On Father’s Day, we boarded a flight to Edinburgh via Dublin. Renting a car, we made our way to the Bonham B&B where Herr’s parents were at and enjoyed a lovely meal with them. Afterwards, we took a long walk around the neighborhood basking in the great weather we will have experienced the entire trip (this, we have been told, is highly unusual).
We woke to bright skies and drove south to Rosslyn Chapel. Rosslyn has beautiful masonry, but the chapel is privately owned and thus no photos. 🙁 It was also undergoing major repairs â€“ thanks to the increase in patronage â€“ but we got the general idea before heading farther south to Melrose Abbey. Melrose is a lovely area, and the abbey was destroyed a few centuries earlier in the general strife between England and Scotland. It’s massive size is definitely worth visiting. We spent some extra time in Melrose, stopping by for some ice cream, visiting the local book stores and public library, and a few other shops. If we had stayed longer, we could have seen some summer festivities (a horse race followed up with a lot of drinking I believe… guaranteed to be entertaining). Unfortunately, we weren’t going to be there overnight and trekked back north to a very-hard-to-locate B&B out in the farmlands. They were extremely friendly though and educated us on the proper pronunciation of Alnwick, our next destination.
In the morning, we left for the south to Alnwick, known for some scenes from Harry Potter films. I was very excited to visit this for the renovated gardens, which we walked through first. The entrance opens to a water garden with several water statues and featured a bamboo labyrinth (fun!). Green archways snaked up along the large fountain to more gardens atop a hill. From the gardens we took a path to Alnwick. Walking up to it was intimidating; it is surrounded by tall walls sitting on a hill. We took a guided tour of the grounds before entering the castle itself. A side note: the words castle/fortress and palace are not interchangeable. Castles are dark and mostly stone with whitewash painted on to brighten it up. Very utilitarian. Palaces could pass as really fancy hotels with an emphasis on opulence. So, imagine our surprise when we enter this castle and see what appears to be a palace interior! Marble everywhere. No pictures of the interior because it is still in use, but again, worth visiting!
From Alnwick we followed Hadrian’s Wall â€“ or what’s left â€“ to Carlisle. Along the way we stopped a few times to see some of the forts that lined this disputed border and walk along the wall ruins. The ruins aren’t terribly easy to find though, so I’m glad we were able to crawl over at least one section. We hunkered down in a fancy four-room color-coded B&B in Carlisle to prepare for the races the next day.
Before we left for the track, I determined I did not have appropriate attire. Herr and I checked out the shopping district and purchased a lovely linen suit complete with hat and bright pink heels. 😀 To my dismay, breaking in tall heels at the races is a bad idea. Not much seating, and it was not nearly as nostalgic as it seemed to be. That is, if one reads historical romance novels from England, the races are NOT like that anymore. Herr placed a few two pound bets (lost every time too) before we gave up and drove north to Callandar.
The B&B in Callandar was a quaint house atop a winding road. We ventured into town for dinner and found a restaurant/bar. I should mention the World Cup was going on throughout this trip, and as we ate, we were able to observe one of the matches with another couple. Having our fill of football and angry drinkers, we called it a night for a big day tomorrow.
Our first stop out of Callandar was to Lake Mentieth. The weather was drizzly (one of the few instances the weather wasn’t all that great) as we putted in a small tug of a boat out to the island that houses the ruins of Inchmahome Priory. We were the first group of eight people out to the island, so we had run of it to explore. Once we had our fill of destruction, we walked the trails around the peaceful island. It was all very lovely, even in the mist.
We piled in the car and drove to Stirling Castle. Along the way we spotted Doune Castle – well known for Monty Python and the Holy Grail â€“ so of course we stopped. It’s a very square castle, but Herr recalled several of the scenes for our amusement (they were also highlighted on the audio tour). A bit more of a drive brought us to the city of Stirling; a beautiful area with the occasional cobblestone street. Stirling is at the very top of the hill (notice a trend…?) and had absolutely spectacular views. By this time, the weather had cleared up as well, so we could see quite a ways out. Stirling looks like a hodgepodge of structures and is under some heavy renovation, so we didn’t get to see too much of it. We took the tour of the grounds spotting several unicorns along the way, had some lunch, then began the drive north to Fort William on roads that wound alongside several scenic lochs.
In Fort William we had a B&B that faced the loch. A few blocks away we ate a lovely seafood dinner. Herr had reserved first class roundtrip tickets on the Jacobite Steam train, which takes most of a day. What spectacular views too! The only drawback is the airborne coal particles that gets in everything, and the large puffs of coal smoke that soaked through the cabin while passing through tunnels. I stuck my head out the windows most of the trip back to get some fantastic photos but spent half the time rubbing pieces of coal from my eyes (and the camera). Even if you aren’t a Harry Potter fan (this is the train used in the movies), the scenery is incredible and worth taking the trip.
After the train ride, we took the next day to drive alongside the rail tracks back to Mallaig (the northern point where the train turns around). From Mallaig, we were able to take the car ferry across to the Isle of Skye. The island is much smaller than I thought it was, so we were able to have lunch in Portree, a fantastic little port city. We rounded the Trotternish Penninsula to see some of the natural wonders including Kilt Rock and a couple lovely waterfalls. We pulled off the road to check out a reconstructed village that highlighted early Scottish life. Most other places were closed by the time we left, so we drove back down to the southeastern tip to stay at a B&B right on the harbor.
Sunday brought in some large fluffy clouds that we chased across the bridge back to mainland Scotland to see Eilean Donan Castle, also known as one of the most beautiful castles. It sits on a mound accessible by a stone bridge, and with the hills and lochs of Scotland as backdrop, it is hard to disagree. No photos of the interior though; it is still privately owned and used on occasion. This was the last leg of the Scotland trip, so we drove back south alongside the lochs until we found our B&B at a bagpipe school in Glasgow. It was here, after a morning whirlwind bus tour of the city, that we went separate ways with Herr’s parents, drove back to Edinburgh, and caught our flight to Dublin, Ireland.
See more photos in a previous blog entry.