Off To Glasgow

Today we were able to drop off the car. Even though we enjoyed having it and it was great to get in all those out of the way places, all those out of the way places are ridiculous to drive in. I don’t know whether either one of us was ever completely comfortable behind the wheel. If you are ever visiting the UK and decide to drive, just remember that there are 67 million people in a country that fits three times into the province of Manitoba. So, left hand driving, lots of cars, lots of roundabouts and in many places, very narrow roads – it does not lead to a completely stress free vacation. Anyways, before we dropped the car, we went for lunch and then walked over to Stirling Bridge. This is the bridge where William Wallace defeated the much more powerful English army in 1297. The existing bridge however is not the original bridge but rather a stone bridge that was built during the 1500’s. Nevertheless, it is pretty impressive. We wandered around the park there, read the storyboards, took some pictures and said our goodbyes to Stirling.

Once we dropped off the car, we caught a train to Glasgow. It was a very short ride – only 30 minutes – so we were much too early to check in at our BNB. We walked down the main tourist street and were stopped by a very exuberant fellow. He had seen the Canada flags on our backpack and wanted to chat. He is originally from Glasgow but now lives in PEI. He is here now visiting his elderly mother and enthusiastically told us about the Tim Horton’s just around the corner and gave us directions to a couple of other places. He ended the conversation with “Keep your stick on the ice and keep your fu_ken head up” and headed off into the crowd. What a cool way to be greeted in Glasgow!!

Stirling Bridge…

img_5687img_5689img_5694img_5691img_5690img_5695

Welcome to Glasgow..img_5697

 

Castles, Castles and Silly Movies

We headed out of Inverness and set our GPS to the Doune Castle, about a three hour drive towards Stirling. Today I was driving so Richard was able to see the beautiful scenery that he missed on the way up north. It rained off and on but for the most part, the drive was pleasant.

We arrived at Doune Castle at 1:00, had a quick lunch of pre-prepared sandwiches and headed inside. Doune Castle is a medieval castle built during the 14th century by Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany. Doune reflects current ideas of what a royal castle building should be. It was planned as a courtyard with ranges of buildings on each side, although only the northern and north-western buildings were completed. These comprise a large tower house over the entrance, containing the rooms of the Lord and his family, and a separate tower containing the kitchen and guest rooms. The two are linked by the great hall. Though the castle has received restoration over the years, it is still very much like the original. We know this castle for the movies and TV shows that have been filmed here. It was the main filming location of Monty Python’s “In Search of the Holy Grail”. In fact, the audio tour is done by none other than Python’s Terry Jones. This entertaining tour features audio clips from the movie and a lighthearted, informative narrative of the castle itself. The castle has also been featured as Castle Leoch in the series Outlander and Winterfell in Game of Thrones. We felt that of all the castles we have seen to date, this one was the most authentic and well preserved. If you are ever in Scotland, this is a must see.

From the castle we drove onto Stirling and stopped at the Wallace Monument. This monument is a tribute to Sir William Wallace who fought for Scottish freedom against the English King Edward I, also known as Edward Longshanks. The most famous battle was fought at the Stirling Bridge where the Scottish delivered a resounding defeat to the English troops. This made Wallace a hero in the eyes of his Scottish peers. If you have watched Mel Gibson’s Braveheart, then you will know that things did not turn out so well for Wallace. In 1305 Wallace was captured, drawn and quartered and his head was set on a spike for all his comrades to see. I think that the British thought that this would end the rebellion of the Scottish but as we know from history, war raged between the two for almost another 500 years.

We stopped at our BNB, dropped our bags and decided to walk up to Stirling Castle. The rain that had threatened all day finally fell and most of the walk up was with the umbrella. By the time we reached the top, we were informed that the castle had closed for the day. Though we weren’t planning to tour the interior anyway, we had hoped to get some pictures of the courtyard inside the walls. However, we had no such luck and we headed back down the hill. We stopped in the old part of town for a bite to eat (Richard again had some haggis which he seemed to like), headed back to the BNB, made some popcorn and settled in to watch, of course, The Holy Grail. It just gets better everytime we see it – especially now that we have see the the film locations.

