Scotland Off The Beaten Path Tips by JessH Top 5 Page for this destination
Scotland Off The Beaten Path: 252 reviews and 403 photos
Chanonry Light House, Scotland, Oct. 2011
Last year (Oct. 2011) we stayed in a small cottage near Rosemarkie beach. This meant that many hours were spent wandering up and down along the beach, collecting sea shells, feeding the seagulls, snapping photographs and generally trying to digest all the amazing food we ate at Crofters.
In a separate "Things to Do" tip I have written about EcoVentures: dolphin-spotting boat trips. But if you have very young children, or if you have back complaints, or if high-speed boats simply aren't "your thing", then Chanonry Point is the place you need to go.
Chanonry Point is a small peninsula extending over a mile south east into the Moray Firth from Rosemarkie & Fortrose. Every day, people come here to enjoy the amazing views, snap pictures of the imposing Fort George on the opposite shore, and of course to keep your fingers crossed and see the dolphins. This is said to be one of the BEST onshore places in Scotland to spot them.
You see: this chunk of land extends into the sea, and this makes the crossing the shortest distance of the Moray Firth east of Inverness. So, in the morning the tide comes in and the water speeds-up as it is "squeezed" through this narrow inlet. A lot of fish are swept into the firth... and the dolphins follow for a bit of breakfast. In the late afternoon, the tide goes out again, taking many of the fish with it... and so the dolphins follow for a bit of dinner :-)
Are you getting the hint? These are the best times to come and see the dolphins, and because they are feeding you are pretty much guaranteed to see them frolicking, jumping and throwing fish up in the air as they enjoy their hunt.
We came here a few times and were lucky enough to spot a large pod with plenty of young calves, who spent quite a long time feeding. And when we struck-up a conversation with a couple sitting next to us, they told us how they had been here in the morning and watched a dolphin throw a huge salmon up into the air, over and over again!
Parking can be problematic around the Chanonry Point lighthouse and Rosemarkie golf club, because this spot is so popular, but if you have some time then I suggest parking down at the public car parking spots next to the Plough Inn, or on the beach just below the Plough Inn pub, and then take the approx. 30min walk up along the gorgeous beach to the lighthouse.
--> There are some wooden benches and tables as well, so bring a picnic, get comfortable, attach your large camera lens and enjoy one of nature's best shows... for free!
Loch Cluanie, Scottish Highlands (March 2009)
When visiting the Highlands we are usually based in Inverness or on the Black Isle. When driving across to the West Coast (or further to the Isle of Skye) we discovered Loch Cluanie, a lovely place to stop and really take-in the stunning scenery around you!
Loch Cluanie (pronounced like George "Clooney") is a man-made loch in the North-West Highlands, surrounded by the "Five Sisters" in Glen Shiel, not too far from Fort Augustus.
The dam that formed Loch Cluanie was built in 1950s as part of the Glenmoriston hydroelectric project implemented by the the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board. The Cluanie dam is 675m (2214 feet) long and over 40m (131 feet) high. Water is discharged into the River Moriston which continues to flow east along Glen Moriston finally emptying into the southern part Loch Ness at Invermoriston.
The Loch is located along the A87, and just a few miles after the dam you'll find a large, flat area where you can park and take a leisurely stroll down to the Loch's shore. On rainy days, you can see some amazing waterfalls on the high peaks around you (I just love this "Highlander" shot I snapped of my husband by one of the larger waterfalls... epic, don't you agree? haha!).
--> TIP: The last time we came here we also saw a few travellers who had decided to park their camper vans here for the night, and there were 3 fishermen who said that fishing in this loch is very popular (pike, brown trout). Don't forget to check with the nearby Cluanie Lodge/Inn whether you need to obtain the necessary permits if you want to fish here.
Castle Moil, Kyleakin Harbour, Scotland (2009)
The ruins of this castle sit in Kyleakin Harbour, charmingly overlooking the village and the Kyle of Lochalsh (a "kyle" is a narrow straight of water between the mainland and an island), just a few minutes' drive from the famous Eilean Donan Castle.
There was a fortress here since the 10th century, serving as a lookout post and fortress. This castle was famously the home of a Norwegian princess called "Saucy Mary" who married a Mackinnon chief.
