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Kilts, haggis and bagpipes - One week in Scotland - A trip report

Kilts, haggis and bagpipes - One week in Scotland - A trip report

Jun 19th, 2006, 12:38 PM
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Kilts, haggis and bagpipes - One week in Scotland - A trip report

This is a belated trip report, as I got too lazy after doing the trip. However, here it is.

In the summer of 2003 my wife and I toured UK for 36 days. We had a wonderful trip and this is the seven days we spent in Scotland.

We are low budget travellers, don't mind travelling a lot during the day to meet our schedule and plan, eating from the supermarkets, bakeries and the like, we don't deny ourselves the local beer, wine or whisky, but also do not like to cut from our visiting time when in a museum, castle or palace.

For this part of the trip we rented a car, as the public transport is difficult to follow in Scotland and also given our time constraints.

Plus, Scotland is best done by car.

In summary we did the following itinerary: Ayr - Culzean Castle - Loch Lomond - Inveraray Castle - Oban - Glencoe - Fort William - Isle of Skye - Eilean Donan Castle - Inverness - Culloden Battlefield - Clava Cairns - Cawdor Castle - Loch Ness - Blair Castle - Stirling - Edinburgh for two days.

To be continued....
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Jun 19th, 2006, 01:13 PM
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Day 1 - July 17

Our Stena Line ferry departed Belfast in the morning and after 1 hour 45 mins we were at Stranraer. We took the train and went to Ayr.

We found the main bus station and inquired about the bus to Culzean Castle. Now I never knew that Culzean is pronounced like Kulian. I found out there, at the bus station in Ayr when I asked for directions.

The bus was leaving later so we had time to stroll through the town and eat something. Ayr is not a big city, but it is nice, with lots of old buildings and a typical provincial atmosphere.

We reached the Culzean Castle at about 2pm. The castle is like from a fairy tales book, perched on the top of some cliffs on the sea shore. We could see the mountains on the Arran Island from there.

When the owner family donated the castle to the Scottish govt in 1945, they requested that the top floor be given as a present to General Eisenhower from the Scottish people.

We admired the beauty of the sea. The high rocky shore made a beautiful contrast with the deep sea blue.

Inside the castle we visited the Weaponry Hall, the biggest collection of weapons after the one at Windsor Castle. All the walls were adorned with all kinds of weapons in artistic arrangements.

We visited the Library, dining room, climbed up the Oval Stairs, went through the Drawing Rooms, State Bedroom, and many other halls and rooms, all decorated with beautiful art objects, paintings and old furniture.

We were pleasantly surprised to see paintings by well-known artists, like Sir Joshua Reynolds and Frans Snyders.

After finishing the visit inside, we went down on the sea shore, at the foot of the cliff where the castle stood on top.

We walked on the small beach there, enjoyed the magnificent views of the wide open sea, a light mist hovering above the rocky relief of the coast, climbing up slightly towards the top of the castle cliff.

We then walked through the gardens, among alleys bordered by colourful flowers, sat on a bench in front of a kinetic fountain for a while to enjoy the moment.

We had our lunch at one of the restaurants near the castle, sea on one side and a forest the other side. Beautiful scenery!

Sometime during the afternoon we took the bus back to Ayr and from there another bus to Prestwick airport, a few km farther away.

We had booked a car from Europcar for our next few days in Scotland. We settled ourselves comfortably in the car and our 5 days left hand side driving adventure began.

We had never driven on the left side before and we were not experienced drivers, hardly 1-2 years.

The car was given to my wife, as she had her licence for more than 1 year. Mine was only a few months old.

We went out on the highway and I could feel the nervousness high in the air. At every turn we were tensed not to go the wrong lane.

Lots of roundabouts that we had to enter to the left, then we were watching for every sign to see where we were heading and how much longer we had.

Our first stop was at Kilwinning, just after 6pm. A small town with deserted streets at that time of the day. We parked the car and went on foot.

We wanted to see the House number Nothing, where the Mother Lodge of the Scottish masonry is based. We were just curious about it, nothing else.

