Rivets and Icebergs

For our last day in Belfast and Northern Ireland, we chose the Titanic Belfast attraction. Titanic Belfast is a visitor attraction opened in 2012, a monument to Belfast’s maritime heritage on the site of the former Harland & Wolff shipyard in the city’s Titanic Quarter where the RMS Titanic was built. It tells the stories of the ill-fated Titanic, which hit an iceberg and sank during her maiden voyage in 1912, and her sister ships RMS Olympic and HMS Britannic. The building contains more than 130,000 sq ft of floor space, most of which is occupied by a series of galleries, private function rooms and community facilities.

Dave and I grabbed a taxi from the hotel and decided on the deluxe tour. We purchased the White Star Premium Pass which offered us discounts in two restaurants and gift store and entry to the attraction as well as an hour walking tour and entrance to the Nomadic, tender boat.

We had a couple of hours before our guided tour, so we were outfitted with headphones and started on the very extensive, multi-floor exhibition. They begin with conditions in Belfast in the early 1900’s and how the company was formed, how the ship’s plans were created and the how the ship was built.

There was even a gentle, but very clever ride, reminiscent of Disney ride showing the building process with narration of a riviter behind it. Such backbreaking work in the shipyard.

Each display was VERY well done going into as much detail as you wanted or as little. Every floor was crowded, but not to the point you couldn’t get to each visual and enjoy it.

Obviously, the end of that fateful cruise was looming and they did a wonderful job of showering the hard work each shipyard worker endured and how the design of the ship was created using the best materials available to them at the time.

As that fateful day neared, the rooms darkened and the tone changed from hopeful and excited to dread and fear as the alerts about icebergs were sent…ignored, then disaster as a result. One felt your heart grow heavy as you listened to first-hand accounts from survivors as you looked at some of the last photographs of the ship ever recorded frozen in time.

We had to end our tour right then because the guided tour was about to start. Libby, our guide, was a perky Irish Lass who told us about a lot of the symbolism surrounding the construction of the attraction and took us through the Harland and Wolf buildings where the designs of Titanic were drawn. Those buildings are now a very expensive hotel.

There was amazing attention-to-detail put into the design of the attraction as well as the grounds surrounding it. The wooden benches outside spelled out the last message of Morse code from the Titanic. The outline of the entire ship was embedded into the pavement where the ship sat under construction. I was a amazed how narrow it actually was, but it was very long.

There were vertical steel beams to indicate where the Titanic and her sister ship, the Olympic would has sat in the shipyard. However, they indicated the height of these beams were only about a quarter of the actual height of each ship.

Even the design of the main building itself represented the full height of the bows (front) of each ship and they were covered with thousands of steel plates representing the workers. Really well done.

Of course most everyone is aware of some of the “famous/rich” people who were on board like the Asters, Molly Brown, etc., but our guide told us about the Sage family. They had 11 members of their family on board. All went down with the ship. Only one body was recovered….a 12-year old boy from the family. All of those stories need to be told.

After the guided tour, Dave and I enjoyed lunch in one of the four cafes and had a terrific ham and cheese quiche. Then we continued with the rest of the exhibit.

They continue with the inquests after the sinking including the findings in the number of life boats which no doubt resulted in numerous deaths. The movies made about the sinking and the technical advancements in not only ship building, but underwater discoveries were also explored.

A highlight for me was the astonishing way they displayed the wreckage in the sea floor. They had a glass floor in a darkened theater and lit the scanned images underneath it as if you were in a submersible floating over there ghostly wreckage. It was brilliant and sad.

The last part of the tour was spent touring the SS Nomadic. It’s the last remaining ship of the White Star line sitting in dry dock. It was mainly used a tender to transfer passengers from ship to shore and transferred passengers from Titanic on it’s last stop in France before it sunk. The last time for many to be on dry land.

We were both pretty pooped after a long day on our feet, so we grabbed a taxi back to the hotel and decided to eat dinner in the hotel for the first time. It was great and I asked to take a piece of lemon meringue pie back to the room. They wrapped up a plate including a pitcher of cream for me to take.

Oh, and I now have Dave’s cold. Cheers!

Past, Present, and Future

This morning Dave and I checked out of Fir Tree Hotel. I can honestly say we will not miss it and will not be visiting again. You’ll notice we haven’t posted any photos of it or our room. Onward…

We are now headed to Belfast to drop the car off at the airport, get a cab into the city and check in to our hotel for the next three nights.

Dave indicated I had not taken a photo of him driving the car. I took a short video in Scotland of him, but realized he was right. So here it is!