Legend has it that Mary ordered a chain to be hung from the castle to the mainland so that no boat could pass without paying a tax. It's more likely that she ordered a "chain of boats" to block the pass rather than a real chain, but this may have been one of those stories that typically got exaggerated over the centuries. You know: the more often a tale is told, the grander it gets :-)
So why was she called "Saucy"? Well, apparently, when her husband was away and she was bored & lonely, she would stand on the balcony and flash her boobies at passings ship to please the toll-paying captains!
According to legend, the princess is buried on Beinn na Caillich on Skye, her face reputedly turned towards her home country of Norway.
This castle was later the base for Clan Mackinnon from the late 15th century until it was abandoned early in the 17th century. At that time the castle was known as "Dun Acainn". The name is derived from the Norwegian King Haakon IV who sailed through here in 1263 on his way to the Battle of Largs, which saw him defeated and hence the end of Norwegian rule of the Hebrides
Bits of the castle collapsed during some heavy storms in 1949 and 1989 but the remaining walls have now been secured to prevent further collapse.
There is also a restaurant and bar with the same name nearby, where you can enjoy great views of the ruins during your meal.
Otter Statue in Kyleakin Harbour, Scotland (2009)
The Isle of Skye, or in Scots Gaelic 'Eilean A Cheo' meaning Misty Isle, is located on the north western coast of Scotland.
The village of Kyleakin is located across from Kyle of Lochalsh (a "kyle" is a narrow straight of water between the mainland and an island), just a few minutes' drive from the famous Eilean Donan Castle. It's basically the first village you'll pass once you cross the bridge onto the Isle of Skye.
There used to be a ferry service operating since 1841, but when the new Isle of Skye Bridge was opened in October 1995 the ferry service was stopped the say day.
It may not be so obvious today, but until fairly recent times the only way to get around in the Highlands and Islands was by sea. And if you wished to pass up or down the country's western coast it was a much shorter and safer option to do so by passing between the Isle of Skye and the mainland rather than taking your chances in the exposed and open North Sea.
The name of the village, Kyle Akin (it's actually two words, pronounced Kyle AH-kin, and not Kyleekin), derives from the Scots Gaelic Caol Acain, meaning the "Strait of Haakon" named after the Norwegian King Haakon IV of Norway. Here you'll also find Castle Moil, an ancient fortress now in ruins (see my separate off the beaten path tip on "Castle Moil").
In the 8th century the Vikings were being driven from their own lands by overpopulation. They invaded Skye and a centuries-long period of unrest was started. Kyleakin is one of the villages who can trace much of their ancestry back to the Norwegian hoards.
It's a small place with a picturesque village and although there may not be a lot to do and see it's a nice place to stop, stretch your legs and have a cup of coffee. We stopped here to do just that, and the harbour and castle ruins provide a nice backdrop for some photo opportunities.
Kyleakin also has a few hotels, B&Bs and restaurants which may be nice to try on our next visit. Overlooking the harbour is a relatively new addition to the landscape: the Bright Water Visitor Centre, celebrating the heritage and wildlife of the nearby island of Eilean Ban, which now forms a stepping stone for the Skye Bridge.
I particularly liked this bronze otter sculpture in the harbour (by Laurence Broderick).
Fortrose Cathedral ruins (Scotland, 2008)
Fortrose / Rosemarkie are two small but historically interesting villages on the Black Isle, just across the bridge from Inverness in the Scottish Highlands.
The cathedral was built in the first half of the 13th century, though it was extended and altered in the 14th and 15th centuries. At the Reformation of the 1560s, the cathedral was used as the town's church, although lead from its roof was granted to Lord Ruthven in 1572. Charles 1st later tried to encourage repairs in 1626 as part of his attempts to restructure the Church of Scotland on the same lines as the Anglican or English church. Traditionally, Oliver Cromwell used stone from Fortrose Cathedral for building the new fort in Inverness.
The sacristy and chapter-house, those parts of the cathedral still standing in the 18th century were used for meetings of the town council and as a court-house. Unfortunately, these parts of the cathedral are currently closed to the public. The remainder of the cathedral site became a place of burial, and there are many fine post-Reformation gravestones and memorials here.
