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Inverness was our base for a couple of days while we explored the Highlands and more specifically, the Western Ross area of Scotland. We drove about an hour to the beautiful port town of Ullapool, stopped for tea and scones then continued the long and windy (single lane) road to the North Coast town of Durness.

Ullapool Loch Broom II
Loch Broom in Ullapool

Ullapool
Ullapool Scotland

The Highlands are beautiful, clean, wide-open and for a few moments I felt like I could have been in the Rockies driving through Colorado or Wyoming. The streams and lakes are so clear and unpolluted. The air so clean!

Highlands view from the backseat
Not a bad view, even from the backseat

HIghland Cattle
The cattle were a nice change from all the sheep ~ not that I’m tired of the sheep!

HIghlands lamb peeking around the corner
One of my favorite sheep photos ~ worth a repeat

Highlands Road
Lovely roads and still two lanes

Highlands road waterfall
Along the road to Durness

Highlands Road II

Highlands Passing Place on road
The one lane begins ~ not as scary as it looks

Highland Countryside

Highlands Motorcylist II

Highland Motorcylist
We saw more than a couple motorcylists on our drive ~ must be thrilling to ride these roads on a bike

Higlands Whitewashed houses

Higlands waterfalls

Highland Free Range Sheep
Free Range Sheep

Highlands Abandoned castle

Highlands House

Highland road sign for Durness
Durness Welcome sign

It was a fantastic drive through the Western Ross to Durness ~ we stopped often to enjoy the sights but it would have been nice to have more time to hike the backcountry. I’m going to have to add Western Ross to the “must visit again” list. A list which seems to be growing exponentially. Sure wish travelling were a paying job for me ūüėČ

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Scotland: Soup of the Day

You know you’re in Scotland when:

Highland Scotch Broth

and you see a lot of this…

Highlands Sheep II

Highland Sheep

Highland Sheep on the road

Highland Lambs on the road sign

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Stonehenge

I FINALLY made it to Stonehenge ~ it’s¬†been on my “travel must-do” list for many, many years. There are more questions than answers regarding the reason Stonehenge was built. Lots of¬†speculation but no¬†definitive answers. The¬†explanations for it being built¬†range from “temple for human sacrifice” to “astronomy.” Due to the alignment of the stones, worship to lunar and solar beings is most likely (a Druid Temple). The circle¬†is aligned with the midsummer sunrise, the midwinter sunset, and the most southerly rising and northerly setting of the moon.

More is known about the construction of Stonehenge. The original Stonehenge was a large earthwork or Henge which began about 3,100 BC. It consists of a ditch, bank, and the Aubrey holes. Aubrey holes refers to a ring of 56 mysterious circular cavities at Stonehenge and named after John Aubrey who discovered and recorded them in 1666.

The second stage of Stonehenge is thought to have occurred in 2150 BC. According to the Stonehenge website,82 bluestones from the Preseli Mountains in SW Wales were dragged to Milford Haven and then loaded onto rafts. These 4 ton stones were taken by water down the coast and then up the rivers Avon and Frome. They were then dragged overland again to outside Warminster in Wiltshire. Then, the final journey was mainly by water, down the river Wylye to Salisbury, then from Salisbury Avon river to west Amesbury. In all, it was about 240 miles.

The third stage: The outer circle was built around 2100 BC using Sarsen stones, which were from the Avebury area located about 25 miles north of Stonehenge. Some of these stones weigh 50 tons but the average weight is 25 tons.¬†These stones couldn’t be transported by water so they had to use sleds. It is thought that it would have taken 500 men using leather ropes to pull one stone.

The final changes took place around 1500 BC when the bluestones were rearranged in a horseshoe and circle that is what we see today. Originally, there were around 60 stones in the bluestone circle but these were removed or broken up long ago. A few stumps are below ground level.