He did a great job driving, despite my nagging him he was too close to the curbs and hedges and a GPS/SatNav that died and having to use a different one. We really liked the Audi we got upgraded to by the nice man inside the airport at the Hertz desk. He was great even taking us outside to let us know where we’d be returning the car.

Dave got us safely back to Belfast airport today. It was a shame the young men who man the outside Hertz rental car pick up & return were so unhelpful and rude. Both at pick up and return, they were unpleasant to deal with.

Anyway…the taxi driver and hotel receptionist more than made up for the airport dudes. Both were extremely friendly and helpful and answered all our questions.

We were both hungry and walked over to White’s Tavern for lunch and a pint. I had Bangor’s (sausages) and Mash (potatoes) and Dave had fish n’ chips and we both had Guinness. What a cool pub. Supposedly haunted, it originally was established in 1630. Which means it has been a pub since around the times the Pilgrim’s landed. Think about that.

Our first order of business after checking in at The Premier Inn, was to take a hop-on, hop-off bus tour of the city. We walked to the first stop and were glad to see the tour was just about to leave. We sat on the outside, upper deck of the double-decker bus and were whisked around the city for an hour and a half tour.

Unbeknownst to us, there was a woman’s rights march today in Belfast and the bus had to wait for the march a bit and drive a slightly different route.

The tour showed the good, the bad, and ugly. Unfortunately, there is still some major bad and ugly in Belfast with the religious differences and segregation. There has been peace, but you can tell the unrest could bubble up at any time. After photographing a few of the murals dedicated to those who sacrifices or were innocently killed, I stopped photographing them. I hate war, I especially hate violence, and I wasn’t crazy about it all being a focus of a tour bus. It is, however, part of Belfast’s past and should be remembered to not repeat in the future.

There are some historical buildings in Belfast NOT associated with The Troubles, and they were pointed out and they drove through what could be considered the “slums” of the city as well as the more affluent neighborhoods. It was uncomfortable to me to not only take the tour bus down the streets of these poorer neighborhoods, but for the tour guide to be talking on the speaker about how poorly they live….while driving down the street and people who live their walking about. Edinburgh, this was not. And perhaps that is WHY they do it. They need to show the world.

We also drove to the Northern Ireland parliament building which is very grand, but way outside the main city.

After the tour we walked around the city for awhile and did a wee bit of shopping. Dave picked up a free Guinness hat and I bought one of the two things I’ve been looking for in Ireland: a Claddagh ring.

There is an old Irish saying that goes, “With These hands, I give you my heart and crown it with my love.” The Claddagh ring consists of a heart with a crown held by two hands symbolizing love, loyalty and friendship. There are specific ways one is supposed to wear them as well.

Dave is still not quite over his cold and I was starting to get a sore throat so we cut our night short and hope to get some rest.

Deer, Duncan, and Downpours

The quiet morning by the Loch. The birds chirping. The spectacular views. Ah…Scotland!

Dave and I enjoyed a restful night and arrived in the breakfast room ready to meet the day. There was a lovely woman from England at the table and we were shortly joined by another couple from the Lake district of England. The food was excellent and company was as well. We spoke of history, travels and language. Enjoyable.

Our first stop today was to drive down to a viewing point to see Castle Stalker. It is one of the best-preserved medieval tower-houses to survive in western Scotland. The castle is privately owned and apparently the family that lives there DOES give private tours, but we were just going to stop and take a few photos from it.

The weather was perfect and we enjoyed a short stroll to the edge of the lock. Upon doing so, I spotted something tall in the field and it turned out to be a very large deer. We were surprised how unaffected he/she was by our presence and allowed us to walk quite close to take videos and photos.

Castle Stalker has been featured in many television shows and movies throughout the years. We can see why. What a picturesque setting as it rises from the rocky island.

We continued our drive and stopped for another castle drive-by. This time is was the ruins of Kilchurn Castle across the loch through the trees.

Our next stop was the ancestral home of Clan Campbell at Inverary Castle. What a stunning building inside and out. A very unusual entrance, at least compared to other castles, with the hanging flowers.

However, we needed food! So we stopped into the on-sight tea room for a bite to eat. Dave ordered some coffee and a ham salad, which he loved. I had a fruit scone, butter, jam, and a wee pot of tea. We sat outside in the shade (yes, it was very warm again) at small bistro tables with the castle directly beside us.

The Duke of Argyll, Chief of the Clan Campbell lives in the castle with his young family and they’ve done an amazing job of allowing the public to view a certain number of rooms, maintain a fabulous garden & gift shop, and keeping it their ancestral home as well.

