Memories of Scotland
This was my first trip to Scotland and my first
chance to visit a castle.
If you want to see our itinarary, complete
with links to hotels we stayed at click here.
Saturday 16th August, 1997
What a great first day. After arriving in London
and a mad race to catch our plane to Glasgow, we finally arrived and were
met at the airport by our relatives, Liz and Stewart. After lunch and a
shower, we set off for Stirling Castle (I was
so desperate to see my first castle). To get to the castle you wind up
the hill past many old buildings. It’s in wonderful condition and the Great
Hall is currently undergoing restoration. We took a tour of the outside,
then explored inside on our own.
From here we drove to the Wallace Monument
and walked (or dragged) ourselves up the rather steep hill to the top.
Half way up a little bus passed us and we all cursed and continued puffing
up the hill. Then when we thought – we made it, we entered the tower to
find a spiral staircase. Liz baled out and I only made it to the first
floor. Talk about a closed staircase, and people were going up and down
at the same time. Anyway, I got to see William Wallace’s sword, which is
absolutely huge. We had a drink and a rest, then caught the bus back down.
Next stop was the Bannockburn Visitors Centre
where we learnt all about the battle. This place doesn’t look much and
surrounded by houses and roads.
On returning home, we had a sleep, now beginning
to feel the effects of our 24 hour flight, then we all went out for dinner
(are we gluttons for punishment or what?) at a local tavern. The atmosphere
was great and the meal wonderful, though I think Kevin nearly fell asleep
on this plate of bangers and mash.
But what I top first day in Scotland.
Sunday 17th AugustHad a bit of a sleep in the morning and had
breakfast at about 10 am, which included bacon, sausages (spicier than
what we’re used to) and potato cakes (Yum!). Liz and Stewart then drove
us to the Glasgow Thistle Hotel where we begin our Prestige Tour.The first part of the tour includes a city
tour of Glasgow including stops at the Transport Museum and the Burrell
Collection. Both of which we didn’t find too exciting. I think I was more
excited about the fact that I was in Scotland at the very beginning of
a five week holiday. None-the-less it was a nice afternoon and we made
friends with a girl named Debbie, who was traveling on her own.
Debbie joined us for dinner for an Irish Pub
(Yes, I know we’re in Scotland). We didn’t have anything particularly Irish
if that makes it any better – Kevin had a hamburger and I had a vegetable
bake). We got back to our room at about 7.30pm and settled down to watch
some local TV.
Monday 18th AugustWe set off from Glasgow at 9 am and headed
for the Glengoyne Malt Distillery. Almost immediately upon leaving the
city I was impressed by the greenness and beauty of the countryside. We
undertook a tour of the distillery and Kevin had a sample. He didn’t really
like it and handed the glass back, to the disapproval of the drink waiter.Our next stop was a cruise on Loch Lomond.
The sun was no shining and the water calm and glassy.
We got to see Rob Roy’s cave and an island
with a very small castle (in ruins).
After the cruise we stopped for lunch at the
Ardlui Hotel, then drove past Loch Tulla (which was beautiful) and on to
|Loch TullaTaken on the road between Loch Lomand and
the Ranoch Moor. It’s a magical setting, like most of Scotland. The plant
in the foreground is the famous thistle.
Our hotel in Ballachullish is in the most
wondrous location. Nestled beside Loch Linne and cradled between the mountains,
it is very picturesque.
This afternoon we drove to see a sheep dog
demonstration. On the way we passed Castle Stalker on a island in the loch
– very spectacular. The sheep dogs were great. It was the perfect end to
the perfect day.
BallachulishI think this is my favorite place in Scotland.
We stayed in the Ballachulish Hotel, right on the banks of Loch Linnhe,
where this photo was taken. It was a very warm day. Even the local cows
decided to take a dip.
