1: After months of discussion, researching, and planning the big day is here : August 22, 2012. Our itinerary is mapped out, all reservations have been made and confirmed, Fringe Festival shows selected and tickets purchased, guide books and maps close at hand, bags packed and checked. We settle into our roomy, comfortable First Class seats and fasten our seat belts: SCOTLAND HERE WE COME! | DEPARTURE DAY
2: FIRST STOP: EDINBURGH FRINGE FESTIVAL AUGUST 23-25 HOME BASE : 166 ROYAL MILE
3: Over 27,000 performance are staged during this month long arts festival. We have FRONT ROW CENTER seats to all the action . All it takes to see a show is to look out our living room window .
4: We squeeze 9 fringe shows into three days. Our first show is Thursday afternoon. We are treated to RHYTHMIC CIRCUS, a mind blowing tap performance. Next is THE 27 CLUB , a tribute to singers who died at 27. On Friday we start with Traverse Theatre's production of THE CURIOUS SCRAPBOOK OF JOSEPHINE BEAN. Next , a wild book club meeting with JESSIE CAVE: BOOKWORM. Then stand up comedy featuring the character based comic Cariad Lloyd in THE FREEWHEELIN' CARIAD LLOYD. Friday night we see KNEE DEEP, a circus gymnast act with 3 men and 1 woman performing feats of strength, balance and flexibility. We rest Saturday morning and at 2:30 head to TIME FOR FUN, hand ballet from Russioa. They perform amazing choreography using only their hands!At 1605 we see Sammy J and Randy in the Inheritance, a comic and his rather perverse purple puppet. 'SING IT TO ME RANDY!"" I'VE GOT 20 MILLLION POUNDS, A PORCHE AND A HOUSE!" (but not for long) Our final show is THE BOY WITH TAPE ON HIS FACE. He is a silent comic using only facial and body expressions to convey hilarious skits involving audience members. The only sound is the inspired sound track and the audience laughing hysterically.
8: THE EDINBURGH MILITARY TATOO CELEBRATES THE QUEEN'S DIAMOND JUBILEE
10: EDINBURGH FOOD We eat at our favorite bistro, La Petit Paris, in the Grass market. Our favorite quick meal of the stay is good old southern barbecue at OINK. The line ques down the street at high noon! We also enjoy breakfast at LARDER, a tiny cafe, plus late night wood fired oven pizza from a street vendor.
11: Sunday, August 26 TIME TO HIT THE ROAD! We pack our bags and head to the airport where we pick up our VOLVO SUV. After figuring out the quirky UK navigational system , we head northeast to Sterling.
12: STERLING CASTLE Home to Mary Queen of Scots for many years, this castle sits atop a hill and has beautiful 360 degree views of the Scottish countryside. We get quite a history lesson from our guide: Stewart Campbell.
13: We enjoy a scrumptious lunch at The River House in Sterling before heading to Callendar where we spend the night at Lubnaig House. Monday we will visit Heathergems and Edradour Distillery in Pitlochery before heading to Strontian.
14: HEATHERGEMS IS SCOTTISH JEWELRY MADE FROM HEATHER VINES. THE VINES ARE CLEANED, DRIED, DYED,THEN COMPRESSED WITH RESIN INTO BLOCKS. THE BLOCKS ARE SLICED INTO SLABS FROM WHICH JEWEL SHAPES ARE DIECUT. POLISHING AND SEALING FOLLOW AND THE "HEATHERGEMS" ARE PLACED INTO JEWELRY SETTINGS. THE RESULTING JEWELRY IS UNIQUE AND BEAUTIFUL. WE BUY A LOT.
15: EDRADOUR IS THE SMALLEST DISTILLERY IN SCOTLAND, PRODUCING ONLY 12 CASKS PER WEEK. STARTED IN 1837, IT IS THE LAST ORIGINAL FARM DISTILLERY. DESCRIBED AS EXQUISITELY SMOOTH WITH A HINT OF SMOKINESS, IT IS PRODUCED FROM THE LABOR OF ONLY 3 MEN. WE TOUR AND SAMPLE THE WARES, BRINGING HOME CAST MATURED WHISKY TO BE SAVORED DRAM BY DRAM.
16: ARDNAMURCHAN PENINSULA - AUGUST 27-28 To reach the western most part of mainland Scotland we drive through pouring rain passing endless fields of heather. After a short ferry ride we arrive at the Otterburn B&B in Strontian. Tuesday we head to the Ardnamurchan lighthouse .
17: Single lane roads cause much gasping by Charlotte and Vicki | Only one car at a time please! | Ardnamurchan lighthouse sits on the westernmost edge of Scotland. With normal wind speeds of 40-50 mph, the term windswept could have been coined here | Charlotte and Kelly brace themselves against the wind! | HANG ON TO YOUR HATS!
18: WEDNESDAY- AUGUST 29 We catch the 10:50 ferry from Mallaig to Armadale, cross the Isle of Skye and arrive in PLackton by noon. We stay in a B&B that faces the water, Tich Nan Saor. We have one of the best meals of our trip at Plockton Shores, just a few steps away from our B&B. We all enjoy steamed mussels from the northern shore of Skye. Kelly and Charlotte have the lamb shank and I have Halibut with a lemon whisky sauce. All delicious! After dinner we listen to Celtic music at the Plockton Hotel.
20: August is the perfect time to Visit Scotland as the Heather is in glorious bloom all month. Heather is to Scotland what Kudzu is to the deep south. It grows almost everywhere.
