Thursday, March 23, 2017

Scotland Story: Footprint of a King

We proceeded from Kilmartin to Dunadd Fort, a rocky crag that at one time was perhaps an island. Its natural defensiveness was evidence, as the area around it is named the Gaelic for "bog," indicating what it must have once been. It was the receding sea levels that put the fort under attack sometime around the 6th or 7th century. There are documents recording its name up through the 9th century.

It was, for us, a bit of a difficult climb in the mossy grass and the sprinkling rain, but it was a fun adventure nonetheless. 

When we got to the top of the hill, the view in every direction was spectacular. We found what historians point to as the most remarkable feature left at Fort Dunadd, the footprint. Though it is not striking in appearance (it simply looks like someone walked where concrete was being poured), there is significant written and oral evidence that it is some type of ancient monarchal ritual. Surrounding Clan Chiefs would bring soil from their homeland, sprinkle it into the footprint, then step on it to signify loyalty to the High King of Scots. Of course, we did it. Our little guy is loyal, after all.

It was a fun day, and we made it back to the car just before the clouds burst!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Scotland Story: Kilmartin

We continued exploring Kilmartin Glen. It was such a beautiful place was interesting to think about the ancient people who made it their home.

These are the mysterious  rock markers, placed in a perfect circle to reflect the sun at certain points in the year.

And looking back from the henges was Kilmartin Church and cemetary, which we had just visted.

We hopped back in the car and drove a short distance to Kilmartin Castle, built in the 16th century and occupied by Clan Campbell.

This castle was far more intact than the one we had seen the day before. Here's Big Ben peeking through a lookout hole, or maybe a place through which they could shoot arrows?

The inside was so well preserved and immense!

If you can see the top window in this picture....

....this is that same window close up.

The ancient gate entrance remained, so I sent the Campbells to stand under it! I wonder if the Clan knew their ancestors would be visiting their castles 500 years later. They probably thought we'd still be occupying the fortresses!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Scotland Story: Churches and Henges

After we were pulled out of the ditch, we headed on to a place CC and I had come together on our anniversary trip. We loved it so much and wanted the kids to see it. It is called Kilmartin Glen and has a church, ancient graveyard, and a small museum. It sits amid ancient henges and cairns and mysterious cup and ring carvings in the stone, where early civilizations did...something. Marked the solstices? buried people? worshiped pagan gods? No one knows exactly, but somehow they have survived from around 400BC.

Kilmartin Church and graveyard was beautiful for me to see again. Sheep. Green. Crosses.

It was pretty cold. The sky would suddenly empty all the rain clouds on us. And it was cold rain. We popped in for a spot of tea at the museum.

I absolutely had to take this picture. Yes, soft verges indeed. Soft enough that it can nearly flip a car.

CC wanted to really nail down the henge spots and cairns and let the kids see them. They are just out in the middle of farming fields, unprotected. We read that when the cairns were discovered, the bodies inside (that were buried so long ago) had turned to a cheese consistency. I am fairly certain that little fact will never be removed from my mind, even in my old age.

Bleh. Some of the kids even crawled inside. Cheese.

As interesting as the henges and cairns were, we could not get enough of the sheep. We left CC to study the ancient history and made our way to the lambs.

We just couldn't get enough of them. So wooly and oblivious to the rain. Big flat heads and yellow eyes. It was so much fun!!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Scotland Story: In the Ditch

We woke the next morning and came down for the full Scottish breakfast with full expectations about the fun we would have in the coming day.

I'd say the Scots like their protein.

Before getting on the road, I took these pictures of Miss Middler by the Inveraray dock.

The towns had Christmas lights all throughout. It was beautiful to see white snow, brown mountains, blue water, and green grass all right in front of us.

We started down the road and spotted a brown historical marker, so we turned down the road "just to see" what might be down there. The road was full of potholes. CC dodged one big pothole, but we soon discovered what looked like a gravel shoulder was in reality a deep ditch full of running water and covered by moss and tall grasses. (We had an arrangement, he and I, that I was free to say, "Remember far lane." each time he turned. I could also say, "You are close to the side." as he was driving. Because he was driving on the other side of the road, the reminders were welcome and not considered backseat driving.) Just as I was saying, "You are getting close..." down the car went.

