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Adventures In Scotland 5

Good morning Scotland. Warn the west coast we’re coming! Day 5 and we’ve plans to head to the west coast to visit yet another friend I’ve made on the Twitter.

I’ve to say all the walking upon old stone streets and stairs has me terribly sore. Yet I must push on. There are far too many amazing things to see.

The roads to the west coast ARE NOT for the faint of heart. The drive reminds me of the coast highway in Northern California. Twisty, turny, narrow, and confusing.  We did get terribly lost once because the map on my phone stopped responding.

I have a new way of describing road travel in Scotland. Scottish Miles. They are like country miles in the US. Far longer than a standard mile ought to be to travel.  At this point we are at about 750 road miles traveled. Scottish Miles take a bite out of time and the behind sitting in the car. The landscape is so gorgeous that every extra minute ends up being quite alright.

Finally to our destination we make. My friend is waiting. Now 3 for 3 in online friends being great in person. I shall refer to him as L.

Our first Standing Stones. Oh so very exciting. These stones are in Kilmartin (St. Martin).  They are thought to be land boundry markers as they are all in a row not in a circle.

Across the field we reach the Temple Wood Stone Circle. It is unknown exactly what the circle is for and over time people have stolen the standing stones so the smaller ones are replacements.  Walking around and in this circle is a very surreal experience. Pagans today still use it for observance. How I would love to be able to witness that in action. Why is it here? to what end? How were the stones erected? I have so many unanswered questions.

Next we head to Dunadd the place of the original kings of Scotland. The Scotties became the Scots.  We hike to the top to see the king’s seat where the first coronations took place. My kids run up and down. Truly remote and gorgeous. As early as 683 this location has been noted. Their were fights for power between the Celts and the Picts. This hill is very important to the already rich Scottish history. In the time of the first kings water surrounded the entire hill and was only accessible by boat. Now I wonder if there was a great quake to change the course of the sea.  A clear day, we can see far in all directions. I am really piqued about this part of history now. More exploration is required. Oh yes, I put my foot where kings have upon the stone!

Next Castle Sween is on the agenda. It is the oldest modern built castle in Scotland. Now only a ruin on the harsh coast, it must have been a sight to behold in it’s hey day. By other castle standards it seems small.  I can see generations enjoying the beauty of the ocean. On a clear day Northern Ireland can even be seen. Likely there was much activity between that edge of Ireland and Scotland. I am utterly fascinated by how earls, lords, dukes, and kings lived.  Scotland has more castles than anywhere else. The -dom no matter the size evidently was of great importance.

  
Our final stop on the west coast was to the Kilmory Knap Chapel built in the 11th or 12th century. It is possibly associated with The Knight’s Templar fleeing persecution.  A breathtaking location. Quiet reverence.  A tooth was even found in the rocky ground. We are told if one digs inside the chapel many a bones can be found.

  
We say goodbye to my friend and the sheep dotting the, well, everywhere, and take the 100 mile drive back happy and full in heart.

Tomorrow is yet another friend and many adventures.

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Adventures In Scotland 4

I just had the realization if you’re new to the blog, you’ve likely no idea that I’ve always wanted to come here since I was a small child, far before Outlander entered my life. In fact, I picked up the first book in part because of the location second to the strong female lead character. I have always wanted to live here, I am working on finding the proper door to open in that regard. This trip is to specifically celebrate our 20th anniversary (last November) and to take our four boys on a once in a lifetime big family trip. Business done on to adventuring.

Good day. The rain has threatened to return with moody skies peering down. I adore these skies. This weather thick, moist, and life-giving.  Some say it makes for grumpy attitudes, but we’ve not experienced that at all. Though I have been informed, it is because we are tourists others are kind to us. I am friendly so likely that has something to do with it as well. No matter. I like it here very much.

This day we decided to head to Edinburgh. A custom kilt in the ancient hunting Ross tartan for the husband to pick up and a wee castle on the hill to investigate.

Edinburgh is quite traffic filled like any city of larger populous. Convoluted streets and poor signage made it quite interesting. Thank goodness my phone nav uses very little data. It, again, took us several wrong turns to get where we needed to be on the royal mile. These errors took us through some gorgeous neighborhoods that were very worth seeing.

Parking is very expensive in the area we needed to be. The kids are stunned at how much we are spending on non-tangible items. Boys we are not in Colorado anymore. 

  

A couple of months ago we ordered my husband’s kilt from Hector Russell. I measured him to their specifications and now we would find out if measuring twice would make a properly fitted garment. An upbeat clerk helped my husband into all his gear. A. Perfect. Fit. (I will post photos of him in another post.) The Ross ancient hunting tartan is so much more beautiful in person. He looks fantastic in it. I cannot wait for him to wear it out.  It is the last suit he will ever purchase.

