S: SCOTLAND, MAY 2012
1: SCOTLAND | A trip that almost wasn't. We arrive at the airport in the wee morning hours, only to be told by the American Airlines ticket agent that she sees we have a return flight, but she didn't see a departure flight. My heart sank. She told us there was nothing she could do since we booked through Orbitz. We would have to call them to straighten it out. So, Mark called, (I was too upset), and was told to call back in 30 minutes for the east coast office to open. In the meantime, I kept getting text messages on my phone from Orbitz that our flight was on schedule. I couldn't believe it! Well, we had another five minutes to wait before calling Orbitz back, when the ticket agent waved us over to the counter and told us to bring our luggage. Our "savior," Janet Schoolcraft, was able to get us departing flights, all the way through to Scotland. We would miss some free touring time in Glasgow, but we didn't care as long as we got there. Praise God, we were really on our way! | Fish & Chips Heathrow Airport, London
2: May 19th We rent a car in Glasgow and head south to Stranraer. After a tense bit of driving on the "wrong" side of the road, Mark spots this abbey, and we quickly pull in to take a break. The weather was cool and damp, but we didn't care. We're on vacation and in Scotland!
3: Crossraguel Abbey Founded in 1244 by Donnchadh, Earl of Carrick. In 1307, Crossraguel was sacked by the army of Edward I. It was rebuilt on a larger scale and remained a monastery until 1560, when the Reformation ended monastic institutions in Scotland. The Abbey ruins remain some of the most complete of any medieval religious house to survive in Scotland. It cost 4 pounds to get in, and it was just us. There weren't any other tourists. We wander at will and shoot as many photos as we please. We climbed the ancient stone stairwells, and wandered over lush Spring green fields, always under the watchful eyes of sheep and cattle.
4: I close my eyes and give thanks to God and my Uncle Ted, for without whom, this trip would not have been possible.
8: The ruins are wonderful. The monk's church, their cloister, even their dovecot (pigeon tower) is intact. There's even a chapter house - still complete, with benches for the monks and an arched seat for the abbot. There are little houses beyond the cloister, where aged and infirm monks lived in the 15th century. The abbey is near the town of Maybole, South Ayrshire.
10: Two hours south and west of Glasgow on the shores of Loch Ryan is my maternal ancestral village, Stranraer. We arrive at the Fernlea Guest House around mid-afternoon on Saturday, May 19th. Our hostess, Lynne, is very friendly. We drop our bags in the room and 30 minutes later we're on the road to Lochinch Castle and Castle Kennedy and gardens, a mere five miles east from Fernlea Yeah! More castles!
12: Castle Kennedy, built in 1607, was burned down in 1716 and remains a ruin to this day. Prior to the Reformation the two lochs, Black Loch and White Loch, were together known as Loch Crindil. A small island in the White Loch gave the parish the name 'the Inch or Inche or Insche' (Gaelic innis) otherwise 'island'. The owners decided to build Lochinch Castle, Inch Parish, in 1864 as a replacement rather than restoring the old castle. The grounds of the castle, were laid out in the 1730s by John Dalrymple, 2nd Earl of Stair, Because of the Gulf Stream and the proximity of the sea on two sides, the gardens enjoy a mild climate which permits the cultivation of rhododendrons and other plants not often seen in Scotland.
13: We arrive at 3:30pm and we're told in the gift shop it was a two hour walk to and from the castle, and the gardens closed in 90 minutes. Ready to explore, determined to see a real Scottish castle, and a mere 25 speed walking minutes later, it comes into view. 75 acres of lush, colorful gardens surround the stone fortress, which is still lived in today. It was and is beautiful. There's a pungent smell in the air, which Mark thinks are the wild onions.
14: STRANRAER | scotland | 19 MAY 2012
15: Back at Fernlea, Lynne tells us about several restaurant options for dinner within walking distance. We choose a chain pub called Custom House. It's nothing fancy, a basic restaurant. We do have some trouble understanding our waitress, but I can make out every third or fourth word to piece the conversation together. For dinner, Mark had pasta with chicken and I opt for a bacon cheeseburger and chips (french fries). After, we wander around the town. The water is calm as the sun sets. There are pale blue hills along the horizon and seagulls sing to me over head.
16: May 20th Our hostess serves us a hearty Scottish breakfast, and my first taste of haggis. I love it! A mile or two outside of town we stop for some scenic photos and see this amazing bright yellow field and wonder what it is.
