Archive for December, 2016

We had a fancy group dinner when we returned back to Edinburgh. I was the first person to leave early in the morning. It really was hard to say goodbye, both to the new friends and the beautiful country that we had come to know. Here are just a few photos documenting the trip home.


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Scotland Post #30

The main attraction on the last day of our tour was Stirling Castle.

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Time for a little history lesson.

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This is Robert the Bruce. He is often associated with William Wallace (you probably know him from Braveheart, personally I’ve never seen the movie) as uniting the clans of Scotland and forging Scottish National Identity. Both Robert the Bruce and William Wallace fought battles nearby, so they get statues outside the castle.

But as Rick Steves decribes, the castle’s “glory days” were when it was the primary residence of the Stuart monarchs (Mary Queen of Scots and the rest). James V (Mary’s dad) designed the palace. It has elaborate stone carvings on the exterior; this one is of James V himself.

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As this was our last group stop, we grabbed a photo!


I am pleased to introduce Steve, Mary, Mark, Gary, Jo, Brian, Janet, Carrie, Kim, Trish, Jennifer, Tara, Barbara, Lynn, our driver John, our guide Brian, Dayne, Linda, Marjorie!, me!, Mary, Donna, and Al.  Far to the right is Al’s hat, that blew over the edge.  Not pictured are Megan and Kathleen, who volunteered to take the photos.

I can’t believe we have to say goodbye soon!

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It’s the last day of our tour, and we had more lovely driving to do.  This time through the Trossachs National Park and the bonny, bonny banks of Loch Lomand.

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I got a little lost exploring the neighboring village of Luss…

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…but I knew I’d be okay when I found my new friends Lynn and Tara

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Our home away from home for the next two nights was in the seaside town of Oban.

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Day 8 was a day on our itinerary that I was very excited for. Read this itinerary on our tour’s website:

Today we’ll board a ferry and hop on a local bus for an entertaining ride across the island of Mull to our destination: the windswept Isle of Iona, the birthplace of Christianity in Scotland. We’ll tour the 800-year-old abbey, where monks created the remarkable Book of Kells, one of the sparks of creativity that pulled Europe out of the Dark Ages. We’ll then set you free to explore or find a spot to meditate on this tiny, spiritually charged island.

And as promised, we started our day on a ferry.

IMG_4927 ferry to mull I got to sit by Dayne and Al IMG_4928 dane and al on the ferry

The ferry ride was quite leisurely. It was very gray out, so the scenery wasn’t much to look at.

IMG_4932 We set ashore on the Isle of Mull as promised… IMG_4934 all ashore on mull

…and took a bus tour across the island to another ferry dock. On this particular day, the Isle of Mull looked like this:

IMG_4936 isle of mull And when we got to the ferry dock, the ferry was not running due to bad weather. No Isle of Iona for us. We got back on the bus and back on a ferry to Oban. Untitled

And that’s all for day 8. I can’t believe our tour is almost over!

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Scotland Post #27

After lunch on Tuesday, we had more driving to do. And it was beautifully scenic. We stopped at Ben Nevis, the tallest peak in Scotland. It made a brief appearance as we approached it, but is frequently covered by clouds. I think I’m standing in front of it in this photo, but I’m not positive.

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And then it was off to Glencoe. Glencoe is what your mind’s eye sees when you think of the Scottish Highlands.

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Our tour group was allowed into the visitor’s centre for the family price (thanks Uncle Rick!) and we learned about the Glencoe massacre. Glencoe is another great place for hiking, and another place where we hiked for about 10 minutes. I can still feel the mist in the air of Glencoe…so perfectly damp!

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Scotland Post #26


Honestly, I can’t remember where this photo was taken. I know it was somewhere on the road between Urquhart castle and our lunch stop in Fort Augustus. My excellent google skills have identified it as the Telford Bridge at Invermoriston. We learned from our tour guide that “inver” means “mouth of the river,” so Inverness is at the mouth of the river Ness, and Invermoriston is the mouth of the river Moriston. And sure enough, the Rick Steves Scotland 2016 guidebook can teach us the rest.

The Telford Bridge at Invermoriston is “a stone bridge, dating from 1805, which spans Moriston Falls as part of the original road.” Rick also some identifies some other structures from engineer Thomas Telford (look for “Telford” in the book’s index), and in the “past and present” section Telford is nicknamed “The Colossus of Roads.”  I can’t remember all of the Telford structures we saw on our tour, but the bridge in Dunkeld is one, and so are the locks on the loch in Fort Augustus.

We stopped for lunch in Fort Augustus. It was a lot of fun to say that there were “locks on the loch,” but as our guide said, once you’ve seen one lock you’ve seen them all.

But just in case any readers haven’t seen a lock:

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Scotland Post #25

The destination at the end of our Loch Ness cruise was Urquhart Castle.

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Urquhart Castle is a medieval castle, in use for 500 years (13th through 17th centuries according to http://www.urquhart-castle.co.uk/). It was fun to climb around and explore.

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And it got even nicer when the sun came out!


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After Cawdor Castle, we returned to our hotel in Inverness and had a lovely group dinner.

We checked out of the noisy hotel on Tuesday morning and headed to Loch Ness. We’ve got monster-searching to do!

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Loch Ness is contains more water than any other loch in Scotland…I ran to see it up close before the boat left.

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The boat ride was about 30 minutes long, gray and rainy, but beautiful.

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I’m a little sad I didn’t find Nessie, but the boat ride was a nice way to kick off our day!

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Scotland Post #23

After lunch on Monday we headed to Cawdor Castle.

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It is the home of the Dowager Countess of Cawdor. She still lives there after the end of tourist season (just a few days after our visit!), so a lot of the décor reminds me of my grandma’s house.

The gardens surrounding the castle were lovely.

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That bush is a Yew, and our guide tried to tell us why Yew is important, but Marjorie the Pharmacist knows much better. The chemotherapy drug Taxol comes from the yew tree. It was actually discovered in the Pacific Yew, a very rare tree in the Olympic Rainforest. The bush I’m hiding in is European Yew, and scientists have figured out how to synthesize Taxol from a base of European Yew, which is easily cultivated and doesn’t destroy rare ecosystems.

The grounds of Cawdor castle also provided our first sighting of a Hairy Coo (aka hairy cow or Highland cattle):

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so cute!

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Scotland Post #22

Today’s lunch stop was a lovely picnic at the Clava Cairns.  I’m not certain what these cairns are, but they’re probably tombs.  They’re definitely old.

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Maybe I was under the influence of Outlander, but I found this place quite mystical…

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…and I was not alone in thinking that!

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The Clava Cairns were definitely a highlight of the tour. A combination of the yummy picnic, the mystique of the cairns, a bonding game with the tour group, and sunny weather made for an outstanding midpoint to our itinerary.

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