The grounds are very sprawling and the large garden is lovely. Many of the early spring flowers had gone by, but all the rhododendrons and azalea were in bloom. Some of these bushes/trees must be VERY old because they were very large.

The rooms inside gave one a real taste of the 17th century through the Victorian age sprinkled with photographs of the present Duke and his family.

Although, I hate war of any kind, I have to admit the armory room is impressive. They indicated the last time these weapons were used was at the Battle of Culloden. One certainly looked at them with a sense of sadness and respect.

The extremely large silver bowl on the formal dining room table was given to the Duke at the time by Queen Victoria and we learned the gilded sailing ships are actually filled with soup, the top is removed and they roll them around the table for the soup to be served.

Dave and I walked around the beautiful gardens admiring the grounds and expansive tree collections just like Balmoral. There was one HUGE tree truck that caught my eye and I had to have Dave take a photo of me with it for perspective.

I snapped a few photos of Duncan at the entrance as this would be his last castle in his homeland of Scotland then the clouds moved in and we could see rain was coming.

We were able to stay ahead of the rain for awhile and enjoy still more stunning scenery around Loch Lomond. Dave’s ancestors went to Northern Ireland from an area/river here called Glen Douglas, which we were able to find. Dave walked along the path his ancestors walked 450 years ago and he paid his respects. I snapped a photo of him walking the road and also a massive tree that MAY have been there at the time. Who is around today to prove us wrong, right?

Then the skies opened up as we tried to find our B&B for the night. The GPS was leading us in all sorts of directions and finding certain places proved difficult. Those darn back, country roads!

We finally found the entrance gates to the 19th century lodge, the Mulberry Lodge and were greeted at the door by owners Yvonne and David. Our room was a lovely back room facing the lovely gardens and a small deck overlooking the gardens with a bistro set. Fresh flowers, interesting artwork and a painted bookcase on the wall…literally! The sitting room and breakfast room were great. Like an old country manner.

Dave and I wanted to eat some place nearby and Scottish, so Yvonne generously offered to make reservation for us at the Clachan Inn/Pub for dinner. We cleaned up and drove in to Drymen and discovered this lovely, very old white-washed stone building.

The Clachan Inn is the oldest registered licensed pub in Scotland (1734). It has a lot of character and warmth and we thought we’d give Scotland ONE last change on their fish n’ chips. They did NOT disappoint and they also had Belhaven Best, so I was happy.

Glens, Lochs, and Left Lanes

As Dave and I were getting ready for breakfast this morning at the Rowan Tree Guesthouse, I noticed the lovely rose garden they have outside our bathroom window. Very pretty and an unexpected surprise in this setting. We enjoying a filling breakfast, then had a rather LARGE errand to run.

Today was the first day Dave drove in Scotland in over 30 years. It didn’t start off well last evening when we got about a block and a half from the hotel and the GPS/SatNav that he bought a month ago literally croaked on us. Thankfully, Dave knew of a nearby store that could help. So, we drove over there this morning and they were stumped at what happened and were clearly amazed and amused by the sound emanating from the wee black box. They even gave us 25 pounds off the listed price on a replacement model. Nice, nice lady & gentleman there.

So, with another brand new GPS in hand, we headed west. It was going to be a pretty straightforward root, but we were not expecting the beautiful views, winding roads, and quaint villages we drove through. This was a good test on Dave getting comfortable driving on the other side of the car and the road. He did great though.

We made a very brief stop at Huntingtower Castle. It was basically just a look-see and not something we intended to enter. It was lovely though. We fell in love with the village of Crieff with is beautiful homes and commanding views.

A quick stop at Loch Earn to take a few shots resulted in some really nice photos of it’s tranquill waters.

The weather was just about perfect, if not too hot again. We were expecting rain and never saw a drop of it.

Then we had lunch at Mhor 84. Dave and I had stopped here before five years ago, and meals did NOT disappoint. Fantastic lunch! I had the Scotch Rarebit and Dave had Mac & cheese. He said it was the best he’s ever had.

I saw our next stop mentioned by a Twitter follower from the UK. We read about it and decided to find it and check it out, it’s Falls of Falloch. Found at a non-descrip sign and a short walk in the woods. What a delightful spot! Loved the sound of the water.

As the mid-day sun started to become intermingled with clouds, we entered the most exciting part of the trip for us…Rannoch Moor and Glencoe. Although the drive across the A 85 was brilliant in it’s own, the anticipation of not only seeing Glencoe, but arriving before any rain wear is needed, was high!

