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A Scottish Trip
Part 2

by Jim R. Walker and Heather R. Nicholson


Most of you have seen the now famous Nessie pics that we sent you via e-mail. It is only now, 6 months later that the British government has declassified the file now known as the 'Cannon' adventure pics for the general public to see. You won't, however see any of these pictures on TV or displayed anywhere besides our home because the British government believes that dissemination of information of such startling magnitude would be more than anyone could survive! Therefore, feel blessed that you, and you alone have been privileged to see the only actual authenticated photographs of the legendary Loch Ness Monster. Crankie that was quite an adventure.

While driving along Loch ness we saw Urquat castle. We were going to visit it until we found out the entrance fee was 15 pounds a head! SOMEONE was making an awful good living for themselves and the entire COUNTRY off that fee! So we passed on that and continued on back to Tain for some fish and chips.

Standing in a picturesque location on the shore of Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle consists of a 13th-century castle of enclosure with a curtain wall and gatehouse. The courtyard encloses ranges of buildings, including a hall and chapel, and has a 16th-century tower house at one end. The buildings are ruinous. The Picts had a fort here in the 6th century, which St Columba may have visited. The castle was held by the Durwards in the mid 13th century, but passed to the Comyns. It was taken in 1296 by the English, was retaken by the Scots, only to be recaptured by the English in 1303. In 1308 it was besieged again by the Scots, led by Robert the Bruce, and taken for the Scots. The castle held out for David II in 1333 against Edward Balliol and Edward III of England. It was captured in 1437 by the Earl of Ross; in 1515 by the MacDonalds; and in 1545 by the MacDonalds and Camerons. In 1644 the castle was sacked by Covenanters. The castle held out against the Jacobites in 1689, but was dismantled in 1691 when the gatehouse was destroyed with gunpowder. There have been many sightings of the Loch Ness Monster from near the castle - and there are two monster exhibition centers in nearby Drumnadrochit.

On the way we stopped at Moniack castle too late for a tour. We did buy some wine and jelly though and had a nice talk with some very friendly women in the little store there!

We sat in the back and I opened up some casement windows to get some fresh air into the room. This was probably the most 'American' looking building we had seen on the trip. A nice blond-haired woman waited on us with her teen daughter servicing the tables. Several locals came in and ordered while we waited for our food and listening to them talk was a pleasure!

Tuesday July 30th

Early morning we headed off to find a distillery to visit. We decided on Glenmoranghie Distillery just outside of Tain a bit. I took some awesome pics of a wooden fence that led down from the parking lot to the distillery. It was the quintessential example of what we expected a Scottish distillery to look like. Old buildings, casks lying around, old delivery trucks and immense cooking things inside the buildings.

Glenmorangie Distillery, city of Tain, Ross & Cromarty county, north-east Scotland.
Glenmorangie Distillery, city of Tain, Ross & Cromarty county, north-east Scotland.
A beautiful entrance to a fun, warm, welcoming experience for a great
introduction to one of the best Scotch's in the world! ( the best if you ask them  :-)  )

We had a short, bespeckled young lass as our tour guide and she knew her distillery well. She was a graduate of the local university and wanted to work at business somewhere. After the tour we went into the shop and I bought JR a shot glass, some for myself with the intention of teaching Art and Fabian the 'right' way to drink Scotch, even though I myself didn't know. Well little did we know that our little tour guide was going to 'show' us the right way. We tasted 10-year old scotch and I must admit it was a little harsh, but better than any scotch I had ever had in the USA. She brought out 18 year old Scotch ($40 pounds a bottle). Now THAT was good and smooth! You are supposed to add one half teaspoon of pure spring water to bring out the taste and aroma. The water releases 29 different aromas and the true flavor of the Scotch.

Glenmorangie distillery tour!
Learn everything you ever wanted to know about how the Scot's make
this most excellent beverage at the Glenmorangie distillery tour! 
AND get a first hand opportunity to taste 30 year old Scotch!

We shopped in Tain at a co-op and passed by the office of records a second time. Something kept telling me to go in there and ask about family information but I ignored the 'little voice'. We found out later that the town of Tain is where my GGG grandmother was from! Shoulda gone in!!!!!!!!!!!!!

While in Town, we stopped off in the Lloyds of London bank to buy coins for the jewelry boxes I am going to make for the kids.

We then drove to Donrobin Castle near Goldspie. But alas once again they were charging outrageous admission prices so we just looked at the lobby and left. Too bad, the armaments looked awesome!

