Sunday, August 17, 2014

Go West, Young Women

Okay, I know that (i) the reference to going "west" doesn't traditionally mean west of Edinburgh and (ii) technically speaking, Wendi and I might not qualify as "young," but still this post title kept coming to mind.  And so I went with it for this quick travelogue of our three days on the road to Callendar, Oban and Dundoon before we started our EdFringe adventure.

Stirling Castle
The Castles -- Stirling Castle is one of largest and most important castles in Scotland, but I found its history a bit mind-numbing (and only in part because we went there directly from the airport).  The castle "changed hands" eight times in the period from 1296-1342.  William Wallace (popularized by Mel Gibson--in the days when we liked Mel Gibson--in the movie "Braveheart") is memorialized in the Castle as one of the leaders of the First War of Scottish Independence in 1297.  And Stirling Castle is where Mary, Queen of Scots ruled in the 16th century.  (She was six days old when she ascended to the throne.  Regents ruled until she was of maturity.)  Even this small amount of history is giving me a headache, so I guess it wasn't the jetlag.

Wendi at Inverary Castle
Inverary Castle was much more my style.  First of all, I always love a good turret.  Second, the castle is essentially the family home of the Duke of Argyll, Chief of the Clan Campbell, and was much more intimate.  Family pictures of the current (13th) Duke of Argyll, Torquil Ian, and his lovely wife (nee Cadbury of the chocolate Cadburys) and their three children are scattered throughout the rooms, and one wing of the castle is off-limits to visitors as they actually live there part of the time.  Perhaps a bit surprisingly, my favorite room in the castle housed the armory collection, which included all sorts of polearms artfully displayed.   If you're a fan of "Downtown Abbey," the castle might look familiar to you, as the setting of Duneagle Castle.  There were photos in the castle of a holiday episode filmed there.
Waterfall at Puck's Glen

Best walk -- Scotland is, of course, known for its walks, and our walk in Puck's Glen was incredibly beautiful.  I should have been counting the number of waterfalls that we saw.  It was actually quite magical, and the weather even held out for us.

Best weird Scottish food that I didn't try -- I'll admit it.  I did try a tiny bite of haggis (a "pudding" containing sheep's heart, liver and lungs), and it wasn't the worst thing I've ever put in my mouth.  (Interestingly, many places had vegetarian haggis.  I don't quite understand how that works.)  One night Wendi and I went to a local fish and chips place and a kid at a nearby table had a half-circle of indistinguishable fried food.  When we asked the waitress what it was, she told us it was pizza that had been breaded and deep fried.  As she said, "We Scots like to fry everything!"

Scottish Highland Cows
Best roadside stop -- It seemed like everywhere we stopped, we saw pictures of this wonderful animal that made us smile.  Really, how do they see?  I finally asked someone what it was and learned it is a Scottish Highland cow.  I knew our prospects of spotting one on our travels were slim, but Wendi told me to shout out if I did.  We were driving along when I suddenly spied one and cried out, "Cow, cow!"  We pulled a u-turn and drove right up into a farmer's driveway to get up close and personal with these brilliant beasts.

Best sign --  We've all seen deer crossing signs (how do they know that's where to go?), but this is the first time I've seen a sign warning to watch for elderly people.   I have so many questions about these signs that remain unanswered.  Why are these signs popular in the UK but nowhere else?  How do they determine where to place them?  What I did find out is that the image for the sign came from a children's competition held in 1981 and that there are people who now take offense at the signs because being old doesn't equate to being hunched over and walking with a cane.  (Political incorrectness comes in all shapes and sizes.)  All I know is that we found the sign hilarious and it caused us to pull over almost as quickly as we did for our Scottish Highland cows.  
Near Glencoe

Best view -- The Scottish Highlands were so different Florida that they were a real treat. The drive from Callendar to Glen Coe was particularly beautiful, and we found ourselves pulling off the road repeatedly onto vista points to enjoy the view.  If we'd had more time, it would have been great to spend some time hiking in this area.  But there was theater to be seen, so we soaked up the view and were on our way. 

And so concludes this edition of "how I spent my summer vacation."  I'm already plotting my return....

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