Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Scotland Story: Glencoe I

Our next big adventure was Glencoe! I was so excited to show this to the kids, as it was one of my favorites.

The roads all wound through the lochs and mountains, so there was always beauty out the window as we drove.

We made a quick stop at Stalker Castle and to run in to the gift shop up on top of the hill above it for bathroom and warm up break. Alas, it was closed. We had to find a path for our needs!

Driving further north (it's almost the furthest north I've been in my life, except Stockholm, Sweden), we came into Glencoe. The pictures just don't do it justice, but suddenly the normally chatty car grew quiet. The kids were in awe as turn after turn took us to new views of God's beautiful creation. A deep valley between giant hulking mountains on either side, dusted with snow, with green grass at the was breathtaking.

This is when we got into the heart of Glencoe.

We stopped for a quick run through the Glen. It was cold and wet, but so fun. Here the Singapore girls stand in front of "Three Sisters Mountains."

I have more pictures of Glencoe to share tomorrow. Right after I get those research papers graded!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Scotland Story: Plaids, Kilchurn, Oban, and Dunstaffnage

We came back and had a good night's sleep and were ready to find new adventures the next day. We had to wait for the sun to come up to get started! This picture of the kids was taken in beautiful Inveraray.

The kids and I visited the shops in our little town. I was so happy to find this beautiful woollen shawl for my mom. She had reminded me after our first trip to Scotland that her grandmother was Lizzie Leigh Scot and that I am also of Scottish descent. I snapped this quick picture so I could show CC what I bought, as the clerk offered to mail the package for me to the US. I just gave her postage money. It was later when I got back to our hotel that I looked up the plaid. It was one of the plaids of the Scot Clan! Perfect! And warm, and soft.

This castle was Kilchurn. We hopped out for a quick picture. Big Ben might have been a little cold.

We were overcome by the beauty surrounding us!

As we drove, we passed multiple waterfalls, some moving and some frozen.

Our next stop was the town of Oban, a beautiful coastal town surrounded by mountains.

This castle, called Dunstaffnage, also occupied by Campbells, shows more than any we saw the use of natural formations to build a fortress. It was massive and solid!

We visited the family chapel and graveyard near the castle. As the story goes, a young man was set to be married, but was fatally wounded that very morning. He somehow managed to get to the chapel and marry the lass before he passed. Big Ben really wanted a picture in front of the skull and crossbones.

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.

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