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2006 Sas'y Trip to Scotland

Scottish American Society

Trip Diary - August 9th to Sept. 1st

For our photos of this momentous trip, click here.

August 9th – 10th

Departed the Akron Canton airport early in the morning on August 9th.  Arriving in Dublin Airport at approximately 9:00 am on the 10th  we noticed a great many folks standing around checking the overhead TV.  Himself was busily engaged in renting a car, so while I waited, I watched with the rest of the crowd.  Seems there was a terrorist plot against certain airlines. (United, American, and Continental – to name but three of a projected ten in number.) Flights originating in England and heading toward the USA had been targeted.  Terrorists had brought on board some form of chemical that would explode upon detonation.  Best guess, nitroglycerin and some form of acid – combined they would form a nasty explosion.  All on board the planes would have been killed.  There were apparently some 25 of these terrorists, 20 of them were caught immediately.  According to one source, they have been trailing these guys for months.  We don’t know about the five they didn’t catch, but all indications are they got the worst of them.

 

Himself is now worried about our little group.  How many will wish to cancel their plans?  I hope none will.

 

17 August 2006

 

Left Rhu, just outside Glasgow, fairly early.  It was too early actually to turn the car in – only a few short miles from the airport.  Headed down to Largs for a short visit.  I had wanted to return there but was very disappointed in the atmosphere. Last time we were there it was a sleepy little seaside town with a nice historic atmosphere.  There was an outstanding Viking exhibit which we couldn’t see that time because it was past closing.  This time we couldn’t even find it.  There were bouncy castles, loud (temporary) rides for the kiddies, carnival type food vendors and that wasn’t all.  We had lunch of a sort in a restaurant which didn’t look too bad, but when I went to use the loo I found that next to the restaurant was an indescribable place full of gambling machines and several bowling alleys with flashing, bouncing lights, even a giant TV screen hovering over the alleys.  Women were using the bathroom rapidly as if the necessity of using it was interfering with their gambling. 

 

The whole town seems given over to the kind of crass holiday maker one associates with Blackpool or Morecambe.  We won’t be returning there, I may well venture.

 

Around 12:30 we headed up the road for Glasgow and the airport.  Fairly easily found the hotel we were staying in – the Premier Travel Inn – probably could walk over to the airport tomorrow, but have booked the shuttle.  Himself returned the little car with no incident.  Really looking forward to everyone arriving tomorrow.  Hope their flight is safe and comfortable.  With all this terrorist stuff we will be much relieved when they’re here.

 

18 August 2006

Our stay at the Premier Travel Inn was brief and uneventful.  Breakfast was not included in the price of our stay and it sounded somewhat unappealing, so we skipped it and went straight to the airport. Had a decent cup of coffee there (Starbucks) with a muffin.  That was a fine breakfast. 

 

Met Alex Hood by Starbucks.  He’s a cheery sort.  Spent a lot of time standing around waiting for everyone and searching for the folks who were not crossing with the group. Tinches were there by the luggage carousel and introduced themselves.  (I was carrying a sign we had made with “Welcome Sas’y Group” or some such.  Kind of made it easy to spot me.) Eventually rounded up all but two.

 

The group arrived promptly at 10:30.  I tried to wait outside the doors, but was just too excited.  There didn’t seem to be anyone to stop me, so I went inside while they collected their stuff.  What a relief!  They are here safe and sound, if a bit fatigued from their journey.  They took their luggage to the bus where they sat to wait for the errant two.  Alex grew increasingly concerned that they might not make it.  Since they did know where we were staying the night, around 11:45 felt it was time to move on. We were booked at the restaurant at 1:00.  Alex called from the bus to change the time to 1:30, but as the drive will take us the better part of an hour that leaves little time for exploring Stirling Castle.  As it turned out, the two had slept in and missed us at the airport, attempted to catch up with us in Sterling, finally wound up on a bus and making their way to the hotel.  Needless to say, we were very relieved to see them later that night.  We had visions of terrorists, kidnappers, and all kinds of dire thoughts.

 

We toured around Stirling castle and had the lunch Alex had arranged for us at the Portcullis restaurant at the foot of the castle parking lot.  It was a lovely lunch of sandwiches and soup.  The group members were famished.  Aer Lingus had not given them any breakfast.  I should have toted some food for them. 

 

After the castle we all went over to Bannockburn where they saw the video and looked at the exhibit there.  An actor appeared during the presentation in full armour and explained his garb to them.  Nice touch. Rain came off and on during the day – mostly (unfortunately) “on” but everyone seemed in remarkably good humor and tolerated it well.  Everyone is now here and settled in Bewleys for the night.  We will meet them tomorrow at 10:00.  In the meantime I’m still struggling to figure out how to use the wireless aspect of the computer. 

