Scotland, May 2013

Having taken part and won a prize in a @ToyotaGB competition over Christmas 2012 and January 2013, in May 2013 we had a holiday of our dreams, fully paid for by Toyota. What follows is a recollection of what we did on the holiday.

Friday 24th May, 2013 - The Journey to Scotland

The house we were staying in was available from the Saturday to Saturday. To maximise our holiday, we decided to fly to Scotland - flying took just over an hour. To drive takes about 12 hours without stopping! Having picked up the car provided by Toyota on our arrival, we had dinner in the Snow Goose restaurant next to a hotel we stayed in on the Friday night. After a nice meal, we retired to our hotel room for the evening. Sleep was not too far away.

Saturday 25th May 2013 Inverness; Urquhart Castle, Journey North, The House, Badenscallie Beach

We woke up hungry on Saturday morning. The hotel didn't have a restaurant, so we walked across the road to Howdens garden centre, where they opened at just the right time! It was a beautiful sunny morning, so after breakfast we checked out of the hotel and packed our luggage into the car, to really begin our holiday adventure. The boys had expressed a preference to visit Loch Ness, so after checking out a route on the car satellite navigation system, we headed away from the hotel, and along the road through Inverness and to the visitor centre at Castle Urquhart. Visiting Urquhart Castle, with the sun shining in the sky, our holiday had truly started. After a visit to the castle and a pitstop for lunch at the castle café, we went up the road to Ullapool, and then the final miles to Achiltibuie. It was on this journey that I began to remember what an amazing car the GT86 is - I'd had the opportunity to drive one last year where I drove it up the hill at Goodwood, although my run had been somewhat stymied by a slow Ferrari in front of me! This was my first opportunity to really drive the car properly. I had been somewhat worried because there isn't a huge amount of room in it. As it happens, I needn't have worried - we managed to fit in all our luggage and four of us in the car - helped somewhat by an exterior boot mounted bag to fit some extra stuff in. As we came up to the village of Achiltibuie, the sun still shining high in the sky, we found a breath taking view across to the Summer Isles. We found our house for the week, made some tea that was kindly left for us by the local shop, then headed down to Badenscallie beach, throwing some pebbles into the sea to finish the day.

Sunday 26th May 2013: The House/Garden, On the way to Lochinver, Inverkirkaig - Kirkaig Falls, Badenscallie Beach

A nice relaxed morning, the boys were quite tired and took a while to get up, so we had a quiet morning taking in the amazing views from the house and enjoying the weather. After a bit of a search on the internet in the morning for local places to eat, for lunch, we decided to take a trip up to Lochinver where we found a nice restaurant called "The Mission". Refuelled, we headed back up the road to Inverkirkaig where there is a very impressive waterfall. It's a little walk, and the final section of path is very slippery and steep, but the view of the waterfall is definitely worth it. After walking back to the car park, we then headed back to the house, had some tea (locally caught seafood), then meandered down to the beach again before bed.

Monday 27th May 2013: The House, On the way to Achiltibuie Stores, The House again

On Monday, the weather wasn't so good, and there were some clouds threatening. On top of this we had to pay a trip to the local shop. They had kindly delivered some food for us to the house, but we hadn't yet paid for it. On top of this we were running out of food and so needed to get some more. We decided that the shop wasn't that far away and so rather than getting the car out for a small journey, we'd just walk along the small road to the shop. It was rather further than we thought it was (GPS suggested it was about 5 miles there and back!). Additionally, while we were walking back from the shop with our shopping, it decided to start raining. So we got wet! We went back to the house, dried out and had some lunch. By this time it was raining quite a bit, so we investigated the DVD collection at the house. Having found "Tintin", a film that I'd been wanting to watch for ages and not having found the time to do so, we settled down in front of the television with a cup of tea and some biscuits and watched it all together.

Tuesday 28th May 2013: Isabella summer isles cruise, Tanora Mor (summer isle), Reiff Beach

The weather was good again on Tuesday, a sunny warm day again. We looked at the weather forecast before and had seen that this day looked like it would be nice, so had booked on a boat trip from Achiltibuie Pier. This trip went out into the sea, visited the seal and bird colonies on the surrounding islands, via "Cathedtral Cave" and then stopped off at Tanora Mor. Allowing us time to take in the views and grab a drink and a rather tasty flapjack at the café on the island, it then took us back to Achiltibuie Pier. Once back, we went back to the house for some lunch, then headed back out in the car to visit Reiff Beach. While the boys had a great time getting very wet, sandy and messy on the beach, we took up the opporunity to do some exercise ourselves. There was hardly anyone else about - most of the time we were there we had the beach to ourselves, so we did some barefoot running on the beach, managing a few kilometres with the sand between our toes. Very tired, wet and now very hungry, we retired back to the house for the evening.

Wednesday 29th May 2013: Polglass Beach and Broch walk

Sunny again! Just a small walk down the road from the house, we'd noticed a sign to "Polglass beach". We realised that this was one of the walks we'd downloaded from the walk highlands website before we travelled. Following the instructions we'd printed out, we walked along the road and descended down towards Polglass Beach and broch. The first part of this walk was mostly a gravel path through the field and to the broch/beach. At that point it met the beach, the gravel disappeared and it was then a grassy walk through the heather all the way up to the headland. While walking along amongst the heather, I was looking out across the sea and thought I saw something move in the sea, but then couldn't see anything. We kept walking, and then the boys came up to me excitedly proclaiming "We just saw a shark!" It turned out to be a basking shark, majestically swimming around the islands in the sun. We also found out later via the "Summer Queen" facebook page that it was the first one spotted in the area this year. Sadly, we also saw a Minke Whale washed up on the beach. I took some pictures and sent them to the Scottish Marine Strandings service were able to confirm it was one they already knew about - apparently it had become stranded and washed up in Gairloch a few days beforehand, but had washed away again to turn up again further north by us. Sad for us to see, especially given that birds had started to feast on it, but it's just part of the circle of life I suppose. On this walk we also saw a Skua, and more excitingly, a white tailed eagle while we were walking back. I did take pictures but they weren't that good - both birds were amazingly fast in flight!

