TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY

Day 5 in Glenfinnan, Loch Ness and Tomintoul, Scotland + The Engagement Story

Spoiler alert! Today is going to be an extremely special day for both of us as Anders have something up his sleeves (or pocket)! Read on to find out more!

14th May 2017

07:30 | Breakfast at Huntingtower Lodge beside Loch Linnhe
Enjoyed our long breakfast by the breathtaking view of Loch Linnhe and watched the little birds flying around the garden. I even tried to identify the birds by browsing through the bird-related books on the windowsill. Chatted with the host about our route for the day before setting off on a new journey!

More about our stay at Huntingtower Lodge - The Waterfall Suite
This is our favourite place to stay in Scotland! The suite we stayed in has everything you will need and want, such as the lounge overlooking the loch, a large bathroom and a very comfortable bed. There is also a separate dressing room which is such luxury, with the soft sunlight shining in, making it perfect for make-up! Wish I have a corner like this at home in the future! 
*Update* Just received the news on Facebook that Huntingtower Lodge property has been put on sale because the hosts are planning to move towards Edinburgh to be closer to their family. We are glad that we had the chance to visit the host's daughter, Laura's gift shop -  Curiouser and Curiouser at Edinburgh which I will share more details in our Day 9 blog post.

10:30 | Hiked up to witness the Jacobite Steam Train crossing the Glenfinnan Viaduct
We took a short hike up from the path behind the Visitor Centre. Upon reaching the Glenfinnan Viewpoint, there is the distant view of Glenfinnan railway viaduct infront of us. With hope of getting a better view of the Jacobite steam train crossing the curved Glenfinnan viaduct, we took a risk to trek out of the viewpoint area and head toward the viaduct despite not having a clear footpath to follow.

Trekked for about 20 minutes and we were closer to the viaduct. But it was still not the curved viaduct view that we had hoped for (wished we did better research like this walking trail). Despite that, we stayed put and waited for the steam train that will pass by any moment then.

Soon enough, a train passed by! But it was just a regular train, not the steam train like Hogwarts Express. Continued to wait till around 11.30am, but something felt amiss since we read up that the train should pass by around 11am. So we gave our host a call to help us check the train timing as there was no internet reception on the mountain. No......!!! We received the bad news that it does not operate on the weekend we were there!
After experiencing the Scottish weather of intermittent rain and shine, with my shoes all soaked with mud, I was ready to trek back down. But something more unpredictable than the Scottish weather happened...

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A special moment at Glenfinnan: The Engagement Story
He said "Stay there, let's take one more photo together!", so I did. He walked towards me but did not look into the camera. Instead, he stared at me and took out my earpiece from his denim jacket. Only at that moment then I realised something was going to happen. Through the earpiece, I listened to the song he wrote for me. I was so overwhelmed with emotions and started tearing (it suddenly rained) that I couldn't concentrate on the lyrics after the first few lines of the song. 
He went down on one knee after the song finished playing (the sun came out), took out a ring from his chest pocket and popped the question! I answered "Yes!" of course, and he put the ring on my finger. To be honest, I cannot remember what he said at that moment because it felt like the whole world went silent and many thoughts raced through my mind.
This is the story of how we got engaged. I am truly grateful that he remembered that I wanted a private proposal with no audience and chose such a scenic place as the background. Before all this happened, he already asked my parents' permission for my hand in advance and designed the engagement ring since last year. 
Remember the photo he lied about at the beginning of this story? He was actually recording a video to capture down the moment! The last photo is a screenshot from the video.

12:30 | Walked around the Glenfinnan Monument and Visitor Centre
After the magical moment, we needed to get back down to the ground. Being adventurous, we headed further towards the downwards slope of the mountain which turned out to be a bad choice made! Without proper hiking gear, we had to trek through the muddy grounds and uneven path that eventually forced us to climb over the fence (pictured above) to get back onto the real ground.
We took a break from the chilly wind and harsh conditions by having hot drinks and food at the visitor centre's cafe. Then we move on to the modern exhibition inside the visitor centre which was pretty interesting followed by a walk towards the Glenfinnan Monument.

14:00 | Admired the Neptune's Staircase at Banavie village
Only from a postcard at the Glenfinnan visitor centre that we learnt about the existence of Neptune's Staircase. By the canal, we saw an interesting architecture and some picnic benches on one side. On the other side, we can see Ben Nevis and read up about the canal. We were lucky to witness a boat travelling up the lock flight! We are utterly impressed by the wisdom of how someone in the past can come up with the idea of such mechanism and put it into practice.

14:30 | Stopped by the Commando Memorial
Before getting to Urquhart Castle, we did a quick stopover at the Commando Memorial. The three bronze commandos standing on top of the hill commands a strong presence! It's always a good idea to learn more about the country's history through the memorial created. Aside from that, this was a great scenery spot as the iconic landscape of Scotland surrounds the memorial.

15:30 | Marvelled at the Ruins of Urquhart Castle on the bank of Loch Ness
The Loch Ness Monster is probably one of the most famous myths around the world, but a quick search for Loch Ness will make you realise that it's just a huge Loch, with not too much to marvel about. However, a beautiful castle ruin sits by the side of this Loch. Urquhart Castle is a perfect location to visit if you want to make more out of your obligatory trip to Loch Ness!
Many of the spots in the ruins had signs that tell you which room it used to be. One of the towers still stand with much of its grandeur, and the top of it provides a nice view over the Loch. From another spot in the ruins, you could see the ruins in its entirety, and the outline of the ruins helps you imagine how the castle life could have been back in the day. It was a great visit!

