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. 🙂
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!!
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).
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.
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. 🙂