13.07.2008 - 20.06.2008
13th July 2008
Tina, a friend, and I have just spent time in Ireland and flown across the Irish Sea to Glasgow. We have organised to collect a car only to find that our Australian Travel agent has forgotten to organise the car even though we have paid for it. We have no choice but to move across to the Avis counter, rehire and repay another $832.00 fee for another car which is a bigger car and a lot more expensive. A pitfall of travelling but I will email the Travel Agent as soon as I get a chance to get near a computer. It takes a bit of time and patience to figure out how to get out of Glasgow and across the Firth of Clyde onto the road north. Glasgow seems so grey and dirty after Ireland, it is one of the main shipbuilding and engineering cities in Scotland, sitting on the River Clyde. The mountainous countryside, after we cross the Firth is breath-taking and we find many places to stop and take photographs and gaze at the beauty. Just outside Fort William on the narrow highway there is a car accident and we are stranded on the road for over four hours leaving us to arrive in the town reasonably late and after the pub meals have all closed for the night. We have booked into the Fort William Youth Hostel and neither of us feel comfortable with a certain male staff member so make sure we have a chair pushed under the door to keep it closed as there are no locks on the doors. The view from our window across the waters makes up for the shabbiness of the building. It has been a very exhausting and long day so an early night, if you could call midnight early. The showers are also very interesting and I fully expect to find hidden cameras—creepy!!
13th July 2008
Tina is awake early and ready to move on without breakfast so we locate the McDonalds and settle in to the foggy views of Ben Nevis known as “The Ben”. Our first stop is at Fort Augustus and some amazing canal locks on the Caledonian Canal. The next part of the drive is very interesting around the Lochs and a stop off to see “Nessie” in her small pond—so lifelike it could make a person actually believe in monsters. We stay awhile at the Tourist Centre and pick up the Scottish presents to take home, which includes some small bottles of different whiskies. A drive around part of Loch Lomond, past the remains of the Urquhuart Castle which overlooks the waters of the Loch, past some of Scotland’s most stunning scenery. The drive takes about an hour but it’s a relaxing little detour. I even get the chance to dip my hands in the famous freezing waters. We break the day’s travel at the ruins of the Involochy Castle; one of the few Highland Castles to survive largely unaltered since the wars of Independence of 13th and 14th centuries. It was built on the banks of the River Lochy and we are able to climb on it giving us a chance to have a good look. It is early in the morning so we are the only visitors in the area. On to the Lochaber WW2 Commando Memorial and some breath-taking scenery. Another unplanned stop at Glenormiston and a quick walk to Columba’s Well, a Holy well said to be used in the 6th century by St Columba. As we approach the Skye bridge the Eileen Castle with its loan piper comes into view. The next part of the drive is over the Skye bridge across Loch Alsh joining the mainland to the Isle of Skye - the homeland of the MacLeod and MacDonald clans. The coastline of Skye is a series of peninsulas and bays, far flung homes and crofting communities, narrow roads, windblown sheep and Scottish cattle sheltering among the hedgerows and crops. After we book into “Cliffe House”, a B & B which is perched on the cliffs overlooking the waters of Kyleakin Harbour, we drive to the other end of the Isle to visit the grave of the infamous Flora MacDonald. The wind is so cold and strong it takes all our effort and strength to get out of the car and walk the short distance up the hill to the black houses, the traditional house of the Hebrides, and the small quiet Kilmuir cemetery. The views from this height are fantastic with McQueen’s Needle rising in the distance. Our meals that evening are at the 16th century Kings Arms Hotel, a large white rambling hotel overlooking the harbour and bridge to Scotland. I ordered a meal of Haggis, a traditional Scottish dish, but very disappointed to see they cut it off a roll. While we are waiting for the meal to arrive I run into the Trafalgar tour director from my 2005 Irish/Scottish trip—a lovely and unexpected surprise as he has since moved to America.