Today we drop off our car and head to Glasgow by train. In a couple of days we are in Ireland and then Canada. Where has the time gone?!?!

Doune Castle

img_5651img_5671img_5668img_5659img_5656

This picture is of the section in the kitchen where the fire was for cooking.  It was large enough to accommodate and entire cow on the spit.  The picture below show a section of the wall where the knives were sharpened.

img_5662img_5663

Col and I posing with coconuts which were used to make the horsey hoof sounds in the Holy Grail movie.

img_5667img_5665

Our favourite scene of the Castle from the Monty Python movie.

The Wallace monument…

img_5673

Stirling Castle & Stirling.

Image result for stirling castle

Robert the Bruce.

Image result for robert the bruce stirling castle

Stirling Old Town.

img_5680img_5674

My second meal of Haggis.  Not sure why people back home don’t like it.  I think it tastes fine.

img_5686

Moors and Lochs (It Doesn’t Get Much More Scottish Than That!)

Every since I was young I have read about Bonnie Prince Charlie and his failed attempt to take back his crown. I always wondered where things went wrong. As I grew older and read more about it, it did seem quite tragic and sad. So, when Diana Gabaldon came out with the Outlander series based on the Scottish Highlands, I was hooked. I read her books, did more research and was excited when we decided to come up to Inverness. Culloden Moor is where the final battle of the Jacobites (Scottish rebels and supporters of Prince Charles Stuart) and the English (the government) took place on April 16, 1746. Our BNB is only three miles from this historic battleground!! The battle was doomed from the start. Though the rebels had won battles against the English at Prestonpans and Falkirk the previous year, the English army greatly outnumbered them in men and artillery. The Jacobite army consisted of clansmen which were mainly farmers. On the morning of April 16, as the English army advanced towards Culloden, the rebels were disorganized and confused due to an aborted raid on the English troops the night before.  Many were sleeping in ditches and outbuildings while others were out searching for food. They quickly reorganized but orders from commander in chief, Prince Charles came too late or were not followed and the Jacobites were defeated within an hour. Over 1500 of the 7000 men were killed and many others captured. From then on the English government banned the display of tartan or the use of Gaelic speech. It was the last armed conflict on Scottish soil. We parked our car at the front gate and started walking through the battlefield. Flags and flagpoles illustrate where the both the Jacobite and the Government front lines were. There are walkways, storyboards, and memorial stones throughout the grounds. The moor is rugged and covered in heather, small brush and trees. We spent a couple of hours wandering about and were saddened by the tragedy of it all. Of course, Charles Stuart, for whom they all fought for, escaped to France and lived for another forty years, never to return again to Scottish soil while his countrymen paid the price. To me, that is the real tragedy.

After Culloden, we headed into Inverness for lunch and some shopping. Other than the very ultra modern mall, the town is quaint and fairly touristy.

We couldn’t come all this way and not check out the legend of the Loch Ness monster! We headed down the Loch to the Information and Visitor Centre. They had a very informative and interesting media exhibit showing the history of Loch Ness monster sightings, subsequent research and left us with the question – myth or reality? I think that we both agreed that the monster is a myth but the Loch itself is very interesting. The largest freshwater body of water in Britain, it runs from the North Sea at Inverness to the Irish Sea at Fort William. We decided that we would like to see the Loch close up, so we took a one hour cruise.  Though it was rainy and overcast, our cruise director was informative and witty. We travelled a couple of miles up and down the Loch, past the ruins of Urquhart Castle, the largest castle in Scotland, and listened to stories of the research being done on the lake. Though as mentioned, it is the largest freshwater lake in Britain, the water is not used for drinking. In fact, the Loch is really used for nothing except for recreational boating and fishing. It is too cold to swim and there are very few fish. The biggest attraction here is “Nessie” and there have been 16 reported sightings of her already this year. Maybe not the myth that we think?

