Tag Archive: scotland


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edinburgh, the end

on our final full day together, we traveled from peebles to edinburgh, via carluke (to meet another friend from tonmo and see his amazing house-in-progress, a renovation of an old barn that will include one of the original stone walls as an interior feature wall… WANT).  we parted company from the pebbles senior in the morning, and so were left to our own devices in auld reekie.  upon arrival we checked into what was by far the flashest hotel of the entire trip, and spent a few moments admiring the four-poster canopy bed before setting off for the golden mile.  we wandered up market and cockburn streets and made our way to the castle, then opted for a tour of the vaults to get out of the increasingly spitty weather for a bit.  we had a great guide with lots of interesting stories (we went with a fairly historic tour, as the  ‘grisly tales of horror and torture in the darkness!’ options didn’t really appeal), including one about paisley close, which we later spotted for ourselves.  back on the surface, we strolled down to holyrood house, pausing to drool over a tartan wedding dress (well – one of us was drooling) in a shop window, and taking a few detours down the closes.  as evening fell, we walked back to our hotel via the rather sinister-looking scott monument, whose uppermost narrow spiral staircase apparently scarred the pebbles for life last time he was in town.  we finished the day off with an absolutely delicious italian meal near our hotel (although i unfortunately wasn’t able to subtly photograph our dining neighbors, one of whom ordered a calzone that – without exaggeration – was 18″ long and 8″ tall).
early on saturday morning we took the train to doncaster (and were treated to a spectacular sunrise along the coast, and the brightest rainbow i’ve ever seen, which stayed with us from sunrise until we arrived two hours later) for lunch with some relatives.  the pebbles stayed on for a few more days (remaining in england an extra week for his nana’s 90th – happy birthday, trudi!), while i was due to fly out from heathrow that night and so made my way back to london.  my flights (via hong kong) went reasonably smoothly, apart from a plague of crying children (i admit that, as the flights wore on, my inner monologue changed from ‘could you please comfort your child so the rest of us can sleep’ to ‘SHUT YOUR KID UP OR I WILL DO IT WITH THIS AIRPLANE FORK’), and a first officer who fell so ill after everyone was already seated for departure from hong kong that he had to be removed from the plane.  but then, at last, 41 hours after leaving edinburgh, i was home.

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peebles

if the appeal of visiting peebles isn’t immediately apparent to you, the following photos may get a little repetitive.  it’s actually a nice little town in its own right, and certainly makes rampant use of its three-fish crest, but basically… PEEBLES!!! (apparently the pebbles kept waiting for me to break out ‘we gotta go to the crappy town where i’m a hero‘ but i wasn’t quick enough… and if i’d only known, i could have worn the t-shirt!)

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more scottish scenery, och aye

on thursday we departed fort william for points south, most notably peebles (more on that shortly).  the weather was brilliant and the drive back through the highlands rather spectacular.  we also stopped at the william wallace monument (near stirling), a massive gothic edifice that can be seen for miles around.  the tower itself was closed but we hiked up the 97m hill it sits on and were rewarded with a glimpse up the statue’s kilt.

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all aboard, and wands at the ready!

behold, the jacobite steam train.

on wednesday it chugged us all the way (84 miles round-trip) from fort william to mallaig and back again, past lochs, inlets, meadows, and high cliffs, and over the rather famous glenfinnan viaduct. mallaig was a cute little town but the hour and a half we had there were just about right; mostly the journey was about the scenery. (at least for us – an astounding number of trainspotters lined the tracks, often in remote and unlikely locations, to watch us puff by.)

after our return we went to check out nearby neptune’s staircase, an impressive series of eight locks that raise (or lower) boats 64 feet over a quarter-mile stretch between the great glen canal and the inland tip of the inlet.  from there we also got the clearest view (all relative) of ben nevis, which made us so hungry we had to stop in at the nearest pub for hot chips followed immediately by dinner.  we took one last farewell stroll through fort william as the moon rose, and packed up to move on again in the morning.