21: GLEN MORANGIE HOUSE THURSDAY, AUGUST 30TH | GM HOUSE SITS NEXT TO THE RUINS OF CADBOLL CASTLE. WE ARE SURROUNDED BY FIELDS OF BARLEY. | OWNED BY THE DISTILLERY GM HOUSE HAS ONLY ELEVEN ROOMS. EACH IS BEAUTIFUL. WE ARE SO EXCITED TO STAY HERE. | Luxurious decor, a private beach, 360 degree views, fine dining and a tiny decanter of 10 year in your room. Glen Morangie House is a little piece of heaven on earth.
22: Feeling like landed gentry, we don wellies and shooting coats and head out for our daily constitutional. | The seed pods of gorse bushes pop open to eject the seeds. The hlllside is covered and the tiny pops can be heard as we walk down to the beach
23: The beach is pristine.We could stay here for hours! It takes much tugging to remove Kelly's boots! | Charlotte encounters a buckeye moth and a ghost dog when she returns to the beach the next morning
24: Vicki and Kelly stay in the Morayshire suite and Charlotte is in Sutherland. The sitting area in the Morayshire suite is huge with beautiful views. Following tea we spend the rest of the afternoon there reading and writing and lounging. | Upon return from our walk we are treated to afternoon tea: fresh scones, clotted cream and raspberry jam. Delish! Drinks and canapes (cerviche on a chip made of fried chicken skin!) are served at 7:15, followed by dinner at 8:00. The first course was squab. Then we are served a lime sorbet drizzled with a 12 year Glen Morangie Nectar d' Or. An unusual combination but nice!
25: Textures of Beef follow: a filet with a chanterelle mushroom sauce, a slice of steak over potato mash, and a shredded beef taquito topped with a sweetbread wrapped in puff pastry. Too late we discover we have eaten oxtail and cow thymus! A decandant chocolate canolli finishes the meal. Coffe tea and petit fours are served in the Buffalo Room by the fire. OUr dinner companions are very diverse and the conversations are interesting.
26: TAIN POTTERY We love the dishes at Glen Morangie House. They are crafted locally. We stop and buy pieces to remind us of our time in Tain.
27: FRIDAY, AUGUST 31 Glen Morangie House has scheduled a tour for us at the distillery. There have been changes since our visit in 2005. Following their purchase that year by Louis Vuitton Moet Henessey, production has increased significantly. Many more than 16 men of Tain now man the stills. The still house has been renovated with the addition of a large window. It looks like a cathedral to whisky! We enjoy our tastes and buy a few treasures in the gift shop. No tartan however, crystal has replaced fabric. More French influence we are certain.
28: THE CASTLE HAS A RESIDENT FALCONER, ALAN HUGHES. THE BIRDS OF PREY SHOWN INCLUDE AN OWL, A PERRIGRINE FALCON, AND A GOLDEN EAGLE. THE EXHIBITION IS PROBABLY THE MOST INTERESTING AND INFORMATIVE WE'VE EVER SEEN. WE ARE FASCINATED DESPITE THE CHILLY DRIZZLE .
29: DUNROBIN CASTLE - AUGUST 31 THE MOST NORTHERLY OF SCOTLAND GREAT HOUSES IT HAS BEEN CONTINUOSULY INHABITED SINCE THE 1300'S. THE HOUSE AND GARDENS ARE BEAUTIFUL.
30: AGUST 31 TO SEPTEMBER 2 Our hosts at Fernbank are Karen and her sweet pup Hector. Karen is a most gracious hostess and we enjoy our stay here.
31: THREE DAYS IN DUFFTOWN | Dufftown is surrounded by distilleries: Glenfiddich, Strathisla, Glenfarclas, Glenlivet, Balvenie, and Tamdhu. The big lure for us is The Whisky Shop. Final whisky purchases are made after much debate. While in the area we visit a Gold Whisky Bar at the The Highlander Inn in Craigellechie. These bars not only have a huge selection of single malts but also a certified whisky expert to assist you. We share a flight of local Speyside whiskys.
32: SEPTEMBER 1 BRAEMER HIGHLAND GATHERING | The Queen's Highland Games
33: A ROYAL DRIVE-BY! | IT'S THE ROYAL WAVE! | WE MISS QUEEN ELIZABETH AT THE GAMES BUT CATCH HER AS SHE LEAVES BALMORAL CASTLE. I AM SO EXCITED I MISS GETTING A SHOT OF HER FACE AS SHE PASSES BY! | HERE SHE COMES!
34: GLENFIDDICH DISTILLERY
35: STRATHISLA DISTILLERY HOME TO CHIVAS REGAL | SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 2
36: SEPTEMBER 3 The Speyside Cooperage is the only working cooperage in the UK. Here we witness the ancient art of coopering. Little has changed over hundreds of years. Coopers begin as apprentices and spend several years learning their trade. The men are paid by the piece so they work very quickly to refurbish used casks. | Checking for bad slats | Refitting the hoops | Sealing the ends with a sea grass.
37: FRASER CASTLE GARDENS
38: Monday afternoon SEPTEMBER 3 TIME FOR A FINAL PETROL STOP AND THEN BACK TO EDINGURGH TO CATCH OUR FLIGHT HOME ON WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 4. WE ARE READY TO GAZE ON THE FAMILIAR VISTAS OF OUR NORTH CAROLINA HOME FAREWELL HEATHERED HILLS OF SCOTLAND ...
39: Now the summer's in prime Wi' the flowers richly blooming And the wild mountains thyme A' the moorlands perfuming. To our own dear native scenes let us journey together. Robert Tannahill