 

19 August 2006

Super breakfast buffet here at the hotel.   Even had salmon!  Scottish salmon.  Just doesn’t get any better than that, really.  Himself did his best to get the troops organized for a tour of the city.  Nydah and Donna took off on their own, and Don & Joann went down to Kilmarnock to see Dean Castle, but the rest of us got on the hop on – hop off bus tour of the city. We went to Glasgow Cathedral, the smaller church across the street once the barony(?) and now part of Strathclyde University. Walked around the cathedral Kentigern (fondly known as St. Mungo – which apparently means “friend”) founded on an ancient worship site.  We even found our holy well inside, though it was not designated as such, it was open and sort of on display – not hidden and covered over in the corner as it once was.  We then went on the bus, enjoying a sort of quick overall view of the city, then went to the Willow Tea Room, designed by Charles Rennie MacIntosh and had cups of tea and sweeties.  Did a bit of shopping there and walked back to our hotel, which turned out to be very close at hand. 

 

Enjoyed supper at the hotel with Don & Joann.  I had chicken tika and Himself had fish & chips.  Gene & Betty were over at the bar side of the dining room, so we joined them after for a bit of a nightcap.  On the way back to the room Himself decided to see about ordering taxis for the morning, but the manager said the stands were very close and they would be here quickly so we might as well order them in the morning, which he decided would work better.  Tomorrow we begin the train portion of the journey.  I really look forward to that!

 

20 August 2006

 

A wonderful journey via train to Fort William where we spent the night in a Premier Travel Inn – perfectly fine accommodations.  The weather is still cooperating and beautiful beyond our hopes, much less our expectations.  I finally got a clear and generous view of the top of Ben Nevis!  Margaret Oppihle asked me if I had ever before seen such lovely weather in the Fort William area.  I have to say that I have not, and neither has she.  It is quite amazing.  The scenery was so very beautiful.  I think we are all quite awe stricken.

 

Had dinner in the Ben Nevis restaurant – which is where we have eaten before.  (Yes, Jim, it is.)  Cheryl Rankin and Margaret Opphile joined us, Gene & Betty and Don & Joann.  I like the place because it is loaded with atmosphere and has a lovely view of the loch.  The place across the street, where the “Highland Show” took place, burned down earlier this month.  Fortunately.  Those shows are dreadful.  Took a stroll along the shore of Loch Linnhe after our meal.  Worked off a bit of that delicious dinner.  Himself had Caesar salad and tomato (based) soup, I had salmon and side salad.

 

21 August 2006

 

Breakfast at the hotel was excellent despite the “Nazi” waitress who insisted on seating us and firmly insisted on our being seated at her designated spot.  It was fine, though, and we enjoyed laughing about it. 

 

The Jacobite Steam Train was puffing black sooty smoke as we approached the station.  We got some nice photos of it.  Even noticed a bit of white heather tucked behind the headlamp.  Don Mellen and Jim managed to get our luggage stowed overhead.  There really wasn’t a whole lot of space for it, but Don shuffled things around so that it was all tucked nicely away. The train trip was everything I always dreamed it would be.  The weather still held (did apparently rain last night, though) and the scenery was magic.  There was a slight landslide along the way which made our layover at the Glenfinnan station a bit longer than normal, but we arrived in Mallaig within a comfortable distance of time.  We did wonder if landslides occur on a regular basis.  Certainly benefited the gift shop.

 

Mallaig was absolutely bustling with tourists.  A direct contrast to the last time we visited here.  Our hotel was a right turn from the train station and then a rather extensive trek uphill.  It had to be quite a sight for townspeople – fourteen folks, many of them senior citizens, dragging their suitcases uphill.  But we made it – with a few pauses.  What a game bunch we are.

 

We discovered in Mallaig that you do not call out the name “Margaret” in Scotland.  For one thing, there are three “Margarets” in our party.  That’s confusion enough.  But walking down the hill toward the harbor, someone called out “Margaret” and several women stopped and looked.  One dear sweet soul – probably approaching 90 years young- is most likely still wondering how these strange Americans knew her name.

 

The West Highland Hotel is our home for the night and it is a really nice old Victorian Era (at least) hotel which has been thoroughly updated, still retaining all its charm.  We all had a really nice dinner- I had peppered mackerel, salmon, veg, and rhubarb crumble with (unsweet) custard.  Afterwards we adjourned to the Residents Lounge where we had tea and coffee and chatted a bit.  Jim and I snuck out for a quick walk to get rid of a few of those calories from the meal.  The harbor is breathtakingly lovely at night.  There are two ferries in port awaiting transport in the morning.

