All the love for the West Coast of Newfoundland

Looking back …

Thursday of last week – our merry band of Newfoundland tourists (ok some tourists and some local and acting like tourists) took a break from the pea soup fog hiking conditions and decided to explore the best of the west coast in the glorious 24 degree sunshine Mrs Mother Nature offered us!

We started out with a yummy breakfast at our cabin in Norris Point and the headed in the direction of Steady Brook with ‘Nick our tour guide’ at the helm. First stop – the lookout of Gros Morne Mountain!

We climbed that sucker the day before! Wow it looks amazing when it’s not half hidden in fog and when I am not Gollum-ing up that gully on the left. Urgh what a climb and what a memory!

Next stop – Pasadena Beach! Oh this beach is nothing like the one in California but it is a very close second. As we arrived we scrambled out of the truck (I don’t think we have ever unloaded so quickly) and made our way across the hot sand to dip our after-a-hard-won-hike toes in the water. The sun was shining and temp at 24C – I could have stayed all day … or long enough to enjoy the ice cold Rolling Rock Lager our resident, happy go lucky comedian Chauncey bought us!

This beach is a real beach! Complete with an awesome amount of sand for castles and lounging, clean crisp water, a marked off family friendly swimming area and a full service, large beach side restaurant at its centre. If you have a day in west coast Newf and it’s warm enough for the beach – this is definitely a good way to spend that day!

Well, before Chauncey’s fish belly white legs could get crispy in the hot sun we high tailed it out of there to our next destination.

Next stop – Corner Brook and the James Cook monument and look out! Despite the perhaps less than ideal things some of the colonialists of the past have done, we do have to give credit to Mr Cook for his skills at literally putting Newfoundland on the map. Crazy to think about how much time he would have had to spend in and around the 10,000 square kilometers of Newfoundland’s amazing but harsh coast to get it all mapped out. Wow!

Next stop – lunch! Now his was extra special and extra delicious! Our very own Nick has a friend who owns, operates, and makes all the amazing sushi creations at Newfound Sushi in Corner Brook. Can you say yummy? I can and did about b-zillion times over lunch. Yummy! No joke with the menu this sushi-whisperer as created this restaurant would be slammed in big cities like Vancouver, Montreal, and more!

We started with some pork belly boa buns (drool) and then I moved into a yummy California roll topped with chunks of delicious (cooked) lobster, the yummiest tuna sashimi ever, and of course had to have The Yamocado (yam and avocado) roll because I love them and the name made me happy! All washed down with a local pint that had the best glasses ever – check out the marking on the side ‘high tide’ and ‘low tide’

Next stop – caffeine! We headed to an awesome little coffee roaster Nick bragged up called Brewed on Bernard. Loved it! Loads of fun coffee options, sweets and all kinds of fun lunch ideas. The roasting coffee was particularly fabulous to smell and I loved see all the games and books they had available. Wish we could have spent the the afternoon but we had things to see!

Next stop – another little amazing path and look out which sadly I do not remember the name of (oops – travel writer fail! I know it’s near the old hospital?! lol) In any case this one was also a gem! A great little path and an amazing look out over the town and bay. The big bonus? We even had a chance to Geocache on this one. Cheryl, Shar and I have geocached but I don’t think our other peeps have. It so fun and the first few times is especially exciting!

Geocaching is such a great way to add a little more adventure to your travels – for adults as much as kids! If you have never done it, so worth a go! Oh and if you need someone with you who is willing to poke about spider webs and places with bugs for the cache … call Charmaine! Rock star!

Next stop – some waterfalls! We made our way out of Corner Brook and headed to Steady Brook to see the falls. They are really proud of their brooks in this part of Newfoundland. There is even a Hughes Brook but two brooks is enough for a day, any more than that would be brook overkill really.

First though a quick stop at 2 tourist attractions – the Old Man in the Mountain and the tree of Newfoundland. Let me explain …

The Old Man in the Mountain is a rock formation on a cliff face that absolutely, without a doubt looks like a fisherman looking down over the nearby river. Legend says he is looking over the treasure that has been buried on the small island in the middle of that river. Seems some people find it hard to find him so they offer a little help at the pull over site – once you do find him though it’s so obvious! It’s a great story and cool spot!

Now this Tree of Newfoundland business – this is a massive tree trunk, think totem pole on steroids, that was shipped from west coast Canada to Newfoundland and a very talented artist has literally carved the history of the province into it. Pretty cool! There is even a few blank spots with just ‘future event’ carved in it lol.

The only odd part about this tree/pole thing was the strange doppelgänger of our resident Swede, Chauncey… perhaps Chauncey has a wood carving modelling career he needs to come clean on?!

Now onto Steady Brook Falls – so great. A short hike up (totally flip flop compatible) and voila there were the falls!

I could not believe that some folks, not in our crew this time, take the path farther up and then swim in the pool at the top of the fall – a sort of natural infinity pool! Ok that’s basically what we did in the Devil’s Pool on the Victoria Falls a few years back but that’s not the point. Cray-cray! I prefer a full panoramic view of rushing water from massive heights and will therefore stay right her on this purpose built platform!

