Thursday, June 05, 2008

July 6 2007 - Stirling towards Skye

I made a mistake in the dates.. it was July 5 and 6, not 6 and 7.. corrected them though, hehehe..

Ok, picking up from where I stopped.. it's still July 6 in this entry..

Having left Edinburgh at about 1.00pm UK time, we made our way to Stirling.. Stirling is a town about 40 miles north of Edinburgh, and about an hour drive. I'm sure almost all of u will have never heard of Stirling before.. it's not the same with Pound Sterling :D

So what is there in this Stirling? Well, this is the place we are going to visit..

Stirling Castle

Admission was 8.5 pounds.. but since we bought the Explorer Pass in Edinburgh, and this castle is under Historic Scotland's maintenance, of course we need not pay that money anymore, or to queue up for tickets..

Stirling Castle is huge too, with many towers and sections.. It gives a different feel from what Edinburgh Castle offers.. It felt much cleaner, newer, serene, and less tourists here..

Group photo near the entrance 1st

They have a guided tour of the castle at 2.15pm, but we narrowly missed it, so it's up to us to explore the castle by ourselves..

The 1st place we ended up in..

The Royal Gardens

Castle view from the garden

Group photo again, seems abit far from the tripod

This is actually the castle wall

Pretending to be footballers =)

Bing trying to take a good shot

Hmm, basically most of my photos here are the products of Bing, so I figured I'll do him some service. Bing has an album at Flickr here, with loads of wonderful panoramic shots of UK. Definitely worth taking a peek at. U might discover a different feel by looking at those shots =)

Ok, continue with Stirling Castle..

Stirling area view from the castle

Another view

1 similarity between Stirling Castle and Edinburgh Castle is the size of it. Both are very huge, and has many towers and compartments..

But we saw 1 particular building that has quite alot of people going in and out from..

Great Kitchens

I wasn't a very good camwhore, but we do have a few creative ones with us..

Cath & Bread

Nick getting friendly with 1 of the statues

There's alot of statues on display in the kitchen, portraying how the kitchen operated back in the medieval times..

They also have chicken and beef statues

Cath and Nick again, displaying their height, at the charcoal oven

Outside the Great Kitchen. What are we looking at ah?

There's also an exhibition gallery, showing how the castle was built, and the various sections of the castle. At the end of the exhibition gallery, there is a big hall. Maybe we were lucky, but in that hall today, someone is getting married!

Photoshoot in the hall

Wedding car outside the hall

Well, everyone were in the hall doing the photoshoots, and the car was left idle outside the hall, so of course we wasted no time to take photos :D

After that, we just spent time wandering aimlessly around the castle..

And relaxing on the grass

Time to leave the castle and move on..

Some of us decided to go to the toilet as well as buy souvenirs.. the rest of us waited outside the castle..

This statue is outside the castle, donno which king who stayed here before

Nick bullying Cath

It was getting quite late, and we will be heading towards the Isle of Skye, which is an estimated 6 hours drive away, so we decided to have dinner at Stirling town 1st..

Stirling High Street

McD at Stirling town

After dinner, time to set out..

Basically, the motorway from England takes u to Edinburgh and Glasgow. Beyond this 2 cities, it will all be country roads and mountain passes..

Like this..

I just remembered 1 thing that I missed in my advice post, will just put them here:

There are age limits for the drivers according to the car rental companies and car classes. Europcar requires a 23 year old to be the registered driver. If u don't have 23 year olds among u guys, u can go to Arnold Clark and get the not-so-big cars. The smaller cars have a 21 years old requirement. Check their web for the accurate info. And, basically all cars in the UK are manual transmission. Auto cars are extremely rare and very expensive.

Having said that, I'll give u another naughty idea. It is friggin tiring for 1 person to drive all the way, so u might want to change drivers once in a while. But if u are on a Europcar, and there's only 1 person above 23 years old, how?

Well, being Malaysians, we are used to breaking bending the rules, aren't we? So even if u are 21 or 22, u can of course share the driving load once u leave the car rental place... but make sure u don't screw up and bang into something, because if u do, then u really are screwed..

Back to the topic..