17: Driving on the wrong side. | Stunning vistas. | Amazing yellow fields!
21: We say goodbye to Stranraer. Being there seems surreal, and wonderful at the same time. Too hard to adequately describe. We have a bit of time for sightseeing before we have to return the car to Glasgow. Lynne highly recommends we visit Culzean (kul-een) castle. It's just south of Ayr, near Turnberry. We arrive safely and have a short time to explore before we have to get back on the road to meet up with our tour group at 2:30 p.m. Again, we're blessed to get there just as they opened, and very few tourists. The manicured gardens are spectacular, as is the sea-side view. Simply put...WOW! I love Scotland!!!
22: castle time! | CULZEAN
24: At 2:30 p.m. we meet up with our tour group in the lobby of the Menzies Hotel. We all get name tags. Mark refuses to wear his. As for me, if this is what helps the tour group, I don't mind. It helps me learn the names of the others I'll be spending the next 6 days with. All 52 of us pile into a very nice, new tour bus for a tour of Glasgow. Our guide is an older man named Ian, and he's dressed in a kilt! I love it. We're only given an hour at the the Kelvingrove Museum. We didn't see much art, but I paused at Dali's "Christ" painting. The use of light in this painting is fantastic. After the museum we head back to the hotel for drinks and dinner. I had chicken stuffed with haggis (yummy!), mashed potatoes and goats' cheese salad. This was basically just cheese on a cracker - my kind of salad. Our tummies full, we retire to the room. Mark is tired and goes to bed early. I putter around charging the electronics, and writing about the day in my journal. I look forward to tomorrow. I want to treasure every excursion and tiny moment of this blessing, and not take anything for granted. Tomorrow, we cruise Loch Lomond and visit another castle. Once more, the weather is to be sunny and unseasonably warm for Scotland, no rain in sight. Life is good. | tour time! | GLASGOW
26: cruising | LOCH LOMOND
28: INVERARAY CASTLE Sadly, indoor photography was prohibited. If we had known that, we would have skipped the tour and stayed outside. After the tour we had a mere 25 minutes to explore the building and grounds. Not near enough time. We decided if there are more indoor tours, we'll pass on them and just stay outside to take photos, weather permitting.
30: charming town of | INVERARY
31: Farewell Australia... until next time.... | After the castle, we went to the town of Inveraray, where we were greeted by the piper to the Duke & Duchess of Argyle (they live in Inveraray castle). I was tickled to death - a real Scottish piper in full regalia. Now, if I could only convince Mark to get a kilt and all the accessories. Being on a schedule, we only have an hour for lunch, sightseeing and shopping. Mark and I decide to split up since we want to see different things. I do a quick walkabout the town square, and spot the quintessential red British phone booth (another giddy tourist moment for me). At the dock, there are two magnificent ships, their reflections gently waving in the calm waters, and three sailboats farther out. Very picturesque. I turn around and there's Mark with a very large bag. He proudly proclaims all of his souvenir shopping is done. Mine is barely started.
35: Leaving Inveraray, we drive through the highlands. Unbelievable mountains, craggy rocks, pine trees, sheep, snow-capped mountains. Just...wow! On both sides of the bus, I can hear the cameras clicking away. The bus pulled over a couple of times for us to hop out and take some quick, scenic shots. I could stay in this place for the rest of the tour and be a very happy camper.
39: This area of Scotland is very sparsely populated. Mountain ranges dominate the region, and includes the highest mountain in the British Isles, Ben Nevis. Before the 19th century, the Highlands was home to a much larger population, but due to a combination of factors including the outlawing of the traditional Highland way of life following the Jacobite Rising of 1745, and the infamous Highland Clearances.