Now I have to say as great as the waterfall was … the highlight was definitely the little fairy door we found! Complete with some moss and a little box of fish. So super cute and in Newfoundland, with its fairy and gnome legends, sort of believable. Mr and Mrs Fae live there – I am sure of it – but were off collecting fallen flower petals for their dinner salad so we didn’t have a chance to say stop in but next time we are in town we will say hi for sure.

Next stop – dinner and amazing conversation with Nick’s dad and stepmom. Can you even believe volunteered to host the 6 of us for dinner? Oh and what a dinner it was! We pulled up to balloons for Charmaine and Cheryl’s bday – cute! For the rest of the evening we sat on their deck having beers, eating all the cheese toast you could dream of as a yummy side to the delicious chilli, and finished off the meal with a bday rendition and some cake! Perfection! Happy birthday twinsies!

Before leaving this little spot on Steady Brook heaven, the 6 of us walked down to the water (about a block away) to check out this great place Nick lived in as a kid. What a community. Oh and we also accidentally geocached one more time! This time it was a nano size cache (think of a thimble as reference for size) and Charmaine in her awesome-not-scared-of-spiders way found this wee gem hanging from a tree branch!

What a day! After some goodbyes and thank yous, we departed Steady Brook and made our way the 1+ hour back to Norris Point for some evening pints and games at our cabin.

While we didn’t get to see all the amazing things the west coast of Newfoundland offered, I have to give total kudos to our tour guide Nick for showing is a day of highlights!

Now let’s see what the east coast has to offer…

Brande

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Losing Stars on Yelp

Tuesday’s hike was amazing, wonderful and absolutely, totally fear factor for this gal! The rest of our merry band had no issues of course but this ‘scaredy cat of heights’ had to resort to full Gollum (crawling on all 4s) for a good hour+ … here are the details:

We woke up in the morning and had a great eggs and toast and granola breakfast with fabulous coffee and by 9am our crazy crew was out the door the bottom of Gros Morne Mountain. Today the new addition to our band, Amy and Sheldon, are joining us for the fun! We met them at the mountain for 930 and off we hiked!

The path was beautiful instantly – wow! Lots of rocks and roots to step over, some muddy muck and built in boardwalks! Beautiful! I was feeling like I could hike this thing all day – my favorite kind of trail!

At about 4kms into this 16km hike we came out of the tree filled path into the rock gully. The very steep, crazy, uphill, hell gully we would be climbing the rest of the way to the top! Ok so not all of us considered it hell – for me it was though and I had to crawl most of it on all 4s! The pictures do not do justice … to showing you what I can only imagine is a great view or showing you just how steep the ascent really was but I promise you it was super sketchy! My favorite part was the snow pack on the way up – slick, icy snow on a steep hill where you could slide to your Gros Morne death. So the very best!

At about 8km we finally made it to the top – let’s be clear most folks were there before me. Seems crawling takes longer than walking. I felt sort of bad as I had the lunch sandwiches in my pack but also vindicated as I was confidently advised the trail would not be a problem for my fear of heights so making them wait for sustenance was a little payback lol. Stick with Nick (our ‘travel guide’) was losing stars on Yelp with every Gollum-like crawl I had to complete … at one point his fake guide company we made up received a rebrand to Nick the Trick!

Once at the top, we toasted the ascent with a massive shared can of local brew and the sandwiches I trudged up in a crawl. The fog was even thicker on top – making the lunch stop a little cold but also eerie in a really cool way! Still recovering from the gully of satan I was giving this hike a thumbs down!

After a short break and before the fog and cold seeped into the bones – we started to make our way down. We walked clear across the top (the shape of which Chauncey, our resident comedian and mechanical/wood working Rain Man, described as a bread bun) on well makes rock paths and boardwalks – so cool. If you were any more than 50feet apart you might as well have been alone though, the fog just swallowed everything up!

The Yelp stars were going up on Yelp again for Nick our friendly, neighborhood guide with this cool on top stuff. I loved the random built in boardwalks – felt so good to get a full stride in after crawling about for a couple hours! On the initial part of the descent down the back side of the mountain we even came across a random ‘staircase to nowhere’ – so cool!

From there we just continued down and around the mountain for another 8km – it felt like the longest 8km ever, ever though I have to tell you. I think the heart rate of 270 up the gully climb made me pretty tired for the downhill. I felt a little like an overlooked noodle but the company was fabulous! A 8km hiking conversation among me, Shar and Cheryl was like coming home … we just needed Rosa! (We missed you Commander Butter)

We started out at 936am and wrapped up at about 530pm and could not have been more thankful. Sheldon and Amy provided some yummy homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookies at the finish line, Amy chucked her super muddy and now fully worn out sneakers (my boots should have probably followed) and then we set off for Rocky Harbour for some eats and a pint!

What a day! What a trail! What a crew! I would hike any day, anywhere with these geeks but next time I am picking the trail!

Brande

PS want to know what the dinner bun (aka Gros Morne Mountain) actually looks like without all the pea soup? Here you go – the arrow marks our route! This picture was taken the day after the hike.

