Day 12: National Museum, a Tour You MUST Do, and Leaving. :(

Day 12: National Museum, a Tour You MUST Do, and Leaving. :(


First item of business…laundry. You’re welcome a day in advance, fellow Ryan Air passengers. Second item of business…work. Which has proved to be quite difficult with the internet situation here. With all that out of the way, I ventured out for my last day of exploration in Edinburgh! I stepped out on the street, and oh, but Edinburgh greeted me in her finest regalia! Her brightest blue dress, adorned with the whitest lace! Yes, brilliant blue skies, puffy, blindingly white clouds, and SUNSHINE! Hands down, most beautiful day since I’ve been here. Well, maybe the sky was celebrating the summer solstice. 🙂

Church in my neighborhood. Just LOOK at that sky!

First stop, a free guided tour of the Scottish History portion of the National Museum of Scotland. Our guide was the sweetest little old lady- probably in her mid-70’s. You could tell she enjoyed the museum! She took us around and showed us some of the more important history pieces from the MASSIVE, and I mean MASSIVE collection. I plan on coming back, so didn’t take a lot of pictures. However, here are just a few. If you want to really do this museum justice, I’m thinking 3-4 hours- easy- depending on how thorough you are. I was just here for the Scottish history part, but there is all kinds of stuff to see. I did a fast walk through and snapped a few pics of that stuff as well.

Dolly the sheep. I teach genetics, so it’s kinda a big deal. Does cloned haggis taste just as good?? 😉

900 year old chess set made by the Vikings out of walrus tusk

A piece of the gold cloth found in Robert the Bruce’s tomb!

After the tour and wandering around the museum a bit, I went for a stroll through Greyfriar’s Kirkyard (Cemetery). I’ve been here a few times on tours, but wanted to just wander around at my own pace. And this is where I will tell the story of Greyfriar’s Bobby- the short version! So there was this man named John Gray who was a night watchman.  His Skye terrier, Bobby, would make the rounds with him every night, never leaving John’s side. Well, John died in 1858 and was buried in Greyfriar’s. And even in death, little Bobby didn’t want to leave John’s side. He sat by his grave until he himself died- 14 years later. There’s a statue of Bobby, that is PERPETUALLY covered in tourists getting pictures. If you enter the cemetery, the first thing you’ll see is a monument to Bobby where people leave sticks. And, as I was wondering around, I just so happened upon John Gray’s burial plot as well.

With that story out of the way, I present, the super creepy (even in the brilliant sunlight!) Grayfriar’s Kirkyard- supposedly the most haunted place in all of Scotland and the most haunted graveyard in the entire world! Oh, and speaking of haunted, I just realized that I completely forgot to mention the free ghost tour I did yesterday evening! Um, let’s just say that if I totally forgot to talk about it, it really wasn’t worth mentioning. 🙄

Edinburgh castle in the background

This one gives me the creepiest creeps of all of them…

Came back, made lunch, worked, and then headed out for my last Scottish tour. Remember yesterday when I found the owls? Well, those owls are in front of a place called Gladstone’s Land. Seriously, it’s tucked in between so many other shops and tourist trap places on the Royal Mile, that I never even gave it a first glance, much less a second. When I saw the owls, there was a sign outside that said something about witchcraft tours. What? How was I not aware of this earlier!! I had done extensive research into such offerings! Well, I went inside to inquire and apparently the witchcraft tours are new. And there were none scheduled before I left for Ireland! The only tours they had were something about the wealthy people who had lived there. Blippity, blah, blah, blah. I don’t care about wealthy people (unless you are one and want to put me in your will. Then I VERY much care!! 😇 ). I was about to leave, and the lady said that no one was signed up for the Thursday tour at 5pm, would I like her to just switch that to a witch tour? WOULD I?! Of course!! And she did. I paid about $19. So now it’s Thursday at 5, and I went back for my tour. I met Claire (I think- I’m horrid with names), who said she’d be my guide. We were joined by two older ladies from Germany. I learned that Gladstone’s Land was built in the 1550’s, and is one of the oldest buildings on the Royal Mile. We went upstairs into a room where some of the original paint from the original exterior wall was still visible! Amazing!!!! Claire told us about the man who lived in this room, Mr. Sutherland if I remember correctly. He was a minister at St. Giles, but was also involved in the witch trials and executions that ran rampant here in the 1600s.

Claire gave us some fascinating history on witchcraft in Edinburgh. I was on the edge of my seat!! We then went upstairs to another room. A room that was so beautiful and full of history that it literally moved me to tears. You could just FEEL it before Claire even spoke. The ceilings in this room were….there’s not even a word for them. We learned more stories of witches and witchcraft in old Edinburgh. Again, it was not presented in some dramatic “ooo tourists….let me get your attention!!” kind of way. It was more like an extremely interesting academic lecture. Lord, I was in heaven!!!!!! And she really got me to thinking about things from a new perspective, which I’m going to be excited to research more about before I create my class.  At this point though, I also wanted to know about the people who lived here!! Now I wanted the wealthy person tour, too, but I had no time!! 😭 Plus, they have a Scottish Myths and Legends tour that I was DYING to take. UGH!!! I wanted every tour!! If you want a tour inside of a breathtaking building that is loaded with tons of history, go to Gladstone’s Land. It’s a Scottish National Trust building, and the money you pay goes toward upkeep of this treasure. It’s worth the money just to see that 2nd room. I’m telling you, the history in there is palpable.

View of the royal mile from one of the windows.

Original paint- almost 500 years old! You tend to think of the exteriors of these buildings as they are today- stone. But no…very decorative!

Today is Day 13. I spent the morning preparing to leave and working. As I walked from my AirBnB, my little home away from home for the past week, I wondered just how different are Scotland and Ireland from each other- culturally, physically. Caught the Airlink 100 bus at the Waverly Bridge which was just on the other side of the Royal Mile. I couldn’t believe I had never even made it back here!! My days were full, and there was still SO much of Edinburgh to explore!! I snapped this pic of the castle, MY castle (at least yesterday morning!) from the bus window. Goodbye, Edinburgh…until next time.

Got to the airport early and weighed my bag. 13 kg. Ugh. Ryan Air requires 10. I stuffed as much as I could into my little day pack and put on my heavy ski pants over my hiking pants. I was boiling. Got on the plane and they didn’t have the air on while we sat at the gate! I was DYING. We had some kind of technical problem, so we had to sit an extra 20 minutes or so. Finally, I couldn’t take it any longer!! I told the woman next to me to not think I was weird, but I had to take my TROUSERS off. And I did. 🙂  I came into Edinburgh taking my PANTS off on the bus, left by taking my TROUSERS off on the plane. I’m not sure what all of that means, other than I learned to call them by their right names! 😛

I am SO happy that the cheapest flight out of Reykjavik was to Edinburgh, and that’s how I wound up here in the first place! My original goal was to do research and filming for a Scottish Mythistory class I want to create. But I learned that the history is so rich here, that it’s impossible to just come in and figure it out on the fly. It’s going to take a lot of research! I’m going to create the class, THEN come back and fill in the gaps with my filming. Because if I can’t do the history of Scottish proper justice, then I refuse to do it at all. I respect it that much. And with that, I’m off to Ireland for the 3rd leg of this journey and more adventures!

If you want to follow my adventures in Ireland, make sure you subscribe to my mailing list. I only send out emails when I’m arriving in a new country- I don’t spam you to death and respect your privacy completely. Subscribe box is on the right above my picture. Thanks for joining me in Scotland!! 🙂



Day 1: Bagpipe Greetings, Women’s Equality, and “Cheap” Dr. Pepper….Welcome to Scotland!!

Day 1: Bagpipe Greetings, Women’s Equality, and “Cheap” Dr. Pepper….Welcome to Scotland!!


Day 15 of travel, but day 1 of Scotland! Flew in from Iceland this morning. Easy flight on Easy Jet. Talked a little politics with some Scottish girls who were in line with me. I restored their faith in America Americans (you’re welcome, America). They said they were always scared to talk to Americans, because they weren’t sure who supports Trump. I informed them that Trump supporters aren’t traveling the world with a backpack, so if they saw one of us traveling, they were pretty safe! 😛

Landed in Edinburgh, breezed through immigration. Customs was just waving everyone through. Got out into the exit area, and stopped into a little store for a bottle of OJ because I a) needed some sustenance (I’d only had a pepperoni stick and a granola bar all day) and b) I needed change for the bus so I had to break my £5 bill. Buses only take exact change, and I needed £1.60. Cracked open google maps, and it said to take the Airlink 100 to Princes St, then the city bus 31/37 (I think that was it) to St. Patrick’s Square. How easy is that?! Went up to the counter. The price on Airlink was $6 one way or $10 roundtrip. Roundtrip, please, no brainer! The (very friendly and chatty!) man charged my card and handed me it and the receipt. I asked if this is what I showed to the driver. He said no! He forgot to give me my ticket!! People, never assume, always double check, don’t be afraid to ask questions!! Started walking toward the bus, looked at my ticket. It said one way! Hmmmmmm. I could have sworn I said roundtrip…. Looked at my receipt. £7.50. Went back to the window. He was helping someone else, but smiled at me, so I told him the problem. He handed me a new ticket. People, never assume, always double check, don’t be afraid to ask questions!! 🙂

As I mentioned, I flew in from Iceland. It’s not called that because of its balmy weather…I was in hiking pants with ski pants over them, a thermal shirt, and knee high smart wool socks. Excellent Iceland attire. Death by sweatication Edinburgh attire! It was HOT! Now, let me clarify hot….it was about 16C (61F). At home in Los Angeles, that is known as “9 degrees below 0”, because 70F is my 0, and below that, I’m cold and bundled up in sweats. I guess I acclimatized to Iceland, because I was DYING!!!!! I sat down on the bus. I seriously couldn’t take it, and told the lady next to me, “I swear I’m not a weirdo, but I HAVE to take my pants off!!”. She (and her family behind her) laughed. As I stripped, I told them I just flew in from Iceland. They had, too! So at least they understood. 🙂

The bus drove along gorgeous streets lined with old homes. There were amazing cathedrals that looked like they were built a zillion years ago. Got off the bus at Princes St. and WOW!! Everywhere you looked was some old, medieval looking AMAZING building or castle or statue or cathedral or SOMETHING! I was in love! This is Europe “proper”!! Iceland, I love you and this is NOT a diss, but you are more Europe “adjacent”! 😉 Iceland exudes nature. Edinburgh exudes history. And I love both. I’ve been to several major European cities in the past couple of years- Paris, London, Brussels, Hamburg, Rome, Florence, Stockholm….now, we have to take Paris out of the lineup, because, well, I teach French History and have a passion for “my” French kings, so it would be treasonous for a good royalist like me to compare Paris to any other city. 😉 However, of the rest of them, Edinburgh (at least what I’ve seen from the bus so far) is the most gorgeous! I literally couldn’t stop smiling. Until I walked to my connection bus stop and stood there. And stood there. And stood there…I finally looked up at the little electronic sign and it said “Buses Diverted”. WHAT?! I texted my airbnb host. So apparently there is a huge women’s march going on to celebrate 100 years of having the right to vote, and a ton of roads are closed. I googled the walk. One mile. With a 25lb pack. Uphill. The bright side? I could see some of this beautiful city! (Old me would have cussed, thrown myself on the sidewalk, and had more than a wee temper tantrum…FYI: My goal is to work the word wee at least once into every blog post. 😜).

Oh, but there was a brighter side! I heard bagpipes! Say what?? BAGPIPES!!! They were getting louder as I walked. I was grinning like a cheshire cat! Speaking of which, I saw the damn cutest Alice in Wonderland dress in the window of Cath Kidston on Princes St…thinking hard about it… Anyway, then, I saw it. A huge RIVER of women, winding down the road, holding signs, singing, laughing. It was awesome! By the time I got to the road they were marching on, the bagpipes had passed, so I didn’t see them. But oh, what a sight!! I fell even more in love with the city! Fortunately, my walking route followed the march route precisely. Kept me entertained and my mind off the hill I was climbing with the backpack. Seriously, every corner I turned was a new photo op of some AMAZING building. But I’ll have time for that next week. For now, gotta put this pack down!

See that line of women winding up toward that castley thing in the back? Crazy!



By the time I reached the Airbnb I was sweating like an Icelander at the equator!! The lady let me in and she is SO NICE!! She poured me a glass of ice water, and we talked about the topic of the day apparently….politics. Guys, it’s on everyone’s mind. Seriously. (This is the day Trump dissed the G7). She showed me my cozy little room and told me where the grocery store was. Perfect, because I had to shop for my 5 day bus tour that starts tomorrow. If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you know I ain’t about to be eating out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day for 5 days! Emptied my day pack, grabbed my cloth bag, and headed off to Tesco. FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD!! AT SUPER CHEAP PRICES!! And I can read what it all is!! 🙂 Of course, after being in Iceland, EVERYTHING is super cheap!! Got all of the things I needed, plus a little meal to heat up for tonight. But food is one thing…drink is another entirely. Especially when that drink is my beloved Diet Dr. Pepper!! And they have it!! In a 6 pack!! And it’s only $4.75 (which is still more than the price I pay for a case of 12 at home, but I’ll take it!)!! That would buy me exactly 1 a half Dr. Peppers in Iceland… Grand total for all of my groceries which should last me most of the next 5 days and is far more varied than what I’ve been eating? $27. 🙂  BTW, £1= about $1.30

Happy with my purchases, I came back to the bnb, ate, drank a well deserved Dr. Pepper, took a shower, and settled in for the evening. Tomorrow, at 8am, I embark on a 5 day bus tour of the Scottish Highlands!!



