Welcome back, Blog Fans. We've just returned from another wonderful week in Scotland over the Bank Holiday and "half term" break. Recall that we spent a week in western Scotland at this time last year (link). As tempting as it was to return, we decided to tour the eastern half this year. It resulted in a very different but still enjoyable experience.
So, you know how long-winded I get after a week long holiday. Hunker down, have a cup of tea and enjoy the ~200 photos.
We love Scotland. The scenery is beautiful. It's open and spacious. Everyone is friendly and hey, the beer is better too (okay, that last one is just for me as the rest of the family doesn't care).
Going from Crail to Aboyne, we stopped at Glamis Castle (E), Edzell Castle (F) and Dunnottar Castle (G).
For reference, it took about 5 hours to get to Rosslyn Chapel and another 1.5 to get to Crail. Crail to Aboyne took most of the day with the stops but was probably about 2.5 hours of driving time. Our route home took 10 hours but that's with 75 minutes or so at Hadrian's Wall and 4 pit stops.
We do realize how lucky we are not to have to fly or hire a rental car to do this. In fact, we only needed two tanks of diesel for the week!
Our route to the first stop had us taking an old, scenic route to Edinburgh. I had to stop for a quick photo (above) to capture the scenery.
link and wiki link). The chapel was established in the mid-15th century and contains many stone carvings inside. After the Scottish Reformation (1560) it was largely dormant until Queen Victoria visited in 1842 and "suggested" that it be preserved (it re-opened in 1861 as a Scottish Episcopalian church).
Photos were not allowed inside. We were treated to a nice tour/talk by one of the staff. Highly recommended.
link plus wiki). From wiki:
The palace was one of the principal residences of the monarchs of Scotland in the 15th and 16th centuries. Although maintained after Scotland's monarchs left for England in 1603, the palace was little used, and was burned out in 1746. It is now a visitor attraction in the care of Historic Scotland.
We had fun exploring the various rooms -- here's Alex looking out one window
folks enjoying the fine day on the adjacent property
Kuk's turn from the window
Kuk and me in a few years? I had to chuckle at this older couple who had nodded off.
Two of the cutest wee Scottish laddies outside a nearby church before a wedding.
we walked down to Linlithgow Loch ourselves
Hazelton Guest House and had a wonderful time.
Kuk and I took a short walk around upon arrival while the kids unpacked and re-connected (wi fi is a must these days).
I had a feeling that this rocky coast would be in my future before we would leave.
a wee bit of beach near the harbor
the view from our room -- that is the Isle of May in the distance; we would visit on Monday
Sunday, May 26 -- St Andrews
Coincidentally, friends and fellow ex-pats Tim and Lori were spending the weekend in St Andrews with another pair of their friends. Lori was a golfing widow for the day so we invited her to join us. Glad you could make it, Lori -- it was a great day!
link). [This was a fond memory for me as it was one of my Dad's favorite movies/soundtracks.]
of course, I made the kids run along for a photo up as well
Nicole giving it a better effort (Alex was a little confused on why he was running)
this was also re-enacted by Mr. Bean during the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony
Alex quickly split off from the rest of us for the long walk down to the water (at low tide)
he ran to catch up though
two horses running along the beach too
holding the 18th hole flag (though it wasn't actually on the green at the time -- the green was blocked off)
link). Cardinal David Beaton imprisoned and later burned Protestant preacher George Wishard in 1546 in front of the castle walls. Later that year, Wishard's friends snuck in disguised as masons and murdered Beaton and hung his body outside for all to see. Protestants took hold for awhile and thwarted an underground (tunnel) attack by digging their own countermine (tunnel)! Neat stuff.
Kuk with Lori -- again, glad you could join us Lori
we enjoyed relaxing in the sun on the castle grounds -- Nicole made a monster daisy chain
Alex stormed the hill
nice one of Nicole
Alex preparing to roll down the hill (it's not always about the history you know)
next stop was the (ruined) Cathedral -- like many, it did not survive the Reformation
artsy shot #1
view of cathedral grounds and St Andrews from the tower
artsy shot #2
The Old Course is considered the "Home of Golf" and dates back to the 1400s. Interestingly, King James II banned golf in 1457 because folks were playing too much instead of practicing archery. The ban was lifted in 1502 by King James IV since he fancied a round himself.
