Towards the Isle of Skye

On Friday August 7 we left Fodderty Lodge to go the Skye. The car was expertly packed:

Scotland is indeed beautiful:

The church of Rev. Lachlan MacKenzie, at Lochcarron:

Lunch at Lochcarron:

Initially we didn't want to go to Applecross, but as it seemed Skye wasn't that far anymore and we had plenty of time, we did. And glad we were, this is one of the most stunning drives in this world:

In Scotland, there's always another mountain:

The beach in Applecross with Skye at the otherside:

An infrequent appearance at this beach:

No wireless, wifi or anything at Applecross, but Daddy could, and had to, work a bit:

Then it was time to make our way back:

Zig-zagging down the mountain:

Somehow I think Dieuwe took most of the pictures:

Loch Ness

If you're in Scotland, Loch Ness is high on the list of things to visit. Number one we're afraid. It's probably more interesting in Fall. Anyway, we had a look. Here Urquhart castle, next to the lake:

Loch Ness, looking East:

Inside the castle:


The boys went up into one of the towers, or at least it remains. This castle is not a ruin, it was deliberately blown up when the last occupants left, so it could not be used again.

Loch Ness, again looking East:

This is the castle, seen from quite far away, looing West:

All in all, too many tourists, and none of the mystery one has come to associate with Loch Ness.

Climbing the Ben Wyvis

On Wednesday we climbed the Ben Wyvis, the highest mountain in the neighbourhood, and a real landmark point. For example from the motorway:

It's above 3000 feet, so they call this a Munro in Scotland. Daddy had planned an intesting route.

This route probably works well in winter given the pictures on the website from where this idea was taken, but worked less well in winter as I will detail later. But the first part went really well.


In the distance looms the mountain:

And at its foot it doesn't look too hard!

And it wasn't too hard indeed. Still quite some effort required. This is probably about 2/3 of the way. It was quite windy, but the views were amazing.


After about 2/3 it became much harder for someone with fear of heights. It was doable, but not easy. Luckily the hard parts didn't take that long, and closer to the top it again became a nice walk up. Auke and Dieuwe are here almost at the top of the An Cabar (950m):

It was really windy at the top:

After a break, we went to the real top, Ben Wyvis itself. The walk is really easy, the views cannot be captured by my camera.

As usual the boys were first:

Yes, this really is the top of the world in this part of the world (1046m):

One more top left to go, the top of Tom a'Choinnich. We first had lunch on a slope of the Ben Wyvis, and then went downhill and uphill again:

The wind up there was just ferocious:

From here we followed the map above, but went off the beaten track. First we went downhill. Daddy and Mummy more conventionally, the kids more rolling:

We had to make our way down to the first, then left over the river along the forest for another half a  mile and then through the forest. But there is no path! Walking this underground isn't as easy as it might look, it's very uneven. It's very far to the forest. The "valley" below is cut through with empty riverbeds. There are swamps. And then finally you make it to the forest. From there it is down to the river. And then you have to get over this:

Then it's uphill again, trodding along the forest. Hoping the map is right and that there is a crossing half a mile uphill. You jump over swamps, pools, and sometimes partially in them. But luckily, the map is right, and the fence can be passed. But there's no path, only a half swamp, half grass fire barrier through the forest. Midges are all around you, your shoe gets stuck in the swamp:

A swarm of hornets starts to follow you, and you start to wonder if you should trust the map, go downhill, or left or right. But in the end we made it safely down, and only the good memories remain.

Communion in Dingwall

On Saturday July 26 we arrived in Dingwall. On Sunday we went to the FP Church in Dingwall. The minister is Rev N.M. Ross who also took the services. The next couple of days I did very little, was very busy working on the SKOF website.

Below the Church of Scotland in Dingwall:

Dingwall's most famous preacher is Dr. John Kennedy, from the Free Church, who chronicled the preceding era of Dingwall in The Days of the Fathers in Ross-shire. His command of English and the love for the subject makes this a joy to read, and the contents is of course very edifying.

Just visible on the left is the monument in honour of Dr. Kennedy.