With new outfit in hand, to the castle we trod.

Stirling Castle is amazing. Edinburgh Castle is mind-blowing in scope. Up a hill, a small town at the foot of the grounds, on the top of a hill, the castle looms. I imagine when in full swing, guards sitting in wait everywhere as we approach. Definitely not a hospitable entrance. A grand entrance though to be sure.

   

 The scale of this place is overwhelming physically and emotionally. How did anyone ever scale those walls? How was anyone conquered who held the castle? I do know history well, but seeing it in person, changes my perspective on the challenges of attack and defense that seem so incredible 500, 1000 years ago. I try to think about working here as a maidservant or cook. Maybe a lady in waiting. There seemed little peace for any ruler of this place at any time in its history. Turbulent and tumult, always someone wanting to attack and take it away or back.

Going into the bed chamber and inner rooms where Mary Queen of Scots stayed is haunting. Trapped in utter beauty before abdicating and dying. I do not have adequate words to describe all my feelings in this place.

Photography is disallowed in many of the key spaces. 

Walking the history of the royals, seeing the salvaged Scottish crown jewels, and the stone of destiny cause me to shiver. It is very real and not fairy tales. There is nothing like this in the US. To be in the presence of such historical things is truly inspiring and deeply evocative.  

      The great hall is luxurious and rich in color and wood. There is a singing group performing as visitors mill about.

   

 The areas used as various museums bring us into recent history. We see the contributions of Scots in military service pre-UK and after. The Scots have a marked and vital military history to be sure.

The war memorial is a somber tear filled experience. I am happy to see how reverent visitors remained within that hallowed and space of remembrance.

I touch the walls, lean on them, closing my eyes. The stones have so many stories to share. I almost cannot believe I am here.

Tired and foot sore from the hours of exploration, we trek down the long hill to the car and back to cottage.  I wonder if modern shoes are better than those of the past handling the stony uneven grounds.

We settle in for a bit until going out to meet up with Adhamh and his Friday night Gaelic hangout buddies in Glasgow. Three of the four boys passed out early so only the youngest boy came out in the rain with us.

Of course we got in late to the pub. Everything takes us a bit longer than a local to get to. My husband picked a West brew that was quite tasty for me to drink. Enjoying any type of ale, beer, lager, is a new thing for me. We all chatted. I was surprised to find out that I was swapping stories with Eilidh Grant. She is even nicer, funnier, and prettier in person than I expected. Embarrassingly it took me a bit to for sure realize it was her. Online photos and hair color always make for someone looking a little different in person. Loads of conversation, Adhamh sang a song or three, along with Eilidh joining in to sing the song they recorded together for the Yes vote last year. Pinching myself. Such wonderful people all around me. I also get to say hello and hug the moderator of the Adhamn O’Broinies group, Catriona Thobhais and Adhamh’s eldest daughter H.  The parking meter is up and the 13-year-old is fading, we say our goodbyes.

People in my experience are often even better in person when you have an online friendly or acquaintance connection. I am blessed and thankful I make friends everywhere.

Heavier rain for the trip back to the cottage. Again, my husband is a rock star behind the wheel. Safe and sound to the farmhouse we arrive.

New friends, old friend. I go to bed very happy.

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Adventures In Scotland 3

Mist and sun greeted us this day. The teens are still not quite on Scotland time and they are waking far too early for my liking. At least we can get out the door at a reasonable hour.

   

 Plans for the day? Getting lost of course, Doune Castle, meeting friends Nick and Karen at the Kelpies, and changing the blasted van in for what we originally reserved.

Brimming with excitement we head toward Doune. Happily we are surprised it’s just down the road from the farm cottage we’re staying in. With only a few missed turns,  we make it into the tiny town. It is so cute and charming. Definitely a town of fairy tales.

  
Pulling up to the ruin, I think it finally REALLY hit me. I. AM. IN. SCOTLAND. Just a little giddy I became. A proverbial three year old in a candy store.

  
I was quite sad to see how dilapidated much of the structure is. Time and circumstance have not been kind to this landmark.  The areas that are still in good condition are a sight to behold.

There are passable underground storage areas that were quite cool in temperature. And I found the nod to Outlander filming in one of them. This is happy, happy.

   
 Into the main upper building, the big hall, some smaller rooms up spiral stairs, that open out into a roof top area for viewing.  Smaller than Stirling Castle, but the feeling of importance and grandeur still emanated from within.