Tuesday 19th AugustWe left Ballachullish early this morning at
8 am and drove to Fort William where we caught the train to Mallaig. It
was a great trip – we passed Neptune’s Staircase (where the Caledonian
Canal links the lochs) and the Glennfinnan Monument at the foot of Loch
Shiel. The scenery from the train was spectacular. I just love how the
mountains seem to tumble into lochs.From Malliag we caught the ferry over to Skye,
where we went to the Clan Donald Centre. I wasn’t terribly impressed with
this. Armadale Castle (now in ruins and full of rubbish) was only built
in the 1800s.
Next we stopped for lunch at a lovely hotel
where we had soup and sandwiches. It was rather warm here (actually hot
– yes, in Scotland) and the gardens where beautiful.
After lunch we drove over the new bridge back
to the mainland. The afternoon drive across to Aviemore was no quite so
scenic, except for Loch Carron, which was stunning. We had a photo stop
here. We stopped for afternoon tea at Leadgaren Lodge Hotel (nothing very
exciting) then the hills leveled out the low, rolling hills full of forests.
Pretty, but not as stunning as the Highlands. We saw lots of heather today
and it adds a purple haze to the mountains.
We arrived in Aviemore at about 5.30pm and
had cocktails before dinner. After tea we, with Debbie, went and did a
little shopping. Kevin’s come down with the flu now as well, so we’re both
in good form.
Wednesday 20th AugustHad another busy day. First stop was Culloden
Moor. We took in the video and the visual display then wondered around
the outdoor area, though we didn’t have enough time to walk the battlefield.
The Fraser clan had just had a gathering so there wer plenty flower wreaths
laid about the clan monument. It’s amazing to think that a battle was faught
and men killed on the ground beneath our feet. It’s a very awesome and
moving place, and I would have loved to spent longer here.But onward we went to a wool mill. To me this
was boring and a waste of time. There was no tour and was mainly for shopping,
of which I was trying to not to do much, since we still have 4 1/2 weeks
ahead of us.
We then drove to Inveness for lunch and more
shopping. This is one beautiful town. Lots of flowers and such, even though
it rained during our time here. We bought lunch from Marks and Spencers
and sat in the mall, then had a wander around.
We then journeyed down Loch Ness, stopping
for photos, to Urquhart Castle. now, talk about
impressive. What a back drop! And we were even welcomed by a piper playing
over the entrance to the ruins. I bought a print of the castle for 40 pounds.
Our journey home took as on the long drive
around the loch, passing the Speen Bridge. The scenery was again beatiful.
Thursday 21st AugustWe left Aviemore this morning and drove through
the Caringorn Mountains. They are very different to the ski fields we have
in Australia. Lots of bare, rolling hills – green and full of heather at
this time of year, with not a tree in sight. And there were fences to mark
the runs back to the chairlifts.We stopped at a pretty town called Tominton
for a break. It was a nice town but the hour long break was a bit much
Next stop was Crathie Kirk, the church used
by the royal family at Balmoral. Kevin and I stayed on the couach for this
one as Kevin was tired and my feet are all swollen. We then stopped at
Ballater for lunch and a walk around the town.
Crathie’s Castle was next on the agenda. We
were most suprised by its small size, but it was home rather than a fortress.
It was pretty and the inside nicely presented. A lot of the furniture is
orginal. The gardens are also lovely, although a lot of the flowers have
now died off.
From here we drove to Aberdeen and had a quick
tour of the city, stopping at the Cathedreal for 15mins.
The hotel tonight is a little castle and absolutely
stunning. The grounds are beauifully laid out. We had cocktails in the
lovely bar before a wonderful dinner or Rib Steak and Strawberry Moose.
Absolutely superb. A real top call hotel.
