Saturday, 22 September 2018

Scotland, Ireland Drive

Day 8

Yah, a sleep in day!
I decided to slow things down today by making my way to a local's coffee shop to work on a few things while enjoying a cappuccino. The sun was out in full force, so the 12C temperature kept things refreshing. Tomorrow would be a big day, so I needed to keep reminding myself to just take it easy today. I loitered for an hour in the quiet upstairs cafe before making my way slowly back to the hotel,  passing another random monument I had yet to see...this city has so much charm with such an eclectic feel to it, loved it!

I wasted a few more hours before deciding to burn up some of my British cash I had no more need for. I googled for a brewery, which led me to the well known Brewdog. The place was full, so I committed to staying for awhile as I was not about to give up my bar-front seat anytime soon. One flight of beers and 2 pints later, I regretted my indulgence as I zig zagged my way back to my humble abode in a guilty foggy haze. I needed to be up at 4:30 to head to the airport, so not surprisingly I was not looking forward to that early alarm. 

Brewdog, definitely not the cheapest brewery
Day 9

The day started as smooth as one could hope for. The £4.50 express bus got me to the airport early. The Ryanair flight so many had warned me about was enjoyable, and I would have no hesitation using them again. Things though, started to drastically fall apart once I arrived to the car rental desk in Dublin.

Long story short, "SIXT" refused to allow me to waive my insurance coverage due to an absurd technicality. I needed a signed form from my credit card stating they were fine with this....even though I had printed the actual credit card manual that specifically states they covered everything. I also have one of the top traveling credit cards for cases like this. Anyways, they forced me to pay 150 Euros (270cad) extra for their coverage....that one hurt.  I would not recommend renting from this company because this was only the beginning of the headaches.

The problem began to compound itself when I began walking around the car.  The majority of damage to the vehicle was not reported, and on top of that, there was a shake when driven over 110km, PLUS I immediately got a low tire pressure warning once leaving the airport.  My mojo was not feeling it at this point!

The entire 5 day route...over 1300km!

Today I drove 214km direct to Galway on one of their major freeways which included several tolls. My piece of crap car was barely keeping up to the 120km/hr speed limit, and with the persistent shake and low tire pressure warning, my confidence on whether I'd make it to all planned destinations without issue was at an all time low. Once checking into my Airb&b home owned by an old couple, I decided to walk the quick 5 minutes to downtown Galway to take in all the buskers littered along the many pedestrian streets. Galway was a small college town, and all the bars and streets were hopping due to everyone returning for the new semester. I dipped into a quaint rustic Irish bar and had a Guiness accompanied with a classic Irish stew was amazing.  The rain started to intensify, so I decided to make my way back to the house.

One of a dozen pedestrian streets
The harbour along Galway
I really enjoyed this bar and the pretty Irish waitresses 
Your classic meat and potato plate in Ireland
Before settling in for the night, another room beside me was being occupied by a nice German couple. I chatted with them for a few minutes before calling it a night....the rain was really putting a damper on everything, so I stayed optimistic for tomorrows forecast...I really needed the clear skies.

Day 10

Today started with an amazing breakfast laid out by the owners of the house. I stuffed my face as much as possible in the attempts to stretch out the next meal. The home owner recommended a beach only locals visited called Dog that's exactly where I headed first. It shocked me how many large beaches Ireland had, and this was no exception. Two massive sandy beaches side by side only separated by a thin strip of pasture land stretched out for miles. I first walked a few km along Gurteen Bay, taking in the fresh salty breeze and the much appreciated lack of people. There were maybe 2-3 people here, all locals walking their dog. I thoroughly enjoyed this as I made my way across the pasture land to Dog Bay... an identical sandy beach with its own identity. The rain started up again, and seeing I was getting a little tired always having wet jeans, I picked up my pace and b-lined it straight back to my car.
Gurteen Bay
Cool looking thorny bushes

Passing through the small town of Clifton, I stopped into the local grocery store and enjoyed a delicious 5 Euro box meal before making a last minute decision on my plans.  I figured detouring around the scenic Sky Road loop was worth the extra time, rain or no rain.  The drive revealed amazing colours in the fields, and the overall experience was quite pleasant, but the rain continued, (now with the added wind), obscuring any potential for panoramic views. 