The course initially had 22 holes but some were thought too short so were combined with others to reach 18 which is how the standard was established.
The "New" Course opened for play in 1895.
Alex at the ready.
family shot near one of the larger ones (2nd or 3rd hole -- sorry I didn't note it)
ground level shot
Nicole on the 17th green
the famous 700 year old Swilcan Bridge
Fantastic day in St Andrews.
Monday, May 27 -- Anstruther and the Isle of May
Monday was our day in/around the fishing village of Anstruther. We had booked a boat trip out of the Isle of May for the only sailing of the day at 2:15. We decided to visit a small cheese shop/farm and then the Fisheries Museum before hand.
link) was a little disappointing. They were making cheese but it's a small operation and they just had this one vat going. Oh well. We did watch a short video and read the info boards. We'd seen similar (and bigger) operations in Cheddar and Normandy.
We did try a few samples and bought some for later (along with a few other souvenirs) so all was not lost. It would be a nice place for lunch but the timing didn't work out for us.
Fisheries Museum. It's much larger than the little storefront would have you believe. It was well done and we were glad we went. We especially liked the parts on the early fishing industry.
I also enjoyed this display on herring packing. Since herring is fairly fatty, they have to cure the fish quickly. Two to clean and one to pack in the barrel with salt. If I read it correctly, they could clean 60 fish a minute -- hard to believe. The packer would fill 3 barrels an hour. The process became regulated to ensure the highest quality and was known as the Scotch Cure.
finger clothes or cloots to protect hands from the salt water or a slip of the knive
For the main event, we took a boat ride on Anstruther Pleasure Cruises (link) to the Isle of May. The ride was just under an hour each way and we had 2.5 hrs or so on the island. The island is known for its bird nesting, in particular the puffins. We also might see a seal or two.
Monday was not the best weather day. It was cool/cold with a stiff breeze and the threat of rain. This was our only day to make the trip (they didn't sail on Tuesday) so we decided to gear up and give it a go. When purchasing our tickets, she mentioned it was a "bit choppy" today. Hmmm.
Given the weather, we decided to sit "inside" on the lower level. Big mistake. Less air and much harder to keep a view on the horizon. Sky. Water. Sky. Water. Pretty much the longest hour of my life. The family was looking pretty green but only one of us lost our lunch. Yep, this guy. The staff were quick with the bags and I did have the foresight to get one before it was too late. I stumbled out to the fresh air and carried on. I'd say about 10-20% of the patrons tossed their cookies too with a good chunk of them coming from the inside seats (though Nicole witnessed some projectiles off the top deck -- yuck).
[We weren't looking forward to the ride back but it was slightly calmer and I got the outside seats and some motion sickness tabs and did better.]
Okay, anywho. On to the island. Was it worth it -- heck ya! [they did mention that this was the best day of the season for puffins -- likely due to the rough seas]
Our first taste with some puffins and other birds in the distance.
Eider ducks (males) -- we would stumble across the females along the path quite frequently
like this one
puffins and gulls
more puffins -- a little closer this time
one off by himself
a bigger colony of Razorbills (I think)
a longer view of the island
one more solo puffin
a gull squawking at us because the path (and us) were close to her nest
ready to re-board for the trip back -- great day despite the rough seas
Tuesday, May 28 -- Palaces
This day was about visiting two grand palaces: Scone ("scoon") and Falkland.
nosing around a root vegetable
bear with me -- too many cute photos to cull
whatcha lookin at?
only a couple more
okay, last one -- at any rate, I'm sure the kids thought this was the highlight of the palace
nice peacock on the fence
and finally the palace
No photos inside. Official website here and wiki here. Scone Palace is privately owned by the Earls of Mansfield whose family who have been connected with the site since 1600 when it was bestowed as a gift from the King for some timely intervention.
The area is known as the place were Scottish Kings were crowned and once housed the Stone of Destiny before it was taken by King Edward to Westminster Abbey. (It is now "on loan" at Edinburgh Castle after 600+ years in England.)