Soggy Bread in My Pocket

We arrived safe and tired and happy on Sunday at the beautiful St. John’s Airport! What a fabulous airport – all blues and tiles and so clean!

We were greeted by our hiking and shenanigans crew – Charmaine and Nick, and Cheryl and Chauncey. A, for the most part, a bunch of born and raised Newfoundlanders! Great tour guides!

We left the airport in our rocking Red Ford truck (thanks mama and papa Newfoundland) and made our 7+hr drive all the way across the island – literally east to west coast! Amazing! A stop at Mary Brown’s, the signature fried chicken chain on this rock (mmmmm) and we arrived in Gros Morne around 6pm! Shar and I after our red eye did pretty good on route with only a couple of pass out cat naps on route!

We grabbed some groceries … stocked up with a little Screech and made our way to our oh so cute Air BnB. (Ok for real no I did not buy this Screech)

Our place in Norris Point, a wee baby town in Gros Morne, is adorable. Three bedrooms that are so cute and a fabulous view of the harbour and table lands – more on that to come!

We headed up the road to the only place open for eats on a Sunday at this time – Rudy’s Pub! A quaint little pub / convenience store / gas station. They had only Coors on tap and only fries, chicken tenders, onion rings and mozzarella sticks on the menu – a round of each please! Shar sweet talked the lady and she made some deep fried pickles happen too … we needed something that resembled a salad!

A game of banagrams, a pint and deep fried dinner and we were set!

After dinner a little walk about the harbour was in order. What a sweet little place we are staying so many amazing little boats and such!

Exhausted we played a few games of cards and some pints at your rental cabin – and then to bed. Oh when I hit that pillow I was out!

Up on Monday morning feeling so excited to see this amazing province we had some granola, yogurt and berry breakfast and some fabulous coffee – thanks to the great coffee cook off, judges are still held up on final decision!

From there, ready to hike, we headed to Tablelands – wow! It’s just a short 4km hike but it is on the one place in Canada where the mantel is above ground! Amazing!! It was raining and we did not care one bit – rain gear on and smiles on our face!

Oh and while at the Tablelands we saw the Newfoundland & Labrador flower! It’s carnivorous… the flower draws bugs in which drop into the tube shaped leaves and yum yum!

From there we headed to a boat tour which also included a hike – about 3km each way to the dock which made me happy! We had to race to the boat on the way out as we were cutting it tight and it was so worth hoofing it. The tour was $65/person for a 2hour of the fjords and I was keen to see the cliffs from the water! It was foggy as all heck but whatever the eeriness of fog on a boat we knew would still be so great!

(Queue the Jurassic Park theme song! Shar has the t-Rex roar on her phone from Jurassic Park and played it for us – hilarious!)

Oh and it was so fabulous .. the most best part was the tour was cut short at about the 1.5hour and they gave us a full refund! Whaaat!

On our hike bike we took this awesome detour to Snug Cove – another fabulous bonus to this adventure! I loved this detour and it only added a few km to our 3km hike!

After the hike and some showers, we heading out for supper at Fisherman’s Landing in Rocky Harbour! Shar and I ordered local pints and shared 3 local inspired dishes – cod au gratin, bacon wrapped scallops, and roasted moose meat with mashed potatoes and gravy. All local mmmmm

From there it was back to Norris Point for some games and a pint then to bed! Oh and I was ready to sleep after a long day and a time change 4.5hours later than home for me.

Tomorrow I will share today’s hike – so great!

Brande

PS. Why bread in my pocket? Well in these lands if you don’t want a fairy to steal you … bread in your pocket or wear something backwards when walking in the woods!

Packing Lighter Than Expected

Of course sitting at the airport with just a short week ahead of me in Newfoundland, I have only carry on … my trusty Missy Morado (yes she has a name) 35L osprey and my soft ‘purse’ Osprey will get me through this most amazing of adventures!

So what is packing lighter than you expected title about then? Well this morning playing with our new, crazy pup Bella Bean Pup Pup … I literally tore my pinkie toe nail off right to the raw, flesh core. I have photos of course but know that only my twisted sister Hailey, bestie Lana and hubby Lance would want to see them so I will spare the rest of you the gore.

Needless to say this is not the best timing … I am heading to hike in 90% humidity Newfoundland where it is slotted to rain EVERY day we are there and I have my raw toe in a boot all day. Can you say fungus and bacterial infection kids?

What is there to do? Well suck it up. Really! Got me some first aid supplies (it pays to have an expert foot wound care nurse on your friends list for advice!), a decent pain threshold and a sense of adventure greater than a gaping wound. Yah!

Found my way to the airport, ordered a pint and focused on the fun of a flight x3 ahead and a new Young Adult Fiction book to read all washed down with a pint … and fizzy water of course – I do need to be hydrated to fight the infection! Oh for those of you all caught up on the YA Fiction reference – no judging. I am just done a 20-30hr a week Academic writing class and this brain needs some Fairy world teen romance and mythology to cleanse it of citations, argumentative clauses and naysayer statements.