After asking a few persons for directions, we found House no. Zero. As it was closed we couldn't visit.

We walked for a while through the town, took some pictures at a monastery ruins and then we went on with our driving.

Our first big try that evening was to pass Glasgow. We had a map with us and followed the itinerary.

In order for us to be able to visit everything we had planned in Scotland, it was of utmost importance to pass Glasgow that evening, to avoid delays due to traffic or distance during the next day.

Also, we didn't want to wake up too early next morning to make up for the time and long distances. We were a bit nervous when we reached Glasgow.

We had an itinerary and a schedule planned and were poised to follow it to the point. The roads were branching quickly in a heavy traffic.

We had to look for and follow the signs with great care not to go the wrong road. We were lucky that the other drivers were very courteous and allowed us to change lanes easily.

We didn't stop at all in Glasgow, which seemed to be a nice and modern city.

We drove on the highway in a much lighter traffic now that we passed Glasgow, and we reached Dumbarton. We looked for a place to stay overnight but we didn't find.

It had just passed 8pm, but it was still daylight. We decided to go on till we found an affordable place to stay.

We already started to get used to the idea of spending the night in the car, when we reached Balloch. We slowed down to look for B&B signs.

After a wide bend we saw three houses offering B&B with rooms available. It was just before 10pm and starting to get dark.

To be continued....
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Jun 19th, 2006, 01:18 PM
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Cont'd...

We went to the door of one of the houses and rang the bell a couple of times. We waited for a minute and because the door was cracked open, we put a foot inside.

There was a small space and then another door leading inside. I thought that since the main door was open, nobody would mind if I opened the next one and call someone from inside.

I cracked open the door and heard steps coming near. I waited and a nice and lively old lady appeared.

We asked whether she had a room available and she said yes. We wanted to see it and it was superb.

Spick and span, merry decorations in pink and light blue, with dolls and beautiful pictures, like a room prepared by granny for her grandchildren coming to the countryside.

We decided to stay there overnight. It was late anyway and we didn’t want to keep searching for accommodation.

Our hostess, Jackie, told us that had we delayed 3 more minutes she would have locked the door for the night (it was 3 minutes to 10 when we rang the bell).

We start getting ready to go to bed and she tells us, talking mostly to my wife: “Why don’t you take your husband somewhere to drink, woman?! Why do you go to bed so early?!? Take him somewhere to drink something!”

She was really funny with her Scottish Highlands accent. We asked her to tell us where to go and she did.

At about 10.15pm we were walking the streets in the village. It was quiet, we could feel the clean, fresh air.

We reached near the shores of Loch Lomond and the moonlight views were superb. There was a forest nearby and on the opposite shore we could distinguish the mountains.

We found the place recommended by Jackie and sat down for a beer. It was quite crowded and the atmosphere was pleasant and merry.

We returned sometime after 11pm. Our room was at the first floor and Jackie saw us coming: “So you still came back early!”

We took a refreshing shower and dropped dead asleep in the very comfortable and sleep inducing bed.

We slept very well at Jackie’s.

To be continued...
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Jun 19th, 2006, 01:47 PM
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Day 2 - July 18

In the morning we had a full, feasty breakfast, and then we talked with Jackie for a while. We gave her a souvenir with the 7 sands of the 7 Emirates (we are Romanians living in the Emirates) and she was happy.
She in turn gave us a letters set with the traditional Scottish pattern.

We left at about 9am and stopped in the village of Luss on the shores of Loch Lomond. We walked through the village, took pictures, admired the beautiful houses with lots of flowers hanging on the walls, doors and windows.
Beautiful village.

We walked along the shores of the lake for a while, sat on a bench and took in the views: foggy mountains on the opposite shore, smooth quiet waters of the lake.

After a while we drove on along the shores. We stopped several times for photos, the views were too beautiful to miss.

We stopped again for a little longer in Tarbet and Dalmally, where again we walked along the shores of the lake Lomond.

When we left Tarbet we missed the sign towards Inveraray, being swept away by the beauty of the scenery. Thus we took a different and approx 70km longer route till we reached the castle.

