First of all, just some information about the trip and the camera I used. The trip took place from September 2 through September 23, 2004, during a period of three weeks.
The camera that I used was a Nikon F1 with automatic focus lens, using a 24-120 Zoom lens and a 100-300 zoom lens. Most of the pictures were taken with the 24-120 lens. For those with less than perfect eyesight I highly recommend the auto focus lenses. The film was Fuji Superia X-Tra 400.
The first two weeks of the trip were on a tour which was booked through American Express and its agent in Scotland, Globus Travel. Booking through American Express was somewhat more expensive, but there was a piece of mind to both of us that the quality would be assured, and indeed except for one dinner in Inverness, it was a good tour. We were also quite lucky to have a travel agent who was born in the Lowlands of Scotland, and therefore knew about the Lowlands in detail and where to go and stay during our third week which was on our own.
We arrived in Glasgow a day before the tour started to get some flavor of the city and to diminish jet lag. We spent two additional days there with the tour. While a small city when compared to New York City, two days is not really enough time to see Glasgow in detail so we added an extra day at the end of the tour. I feel confident that we saw most of what we should have seen. What we did miss was the major population belt between Glasgow and Edinburgh.
On the 3rd day the tour left Glasgow and went south to Ayr where we saw Robert Burn’s cottage. I found it quite interesting to see how the less wealthy lived on a daily basis, and how Robert’s father was always encouraging his children to became educated. Traveling from Glasgow to Ayr showed an area of rural landscapes which were quite green.
Then it was off to Carlisle where we stayed overnight crossing the border into England. Carlisle Castle was truly very interesting. It was from this fortress that Edward II - The Hammer of the Scots - began many of his campaigns. There were various stages in building the castle, but it all seemed to blend together quite readily.
While on the border area the Flag of St. George was flying on the English Side of the Border, and the Flag of St. Andrew on the Scottish side. There really was no question as to whether you were in Scotland or England. Crossing back into Scotland was actually crossing the border, and the picture of Silvia and myself at the Stone with Scotland written in white letters, was the moment that we knew that we were really in Scotland for good.
We then went to Abbotsford House, the home of Sir Walter Scott. The man truly collected an array of weapons and other heraldic items. The house is chocker block full of them, to the extent that it is overwhelming. It does seem that one was walking in a house of the early 1800’s. On one of the walls was the Turnbull Crest, along with those of other Lowland Clans and Families. We found that the teahouse at the site is run by Ann and George Turnbull, and you will find their pictures in the gallery. Thanks goes to Silvia who noticed the certificate on a wall given in Ann Turnbull’s name, otherwise we would have not known who they were.
The Fifth day of the Tour was spent in Edinburgh, and while there was a guided tour, there was also time for individuals to roam about the city. I think that in order to visit Edinburgh in full, one needs at least four days to visit all of the places that should be visited. At the end of the tour we took an additional two days in Edinburgh. Naturally Edinburgh Castle should be visited and I would suggest a good half day in order to do so. Holyrood Palace is also a requirement, taking about a half day also. However, the real gem is the Museum of Scotland, and there a full two days is required to really get a good understanding and education of Scotland. It is a definite requirement to those who have any interest in the history of Scotland and its people. Also, near the Castle and down from it, is the Royal Mile, where many tourist shops are located, and where St. Giles Church is located and makes for an interesting visit.
I am not sure how to compare the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow. While the government of Scotland is in Edinburgh, the result is that there are a lot of the historical places to visit. Glasgow is more of a commercial city, and there seems to be a greater vitality to the city as compared to Edinburgh. Mainly for that reason, I liked Glasgow more than Edinburgh. The comparison of Washington DC to New York City would be a good equivalent.
On Day 6, we left Edinburgh and went to St. Andrew’s and spent a few hours in the city. The bus parked at the St. Andrew’s Golf course, and unfortunately it was difficult to get around the city a lot. As with The University of Edinburgh, St. Andrew’s University seems to just blend into the general fabric of the city. There is also the feeling that St. Andrew’s is a very wealthy city with a lot of “old money” existing there. But I think that all of those who play golf help bring in the foreign exchange.
Just up from St. Andrew’s is Glamis Castle, which was the ancestral home of the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. To get there we went over the Firth of Tay bridge and drove through Dundee. Glamis Castle, certainly points out how the nobility lived over 100 years ago. The comparison with some small villages that we later saw points out how much of a difference there was between the wealthy and nobility and the ordinary families.