Dunrobin, an elegant mansion designed like a fairytale castle, consists of an altered keep, which may date from the 1300s, and 17th-century courtyard mansion. The castle was remodeled and extended around 1780, between 1845and 1851 by Sir Charles Barry, and again in 1915-21 by Sir Robert Lorimer. The Sutherland family were created Earls of Sutherland in 1235, and had a castle here in the 13th century, and Dunrobin may be called after Robert or Robin, the 6th Earl. The property passed by marriage to the Gordons. Collections of furniture, paintings and memorabilia. Formal gardens. Museum. The upper floors of the castle are reputedly haunted by the specter of a daughter of the 14th Earl. She decided to elope with her lover but her father, who considered the man unsuitable for his daughter, found out, and had her imprisoned in one of the attic rooms. She tried to escape by climbing down a rope, from one of the upstairs windows, but her father surprised her, and she fell to her death. It is said that the one of the rooms she haunts has since been disused.

I saw some smoke near the castle so we drove down some backwoods roads trying to find it so we could help out if there was a fire. Turns out it was a controlled refuse fire and my firefighter skills were not needed. We also took the picks of the 'elderly people' warning signs.

Wednesday, July 31st

We left Carbisdale Castle in‚€¶.surprise ‚€¶‚€¶‚€¶.the rain! We drove into Elgin fruitlessly looking for a Biblical park. We went to Keith & visited the 'tartan Museum" a little hole in the wall that really doesn't do justice to the Scottish official 'Tartan' museum! We drove to the Abelour-on-Spey and visited the 'WALKER'S' shortbread factory. Imagine, an entire store with nothing but WALKER stuff! I bought cookies and bread and scarves and playing cards and all sorts of stuff for the kids! The Cherry loaf that was there was the best Heather and I have ever tasted! The women were really wonderful and the assortment of things available was wonderful to behold! Sadly enough, they wouldn't give me a discount even though my name was Walker!

Thursday August 1st

Athelstaneford is just a few miles from East Linton. We visited the exact, get that, 'exact' spot where the Scottish flag was revealed to some Scotsman after a prayer to God-  Well at least that's where we THINK is the actual location. It is behind the church of Athelstanesford. Heather and I took several pictures of the stained glass windows within the church and hoped to meet the pastor, a one Robert WALKER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  No luck , but it was nice because we were the only ones there. The church was rather small, and sectioned off inside with temporary partitions to make rooms for the services and classrooms. Behind the church was a converted Dovecott that had been made into a presentation center for the origin story of the Saltire flag. The door was made for midgets, oops, I mean people Heather's size and we had to practically bend over double to get in through the door. Not very friendly to our old or obese friends of the world.

Markle House
Typical of breakfasts at Scottish bed & Breakfasts. Immaculate rooms,
beautiful old antiques, awesome Scottish warmth and hospitality. Markle House

The presentation began as soon as we entered the small 14' X 14' building. Figures were thrown up on the wall and a sound track with music displayed fighting scenes from the battle before which the Scot's had seen the Cross of St. Andrew, which became the now-famous Saltire flag of Scotland!

We drove to Rosalyn Chapel and found the grounds surrounding the chapel quite interesting

Friday, August 2nd

Great breakfast at Tish's ( Ghilston House in Dalkeith)! We had to pry conversation out of the two German tourists, Lurch and Princess Lea. We drove to Minard castle near Inverary on Loch Fynne ( pronounced fine). Our room was on the second floor of this immense 'castle'. The furnishings were straight out of the Antiques Roadshow, beautiful and exquisite! Vaulted ceilings and dark woodwork covered the floors and walls along with old ( and very creepy ) looking paintings. The host looked like a miniature version of Alfred Hitchcock and his wife wasn't much friendlier. Propped the chair up against the door that night we did!!!!!!!

The Loch was visible from two corners of our room and was simply breathtaking. We went for a walk to see some horses and had a pleasant conversation with a plump blond woman who boarded her horse on the property. We decided to go swimming and suited up. The Loch, it turns out is actually part of the ocean and was probably every bit of 40 degrees. Heather, my stalwart Playboy bunny in her pink bikini showed terrific grace as she entered the water ALL THE WAY UP TO HER KNEES!!!!!!!  I can make fun of her, because I tore open my left arm and right calf falling down on the rocks while we were looking for this place to swim. We wore our tennis shoes in because, as you would expect in an ocean, there were barnacles and various sorts of sea creatures milling about. The water WAS rather cold which stole my breath away the few times I ducked under the water. The stunning scenery was well worth the wonderful feeling of saltwater entering the massive scrapes on my arm and leg! 4 near naked Swiss tourists sat and the hillside near our swimming hole and found our antics to be quite amusing. I verbally introduced them to American-abroad verbal hospitality and they decided to leave. How thoughtful of them to come here all the way from Switzerland and leave the seaside just to us!

