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Forsyth Clan Tour 2003 Report


Clan Forsyth Society of the USA
Scottish Highlands & Islands
Tour 2003

Deanna Forsythe, San Jose, Ca
djfsanjose@yahoo.com

The Scottish Highlands and Islands tour June 18 to July 2 was a great success that provided an excellent opportunity for clan cousins representing eight US states to meet one another, socialize, and gain more insight into the diverse and often tragic history of our Scottish heritage.  The tour also provided a forum for exposure to current events and trends that affect Scotland.  Along the way we sampled some new and interesting food and drink, heard traditional bagpipe and Celtic music, relaxed and soaked in the breathtaking highlands scenery, and shopped to our heart’s delight!

Special thanks are in order to Jim and Patti Forsythe of Memphis, Tennessee, from all who participated.  Their gracious planning made everyone feel welcome and included throughout the tour. 

Globus Tour Company provided a luxury coach (bus), a reliable driver, Brian Troutan, and a knowledgeable tour guide, Trisha Williamson.  Fourteen of 33 guests on the tour were from the Clan.  The following is a summary of the excursion.

Wednesday, June 19 - Glasgow

Morning arrival and carefree day visiting local museums, sights, and restaurants.  Some took in the Mc Lellan Art Galleries, Willow Tea Room created by Glasgow’s celebrated designer Charles Renne Mackintosh, the Piping Museum, Central Train Station and fashionable brasseries that line the main shopping area of Sauciehall Street. 

Lodging at Novetel Glasgow Centre, 181 Pitt Street, Glasgow

June 20 – Carlisle, England Area

The group visited the childhood home of Scotland’s most famous literary figure, Robert “Robbie” Burns (1759-1791) in Alloway, and nearby landmarks that inspired some of his literary works such as the Brig ‘o Doon and ruins of the nearby church.  Next stop was Gretna Green where blacksmiths had attained high social status and were authorized to perform marriage ceremonies.  The area soon became a popular location for runaway couples to wed.  An on-site museum houses accounts of the more interesting “quickie” marriages that were performed there for runaway couples. Today, Gretna Green is a popular site for wedding celebrations and has several retail shops and cafés.

Last stop of the day was the daunting Carisle Castle, England, where Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1587) was imprisoned for 18 years before being beheaded by the order of her cousin, Elizabeth I.

Lodging – Crown Hotel – Station Road-Wetheral, Carlisle

June 21 – En route to Edinburgh, our tour followed the path of Hadrian’s Wall constructed by the Romans in AD 82 to keep the marauding northerly Scottish tribes they called “Caledoneans” out of their conquest areas south of the wall.  By AD 400 the Romans had abandoned this conquest.  En route we viewed a home of Mary, Queen of Scots, Jedburgh, and Melrose Abbey ruins.  

Next stop was Sir Walter Scott’s Abbotsford House.  Scott, who was a lawyer by training, preferred writing to practicing law and authored the Waverly series and Lady of the Lake.  He worked during his last years to pay off a £114,000 debt (approximately $195,000 in today’s dollars) incurred in 1827 by his business partner in publishing, and died with the debt fully paid in 1832.  Dame Jean Maxwell-Scott, Scott’s granddaughter, currently lives on the property and often greets visitors.  A few of us witnessed the courteous Dame assisting a disabled guest at the house grounds.

An optional excursion included a visit to the former Royal Family’s Yacht Britannia, which was built in 1951 and decommissioned around 1996.  The group then had an elegant dinner at Edinburgh’s George Hotel.

Lodging – Menzies Belford, 69 Belford Road, Edinburgh

June 22 – Edinburgh

Morning tour with guide, Stuart, an Edinburgh native, who guided us through downtown highlights including street views of famous Edinburgh residences including the home of surgeon Joseph Lister (Listerine), then Grefriars Kirk (Church), Princess Street, the Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle, and the Queen’s Holyrood Palace. 

Clan members coordinated a diversion to the Kirk of Shotts where many Forsyth ancestors of president Dale Sandusky’s line are buried.  A member of the church cordially invited the clan members to walk through the kirk’s interior and has promised to send Dale Sandusky and Jim Forsythe information about Forsyths buried in the adjacent cemetery.  We also visited the Bannockburn battlefield nearby, where the Forsyths helped Robert the Bruce defeat the British King Edward II.