Thursday 30th May 2013: The house/garden, Ullapool, Knockan Crag Walk, Ardvreck Castle/Calda House (The White House), Assynt Loch, Fog Band on Elphin to Achiltibuie Road, House/Garden (and fog!), Badenscallie Beach and burial ground

Sunny again, on what turned out to be quite a busy day! Spent some time in the morning taking some pictures around the house and garden, also took the opportunity to take a few pictures of the car. I was really beginning to love this car, and as it turned out it was quite hard to give back! It wasn't the colour I would personally choose, but to drive it, everything just felt "right". The driving position was comfy, there was (just) enough room in the back for the kids, the pedals were perfectly spaced, as was the gearbox. Most of our journeys were spent in second/third/fourth gear. Although I never once went particularly fast in it, the feel of driving it was immense. With this in mind, we decided to go out for a drive and head down to Ullapool for lunch. Once we were there, we had lunch in "The Seaforth", where Cam had a "kilo pot of muscles" for lunch, which he loved! After this, and a walk around Ullapool where an ice cream found its way into our hands, we got back in the car to Knockan Crag. This is an interesting walk that goes up the side of a mountain, with information boards showing how the geology of the area has changed over the years. Very interesting, and a beautiful view from the top. We went back to the car, but didn't really feel like going back to the house, so we drove back the long way around. The longer route took us via a stop off at Ardvreck Castle and Calda House - two picturesque ruins within a short distance of one another, and near another beautiful view over Assynt Loch. Driving back on this road, the roads were bigger so I had the opportunity to open up the car a bit. I really was going to miss this car!. Driving back the last few miles, we saw a fog band in the sea, which was getting closer. I guess this must be the rain we saw was forecast! Aside from a couple of hours rain on Monday we'd had a good run so I suppose we couldn't complain too much! After some dinner back at the house, we again walked down to Badenscallie beach, this time in the fog. It was quite late (most of our nights were late nights), but at this time of year it hardly seems to get dark!

Friday 31st May 2013: Lochinver, Culag Woods walk (views to Suilven), Achininver Hostel walk (to beach and village), The house

This was our last day in the house and so we wanted to ensure we had got the maximum amount out of our amazing holiday. Only trouble was that it was raining! Never ones to be put off by a bit of inclement weather, we drove up to Lochinver and Culag Woods. The advantage of walking in woods when it's raining is that the trees protect you somewhat from the weather. As it was, it stopped raining so we didn't get particularly wet anyway. After walking around the woods and finding our way to the viewpoint, we found our way to the "pie shop" in Lochinver, where we had a kind of late lunch/ early dinner. The owner of the house had recommended this place to us and she was right about it! Afterwards, we headed back to the house, and went down to Achininver Hostel towards the end of the road we were staying on. We walked down to the hostel and then on down to the beach, where we took in the views while the boys threw some stones and said goodbye to the beach and sea. As well as missing the car, we were also going to miss the beautiful house, and the amazing views.

Saturday 1st June: Dog Falls walk, Glen Affric

We had to leave the house on Saturday, so first thing on Saturday morning we packed up all our things and put them into the car. After tidying the house to leave it as we'd found it, we said our goodbyes, and left Achiltibuie. Our plane flight wasn't until Sunday, so we still had Saturday, and another night in the same hotel we'd stayed in before before we had to go home. We'd looked up walks near Inverness the night before, and come up with a beautiful walk in Glen Affric. This was to see a waterfall called "Dog Falls". Dog Falls itself was a bit disappointing - the falls were not easily viewable from the viewpoint, and there wasn't a huge amount of water in them. Maybe we'd been spoilt by seeing the Inverkirkaig Falls a few days before. While the falls were disappointing, the walk through the forest that followed, up through the trees to a lovely viewpoint. I sat here for a while. This was our last "hurrah" for the holiday really, it was a lovely day, and the scenery was beautiful. I didn't want to leave. We made our way back to the car and knew we must then travel to the hotel for the evening. Fate lending a helping hand, it turns out that the road between Glen Affric and Loch Ness is an amazing road - as a last hurrah! driving the car, I couldn't have asked for a better road to do it on! Once at the hotel, we cleaned out the car as best as we could, then went over to the Snow Goose again for our evening meal.

Sunday 2nd June: Time to go Home

Our plane was flying at 14:10, and we didn't have to check out of the hotel till lunchtime, so we had a leisurely breakfast, again at the garden centre. With all our belongings packed up, we said a sad goodbye to the car - it turns out it wasn't just me that had become attached to it (her!), everyone else had too. It was a short taxi ride to Inverness Airport, where we dropped our bags off, had a coffee in the airport lounge, then made our way to the plane and home in time for tea. All of us were sad to be home, but all of us were also determined we'll be going back again as soon as we can!

All photos and content © Nick and Nat Young 2013 - please ask before re-using any photos here.