Below you will find reflections on this holiday by 2 our our Committee members who took part: Ann Powers & Marjorie Bramhill
When twenty nine members left a sunny Southwell at 7.30 am on May 13th it was a good omen for the memorable time we would have in Scotland. This was in no small way due to the blue skies that were with us for most of the holiday. The long coach journeys weren’t a problem as the scenery was often spectacular and we had regular two hourly stops. Our first stay was at the Loch Fyne Hotel and Spa Hotel in Inveraray which was excellent. On Tuesday we travelled by coach to Mallaig passing highland scenery and beautiful white sandy beaches with turquoise seas. After lunch we boarded the Jacobite Steam Train, made famous by the Harry Potter films, for our journey to Fort William via the much photographed Glenfinnan Viaduct. The next day most of the group visited Inveraray Castle and its gardens. Both were beautiful with the flame coloured, pineapple smelling, Azaleas being particularly spectacular. Thursday morning we departed The Loch Fyne Hotel to start our long journey to Stornoway, travelling via Fort William then crossing on the Kyle of Lochalsh bridge to Skye. After an interesting stop in Portree we continued to Uig where we caught the ferry to Harris. The one and a half hour crossing passed quickly, due in part to the delicious fish and chip dinner that was organised for us on board! When we arrived in Tarbert it was very misty and atmospheric for the one hour coach journey to Stornoway and The Carbarfeidh hotel, where we stayed for the next three nights. The following day we retraced our journey back to Tarbert, in better weather, to visit the new Harris Whisky and Gin Distillery. We heard from our knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide Alexander that it provides sufficient employment to enable thirty-nine families to remain in the area. Obviously we sampled the goods, especially the 68% whisky, which has at least four more years to mature before it can be sold. The gin was also very good and available for sale! On Saturday we visited the intriguing Callanish Stones and the Black houses on Lewis where we saw how a small community of islanders lived in challenging conditions. We also had the opportunity to see beautifully coloured Harris tweed being woven on a hand loom. This was followed by an afternoon spent in Stornoway or at Lews Castle. Sunday we had an early start for our two and a half hour crossing to Ullapool after which we continued on to the Battle of Culloden Site and Visitor Centre. This venue was a great success with the group making it difficult to leave for the short journey to our hotel in Beauly, near Inverness. We arrived home on Monday evening, tired but having spent a very enjoyable eight days together in three good hotels where excellent food was served and in the company of our very considerate and accommodating driver. I would particularly like to thank Helen Kay, at Travel Wright, for her patience and the effort she made to ensure that our holiday was so successful.
There were 29 of us on the coach, setting off from Southwell from 7am! Weather forecast for the week was sunny and warm, and it lived up to it’s expectations - some of us had to buy sun hats and extra T shirts. The warm jumpers and extra vests stayed in our cases. It was a long trip to Inveraray but worth it - our hotel was at the edge of Loch Fyne and each morning the loch was bathed in sunshine.
Inverary was a small village but we were made most welcome. The azaleas and rhododendrons at the Castle were spectacular. We also fitted in a visit to Mallaig by coach, returning on the steam train - the Jacobite. Another sunny day.
Next stop Stornaway via Skye, visiting Portree. We caught the ferry to the island of Harris and Lewis (one island, not two). We had a fish and chip supper on the ferry - excellent food and much appreciated. Next day, we visited a brand new distillery at Talbot, and the guided tour started with tasters. The rest of the tour was amazing - the distillery is a local initiative and they are hoping to have their whisky ready after regulation maturation. They do have a special Gin on offer already and some of us could not resist buying a bottle. The next day we visited the standing stones at Calanais - ancient late Neolithic monument (5000 years old) looking out to sea. On the same day we saw the Black Houses at Lewis. These ancient dwellings were thatched with barley straw, had extremely thick stone walls and gave us a feeling for living conditions until quite recent times. In one there was a demonstration of weaving Harris tweed, and in another a film giving historic background. A quick look from the coach at a local beach, and back for supper.
The next day we had breakfast on the boat from Stornaway to Ullapool, and a stay at Beauly for one night. The hotel, the meals and our New Zealand waitress were unforgettable. We gave her information about the U3A. Then the long journey back to Southwell.
A most enjoyable holiday thanks to Ann Powers for all her organisational skills. Not forgetting Gary - our knowledgeable driver who gave us snippets of history along the way - and quite a few merry quips..