Category Archives: Travel

Scotland August 4, 2022: Blue Bus/Green Bus/Red Bus

Another day, another breakfast at the hotel and Lawn Bowling.

(BTW – the day I started writing this was exactly one week from when we saw the Edinburgh Tattoo 2022 and I bought tickets for the Edinburgh Tattoo 2023. I guess we’re going back)

We had decided to give the Hop-On/Hop-Off busses a try so we walked over to the Ocean Terminal to get the Blue Bus. It arrived the same time as we did so we got on, got our headphones and started to listen to narration about buildings and historical events around us.

While riding, we decided to get off at Saint Andrews Square and switch to a Green Bus to see what else was available.

The Green Bus had a live running commentary which got pretty annoying so we got off at stop 6 (the John Knox House) and walked down the Royal Mile to Canongate Kirk (Stop 5) to resume the Blue Bus

Walking downhill in Edinburgh whenever possible is a really good idea. The Royal Mile is actually built on the top of a volcano with the Castle at the top and Holyrood Palace at the other. The route runs from an elevation of 42 metres (138 ft) above sea level at the palace to 109 metres (358 ft) at the castle, giving an average gradient of 4.1%.

Besides being hilly, it’s all cobblestones.

We waited a bit at Canongate Kirk – The Kirk (Church) of the Canongate, or Canongate Kirk, serves the Parish of Canongate in Edinburgh’s Old Town, in Scotland. It is a congregation of the Church of Scotland. The parish includes the Palace of Holyroodhouse and the Scottish Parliament. It is also the parish church of Edinburgh Castle, even though the castle is detached from the rest of the parish.

The Canongate is a street and associated district in central Edinburgh. The street forms the main eastern length of the Royal Mile while the district is the main eastern section of Edinburgh’s Old Town.

It began when David I of Scotland, by the Great Charter of Holyrood Abbey c.1143, authorised the Abbey to found a burgh separate from Edinburgh between the Abbey and Edinburgh. The burgh of Canongate that developed was controlled by the Abbey until the Scottish Reformation when it came under secular control. In 1636 the adjacent city of Edinburgh bought the feudal superiority of the Canongate but it remained a semi-autonomous burgh under its own administration until its formal incorporation into the city in 1856.

The burgh gained its name from the route that the canons of Holyrood Abbey took to Edinburgh – the canons’ way or the canons’ gait, from the Scots word gait meaning “way”. In more modern times, the eastern end is sometimes referred to as part of the Holyrood area of the city.

The Blue Bus for the first one back to the stop so we hopped on. While we were on the dotted section of the map above our narrator mentioned Market Street and the Edinburgh Dungeon. Although we didn’t go in to the dungeon, I noted that where we wanted to be was nearly across the street at 1 Cockburn aka the Edinburgh Military Tattoo Office. We had been there before but had always walked down the hill from the Royal Mile and I knew it was near the Waverly Train station but hadn’t related it to the bus route.

The bus went down a bit of a hill so I knew we didn’t want to get off and walk back up to get to the Tattoo Office so we saved that errand for another trip.

Info about the dungeon for the curious. At 0:45, to the left of the video, there’s a rounded building on the corner- that’s where we needed to be.

So, we rode around on the Blue Bus for until we got back to Saint Andrews Square. Since all busses start and end there, we assumed (remember from the travel day?) we needed to get off but the helpful person from the bus company said to get back on. So, we did!

A view of the Castle from Princes Street. Looking closely, you can see some of the viewing stands for the Tattoo.

More photos from the bus

When we got to the Royal Botanic Garden, we got off. First order of business was having a lunch, which was wonderful. We sat out on a deck overlooking the gardens. The photos below are from the garden and lunch.

Back on the bus, we could see a cruise ship docked outside the Ocean Terminal

After we got back to the hotel, I had a cunning plan for tomorrow night. I thought we could get back on a Blue Bus and get to our hotel after the Tattoo. I actually, contacted the bus company and they responded with a personal note!! Sadly, like Blackadder’s Cunning Plans, mine didn’t work out.

Map and times for to take a regular bus.

I’ll have another plan tomorrow, which also won’t work out.

Scotland August 3, 2022: Loch Ness, Glencoe & the Highlands

Before we came to Scotland this year we’d decided to go on day trips using trains and/or buses to cut down on the driving (remember – “because this is Scotland, the car was a 5-speed manual transmission – and you drive on the left side. The roundabouts go around to the left.”)

Last night I’d looked online to see what was available and came up with today’s 12-hour tour from Rabbie’s (which my spellcheck always tries to make as rabies):

You leave the cobbled streets of Edinburgh and travel past Linlithgow Palace and Stirling Castle.

