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A Travelogue
Article by Linda Owens

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:

  1. A major Medieval English or Welsh Border castle.

  2. Roman ruins – anywhere

  3. 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 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 most memorable.

Address.   Roughlow Farm,
                Cheshire.          Telephone.  01829 751199

Address. Topps Farm,
                 Fintry Road,  
                 Stirlingshire.      Telephone.  01324 822471.

Address. Creggin’s Inn Telephone. 00 44 01369 860279

Loch Fyne

Address Windsor Hotel (I have not been able to find the phone number for this little jewel).

Address Borthwick Castle North Middleton, Midlothian

Midlothian, Scotland

Our lodgings were all very different experiences.

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…

Roughlow Farm 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!

Borthwick Castle - 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.

Topps Farm 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 comply!!

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 home’.

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.

I will be back!

Yours aye,
Linda Owens
Boston, MA USA

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