Even though we went on a different and longer road, we enjoyed beautiful scenery and again stopped a few times for photos. The traffic was very easy, most of the time the road was ours only, thus the level of nervousness behind the wheel was lower.

It was raining when we reached the beautiful, grey coloured with 4 round towers castle. The town of Inveraray lies on the shores of Loch Fyne, among beautiful scenery with forest hills and mountains on the other side of the lake.

We thoroughly enjoyed the visit to this castle. Sumptuous decorations, French style furniture, art objects, a big 1830 Waterford crystal chandelier, 18th century tapestries, paintings all over the place.

Among the objects displayed in the Armoury we could see Rob Roy’s sporran. A nice surprise for us were the many paintings by Thomas Gainsborough that we saw in various rooms in the castle.

Very happy after this visit and delighted by what we had seen, we continued our way north. The road took us along the shores of Loch Fyne among beautiful scenery: hills, forests, lakes.

We made a half an hour stop in Lochgilphead for a short rest. We then drove on to Oban on a deserted road.

We stopped again on the way a couple of times, because the silence was so acute, so deep, it was deafening.

We took a few photos desperately hoping that we would be able to capture THE SILENCE, THE QUIET in the picture.

It was 6pm when we reached Oban. A bit crowded there, but we managed to park somewhere and started to walk. We liked the architecture, the buildings and the picturesque atmosphere of this town.

The setting of Oban is beautiful, at the foot of some hills, on the sea shore. We liked this place.

It was getting late and we still had a long way to go that day. We left Oban and drove along the shores of Loch Etive.

Again we couldn’t resist temptation and stopped a few times for photos.

To be cont'd....
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Jun 19th, 2006, 01:50 PM
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Cont'd...

For a few hours, till we reached Glencoe, the scenery was superb. We were already in the mountains and every now and then a lake would appear among the forests in the valleys.

The grass grows in some places in the shape of pillows, thick round bunches.
The lakes were covered with small isles of trees and bushes.

The mist and clouds were down to a few meters above us. A somewhat eerie silence reigned over that area, giving an air of mystery to the landscape.

When we reached the valley of Glencoe the mist was right above us. It was past 8pm, still daylight, and everything around us was extremely beautiful.

We had never seen such scenery before and this was one reason for which we stopped many times. This was one unforeseen factor that lead us to delays in our trip.

A fight was going on inside ourselves, between stopping one more time to admire the landscape and take a photo, and hurrying to find a place to stay for the night.

Of course, the photos won hands down. Unfortunately, even the photos could not express the air, the profound SILENCE, the mystery that ruled over that place.

We were so impressed and while admiring this fascinating scenery, I remembered the bloody event that took place here in the winter of 1692.

In the wee hours of February 13th, the snowy valley at Glencoe was stained with the blood of Clan MacDonald, slain at the orders of King William III.

As the clan chief reached the king late with his decision of allegiance, the king gladly sent his troops to Glencoe, with no obvious purpose.

The troops were hosted in the homes of Clan MacDonald for 10 days. The order came on 12th February for the slaughter to take place early 13th February morning.

The majority succeeded to escape in the mountains, but many died of frost and hunger. 38 of them were killed in the slaughter.

The Massacre of Glencoe is of notoriety as the local supreme hospitality ethical norm was breached.

We were the only ones driving on that road and I was thinking of this event while admiring the landscape.

All of a sudden, somewhere on the right, out of the mist, in that deserted place, an old hotel appeared from nowhere.

The moment we saw it we decided to stay there for the night, no matter what the cost of the rooms was. It was much too beautiful and the air clean and refreshing.

They had rooms available (at a surprisingly affordable fare of 51 GBP per room per night) so we stayed.

The name of the hotel is Kings House and here the troops of King George III stayed for one night after the battle of Culloden in 1745.

To be cont'd...
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Jun 19th, 2006, 01:59 PM
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Day 3 – July 19

In the morning of July 19 we went to Glencoe Visitors Centre, where the geological history of the valley, the nature and the 1692 Massacre of Glencoe are presented.