The communion services in Dingwall started on Thursday, which we were very privileged to attend. On Wednesday rev K.D. Macleod, the editor of the FP magazine, had already arrived (from Leverburgh, that means by ferry) and he took the prayer meeting. The text was from Hebrews 11:17: By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son. Afterwards Rev N.M. Ross invited us for supper where we also met Rev. D Macdonald from Uist. Below the manse, a bit different from the more humble abodes in New Zealand:

The service on Thursday started at 11am and was also taken by Rev. K.D. Macleod. The text was Exodus 20:3: Thou shalt have no other gods before me. The evening service was at 7pm and taken by Rev. D. Macdonald. He had a very solemn service on Acts 13:38: Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins.

The fellowship meeting was on Friday morning at 11am. The question was taken from Habakkuk 3:17-18: Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The days of the fathers are indeed gone, but the God of the fathers of Ross-shire still lives. The service in the evening was at 7pm by Rev. K.D. Macleod on Psalm 84:10: For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.

The prayer meeting on Saturday was at 8am. The service itself started at 11am. Rev. D. Macdonald preached on Psalm 118:26: Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord: we have blessed you out of the house of the Lord. The prayer meeting at night was at 6:00pm.

On Sunday the prayer meeting started at 8am and the service at 11am. Rev. K.D. Macleod preached on Rev 1:18: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. The evening service was at 6.30pm when Rev. D. Macdonald preached on Rom 6:23: For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

There was a prayer meeting on Monday morning as well, at 8am. The service started at 11am where Rev. K.D. MacCleod took his text from Psalm 51:11b: take not thy holy spirit from me.

Below the FP church in Dingwall as well as the inside. I wish I could write it had been filled to the brim. But it was good to have been here.

Thousands of martyrs

The security advisor of Palestinian President Abbas stated recently:

Jerusalem needs thousands of martyrs. If we live to see the day, and you become the leaders of the future, mark my words: It is impossible for Jerusalem to be restored to us without thousands of martyrs.

Do you see critical comments on Obama on the Internet? Report them now to the authorities

From the official White Houes blog:

There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care.  These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation.  Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to

John Cornyn in the WSJ:

“I am not aware of any precedent for a president asking American citizens to report their fellow citizens to the White House for pure political speech that is deemed ‘fishy’ or otherwise inimical to the White House’s political interests,” Cornyn writes today in a harshly worded letter to President Barack Obama in which he asks the president to immediately halt the effort.


Being generous with the people's assets

From DimPost, not a quote you expect to see there, but very relevant:

In January 1904 the first ten tram cars arrived from England . . . Everyone wanted a ride on the glamorous trams – preferably not paying the regulation fare of a penny a section. Travelling gratis on the trams became the ultimate perk. Councillors voted themselves free travel. Passes’ made of gold’ were later designed and handed out to all councillors, the Town Clerk and the City Engineer . . . A culture of being generous with the people’s assets began to develop.

Also read Reason #5786 - Why this country is broke.

ABN AMRO downgraded from Aa2 to Aa3

Bernard Hickey reports:

Moody’s has downgraded ABN Amro’s rating to Aa2 from Aa3, citing worries about its move to Dutch government ownership and problems in Europe, Reuters reported briefly. We have more detail below. No wonder they have no interest in NZ anymore. Europe will be the place to watch for landmines in the global financial system over the next couple of months.

A few years late, but 1984 is here

Socialism is unstoppable:

The Children’s Secretary set out £400million plans to put 20,000 problem families under 24-hour CCTV super-vision in their own homes.

I can promise it will come to a country near you. The basic premise of socialism is that you cannot care nor should be expected to, for yourself. You might love "free" health care, "free" schools, but this is all just a trap, and invariably all these countries will have the same destiny.


Late Friday afternoon we went into Edinburgh as anyone who has ever been there can confirm given this picture:

Next to the castle was the Camera Obscura and World of Illusions. We can recommend this to anyone with kids, very interesting, and they'll happily spend hours there.