Experts estimate it took over 30 million working hours to built Stonehenge. Whew ~ I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

Stonehenge Closeup

Stonehenge II

Years ago visitors were allowed to walk amongst the stones but, due to the ever-increasing¬†number of tourists, it was fenced off in 1978. Currently, there’s a¬†walkway around the stone structure which¬†still allows¬†a very close up view. There is a parking area within easy walking distance to the stones but a new visitor’s center is being built and, once that is completed, visitors will have to take a shuttle to the site.¬†English Heritage manages the area and hopefully they will continue to protect and preserve it.¬† There is a charge to enter the area (or you can peek in for free through the fence). If you plan to go, click here for all the latest rates and information.

Stonehenge sheep

Stonehenge Yellow fields

Surrounding Stonehenge is the beautiful English countryside with the yellow fields in bloom and, of course, sheep.

S Narrow Road

S graveyard

S Church

After Stonehenge, we visited a lovely English town called Sturminster Newton (Dorset County). To me, the town was quintessentially English with its thatched roof homes, narrow roads, old graveyards, stone fences, cute shops/pubs, etc.

S Church II

S Wall

This was an interesting wall ~ didn’t quite fit in with the rest of the town but interesting nonetheless.

At the local church, the minister happened to be outside greeting people as they came up for an event. I enjoyed walking around this quaint town and it reminded me that, as much as I love living in Central London, it’s so nice to get out to the countryside for a reprieve from the hustle and bustle.

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From Dublin, we¬†drove through The Burren¬†which is the region in North County Clare between Clare and Kinvara. The natural beauty of this area is breathtaking. We had reservations in a little town on the coast of The Burren called Doolin. We decided since we were¬†leaving the city behind, we would opt¬†for a small¬†B&B called Kate’s Place. What a great choice. With only 3 rooms and it being brand new, we were treated to a very clean, charming little B&B with super¬†friendly hosts, delicious & extremely filling breakfasts, and access to information about the area by someone who’s lived there all her life. We only stayed two nights but I was very tempted to spend the remainder of our vacation there (three additional nights).

Entering The Burren, County Clare, Ireland

Entering The Burren, County Clare, Ireland

Kate's Place B&B

Kate’s Place B&B

Driving into Doolin¬†made me feel like I was back home on the Big Island (Hawaii).¬†I know comparing Ireland to Hawaii sounds strange but the north part of County Clare has a similar landscape and feel to it. There are lots¬†of¬†wide open spaces, cattle grazing in the green fields, it’s a bit windy,¬†hilly and, oddly enough, lots of surfboards on top of the cars. Although the Western Coast of Ireland is known for surfing ~ the air/water temperatures is where the comparison to Hawaii ends. It was still freezing when we arrived in Doolin.

Doolin's Narrow Road

Doolin’s Narrow Road

Church in Doolin, County Clare

                                                  Catholic Church in Doolin, County Clare

Doolin, County Clare, Ireland

Doolin, County Clare, Ireland

Narrow Road Driving to Doolin, County Clare

Narrow Road Driving to Doolin, County Clare

More Sheep in Doolin

More Sheep in Doolin

House in Doolin, County Clare, Ireland

House in Doolin, County Clare, Ireland

Pier in Doolin, County Clare, Ireland

Pier in Doolin, County Clare, Ireland

Stream in Doolin, County Clare, Ireland

Stream in Doolin, County Clare, Ireland

Doolin¬†is known for¬†its¬†traditional¬†Irish music at the pubs and O’Connor’s Pub has nightly music at 9:30 pm. Since it was Easter Monday, they also had a small band playing at 6:30pm. While the local musicians played,¬†a local Irish singer named Ted McCormac joined in and it was fabulous!¬†Felt fortunate to hear him sing.

O'Connors Pub in Doolin, County Clare

O’Connors¬†Pub in Doolin, County Clare

On the second night at O’Connors, we saw the owner of the B&B join in the band with his button accordion. The best Irish music is when the locals get together and join in randomly.

I didn’t drive while we were in Scotland but have since taken to the wheel.¬†So far, I haven’t¬†had any trouble with remembering to stay left when driving and shifting with my left hand instead of right is easy.¬†In fact, I prefer driving to being a passenger…especially since John always asks “would you like “on-coming traffic side” or “stone wall side” ~ both choices are stressful.

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