His first reaction was to feel terrible. I said, "It's ok. It's not the end of the world. Let's pray. God will show us what to do." He got out to look, and the kids and I prayed. And though it may not look steep, inside the car felt that it truly could tip if we shifted too far. So, we all climbed out. And though it may not look like that was hard to do, it was.

Our first thought was to find the numbers for the car rental company and call. But then in my head popped an image of a sign I've seen that says, "Eat Local!" and I said, "No, wait. Let's get local help. I feel like it's going to cost us a lot less and be a lot quicker if we can just get one of these kind policemen to help us." Scotland, was, after all, just very friendly. For example, the speed limit sign in the town we had just driven through said, "Twenty's plenty." At one point, it began to downpour rain. We climbed back in the car, with me being on the side closest to the ditch. And after about 30 seconds, I said, "Nope. Rain's not going to kill us. Get out. This isn't safe." So we climbed back out and shivered against the rain. CC hiked to the end of the street, where he asked someone to call the police for us. Soon, the kindest policeman you could ever meet showed up.

He told us we were in luck. At the other end of that street was a business with massive trucks and road equipment. Several of the workers came by to help, console, and just be friendly and kind to us. They wanted to tell us about how they were celebrating Christmas and about the fund-raiser they had just done for local kids. They wanted to know how we like Scotland. They wanted to know how it was driving on the other side of the road in their country!

After a couple of attempts with a van, a young guy pulled up with this beast. The car was pulled out in about 10 seconds. All the guys, including the policeman, looked up under the car, confirmed there was no damage whatsoever. They said, "Just run it through a good carwash. No need to report it to the rental company. The car looks great." We were just overwhelmed by their kindness. CC wanted to give them all a gift to have a good hot lunch on us, but they absolutely refused. They just wanted to help. We wished them well, and off we went.

I snapped one last shot before we drove off. This is what looked to be a muddy shoulder, but was in reality a drop off.

And so we made a memory. And we made some friends.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Scotland Story: Swooned by Sween

We decided to try to find a castle that was not really that far from where we were staying, but we just didn't have time on our anniversary trip to get there. Castle Sween, on Loch Sween, is on the far western coast of the Argyll region. We drove along the beautiful coastline, into hairpin curves, and past Scottish farms. We were on a completely back road for such a long time. It was a one way road that had a shoulder every so often, where cars could just pull off and yield to the oncoming. It was a good system, because the Scots are polite.

It began raining, and the water of the loch started kicking up. We saw sheep and tractors. The rain didn't seem to affect them much. When we reached our destination, there was a sign that castle parking was outside the gate, and castle visitors needed to walk in. We tried very hard to obey all laws, even coming from Turkey!

We began walking in when Big Ben announced, "Look! A deer!" Assuming he meant some sort of statue, I glanced around. A real deer! Multiple deer. Right across the street from us. Tame and not running away. We wondered what kind of place it would be!

By the time we got to the end of the long path, we found an enormous pre-fab housing factory and their show grounds. The light rain was turning into a downpour, so we ducked into the pre-fab office to see if the gentleman could help us find the entrance office for the castle. He was friendly and joked with us a bit about being out in this weather. He told us in his thickest brogue to just go in. There was no fee. No ticket needed.

So, we ducked out and ran through the marshy land to this beautiful hulk of a structure. It was set high up on a hill and overlooking the loch. We had to get a running start to get up to it. CC was yelling against the rain and wind, with all his might, "The Campbells are coming....!"

And he was yelling that, right about here...

The pictures don't do this place justice. But of all the castles we saw, it felt very "other-worldly." Very...Narnian. I think it had something to do with the friendly deer, the lashing rain, and the heavy gusts of wind, which were literally blowing us from spot to spot and taking our words from our mouths.