Here's Ida and her twin sister:

As well as some alternative reality versions of Dieuwe:

Who seem to enjoy themselves:

And only in this place you can kiss yourself:

From the roof you had an excellent overview over Edinburgh. As you can see the sky was darkening. They told us that if you can see the Firth of Forth it means rain is on the way. If you can't see it, it's already raining.

And yes, they were right. Outside it started to poor unrelentlessly. So we got a cab, and asked it to bring us to a good Italian restaurant.

And the taxi driver delivered. It was indeed an very good restaurant. Like in Italy, and indeed with mostly Italian waiters and probably owned by an Italian.


Hadrian's wall

On Friday we explored a well-preserved section of Hadrian's wall. As said before, this was built almost 2,000 years ago, from 122 to 130 AD.

People probably have seen my blog post made on top of Hadrian's wall, but here a behind-the-scenes look at what was happening while I was posting that.

The wall seems to meander over the hills:

But you really need to be there to understand why the wall was built here. It actually goes along very steep hills and cliffs, these forming mostly a natural defence.

And from here, the wall is built straight along side the cliffs:

Every 1/3 mile there is a watch tower:

And another fort:

And so we followed the path, up and down:

And Ida made it to the top.

From here you can really see that this hill range is much higher than the low parts to the North.

Auke couldn't help but climb the quarry next to the wall:

And he made it to the top:

And then a few hours to Edinburgh. Somehow our Navman F20 made a mistake so we went pass Glasgow (oops), so we drive a bit more then we should have, but around 4pm we arrived inn Edinburgh at the Novotel. Two rooms would have been 189 pound each, but Ida had managed to get two rooms for 198 pounds. In thriftiness we can outscottish the Scottish!

On our way to Hadrian's wall

By the time of the emperor Hadrian, the Roman empire had ceased to expand. So the emperor, after visiting Brittain, ordered a wall to be build as a defence against the Picts. And built it was, between 122 and 130 AD. It's 117km long, and today you can walk the entire distance. This was our next destination. So on Thursday, after leaving London, we visited Notthingham where Dieuwe wanted to have a look, and then we drove to Greenhead, were Ida had found a barn. Getting there wasn't easy. Here the entrance, which we found after some effort:

Here some pictures we made when we left the barn, to give you an impression how you had to cross the river. Thankfully we were not more than 5 tons, else we had to drive through the water.

Note to Heit: no dents, the car is still in perfect condition :-)

And there was the barn:

Daddy had to work, so Mum and the kids went for a walk in the evening.

And came along the 12th century Thirlwall castle:

On the way home Dieuwe rescued a sheep that had become separated from its companions:

Then it was bed time. The kids were quite apprehensive when they heard they were going to sleep in a barn, but it turned out to be alright. As it will happen, they slept better in this barn then in the 4 star hotel the next night!

Finally rest for Ida. She has driven most of the time while I was working.

London in a day

Achieving a new personal record, we did London in 1 day. We started by taking the underground to the financial centre, along Starbucks, over London bridge, and from there walking along the south bank of the Thames to the Tower bridge. This is taken from London bridge:

We came along a very weird, but nice looking structure in a shopping centre along the bank.

The Tower itself:

And then a close up of the Tower bridge:

A very interesting building in the financial centre:

And along the Tower, back to the underground, past one of the few remaining pieces of the Roman wall that used to surround London:

Then to Waterloo station where we found the London Eye:

Long queues, but as we had booked beforehand (10% discount, thanks Ida!) the process was quite sped up for us. Here we are looking at the St.Paul's, about 50% up.

Coming down, Westminster:

For the kids the London Eye was the highlight of London probably.

Next stop was a Vodafone store. We walked along the Westminster ...

... to Nelson Square where I thought there must be a Vodafone shop. After a bit of trouble and asking for directions we found it. I wanted to have 3G access on my laptop, so I could continue to work. I had preloaded the drivers, so we plugged in the dongle, and it worked straight out of the box. On Linux. Amazing stuff. Basically up to Edinburgh we had 3G, after that GPRS unfortunately.

Then we went to Bakerstreet.