We head off to the Doune Castle near Stirling tomorrow. Many movies, including the Holy Grail and episodes of Outlander have been filmed here. Stirling is where the statue of William Wallace stands as well as the Stirling Castle. Should be another great day of entertainment and history!!

img_5596img_5595

The British front line with red flags and the Scots with the blue flags.  There were about 400 meters apart.

img_5602img_5600

Memorial stones and a picture of the battlefield.

img_5594img_5593img_5597img_5589img_5591img_5601

Loch Ness

img_5617img_5616img_5608img_5618img_5619

Our boat cruise on the Loch…

img_5625img_5647img_5634img_5636

Here is some English Gaelic to try out.

img_5606

Scotland is a beautiful country and the people are so friendly and welcoming, but sometimes it is a bit difficult to understand them.  Col manages better than I do.  More than once in a restaurant I have given the server the deer in the headlights look after she or he asked me a question.  Apparently they even have that problem in the Scottish Parliament.

 

 

Off to the Highlands – with a quick stop at St. Andrews Golf Course!!

Well, the lengthy title sort of sums up the day. We left Edinburgh at about 10 AM and after some finagling through the city, we were out in the Scottish countryside and headed to St. Andrews. The GPS lady didn’t take us on any crazy detours on unidentified roads so the drive was fairly easy and we arrived there around 11:30. Across from the carpark we found the famous members only clubhouse, watched some people tee off on Hole 1 and others putt out on Hole 18.  I think that I should let Richard take it from here….

Anyone who golfs or is a sports fan has heard of St. Andrews Golf Club.  It is the oldest and arguably the most iconic course on the planet.  Golf has been played on the Links at St Andrews since around 1400 AD, and the Old Course is renowned throughout the world as the Home of Golf. What was one simple track hacked through the bushes and heather has developed into six links golf courses and four other courses in the immediate area.  By 1764, the Old Course consisted of 22 holes, 11 out and 11 back, with golfers playing to the same hole going out and in, except for the 11th and 22nd holes. The golfers decided the first four holes, therefore also the last four holes, were too short and that they should be made into two holes instead of four. Thus the number of holes per round dropped from 22 to 18, and that is how today’s standard round of golf was created.  In 1754, the Royal and Ancient Club was founded under its original name of the Society of St Andrews Golfers. This club, originally composed of 22 noblemen, professors and landowners, has become the foremost golf club in the world and now governs the rules of golf everywhere except in the USA.

I was not that excited as we were traveling to the grand ol’ course, but once we arrived and starting walking around it was quite exciting.  So glad we took the detour to stop in for a visit.

The celebrated clubhouse of St. Andrews.

img_5577img_5540

The Swilcan Bridge.

It’s not a particularly imposing bridge, but the Swilcan Bridge on The Old Course’s 18th hole is one of the most famous golf course landmarks in the world.

Everyone who crosses it stops to have his or her photo taken, even the pros. And this gallery of Swilcan Bridge images includes some of those famous pros who’ve posed on it. Even a trio of greats who said their goodbyes to St. Andrews from atop it — plus another legend of the game who once tap danced across it.

img_5550img_5543

Jack Nicklaus.

Some of the course and those hated bunkers.

img_5565img_5569img_5571img_5575

I snuck on to the course to take the bunker shots and figured I might as well take a selfie while I Am On St. Andrew’s Golf Course!!!!

img_5573

St. Andrew’s Ale at St. Andrews.

img_5558

The picture below was in the club house where we had lunch.

img_5556

Before we reached Inverness we stopped for a coffee and Col managed to get the Highland Cow to stand still long enough for a photo.

img_5580

 

Edinburgh, Scotland

The day looked pretty rainy and miserable but we are in Scotland now so it is either tour in the rain or never see Scotland. Or so we have been led to believe. When we arrived in Edinburgh the day before, there was no rain. Our BNB is just down the block from the North Sea so, though it was windy and a bit chilly, we walked the promenade from one end to other.  The sea was wild and choppy but there were still people on the beach, in the water and spending time with friends and family. We decided that they were much tougher than us as they were in shorts and t-shirts while we were bundled in our winter jackets. That doesn’t happen very often!

Anyways, on Day two we jumped the bus and headed to Old Edinburgh. Though we have the car, we thought that it would be much easier to ride the bus and given all the construction downtown, we were right about that. We got off in front of the Scott Monument, dedicated to Sir Walter Scott, a writer. The monument is quite impressive and is the second largest in the world dedicated to a writer. The other is in Havana, Cuba.