Beautiful colours
Top of Sky Road, but the rain obscured the views
Great reds and yellows
Continuing on, I arrived to one of the more anticipated stops...Connemara Park.  The planned 6-8km hike was right up my ally, but, you guessed it, the rain became the determining factor. Sitting in the car.  I desperately waited for the rain to subside, (for almost an hour), but it continues to intensify, now pouring down in sheets in a biblical fashion.  I had to make the shitty call to continue on which was a crushing blow to my day.

Not much further down the road was the beautiful Kylemore Abby.  I took in the sites for a few minutes from the comforts of the car before racing out for a few pictures.  I felt I had rushed this attraction, but with the ongoing rain, my options were limited. 
Beautiful setting, you can see the intensity of the rain here
The weather forced my hand to change my strategy.  I decided to focus my energy on scenic drives, adding the Louisburgh loop to the itinerary.  A quick stop at Aasleagh falls also found its way onto the route, but at this point, I was wet, tired, and a bit grumpy with the weather not cooperating, so I set a course back to Galway to conclude my day.

I grabbed a quick shower and headed back to the Galway pedestrian streets for a beer and some Irish music.  I chatted up an old Irish couple while enjoying a few Guinness before turning my attention to 2 American ladies.  We had a nice chat, but it started to become quite apparent the lady I had zero interest in was taking a liking to me, and the other who I thought was cute, seemed less inclined. Irritated, I grabbed a quick Jamison shot and called it a night. 

Day 11

The sun was out!!
I departed Galway rejuvenated after having another great breakfast at the house, heading south this time towards the Cliffs of Moher, (the most visited natural attraction in Ireland).  I opted to take several narrow back roads which meandered along the rugged coast.  I also found time to stop at several beaches along the way which seemed to be around every corner .  This significantly added time to my day, but it was worth getting off the tourist track whenever possible.
One of the back roads 
One of many beaches
Pulling into the Cliffs of Moher, I gazed upon the bustling hordes of tourists I expected to see. Rows upon rows of buses were seen in one area, with a massive car park in another.  It was 8 euros to enter which I grudgingly paid. I briskly walked past the main viewing area, continuing onwards for approximately 6km to get away from everyone.  The expansive cliffs were grande in stature, with seagulls dancing adjacent to them from the strong winds bouncing off the walls. 

Cliffs of Moher
Once content on seeing the south cliffs, I then proceeded in the opposite direction towards the O'Brians castle. The 1800's tower added a nice flare to the cliffs backdrop, but after a few hrs, I had my fill and continued driving southbound.  Next on my route were some recommended cliffs near Kilkee similar to the Cliffs of Moher,  just much less touristy....and they were right!  I walked roughly 4km here with only a dozen or so sharing the trail with me.  I even found time to lay in the grass near the cliffs edge soaking in the views...definitely worth the effort getting here. 

O'Brian castle
Laying in the grass near Kilkee
It was getting a bit late, so I took another back road, shortcutting it to the main road.  It was this road where I stumbled on a small castle in the middle of nowhere with not a soul in site.  I pulled over and enjoyed some wild blackberries, taking in the views at a leisurely pace, but time was ticking, and I still had a few hrs of driving a head of me.

Random castle on a back road
After a quick stop in Bunratty to see an “ok” castle, I continued to the small town of Adare where my B&B was located.  I started to feel a tickle in the back of my throat, and knew a cold was brewing, so I briefly toured the town before lazily stopping in a local tavern for a beer and burger.  I was feeling more and more out of sorts, so I happily called it an early night hoping to bounce back for the next day. 

Bunratty Castle

Day 12

The rain had made its return overnight, along with my cold, solidifying itself for the long haul. I had another long day planned today, and my mood was not ideal for what laid ahead of me.  I enjoyed a delicious, but brief, traditional Irish breakfast before heading straight to a well known region highly regarded for its views and famous road...Connors Pass.  Known for its extremely narrow roads and steep cliff walls, it was commonly recommended for tourist not to drive it...but naturally this made me want to do it more, obviously. 

