Daughter Karen and I had
had a longstanding dream of visiting Scotland. Finally I was not willing
to wait any longer and so I surfed the net for a castle in Scotland.
‘Smoking/yes’ was my most important search criterion. I booked myself into
Borthwick Castle in Midlothian for the early part of August as a birthday
present to myself. Little did I know that it would be Festival time so I
could only get 3 nights even though I booked in January!
After I appealed to my
son-in-law and small grandsons to let her go, Karen got into the spirit of
things and we started planning!
Karen and I are British
History buffs (in the extreme according to some in our family) and we made
a list of ‘must see’s". Among them:
A major Medieval English
or Welsh Border castle.
Roman ruins – anywhere
Dunderave Castle on Loch
Fyne – you may remember that my Scots/MacNaughton ancestors held that
stronghold for several centuries.
We did not want a
packaged deal nor did we want to be on someone else’s schedule. On the
other hand, we did not want to waste our precious trip time wandering
about searching for lodging after a day’s exploring. Karen found the
perfect solution when she surfed the net and located Paul and Pauline
Hulme of Homemade Holidays
www.Homemade-Holidays.com. Paul planned our trip to cover all our
‘must see’s’ and sent very detailed maps so that we could pore over them
beforehand. (Not that it made much sense to us at that point)! Excepting
Borthwick, Paul arranged all our lodgings. He also played host for dinner
after our first evening, which happened to be my birthday as well.
Following are the lodgings
that Paul arranged for us – all were excellent. My personal favorite was
Creggin’s Inn on Loch Fyne although Borthwick Castle, my own find, was
The Windsor Hotel, just
across from the Castle Park, was old and charming – just what we would
have chosen ourselves - and they were able to accommodate us for late
arrival sandwiches and conversation at the bar. After a good night’s sleep
and a slight adjustment to our internal clocks, we headed out to see
Windsor. Not the castle but the town. It was Sunday morning and we were
made welcome at the local parish church before we started out for the day.
The major castle requirement was met when we arrived at Warwick with the
help of Paul’s maps. Mighty Warwick has been made into a theme park of
sorts but it is well done. If not for the summer Sunday crowds…
had a 2-bedroom flat for us; Jack Russell pups to play with and wonderful
breakfast. Our host, Peter, explained that the construction in the back
field was a set going up for the remake of the Forsyte Saga. When that was
broadcast recently I kept looking for puppies or the lovely old farmhouse
in the outdoor shots!
http://www.celticcastles.com/castles/borthwic/index.html was next. I
had e-mailed ahead to inquire about any dress code there might be for the
evening meal in the Great Hall and were told that "casual smart" would do
just fine. Karen and I walked in, barely in time for dinner, dripping wet
and a bit muddy from our stop at Vindolanda and - bang – a Great Hall full
of men in dress kilts and women in what appeared at first glance to be
ball gowns. It was a wedding party AND the bride and groom were from
Cleveland Ohio, USA!!!
Borthwick Castle and the Great Hall
Note: Paul told us about
Vindolanda so we did get the Roman ruins we wanted…along Hadrian’s Wall.
We had three nights at
Borthwick and we saw the Scottish ‘must see’s’: the Honors of Scotland,
the Royal Mile and the Military Tattoo. I had secured those tickets seven
months in advance but our new friends/fellow guests at the castle were
able to pick up tickets on the spot, albeit at scalpers prices.
At this point we scrapped
our original itinerary in order to spend an extra day in Edinburgh. That
IS the beauty of independent travel. This extra day was far less touristy
and much more of architecture and history.
in Fintry; Alastair, the owner and cook fed us with recipes that I am
still trying to duplicate here in Boston. Topps is a working sheep farm
complete with friendly sheep dog though we were cautioned to mind the
rules pertaining to the foot and mouth disease. Note: the British signage
on things of this nature is wonderfully polite. The language reads
something like, "Please help prevent the spread of this disease in order
to help to maintain the livelihood of the farmers". Back in the States we
would get a stern warning stating the cost of the fine if one does not
Creggin’s Inn on Loch Fyne
was, surprisingly to me, a welcome relief in that we were not required to
mingle as in a B&B setting. But mingle we did anyway. Karen had a beer
with some local folks and asked directions to Dunderave (and learned the
correct pronunciation)! At dinner we met a couple on vacation from the
Netherlands. It was fun and gratifying that we could answer some basic
menu questions for them. I was beginning to feel as if I were really "at
One day I will scan and
send some pictures to go with this little travelogue but I had better send
this now or it will be another six months waiting. On our last morning
Karen, unbeknownst to me, took a lovely shot of Loch Fyne and caught me in
a very pensive pose. The fact is that my children would not have been
surprised if I had not used my return ticket.
I hope that ES can make use
of the suggestions for lodgings and the Homemade Holidays website.
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