Day 2: Lochs, landscapes, castles, and history!

Day 2: Lochs, landscapes, castles, and history!


Editor’s Note: Yesterday, I mentioned I took my pants off on the bus. Well, a very kind Scottish lady messaged me and said that pants means panties or underwear in Scotland!! So, basically I announced to the bus that I would be removing my underwear! For the record…TROUSERS (just the first pair! I had on 2!) removed. Pants, firmly in place! 😇

Hello, darkness, my old friend… 🎶 It got dark last night! Now, don’t get the wrong idea… The sun is still clocking overtime hours. Sunset is at 10pm and sunrise is at 4:30am. But I actually slept really good without zzz pills because I didn’t wake up every 30 minutes to adjust my sleep mask all night from the light pouring in…

Packed my stuff, ate a blueberry muffin, and headed out to meet my bus! It was only a wee (got it!) bit over a 1/2 mile. So easy! I had to be there at 8:15, so I planned to leave at 7:45 so I’d be there by 8. What I didn’t plan on was my pack. Normally, it’s right at 25 lbs. Heavy for me, but manageable. But now all of my heavy winter clothes were in the pack instead of on me. And I was carrying all of my groceries. I put on the pack and immediately realized this was going to suck…
Got out on the street and started following the instructions, trying to look at the amazing buildings, navigate, and remember to look for cars coming in the opposite direction I’m used to while crossing the street. Oh, and trying not to die from the weight of the pack. Where’s my sherpa Brian?? Then, Google tried to make me go into a tunnel marked subway. I didn’t need to take the subway… That didn’t make sense! At this point, I had to take off the pack. Wiggled my shoulders and tried to figure out what Google wanted. Put the pack back on and headed in the most likely direction. Google hated it and told me to turn around. I was pretty flustered, because there was construction and sidewalk closure everywhere. I was afraid my path might be blocked. I was dying with this pack. While I was standing there, a young man walked over and said, “are you alright?”. I wasn’t sure if it was because I looked confused, lost, or like a potential stroke victim. I showed him my phone route, and explained the problem. Indeed, I was supposed to go through the tunnel marked subway! I thanked him profusely and we parted. It was like this in Paris, too, when I would get lost. People would just stop and ask me if I needed help. Lovely. This is why I’m never afraid to travel alone. People all over the world are wonderful.
I got on the right road. I was dying from the pack, and only about halfway there. I had to stop a few times to rest my arms and back. My 800 arrival was now at 807. I had to check in by 815. GPS said to turn right and my destination was about 450 feet ahead! Woo hoo! I’d made it. Until I turned right and saw the most horrible thing imaginable. A hill. Not just any hill. A steep one. Had a taxi come by, I would have taken it. I don’t care the cost! But no taxi in sight. I walked a bit. Stopped. Walked a bit. Removed pack and did what might be yoga (or just weird contortionist stretching) to ease my muscles. Wash, rinse, repeat… About halfway up I started feeling kinda icky. I’ve fainted on trips before. I didn’t have time for that now! I was already showing an arrival of 8:17! I can’t stand the disrespect of being late! I couldn’t take the pack trying to pull me backwards down the hill anymore. So, I bent over, about 90 degrees at the waist, and kind of turtled up the rest of the way… The pack as my shell. It helped. I’m sure I looked like a fool, but that’s never stopped me before! And I was never so glad to see a tour bus in my entire life! It was right at the top. 🙂
Checked in, put my big bag on the bus, and went to have a seat. Bonus: there’s a USB port right at my seat so I can keep my phone charged and blog in between stories the guide tells on the long drive! Blogging on the go is so much easier than doing it at the end of a day when I’m exhausted, or worse, a couple of days later. I remember all the details better this way. 🙂
James, our driver, has been telling wonderful stories! Deacon Brodie and the robberies (with a mysterious execution!) , Robert Knox, a scientist who paid people to rob graves so he could study human anatomy, Burke and Hare, who murdered people to sell to anatomists, Mary Queen of Scots…. I’M LOVING IT! So much to learn!
First stop! The village of Luss on Loch Lomand. We had 30 minutes to explore this perfectly lovely little village… Not enough! That’s why I hate bus tours. Sigh. Plus, I tend to get lost in my own little world and forget things like what time we’re supposed to be back and where the bus is parked… Which almost culminated in an “incident” in Bath, England a couple of years ago… So I set an alarm and GPS pinpointed the bus location! First stop, potty. 30p to pee, and quite a long queue (psst… Americans… That’s a line!) Now, I don’t know what it is about me, but when I travel people often ask me for help. I’m rather disheveled looking. Plus, I’m quite befuddled on my own trying to figure things out often times, and am rather socially awkward and introverted (I’m the most extroverted introvert you’ll ever meet…or vice versa!). So I’m not sure what is it about me that says “she can help me!” out of all of the other people who are around, but I’m happy to do the best I can. First, an Asian man who didn’t speak any English. He just held out a palm full of coins to me. He wanted me to figure out 30p. I don’t know the coins by sight, so I picked through them until I found the right combination, gave them to him, and smiled. Kindness doesn’t require a common language. Then, an elderly couple who were quite riled about having to pay, and simultaneously confused about how it worked. I walked the lady thru the entire process from getting change at the machine to putting it into the turnstile. Paying it forward for the help I received this morning from the young man!

This little village was so quaint… It could have been plucked from a movie set and placed here! The gardens… Oh my the gardens! I’m a plant rescuer, and buy plants that are about to be thrown away from garden centers, or get plants for free from people who no longer want them. Then, I try to landscape my yard with the resulting mish mash! These gardens were inspirational! So perfect! I needed more time! But there was none. Back to the bus. We drove by Loch Lomand, but didn’t even get to stop for pictures! Trying to take them from the bus is so hard because of the glare. You have to put the camera right up to the glass, which means no glare, but not the angle you want. #firstworldproblems

I’m pretty sure this is a species of passion flower- my favorite flower!! But not the same species from the states.

Then we drove by Loch Long, and through an amazing little valley of sorts! We got to stop at a little area that was quite beautiful. Argyll Forest Park. 10 minutes? How am I supposed to enjoy the scenery, try to come up with at least one decent picture, explore the little wild plants, and search for wee (that’s twice!) bugs in 10 minutes? Sigh. Also, it looked like a perfect place to have a picnic! But something tells me I’m the only person who packed my own groceries…

This stone says “Rest and Be Thankful”. It was put here by the soldiers who built the road in the mid 1700s! And very true words…

We approached the little white village of Inveraray. Apparently, in the late 1700s, the castle owner wanted the peasants off his grounds so he could expand his gardens (and probably not have to look at all the poor, lowly folk!). So he built them this entire village with every building they needed. The ultimate wealthy person version of “Hey you, kids! Get off my lawn!” #brianshero The driver said we’d have a good view of the castle to the right of the bus. Hey! I on the right! I pressed the phone to the window and started snapping. Then, we drove to the castle, just for a couple of pics. My lord, this thing looked right outta Disney! There was a tour! But no time. I cursed under my breath while we were dropped off in the village for an hour and a half lunch break. Lunch?! But there’s a CASTLE over there! Sigh. I found myself a nice bench on the edge of Loch Fyne, which is a SALTWATER loch, interestingly enough! I didn’t know lochs could be saltwater- it opens right to the ocean. Made myself a peanut butter and banana sandwich, ate some cheese crackers, and had a cookie- all with a better view than anyone who was sitting in a restaurant. Perfect. Then, walked around town.

This is that bridge we drove over where we had the 3.5 second glimpse of the castle!

After town, I decided to walk along the road back to the bridge where we had that first view of the castle. A little sketchy with all the traffic, but I lived. There were some cool birds! Got some nice shots and headed back to the village.

Oystercatcher- I recognize this from Iceland!

Um, why wasn’t I IN that castle?? #bustour

Back on the bus (which after missing the chance to go in that castle, will now be referred to as the sheep wagon!), and off to the next stop- Kilmartin. This was actually kinda two stops in the same area. First, the prehistoric Stone-Henge-esque area. This place dates back about 5000 years ago! It had been covered by a thick layer of peat. When that was removed, the standing stones and burial mounds were found below. Amazing! I’ve done a bit of independent research, and can’t find any firm decision on what they may have been used for. The guide said something about lining up with the solstice, but I can’t find any information on that. What is interesting are those “bowls” carved into the left side. This is called cup and ring, and is found in many places like this, but no one has any idea what the meaning is…I find that so fascinating. It must have had some major importance to them, but now it’s lost forever… Then, we went to some of the burial mounds. Very interesting stuff! What wasn’t so interesting was how people were behaving. There was one burial tomb that you could “lay” in to get a photo. Yeah, I don’t consider desecrating the burial sites of ancient people a “photo op”. I consider it to be disrespectful of the people, the place, and the history. This isn’t an amusement park. Wasn’t a fan of that…

Burial chamber. You can either a) stand there and contemplate what life was like 5000 years ago in this place or b) lay inside like an idiot tourist and have someone take your picture. Oy.

When we were done walking through the fields of history (where sheep now graze!), we headed to Kilmartin village. We had 30 minutes. Decisions, decisions…

Mary with a car would have done everything. Mary with 30 minutes chose the historic gravestones. Ooooooo….good choice!! So there’s a really cool “old” church. Old is in quotes, because this really is the new one. It was opened in 1835, but this site has had churches on it since the 900s!! And the really awesome cemetery outside of the church proves it. Gravestones are there from the 900s!! Let that sink in for a minute! The really old stones have been brought inside of the church to be protected from the elements. And honestly, compared to the stones from the 1800s that are in the cemetery, these are in excellent condition even though they are 900 years older! And they were only brought inside in 1977! Amazing!

This one is from 900. Beautiful Celtic design.

This one is from 1200.

There was more to see outside in the cemetery! A building had been built to protect several large stones. These were medieval slabs that would cover a grave, rather than stand upright like the ones inside the church. They range from the 1200s to the 1700s. Designs include things like swords, hunting, and creatures like lions and unicorns to symbolize royalty. Just so fascinating!

These are the oldest, from the 1200s.

I then went out into the main cemetery. There was such an air of history in the place- looking out over the fields toward the 5000 year old stones and burial chambers, to this more familiar type of burial area that dated back “only” 1000 years. Who knows what is under all of that ground?

The skull and crossbones design on these slabs was really interesting!

Next stop, the Isle of Seil. We were coming here to see a bridge. And not just any bridge- the Clachan bridge. It was built in 1792, and is the oldest bridge built over the Atlantic Ocean! Now, obviously you aren’t driving from here to New York or anything, but this is an island. And the flow of water that looks like a river between the mainland and the island is the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a beautiful bridge, and on one side a fairly rare purple flower called the Fairy Foxglove (Erinus alpinus) grows.

That’s not the only thing interesting about this little island! I’m still learning about Scottish history…but there was a Jacobite uprising in 1745, and the wearing of the kilt was banned! When the men would come back to the island, this little building is where they would remove their trousers (NOT pants!!) and put on the forbidden kilt….  History. It’s awesome.

And that was the end of our tour for the day! Last stop would be the town of Oban (pronounced Obin), where we would be staying for the night. You had options to book your own accommodations with this tour, or have them included. Seriously, I have enough to do, so I just made it easy on myself and included them. I figured some little hostel kind of situation or something. People were getting dropped off at a lot of different places around town. Imagine my surprise when we pulled up to an ocean front GORGEOUS stately bed and breakfast named the Corriemar House and my name was called!! YIPPEE!! Oh, it’s so beautiful and antiquey inside!! I had a huge, beautiful room with a bathroom (they call that “en suite”). I’m feeling mighty spoiled by Scotland….



Day 3: A Muggle’s Journey through the Scottish Highlands!

Day 3: A Muggle’s Journey through the Scottish Highlands!


I slept so well! Woke up to a beautiful sunny morning. Did some work and blogging and headed down for breakfast at 7:45 when it opened. I can’t recall ever having stayed in a true bed and breakfast (I travel on the cheap!), so it was a treat. I got to choose from a menu when I checked in. Haggis was on there… I want to try it, but maybe not first thing in the morning before a winding bus ride! I had chosen a fish cake, and man I chose right! It was like a fat crab cake, with something creamy and delicious inside. I could have eaten 3 of them! Honestly, at this point, I could eat anything that didn’t involve peanut butter and bread….

