Friday, June 12, 2009

We interrupt this trip to Scotland...

...with a trip to Washington D.C. for National History Day!

AB, Grandma and I are off tomorrow morning for this eagerly anticipated trip. So when I return, not only will I still have the rest of Scotland to post, I'll have to fill you all in on our adventures in the nation's capitol!

Have a great week!

Sunday, June 7, 2009


The next day dawned bright and sunny and we were looking forward to our drive to Inverness and seeing more of the countryside.

We boarded the bus (everyone was in their places this morning!) and headed north. This is some of the scenery we saw on our way to St. Andrews. Lots of porridge fields (oats!)

St. Andrews was a beautiful place and I think we all would have liked more time there. We had an hour and while most people stayed at the 18th hole and the gift shop, Ken, Donna, Glen & I walked down the coast a bit and saw the castle (from the outside only-no time for tour), the cathedral ruins and graveyard and the university buildings.

The famous 18th hole. Golf was invented here and did you know that GOLF is an acronym meaning, Gentleman Only, Ladies Forbidden?!

St. Andrews Castle

Cathedral ruins

And the graveyard that isn't nearly so scary in the bright morning sunshine!

Cool buildings near the university


This is the RRS Discovery (as seen from the bus at a stop light). It was built in Dundee and sailed in 1901 to the Antarctic.
The River of Tay.

Next we moved on to Blair Castle. This was a guided tour and since it was our first, it was very interesting. We enjoyed lunch in the sunshine and wandering the grounds a bit. Oh, and tasting whiskey in the gift shop!

But soon it was 'back to the bus' and on to the next sight.

All of us tried many times to get photos from the bus of the fields of sheep we saw but most of them look like this - white dots on green!

Our next stop was Culloden - a battlefield where many Scottish clans were essentially slaughtered in a battle with the English.

It was breezy here but it was nice to get out of the bus and walk around a bit. Basically, it was a big field with a nice visitor center. (Can you tell I'm not much into battlefields?)

Next was a stop at a whiskey distillery (I was more excited about this! :) but unfortunately we didn't get a tour; only a wee taste in the gift shop!

Here are all the non-shoppers waiting around outside the gift shop.

Finally, we got to Inverness. Inver means the 'beginning of' and Ness refers to the river, Ness. Once settling into our hotel, we took a walk through the town and along the river, Ness.

This was our hotel, the Royal Highlander. Our guide said it was a dump (and it was old) but it wasn't that bad.

It was said the most famous thing about the hotel was the staircase that inspired the one you see in the movie, "The Titantic."

An old clock tower...and satellite dish.
The River Ness

Donna & Ken still in love.

Grandma Flora posing with the statue of Flora MacDonald.

There were lots of things with the name Glen in them but I especially liked this one! All the road signs in Inverness were written in English and Gaelic.

We ended this day with dinner in the hotel and were in our twin beds early that night. Off to the Isle of Skye next...

Saturday, June 6, 2009


This morning started out fine. Grandpa was at breakfast, bandaged, but heartily eating his porridge, sausages and broiled tomatoes. We were all excited to see the city of Edinburgh and start our tour.

We all ate, met other members of the tour and readied ourselves for the day ahead. But Ken and Donna weren't at breakfast and we all thought, well, they must be sleeping in.

Once back in our room, I tried to call the front desk to get connected to their room but they put me through to the wrong room and I woke up someone else. By 8:30, we were all on the bus but still no K&D.

Finally, Tom (our tour guide), who had all the room numbers, called them and woke them up out of a sound sleep! They said they would be right down and 15 minutes later, here they came! I'm not sure I could have done it! They were very embarrassed about holding up the bus but I don't think anyone even noticed, except us.

Donna did her makeup on the bus and by the time we reached our destination, all looked normal, although I'm sure it felt like a shaky start for their trip! (And they still were wanting showers!)

The bus departed and we headed for Edinburgh Castle. Keith (a local guide) was a wealth of knowledge and made the learning of Scottish history very enjoyable. (I will never remember all the details so I'll provide links to Wikipedia to help us all out.)

Here is Keith explaining...something.

This castle sits upon a rock overlooking the city of Edinburgh and aside from being very old (like 850 BC old), it offers fabulous views.

This is the great hall or the room with all the weapons.

This is the wee cemetary for dogs that had died in the castle. No, really...see the little headstones along the edge of the wall.

This is the wee chapel that only holds about 16 guests for a wedding.

Oh, and one bird.

You can't see them very well because I'm standing in front of them, but look at the size of those cannon balls!

This was my favorite part of this castle. This guy couldn't move at all while on sentry duty so his partner who is out of the picture would come over every once and awhile and pull up his socks! Oh wait, they are called 'hose and flashies'...anyway, it was very cute how they helped each other out.

Back on the bus, we then headed for Rosslyn Chapel. This was the one made famous in "The Da Vinci Code". They said that while Tom Hanks did walk through the chapel, most of the filming was done using a replica of the chapel they built nearby.

This was still an impressive place and the docent gave an excellent presentation on the history including the apprentice pillar, the green men and why the chapel is covered with an awning (trying to dry it out from centuries of moisture - it's been up for 12 years.)

These two thought these bushes were so pretty...they are, but I have some in my yard!

After the chapel, we headed back into Edinburgh and were famished! We found a pub and I inquired about something on the menu called 'black pudding'. The young girl waiting on us kindly indicated that I probably didn't 'want' that. After finding out later what it was, I agree! So I ordered fish and chips. Imagine my surprise when the fish was the whole thing (minus head and tail, thank goodness!) Anyway, it was very tasty and no blood was involved!

Back outside we walked down a few blocks and found the Scott Monument, dedicated to Scottish author Sir Walter Scott. It was set in a lovely park and for 5 pounds you could climb the structure. Easier said than done!

Once you got toward the top, the spiral stairs got very narrow and passing people going down was challenging. Only GB made it all the way to the top and he took some great photos of the surrounding city.

Back at our hotel, we had a few hours to relax (and shower, in some cases!) before departing for our traditional Scottish dinner.

We were greeted by this piper as we entered the 'tent' that served as the dining hall.

The food was interesting. We had some venison pate for an appetizer and it was yucky! The soup looked better. Next came beef or salmon served with rumbledethumps (a combination of cabbage and mashed potatoes, not bad) and dessert which was sweet and good (don't remember exactly what it was - do you remember, DJ or Flora?)

There was lots of singing and dancing and much bagpiping! It was fun and even GB got up and danced (strangely, our camera has no pictures of this - DJ or Flora?)

Next came the Robert Burns poetry, 'Ode to Haggis' or something like that.

And finally they served the haggis. It looked innocent enough but it was actually spicy!

We all tried it...but Ken ended up eating ALL of his...maybe it was because he had missed breakfast!

The sky was dripping when we walked out into the night. We boarded the bus again and headed back to the hotel. It was a long day but very fun. Next, we head to Inverness...