 

22 August 2006

 

Off fairly early in the morning.  Breakfast was lovely and included porridge!  We assembled in the hall with our luggage and the suitcases were taken down to the dock for us by the hotel owner.  Then at the dock they put them on a van which merely rolled off when we got to Skye.  Our Skye bus was waiting for us and our luggage was loaded on it then we were off for a short stay at Armadale Gardens and the Clan Donald Center, then away to Eileen Donan and a short stay there seeing the home of the Clan MacRae before heading back to Skye for the night.

 

The weather once more cooperated and we had fine views of the Black Cullins (volcanic) and the Red Cullins (sandstone) south of them.  The scenery was beautiful.  Carl and Elizabeth Tinch, Margaret Patterson, and Ginny Black are all related.  Hope they are enjoying a nice family visit!

 

We are staying at the charming Atholl House Hotel.  It’s another old one, but all updated nicely.  Much more interesting than a Holiday Inn.  Had a few drinks in the bar before dinner and enjoyed our meal in the dining room a lot.  Had a lot of laughs over dinner.  I had rack of lamb and Himself had tomatoes stuffed with cous-cous.  I got a wee sample of Gene’s “sticky toffee pudding” – lovely.  Himself expressed disapproval of my sampling Gene’s food.

 

23 August 2006

 

After a lovely breakfast – once more including porridge – we met our bus and driver, Alasdair MacRae.  He is a pleasant fellow, with a sweet smile and friendly manner.  Like most Scots, he has a quiet sense of humor.  You don’t always realize you are being kidded until your leg has been thoroughly pulled.  We headed over to Dunvegan Castle – home of the Clan MacLeod.  It was interesting but I suspect those that saw the gardens instead of the castle were better rewarded.  However, I finally did get to see the fairy flag!  And yes, those teeny tiny stitches would indicate possible otherworldly hands.

 

From Dunvegan we drove around the island north to Uig and from there on further north to the top of Skye.  We actually saw the mountains on Harris – it was that clear today.  Then on to the Museum of Island Life and Flora MacDonald’s grave.  Had a nice lunch at the Columba center – a place for interesting experiences for many people, then off to see the view from Brogaig/Quairaine which was breathtaking and absolutely astounding.  I cannot imagine how Alastair managed to steer our bus up that twisting, hairpin curved drive, but he did, and we are all so glad he did it.  (And so glad we did not wind up a rusting heap at the bottom of the mountain.)  Down again we passed the sheepdog training center where he convinced us the sheep are so clever and know what moves to make that they most likely are the trainers of the dogs and not the humans who say they are. 

 

Further along we stopped for a photo op at Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls, which afforded good views of the islands of Rona and Raasay.  We passed the Old Man of Storr (stopping to take a few quick photos) before ending the day – the wonderful day – at Portree where Himself purchased a couple of much needed shirts.

 

After Alastair dropped us off at our hotel we changed a few of our clothes and most of us went down to the Dunvegan Hotel for supper. 

 

24th August 2006

 

I cannot get over the beautiful weather.  Once again we were favored with incredible views of Skye and the general west coast scenery.  We caught the train in Kyle of Lochalsh and carried on for 45 minutes, at Alastair’s direction.  We got off at Strathcarron, had passed by Plockton (Hamish MacBeth filmed here), and enjoyed snacks on the train that we purchased at Kyle from the local Spar grocery store.  Pleasant.  The bus route pretty much followed the train route from there on and it is a tad more comfortable on the bus.  Alastair is so helpful and cooperative about stopping when and where we feel we’d like to stop.  He stopped so Ginny Black could get photos of heather, took us for lunch at the Scotland center in Beauly, then back to Dingwall and Tulloch so Betty could see the Davidson Castle (now a hotel).  Actually everyone enjoyed seeing the place. 

 

We took the group over to Culloden and thought we were arriving at closing time which we thought was 5:00 - turned out it closed at 6:00 and everyone who wanted to was able to get into the audio visual presentation, do a little shopping and looking at the exhibits.  Himself and I hit the book shop and purchased some books, then trotted around the battlefield.

 

Alasdair took us on a whirlwind tour of Inverness, then to our hotel- a Premier Travel Inn, quite nice – located in a converted old distillery.  Totally not evident.  The group had dinner in the dining room.  Nydah and Donna have decided not to progress with us tomorrow, but are staying in Inverness for the day and rejoining the group in Perth. 

