Information Overload!

We learned so much about Scotland today I don’t even know where to start. Julian, owner of Braemar Highland Experience picked us up first thing this morning in his land rover. He took us on a tour into the heart of the Cairngorms National Park. We were immediately treated to a sighting of a whole herd of red deer, stags and hinds. He explained that during mating season the stags are “addled testerone” going days without eating, thinking of nothing else but mating, fighting continuously until they are wretched. His words not mine. We saw red and black grouse, huge hares and beautiful scenery.

Julian was a history buff so filled our heads with Scottish history

After about four hours of touring he dropped us off at the Royal Lochnagar distillery.

There Annie took us on a tour explaining all the ins and outs of turning barley into whisky. We were given two tastings, unfortunately, it is not my drink of choice. I think Sue is the only one who appreciates it.

After dinner we were treated to a little ukulele jam going on in the room next to the dining room.

Tomorrow we are off to Aviemore and more hiking.

We met an old friend in Braemar

In 2011 Sue and I went on a hike in the Burgandy area of France with a company called “Adventure Women”. The hike leader was Gillian and her sweep was a Scot named James Renny. Sue was able to contact him this trip, he drove a little over an hour from his home to meet us in Braemar. James no longer works with Gillian or Adventure Women but was happy to join us on a hike in this area. He drove us to an area he thought we would enjoy and he was right.

It was a beautiful day, we hiked about five or six miles through countryside laden with heather. It is all brown now but when it is in bloom it is a beautiful purple color.

James is very knowledgable about botany, birds and the environment in general. He pointed out a giant ant hill that was just teaming with ants.

This is a dead newt, I only show you this because James told us that when a Scot is really drunk they say he is “pissed as a newt”. Pissed means drunk not mad. As he was talking he kept using the term “crikey” which is just so scottish!

James is an artist also and has sold paintings to the Queen and Prince Charles. He had lunch with us then left promising to visit Alaska or Palm Springs one day, it was a pleasure to hike with him again.

Later in the day we explored Braemar and learned that Robert Louis Stevenson and his family came here in 1881 to experience the fresh mountain air, away from the Edinburgh smog. While here he began to write one of the most famous novels in Scottish literature Treasure Island. A number of the book’s characters, including Long John Silver himself, are allegedly named after people in the village at the time. John Silver, a meal miller, lived in Braemar and his children Alex and Sarah, both attended Braemar school.

We visited the Queen but she wasn’t home.

The Queen and the Royal family have their summer home here at Balmoral, so we decided to make a visit. Unfortunately, it is so cold right now this is probably the last place they would want to be.

We needed to do laundry today so took our clothes to the laundromat and were told to be back in the afternoon to pick them up so we got on the bus for a short ride to the castle.

We are freezing as we wait for some royalty, any royalty, but I think they are not coming!

This is where the Queen’s sentry stay when she is in town and what they need to watch out for.

The slaughter house for game and beautiful flowers waiting to be planted on the grounds.

The Royal lineage.

Queen Victoria and her husband built Balmoral in 1854, the town Ballater, where we are staying, grew up because of the castle. Many of the homes here are also summer homes.

This is our host at Glen Lui in his normal everyday attire. We have been fortunate to stay here for two nights but tomorrow we are off again.

England to Scotland

As our cab driver was delivering us to the train station in Carlile, she pointed out a street that is closed to cars on the weekend so the people partying at the many bars can move about safely. She said they decided to do that after some drunk people got “knocked over” by cars. Love these English terms!

We are traveling on Virgin trains this morning which is very comfortable. Tammy used an app “Rome 2 Rio” which gives you all the options available to go from one destination in Europe to another. That led her to the app “train line” where you can find all the info necessary, train number, platform, name of the train, destination, and stops along the way making the travel as stress free as possible.

