Saturday, 5 November 2011


 On the second day of our trip, we travelled north into glorious Scotland. We drove four hours further northwest, deep into Argyll, on the west coast. As you drive further north, the roads begin tapering off and you start to feel that startling sense of isolation the Highlands possess. The land varies from tree-lined to barren, and the peaty areas around Glen Coe are so sparse, that it feels other-worldly.

Our cottage was located on a teeny tiny, single lane, pot holed road, directly on Loch Awe (the lake that boasts the the title of longest freshwater loch in Scotland). Meeting another car on the road meant backing up, or pulling perilously close to the edges. That country isolation is cool, but as day trippers coming and going each day to see other things, it was a bit much. The cottage was a great bargain, and even had breakfast in the nearby hotel included. So we tried haggis (not good, friends) and smoked kippers (delicious but extremely bony!) and enjoyed incredible views in the conservatory dining area.

On the third day of our trip, we drove a short distance to Inverary Castle, current home of the Duke of Argyll. Of all the castles I've seen in England, I've never been in one as homey and welcoming as this one. They had all of the fireplaces going and fresh flowers were everywhere - the place was filled with yummy smells coming from the kitchen mingled with the hearthy smell of wood burning fireplaces. Half of the castle is kept private for the Duke's family, but the other half is open to nosey tourists like us. The castle caretakers were friendly and each one spoke like Sean Connery. If you love that, go to Scotland and be delighted by it daily.

On another day we traveled to Scottish Sea Life, a seal pup and turtle sanctuary and rescue center. Isabella loved it. I loved it. They had a flotsam and jetsam exhibit, artfully showcasing all of the trash that is washed onto the shores of the sanctuary alone. Sadly, all of it was cheap rubbish that we regularly buy and throw away. Despite all of the amazing animals at the rescue, I will probably remember that tiny exhibit the most.

On our way back from the sanctuary, we saw a sign for Ben Cruachan Falls. We dismounted and began to climb a very steep and windy path up a mountain searching for the Falls. We had to turn around before we could find the waterfall, but the climb wasn't a bust - I discovered that Isabella is a very good climber. I am so proud of her - she takes to heart everything I say. As I said before, we were more worried about the dog than her!

The day before we headed back south, we decided to return to Glen Coe, a place we had shortly visited on our last trip. I was so happy that we did. Glen Coe has a magical power; it's like stepping into a monastery, or some holy place, that dazzles your senses with its vastness. We hiked as far as we could safely go with the dog (a huge klutz, Isabella does far better climbing than he does). Then we decided to follow the river a ways, watching as our boots would get sucked deeply into the peat - some spots are like floating sponges.

After each excursion, we would head back to our cottage on its solitary road, get the heating started, and head over to the nearby hotel's lounge and pub. Pedro tried local ales and I sampled some whiskies while Isabella feasted on ice cream. We sat on big leather chairs, surrounded by heaving bookcases filled with an eclectic mix of abandoned books from former guests. Some of the nights, the place got so packed full of people, we wondered how on earth they all got there. It just felt like such a remote spot at the end of a treacherous little road.
where we had to leave the dog tied to a tree!
 On the final morning of our time in Argyll, we packed the car back up and headed south. Only then did it begin to rain in earnest. It continued to rain until we crossed the English border and decided to keep driving down into the Lake District. Our last day of travel was one of the best.

a typical Sotomayor family scene

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