It was fascinating and beautiful to see which walls remained and which crumbled, to see how the structure had both survived and eroded.

And this view. Can you imagine looking out to this each day?

This one and I hid from the wind in this inner walkway.

By the time we left, it was an all out downpour. CC stuck us under a tiny awning in a cafe that was closed for winter, then began to run down the long path back to the car. He picked us up. We were soaked, but grinning. What a fun memory!

We came back to our hotel, dried off, warmed up, and headed out for dinner. There are only a few places to eat in town, and CC wanted us to try "The George," established before America won its independence! It was a pub he ate in so long ago as a 20-year-old college student. Inside we found big roaring fires around us, colorful sprinkling lights above us, and delicious hearty plates of food in front of us. I wanted to try everything on the menu eventually, but I couldn't resist their fish-and-chips.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Scotland Story: Jailbreak!

After our hike, CC said he wanted us to go see the Inveraray Jail, famous for being the actual building which opened in 1820 and still held court until the 1950's. We had not gone to this on our first trip to Inveraray, knowing we would take the kids later. It's history! It's law! It's going to be interesting!

We were set up with headphones and began our tour. Within the walk up one flight of stairs and the turn into the first room, we started doubting our decision. The museum tour began with graphic drawings of punishments and actual torture devices. Cue the scary music on the headphones, and you've got a few uncertain CampbellClanKids and one adult. I've since gone back and read the reviews, and some folks say, "Bring the kids! Mine loved it! Had quite the adventure!" complete with kids having a ball with the actual implements in the prison. So, I'm just wondering when I see the photos of their children grinning and playing with the torture devices, what's different about my kids that they didn't have this experience at all?

They live a sheltered life, I'll admit that. We don't feel like we need to expose them to the every aspect of the world to equip them to live godly lives. But we have never prevented them from seeing or discussing real life either. They don't live sanitized lives here. They've seen people who are clearly being trafficked for sex. They see people on the streets here daily in horrific physical conditions. They've seen real 7-year-olds (the age of the youngest occupant of the prison) begging for food barefoot in the winter.  So, they've seen harsh realities of life. Why did it affect them (all 5!) so strongly? I've thought of this several times since and wondered. The only conclusion I can come to, is that, as they made their way through the museum, it wasn't really funny or even fun in the slightest because they kept thinking of the people who were incarcerated there. I guess they all just took it very seriously. It wasn't so long ago that high schools took field trips to prisons as a deterrent to crime. Not a bad idea!

This is not a political statement in the slightest that I am against prisons. I'm for them. I'm for the death penalty when it is deserved (I believe it is scriptural.) But each person who spent time in this place was an individual on the wrong course in life. And somehow, we all just kept thinking about that. I decided not to take many pictures. But we did finish the tour. And for any room that my two youngest didn't want to venture in, we passed by. I also felt that it revealed a very strong moral code in the Scottish culture. They didn't tolerate crime. And hence, they have a moral code that has lasted (longer than ours in the US). In later years after some reforms, the prison provided literacy courses and teaching from the Bible.

This was the actual court room with wax figures. You could sit among the figures. I did that. Even knowing a wax lady was behind me, I turned once to speak to my daughter and saw a lady and nearly fell off the jurors' bench!

This was one of the prison cells with a hammock as a bed. These photos were the only ones I took. Trust me, there was all kinds of stuff in there. One room was for mentally insane prisoners. When you peeked in, you could see the wax figure and hear the recording of his ranting! If you are curious beyond my post, you can look online. I'm not going to say, "Don't visit." It was memorable. It just provided for me a look at the hearts of my kids. They took it very seriously, and thought much of how hard life was for many people. They left there counting their blessings!

We did manage one photo op! This was at the end, while we were waiting for CC, who read every plaque and bio of every famous prisoner ever there.

This one needs a bit more time in lockup!

How could she be guilty of anything?

We got back on the road to see more beauty!

Loch Fyne!

The sun set so early! Firstborn hopped out to take these last two before it went down.

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