We had noodles after, and then it was bed time. Next day we would leave London to our next stop, Hadrian's wall.

From Hoevelaken to London

On July 21 we left Hoevelaken. Thanks to Heit, we had a car that could carry what we wanted to take!

First stop was Dunkirk, in France. While waiting for the boat, the kids street surfed:

About 11:30 the boat arrived:

Halfway between Dunkirk and Dover:

Same boat, but going in the other direction:

The white cliffs of Dover are in sight:

Above these cliffs was our first destination, Dover castle:

Aireal view:

And on the top itself, you see this:

They still have the remains of a Roman light house, this is me and Dieuwe at the entrance:

On our way to the tower. As usual I seem to have my head more in the guide book then the surroundings!

Really solid walls!

And here the Dover harbour. All in all a very interesting tour around a place that has been used for 2,000 years, from light house, castle, World War 2 command centre, to survival centre in case of nuclear attack. It also seems to have been the only castle with has had air defences.

And thanks to the GPS we arrived flawlessly at our destination (albeit, perhaps not by the smartest route). London is just such a drab place if you drive through it, only the pubs look like inviting places. But this is Hotel Balkan, the cheapest destination Ida could find in London: 180 pounds ($460 NZD) for two nights (two rooms).

Edinburgh en Dingwall

In Edinburgh hadden we voor deze keer een luxe hotel. Het was erg mooi gelegen in het centrum en vanuit de ontbijtzaal konden we het machtige Edinburgh Castel zien liggen. Het torent hoog boven de stad uit, we zijn er heen gelopen wat een aardig klim was. Het was helaas gesloten. Op onze wandeling door Edinburgh kwamen we langs de Camera Obscura wat wel open was. Dat vonden we erg leuk: 5 verdiepingen van allemaal optische illusies. Spiegels, gezichtsbedrog, Body hot spots, eindeloos lijkende ruimtes en op het dak de eigenlijke Camera Obscura. We kregen een demonstratie hoe de camera werkt. Boven op het dak staat een spiegel de van binnen uit bediend kan worden. Binnen krijg je dan op een tafel gepresenteerd wat de spiegel reflecteert. Zo konden we het straatbeeld van Edinburg op eent tafel bekijken.

Toen nog 3.5 uur rijden naar Dingwall de uiteindelijke bestemming.

Het was weer een prachtige dag, beter dan de weersvoorspellen aangaven. De rit voerde ons een stuk door de Schotse Hooglanden. Het deed ons aan Nieuw Zeeland denken. Het landschap heeft er veel van weg. Alleen is het wat minder ruig en zijn de bergen heel kaal. Dingwall ligt aan de Oostkust, het is hier wat lieflijker. We hadden een Cottage gehuurd, 2 km. van Dingwall af.

En nu zitten we hier dus. De cottage is in een woord AF. Het is een 350 jaar oud gedeelte van een huis en  zeer smaakvol ingericht. Heel erg gezellig met een mooie keuken. En er ontbreekt werkelijk niks. Alle keukenbenodigheden zijn er, kasten met boeken, spelletjes, dvd's, een mooie tuin. En niet te vergeten de heuvels. Vanuit het huisje kunnen we zo de heuvels inlopen met heel veel wandelroutes. We hebben er al 1 gedaan, maar hopen nog veel meer te lopen. Dingwall zelf is ook een gezellig plaatsje. Gisteren naar de FP kerk geweest, waar het weer thuis voelde. Gisteravond bij ds. Ross en zijn vrouw koffie gedronken. Zij zijn al eens in NZ geweest. Verder nog meer mensen uit de gemeente met banden in Australie en NZ.

Het enige nadeel is dat we hier een erg slechte internetverbinding hebben. Dus om foto's te plaatsen moeten we nog even wachten.

Nu eerst maar eens eten koken. Auke en ik hebben vanmorgen bij de Tesco boodschappen gedaan. Een enorme supermarkt waar we lekker hebben ingeslagen:-) Dat is aan Auke wel toevertrouwd....(we eten dan ook lekkere kippepoten)

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