A small part of me thinks that walking for a week in foot pain is my way of bringing Lana along for the trip! For those of you who have read about our Kilimanjaro and Camino adventures here on the blog you will remember Lana comes with a fantastic sense of humor and horrendously misbehaving feet! Poor thing. Every step in pain Bean (Lana) is like we are on the Camino again together!

Ok off to board my first of 3 overnight flights – super bonus … I get on the next 3 with my sister Shar once I land in Calgary. Not so super bonus … this flight is delayed and now lands 2mins before the next one boards. I may need one of those little golf cart things! Hold the door Shar! ( who didn’t just think of GOT Hodor? )

I will check in again once we hit Newfoundland!

Brande

Follow Nick … in Newfoundland

If you recall, last year I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Scotland and hike the Arran Coastal Way with my sister and our two besties for my 40th birthday. Well, this year I get to hike again in celebration of a 40th – but not mine this time. You can turn 29 a bunch of times but sadly when you get to 40 the clock keeps ticking, no mulligans or do-overs or re-dos or age fibs! The next number is 41 for me but not for Cheryl, she is the big ole 4-0 and we are hiking… Gros Morne Mountain National Park in Newfoundland – where she and her family hail from. Bucket list! Pinch me.

Gros Morne is the park featured on the Royal Bank app and in the Fly Over Canada experience (these references are likely lost on anyone who has never visited Canada or been to Vancouver, BC) and every time I see this park in pictures I long to book my flight and go .. well, now I get to go! A few pics compliments of the Government of Canada, Gros Morne Mountain National Park website …

I do not have much runway on this trip.  I depart in just 20 sleeps so I am in ‘hardcore training’  and ‘fit into my technical gear/clothes after a long winter’ mode .. all made easier (or at least more entertaining) by my new training partner, Bella Bean Pup Pup – our new Jack (insert Jerk) Russell puppy.

Bella is still leash training and a little too young to be hitting any major trails in the mountains that we are so lucky to have all around us here in Vancouver, BC so we have been sticking to hill and trail walking in our neighbourhood. We have an abundance of both just out our front door and they have served me well many times for previous trips.   So with my backpack on my shoulders,  my boots on my feet –  yes the ones I keep telling myself I will get rid of after just one more trip – and my Bella at my side we hit the hills daily.

This will be great practice for me. Before I go I get to follow Bella around and it sounds like when I get to Newfoundland I will follow Nick around.

Who is Nick you ask? The hubby of one of Chery’s sisters and it sounds like I do not need to do any trip pre-planning, route selection, etc – Nick is taking care of it all and I just have to show up with boots, water and follow Nick.

If you have ever read this blog before you know that planning is my superpower and anxiety / overthinking buster so this is going to be a whole new experience for me … a new province, a new bucket list item and a new map/trail guide (aka Nick). Nothing to worry about really, in the big scheme of things I should be more worried about getting ‘screeched in’ than following some guy I have never met in a place I have never been.

Brande 

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Wrapping up in Glasgow

Well that’s us – trip complete. We wrapped up our adventure lovingly called the Haggis, Hops, Hiking and Hilarity by our crew yesterday with a final day of travelling about seeing the sights.

We started with a delicious breakfast at Wanderlust Cafe in Edinburgh – highly recommended! About dead centre on the Royal Mile with a very cool orange sign with a compass logo. The inside of the place was decorated all travel like – we loved it!

From there we made our way to the train station and hitched a ride on a locomotive from Edinburgh Waverly Station to Glasgow Queen Street Station. At Queen Street we checked our bags in at Left Luggage for a few pounds and then hopped on another locomotive to Stirling.

We hopped onto the Stirling 1324 Bus for 4.50pounds that that goes on a circle around the major attractions (Stirling Castle, National Wallace Monument, Stirling Bridge, and more) all day and you can hop off and hop on as much as you like.

We hoped on and headed for the National Wallace Monument (aka ode to William Wallace)! The monument is a massive tower that has 5 floors dedicated to telling the story of the battle at Stirling Bridge all connected with a very steep, windy staircase that I in no way enjoy! But the view from the top platform and all the awesome history is totally worth it!

From here we hopped back on the bus and headed to Stirling Castle and some lunch at the Portcullis Pub – they have toasties (grill pressed sandwiches of deliciousness) and cold pints mmmm

Now off the Stirling Castle – this place is also pretty awesome. Lots to see and the views from the parapet are amazing.

After the Castle we walked the 1km to the Stirling rail station – the town is so fabulous we could not resist taking more photos as we waltzed down the hill. Amazing all the old stone – we just love reading the date of the buildings.

We caught the express train from Stirling Rail Station back to the Queen Street Station where we grabbed our bags again and made our way the 10mins to our home for the night, the Merchant City Inn. We had a quad room – a room with 4 single beds and our very own bathroom. This was particularly nice for our crew after being in a hostel for 2 nights where we shared the bathroom with all the people. I am too old to share bathrooms I think lol

After dropping our bags and a quick freshen up, we went in search of the amazing building murals Glasgow boasts – Shar marked them all on city map and we had a bunch within like a 10min walk. Yahoo – off we went with Shar as our tour guide. We gave her a solid 4 out of 5 stars for the tour. The pouring rain cost her a star.