After Glamis Castle the tour took us to the City of Aberdeen, where we had about two hours to roam in that city. The University of Aberdeen has a well-defined campus, and is worth a quick visit. Of particular interest to me was Aberdeen Cathedral, which was the mother church of the Episcopal Church here in America. This came about due to the fact that after the American Revolution, the Bishops of the Anglican Church in England would not ordain Bishops in America. The Bishops of the Anglican Church in Scotland were not constrained by the same orders and they did confirm enough bishops to ensure that the Episcopal Church in America could continue. As a memorial to this fact, the Cathedral has the coat of arms of all fifty states on the ceiling of the Cathedral. Another example is the American Episcopal Church Flag, which is the Red Cross on a white field (very similar to the flag of St. George) with the upper canton being blue with nine crosses in the form of the cross of St. Andrew. The nine crosses represent the nine bishops that were confirmed to their position by the Scottish Bishops.
The port of Aberdeen is rather busy with the North Shore Oil industry, and there seem to be little if any poverty. We were able to enjoy a visit to the small fishing village of Stonehaven, and spend some time in a pub, where there was a piper, who played both the Highland and the Lowland pipes. He was asked to play certain tunes and his response was “No, I don’t know it,” mainly because they were not pipe tunes per se, but he did know some of the tunes that I mentioned, but no one else did. However, I did enjoy speaking with him about piping in Scotland and he did play the tunes I mentioned
From Aberdeen we went to Glenfiddich Distillery and learned how whiskey is produced. We were able to smell the distilling process through a trap door and the odors were quite pungent. It is interesting that the by product of the barley and yeast is then made into pellets for animal feed, which gives rise to the expression “happy cows.” The barley is washed through three times, and it is the second washing which is saved for the making of the whiskey though the aging process. The end product is then put into barrels to age for a long time. At the distillery there was a storeroom for the barrels but most of the product was stored elsewhere. Evaporation takes about 30% of the end product. The evaporation has taking on the name the “angels’ share.”
The free example was nice, however it was only later that I became acquainted with a single malt, Glenmoraninge. This is a very nice smooth single malt, which does not have the taste of medicine. I also became acquainted with the blend, called The Famous Grouse, which I found very pleasant.
We moved north, into the Grampian Mountains and the Spey Valley, and stopped at Ballater, the city that is near Balmoral Castle. Balmoral Castle is where the Royal Family takes vacation every summer and where the Balmoral games are held. Ballater is a very small village, but it also shows the beneficial effect of being associated with the Royal Family. Several of the merchants are suppliers to the Royal Family and enjoy “Royal Warrants” as being official suppliers to the Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles, who have the right to grant Warrants.
Then it was on to Inverness, “The Capital of the Highlands.” The city sits to the North East of Loch Ness. We had two memorable visits from Inverness. The first was a lecture about Loch Ness and “Nessie.” Then there was a boat trip on Lock Ness, and here I took some very nice pictures, including the famous ruin of Urquhart Castle ruins. We were told that we could drink the water from Loch Ness directly, which I did, ignoring the warnings from Silvia that she would not take care of me if I became sick to my stomach. I didn’t. And no- we did not see Nessie.
Then the next day it was off to Culloden Battle Field where the last land battle on British soil occurred April 16, 1746 (not 1745 though the Uprising is known as “The 45”).
The Battlefield has been re-engineered to look as it did on that fateful day. On the field are the original highland cottages that were in existence at that time. They give a good idea of how the average highland family lived. The Visitor Center is very well done and the video show explains very clearly the nature of the armies. Seeing this, one wonders why the Highlanders ever showed up to fight in the first place. The Government had all of the advantages.
From Inverness the tour went along up the north east coast of Scotland where the views of the North Sea are mystical and intriguing. A stop off at Dunrobin Castle is interesting in viewing how the Lords of Seaforth (chiefs of Clan MacKenzie) lived, but one must remember that it was this family (mainly due to the influence of an English Husband to the daughter of the Lord) who started the famous highland clearances substituting people for sheep.