As I approached the short stretch of single lane highway that carved itself over the mountain pass, my much anticipated exuberance began to dwindle as I weaved my way through the thick clouds cloaking the views I had heard so much about.  A few moments later, I was through, and all that was left was the popular small town of Dingle only a few km ahead down in the valley below. Battling my disappointment within, I continued onward, hoping Dingle would make up for the lackluster start, but the rain only got worse, making it much more challenging to take in the picturesque harbour town properly.  I walked a few streets trying my best to fully enjoy the experience that was laid out in front of me, but with all the views being socked in by clouds, compiled with the ever relentless rain, I abbreviated my stay and continued to the famous Kerry loop. 

Dingle, colourful harbour town
Driving through Connors Pass
Yup, room for 1 on a 2 way road
Just imagine these views on a clear day
I knew adding this 150km detour was a risk with the limited visibility, but I was here, and I had to at least try....regret is something I do not deal with well lol.  The beginning of the loop (north side) was quite average under the circumstances with weather and all, but once the road started making its way back east near the end of the loop, things started to look more “favourable”.  There were a few unique beaches which I stopped at, even one allowing me to drive right to the edge of the water.  The vast ocean meeting the rugged Irish coast started to have a more dramatic look to it, allowing me to forget the disappointment only just a few hours ago.  I was back on track enjoying the experiences Ireland was so famous for.
Took the views from my car right on the beach
Near the end of the Kerry loop
The Kerry loop experience concluded by spitting me into the Killarney National Park, and even though many of the popular view points were moot due to thick cloud, there were still many opportunities available to enjoy the beautiful park.  Torc Falls was a beautiful short hike blanketed with a thick canopy, Muckross House and the nearby Abby were interesting buildings tucked along the Muckross Lake just outside of Killarney, and even in the rain, I was able to enjoy my surroundings, but time was now getting away from me.  I decided to conclude my road tour and headed into Killarney to check into my Airb&b. 
Torc falls path

Muckross House
The Abby, quiet area I was able to enjoy all to myself
Finally some blue sky
Killarney was quite small, and it took me no time to walk the several popular streets.  At this point, I couldn't ignore the hunger pestering me anymore, so guessed it, cheaped out and went to a grocery store, only this time, I raised the bar one notch higher on the pathetic scale...buying an expired carrot salad and tuna wrap....but it was half price! Lol. Don't judge;)  This would just allow me to have more Guinness in Dublin later on.  I slowly made my way back to my rural abode, stopping along the way to grab a local craft beer, and then called it a night.

Day 13

Today was the final dash back to Dublin to conclude my Ireland tour.  I inhaled an early breakfast laid out by my Airb&b host the night before, and was efficiently out the door before anyone else was even awake.  My goal was to see the Ross Castle before it opened, taking advantage of the lighting and quiet atmosphere....and thankfully I succeeded on this immensely.

I walked the entire grounds, taking in the tranquil ambiance with not a soul in site.  I couldn't imagine seeing this ancient relic any other way, and highly recommend it! 
Loved this moment!
Once I had my fill of Ross Castle, I decided to putz my way back to Cahir and Cashel on smaller rural roads, trying my best to avoid the mega toll freeways as long as possible.  Both towns had their own unique feel to them with each castle having their own contrasting styles.  At this point I was getting a bit “castled out” (seems to be a common theme with me on many of my trips), so I made each stop abbreviated.  I found myself eager to get to my final destination and settle down in Dublin for a few days before my long flight back home.
Pulling into Dublin's major ring-road, things began to not go as smooth as one would hope for.  I had issues filling up my tank, forcing me to convince the crappy car agency that it was indeed full, the needle was just not responding.  After that, I carelessly got off the wrong stop from the express airport bus, forcing me to use my mad Jedi navigating skills to get myself back on track.  Thankfully, that would be the end to the struggle, and after relaxing for a few hours, I made my way to a cozy nearby pub (Bleeding Horse, build in the 1700's) and had several tasty Guinness before calling it a night. 

