June 3 - June 7:  Cheers from Scotland

We had five fun nights in Edinburgh, Inverness, and Oban. Scotland is the land of kilts, bagpipes, Westies, Highland cattle, Robert Louis Stevenson, Braveheart, Mary Queen of Scots, Balmoral Castle (Queen Victoria’s palace), porridge, haggis, kippers, shortbread, and scotch.

The first 3 nights were in Edinburgh (“burra”). We walked the Royal Mile from the Castle to Holyrood Palace, where Queen Elizabeth II still spends a week every year. We visited Camera Obscura and the World of Illusions, and St. Giles Cathedral with the statue of John Knox (preached from 1559-1572). He was a Calvinist Presbyterian important in their Reformation. The church also had a nice organ and a wooden angel playing bagpipes. Near the castle, they burned 17,000 witches between 1479-1722. They strangled them first, to be more humane. The Castle has Scotland’s Crown Jewels and the Stone of Scone. The jewels were used from 1540-1651, but were not used after that, since Scotland and England shared the crown since 1606, and the United Kingdom was formed in 1707. The jewels were impressive. The Stone of Scone was fun to see, since we saw the coronation chair in Westminster Abbey where the Stone sat (under the seat) for 700 years. It was used as Scotland’s coronation stone since the 9th century, but was stolen by the English and used by them from 1296-1996. England gave it back recently, and supposedly the Scots will send it back to Westminster Abbey for the next coronation. The Scots also have their own parliament, again, since 1999, but still have to defer to the parliament at Westminster. It was also interesting to learn more about Mary, Queen of Scots and her intrigues, as well as her imprisonment by Elizabeth I, and later beheading.

We visited the Museum of Scotland (new since 1998), which was very good. It’s across the street from Greyfriars Kirk, with the grave of John Grey and separate grave for his dog Bobby. If you haven’t seen the old Disney movie, John Grey was a policeman who died, and left behind his two year old Skye terrier. Bobby was so loyal, he slept on the grave every night for the next 14 years, until he died on the grave himself. He was cared for by various people in the city during the day. I love that story! The movie actually showed on TV while we were there.

Robert had his 10th birthday celebration in Edinburgh, and the hotel gave him a Homer Simpson cake. I think the Brits think the Simpsons is the only good program produced by the US. We had a good time.

The next day we drove to Inverness, stopping at two scotch distilleries on the way. We toured Glenlivet, and just stopped at Glenfiddich. There are 40-some distilleries in the Spey River Valley. We also went to Culloden Battlefield, where Bonnie Prince Charlie made his last attempt to claim the British throne for the Stuarts in 1746. It marked the end of the Clans in Scotland.

The drive from Inverness to Oban, and looping through Glencoe, is stunning. Our first stop was the Loch Ness visitor center. It had very good visuals that explained the geology and science involved with the mystery. I really enjoyed that. We stopped at Urquart Castle, but no Nessie was to be seen. We went to scenic Fort Augustus to check out the locks on the Caledonian Canal. Then we looped through Glencoe and the Rannoch Moor to Oban. That loop was gorgeous. . . mountains (4400 feet was the highest peak), moors, and water. This is the land where they filmed the latest Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Glencoe has a good visitor center telling the story of the poor MacDonald Clan that was massacred in 1692. Oban, itself, is a beautiful harbor with mountainous islands beckoning to the West. We didn’t get to visit the Hebrides this time, but it would be fun to explore them one day. We went to McTavish’s Kitchens for dinner and the Scottish Show. The singer was a local from the Outer Hebrides, and was very good. She sang in English and Celtic. The piper, fiddler, and piano accordion player were quite good, too. The young dancer looked very nervous. It was fun.

Hope all is well, Pat