A note about sheep: in the lowlands the sheep grazing areas are fenced in, and the husbandry methods are more formalized with shearing of the wool, and also the breeding programs, so expectant lambs are brought into barns to give birth. In the Highlands, the sheep are not fenced in, and wander on the land and roads at will. They certainly seem to think that they have the right of way to motor vehicles.
Also the roads in the highlands and the lowland areas are at best two lane highways, but often they are only one lane, and “turnbacks” or little spaces for a car to pull over so that another car can pass are the rule. Between other cars on the single lane and the sheep, one has to be very careful.
The city of Wick is on the North East coast of Scotland and when one gets into this part of the country, there is a definite feeling of the influence of the Vikings and their descendants from Norway. It is only 300 miles across the water from Scotland to Norway at this point. Wick is a small trading and fishing town, and I personally liked it very much. I could retire to a city like this. In a way, it reminded me of the small New England Towns that sit on the Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean.
From Wick, we went to Dunnet Head, which is the most northern point on mainland Britain. We visited the small church where the Queen Mother went when she stayed at Castle of Mey (which she bought as a ruin and refurbished over a period of years). The Church and the Graveyard that surround it seemed not to have changed in the last 300 years.
We left John O’Groats (the anglicized name for a Dutch man who ran a ferry service in the 1700’s) and took an hour boat ride to the southern most island of Orkney. The crossing over the straight brought to me what centuries of seaman must have endured, albeit in far less seaworthy ships. We looked over to Scapa Flow which was a very large British Naval Base in WW I and WW II. It was here that the German fleet was assembled and surreptitiously were scuttled by their German crews after WW I.
We also visited the Italian Chapel which was no more than a Quonset hut that had been decorated by Italian Prisoners of War (during WW II). The effect is very startling based upon what the artists had to work with, and the nature of their “canvas”.
A little later on we went to Skara Brae, which is a stone age village that had been hidden for 5000 years and was only discovered in the 1830’s when a very severe storm blew away the sand that had been hiding the settlement for all the years. This settlement predates the Egyptian pyramids. I think that I took a lot of my best pictures in this area of the country, and it is one part of Scotland that I would like to revisit, and then go North into the Shetlands, where the Norse influence is greater than the Celtic influence on the mainland.
On Day 10 we left Wick and traveled over from the North East to the North West of Scotland where the mountains are very high and the country very primitive. However, I was not impressed with this part of the country. A stop for lunch at Ullapool, a small fishing village established in the late 1800’s was not that interesting.
I knew that we were approaching Argyll and Skye, and I can not say enough about how beautiful this part of Scotland truly is. The whole area of the country has the maximum benefit of the Gulf Stream and the green land that abounds shows its effect. We first went to Portree, a city that is larger than most of the cities that we came across outside Edinburgh and Glasgow. I am not really sure what the base economy is that supports this whole area of Scotland, but tourism has to be a major contributor and based on that there should not be much change to the whole area.
Leaving Portree, we stopped at Dunvegan Castle, the seat of the Chiefs of Clan MacLeod since the 1200’s. The land surrounding Dunvegan Castle is called the Cuillin Hills. I recalled that several years ago, the Chief of Clan MacLeod sold their rights to the hills in order to secure funds to rebuild the castle. The castle has several sections which have been added to over the years. Inside, the “Fiery Flag” and the MacCrimmon “speckled’ Pipes and Chanter were on display. The history of these two items can be read about elsewhere.
The MacLeod Clan is one of the few Clans either Highland or Lowland that have a Bull’s head in their Coat of Arms and Crest. The origins of the Clan’s Coat of Arms are similar to the Turnbulls and their motto is “Hold Fast.” There were Clan magazines for sale at the reception center. The MacLeod Clan has chapters all over the world.
The next day, after spending the night at Bradford (where I was lucky to find a Laundromat with just two machines) we went to the Museum of the Isles. Actually it is the MacDonald Clan Center (there are seven septs to this Clan) but because they received funding from the European Economic Union, it could not be officially devoted to the MacDonalds only even though it was located next to the old MacDonald ruins, and in effect is the MacDonald Museum. It is a very well done set of exhibits. It gives a good history of the island of Skye and the MacDonalds and the displays have some very old Tartans and weapons. It also deals with the Highland Scottish Diaspora, after “the 45.”