Jason offered to be the lead car from Stirling to Skye. Bing offered to drive, and Nick agreed. All went well, until we took a wrong turn and went the wrong direction. When i finally realised that, we tried to make a U-turn. The problem is, we trespassed into a private property while trying to do so, and Bing.. he reversed the car onto a tree stump!

It was a terrifying experience, scratching our rental car on the bottom, on top of getting scolded by the property owner. After that, Nick decided that Bing should drive no more and returned to the wheel.

Ok let's move on from this unhappy incident without photos.. (what'd u expect? even our cameraman did not think about taking photos at that time)

Like I mentioned, the essence of Scotland is the wonderful scenery along the roads. While u are in the car, it's always a good idea to get someone with a steady hand to take lots of pictures of the spectacular mountains and magnificent lakes..

Like this,

Like this,

Or like this =)

U can also take videos..

And along the road, there will be lots of designated stop points near those really wonderful scenery where u can park your car by the side, get off, and take photos..

If u are following a tight schedule or plan,

At least take a group photo at places that u really like

If u are going free and easy,

Then u can take turns to take solo photos

Of course, if u have 'Takumi' (refer to video) as your driver, like us, chances are you'll be ahead of schedule, so u can afford to get carried away once in a while, and do something like..

A 10-frames continuous shot

If u are as naughty as us, u can also play some pranks on your carmates..

Like pretending to leave her behind :D

We left Stirling at 5.30pm, our hostel's check-in counter closes exactly at midnight, and the estimated driving time was 6 hours, so actually, we were on quite tight a schedule to be honest..

Here's another group photo

And another group photo

We passed by Fort William, a town which is about halfway.

Fort William

This town has nothing really special, but it is close to another attraction of Scotland - Ben Nevis.

Ben means mountain in Scottish, and Ben Nevis (also known as The Ben) is the highest mountain in the UK. It also houses the Steall Falls, a waterfall which also enjoys quite a reputation among Scotland tourists.

However, we skipped this attraction in our trip, because according to what I gathered from the web, it takes a few hours to hike on the shortest trails to enjoy the mountain and the falls, and another few hours back.. and like I said, we were on a tight schedule..

The Ben?

Actually I'm not sure if this is The Ben, but this looks like the highest mountain from Fort William..

We just took a 10 minutes break at Fort William, and were soon on our way again...

As we got nearer to the Isle of Skye, we spotted a nicely lit castle, so we made another quick stop for some photos..

Eilean Donan Castle

Here's a closer shot, without the people

FYI, the Eilean Donan Castle is also under Historic Scotland, so if u arrive at the right time, u can gain entrance into the castle as well. Not us though, it was already 10.00pm when we reached here.. Yes, I said 10.00pm, although the sky looks 6.00 or 7.00pm if u are used to Malaysian sky..

I did mention we will be going to the Isle of Skye, didn't I? Isle means island, so I hope u didn't expect us to drive onto a ferry to get across..

Skye Bridge, now we are really almost there

We made it to our hostel at slightly pass 11.00pm. Everyone was very tired, and the cameras were mostly dead.. I mean the batteries.. so the photos of the hostel will have to come on my post for the next day..

This is the plug in the hostel room, loaded with handphone and camera chargers

I think I'll just give a brief intro of our hostel, in words. It's called Skye Backpackers, and it's located in a tiny town called Kyleakin, which is just beside the Skye Bridge. And it wasn't really a hostel room that we rented. In fact, it's a caravan behind the hostel building, with beds inside.

There were 15 of us, but since we were on a tight budget and wanted to save money, I booked just 10 beds. The drivers and the ladies get to sleep in beds, while the remaining 5 sleeps in the car. The owner of the hostel was kind enough to let all of us use the toilets for free though..

I think I'll just end this post with some maps.. print screens from Google maps..

Liverpool to Edinburgh (220 miles, approx 4hrs)

Edinburgh - Stirling - Kyleakin (40 miles and 170 miles respectively, approx 1hr and 6hrs respectively)

Stirling to Edinburgh takes longer than Liverpool to Edinburgh, because we are using country roads instead of the motorway, and also because we stopped to take photos..

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