Thursday, July 31, 2014

Too early for the heather…

The chorus to one of our favorite Scottish songs we love to hear goes…

Let the Irish sing of their Em'rld Isle
Where the four leav'd shamrock grows,
Let the English praise their valleys and braes,
And the bonny blooming rose,
But give me the land of the heather and the kilt,
The mountain and the river,
For the blood leaps in my veins
When I hear the bagpipe's strains
Scotland, dear old Scotland forever!

We have truly come to love Scotland and all its beauty…

We recently scheduled a trip to the Scottish Highlands with the goal to see the “heather on the hills”.  Unfortunately we were a wee bit early and the heather was just barely beginning to bloom.  No worries…what that means is there will be no pictures of heather in this post, but another trip is scheduled soon to see the heather.

We started our trip with some friends from Glenrothes and stopped at 3-4 little fishing villages along the northern coast of the Firth of Forth. 

We ended up in Anstruther (another fishing village) for dinner at a fish shop that has been voted “best fish & chips in the UK”.  The line was out the door with people waiting both to “sit in” and “take away”.  The company was grand and the fish suppers were superior.

We then started our trip to search for the heather.  We drove through Perth to Pitlochry and up the A9 to Inverness.  The scenery was wonderful but as I said, the heather just wasn’t ready to bloom.  We stayed overnight in Inverness.  The next morning we drove out to where the Battle of Culloden was fought on April 16, 1746.

 This is the River Ness running through Inverness...

On one side was the Jacobite army, determined to reclaim the throne of Britain for its Stuart king – Charles Edward Stuart, also referred to as “Bonnie Prince Charlie” - and on the other was the army of the British government – led by the Duke of Cumberland – equally determined to quash its opponents.  

 These are some grave markers from the Battle

Culloden was the last full-scale battle to be fought on British soil and the culmination of the last Jacobite Rising.  The Jacobites supported the Stuart line of kings which had ruled Scotland for centuries and had united Scotland and England.  The English Act of Settlement of 1701 required the monarch to be Protestant.  When Queen Anne died with no immediate successor the crown passed to Anne’s second cousin, the Elector of Hanover: King George I.  Charles campaign at Culloden was to overthrow the Hanover King and return rule to the Stuarts.

The troops of Prince Charles were badly outnumbered.  The Battle of Culloden only lasted about an hour and it was a devastating defeat for Charles.  Around 1,250 of his troops were dead and a similar number were wounded.  By contrast the government forces suffered only around 50 fatalities with less than 300 wounded.

We left the battle field of Culloden and drove down the west shore of Loch Ness to the Urquhart Castle (pronounced Er cart).  This is a beautiful setting.  We looked for the Loch Ness monster, but no luck on this trip.  The journey continued down Loch Ness to Fort William, through the valley of Glencoe, and home to Edinburgh.

Urquhart Castle

 Glencoe...the sight of another battle - the McDonalds and the Campbells...but that is a story for another day.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Am I falling behind?

I am falling behind in posting pictures of our travels…it is because we are either visiting too many interesting places leaving no time to write, or we are too busy with our employment work efforts.  

Early in July we took a day trip to the Isle of Bute and the village of Rothesay (pronounced Roth-see).  It was a beautiful day for sailing.  The ferry left Wemyss Bay (pronounced Weems) and headed for Rothesay.  The ferry ride took a little over ½ hour.

 This is the view of Wemyss bay as we left on the ferry

Just a wee walk from the ferry terminal was the Rothesay Castle.  This is a castle ruin that dates back to the 13th and 14th century.  This castle is unusual with its circular shape.  With most of the castles of this type there were other buildings built within the walls of the castle – a kitchen, stable, blacksmith’s forge, and a chapel.

This is the view of the Isle of Bute as the ferry came into Rothesay.  The town of Rothesay is really quite a beautiful town.  Residents can communte from Rothesay to Glasgow for work.  The ferry ride is only 1/2 hour and the train station to Glasgow is at the Ferry Terminal building.  It would be about another 30-40 minutes to the center of Glasgow.

 The castle is surrounded today by water, which would have been sea water in the early days of the castle.  Today it is very attractive.

Inside the castle walls are the ruins of other buildings.

This castle was long associated with the Stewarts, hereditary stewards of the kings of Scots and, from 1371 when Robert II gained the throne, the royal family itself.  The castle was lived in until the late 1600s when the keepers would have moved to more modern accommodations.  Rothesay Castle then fell into ruin.

 This is the ruins of the old Chapel which would have been within the castle walls.

Later in July we took a day trip to visit two more ruin castles.  You may be asking if we will ever run out of castles to see.  The answer is clearly NO…we will become “castled out” long before we could ever run out of castles to see.  I might add that we are soon reaching the point of being ‘castled out’. 

We took a trip about 30 miles east of Edinburgh to the Tantallon Castle and the Dirleton Castle.  What is becoming more interesting about seeing these castles is trying to keep track of the time line of when they were important in Scottish history and which family used or controlled the castle.  I am putting together a timeline of history which I will post at a later date.

 This is the Tantallon Castle...home of the Douglas Clan

The Tantallon Castle was built in the 1350s and was the home of the Douglas family.  In the 1380s the house of Douglas split into two branches – known as the ‘Black’ and ‘Red”.  Tantallon passed to the ‘Red Douglas’ line…earls of Angus.  For the next 300 years the earls of Angus held the castle as one of the most power families in Scotland.
 The main entrance to the Castle

This is the "inner close" which would have been surrounded by a wall.
The castle was besieged by James IV in 1491, James V in 1528, and the English in 1651 during Oliver Cromwell’s invasion.  The damage wrought by Cromwell’s heavy guns effectively brought to a close Tantallon’s days as one of the mightiest castles in Scotland.

The Bass Rock, a volcanic crag rising 350 feet out of the Forth Estuary, is about 2 kilometers off shore from Tantallon Castle.  Today the rock is dominated by seabirds, particularly gannets, of which there are around 34,000 breeding pairs. 

In the last 1600s the Rock was used as a prison for dissident Presbyterians.  In 1902 the Bass Rock Lighthouse was completed.  It became automated in 1988 and today is operated by remote control from Edinburgh.

We then went to the Dirleton Castle on our way back to Edinburgh...yes, there are castles everywhere you look.  This castle was located in the middle of the town and was surrounded by beautiful gardens.

 This is the main entrance to the Dirleton Castle


Another part of the Castle garden