We drove along the Loch and had dinner at "Loch _________" 'something' hotel 5 miles north of Minard castle. Dinner was fabulous, the beer STRONG. The place was run by a man and his blond wife. She was very attentive, but the food arrived a little slow. We drove back to Minard castle and sat by the sea on a bench until at about 8:15 when the ever-wonderful Scottish buglife  drove us inside. Our room had the endearing odor of decaying sea vegetation until I realized and removed our reeking tennis shoes that we had sat upon the windowsills to air out. We ended up donating our shoes to the Scottish sanitation department at the end of our trip. We then walked through the castle garden and made mad passionate ouch!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ouch!.alright, we just enjoyed the beautiful flowers and certainly were NOT overcome with passion amongst the aroma of the Heather flowers and blooms from all over the world displayed there. ( Now was THAT all right to say DEAR!)

Saturday, August 3rd.

Heather Nicholson and Jim Walker with Loch Fynne in the background
Heather Nicholson and Jim Walker with Loch Fynne in the background

The morning started with an absolutely breathtaking view of Loch Fynne from our second story bedroom. The water was like glass and the hills across the lock reflecting upon the deep azure sea was highlighted by the occasional sea bird that floated in and out of our view. A cool mist covered parts of the water and made the view look like a 6 figure oil painting. Horses grazed below and one could get easily lost in simply drinking in both the fresh sea air and the beautiful countryside.

We drove to Inverary castle ($5.25 Lbs. each) and viewed the castle. I was excited about finding the ancestral home of the Campbell's for Janet Stewart back home. ( Unfortunately, upon arrival back in the states Janet informed me that the Campbell's were their sworn enemies and I now have some nice Campbell gifts if anyone wants them).

View from second story window at Minard castle - of Loch Fynne

Across from the castle is a small mountain that had a small, square building on top. It was obviously old and made of masonry stones. An attendant at the door said that the small building was called the 'Duke's Folly" and he just made it up on this mountain to fool people. It was built, she said, to look like a ruin. (Personally, I don't think they know the answer). Heather and I decided to climb ( hike) up to the building to get some exercise and an better view of the surrounding area. I asked the attendant about degree of difficulty and travel time and she said it was a moderate to easy hike and should only take an hour. I should have paid more attention to the snickering that we heard coming from the attendants as we headed of for our 'leisurely' hike.

We crossed some beautiful grass fields and began our ascent. The road / path we followed was muddy and several small rivulets of clean Scottish water traversed the path in several spots. A beautiful green moss blanketed the forest floor in many parts of the trail. The heavily forested mountain was beautiful to behold. We passed a few abandoned stone building remnants that had a few walls remaining and were completely surrounded and inundated with plant growth, mostly tall green grasses.

Approximately 100 yards from the top, we ran into a bog that was almost impossible to cross without getting our feet absolutely soaked. Several false tries at different paths finally brought us a way to breach the morass of rivulets, weeds, and mucky areas. The top brought relief and a chance to catch our breaths, as the leisurely stroll as it was deemed was actually a very strenuous hike.

The view is spectacular. You can see along Loch Fynne for miles, and the castle looks like a small hovel from this vantage point. The building is about 20' X 20' square and is every bit as old as it looks from the  castle below. It was empty inside, and the widows afforded a view of 3 sides of the valley. I believe that it was actually made as a lookout because it was the highest point for quite some distance and you could see in all directions from here. We met 2 woman from Belgium, Nele and Charlotte. Both were very friendly and took some pictures of Heather and I for us. We had a pleasant conversation with them and headed back down the mountain. By the time we reached the bottom we had mud splashed half way up our calves and had definitely worked off our lunch!

We headed into the nearby town of Inverary, bought some momentoes for the kids and grandkids. We ate at a small restaurant that was every bit as romantic as you would imagine from a small, family-run shop on a sidestreet. There was a Woolen Mill there that we picked up several things. I bought some Scottish flag beach towels, mugs for the kids, and several other items.

Sunday, August 4th

Minard castle grounds and Loch Fyne
Minard castle grounds and Loch Fyne

Breakfast at 8:30 at Minard's castle was ok. This was the first time they did not ask us what we wanted. It was served by an older lady that looked like the mother of the man who met us at the door. We had a nice conversation with couples from Australia and England. There were actually 3 couples in the dining room, but the men simply wouldn't talk. We had nice chats with the ladies, though Heather and I had to generate the conversation most of the time.

Minard castle. Unparalleled views!
Minard castle. Unparalleled views!

Driving away from Loch Fynne we stopped and took pictures of Loch Lomond. I went wading in the Loch and wanted to go swimming, but the air was a bit cool that afternoon. We stopped and took pictures of Highland cattle, their long hair reminiscent of the hairstyles in the 60's. I have never seen cattle that you could make 24 inch braids in their hair if you wanted to. We also stopped at a small waterfall along the side of the road and took pictures. We arrived back at Tish Alderson's off Esbank Road in Dalkeith and started a 1 week stay in the 'self catering' flat beside her house. It had a miniature washer and dryer and a miniscule kitchen. The bedroom was upstairs and had a sizable bed with a nice view out a small window looking down on her beautiful yard.