Day 14

Researching a previous route completed by someone online, I decided to follow in their footsteps adding minor detours to my 14km route.  The sun was out in full force, so positive vibes were flowing as I made my way out around 9am.  The Guinness brewery was first in line, but there was no way I was going to pay the 25 Euros to see how beer was made, so I walked around the periphery of their complex until I felt content to continue onwards. 
Love the chariot adding to this pick
Crossing the Liffey river, I briefly stopped at the Wellington Monument before continuing east to the Jameson Distillery.  The distillery itself was not the high point was the hipster vibe square that stood out.  Modern condos surrounded a well designed public space, and as I took some time to relax in the sun by sitting on one of the many cement ledges laid out within the grassy space, I watched the locals play guitars, read books, even squeezing in a nap before getting back to work.  People watching is one of my favourite passions, and this spot was ideal for it.

After 30 minutes or so, I continued back across the river, walking right past the Dublina Cathedral.   I continued following the busy Lord Edward street (clogged full with tourists and tour busses), until I ran into the popular Temple bar region known for its shopping and nightlife.  It was here I enjoyed a quick big mac before resuming the walk, this time crossing back over the river on the Ha' Penny bridge to the surprising Spire.  I had no idea this was a thing in Dublin, and I felt like I was the only one transfixed by this thing as I took a moment to gaze upon it in awe. 
Not sure why, but this thing was so damn cool
Ha'Penny bridge
Classic Dublin street
I picked up the pace making my way along the river towards the ocean, passing the Famine Memorial before crossing the dramatic Samuel Beckett bridge to the Grande Canal, another modern square encapsulating the outdoor lifestyle.  I took a seat beside one of the many business people enjoying their lunch watching a group of people being taught how to stand on a paddle board.  The sun was really beating down now, and after 30 minutes or so, I was compelled to lug my ass off the baking concrete.  I finished my walk through several bustling pedestrian streets as well a few peaceful parks.
Famine Memorial
Grande Canal
I was feeling a bit fatigued, and with a long flight the following day, I decided to finish the day relaxing, at times walking random routes nearby to pass the time.  My UK/Ireland trip was coming to an end, which might of been a blessing in disguise.  Traveling solo, avoiding all hostels, and having a weak Canadian dollar, all contributed to a REALLY pricy trip ...time to replenish the old bank account;)

Day 15

The Dublin Airport was easy to navigate early in the morning, and as we lifted off the tarmac towards Canada, I closed my eyes and began to brainstorm where my next big adventure would be...maybe Peru/Columbia/Ecuador?

Thursday, 6 September 2018

London, Scotland, Ireland

Day 1

Well, it has been a while since my last blog, so I decided to cover this most recent trip... 15 days in London/Scotland/Ireland. I'm going to try and keep this one a bit shorter than my previous ones in an effort to not bore people to death.
I was lucky enough to fly direct from Calgary to London on an Air Canada Dreamliner.  I was unfortunate to not get a window seat, which resulted in me persevering through 2 movies (Avengers Infinity War, and Deadpool II) and 3 Sudoku games in an aisle seat. My American neighbours to the right of me were a bit...ummm, odd so to speak (a bit backwoods if you know what i mean)....ah crap...I'm already getting long winded here....let me move on to the actual trip!
Dreamliner, one of my fav jets
Getting through the London Heathrow Airport was extremely easy, and after paying £6 for a subway (tube) ride to Russell Square, I found myself left with only a few minutes walk to a small college called...Goodenough College (Yes, that is the actual name, a bit of an oxymoron in my opinion). My room was extremely plain, but @ £90/night, which included a private bathroom, it was a steal. It was only 10am when I arrived, but I was eager for a nap seeing I hadn't slept the entire 9hr flight. 

