Archive for the ‘Doune Castle’ Category

The Highlands, Part 2   Leave a comment

So much to try and pack in on this day, and so little time with the sun going down early.  After a quick breakfast of Scottish Porage we headed out to the Isle of Skye.  The further north we have gotten the harsher and more barren the landscape has become.  However, you can see the dormant Heather all around and I can really imagine that with Spring the hills must literally be alive with colour!!  Unfortunately, alive with “midges” also…..nasty biting blood-sucking little pests, smaller than gants and mosquitoes that swarm everything in sight!!!  FORTUNATELY midge season is over……..we talked to the locals about them….yeah, they’re as bad as we’ve heard……

Skye used to be accessed only by ferry but now there is a nice bridge that you can cross over.  Here’s a panorama of the area just before you get to the bridge–that you’ll see down at the right of the photo.  Skye is directly across the water:

Like I said, sooo much to see and yet we can’t see it all so we have to just sometimes watch the signs go by with sadness….One of the things I would have liked to see here was a lighthouse built by the Stevenson family.  Most people know that Robert Louis Stevenson is a famous author, but not many realize that he came from an extremely famous family of Lighthouse builders here in Scotland, and that he, in fact, started out to be so but then turned toward writing instead.  Many of the most incredible lighthouses built here in Scotland were by his father and brothers.

Other places we had to pass up because of lack of time, or daylight, were Culloden, Bannockburn, the Falkirk Wheel…and the way things look with our time and schedule, I don’t believe we’re going to make it to Glasgow…..well…next time… 🙂

As I’m writing this, it is 3:30 am, California time, but 10:30 am our time.  It raining outside, very dreary and we’re not moving around much.  I think we’re all pretty exhausted from the pace we’ve been maintaining over the entire time of our stay.  Also, it’s Thursday and we’re finding that a lot of the places that we would like to see are closed on Thursday–off season times now, don’t cha-know.  We’re probably going to take it easy today a do a little catching up.  Will make it a good time to catch up on this blog also.  Tomorrow we check out at 10 am, then head up to Perthshire area and at night we have tickets to see the Enchanted Forest ( ).  After that we head down to the Airport, check in and wait around until 6 am when we fly out.  Hopefully our flight back will be uneventful and boring—unlike our flight here.

Anyway, where was I…oh yeah, Skye!!  The scenery on Skye is really amazing.  Sort of like when you go over to the California coast and the hills are barren.  But these have a ruggedness unlike anything I’ve seen before, and all down the hills you see these veins cut into the hills by the rivulets of water that are constantly flowing–creating incredible mini-waterfalls and streams.  And, as you look at these hills there’s this overwhelming magical feeling that just beckons you to want to climb it and experience the views that must await you at the top.  If we had the time we would have loved to.  Another interesting thing we’ve discovered is the wind that barrels down these hills—especially when you are in these little valleys between two of the hills.  You step aside from that funnel of a valley and it’s relatively “calm” again.  Another thing is the Sheep.  Scattered all over, not just together in a flock, and you will see them all up on the hills, on cliffs, rocks, nearly inaccessible ledges for a scrap of green when all around them down on the pastures there is lush green grass for easy grazing….go figure…..

Oh, and the Light!!!  With the weather as it is—and I LOVE this gray dreary weather (further proof that I’m Scottish 🙂 )–the light is constantly changing in dramatic fashion.  You look out across the way and off in the distance you will see the light bathing the cliffs, the moors or the Loch and you grab your camera, double check your settings, look up and it’s gone!–different now, ever changing, dramatic, breathtaking, alive.

And Rainbows!!!!  I’ve seen more rainbows in the sky on this trip than I think I’ve seen in my entire life!!  They tell us that if we think it’s amazing now we need to see them in the Spring!

Well, we wish that we could have seen more of Skye but we had to turn around and head back out.  We’re told that had we had the time we needed to go up to see the Orkney Isles–they said it is like another world entirely!….next time….

Back over the bridge, past Eilean Donan again for one last look and a few photos then off toward Fort William and on to Glencoe.   As we drove we were amazed to see up on the mountains that it had snowed during the night.  Not a lot but the amount that blanketed the hilltop was dramatic and beautiful.  Fort William has the highest amount of rainfall of any place in Scotland–that assessment appears to be quite true, yesterday anyway.  Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Scotland, is also at Fort William—shrouded in fog and clouds…

Glencoe was a place that I wanted to see, not only because of the rugged beauty but because of the history that took place there–the Glencoe Massacre.  In 1692, the chief of the Glencoe MacDonalds was late in registering an oath of submission to William III, giving the government an excuse to root out a nest of Jacobite supporters.  For ten days 130 soldiers, captained by Robert Campbell, were hospitably entertained by the unsuspecting MacDonalds.  At dawn on Feb 13th, in a terrible breach of trust, the soldiers fell on their hosts, killing some 38 MacDonalds.  Many more died in their wintry mountain hideouts in their attempt to escape the massacre.

If you’ve ever been to Yosemite, picture those massive walls rising up on either side of you with the valley in between–totally devoid of trees!!!  That’s what Glencoe reminded us of.  Incredibly beautiful, rugged and breathtaking–and to picture what happened there in the dead of winter was very sobering.