Sheep wagon picked us up at 8:45. First stop, the Falls of Lora with these crazy whirlpools. The falls are underneath a really cool bridge, but it isn’t a waterfall like you’re thinking. These are tidal falls (I’d never heard of such a thing!). During the spring tides twice a month (full and new moon- the highest high and lowest low tides), the falls turn into amazing white water rapids when the outgoing tide causes the water level in the ocean to be lower than that in Loch Etive. So interesting!

Look at those crazy currents!

As we drove through the stunning scenery of the highlands, the guide told us the story of the Glencoe Massacre, and for someone who loves history (like myself), it was fascinating! So good, (and so important to this area), that I’ll share the basics with you. Rarely do I get all history teacher mode on the blog, but this is too good to pass up!! See, it all starts with religion (love and peace, you know!). It’s the late 1600s, Protestantism had already usurped Catholicism in this area. But a new king came to power- James VII of Scotland and II of England. He was Catholic (cue dramatic music). His daughter, Mary, was a Protestant (who was married to another Protestant- Prince William of Orange) and next in line to the throne. So the people put up with James’ hail Mary’s and holy water. Except James ended up having another child- a son! So, by way of possessing a penis, this new child bumped Mary to second in line.  TWO Catholic king’s in a row?? Oh hell no! James was getting a little more heavy handed with the people. That, and his Catholicism, were getting on some powerful people’s last nerve, so they decided to invite Mary and William to take the throne of England and Scotland. Mary and William quickly RSVPed for that party, and were crowned. Of course, James wasn’t invited to this party and was so miffed he took his toys and went to France- where he plotted against Mary and William, but was defeated. Now William, being the king by virtue of his wife being the queen, wanted loyalty. Especially because he was in a ruckus with MY king, the Sun King, Louis XIV of France (cue angels singing). #frenchhistoryteacher Tiny problem…a lot of Scottish clan chiefs in the highlands still supported James (this is where the term Jacobite comes from- those who supported James as rightful king). Not acceptable!! William demanded in late 1691 that they sign an oath of loyalty to him. And it had to be signed by January 1, 1692. Ok. Let’s piece a couple of things together here…the clans live in the HIGHlands. Guess what? It’s up north and has a lot of mountains. All of this is going down in the winter of 1691. Mail getting into the highlands to announce this demand was late arriving to Alasdair MacDonald- leader of the MacDonald clan of Glencoe (a clan not exactly loved by their neighboring clans- especially the Campbell clan- because of their tendency to pillage, raid, and steal cattle. Remember that).

So Alasdair MacDonald sets off for the nearest town to take his oath of allegiance to King William. The winter was HORRIBLE. Travel was slow and difficult. He finally arrives in Fort William (after the January 1 deadline), and was told, “Yeah, sorry. You have to take an oath in front of a sheriff, and he’s in Inveraray (where I saw that awesome castle yesterday).” You can imagine MacDonald’s response to this- Inveraray was not only 60 miles away in awful winter conditions (Ryan Air hadn’t been invented yet), but was home to some of his most favorite people to pillage and steal cows from- the Campbell clan! He was pretty sure he’d be arrested on the spot if he showed up there. But if he didn’t swear loyalty to the king, his clan would be destroyed. Decisions, decisions! He set off for Inveraray… Where he was promptly detained by the Campbell’s and put in jail until the sheriff arrived. By this time, MacDonald was a few days past William’s deadline. He pled with the sheriff to accept the late oath. He did, and released MacDonald.

The oath was sent to Edinburgh, and promptly stamped as DENIED by the head dude there. A dude who just so happened to not be a fan of the MacDonald’s, and saw this as an excellent opportunity to express that disdain. With the oath being denied, destruction of the MacDonald clan was ordered. Three regimens of soldiers (two of which were made up of Campbells) were sent to carry out the orders of “cut off root and branch” and “to put all to the sword under seventy”- in other words, destroy them completely. Two of the regimens said the weather was so bad, they couldn’t get there (it is thought that they did this to keep from participating in the massacre). The other regimen, led by Robert Campbell, knocked on Alasdair MacDonald’s door and asked for “Highland Hospitality”. Now remember, the Campbell’s and MacDonald’s were enemies. But Highland Hospitality overrode such petty personal issues. This was a harsh land. And if someone was in trouble, there was an understanding between all of the clans- friends or foes- that you took in your fellow man. It was a code that no respectable clan would ever even consider breaking- no matter the issues between them. So the MacDonald’s let the Campbell’s in. You’re probably expecting an immediate slaughter. You’re wrong. The MacDonald’s and Campbell’s lived together for 12 days. Eating, talking, laughing. And on February 13, as a horrible blizzard raged outside, the Campbell’s began the massacre- killing 38 MacDonald’s in cold blood. Dozens more escaped the slaughter (possibly having been alerted by sympathetic Campbell’s), only to die of exposure in the relentless blizzard.

The nation was outraged by the massacre. But all that happened is that the dude in Edinburgh, who denied the oath because he had it out for the MacDonald’s, resigned. The event was forgotten. But not by the MacDonald’s. Some businesses in Glen Coe, some 300 years later, still have signs…”NO CAMPBELL’S”.

We listened to this tale (I conducted some independent research to verify facts!) while we drove through gorgeous landscapes of lochs and brilliantly green covered mountains. We kinda got to see Castle Stalker at 60kph from the window… The original castle was built in 1320. The present day castle is much younger, having been built in the 1440s 😲! We were in Campbell country- and they actually lived in the castle from the 1620’s until the roof caved in in the 1840s. It’s been restored, and is probably best known (although not by me because I hate that kind of humor) as the Castle of Argggggggggggghhhhhhhhh in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

As we wound our way through the glen (a narrow valley with high mountains on either side), my muggle eyes fell upon the first of the day’s Harry Potter adventures….THE FORBIDDEN FOREST!! This is where it was filmed, and Hagrid’s Hut was built there- although it sits in London these days (damn England- they take ALL the good stuff!!). This shot was taken from the bus window. Sigh.

Next, we stopped at the visitor center and told this was a 5 minute restroom break- we had things to do. I got out and it was AWESOME!! Informational signs (learning! 😍), trails…um, heaven. But oh no, pee and get back on the bus. I did as I was told. No one else did, and I sat on the bus for about 15 minutes waiting for those yahoos! And because of that, we only got 15 minutes at our next stop instead of 30. I swear, I’m about to start a clan uprising between the Middlebrook clan (party of 1) and the rest of the bus! We pulled into Glencoe- MacDonald territory- and my, but it was GORGEOUS!! Trails, little waterfalls spilling off the mountains! And I got to spend 15 minutes mulling around the parking lot. Kill me.

Why the rush? For some optional whiskey distillery tour that started at some certain time. I hate whiskey and whiskey hates me. It’s a mutual hate-hate relationship. (I hate wine, too, which goes over GREAT in France….) Plus, I’m not sure I’d get a lot of student enrollments for “Whiskey Making 101”. So I opted out of this tour. You know I really don’t want to do a tour when the other option is “Spend 2 hours in Fort William for lunch!”. Sigh. Fortunately, our awesome driver/guide James got back on the bus after getting the whiskey folks checked in and said, “Do you guys want to just go into town now, or go to a castle?”. I think I almost flew out of my seat in the urgency to flail my arms and scream “CASTLE!!!” before the other clans even had a chance to dare speak “town”!! Dear guide, ALWAYS castle. Love, Mary. Oh, and what an awesome castle it was! Castle ruins, more appropriately. This was Inverlochy Castle- built in, get this, 1280!!!!!!!! My house is in ruins and it was built in 1960. #justsaying  We got to wander around for free and explore the grounds. It’s just so amazing to think about the people who lived here, who walked in the places where I was walking. How completely different their life was. How neither of us could even fathom how 800 years, a blip in geologic time, is such a different world in human years… And what was really interesting is that the guy that owned this castle and Robert the Bruce (of Braveheart fame) were enemies. In 1306, Robert the Bruce murdered the castle owner and took Inverlochy for his own…and basically abandoned it. And here it still stands today.

Awesome graveyard across from the castle, complete with waterfall in the background!

All too soon it was time to go to Fort William. I have nothing against towns. But can’t we spend 20 minutes in town and an hour and a half somewhere INTERESTING instead of the other way around every day?! Ain’t nobody on this bus going to die if they miss a meal. #mainlyamericans I wandered down the high street. I found a little museum and spent some time in there looking at things. I sat outside in a little square and had a picnic. I found myself completely alone inside of a church. When all of those things still left me with about an hour to spare, I, out of complete desperation, went into souvenir shops and….browsed <shudder>. Finally, I found a chap that looked like a rather interesting conversationalist. Sat down and chatted with him for about 30 minutes.

My new bestie.

When we boarded the sheep wagon, and I heard the Harry Potter theme song. Of course, I immediately checked my phone, because that is the ringtone telling me I have school email to attend to (my school is the school that Harry Potter Genetics built! 🙂 ). Huh. I didn’t have email. Then I realized the theme was continuing. The driver was playing it, because next stop…THE HOGWART’S EXPRESS!!!!!!! 🚂 We were about to board the Jacobite train, the very train that was used as the Hogwart’s Express in the movie. Remember this scene in the movie??

Yeah- I was going to be riding on THAT train, on THOSE tracks, over THAT bridge, and by THAT loch!! EEEEEEE! I got my seat next to a window, put my stuff down, and ran out to take pictures before we left. I even got to go in the engine car and sit in the driver’s seat and meet Charlie, the engineer!!! To say I was a wee (got it!) emotional would be an understatement…Soon it was time to be seated and begin the 84 mile journey to Hogwart’s Mallaig. The little cart came by and I got a chocolate frog (didn’t even blink at the $5.35 pricetag….). I so wish I had taken a video of it! Because as soon as I tried to take a bite, he jumped on to the window!! It was crazy!! 🐸 Um, as gorgeous as everything was, you would literally think you had left the muggle world and entered into some magical wizarding realm. Of course, trying to get pics while the train was moving and trees were in the way was a feat of magic in and of itself! Word to the wise- if you are riding this train and leaving from Fort William- SIT ON THE LEFT!!! All of the good stuff is ON THE LEFT. Where was I? On the right. But I managed a few good shots along the way!

That tall peak is Ben Nevis- the tallest peak in Great Britain!

YES! That is THAT bridge! EEEEEEEE!!!!!!!

Bet ya can’t guess what that island is?? It’s where they filmed Dumbledore’s final resting place!! #spoileralert

I can’t even believe I got this shot. Right place, right time, fast on the button!

I seriously had SO MUCH FUN on the train! It was like someone used a time-turner and fast forwarded us. The 2 hours was over in an instant. And now, here we were in the ocean port town of Mallaig. The conductor said there was a Harry Potter shop down the street. Oh, but what a Harry Potter shop! It was like I had wandered down Diagon Alley! Such a fun and fantastic little place with all of the right touches.

The front “Dumble”door!


The rest of the town was ok. Seriously, after 16 days or so in Europe, it was time for real food. So I splurged on fish and chips. Not the most flavorful food in the world, but it was hot protein, and that was good enough for me! Next up was to put the bus on a ferry and head over to the Isle of Skye…

By now, it was late. 8pm. We had been on the go for about 12 hours. Got dropped off at my bed and breakfast for the night- Rainbow View in the lovely little seaside town of Kyleakin- with an ocean view to boot! Had a nice chat with Jana, one of the owners, took a shower, and fell in bed too exhausted to even blog or work! I had taken a bus, a train, and a ferry today, and seen some of the loveliest land you can imagine under blue, sunny skies. I needed to rest up for tomorrow’s exploration of the Isle of Skye…

Day 4: The Isle of (Gray) Skye

Day 4: The Isle of (Gray) Skye


DISCLAIMER: Ok, I know a lot of people have really been looking forward to reading about my experiences in the Isle of Skye. This journal might be a little disappointing, because I don’t think I was able to really get a true feeling for the island. Apologies to all of you Skye fans out there!!

UPDATE: What I thought was just typical Scottish weather was actually Storm Hector– the first named summer storm of the season! I’m trying to locate a “I survived Storm Hector” t-shirt. 😜

I woke up, did a little work and blogging, and went in to breakfast at 8:15. The night before I had requested salmon and eggs. Um, I sure as hell was not expecting this culinary masterpiece!!

A feast for the eyes and the mouth!

