From Wales to the Trossachs.
This is a picture record of a trip to Scotland. Large amounts of the holiday were devoted to meeting newly produced members of our extended family, and previously unknown distant family members. As a result, only a small fraction of the 334 pictures were eligible for this public gallery, and after (un)suitable weeding, a mere 91 were selected for inclusion here. A few more made it into a cycling trip record.
The pictures are largely from the journey to and from Scotland. The journey takes about 8 hours, assuming you stick to the speed limit (of course) and do not take any extended breaks. Not wishing to stop every 5 minutes for pictures (as anyone on our North Norway trip will remember), this means that most pictures were taken from a moving vehicle. Sadly, many pictures were obscured by other vehicles, had fences or verges or crashbarriers blocking the view, and some featured reflections and insect smears from the windscreen. If you are unable to accept these limitations, or are not a fan of mountains, then please try another gallery.
Scotland itself is like the Canada of Great Britain. It has a comparatively small population for its size, and the majority of the country is wilderness. It has a staggeringly high number of national parks and scenic areas, with about 25 in various parts of the country (although only two are considered a part of the UK-wide national park administration). Most of the parks cover mountainous regions, as Scotland also has more mountains than any other part of the UK. (And yes, we have a fairly low minimum height for a mountain - in Switzerland, they still call them hills when they are 10 times the size, but we have to do the best with what we have.)
In England, the tallest mountain is Scafell Pike at 978 metres. In Wales, there are 6 taller mountains, of which 4 are taller than 1000 metres, the tallest of which is the 1085 metre Yr Wyddfa summit of Snowdon. Scotland has 137 peaks over 1000 metres, of which 56 are taller than Snowdon, and the highest is Ben Nevis at 1344 metres (the tallest in the UK). Unfortunately for me, we were not heading for the Moutains, but we would get to see several of the ones in the southern part of the country.
The country itself is one of the three countries in Britain, and one of the four constituent countries of the United Kingdom. It has its own parliament and legal system, and largely governs itself. It has its own language that is used by almost none of its inhabitants, as well as many of the strongest dialects of English. In many parts of the country, the dialect is so strong, that most of the words are not recognisable to other English speakers. It is famous for five major things;
- Unfortunately for tourism, kilts (a pleated skirt with a tartan pattern, worn by men) are almost never used, except for special events. However, when they are used, they are proudly worn without underwear, irrespective of the temperature.
- A sheep's stomach stuffed with its heart, liver, and lungs, mixed with oatmeal and suet. Oh yes, it's food. Most Scots now use regular meat and an artificial wrapping instead of the stomach.
- And for what it's worth, the Irish have these too, only they use an arm mounted bellows to inflate it.
- The Loch Ness Monster
- Supposedly a surviving 100 million year old plesiosaur that lives in a lake in North Scotland (the series of lakes almost transects the country).
- The caber toss
- The most popular of the Highland Games, involving throwing a tree trunk so that it lands pointing in the right direction.
After several days of rain, this was the first chance for birds of prey to go hunting. In 5 days we saw 3 kestrels, 29 buzzards, and 3 peregrine falcons. One even did a nice stoop (dive) for us. Compare that with the one bird of prey (a sea eagle) I saw in 6 months in Norway. Sadly, my camera was too slow on all occasions. Now, on to the pictures.
- After crossing the border into England, we pass the Symonds Yat, where a tall cliff overlooks the Wye river. The area is often used by a pair of Peregrine Falcons. Symonds Yat marks the start of the Royal Forest Of Dean, one of the designated areas of outstanding natural beauty.
- In UK, most roads are maintained by the local council. Motorways (similar to an American freeway), are maintained on a national level, and their maintenance is nationally funded, so that local councils do not have to pay to maintain a road used mostly by people who are only driving through the county.
- At Ross-on-Wye, a pretty town, we join the motorway. It is a subtle insult on the part of the authorities, but of the 5 motorways that lead towards Wales, only one is actually allowed to cross the border. The rest are reduced to locally funded roads.
- "This sentence does not tell the truth".
- Now on the next motorway, we pass Worcester (of Worcestershire Sauce fame), with the Malvern Hills mountain range behind it. Unfortunately they are mostly hidden from the road, but the hills themselves would make a great cycling trip - a steep push up the mountain at north end, then a slow descent over several little summits for many miles to the south end.
- After passing through the enormous city clusters around Birmingham (my city of birth, not that you would know it to talk to me) and Manchester, we finally approach the beautiful countryside in the north of England. Oh yes, the picture. It's part of a wind farm - itself a misnomer; more like a wind slaughterhouse.
- Now my favourite part of the M6, as it passes the edge of the Yorkshire Dales national park.