40: We arrive in Glencoe late afternoon, early evening. The surrounding scenery is like a postcard. I'm in awe. This glen was made famous by the Clan Campbell massacre of Clan Macdonald in 1692, to Ballachulish on the coast. We get our room assignment, #106, open the door and immediately go the the French doors. We have thee most breathtaking view. We walk out one step and there is the loch, mountains in the background, and a small burial island to our left. That's it, I'm never leaving! Lol. I'm already anticipating what colors God will paint the sky with as the sun sets and rises again tomorrow. Mark is loving the fresh, cool air. Our group gathers for dinner at 7 pm. I have haggis in whiskey sauce for a starter, followed by steak and mushroom pie, with Scottish cheese, crackers & grapes for dessert. After dinner, Mark & I grab our cameras, happily wandering over rocks, through trees, and following dirt trails, until well past sunset. I'm slightly chilled, but oh so incredibly happy. I'm on vacation in Scotland, and it's everything I imagined and so much more. | MAGICAL GLENCOE
44: As I went to sleep last night, I wondered how God would paint the morning sky. At 4:19 am, I roll over and see a wee bit of light peeking through the curtains. Like an expectant child on Christmas morning, I hop out of bed, fully awake and dash over to the doors. Trying to shield Mark's eyes from any light, I peek out and there before me, pale, dusty pink and mauve hues surround the mountains. I grab my camera and snap a couple of pictures, all happy and excited. Mark grumbles, "Why are you taking them through the window, just go outside." So I do. For the next 30 minutes, I'm privy to God's "good morning, Tammy" show. Small clouds lit pink and orange at the wispy tops, while the lingering gray of night clings to the bottom. I listen to the birds, watch the stillness of the water and take lots of pictures. Around 5:10 am, I quietly go back to the room and get ready for the day. I can't imagine it being any better than what I've just experienced. | MAY 22nd We said goodbye to Glencoe and head out to catch a ferry at Mallaig Cross to the Isle of Skye. Then to the Clan Donald Centre and gardens, with a stop at the Eilean Donan Castle, drive along Loch Ness to Inverness and stay at the Newton Manor House.
47: The Isle of Skye is the largest and most northerly island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. It's a 30 minute ferry ride to get to the Isle. The morning air is cool, but the sun is shining brightly. Another beautiful day in a beautiful land.
48: CLAN DONALD | gardens | CENTRE
50: Eilean Donan is a small island in Loch Duich in the western Highlands of Scotland. It is connected to the mainland by a footbridge and lies about half a mile from the village of Dornie. Eilean Donan (which means simply "island of Donnán") is named after Donnán of Eigg, a Celtic saint martyred in 617. Donnán is said to have established a church on the island, though no trace of this remains. The castle was founded in the thirteenth century, but was destroyed in the eighteenth century. The present buildings are the result of twentieth-century reconstruction. Eilean Donan Castle is the home of the Clan Macrae. | EILEAN DONAN CASTLE
51: Loch Ness
52: Newton Manor House We have dinner at 7 and sit with Cynthia and Mike. They're from Dallas. Nice people, good conversation. Our meal: Haggis atop neeps (turnips) and tatties for a starter, followed by pasta in cream sauce and cranachen (mousse with raspberries and a biscuit). Mark opted for the bread pudding.
54: food of Scotland
55: The Battle of Culloden was the final confrontation of the 1745 Jacobite Rising. On 16 April 1746, the Jacobite forces of Charles Edward Stuart fought loyalist troops commanded by William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland near Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. The loyalist victory at Culloden decisively halted the Jacobite intent to overthrow the House of Hanover and restore the House of Stuart to the British throne. The conflict was the last pitched battle fought on British soil. Charles Stuart's Jacobite army consisted of Scottish Highlanders, as well as a number of Lowland Scots. The Jacobites were supported and supplied by the Kingdom of France. The government force was mostly English, along with a significant number of Scottish Lowlanders and Highlanders. The battle was both quick and bloody, taking place within an hour. Following an unsuccessful Highland charge against the government lines, the Jacobites were routed and driven from the field. The aftermath of the battle and subsequent crackdown on Jacobitism was brutal, earning Cumberland the sobriquet "Butcher". Efforts were subsequently taken to further integrate the comparatively wild Highlands into the Kingdom of Great Britain; civil penalties were introduced to weaken Gaelic culture and attack the Scottish clan system. | MAY 23rd Culloden Battlefield Craigellachie Speyside Cooperage Dufftown Glenfidditch Distillery Balvenie Castle
56: Between 1,500 and 2,000 Jacobites were killed or wounded in the brief battle, while government losses were lighter with 50 dead and 259 wounded.
58: SPEYSIDE REGION Leaving Culloden behind, we travel to the Speyside region. A lot of lush green, rolling hills and farmland. Sheep dot the hillside like little cotton balls. All the women "ooh" and "ahh" at the baby sheep.
61: We stop in Craigellachie to visit the Speyside Cooperage. They produce casks from American oak for whiskey. They make them completely by hand, as they have for hundreds of years. A very interesting process. After a brief film, we go up a set of stairs and can watch them being made from a glassed in hallway. These guys have huge, muscular arms from pounding and shaping the barrels. They can make anywhere from 3-4 per hour, and work 7am - 5pm. It's quite a craft. I also learn that a barrel holds 36 gallons, and that there are different names for different size casks.