We have now arrived in Ballater, sitting in the Glen Lui Hotel lounge area sipping the local Caol Lia double malt scotch. It rained all day while we comfortably rode on the train and bus, we are grateful it is not a hiking day. We met many very friendly Scots including one lady who asked the bus driver to make a special stop to get us closer to our hotel. It is a 45 mile ride to Ballater so people are getting on and off the bus at different stops. At one point a guy gets on and announces “hello my fellow travelers, I have just come from the grocery and we are having shrimp scampi for dinner” When he exited he said “goodbye my fellow travelers, there it doesn’t cost anything to say goodbye” It was fun to listen to him because most people are so somber on public transportation systems. The lady who helped us said “he has a screw loose”

The dinner menu at our hotel has many delicious choices so we are looking forward to that.

Sue had chicken liver pate and guinea foul with haggis, haggis is a savory pudding containing sheeps pluck (heart, liver, and lungs) minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices and salt, mixed with stock.

Jo had lamb.

Tammy and I went with beef filet.

Can’t believe those girls could eat those cute little animals we have been admiring all week.

And the Sun Shone Upon Us!

Hiking through the fields, listening to the sheep baaa at their lambs with the lambs bleating back, the birds singing, and an occasional cow mooing was the most calming experience. The sun was warm, the daffodils are flowering, the the Brits are all out working in their yards. This is our last day hiking the wall but it has been a beautiful one. The people we have met on the trail say this is the best day so far this spring. If I had any problems in my life I could have solved them all today in my state of mind, instead I tried to send my positive feeling to those in my family I love that are struggling right now.

We learned today from some English ladies about the Reivers. The area we are in is known as the boarderland as it is close to the Scottish border. It was an area that housed a society of lawless Scots that stole sheep, cows, horses and women from the Brits. The Reivers stole anything portable but mainly the livestock. I am not sure in what era this took place but it lasted over 300 years and we were told the word Reiver is where we get the word bereavement (to lose someone).

Besides the many stairs we had to climb to get over the wall we also had to go through these little gates that keep the sheep in, you entered one side, moved the gate in front of you, then exit the other side. Both the stairs and gates always had a deep mud pit on both sides which we could not understand and were difficult to navigate.

We came across a sign warning us of cows aggressively protecting their calves, it was pointed out that all anyone needed to be able to do was out run me, so of course we came right up on those cows, don’t you know I was nervous.

Last night at the Samson Inn they had music so we went down to listen. Turns out it was a jam session just like Jim takes part in at home. It was a fun way to end the evening.

Out stay tonight is in the beautiful Oakwood hotel in Brampton.

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Roman History 101

We took a side trip today to the Northumberland National Park information center and the Roman Army Museum. We were given an interesting insight into how the original wall looked and how the soldiers lived. We learned there were deep ditches dug by hand through rocky areas for an added protection which were called vallums. Hadrian was in an arranged marriage but never had any heirs, he studied architecture and designed the Pantheon in Rome. Harsh northern winters, the threat of war never far away and living side by side with fellow soldiers made life for them very difficult. Soldiers were sometimes required to march 20 miles a day wearing sandals and carrying heavy equipment including their food and cooking equipment.

Our hikes took us through fields of sheep with their new lambs, past stone house ruins and a beautiful babbling brook.

We reached Gilsland, checked into Samson Inn and had some time before dinner to get in another game of euchre. Tammy and Sue won this game making Tammy the common denominator for the wins so far.

We hiked lots of nibs today

After I figured out how to keep my collapsible hiking poles from collapsing everytime I put them down in the mud (which was every step) I had a wonderful day hiking! We hiked 12 miles today, first in perfect cool temperatures, no wind. Then midday the rain started softly at first then a little harder, at the end the wind started for a little bit so I was feeling the cold all the way through.

Our host Dick told us we would be crossing lots of nibs (hills) today and he was right. The scenery was beautiful, we met lots of hikers, some of which told us to watch for the sycamore tree that was in the movie “Robin Hood” with Kevin Costner.

Hadrian’s wall was built around the year 120, we thought the reason was to keep the Scots out of Britain but turns out Hadrian really needed to keep his troops busy during peace time. The wall is approximately 80 miles long, we are doing half of that. The Hadrian wall is to Brits what the Chilkoot is to Alaskans, people want to hike it because it is part of history.

We met a single teacher who is hiking the wall during her Easter break to raise funds for hospice after her 38 yr old friend died from ovarian cancer. She was doing the full 80 miles in 5 days so we each contributed to her. She was very grateful and said she would post on the website “” that the four Alaskan hikers donated to her fund.