- This is what makes an 8 hour car journey worthwhile.
- The Dales themselves are home to thousands of cave systems, including the longest in the UK, and most of its potholes. It is one of the few parts of Britain where most people have actually tried caving, and do not come up with silly unfounded fears or reasons why they could never possibly try it.
- See our Lake district and Yorkshire Dales holiday pictures for more.
- Ok, have a couple more. This is the north edge of the national park.
- On the other side of the road is the Lake District national park.
- Looking back to where the road passes between the symbolic gates of the Yorkshire Dales, and the Lake District.
- Looking back to where the road plunges into the valley between the parks.
- The road remains beside the Lake district for a while.
- Although this part of the Lake District is not as majestic as the Yorkshire Dales, the far side actually contains the tallest mountains in England. If you can cope with the wet weather they attract, it is well worth a visit.
- Some typical fields in the north of England. Always stone built walls. In this part of the country, like in Wales, there are more sheep than people.
- The last mountains of England that we will see. These form part of the Pennine Way; a footpath leading over 120 miles of North English countryside, through 4 separate national parks.
- Crossing the border to Scotland. Once again, the Motorway is downgraded after passing the last English town. Seems they want to insult the Scots as well. After entering Scotland, the Scots upgrade it to Motorway again; the M74. Just inside the border is the town of Gretna and the village of Gretna Green, famed for Scotland's lower minimum age for consent to marriage. Young elopers would cross the border, and get married in Gretna Green, without needing the consent of their parents.
- The first mountains we pass are the Lowther Hills. In Scotland they have so many mountains that they do not stick to the same rules as the rest of the UK. In England and Wales, a mountain is over 1000 feet (304.8 metres - normally taken as 300). These mountains are more than twice that height, but here are called hills.
- In Scotland, they use the term Munros (after Sir Hugh Munro who first listed them), to refer to the 277 mountains over 3000 feet tall. None of these qualify, so they are apparently not important.
- Ducks at Annandale Water, just a few miles from Lockerbie, a town misfortunately famous for an aircraft bombing.
- A contortionist swan at Annandale Water.
- And some proverbial ugly ducklings.
- The beautiful view from Annandale Waler. The mountains in the distance form part of the Southern Upland Way.
- The view from Annandale Water again, with a deformed tree.
- Flowers at Annandale Water. OK, so that's quite a lot of pictures in one place, but after sitting in a car for a few hours...
- Females; you show them a sports car (MK Indy), and all they want to do is look at themselves in the mirror.
- Just north of Moffat, the motorway takes another plunge through the mountains.
- The road follows Evan Water.
- More of the Evan Water valley.
- And yes, I like this valley.
- It reaches a high point at Beattock Summit (high enough to be a mountain, if it had a proper top).
- Descending into Daer Water.
- And more of Daer Water.
- The moors by Abington.
- The moor by Robert Law.
- More of the moor by Robert Law.
- Robert Law (yes, that's a mountain, in case you hadn't worked it out yet).
- Coalburn. A cone of coal perhaps? We have now almost reached Glasgow.
- On the other side of Glasgow, we pass the Kilsyth Hills.
- Kincardine Bridge, crossing the Firth of Forth.
- Now at our first destination, we watch the sunset near Dunfermline.
Stirling and Falkland
- The Ochil Hills (yes, they're mountains too).
- Surprise. I like mountains.
- Meml Dumyat. And they say Welsh is unpronounceable.
- Any of you who have watched Braveheart will know the name William Wallace.
- This is the Wallace Monument - a tribute to Scotland's national hero.
- Looks good in black.
- Bluebells on the walk up to the monument.
- Close up.
- The monument peers over the trees.
- At the top. The top of the tower almost seems to be a face. With spiked hair. Perhaps that is supposed to represent William Wallace.
- From the top, you can see the Forth plain, where the major battle occurred. If you remember an army having to cross a bridge in the film, this is where the real thing happened. To the right, there is a town called Dunblane (in front of the mountains with the storm sweeping over them) - if that means nothing to you, don't worry.
- In the distance across the plain, are the mountains in the Trossachs national park. Some of these are the tallest we would see on this trip, including Ben More, at 1171 metres.
- And with lots of zoom.
- Stirling Castle. This marks the furthest point north of the Roman invasion.
- Looking over the trees to Meml Dumyat.
- And a closeup of the cliffs.
- At the bottom is Witches Craig, the site of old Witch burnings.
- More of the Ochil Hills.
- West Lomond in the Lomond Hills (not related to Loch Lomond - that's the other side of Scotland).
- East Lomond with mustard fields.
- Falkland Palace.
- Falkland, the Two Towers.
- Falkland roundabout.
- Falkland garden.