Holiday in Scotland – Standing Stones

Holiday in Scotland 2016 - Standing Stone

When we were visiting Scotland, our family did quite a few walks and hikes. We climbed up mountains and cliffs, went to look for castles and waterfalls, we walked by the lochs and old ruins.

We also went looking for standing stones and stone circles!

Holiday in Scotland 2016 - Standing Stone

These were not particularly famous standing stones in Scotland. We just went to look at them because they were marked on a tourist map, near to where we were staying.

In all honesty, they were a bit underwhelming.

They weren’t perched on a cliff. They weren’t on top of a hill. They weren’t surrounded by a pretty forest. There was no information board explaining the history of the stones.

They just looked like some medium-sized rocks in a farmer’s sheep paddock.

(Maybe the local sheep farmer used a bulldozer to make a circle of rocks to attract tourist like us??)

They weren’t exactly the best example of stone circles for our kids to see.

NONETHELESS, we discussed their possible age, mythology, history and local folklore around the stones – and if we used our imagination, it was kind of amazing to think what they could have meant and how long they could have been there.

Holiday in Scotland 2016 - Stone Circle

Now before I left for Scotland, a few of my girlfriends alerted me to the “Outlander Phenomenon”.

There is a book series called “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon, about a 20th century nurse who, while holidaying in Scotland, touches a standing stone and gets transported back in time to 18th century Scotland, where she meets a rugged Scottish hunk and falls in love. It’s a historical fiction / romance / adventure type novel – which I read in 2001!

What I didn’t know was… it was turned into a TV series and everyone is quick to describe it to me in five words: Sexy. Erotic. Hot, Scottish guys.

Apparently the tv series is rather sexy… and there’s a lot of sex in it.

And apparently it’s been SO popular, that you can now go on “Outlander Tours of Scotland”, see some of the Scottish Highland locations from the novel and you know, touch some erect, standing stones ha!

So what do you know, I was going to some of those places.

With all that in mind, (and not having seen the TV series), I sent some totally innocent photos of ME TOUCHING A STANDING STONE to my girlfriends, which made them hoot and snort with laughter.

Ah, what are girlfriends for?!

(No one seems to know the exact purpose or function of a standing stone, so if they ever find out and it’s something sacred, I do apologise for making light of the whole situation!)

Buying Hiking Boots for my Family and Children

In my previous post about our holiday walks and hikes around Scotland, I received a few emails from readers asking about my hiking boots and where to buy them.

I thought I’d put together some info and links for everyone.

Hiking Boots

In 2002, I bought myself a pair of waterproof, leather hiking boots which cost me around $250. I thought they would last me the rest of my life, because I only actually wore them for 2 weeks!

But 15 years later, I took them out from where I carefully stored them and discovered that the rubber sole had disintegrated and fallen off the shoe. It would cost me about $150 – $180 to resole them, so I decided to buy myself a new pair.

I was looking at these boots or something like this.

However, by complete coincidence, my late mother-in-law had tiny feet like me, so I inherited her hiking boots!

So the boots (pictured above) came from my lovely mother-in-law, they are size 36 and apparently they are 30 YEARS OLD?!

If you are interested to buy something similar, this is the equivalent boot in the same brand, Scarpa, which also happened to be the same  boot I was looking at.

Yep, they are an eye-watering $300. But hey, these boots were flipping amazing. I was submerging half the boot into water and my socks remained completely dry. They easily let me walk over slippery rocks, loose rocks, fallen trees. I’ve worn them to hiking Tasmania, through the Australian bush and now to Scotland.

A pair of good boots is worth every cent.

On the OTHER HAND.

When it came to buying hiking boots for MY KIDS, I was not happy to spend $120 EACH on something they were going to use for 6-7 days, never use again, and then grow out of in 6 months.

So I hunted online, found an online sports store based in the UK, took a big risk, paid $30 for shipping… and bought 3 boots.

Hiking Boots

All three of them are waterproof, leather hiking boots. The two on the left are Karrimore Skido Junior Walking Boots (Size 36 and Size 35) and they were… AUD$58 each.

The one of the right are Gelert Children’s Walking Boot Child’s size 12 and they were AUD$20.

I had to buy thick hiking socks for the boots to fit better and comfort.

I also went ahead and bought 3 insulated, fully water proof jackets from the same shop.

They all worked out to be absolutely perfect and the quality was really impressive.

 

Hehe this isn’t a sponsored post, I’m just happy to share because I was so happy with the products, my boys all commented how comfortable the boots and jackets were, and we ended up using them everyday for 3 weeks while we were in Scotland.

PLUS I couldn’t believe how lucky I was with guessing the correct sizing of my kids (UK kids sizing is by age, and my kids are not the typical size for their age). It might have been a different story if I had to send 3 pairs of boots back to the UK?!

Hope this helps!

Holiday in Scotland 2016: From Where I Stood

While we were in Scotland for our family holiday, we did some very enjoyable hikes across “rough” and interesting landscapes.

I was constantly laughing to myself – OH IF ONLY MY GIRLFRIENDS COULD SEE ME NOW!!

Scotland 2016 - From Where I Stood

On the day of my birthday, we went to look for some stone circles and I came across this lovely gift to the earth.

I wanted to snapchat this photo to my girlfriends, saying: “Hey hey, it’s my birthday, what are YOU doing today?” but I had no mobile coverage. What a bummer.

Scotland 2016 - From Where I Stood

This is what most of the Scottish Highlands looked like… endless views of rolling, green hills.

It was beautiful!

Scotland 2016 - From Where I Stood

But when it rained, most of the flats turned into big grassy bogs. It was really hard to walk through.

