Posted by: Talie Morrison | June 19, 2013

The Rest of the Story ….

I was back on the train to see parts of Scotland that I might have missed.   I left my camping gear in Durham so my pack was SO much lighter without my tent, sleeping bag, pad, etc.   Before coming to the UK last March, I purchased a BritRail train pass.   It is good for 15 days out of a two-month period.   I activated it when I started traveling in April, so I want to use the trains enough to “get my money’s worth!”  I do so love train journeys – it is a relaxing and peaceful way to see so much of the countryside.   My plan was to explore some West and Northwest areas of Scotland and then head down to England to visit friends.  So here are tidbits of the rest of the time in the UK:

My first journey was to a small town on the West Coast named Mullaig.   It is where the train on that leg ends!   The West Coast of Scotland is very beautiful and by going on this route, I passed many of the spots that I had hiked over on the West Highland Way.   It was fun seeing them from the train!  In Mullaig, on the West Coast, I literally bumped into Dick and Mary Allen from Crested Butte!   What a coincidence!   They were in the little town getting ready to take a ferry to the Isle of Skye.   So I joined them and their friends for dinner and we had fun comparing our Scottish journey stories!

While I was waiting for a table in a wonderful restaurant in Oban, I wandered out to the town center and happened upon the local high school (world champion) Pipe and Drum band.   It was a great fun concert of bagpipes and drums!    Awesome!  Of course I had to buy one of their cds to support the “cause”.

I was able to buy a ticket called an “island hopper”.   It gave me a ticket that was good between the Western islands. Being a “small town mountain girl” – I am loving exploring these islands!  The ferry took me to the bottom of the Outer Hebridies to the island of Barra.

In Castle Bay (of course there is a castle in the bay!) I hiked up to a statue of the Virgin Mary.  The statue has one of the most beautiful faces I have ever seen on a statue.   And it is a bit different with the Christ child sitting on her shoulder and holding a star.  Barra also has an airport (only one in the world?) that has scheduled service that lands on a sandbar.  The flights are scheduled around low tide, and the locals know that if the windsock is up not to go on the beach.

From Barra, I worked my way up South Uist, North Uist, Harris and the Isle of Lewis.   I was surprised to see how well populated the Outer Hebrides are – I guess I expected them to be more remote.  I saw lots of beautiful beaches, some incredible standing stones (5000 years old), a broch (again thousands of years old!), and met some wonderful people!   The Outer Hebrides are refreshing in that the pace of life is much more relaxed out there and some of the values of life haven’t gotten lost in the crazy shuffle of today – for instance, everything is closed on Sundays (all the restaurants, groceries, etc.).   Good for them!

Back to the mainland, the ferry dropped me in the little town of Ullapool – another beautiful West Coast village.   Some of these spots would be places I might come back to when I have more time to just explore the backcountry.   Then I worked my way up to the most Northwestern part of the British Isles:  Cape Wrath.

The next part of the route that I had planned on taking would be to follow the road along the Northern coast all the way to Thurso, where I knew I could get back on the trains.   But I discovered that the buses to Thurso only go twice a month (on Saturdays) – I guess I AM off the beaten track!  So while I was waiting for the local restaurant to open up for dinner (doesn’t open till 6:30 pm), I ended up in the pub having a “pint”.  Next thing I knew I was talking with a lovely man from Aberdeen who was camped out next door.    Henry, my new friend, was planning on driving part of the way that I was hoping to see so I asked him for a ride.   (I am getting so “brash” in my old age!)

The next morning, Henry picked me up at the youth hostel where I was staying – I was totally impressed when he showed up in a brand new BMW!   Wow, now I am really traveling in style!    We had lovely chats and he tried to help me understand the local Scottish accent (even though I had to ask him to repeat himself about every other sentence!)  He fixed me a cup of tea in a beautiful spot along the way and he even sang Happy Birthday to me before we went our separate ways.

One more night along the way, and then I had to say good bye to Scotland.  My lovely train pass took me all the way down in England to Bath and Dursley.   There I visited old friends who I met in my travels in South America and the Pyrenees.

Dan and Annabelle are friends that I met in South America when I was hiking around the Torres del Paine. Since I had seen them last, they have gotten married and now have a lovely daughter, Charlotte, who is 7 months old.    They totally surprised me with a lamb roast birthday dinner complete with birthday cake!   Yea (I think I can still celebrate on June 6th! We had some lovely walks with Charlotte, and I was privileged to participate in her first “swing” at the park!   Very fun!

Then I spent a day with my friends Tim and Laura – who I met last summer when we were all hiking in the Pyrenees.    When I meet people out in the wilderness, and we exchange information – I always warn them that I am one of those people who often “show up”!    Tim and Laura took me on a lovely all day hike in Wales, which isn’t too far from that part of the world.    It was a beautiful day – although it was a bit windy on the tops.    And the next day,  I got a chance to see the canal boat that Tim’s brother lives on (a kindred spirit for sure!).

Back up to Durham and a quick overnight back up to Scotland to see Dunnottar Castle just South of Aberdeen.    As my time to head home got closer, I had one more adventure with Beth and Siobhan:  Hadrian’s Wall.   They only had a couple of days available, so we walked the middle 20 miles of the wall – the most impressive and beautiful part. Hadrian’s wall was built by the Emperor Hadrian to “keep the Scottish highlanders out”.   It is just so amazing to see things that were built in the year 122 (almost 2000 years old!)   Siobhan was a real trooper (at age 10) to walk 10 miles one day and 11 miles the next day!

Then a day to sort through my pack – leave some things, mail some things, and try to get everything consolidated enough to be a “carry on”.   My buddy pass worked wonderfully on Delta – I got in Business Class to Atlanta and then made it on to Denver.   A long day but it is good to be back in Colorado!  One more leg this afternoon: the bus from Denver to Gunnison and finally back to Crested Butte by tonight!   Yea!


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