Oct 13, 2019 (by Jimmy) – As Angela and I drove up the coast; we arrived in Scotland just east of Edinburgh. Our stop for the night was Dunfermline, just across the Firth of Fourth (Angela didn’t like it when I called it the Fourth Firth).
St. Andrews – The next morning Angela and I left Dunfermline to go to Aberdeen. Along the way we decided to stop at St. Andrews. St. Andrews had many sights to see. First, Golf began here. The British Golf Museum was an exceptional place to visit. All things golf was discussed from how many holes a golf course had over the years, to how the balls went from feather to gutta percha (a hard rubber), wooden clubs, metal clubs, the whole thing was exceptionally interesting. For a time golf was banned by royal decree because back in the 16th century they were running out of archers to protect the kingdom; everyone wanted to play golf. This is also the home to the University of St. Andrews where Prince Harry and Prince William received their education. Finally, St. Andrews Castle and a well-visited abbey are located here. The ruins were very interesting to see. After viewing the sights of St. Andrews, Angela and I headed north to Aberdeen. The town of Aberdeen was nice, but the trip through the country to get there was spectacular.
Braemar Highland Games – From Aberdeen, Angela and I drove to Braemar to see the Highland Games. There are many games that take place across Scotland, and we happened to be in the area when the largest one was taking place. As we walked into the area, Angela got my attention and said there was an actress coming into the games with us. I turned around, and sure enough Dame Judi Dench was right there. I asked if it was okay to take a picture, and she was sweet enough to oblige. The games themselves were exceptional! There were running and jumping contests; however there were some sports that we may not see often such as tug of war and throwing a hammer. Then there are events that are specifically Scottish. There was a Scottish dance competition, and there as a parade around the grounds where bagpipes and drums marched (there must have been hundres of bagpipes). The bagpipe parade was awesome! Angela said it sent chills through her; it was amazing. We had a wonderful time and met the owners of the B&B with whom we were staying for two nights; they came up to the games. The highlight of the games that day for me, though, was that Queen Elizabeth was going to be there. During her monarchy, she has missed the Braemar games only four times; this year was not going to be her fifth. So, that day I “met” the Queen (Angela always corrects me by saying I saw the Queen, but I tell her it’s as close as I’m going to get so let me live in my joyful fabrication). We then drove down to the little B&B near Perth and stayed with a couple of the most wonderful folks, Kathy and Mike Fitzgerald.
Loch Leven and the Blairgowrie Highland Games – The Castle on an Island in the middle of Loch Leven held Mary Queen of Scots prisoner for just over a year. The owners of the Castle, Sir William Douglas, Laird of Loch Leven, was also a relative of Angela’s (and this one isn’t fabrication). So, going to Loch Leven was a big thing for Angela. The boat-ride out was nice, and it was interesting to see and read the information about the Castle from Angela’s perspective. Once we left the family castle, we headed to Blairgowrie to enjoy another Highland-games. When we got there, they were having a tug-of-war but not between teams but between communities. Blairgowrie and Rattray were pulling against each other and there were 64 people on each side of the rope. The Blairgowrie games had many of the same games that Braemar did, but it was much smaller, and we were able to see more of the games. Angela described these games as a mixture between a community gathering, a sporting event, and a carnival.
Road to Inverness and Fort George – On our way to Inverness, Angela and I both had a feeling we had definitely entered the Highlands. Though we had been in the Highlands for some-time this was different. The temp had gone down, the remoteness of the area was clear, and the general feel of the land was different. The original mission of Fort George was to round up, harass, and persecute Scots who broke the law after the battle of Culloden. Back then breaking the law would include things like wearing a kilt, speaking the Gaelic language, or playing a bagpipe. Fort George now is a training camp for British soldiers and is still in operation.
Isle of Skye – The next day Angela and I scheduled a bus trip to the Isle of Skye. Like the Ireland bus trip, we wanted a day to not have to worry about driving and parking. The bus driver was funny and had stories about all the sights we visited. We had to pass by Loch Ness to get there and we had a stop to see some Highland Coos. We then came to the Elean Donan Castle this castle was a ruin, but it is in the process of being restored. It’s amazing seeing a ruin put back together, it provided an understanding of how folks lived that you rarely see. The bus then crossed over to the Isle of Skye and the landscape was simply wonderful. It rained on and off all day, but the beauty of the Isle of Skye still made for a wonderful trip.
Loch Ness, Culloden, and Clava Cairns – Angela and I scheduled a boat ride on Loch Ness. We had fun riding out to Urquhart Castle on the shores of Loch Ness. On the way back, I got out my fishing pole and caught Nessy (joyful fabrication – leave it). Once I had my picture made with her, I had to let her go – something about the size of the catch you can take out of the Loch. It would have cost too much to get her home anyway. We then drove to Culloden where the battle of Culloden happened in 1746. This brought on a terrible time for the Scots, as this was the last of the Jacobite Rebellions. Those who supported the exiled Stuart king James II and his descendants were then know as Jacobites. Near Culloden was an ancient burial ground called Clava Cairns. These circles of rocks have been around since ancient times. After this stop Angela and I headed back south towards Sterling.
Sterling Castle and Wallace Memorial – Sterling Castle was my favorite castle of all. Angela had been here many years ago, and they have been working to bring the castle back to what it looked like in its heyday. Angela was amazed at the progress they had made. The rooms, colors, attention to detail in the shields, fireplaces, ceilings, all made this tour extraordinary. Next was the Wallace Memorial; we made some pictures, but because we spent more time than expected at Sterling Castle, we didn’t go up into the memorial.
Kelpies, Blackness Castle, and Linlithgow Castle – We left Sterling heading toward Edinburgh Airport. Along the way are the Kelpies. The Kelpies are an artwork of two horse heads that are the guardians of the canal system near Falkirk. These horse heads are right at 100 ft tall. From there Angela and I drove to Blackness Castle. For those who watch the television show “Outlander,” this castle is used as the movie’s Fort William where Jamie was whipped as well as other scenes. Finally, we went to Linlithgow Palace where Mary Queen of Scotts was born. This was a large castle and had beautiful landscaping and a river that ran past it. After Linlithgow Palace, Angela and I headed to the Edinburgh Airport and flew to London. We stayed overnight in London and caught a plane home the next morning.
This was a wonderful vacation. We did so much and saw so many things that you would have thought we planned it. About 95% of everything we did was impromptu. Just being together was cake; what we did was icing on the cake. The cake and icing was delicious.