Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull Volcano
May 24, 2011

Flying to Edinburgh:
     LV June 27 pm
     AV June 28 am


    Day 1 - The Royal Mile
    Coat-of-Arms - Symbolism
    The UK Flag - Symbolism
   Day 2 - The Castle 
   Day 3 - Exploring the City


    The Train - Sheep for Janet
Day 1 - A Walk About
    Our Anniversary - 28 years!
Day 2 - The Loch &

  The Train - Lovely Views 
   Day 1 - Relaxing & Wandering
   Day 2 - The Fourth of July
   Day 3
- Monuments & Battles


    The Train - Relax & Read
     Day 1 -  Scotch Whiskey


Fly Home:
     LV July 7 noon-ish

AV home at midnight

For the first time in our pages, we will be using thumbnailed pictures.
Click on them to see the larger version. Use the back button to return.

"Flights Canceled Across Scotland as Volcanic Ash Arrives, Airlines Criticize Gov’t Reaction"
published May 24, 2011

Still a month away from heading out, there was interesting news -
Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano had erupted and was spewing ash. It was blowing toward Scotland.
Flights were being cancelled and air traffic disrupted. We watched updates and forecasts with great interest.
Hopefully the volcano would go back to sleep before, during, and for at least a short period after our trip.

The volcano settled down after a few days, so it looked like everything was perfect for our launch.
And then...

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Flying to Edinburgh:
LV June 27 pm - AV June 28 am

Saturday evening before we left on Monday, Amy broke a tooth. Sharp edges were cutting into her cheek but fortunately the pain was limited to a dull, headachy feeling. It had to be repaired before noon on Monday when we climbed onto our plane. We called and called ... hospitals (they don't have dentists on staff), nursing hotlines (they only advise you on whether to go to a hospital), the national dentist registry (there was a dentist that worked on Sundays in Richmond, Virginia - five hours away), and of course our own dentist (we left a message).

With no other options, we waited until Monday, and were sitting on our dentist's doorstep at 8:00 in the morning hoping for a miracle. Within minutes of his arrival, Amy was in the chair getting a new filling! We made it back home with an hour to spare before we had to leave for the airport.

We have found in our travels that if we hit a bump in the road before we start a trip, the rest of the time will be like cruising a newly paved highway - not a problem in sight. And so it was in Scotland - an amazing trip!

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 Day 1 in Edinburg - The Royal Mile!
AV June 28 am - LV July 1 am

On arrival in Edinburgh, we took a bus to our hotel, The Apex International, located on Grass Market Square.
The above picture is from our window - a magnificent  view!


The Edinburgh Castle on Castle Hill leads downward to Holyrood Palace and its gardens via a single street called "The Royal Mile" (although it is actually 107 yards longer than a mile).
Click for an interactive map.

In 1128, the houses were wooden and had large enclosures to keep livestock in and the street was an open-air trading market. In 1544, King Henry VIII burned the entire place down in an effort to force Mary Queen of Scots as a baby to marry his son. It never happened and the buildings were rebuilt with stone block. 

By 1591, the area was getting crowded and becoming filthy. Narrow alleys called "closes" (for the "enclosures" that use to exist) ran between buildings to other streets.
The people in this time and age had a "chamber pot" that the entire family used as a toilet. Twice a day it was emptied out a window - directly into the street causing disease and dead among many. "
By 1645 things were far worse with as many as 70,000 people living within the Royal Mile. Some buildings were fourteen stories high and there could be three hundred people living in one block with up to ten people sharing a single room. It wasn't until the end of the 18th century that street cleaning was organised." Ref.  

Today, the Royal Mile is filled with pubs, shops, and tourists.

St. Giles Cathedral was one of the many stops we made on our first day as we explored the Royal Mile.

The interior was as spectacular as the exterior. Although this church is still called a cathedral, it does not continue to function as one. With the influence of John Knox, the Catholic cathedral became "The Mother Church of  Presbyterianism".