We finished our evening with an awesome meal and some pints at Bar Home and heading back to the Inn to prep for an early morning taxi to the airport. Our meal may have included Deep Fried Haggis Bites and Max & Cheese with Chorizo Pizza. What!? To die for!

We are now onboard our flight and heading home – an amazing adventure with an epic crew!

Brande

Absorbing All Things Endinburgh

We have had 2 amazing days in Edinburgh! With so much history in every stone, a story about every street and the amazing back drop of Arthur’s Seat – how can you not love this place?!

We started our first day with a much too fancy Scottish breakfast at the Delgarven House Hotel on Kilwinning. I think the breakfast room must also be used for wedding receptions. We did our best to get our fancy on in our travel clothes eating sausages and beans!

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From there we caught a taxi to the train, the train from Kilwinning for Glasgow Central Station, took a quick walk from there to the Queen Street Station and then a train to Edinburgh Waverly Station! A quick 1.5hr travel time for 20pounds to discover an awesome historic city – perfect!

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Once in Edinburgh we found our way in no time to MacBackpackers Hostel right on the Royal Mile! This is the first hostel experience for a couple of the crew and I wanted to make sure it was a good one. I have stayed with MacBackpackers before and they are great! Always super central, super clean, a great price and the staff are so nice! We were able to book a room all to ourselves too (4 beds, bunk bed style) so that also makes a great into!

We check our bags into luggage lock up and stepped out the hostel steps on the Royal Mile to find some lunch and a pint. We found it almost right next door at the Royal Mile Tavern – a recommendation from the hostel lady who lovingly calls it ‘The Tav’. We call it that now too! It was so great. The Haggis was amazing, the pints cold and the staff were so friendly.

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From here we set out to see, absorb, sip, walk and eat our way through Edinburgh! We started with a walk down the Royal Mile to Arthur’s Seat and Holyrood Palace. Here are some pics of our walk down the Mile and our visit to the Palace and Abbey.

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It’s hard work this tourist stuff so our next stop was the very old and just so cool Tollbooth Tavern for a cold pint and a glass of water. Such a cool pub and it was super busy – good energy!

But then we got hungry and a little chilled from our cold pints … needed a tea and scone after that at Procaffeination. There may have been some shenanigan picture taking on the very steep stairs to the bathroom after the caffeine soaked in.

Pints in, caffeine in – we were ready to waltz about the city for a few more hours and see what we could see! Wow you can just walk in any direction in this city and see cool, old stuff! Love!

Guess what? We got hungry and thirsty again after all this seeing the sights stuff! So off to find some dinner and another pint. Oh and this stop (our last for the night) included some live music. One guy playing a harmonica, tambourine secured to his foot, played guitar and sang. Amazing! He even sang a Mumford & Sons song – yahoo, our fav!

Day 1 Edinburgh complete. We headed back to the hostel for a good sleep so we would be ready for Day 2. Well the beds were comfy and the room was a good temperature but being right on High Street (Royal Mile) comes at a cost – the street never sleeps so we couldn’t either! We heard every siren, all the drunken crowds, and some guy loudly looking for Paul (wonder if they found him?).

On Day 2, our morning alarm was a window washer all the way on our second story – filling our drying boots on the windowsill with soapy water. Maybe they will stink less now!

Well we are up now – so Shar and I went for a quick hike up Arthur’s Seat as our morning workout, checked out an amazing old cemetery that included a watch tower that used to be manned by guards to catch grave robbers who were stealing bodies for medical study in the 1830s, and enjoyed a Turkish coffee. Great morning!

Shar and I headed back to the hostel and once all of our crew was ready for the day we headed out in search of breakfast. We were all happy it was sunny outside and took full advantage of this rare occurrence in Scotland by eating our eggs and drinking our teas on the Carruber’s Cafe patio right on the Royal Mile.

After breakfast we headed up to Edinburgh Castle – Rosa has a friend of a friend who left us free tickets for the Castle! No jokes! How epic is that? Cheryl and Rosa who have never been before set off to discover the secrets of that amazing stone building.

Shar and I who have been the castle before heading off to see what we could see in the crazy steep and twisted streets around the castle. Well we got so far as the Castle Arms Pub!

During our pint, we did some research on what else and where else our crew should venture in this amazing place. We planned for some Old Town time, a pub for lunch, tea in the afternoon and our ghost tour that night.

After our pints and after the Castle, we all had a chance to see the inside of a very old church that sits on the Mile. We had the chance to talk to the history lady at the church about the Order of the Thistle – the highest, elite order of knights in UK who are appointed directly by the Queen. This is not for the Sir Richard Bronson or Sir Sean Connery knights of the world but a much higher order and only 16 sit on the Order at a time. They had a women on the Order once too .. well besides the Queen herself of course. The first picture below is one wall of seats of the Order’s meeting place. The crest of each night sits above their seat.

Post our Church visit we headed over to Princes Street area where we checked out an old Parish, and walked through a cemetery where the oldest grave was from 1820. Amazing all the stone work on the headstones and tombs.