Ardoe House Hotel, near Aberdeen
Friday 22nd AugustToday we set off down the coast road passing
Dunnottar Castle and Claypotts Castle. We had a lovely view down the coast
and the ocean was surprising flat. We arrived in St. Andrews at about 11am
for free time. Kevin and I decided to explore the castle ruins. This was
great and well laid out with information plaques to read. After our exporation
we walked back through the city and down to the Sea Life Centre where we
ate lunch outside. We then watched some golf at the Old Course, right on
the beach. It was rather impressed with the whole town.Our next stop was Edinburgh, where was had
a quick drive around the city. It’s very busy with the festival on and
full of wonerful old buildings. We then went to the Castle where we had
a tour with a wonderul Military guide, who was a lot of fun. The castle
is huge and has such a commanding position over the city. It was
a rather quick visit though and we could definitely have had more time
We enjoyed a buffet dinner, the last on tour
(Dave, our guide came dressed in his kilt), before walking up the Royal
Mile for the Tattoo. This was fantastic and as always the massed pipe bands
moved me to tears (and I wasn’t the only one). The setting with the castle
backdop is unbelievable. It was a great end to the end of tour.
Edinburgh Military TattooThis was a highlight of our trip to Scotland.
The floodlit castle backdrop has be seen to be believed.
Saturday 23rd AugustWe had a sleep in this morning then got a taxi
to Kennard’s Hire where we picked up our little Rover. It’s only a tiny
thing but will be fine for a couple of days.We then set off for Kilchurn Castle of Loch
Awe. On the way we passed signs to Doune Castle and, after a quick check
in my book, decided we would like to stop here since the castle was built
by Robert, Duke of Albany. It was rather impressive and you could see a
good buit of what the castle had been like.
We then drove through Callander and on to Loch
Awe. We had planned to stop at the Rob Roy Visitors Centre but it was raining
and very hard to get parking.
We had a quick lunch at a tea room and then
walked over to Kilchurn Castle. Talk about a
magic setting. It is every bit as beautiful as I had expected. The castle
is pretty much in ruins now but it was wonderful to see none the less,
especially with Child of Awe being one of my favourite books.
We are now back at Liz and Stewart’s. We had
a lovely tea of lasagne, then an early night (about 10.15pm).
It’s great knowing we’ll be here for the next
3 nights. Kevin and I have both had the flu and have not been feeling 100%
so it’s nice not to be on the road.
Sunday 24th AugustAnother beautiful sunny day. We had a bit of
a sleep in and left at about 11am. We arrived in Dundonald at about 12.30pm
and had lunch at a lovely restaurant called the Castle View. Kevin had
Chicken Avacado with Rasberry Sauce and I had Vegetable Stroganoff. Both
were very yummy. Kevin wanted desert but I couldn’t get up to Dundonald
Castle fast enough.It was great to see the castle that I’ve read,
dreamt and written so much about. It’s just a box on a hill and not terribly
much to look at but I really enjoyed my visit here.
Next we went to Alloway to see Burns Cottage.
I didn’t find this terribly impressive but I was able to take a photograph
that Celia had requested. We then went to Culzean Castle. This was beautiful
and magically situated on cliffs looking over the ocean. We had a really
good guide who took us around the inside of the castle, which was actually
built as a bachelor’s pad. Unfortunately we arrived late in the afternoon
and didn’t have much time to look around the wonderful gardens.
We had dinner with Liz and watched TV before
going to bed. It’s been a great day.
Monday 25th AugustHad a nice easy day. After a lazy morning and
a quick sandwich at about 12pm we went into Glasgow to some shopping with
Liz and Stewart. We then went to visit Helen and Robert, where we stayed
until about 9pm. Helen served us the largest dinner and we had a very nice
Tuesday 26th AugustAnother slow start to the day. We organised
all our luggagee and then Liz and Stewart took us to the local supermarket
for us to explore.We then went to McDonald’s for lunch – a treat
for Kevin – and then to the movies to see Men In Black, which we really
enjoyed, though Liz and Stewart didn’t.
Then after saying farewell we drove to the
airport and said farewell to Scotland. I’m very sad to be leaving and have
to admit to shedding a tear or two. I’m madly in love with the country,
the people and it’s history, and who know when I’ll be back again.