The house is nicely decorated and has the wow factor you might imagine. Certainly a worthy visit.
replica of the Stone of Destiny
okay, one more before leaving
link). This was the country residence of the Stuart monarchs for nearly 200 years. Though I could take photos, I didn't really have any worthy ones due to the dark lighting. I enjoyed re-learning some of the Stuart history (the King James I to VI, Mary Queen of Scots, unification, Charles I & II, etc.) but the rooms and furniture didn't do much for me. We've seen quite a few places similar to this one so it didn't really stand out.
Wednesday, May 29 -- 3 Castles on the way to Royal Deeside
We said farewell to our hosts at the Hazelton Guest House and started our journey further north. However, we had 3 planned stops to make on the way to turn it into a relaxing day.
link). Glamis is also privately owned; in this case by the Earls of Strathmore for over 600 years. Viewing is by guided tour only which lasted about 50 minutes and was very well done. This was probably our favorite of the week.
Glamis has some more recent history as well. It was the home of the Queen Mother Elizabeth (i.e. Queen Elizabeth II's mother) who married the Duke of York (Albert/Bertie -- aka King's Speech guy) and became Queen when Edward VIII abdicated thrusting Albert to the throne as King George VI.
The Queen Mother purposefully had Princess Margaret at Glamis in 1930 to have a royal born in Scotland -- the first since 1600.
Again, great visit even if I don't have a lot of photos and boring facts to go with it.
aww -- they have one too
I'd never heard of rapeseed. A quick google search turned up the fact that is called canola oil in the States (though that may be a specific variant). Rapeseed used to be high in toxic erucic acid. It was re-bred in Canada and called Canadian Oil, Low Acid, aka Canola. At any rate, it's all over the place and quite colorful.
Next stop was Edzell Castle (link). This peacock must be tired having come all the way from Scone.
along the planet row -- Venus and Nicole
the arts: Geometry
and a view of the garden from one of the towers
Third stop was the very impressive sea-side castle Dunnottar. Here is an aerial view (from a poster).
very impressive location
not an easy walk there (at least compared to others)
the complex was larger than I expected
Nicole and I walked back around to the neighboring cliff for this shot
Alex (and Kuk) were down on the beach throwing more rocks -- see the blue dots?
link). This was a unique (and perhaps a little quirky) stay in that it was a recently converted former mill. We had two rooms in the left wing (not shown) and the sloped ceiling caused a few minor concerns. However, given its recent conversion (open only a year) it was nice and shiny new.
view of the back and the actual mill wheel
Thursday, May 30 -- The Castle Trail
link) with loads of castles. We set out to do the four above though knowing that the last one, Craigievar, would only be a walk by as it wasn't open for touring on this day.
It was an enjoyable and gently paced day. Each castle had its own story and uniqueness, but to be honest they do tend to blend together after awhile. We probably don't need to go out of our way to see to many more castles for awhile (ever?). [These were all free with our National Trust membership -- sweet.]
link). Home to the Burnett family for hundreds years. Inside they had the "Horn of Leys" presented to Alexander Burnard by King Robert the Bruce in 1323. [Alex enjoyed this one because they had a miniature knight with a letter hidden in each room. Once found and unscrambled it spelled "Horn of Leys".]
massive gardens (again unfortunately pre-bloom) on the estate
we did take a stroll through the garden after going through the castle
and finally resting under the mushroom tree
link), home to the Irving family (for hundreds of years) and is supposed to look like the photo above,but . . .
one of the more unusual artifacts -- nearly 1000 year old King hair
forget the castles, they had a nice obstacle course/circuit
last full castle stop was Castle Fraser (link) -- this also had some interesting rooms and artifacts including an early false leg warn by one of the proprietors injured in a war.
and more playgrounds (or at least swings)
link). The castle is only open a few days a week in the off season and this wasn't one of them. Though I knew that ahead of time, I thought it was worth a stop anyway (and it was on the way, more or less).