We joined all the other folks with their umbrellas heading towards the Edinburgh Castle. This historic fortress dominates the skyline of the city from its position on the volcanic Castle Rock. Though the Rock has been occupied since the Iron Age, King Charles I was the last sovereign to stay there. He slept there on 19 June 1633, the night before his Scottish coronation. The Castle has played a prominent role in the ongoing battle between the Scottish and the English and has had many facelifts as a result of war and destruction. It now houses the Crown Jewels and is the number one tourist spot in Scotland. We took a few pictures and then headed down Royal Mile to see the historic buildings and the shops.

We did some shopping, had lunch at the McGregor (can’t get much more Scottish than that!!)  and when the rain finally stopped, we headed up to Calton Hill. Calton Hill is one of Edinburgh’s main hills, set right in the city centre. It is unmistakable with its Athenian acropolis poking above the skyline. The acropolis is in fact an unfinished monument – originally called the “National Monument”. Initiated in 1816, a year after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, it was meant to be a replica of the Parthenon in Athens, as a memorial to those who had died in the Napoleonic Wars. However, funds ran out during construction and it has never been completed.  The panoramic views of the city and the craggy volcanic hills that surround it are amazing. I can only imagine what you could see on a clear day!!

We headed back down the hill and satisfied with a day well spent in the capital city, headed back to our BNB to get ready for tomorrow’s adventure – a trip up to Inverness to see if we can catch a glimpse of the Loch Ness monster. Wish us luck!!

PS…  Richard had his first taste of Haggis today.  He actually like it.

The sign sums up what it is like to drive in Great Britain.

Image result for Welcome to Scotland

img_5496

The Scott Monument.

img_5503

Image result for the scott monument edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle.

img_5518img_5508img_5504

Image result for edinburgh castle

Around Edinburgh

img_5520img_5524img_5521img_5522img_5533img_5534img_5535img_5526img_5529img_5531img_5516

Hadrian’s Wall

Today we walked on Hadrian’s Wall! Built by the Romans in AD122, this 84 mile defensive fortification spanned the northern limits of the Roman Empire and ran from the North Sea to the Irish Sea. Hadrian, the emperor of Rome, decided that there was no value in pushing the territory any further north and had the wall designed to repel attacks from the northern tribes. It was built by Roman soldiers in a span of about eight years and it is believed that they used very little local labor. The original design had lookout turrets every few miles along the wall. However, a few years into construction, Hadrian decided that forts should also be built into the wall. Many portions of the wall had to be torn down and rebuilt to accommodate the new design. As the years went by, many soldiers were called back to Rome due to an ever increasing threat to the city. Most did not return to Britain. The forts and the wall were completely abandoned by the Romans around AD410. In the years that followed, much of the structure fell to ruin or the stone was pilfered for other construction projects. Today, a number of the fort ruins and portions of the wall have been excavated and are open for visitors to explore. The Hadrian’s Wall Pathway is a walking trail that runs along the entire length of the wall. So, if you have five to seven days of free time, this is a fun thing to do. Unfortunately, we do not have that kind of time at this point of our journey, but we were able to walk on the wall for about a kilometer. It is pretty amazing to think that this structure, built 1900 years ago, has stood the test of time. We visited two forts and it should be noted that the views from them were fantastic. Beautiful countryside – both north and south.

Following our walk back in time, we headed home for supper and reflected on another perfect day in England. Tomorrow we cross the border and head up to Edinburgh, Scotland. I wonder what kind of adventures we’ll find there.

PS. I probably do not thank you, our friends and readers, nearly enough for your support. It is always great getting feedback on something I’ve written or pictures that Richard has posted. We got two comments on our Lake District blog that I would like to pass along. The cattle with the bangs are most likely Highland cattle and the stone fences are called Dry Stone Walls. Thank you Cathy and Janet for that information. We appreciate it!

img_5452img_5478img_5455img_5459

The Lavatory…img_5457img_5481img_5490img_5491img_5495

Col looking over the Northern frontier checking for Barbarians.img_5466img_5463img_5474img_5471

The Lake District

We packed the car and sadly said goodbye to our hosts in Wales and headed north towards Scotland. Though we were excited for the rest of our journey, I couldn’t help but think that I had left a little piece of myself in the beautiful hills around Welshpool. I can understand why my Gran always spoke of this place with so much reverence.