Tonight we are staying in a little village called Twice Brewed, we had dinner at the Twice Brewed brewery. Very good dinner and beer! We are spending the night at Vallum Lodge which has chickens in the yard and rabbits in the cages.

The winds were whippin’

Corbridge is our starting point for Hadrian’s wall. Our hotel, The Angel of Corbridge has been a coaching Inn since 1752 and was called the King’s Head. It is a charming North Umbria inn located 2 1/2 miles downhill from the wall. We started our day off with Salmon, eggs, bacon and eggs florentine and it’s a good thing we did because we needed all the energy we could muster. The cold wind was catching our packs and pushing us around as we tried to stay upright in the mud but we were grateful it was at our backs. We walked through beautiful fields and forrests and past cute little lambs just recently born. We were told many of the lambs have died in the cold this year. Occasionally we would come across a set of stairs we needed to climb to get over the wall. At first we thought they were really cool but after the 15th one or so they lost their charm.

We met quite a few people on the trail traveling the opposite direction, one lady and her 10 year old daughter were hiking the full length with their black lab, Maverick. We also met a wonderful gentleman who is a volunteer for the Hadrian path. Checking on hikers, looking for areas that may need repair and just being all around helpful.

By my walkmeter app we covered 11 miles part of which may have been in Corbridge. At Chollerford we stayed at the Hallbarns Bed and Breakfast, our hosts were Margaret and Dick Locke. Margaret cooked us a wonderful English dinner of ham, potatoes with gravy and steamed vegetables. Dessert was a carmel toffee cake with ice cream. That is why we don’t loose weight on these hikes!

Closed at every turn, so we went to the bar instead

After 12 hours of sleep we still didn’t feel the need to rush into the day so we proceeded to solve all the problems of the world, then planned our activities. We gathered our swim suits, towels and snacks to head out to the famous hot springs of Iceland. After an hour of driving we arrived at Reykjadalur geothermal area for a wonderful dip in the hot springs. As we were getting out of the car a lady approached us to say the trail is closed to the hot springs due to muddy conditions. She told us of another hot springs in Hveragerdi, down the road, so off we went. Since we got such a late start it is now early afternoon and we are really getting hungry. A girl in a shop recommended “the Old Hotel” down the street. We had the most wonderful lunch before going to the community hot springs.

With our hunger satisfied we headed off to the hot springs, but when we got there the sign on the gate said closed at 1pm. Foiled again! Ok, if no hot springs, lets just go to the Viking museum. We drove into Reykjavik found the museum, parked, walked up to the front door and read the sign! Closed for renovation! That’s it, we are headed to the Lebowski’s bar for a shot of Iceland’s brennivin!

served by this guy.

On our way home we saw lots of people out riding their Icelandic horses!

Tomorrow we say goodbye to Iceland and fly to Manchester, it has been an experience here that we would do again!


Our day started with me trying to put our luggage in someone else’s car. The car was black like the rental and parked right in front of the rental. The back was full of tools and garbage but still I did not suspect until the girls called my name from the real rental. A few hours of sleep doesn’t work well for me. We proceeded to drive toward Reykjavik for coffee in a snowstorm, and to look for a grocery store. We were lucky to find both after about 20 miles only the grocery store didn’t open for another three hours. After we enjoyed coffee and a criossant we googled and found a grocery that was open 24hrs. We went out searching for our airbnb and actually found it but were not able to check in for another 4 hours so we took our time exploring the grocery store. Having spent as much time as we could stand looking at food labels we couldn’t read we paid for our groceries and headed back to the cabin, deciding we would just wait in the driveway and take a little snooze.

The owner finally knocked on the window to inform us we could now move inside. Our plan was to sleep for another hour or so then go exploring. Well that didn’t happen, we just had too much to discuss. When we felt we had exhausted most of our current news we started a rousing game of Euchre with Jo and Tammy beating Sue and I by one point. It was a nail bitter to the end. We have showered and now feeling the lack of sleep creeping up on us again.

Goodnight beautiful Iceland!