Kirkwall to Ullapool...the northern coast

Trip Start Apr 25, 2012
Trip End May 09, 2012

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Flag of United Kingdom  , Scotland,
Monday, May 7, 2012

    So we left Orkney this morning. We had about an hour and a half this morning to explore Kirkwall and I was able to get some shopping done :) However, some shops were closed because apparently the first Monday of May is a holiday, for May day...don't really know what that means though...haha. We caught our ferry back to the mainland at 12:00 and again had a beautiful day for crossing! The water was so calm, sun was shining again, I've been so spoiled ;) But it was overcast for much of the rest of the day, which was fine because it was just a lot of driving today. The landscapes we passed by were amazing though! We drove along the northern coast for a while and saw some pretty nice beaches (which don't get used too often because it's just too cold, haha), and then further west there were really cool mist covered mountains and hills...kind of lunar-like actually because not many trees grow here, but lots of gorse!
    One interesting spot we passed by was the Dounreay Nuclear Power Station which had some questionable/suspicious events occur. The story our driver told us went something like this: some guy was trying to expose the negative side effects of the station, he ended up being murdered, but his death was ruled a suicide. A public outcry followed and around 16 men in parliament or involved in the finances quit soon after...pretty suspicious it it's true...I can't seem to find much info to back this up.

    On a lighter note, one really cool stop we had today was at Smoo cave, funny name right? lol. We walked down a steep staircase to look inside this big limestone cave where there was also a waterfall coming down from up where the bus was parked...really cool! I also got a whole pocketfull of rocks from here too, haha. There were some really interesting looking ones like I've never seen anywhere else...yet ;) So I was very happy with this stop!

    Another stop we made was at the ruins of another castle, Ardvrek Castle. I've seen so many at this point that it failed to impress me, haha, but the views around it were great, I really like this area of Scotland. Our driver gave us some more interesting stories today, some of which I'm thinking were just legends as I couldn't verify his stories from what I found online...but the stories were entertaining nonetheless. He told us about Scotland's justice system and how they have three verdicts: guilty, innocent, and not proven...which I found very interesting. A story goes that this guy named 'Lochiel' was caught carrying malted barley and a copper pot for making whisky (while making it was banned). He was originally found guilty in court for making whisky, but managed to defend himself by saying he should not be guilty just for having the means to produce whisky. This brought about the third verdict of 'not proven,' meaning the jury is essentially convinced the person is guilty, they just don't have enough physical proof. This same guy, perhaps fictional, is credited for naming Loch Lochy. My driver claimed it would be the same as naming a body of water "pond pondy," haha. Finally, our driver also mentioned the movie Good Will Hunting and how it could have been loosely based off a true story of a janitor at a university here who would solve a geology professor's equations for finding the mass of the earth on the blackboard. Our driver is quite an entertaining guy! The only mistake he seems to have made was almost leaving someone behind at a bathroom stop...poor Dierdre, haha! And finally, we passed some more deer, hairy coos (!) and Shetland ponies during our drive.

    Tonight, since it was our last night really as a group, we all went to a pub for dinner, including our driver, which was fun! Everyone on both my tours was really nice. We were hoping they might have been live music there tonight, but there wasn't, probably since it's a Monday and a holiday. Oh well, at least I can say I've been to a pub in Scotland, haha! My dinner was great too...vegetable moussaka. Yes, I had a vegetarian version of a traditional Greek meat dish in a Scottish pub, haha. We got into town late, around 7:15 so we didn't have dinner until after 8, so I'm quite tired tonight, haha, and tomorrow is my last day :( We're basically driving straight to Edinburgh, with a few stops along the way of course. I'm hoping for another nice day to round off 2 weeks of good weather ;)
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