 

25th August 2006

We had a very busy, but interesting day today.  We took the group to Kingussie to the Grant Museum and then to Newtonmore to the outdoor museum there.  It is always interesting to see what emerges each time we visit.  We got our day tags and gave the group members approximately 3 hours total to explore each.  Could have used more, but hopefully they will be so enamoured of their visit here that they will return on their own.  People always think that our ancestors lived in castles.  Newtonmore demonstrates how they really lived.  After our visit we had a quick lunch in Pitlochry and then headed up to the Edradour distillery.  We did stop along the way for a photo stop at Blair Castle.  There was a good spot near the motorway and I bet they really got some neat shots.  Edradour is a good distillery to tour with a small group.  It’s small (the smallest in Scotland) compact, easy to walk around, and very hospitable. 

 

We did hunt for the church Himself wanted them to visit in Perth (John Knox preached there), but he did not have the address handy and guess work simply did not produce the results he wished.  We did, however, find our hotel and quickly dumped our luggage in our room (and Nydah and Donna’s in theirs) and went down to supper at the hotel.  Alasdair joined us at the Hungry something or other.  I had chicken tika and Himself had haddock and spinach bake. The beer was tasting very good.

 

26th August 2006

 

Up at the usual time and departed the hotel in Perth around 9:30.  Alasdair had picked up a tag with “Saturday” on it at Newtonmore and was wearing it.  He said he thought we might need to be reminded what day it was.  Took a very swift look at the church Jim wanted to see (this time we had the directions) and another equally quick photo stop at Scone Palace.  Then off to Roslyn Chapel which was not as bad as I had feared it would be after being featured in the DaVinci Code movie.  There were quite a few people, though.  Still, it does raise money for restoration and that is much needed.  Other than all the people, it was as fascinating as ever.  But I really did like it better when it was only the two of us wandering around.  We checked into our hotel (Jury’s Inn, Edinburgh) and went to an Italian restaurant not far from our hotel for dinner.  I had something Italian (naturally) and so did Himself (it was an Italian Bistro) but nothing memorable.  Then later in the evening – about 9:00 – we headed up to the castle for the Tattoo.  It was absolutely wonderful.  Despite being a bit chilly in the stands, it was a fabulous show and every second was enjoyable.  Spectacular.  We all walked back to our hotel positively glowing.

 

27th August 2006

 

It would have been a lovely day if we could have enjoyed it more.  Unfortunately there was the laundry.  I would so much more have enjoyed running around the city looking at museums and the like as the rest got to do.  But it was after 3:00 by the time we got done.  We did a short stop at the National Museum and the Audubon exhibit at the library. We got back to our hotel and snuck in a few minutes relaxation, then went out to eat with the Mellens and the Marcus’s at a nearby pub.

 

28 August 2006

 

Took part of the group up to St. Andrews for the day.   It was a nice trip for them, I believe.  Visited the exhibit over by the shore at St. Andrews, then the cemetery and tower, which none of us was interested in climbing. 

 

Back in Edinburgh, we had a good supper at a small restaurant over a pub on Rose Street, with the Mellens.  Afterwards we walked down the “street” (really an alley) and occasionally caught wee chords and strains of the traditional music.  We’d have had to go in and have a beer in order to listen to more and I think we were all too full.  Walked back to the hotel along Princes Street noting as we did so that there are some cheap souvenir shops (never, ever saw them before in that area) and purchased some junk souvenirs.  Edinburgh looks very pretty all done up in lights after dark. 

 

29 August 2006

 

Drove to Pitlochry via Dundee and Scott’s ship “Discovery” where we had a scone & coffee at the museum. Then went on to Glamis Castle, ending at our destination in Pitlochry.  Got in kind of late, so will hopefully get Alasdair to agree to a later departure tomorrow.  Our rooms here in the Atholl Villa are a tad strange, but adequate.  The landlady/hostess was very charming and even provided wash rags – unusual for Scotland.  The railroad which runs through the night, also runs right behind the hotel. We had a dinner – Indian – spicy and delicious.  The restaurant was close to the Villa. I had Balti chicken sweet & sour, himself had a curry.  Gene & Betty, Don & Joann joined us.  I think all but Betty enjoyed it or at least thought it was edible and different.  (I don’t think she did, but she was too polite to say so.)  The five of us walked through town and back again, then joined the others in the “residents lounge” here at the hotel.  Himself brought out the two bottles of wine we purchased at Odd Bins.  We shared with everyone and I think they kind of liked it – if not maybe they enjoyed the company at least.