In the 19th century, plain glass windows started to be replaced by stained glass. The Presbyterian congregation only allowed this as an aide to teaching rather than a form of idolatry.

Ref. 1  || Ref. 2

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"King James VI of Scotland succeeded Elizabeth I when she died childless in 1603, effectively uniting Scotland and England beneath one rule.

The Scottish Royal Arms had up to that point used two unicorns as shield supporters. The English Arms had used a variety of supporters, but most frequently had included a lion.

In a tactful gesture then, he placed a lion upon the left of the new Arms, and a unicorn upon the right. This was a potent bit of symbolism, for both the lion and the unicorn had long been thought to be deadly enemies: both regarded as king of the beasts, the unicorn rules through harmony while the lion rules through might.

It came to symbolise a reconciliation between the Scottish unicorn and the English lion that the two should share the rule."


"The effectiveness of the sentiment, unfortunately, is placed in some doubt by the famous nursery rhyme."
The lion and the unicorn

were fighting for the crown.

The lion beat the unicorn

all around the town.

Some gave them white bread,

some gave them brown.

Some gave them plum-cake

and kicked them out of town.




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The design of the current United Kingdom's flag has a history that reaches back hundreds of years.

"JACK is another word for FLAG. So, the flag represents a union. When Queen Elizabeth I of England died, the throne passed to her Scottish family, and James VI of Scotland became James I of England. So, in 1606 the union of Scotland and England joined as one country and with one flag." Ref.

When Northern Ireland entered the Union, their flag was incorporated into the overall design.


Day 2 in Edinburgh: The Castle!
Five hours of exploring, learning, and walking!

Going to sleep in Scotland was the most amazing experience!
The sun actually set at 10:15pm. It stayed dusk until around 11:30pm. Dawn broke at about 4:00am, and the sun rose around 5:00am.

 And the weather? Equally amazing!
55 to 60 degrees, cloudy then sunny, over and over, and it only rained once the entire time we were there (the last day for an hour or two). We kept telling the locals that "it never rains in Scotland" - to which they would give a hearty laugh and tell us we were very lucky. Bob wore his fleece jacket most of the time. Amy? Not so much!  :)

Edinburgh Castle was first a military stronghold with wooden buildings on top of a volcanic mountain around 600AD.
(Indeed, today, in the lower rooms, you can see the black volcanic rock the castle was built on.)

In the 12th and 13th centuries, the castle towers and walls were being added onto and fortified with stone. Its history is tumultuous. Over the centuries it was invaded and seized by the English and then Scottish over and over.

In 1566, it was the birthplace of the son of Mary Queen of Scots,
who grew up to be King of both Scotland and England.

Ref. 1  ||  Ref. 2  ||  Ref. 3

K&K got away from Bob to climb onto and into the Mons Meg cannon which was added to the castle in 1447.

It is 13,000 lbs and the "gun stones" weigh 330 lbs a piece! Mons Meg was fired in 1558 to celebrate Mary, Queen of Scot's marriage to French dauphin François II. It no longer fires today.
same Refs.

Our hotel window
from the castle

The Scots loved their animals. They memorialized them in many ways and places from the very early days.

The Honours of Scotland - Scotland's Crown Jewels, still in the castle

From the 15th and 16th centuries, the crown, sword, and scepter symbolize the Scottish nation. Bob is standing by full size replicas that are made to touch and have braille plaques with them. The sword is 4.5 feet long!

The sword symbolized dispensing justice and defending the people. The crown: might and leadership. The scepter: to rule with discretion and integrity.

Mary, Queen of Scots was the first to be coronated using all three Honours of Scotland at once. In the middle of the 17th century, they were buried in a church for nine years to avoid the possibility of being capture and taken by Oliver Cromwell during the British invasion. When returned and after almost 100 years, the Scots had new traditions and decided to put them away in a locked box in Edinburgh castle. Another 100 years passed as they were hidden away and forgotten. Sir Walter Scott in 1818 was determined to find them and have them restored to the people. An exhaustive search of the castle was made, the Honours found, and they have been in the castle ever since.