The other section houses the kitchen that the Outlander set is fashioned after.  All smiles climbing the spiral  stairway knowing what was waiting for me as a prize. I conquered my new found spiral staircase fear in order to stand in that space. Absolutely thrilled to find rooms off and above the kitchen as well. 

 The grounds still beautiful and serene. A very good location for keeping invaders out and easy to fortify. The picnicking would have been wonderful I imagine as well. My boys went to walk along the river. A good experience for all of us.

  
Time to get ready to go see The Kelpies in Falkirk to meet friends. Online friends are always a risky business. Is it a real relationship? Will we be the same in person. So far two for two the answer has been a resounding yes. Nick (@lifeafloat on Twitter) and his wife Karen along with pup Ziggy are even better in person than chatting over time zones. Easy conversations, hugs, and laughs. Definitely real friends. To know there is a real connection is a blessing and encouragement. 

  The Kelpies were cool and interesting, very much worth the visit too. A sad and happy goodbye before getting back on the road.

Now tackling the car issue is at hand. The stress of this bait and switch is weighing deeply on both my husband and me. We head in together to get the expensive car switched back to the vehicle I reserved initially.  Our suspicion definitely seems correct when we explained to the clerk what happened, he immediately agreed to switch out the vehicle and credit us back money. HM. So we were bait and switched! So frustrating to be up sold as exhausted international travelers. We happily left the airport with a smaller family van. Without that weight on our shoulders, the entire family breathed a sigh of relief.  A good ending to a frustrating and financial corrupting situation.

Costco was the last adventure of our day. Pizza to take out and hot dogs for all to enjoy. An inexpensive dinner and snacks for our brood. We also found some needed items that would fit into our wee refrigerator. The clerk was amazed by my husband’s membership card, but it worked!

Comfortably settled into our home away from home, we enjoyed a strong beverage and terrible television.

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Adventures In Scotland 2

Day 2 begins very early with a beautiful morning that reminds me of the California Central Coast. A perfect sun overhead. Hares run in the field while coffee we sip. So much like home this feels. A place totally known and normal to my heart. There is no disappointment in my eyes opening here. 

Out the door by 8:00am, we arrive in Stirling well ahead of the sleepy town awaking.

   
 Through town we wandered while waiting for the tourism office to open so we could buy tickets for Stirling Castle. Up the hill to the Old Town Jail we walked over stone streets and narrow side walks.

  
Past The Holy Rude church.  

Into the Old Kirkyard where headstones dated into late last century and 400 years back we entered.. A peaceful and honoring way to start our adventures. Some stones had several generations of family names listed. Many lost so early in life. I wonder what their short lives consisted of.

   
      Down the hill to a local coffee house for much needed caffeination and scones. A wonderful young woman told me about her family, American born mother, and how wonderful she thought it was to live in a town historical as Stirling. She adored living at the foot of a castle, with cannon about, and was so proud of the choice to put a castle on the top of a hill in the middle of a valley. The perfectly defensible location.  Good coffee and conversation, nothing better than meeting a new friend.

Back up the long hill to the tourism office. Explorer’s Passes now in hand we continue up to Stirling Castle. A sight to behold. 

   

 Overwhelmed and emotional my eyes misty as the air. It finally hit me where I was and the past I have longed to know is within my grasp.

I touch the door and walls into the courtyard. The countless numbers who lived and worked here. The children who have played here. I wish I could see it all in action up near on 900 years prior.

The view expansive from the tower and walls. The entire valley north, south, east, and west in sight. I can almost see the archers in defense of this space.

Down into dark, dank spaces where items were stored. I imagine all that it took to keep this city in a fortress afloat.

The great kitchen was indeed great, ovens and hanging racks, table for the sort and preparation of foods.  

      The courtyard of the royal family, the outer, inner, and bed chambers where visitors ranked by importance were chosen to visit.

   
    The great hall where meetings, meals, and gatherings took place. A ceiling that took 3500 trees to restore. Truly grand to admire.

The garden so beautiful with useful herbs planted near, the echoes of children playing and a healer gathering for tinctures and poultices.

A few hours spent deeply in understanding how much history matters to our now and into the future.

 Grumbly tummies requiring sustenance and tired feet requiring rest led us to a pub that served delicious foods. It is really interesting seating one’s self and going to the bar to place a food order. There is no water given without a specific request.  My kids are being surprisingly adventurous in their eating.

Sated we decided to make our way to the William Wallace monument. I did not make it up the 256 steps into the tower, though the rest of my family did. No shame for me as I became very dizzy going up to the first level. A mix of mild vertigo and anxiety. I had not realized until that moment the old stone spiral steps actually scare me quite terrifically out of my wits. I vow to conquer this bew found fear this trip.

