Gus the Ram & Gideon: Winning on Hope

Seven. That was the final count for how many ram lambs we had born this year. As the saying goes, there’s always the one black sheep. This year, it was very true. Sybil had given us the only natural colored ram of the year. Born on a windy day, he was dubbed Gusty and Gus for short.

I’m not sure why, but Gus was friendlier than any other lamb that year. As such, Gideon formed an attachment.

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The “black sheep” of the bunch of rams, Gus was special to Gideon

“Don’t get attached. We don’t keep rams,” we continually reminded him. No matter, Gid is the king of making excuses. The final one he landed on was if Gus wins at the NC State Fair, we had to keep him. I just shook my head, but let him hope.

Gideon spent extra time on Gus the days before the show. He trimmed his “dreadlocks” from his face, and gave him a buzz cut. He washed him, and he put show sheen in his fleece. He even had a special halter picked out just for Gus, although I’m not sure why pink and blue was the choice (the halters would later get mixed up in the chaos of the show).DSC_6013

 

I had to admit, Gus looked good. He had one of my favorite fleeces of the group, and I couldn’t help but wish he had been a ewe.

When we arrived at the show, we walked the pens of sheep to scope out the competition and view the various breeds. I secretly told mom that night that it was tough competition this year. Don’t get your hopes up. So, we didn’t, but Gid did.

Because Gus is a ram, he couldn’t show in the junior show. So Gid showed his mom, and waited patiently to be able to bring him in the ring during open show. When it came time for Gus’s class, Gideon did a little jump and clapped his hands in excitement.

He won first, and Gid was grinning.

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Hugs in the middle of the ring for winning his class.

He then went in for champion Medium/fine Natural Colored Ram.

He won grand champion in that division.

Gideon came out of the ring with the biggest smile and said, “now we have to keep him…”

I told him not to let his head get too big, but he did a good job.DSC_6243Gus didn’t win overall champion ram, but he did win his fleece class.

Gideon thought he was done for the day, but there was still Overall Grand Champion Fleece yet to be decided. Back in he went with his prize ram—Gus, and out he came with the champion banner, a plaque, and the biggest grin you ever did see. Gus had won it all.

I smiled and shook my head at this (not so) little boy and his little ram, my heart filled with pride. I looked back over to see Gid on his knee talking to Gus, telling him what an awesome job he did.DSC_6290Believing in someone or something can go a long way, especially when hope is involved. Gideon and Gus won on that, and now, I think Gus is staying on Countryview Farm.

A Different Kind of Fair: 2018 NC State Fair Recap

Another year has come and gone at the NC State Fair, but this year was different in many ways. I had to travel by air this time to get there thanks to living in a new zip code, but I was willing to do whatever it took to be there. I’m pretty sure hell would have to freeze over before I gave up State Fair.Image-8It was different in more than the airplane ride this year, though. This is the first year in 16 years of showing at the fair that the Lintons have not shown a goat at the fair. What?! There was a time that I never thought I’d say that. Granted, there was a time when I swore I’d never own a sheep. Here we are, bringing 18 of them to the fair. Never say never. This was also the first year that Alec didn’t show. Adulting, man…it’ll get you. He was able to join us after the sheep show to help us load sheep and eat fair food.DSC_6328Yet another aspect that was different this year was that the fair closed the first day due to Hurricane Michael. Guess who had a flight scheduled to land that day? This girl. Thankfully, the storm had blown over by the time I arrived. Somehow, I managed to miss the five inches of snow Lincoln, NE got and the hurricane rains. I did bring fall temperatures with me (your welcome NC).

Anyway, there was a lot going on. Everything worked out, though. On Friday morning we headed to show Isaac and Gideon’s infamous pigs. The boys had a lot of difficulty with these pigs throughout the circuit shows, and it was killing me not to be there for them. Facetime and text updates were what I had to resort to. Aldo and Mack were stubborn and loved the rail (not a good combo for shows). The boys were nervous heading into showmanship drive, and to be frank, I was too. I felt like throwing up. Granted, this is normal for me when they are in the ring. I gave them a pep talk with a few pointers and in they went.