The Stone of Destiny or Stone of Scone in Scotland, or in England, The Coronation Stone
pictures from web - we were not allowed to film the original

This small, simple stone with iron rings at both ends (presumably to carry it on a rod between two people as it weighs 336 lbs) is one of Scotland's honored treasures. It is made of red sandstone (26 inches long, about 17 deep, and 10.5 tall) and thought to have originally set upon two upright stones (as in the first picture above - a reproduction of the stone) to form a small bench. For centuries it was used in the coronation of the monarchs of Scotland and later the monarchs of England.

The stone has been used for over 1,000 years. It symbolized the union between the ruler, the land, and the people. After 400 years of use in Scotland, it was taken to Westminster Abbey in London, England by Edward I after his invasion. It was kept there for 700 years and installed in a golden coronation chair that all English monarchs used. In 1996 Her Majesty, Queen of England brought the stone back to Scotland to be housed with the other Honours of Scotland.
Ref. 1  || Ref. 2  ||  Ref. 3 ||  Ref. 4

Top left: Castle Guard
Stories of olden & golden days

Top middle: Dancing Lion Colonnade
The lion (a symbol of England) is seen in many places to show Scottish allegiance

 Top right: Flint Lock Pistols
Excellent display in the Great Hall

Bottom sides: Stained Glass Windows
Crests and Coat of Arms depicting various military units and family clans

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Castle Downspouts
Lovely gargoyles and dragons were used to funnel rain water from the upper reaches out over the courtyards.


The One O'Clock Cannon
Each day at one o'clock, this cannon is fired off to the delight of the crowds.
And, yes, it is loud!

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The castle is filled with many museums telling its history and the history of Scotland.
Here Bob and Kini & Kimi are sitting on a 25 pounder Howitzer or Field Gun.

All through Scotland we found memorials to special pets.
This dog's name is Bob.

In part, his plaque reads,
"Bob, regimental pet of the 1st Battalion, Scots Fusilier Guards, preserved after his death in 1860. Pets were often kept under communal ownership of a regiment."

Bob was awarded a special medal that was attached to his collar for distinguishing himself in the Battle of Inkerman by showing his courage as he chased cannonballs.

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Prisons and Prisoners
To the left is a plaque that outlines the punishments for crimes in the 1100's. Punishment always had a physical component to it - and often it was severe, including horrible deaths.
It is well worth clicking on the picture and reading the information!

Below, Bob and K&K are in a typical cell that held captives after battles. Prisoners were often traded back to their original countries ... except in the case of the American War of Independence. Captured Americans could expect to live the rest of their lives in these prisons.

Just below the hinge on this original door from one of the prison cells is a piece of graffiti done by one such American prisoner. "The Flying the flag" photo shows the outline of the ship scratched into the wood.

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After five hours in the castle, we left to get lunch and walk the Royal Mile to the end at Holyroodhouse.
We stopped at John Knox's house where Bob dressed up in a period hat and robe to take some notes while Kini & Kimi watched. Then K&K found a bagpipe player and decided to take a closer look at the bagpipe.

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Holyroodhouse (below) sits at the end of the Royal Mile. It is palatial and, indeed, the home to the Queen when she visits Scotland every year at the end on June into July - exactly when we were there. Bummer. We got a our photo through the gate Bob is standing in front of.
Legends say that David the first saw a stag in 1128 with the sign of a cross between its antlers. This was a good omen and he started to build Holyrood (rood meaning a cross).



Day 3 in Edinburgh: Exploring the City

Greyfriar's Bobby
This was one of our favorite sites.

In 1850, John Grey and his family moved to Edinburgh. He eventually became a night watchman with the police force. To keep him company during his patrols, he had his dog "Bobby", a small Skye Terrier. They went everywhere together.