We continued on through some starkly impressive moor regions–fortunately they weren’t enshrouded in fog but we could certainly see how dangerous they could be had they been.

After the moors we came to more forests and gradually back into the rolling hills that we’ve been accustomed to—and EVERYWHERE incredible Autumn colours!!  Just before dark we found ourselves, once again in Doune—where the “Monty Python” Castle is located.  This time there was a break in the rain so we stopped by and got photos of the outside.

That was enough for that day, night was upon us so back to “home” we went.  It had been a long two days filled with incredible moments, AND regrets on having to pass up other places we would have liked to have seen.  Scotland is growing on us like no other place we (I in particular) have ever been before.  We all mentioned over and over again, how we could really get used to living here very easily.   For my part, having grown up reading everything I could about Scotland–the land, the history, studying photos, being obsessed with the beauty and mystery of the land….being here has had, with me, the strange feeling that I am home…..

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Castle Tours…   2 comments

Today was a real treat!!!  I got to ride in the front seat like a big boy!!  I’m usually doing all the driving but this time it has been really nice to just sit back, enjoy the scenery and let the boys drive–and today was a great day for that.

We decided to try and visit 3 castles today:  Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle and Doune Castle.  Monty Python fans will recognize that last Castle as the one used in the movie “Quest for the Holy Grail” 🙂

This morning dawned BEAUTIFUL!!!  Clear blue skies once again.  We first went to Edinburgh Castle and began touring there—absolute incredible views of all around, just breathtaking!!!  We kept trying to picture what it must have been like to be there 4 or 500 years ago.  There’s soooo much about this place that I would love to talk about–the history that went on here, etc.  We visited St. Margret’s Chapel–the oldest structure at the castle–built in the 1100s.  Found it to be quite moving.  Then, we also visited the Scottish National War Museum within the walls of the Castle.  We found this to be VERY moving as well with all the dedications to the soldiers of the past who fought and died.  I noticed that NO ONE spoke above a whisper in this building–you wouldn’t dare, there was a Holy presence, you could feel it.  In the Royal Palace, among other things, we were able to view the Crown Jewels, and the famous Stone of Destiny upon which all the Kings of Scotland have been crowned–the most sacred item in all of Scotland.  The history behind BOTH these items is incredibly fascinating–with tales of intrigue, escape and war.  I really encourage anyone interested to look up the history on both of these or ask me about it later–I love sharing the stories about these things 🙂  It was REALLY difficult to tear ourselves away and leave this place but we had two more Castles we wanted to see and it gets dark early around here now.  Unfortunately, photography is NOT allowed within the Castle buildings so we were not able to get pictures of these items.

We next headed up to Stirling Castle–a magnificent Castle high upon a rocky crag.  Stunning sight to see—similar to Edinburgh Castle.  It seems impregnable from where it resides.  Stirling remains one of the finest examples of Renaissance architecture in Scotland.  Stirling occupied a key position in Scotland’s struggles for independence and from its heights you can see seven battlefields.  Across the valley and high on another hill–across from the location of the famous Stirling Bridge, where William Wallace won his great victory–you can see the Wallace Monument, a 220 foot tall imposing Victorian tower/monument.  Unfortunately, too far away for us to have time to go visit but we could see it from the ramparts of the Castle.

The unfortunate thing, however, was that clouds began rolling in and by the time we were leaving Stirling, rain was falling.

So, off to Doune Castle we went for our final visit.  By the time we got there the rain was coming down quite steadily.  I would have LOVED to get photos of the outside but the rain was coming down so much that I didn’t want to risk shorting out the electronic components in the camera if it got wet–MAJOR Bummer if that happens.   So, I hid it inside my coat and we went inside.

Aside from the celebrity status it received with the filming of Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail, it is an excellent example of a medieval castle.  It’s a small castle and we were free to roam around within wherever we liked in all the passage ways and tunnels that were opened to us.  We had a blast going up narrow spiral stairways and discovering new passages and rooms–we could have stayed there for hours but only had about an hour to enjoy it.  Because of the rain we were practically the only ones there—probably fortunate for our reputations–we spent a lot of time reciting lines from the Quest for the Holy Grail…I’m sure we weren’t the first 🙂

One photo I couldn’t resist posting…..Ryan got caught discovering the King’s “John”…..“Now go away or I will taunt you a second time!!!”

Once again, breathtakingly beautiful views and as you travel all around, as you look out into the fields, you see VERY woolly sheep with skinny little legs poking out, black faces, white faces and very different than what I am used to seeing in the US.  Also, cows out in the fields.  Rolled bales of Hay.  BEAUTIFUL Fall colors…oops, “colours”.  Also, quite often you’ll look out and suddenly see towers, little castle keeps, AMAZING estate homes, ancient churches, monuments, statues, etc, etc.  You never know what you’re going to see next!!!  It’s all too much to take in in only 10 days time.  Gotta find some way to come back again!

Tomorrow we’re heading for Lock Ness, Eilean Donan Castle, the Isle of Skye and whatever else we can add in.  Will be spending the night up there so don’t know if we’ll have internet access or not but will try to post something if we do.

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