From there we boarded a ferry at Armadale and sailed across the “Sound of Sleat,” a crossing which was not as rough as the one from John O’Groats to Orkney, where we rejoined the mainland at Mallaig. We “followed the Road to the Isles” pausing at Glenfinnan, where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his Standard in 1845. From Mull we took another ferry from Lockaline to Fishnish on the Isle of Mull. This was the only time that rain did interfere with our touring.
The next day we took the ferry across Mull to the island of Iona. Iona, was the seat of Celtic Christianity having been established by St. Columba in 563 AD. We spent about a half day in Iona, visiting the old Church (under repair) as well as other buildings associated with the community. Many Scottish Kings and Chiefs including MacBeth are buried on the island. What I found interesting is that from this small area, Columba was able to spread the Christian religion to other parts of the country.
We then went to Tobermoy which is on the west coast of Mull. This is definitely a small town, though it is supposed to be the capital of the island of Mull. The last day of the tour stretched from Mull and back to Glasgow, and along the way, we passed the Pass of Brander. A quick stop at Lock Lomond for a group photo and back into Glasgow, where there was a tour of the city, which Silvia and I had already taken our first day in Scotland.
After the tour was over, we were on our own. So having seen Glasgow, and wanting to spend more time in Edinburgh, we took the Scottish Rail train from Glasgow to Edinburgh. While the trip should have lasted about 45 minuets, it took much longer, due to the fact that some cows had broken down a fence and wondered unto the tracks. A sharp eyed engineer stopped the train in time, not repeating the same error that occurred about 30 years ago, when the cows caused the train to crash, resulting in several casualties.
Having settled in at our Edinburgh hotel, just to the south of the Castle, we spent two days wandering around the city and visiting areas that we missed, including Grey Friar’s Church where the famous dog Greyfriar’s Bobby is buried in consecrated ground. Every day fresh flowers are put on his grave. It is an endearing story, and I think reflects something that is very true about the Scottish Character.
Then on Sunday we drove to Hawick. It was my first time driving a car sitting on the right side and driving on the left side of the road. Thankfully, there was an easy to follow main road between Hawick and Edinburgh. Hawick was deserted on the Sunday morning we arrived, and on the next three days, it did not seem to be much more populated. It was sad to see that the premises of 51 High Street where The Turnbull Clan Association was founded by John F. Turnbull in 1977, were up for sale, but it is understandable that one must move on due to economic necessity.
We took tours of Peebles and Galashiels, In Galashiels, we visited Loch Carron Mills where our Tartan is woven, but we were not permitted to visit the factory because it was closed for some refurbishing and testing. However, the clerk at the store was very helpful.
We revisited Selkirk, and on many occasions got lost on the side roads of the Borders, but thanks to some very polite and helpful local people we were able to find our way back to Hawick. A visit to the town (more like a small enclave) of Bedrule and its Church is definitely in order for all Turnbulls and I was able to take a lot of pictures for our website. However, without a guide, finding Fatlips Castle, except from a distance , was impossible. I did get some long shot pictures.
The most interesting building in Hawick is Drumlanrig Tower, and surprisingly enough, a very nice article about the Tower appeared in the March/April 2005 Issue of the Highlander. The article also gives a very brief history of the area from about the 7th Century AD.
We left Hawick on Thursday and drove back to Edinburgh and then over to Glasgow, mainly because there are no major roads directly from Hawick to Glasgow. We were able to see the heart of Scotland from Edinburgh to Glasgow, but as with most major roads, one would have to get off the road to visit the small towns between each city. Nevertheless, in this area, there is a true sense of economic vitality.
There is something to be said for going on tours and also for being on your own. I think that we were fortunate in that we got a very good tour to cover most but not all of Scotland (missing the City of Sterling – where my direct ancestor came from, and Bannockburn) but then again choices have to be made. I definitely would revisit the far north and the Shetland Island. Another visit to Argyll would also be necessary, but what truly amazed me was that the amount of history and historical places existing in the lowlands and the midlands of Scotland.
My view is that on the first trip to a country or a city, the best thing that you can do is get a general tour. Then you can learn where you want to revisit and areas that you do not want to go back to.
Oh yes one final thing - the Weather. It was just perfect weather. It rained only 4 hours on one day and that was when we were at Glenfinnan, and I wondered if it rained when Bonnie Prince Charlie had landed in 1745. Probably not, because he would have turned around and gone back to France.