Seriously, I was in shock just from the presentation. I’m not used to such fancy food!! And oh my god, it tasted DIVINE!! Seriously. Everything. The eggs, the salmon, the bread the eggs were on, the cucumber garnish with the AMAZING sauce, the tomatoes… I’m going to be dreaming about that meal a lot over the next 2 months, as I eat PB & J…. HUGE shout out to Rainbow View Bed & Breakfast! But even without this wonderful food, breakfast would have still been enjoyable! I got to chat with Jana, and she is just a lot of fun. We talked about all kinds of things- tourists, travel, etc… When I was finished, she said, “You are really nice.” I chimed in, “For an American!”. She said, “I wasn’t going to say anything…but….” 😉  I live for that shit. 🙂

Got on the sheep wagon at 8:50. Now, I have to say this. There are like 40 of us on this bus. Accommodations in any village in Scotland are tough to come by because there are SO many tourists here. And it’s not like there’s some Hilton in every town with 500 rooms. So we don’t all stay at one place. We get spread out all over in 8+ different guest houses each night. Ok. The scene has been set. Now, I step on the bus and immediately proclaim to the driver, “Best. B & B. EVER!!”. Apparently, not everyone had such a wonderful experience. Guesthouses in Skye are particularly hard to come by, and the company was having to put people in all kinds of places- some that they had never previously used. And apparently not everyone was as ecstatic with their room as I was… So I got on a bus where a lot of people were complaining and the driver was trying to apologize and reassure them. This went on for several minutes, and it was enough for me. I just piped up and said, “Whatever happened last night is over. We have a beautiful day ahead of us! Let’s focus on that instead.” A few people cheered. Then everyone went back to complaining. Sigh. #americans

Now, there was one thing to complain about. The weather. Which you may have guessed from the title of this blog. Yesterday was FANTASTIC! Sunny….warm….no wind…the first time I’ve worn a short sleeve shirt in 2.5 weeks!! Woke up this morning to cold, drizzly, gray skies. I dressed appropriately in wool tights under water resistant TROUSERS (not pants! 😁), a thermal top, my rainjacket, and my waterproof walking shoes. As we drove across the island, I could pretty much only see two things- a raindrop covered window that was hard to see out of, and scenery covered in a blanket of gray mist. Scottish weather, to be certain, but not really what you want to see when you’re visiting what so many people have told you is the most beautiful part of Scotland!!

We saw a weird rock formation in the distance, called the Old Man of Storr, and were told a story….There was a married couple, who used to walk to this mountain every day. Years later, the wife passed away, and the husband would still walk their path each day, thinking about and missing his wife. One day, he sat on the mountain, and said out loud that he wished he could just be here forever. The fairy king overheard him and granted his wish….by turning him into stone. After that story, I was silently praying to the fairy king for good weather!!

Next stop was another formation, but this one was a cliff. It’s called Kilt Rock, because the folds in the rock resemble the folds in a kilt. there was a very misty waterfall coming down from it, but you couldn’t really see it well from our angle. That, plus the fact that drizzle had turned to rain, got everyone back on the bus in record time. Taking pictures in the rain is no fun.

You can see the waterfall kinda, if you look about 1/3 of the way from the left of the picture.

Next we went to what was probably my favorite spot of the day- The Quiraing. The scenery is out of this world- literally, it looks like an alien landscape! We had 30 minutes here to hike around, but the weather was dreadful. Wind, rain. Ugh. I did hike for about 20 minutes, trying to get away from the people, trying to get them out of my shots, and trying to enjoy what I was seeing without thinking about the cold. Taking pictures was so difficult. As soon as I’d lift the camera, the lens would be pelted from sideways rain that seemed to come from every direction within seconds. I got as many pictures as I could, and then retreated to the bus.

Ok, I seriously do not feel like I am doing this place justice. Because frankly, the wet and cold was just miserable and made it hard to see and enjoy anything that was happening. It was so bad at some places, that the driver would pull the bus over, tell us about a place, give us 10 minutes to get out and take pictures, and no one would move. It was that bad out. But he did tell us a story that I feel imparts the beauty of the Isle of Skye, so i want to share it with you…

The MacLeod clan ruled over the Isle of Skye. Highlanders were looked upon as a little backwards by the rest of the Scots. Everyone, even other highlanders, looked upon the people of Skye as especially backwards. So, there was definitely a “hierarchy” there! All of the clans went to King James IV’s palace in Edinburgh for a meeting. When they walked in, all of the candles were lit in the palace. King James said to the leader of the MacLeod clan, “I bet you’ve never seen candles burn so brightly in Skye.” The other highlanders agreed with their king, ribbing poor MacLeod who ignored it. When they entered the dining room, King James said, “I bet you’ve never seen a ceiling painted so beautifully in Skye.” The same thing happened- ribbing, and MacLeod ignored it again. A feast was brought out, and James once again tried to make MacLeod ashamed that there was nothing this good in Skye. Finally, MacLeod had had enough. He invited the king to come visit him in Skye. The king agreed, and arrived a few weeks later. At midnight, MacLeod took the king on a walk. They arrived to a hill, and were immediately surrounded by 500 of MacLeod’s best men, holding lit torches. MacLeod asked James if he’d ever seen anything burn so brightly. James said he hadn’t. MacLeod then told James to look up at the starry sky- had he ever seen a ceiling so beautiful? James said he hadn’t. A feast was then brought out to them- all of the wonderful things the people could hunt or grow on the Isle of Skye. Plate after plate of amazing food. James understood the point, and declared the Isle of Skye to be his most favorite place in the world.

Next, we stopped off at a museum of sorts- which seemed literally way out in the middle of no where! This was the Skye Museum of Island Life. About $4 to get in. The weather was still a nightmare, and this was an outdoor museum where you went from building to building, learning about how the people of this island survived in the 1700s-1900s. The houses are called Crofter Cottages, and were built from the scarce local materials of rock and thatch. Each building had a theme- the Croft House, where people lived until I think it was the 1950s (maybe 1930s), the smithy, the barn, a weaver’s cottage, etc… And in each building there would be artifacts from that time period. And there were a LOT of artifacts! It was really interesting, but I couldn’t help but be worried what the weather would be like when I would have to step back out into it. It was getting worse and worse… After the museum, we drove to the nearby cemetery. Alexander McQueen of fashion fame is buried here. And there’s a monument to a lady named Flora MacDonald. I don’t have all of the history on her, so you’ll have to google it if you’re interested, but she is considered to be a hero in Scotland- mainly for helping Bonnie Prince Charlie escape the island by dressing him as her female servant. Seriously, the driver stopped the bus and ONE person braved the elements for a picture. That one person was not me!

From there, we went to the town of Portree for lunch. This is the largest town on the Island, and is the capital. It has about 2,000 people. 🙂  We didn’t get there until almost 2:30, and apparently they roll up the sidewalks at 2. Normally, I sit in some interesting area outside and make myself a picnic during our lunch stops. That was not an option today. It was raining and windy, so I asked the other 2 solo girls if they would like to have lunch with me. They agreed. We went to Cafe Arriba and there was a line literally out of the door. We waited about 40 minutes to be seated. The waiters were trying to get everyone seated as quickly as possible, and started asking if people minded sharing tables. Everyone agreed except one couple. Guess what nationality?? #americans  Do you see why I am always so damn happy when someone identifies me as not acting like an American?? We seriously have a pretty craptastic reputation overseas, and I have witnessed first hand many, MANY times just why that is. Spoiler alert: We are not the most powerful people in the world, people do not worship us, and our shit does stink. #yourewelcome  Finally got a seat, and I ordered the most amazing venison stew with potatoes and bread. It took over 30 minutes to get it. So totally hit the spot, though,  on this nasty weather day. Comfort food at its finest! Time to get back to the bus was quickly running out, and I wanted to get pictures of the cute little Portree harbor! So I wolfed down my deer, bundled up against the elements, and walked very quickly down the street to snap a couple of shots, then even quicker to the bus pick up point for shelter. The fairy king must not be pleased with me, since he’s not answering my prayer. Of course, if the weather had cleared, it would obviously be because fairy kings exist and answer lowly human’s wishes! But since he didn’t, we’ll just chalk it up to, “Fairy kings work in mysterious ways”. 😉

The order of things gets a little messed up here, because I didn’t get out and take photos at all of the stops. But here are the things I know we did….we stopped at the Sligachan Bridge. Like many things in Skye, this place is enchanted. If you dip your face in the water for 7 seconds, you’ll have eternal beauty!! A lot of people on the bus did this. A lot of people on the bus needed this. I deemed myself cute enough as it is, and skipped it. 😜

Then, we passed a RAGING waterfall! It was gorgeous! And the funny thing is that the driver said we had passed this on the way in this morning and it was a trickle. All of the rain throughout the day turned it into a spectacular sight! So spectacular, that I got my butt out of my seat to go take a picture. The rain was pelting the camera so hard though, that it was impossible, and I retreated.

Ok- last stop of the day!! Dun Beag Broch. A broch is a tower of sorts, built in a strategic location (like on a hilltop as this one is). When was this built, you ask? Well, let me tell you. ABOUT 2000-2500 YEARS AGO!!!!!! I got all US Postal service when I heard that… “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”  My “rounds” was to see some ancient history!! To do this, we had to hike up a hill in gale force winds with rain pounding us…and try to avoid very wet sheep landmines that were EVERYWHERE… You have no idea how long it took me to get each of these pictures. Multiple, multiple, MULTIPLE shots, constantly having to wipe the lens and snap fast before it was covered in drops again.

Got to the top, and the view was spectacular! But so was the wind. It was literally hard to walk against, and I was afraid of getting blown over. I’m not kidding. There was no protection up on top of that hill… But once up there, you could see inside of the broch. It’s thought that these were fairly tall towers, about 10 m (30ish feet), and used as lookouts, defense, and maybe even status symbols. One hypothesis, due to how where they are located, is that they may have been a type of communication system, warning of impending danger. Remember in Lord of the Rings, how the fires were lit in the beacons of Gondor, one after another, to warn of the impending attack? Yeah, like that. And the really cool thing- they are only found in Scotland!! PS: I am NOT a movie person. Literally, the only movies I like that were made in 21st century are Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. And Scotland has given me BOTH of them in the last two days!! No more movie references, I promise. Unless I’m in Austria- you’ll be bombarded with The Sound of Music. 😉

I was super glad that I went and saw this. Such history. So many questions that will never be answered… Bus took us back to our guest houses. I was bone cold. This is what I call it when I can literally feel the cold inside of my bones, and the only way for me to get warm is a super hot shower. I peeled my clothes off, and the top of me was dry underneath my raincoat. But I was soaked through my water resistant TROUSERS, wool leggings, and even my pants (using the Scottish term, here!). I fell into bed, exhausted. And feeling like something was seriously missing from my Isle of Skye experience. Maybe it was just because I was miserable being cold and wet all day. Maybe it was because I could barely see anything. Whatever it is, I am convinced that it was a “me” issue and not an Isle of Skye issue!! I’ll have to come back some day when the weather is better, and give this place another chance!



Day 5: Castles and Nessie and Coos, Oh My!

Day 5: Castles and Nessie and Coos, Oh My!


Woke up and looked out the window. Wind, rain, gray. Oh, how I wanted to just crawl back into bed for the day and hitchhike back to Edinburgh! But that was just a passing thought…I headed off to the kitchen to another INSANELY beautiful and tasty meal! Can you even believe this?? Smoked herring, prawns, and eggs that I learned are from the chickens in the garden. More wonderful conversation with Jana. I gave her a hug before I left. She is such a warm and fun person! I’ll miss her (and the food!!).
It was time to board the sheep wagon and leave the Isle of Skye behind us. I was still feeling like I “missed” something, but no time to dwell on it- there was a full day of adventures ahead!! I was not looking forward to the ferry ride across. The water I could see from my room was so choppy. Puking would not be the way to start out a brand new day! To my surprise, we didn’t have to take the ferry. There was a perfectly civilized bridge that took us back to the mainland. 🙂 As we drove, the weather deteriorated to the point that it made yesterday look like a freaking picnic. Wind was whipping trees something fierce. Rain, rain, rain. We passed GORGEOUS mountains on both sides of us, and I am not even kidding you, they were streaked like marble with hundreds of waterfalls. Yes, HUNDREDS. Had I had a car, it would have taken me all day just to get down this road with all of the stopping for pictures! But alas, the bus windows were covered in raindrops and fog, so I just have my memories.

All of a sudden, the bus swerves on the narrow, two lane road and brakes fast! People gasped. The guy in the front seat who didn’t have his seatbelt on, fell in the aisle. The driver pulled over and jumped out. It all happened so fast, that no one really knew exactly what happened. The driver came back and explained. So a tourist had pulled over on the left side to presumably take pictures of all of the insane waterfalls pouring off the mountains. When he opened his car door to get out, the wind caught it. He was not far enough off of the road, and the door flew open right into our lane! The driver had to swerve to miss it, but also swerve because there was an oncoming car in the other lane (that I did see as it happened). How the driver maneuvered that huge bus in the pouring rain on that narrow road and managed to not hit either obstacle is a testament to this guy. He is just awesome! We all clapped. 🙂

As we drove, the driver told us about some of the animals that can be found in the woods here. And then he told us the national animal of Scotland. I never in ten zillion years would have guessed….UNICORN!!!! Oh my god, Scotland,  how awesome can you be? Seriously?! The story we were told is that the unicorn was chosen, because it was the only beast capable of defeating a lion (the animal on the coat of arms of England). I haven’t found verification for that, but it sounds good, so I’ll believe it until I’m corrected. 🙂

First stop, Eilean Donan castle. The word castle always gets me excited, because there’s history to be seen and learned! Got off the bus and walked right what growing up in Texas I would have called a tropical storm. At this point in my travels, I still didn’t realize that this awful weather was being caused by Storm Hector- the first named storm of the summer. The wind was gale force. The rain was every direction (I think even upside down!). I quickly made my way to the ticket counter, and asked the lady if there was someone working there named Rosie Cheeks that was on some of the Scotland facebook groups. She looked puzzled for a moment (and I admit, I felt weird asking!), and said, “Oh! She works in the gift shop!”. More on that later…. I went outside and played “race the raindrops” to try to snap pictures of this stunning castle before the lens was covered. The wind was CRAZY. The castle was….STUNNING! I couldn’t wait to get inside!! (And not just because of the weather!)

