Our days on board are numbered, soon it will be time to return to reality. Meals prepared, room tidied, plenty of time to visit and be entertained, that’s the life on a ship. It is a nice suspension of the pressures of daily life. However, we still have a few more stops before we debark from this ship . . .
Day 10: Stornoway, Scotland – The wind blows fiercely as we drop anchor out in the harbor. We do not have a berth in the harbor, so we ride the waves and the ship prepares to launch boats to tender the passengers to shore. The crew is having difficulty setting up the platform for the tenders. Captain announces he is turning the ship to block the wind for the tender platform. This bit of movement helps and the tenders are soon ready to take passengers ashore.
We do not have a prearranged tour in this port. There is a castle, but it is under renovation to become a hotel. It is a lovely little town to wander around. The air is crisply clear which brings the sounds of a bagpiper to our ears as we traverse the streets and window shop.
Day 11: Kirkwall, Scotland – This is a port is part of the Orkney Islands in the northeastern area of Scotland. On a previous visit to this port we visited the Neolithic site of Skara Brae, so this time we opted for something less ancient. Balfour Castle on the island of Shapinsay was our destination. This castle built in 1847, is now a venue for rent. A ferry brings you to the Shapinsay Island. We were met by tour guides who took us through the gardens and the home. At the end of the tour we were treated to a tasty tea. Scones, cookies, quick breads were on platters to share. I can’t imagine living in such a place.
Day 12: Invergordon, Scotland – The final port in our journey of the British Isles. Wendy was to be the guide for our party of six. So many sights to fit into this day! The first problem was getting to our guide. Apparently this dock was not used very often. As we stepped off the ship, we had to dodge the bird droppings that covered the dock. Ugh! It was awful! There was no where to step safely. Fortunately, the bus to take us to the end of the pier was only a few steps away.
Wendy whisked us away and we were headed for Loch Ness. The clouds were hanging low and we wondered if we would be able to see much. Just as we arrived, the clouds were beginning to break up. After a quick stop to one end of the loch, we were on a single track road (that means it was a single lane, with pull over spots every so often) and barreling through the wooded highland to reach the Falls of the Foyers. These falls feed into Loch Ness. A short hike down many steps brought us to the falls. Getting back to the car was a bit slower.
Next on our itinerary was seeing Scottish Highlands. Clouds still hung low, but we were able to get a few pictures. This trip took us all the way around Loch Ness.
Cawdor Castle was our next destination. Here we were able to enjoy a bite of lunch before touring the castle and the gardens. No pictures were allowed in the castle 😦 . The most interesting part of the castle was the dungeon, which had a dead tree in the center. The story is the castle was built around this tree because that is where a donkey carrying gold laid down for the night. The gardens were more interesting than the castle.
We were supposed to visit Culloden, but our time was running short so we headed back to the ship. Thankfully the ship put out a rubber mat so we did not have to navigate through the seagull droppings to get back on board.
Day 13: Sea day – a day to pack the bags and savor the last moments of a life of luxury.
Day 14: Amsterdam – Time to get off the ship and make our way back to the airport. We had prearranged a taxi to collect us and bring us to the airport. An accident on the highway, resulted in a massive traffic jam therefore causing me some anxiety. Fortunately, we made the flight and began the long flight back home. Once again, we flew to Philadelphia, then to Dallas, finally to Springfield. It was an incredibly long day! Our bed welcomed us home. Unpacking could wait until morning.
A few days later, jet lag was banished and life resumed its normal pace, but the memories live on.