Throwback Thursday #8 – October 3, 2007

We’re not traveling as much in our fifth wheel anymore so I thought it would be fun to relive some of our most memorable days from previous RV trips.

Flash back to twelve years ago, October 3, 2007. We were camping in Cherokee, North Carolina, our home base for visiting the Great Smokey Mountain National Park and the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was foggy and drizzling for most of our stay but we managed to get in some sightseeing and scenic drives while we were there.

We started the day with a three mile hike along the Oconaluftee River inside Great Smokey Mountains National Park.

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Oconaluftee River in Great Smokey Mountain National, Park
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Beaver evidence next to the river

Next up was a scenic drive starting at the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The farther north we got, the thicker the fog. After a while it drizzling. I was able to get a few photos before before the weather got too bad.

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Old homestead on Blue Ridge Parkway, NC
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Old homestead on Blue Ridge Parkway, NC
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Blue Ridge Mountains, NC

It was a wonderful fall getaway with camping in Cherokee, visiting the national park, and taking drives on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Lens-Artists #63: Magical

This week, Ann-Christine has challenged us to show what is magical to us.

What is more magical than an ancient castle? As we traveled through Ireland and Scotland earlier this year one of my favorite things was seeing the many castles.

For me, the most magical of all was Dunnottar Castle in Stovehaven, Scotland. Sitting on top of a cliff that juts out into the North Sea, it seemed to magically appear out of a thick fog.

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Dunnottar Castle on a Foggy Day, Stonehaven, Scotland
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The North Sea was barely visible below Dunnottar Castle, Stonehaven, Scotland
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A path led down to the sea at Dunnottar Castle, Stonehaven, Scotland

Occasionally the fog would clear just long enough for a clear view. Even without the fog, it was a magical site to see.

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Foggy day at Dunnottar Castle, Stonehaven, Scotland

Many thanks to Ann-Christine for this weeks Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Magical

 

Weekend getaway on the Georgia Coast

Of the eight large barrier islands off the coast of Georgia, only four can be accessed by a bridge. Sapelo Island is one of the islands can only be reached by water and visiting it has been on my bucket list for years.

Sapelo is the fourth largest Georgia barrier island. Most of the island is owned by the state of Georgia. The state owned portion of Sapelo is home to the RJ Reynolds Wildlife Management area on the north end of the island, the University of Georgia’s Marine Institute, and the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve.

The remaining 434 acres is the privately owned community of Hog Hammock. Many of the 70 residents there are descendants of former African-American slaves. Today, some property owners live elsewhere and a few of the houses are managed as vacation rentals.

We spent Friday night in Darien so we wouldn’t have far to go for our early Saturday morning Saturday ferry. We enjoyed a delicious fried shrimp and crab cake dinner Friday night at Skippers Fish Camp on the Darien waterfront. During our after dinner walk beside the water we spied 3 baby alligators on the banks of the river and a manatee behind a shrimp boat.

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Darien Waterfront

On Saturday morning, it didn’t take long to get to  Sapelo Visitors Center from Darien. After purchasing our tickets for the Sapelo Ferry we learned a little about the history of the island from the interpretive displays and enjoyed the views from the deck.

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View from the Visitor’s Center on the mainland with Sapelo Island in the distance.

The ferry departed at 9:00, right on schedule. Pelicans were busy diving for fish as we made our way to the island.

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Ferry Boat on the mainland waiting to take passengers to Sapelo Island
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Georgia salt marsh viewed from the ferry to Sapelo
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Sapelo Lighthouse as seen from the ferry

Our guide Yvonne Grovner took us around the island in a small air conditioned van. Yvonne grew up on Sapelo in the Hog Hammock community and told us many interesting facts about the island. We went from paved roads to narrow dirt trails as we traveled around the island.

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Behavior Cemetery on Sapelo Island
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Tabby ruins on Sapelo Island, Georgia
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Reynolds Mansion on Sapelo Island, Georgia

We climbed the 77 steps to the top of the Sapelo Lighthouse.

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Sapelo Lighthouse, Georgia

Our last stop before returning to the mainland was Nanny Goat Beach. It was a Saturday and there were a few people enjoying the white sandy beach. Our guide told us sometimes on weekdays there is no one else there.

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Nanny Goat Beach, Sapelo Island, Georgia

If you are planning a visit to Sapelo Island, you must make reservations for the ferry in advance. Reservations are also needed to take the tour. If you would rather explore on your own, golf carts and bicycles are available for rent. A few homes are available for rent and group camping is available. Reynolds Mansion can also be rented by groups.

More information about visiting Sapelo Island can be found at Visitors Center – Sapelo Island

 

Our last days in Scotland

The drive from Inverness to our next destination, Aberdeen was not very far.  To get there all we had to do was stay on the same road through about 50 round-a-bouts. The drive took us through several pretty villages and beautiful countryside. We were in desperate need of a laundry so when I spotted a self serve launderette at a gas station we pulled over and washed clothes.

