Sunday, June 1, 2014

Ullapool and the Summer Isles

This past weekend we took a road trip to the Highlands to a town called Ullapool. It is a town with around 1,300 people and is one of the largest settlements in the region of the North where it is located. This trip was the furthest North Christian and I had been in mainland Europe. You can see in the picture below how North the town is in relation to Edinburgh. 

The drive from Edinburgh took us quite a while on Friday, mostly due to the 5pm traffic and the single lane roads the more North we traveled. One great thing about the journey is that even though we arrived close to 10.30pm, it was still daylight. This time of year, it feels like the days are never ending, which we both really love and try to take advantage of as much as possible. 

I will say we learned a big lesson on the ride up regarding fuel. In the highlands, fuel stations are not so frequent, and the place we had planned on stopping was shut. We literally coasted on fumes into a gas station with not a mile to spare. It was a bit nerve racking but lessons learned, when going to the North leave with a full tank! You never know how long in between stations. 

It was quite late when we arrived, so we checked into our hotel and just took a walk around the town, which literally was only a few streets. Ullapool has a large ferry that connects travellers with the Hebrides, which is on our list for a future trip. 

When we woke up in the morning we were super excited because the weather was gorgeous 19degrees and sunny! For being so North we were pleasantly surprised and decided on a four hour sea cruise to the Summer Isles. Our boat was definitely bigger than this one, but I did like the fact it was named Katie. 

View from the bow of the boat. 

Most of the Summer Isles are uninhabited, and the boat cruised around many of them. The waters are known to have whales, porpoises, and seals so I kept a look out constantly in my scope. 

Below are some of pics on our way to Tanera Mor, the largest and only inhabited isle of the Summer Isles. 

We both loved being on the water and enjoying the views. The landscape very much reminded me of my cruise through Alaska.

Needing sunnies in Scotland=Happy Katie

Most of the people on the boat were either backpackers or seniors on a holiday tour. Can we please just take a moment to salute this old man on the awesomeness of his hat. "Damn Seagulls" became our quote of the trip. 

About an hour into the rode we approached this group of islands that had a beach, and we were told it was often the home of a colony of seals. 

As we got closer I was able to see the seals sunbathing on the rocks. They were so cute and seemed as curious as we were when we coasted by them. 

Hey there little seal...

More pictures of random isles 

This one reminded me of my home state of Virginia. 

One of the islands had a cave inside. 

Our captain drove the boat right inside.

The water was really clear and clean, and also contained a lot of jelly fish. Not a place I would be keen on swimming anytime soon. 

When we were in the cave, one of the people on the boat said they thought they saw something big in the water. Our captain guided us past this island below and then we saw something coming out of the water. 

I could see it in the distance but we weren't sure what it was....

We stopped our boat and waited for about 5 minutes to resurface and then to our surprise it had swam really close to our boat. Everyone was really excited and I kind of lost my focus taking pictures and it was coming in and out of the water. 

I managed to get this picture of what our captain told us was a minke whale. I had been whale watching in Maine and saw humpacks, but this was my first minke. It had a little fin in the back like a dolphin, but it larger.These whales average around 24 feet long and can weigh up to 5 tons. I was really surprised how magical it felt to see this whale in it's natural habitat. It got me really excited for our trip to South Africa in November where we will be seeing all types of animals in the ocean and on land. 

After our whale sighting we headed for Tanera Mor. When we docked we pulled up some lobster pots. Their were no lobsters, but there were crabs! 

We had some time to explore the island. 

But we decided to just kick up our feet and enjoy the sun! It was really beautiful and I felt like we were in the middle of no where and could totally relax.  

After the stop, we headed back on the boat and started to make our way back to Ullapool. 

We ended up passing by another colony of seals.

The coastline was so spectacular and quite rugged at times. 

It took us about an hour to make our way back to the village. This jet skier was waiting for us as we got closer to play in our wake. I am not sure what the "Damn Seagull" guy enjoyed more, the minke whale or jet skier, both were so exotic for him. 
Lighthouse on the way back to Ullapool

Old fishing boats in Ullapool. 

When we docked in Ullapool we grabbed a quick fish and chip lunch and then headed by car to explore more of the region by land.  

The mountains were so unique in shape, unlike anything I had seen in the highlands. 

We also saw this heard of deer. Really random but so cute! 

After a seafood feast for dinner we called it a night as we knew we had a long day ahead of us on Sunday. We woke up and started the drive back to Edinburgh with a stop at Corrieshalloch Gorge

The gorge was about 15 miles south of Ullapool and is famous for it's suspension bridge overlooking the 60 metre drop.   

There is also a really cool waterfall cascading down into the gorge. 

If you make your way up to Ullapool, I would not miss this stop. It was really cool to see and a nice stop on the way back. 

We also stopped in Aviemore for lunch to break up the drive. It sometimes feels like you are driving forever in the Highlands, but when you get to see pictures like this one, it makes it all worth it in the end! 

Until next time, I'll see you on the internet. 

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