one with the just the boys
Friday, May 31 -- Walking/Hiking Bennachie and the Burn O' Vat
Time for another walk! I wanted to dedicate a day to a "proper" walk and I had a few choices. www.walkhighlands.co.uk is an excellent site and one that I had used on our previous trip. I thought about doing the Bullers of Buchan walk but opted for something slightly closer and with more hills. We opted for Bennachie instead.
link) for a very short stroll.
happy faces at the start -- the girls quickly lost their jackets/fleeces after we cleared the forest
it didn't really come out in the photo, but there was a unique glow in the forest with the sun filtering in
he's back . . .
still on our way up, we've cleared the forest line and are into the darker ground covering -- notice the yellow rapeseed fields in the distance
we didn't see too many folks but Alex did get a surprise visitor coming over the hill
aww, sweet doggie
and we made it to the first peak -- Oxen Craig, the highest of the 3 at 528m
a look at the other two peaks we would ascend
Kuk was on a slow & steady pace today . . .
whereas Alex was on a mission -- can you see the blue dot that is Alex on the way to Mither Tap?
getting closer -- Alex is still up ahead -- can you see him?
this is at a crossroads near the peak -- we decided to wait for Kuk to join us before heading up
taking a break
views across the opposite valley -- more rapeseed to contrast the green and brown
these are the remains of a ~1500 year old Pictish Fort, Mither Tap
and now at the top
hey, the old folks made it too
heading down along with another view of the fort remains
and finally to our third peak, Craigshannoch
We managed to stay dry all week but could tell the rain was coming. Fortunately, we finished our hike and took the brunt of the rain while in the car. We continued on to our "stretch goal" of visiting the geological formation called Burn O'Vat which was just west of our B&B.
It was lightly raining so we donned our jackets and waterproof overtrousers and walked the small loop (<1 mile).
rain gear shot, for posterity
now inside the glacially carved Burn O'Vat (wiki)
Alex, with his energy back, had to climb up for a better look
squeezing back out
and the foggy view of nearby Loch Kinord
Saturday, June 1 -- Hadrian's Wall on the way home
It was time to say farewell to Scotland and make the long drive home. I thought we'd stop at Hadrian's Wall to break up the trip on the way home as it was just a little over half way. (wiki link) The wall was built starting in 122 A.D. in Roman Britain. Emperor Hadrian decided that his empire was getting stretched a little thin so rather than continue to expand northwards (or try to), he'd built a wall across "England" to keep out the riff-raff. It worked for over 200 years.
There are quite a few places to stop along the way, but we chose the English Heritage site at Housesteads (link). I didn't realize that they had also set up forts along the wall (duh) and this is one of the better preserved ones. It provided a nice 75 minute interlude.
another view of the fort and valley from a higher vantage point
the kids on the wall -- how cool is that?
on the edge of the northern frontier (well, sort of)
the fort is just guarded by sheep now (well, and the EH ticket minder)
After 10 hours, including the stops, we made it home. Yippee.
Food, Food, Food
As always, I snapped a few food photos along the way. We do like our food.
Pittenweem Inn on arrival day. Veal for me. The chef came out to mingle often with the crowd.
spicy pasta from Little Italy in St Andrews
Nicole's pizza from the same
Waterfront Restaurant in Anstruther -- this place didn't quite stack up with the others, but maybe I was still recovering from my boat trip!
the fruit and sherbet were a frequent starter for the kids
duck with a pepper sauce for me (have to have duck at least once) -- also from the Doll's House
Loch Kinord restaurant in Dinnet. We had the place for ourselves for a bit. It's a stereotypical inn stuck in a time warp (we certainly brought the average age down quite a bit) but was surprisingly good.
creamy mushrooms for a starter
and lamb with a black pudding mash (fortunately not too much black pudding)
and the best for last -- another melon starter for the kids at the White Cottage outside of Aboyne
crab "pate" for us to share
Well, thanks for slogging through the blog -- I know it's a marathon sometimes. We really enjoyed our relaxing week (though probably preferred the western bits from last year if I'm honest). I can think of quite a few more places I'd like to visit in Scotland though we are likely out of time to take advantage of it while living here. I can see us venturing over from the States though (albeit at twice the cost or more).
Take care everyone and have a good week.