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on tuesday we left the ayr-glasgow region and made our way to fort william. the drive took us past loch lomond (of ‘ye’ll take the high road’ fame) and through some of the spectacularly beautiful highlands. the weather was apparently typically scottish in that it was cool and misty with the occasional light drizzle, but it seemed mystical and fitting for the landscape. we stopped in at glencoe along the way, site of an infamous massacre, and made it to our lodgings by early afternoon.

we had realized a few days earlier that fort william lay only ~30 miles from the southern tip of loch ness, and had discussed a slight extension of the drive that afternoon depending on time and how we felt about each other’s company in the car by then. well, no one was exactly wild about more driving, but it seemed a shame not to take advantage of our proximity to britain’s largest and perhaps most famous body of fresh water, so we piled back in and set off. alas, no mythical beasts were in evidence, although a very good audiovisual exhibition offered a number of plausible explanations for the 1000+ recorded ‘sightings.’ we lunched and then wended our way back south, pausing briefly to crane our necks for a glimpse of the iconic (yet frustratingly shielded from the non-paying public’s view) ruins of urquhart castle, and spend the evening enjoying quaint fort william.

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pebbles were here

 

monday was a designated pebbles family history day; part of the initial impetus for the joint holiday in scotland had been the idea of visiting the places that had been important to the scottish quarter of the pebbles ancestry.  accordingly we set out to visit the one known living relative with whom contact has been maintained through the years – my (let me get this straight) great-half-aunt-in-law, who sounds delightfully like maggie smith’s portrayal of prof mcgonagall.  we had a lovely morning tea with her, chatting and lavishing attention on her sloth-bear-like dog, meg, by turns.

 

from there we had four more local stops on the list: the schoolhouse where one of the great-pebbles (either great or great great, not sure – we’ll just say ‘grrrrreat’) went to school in the early 1900s, now a (rather austere) private residence; the cottage where the same great-pebbles lived as a child (sadly torn down since the pebbles senior was last there), in the tiny and deliciously named hamlet of bog end; coodham, the manor house across the road where that great-pebbles’ father had worked as a gardener (now being renovated into luxury apartments); and the cottage nearby on a hill where he (the gardening pebbles) had been born, to annie raeside, whose family name we have both taken as a common middle name.  (got all that?  … me neither.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

we lunched in alloway, famous as robbie burns’ birthplace; his thatched cottage has been turned into a nice little informational display, and the brig’o’doon is an impressive bit of masonry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

in the late afternoon we did indeed have time for culzean castle (pronounced ‘culleen’), an imposing edifice directly above the sea, which had been a medieval fortress/castle and was renovated into its present stateliness in the 1800s by robert adam. the extensive grounds include a number of arched viaducts and bridges, the castle keep and main house (including an entranceway/armory with wall decor made entirely of weaponry – bayonets, long blades, short swords, daggers, muskets, and over 700 flintlock revolvers), apartments given to eisenhower for his strategic role in operation overlord, walled gardens, mysterious outbuildings and grottoes scattered through the surrounding woods, and a huge man-made lake.  we spent several pleasant hours strolling and admiring, then returned to ayr for a good dinner and sleep and early travels north the next day.

 

 

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ae bonny land

scotland, a place i have wanted to visit since, well, forever.  i have a week of it behind me now and am fairly certain i will need to visit again someday – we did many good things, but (like my first trip to new zealand… uh oh) i am left realizing how many more things i want to come back and do next time.  the only thing lacking was internet access, which is why i’ve been awol since leaving england, so bear with me as i work through the whole backlog of our travels oot and aboot.

seems only logical to start from the beginning. we flew up from stansted and landed in prestwick, under a slaty blue-grey sky and over fields that looked much lusher and greener than those further south. we were met by the pebbles senior (my father- and stepmother-in-law), our traveling companions for the week; they took us to our hotel to leave our ever-swelling luggage (thanks to upcoming birthdays and christmas), and to note the presence of a ben & jerry’s ice cream vending machine in the lobby (!!), then for a quick jaunt around ayr and the general region.  it was noticeably crisp on the west coast (i believe ‘bracing’ was the chosen word) and we went for a (very) quick stroll by the beach in watery late afternoon sun, with a stiff breeze carrying wheeling seagulls above the choppy sea.

back in the warm sheltered pod of our rental car (our home for many hours of the ensuing week), we cruised south to take in a few more local sights along the coast.  we were duly confounded by the ‘electric brae’ (and wished we had thought to bring a soccer ball for testing, as another holidaying family had done), resolved to go back the next day for a more thorough look at culzean castle if time permitted, and went for another wander in the gathering dusk among the picturesque seaside ruins of dunure castle.