Tag Archives: Scotland

Seventy-One Days Away, But Now We’re Back

Our latest jaunt began April 27 with a flight to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and it ended 71 days later with a flight from Los Angeles, California to El Paso, Texas. Along the way we took a transatlantic cruise to Spain, a back-to-back follow-on cruise in the Mediterranean to destinations in both France and Spain, a four-night stay in Germany, two nights in the Netherlands, and then three 12-night back-to-back cruises before flying back for a night in Los Angeles.

The Transatlantic adventure aboard Royal Caribbean’s smallish (78,491 gross tonnage/2,050 double-occupancy passenger capacity) Vision of the Seas allowed me to play a lot of bridge as we had seven days at sea before reaching the Canary Islands, and an additional two sea days before making port in Barcelona. The eight-day Vision follow-on took us to seldom visited ports of call such as Carcassonne (Sete), Toulon, and Corsica in France; followed by the Spanish ports of Ibiza, Cartagena, and Valencia.

Our three Royal Caribbean Jewel of the Seas (slightly larger at 90,090 GT/2,191 double-occupancy) back-to-backs included Iceland, Ireland, and Northern Ireland; followed by destinations in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales; and finishing off with six ports in Norway. That last voyage took us well north of the Arctic Circle where, during our time there, the sun never set. The farthest north we ventured was 71º 10′ 21″ North latitude, the northernmost point of the continent of Europe and a mere 144 miles/232 kilometers from the closest point to the resurgent Evil Empire that does not deserve mention. You may recall that back in March I pulled all articles on destinations to that deplorable nation.

All in all, not a bad trip save for one completely disappointing city, which I described to you in this recent well-deserved rant: Trashy Amsterdam and the Hellhole of Schipol. You just know the wheels went completely off the rails when I take time away during travels to produce an unscheduled PSA.

At any rate, I’ll be presenting this series shortly after the conclusion of my series on cruising the Southern Caribbean. I’ve not decided yet, but I may run a week of firearms articles between the two series. If I do, that series of three articles will feature a bevy of fun little Berettas — a 21A Bobcat in .22 LR made in 1986, a nifty .25 ACP/6.35mm 950 BS Jetfire manufactured sometime between 1978 and 1986 (I haven’t been able to narrow it down beyond that; hopefully a more knowledgeable reader can solve the mystery for me), and a .380 ACP/9mm kurz 84B Cheetah in remarkable condition dating back to 1982. The 950 should be a particularly fun article, as it is one of two candidates for the unspecified “very flat .25 Beretta automatic with a skeleton grip” Ian Fleming’s fictional spy James Bond used in the first five novels — Casino Royale; Live and Let Die; Moonraker; Diamonds Are Forever; and From Russia, with Love. Of course, we all know what replaced that diminutive “lady’s gun” Beretta, now don’t we.


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Fun Photo Friday — Invergorden & Inverness Favorites (and a Monster?)

Green Bench at Beauly Priory

Okay, you’ve been waiting for this all week, I’m sure. First, some background. I was standing at about this spot at the northeast end of Loch Ness:

Loch Ness

I had my camera set to  manually focus for some closeup images when out of the corner of my eye I spied something swimming in the loch. Now, having read many of the stories of trying to capture this elusive creature, I suspected I only had perhaps seconds to react before Nessie, or whatever, would dive beneath the surface into the dark depths of Loch Ness below. Without hesitation, I swung the camera up to my eye, and here is the dramatic result of this seldom seen phenomena of cryptozoology:

The Loch Ness . . . Creature?

Hey, what did you expect? Something clearer than most other Nessie photos? Alas, my instincts, that I would have limited time to avail myself of a photo before the opportunity elapsed, were proven correct. Before I could manually focus or switch the camera to automatically do so for me, the creature disappeared with an odd, “Quack,” and skittered across the loch with a strange flapping motion before disappearing into the distance.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. Perhaps I should have saved that one for next year, say, around April 1. Anyway, I’ll leave you with one last image for today before you start throwing rotten tomatoes at your computer screen:

A Mini Pair

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Transatlantic — Clava Cairn; Battle of Culloden; Loch Ness

Balnuaran of Clava

On our bus tour out of Invergordon we made three more stops beyond Beauly Priory. The first was a site containing Bronze Age burial mounds known as Clava cairn. This particular Clava cairn is Balnuaran of Clava. And here is the largest of the cairns:

Balnauran of Clava

After that we moved on to the site of the famous Battle of Culloden, April 16, 1746.

Battle of Culloden

Culloden is a small town located about 3 miles/4.8 kilometers east of Inverness. The name derives from the Gaelic Cùl Lodain, which roughly translates to back of the small pond, or, in modern Gaelic, Cùil Lodair, which means marshy nook, and the area of the battlefield was at the time a boggy moor. As you can, there are hints of that type terrain today:

Culloden Battlefield

Culloden Battlefield

But for the most part the boggy features of this area is all but gone, although there are efforts to restore the terrain to its state during the battle:

Culloden Battlefield

Culloden Battlefield

Next up was Loch Ness of Loch Ness Monster fame.

South Loch Ness

And while our first look at this area way back in around 2001 would result in no monster photos, I did manage on this tour to snap a quick, albeit slightly blurry, photo of something strange out there. You’ll see that photo on this week’s Fun Photo Friday. The photo of Loch Ness presented below were taken near the northeast end of the loch, about 5 miles/8 kilometers southwest of Inverness.

Loch Ness

Loch Ness is extremely narrow yet very deep. It is 23 miles/37 kilometers long, but only 1.7 miles/2.7 kilometers at its widest point. The depths plummet to 745 feet/227 meters, and just the average depth is an impressive 433 feet/132 meters!

Loch Ness

If you look at a map of Scotland, you’ll see that the country is split in two by a series of lochs and rivers, with Loch Ness cutting diagonally across starting from near Inverness at Loch Dochfour, and continuing in a nearly straight-line slash across Scotland with Lochs Oich, Lochy, Eil, and Linnhe. If you think this sounds like a fault line, it is. And built between many of these lochs are 60 miles/97 kilometers of canal made up of 29 locks, or as I call them, loch locks. This is the Caledonan Canal, and it allows boat travel from Inverness on the east coast all the way to the Isle of Mull west of mainland Scotland.

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