Imagine waking up to THIS every morning!
Imagine waking up to THIS every morning!

Monday, August 5

Got my glasses fixed in Dalkeith and sent some post cards. At 2:00 I started some research in the Haddington library. At around 5 we got Chinese takeout and parked at a castle ruin parking lot overlooking the nearby ocean. The food was so bad, and our car so small, that we had to leave 3/4's of our dinner in the bushes. It was the most horrible dinner I have ever eaten. You could burn a lamp for a year with all the grease and oil that came off the food!

Tuesday, August 6

We drove a few hours to St. Andrews's gold course. It was beautiful. I wished JR, Cassandra, and my Dad and Mom could see this! There were about 3 courses all around one another. I could not play because I did not have a handicap rating, and it would have been boring for Heather. We visited 3 golf shops, the driving range, and went and visited the old course, said to be the oldest in the world?

That evening at 9:00 PM we went to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo and sat on bleacher seats in the rain. The Edinburgh castle, lit up at night as a backdrop for the performers was inspiring. I was a little surprised that the performers generally only stayed on the field for a few minutes each. Bagpipe music was inspiring, as was the dancing, the military exhibitions, and the people themselves.

Wednesday, August 7

We took the bus into Edinburgh and visited Hollyrood Palace, sometime home each year to the queen of England. We saw where Mary Queen of Scots slept. The grounds around the palace were beautiful. The entire country is just so green and lush. We walked through a decaying abbey attached to the Palace that had many prominent historical figures buried beneath the floor upon which we walked.

We went to the Scottish register House and were directed to the Erskin House in Edinburgh to obtain information on the Bridgend house. Apparently one of my Walker's owned it at one time, but the gentleman helping me was a little vague and I did not understand quite a bit of what he said. The house only has records dating back to the 1600's so they officially deem it a 17th century house. He said they had to do that because that is far back as their records go. He figures that the house is probably much older.

In the 1700's, the area was dynamited to allow fish to migrate at the Lynn Rocks, a semi-famous local place just 100 yards from Bridgend House.

The Skinners dug up an old cannon ball from their cellar. They believe, because of it's composition, that it is from Cromwell's army. In the cellar of Bridgend House there is a spring which was marked by a piece of pipe.

Thursday, August 8

Again performed research at the Haddington Library. Heather and I went to the Prestonkirk church graveyard, took pictures, and found several family headstones. We saw the William Walker headstone that is HUGE that we somehow had missed previously several times!

Friday, August 9

We met with the current owners of Bridgend House, the Skinners ( see notes above). They told us that at one time they believe the bottom half of the house was used as a stable.

We met with Diane MicNicoll the author of "1851, the People of Prestonkirk" book. She has a quaint little house off the road to Hailes castle. She confirmed some information in her book for me. I left her a 5 pound note because she promised to send me some photocopies of new material she had for me A wonderful woman in East Linton gave us a recipe for Millionaire cake and carrot cake.

Saturday, August 10th

At breakfast at Tish's, we had a nice conversation with a family who lived on Kauai. The father seemed very suspicious of me when I told him I previously worked for Sunnyvale Public Safety. He was very odd. We went to Bridgend House and took a bunch of pictures. We also left a box of Walker cookies on the doorstep and a note thanking the Skinners for their hospitality. It was very nostalgic walking upon the same ground that my grandfather and so many of my ancestors walked. We sadly hit the road for England to our return flight home. Traveling at 95 miles an hour on the freeway, a young punk pulled up on my bumper and gave me the 'stroking' sign after speeding around me and missing our bumper by a fraction of an inch. Interesting, that I am 'stroking it' at 95 miles an hour! We decided to stop at a Travelodge that is RIGHT OFF THE FREEWAY! I mean you pull off the freeway into the parking lot. Then back ON the freeway directly from the parking lot. Crankie that's dangerous!!!!!

Sunday, August 11th

We drove to Gatwick and stayed at the Gatwick Belmont room # 23. With a name like that you would expect a rather large hotel. What we found was crammed parking, a house turned bed and breakfast with narrow little hallways and a ton of people crammed in the house that, from the street, looks like a typical 2,000 square foot house. The bed was tiny, the shower was a prefabed plastic thing stuck inside the room, and it was barley big enough to bathe in.

Monday, August 12th

We flew home!

Regards,

Jim Walker
scotlandforever7@aol.com
http://hometown.aol.com/scotlandforever7/myhomepage/profile.html


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