Stunning vistas, rolling hills, majestic mountains and the deepest valley’s you’ll find. Glen (or valley) Etive and GlenCoe provided us with today’s best scenery for sure.

We found a quiet spot away from the buses and people and just sat and enjoyed this priceless view.

Although Dave and I did NOT want to leave, we needed to get to our next overnight accommodation in Ballachulish on Loch Leven. The Tom Eachainn Guesthouse has lovely views over Loch Leven in a quite neighborhood. The owner Sue, greeted us at the door and gave us a recommendation for dinner, which we took.

The Holly Tree Hotel is 4 miles away on Loch Linnhe. The views from the restaurant were beautiful and they served Belhaven ale! The bartender was shocked that I was one having the full pint and Dave had the half pint. Dinner was great. I had scallops & Dave had lamb.

We saw two fabulous cars in the restaurant car park and contemplated which one we thought was the “hotter” set of wheels. I thought the green, soft-top British Kallistro Panther was hot and Dave chose the White Mercedes behind it.

Afterwards we took a stroll along the Loch edge and saw a seal in the water. Then on the drive home, we saw a rainbow. I think we may have had a few angels with us today.

The Heavenly Highlands with Helen

We awoke to yet another foggy morning, but it was dry and breakfast was waiting! And what a wonderful breakfast it was. Michelle and David were wonderful hosts as a lovely arrangement of fresh produce and other locally-produced goodies were on display.

Cold items like cereal, yogurt, granola, meats, cheese and breads were offered, but the hit of the morning was the rhubarb jam. It was so sweet and tasty. None of us opted for the full Scottish breakfast, but instead had mostly eggs & toast. Just the right amount.

After being invited into the kitchen and checking out, we had a wonderful chat with Michelle & David again and told them how much we enjoyed our stay, the B&B itself, and the room. They also exchanged business cards with Helen as I know she enjoyed it too.

Then we headed out into the foggy mist to drive inland. We made a very quick stop at Crathes Castle, but it wasn’t open yet, so Dave just got out and took a few pics.

Then we headed to Balmoral Castle, the private royal residence for members of the British Royal family since 1852, when the estate and its original castle were purchased by Prince Albert, consort to Queen Victoria. Balmoral remains the private property of the royal family and are not the property of the Crown.

As we headed west, the fog started to rise and sunshine greeted us by the time we reached the car park at the castle…just as Helen said it would. However, we did make one small detour right before going to the castle by visiting Crathie Kirk (Kirk means church) which is best known for being the regular place of worship of the royal family when they are holidaying at Balmoral castle, which is right next door. It’s a wee church with some wonderful history. Then onto the big house – Balmoral!

The castle is an example of Scottish baronial architecture, and after many additions by successive family members, it now covers an area around 50,000 acres. It’s a working estate that employs around 50 full-time employees. There are grouse moors, forestry, and farmland, as well as managed herds of deer, highland cattle, and ponies. The Queen DOES love her horses.

Helen, Dave and I picked up the audio tours and set out to explore the sprawling estate. Helen had never visited here either, so it was fun to experience HER first time there as well. The tree-lined roads and paths offered a lovely respite from the hot sun. Yes, I said hot sun!

The working vegetable gardens were compact, but highly efficient. All planted to be ready for harvest during the Queen’s annual August holiday. They were growing a lot of potatoes, root crops, leafy greens, peas & greens.

There were also hundreds of wee flower seedlings just freshly planted to be ready in time for fresh floral bouquets in August as well. The rose garden was just getting started with new growth. It must look lovely in the sunken garden when they’re in full bloom.

We didn’t hit all of the tour highlight, but many of them within a comfortable distance. A water garden area was lovely and many of the perennial bushes were blooming throughout the grounds.

The castle itself is small, by castle standards, and because it’s also a private residence the only room open to the public is the Ballroom. And because of that you spend more time outside, so we were truly blessed with great weather.

The ballroom is actually the last stop on the tour and it has some wonderful artifacts like all of the Queen’s Christmas card photos on display. And for those fans of the Victoria series on PBS, there is a painted portrait of her beloved dog Dash hanging there. We were NOT allowed to take photos, but it certainly gives off a warm, cozy feeling as it was not very large. I found a fun video on YouTube of the Queen, Queen Mother, Princess Diana. and Prince Philip dancing in this ballroom. WATCH VIDEO ON YOU TUBE.