From there we continued to Fort William at a low speed, because... the scenery was too beautiful. We stopped a few times along the shores of Loch Linnhe to take pictures.

At around noon we reached Fort William, a beautiful town with gardens and parks full of flowers, surrounded by mountains. We left the car in a parking lot and bought something to eat.

It was full of tourists. We liked this town, with one-floor houses having shops at the ground floor and lots of flowers hanging on the street lamps.

We continued our way to Mallaig, where we wanted to board the ferry to Skye. We again made our usual stops for Kodak moments and we reached the Ben Nevis Distillery.

We thought that after the lunch that we just had, a wee dram would be very welcome for digestion. We went in and asked if they had any tours available.

We found out that the next tour was in half an hour so we booked for it. At the end we were served with a shot and we gave in to the temptation of buying a bottle of 10-year old Single Malt.

We drove again at low speed, slow progress towards our destination, and we reached the Glenfinnan Monument, where Prince Charles Eduard Stuart raised the Stuarts to fight for the Jacobite cause in 1745.

We saw the column from a big distance, a highlander on top of it. The monument is exactly on the shores of Loch Shiel, surrounded by mountains.

We climbed a narrow spiral stair to the top and admired the superb views from there, with the mountains-bordered lake, the 21-archs 30m-high railway viaduct.

To be cont'd...
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Jun 19th, 2006, 02:05 PM
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Cont'd...

We continued our drive to Mallaig on a road belonging only to us. On some portions the road was a single lane, but at every 50-100 meters there are small lay-by's on both sides, where one could pull the car and wait for the other car to pass, when meeting from opposite directions.

We kept driving slowly, stopping many times for photos among superb views with mountains, lakes, a lone house here and there...

We drove along the sea shore for a while and there we were in Mallaig, a little behind schedule for our ferry to Skye.

We were lucky however, as the last ferry was late. But we became worried when we saw that the car queue was long, very long.

Moreover, three cars were already above the maximum number of cars allowed. We went in queue, 4th on the waiting list. The queue became longer and longer as time passed.

The ferry came 25 minutes late. We were nervous, as the cars were too many for us to be taken in as well. We were even luckier, ‘cause we could still go in!!

Behind us there were 3 or 4 more cars that were taken. We were just on the brink of having to stay in Mallaig for the night, and thus becoming short of time for our visit schedule and itinerary in Scotland.

We went upstairs on the ferry and admired the views. All of a sudden a big creature swimming in the harbour waters caught our attention.

It was a seal and many people came to the rails to see it and take pictures. The journey to the Isle of Skye was very nice and lasted for less than half an hour.

We could see the mountains on the mainland and then the coast of Skye appeared. We got off in Armadale and our trip on the island began.

We hadn’t even come out of Armadale, and the beautiful scenery started to abound. The road was single lane and the traffic like non-existent.

Rarely a car was passing by. We passed by the Cuillin Hills and after every hill or mountain there was a lake. We stopped so many times along this road.

We couldn’t even go into the third gear that the scenery would change and we had to stop again. We were under a magic spell.

Lots of fat round woolly sheep grazing unattended on the hills. But we had to have this happen to us as well: a traffic jam on the Isle of Skye.

A sheep on the side of the road decided to cross so we stopped to give the required way. At that moment, from the opposite direction came another car and stopped as well. For a few seconds we waited together for the lonely sheep to cross the street.

We also saw the famous Highland cows, beautiful with their fancy rock style hairdo. After more than two hours of driving and stopping, we reached Dunvegan, at the north-western part of the island.

We found a room available in a B&B on the shores of a lake. It was quiet and an idyllic landscape, like in the fairy tales.

We liked this place very much. Our hostess was a merry woman. She showed us to our room, beautiful, clean, happy room.

We went out for a walk. It was not long after 8pm and we could still see the sun going behind the mountains.

The streets of this town were nearly deserted, rarely we would meet someone who would immediately engage us in conversation. Beautiful!!

Invariably they asked us where we came from and told us that we were lucky to have a sunny day. As we had learned at the two distilleries that we toured (Ben Nevis in Scotland and Bushmills in N. Ireland) about the smoky whisky of the Hebrides, we decided to go to a pub and try one, since we were there.

There was nobody in the pub and the owner asked us, of course, where were we from. Nice. So we had a Talisker, the well-known brand on Skye. Smoky, indeed, but special and good.

To be cont'd...
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Jun 19th, 2006, 02:13 PM
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Day 4 – July 20

In the morning our hostess served us a very good breakfast and then we went off straight to Dunvegan Castle, which has been the fortress and residence of the chiefs of Clan MacLeod for 800 years.

We visited the castle and after that we went to the boat pier for a trip to the seals. We put on our life vests and the boatman took us slowly and skillfully till a few yards away from the beautiful creatures.

We were under a spell, kept taking photo after photo, finishing more than one 36-shots roll. They were so cute, some in the water, some lazy and bored on the rocks, with their big round eyes looking at us as if saying “who are these people spoiling our sleep?”

We were desperate to catch all the seals in our photos and didn’t know where to look first not to miss one.

After the trip, which took half an hour, we walked through the castle gardens with small clearances, springs and eyes of clear water. We left the castle and continued our way to the north of the island.

The well-known British red phone booths were placed here and there at the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere, in a land where the sheep rules.

The road took us many times along the coast. Strong winds were there, but the views beat that easily. Grey clouds added to the charm of the sea.

We saw the Kilt Rock, 180 meters above the sea. It is pleated and has patterns like a kilt indeed.

We reached Portree, a small and nice town, houses painted in merry colours, pink, light blue, white, yellow. We parked the car and went for a walk.

Portree is a nice place. Many houses were on the hills and we could see them above the forest. The bay was full of boats and sails.

We didn’t spend much time here, as we were behind schedule. Before we came out of the island we stopped several more times for photos.

We reached Kyleakin, crossed the nice modern bridge that connects the island to the mainland at Kyle of Lochalsh.

One of the castles that we wanted to visit by all means was Eilean Donan, featured in the movie Highlander, 1985.

Built in 1220, it was a fortress of Clan MacKenzie, and Clan MacRae. We visited the castle and saw a commemorative plate dedicated to all the clan members that died in WWI.

From here we went straight to Loch Ness to see the monster. Superb views on the way through the mountains. We reached the lake at about 6pm.

Urquhart Castle is on the shores of the lake but we didn’t visit it as it had just closed a few minutes before. However, we were not impressed by its view.

We took a look at it from the cliff above and except the ruins there was nothing else. We continued our drive to Inverness.

At Drumnadrochit something caught our attention on the side of the road. We slowed down quickly and parked.

We walked back a little and we had a nice surprise. There was a shop and a small exhibition on the Monster's theme, but outside on the pavement was the monster himself!! He caught our attention on the side of the road!

We made his acquaintance, even made friends with him and fixed up a meeting for next morning for a cruise on the lake.

We reached Inverness at about 7.30 pm, found a place to stay and went for a walk down town. We were not too impressed by the city, however it is nice for a short walk around.

To be cont'd...
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Jun 19th, 2006, 02:17 PM
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Day 5 – July 21

Next morning we went to visit the Culloden Battlefield, 8km away from Inverness. We went to the Visitor’s Centre and then saw the battlefield.

The clans tombs are plain, a series of stones having written on them the name of each clan that fought that battle.

At one side of the field is the Leanagh Cottage, the only house that survived the battle. Inside were brought the wounded in the fight.

We continued our journey to Clava Cairns, a few kilometers away. Signs on the road helped us reach them quickly. It was around 10 am and we were the only ones there.

We didn’t spend much time among those tombs and left. After around 20 minutes we reached the 14th century Cawdor Castle, in a forest.

We had a superb view there. The castle came up suddenly in front of us in a clearing. We visited the castle and liked it.

Beautiful furniture, tapestries, objects of art, weaponry. We then walked through the three beautiful gardens, where we had no choice but to take many photos.

We liked this castle, which seemed to us like a jewel hidden in a forest.

It was then time for us to go back to Loch Ness for the cruise on the lake and the search for Nessie. We reached the meeting place, but he was not there.

Probably because we were late he couldn’t wait for us. We took the cruise hoping that maybe we could find him.

The cruise took us till the ruins of Urquhart Castle. The lake waters were still, dark grey colour. The landscape around us was beautiful.

We didn’t find Nessie and we were left with the memory of the cruise on Loch Ness.

From there we went south, towards Edinburgh. We stopped only once when the view was much too beautiful and then hurried to Blair Atholl to visit the castle.

We arrived at around 5pm, exactly a few minutes before the last entry for the visit.

Blair Castle is more than 700 years old and is the residence of the Duke of Atholl. We visited all the 32 rooms and liked what we saw: a great variety of furniture, paintings, weapons, porcelains, period costumes, laces and embroideries, coats of arms, etc.

When we entered we were impressed by the huge hall with a grand staircase and a magnificent weapons collection, that includes shields and rifles used during the Battle of Culloden.

On the castle grounds there is a park where deer grazed freely at the edge of a forest. We walked around for a while and left for Stirling.

We stopped in Perth for our evening meal, then other stops for our photo sessions and at around 8pm we were in Stirling, where we easily found a place to stay for the night.

To be cont'd...
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Jun 19th, 2006, 02:36 PM
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Day 6 – July 22

In the morning we went to visit the William Wallace Monument, perched at the top of a hill nearby. This is the hill where William Wallace hid his army while on the other side the English were crossing two by two a narrow bridge over the river Firth, heading towards a great defeat.

The monument is huge and is 67 meters high. We climbed up to the top on a narrow spiral stair, 246 steps.

From the top the views were superb with the town of Stirling, the mountains in the distance and the river Firth meandering in front of us, coming from far away in the mountains, passing further towards the North Sea.

From here we went to visit Stirling Castle, on another hill in town. This is one of the best castles in Scotland.

We climbed on the ramparts and we had magnificent views till far away. At the bottom there were the gardens and beyond the walls we could see the mountains and the city of Stirling.

We visited the old King House, the Great Hall, the palace and the Military Museum of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

Stirling Castle impressed us with its looks and grandeur, a castle where the menacing aspect of a fortress combine well with an architecture worthy of any royal palace.

When we left the castle we stopped by the statue of Robert the Bruce for the required photo. From there we left for Edinburgh.

The road already became a highway and again we were with our eyes on the signs in order to make sure we don’t follow a lane leading to Glasgow.

When we entered Edinburgh the lanes multiplied and led towards everywhere. We didn’t want to go to deep into town and head straight to the station to hand over the car.

There was no sign showing the railway station. We meandered the streets of Edinburgh for about an hour and we even reached the other side of town, but finally we were at the station.

We were so happy and relieved that we got rid of the terror of driving through a crowded city, where we didn’t know the streets, the places, and where the traffic is on the left hand side.

We left our luggage at the station and went to the Tourist Office to ask for directions to the Royal Museum of Scotland.

To be cont'd...
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Jun 19th, 2006, 02:38 PM
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Cont'd...

Once on the streets, we were charmed by the beauty of this city. Anywhere we looked, there was something to catch our eye.

Right from the exit from the station we saw the magnificent Scott Monument. This was the first photo that we took in Edinburgh.

Then on the left we saw the beautiful architecture of the medieval city. All the way to the museum we took pictures right and left.

Inside the museum we were impressed by the huge Main Hall. We liked the extraordinary collection of ethnography, jewels, scientific instruments, Japanese and Chinese collections, fosils, mammals, fish, birds, insects.

From there we went to visit the National Gallery of Scotland. We were amazed by the collection of paintings and sculptures we saw there. A real feast for the eye and soul.

We went to the railway station to pick up our luggage and go to our accommodation. We knew the location and found it easily enough, on a side street from the Royal Mile.

It was still daylight and decided to go walking. We turned our heads everywhere, admiring the architecture, watching the people and the crowds on the streets.

We reached the bridge that connects the medieval town with the new town, the Royal Mile with Princess St. We could see Edinburgh Castle perched on top of a hill and all the medieval houses from the castle downwards to Holyroodhouse Palace.

We were delighted by this setting, the extraordinary architecture of the buildings, the atmosphere in general.

From this bridge we could easily see the contrast between the crowded constructions of the Old Town, full of history, and the careful arrangement of the New Georgian Town, itself a historic place.

Indeed, Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. We went to the Georgian Town and looked for the Hard Rock Café.

We had a map and the address, so after a few streets we found it. Wee had our dinner and a beer and went to bed.

To be cont'd...
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Jun 19th, 2006, 03:15 PM
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Day 7 – July 23

We had our breakfast early morning and went to visit the Royal Yacht Britannia. We decided to walk all that long way to the port, in order to see more of the city.

It took us about 50 minutes to reach the Terminal in Leith Harbour.
We took the audio guides and went aboard, a privilege reserved until recently only to the guests of Her Majesty and the Royal Family.

We visited everything on board, the main deck, the Royal Apartments, where there were paintings, a piano, furniture, silverware and gifts received by the Queen from nations all over the world.

We saw dining rooms and halls, the Royal Bedrooms, the bedroom where Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Princess Margaret spent their honeymoons.

From the outside the ship doesn’t give the impression of too wide a space inside, but walking the corridors we were surprised at the comfort offered by all these rooms and apartments.

We didn’t think for a minute that we were on a ship. We saw the elegant Drawing Room, with deep armchairs and luxurious Persian carpets. In a corner there was a piano, where Princess Diana, Princess Margaret and Princess Alexandra played regularly.

The State Dinig Room is the grandest of all on the Royal Yacht. During the 44 years of service of the ship, this room witnessed spectacular banquets and hosted the rich, the famous and the powerful: Sir Winston Churchill, Rajiv Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton, Boris Yeltsin, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, all accepted the supreme honour of dining at Her Majesty’s table.

We enjoyed the visit to this floating royal palace, with many luxury rooms and decorations, furniture and objects of art.

After the visit we took a bus and went to the National Gallery of Modern Art. The bus took us only to the neighbourhood, but the driver explained to us which way to go.

We still had to walk about 10-15 minutes to the museum, but we found it. We liked the collections that we saw here, including works by Matisse, Picasso, Magritte, Miro, Mondrian and even Andy Warhol.

From here we went to Edinburgh Castle. We climbed the steep hill to the main entrance. There were long queues for the tickets, but we were lucky as we had our British Heritage Pass that allowed us quick swift entry.

From the castle ramparts we enjoyed magnificent views over Edinburgh and beyond. We took a few pictures.

Inside the castle there are three military museums, connected among themselves via some corridors and stairs.

In the Upper Court we saw St. Margaret Chapel, the oldest construction in town, built during King David I (1124-1153). The chapel survived all the sieges and bombardments to which the fortress was subjected.

We saw the Scottish Crown Jewels, the Crown, the Sceptre and the State Sword, the oldest crown jewels in UK.

We were impressed by the visit to Edinburgh Castle.
From here we went out straight into the Royal Mile, in the old town of Edinburgh.

We walked all the way down to the Holyrood Palace. We turned our heads everywhere and admired the architecture.

It was crowded, shops, restaurants and pubs full to the brim with customers. Here and there a street artist dressed in a period costume or as a court jester played their instruments.

We stopped in a pub on the Royal Mile for lunch.
At the end of the Royal Mile is the Holyroodhouse Palace, the official royal residence in Scotland.

A jewel of a fountain in the middle of the courtyard at the entrance provided us another photo opportunity. We visited the palace and enjoyed it fully.

Beautiful decorations, furniture, frescoes, paintings and tapestries. Right near the palace are the ruins of the palace monastery.

The ceiling collapsed in 1768. Even in ruins and without a ceiling, we felt overwhelmed by the atmosphere created by its architecture and the empty space between the walls.

We had a strange feeling walking between the hundreds of years old tombstones, among which were those of King Jacob V and Magdalene de Valois.

Watching the architecture and the wall decorations, we expected to hear at any minute the echo of a prayer told by a priest, or the song of a choir hidden somewhere. We could only hear the echo of the ruins.

From the palace we went on the Royal Mile for a while then took to the right over the bridge towards the new city. We went towards the Scott Monument, walked for a while through the central area of the city and then headed to Henry’s Cellar.

That evening was the beginning of the International Jazz and Blues Festival and we had tickets for one of the concerts. The venue was the basement of a pub in town and the band was John Rae Collective, whose leader is a drummer in the National Scottish Orchestra.

We had a very good time there, bought their CD and late in the evening we returned to our B&B.

End of report.
gabrieltraian is offline  
Jun 19th, 2006, 03:29 PM
  #13  
 
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Wonderful report, gabrieltraian, I really enjoyed reading through it. Wonderful the details you can recall from 2003!

GreenDragon is offline  
Jun 19th, 2006, 05:22 PM
  #14  
 
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I'm so glad you posted your report, gabrieltraian! My favorite part is about the red phone boxes in the land where sheep rule!
noe847 is offline  
Jun 20th, 2006, 01:53 AM
  #15  
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GreenDragon and noe847,

Thank you for your feedback.

Actually this is not from what I recall. Not that I forgot the details about the trip, I still have fond memories of that.

The thing is I have the report written in Romanian and now I had to translate it.
gabrieltraian is offline  
Jun 20th, 2006, 05:33 AM
  #16  
 
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Thank you for this wonderful report! Since I'm planning a week in Scotland for next summer, this will really help me!
crazy4Hawaii is offline  
Jun 20th, 2006, 08:00 AM
  #17  
 
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Bravo, Gabriel ! What a wonderfully detailed report - no longer it took you a long time ! It's very heartwarming that you appreciated it all so much. I can't believe how much you packed in to 7 days !
caroline_edinburgh is offline  
Jun 20th, 2006, 10:51 AM
  #18  
 
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An excellent trip report. Your descriptions are wonderful..."grass grows in the shape of pillows" and "the Highland cows with their fancy rock style hairdo".

I also liked your historical notes.

Too many travelers are so intent on checking off their 'must see's' and 'must do's' that they never become aware of the essential quality/ambience of a place. Your trip report and especially your reference to trying to capture "THE SILENCE,THE QUIET" on film attests to the fact that you experienced the real spirit of Scotland.

Thanks
historytraveler is online now  
Jun 20th, 2006, 01:48 PM
  #19  
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crazy4Hawaii, Caroline and historytraveler,
thank you so much for your kind words.

I am so glad you enjoyed my report.

Indeed, even though I lack the amount of time in general, I somehow succeed to capture more than just the surface.

Also, both me and my wife know what we are looking for on a trip and find it and do it. We are on holiday, so we cater to our spiritual needs and whims.

Both me and my wife have this insatiable thirst for knowledge, culture and nature.

I remember that I drove my wife desperate (it's difficult as a driver to start the car, stop the car, put into gear, brake, gas, brake, open the door, start again every 2-3 minutes...) asking her to stop every hundred meters on those roads, because of the scenery and the must-stop-and-absorb compelling feeling.

As I said, at some point we were already thinking seriously that we may just have to spend the night in the car.

We both wanted however to enjoy the nature there, so much that reluctantly or not, we didn't speed up to reach the next village or town to find some accommodation.

After a few weeks at home, while looking at the pictures we took, guess who had the widest smile (read 'grin') on the (read 'her') face?

While in Scotland we didn't have any accommodation pre-booked, so we relied heavily on inspiration and luck.

And we won!
gabrieltraian is offline  
Jun 20th, 2006, 02:47 PM
  #20  
 
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I should have mentioned on the "other" thread how much I enjoyed your report!

Have you posted somewhere a report about the rest of your trip?
janisj is offline  

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