Archive for the ‘Edinburgh’ Category

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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Calton Hill   3 comments

Didn’t do a lot today.  Slept in–needed that!  Then around noon we decided to go exploring a little down in Edinburgh.  Ryan was voted in as driver again…once we got into downtown proper, we were glad he was–with his superior experience over Ben and I (1 days worth, that is).  It would have been bad enough had we been driving on the right-side of the road but having to navigate in streets undergoing construction, taxis zipping around in mad-capped fashion, the dreaded round-a-bouts every 3 blocks–it seems like, etc, etc.  The most unnerving things it seems is pedestrians crossing the streets just where-ever they want to and you don’t know whether they are going to walk out in front of you or not.  Added to that, we’ve discovered that you can park on either side of the road facing either direction!!  VERY unnerving—you turn down a street and you don’t know if you’re on a one-way street or not sometimes.  At one point we suddenly had an Ambulance with Blue lights and siren on our tail!!!  We didn’t know which way to pull over, it happened so fast–in the middle of Edinburgh–but somehow we managed to get out of the way.

We’ve discovered that the locals know we’re tourists…..there’s a sticker on the back of our car that says “Arnold Clarke”–our car rental place.  We occasionally get “helpful” warning honks to let us know we’re doing or about to do something wrong….ah….we assume…..

What we decided to do today was to go up to Calton Hill, which overlooks Edinburgh with some spectacular views of the city, New Town, the Port of Leith, the Forth River, Holyrood Park, Arthur’s Seat, etc.  Took us awhile to figure out, once again, just how to get there—this time WITH the GPS, but we finally made it.

Took some photos and am posting a number of them here for you today—can’t vouch because I’m processing these on my Netbook.  Will have to wait until I can get home and process them properly on my computer.  But here are a few for your viewing:

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Today has just been kind of a take-it-easy day to just recoup from the trip over.  Not sure what we’re doing yet tomorrow.  Better close this post and get to planning that……..

Cheers!!  (new word I learned  🙂 )


Posted October 28, 2010 by Howard George in Calton Hill, Edinburgh, General, HDR, Scotland

We made it…..sort of…..   6 comments

Well, we finally made it.  We’re in Edinburgh now.   I got up at 2:30 am on Tuesday, the 26th, to finalize things before heading out to the airport and it is now 11:00 pm, the 27th, Edinburgh time…..I’m beat, tired and exhausted.

Valerie dropped Ryan and I off at the San Francisco International Terminal in plenty of time for our “direct flight” to Amsterdam only to discover that our flight had a stop in Minneapolis…therefore not direct, not international and NOT in that terminal…..fortunately we got there early so we had time to walk, take a tram, etc, to finally get where we needed to be to check in.

The flight was uneventful until we got to Minneapolis and hit that huge storm that was going through the Midwest.  They told us that the airport was down to only 1 runway so we had to circle around for awhile until it was our turn to land.  Storm was really bad and winds were gusting up to 50 mph.  Many flights were being delayed in the area.  On the ground we were able to get in touch with Ben.  His flight out of Omaha had been delayed and it turned out that his “direct flight” to Amsterdam was ALSO making a stop in Minneapolis, but that it would be after we had already left.

When it came time to board our flight we ended up having to sit there in the plane at the terminal for about 2 hours.  One of their computers was acting up, they couldn’t fix it and needed a replacement.  Once that was completed we were finally able to taxi out for take off…but they couldn’t find anyone to push our plane out….so we had to wait another half hour for someone to do that.  Eventually we were number 1 in the takeoff spot and ready to go, when the Captain came on the speaker, said their computer was acting up again and that we had to go back to the terminal to get it fixed.  So back we went and there we sat for another hour and a half.  All this while, it was really amazing how this huge plane was being rocked back and forth and buffeted by the winds—while we were still on the ground!!  Pretty soon, the Captain came on again, “Sorry folks we can’t fix the computer, we need to put you on another plane.”  So back into the terminal we went to sit and wait….some more…..

In the meantime, Ben’s delayed flight arrived at Minneapolis and since our plane was only about half full–because of the winds the didn’t want to fill it—we were able to get Delta to transfer him to our flight so we could all be together for the rest of the trip.  THAT was GREAT!!!!

Another hour and a half goes by and finally a new plane pulls up for us to get on.  Woo Hoo!!…..nope….now it turns out that the flight crew had reached their FAA 16 hr limit of on duty time and they had to get us another flight crew.  So we had to wait another hour or so until they could get someone to fly us “across the pond”….

Our flight WAS scheduled to leave at 3:30 pm…..we finally boarded to leave at 11:30 pm……  Then another wonderful surprise….the stewardesses began handing out airsickness bags to everyone.  They said that the first hour and a half was going to be really rough and that they were even going to be strapped in and not allowed out of their seats…….FORTUNATELY that didn’t turn out to be the case.  It was bumpy, but not as bad as what it could have been.

Got to Amsterdam, and of course had to be re-booked because our scheduled flight was long gone.  We were scheduled to have arrived in Edinburgh around 10 am, but arrived after 6 pm.  All week long the weather I was checking on the internet was predicting “Brilliant Sunshine”…..well….it was there….but above the rain clouds…..all we had below those clouds was rain.  No worries, though, we were (are) in Scotland!!!

We got our rental car.  Got printed-out directions to our lodgings and headed out.  Ryan was the “guinea pig” to test out driving on the left side of the road while Ben and I “navigated”……picture being in a strange setting, in the dark, in the rain, disoriented, getting honked at and every couple of miles coming upon these demonic creations called “Round-a-bouts”…….yup, you guessed it….SOMEWHERE we made a wrong turn and got hopelessly lost.  Fortunately we had the “good sense” to get a GPS for the rental car so we decided to pull over, read the directions and try to use that to figure out where we had to go….believe it or not while we were pulled over trying to figure out the GPS unit, someone pulled up next to us to ask for directions!!!!

So why didn’t we use the GPS from the beginning??….ah…well….ah…it’s a “guy thing”—you know the “thrill of the chase”, “we’re not lost–we still got gas”….you know, one of those mysteries of life….

Anyway it turns out that this GPS unit must only take you on the “scenic route”—we were going all through Old Town areas, little neighborhoods, down narrow brick streets barely wide enough for one car.  Finally after a hour or more we suddenly happened upon our place we were going to stay.

It’s been an exhausting couple of days, but quite an adventure.  Plus for me, being in Scotland is literally a dream-come-true.  As far back as I can remember I have been in love with Scotland and have always wished that “some day” I could go visit the place my family came from.  I read everything I can get my hands on about Scotland.  I know it’s history, music and arts as well as I know that of my own country.   Something about it has always drawn me and even though I never really believed I would ever be able to actually GO to Scotland, it still holds this special place in my heart.  Being here is REALLY Big for me, and being able to share it with my boys is even better!!!  I really look forward to seeing all the things I’ve read about, studied and dreamed about.  Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.  I’m going to savor every moment.

Sorry no pictures yet….hope to have some soon. But right now I’ve got to get to bed…I’m REEAALLYYY Tired……….



Posted October 27, 2010 by Howard George in Edinburgh, General, Scotland

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