I unwillingly settled in, trying to shut the brain off for a few minutes, but it was futile knowing London was outside my door waiting! I decided to go out for some groceries...a few apples, oranges, olives, just enough to hold me over for a few days. I also walked a few of the quaint streets nearby before heading back for another nap.
My accommodation for 3 nights
6pm rolled around, and I grudgingly pealed myself off the bed.  I opted to venture out to a local back street pub for some cliche fish'n chips...seemed appropriate seeing that all the pubs claimed they had the best in England. It was ok, but it was the beer that propelled my need for sleep to cure the ever-persisting jet lag.  Not surprisingly, I was fast asleep by 9pm.
I over-endulged on cappuccinos on this trip
I liked the funk feel here
Local pub
Day 2

8:30am came quick, and without hesitation, I was out the door ready for the big day I knew I had ahead of me... just a simple 18km walk knocking off all the typical tourist sites.  A Starbucks Americano aided my focused exuberance.  One by one, I started to knock off the classic iconic sites I'd seen so many times on the web or in a book.
London walk route, 17km, returning by subway

  1. Trafalgar Square (never knew this place existed, but it was a pleasant surprise. I truly enjoyed it here with its perched up views and all the grandeur buildings surrounding it.)

Anything with fountains is a win in my books
This was a cool fountain
I like lion statues
  1. Buckingham Palace and its neighbouring parks (Didn't take long for me to gravitate to the nearby ponds to watch the swans and other interesting I've mentioned before, I swear swans have the best life!)
    Buckingham Palace, before the hordes of tourists
    I enjoyed the nearby park 
    Just starting to get busy
    looking back as I made my way to Big Ben
    Yup, he didn't move
  2. Big Ben (such a disappointment that this was under construction, and will be for another 3 years!)
    Damn you construction!!!
    Looking from the Eye across the Thames
  3. London Eye (Walked right by it. Apparently this is the most visited attraction...I had absolutely no inclination to pay for this attraction.)

  4. Millennium Bridge (A newer, cool minimalist bridge with an edgy look to it, I didn't take a picture of it.)

  5. St Pauls Cathedral (One of the most impressive buildings in London, and one I wish I went into instead of cheaping out.)
    St Pauls Cathedral

  6. Monument to the great fire (This was wedged within the city density, a monument commemorating the great London fire.)

     8. Tower of London (Another one I should of went into, but I won't regret this.  I walked the  entire perimeter, taking in the historic descriptions placed throughout.)

9. Tower Bridge (Probably one the the most iconic structures in London)
The Shard behind the Tower Bridge which is the tallest building in Western Europe

10. St Katharine Docks Marina (I was going to finish the day off with a beer here, but after seeing the prices with average ambiance, I decided to hold off until I was back near my hotel).
Everything around here was expensive
Dickins Pub
I finished around 1pm, and after taking 2 wrong trains on the tube which added to my long exhausting day, (which is surprising because the subway here is so damn easy to figure out), I eventually took the correct tube back to the college.  I took a 30 minute nap which was just enough to propel me back out for another 11km walk....this time to the Regent Park.  Naturally I stopped for some caffeinated power, and in doing so, unknowingly lost £20 out of my pocket...that's roughly $35cad for you Canadians.
Regent Park had amazing roses, and the walk was refreshing, but it didn't take long for me to slowly peter out, so I headed back to cap the night off with a Guiness at the college dorm (Freddies).
I called it a night at 10:30pm.
I loved this Calgary, we get "blue ring" crap!
Regent Park
Day 3

I woke up with a couple of cramped up calves throbbing, and this was only day 3...yikes!  I made my way down to the “college grand hall” for breakfast, and I shit you not, the place felt like I was eating on the set of Harry Potter! The food was cheap, bland, but cheap.  Disguising my tourist persona, I happily shovelled the £5 of breakfast down my gullet while bumping shoulders with the esteemed noblemen and dignitaries.
Seriously, Harry Potter 
I was too sore to walk all the way down to the Thames for my 10am river cruise to Greenwich, so I rented a “bike share” for £2 per half hr. Well let me tell you, it was not as easy as I expected. I swear I almost got into 4 accidents as I haphazardly mismanaged my way around the streets.  By the time I got the hang of it, I found myself a few km off route.  This resulted in me missing the 10am boat! Luckily for me, this only meant I was first in line for the next one at silver lining:)
The cruise (think of it more like a ferry) was roughly 1.2hrs, and floated by all the sites I previously saw by foot, but this time with the much needed commentary, helping put a story behind everything. 