The three and a half hour drive turned into about six as we decided to take a detour and have lunch in the Lake District. I have read many novels that have their setting at this area and I wanted to see for myself if it is as beautiful as I have read. What we noticed first of all was the stone fences. You may recall that the fences in England and Wales were thick hedges at about shoulder height. As we entered the Lake District, the fences were all stone – along the road, though the pastures and fields and around the houses. It was absolutely amazing!! Richard had picked a spot for lunch called the Drunken Duck and the winding road took us through the countryside filled with sheep, through a number of small touristy, villages and past some pretty magnificent homes along the lake. The Drunken Duck is known for its views and we weren’t disappointed. The sky was clear, the sun was shining and we could see for miles. The waiter told us that we were very lucky as most of the time it is raining and you can’t really see anything for the clouds. We had a fairly basic lunch, walked a bit to stretch our legs and got back in the car for the rest of our journey. Richard was driving now and rather than go back out the way we came in, we decided to just keep driving north. Though the road got even more narrow, windy and hilly, the scenery was fantastic! Cute, little bungalows. Rocky hillsides. Green pastures. Beautiful valleys. Large lakes. Thousands of sheep. Even a pasture of long, horn cattle with bangs!! And all of this scenery encompassed within those magnificent stone fences. We stopped a couple of times to take pictures and though we will post some, I am sure that they will not do them justice. We both agreed that the scenery was well worth the nerve wracking drive!!

We arrived at our BNB in Carlisle, England about 4 PM. We settled in, went for a walk to get a few groceries and hunkered in for the night. We are about a half hour drive from Hadrian’s Wall and plan on a fairly long day tomorrow as we explore this historic Roman architecture.  Another amazing day in jolly Old England!!

The Drunken Duck and the views from where we ate.

img_5425img_5433img_5428img_5426img_5430

The winding road out of the Lake District.

I am not too proud to say it was a bit of a nail biter.  The going was slow due to the narrowness of the road and a lot of it was lined with the stone fences which were sometimes inches from the car.  I was quite happy to get back on the motorway.

img_5442

The black lines in the field below are the rock fences.img_5435img_5440img_5448

Another Lovely Day in Wales

Our first stop today was in Guilsfield at St. Aelhaiarn Parish Church, about a twenty minute drive from our BNB. I was looking for my Gran’s grandparents. My problem was that I couldn’t remember if I was looking for her maternal or paternal grandparents. My mom, sister and I had been here in 2007 so I just had to remember where the gravestone was. After about 20 minutes of wandering around and listening to my husband saying “Who are we looking for? Shouldn’t you have done more research?”, I actually found the headstone!! Richard and Ann Jones, paternal grandparents of my Gran. How cool!!

From there we headed off to find Gran’s childhood home. When I was young, Gran had told me many stories of her Welsh home of Pembryn. She was only 14 when her family emigrated to Canada in search of a better life but I feel that she yearned to return to the place of her memories. Though we had been here in 2007 and I had a general idea of where it was, I would never have found it without the GPS coordinates supplied to me by David, my Welshpool cousin. But, find it we did and today we were in luck – the current owner was out in his garden. Though he was a little wary at first when he saw two strange people walking up his driveway, he was very friendly and was as interested in us as we were in him. He has only owned the property for a few years but is in the process of tracing the history of it. He was able to tell us that in the 1970’s the farm had been broken up and sold off and was no longer a working farm. The buildings on the property were also divided with the main house as one property and the barns as another. Over the years, both properties have been renovated but both still display the name “Penbryn”. We walked around and while taking pictures, I imagined young Sally playing with her friends and doing her chores in these ancient buildings. After exchanging emails and saying goodbye to our new friend, we walked back to our car that we had left further up the hill, enjoyed a homemade sandwich while looking over the Welsh countryside. During our journey people have asked us “what is your favorite place?”. It has always been a tough question to answer but I think I have it now – This is the place that tugs the most on my heart.

