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Edinburgh – Day 20, October 29, 2010

I came to Edinburgh today and thankfully the Youth Hostel here wasn’t hard to locate. It was a short walk from the bus station. The hostel itself is quite a departure from the others I’ve stayed in so far, mostly up in the highlands. It’s much larger, has a huge number of rooms, and is open all day long. I’ve grown quite fond of these hostels, funnily, and I do believe they make it so much easier for someone on a budget to travel around a country such as Scotland in relative comfort and security.

I rested for a short while after checking into the hostel and then proceeded to take a walk on the streets of the city. The architecture is certainly distinctive and has elements such as the few cobbled streets, especially in the old town, that speak of days gone by. It’s also very crowded, and the whole place seems to have been overrun by people from out-of-town, looking to capture some of the enigma that Edinburgh, as the capital of Scotland, is associated with. I was admittedly one of them, although being alone allows me a certain degree of detachment from the whole process, while retaining the curiosity and willingness to explore.

Once again, having no fixed agenda or desire to only see the monuments, but rather giving into whatever I feel like doing at any point of time allowed me to catch a faint tune while I was taking a walk through the Princes Street Gardens. At first it seemed as if I was hearing things, because even as I stood at the same spot where I thought I had heard the sound, all I could make out was the wind ripping across the branches and leaves of the trees nearby along with the cackle of a group of youngsters chatting nearby. Just as I moved I heard the sound again, and this time I was sure I wasn’t imagining stuff. It sounded like a flute or a saxophone, and as I followed the notes over the air, I found this young fellow standing in the middle of the walkway in the park playing his instrument while resting on the railing besides him. I shall refrain from stating the instrument he was playing because, frankly, I don’t know and I didn’t ask him. All I know is that the music he was playing was extremely good, and seemed perfect for the late evening ambience that prevailed at the time.

I sat down close to where he was playing and stayed there for 15-20 minutes, while people crossing both ways stopped, listened for some time and then walked away, or paid no heed to the beautiful sounds being created by this young fellow and his instrument, and went on with their (rather loud at times) conversations and walked right past. His tunes were melodious and soulful, and he seemed to be quite proficient in his playing, as one who has spent years practicing their craft. The music I heard sitting there that evening was a great way to get introduced to the city on my first day there. It never ceases to surprise me how having music can alter the way we perceive the world around us at any given point in time, irrespective of our own mood or state of mind. It was great timing that I was there when he was playing, because as I later found out he wasn’t a regular there, but was only playing for a short while on his way to the west of Scotland where he would soon commence his new job. Thank you, Ano (I hope that’s how you spell your name) from France, for making my first evening in Edinburgh such a great one.

StrandedMike

Day 10 – October 19, 2010

Scottish Cow

Started back from Torridon today. I think I’m staying at Glen Nevis, and will try to see if I can visit the Glenfinnan viaduct tomorrow. It’s close to Fort William and should easily be doable. Not sure if I’ll mange to squeeze in Castle Stalker too, but we’ll see. Castle Stalker is on the way back to Glasgow, but it is accessed via a route which is different from the one I am planning to take so I’m hoping to visit it tomorrow, otherwise I might have to skip it.

Eilean Donan Castle

Stopped again at Eilean Donan castle to manage and squeeze out a fiew photos with the sun shining on it. I had stopped here on my way to Torridon a couple of days ago, but at that time the clouds were out in full-force and I had to be content with very a very moody-looking caslte. The sun obliged today, albeit after standing in the cold, waiting for it to make an appearance for a good half hour. It was worth it though, because the castle looks like a million bucks in the sunlight, and I was glad I decided to wait for it to happen.

The ruins of Inverlochy Castle

The drive back from Torridon also had me stopping at a number of places, contrary to what I had thought. It had been very cold last night with the result that all peaks in Scotland had seen snowfall on them. This created a situation where every scene I had witnessed while driving to Torridon had acquired a different atmosphere. I didn’t repeat all of those images, but definitely a few, because with the snow showing these places had undergone a significant change of character.

A stream of molten water from the slopes of Ben Nevis flows by

The hostel at Glen Nevis seems to be the most unfriendly feeling of all the SYHA hostels I’ve stayed in so far. I can’t quite put my finger on the reason, but it just feels less welcoming than the others, and more so in stark contrast to the one at Torridon, where the guy at the reception was the most friendly I’ve met in any of the hostels. Anyway, I just need to sleep here, so I’m not going to let this feeling run amok. We’ll see how tomorrow goes.

Day 6 – October 15, 2010

On the road to Glencoe, passing through Rannoch Moor

Woke up today feeling much better than last night. Even though I had thought of driving to Glencoe last night before going to bed, I wasn’t sure of it mainly because Ben Lomond had taken a lot out of me. But this morning was better than last night and I decided I’d do the drive. At the same time I started feeling a little apprehensive of going further up into the highlands. I have a heard of the splendour of the highlands, along with their unpredictable weather, and for some strange reason I started feeling safe and at home in Loch Lomond, where I had been staying for the last four days. There was, however, no way I was going to let silly thoughts like those get to me. I was here, far away from home, to explore, experience, and see. Going into the unknown when I already was in the unknown wouldn’t be much different. And so I packed my bags and set off for Glencoe.

The throat was much worse this morning than it has been in the last couple of days. It’s probably because I keep stuff to drink in the car that I’ve rented, but it stays cold all the time because of the weather. The water I had after coming down from Ben Lomond must be to blame here. Drat!

En-route to Glencoe

The drive up towards Glencoe kept me on the A82 all the way. The drive itself was fairly good, but the scenery en-route was spectacular. Lots of elements of Ladakh to see, along with many unique features such as the dour-looking Rannoch moor, said to be the most inhospitable area in Scotland. The drive itself was fairly uneventful apart from my valiant attempts to drive single-handed at 60mph while trying to take photos of the lands passing by with the other hand! Not very smart, but that’s what I’m here to do right? 😛 Didn’t have much choice in terms of places to stop till the time I reached Tyndrum where I had a cup of herb tea to soothe my throat. Beyond Tyndrum there were parking places that were well situated, especially as I got closer to Glencoe.

The SYHA hostel at Glencoe is located on a small by-lane, around two miles off the A82. It’s a quaint little building surrounded by the hills of the Glen and tall trees all around. It is a very picturesque location. I’m staying here tonight and tomorrow. Hoping to catch up with all my unwritten blogs for the last few days and get some much-needed rest. I’ve been shooting and moving around continuously for the past four-five days and it’s starting to wear me down a little bit. I’ve been recharging my camera’s batteries continuously, and it’s time I did myself the same favour.

Day 3 – October 12, 2010

SYHA Loch Lomond

Contrary to my expectations I didn’t move around a lot today. Spent most of my time at the small village/town of Balloch close to the hostel. There is a place called the ‘Loch Lomond Shores’ over there which has a visitor’s centre along with a gift store and the works. There is a small place for families to have a picnic or just hang around. The whole place is built around the southern end of the loch and has a few short walks.

The other place nearby is the Balloch Castle Country Park (entry free). Didn’t get to spend too much time here. Came in around 5.30pm and left an hour later, having only seen a small part. Will come back tomorrow..

It was a little cold today, and I think I might have caught a little bit of it. My throat feels scratchy but I’m hoping it doesn’t aggravate and I don’t have to deal with the usual consequences of a cold, cough, and fever.

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