07/2000 - Scotland – 1st part – Edimburgh and the Castles

15-day trip to Scotland visiting Edinburgh , Stirling , John o ‘Groats , Durneses , Fort George , Invernees , Stones of Clava Cairns, Culloden , Loch Ness, Highlands , Dunnet Head , Old Man , Hoy, Orkney Islands , Kirkwall , Skara Brae , Church of Orkney , Scapa Flow , Cave of SMOE , Ullapool , Corrieshalloch Gorge, Gruinard Bay, Redpoint , Torridon, Applecross , Rona Islands , Inner Hebrides , Isle of Skye , Portree , Talisker , Neptune’s Staircase , Caledonian Canal , Fort Williams, Ben Nevis, Oban, Loch Awe , Trossachs , Mainland and the castles of Edinburgh , Blair , Glamis, Dunottar , Drum, Crathes , Balmoral, Cawdor , Stirling, Glamis,  Craigievar, Braemar,Dunrobin , Eilan Donan , Stelker , Kilkhurn , Dunvegan

We reached Edinburgh, from Venice, in only four hours , with a stopover in London and a change of plane . We rented a car so that we could freely organize our journey .

During the trip we always went to sleep, without pre-booking, in Bed & Breakfast.

The best way to present Scotland : a lonely Scot in kilt, playing the bagpipes in the middle of a lawn, whom we met along the way . Then the easiness with which you can get married and finally a tribute to beer. We  bought a variety of colourful cans, all with different brands.

Edinburgh is dominated by the Edinburgh Castle built on the summit of a rock.

It was interesting the square in front of the castle where the guards were on duty wearing the kilt.

We could note  … that the legend is not a legend… they were really without panties !

Inside the castle, we visited the beautiful vast Great Hall, where the Scottish Parliament used to meet. In the nearby Royal Palace, where Mary, Queen of Scots, gave birth to James VI , it is interesting  the room with the royal insignia.

Next to the Argyle Battery, there is the square with the military housing.

The oldest building of the castle is St. Margaret ‘ s Chapel; St. Margaret is depicted in the stained glass window .

Going out of the Castle we found the Royal Mile, the road that runs downhill till the Royal Palace of Holyrood and which is characterized by beautiful seventeenth-century palaces on its sides.

It is interesting the sign of the city’s museum and the clock of one of the seventeenth-century palaces.

Continuing the tour of the city we could see the historic North British Hotel, the Calton Hill, gardens full of flowers and two typical pubs. Finally, it was a surprise to see the monument that the people of Edinburgh dedicated to the dog Bobby. They wanted to remember its loyalty to its master ; in fact, Bobby did not abandon its master’s tomb for 14 years, until its own death.

Leaving Edinburgh, we began our tour of Scotland in which we focused on the visit of some of the countless castles.

Blair Castle is the residence of the Dukes of Atholl and dates back to the thirteenth century. Its present aspect is due to a radical restoration of the end of 1800. There is a beautiful ballroom and nice corridors with numerous hunting trophies (heads of deer) exposed.

A curiosity: in 1844, Queen Victoria authorized the Dukes to have a private army, called the Atholl Highlanders . Even nowadays, there are members of this army !

We visited the spectacular ruins of the castle of Dunottar built on a cliff by the sea.

The structure of the Drum Castle is very interesting: its main building dates back to 1200 whereas the dwelling is of 1600. It was closed to the public and we could only visit to the beautiful “rose garden”, divided into four sections, from 17th to 20th century.

The structure of the Crathes Castle dates back to 1500 and is scenically very attractive. It is characterized by rich interiors and, in particular, by some antique wooden painted ceilings .

The best feature of Crathes is given by its ornamental gardens.

Balmoral Castle, more recently built (1850), is a royal residence and cannot be visited . As in the other castles, there is an interesting park and nice gardens. A special feature: the window of Diana’s bedroom: inside we could see a mirror.

I remember Cawdor Castle for the wonderful visual impact given by its drawbridge, the moat and the defensive tower. The impression became even more intense during the visit inside since the castle is still inhabited by the Thanes of Cawdor. It seemed as if we were prying into their privacy. The interior decoration is very “familiar” and there are interesting works exposed.

A curiosity is the huge Old Kitchen, an old and big Victorian kitchen .

The external structure of Stirling Castle is very nice; it is built on the top of a rocky hill which dominates the town. The complex is very large and looks like a fortified town .

We found the indoor rooms quite unsatisfactory: they had been recently restored and many rooms were completely empty.

We saw a characteristic old fireplace with an ancient tapestry on its top.

It is also interesting the oldest house in Scotland (dating back to 1600), owned by the Duke of Argyll.

The Glamis Castle is one of the most picturesque of Scotland. It dates back to the sixteenth century and owes its fame to the birth, within its walls, of Princess Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth.

The Craigievar Castle, dating back to the beginning of 1600, is a tower house with many small towers.

The Braemar Castle dates back to the mid-seventeenth century. You can see it in the middle of a thick forest and is not far from the homonymous town, known to be one of the most famous ski resorts in Scotland.