This is from my diary
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May 22, Tuesday
We had to go from home on Tuesday because we live about 60 miles from the airport and our flight was due at 06.50 AM Wednesday morning. We stayed over night at my brothers home in Sollentuna. Interesting to see how much longer spring had advanced when travelling south from our home. We had a nice evening at my brother's - we don't see each other especially often.
Wednesday May 23
Our plane took off in time, and soon we were in the air due to Amsterdam. At that big airport we had to wait for three hours before the plane to Edinburgh left. We passed over the North Sea in sunshine and soon we could see the brown and yellow and green fields of Scotland like a patchwork on the ground.
||In Edinburgh our guide Lee Persson met and was accompanied by the same driver as last time, our tour to Cornwall April 2000. That driver is excellent in managing all the sharp turns and narrow roads with the big coach from National Holidays.
We followed road A9 up in the Highlands where the hills rose fairly mighty and streams flooded the hillsides. After passing Aviemore we took a smaller road through the nice village Carrbridge where an old arched bridge is spannning the wild river Spey.
A gaudy cock was moving around with his hens.
Then we passed over mountain heather heaths, through pine forests and pasture land down to the coast of Moray Firth. The fields were filled with grazing cows or sheep, it was visible that the foot&mouth decease had not been raging here.
Our goal was the little town of Nairn and our coach went through a walk of beeches up to our hotel Newton Hotel where we was to stay the coming four nights.
The weather was brilliant and they told us that we had brought the nice weather! We had that nice weather nearly the whole week we spent in Scotland, we were unusually lucky.
We could admire a fantastic sunset over the firth. A small herd of highland cattle was grazing at a fiend near the hotel. The calf was really nice with golden brown curly fur. The older cows had long shabby hair all over the body.
Thursday May 24
Daze over the surrondings - sun concealed. But there was a feeling of a nice summer day.
The hotel is situated in a park with linden and different kinds of beech. In the meadows I found lots of field flowers like those we find in Sweden at summer, and the ditchsides flowered with yellow gorse (Lat.Ulex) and broom (Lat. Genista). You could hear the cooing of doves and the song of thrushes and chirping of other small birds - like home.
Going westwards between newly sown fields to Cawdor Castle, belonging to the Campbell clan. This castle is in the Macbeth saga. The road up to the castle passed a cherry tree walk - wonderful as the trees were in full bloom. This castle was furnitured with a personal touch. In the basement there is an old tree and by an arrangement of mirrors we were able to se the rough walls of the prisons. The winding stairs in the central tower was nothng for me so we left the castle and had a relaxing in the apple garden among the blooming trees. There is a holly maze in the garden and in another hidden part there was a plantation with only white flowers and in the middle a modern sculpture with water trickling down the sides.
Next stop Bloody Culloden, - a place of significance in the history of Scotland. At the "Visitor's Centre" we could see a film about the history of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the rebellion of the Jacobites.
Next to Loch Ness, a lake of myth beautifully situated in a valley between fairly steep hills. But the monster Nessie seems to be found just in the myth. But you can see her as a sculpture in the village Drumnadrochit. An alert piper stopped our coach at a parking place.
Then over the hills on a narrow road direction northeast. When ascending the hills we could find that the leafing had advanced less when we came to a higher level.
Now our goal was Moniack Castle which is a small castle west of Inverness where they have been going in for taking care of local products and old family recipes. A film featuring the manufacturing process was displayed and we had a tour around and could taste the different products. Among others they make wine out of birch sap, "Silver Birch Wine", and lots of kinds of jam and chutneys, e.g. Rowan Jelly, Carrot and Lemon Jam and Juniper Chutney.
Friday May 25
A misty morning - and we went northwards along the partly marshy coast - first stopping in the small tourist town of Dornoch where we could see the small cathedral with nice stained glass windows.
Heading more north where the hills steeped nearly directly at the road ditch and the slopes were filled with primroses (Lat Primula Vulgaris) and bluebells (Lat. (Hyacinthoides non-scriptus) arriveng to the village Golspie with yellow plastered houses and our goal Dunrobin Castle which belongs to the Duke of Sutherland. Situated on top of a hill with a wide view over the sea - and the mist rised just as we arrived to the castle. Below the castle was a big ornamental garden, one of the plantations was especially attractive with blue forget-me-not and dark red tulips.
There was a Falconry in the garden and we could watch a display of how to fly falcons.
This castle had the words "sans peur" over all windows. Could that be the
motto of this clan which had a disgusting behaviour againt their crofters during earlier times?
Going back home we had a stop at Storehouse of Foulis, which partially is a museum of the living of the farmers and fishers in older times, and in Cromarthy Firth I could see some heads of seals.
Saturday, May 26
The weather was clear and we could now see the other shore of the firth and the snowclad mountains over there.
Eastwards was the direction of today, through planted pine forests or farming landscape - mostly fields of corn or rape but strawberries and currant bushes too.
First stop in the town of Elgin where we visited Johnstons Visitor's Centre. The Cashmere manufacturing was not open for visitors as it was a Saturday but of course the shop and the exhibition was open. I observed a marking on the wall in the shop which indicated how high the water had gone at a flooding some years ago - that is a theme which the author Rosamund Pilcher has used in her novel Winter Solstice
But we headed on to Fochaber where Baxters of Speyside Ltd is manufacturing soups, jam bisquits and much more which is exported to a great part of our world. An old shop is reconstructed in one of the buildings and then there is a restaurant and lots of shops. Some owners of old cars had a meeting and we could admire the cars.
