We arrived in Ísafjörður (I just loved saying it “issa-fyord-or”) in the morning. Initially we didn’t have any specific plans – no excursion, no independent tour. Since it had been easy to drive around Reykjavik, I thought maybe we’d be able to rent a car and tour the area (the actual town is very small and most of the cruise excursions involved traveling to other parts of the northwest fjords of Iceland). We first stopped at the visitor center to see if we could maybe book a last-minute tour (bus) but they were all full. The person at the counter suggested trying the nearby hotel as they sometimes have car rentals. I had never really heard of this but thought it couldn’t hurt.
As you saw from my previous post, we went to bed super late. Because we weren’t sure the length of time it would take to drive the Golden Circle, the plan was to get up early and hit the road. So running on less than ideal sleep, we started off for the first stop on the Golden Circle: Þingvellir National Park. Since we don’t have that specific strange character, in English you can find it as Thingvellir. I guess the original parliament of Iceland was located here before re-locating to Reykjavik. Within the park where the visitor center is located marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. You’re literally standing between two giant Earth plates. Pretty neat.
The sea day (Day 6) was on the open waters. We definitely felt some rolling of the boat and I heard that some people had some sea sickness on the way from Scotland to Iceland. I may have had just a very small touch of queasiness but it didn’t stop me from eating! The overall trip from Scotland to Iceland actually took about 1.5 days. We reached Reykjavik in the early afternoon and the weather was very overcast (much different than it had been in Scotland).
Our second stop in Scotland was at Invergordon. This was a tiny little town but was near a slightly larger city of Inverness. From my research prior to the trip, most of the sights in this area required some form of transportation. We hadn’t pre-arranged any transportation so last-minute a day or two before we arrived we ended up booking a shore excursion through the cruise. One thing that D wanted to see were castles since the Highlands are supposed to be known for them. Also just seeing the scenery and lushness of the area was also something to see. We elected to take a pretty easy trip to Loch Ness (where the famous “Nessie” or Loch Ness monster is supposed to live) along with Urquhart Castle, which lies on the shores of the lake.
Shore excursions often have fairly tight time regulations so we prepared and went to bed early and got up early so we could get to our bus in time. This earlier morning wakeup allowed me to get some nice shots as we pulled into Invergordon – Port of Cromarty Firth (luckily the ship could dock so we didn’t have to take any tenders).
I guess the ocean around these parts have a lot of oil so there are plenty of oil rigs just sitting out in the sea. Invergordon is a port where they drag the oil rigs back towards shore for maintenance and other construction so there were some that were getting retrofitted.
Our tour was mostly a bus tour where we saw a lot of things while in the bus. I tried to get shots of various areas as we made our way to Loch Ness.
We anchored in a waterway near South Queensferry. This is the closest place that a large cruise ship could get people to Edinburgh. South Queensferry is about 10 miles from the middle of Edinburgh. Since we had to anchor offshore, we needed to take tenders (small boats) to the port.
We woke up and got ready a little later (we were on vacation after all) and by the time we reached South Queensferry, it was already later morning. You had 3 main options to get into Edinburgh: bus/shuttle, taxi, and train. The train ride required a bit of a hike up a hill to get to the station. That first day we decided to take the bus into town, which took about 25 minutes. The weather was overcast with some light sprinkling.
The bus dropped us off at St. Andrew Square in the New Town. From there I figured that we would make our way into the Old Town and could start at the Palace of Holyrood house at one end of the Royal Mile and make our way to Edinburgh Castle at the other end.
Holyrood House I learned is where the Queen (Elizabeth II) stays when she visits Scotland. No pictures were allowed inside so I have some pics from outside the Palace. The inside had some neat architecture along with some cool furniture.