Sunday, July 3, 2016

Astonishing Edinburgh, Scotland, Part 1 - Highlands, Castles, Garden

Flew into Edinburgh and took a cab to my Homestay apartment. Couldn't believe where I was staying. The inside was all new, updated, cozy and clean. I was so happy. The only downside that I noticed right away going to my place was a hill that I knew I had to climb to get anywhere. Oh my what a hill. I took pictures of it, but you just don't get the perspective. It was a real pulse stimulator. I vowed that one trip out of the apartment per day would suffice.

My apartment was in "Dean's Village" which was known as the "Water of Leith Village" and was the center of a successful grain milling area for more than 800 years. At one time there were no fewer than eleven working mills there, driven by the strong currents of the Leith River. Several times when I looked out my window there was a tour group standing in our courtyard with their guide telling them the history of the area.

My apartment had a washing machine, but no dryer.  This was also true where I stayed in France and Rome.  It was sort of fun hanging up a small amount of clothes.

Such a neat place.

The hill, trust me it was steeper than this picture shows.

I turned left at the building there and went down, 
down to my apartment.

This is the hill I had to go up and down.  This picture
does not show the true grade.  It was steep.

 So different to see clothes lines in use.  I
guess I take a lot for granted.

River Leith at the back of the apartments

Back of the apartments

 Court yard with huge clothesline in the middle.

Enter my courtyard through this arch.
Always nice to have your own clock tower too.

Cute, clean and efficient kitchen

I'll just show photos with notes and hope you get a feeling of this great city.  If you do travel I highly recommend a few day stop in Edinburgh.

My one foray out of the big city was a tour to see the West Highlands Lochs and Castles.  My ancestry on my mother's side is Campbell and it was wonderful to go see Kilchurn Castle, which was the Campbell castle, built in 1450.  It was just a chilling feeling knowing that some of my people were here so long ago.  I was very moved by this visit.  The castle was badly damaged by lightening and abandoned in 1760 and is now in ruins.

Hard to believe this was built in 1450

A marriage stone is usually a stone lintel carved with 
the initials and coat of arms of a newly married couple
 with the date of the marriage.

A Campbell return homes.  Felt just right.
Such a moving experience being at my Clan home.

 Castle is on a peninsula and with high water it is an island.
Smart place to built for defense.
  This is so lovely.

Doune Castle was a stop on our tour.  Famous castle due to it being a set location for several popular movies and TV series:  The castle was used as the set for Winterfell in the TV series Game of Thrones (2011 to present); A Song of Ice and Fire, and as a stand in for "Castle Leoch" in the TV series Outlander.

Pretty dark inside and all the stairs were uneven rocks, narrow passages and short doorways so it was challenging walking around. It was very interesting though.

I've read all of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander books and 
it was fun to see and imagine the characters right here.
I never watched the TV series, maybe I should.

Great Hall, they used to build a big fire in that black grated
 thing in the middle.  I wonder if a castle in Scotland
was ever warm unless it was a tiny room.

Next we went to the 18th century town of Inveraray where the current Campbell ancestral home is, headed by the Duke of Argyll. Clan Campbell is a Highland Scottish clan who historically was one of the largest and most powerful of the Highland clans, their lands were in Argyll, thus the Duke of Argyll, chief of the clan. The Duke and his family do still live in the castle at times.  It is a well crafted and decorated place and it was fun to visit.

Nice lunch, I love quiche and this was
very delicious, light and fluffy.

Bread ovens

I could sure cook in this kitchen.

And for a little harp music in the parlour

All hand painted.

Quite a display of weapons.

A Lady Campbell

Sadly, I could not make a trip to the Cameron Clan castle, named Achnacarry Castle. It is about a 5 hour bus ride to the middle of nowhere, and I wasn't about to drive.
So I had a fantastic day out in the heart of the scenic Western Highlands taking in the castles, West coast locks, beautiful mountains and hearing many stories of old clan rivalries, songs and Scottish history.

West Bank of Loch Lomond

A bit of blue sky peeking through.