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When you run out of clean clothes while traveling in Scotland, you stop at a launderette at a gas station
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Somewhere between Inverness and Aberdeen
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Yellow fields, Scotland

The beautiful old trees and gardens surrounding the MacDonald Norwood Hall Hotel in Aberdeen made me feel like I was on a country estate. The hotel was once a private home and later converted to a hotel. Although it is supposedly haunted we didn’t see any ghosts. While we enjoyed a delicious dinner in the dining room there was a wedding going on in another part of the hotel.

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MacDonald Norwood Hall Hotel, Aberdeen, Scotland
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Beautiful gardens in Aberdeen

The next day was another short driving day. Before we left Aberdeen we were talking to the father of the groom from the wedding the night before. He lived near Aberdeen and gave me some insight about my Scottish ancestors who emigrated to America from the area. He also recommended we stop at Donnottar Castle on our way to Fife.

I’m so glad we took his advice. We ventured off the main road to visit the castle which sits on a cliff high above the North Sea. The fog made it really eerie.

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Donnottar Castle, Scotland
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Donnottar Castle, Scotland
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Donnottar Castle, Scotland

It was early afternoon when we arrived at Fernie Castle in Fife, our home for the night. We enjoyed having time to relax and enjoy the castle and the beautiful grounds. The castle was haunted but alas, we never saw a ghost there, either.

There are Highland Cows, a horse and goats on the grounds of Fernie Castle. One of the things on my bucket list for Scotland was to see a Highland Cow up close and personal so I thoroughly enjoyed watching them and taking lots of photos. Hamish was not shy and came over to see what I was doing while the Heather ignored me and kept on eating her grass. I fed Hamish some potatoes and other vegetables but when I tried to pet him he nudged me gently with one of his horns to let me know he didn’t like it.

We said good bye to Hamish, Heather and Fernie Castle and continued on to Edinburgh for our last two nights in Scotland. The city is built on hills with Edinburgh Castle at the end of the Royal Mile on top of one of the hills . The walk to the Royal Mile from our hotel was down steep stone stairs and through an alley. We spent a day and a half wandering along the Royal Mile.

We toured historic St. Giles Cathedral.

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St. Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, Scotland

We took a self guided tour of Edinburgh Castle. We joined a small tour group and learned about the history of the castle as our guide led us to some of its most famous spots.

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Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
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Guard at Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
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Looking at the city from Edinburgh Castle

Our timing was perfect. There was a changing of the guard while we were there.

 

We had one last look at Edinburgh Castle as our taxi took us to the airport.

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As we rode in the taxi to the airport we had our last view of Edingburgh Castle

Good bye Scotland! I’ll never forget you!

 

A Day in the Scottish Highlands

Our small tour bus with Rabbie’s Tours departed Inverness early on a Saturday morning for a 12 hour tour across the Scottish Highlands. As we rode from place to place our guide Colin filled us in on Scottish history and folklore.

Soon after leaving Inverness we were riding along with views of Loch Ness to our left. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one on the bus who was searching for Nessie, more commonly known as the Loch Ness Monster.  We didn’t stop at Nessieland, a small theme park.

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Nessieland was just up the road, Lock Ness, Scotland

Our only stop on Loch Ness was at historic Urquhart Castle. The castle is undergoing some restoration and we did not tour it. It was our last chance to see Nessie and she wasn’t cooperating.

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Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness, Scotland

We had plenty of time to tour Eilean Donan Castle and enjoy the gorgeous setting.

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Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland near Kyle of Lochalsh
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View from the bridge at Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland
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Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland

Most of the day was spent on the spectacular Isle of Skye. There are dramatic mountains and cliffs, charming seaside villages, and gorgeous scenery all around the island.

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Dramatic Cliffs, Isle of Skye, Scotland
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Isle of Skye, Scotland
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Henry was glad he wasn’t driving! Isle of Skye, Scotland
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Curvy roads around the Isle of Skye, Scotland
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Wow! We’re really here! Isle of Skye, Scotland

We stopped in the town of Portree for lunch and a view of the harbor.

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Portree, Isle of Skye, Scotland
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Town of Portree, Isle of Skye, Scotland

A few people on the bus brought back some beer from the Isle of Skye Brewery.

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Isle of Skye Brewery, Scotland

Our last stop on the Isle of Skye was the town of Kyleakin. It was raining as we walked around the waterfront with a nice view of the the Skye Bridge and the Kyleakin Lighthouse.

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Skye Bridge, Scotland
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Kyleakin Lighthouse, Isle of Skye, Scotland

It rained most of the way back to Inverness. When we arrived in Inverness that Saturday night the restaurants and pubs were hopping with young people out on the town. We found a restaurant with no wait, had a quick supper and called it a night after a long but fantastic day.