Sunday, May 11, 2014

Road to Glen Coe.

It's been a while since I've written anything.  Been too busy trying to catch up on all the work I left behind when I went to Scotland.  We decided on Wednesday to go to Glen Coe, by way of Alberfeldy and Taymouth.  Once more we are driving through the heart of Scotland on narrow winding roads, most of the time right along the edge of the river Tay.  It is indeed beautiful country but it would be nice to have a little wider road to drive on.  One thing I can say about the Scots. They don't waste anything, including space. Everything is compact. In America we have plenty of space so we use it. In Scotland space is at a premium, so the roads are for the most part very curvy, narrow, and winding.
We stop at a town called Kenmore at the mouth of the River Tay.  Lovely old inn there that is one of the oldest in Scotland.  After talking some photos of the Inn we decide to walk to Taymouth Castle.  It is a much newer structure than other castles we've looked at, but it does have lovely grounds with lots of daffodils.  Back in the car and back on the road, heading straight into the Highlands of Scotland.   
Driving into the glen the mountains rose all around us. Pretty rivers and lochs (lakes) lined the roadways. The scenery was unreal...beautiful yet foreboding. I could just imagine a Highlander coming down the mountain side playing his pipes and wearing his tartan.
Glen Coe is famous for the slaughter of the Clan McDonald. King William of England had decreed that the highland clans would have to sign an oath of allegiance to him, and so one of the McDonald chieftains headed out to Fort William to sign the pledge. In the meantime, the King's army had arrived at Glen Coe and were welcomed by the McDonalds. They stayed for a week, were hospitably treated by their host, eat and drink with them. The McDonald Chief was delayed in reaching the fort because of bad weather so he didn't get there in time, and when the army chief, whose name was Campbell, found out it hadn't been signed, they proceeded to kill all the McDonald Clan they could find. Several of the women and children escaped into the mountains but they killed more than fifty of the Clan Chieftains..
Not exactly the best way to treat your host, I would think. My thought was he could have just given them a bad review. I think that would have served the purpose, but come to think of it, I have eaten a few meals where killing the host has entered my mind.
By the way, my daughter in law's maiden name was Campbell. I couldn't help but wonder if she's ever contemplated killing me after a meal at my house. LOL...Just kidding....

I will never forget my trip into the Scottish Highlands.  Something I've dreamed about doing all my life.  Now it's just a memory.  But what a wonderful memory it is.  Below are some photos of the Inn at Kenmore and Taymouth Castle....then the moody,
brooding Glen Coe.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


Scotland is gloomy, full of mist and low lying clouds. The buildings are old, some going back to the fifteenth or sixteenth century. The food, for the most part, is pretty basic. A lot of root crops like carrots, parsnips, turnips. Peas on almost all the plates, very much like we have potatoes on our plates at home. It is basically a cool climate so they can grow them all summer. Not like at home. If we don't get our spring crops planted by late March or early April is gets too hot for them.
Our first full day in Scotland needs to be spent preparing for our next seven days so we're off to find a grocery store to stock up.  Off to the town of Perth.  Since we have no food in the house other than some nice treats our hosts have left for us, we decide the first and foremost thing we need to do is find a place to eat.  We find a nice pub and once again I have the fish and chips.  Nice and safe.  Not so for my husband.  He has determined that since he is in Scotland he will have the haggis.  I ask him how he liked it.  His reply, 'well, I didn't like it enough to ever order it again or dislike it enough to wish I hadn't ordered it in the first place.  As for me, it's enough just to watch him eat his.  
Next thing is off to the grocery store.  Oh, what an adventure!  Carrots the likes of which this southern American girl has never seen.  Oh, so sweet and delicious.  Absolutely love the vegetables.   Bought way too many, but that's alright....I couldn't find the parsnips so I asked a sweet young girl who was also shopping if she knew where they were.  She left her cart and came with me to help me find them.  I could not believe how accommodating and helpful these people were.  They would not necessarily start a conversation with you, but if you asked them for assistance in anything, they would go out of their way to help.  Oh yes, I'm liking Scotland.
I was pushing a shopping cart and not watching where I was going. I was looking at the veggies, trying to decide which ones I wanted, and I nearly ran over this man. I apologized and told him I was from America, therefore I didn't know how to drive in Scotland. He laughed at me and said that's because you folks drive on the wrong side of the road. So it seems they have the same viewpoint as we do when it comes to which side of the road is the 'right' side. 
I bought a baking hen and I am going to cook that with an assortment of these wonderful local vegetables... 
We spent quite a bit of time today in Perth walking around in an old cemetery. It was amazing how young most of the people were when they died, many in their twenties or early thirties. And how many children were lost, sometimes several in the same family. A lot of the grave markers were so old you couldn't read the dates, but I did see a few in the seventeen hundreds.
Earl made a picture of some of our food finds today.
All in all, it was a lovely day. And I must say I love the sky and the air and the rivers and the flowers.  Oh yes, Scotland rocks so far.