After this we headed went up to Rose Street which is so neat with its pink banners and pub after pub along the largely closed to traffic street. This area also has a bookstore which we could not resist! Yah got me a new book for our flight home.

Next stop was the Sir Walter Scott Monument which if you have the stamina and fortitude to climb the small, winding 287 steps up the tower to the top offers amazing views of the city. I made it to the museum and then platform 2 level for pics – then chickened our as the steps got smaller and more twisty. No thanks. The views were still amazing!

After that wee workout we needed a tea and scones. So off to Deacon Brodie’s Cafe we go. Sadly they were already out of scones when we got there so I sucked it up and settled for a Nutella crepe and a tea. Rosa got one too and we shared a banana to kick it up a notch. Mmmm Deacon Brodie is a perhaps one of the most infamous character of Edinburgh’s history – he designed the gallows and devised the best way to hang criminals. Years later he committed a crime himself (burglary) and was hanged by the very device he invented. Karma?

Here we are post tea ‘locked’ behind the Cafe bars.

Our next agenda item was to get some souvenirs or gifties for folks back home – the amazing cashmere tartan scarves in every shop were so hard to resist. Post shopping we headed back to the room to pack up a bit, and ready ourselves for our Haunted Ghost Tour we had scheduled for 930pm.

The tour was awesome. Ella our guide was dramatic (but not too much), sarcastic (in the funniest way possible) and just all around a cool gal for sure. We spent about 30mins above ground hearing ghost stories about the closes and winds (skinny alleyways between buildings) and then another 30mins in the vaults below the city.

The vaults were awesome! We were so deep below the streets you could not hear any street noise or see any natural light. It was all bricks, stone, rock and coldness. They had the place lit with candles (I am sure for effect) and some electric lights on the stairwell down. It was cold, it was damp and it was creepy! Good fun! Ella would stand with her candle in hand and tell the story of each of the ghosts in the vaults.

Post tour we of course had to snap a photo with this chick, she was just so cool. The picture does not do justice for her hair though – it was all purple, white, pink and teal dress locks. She had dragon earrings and a cape and funky heels on as well. What else would you expect from a trained historian turned Edinburgh ghost guide!?

Wrapping up the tour it was about 1030pm and we felt one last pint to toast our couple of days in Edinburgh was in order. So we headed to one of my favourite pubs, Deacon Brodie’s (yes that character again), and all enjoyed a cider while we chatted about our favourite moments of Edinburgh.

Edinburgh thanks for an amazing time. Now onward to Stirling and Glasgow for our final day in this wonderful little country!

Brande

Breathing Deep in Kilwinning

With the Arran Coastal Way under our belts we had to find some way to celebrate our accomplishment … what better way than climbing the highest mountain on the Isle of Arran!

Yes you read the right. We finished walking 105kms and celebrated with a 5hour hike up Goat Fell Mountain. Clearly we all have some weird, hiking sickness that makes you keep logging the miles even with sore muscles, painful blistered feet and looming black clouds in the distance.

Here we go …

We had a bit of a sleep in. Aka we had breakfast at 9am instead of 8am (a whole hour extra sleep that none of us could actually sleep through). Rosa and Cheryl were at The Broomage B&B again and had a yummy continental breakfast; Shar and I were at the Carrick Lodge B&B where we had a full Scottish breakfast. Oh don’t feel too sorry for Cheryl and Rosa! While they might have had to deal with a cold breakfast – they had their laundry done and had warm, clean clothes to put on. The taste of my delicious hot breakfast was tainted as I enjoyed it while wearing travel worn clothes hiking up and do the steep hill from our place to theirs!

Here is a quick peek at the Carrick Lodge:

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At just after 1030am, Shar and I walked from our Lodge to The Broomage over at Goat Fell Mountain end of Brodick town to drop our bags with Cheryl and Rosa’s. The Broomage folks were cool with letting us all store our bags there while we climbed the mountain – basically just the sweetest B&B owners ever!

We had a quick stop at the Outdoor Store so I could get some compeeds (epic blister bandaids) and accidently buy a new Buff before we heading up the mountain. My feet are in a bad way. Darn it, I think my 15yr old boots may need to be retired and I am in absolute denial! Put it this way.. duct tape required to make it through  boot days.

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At just before 11am we were on our way to Goat Fell Mountain – to access it you walk the Fisherman’s Path from town to the base of the mountain. This path included walking on the beach, some easy underfoot grass path, a couple of bridges. and a long boardwalk. We actually walked this path when we started the first day of the Arran Coastal Way!

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In just a km or 2 the path turned into a woodland then rocky trail taking us up, up, and up the mountain. While hard work this felt so amazing compared to balancing precariously on slippery boulders along the coast. The day before we met a women and her dog (we nicknamed her Heidi McHikerton and I believe her dog’s name is Hammish) on the Arran Coastal Way who said we would think the path up the mountain is a dawdle after walking the coast. Well I don’t think it was a dawdle but wow it was nice to walk on flat surfaces!