I was finally able to break myself away from these beautiful hills and we headed down into Welshpool to meet some family from my Gran’s side. As a kid, the Joneses had always been part of our lives. To me they were exotic because sometimes they lived in Wales and sometimes they lived in Canada. My young brain could not even comprehend how that was possible!! Of course, over the years, I was able to understand but I have always admired them for their ability to move between both countries with ease. Alex, my Gran’s cousin, and his wife Margaret are now permanently living in Welshpool. They are 90 and 88 respectively but both are amazing. We spent a pleasant afternoon  catching up on family news and I peppered them questions about their life on Vancouver Island, Though they miss Canada greatly, they are close to most of their family here in Wales and that is really what counts. Speaking of family, David, their son, who I mentioned briefly a few sentences earlier, also stopped by for a visit. We have not seen each other for years but were able to easily pick up the thread of conversation with childhood memories of Gran’s farm and family adventures since then. All too soon the afternoon was over and we were heading back to our BNB. Such a beautiful day as we meshed past and present together. My heart is full.

The Headstone of Col’s great great grandparents and the Parish Church of the Jones.

img_5391img_5392

img_5388img_5400

We don’t know for sure, but it is quite possible that Col’s Gran went to this school.  Guilsfield old School.

img_5395

Penbryn Farm

img_5411img_5409img_5407img_5414img_5413img_5416

The owner of the the house stated that the Granary was not where grain was stored, but it was the place where the Grannies lived.img_5415img_5419

Gran’s relatives in Welsh Pool.

img_5422

David, Alex, Col and Margaret.

img_5424

 

Exploring Wales

After the excitement of the last couple of days, we decided to take it easy, catch up on the blog and some laundry and enjoy the quiet, country life. After our laundry was hung up to dry and the blog was complete, we headed out for a walk around the farm. The cottage that we are staying in is dated around 1700 while the main house next door is dated around 1400. How cool is that?!?!? We wandered around the yard and the hills, petted some of the baby sheep, and basked in the sunshine and the amazing beauty of the area.

We needed to go to town to get some groceries so thought that while we were out and about with the car, we would do some exploring. We didn’t have to drive far to arrive at Lake Vyrnwy. This reservoir in the county of Powys, Wales, was built in the 1880s for Liverpool Corporation Waterworks to supply Liverpool with fresh water. It flooded the head of the Vyrnwy valley and submerged the village of Llanwddyn. (much like the Shellmouth Dam and Lake of the Prairies). There is a little convenience store and gas station that is still called Llanwddyn but I’m not sure if this would be on the original site. The dam itself is quite impressive. It was the first large stone-built dam in the United Kingdom, and is built partly out of great blocks of Welsh slate. It is 355 metres (1,165 ft) long and has a road bridge running along the top. It is decorated with over 25 arches and two small towers (each with four corner turrets). We drove across the dam, parked the car and walked along the lake, back across the dam and down into the sculpture park in the valley below the dam. The park is quite beautiful and there are several totems carved into standing trees and re-erected fallen trunks. At the little restaurant near the car park, we had a cream tea (finally!!) and a cider. As we headed out we stopped the car at the straining tower which looks like a miniature castle.  Its purpose is to filter out material in the water with a fine metal mesh, before the water flows along the aqueduct to Liverpool. This whole area is absolutely beautiful and so very peaceful. It is a bird watchers paradise and we enjoyed our walk, listening to the different bird calls and the gentle waterfalls coming through the dam. The peace was only disturbed by six fighter jets zooming through the valley on what I can only assume (and hope) was a training exercise. A pretty awesome first day in Wales!

Tomorrow we are off to meet relatives on my Gran’s side and hopefully track down her childhood home. Can’t wait!!

Our Airbnb…

img_5332img_5340img_5343img_5344

We even have a wood stove…img_5385img_5342

 

 

Lake Vyrnwy.

img_5346img_5348img_5363img_5368img_5359img_5351img_5369

The Straining Tower

img_5355img_5380

Wood carvings out of trees…

img_5365img_5376img_5375img_5373img_5366img_5371img_5377

This one is called the Pecking Order…img_5349

Tried some traditional Welsh Cider…

img_5378img_5379

Here is some Welsh for you to learn – all the signs here are in both languages

img_5345