Is­lands and lakes

Beau­ti­ful is­lands, rugged high­lands and vast lochs and a cas­tle thrown in and that’s what you get as part of this tour’s ex­pe­ri­ence.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Travel - By S.S. YOGA star2­travel@thes­

THERE are so many glo­ri­ous points of in­ter­est in the north of Scot­land – the high­lands and is­lands off the coast – that it would take reams of pa­per to cover it all. Here are some of the no­ta­bles ones we en­coun­tered on our In­sight Va­ca­tions Coun­try Roads of Scot­land tour.

Orkney Is­lands

Nor­mally, the ferry across from John O’Groats (that’s a vil­lage, not a per­son, so don’t start look­ing for a Scot­tish geezer), which bills it­self as the most northerly main­land point in Bri­tain (that hon­our ac­tu­ally goes to Dun­net Head), can be over very rough seas. We were lucky as the weather was be­hav­ing. The 9.7km ride to the is­lands (70 of them) was quite bear­able – our des­ti­na­tion was Main­land, the largest one.

It’s a gen­tly un­du­lat­ing ter­rain mainly filled with farm­lands and lochs (lakes and reser­voirs). The big­gest town is Kirk­wall, which has St Mag­nus Cathe­dral, a land­mark hark­ing back to its Vik­ing past.

A must-visit in Orkney and its Unesco her­itage list­ings is the Ne­olithic links and the prime ex­am­ple is Skara Brae. Get “stoned” and con­nected to our dis­tant past. Don’t for­get to also drop by at the mys­te­ri­ous Ring of Brodgar, where ex­ca­va­tions are still on­go­ing. It’s a henge and stone cir­cle akin to Stone­henge but smaller, and you can ac­tu­ally get up close to it.

For a bit of con­trast, have a look in at the Ital­ian Chapel built dur­ing World War II by Ital­ian pris­on­ers of war.

Isle of Skye

With the bridge from the main­land, it’s eas­ier to get to Skye, the largest is­land of the In­ner He­brides archipelago. It’s a heady mix of rugged land­scapes dot­ted with cas­tles here and there, and lovely lit­tle fish­ing towns. The main town and port of Portree is one of the pret­ti­est I’ve seen. We were based at sleepy Broad­ford though, but we took a coach tour around the is­land, which has lochs, rocky hills and beau­ti­ful vis­tas of vast coast­lines with lit­tle is­lands sprin­kled here and there.

Do not miss the view­ing point at Kilt Rock, so named be­cause the basalt rock seems to have pleats. There is also the spec­tac­u­lar Mealt Wa­ter­fall plung­ing 60m from the cliff face into the sea. As it had not rained for a while, the vol­ume was not as big as the norm.

An­other iconic sight is the Old Man of Storr, which is part of the Trot­ternish Ridge and one of the highly rec­om­mended walks here. You won’t get bored in Skye, es­pe­cially if you’re into the out­doors.

Eilean Do­nan Cas­tle

Get­ting to the se­cond most fa­mous cas­tle in Scot­land again takes you through some beau­ti­ful coun­try­side, also filled with serene lochs. Var­i­ous “forms” of the cas­tle have been around since the 13th cen­tury but a big por­tion of it was de­stroyed in 1719. Ar­guably “the most beau­ti­ful cas­tle in Scot­land”, it was re­built in 1932. You might recog­nise it from the count­less movies its been fea­tured in in­clud­ing High­lander (1986), the Bond film The World Is Not Enough (1999) and some­thing con­nected to Malaysia, En­trap­ment (1999).

Com­mando Me­mo­rial

Lo­cated about 13km from the town of Fort Wil­liam, it is a poignant place to stop at. It was orig­i­nally set up as a ded­i­ca­tion to the men of the Bri­tish Com­mando Forces in World War II and un­veiled in 1952. A Gar­den of Re­mem­brance was added later and trib­utes to those who died in var­i­ous con­flicts that came af­ter, have also been erected there.

From the me­mo­rial site one can also see Bri­tain’s high­est moun­tain, Ben Ne­vis.

Loch Lomond

An­other scenic jour­ney is pass­ing by the Trossachs Na­tional Park, where you see lots of hik­ers on the var­i­ous trails. Loch Lomond is Bri­tain’s largest in­land wa­ter body by sur­face area and of­fers stunning views all along its shores. One of the top 10 trails in the world takes hik­ers from Fort Wil­liam, past the vast por­tion of Loch Lomond and to the out­skirts of Glas­gow – all of 154km.

It lends its name to of one of the most fa­mous of Scot­tish “folk” songs. And one of the most fa­mous fig­ures in Scot­tish his­tory, Rob Roy, is as­so­ci­ated with the area.

A great way to see the lake is by tak­ing a cruise, which is an op­tional ex­cur­sion for this tour.

Mealt Wa­ter­fall with Kilt Rock in the back­ground. Hold on to your hats as it’s very windy here.

One of the most fa­mous cas­tles in Scot­land, Eilean Do­nan Cas­tle.

The beau­ti­ful Loch Lomond of­fers cruises on the vast lake.

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