Sunday, August 27, 2023

Scotland 2023

We had a great time visiting Scotland for 10 days!

1st stop - Gleneagles - where we enjoyed exploring the beautiful grounds. We played lawn games like croquet and bean bag toss and swam in the pool and played golf on the pitch and putt course. The breakfast buffet was very extravagant with lots of choices and fun things for the kids.  

From this hotel we could travel easily to Sterling Castle and Deanston distillery where we had a great lunch and then left Eric to taste scotch whisky while we went to Doune castle (where they filmed Monty Python).

Ken, our driver for several days of the trip, was wonderful. He gave us a great deal of history and made sure the kids were having fun with listening to their jokes for hours in the car. Doune castle also had a large candyland game that kept the kids’ attention while exploring the castle. 

The next day was the Gundog school at Gleaneagles. We got 4 different dogs - a flat-haired retriever and a cocker spaniel - and we all really enjoyed it. It was fun to learn how to train them and learn how to get them to fetch their kill. And after all that activity Kyle fell asleep at dinner.

On the next day we had a longer drive (4+ hours) up to Inverness with stops to see Glencoe and Ben Nevis where the countryside was just gorgeous. We went through Ewan McGregor’s hometown and saw sights from Braveheart and Skyfall and all the beautiful heather flowers were in bloom (they bloom just 5 weeks a year). We stopped at a nice fish and chips shop with a playground for the kids and then saw the Locks in Fort William before arriving at our hotel in Inverness - the Ness Walk - with a nice setting on the river Ness. We were able to walk to all our dinners. 

Inverness was a nice area to explore and then make a drive up to Dunrobin castle that overlooked the North Sea. We saw signs for Kyle of Lochlash (caol) where they say the name Kyle was derived from. It was a beautiful castle that Queen Victoria visited and made popular. It had a fun Falconry demonstration where the girls got to get up close to the Falcon.  It was here we got to see the fastest bird - a paragrine falcon.

From there we journeyed to Clava Cairns and the Culloden battlefield - and now we’ll have to watch Outlander that has scenes there and Ken said the story is a very good depiction of the clans and the Highlanders. We learned a lot about the Jacobites and the Government army - essentially cousin groups fighting over control.  We were able to see the famed Highland Cattle, too.

A highlight on the trip for most was the boat tour on Lochness. We set out to find Nessie and had a wonderful boat crew that allowed the kids to drive the boat and had great food, drinks (I even tried some whisky!), and we got wonderful views of the Urquhart castle. Brave the movie was inspired by this castle as well as providing scenes to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Askaban. Loch Ness is a fascinating body of water and they worked hundreds of years ago to connect this with the North Sea through the caledonian canal- workers were drunk so took a long time to build - thinks that’s where the term whiskey chaser comes from beer and whisky (spelled without an ‘e’ in Scotland and can only call in Scotch in Scotland)

On our final long drive on our way to Edinburgh, we stopped by a sheepdog demonstration. Maeve even got to sheer part of a sheep and the different calls with the working dogs to get the sheep to do what he wanted was fascinating. We learned about the different sheep along the drive as well - like the cheviots with a white face. The kids liked feeding the lambs and seeing a baby Highland cow. It was a fun experience done by 1 of 2 shepherds left in the Highlands. Farming is such an important industry. We also saw some school kids playing Shinty - played in the Highlands (like hurling - even Ed didn’t know about it) and continued to see the beautiful landscape and that it’s true that if you wait 5 minutes then the weather would change! We stopped at the famed Iain Burnett for a chocolate tasting class. He made truffles for William and Kate’s wedding and the Queen’s jubilee (even Ken drove the queen in the jubilee as a police officer) and it was delicious. The Cocoa plant is 70% cocoa and from an island off the coast of Africa. And then we learned that the chocolate is formed from cocoa powder and it’s the cocoa butter that makes white chocolate.

Our final hotel was the Cheval Grand in Edinburgh on St Andrew’s square. St Andrew is the patron Saint of Scotland. After we sorted out the check in process where they thought we owed more, we were all set. Edinburgh was busy - especially after being in the small towns - because of the Fringe festival. The kids loved the street performers and my Mom and I don’t remember much from our previous visits (hers when she was 16 and mine in 2006) so it was fun to experience again. The best part of being in Scotland was being able to see our friends from Belfast, Bernadette and Kevin, and meeting their son Adam. We met them for dinner and it was such a special time to get to know him and catch up with them after 6 years.

The next morning we all toured the city with a visit along the Royal Mile and to Edinburgh castle where Jim, our guide, gave my parents good tips about the Tattoo that evening that they would attend and was patient with our tour with 4 little kids! He got them a scavenger hunt at the castle and then we were able to see wonderful views from the castle. We stopped at the Bank of Scotland to get some pressed pennies and he brought us to a famous fish and chips shop - Berties. We walked a lot of uphill steps that day so everyone was pretty tired. Grandma and Grandpa went back to rest for the Tattoo that didn’t start til 9:30pm and Adam went back to rest up. Then we toured more of the royal mile and shopped a bit.

The next day was fun with a visit to a play area for the kids so I could visit with Bernadette and Kevin. Eric went to the Whisky experience where he completed the gold tour and then we all met at Britannia (well that is after the kids rode with Kevin and Bernadette and I tried to get a cab for 40 min!). The Britannia was fun to see especially after watching the Crown. Bernadette, Brigid and I enjoyed tea/wine in the tea room. After that it was already our final dinner at Mamma Rosa where we had pasta and had to say Goodbye! Eric and I even ordered a bottle of Montepulciano wine that we both immediately recognized as having the year prior in Rome and absolutely loved it.

Here are the favorites from everyone:

Cecilia - gun dog school, golfing, tennis, boat tour, chocolate tasting, meeting Adam

Her favorite food was having steak in Prime in Inverness 

Maeve- gun dog school, playing tennis, boat tour, sheepdog and sheering the sheep, meeting Adam, Urquhart castle

Her favorite food was Breakfast at Gleneagles and the cheesecake dessert at Prime  

Kyle- driving the boat and trying to find Nessie, Edinburgh playing with Adam and Little glen play area at Gleneagles 

He loved the Pasta so much at Dormy at Gleneagles that he ate 2 bowls and then we went back for lunch the next day. 

Kate- gun dog school and pitch and putt golf at Gleneagles, boat tour of Loch Ness, Dunrobin, seeing Bernadette and Kevin, tea on the Britannia 

Her favorite food was the Lentil soup at Gleneagles and then so many wonderful meals throughout the trip. 

Grandma Brigid- boat tour, the tattoo at the Edinburgh castle, Stirling castle 

Her favorite was beef at Waterside and sticky toffee pudding 

Eric- sheepdog, boat tour, whisky tasting in Edinburgh and at Gleneagles

His favorite meal was the duck at Prime in Inverness and really enjoying all the food that we had

Ed- The tattoo (and he even talked to one of the American band members whom he knew- a son of a former colleague), Dunrobin castle and falconry, Colloden battle field 

His favorite meal was Lamb at Gleneagles and cheesecake