Off to Scotland and Beyond.

Today is Monday, March 31 and we leave our hotel in Cumbria and head north to Scotland.  We manage to get out early so we're thinking maybe this time we will have time to visit Hadrian's Wall on our way.  We have consulted Google maps and outlined our route this time and decided that last attempt we turned one exit too soon, so this time we do manage to get the right one.  After some maneuvering we end up at the wall.  After parking the car we have a short walk and we are there.  Actually standing on a piece of rock that some Roman legionnaire put in place almost two thousand years ago.  Kind of blows your mind when you think about it, doesn't it.

Ok..we've seen the wall and now we're looking for the road to Scotland.  Problem is all these little roads look just alike.  Once again we're lost.  Big surprise, right!  After traveling up and down some roads more than once we finally meet a lady by the roadside and we stop to ask her just how to get out of here.  She takes one look as us.  "Lost, are you",, she says with a laugh.  I couldn't help but wonder how she knew....(chuckle)
She begins to patiently tell us where we needed to turn.  One of her instructions consist of 'go up the road to where the yellow company trucks are parked and take that road to the right'...I am secretly hoping that by the time we get there somebody won't have moved the trucks.  But we comply and sure enough, when we make the bend in the road, there are the trucks.  At last we're on our way.  Around four o'clock in the afternoon we arrive at Rait, Scotland, eleven miles from the town of Perth.  It is such a neat little seventeenth  century village and the cottage we will we staying in for the next eight days has a history that goes back to the sixteen hundreds.  Unbelievable!
No one is to be seen, but our landlords have graciously left us a note telling us where the key is.  We find it and enter.  How neat..  Just lovely inside.  Right now we are happy.  Happy to have arrived safety and happy with the place we have picked....end of another day in the U.K....more to follow.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Elopement, 1700's style...or off to Greta Green, Scotland...

If you wanted to get married in England in the seventeen hundreds and you were under the age of twenty one, you just could not.  Not even if your parents were in a hurry to get you out of the house.  You had to be of age and be married in the church by a vicar or it was not deemed legal.  But for eager young couples who might or might now have their parents approval, there was always Scotland.  So it is now the end of March and we have been in the U.K. for five entire days.  Our plan today is to travel to Carlisle and from there see Hadrian's Wall and onto Greta Green in Scotland.  Jane Austin, in her most famous book, Pride and Prejudice, had her sister Lydia and Wickham planning on eloping to Greta Green to be married.  Or should I say Lydia was planning on going there.  Wickham never had any such notion.  He took her to London and lived with her for a week or so, thereby bringing disgrace and shame on her entire family and subsequently ruining her changes of ever entering an honorable marriage.  But not to fear.  Mr Darcy came to the rescue and saved the family honor at the last hour.
But enough of Jane Austin.  Most men have had enough of her before they even start, but that's another story.  But once again we make a wrong turn and instead of finding Old Hadrian's Wall, we end up in the town of Carlisle, completely lost and totally turned around.  Somehow or other we come to a stop on a dead end street next to a pretty little stream, with water cascading over some rocks.  A nice site but just not where we want to go....Alas!  Foiled again..
We had parked next to a car with an elderly couple,  a man and his wife.  She must have had dementia, I think, because when he spoke to her she just kind of looked at him with a blank stare.  My thought was he had taken her out for a ride and a snack to some place quite and peaceful.  And here we came along and disturbed his peace.
But he was so kind when I tapped on his window and asked for directions.  He started to tell me turn by turn and then he finally said 'follow me, I will point you in the right direction.'  We tailed his car as he made turn after turn, and then finally when he had gotten us out of town and pointed us in the direction we needed to go, he pulled over and waved to us.  I got out and went around to the drivers side and when he opened the door to talk to me, I reached in and kissed him on his little bald head.  He smiled so sweetly and then got out of the car and came back and talked to Earl.  He had gone so much out of his way to help us.  I told Earl I don't think I have ever met kinder, sweeter people.  They usually will not initiate a conversation with you, but if you ask them for help of any kind they will go out of their way to assist you.
We drove in the direction he had pointed but after a little while just gave us and decided to hit the motorway to Scotland and Greta Green.   This we did find without too much trouble, and had a most informative and enjoyable visit.  The old village smithy with it's anvil is still standing and we toured the museum and then ate lunch in the cafeteria.   Fish and chips!  I have eaten so much of that since I've been here and I must say that is one thing the Brits know how to do well...A most enjoyable day.  We head home with plans to visit Old Hadrian another day.  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Bolton Castle and Mary Queen of Scots.

