Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Adventures in Scotland - Our Last Day

Well, the day I've dreaded has finally arrived. Our last full day in Scotland - we fly back to the States tomorrow. It has been such a great trip and we've done so much in the past nine days! Today we explored more of Stirling, starting with Bannockburn Battlefield. This is where Robert the Bruce beat the English in the early 1300's, even though they were highly outnumbered. Scots consider this the most important battle in gaining Scottish independence.

Lunch at a local pub with a great quote on their bar.

Next on to Edinburgh Castle, probably the best preserved castle in Scotland (and certainly the most historically significant).

Built on high rock with beautiful views of the surrounding areas.

Another Heilan Coo! She even posed for me.

We stopped at a cafe to meet Maggie, a Scotland artist who is a friend of my mom's. My mom has taken several of her pastel workshops (including one in Scotland a few years ago) and Maggie always stays with my parents when she comes to the States. She also painted beautiful portraits of my kids when they were babies. It was fun to have a quick visit with her! She recommended a restaurant for dinner, which we thoroughly enjoyed. 

Thistle on the table! 

The waiter, upon learning we were from Virginia, stated "Unfortunately the only thing I know about Virginia is that Chris Brown is from there." Yes, he sure is. If he is our most famous Virginian at the moment, we are in trouble!

We drove back to Edinburgh and we are staying at a country house near the airport. It has a tv on the wall in the bathroom, so they have definitely made some recent upgrades! We started the long process of unpacking and repacking so we can make the trip home tomorrow with just two suitcases. Let's hope they let us on the plane! 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Adventures in Scotland - Day 8 On to Stirling

We had such a good nights sleep in our dark castle room and woke up ready for our next adventure. After breakfast we popped back in the car and headed east. We had been staying in the Argyll region and covered the last bit of the southern Highlands as we drove through Glen Lochy and south to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. We made it almost to Ayrshire, but we'll have to come back another time to visit my (maiden) namesake.

This is the park where the Scots go to vacation, and it's easy to see why. It's an hour from Glasgow, Stirling, and Edinburgh, so that's most of the population! 

We stopped for lunch on the loch and then headed through the middle of the park. My DH was so excited to drive through Dukes Pass, especially because he happened to be wearing a JMU shirt!

So many beautiful places to stop for a walk. I'm constantly amazed by how green everything is.

"Cow and Castle"

My highlight from today was finally seeing Heilan Coos that were close enough to the road so I could get pictures of them. Cutest cows ever - and you know how much I love cows!

Highland Humor 

We had planned on another long-ish hike to a waterfall but the weather started moving in, so we decided to try to make it to the National Wallace Monument (Battle of Sterling Bridge). We got there 10 minutes before they stopped selling tickets and had to power-hike up a steep hill to get there. We made it with a minute to spare and no breath left. Unfortunately the museum is spread out among 3 floors of the tower so we had to climb 260 stairs to get there.

William Wallace's 5 ft broadsword. It's almost as tall as I am!

The views at the top of the monument were amazing and well worth the steep hike and grueling stair climb.

It was very windy at the top!

They kicked us out when the museum closed so we headed into old town Stirling to our hotel.

Another exciting moment - more Heilan Coos! And the Stirling Castle too!

Isn't it weird that there is a field of cows right behind the castle? Only in Scotland...

After our brief (or not-so-brief) stop to photograph cows and castles, we had dinner and then explored some other parts of the old city.

Our hotel is centrally located and is a quick walk uphill to the castle and other historical buildings. This is the church where King James (son of Mary Queen of Scots) was crowned.

It's 8:30pm so everything is closed for touring, but it's still daylight so we wander around some more.

And we are rewarded with a rainbow over the old jail!

We strolled through the old kirkyard with stones dating back to 1572.

Beautiful view of the castle on the hill.

Statue of another Scottish hero, Rob Roy.

Eric got to watch more soccer games on TV tonight, so he is happy. Tomorrow is our last full day in Scotland before flying home on Wednesday. Tonight I'll be counting Highland coos instead of sheep...baby coos.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Adventures in Scotland - Day 7 with Scottish Weather

This morning we reluctantly left the Misty Island to head back to the mainland. On our way to the southern peninsula we were able to see some parts of the island we hadn't seen before. We took the car ferry across to Mallaig - that was a new experience! It was fun to drive the car onto the ship!

Be careful that you don't drive into the sea...

After a quick boat ride we arrived back in 'mainland' Scotland and headed down A830, which is known as the 'Road to the Isles' (except we took the route backwards). 

It would've been a beautiful trip except we encountered our first real day of Scottish weather. I want to stop for a minute because I really can't complain. We've had gorgeous weather our whole trip (and I was thoroughly prepared to be walking in rain for 9 days). So having one day of rain - and a day when we are mostly in the car - really ain't bad at all. We drove through Glenfinnan and saw the Glenfinnan Viaduct (for those of you Harry Potter fans, this is the route the train takes to Hogwarts and it passes over a very tall bridge). Then we stopped in Fort William for lunch at a pub and caught part of the France-ROI soccer game. Just so you know, the Scots definitely root for the Irish.
Fort William used to be an English fort, but it's long gone and now there's just a cute town there. It also sits at the base of Ben Nevis, the highest peak in Great Britain, so we saw a lot of hikers. They also had some good ice cream. Yum...

Next we headed through Glencoe, which is supposed to be some amazing views (also where they filmed most of Braveheart). But unfortunately the weather wasn't cooperating so we saw the bottoms of lots of mountains but not the tops. 

Apparently the mountains weep when it rains, and we did catch some glimpses of it! 

After driving through the Rannoch Moor  (a very desolate flat area between the mountains where glaciers came through and dropped piles of rocks everywhere) we turned off on a local road which led to some some amazing scenery through Glen Orchy.

This is also where I slipped on a wet rock and landed on my butt and elbow... But I saved the camera!! That's gonna leave a mark.

Further downstream

We weaved through some more one-lane roads to get to our hotel.

Finally we arrived at our country estate for the night. It's a beautiful house from the 1700's and it sits on Loch Awe, which is appropriately named. 

View from our room.

After a delicious dinner I put on some Wellies and walked around the gardens. They keep a whole pile of boots by the doors for guests!

My Scottish host and walking companion.

A rainy day (mainly cloudy and misty) but still a beautiful day in Scotland. Another adventure awaits tomorrow!