Thursday, May 26, 2011

Day Two: Stirling Castle and driving through the Highlands

Colin has sent pictures, wonderful ones, and I've tried loading them, plus tried loading ones I took. Blogger rejects them all. We'll keep working on that problem, and maybe do a photo album blog or two. You really do have to see Scotland to believe it.
Day Two began with breakfast at our Edinburgh BandB,  Dunedin. Menus waited on the table--in all the other BandBs you had to order the night before. The Dunedin menu offered eggs with bacon, which is what we'd call back bacon or Canadian bacon, or with sausage and black pudding. I asked what black pudding was: oatmeal with dried pigs blood. I decided to stick with bacon, which made our host giggle. But black pudding haunted me all week.
We set out for Skye, which I think Colin calculated would be a five-hour drive. It was clear across Scotland, and I reminded him that we wouldn't make the kind of time on twisting, curvy two-lane roads as we would on a Texas freeway. He was confident, so we began the day at Stirling Castle in Stirling. Our guide told us that Stirling is the most romantic castle--other sources says it is also one of the largest and most important architecturally and historically. I'd say it is one of the most frequently attacked. At least seven seiges of the castle are recorded. In  1297 William Wallace, "Braveheart," defeated the British at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, and in 1314 Robert the Bruce won the battle at nearby Bannockburn. The castle became the primary residence of the Stuart monarchs and a symbol of Scotland's independence from England. Mary Queen of Scots was born and crowned at Stirling. But by the Jacobite Rising of the 1740s (an attempt to recapture the throne of Scotland for the Stuarts), the English again occupied the castle. In 1746 Bonnie Prince Charlie tried to take it and was defeated.
Our tour took us up on the battlements and into the outer and inner cobblestone courtyards. The apartments of royalty are being rennovated and are closed until early June--darn, we just missed that. But we went to the chapel, and while the kids went to the gardens, I sat quietly in the chapel which looked more like a huge reception room to me. Then we visited the kitchen with its dioramas of cooking as it would have been. The castle and its history were so fascinating that we lingered. I was pondering the thought that if we saw the intellectual history of Scotland in Edinburg, we saw it's war-like past at Stirling Castle.
Lunch at a chain restaurant called The Filling Station, sort of a Scottish equivalent of T.G.I.F. or Chili's. I had fish and chips, which of course we get here, but these were exceptionally good, doused with the traditional malt vinegar. Colin and Megan had distinctively non-Scottish lunches--margarita pizzas! Suddenly, it was three o'clock, and we knew we should be on the road to Skye.
With Colin driving and Megan navigating I sat in the back and pinched myself, saying over and over, "I'm in Scotland. I'm actually in Scotland." The land is lush and green--all that rain!--and hillsides are covered with broom, that ubiquitous plant with deep yellow blooms. We saw shaggy cows, their thick long coats designed to protect them from Scottish winters, and sheep covered every field and hillside, their coats equally thick and long. We drove along streams with rapids--great trout fishing, no doubt--and through mountain valleys. And we drove . . . and drove . . .  and drove. Portree, our destination on Skye, never seemed to get any closer.
At last about nine, we drove into Portree and found the Braeside Inn, finally figured out how to navigate one-way streets and get there. Our host, Phillip, was not at all surprised by the lateness of our arrival. He said he could make the drive from Stirling in 4-1/2 hours but he knew it would take us longer. I'd noticed that Scots tend to drive with the same fierce abandon with which they went to war in earlier generations, passing us at high speeds on blind curves and hills. A bit scary.
Phillip warned us restaurants were about to stop serving, gave us a few recommendations, and we went in search of dinner. At almost 9:30, it was still light out. Several restaurants turned us away--they had already stopped serving; one offered no entrees but fish 'n chips or mussels. I vetoed because I'd had fish 'n chips for lunch and Megan had mussels twice the day before--a veto they didn't soon let me forget. We ended up at Harbor View, where they offered us entrees but no side dishes. The three of us split two very good entrees--scallops with bacon and haddock with mashed potatoes. The kids unloaded the car, I made my daily notes, and we fell into bed.
A note about traveling with grown kids: they took really good care of me. I never unloaded the car nor pulled a suitcase. When they wanted to do an extensive tour of gardens and my back was hurting, they found a place for me to sit. They made sure I was alright after steep stairs and hills, and they watched I didn't stumble on curbs and uneven walkways--something I'm prone to do. Knowing they were there, I never even got my walking stick out of the suitcase.  Every time I ordered a glass of wine and the waitress asked "Large or small," they chorused, "Give her a large." But sometimes I felt like one of their children: "Get in the car, Mom." "Watch the puddle, Mom!" "Do you have your passport? Are you sure?" At one point, they even reorganized my purse so that I wouldn't mix British and American currencies (which I hadn't done). I giggled and enjoyed it.

1 comment:

scott davidson said...

What an interesting blog, introduced by a thought-provoking photo. The unusual wall painting of the dwellings is also a strangely modern interpretation. Something like this hieroglyphic view of a park by Swiss painter Paul Klee, http://EN.WahooArt.com/A55A04/w.nsf/OPRA/BRUE-8LT475.
The image can be seen at wahooart.com who can supply you with a canvas print of it.