I could have screamed when Gideon got pulled for the final drive and was doing mental praise hands when Isaac did too. Our goal was final drive. Anything else was sprinkles. My nerves were still bad, though. Bad enough to give my friend and bridesmaid, Joanna, the finger. Not THE finger, but the “hang on/cannot deal right now” finger. Thankfully she totally understood and watched from the rail. Isaac ended up in the final 5 and did so good. Good enough that I was in tears (just think what it will be like with my own kids). While neither G nor I got a banner, they both ended up in top 6. They stuck with it, kept cool heads, and drove those pigs. I was dern proud.DSC_3879DSC_4613The rest of the day was spent catching up with friends and running around taking people’s photos. Thank you to all who entrusted me with taking pics of your kids. You helped pay for my plane ticket to be there!DSC_4590DSC_3873DSC_4585DSC_4634DSC_4226The day at the fair concluded with me showing in the performance hog show. Ya’ll,  I’ve been coaching the boys on showing pigs, but showing them yourself…man, I felt rusty. Nonetheless, I had a ball showing the barrow and ended up with a Reserve Champion Market Performance Hog for See Farms. My day was made complete with a trip to CookOut. They don’t have those in NE.DSC_4666The second day at the fair was a bit different than the first, but it was still busy. My Fit Bit let me know that I achieved 8,000 steps that day. Instead of showing, I was on the job for the Sale of Champions. I helped check buyers in, took photographs, and videod the sale with my partner in crime, Emily. It was a record-breaking sale, bringing in $190,000, some of which goes to scholarships. It is always a ton of fun to work the Sale, and I often pinch myself that this is my job! Once the sale was complete and the truck loaded, Emily and I headed to the Golden Arches for dinner at 10 at night followed by a tour of her new apartment. I got home around midnight to get up the next morning for a sunrise engagement shoot for some friends. It was early, but amazing lighting and so much fun!Image-6Image-10The next few days were spent washing and clipping 18 sheep. Let me tell you, this is no easy or speedy task. It took us a solid 2 ½ days to complete. The sheep, of course, despised us, but didn’t look like a hot mess for the show. One sheep, Cain, even did a flip in the air and landed in the mud—he got washed twice. Mom, grandma, Isaac, Gid, and I clipped until dark while Dad and Alec built a divider for the trailer. The guys also built a new sheep stand, that made much easier. Those nights, we didn’t eat until 8.DSC_5984DSC_5948DSC_5971DSC_5965DSC_5981DSC_6017Image-7Image-9On Wednesday, Mom, the boys, and I loaded up the truck with all our feed and supplies and put all the sheep in the trailer. By the way, that is simple to write, but not simple to do. Catching sheep isn’t always a walk in the park. Thankfully, I have brothers who are excellent sheep wranglers.Image-11We were off to the races…errr… show. The fair had decided to rearrange things a bit which meant no backing trailers for this girl. I approved of the new set-up. The vets were super helpful, and we got the 18 sheep checked-in in no time. After some last-minute touch-ups, we headed back home for some Brightleaf hot dogs (because you can’t get those in NE either), grabbed our bags, and headed back to Raleigh to stay in a hotel. The show was early, and we didn’t want to deal with morning traffic.

Sheep show day arrived. We were hopeful for many of our sheep, but also knew that it was a bigger show than years before, with new people. The next several hours went in a blur. While we brought 18 sheep, we showed many sheep more than once because they were entered in both the junior show and open show. All in all, we entered the ring around 50 different times! No, I’m not exaggerating. I just did the math. The boys didn’t show them all. I showed in the open show. Let me tell you…it’s weird having your name called Marisa See over the speaker phone…yet another difference this year.DSC_6070DSC_6081DSC_6265DSC_6267DSC_6165DSC_6271DSC_6196DSC_6199DSC_6203DSC_6182DSC_6258DSC_6147DSC_6144DSC_6125DSC_6068Ultimately, we couldn’t be more thrilled with how it all went. We came home with many top 3 in classes and a few champion banners! Our top honors included:

Junior Show:

  • Reserve Champion Junior Ewe–Georgette
  • Grand Champion NC Born and Bred Ewe–Georgette

Open Show:

  • Medium/fine White Grand Champion Ram–Churchill
  • Medium/fine White Reserve Champion Ram–Pierre
  • Medium/fine Natural Grand Champion Ram–Gus
  • Medium/fine Natural Grand Champion Ewe–Stormi
  • Medium/fine Natural Reserve Champion Ewe–Georgette
  • Supreme Grand Champion Fleece–Gus

Gideon also came away with the Grand Champion Junior Showman and both boys placed in costume class.DSC_6398DSC_6320DSC_6317DSC_6303Each of the boys is attached to a certain sheep. It does my heart good to see them cheer on their sheep as much as I cheer on the boys. Isaac’s prize sheep is Astrid. While she didn’t win a banner, she did win top NC Born and Bred in her class. She is, and always will be Isaac’s Astrid. Gideon has bonded with Gus, our only natural born ram this year.  Well, Gid and Gus won not only their division, but took home the top honor of Grand Champion Fleece, beating out purebreds (we always get odd looks at our crosses, but we also get results) and people out of state. DSC_6162DSC_6243Alec was able to get off work early to meet us right as the show was ending. So, the whole family was able to head out on the fair to ride some rides (bumper cars and Ferris wheel being my only rides), and eating all our favorite food.DSC_6414DSC_6410DSC_6422DSC_6463DSC_6465DSC_6457DSC_6407DSC_6435DSC_6492DSC_6440Image-5It was a wonderful day! We packed up by 9, and headed home. I caught a flight the next morning at 10am back to NE. I now sit here in between the classes I teach, reminiscing on the 2018 NC State Fair and time with family and friends. While I wish I were back to be with them, I’m also happy to be back with my husband who had to lead a bachelor life while I was gone and deal with the very needy and moody Callie Cat. This was also our first state fair not together.Image-4Needless to say, this NC state Fair was a tad different than years past, but it still holds all the wonder as before. I still made memories with the people I love, and still enjoyed the fried food and livestock shows as much as ever. NC State Fair, you are worth every mile I traveled to reach you, and while there’ a lot of changes happening in life right now, you stood pretty constant.DSC_6473

 

 

 

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.