14th July 2008
Up for a cool morning walk around the water edge and across to the ruins of the castle. Our day will be spent at Drummossie Moor, the heritage site of the Culloden battle, which has been upgraded since my last visit. There is so much history associated with this area. The site is part of National Trust so my entry is free. Tina stays and has a look around the new visitors’ centre while I go for a walk to the top of the English and Scottish battlefields, past the clan grave markers and the memorial cairn. It is hard to try and imagine what carnage must have taken place back in 1746. I would have liked to have spent some more time on the battlefields but we still want to visit the Clava Cairns - Bronze Age burial mounds. They are so intriguing yet eerie.
15th July 2008
The only thing that I do not like about staying at B & B’s is that breakfast is served around 8am and this makes the day start later than I would prefer. We have a long day’s drive but it’s time to stop off at the Crannog Centre to view the Loch dwellings, dating back some 5000 years, which are found throughout Scotland and Ireland. The day’s drive is down through the centre of Scotland, past the Murray clan lands, Menzie Family Castle, Taymouth Castle, Edinburgh and Stirling Castles and on to Melrose and Selkirk, the land of the Grieve and Munro Clans. We have booked into the Melrose Youth Hostel for three nights so have a couple of very busy days ahead of us. The Hostel backs onto the Melrose Abbey where the remains of King Robert the Bruce are buried and cared for by Historic Scotland. Melrose is surrounded by several small villages—Bowden, Darnick, Gattonside and Newstead. We find a lovely sea-faring pub in the historical village and frequent it regularly over the next few days. Access to most places in the village is via a hill. The hostel is an old family home and we have been given a room to ourselves so we can stretch out and catch up on some urgent housework jobs.
16th July 2008
Our first stop of the day is Selkirk, home of the Grieve family. We engage in the usual search through the town cemetery where there are so many familiar names for both Tina and myself. I take heaps of photos and then move on to the Jedburgh Abbey, a ruined Augustinian Abbey founded in the 12th century and situated just twelve miles north of the Scottish/English border. It was well worth the visit as the building ruins are spectacular. Our next stop is at Peebles, a much nicer town than Selkirk and not as steep and hilly. It has been a long day so we head for home.
17th July 2008
We sleep a little later this morning, with rain through the night; have a quick breakfast and start the drive to the Carluke area, where Tina’s Scottish ancestors lived. A change of direction and we end up in Canwraith, the home of the Lockhardt clan and we locate the Lee Estate—home of the Lockhardts of Lee. Tina was so excited as we never expected to find the estate and lands. We are denied access to the castle and the Laird which just puts us both into fits of laughter as we never even guessed we would get that far onto their lands. They must have been thinking what yobbos we were!! A stop at Carstairs and Cawdor Cemetery and again all the familiar names for both of us. It is a little unsettling to know that centuries ago both our families were living and working side by side and possibly related to each other. Tina has always declared that we knew each other in a past life— she may not have been far off the mark! While we are in Lanark we visit St Marys Church and again the family names are everywhere. It is getting late and a storm is approaching so we head for Melrose but somehow we end up on the outskirts of Edinburgh. This is not what I had in mind as I have seen the traffic in this city and I want no part of it. With a bit of ducking and diving we get around the city and are back on track as we head home. I know Tina would have liked to have seen Edinburgh but not if I have to drive there. We take time to have a pub meal at the “Ship Inn”. The sleeping arrangements prove to be an interesting night as we have two German ladies in the room and double bunks. This will be the last time I will share a room with strangers in a Youth Hostel while travelling.
18th July 2008
It is till raining and we are away by 7.30am. We have a long drive ahead of us to the seaside village of Kirkcudbright in the Dumfries on the Southwest coast of Scotland. This is the home of the Mitchell family, the maternal side of my husband's family, his mother being Jean Mitchell. The morning air is cool and crisp so great for a walk. We locate the historical Society and with the help of an attendant I come away with a lot of photos and information to take back home and the research. We still have a long way to go so we take a quick pub meal at the Kirkcudbright Bay Hotel and we make our way back towards Carlisle on the border. We drive through the narrow, hedged lanes until we reach the Border village of Gretna Green, famous for its runaway brides. A walk through the wedding chapel and the Blacksmiths buildings and we purchase the last of the Scottish presents for the family. We are only a few miles from the border. We bypass Carlisle and the MI and head towards the Lakes District.
Another country, another blog.