62: DUFFTOWN | From the cooperage, we go to Dufftown for lunch. We eat at "The Coffee Pot." I had a very tasty cheese with bacon roll and chips. Many of the shops were closed. Ian, our guide, said it's an old tradition for shops to close on a Wednesday afternoon. This gives them a mid-week break from a six day work week. However, there were a couple of shops open to browse in. The photo at left is as close as it came to Mark to trying on a kilt. After Dufftown we head to the Glenfiddich Distillery. Mark & I aren't all that interested, and I notice on the map there's a castle nearby. I asked Ian if it's okay if we go there and not the distillery. He said that was fine as long as we kept to the schedule. Yeah! Another castle!
63: Glenfidditch Distillery SPEYSIDE
65: Balvenie Castle | It cost 4 pounds each to get in. I'm more than happy for pay. I go to pay the attendant, telling him we broke away from our tour group, and he lets us in for free! Once more it was just us when we got there. The ruins are cool. We can climb up three floors through the tower and see what the residents who lived here saw. We've been sightseeing for a little while, when we spotted our guide, Ian. Apparently he too left the group drinking their "wee drams" in favor of a historical castle. As we're heading out, I want to buy a trinket or two. It was free to get in and I want to support the Scottish Historical Society. As the attendant is ringing up my purchase, I add two rings. The nice man says I can have them for free - that they were trying to get rid of them. Free admission to a castle, and free jewelry? A really great day!
67: Originally known as Mortlach, it was built in the 12th century by a branch of the powerful Comyn family, and extended and altered in the 15th and 16th centuries. The castle fell out of use in the early 14th century when the Comyns were reduced by Robert the Bruce.
68: Hairee Highland Coos
69: There's just something about a seemingly docile, hairy beast, idly grazing in the sun, that makes me smile. These "coos" were on a hill overlooking Balvenie Castle.
70: MAY 24th "Royal Deeside" Balmoral Braemar Ballater Falls of Feugh
71: After a hearty buffet breakfast, (Mark is loving these chocolate pastries), we drive along the River Dee Valley, made popular by Queen Victoria. A brief stop at Crathie Kirk, and then we pass by Balmoral Castle where the Royal Family spends the month of August. Next stop...
72: BRAEMAR & BALLATER
73: In Braemar we have a bit of time for shopping and walking. Lunch is in the village of Bandhery. Mark indulged in a meat pie and I had a yummy cheese, onion and potato pastie. Dessert: a chocolate eclair for Mark, and a sticky caramel nut scone bar for me. While shopping, I buy Mark a very snappy, Harris tweed cap and a handmade, semi-formal black sporran. Even if it takes one piece at a time, I'll get him the complete, traditional Scottish highland outfit.
76: May 25th | GLAMIS
77: We travel south through the lush countryside of Aberdeenshire, and come to Glamis Castle. The legendary setting of "Macbeth" and childhood home of the late Queen Mother.
78: ST. ANDREWS CATHEDRAL | is a ruined church in St Andrews, Fife, Scotland, which was the seat of the Bishops (later Archbishops) of St Andrews from its foundation in 1158 until it fell into disuse after the Reformation. The ruins indicate the great size of the building at 350 feet (over 100 meters) long. St Rule's tower is located in the Cathedral grounds but predates it, having served as the church of the priory up to the early 12th century. The building was retained to allow worship to continue uninterrupted during the building of its much larger successor. Originally, the tower and adjoining choir were part of the church built in the 11th century to house the relics of St Andrew. The nave, with twin western turrets, and the apse of the church no longer stand.