I walked into the first room and starting snapping pictures of all of the signs so I could go back and read later. Here are the basics: The original castle was built in 1200s, changing shape and size over the centuries as remodels took place. It played a role as a Jacobite stronghold in the 1600s and 1700s, and was eventually practically completely (that’s a lot of -ly words!) destroyed. It was abandoned for about 200 years, until it was purchased in 1911 and restored. This is not a Scottish government owned site. It is family owned. Which I find fascinating, and if it was mine I’d kick all these hordes of tourists out and have the most awesome AirBNB known to man kind!!!!!!!!! Of course, I’m selfish like that. 😉

After that first room, I went outside of the castle. Holy hurricane, batman!! The storm had worsened substantially in like 10 minutes!! I ran to a little area to get shelter. You could hear the wind howling (screaming) around the walls and people were running and fighting umbrellas- Hector was making himself known!

Here you can see the rain coming down hard.

I made my way into the main castle. Jaw. Dropped. Now THIS is a castle!!! It was so magnificent, so stately, so imposing, so medieval, yet….so homey. Sorry Windsor, prior to today you were my favorite castle. Eilean Donan just dropped you to #2, because you are gorgeous, but a bit pompous as well! 🙂 There was only one bad thing about this castle- NO PICTURES WERE ALLOWED INSIDE!!! Please, please, please go here and look at some pictures. Simply perfect. At this point, I knew I would kick all of the tourist hordes out if I owned it, but not so sure I’d even share it with AirBNBers!! This was a castle for LIVING! And the family that owns it does have private apartments that they come and stay in on occasion. They have also put a lot of their own items on display, which makes it even more homey. I was in love. 😍

Now, the driver told us to open all of the cupboards and such. Admittedly, I felt like I was “that” American, opening every door and drawer! Sometimes, I’d find a pile of spare light bulbs or whatever. But I opened one closet, and there was A SKELETON IN IT! I screamed out loud like a complete idiot, quickly looked around to see who saw/heard me,  and thoroughly embarrassed myself for about 2 seconds. Quick recovery, and was so glad to have found that little hidden gem! Look for it. 🙂

This castle is really well done. I love all of the attention to detail. It’s beautiful. At one point, I just stood by the window, looking out on to the misty loch and listening to the wind howl. I tried to imagine what it would be like in here 300 years ago… I finished my little tour of the castle, and headed back outside, where Storm Hector was all to happy to greet me with pelting rain and driving wind! The driver told us to pick up 3 stones and bring them back to the bus. I did. Then, I went into the souvenior shop. I was looking for Rosie Cheeks from Facebook, but wanted to look at employee name tags first and see if one said “Rosie” or something similar on it before I asked. I walked by the cashier and the lady said, “Mary?”. Holy smokes, SHE RECOGNIZED ME!! We have never met, said like 3 sentences on facebook to each other, I never even told her which day exactly I would be there, and she sees like 10 zillion people a day, and SHE RECOGNIZED ME! We had a quick, lovely chat, and I was so happy to have met her. I love little experiences like that. I told the bus driver about it, and he thought it was pretty cool. 🙂

The wind and rain was still at it, and it was time to leave. The driver said to just hold on to our stones, but he wasn’t going to tell us why yet. Then he started telling us about how cairns are made in memory of loved ones passed. And that we were going to go to a cairn field (I can’t remember the name or if it even had one). And if we had lost someone, we could add our stones to a cairn in remembrance. I didn’t have to even think a second about who. My dad. Who took me on my first international trip when I was 16 (to Mexico). Who as an adult, I traveled with in his camper every summer for several years, until age started to get the best of him. He loved to travel, to travel with me. We’d plan those trips for months. Looking at maps (this was in the age before cell phones and google!), trying to figure out scenic routes and camping spots. I lost him a year ago last summer. There’s a lot of back story there that I won’t go into but I will say this- I feel like my dad travels with me every where I go now. That he’s proud that I get out there and see the world, take risks, have adventures, and live the hell out of life. I forgot all about the wind and rain as I wandered through that field to find a cairn that spoke to me. And I left the stones there. My dad, who never went overseas on vacation, just to war, has now been to Scotland.

Next stop, Roderick Mackenzie’s cairn and grave. By this time, the wind had gone from serious knock you off your feet gusts to what I would call “brindy”- a step up from breezy, a step down from windy! Still rainy, though. So who’s Roderick Mackenzie? He helped Bonnie Prince Charles escape the English, because he looked almost like him! MacKenzie was captured while the real prince got away. The English killed the “prince”, and it wasn’t until later that they realized they had been tricked. He’s a Scottish hero.

And now, it was time to head to something that has fascinated me since I was a little girl…LOCH NESS!! I was really excited about this! We pulled into the little town of Drumnadrochit. We had an hour and fifteen minutes for “lunch”. And by now, there was some sun and blue skies peeking through, and “brindy” had been downgraded to “breezy”! First order of business was cash- I had to have it for the cruise and I was cash poor. Had to find a cash machine. I walked to the tourism office and they directed me down the road. WAAAAAAAAAAY down the road, to the co-op store. Walked down there, got my cash, headed back. I knew I didn’t want to eat lunch, I wanted to explore this town that sits on Loch Ness! I walked toward something called Nessieland that looked like it could be kitchy and fun, but then saw the sign for the Loch Ness Centre. Just the way they spell center…centre….makes it seem so much more formal and important! So I went that way. And right there was a pharmacy! I decided that with the choppy waters, motion sickness pills were not a bad way to spend $5… Continued walking and found the center centre. It was like $9 to get in. I had 30 minutes. He said the presentations were about 30 minutes, but I could rush through if I needed. Each room had a little movie that was about 3-4 minutes long, detailing out certain information about the Loch, including the search for Nessie. It was so well done! I hated that I didn’t have enough time!! If you go, you really need about 1-1.25 hours to do it justice. I exited through the gift shop, and there was a cash machine!! ARRRRRRGHHHHHH! Had I not wasted so much time walking all the way to the other side of town, I would have had more time at the center. 🙁

Hey! I’m those things EVERYDAY!! And executioner! 😉

Next, we went to Castle Urquhart. Unlike Eilean Donan, this one is in ruins. But they are gorgeous ruins! The castle was built in the 1200s, and added on to over the centuries. In the 1600s, it was destroyed by England so the Jacobites couldn’t use it for defense. England…you are why we can’t have nice things! 😡 First, we watched a really cool video about the castle, then had about 40 minutes to explore it. Oh man, it was so much fun!! You really had to use your imagination to build the castle in your mind, and imagine life back then. I wonder if they ever saw Nessie??

Great view of the moat

The little sign says “latrine”. You could shoot arrows through the slit, and pee at the same time. Now THAT is efficiency in war!

Soon it was time to head out on to Loch Ness for a cruise. Maybe I’d see Nessie, just like I dreamed about when I was a child and read my Loch Ness Monster book about a zillion times! While we waited in line, two ducks just walked up to me and started quacking. I was in the middle of the line, so it was weird that they approached me of all people. I talked to them a bit, then remembered I had a few crackers in my backpack. I took one out and fed them. When I was done, the guy next to me said, “I videoed the whole thing. Do you want me to send it to you?” HOW NICE WAS THAT??!! And I had zero idea he was doing it.

The lady next to me said, “They’re posing for you!”

Like water off a duck’s back!! I love this shot!

All aboard the Jacobite Queen!! Dear England, You may have won, but everything here is talking about the Jacobites, so did you really? Really?? Love, Mary. We had such a wonderful man telling stories, singing songs, cracking jokes (I think his name was Malcolm) as we cruised out across the world famous Loch Ness. The Loch has 22 square miles of surface area, making it the 2nd largest loch in Scotland. However, it is so deep (755 feet at its deepest point!!), that it is the largest loch by volume in ALL of Britain! And get this- it holds more water than every lake in England and Wales COMBINED!!! Crazy!! No sightings of Nessie, no puking, thanks to the pills, but it really wasn’t bad at all even though it was a bit choppy, and a wonderful experience that really brought out the giddy little girl in me!! Scanning the surface for any little anomaly that might be the elusive Nessie…

The driver had the bus waiting for us when we docked. And he said he had a surprise- we were going to see Highland Coos (cows)!!! I swear, the gasp of excitement that washed through our group was crazy! We had seen castles and history and spectacular scenery over the past few days…but the very mention of Highland Coos sent us into a tizzy!! And then, he showed us this.

Fucking seriously? To say I was disappointed would be a MASSIVE understatement. I looked at him and he could tell. He said, “Are you disappointed?”. I said yes, with a scrunched up face. He said he was sorry. Everyone else looked pretty underwhelmed as well, after he proclaimed this to be modern art. Then he said, “Do you guys want to see some REAL Highland Coos?” We all gasped again. I practically skipped along side of him, and gave him a new joke to add to his bad joke repertoire (which is already quite extensive!). I said he should tell everyone this was MEDIEVAL art, not modern. And then explain that you can tell because it’s wearing CHAIN MAIL!! Buh-dum-dump. 😉 He liked it. And you know what I like? HIGHLAND COOS!!!!! And I hate cows. Like seriously do not like them they scare me. These, I wanted to cuddle, not eat!!

Back on the bus, dreaming of Highland Coos and how to sneak one into my carryon… Next stop, Invermoriston. We got to hike down a beautiful sun-dappled path through a little forest beside a stream, down to a little stone summer house. No idea what this was used for, but it was cute! And the stream was beautiful. It was a nice little nature break kind of away from everyone. I was needing that. After that, got dropped off at the accommodations for the night. The end of a long, eventful day!



Day 6: The Day the Magic and History of Scotland Clicked for Me

Day 6: The Day the Magic and History of Scotland Clicked for Me


I’ve been drawing the long straw every time on accommodations. Statistics were mounting in my disfavor, and true to form, I drew the short one last night. Not because of the place itself, although it felt more hotel-like than the last two which were homey. But because of some jack weasel somewhere (not in the hotel, but in a nearby house I think) was playing loud music all. night. long. Finally, it stopped at 5am. I’m not joking. I slept until 6,then was up for good. I decided to just hang in my room and relax instead of going down for breakfast. I had a blueberry muffin and a banana from my pack, got my stuff together, and met the sheep wagon at 9. I’m glad this is the last day. I’m tiring of the bus, and you can feel that the others are as well. Five days of fast travel is tough- even worse when you have no control.

The night’s accommodations.

It was sprinkling, but just barely a breeze. And I could see patches of blue in the distance. The driver put on “Here Comes the Sun”, and as the first few notes started,  everyone was laughing and joking that they hoped so! We made one little scenic stop. Then, we made a 30 minute stop at the Falls of Foyers. There was a perfect little sun-dappled path through the most magnificent trees. The kind of path that leads to something magical. I was 6th off the bus, so I had people ahead of me. We got to a T in the trail. They all headed left. I stopped to ponder- follow my herd, or stray? And while I pondered, I heard a cat. Not just any cat, a cat in distress! It was the same mournful/frantic sound my cat made when he was stuck in a tree for three days. I heard it again. The sound was coming from the right. And again. I had to see if I could find him! There was no one going that way (everyone passing me was going left). I took off to the right. I crossed a bridge (that I’m quite certain is the home of a troll) and walked down the path, ears alert for meows. I didn’t go very far, until a saw a darling little cat running down the trail frantically meowing at me! His tone changed when he saw me and he started rubbing on my legs as I petted him and asked if he was lost. He didn’t feel skinny, and he was sooooo friendly! It’s almost like he was expecting me, and made that distress call knowing it would get my attention. As I petted and talked to him, some other people started walking toward us. The little cat ran up the trail and looked back. The lady bent down to coax him over, but he just turned his tail and ran away. Do fairy kings ever take on the form of a cat??

I’m sure they do, and that was the fairy King answering my prayers about the weather from day 4! The skies were blue, the sun was out, and the air was just crisp enough to make your skin feel alive. I headed off down the trail to see the Falls of Foyers. Snapped a few shots, then headed off down the other way. The cat was no where in sight, but this place, for me, had felt the most magical by far. I can’t explain it. The waterfall, the trees, the cliffs, the paths. I don’t know. Some feelings you never have an answer to “why” for.

The drive through the countryside was wonderful!! Super narrow, winding roads through trees and hills, past dark lochs and hidden magic. You could feel it. Next stop, a scenic view of Loch Ness from the opposite side! I was THRILLED, because I forgot to take a video about it for my class yesterday! I almost picked up a rock as a souvenir, but decided against it.