Most of us took in an optional evening excursion for dinner and entertainment program, Jamie’s Scottish Evening, at the Thistle Hotel, Edinburgh.  With a friendly and feisty character named Bill Torrance as Master of ceremonies, the show included a stately pibroch bagpiper, live music, festive sing-a-longs and traditional Scottish dance.  The evening concluded with Torrance conducting a lively “Ceremony of the Haggis” with a taste of Scotland’s traditional haggis for all who dared to partake in this most famous Scottish dish.

Lodging – Menzies Belford, 69 Belford Road, Edinburgh

June 23 – Aberdeen

Our morning route included traveling over the Forth Road Bridge through Fife on our way to the championship Saint Andrews Golf Course founded in 1754.  We learned that Prince William is currently studying art here at Saint Andrews.  The prince had just celebrated his 21st birthday with an “Out of Africa” theme party at Windsor Castle where rogue comedian Aaron Barschak crashed the royal party in an effort to promote his upcoming play at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Osama Likes it Hot and was arrested. 

Later in the day we toured the splendid Glamis Castle, childhood home of the late Queen Mother.  An optional evening outing took us to a delightful pub looking out over the beach in the fishing town of Stonehaven.  The pub is frequented by local patrons, including a peculiarly outgoing man who could pass for the star of Steinbeck’s “Old Man and the Sea.”    

Lodging Thistle Hotel, Souter Head Road, Aberdeen

June 24 – Inverness

The morning excursion took the group to view the grounds of Balmoral Castle, which the Royal Family will occupy for the rest of the summer beginning July 31.  The afternoon travels brought us to the Speyside Malt Whiskey Trail region to tour the Glenlivet facility where whiskey has been produced and stored since 1880 and were treated to samples of their “Champagne to the Scots”

An evening optional tour included a Loch (Lake) Ness exhibition about the lake’s enigmatic inhabitant, “Nessie,” and a boat ride, which provided views of Urquhart Castle ruins.   Some of us caught a fleeting glimpse of Nessie, the loch’s most famous inhabitant.  We have photos!

Lodging Thistle Hotel, Nairn Road, Inverness

June 25 – Wick Highlands

First stop was the infamous Culloden Battlefield where the Hanoverian troops defeated Bonnie Prince Charlie’s army of clans on April 16, 1746, and the demise of the clan system began.  Simple headstones mark the somber grounds where warriors from various clans and the unidentified are buried. According to legend, an elderly bystander living in a nearby croft became a casualty of the battle.  The croft has been restored and it currently houses an exhibit of what a typical 18th century highlands battlefield medic station may have looked like; very crude and unhygienic by today’s standards.  The National Trust Visitor Centre has an excellent audio-visual display about the battle.

The following visit to the picturesque Dunrobin Castle built in 1275 highlighted the day with its majestic ocean view over the gardens and a thrilling falconry display on the castle grounds.  Next stop was the Caithness Glass Factory where we viewed glass blowers and workers creating ornate vases and other pieces that are available for purchase on site.

Lodging - Norseman, Riverside, Wick

June 26 – Orkney Islands

First stop, Dunnet Head, the northernmost point on the British mainland.  Then on to the Queen Mother’s Castle of Mey and a small church where she reportedly grieved her husband’s death each year. 

A ferry crossing then took us to the Orkney Islands.  Here, a local driver-guide took us on a tour across four Churchill Barriers and Skapa Flow where the German fleet scuttled itself during World War I.  Next stop, the Italian Chapel where World War II Italian prisoner of war Dominico Chiocchetti and his helpers converted two Nissan huts into a sanctuary at Camp 60 for captives of the North African campaign who were sent there to work on construction of the Churchill barriers.

Next stop was Skara Brae, to visit 5,000 year old remains of a coastal Neolithic village. Then on to the Ring of Brodgar, Orkney’s Stonehedge, where 36 giant standing stones placed in a circular pattern still remain.  When and why these stones were placed there are the subject of much speculation.  Last stop was the charming town of Kirkwall, the Orkney’s administrative and retail shopping center, and home of St. Magnus Cathedral, an 860-year-old architectural masterpiece, and Orkney’s famous ice cream.

Lodging - Norseman, Riverside, Wick

June 27 – Skye Highlands

This was a day to relax and enjoy a restful day of breathtaking highland views that included majestic mountains, pristine waterways, and flocks of highland sheep and cattle, including an occasional highland traffic jam of wayward sheep.  At one point the valiant knights on our coach, including the Clan’s Dale Sandusky, Jim Forsythe, Jack Gardner, and Larry Mc Murtrey, assisted a damsel in distress whose car had slid off into a roadside ditch.  These brave and heroic lads converged with muscle, might, and determination to free her automobile from its perilous perch. 