Our day in the dales took us next to Bolton Castle.  And the experience made me extremely happy I don't live in one.  By 1500 standards this place was a five star hotel.  My todays standards it was a lean-to that had seen better days.  Cold, dark, wet, and with steep, impossible stairs. One could get totally winded just coming down to breakfast.  Of course, in Mary's case she could have just demanded someone bring it to her in bed.  It even had a nursery for the children and I would have been petrified to leave one of my children there overnight.  We had a very nice lunch in the tea room with a nice hot bowl of cauliflower and blue cheese soup and a very good sandwich.  So all in all, it was a pretty good visit.  At least, very informative.   Mary stayed here for six month, during which time she was pretty much free to do as she pleased.  She had guest in and entertained them.  After all, it would have been easy for her.  She had a staff of fifty one people to do her beck and calling.  And I never realized that in a way she kind of asked for what she got.  My feeling was always that Elizabeth was cruel and heartless for killing her cousin, but Mary would drape her royal flag over the back of her chair while she was entraining  her guests.  This was considered a real a frontal

to Elizabeth.  So the Queen of England may have had real reason to fear her.  I couldn't help thinking if I had been in Mary's position, I would have down played it more, but then Mary had been brought up in the Court of France and pretty much spoiled and used to getting her own way.  She definitely had a sense of entitlement.   I would have just had the party and then let the servants clean up the mess and gone to bed.  Now that is my view of great entertaining.  Anyway, above  are some pictures of the castle.  Do wish I had made one of the tea room, but I was just too busy putting away that wonderful soup. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A Day in the Dales

The farmer's in the dale
The farmer's in the dale
Hi Ho the derry oh
The farmer's in the dale

We sang that little song and played that little game at recess in school.  For some reason I've had it going through my head.  Now I understand totally what a dale is.  And there are certainly farms there.  And old stone farm houses and stone fences and pretty creeks and sheep,  lots and lots of sheep.  On lovely green hillsides.
So a dale is quite different from a valley or even a cove.  It lies within the rolling hills and is aplenty with trees and lovely pastures.  The perfect place for  farmer to be and to take his wife and child.

We are off to Yorkshire and the Dales.  We enter the National Park and drive and drive and drive.  It is all so lovely.  This is James Harriott country.
  •  James Herriot was a British veterinary surgeon and writer, who used his many years of experiences as a veterinary surgeon to write a series of books of stories about animals and their owners. He is best known for these semi-autobiographical works, which are often referred to collectively as All Creatures Great and Small, a title used in some editions and in film and television adaptations.
Stories of a Yorkshire vet.   As many sheep as there are here, you would certainly need a vet.
From here we are on to Bolton Castle, famous for the six month imprisonment of Mary Queen of Scots

.  We are taking away with us some lovely mental images of this magical place and some great snapshots.  Pictures are above..

Friday, April 4, 2014

Off in search of Wordsworth's Daffodils.

After we left Hilltop House we decided to try and find Dove cottage, the home of William Wordsworth.  It was described as being in the same general area, and believe it or not, we managed to locate it without getting lost once.  Some of these locations have been a search in futility for us.  We've driven down the same road more than once on more than one occasion.  Earl's comment was we were going to wear some of these roads out just driving up and down them so often.  The problem is there are so many little roads that all look the same and very few road markers.  So if you don't know where you are going in the first place it can be a real challenge.
Wordsworth's poem 'The Daffodils' or by it's other title 'I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud' has always fascinated me.  I wanted to see if I could see for myself.  Did daffodils really grow that profusely in the English countryside.  He didn't lie.  They do.  But the funny thing is there really weren't many where he had lived.  They had the Daffodil Hotel and the Daffodil Tearoom and so on, but there was a surprising lack of the actual flowers. 

Oh well, it's now after one in the afternoon and we realize we are both hungry and needing to eat, so we decided to try the tea room.  They have a selection of different things on the menu, but being who we are and liking to play like we really are English, we decided we would just splurge and have 'the tea'.....which consist of an assortment of little sandwiches, a pot of tea for two, scones, and cake. It comes with clotted cream, which I absolutely love, and an assortment of jellies.  The sandwiches were good, just small, and not really enough for two hungry people.  The scone with the clotted cream and strawberry jam was probably the best I've ever eaten.  Didn't touch the cake.  Just boxed it up to take with us.  It didn't take me long to realize I'd made a big mistake.  All that sugar on an empty stomach immediately sent my blood sugar soaring.  When we toured the house it was dark and cramped and way too many people for one tour.  I had to get out of there!  Not really much to see anyway, but we did learn some interesting facts about Wordsworth, his sister Dorothy, and his wife Mary.  I hadn't realized how close friends he and Samuel Taylor Coleridge were.

I didn't even try to take any pictures there.  It had so many buildings that had sprung up around the little cottage it was not a good photo op, so I just passed on that one.  But driving back home through the country side we spotted an old stone church with such an array of daffodils in the graveyard the likes of which I have never seen.  We did take pictures of that. 
Today I made sure I packed the map with the instructions on how to get to our hotel, so without much further ado, we arrived home safely before dark.  Another full day.  Another grand adventure.  Pictures of the daffodils in the graveyard will follow..