Thank goodness our boots were waterproof.

Scotland 2016 - From Where I Stood

Ahhh, we had so much joy comparing the nuances of the different kinds of mud.

(My boys LOOOVED the mud!)

Scotland 2016 - From Where I Stood

The beaches were covered with beautiful, smooth rocks like these.

I was constantly picking up souvenir rocks, until my jacket pockets were bulging and full… and I weighed 2kgs extra.

Scotland 2016 - From Where I Stood

Sometimes there was just NO path and no obvious place to step. This was at the base of a waterfall.

Where can I put my foot? Is it slippery? What can I hold on to? I basically had to crawl across like an drunken lizard.

Scotland 2016 - From Where I Stood

The seaweed on the beaches were covered with little air-filled pockets… and walking across them was like treading on bubble-wrap – very satisfying.

Scotland 2016 - From Where I Stood

Lastly, I wanted to share  – for all it’s shock and delight value – this photo of my 7 year old, climbing up and over a deer fence.

Creating awesome childhood memories here!

Holiday in Scotland 2016: The Slow Life

Holiday Scotland 2016 - Slow Life

I loved that my husband and I spent so much quality time with my boys while on holidays.

I loved that the days were so long, that our routines were so flexible, that we could just go with the flow of a slow, holiday life.

Play hangman and card games for 3 hours? Sure.

Dance around the bonfire, toasting marshmallows till 10pm at night? Why not.

Spend hours collecting 24 perfect rock pieces from a pebbled beach to make a chess set? Yes please.

I went on a long 3 hour drive, with just one kid, to explore a little town, with no goal except to come home with milk and eggs. Oh what fun adventures we had! Getting up to silly antics. Taking funny photos. Having brand new experiences. Talking and laughing like we were best friends. Then I did the same again the next day, with my other kid, and then the other.

I loved every minute I had with each boy. They are all so gloriously different!

My boys are 7, 11 and 13 now… and day by day, I can almost feel time slipping away from me, as if I’m frantically trying to catch pouring water with my cupped hands.

Most times, I’m so irritated by their noise, their 12 year old language, and their boy behaviours… but in the same breath I love them to bits and I wish that they could stay little, childlike and wildly happy.

 

Holiday in Scotland 2016: Ben More

In Scotland, a mountain that is more than 3000 feet high (914m) is called a Munro. There are about 282 Munros in the British Isles… and “Climbing a Munro” is kind of a big thing in Scotland.

Actually, let me clarify, Munro Climbing is a big thing in my husband’s family, so since our kids were in Scotland for the first tine, there was a strong Scottish desire to pass on the flame.

The highest and most well known Munro is Ben Nevis, which sits at 1,346m (4,414 ft).

We tackled Ben More, which is 966m (3,169 ft). And just to give you a bit of perspective, I’ve climbed Ben More twice in 2002, when my husband and I were last in Scotland together.

Off we went!

Scotland 2016 - Climb Ben More

The weather wasn’t great at the start, it was a bit overcast, windy and it rained on us too.

At least the clouds stayed off the peak, so we had a clear view of our target.

The ground wasn’t all flat grassy slopes, as the picture suggests.

Scotland 2016 - Climb Ben More

Some parts were rocky, uneven, slippery, wet, muddy and some parts were just over grown with ferns – taller than my 7 year old!

Scotland 2016 - Climb Ben More

There’s our target!

To tell the truth, we didn’t plan to climb to the very top. It takes about 3-4 hours to climb to the top, meaning 8-9 total hours for the kids, including rest stops.

The weather was quite unsettled on this day, so we started late in the day. Therefore in order to have a good experience, we decided to stick to a 3.5 hour climb only and a 3 hour descent.

We didn’t want to risk being stuck on the mountain with three tired kids in the cold wind and rain, and 2 hours left to walk. That would have been a bad experience for everyone!

Scotland 2016 - Climb Ben More

We would stop every 30 minutes, have a snack and enjoy the view.

Yep, the views were spectacular! We could see our car parked by the side of the road.

Scotland 2016 - Climb Ben More

Imagine walking up some steps for 3.5 hours… then throw in lots of loose dirt, slippy rocks and ankle-twisting grass tufts.

It was challenging and so much fun.

I really enjoyed myself!!

Scotland 2016 - Climb Ben More

Did I mention that the views were spectacular?!

As you can probably tell, I took sooooo many photos.

Scotland 2016 - Climb Ben More

My kids were champs. They all did so well.

Scotland 2016 - Climb Ben More

And this was our highest point. As we suspected the weather had turned and it became much colder and windier. Clouds were skimming the peak.

We had climbed 2/3 of Ben More. The top looked so close!

Perhaps we could have climbed for another hour to the top, but it would have added another 2 hours for the trip down.

Besides, if the top got covered in cloud, we wouldn’t be able to see anything. And depending on how thick the clouds were, there was a possibility that visibility would drop to 1 metre and someone might lose their footing and fall down a cliff?? No thanks.

Scotland 2016 - Climb Ben More

Like I said, we decided to enjoy the view and be thrilled about how far we had come.

We took lots of silly family selfies, noisy videos, and epic panorama photos.

I love this photo I took of my kids taking a nap on top of the mountain haha.

Scotland 2016 - Climb Ben More

On the way down, I spotted this perfect thistle – the national flower of Scotland.

And I took this postcard-perfect photo of the humble, prickly weed!

All up, it was a 7 hour adventure of a lifetime and an absolute highlight of our trip.

Maybe our family will come back in the not so distant future and do the whole climb to the top.