The optional evening excursion was to a pub with a young bagpiper, Andrew, greeting us at the entrance.  Once inside, Raymond Bremner, a renowned local vocalist and musician was accompanied by an accordion player, performed Gaelic music, explaining the significance of the Gaelic vocals and language.  We heard examples of Celtic music that were sung during the Highlands Clearance period, when bagpipes and other musical instruments of Scottish clan culture were outlawed by the oppressive British landlords.

Lodging – Dunollie, Broadford, Isle of Sky

June 28 – Skye Highlands

This was a day to take in highlands scenery at its best, explore Portree, the island’s capital, and visit Dunvegan Castle and grounds, home base for the MacLeod clan since 1200.  Many took a quick boat tour of the surrounding waterways, where seals and other aquatic life were the stars of the show.

An optional outing took us to the Cullen View Coffee Shop & Gallery.  Samples of local beers and whiskeys were served as well as soft drinks and snacks while a local gentleman discussed life on the island of Skye, crofting in its current state, initiatives to preserve the Gaelic language through education, local issues, and the future prospects for the secluded island.

Lodging – Dunollie, Broadford, Isle of Skye

June 29 – Isle of Mull

The small Museum of the Isles was the first stop of the day.  This small, modern, and well-presented museum contains information and artifacts of 13 centuries of clan history, warfare, literature, and emigration conditions. 

After a ferry crossing at Armadale, the “Road to the Isles” led the tour to Glenfinnan where the hearty can climb the tower which marks the location of Bonnie Prince Charles’s standard in 1745.  A short hike up a nearby hill takes visitors to a vista point for the arched bridge featured in the last Harry Potter movie.

Lodging – Dunollie, Broadford, Isle of Skye

June 30 – Iona Excursion, Mull

A drive and ferry ride took us to the Isle of Iona, known as the “Cradle of Christianity” because the Irish missionary St. Columba began his crusade there in 563 AD establishing one of the first Christian monasteries on the British Isles.  The island is home to Saint Martin’s Cross, a cathedral, and an abbey graveyard, which is said to contain 48 Scottish kings and chiefs including Macbeth.  The landscaped nun’s abbey ruins are a beautiful and peaceful monument.  

Next, a shopping excursion to the town of Tobermory, which was probably originally a fishing village, with its quaint and colorful buildings and numerous shops, pubs and cafes providing a picturesque photo opportunity and shopping excursion.

Later an optional excursion included a fun and quirky train ride through the trees along the shore to Torosay Castle, where Chris, the charismatic and down to earth laird of the baronial castle guided the group through the castle and offered a glass of local whiskey for each in the formal dining room with views overlooking the castle gardens and Duart Castle to the east.  The Laird then guided us through the castle gardens.  He, his family, and his mother occupy flats on the upper floor of the castle.  His mother operates a small gift shop on the premises.  To many, this excursion was the most memorable castle tour.  Earlier in the day, the Laird had been spotted with his family on our ferry ride to the island.

Dinner at the hotel was followed by an informal Clan meeting, group photographs, and presentation of a thank you gift of a glass paperweight from Caithness Glass Factory to Clan president Dale Sandusky, and Treasurer Tanya Sandusky by Jim Forsythe on behalf of the Forsyth tour participants.

Lodging – Craignure, Isle of Mull

July 1 – Glasgow

Travel back to Glasgow via ferry crossing to Oban, then over the Pass of Brander and form Inveraray along the road known as  “Rest and be Thankful” to Loch Lomond, the most photographed loch in Scotland.  Upon our return to Glasgow and orientation tour, we had time for last minute shopping on Sauciehall Street

The tour was concluded at a farewell cocktail and dinner get together at the exotic Gengis Restaurant at the Glasgow Thistle Hotel before leaving from Glasgow the following morning. 

Lodging – Thistle Hotel, Cambridge Street, Glasgow

***

Clan members and Forsyth cousins who participated in the tour included:

Clan Forsyth President Dale Sandusky
Clan Forsyth Treasurer Tanya Sandusky
Mid Eastern Regional Director/Tennessee State Representative, Jim Forsythe, and Patti Forsythe
Florida State Representative, Jack and Trish Gardner, Florida

Carly Arave, Utah
Roxie Beck, Idaho
Bonnie Dick, Philadelphia
Deanna Forsythe, California
Gail Forsythe, Lafferty, Tennessee
Nancy Jackson, Alabama
Celeste Linkhauer, Philadelphia
Lawrence McMurtrey, Washington


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