Sunday, July 22, 2007

Scotland & Lakes District

Spent a lovely week in the Lakes District and Scotland earlier this month. It's taken me a while to download and sort through all of the photos. It was a fascinating trip--we essentially drove the whole length of the UK.

The Lakes District in Cumbria is stunning. It's a large national park with some of the most dramatic hiking I've ever done, and home to Beatrix Potter. It's hilly and so so green. Feels like it is at the end of the earth, but only 4 hours drive from London. We saw the handsome Red Squirrel which is native to the area, and climbed up the Catbells and also Hellvellyn (highest peak in Cumbria). Here are some photos (click here and select slideshow to see the album online, with better quality photos than slideshow below):

Scotland was beautiful as well--even more so than we expected. We drove straight up from the Lakes District, passing through Glasgow and then heading up to Glencoe in the Highlands, in the western part of the country. The Highlands have an expansive feel, almost like being in the American West--long stretches of uninhabited prarie. Almost impossible to capture in photos.

To sum it up in 50 words or less: Rain, wool, fog, clouds, bone-penetrating cold, rain, God-awful food, midges, exhausting hikes, sheep, rain, scrabble, asking Scottish people to repeat themselves, scotch, ferns, stone walls, hills, rain, sea birds, ruins (pre-historic, Roman, Medieval), amazement that people really do speak Gaelic up there, oh, and did I mention rain?

But in spite of a decided lack of creature comforts, it was an excellent trip. All the credit goes to Scotland's natural beauty. We were so inspired by our surroundings no amount of rain, cold, or dubious pub meals could dampen our spirits.

We spent most days hiking and in the evenings, after unsuccessfully hunting for a decent meal, we'd curl up with our books (though it was a challenge to fall asleep with the sun not setting until nearly 11!). I was quite absorbed in an historical novel about Lady Jane Gray followed by a biography of Mary, Queen of Scots, while Scott was engrossed in the new Alain DeBotton book.

We managed to climb Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the UK, though it was not as easy as we expected. There was snow at the top, and a pair of snow buntings hopped around at our feet on the peak, hoping for a few crumbs to fall as we ate a snack. Unfortunately we didn't take any photos, as we found our camera and various lenses are too cumbersome to hike with--hence we've only got photos of our first hike in the Lakes District.

On the days we weren't hiking, we took day trips to various places: we visited a scotch distillery, which was fascinating and deserves a post on its own; we scooted up to Loch Ness (couldn't resist); took the ferry to the Isle of Skye, and, on the next to last night found an oasis in the Crannog Restaurant in Fort William, where we had a truly inspired meal with mouth watering smoked salmon, excellent wine, a serene view of Loch Linnhe, and a heavenly sticky date pudding with homemade vanilla ice cream.

Here are some photos (click here and select slideshow to see online album w/ better quality photos):

No comments: