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Trip Report, Starring "The Weather" (and, yes, we're talking Scotland!)

Trip Report, Starring "The Weather" (and, yes, we're talking Scotland!)

Old Jun 16th, 2006, 07:05 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2004
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Trip Report, Starring "The Weather" (and, yes, we're talking Scotland!)

Hello.

This is the official trip report for my recent foray to Scotland. I wrote a brief overview of the first week or so from a library in Elgin, and posted it during the trip. But, I'm going to start again, with more details, and post the whole trip report.

The basic stuff:

Travelers: me, my DH (Dan), and my parents (who are in their late 70's)

Dates: May 24-June 12 (includng one day flying each way)

Basic Travel Plan: Mom and Dad flew from Ohio to NH. The next day (5/24), we all flew from Boston to London (Heathrow), and picked up our rental car. Returned to London (Heathrow) on June 11th and flew home on the 12th. Mom and Dad returned to Ohio on the 14th.

Airline: American; final cost $483 pp - REDUCED by $100 per person six months AFTER I originally bought my tickets - credit given on my cc!

Rental Car: Peter Waugh Car Hire. 578 GBP for a Peugeot Estate Car (good sized station wagon), including extra driver, cell phone, and pickup/dropoff at Heathrow.

So, here goes the report (which will be in several installments...I'll apologize in advance for the length!)

Wednesday, May 24th.

Arrived at Heathrow at 8:30 PM (actually arrived 40 minutes early, but circled a little, then sat on the tarmac and pulled up to the gate precisely at our scheduled time), in the pouring rain.

Getting through Immigration was a chore. For every previous trip, we have always put "various - driving around England and Scotland" in the spot that asks for our address while in the UK. The officer we got didn't like that. When I explained that we only had one night booked at each end of the trip, right near Heathrow, and three nights in Dunkeld, Scotland, he made us write the address of our one-night-stand in that spot on the form. That would have been fine, but he was REALLY rude about it. We just nodded and smiled and did as he asked.

After collecting our luggage, we called Roger, from the car rental agency, and he met us outside the terminal with our car. Roger had volunteered to drive us to our hotel and catch his ride from there - an offer we gladly accepted, so he chauffered us to the Sheraton Skyline and helped us unload our luggage, etc. This rental agency is just wonderful - always helpful, always on time, always exactly as promised.

Sheraton Skyline was booked on Priceline (2 rooms) for a total of $102.40 per room (including all taxes). It was a little hard to get a great price in that area for that night - only later did I stumble across the fact that it was the week of the Chelsea Flower Show, so I think demand was pretty high.

Sheraton was fine - it's a big, business type hotel. Good-sized rooms, and all the trimmings you'd expect.

A quick dinner in the Sports Pub (26 GBP for all four of us) and we headed off to bed.

Thursday, May 25th

A bright, sunny day. Cool, spring-like temps - perfect!

Up fairly early, packed the car, and off we went. (9 GBP for parking overnight)

Construction on the M25 caused a huge traffic snarl, so we inched along for a few miles.

I hesitate to admit that we stopped for "breakfast" at one of the motorway rest stops, and to fill up the car (65 GBP).

Drove north, pssed Northampton and Leeds, then randomly stopped in Wetherby for a late lunch. Nice town! (Good job, Dan and Dad - they spotted it and thought it looked like a nice place for a break.) Lunch at the Wetherby Whaler - whales everywhere: stained glass, carpeting, walls, napkins.... All of us had fish & chips & tea. Huge portions. 30 GBP for all four of us.

Wandered Wetherby's cute stores and its Thursday market. Bought a "punt" of delicious, small strawberries and snacked on them in the car.

Journeyed north, and then (blessedly!) left the Motorway and took some small roads through the Yorkshire Dales. We stopped in Constable Burton to see a garden that was advertised on a few small signs as having tulips in bloom. Absolutely beautiful! It's a private home, with gardens that are incredible, even though we were a week or two past "prime" tulip season. Many, many varieties of flowers (not just tulips) and trees, and separate gardens (water, avenue of limes, etc.).

We spoke briefly to the owner, who happened to return from a trip to the USA while we were there, and petted her dogs. We also bumped into the lawn person walking his dogs. He explained that he did the lawns and one gardener took care of all the plants.

A great stop, and a wonderful start to our trip.

Continuing across the Dales, we stopped at Kirkgill Manor in Hubberholme, and they conveniently had two rooms available (30 GBP pppn).

At our host's suggestion, we had a delicious dinner at The George Inn, less than 1/4 mile away. 3 steak and ale pies, and Dan's moussaka totaled 36 GBP. (For all meals, assume that we added one glass of wine and one or more soft drinks/tea. )

Friday, May 26th

Drizzly and chilly. But not a lot of real rain.

Kirkgill was a nice place to stay, but didn't have a lot of distinguishing features. Breakfast was fine - too big, of course!

A beautiful drive through the remainder of the Dales (through Gayle - love the name! - and Hawes), then hopped on the highway toward Glasgow.

Lunch at the Rapha Centre Tea Shop near Braco. Absolutely delicious! Sandwiches and tea (no wine) came to 14 GBP for all four of us! And, they have a cute gift shop (but we resisted buying anything...I started out the trip by trying to be good! You'll see that I didn't do very well...)

On to Dunkeld - our first "real" destination. Reservations at a B&B called "Upper Hatton" for the weekend (three nights). Followed our directions and then the signs to "The Glack" (we had no idea what that was, but later found out it is the hunting lodge for the Blair estate).

Upper Hatton is way back on a very rutted, twisty dirt road. As we found the driveway, a deer darted across the road, and off to our right a peacock spread his tail feathers in all in glory. Peahens and pheasants were scattered around the lawn as well.

Our hostess is wonderfully warm and welcoming. Unfortunately, our rooms are just "so-so." We have a bathtub (no shower) and Mom and Dad have a shower (no bathtub). (Yes, I knew about that in advance...I'm just letting you know.) Of course, Dad likes to takes baths and we like to use the shower, so there was a lot of trading going on! Why didn't we trade rooms? Because ours is on the 2nd floor. Mom has a lot of difficulty with stairs (knee issues), so we try to minimize steps for her whenever possible.

But, the real tough issue is that the whole house CREAKS (really loudly!) every time anyone on the second floor moves around. Since our room and another were on the second floor, Mom and Dad were treated to a constant round of floor creaking.

30 GBP pppn.

According to our hostess, a pine marten (a type of big weasel) visits the bird feeder regularly at dusk. We never did see him, but the other guests claimed to have done so.

We settled in, and headed to Pitlochry for dinner and a performance of "Summer Lightning" (P.G.Wodehouse) at the Pitlochry Festival Theatre.

Decided to eat in the Theatre cafe - bad decision. Tiny selection of pre-made sandwiches and desserts, and relatively expensive - I think we paid 24 GBP for the four of us.

We enjoyed the play, and had the delightful "problem" of seeing one role played by two different people. The regular actress had a death in her family, and had flown to London for the funeral. She was supposed to be back on time, but fog delayed her flight. She arrived during the first Act, and slipped into her role at the beginning of the second Act. The actress who filled in for her did a superb job - carrying the script and reading it, but doing so very artfully. We almost forgot that she was carrying the script and reading from it because she was so adept at acting out the part and she really seemed to BE the character. The regular actress was also terrific. It's a funny play, and we had a wonderful time.

Dad's credit card was refused by his card company. He called before he left the States, but we assumed that was the problem and put off working on that issue until the next day, when all was successfully resolved.

Saturday, May 27th

Sunshine!

Then a shower. Followed by both (sunshine and a shower). Then pouring rain. Sunshine. Rain. Sprinkles. Cloudy. Rain. Sunshine. You get the idea - it was just "that" kind of day!

Wonderful breakfast and nice chat with fellow guests and our hostess.

Then we're off to Blair Castle - the reason we're here this weekend. Today is the annual Parade and tomorrow they hold their Highland Games.

On the way, we stopped at a Craft Centre and bought a couple small items, and did the same in Pitlochry. Dad bought Mom a watch that she admired in one shop - their 57th wedding anniversary was the next day, and the watch became her gift. (She bought him a tie with sheep on it.)

Lunch at Baker's Cafe (in Pitlochry) - mini steak pies for all of us. 14 GBP, including two desserts and soft drinks for everyone. A VERY slow serving line, and the food wasn't nearly as good as it looked.

Arrived at Blair Castle about an hour before the Parade (scheduled for 2:30). It was sunny when we got there, and Mom and I found seats on the stone wall bordering the parade ground in front of the castle. Dad and Dan stood behind us.

The off-again-on-again rain/sun continued and it was pretty chilly. At times it really poured.

The Parade went off as scheduled, though, and was still a moving sight. New "colours" (flags) were presented to the troop by the Duke and Duchess of Atholl. (The troop consists of a pipe and drum band, and an actual army - small, but an army nonetheless.)

Lots of pageantry and spectacle, including the firing of a cannon (w/ flames shooting back 15 feet!). The rain was heavy enough that one new recruit (who was called from the band to receive his sprig of laurel for his hat) had to literally dump the water off the top of his drum when he returned to the line.

We're not sorry that we went, but it wasn't the most fun because of the chilly rain.

Visited the gift shop (mostly to warm up and dry off!), then took the scenic route back toward our B&B.

We drove around Loch Tummel and stopped at the famous "Queen's View," which is gorgeous. On the way around the Loch, we found a field (right next to the road) which was just filled with Highland Cattle. I'd never been that close to them before, always seeing them from a distance. So, of course, we stopped and took pictures. A couple of the calves were curious enough that I could almost pet them - unfortunately the mamas would bellow about the time I got close and the babies would back off.

We had dinner at the Loch Tummel Inn, and really enjoyed the view over the Loch - including the rainbow that shimmered over it for almost half an hour. Really good food! And the people were extraordinarily friendly and welcoming. 52 GBP.

Continued around the Loch on narrow roads, and signs pointing out the soft verges ("shoulders" to us in the US). One fairly large van didn't bother to backup to the passing place that was literally 10 feet behind him and pulled over too far as he passed us. He got stuck in the mud. Dan and Dad got out to help, and some young men camping along the Loch hurried to the rescue as well. Fortunately for all, however, another group in a car had a rope, and the car was able to successfully pull the van out of the mud.

Stopped in Pitlochry for dessert at Victoria's Cafe. Wonderful desserts, 5.25 GBP pp.

To Upper Hatton and to bed.

That's all for now. I'll come back another day and write some more.

Gayle

leonberger is offline  
Old Jun 17th, 2006, 02:15 AM
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Great report- no fair stopping so soon......
sheila is offline  
Old Jun 17th, 2006, 03:35 AM
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Join Date: Aug 2003
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leonberger

I like how you set up the details of who was going on your trip etc.

However did you manage to get American Airlines to credit your cc when the fare dropped. The last time this happened to me (ticket price dropped $113.00) I was infomed after the $100 penalty per ticket the best they could do was offer a voucher for $13.

Can you talk a little bit about arriving at 8:30 PM vs early morning. I have thought off and on quite a bit about trying a day flight.

Looking forward to more.

Sandy
SandyBrit is offline  
Old Jun 17th, 2006, 07:24 AM
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Waiting to hear more.
historytraveler is online now  
Old Jun 17th, 2006, 05:48 PM
  #5  
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I'm back, with the next installment.

A few comments: We bought our tickets directly on AA.com. When I found a lower fair, we called and were surprised to get a refund of the difference (since we had the cheap-o, non-refundable tickets). The same thing happened THREE times, for a total savings of $100 per ticket.

We love the flying during the day option! I first did it last summer with my Mom and two friends - wonderful. By the time you get through Immigration, baggage, and get to your destination, you're ready for sleep (even though your body really thinks it's barely dinner time, the exhaustion of travel sets in). We went directly to the hotel, had dinner and went to bed. Got up in the morning at a normal time, and never felt a minute of jet-lag. Perfect!

On to the report:

Sunday, May 28th

Same weather as yesterday, except no really heavy rain. And, in case you're wondering why this report is titled "Starring 'The Weather'", today was our last day of rain for the entire trip! Scotland was waterlogged for the previous month (or more), and the weather predictions were not encouraging (I looked ten days in advance and every day was listed as rainy).

We had talked a lot about the weather and decided that we wouldn't let it deter us, and had reminded ourselves that in all of our trips to the UK we have had wonderful weather. If we got one rainy trip, it still wouldn't average out to "normal" for UK traveling, so we'd be fine. Getting the rest of the trip without rain was a real bonus!

Back to the report...

We attended church services at the Church of Scotland in Dunkeld, which meets in the Choir of the Dunkeld Cathedral. It was a wonderful church service, and the pews were full. We only knew both the words and tune for one hymn, but enjoyed trying to figure out the others (two we knew the words w/ a different tune and one was completely new to us). Enjoyed the organist (my Dad is the organist at his church, so we always have fun listening to someone else). The sermon was good, and the Pastor was friendly.

As we walked back to our car, we stopped at a small ceramics shop called "Going Pottie." This place has the cutest sheep ceramics I've ever seen. (Translation: I spent a bunch of money and got to transport small pottery pieces for the rest of the trip.)

Off we went to Blair Castle for the Highland Games, arriving just a few minutes before the ceremonial start of the games. The Atholl Highlanders marched and played to open the games, and the cannon was discharged again.

We really enjoyed watching the games, but wished for a couple of things - a program w/ information about the various events (since the announcer was hard to hear, and didn't always give the info we thought we'd like to know!) and benches/bleachers to sit on. We did find one solitary bench (after we'd been there for about 2 hours) and - miraculously - it was empty when we came across it, so took advantage of it for a while.

The Duke and Duchess were there again, to open the Games. Very interesting, w/ some explanation of the origin of the Games.

If you haven't been to a Highland Games, I'll let you in on a secret - it's hard to watch everything at once! Around the periphery, various bagpipers are competing in solo competition (4 or 5 at once), at one end of the field are the Highland dancers in competition (that's one I'd love to know more about - they're really energetic and some are SO light on their feet, but I don't know if the ones I particularly like are the best or not), in the middle are one or more sporting events - from foot races to throwing the Hammer, tossing the Caber, and Tug-of-War.

Stalls around the area sold everything from food to crafts. We grabbed bites of various things for lunch, and I bought a candleholder crafted from a 500 year old yew tree; and a butterfly made from silver birch (which my mother-in-law will get for Christmas, if I can bear to part with it).

The Games cost 5 GBP for us; 3 GBP for Mom and Dad.

As we left, we stopped at the "House of Bruar," as highly recommended by our hostess. Very expensive items, but a lot of fun to browse.

We ate dinner in Pitlochry at Drummond's Restaurant, a block off the main street and very "homey." Dinner was excellent, but Mom wasn't hungry, so she just "shared" what the rest of us chose. 31 GBP for 3 of us. Extremely friendly staff (owners?) and customers. A small place, but I'd definitely go back.

Since it wasn't really late yet (and the sun is up until 10:00 PM or so!), we got brave and drove past our B&B all the way down the private road to "The Glack" (the Atholl Estates hunting lodge). The drive was wonderful (long and slow - dirt road w/ lots of potholes, dips and curves) and we saw lots of deer and other creatures. The hunting lodge didn't look expensive or elegant, and we turned around a little ways before the locked gate.

Our B&B is the only privately opened residence on this entire road (several miles long). All of the other houses and cottages belong to the Atholl estate.

Monday, May 29th

Well, we never did see the Pine Marten! We checked every night, but always missed him.

From this point on, you Scotland experts may want to just suspend disbelief. We did a lot of "unnecessary" wandering back and forth around Scotland, but there really were reasons for doing so. But, if you're looking at a map, you're just going to shake your head and think we're crazy...

On a previous trip, we were not able to visit Iona (because of really heavy rain that day) and it was now a priority. Since the weather report was telling us we had a couple days of good weather ahead, we chose to take advantage of it right away.

So, on this day, we basically drove to Fionnphort.

But, we took the lo-o-o-o-ong way. We drove through Glen Quaitch and Glen Lyon, meandering through gorgeous scenery, narrow roads, and lots of sheep. We got to pull over and be surrounded by sheep as an ATV-shepherd guided his flock down the street (he asked if I "got his good side" when I took a couple of pictures).

We stopped somewhere along the way to Oban at "The Old Flax Mill" for lunch. I'd suggest that you give this place a pass. They were very unfriendly (refusing to let us sit at one of the seven empty tables (out of eight total tables) because we wanted to order from the menu instead of getting the Carvery lunch. So, the four of us had to try and balance all of our lunch dishes and drinks on a tiny table (maybe 18" around). The food was so-so, service almost non-existent, and it wsn't cheap (around 25 GBP for all four of us, I think, but I forgot to write it down).

We continued toward Oban, stopping at a "Pet Gift Store" along the way. Saw Corey the Ferret, 11 ducklins, and lots of chickens, etc. Bought a couple of little gift items and continued along.

In Oban, we were able to get on the ferry to Craignure without an advance booking. Once ashore on Mull, we called ahead to a B&B in Fionnphort (listed in a brochure we picked up on the ferry). They were full, but recommended nearby "Oran-Na-Mara." When we called, she said they had two rooms, so we were set.

The road across Mull to Fionnphort is not really a fun drive. It's a single track road, with lots of passing places, and tons of traffic. (I've never been on a single track road w/ constant traffic before.) It just made it a very slow ride and not at all relaxing.

Found Oran-Na-Mara with no difficulty (there is, after all, a "blue digger" in the front garden - they're working on the driveway and yard). Then we got the bad news...our landlady had accidentally overbooked. Since we knew from our first call that pretty much everything in the area was booked, this was a big problem.

Fortunately, the landlady was resourceful. She had called every B&B in the area and found another room about 5 miles down the road. So, Dan and I stayed at Oran-Na-Mara (25 GBP pppn) and Mom and Dad stayed at Bruach Mhor (20 GBP pppn). (Again, our room is upstairs, Mom and Dad are on the ground floor.)

We got the better deal - a new house, simply beautiful furnishings and modern plumbing. My bed was even an "adjustable" bed! (We had twin beds - Dan's was normal.)

Bruach Mhor, on the other hand, was kind of strange. Dumpy house (w/ "junk" in the yard), tiny room, shower made from what obviously used to be the small closet, and kind of dark (one small light in the center of the room). The good news is that it was clean.

We had dinner at Keel Row in Fionnphort, recommended by our hostess (at Oran-Na-Mara). An *excellent* dinner - I can't recommend this place highly enough! Dad and I had their steak pie (served in a huge Yorkshire pudding); Dan had trout; Mom had shrimp scampi. A tiny restaurant, so we had to wait almost an hour in the bar (but we had nothing else to do!), but well worth it. Again, I forgot to write down the price, but I'm sure it wasn't more than 50 GBP for the four of us.

Tuesday, May 30th

Up early for the ferry to Fionnphort. Down the road to pick up Mom and Dad - go to follow a herd of the dirtiest cows we've ever seen for part of the trip.

Ferry to Fionnphort (10 minute crossing). A cold, windy day, but bright and sunny. Cold enough that we wished for gloves. We were all wearing undershirts, regular shirts, sweaters, and fairly heavy jackets (windbreakers). Still cold.

While we enjoyed Iona, and wouldn't have missed it for anything, it didn't quite meet our expectations. We thought that more of the early settlement would be visible (just an earth mound), and that there would be more information about the earliest Christian settlements than there was. (St. Columba arrived in the 6th century.)

Even medieval buildings had been largely re-constructed, so they weren't the original buildings.

Still, we enjoyed our time on Iona, and the things we learned -

.Columba fled Ireland following a battle, caused by his decision to copy a book which he didn't have permission to copy!

.Columba settled on Iona, according to legend, because it was the first island from which he could no longer see Ireland when he looked back.

.When Columba landed on Iona, approximately 400-600 people lived there; today, only 100-200 people live on the island! (One of them was our EXCELLENT tour guide, Judith - she was personable, friendly, intelligent, and cute!)

.Columba may have exiled all of the women to a nearby island, because otherwise there would be "trouble." (Dan and Dad kept threatening to do that to Mom and I for the rest of the trip.)

.Grave markers in the museum are amazing. Important people from all over Europe wanted to be buried on Iona. There are places in Fionnphort and across Iona that commemorate this piece of history, including "The Street of the Dead," the road from the landing point to the cemetery.

Took the ferry back to Mull and then took a leisurely drive around Mull and back to Craignure. Again, we were successful in getting on the ferry without a reservation.

Drove north from Oban, and found a B&B in Ballachulish (Loch Leven), Craigrannoch House. This place is gorgeous - Victorian, high ceilings, big rooms, wonderful amenities. 24 GBP pppn.

The nearby places our hostess recommended for dinner were fully booked, so we ended up at Alt-Nan-Ross in Loch Leven. Don't go there. Expensive and really limited menu. No one else there (OK, one table of other folks when we arrived, one other group of 6 came after we did, but almost no one else!). A spectacular view of the Loch from the dining room. 60 GBP.

Dan and Dad were both totally confused about how to get back to our B&B (very unusual for them - Dad is our designated map-reader and location finder; Dan is our driver, with a normally impeccable sense of direction). I had to keep insisting that they follow various signs (back "to Oban," etc.). There was a lot of laughing and there were a lot a protests before we finally got back to Craigrannoch House (following my directions).

More to come.....

Gayle
leonberger is offline  
Old Jun 17th, 2006, 06:11 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 129
Enjoying your report. We were in Scotland for a week in early May, in Edinburgh with a day trip to the Highlands, including a stop at Pitlochry. We had beautiful warm sunny weather. Hope to cover some of the territory you visited, some day.
lscott is offline  
Old Jun 17th, 2006, 06:13 PM
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I too am enjoying your report Gayle even though I've never been to Scotland---yet. Great that you got that refund on your tickets. Will check in again.
laartista is offline  
Old Jun 17th, 2006, 06:27 PM
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Gayle,

Thanks for the information on the day flights. Congratulations on the refund on your tickets. Perhaps it depends on the agent you get and their mood. I had decided it was AA's new policy. Now I think perhaps next time this happens I will keep trying until I get a cooperative agent.

I love hearing about the church services you and your family attend. Glad you were made to feel welcome.

Sandy
SandyBrit is offline  
Old Jun 17th, 2006, 09:14 PM
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I'm loving your report!

By ANY chance does the barman at the Keel Row look like Mark Maguire? It has been a few years since I ate there but when I was there last I couldn't take my eyes off him. An absolute double of Mark Maguire (in his old roided out playing days) except of course for the Scots accent . . . . Had one of the best salmon dinners ever.

Looking forward to the rest . . .
janisj is offline  
Old Jun 18th, 2006, 04:38 AM
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....According to our hostess, a pine marten (a type of big weasel) visits the bird feeder regularly at dusk. We never did see him, but the other guests claimed to have done so...

I'm sorry that you missed seeing him.
Pine martens are very beautiful animals and pretty well confined to Scotland. They are about the size of a small cat and have beautiful markings with a creamy-yellow underside and creamy-yellow edges to their ears.
They love jam.
You can see some enjoying their evening treat at the kitchen window of a Scottish hotel at http://sylvia.photoblog.me.uk/c965288.html
MissPrism is offline  
Old Jun 19th, 2006, 04:34 PM
  #11  
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I'm back. I'll try to finish this report tonight - probably in two installments. I really hope that it isn't too long and detailed - I never know what to leave out (and we had such a wonderful time that I want to share as much of it as possible!). So, feel free to skip over any boring parts - I won't be insulted!

Janis, I honestly don't remember the bartender at the Keel Row (Dan and Dad purchased the drinks, so Mom and I didn't actually go up to the bar). I'll have to check if I go back again!

Miss Prism, I loved the pictures of the pine marten! I had no idea that anyone could "tame" them to come and eat jam from a spoon like that. Amazing!

Picking up where I left off...

Wednesday, May 31

Breakfast at Craigrannoch House was wonderful, including fresh strawberries and fresh pineapple - yum! We really liked this B&B a lot and wished that our travels were keeping us in the vicinity for another night or two!

On this day, we wanted to do the "Road To The Isles," via Mallaig and the ferry to Skye.

On the way through Fort William, we stopped at "Treasures of the Earth," an exhibition of gemstones, rocks, adn fossils. Dan is a rock collector, so this stop was especially for him (I had meant to surprise him with it, but he found a reference to it in a brochure at Craigrannoch House, so he asked if we could go - hopefully, the thought still counts!). They allow picture-taking inside, so Dan was thrilled. A great display of minerals and so forth, the displays that are lit by blacklights were particularly intriguing. And, yes, Dan did manage to spend a little money on specimens in the gift shop.

As we started down the road toward Mallaig one of the backseat passengers (me!) pointed out that we'd just passed a big sign with flashing letters, giving a message about Mallaig. The driver and navigator (neither of whom had seen the humongous sign, despite their front row vantage point) decided that it couldn't possibly be important....we'll see.

The drive was spectacular, and - as promised in my guidebooks and here on Fodor's - the road parallels the steam train for a good bit of the way. As an added bonus, we were in exactly the right spot to see the train steaming north at the bridge near Lochailort - we took lots of pictures, but I haven't checked them yet to see if any came out. From that point on, we criss-crossed and pretty much kept pace with the train most of the way to Mallaig - very nifty! (This is the "Harry Potter" train, for those who want to know.)

We arrived in Mallaig less than 30 minutes before the 12:15 ferry and drove straight to the ferry terminal, feeling mighty smug about our timing (the train and the ferry).

Ummm....perhaps we should have read that sign way back in Fort William...

As the man in the ferry terminal said, "the ferry broke." A smaller ferry was being used to transport cars, but it was fully booked for the next two days. Of course, this information is what was posted on the huge sign I had spotted (and no one else thought was important).

A big disappointment, because we had hoped to get a ferry to Skye, and then just cross part of it to Kyle of Lochalsh and head up to Applecross on another windy road.

Oh, well, we probably would have made the drive even if we knew about the ferry - we really wanted to see the route.

So, we hd lunch in Mallaig (at the Cornerstone Pub - good fish and chips for 7.5 GBP pp) and did a little browsing.

Then back in our car to reverse our journey to Fort William before turning north for the road to Applecross.

We stopped at the Glenfinnan Rest Stop and discovered that the big trestle (famous in the Harry Potter movies and on postcards all over Scotland) is directly behind the rest area. So we walked close and took a picture, then discovered from a fellow traveler that the train (the same one we'd seen on the way up) was due to come back down across the bridge in just about 15 minutes.

Ever one to take advantage of an opportunity offered, Dan and I hightailed it up to the "official" viewing point to take pictures. Dad came about halfway, but decided to wait on a bench, and Mom stayed down below and took pictures from our original spot.

While I was waiting (Dan climbed the hillside hoping for an even better view), I overheard a conversation between a father and his young (8-10?) son:

Son: Why do we have to sit around here and wait? I'm bored.

Father: Son, this is a very famous bridge and a very famous train. It's worth a few minutes of wait. People come from all over the world to see this train cross this bridge. It's so famous that they came to visit even before the Harry Potter films.

Son: Oh, Dad, no one really comes that far, do they?

Me: (In my distinctly American accent, definitely different than their Scots accent) Well, yes, actually they do!

A short conversation (where I was from, etc.) ensued and was great fun. Then the train appeared. Going south (downhill), it's something of a letdown (just coasting, of course), but I'm very glad we stopped for a few minutes to see it for ourselves.

From Fort William, we turned and headed north again, toward Kyle of Lochalsh, and our next interesting drive.

Along the way we stopped for pictures of Ben Nevis (and other mountatins) with snow on top; and I petted a really friendly Clydesdale (I stopped to take his picture and he ambled right up to the fence and asked for some loving - at the first opportunity afterwards I bought two apples and a big carrot to have them available "the next time," and, of course, never got close to a friendly horse again!).

We decided to follow the Caledonian Canal for a short way, and got to see a huge boat going through the Logan Swing Bridge (the only Swing Bridge I've ever seen - very interesting!).

We were impressed with all of the huge dams on the Lochs. (How in the world do engineers design these things??)

We found a B&B in Inverinate (by_Kyle) called Drumfearn. It's a very new home, w/ very nice facilities (OK, I'll admit it - both Mom and I wanted to steal the Mackintosh-style mirror in her bedroom. Our hostess just laughed when we told her that, and said, "well, as long as you put your information in the guest book...") 22 GBP pppn. Great value, and very friendly hostess.

She recommended nearby Kintail House for dinner. It was OK, but nothing special. 43 GBP + drinks & tip. We were squeezed at a tiny table, but grateful that they fit us in at all. (We decided that the put all of us "foreigners" in the same room. The four of us were in a corner, and the rest of the room was filled with a tour group from France - very friendly. They were worried that we were being "chased off" by them, but we really were just finished with our meal.)

Today was a bright and sunny day, w/ a few clouds in Mallaig, and a cool spring temperature throughout the day.

Thursday, June 1

Good breakfast. Dan and Dad (the adventurous eaters in our group, and the ones who like the most food for breakfast) tried both black pudding and white pudding, but didn't like either one.

Our hostess proudly told us that her husband is a stalker, which is not a good thing to tell someone from the US! (Here a "stalker" is someone who follows another human being around and tries to kidnap/rape/kill him or her, but first wants to scare that person out of their wits. In Scotland, of course, a "stalker" is essentially a hunter, with, I assume, some wildlife management responsibilities.)

As we left, we made a short detour to Plockton, listed in several guides as the "prettiest town in Scotland." Well, maybe. With all of the rain of late, very few flowers were in bloom yet, but it was interesting to see the huge palm trees. I bought some "Isle of Lewis" pottery in a tiny shop.

We continued northward and finally got on the road to Applecross. My guidebook had said: "You'll drive on pur adrenalin - the road climbs 750 meters in steep zig-zags to the Pass of the Sheep. Even they have to hold on tight." Perfect!

It was as wonderful as described, with incredible views. Unfortunately, fog blocked the view at the very top (although Mom seemed to think that was fine!), but for more than 90% of the trip, we could see why the road is famous. We loved it. (And were awed by the electrical lines running up and down beside the road, imagining the difficulty of putting the poles into place and stringing the line in such rough territory.)

We descended to Applecross and had lunch at The Potting Shed. This place didn't look like much, but served a delicous lunch for about 8 GBP pp. (Fish and chips, "gardener's lunch" and cheese plate.) Their desserts were wonderful, too - we especially loved the gingerbread, which they served to us by accident (instead of something else Dan had ordered) - we ended up buying a second one to share!

Today was cloudy in the afternoon, w/ a few minor showers.

We passed a bookmobile parked in one of the "scenic view" areas on the steep road to Applecross - it sure seemed like it was in the middle of nowhere!

Also along the road (I think downhill, but can't remember exactly), we came across another herd of Highland cows. These were in a "free range" area and the first one that caught our attention was scratching her neck on the underside of a road sign. We stopped to take her picture and then realized that about 6 cows and several calves were artfully arranged alongside the road. Took lots of pictures and, again, I could ALMOST pet the babies, but they would shy away at the last minute.

In another spot we passed a tiny black lamb curled up and sleeping the middle of the road. Although Dan got past it successfully, I, of course, yelled "STOP!!" and got out to have a friendly chat with that lamb. (Coming from the other direction, he would have been invisible to drivers until it might have been too late.) He, of course, didn't actually want to talk with me, so he quickly moved off the road when I got close to him.

From that point, we headed toward Elgin (a long drive, but we had a lot of things we really wanted to do near Elgin).

We stopped in Forres to see Sueno's Stone (9th/10th c, Pictish) - it is huge. Even knowing that it was almost eight feet tall didn't diminish the impact. It's very easy to see the carving on most of the stone, but impossible to get pictures because it's encased in glass (to preserve it).

We wandered north of Elgin to look for a B&B, and found Burnside House in (yes) Duffus (which my Scottish friends assure me is NOT pronounced Doo-fus [a stupid person in American!], but Duff-us). This is a wonderful house with huge rooms and bathrooms. The hostess was having "a lazy day," so the rooms weren't ready and she wouldn't allow Mom and I to see them. (But we could tell from the quality of the home that all would be well, and we were right.) In addition to three B&B rooms, Burnside offered three self-catering apartments and a chalet w/ sauna and BBQ pit. 25 GBP pppn.

We drove to Lossiemouth and decided to eat at Skerry Brae, right along the beach. Average food (45 GBP), and a great view - we watched a couple of windsurfers and felt frozen just seeing them fall into the water over and over again!

There was a really friendly black and white cat in the hallway (it's an Inn, too) when I went to powder my nose. A young girl in the bathroom told me that she's scared of cats "because they always bite me" (hmmm, now why would that be? I wondered). I convinced her to stand still and let this very nice cat come up to her and she was thrilled. She even petted it and it didn't bite her! She proceeded to tell me pretty much her life story (she was probably 8 or 9) - very cute!

We finished our dinner a little quickly, because another group came in and really wanted a water-view table. We were almost finished anyway, so we offered them ours if they'd just let us finish our last few swallows of coffee/tea. They were grateful, and all of us were happy.

Back at Burnside we decided we liked it so much (and had so many "to do" things in the area) that we'd like to stay another night. The room Dan and I were using was not available for the next night, but our hostess said that she'd be happy to put us in one of the small apartments at the B&B rate (and feed us breakfast), an offer we gladly accepted.

Friday, June 2

Nice brearkfast, friendly conversation with other guests.

First stop - one the top things on my "Must See While In Scotland" list - the Northeast Falconry Center. This place is great! And not very well known.

There was an annoying "middle-school/junior high" age school group there (maybe 30 kids), plus the four of us and one really cute family with two small children (a girl around 3 and a boy about 5). The school kids (mostly girls) did that really annoying squealing and fussing and whining stuff that they can do - to the point that John (?) the falconer actually had to tell them to behave several times. Although he was kind to them, and let them handle the birds and so forth, he directed 95% of his attention to the other family and the four of us (after he'd had to speak to the school group - he just sort of gave us, I guess).

If you're not interested in the birds, skip ahead a little. I found this place fascinating and want to talk about it a little!

We got to see and handle a Harris Hawk, a Barn Owl, a Peregrine Falcon (see only, no handling) and an Eagle Owl.

The Harris Hawk ("Lucky") loved people and would fly and swoop right between our shoulders. He'd just fold his wings in the appropriate amount and zip around between us, then soar up in the air. It just seemed as though he was glad to be out and enjoyed putting on a show. Dan (and a lot of other people) held Lucky and got to see him up close. (The Falconer puts food in a thick leather glove, while you're wearing the glove, and that entices the bird to come to you.) Lucky doesn't like to be petted, but he does like to hang around the people. Lots of squealing and crying from the teenage girls...sigh...you'd think they'd figure it out after the first swoop or two.

Next up was "Smudge," the Barn Owl. Apparently baby owls screech for food when they're in the nest. Since Smudge (and all the others) are raised in captivity and food always comes from their handler, he just screams all the time. It was really funny. This little owl (all 11 ounces of him), and this constant demanding screech. I held Smudge, and he LOVES to be petted. Who knew that birds were so soft? And so lightweight? It was a great experience.

The little girl also held Smudge. Her brother wasn't brave enough to hold the bird, but he did finally come up and pet him. Awww.....

Our next bird was the Peregrine Falcon ("Rule?" I couldn't quite understand what he said and later happenings pushed the question right out of my mind.) The Falcon is a little more "distant" - not as interested in people, only handled by the Falconer, and he didn't fly through the crowd like the others did. But, he is really impressive. Falcons are the birds that you see dive by pulling their wings in and just freefalling through the air. Magnificent! The dive can be up to 150 mph! He would fly high up in the air and then dive down toward the ground to get the lure (a dead chick) that the Falconer tossed for him. Then he'd quickly pluck the chick and eat it. Once he was full, he went and perched on the roof of the building for a while. He swooped right in front of us (inches from our faces) a couple of times and you could hear the "whoosh" of his flight - it sounded like race cars do on TV, much louder than you'd expect and very, very clear. Amazing.

And, then, we got to see Murray, the Eagle Owl. (Janis, is this one of the owls you saw?) Murray is huge (to me anyway) - a really big owl. His wingspan is over 5 feet! And he weights four pounds. Yes, four pounds! Those hollow bones, and he's all skin, bones, and feathers. We were intrigued!

Murray loves people and he loves to be petted. He's also basically a "homebody." The Falconer rarely takes Murray when he goes offsite for demos, because Murray gets very uncomfortable very far from home. How sweet.

Owls, remember, are nightime hunters, so being out in the day can be scary for them. (I didn't realize that their fixed eyes make it impossible for them to visually track things, and they don't have good depth perception, so being outside in the daytime is pretty scary.) The owls have one ear slightly higher than the other, so they triangulate sound really well and that's how they track their prey at night. They then fly silently and swoop up the prey before it can begin evasive maneuvers.

Murray was great. The little girl held him - geez, even we were taking pictures of that! - with a little help from Mom to keep her arm up and steady (with a four pound owl on it!). My Dad held Murray, too, and I was allowed to come up and pet him while Dad held him. Oh, I just wanted to scoop him up and bring him home! He's sort of lean into you a little, and you could tell that he really liked the attention.

Murray was doing a splendid demonstration for all of us. Flying high, with those wings outstretched, and then gliding to a graceful stop on the next outstretched hand.

And then, the unexpected happened. An unscheduled helicopter flew over the field and Murray took off for the woods. It turns out that he doesn't like helicopters (a problem, with TWO air force bases close by). He's fine with jets, but not whirlybirds. The Falconer thinks this might be because he sees the low-flying helicopter as a HUGE bird-of-prey that might choose him for dinner. And, with his limited eyesight and his nocturnal preferences, having one fly overhead is a problem. The handler knows the usual flights and tries to work around them and listen for the helicopters, but the wind was coming from opposite the normal direction and he just didn't notice this one until it was too late.

After calling Murray unsuccessfully for a few minutes, he ended the talk.

He continued to try to entice Murray back, after the crowds dispersed, upping the ante as high as three chicks, but no luck.

He told us (the last people hanging around, because we were worried!) that Murray has done this once or twice before, but that he always comes home because he's such a homebody. We could see him out there in the woods, sitting in a tree, but there's no way to go get him. (He has lost birds before. When they're full and they fly away, there's nothing you can do. It doesn't happen often, since "easy food" is only available from him, but does occasionally hapen.)

We stayed outside for 20 minutes or so, then reluctantly went into the gift shop/snack bar and spent a few minutes chatting and buying postcards. After another 20 minutes or more, checking constantly for Murray, we decided that we really needed to leave.

Just then, Dan looked out and exclaimed "he's back!" And, sure enough, Murray was perched on a post in the middle of the bare field used for the demonstrations! I grabbed the camera to record his return, and Dan ran to get the Falconer, who was thrilled (both that Murray was back and that Dan had spotted him!).

A happy ending for all and a great morning!

I think the Falconry demonstration cost 17GBP for the four of us.

I'm going to stop in the middle of this day, because the weather has gotten really bad here. I'm afraid the computer will turn off and I'll lose what I've written.

I'll try to come back soon!

Gayle
leonberger is offline  
Old Jun 19th, 2006, 05:03 PM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 66,711
What a wonderful description of the Falconry center! I always suggest people stop there when traveling between Huntly and Dufftown but you have captured the esence of why it is so amazing.

Not positive if Murray was "my" owl - I didn't remeber his name but the way you describe him sure sounds just like him.

I'm LOVING your report
janisj is offline  
Old Jun 19th, 2006, 06:28 PM
  #13  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 340
OK. The storm seems to have passed.

But, looking back over this, I know that the report is ridiculously long, so I'm going to short-cut it. (Hard for me, but I'll try.)

Continuing Friday, June 2

After the Falconry Center, we went to Huntly Castle. A very interesting ruin. My favorite part was the location of the old, old stables. You could clearly see the outlines of 10 stalls, in the cobbles. Small, for smaller horses than today, but very clear. Some great interior details still visible, and you could easily imagine the family living there.

We then went into the town of Huntly, stopping at the Dean Shortbread Factory (alas! no tours, but tasty "seconds" at cheap prices!), then to the Merry Kettle for lunch. Tiny place, but good food. 15 GBP paid for sandwiches, cakes, and drinks for all four of us!

On to Elgin and the Cathedral. Great ruins, extremely picturesque (both the ruins and the setting). 125 steep stone steps up to the top of the tower. Interesting gravestones, and one Pictish cross stone.

Around the corner, to the Biblical Garden - supposedly has every plant mentioned in the Bible. That may be, but virtually none of them are labeled, so it isn't really very interesting. A pretty garden, with nice benches, and picnic tables set off to one side.

Left and drove 8-10 blocks (following directions) to the Library (so Dan could use the computer and do a little website work - he opted not to bring his laptop along on the trip, so had to find minutes here and there to keep up with his customers). When we arrived at the Library, we realized it was just one block from the Cathedral, across a park. Pretty funny!

Headed back to Burnside and had "dinner" at the Duffus Inn. None of us were very hungry, so we had various desserts and appetizers and just shared them. 23 GBP (including tip and drinks). Really good food - wish we'd been hungrier!

Experimented by trying to drive down the little "Burnside Road" next to the Inn (hey, it MUST go straight to Burnside House, right? wrong!). It turned into a farm track, not suitable for cars. But, it was fun. Back we went, the "normal way."

Saturday, June 3

Another great breakfast (FOUR kinds of bread - an unbelievable amount of food is served every morning, at every B&B!).

Left for the coastal route, heading toward Aberdeen tonight.

Started at the Pictish Fort in Burghead, only we didn't know it was in Burghead (which was only 4 miles from our B&B). The only sign we'd seen was back in Forres, so we drove all the way back there, followed the sign and then had to ask directions, only to end up, basically, where we started. It was funny.

Very disappointed to learn that the Info Center didn't open until noon (it was 9:45). Cold and windy, so we didn't spend much time standing out on the big earthen mound.

We did walk down to see the Pictish well, which was acutally pretty interesting. It's cut into the hilldside, looking like a cave (and protectd by a fence and a lock - you have to follow a map to someone's house to get the key!). Learned that the Picts used to execute people by drowning them. (Inquiring minds want to know how? Did they hold them underwater? Leave them in the well and not let them get to the edge? Or what?)

Drove along the coast, past tiny fishing villages, stopping occasionally to take pictures and/or just enjoy the views.

Arrived in Cullen at lunchtime, and decided to eat there (in the home of "Cullen Skink," a fish chowder, using smoked haddock, "invented" in Cullen). We chose the Puddleduck Patch, a combination shop and tea shop, sitting around a coffee table in the back. Lunch for 4 was about 20 GBP.

The clouds cleared a little in the afternoon.

We passed a whole bunch of huge pig farms on this day. We've rarely seen a pig in Scotland (or England) - I guess they keep them all up in this "corner" of the country! Also, near Burnside was the biggest field of black and white cows any of us have ever seen. And that's saying a lot, for folks who grew up in Ohio! Hundreds, possibly more than a thousand of them, in one huge green field. A very pretty picture, but very hard to capture on camera.

Stopped above Cryvie to take picures, then continued to Peterhead, and stopped at Zanres for a snack/dessert. Nice ice cream creations.

We then cut inland to look for a B&B. Found a place that looked nice in Potterdon (after not seeing any B&B's for quite a while), but no one was home. A service van was parked in the driveway and Dan took a chance and called the number on the van. A man answered, but explained they don't do B&B on the weekends (? I've never heard of that...interesting), but steered us to "Viewfield" just down a side street about a mile away.

Well, this place is interesting. (Ummm...don't stay here.) Two twin rooms, sharing one bathroom. Huge closets, up a step from the bedrooms. Mom and Dad have some guy's stuff in their closet - he stays there during the week and just leaves his things over the weekend. Crammed with furniture - can hardly walk around the bed. And a tiny refrigerator in each room, stocked with economy-sized orange juice and bottled water - both already opened! Yuck. A sign in the shower instructs us that we're to clean the shower after use. Ummm...no. (Not that I'd leave a huge mess, but isn't that what I'm paying them to do?) Oh, well, it's cheap and basic (20 GBP pppn).

After the guys agreed to "take" the rooms (I think everyone was worried that there might not be many B&Bs in the area), we took our suitcases up, then headed to Aberdeen.

We tried to locate the Kirk of St. Nicholas, hoping to attend church there the next morning (we really wanted to see their 48 bell carillion, and the church is the original parish church for Aberdeen). After some wandering (we could see the church, but couldn't get to it), we finally went the right direction down "Back Wynd," only to discover that church was being held at St. Mark's tomorrow.

Never mind, we'll find a local church on our way to Pitmeddon in the morning.

Stopped at Buckie Farms for dinner - again, no one was particularly hungry, and this modern (chain?) restaurant was simple and on the way.

Back to Viewfields and sleep.

Sunday June 4

Up early, OK breakfast, and out.

A nice, sunny start to the day.

Stopped in Pitmeddon at a Church of Scotland, and - lo and behold! - the service starts in just 10 minutes. Perfect. It was Pentecost Sunday, and the minister (a very warm, welcoming woman) tied everything in the service to that event. It was a really nice service, and the people were very friendly.

Continued to Pitmeddon Gardens and spent about an hour admiring the formal gardens. Espaliered apple trees on every wall, intricate designs in hedges (yew?) - the Scottish flag, a thistle, etc. Gorgeous, even though it had been too wet to plant the colorful flowers that normally bloom inside the designs.

The sun hid behind the clouds while we walked the garden, but no rain.

We had a snack in the tea room (10 GBP for all of us - soup, scones, tea, etc.).

Headed toward Crathes, which we had visited in September 2004 - wanted to see the gardens in the spring.

On the way, Mom found the "Cullerlie Stone Circle" on her map, so we detoured to find it. A small stone circle, quite nice, but we're really puzzled. How does one "find" a stone circle in their garden more than a millenia after it was placed there? The stones are 4-5 feet tall, and they're in a flat field that stretches all around, almost as far as the eye can see. So, how could they have just been "discovered" 150 or so years ago?

On to Crathes. Just OK, thanks to all the rain. Still a spectacular garden, but not much more colorful than during our September visit.

A little browing at the Milton Craft Village, almost directly across the road from Crathes. (Amazingly, neither Mom nor I bought anything. They have beautiful items!)

Stopped in Banchory and found a B&B, "Village Guest House" on the main street. Either down 28 big steep steps, or up about the same number. We opted to not have Mom go into the house until after dinner, then we let her go DOWN the steps. In the morning, Dad and Dan drove the car around to the front, so she could go DOWN again to get to the car.

Our hostess made dinner reservations for us at the Banchory Hotel. This was one of the best dinners we had! The really cute and friendly young red-haired waiter was very eager to please. When Mom asked for iced tea, he replied that he could make it (the first - and only - time on the entire trip!) because he had down so a year or so ago for another American tourist. And it was good! (We even ordered a second pitcher!) Griddled chicken, smoked salmon, and fillet steak were our entrees. Fresh strawberries w/ cream or ice cream for dessert; Dan had raspberry cranachan. 55 GBP plus a generous tip.

But the most fun part of dinner was that we were seated in what would have been a drawing room, in front of a huge bay window. Outside the window, we could see the River Dee, and across the river was a field. Suddenly, Mom saw a herd of cows running across the field, for no apparent reason (in our experience, cows rarely run, and never without reason!). A minute later, they came thundering back the other direction. And again. Again. Again. And then they'd "circle". Or split and two groups would run toward each other from the sides, and stop in the middle. We still have no idea what they were up to, but we were in absolute stitches watching them. (OK, it really doesn't take much to amuse us, in case you haven't figured that out!)

Back to the Village Guest House and sleep. (I forgot to write down the cost, but I think around 28 GBP pppn.) Dan went looking for internet access and the hotel manager at the Best Western allowed him to use his computer for more than an hour.

Monday, Jun 5

Balmoral. It wasn't open last time, because it was September and the Queen was in residence (which worked out well, we got to go to church with her at Crathie - see previous trip report, September 2004). So, we wanted to see it.

Enjoyed the marked walking tour, with audio guide. Could take pictues in the same spot in the garden which seems to be a favorite of the Royal Family. Loved the display of the Queen's Christmas cards - each one she has sent over the years! (Why, oh why don't they collect those into a souvenir book and sell it?)

A snack in the tea room, and a little shopping in the gift shop.

The tractor-pulled "trolley" that brings you in and out of the estate stopped running for 2 hours, just as we wanted to leave (a lunch break and then a special tour). It was too far for Mom to walk, so Dan hiked back to the car and then got permission to drive into the estate to pick up Mom. We felt quite special. (The lady who let him come in, upon learning he wanted to drive in to pick up his mother-in-law, said, "Are you sure that you want to do that? Or would you rather leave her here?" Pretty funny!)

We took the back road to Tomintoul (over the pointy bridge, which Dan and Dad insisted was not in that area but somewhere else, from our previous trip - I *had* to prove that I was right!).

Wanted to see Corgarff Castle and its star-shaped wall, but the castle is completely covered with scaffolding.

Stopped for another snack in Tomintoul, at the Clock House Restaurant. Good french fries and key lime pie (a weird combination, I know).

On to Craigellachie (and I *think* I learned how to say that! Couldn't resist driving through, since we have our very own "Craigellachie" on this board - I never realized it was a town!

Found a place to stay at Craigellachie Lodge, an old country house - our room even had a tiny round turret! 30 GBP pppn, nice, but a little "faded" and worn.

Made reservations for us at "The Dowans Hotel" in Abelour for dinner. Good food, elegant surroundings. Duck, scampi, and steak pie w/ desserts & drinks came to 69 GBP (including tip). A pretty stream and waterfall behind the restaurant.

It was cloudy again tody, but no rain, and definitely warmer than our other days.

Tuesday, June 6

Good breakfast, but none of us wer particularly hungry.

First stop: The Speyside Cooperage, to watch them making/repairing barrels. Fascinating (and part of what we began to refer to as "the industrial tour of Scotland" - the falconry, the shortbread [unfortunately, not available for tours], cooperage, and later the jute works; I had others on my list, but we couldn't do everything!).

Family-owned company since 1947, 3 generations (I work for a fourth generation family-owned company, founded in 1887, so I'm very interested in similar companies!). They make or repair 100,000 casks per year - mostly repairs.

One person works on each cask and is completely responsible for it. He (they're all men) is paid a piece rate, and if the the cask doesn't pass inspection, he fixes it without getting paid again (and, once more, this parallels the piece-workers in my own business). We got to watch the workers doing every part of the process and we all were impressed!

They employ 10 coopers.

They have German "picnic barrels" outside - casks that used to hold up to 10,000 liters of wine and have now been outfitted with tables and benches, so bring your picnic lunch!

The skills used are almost exactly the same as more than 5000 years ago, when cask-making began. With the exception of a very few power tools, a cooper from centuries (millenia!) ago could step into the spot and make a cask.

Just a wonderful place - I highly recommend this!

Drove on, and Dad saw a little sign point to "Mortlach Ancient Church." Hmmm, what's that? Who knows, let's go.

A good-sized church, founded (not built!) in 566 by Moraag of Lismore. Oldest part of the building is 11th/12th century, but they have gravestones dating back much frther than that. Some are as fine as the specimens in the Iona Museum, and they're just hanging on the wall in the foyer of the building, with simple typed explanations of what they are - even several Pictish stones.

We were able to go into the church because, unfortunately, it is being plagued by dry rot, so repairmen were there to fix things. A church member assured us we could go in, and the pastor arrived and also encouraged us to look around. The church member (an older lady) couldn't answer many questions we had, and she confessed that she'd never read the inscriptions on the wall near the gravestones - they'd just "always been there and she's never bothered." Even as a historian (my degree), I love that attitude - it says to me, "this is just part of who we are."

We next stumbled upon the Lumsdon Bothy. www.bonnysock.co.uk This man claims to have invented the mohair sock (I guess that means it should be part of my "industrial tour," right? Even though I didn't know about it until I stopped for lunch...) According to literature on the tea shop table, mohair socks don't collect bacteria and don't need to be washed - he claims that some people wear the socks every day for a year or more and they never smell or get stiff or any of that awful stuff. Just air them at night and put them on again the morning. Hmmm....I bought a pair for a friend who wears that type of socks a lot, but we'll see. (Prince Charles and his friends supposedly wear these.)

A gorgeous peacock strutted his stuff right beside our tea table, and our inexpensive lunch was very tasty (soup and sandwiches - 15 GBP).

Next stop: Kildrummy Castle near Alford. With a deep ravine in back, a gorgeous view in front, and huge ruins to explore, this was a great castle. One huge tower was thought to be seven stories high - that's a true skyscraper for the times! (Mom and I have gotten "chilled" in several of the abbeys, etc., noticing that only one room has a fireplace, so I've volunteered to be the keeper of the fire and Mom wants to be the baker. Kildrummy had a great baking room, with huge ovens, so she was happy.)

Next, Craigevar Castle. A bit disappointing. The tour guide was not very informative, and she seemed unhappy with the tour group (I don't know why - maybe just a bad day). Some interesting features, and another tour guide (a man) joined us in "the dungeon" and he was both entertaining and informative. Maybe I'll go back some other time.

As we traveled on, Mom found another little notation on her map, for the "Peel Ring of Lumphanan." So, off we went, to see this HUGE earth mound. We're guessing that it was a big (on the top) as a football field (100 yards/300 feet). Supposedly this town is the site of MacBeth's last drink, his death (head cut-off), and his burial. One interesting fact is that the owners (lord? don't know the right term) allowed the villagers to fill and freeze an area between the mound and an earth wall and use it for curling in the 18tb century. Amusing!

Today was warm and sunny (almost hot!) day - no jackets or sweaters for anyone, all day!

We were late finding a B&B (another dearth of them in this area?), but stumbled across "Woodston Fishing Station," right on the cliffs above the beach near St. Cyrus. Funny accommodations in very rustic "cabin" type building (tiny bathroom, hundreds of little nautical knick-knacks in the room), but a really nice place overall. The view over the water is fantastic. 30 GBP pppn.

We decided to have dinner at the nearby St. Cyrus Hotel. Unremarkable, except for ourselves. Here's the quote from my journal: "Dan couldn't open the sliding door to the restaurant (he tried to push it), we were put into the dining room by ourselves (while ghosts and murders were being discussed by a lively group in the pub), and a *huge* wasp crawled on Mom's arm - she knocked it to the table, I jumped up and knocked over my chair (which hit the wooden floor with a huge "thud"), Dan whacked the wasp (hard and loud) with his placemat, and the waitress came running in and finished it off by gingerly squishin it with a napkin. After that, we more or less behaved ourselves."

As you can probably guess, I'm not a bee/wasp person! Yuck!! I'm scared to death of them (and yes, I know that's irrational, too bad!). So, to me, it seemed like an imminent danger - I'm sure it was at least 6 inches long.

When we finally returned to Woodston (around 9:00), Dan and I walked down the steep cliffside walk to the beach and watched the last few hours of the tide coming in. At 11:30, as we reached the top of the path on our way back, it was still light enough to see where we were going. A really nice walk, and a nice way to end the evening (good wave action against the rocks, too - unfortunately, Dad was feeling tired and didn't want to walk all the way down - he would have loved it!).

I'm going to stop.

I promise to finish the last few days shortly!

Gayle
leonberger is offline  
Old Jun 19th, 2006, 07:24 PM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 66,711
That is too bad about Craigievar. It is one of my favorite places (maybe because it is a Forbes castle and my Dad's middle name is Forbes). But I know how a poor guide can ruin a visit.

The NTS actually rents two self catering cottages in the castle grounds.



janisj is offline  
Old Jun 19th, 2006, 07:27 PM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 2,472
Gayle, this is so enjoyable! The amount of detail is perfect. I'm getting so many great ideas for my future trips to Scotland. I can't wait to read more.
noe847 is offline  
Old Jun 19th, 2006, 09:30 PM
  #16  
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 1,549
What a wonderful trip report!

I have been to Scotland 3 times. Once in 1969 (showing my age there) and twice more recently on home exchanges in Edinburgh and South Queensferry (just west of Edinburgh). My trips have been centered on the festivals in Edinburgh in August (especially The Fringe). However, I did do some driving around and some of the places you went (Blair Castle, House of Bruar) have seen me. In fact I have a hat from House of Bruar (only thing I could afford). I also have bought ceramics in Scotland.

Your trip brought back a lot of nice memories and thoughts for future adventures!
FauxSteMarie is offline  
Old Jun 20th, 2006, 03:39 PM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 2,627
Gayle - Here is another second vote for love your detail.

Do you think booking your B&B's ahead of time would have worked out better or are a lot of the smaller B&B's not listed on the internet? You certainly made the best of it when they were less than perfect.

Looking forward to more.

Sandy
SandyBrit is offline  
Old Jun 20th, 2006, 05:07 PM
  #18  
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Thanks for the nice comments, everyone - your encouragement is needed to keep typing! And, Janis, your comment convinced me that I do, indeed, need to give Cragievar another chance on the next trip.

Here's the final (?) report, for the last few days of the trip.

Wednesday, June 7

Nice breakfast in a fairly small dining room, again decorated with lots of interesting "clutter" (a collection of miniature teapots, pretty rocks from the beach, etc., all just put everywhere and piled on top of each other).

First stop today is the Pictavia Museum in Brechin. 10 GBP for all of us (we got the "family" rate - gee, I have been considered a "child" for quite a while - well, except maybe for the wasp incident noted above...).

The gentleman selling tickets was a big talker, in a very good way. He is obviously very, very well-versed in the history of the Picts in Scotland and he shared a lot of information with us before we went in. We were the only people there for the entire 2 hours, so I also suspect he's just plain lonely!

The Picts are a very mysterious people, and the hints of their lives are intriguing, to say the least. We have really been interested in all the Pictish stones we've seen on our travels, and there were more of them (and some copies of stones) in the museum, with explanations.

They had a great wall, with Pictish symbols in relief (reproductions, of course!) and you could do "rubbings" of the symbols. Mom and I had some fun with paper and crayons and symbols.

All of us wandered the exhibits, marveling over the craftsmanship of stones that are 1400-1600 years old (maybe more).

There were several references in the Museum to the Aberlemno Stones. When we left the Museum, we didn't aim toward the stones, but suddenly spotted them right there alongside the road, so, of course, we had to stop and take a personal look at them. We're amazed that the stones are allowed to just stand there, three-four feet off the road, without protection (although a sign said that they are covered in the winter months). Some of the carvings were just wonderful - and we now recognized some of the symbols ("comb and mirror," "Z-rod," and so forth) that we had learned about in the Museum. We did wonder how the school trip chaperones manage to keep the kids from being killed on the road when they visit the stones (letters in the Museum had told us about the school trips to the Museum and to the Stones).

We moved along to Forfar and had lunch in Saddler's (a small tea shop) - excellent food, including the "famous" Forfar Bridies that Dan and Dad ordered (minced steak, onions and seasonings in a pastry). Fresh, local strawberries with ice cream for dessert. Yummy! I didn't write down the price, but I'd guess around 25 GBP for the four of us.

We browsed in a few shops in Forfar, then continued on to Glamis Castle, near Kirriemuir.

We had to stop in the driveway leading up to the castle because someone was being interviewed (a amall video camera and microphone were being held in front of the gentleman). I snapped a quick picture as we drove past, and the gentleman gave Dan a friendly wave in "thanks" for his patience. On the tour, we discovered that we had just seen the Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorn (the owner of the castle) - kind of neat! (We also saw him through the dining room window - on our tour - greeting his mother as she drove up to the Castle. I would have taken his picture again - now that I knew who he was - except that photography is not allowed in the house.)

The tour was great - very informative and the guide was really personable. The Queen Mother grew up here, and there were many pictures and other personal memorabilia all over the rooms we saw.

We were beginning to be "castled-out" a little by this time, so we didn't spend much time looking around after the tour. (I did buy a nice hand-blown glass bowl in the gift shop - be sure to look upstairs for "the good stuff!")

Moving along, in the general direction of Arbroath and Dundee, we started to look for a B&B. The nice-looking places we saw were full (or only had one room), so we continued along. As we entered the outskirts of the city, Dan took 2 or 3 arbitrary turns (later he said, "I just saw some big houses up on the hill and decided to drive up there and see whether any of them were B&Bs"), and then I spotted a tiny red sign for "Ashlea Guest House."

What a find! The best B&B of the trip (and you've already seen that we stayed in some nice ones!). An old Victorian Jute Baron's house (and we were here to see the jute works, so wasn't that just serendipity?) w/ tall ceilings, amazing moldings, and huge rooms. Mom and Dad got an ensuite ground floor room, and Dan and I were upstairs with a private bath (they're installing an ensuite bath this summer). Both rooms are spectacular - I told them that they just need a cat and/or a nice dog and it would be the PERFECT B&B. The owners have thought of everything.

At their suggestion, we ate at the nearby Bell Inn, and dinner was very good (and my note says "not very expensive" - I must have been getting weary of keeping track).

We were all happy to go back to Ashlea for a little while. Dan was allowed to use the host's computer, too.

Thursday, June 8

Another great breakfast, with fresh fruit, beautiful china and real silverware. Our host was really friendly and gave us lots of information about the area, told us about their new venture (as B&B hosts), etc. We really hated to leave this place, which is probably the best B&B ever - all four of us agreed!

55 GBP per room per night.

Reluctantly bidding farewell to our host and to Ashlea, we made our way into the heart of Dundee, to Verdant Works. This was listed in my guide as a "working jute mill."

Well, it's not. It's on the site of a former working jute mill (closed in 1902!), and it's set up as a pretty good demonstration and museum, but nothing is "working." So, it was a little disappointing. Fortunately, it was well done, so we were able to learn quite a bit about the process and the business.

They had two samples of the bales of jute - they weight 400 pounds each. None of us could even budge the thing! And, yet, they showed many pictures of workers carrying these huge bales on their backs to load/unload ships, carts, etc. (Another job on my list of "things I never want to do for a living," I guess.)

The gift shop had a nifty collection of bags made from jute,and I bought a few as gifts for folks at work and for myself.

We discussed whether to visit the ship Discovery (Cook's vessel), which is moored nearby, but decided not to - maybe another trip.

Instead, we heading out of Dundee, vaguely heading toward Crieff. I had marked in my guidebook a place called "Tealing Dovecot and Earth House" and - just as I was getting ready to suggest it - Mom noticed the same thing on her map and said, "I wonder what that is."

So, since my book said it was just "5 miles out of Dundee," we decided to go. Well, Dan and Dad decided to take "the back way" (instead of the route mentioned in my book). I'm proud to say that it ONLY took us 70 minutes to drive the supposed five miles to this place. We wandered and drove around and tried another way...

There are no signs for these places, until you're literally right on top of them (less than 1/4 mile away), so we just kept trying various little roads. After a while, it just became and challenge and we decided we weren't leaving the area until we found it!

Fortunately, we did finally stumble across the little sign pointing to both places. We then found the Dovecot without difficulty - it's an interesting structure, very large for a dovecot, and you can actually go inside and see the nesting boxes. Some government workers were mowing the lawn (which turned out to be a really good thing for us).

We left the Dovecot and tried to find the Earth House, which was (according to my book) "just behind" the Dovecot.

Ummm....no. No sign. No obvious Earth House. Just fields and closed gates.

So, we went back to our friendly government workers and asked. Well, of course! You have to park at the Dovecot, and walk a few yards down the lane, take the first gate on the right and follow the path to the Earth House. (Ummm, yeah, we could have figured that out for ourselves....apparently they don't get a lot of visitors!)

We followed the directions, and found another worker just mowing the path to the Earth House - he literally finished the beginning of the path (off the lane) just as we walked up).

Once we found it, we were intrigued by the Earth House. It's a storage "cellar" with stone walls and a slanted ramp for entry. Kind of an "S" shape and fairly long. (And, these old builders had reused at least one rock from an even earlier era - at the entrance, a clear "cup and ring" pattern was visible on one of the stones in the wall.)

According to the sign (on top of the Earth House), no excavation has ever been done of the actual house area (where we were standing at the time). Mom and I were almost annoyed at this. We wanted to send for some shovels and see what was down there! And, we were amazed that no one had ever done so. Again, ancient bits and pieces are just so common in Scotland that this apparently wasn't a big deal. Anybody want to organize a "dig" at the Earth House?

Continued to a very forgettable lunch at the Athole Bakery in Coupar Angus. (11 GBP, including tip!) This town looked very forlorn - more so than any other place we saw on the trip. Many boarded-up storefronts, few people, only a couple of open businesses. It seemed to be a sad kind of place.

We took a brief stop in Abernyte at the Scottish Antiques and Art Center. I bought a hand-painted pashmina that I think will look great draped over my living room chairs.

We were heading vaguely south at this time, and starting to think about a place to stay.

I had tried to arrange a Castle stay at several points during the trip and been unsuccessful, but we decided to give it one more try. Culcreuch Castle in Fintry actually had two rooms available! (They only have about 8 rooms, so we were astounded that two were available at 5:00 in the evening!)

They quoted Dan 78 GBP pppn, and he said that was too much. Then they said, well, it's getting late and we only have these two rooms, how about 60 pppn? Dan said, "well, that's 240 GBP for one night, can you do any better?" They responded with 200 GBP for both rooms! Sold! (Good job, Dan!)

When we arrived, we were told that we were staying in the oldest part of the Castle, the Keep, built in 1296. We're up 44 steps (so Mom stayed on a bench out front while we took everything upstairs), on the third floor (second floor in the UK). Dan and I got "The Chinese Bird Room" ("the most famous room in the castle," she said) and Mom and Dad got "The Keep."

We went down to meet Mom and decided to eat dinner at the Castle. We weren't looking for a formal dinner, so opted for the Pub-food in the Dungeon instead of the restaurant. We loved eating in the Dungeon, which had tiny window slits and was pretty atmospheric. The food was good, and the service friendly. I think we spent about 30 GBP total.

We also took a couple of walks around parts of the estate, followed closely by a very friendly black and white cat (who, unfortunately, is not allowed to come inside the castle and hang out with me).

On the way back to our rooms, I stopped at Reception and picked up a brocure with the history of the Castle - boy was I glad I did!

It turns out that our room really IS famous. It the only wallpaper of its type in Scotland, maybe the UK. Hand-painted Chinese wallpaper - painted and then applied to the walls in 1723! The pattern is very ornate birds (hence the name of the room), and it is in amazing shape. We took lots of pictures of the wallpaper!

And, our room is haunted! The Castle has three ghosts, but one of them just haunts our room - and occasionally the Keep next door (Mom and Dad's room). "Our" ghost is a piper (not a bagpiper, more like pan-pipes or flutes) who can be heard in the middle of the night. Apparently he has been heard often enough that paranormal experts have been called in several times to try to find an explanation for it, but they've been unsuccessful.

However, in the search for an explanation, the researchers did discover the largest bat colony in the UK - living in the roof of the Dining Room (which is one floor lower than our room, in the "new" part of the Castle).

All of that was pretty darn interesting, so I went right over to Mom and Dad's room and told them. They were very interested in all of this, too, and had to come and have a closer look at our room.

According to the brochure, people have come from all over the world, specifically to stay in the Chinese Bird Room - some for the antiques and the wonderful wallpaper, some for the ghostly experience.

The room was furnished with antiques and was really very comfortable - big, friendly, and with all the amenities we needed. Our bathroom was tiny (when you sat on the toilet, you could easily have brushed your teeth in the sink, which in turn almost touched the shower), but the brochure also explained that - the bathroom was in the same location as the original "garde-robe" built into the wall of the castle. Since the wall was six feet thick, our bathroom was about three feet wide, and it was as long as the original garde-robe - maybe 7 feet or so. How cool!

Rabbits played on the front lawn all the time - really played! Dashing around and chasing each other - it was fun to watch them from our room and from the benches on the lawn.

Can you tell we enjoyed our stay at Culcreuch? (But we forgot to ask how to pronounce it!)

All day, it was bright and sunny and warm.

Friday, June 9

No ghostly appearances last night. A good breakfast (we laughed about selling tickets to the other guests to come up and see our room).

After checking out of Culcreuch, we decided to find "the Loop of Fintry" before we left the area. Again, the directions couldn't be easier - according to a brochure, it's a 94 foot waterfall that is a couple miles from the Castle - how hard can this be?

Well, in our own special fashion, it turned out to be tricky. We thought for sure we'd recognize a waterfall of that size and set off to find it, on the road specified. We drove a little over two miles and no waterfall (and the road "split" a couple times - which way should we go?).

We tried several directions and didn't see it. Drove back to Fintry to see a map/sign in the center of town.

Ah! Now we know it's THREE miles out, and, according to the map, it will be on the left side of the road. Good! Now we've got it.

Nope. Wrong again. Drove almost four miles and nothing.

We gave up. Turned around to head toward the Lake of Monteith and suddenly Mom spotted another of those tiny black signs (the type that mark footpaths) on the OPPOSITE side of the road, pointing that direction to the Loop of Fintry, 1/4 mile away.

Dan found a place to stop and we hopped out and walked the short path to the huge waterfall. It is a beautiful waterfall - breathtaking, really! It's amazing that you can't see or hear it from the road, and, then, suddenly, there it is. It was worth the 45 minutes we spent looking for it.

On to the Lake of Monteith. (A sign says that it's a Lake, instead of a Loch, because of a cartographer error when a map was made...interesting, I've always wondered about that.)

Inchmahome Priory, on an island in this Lake, has been on my list of things to see for a number of years, and we just never made it there. Today was our day - and another beautiful day it was (sunny, clear, warm - almost too warm!).