These cows were running as fast as they could down this hillside! I like to think it was for the sheer joy of this place. I’m guessing food may have played a role, however. 😉

Then, we went somewhere I knew nothing about. The Culloden battlefield. It’s where the Jacobites (remember, they’re the followers of the disposed King James VII of Scotland, II of England who was replaced by Mary and William in the history lesson on day 3. 🙂 ) There was an AMAZING museum, and I don’t say that lightly, about what led up to the battle, the battle itself, the aftermath, and relics. The story was so fascinating, although I didn’t have time to give it justice. I did take pictures of every single sign though (I’m not kidding- EVERY sign- dozens of them), so I can go back and read all of the information. There was a letter that Bonnie Prince Charles wrote to his uncle… Louis XV of France (I got tears in my eyes!) …asking him for help. From what I could read, it looks like Louis XV promised help, and did send supplies. But he never invaded England and sent troops as promised. I was disappointed in Louis about that… The battlefield itself was very somber and quite emotional for me. The only other place in the world where I’ve ever felt a real “connection” on some primal level to the history is France. I cry all the time there when I see certain things (like how I teared up when I saw that letter to Louis). Can’t explain it. This battlefield now marks the 2nd country where I’ve felt this strong connection. The history there was palpable. The red flags represented the English lines. The blue, the Jacobites. No big history lesson, because without a ton of proper research I would not do this story justice. So I’m just going to tell you this- the Jacobites were practically massacred. 1500-2000 were killed, versus 300 British in the battle that lasted less than an hour. Scotland had fallen to the English, and I seriously can not tell you the anger I felt toward England. Look, if you’re English, my apologies. But there is something inside of me that just does NOT like England in a historical sense. Again, it’s a feeling that makes zero sense and I can’t explain it. It’s like I have some pent up grudge against them. I don’t know… Anyway, the wearing of kilts was banned, which ties in with the house we saw by the bridge in Day 2 where the Jacobites would change into their trousers before they left the Isle of Seil, and back into their kilts when they came back home. It tied up the loose ends of seeing the Flora MacDonald monument on Skye from Day 4- she was the lady who helped Bonnie Prince Charles (leader of the Jacobite army) escape Scotland and get to the safety of France. And it tied up the cairn and grave of another Scottish hero, Roderick Mackenzie, from Day 5- who looked so much like Bonnie Prince Charles, that he basically sacrificed himself to the English so the real Prince Charles would have more time to escape. I could have easily spent 2-3 hours there, but I only had an hour and 15 minutes. I really needed this history lesson. It’s been too many days since I really learned something. MY GOD. The entire trip just clicked for me on this battlefield. Scenery and such is nice. But HISTORY is alive!! For me, the 5 day bus tour ended here. The rest, was fluff.

Bonnie Prince Charlie. The collection of items here was wonderful!

So emotional for me. A handwritten letter from Prince Charles to King Louis XV of France, requesting much needed aid from France to fight off the English.

They were having a weapons demonstration. I NEEDED MORE TIME!!!

Blue flag for the Jacobites. Even the wind was blowing the flag in a defeated kind of position. 🙁 I tried and tried to get a shot of it flowing freely, and couldn’t.

The red flag is for the English. Even the flag is waving victoriously, almost 300 years later.

The engraving on this bench broke. my. heart. Translated from Gaelic, it reads “We followed you, prince, to this ocean of flatness and bullets.” The red flag in the background…gutted.

Stones representing the various clans that fought in the battle are placed throughout the battlefield.

A cairn to the memory of the lost Jacobite soldiers.

Then it was lunch time in Aviemore. A little over an hour here, and no museum or anything. I didn’t even take a picture. Went and paid 50p to use the bathroom, then sat on the bench by the bus stop, blogging, chatting with Brian, and eating my picnic lunch. I’m seriously ready to be off the bus and in control of my own destiny again.
It was an hour drive to the next stop. On the way, we passed gorgeous green hills covered in dark colored Heather plants. They bloom twice a year (not in June!). My middle name is Heather, after that flower. We did make a quick photo stop at Blair castle. Queen Victoria and Albert spent their honeymoon here!

Next stop, the charming little town of Pitlochry. We had an hour here, and I spent every bit of it at the Pitlochry Dam visitor center (which is very well done and tells the history of the dam and electricity production) and, the highlight- the fish ladder they built for salmon so they could get over the dam! And the best part?? I SAW A REAL WILD SALMON!! I’ve never seen one in the wild, and I’m a total fish geek (marine biology degree), so my excitement and squeal of delight could be lost on you. 🙂

A real, live SALMON in the fish ladder!!

The last stop of our trip was to some bridges that go across some river and are apparently important somehow. Anything after 1800 bores me to tears, so I snapped a couple of pics out of a sense of obligation, but quickly reboarded the bus. Soon, we were pulling in to Edinburgh. I got my bag out of the back of the bus, and walked the .6 miles to my AirBNB- the same one I stayed at on my first night here. It was nice to walk into something familiar.

As tired as I was, this was one of the best days for me. I’m writing this a couple of days after the fact, and the feelings of connection to that battlefield still haven’t left me. A few months ago, I did one of those DNA tests (I’m adopted, long story, read the El Salvador journal if you want more information). I didn’t even pay much attention to the ancestor countries at the time, because that wasn’t what I was looking for. However, I felt compelled to go back and look. I already knew that I have French bloodlines (I found this out long, long after my love affair with French History began). And there it was. 12% Irish/Scottish/Wales. I’m going to Ireland next (funny thing, I grew up thinking I was a lot more Irish than I really am!), and it will be interesting to see if I feel any connection there.
For people who have put in their 2 cents about me being on a 5 day bus tour, and how you can’t expect to experience anything that way, um, yeah. Have a seat, please. Experiences are based on connections, emotions, attitude…not transportation. I had plenty of wonderful experiences that I would never had had if not for this bus tour! Is it my preferred mode of transport? No. Not by a longshot. I’ve never traveled like this before. But it is one I can utilize when necessary, and I won’t be made to feel guilty for that. That said, I was happy when we pulled into Edinburgh. The girl from Turkey that I sat next to on the bus for 5 days, ate lunch with once, and had a few conversations with….yeah, I don’t even know her name. If you knew me, that wouldn’t surprise you. (Brian was like, “Yeah, that’s you!”). I wasn’t there for companionship. I travel solo because I am comfortable and confident with myself. I value my “me” time to soak in the things I am seeing and learning with minimal distractions. Of course, I love traveling with Brian as well and can’t wait until we are in Malta together next month! But it’s different when you’re solo. And different isn’t bad.
Days 7: Practicing Witchcraft in Edinburgh

Days 7: Practicing Witchcraft in Edinburgh


It was nice to not have to wake up and get ready to meet the bus. It was nice to just be able to spend the morning sitting in bed, working, blogging, and drinking a cold Diet Dr. Pepper. This is the life! 🙂 Oh, and to do some laundry. In Iceland, the washer was set to this 15 minute express thing. The clothes got clean-ER, but I wouldn’t call them super clean. Two weeks of that. Then, 5 days on the bus. Keep in mind, I’m traveling for 2.5 months to varied climates such as Iceland and Malta (in July!). That is a huge difference of wardrobe to pack into a carry on bag. Which means I only have a few outfits for each climate. Let’s just say my cold weather clothes got a workout on a bus with no access to laundry for 5 days… I was waiting to be voted off the bus by my fellow passengers around day 3… Anyway, glorious laundry!! That went for like an hour!! I kept walking in, looking at it all sudsy and twisty and saying out loud, “Those clothes are going to smell SO good!”. And they did. 🙂 Sometimes, it’s the little things…

The forecast predicted serious rain for Edinburgh today, so when I got in last night, I decided I better do a bit of grocery shopping so I wouldn’t have to lug groceries 2 blocks in the rain tomorrow. I’m not really sure how I’ve survived almost half a century on Earth without knowing the glories of the clearance section at Tesco!! They always have those little refrigerated (not frozen) pre-made microwavable meals SUPER CHEAP. I got two of them- one was Scottish Stovies. I figured what the hell did I have to lose for 75p (that’s $1. Yes, a whole meal for $1- pay attention, Iceland!). It is ground beef, potatoes, and onions kind of blenderized smooth. It was really good! Great warm breakfast to start the day with!

Today I was going on the Witches of Edinburgh tour. The hourly forecast (which, in Scotland, is a joke played on tourists!) said that it was going to be pouring at 1pm- not just pouring, but a thunderstorm as well! I had to walk about a 1/2 mile to get to the tour. I figured that if I drowned in the torrential downpour, at least I was not a witch. If I didn’t drown….well, at least I’d be toasty warm for a few minutes! 🔥☠ Imagine my surprise when I opened the door to….sunshine! 🌞 Witchery, indeed! I got to the meeting point at the National Museum about 20 minutes early (which for me, is right on time and bordering on late!). And I saw rainbows everywhere!! Rainbows in a sunny sky? No! Rainbows on the streets! Remember on Day 1 here when I walked off the bus into the Women’s March? Well, I was in the middle of another march! The Pride March! THOUSANDS upon THOUSANDS of people!! Want to know the funny thing? Back in ‘mericuh, I have never been anywhere near any march ever. I’ve spent two days in Edinburgh, and both days I’ve been caught up in one! It’s like they throw a parade every time I step on to the street! 😉

I love, love, LOVE this picture. In my mind, these two women are this little rainbow angel’s mommies. Raising her with love and life and fun! People who don’t think LGBTQ people should raise children make me SICK. And if you’re one of them, there’s a little X in the upper right hand corner of this page. Use it, and go back to your ignorant, hate-filled life. I was raised by heterosexuals. No rainbow wings, rainbow tutus, pink leggings, and balloons (or parents who seem to be in complete bliss!) in that childhood. I only wish I had been as fortunate as this little girl appears to be. All children deserve a childhood. And that can only be provided by loving people- gay, straight, purple…it doesn’t matter. #offsoapbox  #loveislove

So now, let me tell you the definition of awkward…having your witch’s tour meeting point on the very corner with this massive pride parade going on. Why? Because so many of the marchers were in costume, and my email said “Look for your costumed guide”!! Bwah ha ha ha ha!!! 😝 Any way, I managed to find him. We went into the museum and discussed how witchcraft is basically any ritual you do, expecting some kind of outcome (real or for fun). Throw a coin in a fountain and make a wish? Witchcraft. You don’t have to have a cauldron and a long, crooked nose. 😉  We went through the Picts section of the museum- the ancient peoples of Scotland- and discussed their rituals. We went into a room with some carvings and I saw this one and thought, “Oh, we must be in the Egyptian section now.”, just based on the carvings at the bottom of the stone. Nope, Picts. Isn’t it odd how much their god looks like Horus of Egypt????

We then moved into the torture room, where the guide described some of the methods in gruesome detail. How did they know you were a witch back then? Well, being a woman was a pretty sure sign. And if you were accused, you were as good as dead. He didn’t mention it, but it was the church’s way of keeping women under strict control. Oh, the church…spreading love, acceptance, and independent thinking for 2000+ years. #puke By the way, that little comment would have gotten me KILLED back in the day. 🔥 ☠ Blasphemers, if they weren’t killed outright, would have their tongues split in half…marking them for life as a blasphemers. They would basically be outcast from society. OMG, can you believe that?? Uh oh, I’m dead again.  🔥☠ OMG is blasphemy- lord’s name in vain.

Ok, I have to say, I wasn’t exactly 100% thrilled with the tour. There really wasn’t as much focus on witches as I wanted. I really wanted a story with a bit more continuity and flow. But I will say, the guy was super passionate about the topics he presented! They just weren’t all directly related to witches (at least my perception of them). After about 2 hours, we reached the end of the tour. He said we could go outside with him and practice divination, or end the tour here. We had about 20 people. 6 of us went with him. And OMG (#deadagain 🔥☠), I am SO glad I did!! This was the best part of the whole damn tour!

