A gray, cool morning greeted us. This is the Scotland I was expecting. Even under the cover of cloud vibrant and beautiful lands to behold. Turbulent Scottish weather is not much different from our weather at home. We are very good at layering to handle any type of changes the sky can throw at us.
Well caffeinated and fed, I decide it is my turn to finally drive. Being of the left-handed persuasion, shifting is not too big a deal. Driving on the opposite side of the road not much of a problem either as long as one remembers to “wide right” and “near left”. The plague of excessive roundabouts in some areas is definitely a menace to be contended with. Roundabouts are great for going around again when the exit is missed, but too many slows travel down.
At first it was difficult for the husband to have me drive. It is a very challenging experience being a passenger on the left side of the car. I was happy to have him be the navigator for a change. That, my friends, is a nasty job when the roads are totally unfamiliar. The only terse moments we’ve had are surrounding navigator/driver communications. I dearly miss my sat nav. Google maps is all we have to go with since it takes very little data on our phones to use.
Before meeting up with another Scottish friend, we head to Dunbarton to see, yes another castle. Scotland is absolutely littered with the things. Dunbarton Castle is placed where the rivers Leven and Clyde meet. It is also unusual in that the buildings are separated so there is a distance to walk in between each nestled into and onto the cliff side. The views are glorious. The stairs, oh my goodness, I swear we are climbing near on every stair in Scotland. Where the castle sits was actually a fortress in the dark ages dating back 1500 years. David the II and Mary 1 were both sheltered here until safe transport to France was possible.
Castle Newark the next stop. Mind you none of the places are that close together. Places of fortress and power need to be spaced out. The Scottish Miles are adding up. The Castle Keep who marked our tickets asked me, “Is that an Australian accent?” By far my most favorite question of all. This castle feels the most livable to me so far. It was built around 1480 but had a major renovation in the 1590’s. Sir Maxwell is thought to be a raging, wife-beating man of treachery. Ah perhaps not so livable after all. The castle became state property in 1909. I am fascinated at how much of the structure is still in wonderful condition. There are even closets with chamber pot stools in them. So much better than the loo shoots down the side of the building from a room above.
it is time to meet our friend, N. To Ayr. Another hour in the car, navigated very well by my husband and well tolerated by the boys, we meet at the Robert Burns Museum before going to South Ayrshire to the ruins of Dunure Castle. Friend 4 for 4 who is delightful as well as her lovely daughter P.
They show us around the ruins of the castle. Dunure was a place of power and importance for the Kennedy family for several centuries from the 1200’s. Even Mary Queen of Scots stayed there for three nights. Touching the walls of a thousand years past is quite evocative. I long to see what it was like when it was an active home and political seat. With the Reformation sweeping changes occurred and the glory of the castle faded.
We take in an early dinner at the local pub/restaurant. My boys are in rare form chatting each other up. Poor Miss P. she is stuck talking to the adults over our meal. I have learned quickly to ask for water when at a restaurant. It is not brought out without request. When it is brought out, the glasses are maybe 4 ounces. Easy conversation and decent food, aside from the mushy peas.
On the way back to the car, I must put a foot in the water. I am like a kid near a puddle, I HAVE to get in it even in the littlest way. I run down to the water and Miss P follows. We each take off a shoe and get a foot wet. She actually gets the shoes foot wet as well. Kids are awesome and free. I picked up sea glass too.
Many hugs and cheek kisses later, in the car (now with the husband insisting on driving), we head off led by N to the road leading back toward the cottage.
This trip means more to me than I can express. I am thankful and grateful for the other five in my family for agreeing to this plan more than a year ago. Frequently happy emotional tears well. I could stay here.
My friend N asked if my expectations been met? Yes. It feels comfortable like home. I do not feel like a foreigner. I dare say I am not a Sassenach. I feel like I belong here. It is something special to have that feeling of belonging here since childhood, be wholly vindicated.
My day of driving a success to the count of one car stall, two handfuls of shifting into the wrong gear, and one wrong turn in a roundabout. I feel quite accomplished really.
I sit in reflection thinking of what sleeping and living rough really means. I am also thankful for cars, warmth, and flush toilets.
I could not ask for anything more. At least not in this moment. Tomorrow is kids’ choice on where we go. See you on the other side.
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