A bigger shopping trip was required next as the house we rented is self catering. Back to Tesco for a bigger shopping trip with the knowledge only we had a tiny refrigerator to fill. This trip took far longer than we expected, food labels are so different we all had to use our brains to food buy.  My boys stood in the chip (crisp) aisle dumbfounded for several minutes. As they pointed out, the overall selection per item was limited, except for the booze aisle, which had grand variety. Truth. There were many laughs and some frustrations, but in the end we had a larder for a few days time.

A meal of sandwiches and fruit ended our day. We all fell into bed or couches over the next couple of hours. Goodnight.

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Adventures in Scotland 1

The family and I successfully arrived in Glasgow after a harrowing turbulent second leg flight from Iceland.

  
I generally have very little fear of flying, but I white knuckled 90% of that flight. I was ever grateful when things calmed as we approached the Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides and the Isle of Skye. Seeing land made my heart leap. I teared up the closer we got to landing.

Slow and uneventful deplaning upon arrival. Once in the terminal, I had a laugh at the toilet situation. My what a big bowl you have! It is the little things that are most surprising.

We had the best agent possible getting our passports stamped. She waved a family with a crying baby to the front of the line. That made my mama and midwife heart happy. She was funny and kind with us. A very good entrance.

Dun dun dun, then the tide turned. The rental car company!!!!!!!! We were told the seven passenger van I had booked would not fit the boys and the luggage. I had gotten a very good deal mind you. The agent told us they had an eight passenger van that would do the trick for only 20 pounds a day more. To our shock it was 2.5 times the price of the other vehicle. Feeling excessively frustrated, I walked away, the husband said okay after she brought the price down a little. A total bait and switch.  The math does not add up and we will be going back to have the previous price and vehicle honored. Travel worn, we needed out of the airport.

  
The next horror, is the new bigger van turned out to be a manual transmission. My poor husband not only had to drive on the opposite side of the road, but had to shift using the opposite hand while doing it. He did great and is continue to do so at it. Neither of us though was prepared for the amount of roundabouts on the roadways.  After some wrong turns, car stalls , and lots of laughter we made it to Stirling town center until it was time to go to the house we rented.

The weather was absolutely stunning. Everywhere we walked, shopkeepers and Stirling citizenry were siting out in the sun, soaking every bit up, eyes closed, in communion. Inside I laughed, that is totally me. I fit right in with these folks.

The most friendly people we came across, which is great for me as I’ve met nary a stranger in my life. My kids were a bit surprised by though and kept commenting on it.

Outside the pub we ate lunch at some “spirits” filled  teens were fascinated with my son J’s very curly long hair. It was terribly cute the interaction that lead to them asking what the drinking age in Colorado is.  Clearly horrified when I said 21, I could see each thinking there was no visiting the US any time soon.

Extreme travel tiredness set in and there was general lack of appreciation for the beauty around us initially in Stirling. Three of the boys slept a fair amount on the planes, but my husband and I slept virtually none.  This was not a good combination me being the navigator with no sat nav and basic verbal directions.

We did, however,  manage to make our first visit to Tescos for some rudimentary kitchen stocking before heading to the West Drip farm cottage. We were laughing trying to figure out what to buy. We were all shocked to find out food labels lack the explanation we rely on in the US.  We made it out with what we needed after the clerk asked why in the world we chose to come here when Colorado is so beautiful. The grass is always greener it seems.

   

  

 More wrong turns and roundabouts to the cottage we went. A lovely space near Stirling on a working farm, everything we needed including a college dorm style refrigerator. Well every other day shopping trips we shall make. We settled in for a dram, a shower, starting laundry, and rest. This picturesque locale was a very good choice.  Exhausted teen boys dropped like flies into sleep on the couches, floors, and beds.  We made it to 8pm before making our way to being prone.

Will the early to sleep came early to rise this first full day in Scotland. Into Stirling we were by 830am. We wandered near the castle through a graveyard next to The Holy Rude church waiting for places to open. Down the hill into the town centre we found an amazing local coffee shop. The cuppa was strong and perfect. A young woman who worked there chatted with us about her family, her American born mother,  and how wonderful it is to live in a town where there is a castle, cannons, and so much history about.

Money exchanging we went before heading to the tourism office to buy historic Scotland explorer passes. By the way my wallet was screaming in pain at the rate of conversion.

My next post will be on Stirling Castle, Argyll Lodging, and the rest of day 2.

  

  

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