A Weekend in Western Nebraska

With Labor Day approaching, the hubs and I decided to explore this state of Nebraska we now call home. Taking advantage of the long weekend, we made a plan, booked a hotel, and ended up having an awesome time!

After Garrett’s last class on Friday, we packed the car and began our 6 hour trip from Lincoln to Scottsbluff, NE. The landscape changed from flat fields of corn to rolling prairie filled with cattle.

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Scottsbluff greeted us with spectacular sunset skies that made a beautiful backdrop for Chimney Rock. We were starving by the time we got to town at 8:30pm so ate before checking into the hotel for the night.

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When in western Nebraska, the first thing you should do is leave Nebraska. No, seriously, that is exactly what we did. We drove the 45 minutes to Register Cliff which is in Wyoming. Register Cliff was a stopping point for settlers on the Oregon Trail. There are hundreds of names inscribed from those who had traveled the trail centuries ago. It was amazing to see the names and imagine who they were and what their story was. We even found someone with the last name of See…pretty unusual when we haven’t even met someone else with our last name before.

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Our next stop was off of the same road as Register Cliff. The Guernsey Ruts are wagon ruts carved into rock. Hundreds and thousands of wagons made the trek west, and their mark is branded into the ground that they trod. I was amazed at what humans did. Guernsey Ruts has an easy, paved trail that made a loop. It also has a lovely picnic shelter with great views. We ate lunch there with the lunch food we had packed for the weekend (ham sandwiches, BLTs, boiled eggs, pasta salad, popcorn chicken, and cookies).

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After lunch, we headed back the way we had come into the town of Fort Laramie. Here we drove to the old Fort Laramie. Originally established as a fur trading fort in 1834, it transformed into a military post. It housed soldiers until 1890 when it was sold at auction to homesteaders. Eventually, there were efforts made to preserve the many buildings at the fort. Some of the buildings have been redone, but others lie in ruins. It took around two hours to make our way around the fort and through the different buildings. It was truly fascinating. Fort Laramie is a bit of civilization in the middle of nowhere.

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We enjoyed our time in Wyoming, but it was time to head back to Nebraska. We stopped at a few places like a gift shop for ice cream in the town of Fort Laramie and down a dirt road to an access point for the Platte River. We also found the Army Iron Bridge. It was built in 1875, a bit too late for many of the settlers to use to cross the Platte, but just in time to be used by the military. Simply, we just explored anything interesting along the way which made for a wonderful day.

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Army Iron Bridge

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Platte River Access Point

Day two was hike day. Our biggest hike we scheduled for the morning to avoid the heat and so we were fresh. Scotts Bluff National Monument was a landmark for those on the Oregon Trail on their way west. Prairie grasses give way to a large rock formation guiding them on their way. Entering the park costs $5 for a seven day pass. We hit the trail to the top of the bluff. It was 1.6 miles one way and straight up. It was a nice paved path, but steep in areas. For those who don’t want to hike the trail, no worries, you can drive to the top. It was a fabulous walk with amazing views and a tunnel through the bluff. I’ll admit, I was glad to get to the top, though. Your girl was a bit winded. At the top are some .5 mile loops with various views. We walked those too and walked back down. Tip: don’t forget sunscreen. We had to put some on at the top of the trail.

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Once a bit sweaty and sun-kissed, we meandered down the road to Chimney Rock, 30 minutes away. We ate lunch in the parking lot (it would have been better to eat at Scotts Bluff in hindsight). The Chimney Rock visitor center costs to enter the museum and viewing center. We decided that it wasn’t worth it, so we just grabbed some pictures outside and went to our next stop. It is important to realize you can’t hike to Chimney Rock.

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We hit the road once more and traveled to Jail and Courthouse Rock. This one is off the beaten path a bit. We drove past it at first, but turned around to head down a dirt road lined with sunflowers. It leads to a dead-end road. There is a small footpath that goes up to the rock figures. There are no signs, so we were cautious, but absolutely loved the seclusion and adventure. Highly recommend this stop.

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Our last stop of the day was a random place Garrett found called Riverside Park. It has a campground, zoo, and a great path along the river with informative signs. It was a great way to end the day!

Our last day on vacation, we drove an hour north to Agate Fossil Beds. Make sure you fill up your gas tank before heading up there. Gas stations and cell service aren’t a thing.

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Agate used to be a ranch, but the rancher found fossils in the 1890’s. Originally, the land was Lakota Sioux territory. It is a gorgeous area with a fabulous museum. The rancher was a big friend with the Lakota and a room filled with gifts given to him are on display. There are two trails on the premises. One is short, but shows fossilized burrows. The other trail is a little over two miles, but paved with great views and old dig sites! We picnicked at the base of the trail.

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This is a fossilized burrow.

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Leaving Agate, we turned on a dirt road that we took for about 30 miles. The remoteness was astounding, and we even saw pronghorn!

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On the way home, we stopped at Carhenge in Alliance. It was a short stop, but it is fascinating to see a man’s imagination and artistic ability. We took HWY 2 home. These were more back-roads but some great sights. The biggest issue is there aren’t a lot of options for food, but with proper planning, it isn’t an issue.

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While many Nebraskans will tell you to leave Nebraska to go on vacation (and technically we did that the first day), the state of Nebraska has some amazing places just waiting to be explored.

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We made a u-turn to take a picture of this beauty. Props to Garrett for being the photographer.

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 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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Linton Family | VA Beach

On our recent spring break trip to Virginia beach, we had a photo shoot at First Landing State Park. The original plan was to take beach pictures, but alas, my vision of sunset beach pictures were thwarted by awful wind. So, we regrouped the next day and found a much less windy location. Mom always likes to get annual pictures to update her wall in the living room, and we always have a good time while taking the pictures.

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Behind the Scenes

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