There are also plaques commemorating the lost soldiers of the surrounding communities during the 1st and 2nd World War.
--> Located along the A832. Just of the High Street in Fortrose (next to "The Anderson" - see my separate restaurant tip for details)
--> For more information, visit this website: http://www.blackisle.org/historic_account.htm
Scottish Sea Life Rescue, Oban (August 2008)
If you are walking along one of Scotland's many beaches and shorelines, you might come across a seal pup lying in the sand. This can occur especially from late summer onwards, as this is pup-birthing season for seals. If you do discover a seal pup alone on a beach, the actions which you take initially may well mean the difference between life and death for this little guy. As with all wildlife, quite often we may mean the best & want to help, but we could actually do more harm!
Here are some guidelines from the Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary's leaflet:
A) Keep your distance: If the pup still has a white, fluffy coat this means that it is still very young & needs its mothers for milk, and hence for survival. Seal mothers have to leave their pups alone from time to time to go and hunt out at sea. It's probably that she has already spotted you near her baby and is watching from a safe distance in the water. She will only return to feed her pup when you have moved away & she thinks it's safe to come back onto land. So firstly, watch the pup from a safe distance and please let others know to do the same.
B) Don't attempt to handle the pup: No matter how cute they are, this is still a wild animal that will defend itself when scared and could also carry infectious diseases. Also, if you touch the pup, your "human" smell might cause the mother to reject it and this means it would starve to death. You should only ever move a pup if it seems to be in immediate danger from dogs, people, stormy seas or any other threat.
C) Don't attempt to put the pup into the water: if it's out of the water, it's probably on the beach for a good reason!
D) Don't just ignore the situation: if you think the pup looks poorly, thin or injured (heavy loud breathing; coughing; runny nose or eyes) it probably does need help.
E) Call the appropriate experts for help: Don't bother calling the police or fire brigade; this just wastes valuable time. Instead, call the local SSPCA (Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) or better yet, the Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary rescue team on: 01631-720386.
Every year, this organization rescues & rehabilitates approximately 20 sick, injured or abandoned/orphaned seal pups around the cost of Scotland. So let's not add to their workload unnecessarily by making the mistake or touching a perfectly healthy pup - but it's also important to help when help is actually needed.
But remember: the centre doesn't only care for seals. If you find an otter that needs help, give them a call!
Other Contact: SSPCA Helpline 03000 999999
Phone: 0044-1631-720 386
UFO Clouds naer Munlochy, Scotland (Aug. 2008)
According to a study done in 2002, Scotland has the highest number of UFO sightings per capita in the entire world, which makes it "the nearest thing there is to the Costa del Sol for aliens"... haha! And apparently the hot-spot of alien tourism activity is Bonnybridge, a Stirlingshire town that has the highest number of reported UFO sightings in Britain.
UFO Clouds - properly known as Lenticular Clouds (Stratocumulus or Altocumulus Lenticularis depending on how high they are in the sky) - are also known as flying saucer clouds, angelship clouds or cloudships. These clouds are often mistaken for UFOs because of their weird shape. They are not uncommon in Scotland but are less frequently seen further south in Britain. Especially during sunset they can be extremely photogenic; just gorgeous and intriguing!
Lenticular clouds are just another example of the beauty & complexity resulting from a simple process in nature.
Have I seen UFOs (or UFOs hiding inside clouds) on our trips to Scotland?
No, not yet.
Do I believe in aliens?
Well, let's just say that I think it would be rather arrogant to assume that we are the only semi-intelligent species in the entire universe, right?
As you can see from my photo with the corn field (gives the whole thing a slight feeling as in the movie "Signs", doesn't it?) I caught some lenticular clouds on film in August 2008.
So, keep an eye on the skies when you're in mysterious & fascinating Scotland! You may not be the only "tourist" that has arrived from far, far away...
Some UFO sightings and stories from Scotland:
> Scotland dubbed 'top alien nation' with most UFO sightings:
> Ministry of Defence took UFO sighting seriously:
> UFO sighting video sparks similar reports from Scottish viewers:
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