When we arrived at the ferry dock, there were four people in line ahead of us and sign that told us to:

1. Turn a small board (maybe 11 x 14 inches) so the white side (as opposed to the black side) faced the island. This tells the ferry someone wants a ride.

2. Form groups of 12 or less, since the ferries can only carry 12 people at a time. Since a tour bus was in the parking lot, this caused a little consternation. Fortunately, the bus people returned about the same time we arrived on the island.

There are two ferries, and one came a few minutes after we arrived. The ferry crossing only takes about 7 minutes , and the ferryman was really nice.

Once on the island, we had to stop at the gift shop and show our passes. (Did I mention that we used Great British Heritage Passes for the whole trip? These are worth their weight in gold - and then some! If I haven't mentioned an admission price, it's because the attraction was covered on our passes. Passes are purchased from the US, before the trip, and mailed to you. Ours cost 55 GBP pp, including the shipping and handling costs, and easily paid for themselves several times over.)

The Priory was built in the 13th centuray,and is a beautiful ruin. Local families came over on the ferry while we were there, bringing their picnic lunches. Apparently they just come over to enjoy the peace and beauty and then take the ferry back home.

We stayed for about an hour, soaking up the atmosphere, wandering the ruins and just enjoying ourselves, then joined a short queue for the ferry ride back. Unfortunately, the gift shop was closed for lunch (?!), so we didn't get to buy any postcards, etc. (Why don't the workers just take turns eating lunch? There were several people working there when we arrived - if we'd known it would close, we would have bought items then!)

Continuing south, we stopped at a Dobbie Garden Center for lunch. This is like a Wal-Mart of garden centers, but has a decent lunch selection. For 20 GBP we had soup, sandwiches, fruit salad (really good - make your own!), desserts and drinks (not all of those things for all of us, but a selection of items).

Back in the car,we headed toward England. I developed a headache (for no known reason), so took some Advil and a nap.

We took the highway south toward Carlise, and then headed on tiny roads through the Lake District.

We found a B&B in Mosedale ("Mosedale End Farm," 25 GBP pppn). An "average" B&B (which means a little disappointing, I guess). But, it was a summer weekend in the Lakes District and we knew we couldn't be too picky.

On the way to dinner at "The Mill" (2 miles from Mosedale End Farm), we saw herds of ponies and cows (open range, so they're right on the road), both with really young "babies." I tried to feed the ponies my apples and carrot, but couldn't get close enough to any of them to do so.

Dinner at The Mill was OK, but a little pricey (55GBP for all of us) for what we got (steak pies, a ribeye, lamb).

I'm stopping here to eat dinner.

Two more days to go!

Gayle
leonberger is offline  
Old Jun 20th, 2006, 05:42 PM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 66,711
Oh - Ashlea Manor Guest House looks so nice. Good catch! (amazing how many "Ashlea {someting}" B&Bs there are - but wading through all the google listings I found it)

I beat your time - the first time I went to Teeling Doocot I was only lost about 30 mins

Wonderful you had a nice weather at Inchmahome (I think I've had 8 or 10 picnics on that island ) It is a tiny island - but w/ two totally different faces - the manicured lawns/Priory ruins/dock on one side and wild woods, moss covered stones and a carpet of bluebells on the other. (btw: Lake of Menteith)

Inchmahome is another of my favorite "family" places since mom is a Graham . . . . .
janisj is offline  
Old Jun 20th, 2006, 05:48 PM
  #20  
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Posts: 340
OK, now I've eaten and I'm ready to finish up.

SandyBrit, our problem with booking ahead is twofold - first, we love looking at places before we book. But, most importantly, we never know where we're going to be on a particular night. For instance, if we'd had a more rainy vacation, we were thinking of spending a few days in Glasgow, waiting out the weather, to try to get to Iona at some point. Likewise, we would have probably skipped some places if the weather was bad. And, I never would have predicted how much time we'd spend at the Falconry Center, or how quickly we'd leave Craigievar. So, we like the flexibility.

We've never had to sleep in the car , and we've only ever had a really hard time finding a place to stay one night on one trip (many years ago - it was the night before Prince Charles opened the Yorvik Viking Center, a coincidence, and not a happy one!).

Even on this trip, we were all pretty "itchy" about staying at Upper Hatton for that third night (but I had felt that it was important to have a place in that area, since the Blair Games are so famous and heavily attended).

Onward...

Saturday, June 10

Breakfast at Mosedale End was so-so - no fruit (a first!), make-your-own-toast, etc.

Our rooms both had really strange light fixtures in the small, airless bathrooms. HUGE light bulbs (we laughingly called them "heat lamps") jsut inches over our heads - and no other light source or ventilation. I showered in the dark.

We meandered to Keswick and stopped for an hour or so in this crowded little town. Fun people watching in the open market!

On to Ambleside, which wasn't as crowded and was a little more fun. After all, Mom and I *needed* to spend all of these GBP, right? No sense having them "left over." Actually, we hardly bought anything, but we did get some "awkward" items - including a round ceramic chicken about 8 inches across and a blown glass "wasp trap" about the same size (and, no, actually Mom bought that for her brother, I didn't buy it!). Made for interesting carrry-on luggage for the trip home!

We had lunch at Sheila's Tea Shop, just off the main street. Very tasty and not very expensive (18 GBP)

We then headed west on some tiny "white roads" through more the Lakes Region. We took a very long and winding road through the Wrynose Pass and past Hardknot Roman Fort (in the Hardknot Pass, of course). We stopped at the Fort and Dan and I walked up to check it out more closely. It's amazing how big the fort it - and the thought of building it wa-a-a-ay up there is overwhelming.

The road was wonderful - almost as good as Applecross! Wonderful views, very steep (30% at times), narrow road, and hairpin curves. All was fine until we met the cross-country road racers in their MG's. They were not happy with other cars on the road. Dan backed into a passing place, as close to the cliff edge as he could get (we couldn't see anything out the side window of the car except the actual drop of several hundred feet). He folded in the mirror on our car and the line of MG's squeaked past us - missing us by inches or less. They weren't very happy, and all of them made it clear that they really didn't want us on the roads while they were trying to race. Sorry, but, you know the roads are here for everyone to share.

Continued along, back across the Lakes District, wandered down to Grange-Over-Sands to look around, and then headed toward Kendal looking for a B&B. Everything booked (we learned there was a special event of some sort, so headed toward Sedburgh, as several of them suggested). Well, Sedburgh was having a festival, too, so we didnt' find a room there.

On toward Hawes, only to discover that the road was "closed" - we were able to skim through an open lane (used mostly by locals), but it was tight. Just on the other side of the road closure, we found "Far End Farm," in Garsdale. The hostess said that most everything was booked, but she made two rooms available for us (one that she doesn't usually rent out). 30GBP pppn. OK - Dan and I got a fairly average room. Mom and Dad got a room with a "private" bath (but the young boys in the house kept forgetting that they were supposed to use a different bathroom - Mom and Dad just laughed about that, having raised six kids themselves, it wasn't a big deal).

Since it was late, we raced to the local Pub and had a good meal (I didn't write any details down!).

This day was another sunny day, and truly hot - we actually needed the AC in the car!

Sunday, June 11

Breakfast was good. We packed up and moved on.

Arrived in Kettlewell just minutes before their 11:00 AM church service. Kettlewell is the home of the "Calendar Girls." The church was originally built by the Normans, but only the baptismal fount remains of that era. A "new" buidling was put up in the 1700's, then another in 1820, and this one in 1885. Interesting windows, commemorating WWI and WWII soldiers.

We actually knew one of the hymns ("Holy, Holy, Holy") and thought we'd know another, but they surprised us with a different tune than we use. Everyone was very friendly, and the sermon was good. There was even a baptism, which was very special.

Immediately after church, ladies brought coffee to us in our pews, followed by biscuits. Hmmmm....maybe we should do this at home! (We have a fellowship time, but this was different, having refreshments served where we were sitting.)

Dad chatted with the organist for a while, while Mom, Dan and I admired the details of the stained glass windoes, etc.

Drove to Grassington for lunch at "Lucy Fold Tea Shop." This was excellent! A tiny tea shop, just above the main shopping area in a "black and white" buidling. I had the best jacket potato every - it was floating in butter and cheese and came with a side salad that included oranges and strawberries; Mom had about the same; Dan and Dad had cheese plate and fish&chips. Mom and I also got strawberries w/ ice cream - delicious! About 25 GBP (but my notes are fuzzy again!).

Stopped again in Pately Bridge at a "craft fair" in the Town Hall. Not really worth the stop - and I felt sorry for the 8-10 crafters, since there were hardly any customers. I did buy two cute pairs of baby booties for 1 GBP each - they'll make nice "bows" for baby gifts in the future.

By now we had to get serious about heading home, so we drove to the Motorway for the drive to London.

Of course, there was a huge traffic jam, caused by lane changes for the construction, so it was a slow ride.

Stopped to eat at a Beefeater Pub, which was OK, then continued toward Heathrow.

We found the Marriott without difficulty, and checked in (although our "trainee" counter clerks had some trouble with that - eventually we got everything straightened out). I opened the mini-bar (just to see what they have) to be greeted by big signs letting me know that if I even MOVED anything around inside it I would be charged for those items. I haven't seen that before - somehow that didn't seem right to me! (Sensors detect that something has shifted, and your room is immediately billed for the item.)

This, our last day, was also hot and sunny.

Monday, June 12

Peter Waugh met us at the Marriott, helped us load our luggage, and then drove us to the airport to check in for our flight home.

Pretty uneventful flight and we got back to Boston right on time, were picked up by our friend (and pastor), Doug, and came home to crash.

Mom and Dad stayed another couple of nights and flew home on the 14th.

A GREAT trip! If you're thinking about Scotland, go for it. There are so many things to see and do that you'll never regret it. The people are friendly, I (mostly) speak their language, the history is fascinating, and there are a huge variety of things to do.

I'm impressed that any of you have read this far, and appreciate your interest.

If I've somehow left out some info that would be helpful, interesting, or entertaining, just ask away and I'll try to fill the gaps!

Gayle
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