Sheep, Castles, and Glens

How terrific to wake up to the spectacular view outside our window at Donan House. Eileen Donan castle set majestically on its island is something we’ll never forget. Dave was looking at it out the window when I woke up.

I asked him “Is the castle still there?” He whispered to me: “Yes, but there are invading Vikings attacking!!”. LOL

Dave wanted to get another look and took a walk down at the water’s edge. We weren’t able to see the castle at high tide, but even at low tide it was wonderful.

We had a very nice breakfast downstairs and chatted with one of the owners, Jim. He and his wife Dot, have a very special spot there and they were extremely nice.

It was turning out to be another lovely day. We have been so blessed with good weather so far. We would be having a slightly lighter schedule today, but we needed to get it started, so Helen and Moraig got us of our way.

The amount of spectacular scenery is just never ending and we were not disappointed today either. We drove through Glenshiels with a brilliant view of The Five Sisters of Kintail mountains and as we were driving, there was a sign warning to watch for Feral Goats, to which Helen replied “I’ve never seen a feral goat.” And sure enough, about five minutes later, we saw about a dozen of them grazing along the side of the road!

Our first major stop today was at Urquhart Castle on the shores of the infamous Loch Ness. No, we did not see Nessie, the sea monster, but we DID see one heck of a castle ruin, shrouded in fog, in a magical setting.

The fog didn’t dampen our spirits at all. In fact it kind of accentuated the experience and gave this castle a type of aura. Dave and I really loved this castle and we will not spoil the opening film you should see before going to the castle, but it is a MUST DO!

While walking through one part of the ruin, there were three or four windows deeply cut out of stone. We were actually just walking by them, when I happened to look down into one and there is one lonesome bat just hanging out by himself on the rocks. We all took photographs and pointed out the little guy to others. Normally, I don’t like bats, but he was all by himself, not flying and was outside in a deep window, so it didn’t. He was enjoying the castle like we were.

We stopped for lunch at the Urquhart cafe and all ended up getting scones. Yum! Then, in a stop at the gift store, Dave had the idea to buy our own sheep like Morag, so we did and eventually named him Duncan, Ironically, Morag was a gift to Helen from a tour customer a couple of years ago and she bought her at this same gift shop, which we did not know.

Our drive continued south to Fort Augustus where we viewed the Caledonian Canal and watched some boats going through the locks, then we took a walk along the canal to see the most southern tip of Loch Ness.

Loch Ness is pretty fascinating in both depth and length. Loch Ness’ deepest point, at 227 miles is more than TWICE the average depth of the North Sea. We stopped at a local grocery store here and picked up some goodies for breakfast since we would have to fend for ourselves for breakfast the next two mornings at Helen’s cabin.

Then we visited Lagen Dam with some pretty phenomenal mountains views reflected in the glassy, still water of Loch Lagen.

Dave and I are fans of the old BBC series called Monarch of The Glen. The series was from England, but set and filmed on location in Scotland. Once we knew we’d be near that area, we asked Helen if we could stop and get a view of three oft used locations.

The first one is a hilltop church and graveyard called Cille Choirill Church. It was used in a few funeral scenes and a few other scenes we remembered vividly. It’s set up on the side of a pretty step hill, but Helen got that new crossover vehicle up and we were rewarded with a beautiful afternoon to explore the grounds. It’s just a brilliant, and romantic spot. Of course, there were sheep!

As we drove down from the church Helen asked if Dave and I would say we’re in Monarch of The Glen country. We both said “Yes!” and she then produced the theme song from the series on her CD player! It was perfect, and just another personalized touch she added to our adventure that meant a great deal to us.

Our next stop on the Monarch Tour was to hopefully get a glimpse of the Ardivickie Estate that was the centerpiece of the entire series, very similar to Downton Abbey. It is a private residence not open for tours and you’re unable to see it from the drive it is on, so our only hope was good weather, few leaves on the trees, and hoping Helen could find a spot to pull over on the narrow roads once we got a clear view of it across Loch Lagan. All of the stars aligned (or was it all Helen?) and we had a terrific shot of what Dave and I know as Glen Bogle House.

Then a little further down the road we were able to see the Gatelodge or main entry gate to the estate. You can rent out the gate house and it’s like a mini version of the big house. It appeared they haven’t kept up its appearance since the series ended, but it’s still adorable and is featured in a lot of shows. Very glad we had the opportunity to see it.

We had a very nice dinner at the Moulin Hotel pub and shared a table for a bit with an older couple who were trying out their 20 foot motor home for the first time. The man seemed to like it, but his wife said “The jury’s still out.” LOL They also had two dogs with them in the pub, which we discovered is quite normal and accepted over there. Kind of nice, if they’re well behaved.

Helen owns a lovely little cabin next to a farm in the village of Killiecrankie, outside Pitlochry. Its formal name is The Lodge at Strathgarry. The river that runs by the area is the River Garry. As part of our tour, Helen is renting the cabin out to us for two nights and she’ll stay at a local B&B. It’ll be like we have our own country cabin in Scotland!

A winding, narrow road lead us to a small group of four Norwegan-made cabins sitting beside a babbling brook overlooking a pasture filled with sheep and baby lambs. Oh, and of course there was another spectacular view of hills. It was idlic.

Helen gave us a tour, turned on the heat, water, and their small electric fireplace and the warmth and coziness just oozed from every seam.

I, on the other hand, was oozing tired. Things had caught up with me and I had a hard time communicating and moving. LOL Helen, bless her heart, filled up two hot water bottles. She gave one to me on the leather sofa and put the other one in the bed to take the chill off, Then she made me a pot of tea, set out a plate of good Scottish shortbread and covered me up with a soft tartan blanket. Ahhhhh…how nice was that! I started to fade soon after Helen left us and quickly fell asleep.

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