So we went out into the courtyard of some old college, and Frank, the guide, pulled out these divination rods. I’m familiar enough with them to know that they’re also called dowsing rods, and people have been using them for forever to find water. That was the extent of my knowledge. Well, that and the fact that I don’t believe in them. In case you didn’t read the Elf School journal, I DO believe in spirits. But I am very scientific and logical, and know that generally there is a scientific and logical explanation for everything- including divination rods and such other “tools”. So Frank pulls out this metal, L-shaped rod, and starts showing us how he can flex his hands to make them turn the way he wants. It was really obvious. Then, he does it again and it’s not obvious at all, but he tells us he’s manipulating it. So, he says, to counteract this flaw, divining rods should be sheathed. He pulls out one that has a copper sheath around it that you hold on to. The rod can spin freely within this sheath, but your hands are not in direct contact with it. He then tells it out loud what he wants it to do- turn left, turn right, point to this person, that person, point straight…and the rod does it every time. Interesting, but I’m just staring at his hands the entire time, trying to figure out how he’s manipulating it…. I can’t, but slight of hand is almost undetectable to an untrained eye. Then, he hands us a rod to try. People…people… I was blown away… It’s times like this that I wish my camera man Brian was here! Had I done this hundreds of years ago…yeah, DEAD.🔥☠

Then he brings out a pendulum. It’s hanging from a metal rod with a chain. He explains how you can make it move by telling it where you want it to go, just like the rods. I tried it. And I tried to be PERFECTLY still. I didn’t say it out loud this time. I just thought it. And damned if that thing didn’t move in a circle when I mentally told it to, stop when I mentally told it to, and move back and forth when I mentally told it to. CREEPY. He then put the pendulum over a paper that had a bunch of words on it like Yes, No, Maybe, etc… He told us to put the pendulum over it, think about an important question, and our subconscious would move the pendulum to the answer. I thought of my question. It moved to No. Weird thing, I was thinking Yes for the answer! Time will tell if it’s right. I’ll report back (could be years!). Oh, and again…DEAD.🔥 ☠

Last, we got to use two divination rods. The goal here was to make them cross and uncross using just our mind. AND DAMN IF IT DIDN’T WORK AGAIN!! Seriously, I can not tell you how logical and scientific I am about things. And I just couldn’t figure out how it was working because I was trying to be super still and do everything possible to not influence them. I didn’t want it to work! But it did. And I’m not going to lie, it kinda freaked me the fuck out! Oh, and by the way, hundreds of years ago, I’d be DEAD.🔥☠

Of course, I immediately came back to the apartment and started researching. Everything I could find was about how they have been debunked for finding water- that they worked about the same as just random chance at finding it. But I wasn’t trying to find water. I did find this one article, but I want more information! I know there is a reasonable explanation. Again, I DO believe in spirits, but I do NOT think they are controlling these tools in any way. But even my scientific mind had some doubt creeping in- it was that freaky! I can’t even imagine people hundreds of years ago before science and logical thought and everything was superstitious in some way…If someone has any information, please comment below! I’ll reply if I’m not DEAD. 🔥☠

Oh, and all of those thousands upon thousands of pride marchers? Yeah, if today was a few hundred years ago and we were behaving like this, we’d all be DEAD. 🔥☠


Days 8 & 9: Roaming Edinburgh- Above AND Below Ground!

Days 8 & 9: Roaming Edinburgh- Above AND Below Ground!



On Day 8, I went on a free walking tour of Edinburgh with City Explorers. Every city I go to, I like to do these free walks. It really gives you an excellent lay of the land, some history, and a great idea of places you’d like to go back and explore more. And this is where I feel I have to always point out this fact. The tour is free. Yes. But don’t be a cheap ass!! Tip your guide! They work on tips. Most of them these days even have a credit card machine with them, so you have no excuse!

The group was an international one, that’s for sure! We represented the US, Malaysia, Hungary, India, Canada, Czech Republic, and France! The guide, and I hate myself for not remembering his name, was fantastic. He was so passionate about the stories, so just “into” the whole experience. Literally, it was the best walking tour I’ve ever done, hands down. Plus, (Brian, skip to the next paragraph), he wasn’t tough on the eyes… 😉

The walk was 2 hours long, and I wasn’t bored for a second of it. I took a TON of video for class, and not a lot of pictures. I’m just going to share a few of the highlights here, as I’ll be going back and visiting a lot of these places again later and don’t want to “double journal” about them. I mainly want to focus on the stories and interesting facts I learned…believe me, there was WAY more to this tour than is in the journal, and I HIGHLY recommend it! (Ask for the cute young guide with the blue eyes! #sorrybrian) Settle in for some learnin’… 🙂

I learned what a close is. Before I teach you though, we have to have a little history/geography lesson. Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland (2nd biggest city, though- Glasgow is bigger). People have been living in this area since at least 8500BCE- that’s 10,000 years!! But the city itself was set apart as “special” when King David I set up shop here in the 1100s. Every king has to have a castle, and King David I was no different. This was the first building of the castle. Now, the thing that really blew me away was that it’s built on top of a VOLCANO! You don’t really think about volcanoes when you think of Scotland! It’s the highest point, with these steep basalt cliffs all around. Only one entrance. Perfect for defense. So this “backbone” of lava runs underneath what is called the Royal Mile. The castle on one end, and 1 1/8 mile down the road (that was the measure of a Scotland mile back in the day. The English standardized it later.) is the palace- Holyrood- where the queen stays when she’s visiting. All along this main street are cathedrals and shops and amazing buildings (and about 9 zuadzillion tourists). It’s basically the backbone of the city. From the backbone, run the ribs. Extremely narrow pedestrian “alley ways” of sorts, called closes or wynds. Back in the day (1400s, 1500s, 1600s, 1700s), the tenement buildings were so close to each other that you could literally reach across the close and touch your neighbor. They’re pretty cool and unique- I’ve never seen a city design like it. Here’s one.

Then we discussed something that I had passed by several times and love. This weird column thing with a unicorn on top. You’ll remember from previous blogs that the unicorn is the national animal of Scotland (because they are so freaking cool like that!!). Anyway, I learned that this is called Mercat Cross. The first one was built in the mid-1300s (damn, Scotland, can you get any cooler??!). Of course, this isn’t it. This one was built in the late 1800s. It’s been used for executions and royal proclamations- the latter only happening still (thank goodness after my antics on Day 7!! 😉 ).

This was a cool coat of arms I saw on a building. The lion represents England.

Then we heard the story of the oldest statue in Edinburgh- that of Charles II, who’s been riding this same horse since 1685!! So the story goes that the statue is hollow. And it was kind of falling down and water was getting in it from holes in the head. So to fix the problem, they drilled a hole in the bottom of the horse so the water would flow through. Except then it looked like the king was riding an incontinent horse every time it rained, so they had to fix that!

We then walked around to St. Giles Cathedral. We didn’t go in, but it’s beautiful from the outside.

On the other side of the street, there were street performers. Guys playing the pipes in full kilt regalia. And some wizard who looked like he was levitating next to a unicorn. Don’t ask me, I just take the pictures…

We then crossed the street and heard the tale of Deacon Brodie (namesake of the tavern). Here’s the Cliff Notes version. So DB as we’ll call him was a cabinet maker for the wealthy people of Edinburgh in the mid 1700s. He was well to do himself, coming from a wealthy family and having established himself in town- he was on the town council and such. Now, wealthy people who are buying fine cabinets want to put fine things in them. And they don’t want the poors to be able to get to their fine things, so they want a fine lock. So DB was not just a cabinet maker, but a lock maker as well. And not just a cabinet maker and a lock maker, but a gambler and womanizer, too. The latter of those “jobs” took quite a bit of money- more than the former were bringing in. So DB decided to not just deal with locks on cabinets, but locks on the front doors of his wealthy clientele as well. He would make keys and let himself in and help himself. No one could figure out how people were being robbed without a window being broken or a door being forced! In fact, the dilemma was so odd, that the city came to Deacon Brodie himself to see if he could solve the case (spoiler alert: he didn’t). But, like most criminals, he wasn’t content with what he was nicking on his own. No, he needed a crime ring!! So he got some other yahoos in on the gig, who ended up ratting him out. But when the cops came a knocking, DB was gone. He was captured in the Netherlands and sent back, found guilty, and sentenced to hang. Interesting note: He had been involved in the invention of the trap door underneath gallows. Said trap door was used on him… If you look at the sign hanging outside the pub, it shows the two sides of Deacon Brodie. These two completely opposite sides of this one man inspired a writer in Edinburgh by the name of Robert Louis Stevenson to pen a story….Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Fascinating!

We talked a lot about the Enlightenment as it pertained to Edinburgh. Very interesting, and I encourage you to take the tour or do some research on your own. But I’m going for the “Horrible Histories” tone in this blog, so I’ll skim over the intellectual crap. 😉 #yourluckyday

We worked our way down to the castle, which is surrounded by construction because the Military Tattoo will be held here next month. No, it’s not some drunken sailor getting a naked woman tattooed on his arm (Shout out to ya, dad!). It’s kind of like a military showcase performance from militaries all over the world. Sounds cool! Stands screwed up my shots, though! I’ll be going to the castle later this week.

Then it got cray-cray! We overlooked what is supposed to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley! Whether it is or isn’t doesn’t really matter- it’s very quaint! There’s a Boy Wizard shop (that I’ll go in another day), and something even better. A place called Oink. That has a roasted pig in the window every day. And apparently makes amazing pulled pork sandwiches on delicious rolls. Oh god, it took all my will power not to lick that window! I’m going to try to go there for lunch one day (yeah, right!).

Next “what will you think of next, Edinburgh?” story is of a woman named Maggie Dickson. There’s a pub named after her. (Seriously, I think if you sneeze around here, someone will name a pub after you! Any excuse for a pub!). Ok, so quick history lesson about dear old Maggie Dickson. She was a fish wife. Her husband would catch the fish, and Maggie’s job was to sell those fish. Then, her husband up and disappeared on her. No husband, no fish, no job, no way to support herself. So she ended up working in a local pub (I’m telling ya, life revolves around the pubs!), where she got into a rather scandalous secret relationship with the pub owner’s son. Scandalous, because even though her man up and abandoned her, she was still married in the eyes of God, and adultery was a big fat N.O. back then (especially being female!). Well, Maggie ends up pregnant. Uh oh. She hides the pregnancy for 6 months. Then, the baby was born. Obviously 6 months doesn’t result in a fully cooked baby, and since you were lucky to live if you were grown and healthy back then (we’re talking early 1700s), you can imagine premature babies didn’t have any chance at all. Maggie took her dead child down to the banks of the Nor Loch to leave it there in secret. But someone saw her. And reported her. And Maggie was tried, convicted, and sentenced to hang. And hang her they did. Right on the Grassmarket where we were standing, where public executions were fairly common.

So you’re like, “Ok, and…? What’s the big deal?”. Oh, let me tell you what the big deal was. Maggie was hanged, put in her coffin, loaded onto a cart, and driven out toward the cemetery. The drivers decided to stop in to a local pub (see!!) and have a drink. Maggie wasn’t in any rush to get where she was going anyway. Then, they hear a commotion outside. They go out to see what’s going on, and the commotion is coming from INSIDE the coffin! They crack that puppy open, and up pops Mary! Who proceeds to climb out of said coffin. You can only imagine!!!

Well, what becomes of Maggie now? She had already been tried, convicted, and executed. Obviously this was a miracle! She was not punished further. She was given a full pardon, and lived another 25 years, running…you guessed it…a local pub! She’s known all as “Half-Hangit Maggie”….and her story is quite possibly the basis for Nearly Headless Nick of Harry Potter fame!

We went into Greyfriar’s Kirk, saw some graves, and talked about Greyfriar’s Bobby. But I’ll save that story for another day- a day when I actually take pictures and not videos! The tour was over, and about half of the cheap asses walked off without giving this guy a dime (pence?). Seriously, people? How trashy can you be? I went up and gave him some money and told him that of all the city tours I had been on, this was the best by far, and he did an awesome job. I meant it. He said he really appreciated it. I asked for his phone number. Ok, that part is a lie! 😜

Day 9. Can I get a do over? Seriously. Sometimes, the universe speaks to you in a whisper. Sometimes it shouts. And sometimes it knocks you smack upside the head, and when you STILL don’t listen, it throws up its arms and says, “Fine, bitch, don’t say I didn’t try to warn you.” Yeah, that’s what happened today. See, the internet here has been kind of wanky (which has made blogging and working super enjoyable…). Yesterday, I tried and tried to book my tickets online for The Real Mary King’s Close. The internet would just spin on my credit card until it timed out. Over and over. That was the universe whispering. So I thought, well, I’ll just get up and be there for the first tour- I should be able to get in without a booking. Gathered my belongings at 10am and headed down for the 10:45 tour. Which was already fully booked. The first time they could get me in would be 11:30. Well, that was a problem because I was going to do a Harry Potter walking tour at 12. The universe was shouting… It was over at 1, so I said, “How about 1:30?”. Perfect. Paid, walked out the door, then got to thinking. Was that Harry Potter tour just 1 hour, or was it more??? Pulled up my spreadsheet and damn if it wasn’t 1.5 hours! That means it would be over at 1:30. Not gonna work! I turned around to go in and change it to 1:45, and the line was out the damn door. Fuck it, I’ll just do the 4pm Harry Potter tour. The universe had smacked me right upside the head, and I just kept on going, oblivious.

