Castles, Views, and a Wee Lass

Today we were greeted by more cloudy, cool weather, but it wasn’t raining! After enjoying another breakfast at the Ibis hotel, we checked out and set out to meet our friend/guide for the next couple of days.

Although we found the hotel a little too modern & European for our tastes, it served our needs sufficiently and we would recommend it to any of our smaller and thinner friends because the room & specifically the bathroom was very small. Figuring out the lights was 15-minutes we won’t get back and keeping the bathroom door open was annoying. Other than that, the hotel was in a great location for us and we applaud their efforts to create a environmentally friendly atmosphere and establishment. Fewer towels, lighting restrictions, and one-size fits all “bubbling” cleaner are a great start.

As Dave & I waited outside on the curb with our baggage, we were transported back to five years ago when we met up with Helen from Afternoon Tea Tours for the first time. Then her smiling face appeared in her car. Hugs all around, and we were off.

We were instantly reminded of Helen’s passion for her homeland of Scotland and her generosity with guests in making each adventure special. Although we have kept in touch via social media, it was wonderful to catch up in person.

As we headed north, the morning fog over the water started to lift and by the time we reached our first inland destination the sun was shining and the air was warm…TOO warm in fact. That thermal shirt I wore this morning really wasn’t necessary here and jackets were soon shed.

Our first stop was at Glamis Castle (Pronounced ‘glams‘) in the county town of Angus. Glamis Castle has been the ancestral seat to the Earls of Strathmore since 1372. It was also where the mother of the current queen, was born and where the sister (Margaret) to Queen Elizabeth was born.

I had seen an older YouTube video of the spectacular entrance drive to the castle, so I decided to film it as we entered. Shot through the windshield, I think it came out pretty good.

The castle is really stunning and we arrived just as a guided tour was beginning, so we latched on to it and followed along. Our guide was wonderful and led the group through only a dozen or so rooms with humor and just enough history to keep one interested. The thickness of the castle walls was amazing and there are even a few ghost stories to be told. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed inside, but once outside we were able to shoot the castle and surrounding gardens and woods, which were spectacular.

We enjoyed a nice sandwich lunch outside on a picnic table with a view of the castle and continued to catch up with one another and discuss our trip. Glamis is lovely and I can see why the Queen Mother had such affection for it.

As we headed east for our next destination, Helen took us through her hometown of Forfar where she grew up before leaving for Edinburgh when she was 18. Forfar is famous for it’s meat pies called Bridies. What a delightful area amongst the rolling fields of brilliant yellow rapeseed and Hawthorne bushes. Looking across the Valley of Strathmore provided a wonderful view of country life and the large amount of farming that is done here. Potatoes, strawberries and raspberries are among the chief crops.

Our next stop on the east coast of Scotland to visit the highly-anticipated 13th century ruins of Dunnottar Castle. (Pronounced ‘done-otter’)

Dave and I had read and seen it was going to be quite a walk to get there, and it’s all true, but OH is it worth it! As we began the walk from the car park and approach the first view of the castle, we heard bagpipes and instantly thanked Helen for arranging that just for us…but alas, even her magical tour powers could not take credit. What a special surprise though.

There is a sandy path, wooden steps and then stone steps that leads one to the entrance to the castle. It’s a hike…especially for Dave and I. We are SO out of shape, but feel we’ll be in better shape when we leave Scotland than when we arrived here due to entrances like this.

From photos we had seen online, we weren’t prepared for the number of intact buildings and rooms we found and the views…well, there aren’t enough words to accurately describe it. Spectacular! And I’m always a sucker for the sound of the ocean crashing along the shore. Waves, a view, and castle ruins…perfect.

Of course as we finished our tour, then we had to walk BACK to the car park along the same sandy, wooden, and stone path. It was harder on the way back, but we did it. This is by far MY favorite castle we’ve seen in Scotland. Dave moved it up to 2nd on his list behind Urquhart Castle we visited in 2013.

Other than some gusty winds, which you’ll get on the coast you know, the weather couldn’t have been nicer for our two castles today. And Helen’s tour of her home town and areas she grew up around added that personal touch.

We then drove to the coastal town of Stonehaven where we checked into the Chapel of Barras Farm B & B for the night. Owners & cattle farmers Michelle & David met us at the door and gave us a lovely warm welcome to their beautiful 5-room B&B.

Dave and I had a very nice room on the second floor and Helen was below us on the ground floor. Our room was nice roomy with terrific view overlooking their fields an garden. It was so nice to hear birds chirping and no buses or people yelling outside your window as we did right in the city. And as we were resting for a bit, the cows sauntered into the field outside our window.

After a quick shower, we went in to Stonehaven Harbor and enjoy a lovely dinner overlooking the wee harbor…even though it was VERY low tide. No, I did NOT have a third try at fish n’ chips, but Dave tried it and said it was very good. I opted for lamb kabobs which were delicious.

We walked around the harbor a little bit and headed back to the B&B where Helen surprised us with a gift of Belhaven Black Scottish Stout (because she had read in my blog how the pub we’d stopped in had none), also a bottle of Schiehallion Lager, a box of shortbread, and some Melrose Tea. What a sweet and thoughtful gift! But then that’s just Helen — sweet and thoughtful. Dave and I drank a toast to Helen with Drambuie and the three of us enjoyed each other’s conversation and planning for a potential return to Scotland and where we might go! That’s the spirit!

At 10 pm, it was still this light out.

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