 

30 August 2006

 

The “Heathergems” factory and shop was virtually right across the street from our digs.  Many of us scooted over there to shop before we left Pitlochry.  We teased both the other Margarets about all their purchases.  Didn’t do too badly myself.  Maybe it’s a “Margaret” thing?

 

First we went South to catch the A824 over to Killin via Aberfeldy, next to Loch Tay.  We pointed out the real crannog on Loch Tay, pointed out Ben Lawers (and the horn carver’s shop) and stopped at the Falls of Dochart for a potty break and for views/photos of the river as it spills over the rocks.  Then over to the A82 north through Strath Fillan and up to Tyndrum for lunch.  Not memorable, but filling. 

 

Then off to Glen Coe and a short stop at the visitor center there. Alasdair drove us around through the mountains to enjoy the scenery – which we jolly well did – and then to Oban where we sorted out our digs for the night.  We are staying at the Glenrigh Guest House – at least most of us are – Nydah and Donna are just down the street at another similar guest house.  We all trekked down into town to “Mondo’s” for dinner.  It was a good meal, but the place sure lacked ambience.  Still it had the most amazing space-age blue and stainless steel bathrooms I have ever seen.  They were quite startling.  Hope everyone is comfortable in their rooms.

 

31 August 2006

 

Last day in Scotland for our little group.  We wandered around Oban for awhile.  Himself and I enjoyed a salmon sandwich on the pier (we had looked forward to that) for lunch.  Don, Joann, Betty & Gene went to the Oban distillery for a tour and a wee dram, which they enjoyed.  Well, Don & Gene did anyhow.  The ladies generously donated their samples to their husbands.

 

Due to the slightly inclement weather, Alasdair suggested that it might be best to get underway toward Glasgow a little earlier than the projected departure time of 3:00.  The group pretty much agreed, and a time of 1:00 was set as the time to leave.  The rain was kind of an off and on again thing, so we managed to enjoy a lot of shopping and harbor watching. By the time everyone had gathered at the bus it was almost 2:00.  We then went over to Loch Lomond via Inverary and Rest and Be Thankful with a comfort stop along the way.  We stopped again at Luss (on Loch Lomond) and lots of photos were snapped. 

 

Himself had a small scare when we reached the Premier Travel Inn where the group was booked for the night.  They said they had no rooms booked and could only accommodate us with four rooms.  It turned out to be a mistake on the part of the clerks and was soon sorted out. 

 

Once we had been deposited in the lobby with our luggage (and rooms were assured) Alasdair said good bye to all of us and headed off back to Skye.  He planned to go as far as Ft. William for the night.  Naturally he could easily have made it to Skye, but it would have been a violation of the rules for drivers. He’s been very kind and patient with all of us – going well above and beyond our requirements.  I think, though, that he misses his family and is anxious to get home.

 

We met for dinner that night in the dining room and enjoyed general fun and discussing what we liked best on the tour.  Nice evening, but we will sure miss them all.

 

1 September 2006

 

Many of us had breakfast at about the same time and said our “good byes” for the time being at least.  Gene will chair the Sas’y meeting on the 10th.  We will be home, but not in time. 

 

The group left for the airport and Himself followed them over there to rent a car for us.  We wandered about in the border area a bit and finally settled in Denholm, just outside Hawick.  Himself booked our room at the tourist information center where they did not know and had not been informed that our digs were up over a pub where they had planned about 100 people for a concert.  In the meantime a young laddie “entertained” us with a loud, obnoxious radio playing thumping rock music. 

 

Thoroughly annoyed, we wandered down the street a bit and discovered another B & B – much quieter, if not elegant.  But then the first one wasn’t either and 25 pounds each for the night for an attic room where neither of us could stand up straight, with a bathroom down several steps, and the concert – well, it just didn’t suit.  We trundled our luggage down the street.  The first place was called the “Auld Crossed Keys” and looked charming on the outside.  The second is called the “Fox and Hounds Inn” and is the typical old B & B with more charm on the inside.  As with the other place, the toilet facilities are shared, but we do not mind that.  It is only 20 pounds each the night. It’s a lot easier when someone else makes the sleeping arrangements. 

 

We went over to the Inn for dinner and I had lamb chops, potatoes & salad.  Himself had steak and ale pie, potatoes and salad.  It was all absolutely delicious.  I will miss the lamb and the potatoes.  Ours do not compare.  It’s 8:30 pm and the group is probably in the US now, either on their Air Tran flight home or waiting for it.  We miss them.  I keep looking for them everywhere.  It seems so quiet without them all.

 

 

 

These are my own observations and include part of the trip before and after the group portion of the journey.  Margaret Frost