In 1958 John died of tuberculosis and was buried in Greyfriar's Kirkyard. Bobby sat by his grave - leaving only to eat. Snow, cold rain, storms didn't matter to Bobby - he was going to stay with his master and friend.

Finally the gardener made a little shelter for Bobby next to John's grave. During this time, people would come to this spot to listen for the One O'clock gun that would signal Bobby leaving his post with a friend of his master's to eat lunch at a near by pub.

In 1872, fourteen years later, Bobby died of old age. He was not allowed to be buried beside John as this was consecrated ground, so they buried him just in front of the church. To this day, people leave squeaky toys, biscuits, and sticks for him to fetch beside his tombstone.

The life-sized monument was erected shortly after his death. Originally it had water flowing with a high tier for people and a lower tier for dogs.
Ref.1  ||  Ref. 2 

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Behind Greyfriar's Kirkyard is Flodden Wall - one of the original walls around the city in the 16th century. These were used mostly for controlling trade rather than protection.

Amy is standing across the street from a typical school house in Edinburgh.

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Sir Walter Scott's Monument

Sir Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh in 1771. This monument was started in 1840 and finished six years later.

It is 200 feet high and has 287 step - of which Bob climbed all & Amy only half (then chickened out). The steps wind up very small spiral stair cases inside the spires.

Many townsfolk call it the "Rocket Ship" or a "cathedral's spire...without the cathedral". There are 64 statues of his characters from his historic novels gracing the outside stonework.

Below are the views from the top including the castle and looking back at the Royal Mile.


Train to Inverness:
July 1 - Our 28th Anniversary!

Windmills on the ridges

These pictures are dedicated to Janet,
a dear friend of Amy's mother.

Before we left on the trip, Amy & Bob were told to take pictures of sheep for Janet - lots of pictures!

Although we didn't get to see any up close (cities and all), we saw many on our train trip. And, it must have been shearing season because many of them have colored stripes down their backs (to grade the wool, we assume) and others were practically naked!





AV July 1 pm - LV July 3 am

Day 1 in Inverness: A Walk About!
This is the city that tourists launch from to see the Lock Ness and hopefully the Lock Ness Monster.
A "lock" is a lake - and "Ness" is the name of this particular lock - hence "the Lock Ness Monster".
In the background is the Frith of Forth that feeds the locks in the area. ("Frith" means a river / fjord and "Forth" refers to the glacier that cut the path for the water)

The first three pictures are of the Inverness Castle and the statue of Flora MacDonald and a collie. The castle is now a working part f the government and is on accessible to tourists.


As Bob, Amy, and K&K walked down the path by the Frith of Forth, they saw the Inverness Cathedral (below). It seems to the locals, that is is an eye sore and a disappointment to the city. The church had money problems over the ages - with this came the inability to fund the tall stone spires that were to grace the two front towers.

For us, it was magnificent as it stood - inside and out.


The bridge across the river was beautifully designed - and lent itself to great photo opportunities.

Our hotel, the
Barcelo Stirling Highland

was one of our best. They had a patio Kini & Kimi just loved with big umbrellas that had heater panels in them for the chilly mornings and evenings.

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Our 28th Anniversary Celebration!!!

When we checked into our hotel there was a card from home on our pillow -
from Jenny & Scott wishing us a Happy Anniversary!
They sent a "shippable bottle of champagne"
(ie cash rather than the fruit and bottles delivered to our hotel overseas for the last ... how many years?!)

AWESOME!! We each bought a "Scottish Pint"
A Brit pint is one pint ... a Scottish pint is three!! Love you guys!!!  :)

Bob bought the most beautiful forest green fleece jacket with a Scottish regiment's insignia with mom's gift.
Amy? Well she did what she always does - brought home the local currency!

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Day 2 in Inverness: The Loch - Searching for the Monster!


Corrimony Cairn

On our way to Loch Ness, we stopped at Corrimony Cairn - a cambered tomb or domed burial chamber dating from 4,000 years ago.