81: The Parish Church of the Holy Trinity, St. Andrews
82: After hopping off the bus, Mark takes the lead with his long legs and marches quickly to the ruins of St. Andrews Cathedral. A massive church in it's day, now just partial walls surrounded by the sleeping souls in the graves. After a quick lunch at a deli, Mark spots a kilt shop he saw when our bus pulled into the city. We go over there to look and as luck would have it, they have swords and claymores. Yup, Mark finds his "dream Scottish souvenir, a claymore. There's no way it's fitting in a suitcase or going on the plane. The owner happily tells us we can ship it, as long as we describe it as something like an "architectural, decorative, ornamental wall piece." The claymore now hangs safely in our dining room. From the seaside of St. Andrews, we drive south into Edinburgh (pronounced Edinboro), arriving at the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel. For dinner we go to the Ghillie-Dhu restaurant, which was to be followed by a ceilidh, or Scottish musical. For me, dinner was so-so (potato & leek soup, pork loin, and chocolate fudge cake). The bus was leaving at 9:15pm, and we could choose to stay and watch the show or take the bus back. Mark and I opt to take the bus back to hotel. During dinner, a bit of sadness creeps over me. My dream vacation is coming to a close. Just one more day left. We'll never see these 50 people again. In just a few short days, I've become comfortable with our "band" of tourists: Mike & Cindy from Dallas, Bobbi & Norm from NJ, Jackie from Kansas City, and the woman from Adele, Australia. I have no desire to return to my routine life. I pray we're given the opportunity to return some day. I could spend a lot of time here, and I know there's so many more places to see and explore.
83: MAY 26th Edinburgh City Tour Edinburgh Castle Independent Exploration | Oops! The alarm didn't go off, but luckily I wake up at 6:30 a.m., breakfast is at 7, and we meet the bus at 8:30 a.m. for our city tour. Ian bids us goodbye and safe travel, and a woman takes over as our guide for the day. As we learn about the history of this city, Mark and I both agree we like Edinburgh (Edinbur) better than Glasgow. We see wide streets and elegant mansions in the 200 year old "new town," and narrow lanes and medieval townhouses along the "Royal Mile" which is the oldest part of the city. Princes Street is the main shopping district that separates the two areas. Our tour ends at the castle, where we're privy to amazing views of the city. The sky is perfectly clear, and we can see for miles.
84: EDINBURGH CASTLE
85: St. Margaret's Chapel, at Edinburgh Castle, is the oldest surviving building in Scotland
87: Edinburgh Castle is a fortress which dominates the skyline of the city of Edinburgh, from its position atop the volcanic Castle Rock. Human habitation of the site is dated back as far as the 9th century BC, although the nature of early settlement is unclear. There has been a royal castle here since at least the reign of David I in the 12th century, and the site continued to be a royal residence until the Union of the Crowns in 1603.
88: We spend two hours at the castle, then start to wander down the Royal Mile. We eat lunch at the "Castle of Arms" restaurant/bar. I have the meat pie of the day, which is tasty and flavorful. Mark goes for the fish and chips. He said it's the best he's had so far. An hour later, we treat ourselves to dessert: a scoop of vanilla ice cream for me and a chocolate, coffee, banana smoothie for Mark. The day is beautiful. People are out on sprawling green lawns, soaking up the sun. We couldn't have asked for more perfect weather this entire trip!
89: Six hours after being dropped off at the castle, with slightly sore feet, and a few more souvenir trinkets in hand, we return to the hotel. For dinner, we grab pizza from a place around the corner, some drinks from Tesco, and we kick back for the rest of the evening.
90: MAY 27th Edinburgh Glasgow Heathrow Chicago Tulsa | Our last day in Scotland, and our only day to sleep in. We enjoy one final, filling breakfast of eggs, bangers, mushrooms, tomato wedges, muffins and more. We have five hours before the car picks us up to take us back to Glasgow. Just down the road is the Holyrood Palace. This is where Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned out of fear that she would overtake Queen Elizabeth's throne. Attached to the palace are the remains of Holyrood Abbey. The abbey was founded in 1128 by King David I of Scotland. During the 15th century, the abbey guest house was developed into a royal residence, and after the Scottish Reformation, the Palace of Holyroodhouse was expanded further. The abbey church was used as a parish church until the 17th century, and has been ruined since the 18th century.
92: From the abbey, we wander through gardens and go to the lower end of the Royal Mile. Even though it's Sunday, many tourist shops are open. We browse in a few and around 2 p.m., we stop for lunch. Mark said I could choose the restaurant, and after looking at several outdoor menus, I pick "No. 1." I pick this restaurant because one particular item caught my eye on the starter menu: fried haggis balls. Mark shakes his head, and we go in. I do order the haggis balls and devour all three. They were delicious, and my last chance to have haggis for who knows how long. Mark goes for the fish and chips once again, and I order a cheese and onion sandwich. Not quite what I was expecting. It was literally thick, pickled, purple onions with melted cheese on bread. Our final meal here, we have to indulge in dessert. Mark gets the sticky toffee sponge and I splurge on the trio of ice cream. I expect a simple bowl with three scoops, but what the server brought was a culinary delight.
93: All photos in this book taken by Mark and Tammy Moore