I wanted many, many more sheep photos.  Just buzzed by in the bus and I was so frustrated.  Mostly white blurs.  I could have spent one-half day with the critters and taking pictures of them.

It was Spring, so there were many sweet lambs about.

Nice stone wall

Highland cattle are a Scottish breed. Long horns and long

 wavy coats. Originated in the Highlands and first mentioned 
in the 6th century. Hardy for their tough environment. 
Bulls can weigh up to 1,800 lbs.

After my tour and back in town, I walked over to
 attend a Meet Up dinner. At this time in my trip I was glad to have some people to visit with and we had a tasty dinner and some laughs. A nice group.  It was a bit funny that we were in Edinburgh and ate Mexican food at Las Iguanas.

Edinburgh Mid Week Meet Up group.  Good laughs and
a very good meal.  I felt very welcomed.

It was nice to be with people.

I had my only "crash" day in Edinburgh. It was wonderful. I did my wash, stayed in my nightgown all day, organized photos, watched TV, and even ordered in Chinese food - seemed enough for 4 people. I wonder if I just couldn't face going up the hill that day? Besides this day, I was pretty much on the go constantly so I'm glad I had this day.

Next day, rested up I visited the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. It was a decent walk from my apartment. I just followed the Leith River along a beautiful path. I had my map and tried to find my way at the proper intersection, but got a bit lost. I stopped a nice man and he pointed the way and then said, "just come with me I'm going that way" and he got me on the right way with good directions to finish my trip.

The walk along the Leith was so nice.

Crows are everywhere.

I must be getting close.

I loved this orange shrub.  Brilliant.

Yeah, I made it.  I did so much walking
to everything and from everything.

The gardens were special and I'm so glad I decided to spend my day here. I had to stop for a snack and got some coffee and a raisin roll and went to sit on the outdoor patio. While getting things together I needed a napkin and left my food outside for a second. When I came back everyone was laughing and I looked to see that my roll was gone. Flying away from my table and dragging my roll, was a big seagull. I had to crack up too and figured I would at least get a picture of that thief.  It really was quite funny, the innocent American being naive leaving food outside with those birds around. At least I can say that was my only experience with any type of thief or pickpockets, so I won't complain. That was a worry I had and I didn't have any bad experiences.  The cafe replaced my pastry free which I appreciated.  Probably not the first time that had happened.

The Thief

With all the rain they get in Scotland the rhododendrons flourish. They are one of my favorite flowers so I enjoyed the gardens and took lots of photographs. There are several different sections in the garden and they have a wonderful selection of plants. There was also an art exhibit there so I ventured in. Called British Art Show 8, which was being presented in three venues around Edinburgh. It was probably the worst "art" I have ever seen. Just disturbing. I am amazed at what can be considered art and sometimes I just don't get it. I have come a long, long way in what I do appreciate in art in these last few years. But I suppose it was good to see this so I could appreciate all the fine works I saw in Europe. I went to art galleries and museums in every city I visited, except Lyon.

This was interesting, like our new rage for tiny houses
these were really tiny.

How can something be this beautiful?

So my day was a wonderful experience of beautiful sights, good walking, nature, photography and I couldn't have asked for more. Took a creative way home and the entire way, which had to have been 3 miles, was drastically uphill. Let's just say by the time I got home I was very tired.

Lots of things I didn't see. I did not tour Edinburgh Castle - at one end of the Miracle Mile, nor did I visit the Palace at the other end. I only had so much time and energy. I would go back again if I had the chance. Sometimes I would say I'd seen enough castles, palaces or churches for awhile.  Edinburgh is a very special place. I so wish I would have been brave enough to drive there so I could have gone to Cameron Castle and spend more time out in the country, but for me just to risky to try to drive on the other side alone.  It really is quite tricky.

I have to do Edinburgh, Scotland in two parts. It is getting long and difficult to work on. So Part 2 will be the beautiful city sights from the walking tour and any "left overs" I have to include. I don't seem able to be concise so two parts will work. So stay tuned and thanks for bearing with me.

I'm wondering how many parts I will need for "my" Paris?