This region is soaked in history, so sit back and relax as your driver-guide entertains you with the tales of Mary Queen of Scots, William Wallace, and Scottish folklore.

If you keep a look out, you can catch a glimpse of the Kelpies. These 30-metre tall horse head sculptures need to be seen to be believed.

Your first stop is in the town of Callander on the edge of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. You can grab coffee here and peruse the yummy local delicacies on offer.

After this stop, it’s time to get your camera ready. Because as you travel north into the Highlands, the landscapes suddenly become more provocative.

Shimmering lochs, rugged mountains, forest filled glens: it’s all so beautiful that it’s easy to forget these were once battlegrounds for fiercely territorial Highland clans.

You stop in Glencoe, one of the most famous natural landmarks in all of Scotland. This beautiful area boasts steep slopes and photogenic peaks. Your driver-guide may reveal to you the tragic tale that’s haunted this valley for over 300 years.

You then enter the glacial valley known as the Great Glen and pass under the shadow of Ben Nevis, Britain’s tallest mountain.

After this visual feast of mighty inclines, you arrive in Fort Augustus on the banks of Loch Ness. At 23 miles long and over 700ft deep, Loch Ness is the largest loch by volume in Scotland.

You have around one hour and a half here. You can search for the infamous monster on a relaxing boat cruise, wander around the shores of the loch at your own pace, and grab a bite to eat.

Your journey south is packed full of classic Highland scenery. You travel through the curvy Cairngorms National Park, along Loch Laggan, and past Blair Castle.

Amongst the tall trees of Perthshire, you have a final refreshment break before journeying alongside the UNESCO Forth Rail Bridge and back into Edinburgh.

I’d checked maps, an app I have called ETA and determined the amount of time it would take to get to the meeting point. We went to the lobby of the hotel where we knew there was a dedicated phone to call a cab. The cab turned out to be a “pre-hire” sort of Uber. We got to Rabbie’s cafe just the smallest tad late so we couldn’t sit together in the 16-person van. Tom got to ride shotgun and I was behind him. Amazingly, someone was even later than we were and they had to go to the back and sit in the bench seat with a couple other people. Throughout the trip we were careful to be on time – who wants to find a cab from a remote glen? – but this other person was consistently late.

I had planned to get coffee and pastries at Rabbie’s Cafe before we left so that didn’t happen. We went the opposite way of this map so our first stop was Pitlochry (no pun intended) hidden on the map just south of Blair Atholl.

According to Desmond, our driver for the day, Pitlochry is mostly a tourist town and today, WE were the tourists. We stopped off the main drag in a hugeish parking lot, climbed a small (for Scotland) hill and found a small cafe with about 4 tables.

Tom and I got sandwiches and coffee to take away and eat on the bus.

This photo of the outskirts of Pitlochry was taken on a prior trip.

6. Highland Perthshire – Travel through pine-clad slopes and take in views of fast-flowing rivers – and stop at the coffee shop in Pitlochry, mentioned above.

5. Grampian Mountains and Cairngorms – Enjoy classic views of one of Scotland’s most mesmerising mountain ranges. When we stayed in Aviemore, we visited the Cairngorms several times. On this trip, we just drove through. (this trip’s photos in the gallery, below)

4 Fort Augustus – This wee town of 650 inhabitants is a great spot to watch boats traversing the Caledonian Canal. The canal was so cool – they opened the locks for about 6 boats while we were there.

Loch Ness – Take a chance to go on an optional boat cruise or wander around this alluring and eerie loch. We had been to a different part of Loch Ness when we went to Urquhart Castle in 2015.

3 Great Glen – A humongous fault line through the Scottish Highlands; it’s a location that’s as historically important as it is beautiful. I’m not sure why we didn’t stop to see the fault line but Desmond said it was there so it must have been.

2 Glencoe – Be moved by the sheer beauty and tragic tales of one of Scotland’s most famous landscapes.

Desmond played the music to Skyfall while driving through Glencoe.

And the worst part of the beautiful place.

Short version:

Long version:

1 Rannoch Moor – Admire unforgettable views at this epic expanse of untouched wilderness.

All our photos from this day trip – trying out a gallery for the first time.

Tom took a bunch of short videos with Desmond’s narrations but I haven’t figured out how to embed them all here and it’s slow going to upload them individually. See those videos here.

As promised, we got back about 8, found a cab and had dinner (burger/fries and Commonwealth Games) and bedtime to get ready for another adventure.

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