With stones of power circling it and a female skeleton found near by, it has been registered as a historic and ancient site.

Some say that they can see visions when they touch the stones - unfortunately, we didn't. 
But we believe the powers are there.

Our driver, John

On the Road to the Loch ...

The picture to the left is of a board K&K and B&A saw drifting down the river in Inverness from the loch itself.

Oh yes!!!
The Loch Ness Monster is there! He must have eaten a schooner and this lonely little plank is all that is left!!! It is our story, and we are sticking to it!!!

The hunt is on!!! You Willey Wabbit-ish - thing!!! 

The Urquhart Castle sits on the Ness Loch. It has had tumultuous times defending and falling to forces around Scotland. From the 13th century to the late 17th, the castle passed back and forth between Scottish and English forces. In 1692, the last solders to leave the castle blew it up so that one one else could use it. Although it is mostly in ruins, it is spectacular with gorgeous views.

A fault line runs under the loch. When very minor earthquakes happen, the waters ripple and shake looking like something swimming just beneath the surface.

Couldn't resist - this was labeled as a toilet. The square at the bottom is a pipe leading to the outside.

Bob got cold on the cruise down the Loch. He had on a t-shirt, flannel shirt, fleece sweater, baseball cap and his raincoat. :)

We found the "smoke stack" to sit against - it was mostly out of the wind and warmed from the exhaust. Bob was still cold :)



Stirling: The Train
July 3 am - Lovely views!

Before we left the hotel, we had to take some pictures of the seagulls that lived on the building outside our window. The are ten birds on the left and a close up on the right with a mother seagull and her brown babies.

The train was wonderful. A relaxing ride of about three hours.

A road winding through the hills.




Day 1 in Stirling
AV July 3 pm

When we arrived in Stirling we made the short walk to our hotel, the Barcelo Stirling Highland. Leave it to Bob to still have some surprises up his sleeve - in 1854 it was a high school.

The green dome on the top is a working observatory with a huge and beautiful wooden telescope. We got to go up to look at it, but sadly did not get a picture.

We walked around and just got a calm and slow look at the town. We got oriented for  very early launch in the morning.




Day 2 in Stirling - The Fourth of July

In our hotel room, we were greeted by a large picture of Stirling Castle with fireworks going off in the night sky. How fitting for to celebrate the 4th of July!


Early in the morning, we were off to Stirling Castle. The day was beautiful and the temperatures were delightful (although we did carry our sweaters just in case).

 Amy and K&K are walking up to the castle. Only one tour bus had arrived, so we had the entire grounds to ourselves. In the background, in sort of a golden color, is the Great Hall. It opened to the public in the spring of 2011and is amazing (although the color on the outside is a bit bright).

 Bob is standing in front of the double wall that leads to the entrance. Rather than putting in a mote (there would have been no way to get water to it), castles like these had a gap between walls that gave the advantage of protection to the castle's army.

Although very few of the original buildings remain, they date to the early 1100's. The castle was added onto and fortified until the mid 1700's. Despite its strategic location, it underwent numerous attacks. Here is a small list of its history and the warring going on at the time:  Ref.

  • 1296 – captured by Edward I of England

  • 1297 – retaken by the Scots after Battle of Stirling Bridge

  • 1298 – captured by the English again after the defeat of the Scots at Falkirk

  • 1299 – surrendered to the Scots by the Constable John Samson

  • 1304 – the only significant stronghold left in Scots control, it was besieged by Edward I. After the Scots surrendered he made them stay inside so he could use his favourite weapon against them – a stone-throwing trebuchet called The War Wolf

  • 1314 – retaken by the Scots after Edward II was defeated at Bannockburn

  • 1336 – retaken by the English

  • 1342 – finally returns to Scots

One of the kings that built many of the buildings decided to decorate the outside walls with gargoyles, statues,
and power symbols to help show his people his right to rule. Bob is standing under the oldest arch in the castle.

