of the biggest moments of 2017 was when Garrett asked me to be his wife at Bear Island after a kayak trip…

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Oh what an adventure that kayaking trip turned out to be (read the full story here). Wedding planning has been in full-force and we can’t wait for our next adventure after May 19, 2018 when we are married! 2017 held more adventures then a sparkly kayaking trip.

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An adventure to Vegas and the Grand Canyon with Garrett’s family was, well, grand…

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A less desert adventure came when the Linton clan visited Virginia Beach. Views, lighthouses, and waves made for an amazing vacation…

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Of course, there was also the annual Kerr Lake trip too. It was paradise.

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An adventure to South Carolina to visit Kayla turned into a weekend of sweet surprises from my maid of honor…

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Adventures in Atlanta with friends to celebrate Kena and William’s wedding was ever so much fun…

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I went to a total of 8 weddings this year. It is that season in life, and it is so wonderful to see those I love find forever love.

It wasn’t all warm weather and blissful weddings, though. There were some bitterly cold days this winter. My caption on Instagram of this pic said “I’m not made for the cold” Little did I know, I’d be moving to Nebraska a little over a year later where the temperature is currently -17 at night. Be careful what you say.

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Feeding livestock was an everyday affair–snow, rain, or shine. It was certainly worth it to see my boys rewarded for their hard work, well and fun…

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Isaac won Reserve Champion Market Hog at the Wayne County Show and Sale…

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Another big win came at the NC State Fair when our sheep Georgette won Grand Champion Supreme Ewe, NC Born and Bred Champion, and Champion Fleece. Georgette was born and raised on our farm.

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Each of the boys won grand or reserve champion sheep showman too, and Isaac bought Astrid, his prized sheep…

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Speaking of new animals, Callie Cat was rescued and has become my joy. She may be spoiled–complete with 9 collars.

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Hellos are always much more enjoyable than good-byes. After traveling over half the country, I dropped Garrett off in Nebraska to attend PhD school at UNL. Distance hasn’t been easy, but so worth it…

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I feel as if there are a thousand and one moments I should include here. However, this post is already long, and I can’t justify 365 days worth of reports. I will leave you with two final photos that show the love that I have been surrounded with this year, and the love that will forever surround me in future years.

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The State Fair is More than Fried Food and Rides for Me

For many people, the NC State Fair is about fried food, rides, and giant pumpkins, but for me it is so much more. Don’t get me wrong, I love getting fried cheese, bacon pimento cheese hushpuppies, and blooming onions. I always ride the Ferris wheel and bumper cars, and always take a peak at the giant pumpkins.

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BUT…that’s not why I go to the fair.

I go to the fair to drive and nervously back trailers in the heart of Raleigh. I go to help my brothers wash pigs, watch them compete against hoards of others in the ring, and coach them along the way. I go to fluff and trim goats. I go to the fair to walk sheep in the ring, pick straw from their fleece, and to see if we’ve improved from last year. I go to compete for the blue ribbons and champion titles. I go to take a thousand photos, to see friends, and spend 6 days in a barn. I go to the fair to spend time with my family and make memories. I go for the livestock experience.

I look at the NC State Fair through a different lens than many who walk through the gates. It isn’t just a place to find entertainment or unique food. It is a place where both heartache and joy has taken place. It is a place where I have run around with so much adrenaline and energy, but also been utterly exhausted. It is a place where I have learned lessons. The NC State Fair is a place that holds a special place in my heart. This year was no different.

NC State Fair 2017 Recap

While there was a great deal that took place over the course of the fair, I just want to give you the highlights. The first day, Mom, the boys and I went to check pigs in. All went smoothly. We headed back home to pick Dad up and head once more to Raleigh to stay in a hotel. We had a super early morning and didn’t want to deal with Raleigh traffic the next morning. Although an early morning awaited, I was to have a late night.

You see, Garrett was arriving on a flight at midnight! I hadn’t seen him since I left him in Nebraska back in August. I was so excited! I am ashamed to say, that I dozed off and was 15 minutes late picking him up from the airport. It all worked out, and I was reunited with my fiance!! Fair wouldn’t quite be the same without him.

The next morning did indeed dawn bright and early, but I was too excited to be tired. Today was the pig show!! My boys did an amazing job showing Arnold and Schwarzenegger. Both pigs were in the top 10 and Isaac received a super showman pin. I may have teared up a bit.

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On Saturday, I returned once more to the fair, this time alone. I arrived in time to walk Garrett’s little red pig in the sale ring. Goodness do I miss driving a pig in a ring.

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My primary reason for coming back to the fair wasn’t to walk a pig, though.  I was set to photograph and video the Sale of Champions. I love auctions, livestock, and the fair, so being able to capture it all with my camera, is such a joy! Alec was also recognized as a scholarship recipient.

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The next day of the fair was to be on Monday. We loaded 4 little goats on the trailer during such a rainy day. Because all the goats were born within a couple of weeks of each other, they were all the same size and in the same class. Sadly, we only had 2 Linton boys, but 4 goats. They couldn’t very well show 2 at a time. Thankfully, we had friends in the barn who helped us out! Mom, Dad, and the boys went home, while I stayed in town to spend time with Garrett. He would fly out the next day.

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Wednesday arrived. We loaded 12 sheep (all of which had been washed and clipped). Because there were so many, we had to take the big trailer which is always more nerve-wracking to drive. I take that back. It is fine to drive but scary to back. I’m happy to say, though that I was able to back it perfectly! With the sheep penned and the trailer backed, we were ready for the next day.

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Another early morning greeted us. Today the entire family was able to be at the fair together. Showmanship was up first. Isaac and Gideon went head to head in juniors. Gid came out on top, which worked out well. Isaac beat Gideon in pigs. Alec received reserve champion senior plus showman despite an irritable sheep. We were off to a phenomenal start!

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Costume class followed showmanship. Isaac dressed up in a red, white and blue theme to highlight wool in America. Gideon showed off tools of the trade to raise sheep. There were so many cute costumes!

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With 12 sheep, we were in and out of the ring constantly. All of our girls did well, and I was even able to show during the open show.

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Isaac was extra proud of his Astrid sheep. He bought her with his own money earlier in the year, and she ended up winning her class! The face says it all!

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Interestingly, Alec ended up with the best sheep–Georgette. Last year, I did not like Georgette. She placed behind all our other sheep, and just wasn’t my favorite. This year, here fleece was gorgeous, and the judge agreed. She won her class and went on to compete in the champion drive along with two other of our ewes–Astrid and Evelyn.

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I held my breath as the judge looked over all the blue ribbon sheep. And then…she shook Alec’s hand.

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Georgette won Supreme Champion Junior Ewe and Got to Be NC Grand Champion Junior Ewe. I may have screamed a bit.

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We have come so close to Supreme Champion several times, and it finally happened. What made it even more special was we raised Georgette on our farm. She was Countryview Farm genetics. It didn’t stop there, though. In the open show, Georgette also won Supreme Champion Fleece, and our new ram, Church, won champion medium/fine white ram.

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It was such a good show!

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We celebrated by eating our favorite fair foods, walking around, and riding some rides.

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I found my bacon pimento cheese hushpuppies, Dad and Alec snagged them a blooming onion and Isaac and mom grabbed a funnel cake.

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Gid discovered a new favorite –Poutine (fries covered with cheese curds and gravy). This gravy loving boy was in heaven.

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And with that, the 2017 NC State Fair ended for the Lintons. We loaded up and headed home. For us, the fair is about family, livestock, friends, and some food. See you next year!!

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