Scotland Is Calling: Skye, Eileen Donan & Spean Bridge

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Driving through Skye: Beware of sheep and narrow roads…

Let me just start by saying that we didn’t see the Isle of Skye. Instead, we drove through Skye and will absolutely have to return and stay another day. When I was planning the trip, at some point I looked at Doug and said, “You know, I’ve always wanted to see Eileen Donan Castle.” I know it’s a huge tourist attraction and the most-photographed castle in Scotland (and quite possibly the entire U.K.). However, I still wanted to see it with my own eyes.

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Driving through Skye

That declaration was accompanied by a minor epiphany, whereby I realized that we could take the ferry back to the Scottish mainland from Harris to Skye instead of returning to Ullapool from Stornoway. That meant we wouldn’t have to double back and go through places that we’d already been. Accordingly, I looked at my push-pinned map and picked out Spean Bridge as our resting point and then booked us into a beautiful Bed & Breakfast, The Heathers.

IMG_5173And so, we hurried through a place that is undeniably one of the most beautiful in all of Scotland… The weather came and went as we drove, and I wished we could stop at nearly every town we passed through. The bridge in the photo is the Skye Bridge, and it’s a lot higher than it looks. (It’s taller than a lighthouse that appears to be under it on the right side if you click on the photo). We had a less-than-fun time crossing it in a storm that cleared shortly afterwards. Perhaps somebody wanted us to stay?

IMG_5176 (2)Onward to Eileen Donan Castle, which was as full of tourists as I’d expected. (But I’d still hoped it wouldn’t be.) I’m absolutely jealous of all of the locals who get this castle to themselves when the tourist hordes disperse, as I know it’s just as beautiful in other seasons.

Believe me, we took a LOT of photos, but I won’t bore you with all of them:

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Following the kids

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Taking a photo of Doug taking a photo – inside the castle area

After I’d had my fill, we drove to a place just on the other side of a bridge and took some beautiful photos of Eileen Donan where you could barely see any other people. The clouds, the loch, the mountains–it’s truly breathtaking. (Castle number what? Anybody keeping track?)

IMG_5211Take a look: Is it any wonder that Scottish tales feature faeries and magic?

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Gorgeous way to re-purpose a rowboat…

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Photograph of the commemorative sign

After fulfilling my wish, we got back in the trusty Volvo and headed for Spean Bridge. Spean Bridge is well-situated for those exploring Scotland, as it sits at the crossroads of what is essentially the southern end of the Northern Highlands, the road leading east out of Skye, the road west from Inverness, and the road north from Fort William. The landscape surrounding it is stunning. Spean Bridge is named after the Highbridge over the River Spean, which was the site of a skirmish that led to the Jacobite Rising of 1745. That piqued the interest of Outlander fans, right?

IMG_5228We ate dinner, on the recommendation of our B&B hosts, at The Station, a restaurant located on the site of the former railroad station. Interestingly, the train still runs…I don’t typically include too many photos of myself in my blog pieces, but here we all are, enjoying our delicious meal (or at least the drinks portion of it):

IMG_5229 IMG_5230Spean Bridge is also the location of a powerful and moving monument to The Commando Special Forces. For more information on this and the Special Forces unit, please read here. The monument overlooks Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the United Kingdom. It is a truly gorgeous setting and one perfect for commemoration and contemplation.

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Next: Glenfinnan, Stirling & Callander

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