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After a couple hours of trudging up we got to Glen Rosa! Wow! The expanse of green fields, waterfall and river flowing down the Glen, and the bay of Brodick in the distance … I had my fill.  Beautiful! At this point, the path was getting more and more rocky and way more exposed – soon it would be a ridge walk with some bouldering up to the summit. Nope! Be Brande! I am not a heights person and don’t pretend to be.

So it was here I said good luck, took a photo, handed off a sandwich or two to Shar and Cheryl and wished them the best of luck on this summit! Up they went, and down I went.

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Rosa and I headed back down with our sights set on the Arran Brewery at the base of the mountain and some sunshine, picnic table time while we waited for the two summit punks!

It was an awesome couple of hours just Rosa and me – I totally made the right choice to enjoy a pint and good conversation with a friend instead of Gullom like scrambling to the summit of fear!

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Shortly after Rosa and I sat down for our sunshine picnic of donut and cider yumminess,  we got a video message from a Cheryl and Shar advising they had made the summit and were on their way down!

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About an hour later we got another video message from Cheryl and a Shar to tell us to have cold pints ready – they were double, maybe triple timing it down! The minute, literally, I walked out of the pub with their pints Shar and Cheryl walked around the corner. Now how is that for timing!

We enjoyed our pints, checked out the gift shop, and made our way back to Brodick. A quick stop at The Broomage for our bags and a wee chat with the owner guy and we made our way to the co-op (grocery store) for another quick stop for Arran Gold Liquer and a chat with the other Broomage owner gal and then we made our way to the 7:20pm ferry! We loved the saying on the ferry door – ‘Haste Ye Back’ (hurry back). Ok!

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A couple hours later we were checked into our home for the night, Dalgarven House Hotel and enjoyed some fish and chips for dinner! It was an early night for us tired gals – we were keen for a good sleep and to switch gears from hikers to tourists!

Off to Edinburgh!

Brande

 

 

 

Celebrating Back in Brodick

We did it! On Day 5 we completed the Arran Coastal Way – all 105km according to the guidebook or 133km according to my FitBit!

We started our morning with … you guessed it! A full Scottish Breakfast again that was absolutely amazing. While eating we commiserated over how our feet were doing, and the weather and if we think it would improve at all. We were keen to finish this trail despite a hard, late finish the day before and most of us still with we gear.

So we made a plan to be out the door for 1015am and on our way – rain and blustery winds or not! We ran a little late cause of me, sorry gals. For some reason the outsides of my feet have developed some pretty impressive and very painful bruises (I think from all the bouldering where your feet are never flat and you push off from the outside of your boot). I had to do some first aid intervention if I was gonna get another 20km outta these dogs. Some foam backed moleskin and duct tape ought to do the trick!

We were out the door at 1045 …

We had stayed at the Burlington House which was just so cool. Shar and I were on the top floor where it was like an attic angled roof – I always wanted a room like that as a kid. We also had a heater in our bathroom so we could crank it up to dry our clothes and boots – a totally stinky hot box! Ick!

Our day started our on a pretty crazy, overgrown trail heading straight up out of town. The lady at the Burlington told Rosa and Cheryl that instead of backtracking a couple km to get back on the trail there is a sneaky-sneak straight up to the trail just down the road. Yahoo! We found it! At first a wide track (gravel road) then a cool wee trail that looked more like a creek bed than a path! At times we had to crouch hike the branches and bramble was so low We loved it!

From here we were on a minor road and had to guess a little at where to go next – assuming we continued with the coast to the right, we turned right. Well oopsy daisy! Sure felt like the right way. We even confirmed it with a fisherman! He told us to go up a wee road (massive, long, steep hill) and we would be back with the Way. Well we did that and ended up back where we had already been – hahaha sure let’s add a couple km to our day!

So, we asked another lady who drove by and she told us to head around and back down to the coast – yahoo we found the right way markers. Too bad we climbed a horrendous hill to find out! Looks like the driving lady knows a bit more about the inland paths than the fisher guy – weird?!

Ok back in action we spent the next couple of hours either rock beach walking or on boardwalks just above the beach. We could not believe the amount of work that went into building these amazing boardwalks. At the end of each there was a small sign that said how many meters to the next boardwalk- so you would know how long you had to suffer on the wet boulders before flat ground again. Brilliant!

The tide was still a little high so we had to walk a few steps in the ocean at one point to get around a headland. Cheryl went ahead to check out what was on the other side – making even soggier feet in the process but what a champ! She found our boardwalk on the other side, so we all followed! If your friends walked around a headland with ankle deep ocean, would you? Yup!

From here we soon found our way to Lamlash our mid way point and where we getting a hot lunch. This time we knew the tea house or a hotel would be open and we could not wait! All of us enjoyed a hot tea with Arran Gold (yummy, better than Bailey’s liquor) to warm up and some sandwiches with chips!

We also reconfirmed that yes we wanted to finish walking – even with basically ponds in our boots, and torrential rain and wind. We were gonna finish this thing! So we geared up and stepped outside to … no rain, no joke! The skies had stopped crying down on us and it was actually feeling like it might warm up a little. (insert the sound of the heavens singing).