Came back to the apartment, worked, worked, and worked some more, and headed back over at 1:15. Went in, started taking pictures, and was immediately informed “NO PHOTOGRAPHY”. I seriously have no idea why. Well, I have an idea- I’ll share it at the end. And it just went downhill from there. I just paid $20 to be served cheese. And not even something good like smoked gouda. More like processed American cheese- like generic Kraft singles in the plastic wrapper. Yeah. That bad. The guide was so damn bored, I didn’t know who was going to fall asleep first- me or him. The mannequins were cheesy. The videos were cheesy. There was no flow, no continuity, no real history being discussed. This was tourist sheep herding at its finest. There was a tour every 15 minutes all damn day, and they were all full. Get ’em in, grab their money, get ’em out. A grind. And this guide was ground down…

You basically go through a lot of the single room “houses”. There are mannequins, props, there’s something about Mary Queen of Scots spending a night here. They talk about throwing your shit pot out on the street, and just in case you can’t envision the entire process from start to finish, they act it out (it was the most animated this guy ever got). There’s a room with these big video pictures that you watch. Poorly done. One is Mary King, one is some doctor drinking urine to test for diabetes (the “yuck” factor to gross out tourists was just dumb and unnecessary), and I couldn’t even figure out the relation of the last guy was to the whole thing. Then, the ghost story. We sat on a bench and listened to a recording. First off, the acoustics are AWFUL. They are playing two tracks at the same time out of two different speakers. The speaker I was near had all of the background noise- cats meowing, people groaning and talking, blah blah blah. The other speaker was the guy telling the story. But I couldn’t hear it because of the background speaker. Jesus. If you can’t hire a guide that can TELL us a good ghost story, then what’s the damn point? We went into some room where some little girl supposedly died of the plague and her ghost haunts the room looking for a doll. So people have left a stack of dolls. The whole thing is supposed to be super haunted. I felt nothing. If I were a ghost, I’d ditch this place, too, just to not have to listen to this guide drone on about nothing. At the end, they’ll take your picture. So we can’t take our own pictures because either a) they want to make even more money off this lame ass tour or b) they don’t want us showing the world how lame ass this tour is. My money is on c- all of the above. I snapped one anyway. I deserved it after suffering through that tripe for an hour. The guy across from me said to his wife, “This place is way over hyped.” I piped up with “Agreed.” We nodded at each other. Solidarity.

Ok, here’s the deal with this place. It has the potential to be AMAZING. It is literally a slice of history. And it makes me SICK how they utilize it. The close (remember, that’s one of those super narrow streets) is named after a woman, Mary King, who was kind of a big deal in Edinburgh in the 1600s. Some kind of businesswoman or something, and her husband left her a lot of money and a house on the close, and she squandered it. I don’t know. The whole thing was impossible to follow. Anyway, the plague swept through this area, a bunch of people died. In the late 1700s, the close was covered up and partially destroyed to build the huge Royal Exchange building on top of it. It was uncovered at some point, and now tours are given. If I could come down here with a true historian, I know I’d be captivated. I don’t know what this guide was, but he wasn’t a historian… Anyway…

The wind picked up, the Harry Potter tour is outside and I want to film, so wind and video don’t go together. I just stayed home and worked. Oh, and picked up Diet Dr. Pepper at Tesco on my way back. I needed some kind of comfort after that mess…



Day 10: Robert the Bruce, Stirling Castle, and Rosslyn Chapel

Day 10: Robert the Bruce, Stirling Castle, and Rosslyn Chapel


The wheels on the bus go ’round and ’round…. Here we go again…

Yep, it’s another bus tour. Same company, Highland Experience, but this time, their Rosslyn Chapel, Stirling Castle & Dunfermline Abbey tour. I wanted to go on this tour specifically for history, and especially to see Robert the Bruce’s burial place at Dunfermline Abbey. Got my stuff together and met the bus at 8:45. I shit thee not, the kind of annoying dude from my 5 day bus trip (the one that fell in the aisle when the driver had to slam on his brakes) was on this trip. Oy. What are the chances?! I went toward the back of the bus and sat down in an empty row. It didn’t stay empty for long. 🙁

Our guide was Steven (Stephen?) B. And he was REALLY good! He had a passion for the history, and told us all of the stories as we drove. It was awesome. I’m quite happy with the guides through Highland Experience. He announced that our first stop would be to see the three bridges over that river from the last day of the 5 day bus tour! Oh, man! Blah. I didn’t even get off. Get me to some history, man!! As we drove to our next stop, Steven (ph?) told us all about William Wallace and then Robert the Bruce. I loved it!! I’m not going to detail it all here, but definitely worth a read if you search online.

Soon, we were pulling up to Dunfermline Abbey. YESSSSSSSSS! This is the place I was super excited about!! My favorite place in (just outside of) Paris is St. Denis’ Basilica- where the vast majority of all of the kings of France are buried. This is kind of Scotland’s version of that… We get out and hear the sound of bagpipes wafting over the old rock wall of the abbey…ah, Scotland, you are so charming! Our guide leads us behind the walls, up to St. Margaret’s shrine. Margaret was a queen of Scotland in….are you sitting down?…1073!!! Yeah, that’s a 0. Not a typo. Holy crap. Speaking of holy crap, Margaret was a super duper pious Catholic. That river I don’t care about that has all those bridges across it that I don’t care about? Yeah, she had a ferry built across that river (it’s massively wide) so pilgrims trying to get to St. Andrew’s (which was obviously on the other side of the river!), could get across. Well, she died in Edinburgh Castle in 1093, and was canonized as a saint in 1250 and her remains placed at Dunfermline. When Scotland decided that Catholicism sucked and Protestantism was the way to the pearly gates, she kinda got dug up and “redistributed”. For example, Mary Queen of Scots wound up with sole custody of Margaret’s head. This head over the next couple of centuries made its way to France, where- I swear to god I can’t make this shit up- her HEAD WAS LOST IN THE FRENCH REVOLUTION!!! LOL. 😂 I so cracked up when I read that! Poor Saint Margaret, the only 800 year old person to lose her head in the revolution!!! (Yeah, piety ain’t my thing…)

So enough about Margaret- let’s get to Robert the Bruce! But our guide told us to wait a minute, he’d be right back. And when he came back, he said there was a funeral going on and the abbey was CLOSED! That’s what the bagpipes were that we heard- piping for a funeral procession. Ok, look, I’m not pious, but I’m not a total bitch either. Someone died. I get why we couldn’t go in. Sucks, but what are you going to do? We then had an hour and 15 minutes to wander around the graveyard- which was about an hour longer than was needed…. I walked around and snapped some shots, trying to be respectful of the mourners and not be taking pictures where they could see me (and definitely not of them).

So…history lesson time. The abbey was built in 1128, but there was churchy stuff here before that, because Saint Margaret got married here in the 9th century. In 1303, Edward I of England (who, in my time in Scotland, I have learned was a total asshole and I kinda hate him…), held court here and then burned most of it down. It was rebuilt, then the reformation happened in the 1500’s, and the church was sacked. This is when Margaret’s remains got “redistributed”. But the thing I had come here for was Robert the Bruce! King of Scotland! His body was interred here in 1329- except for his heart. You know that movie “Braveheart” (I love it). Yeah, bunch of rubbish. William Wallace is NOT Braveheart. That was a name for Robert the Bruce. And Robert the Bruce NEVER fought with England against Scotland and betrayed Wallace! And the kilt wasn’t even invented for like 300 years AFTER this movie happened! And….well, google it. Rubbish. But still a great movie! Anyway, here’s a cool fact. The tomb was down there all those centuries, and we didn’t even know it until 1818 when some workers discovered it! The descriptions of the burial matched the historical records, and wa-la…it was Robert the Bruce. Fascinating. And I love that the tower of the Abbey says King Robert the Bruce. Awesomesauce. 🙂

St. Margaret’s shrine. Not so impressive, because apparently “Thou shalt not steal” didn’t quite get through to the Christians, and they each took little pieces of her shrine as a souvenir until it was….well…this.

Burial site of William Wallace’s mother

No lie, people were pretty disappointed about not being able to go in, since it was one of the 3 main things we were paying to see. But everyone took it well. Steven (ph?) said that since we didn’t get to go in, he was going to give us an extra stop- something we normally see from the road only. The Bannockburn battlefield!! I was so excited!! Honestly, I had no freaking clue what it was…but I was excited anyway!! On the way, he told us more stories of Robert the Bruce and the battle. This was a 2 day battle- quite long for the early 1300s. Not going to go too much into it, but bottom line, Robert the Bruce and the Scottish army kicked some English ass, and the result was that England finally formally recognized Scotland as independent, and Robert the Bruce the rightful king. Yay!!! 😍 (Spoiler alert: That didn’t last.) Oh! And on the way, I got to see the kelpie statues at 60mph on the bus!!

This is really what Robert the Bruce looked like! How do we know? Because when they found him in the 1800s, they made a cast of his skull before they reburied him. New technology took that skull and used it to recreate his face! That rendition was used on this statue.

Next stop, Stirling Castle. We had an hour and a half here, and I could see from the outside that this place needed waaaaaay more time than that! Despite being almost at the back of the bus, I made my way to the front of the line and was first to get my tickets! My goal was to jump in on the guided tour, so I could get a history lesson of this place. The tour was good, but a little too long winded. It was right at an hour, and we didn’t even go into the royal chambers of the palace!! I finally had to ditch out at the end of the tour, with my apologies, but explained that the bus was coming soon and I needed to make a quick run through the rest of the place. The guide understood and pointed me in the direction of the royal apartments. I practically had to run through there. Super quick history lesson: Most people think Edinburgh Castle is the most important castle in Scotland. Arguably, it’s probably Stirling. Rising imposingly above the landscape below, with cliffs on 3 sides, it was a defensive force to be reckoned with. It was a royal place since the 1100s. Look, a lot went on here over the centuries…at least 8 sieges, changing of hands as different countries and forces took control, building and remodeling….more than I can go into. But I seriously HIGHLY recommend this castle. I recommend that you do the guided tour to get the history, and then give yourself at least an hour after that to wander around and explore the things that aren’t shown on the tour (which is quite a bit).

William Wallace is famous for his decisive victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. His monument is on the left, on top of that hill. The river (that the bridge the battle was named for was over) on the right.

Why I love my mega zoom camera. 🙂 The William Wallace monument as seen from Stirling Castle.

Beautiful gardens. And check out all of the renaissance statues lined the castle wall. So unusual!

That yellow building looks so weird and out of place, and honestly I didn’t like it. But apparently the whole damn castle used to be this color, called ochre- basically gold to show wealth! They restored it to its original color based on paint fragments they found.

With all the sieges, not all of the statues made it out with their lives! Look at the one with its head missing. You can see the bullet holes in the wall behind it.

Inside the great hall

Queen’s chambers. I’m shocked this wasn’t blurred, as fast as I was running through there and snapping pics!

Check out this ceiling! Beautiful!

Back on the bus to the last stop- Rosslyn Chapel. This was another one of those places, like Real Mary King’s Closeitdown (that’s my new nickname for that place….), where you couldn’t take any pictures. Ok, seriously people. The freaking POPE couldn’t stop me from taking pics on the sly of the Sistine Chapel, so uh, yeah. If I’m not using flash and not harming anything AND paying to see it….shush it. There was a talk when we arrived. Everyone entered the chapel, which is freaking magnificently intricate and stunning by the way, and sat on the pews to listen. Construction started in 1456, and it was never completed. But damn, what they managed to finish is out of this world! The stonework is second to none that I’ve ever seen anywhere. You could stare at this thing for a year and still not see all of the details. Breathtaking. Seriously. Not being much for pew warming, I got up and wandered around during the talk (the talker guy said we could- I wasn’t being disrespectful). It was like having the place to myself! Got great shots outside without people in them. And…well….yeah….inside, too. Shhhhhhhhh. 🤐 And FYI, if you’re going to let some Hollywood yahoos come in and film the freaking Da Vinci Code in here, me and my Samsung Galaxy 7 (because I’m too cheap to upgrade to the 9!), should be just fine. I used the phone instead of the big camera. A wee bit less obvious. 🙂 If you have a chance, go to this. Seeing pictures in NO WAY does it justice. You can’t get any concept of the intricacy and elaborateness of the carvings.

Cat photo bomb! 🙂

I love all of the gargoyles! This one looks part octopus!

I don’t know what in the hell this is depicting, but I love it!

A bus ride back to Edinburgh. This was a 7.5 hour tour, I had packed a pepperoni stick and a granola bar for lunch, but I was hungry for something different. What to do, what to do…OINK!! 🐷 That was the restaurant I saw on Victoria Street (Diagon Alley) on Day 8 with the pig in the window! Hating to sit down in a restaurant, I figured I could just get something to go. I walked in and looked at the menu. It was in 4 parts:
1. What size? You had 3 choices- piglet, oinker, or grunter.
2. What bread? 2 choices- white or brown
3. What stuffing? 2 choices- haggis or sage and onion
4. What sauce? There were like 5 choices, applesauce, mustard, bbq, etc…

Ok, took me about a minute to figure out my combination. I stepped up to the counter and said the following, “I would like an oinker on white bread with sage and onion and applesauce.” The young guy behind the counter looked at me and said, “Do you know how nice it is for someone to tell me exactly what they want?” I leaned over, put my hand to my mouth and pretend whispered, “I’m a traveler, not a tourist.” He grinned and said, “Ohhhh! That’s what it is!” We laughed. He said he understands menu questions/problems when people don’t speak English, but most DO speak English and can’t figure it out. I said, “Well, to be fair, not everyone who speaks English speaks Scottish!” He and the other kid behind the counter almost died! We had a good chuckle at that, I got my pig sammy, and headed back to the apartment. Damn, I love Scottish people. 🙂