Mary Queen of Scots was crowned here and multiple, horrible Scottish sieges took place on and around its walls.

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These two pictures are of "dueling cameras" across the circular battlements on the walls. Amy's picture was taken with her cell phone. (Yes, she now has a cell phone even if she doesn't know her phone number.)

The interior of the castle was just as magnificent. We met four individuals who told us of life their life in the castle.
The first was Janet, the chambermaid to Mary of Guise (Mary Queen of Scots' mother). She was fascinating! We had the entire room to ourselves as she told us stories in accentuated with speech patterns of the time.
(Janet, if you read this, please forgive any mis-rememberings, and send a note through time with corrections and additions from any of you all - our email is at the bottom of this page!)

As she stood beside the Queen's bed, she explained that the the bed was very short (and it was - your feet would have stretched out over the edge.) This, she said, was because the royals and rich believed that there were mysterious vapors that occurred at night - especially if one laid down full flat. These "vapors" were thought to be harmful. So to make sure they weren't brought into one's body, they would sleep sitting up (no need for a long bed!) Then she made the sound the vapors would have been like ... and it sounded like snoring!  :)  Excellent!

As we talked some more, we found out that she would have slept on the floor in the room. She and the other people who served the Queen were on call 24 hours a day at "her mistress's pleasure". Yearly, she was paid the equivalent of one pound (about $1.50 today) and received a new set of clothes. But it was a job - a good job - in a time when many were unemployed.

Their clothing was fascinating! Her bodice told much about her station in life. Because it laced up the front, it immediately indicated that she could not afford a "lady in waiting" - i.e. a person to wait on her. Anyone with that kind of money would have finer fabrics and some one to lace them into the dress/bodice in the back. The sleeves were detachable and tied with ribbon to the shoulders and in back to be put on in an instant.

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The King and Queen had separate bed chambers, equally rich in decoration and tapestries. Kini and Kimi got up on the small table in front of the fire place to have their picture taken.

In the photo above with their backs turned is another chambermaid with Janet. She told us about how the laundry was done. OMG! They would collect urine (even royal urine) and put it in barrels for three weeks before adding the cloth to be cleaned and bleached. In various stages and over days and weeks, plants were burned for their ash (potash), lye from animal fat, and human/animal urine were combined at different stages and in particular orders to do the wash. As she said, a particularly distasteful job. Cloth and garments were then thoroughly rinsed, spread out on sweet smelling grasses to dry and occasionally sprinkled with more of these mixtures to get out heavy stains.

The sprinkling jar (which we do not have a picture of - the story was to engaging to remember the camera), was made of pottery and had the shape of a medium sized bell, with a large handle on the side and solid bottom that had holes poked into it. At the top, there was a single small hole that your thumb could cover entirely.
Very cool science here!
You submerge the jar in the liquid and cover the hole in the top with your thumb. When you pull it out, the liquid stays inside until you take your thumb off the top! The fabrics were then folded and little satchels of fragrant lemon balm, lavender, and other fragrant plants were tucked inside.

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In the next room we met the Queen's Lady-in-Waiting. Notice her clothing - regal, laced in the back, with beautiful jewelry and accessories.

Kini & Kimi were entranced with her pomander locket. It is an open, filigreed locket that holds sweet smelling herbs, flowers and perfumes and hangs on a long chain.

Ladies would hold it to their nose when unpleasant odors were encountered in their walks and travels.


K&K got on the table
to view the lovely foods that
were served to the royals.
Banquets and entertaining at the King's/Queen's table was spectacular. The best meats, fruits, wines, and delectables graced the royal tables. They chose what they wanted. The platters were then offered to the highest ranking guests. From there they went to people of lesser importance, and on it went do the bottom of the lists.
During feasts and festivals that included the general populace, only the basic food fair survived to be served. Although they did not know it at the time, these people were not getting the nutrients necessary to keep them healthy - although their bellies were probably full. Sickness of the general masses was in large part due to this "food chain" practiced at the time.
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As we left the castle after over five hours of wandering and learning, we stopped to take a picture of the Wallace Monument in the background behind Bob and K&K. We will visit it tomorrow.