We started with a 2km easy road walk which turned into gravel track right along the coast where we saw seals! Finally we saw all the seals the guidebook and locals were talking about! My photo below doesn’t do the seals justice – Rosa got some epic photos on her camera though!

From here we rounded a headland and had a couple of kms walking on the grassy knoll right beside the coast – sometimes precariously on the cliff edge in my scaredy-Cat opinion but no one else seemed to mind. Absolutely beautiful!

After this section if was some easy hill, fields and minor road walking into town. Stopping whenever we wanted in the sunshine for photos!

img_3278img_3311Wow, we made it! Strolled into town (and by that I mean hobbled haha) and took a photo back where we started 5 days ago – at the Arran Coastal Way marker. Wow!

We headed over to the Douglas Hotel across the street where we were presented with our completion certificates and felt some serious pride in our accomplishment! There may have been clapping and some fighting tears. A toast with some local lager and a cider on the sunny terrace completed our epic journey!

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Ladies! Wowza! Now shall we really celebrate by climbing a mountain, Goat Fell Mountain to be exact? I think so! Brande

Soggy in Whiting Bay

Well day 4 over and done! From Lagg to Whiting Bay in 16kms that felt more like double that!

We started our morning with another yummy full Scottish breakfast and some time checking in with our families and catching up on social media in the cute little sun room of the hotel. The forecast was calling for heavy rains and wind and we were looking to put it off as long as possible. Sitting in our little sun room we watched the rain deluge down sideways for a good hour. Ick! But we had some time to kill anyway so why not hope the rain would rain itself out!

This morning’s walk includes bouldering around Brenan Head which is only passable at a lower tide. The guide book says to arrive at the headland at high tide, take a break, and then go around when the tide is passable and we are confident it’s going out. If not confident then to backtrack to the escape root up to the cliff top and take the road.

High tide was forecasted for 1:06pm and we had 4-5km to walk to get to Brenan Head which included a lot of sand, boulder and bog walking – beautiful for sure, but can take some time to cross. So we left the hotel around 1030am and made our way to the headland. We made awesome time after leaving the hotel – likely because it was pouring rain and all you can do is put you hood on, keep your head down and walk. Good conversation and photo montages are a little tough in the blistering rain along the ocean. But we were lucky the rain only lasted about an hour or so – just long enough to soak a few of the crew to the under clothes.

We arrived at Brenan Head just after noon so got comfy on the boulders below an awesome waterfall just outside Black Cave (the biggest coastal cave on the walk – massive) and enjoyed our lunch while watching the tide come to high and then go out so we could time our crossing. Well as we sat there it got windier and windier, the waves higher and higher – soon crashing against the rocks! A beautiful sight to see but not as you are waiting for the sea to go out so you can keep moving. We committed to waiting for high tide at 1:06pm and picked a tide pool to watch as our indicator that the tide was going out.

Bundled up in all the clothing we had in our packs – for me this included a short sleep, 2 long sleeves, a fleece, my shell and a toque – we enjoyed the waves, had some good conversations and waited. Every once in a while the sun would peek out and brighten our cold, happy but impatient spirits. At 230pm the water was not visibly retreating, the waves were getting worse by far and there was no way to pass Brenan Head – our gut instinct to not attempt the crossing due to the conditions were later confirmed when we found out all ferry crossings to/from the island were cancelled due to bad seas. Bad sea, bad! A weather warning was issued after we left our hotel in Lagg – missed it! So back to the Escape Route we went … we hadn’t seen the markers for this on our way through so Rosa and I double timed it to see if we could find these while Cheryl and Shar got a few things sorted and followed behind. We found it! Not sure how we missed the marker on the way through the first time. I was a bit ‘grumpy’ about having to take the escape route because we had waited so long for the stubborn tide and the Brenan Head crossing just seemed like the cool coastal thing to do. But the escape route ended up being great – up a steep incline to get the thighs burning, across some fields so we got to walk along with some sheep, and then easy road walking with amazing views of the Prada Island lighthouse! After 4km on the road we had a decision to make – walk another 8km into Whiting Bay our home for the night on roads OR walk 12km through woodland on the actual Arran Coastal Way.

By now the rain was looming again, the wind had picked up big time and it was 430pm – we had lots of time but there is always the concern that you won’t get a meal in the next town if you arrive too late. So Shar chatted with the Burlington Hotel where we were staying and confirmed we could order till 830pm.

So we had just under 4hrs to make 12km, we could get a hot meal at the end, and the path was largely through the woodland which I love – decision made, let’s keep on keeping on! About mid way the storm hit! Big style! Soaking, sideways, heavy, bouncing back up off the ground, rain quickly turning us from chilled hikers to soggy sloggers! Hoods on, heads down, we made our way. Even in the rain it was really pretty! Until we got to town and then it was just rain, rain, rain – running down the streets and overflowing drains kind of rain.

By the time we arrived at our Burlington Hotel for the night it was just before 8pm and we were literally dripping – I had to actually ring out my socks! The hotel lady didn’t care one bit and led us to our rooms and had the chef on standby for food. We toasted the end of a crazy, soggy day at dinner and all of us were keen for a good sleep and a chance for our clothes and boots to dry! Brande