Our Journey Through Scotland: Week I

I’m going to be the first to admit it, but the two accessories I wish I would have brought with me are:  sunglasses and a scarf.  Who would have thought I would need both of them at the same time ?!   Scotland’s overcast scenery has been wonderfully accented by the sun shining through the clouds… summer has been showing itself sooner than we thought 🙂

One of the surprises we have had to get used to is the dramatically early sunrises. Yes, I know the summer solstice is closing in on the middle of June, but this seems to be quite an early awakening every morning.   According to Google, the sunrise is at five AM, but it does seem to be considerably earlier than the east coast!  I’m attributing it to the increase in latitude… Apparently we are at the same latitude as Moscow, Russia! The temperature difference between the two locations is the result from the warm air and moisture brought by the Gulf Stream and our relative sea level elevation.  An infinite supply of moisture definitely has its perks:  the green grass is plentiful and constant, we are loving the many hues of our verde landscape!

So after looking through my pics this week, I’m discovering that I’m going to have to make this bit a travelog in order to record as well as share the many places which we have been able to enjoy here in Scotland.  One of my favorite things each day has been driving through the countryside.  We do have many hours in the car, but its all worth it when you see this agrarian centered country with the canola fields in bloom a bright yellow accenting the vivid green fields and then when you think it can’t get any better, you see fields spotted in white with the newborn lambs and their mothers care-freely eating the luscious grass. Surprisingly, there are more sheep in Scotland than people!

Here are our highlights from this past weeks full travel days:

Our first day of official touring started off with some wonderful site seeing up the eastern coast of Scotland. We visited a little town called Stonehaven where the fish and chips are world famous and if you did take a journey across the water to Norway, its roughly 400 miles from that point.  This has been the first time we felt drawn to the water again since we stepped off Fezywig.  Although the wind and the waves were fierce, it felt like we would be returning back to her via a dinghy ride!   The tidal change was a whopping five meters, so tallying up anchor rode would have been a mathematical equation every time.  Beyond the two months it would have taken to get here, we are glad we don’t have to worry about a boat while we are here! 

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Stonehaven
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Dunnotar Castle
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Hillside at Dunnotar

On the way back we stopped at Dunnotar Castle, where the Scottish Royal sword, crown and scepter were smuggled out of the castle by the pastor’s wife and ladies in waiting to prevent it from getting into English hands.  This particular castle is situated directly on the coastline; it has been one of our favorite visits even though they wouldn’t let you go inside the castle walls because the winds were so high they were afraid a rock would be tipped over onto an unexpecting passerby or you may lose your balance and fall off the high ledges… as if they had to worry about us? 🙂  The surrounding lands made up for the beauty however, we were surprised at this local flowering yellow prickly bush that actually scented the air with the smell of coconut oil!

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The backseat 🙂

In Falkirk:

My parents live in the town of Falkirk and that is where we have been living (roughly half way between Edinburgh and Glasgow).  It is a relatively urban area, but it takes just a few minutes to get out into the open countryside.  These Kelpie heads (the largest horse sculptures in the world) are on display for all to enjoy as they pass by, the Scottish legend has it that Kelpies (think mermaids/ nymphs) had a hard time luring their prey into the water and so here they transformed themselves into horses which then allow them to easily tempt those unsuspecting tourists into their watery graves… whenever you hear a thunder clap, they have quickly snatched their prey and returned under water!

The Falkirk Wheel is also a great experience and wonder in the engineering feats of man.  It allows barges to be transported from one canal about fifty above the natural landscape to a lower elevation canal without the discomfort of items being thrown around in the process.   Quite an amazing process and display of ingenuity!

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The Falkirk Kelpies
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The Falkirk Wheel

In Dumferline:

This church is famous for the heartless hero buried beneath it.  There are some intriguing twists to this story, so I will let you ask the kids about Richard the Bruce AND the little black spider who taught him an important lesson!  The day was quite chilly, but we found shelter and refuge inside here as well as in the birthplace home of Andrew Carnegie.  We were quite impressed by his life story.  His parents had quite humble beginnings in this town and sought out a better life for their family in Pennsylvania, his life history is really quite amazing.  One of his quotes which testifies of his philanthropic heart, “No man can become rich himself without enriching the lives of others. ”

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Richard the Bruce's burial Church/ Abbey
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Huddling to stay warm in the Abbey!
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Andrew Carnegie's Birthplace

In Glasgow: 

This bustling urban city has its fair share of architecturally beautifully buildings.  We visited two of these… Kelvingrove (similar to our Smithsonians) and Glasgow University.  They both held beauty which is hard to duplicate in today’s workmanship, we especially loved walking through the quadrangles of Glasgow University… the same place where such great minds as Adam Smith and even Albert Einstein walked for a time! 

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Kelvingrove (you could spend many days here!)
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Glasgow University
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One of the many architectural wonders we saw in Kelvingrove!
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Madeline shares her real love in the Botanical Gardens!

Stanley Mills Factory/ Stirling Castle:

The Stanley Mills factory was a walk back in time through the industrial revolution of Scotland.  Here we all learned about the benefits, workings of, and many dangers inside a cotton mill.  It was quite an experience to know that children worked in these mills at the early age of 9 and even worked a full day!  We also had an amazing tour through the halls of  Stirling Castle.  Here many battle torn heroes found refuge and the Royalty of Scotland reigned for a time.  It is the castle which was nicknamed the ‘Key to Scotland’ because it is in the prime position near the River Forth which links the lowlands to the highlands. 

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Trying out one of the many jobs kids could do at the mills!
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Typical dress for two wee ones heading to work... uuugh, that would make my heart so sad!
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Stirling Castle
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View from Stirling Castle
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The throne room!
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These heads were carved from wood and hand painted for James IV (which he didn't live to see finished)

Loch Ness:

This travel day was the longest yet, but also one of the most rewarding.  We traveled three and a half hours to walk the ruins of Urquhard Castle which sits on the northern boundary of Loch Ness.  The castle had quite a history with a huge trebuchet on display.  It was Sam’s favorite display the WHOLE day!  Although we were high on the castle walls to see Nessie, we didn’t get a glimpse of her 😦  We did however get to view a Heather Factory which uses some of the natural heather stems to create beautiful jewelry, if you are curious, google the process!

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Loch Ness and Castle Urquhard in the background
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Sam's Trebuchet
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Finally a picture with Samantha!

Blackness Castle:

Here we delve into one of the coldest and wind swept castles we’ve visited yet.  It is situated on the ‘Firth of Forth’, a strategic location for controlling entry/exit from the river mouth.  We toured it when the wind/ waves were contrary, so even more so today we were glad to not have to venture onto the frigid waters!  This castle was one of the most roughly hewn and coldest it seemed… they would lower prisoners into the dungeon and wait for the tide to change to give them a rather watery death.

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Walking on the river walk was quite an experience!
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All high spirits despite the brisk wind!

Here ends our first week of touring… and there is still SO much more to see!

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