The family at Loch Ness. (Kate with her "Nessie" doll.)
Wow! We just got back from Scotland last night (May 28th); and what a beautiful place! We were gone for three days. I was pleasantly surprised with Scotland. It had pine forests and mountains; it had some rolling foothills, and it made the landscape look very mysterious as the fog rolled in on top of it. It just depended on what area we were in as to the terrain and landscape. The country is so varied, we found. We loved it! I have included my journal of the trip below. It seems like a lot to read, but I was so excited about some of the stuff I learned, I just wanted to share it! Links for photos of the trip are at the bottom of the page. Enjoy!
We left Saturday at about 8 a.m. for about a 6 hour drive to Edinburgh. On the way up through England, we happened to run into Sherwood Forest! Home of Robin Hood! So, we stopped off at the visitor’s center there and walked some of the trails of Sherwood Forest. It was so beautiful! http://www.sherwoodforest.org.uk/
After about 45 minutes there, we decided to press on north towards Scotland. Then, some further north, we found ourselves at Hadrian’s Wall! http://www.hadrians-wall.org/ It was a wall built in the 2nd century to separate the boundary of Roman Empire rule. http://www.aboutscotland.com/hadrian/(Another good site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hadrian's_Wall ) We drove around there for a while taking pictures and trying to distinguish between what was a farmer's stone fence to keep the sheep in and Hadrian’s Wall. It was neat to be in the midst of such old history.
We drove through some beauty of rolling green hills of northern England of County Durham. Then, we finally entered Scotland! On the drive to Edinburgh, we went through a lot of small towns and villages. We passed a church where there was a wedding going on. We saw the men standing outside with their kilts on! In Jedburgh, we saw the home of Mary Queen of Scots. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_I_of_Scotland
(You have got to read the story of her coronation at 9 months old!! Unbelievable; see above link.) We saw a house where she used to live. http://www.discovertheborders.co.uk/places/61.html
From there we drove a bit further into Edinburgh. There, we went in to Edinburgh Castle, walked around the city and shopped. We saw some bagpipe players, heard the bagpipes played and had a great time. The castle was really neat. It had monuments to Robert the Bruce and William Wallace (“Braveheart”); two of Scotland’s heroes. They also had a beautiful memorial to all Scottish soldiers that had served and passed in any wars. It was really nice. We had a nice time at the Castle. http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/edinburgh/edinburghcastle/index.html
We then drove on towards Stirling, Scotland. It was only about 45 minutes from Edinburgh. Once in Stirling, it was time for dinner and to find a place to stay. We had dinner at a cute restaurant/diner called Papa Joe’s. What a long and busy day!
On Sunday, after breakfast we headed out to explore Stirling. What a great city!! It was not too big and had plenty to see and do. There, we visited Stirling Castle. http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/stirling/stirlingcastle/
It was near here that William Wallace led the Scots to victory over the English in 1297. Also, in 1299, Robert the Bruce regained the castle from English control. And in 1543, 9 month old Mary Queen of Scots was crowned here. An awesome timeline of the castle can be seen at this link: http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/stirling/stirlingcastle/timeline.html
It was unbelievable to be in such history.
After Stirling Castle, we made our way to the Wallace Monument. This was a monument built to honor William Wallace; Braveheart. This is a beautiful monument seen anywhere in the vicinity of Stirling. It is huge. Built in 1869, it is 220 feet high. It has 246 steps and 4 levels. We walked them all (yes, even the kids). Each level has a different display to honor William Wallace. They actually have William Wallace’s sword!! Based on the size of the sword, it is estimated Wallace must have been about 6 feet, 6 inches tall. The monument tells of his life, the battle at Stirling Bridge and about his capture and death. It was amazing. The monument itself was built in the location Wallace watched the English advance as he prepared to battle at Stirling Bridge. What an amazing experience to be there.
(Awesome site about the monument above.)
After the Wallace Monument, it was time to drive on towards Loch Ness. On our way up to the Highlands, we found: Loch Lubnaig; we drove through the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park and drove all along Loch Lomond and the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. This area amazed me! I had no idea Scotland had such pine beauty! In the evening, it was time for us to take a break for dinner. We stopped at a town called, Fort William, Scotland. After dinner, we still had about an hour to reach Loch Ness. We reached the Loch really late. (Like midnight!) So, we stayed in a town called Drumnadrochit, (just south of Inverness). All of that (Stirling Castle, Wallace Monument and the drive through the National Parks to the Highlands) made a very long, but great Sunday.
(Queen Elizabeth Park)
On Monday, we shopped at the Loch Ness store and then went to the Loch Ness Exhibition 2000. It was a museum of sorts that gave all kinds of great information on the Loch. http://www.lochness.com/loch-ness-monster-exhibition.htm
I can not believe some of the information I learned about the Loch. It is so deep in the deepest part (near Urquhart Castle) that three Big Ben’s standing upright on top of each other, on the bottom of the lake floor would still not quite reach the top! Also, the Statue of Liberty would have to drop a ways if thrown in the Loch to reach the bottom! There is a lot more to the Loch itself, than the rumored “monster”. We learned that sighting are explained away by several things: swimming deer, seals that make it to the Loch, wakes made by boats, tree logs, etc. The exhibition ended by saying however, that there is a lot of water in the Loch to hide something very large. So, it remains a mystery. http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/areafaug/index.html
We reached the Loch at night the night before, so only saw it by moonlight as we drove past. So, it was time to actually go see Loch Ness! We drove just a few miles south of where we slept for the night and saw Loch Ness from the Urquhart Castle. It was just unbelievable to see it. It was a lifelong dream to see the Loch. Besides the fun mystery surrounding it, it is a beautiful sight! It is a huge body of water. Urquhart Castle is in ruins, but made a beautiful sight perched up overlooking Loch Ness. http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/drumnadrochit/urquhart/
The Loch extends for 24 miles, and we saw about ¾ the length of it as we drove from Urquhart Castle, downward. As we were nearing where we would no longer see the Loch, we pulled over and Dave and I each stuck our hands in to say we had touched it. It was very cold! With that done, it was time to head home. It was afternoon on Monday, we had about 9 hours to drive and Dave had work the next day; so it was time to go. We made our way back down through the Highlands, back along Loch Lomond and eventually passed through Glasgow.
We eventually entered back into England, drove through the Lake District and by nightfall, were at Liverpool. Dave had to stop in Liverpool, the huge Beatles fan he is. So, we hunted down a bit of Beatles history in they city. Dave found the site of a club the Beatles used to perform before they were discovered (The Cavern) and where statues now stand in the band’s honor.
He got some pictures and it was time to get back on the road for the last 2 and half hours home.
We made it in at about 2 a.m. technically Tuesday morning. What an awesome trip. I am so glad we got this trip in before we moved. It is a perfect way to end our time here in the UK. I hope you all enjoy the pictures of Scotland.
On to the pictures...