19:00 | Checked  into Glentorets Bed & Breakfast
After nearly two hours drive up and down the mountains, we arrived at our B&B for the day. It was a cosy home by the side of a large field. We quickly settled into the comfortable room. Had a quick chat with the host and found out that there's a town square nearby where we could get some food at that hour.

20:00 | Night out at Tomintoul
Tomintoul is a small village, the kind where you would think everyone knows each other. It was a little late by the time we arrived, but the village is still filled with charm. We can't help it but stopped to take quite a bit of photos on the way to the town square!
Eventually we chose to have our dinner at Glen Avon Hotel Lounge Bar. It was exactly like how we have seen it on TV, where the bartender knows everybody and everyone's having a good chat as they wind up their day. After a while, our B&B hosts came in for a drink too! 
Took a nice stroll back to the B&B, towards the setting sun. As we approached the B&B, we stopped to take photos of the two horses that were in the fields. Our host showed up after a while and showed us how we can feed the horses! What a beautiful way to end the day!

On this fateful day I became his and he became mine. I couldn't stop admiring the ring the entire day and kept worrying that I might lose it. This day is filled with lengthy stories and details which we are happy to come back to, and it will always put a smile on our face.

You can read up on the rest of our 17 days' adventure in Scotland and England here

Day 4 in Glencoe, Scotland

With much anticipation, we are going to explore Glencoe today! This is the place that represents Scotland and its way of living. The beauty of Scotland is always being featured in movies such as Skyfall, Harry Potter and Braveheart, and now, it's finally our turn to see it in person! 

13th May 2017

08:00 | Breakfast at Huntingtower Lodge with the view of Loch Linnhe
Such a pleasure to have our breakfast in the dining area beside the huge windows that overlook Loch Linnhe. The friendly host, Chris, shared with us some information such as the weather and gave us suggestions on what route we can take for the day! 

10:00 | Scenic drive along A82 road
During the drive, we were completely blown away by the epic landscape with the mountains and rivers along the never-ending road. Everywhere looks so picture-perfect that we had to stop by the roadside numerous times with the hope of capturing down the amazing view.

11:00 | Search for the Blackrock Cottage near Glencoe Mountain
Before the trip, we saw many Glencoe photos featuring the Blackrock cottage. It is located on the access road towards the Glencoe mountain ski area. Little did we know, there are actually people living in the cottage. So we only took a few photos from a distance so as not to disturb the residents' privacy.
The white cottage sitting against the majestic Buachaille Etive Mòr mountain is indeed very photogenic. However, we also spotted many other isolated cottages along the drive that looks equally nice. So our advice for you is to look for photo spots elsewhere if this place is not along your planned route.

12:00 | An adventure into Glen Etive 
Sky was clear when we began our drive on the narrow single track road that meanders down Glen Etive towards the head of Loch Etive. We were greeted by the pristine scenery of Glen Etive with river flowing and mountain top hiding amid the clouds. It's as if we had been teleported into a surreal world!
The drive was really lovely until one point where we felt like we were driving to nowhere in the rain. There was no phone signal for us to check our location and how far are we from the end of the road. Despite the uncertainty, we still drove on and finally reached the end of the road. So happy to finally reach the head of Loch Etive after feeling lost! 
The superb view there totally screamed "Scotland!". We saw two paddlers back from their canoeing trip and they were picked up by their family whom we had a chat with. There were also people camping near the loch. Lucky us, we spotted a few wild deers by the roadside during our drive back!

This was a much longer drive than we expected, with us clocking in 28 miles for a round trip. Do note that this is a single lane road with passing places at almost every 100 yards, hence we had pull over our car several times to allow cars of opposite direction to pass through. This drive was definitely not easy and we suffered slightly from carsick due to the frequent stopping at passing place. But I am thankful that Anders overcame it. He's the best (and only) driver of our trip!

16:00 | Late lunch at The Glencoe Gathering
Passed by The Three Sisters of Glencoe - Beinn Fhada, Gearr Aonach and Aonach Dubh mountains along our way to the nearby restaurant. We were feeling very cold and hungry after drive in Glen Etive, so we did quick search online to find this cosy place full of Scottish charm coming from the staff and decor. 

18:00 | View the Castle Stalker from The Old Inn 
Last stop of the day is to go view Castle Stalker from afar. We parked our car near The Old Inn and walked down a short footpath to the viewpoint. The wind was very chilling that evening, so we could only stay for awhile to take some pictures. Castle Stalker is truly stunning! The weather, casting a grey sky, added a nice background to the isolated castle.

19:00 | Dinner at Lochleven Seafood Cafe 
Lochleven Seafood Cafe was recommended by Chris and we made a reservation before heading down as it's quite a small restaurant with limited seatings. The seafood here is very fresh and affordable. We ordered fresh oysters, small pot of Mussels cooked in wine and fish of the day. Two thumbs up and we strongly recommend you to eat here!

It has been a very adventurous day for us! Went back to admire the sights and sounds of Loch Linnhe just outside our B&B followed by a very restful night.

Scotland is really beautiful.

You can read up on the rest of our 17 days' adventure in Scotland and England here