From the top of the Castle, we looked over the Holy Rude Kirk Yard. This grave yard dates back to the 16th century and was last used in the 1850's. The people were buried facing east with all the gravestones in rows. The oldest stone is from 1579 for a stonemasion named Gibb. Some of the stones have pitmarks from musket shots that were used when the castle was under siege. The skull and cross-bones and a winged hourglass both symbolize the flight of time.

Kini and Kimi also got to take a walk about to read the headstones.

Rein of Alexander III (1249-1286) Army of King Haakon of Norway wanted to conquer the Scots. landed at the Coast of Largs a surprise attack on the sleeping Scottish. To be quiet, King Haakon's army took off their shoes. One of the soldiers stepped on a thistle and yelled out in pain. This woke the Clansmen who ultimately won the battle. Ref.

The Scottish people joke that if it hadn't been for this spiky little weed, they might have been speaking Norwegian.

  Church of Holy Rude

Holy Rude means "holy cross" and this church is the second oldest building (the castle itself is the oldest). It dates to 1129. In 1405, the church burned but was completely rebuilt in ten years using contemporary gothic arches, stained glass windows, and the oak roof.

As Reformation was taking place throughout Scotland, this was one of the first churches to experience the change over. Indeed, this church actually had a wall built through its center for a period of time to divide the two congregations and ministers.
 James VI was crowned here in 1567 with John Knox preaching. Westminster Abbey in England is the only other church to have held a United Kingdom coronation.

 As per tradition when we travel, we lit a candle for all of those that have gone before us.




Day 3 in Stirling - Monuments & Bridges

Sir William Wallace Memorial 
(Ref. 1  ||  Ref. 2 for Wallace and Bridge)

The cornerstone of this relatively new monument was laid on June 24th, 1861 on top of Abbey Craig and drew thousands of people from across Scotland. "The monument is 220 feet high, 54 square feet at its base, with the tower 36 square feet. The walls are 16/18 feet at their thickest, tapering to 5 feet thick at their thinnest. It is estimated that there were in excess of 30,000 tons of stones used in the construction."

 Sir Walter Scott was a great force at this time writing books about Scotland's history and renewing interest in the battles and people of the past. It was at this time that he rediscovered the "Honours of Scotland" (crown, sword and sceptre, 1818) in Edinburgh Castle. They had been locked away and "lost" for the past 111 years. 

We met a delightful Norwegian who was taken with Kini and Kimi. As we climbed the 246 steps through tiny, stone spiral stair steps to the top, we stopped at the different displays at each level. Bob and K&K are standing by the Wallace Sword - think about wielding that in battle!
By the way, did we mention that William Wallace's life was told in the movie Braveheart with Mel Gibson? 
Although Bob was able to walk to the edge of the top platform, Amy was glued to the center and being buffeted by the high winds. She called it "her wimp circle" - "I made it up the 246 steps .... Next I'll have to go down!  ... Is there a potty up here?!"

The view overlooks the river Forth and the Forth Valley. The river Forth (named because of the glacier Fourth that carved it out in ancient times) empties into the firth (a channel) that ultimately leads to the North Sea. Just outside of these pictures is the firth of Fourth.

A spectacular view of the castle!
Sir William Wallace: A Very Condensed Biography
(Ref. 1  ||  Ref. 2 for Wallace and Bridge)

Sir William Wallace was one of the leaders and heros of the Scottish Wars of Independence (from England). At the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, Sir William Wallace defeated the English army of invaders. Then in 1298, Wallace's forces were defeated at the Battle of Falkirk. Toward the end of the the wars, the Scottish started to use a scorch and burn, hit and run policy as fought. In 1305, after Wallace had gone to France to ask for help for the Scottish people and their supported king, he returned to Scotland and was captured and handed over to King Edward I of England.