After arriving to the Greenwich pier, I headed straight to the top of the hill where the observatory was located (I don't know why I need to be at the top of a hill when I'm near one!)  The views were great. It was also cool to see where the starting point for longitude was...meridian “0” (a question I always missed in trivial pursuit!)
Longitude 0
Would be cool to claim this
View from Greenwich Observatory
After 2 hrs enjoying the park and nearby town, I jumped on the cruise back (I was able to get it free, but I will skip the details on that;).
On the cruise heading back
My ingrained habits (which I seemingly can't shake) led me right past the subway entrance, and so once again, I dragged my sorry-ass back by foot to my hotel all achy and sore.  Certainly I'd be getting my second wind soon, right?

I returned to the college lounge Freddies and resentfully polished off a crappy hotel pizza and brownie, and later accompanying it with some grocery olives.

My London site seeing was done, and other than not seeing Hyde park, I felt 2.5 days was just enough.  Tomorrow, I would head north.

Day 4

I was wide awake for my 9am train, and was quite looking forward to the journey.  I splurged on a first class ticket, and hoped it would be as enjoyable as other high speed trains I've been lucky to experience around the world.  Unfortunately the ride was quick... like 1.5 hrs quick, just long enough to relax and be served breakfast.
My first class seat
Once we arrived in York, it was even quicker getting to the Hampton Hilton hotel to check in (think it was a total of 10 minutes).  The hotel was in an ideal location (just inside the wall), so it was extremely convenient as a jumping off point.  I only had one day here, so I made the most of it and headed straight out, first tackling the ancient wall that encapsulated most of the city. It was a total of 6km, but naturally a bit longer for know...with my uncanny skill getting myself off-route. The wall was one big circular hike around the town, spitting me back to the hotel after a few hours.

7km of wall walked
This town is pretty cool
Cliffords Tower
I relaxed in my new digs for a hour before heading back out, this time walking the town which comprised of many pedestrian streets with shops, churches, pubs, cafes, etc.  It was perfect, and I enjoyed the picturesque town immensely.
York Minster
I swear everything is under construction in Europe
Such cool streets everywhere in this town
See...Harry Potter is here
As the relentless sun beat down perpetuating my pace to a muggy grind, I decided to stop along the river for some local craft beer... "Samual Smith" ale which I quite enjoyed.  I then stopped in a pub for a lasagna, and decided to call it a day.
Classic tavern
I really enjoyed this moment
Great beer

Day 5

I tossed and turned for most of the night, and once 8am rolled around, I happily heading down for an amazing breakfast the hotel included.  This reinvigorated the lacking energy that was slowly manifesting, allowing me to make my way to the train for the next leg of my trip...Edinburgh.

Again, I splurged on a first class seat, and enjoyed the snacks and wine that were included with the upgrade.  I will note, the wine was probably some of the worse I've tasted...ever!  3 hours later, we arrived!

I checked into my room at the “Hub” and contemplated if I should risk the weather outside seeing it was looking quite ominous.  It wasn't really raining, but the dreary dark skies would suggest otherwise.

I threw on my Arcteryx shell and said screw bad could it get. This is when things went south so to speak.
Yup, it was wet out
Oh those views!  Arthurs Bench
As I made my way up to Arthurs Bench on top of Holyrood Park (roughly 300m elevation gain), the rain started, and then intensified.  Slowly but surely, my jeans became soaked, and this was the time when it dawned on me this was not a well executed plan.  Not only did I get soaked, but I also had no views once reaching the top.  I took a few pictures and raced back down to get out of my saturated cloths... tomorrow I would consider attempting this again.  On my way back down, I putzed around the Royal Mile for a bit.  I took in one of my favourite past times and people watched while the rain started to subside.  I knew tomorrow was going to be a long day, so I grabbed a sub and called it a night.
Yes I love swans lol
Day 6