Lunch was next and we enjoyed some meat pies and sandwiches from the small cafe then we were on the road our last adventure visiting, but not going in to Breamar castle and driving through the stunning Glenshee area.

Helen is often accompanied by a wee stuffed sheep named Morag and she was featured in many photos from Helen’s tours. Five years ago on our first trip to Scotland, Dave and I adopted Duncan. Well, Duncan and Morag had a lot to catch up on. Mainly little Morag, who is now traveling with Morag. We allowed them some privacy to get reacquainted before parting ways again.

As we left Breamar, the fog was starting to move in quickly. We were able to see some amazing mountain vistas before it overtook the glens and stopped in one area to take some photos.

Perth was our destination city for the evening and wouldn’t you know it, the sun came out again. Helen dropped us off at the car rental office, so Dave and I could pick up our rental car for the rest of our journeys in Scotland. Many hugs all around and many, many thanks to Helen for her hospitality, friendship, and touring expertise. We are blessed to know her.

Our B&B for the night is the Rowanlea Guest House where we checked in, met the owners, ordered our breakfast, and settled in. Unfortunately, the brand new GPS Dave bought is suddenly not working. We may have to go old school and use Maps! Stay tuned!

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 an 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 is 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 and roomy with a terrific view overlooking their fields and 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 pubs 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.

Day 2 Scotland

Day two in Edinburgh was met with mist & drizzle, but we didn’t let that stop us. After a quick bite to eat at the hotel we took a taxi over to Leith to view the Royal Yacht BRITANNIA.

The Britannia was in service as the Queen’s yacht for 43 years, from 1954 until 1997 and it’s a bit of a time capsule from the 1950’s and 1960’s with simple furnishings and mechanical fixtures and navigation that were never really modernized.

The audio tour and the tour process itself was fantastic and the folks this attraction employs were friendly, helpful, and very informative. Dave and I give the whole experience five stars! My mom would have LOVED this!

We were able view the queens private study, bedroom, and sitting room as well as Prince Philip’s rooms. Very simple, but lovely. Then we viewed the crew quarters, laundry, and engine rooms. I was particularly fascinated by the very old communication system they apparently were still using when the ship was decommissioned in the 90’s. It must have felt foreign to any young guests who visited. Having to flip an actual switch to contact another room and deck. VERY 1950’s.

Paying guests are also invited to partake of tea and/lunch in the tea room, which Dave and I did. The weather was still overcast and quite foggy, but it was nice to enjoy a meal out on the covered deck.

I ordered the Cream Tea for One that included tea, a fruit scone with jam and cream, and a glass of sparkling Rosé. The scone was fabulous, as was the jam and the Rosé. And of course the tour ends at the gift shop and I then picked up my first two souvenirs of the trip: a beautifully ornate mug and a thistle shortbread mold.

We then took a taxi to the Water of Leith Walkway, which is a highly-maintained footpath through several lovely areas. One of the locations was one I’ve been admiring on Twitter & Facebook — Dean Village.

What a wonderful, peaceful and serene walk this is. Tree-lined paths meander along side the river called the Water of Leith. There are lovely bridges, waterfalls, ivy plants dripping from trees and ledges and beautiful mossed-covered stone walls. What a lovely oasis for people to visit. We met many out for a stroll, even on this overcast, coolish day.

Fortunately, the sun DID come out, but unfortunately, not until we had left the path and walked back into the city. Figures.

Dave and I continued into the city on foot making a few shopping stops along the way before settling in on a wooden bench at Princess Street gardens where we were able to view the castle one last time and enjoy this suddenly, sun-filled afternoon.

We stopped at the hotel for a brief break, then wandered back to the Royal Mile where we visited St. Giles Cathedral. We stopped here in 2013 and really enjoyed it. We enjoyed it this time as well, although we were highly disappointed the Thistle Chapel was closed. Apparently, people had been stealing when they were simply letting people wander in on their own. Dave and I were truly saddened that such a remarkable landmark had to succumb to such measures. Now only small groups are allowed in at a time and with a guide.

Our dinner tonight was at Whisky Bar where I indulged AGAIN in fish n’ chips and a Guinness and Dave had a haggis tower, which he said was very good. My fish fry was much better than last nights, but still not the best I’ve had. Then it all came back to haunt my poor acid reflux and hiatal hernia and I was left in a lot of discomfort for some time. Perhaps I need to stick to salad for dinner tomorrow, night.

Tomorrow morning we meet up with Helen for further adventures in Scotland, so we need to pack and get some sleep. Thank you again Edinburgh for your beauty, charm, history, and zest for living!

Day 2 Scotland