"Wallace was transported to London and taken to Westminster Hall, where he was tried for treason and was crowned with a garland of oak to suggest he was the king of outlaws. He responded to the treason charge, "I could not be a traitor to Edward, for I was never his subject." With this, Wallace asserted that the absent John Balliol was officially his king."

"Following the trial, on 23 August 1305, Wallace was taken from the hall, stripped naked and dragged through the city at the heels of a horse to the Elms at Smithfield. He was hanged, drawn and quartered — strangled by hanging but released while he was still alive, castrated, eviscerated and his bowels burnt before him, beheaded, then cut into four parts. His preserved head (dipped in tar) was placed on a pike atop London BridgeIt was later joined by the heads of the brothers, John and Simon Fraser. His limbs were displayed, separately, in Newcastle upon Tyne, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Stirling, and Aberdeen."

The Battle of Stirling Bridge:
The year was 1297 and Scotland was fighting for its freedom from English rule. England had been winning battles for some time. Wallace and his men were camped on the Abbey Craig (where the monument now stands). The English army was approaching from the direction of the castle with a superior force. They ask for surrender but the Scots decline.
The stage is set for a momentous battle.
We have turned the map from the internet (Ref.) upside down to match the orientation of our photo. Click on our photo and follow the river to find the 15th century stone bridge located  within yards of the earlier Stirling bridge.
(The photos below show the stone bridge.)

In 1297, the wooden bridge allowed two horses with riders to cross side-by-side. The English army was feeling very confident, to the point that when the riders started to cross at dawn, they were called back by their leader, Warenne, who had overslept and wanted to lead his warriors. So, they start across again. And again Warenne calls them back thinking that Scots would understand how badly they were outnumbered and finally negotiate.

It was not William Wallace's way.
He let the English know that there would be a battle this day. 

Where the original bridge stood

On the current bridge
Warenne doesn't listen to his advisor who wanted to send some men up the river to be able to flank the Scots. If he had, there may have been a very different ending to this battle and to Scottish history. Instead, Warenne starts his men moving across the wooden bridge. This would take several hours because of the small size of the bridge.

And Wallace was there. He lets about half the men cross the bridge - the number he felt that he could take and win. The Scots rushed down with the love of a free Scotland in their hearts. The English are trapped on a little piece of land with mucky river banks and deep waters on all sides. Wallace and his men cut down over 100 men-at-arms and 5,000 infantry - a few that are able to fight their way back to the river, ditch their heavy armament and are able to swim to safety.


We all took turns getting our pictures taken in front of the "new 15th century" old bridge.


Edinburgh: Our Last Train Ride and Day in Scotland

July 6

The train ride was wonderful - we sat back and relaxed and read our books. This year we traveled with all our books on iPads. We worried about charging them, connectivity, and if they would be as easy to read and use while traveling. We had no problems charging them - every hotel had an adaptor we could use. Wifi hotspots were everywhere so we could check our mail easily, and we could carry more books then possible to read in less space.
Whiskey, Whiskey, and more Whiskey!
Scotch, Single Malt, Blends ... the list goes on and on.

On our last day in Scotland and being back on familiar ground in Edinburgh, we did the real tourist things that we missed the first time through. Our favorite was the "Whiskey Experience" - a semi cheesy ride in over-sized whiskey barrels explaining the whiskey making process. It was fun. :)

Then we got to choose a type of whiskey to taste and toured the largest collection of whiskeys in the world. One of the major things we found out was that Scotch Whiskey costs more in Scotland than it does in the U.S.!



Fly Home:
LV July 7 noon-ish
AV home at midnight

Our flight home was basically uneventful - for airline travel these days.
The usual time on the tarmak waiting for storms to clear and get permission to take off, a missed / changed flight.

On a final note, and because we found this to be the funniest sign we saw in Scotland, we had to post the picture below.






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