The day started with me sleeping in till 9am, putting me a bit behind schedule.  I had a long busy day ahead of me, so I scrambled my things together and headed out for another tedious walk, knocking all the typical sites one would visit in Edinburgh.
My roughly 17km+ route within Edinburgh
  1. Calton Hill (great views, a dark history of executions were performed here, now full of monuments for many different dignitaries).
    Looking down from Calton Hill, Arthurs bench to the left
    Love the look of the shadows here
    A monument to one of the city architects 

  2. Scott Monument (very gothic in appearance, second largest monument in the world to a writer).
    Great gothic look 
  3. Edinburgh Castle (£18 to get in....I found a way to get in free, and let me tell you, if I paid the entrance fee, I would not be a happy camper.  Extremely busy, and not much for and done, and happy I didn't waste any money here).
    Love this, my favourite part of Edinburgh Castle...the pet cemetary

    Amazing, all this time, it stayed solid on that cliff
    Great park below the castle
  4. Dean Village (Old part of Edinburgh along the Water of Leith.  A bit sleepy, not that exciting)

From here, I walked through Stockbridge, bought some groceries, then made the long walk all the way to Leith which I immediately regretted...guess the waterfront is not much of a tourist attraction lol.  I decided to take this time to regroup and enjoy a cappuccino.  I finished the sight seeing with some speed walking to allow more time for my sore feet to rest.  If the sun stayed out, maybe today would be a good time to second attempt Arthurs bench for better views!

7pm rolled around, and off I went on my second attempt to Arthurs bench for an actual!
Got the views I was looking for

One of my favourites 

Day 7

In my opinion, today would be my first real adventure that could potentially test my patience. 

I arrived to pick up my rental car at 8am sharp, right as they were opening.  Oddly enough, they gave me a car with no gas, so I was forced to fill up immediately after leaving the lot.  I was a bit annoyed by this, but we will get back to this later.

It took me 5-6 attempts just to get out of the city.  It didn't help that while navigating such a complex city, I was also refamiliarizing myself driving on the left-hand side!  Plus, it didn't help my cloddish directions were scribbled on a very crude map... you can imagine how complex the roads are in a town as old as Edinburgh.  Once I freed myself from the grasp of the city and made my way onto the freeway heading north, it was smooth sailing for the next 2 hours to my final destination... the Ben Vorlich and Stuc a Chroin hike.

It began as a beautiful crisp morning with not a ripple in the nearby lake. I was feeling quite positive, taking in my surroundings as I began the trek.  I gazed out at the sheep dotted throghout the hillsides, triggering a fond memory of my recent Iceland trip.
Start of the hike, beautiful home at the trailhead 
My cardio was on point, and after passing a local Scotsman, I found myself on top of Ben-Vorlich in under 2 hrs! Clouds were slowly rolling in at this point, but I pushed on to Stuc a Chroin, not feeling any ill-effects of the persistent elevation gain. 
Clouds started to roll in
It's a good view, not amazing, but worth the trek
Stuc a Chroin behind next objective

Sometimes you can't predict the clouds
It still was relaxing and enjoyable to take in
After passing a few sheep, I reached my final summit. Unfortunately my views were limited by the clouds which finally made their way over me, which continually threatening to rain on my parade.  I took 10 minutes or so to take a few pictures, and not long after, began my decent.  I needed to be back to Edinburgh before 6pm to return the rental, plus rush hour would be a concern, so any time saved would be a bonus.  I reached the car in no time, with only 3hr 50 minutes surpassing...4 hours quicker than the trail report suggested....I knew I found my second wind today!
These guys were everywhere
On my way down, green and boggy in some parts
Navigating back was quite painless as i followed my google maps on my phone.  With an hour to spare, I arrived to the rental agency to return the vehicle.  I mentioned to them how inconvienient it was they provided me with a car empty of fuel, and they agreed by reimbursing £15 onto my credit card which I was quite happy with.

After hiking 15km with 1100m elevation gain, I slogged my way to a grocery store, then back to the hotel for some much needed rest.