We made a little walk up to the small river which passes the town and admired the majestic ruins of the Abbey which was destroyed during clan battles in the fifteenth century. At the side of the abbey we found a very nice place of serenity -|
"The Biblical Garden".
Next stop was Duff House by the town of Banff. A stilish building having a great collection of art. But I did not enter, my legs did not cooperate. I sat in the sunshine and then I took some photographs of the house and the sculptures there.
Sunday, May 27
Time to leave Nairn by the main road A9 through the highlands. You can see a great part of the imposing landscape of snowcapped Cairngorm Mountains from the road. We had a stop at Aviemore - the railway station is worth seeing with it's style of mock Chalet. The landscape between the mountains had sometimes the character of waterparting with swamp and lots of the special kind of birds for that type of nature.
But the goal was Blair Castle- usually a white castle but now wrapped in during replastering. We joined a guided tour around the interior - many nice ceilings and some funny details. Among others some furniture made with inlaid wood of bog myrtle.
Then we could watch the Blair Highland Games - competitions in highland dance, throwing the hammer, tossing the pole, weithlifting etc, and crowds around the many stalls where they sold everything. The Atholl Highlanders came marching with drums and bagpipes. All time you heard playing bagpipes everywhere. One of the most popular tones was "Scotland the Brave" but there were many other. A very colourful show!
The ruote down to Dunkeld between the mountains where brooks streamed down the hillsides in narrow ravines was ravishing. The goal was Dunkeld House, originally built by the 7th Duke of Atholl as a summer home for his wife, but now a country house hotel. Situated in the park with lots of different kinds of old trees at the river Tay far from the town of Dunkeld. But already at the border of the town you can see the grand porch to the park. That narrow porch was very special for the driver of our couch to pass --- he really is a good driver.
During the dinner there was a "Haggis Parade" with a bagpipe in front followed by a cook carrying a haggis and a girl gesticulating with some whisky bottles.
Monday, May 28
Eastwards through a landscape dominated by farmland. The valley through Blairgowrie was dominated by raspberry cultivations which are the biggest in Europe. But there were rhubarb and other crops too. In Blairgowrie as in many other places we observed that in the older parts of the town the street names were in two languages: Scottish and English. The goal for the ride was Glamis Castle - the home of the Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne. There we could see very fine stucco ceilings in the modern parts but rough stone walls in the old parts.
As in many other places we visited we had to walk over a mat soaked with desinfection when passing from the parking place into the area of the castle - a security to avoid spreading the virus of foot&mouth decease.
In The Red House at Coupar Angus we were served a real tea meal: sandwich, scones with jam and cakes. We were really well fed when we sat down in the coach again for the tour home to our hotel by the fertile valley of Strathmore, and then by river Tay with steep river banks and a rich vegetation.
In the grounds of the hotel there are nice walks along the river Tay. The river is streaming in two forks and they have made nice plantations of rhododendron and other blooming bushes. There were ducks on the water and lots of rabbits hiding in the bushes. Linden, beeches and very old oaks could be seen everywhere in the park. A nice white private house on a hill totally covered by bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scriptus). You cannot dream anything as blue as those slopes!
Tuesday, May 29
Westwards - to Aberfeldy, where there is a Whisky Destillery with guided tours and a museum. We joined a guided tour through the premises. Big oaks around the factory and when the sun sifted through the branches there was a very interesting pattern on the ground.
From Aberfeldy we had a scenic route over the hills and we could see the wild heather heaths and the brooks streaming downhills in steel ravines and areas planted with forests, mostly fir or birch.
We crossed the Glen Almond and we observed a ridge totally covered by bluebells - it really seemed incredible. Stop for lunch in Crieff and then to Drummond Castle Gardens - a formal garden surrounded by copper beeches with prominent foliage. My photos are on this page. The landscape outside the garden was pastoral with green hills and grazing lamb and sheep. It was the wrong time to visit this garden as the bulb plants were gone for the season and the roses and summer flowers were not in bloom yet. The castle was not open to the public - good - as I felt that I had seen so many castles so I could not absorb any more.
On our way back to Dunkeld we had a stop at Perthshire Visitor Centre and watched a film play about the true story of Macbeth. "The Macbeth Experience".
Wednesday, May 30, day of going home again
We went from the outskirts of the highlands into the lowland of Perthshire. The first stop at Bell's Cherrybank Centre where there is a garden with a collection of more than 900 different kinds of heather. Just a few were flowering but the garden was nicely situated on a slope with sculptures and water. If you were English you had a possibility to buy plants for your garden - but mostly they wanted to sell whisky - Bell's whisky.
Now the rain arrived - we really had been lucky all the days before with sunshine and mild weather. In Dunfermline we were not at all inspired to visit the ruines of the castle but we went into Dunfermline Abbey. Many beautiful windows with stained glass and memorial sites and banners. I studied the explanations of the banners and found the story from the thirteenth century about Queen Saint Margaret and her son the national hero Robert de Bruce.
Now just the ride to the airport at Edinburgh was left of our Scottish tour. Time to go home again after a nice week - and I had managed fairly well in spite of my troubles with my right leg.
I would have liked to take a photo of a Scottish farm house but never had the opportunity this tour. But I caught some of the typical houses with their chimneystucks.
Some links to more informations about Scotland:
Here is the Saga. The Thistle is the symbol flower of Scotland
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