A Travellerspoint blog

Scotland

AUTUMN IN SCOTLAND

semi-overcast 12 °C

We took the ferry from Belfast to Stranraer in Scotland, having driven for 6 hours, from Cork city. We still had nearly 2 hours of stressful driving along narrow wet roads, competing for space with loads of HGVs, before we arrived in Livingston. It was wonderful to be with our friends, Bernie and Estralita, again.
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We could just relax and keep warm, and felt no inclination to go out and do things. We had hilarious and naughty evenings in the kitchen, cooking up a storm, quaffing wine, and generally having [often outrageous] fun around the table, while eating wonderful food. Old friends - treasures indeed.
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Sandi made some potent strawberry daquiris.

Sandi made some potent strawberry daquiris.

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We had planned to put ourselves onto a low carb diet for 2 weeks, but as we were enjoying the food and wine so much, we kept on putting it off!
IMG_3666.jpgA Scottish BBQ on SA National Braai Day.

A Scottish BBQ on SA National Braai Day.

We needed the time to pack our last two crates, which were to join the other 10 being collected from Judy's house by the shipping agent. We advertised Mr Stubby, our darling van on Gumtree, washed it several times and had a few interested buyers, but no sale. Then, on cousin Judy's advice, we performed a ritual to bid the deva of the van farewell - imagine the sight of Bernie prancing around Mr Stubby on a frosty Scottish afternoon, with incense wafting out the doorway, and David and I earnestly doing our farewell-van thing behind her! What will the neighbours think?!! Unfortunately, as our departure time drew near, and we had still not sold the van, we had to book it on a ferry for our return to Ireland. We hoped that we might still sell it in Ireland, failing which a kind farmer (who is a CareDOC driver) had offered to store it on his farm until our return in the summer.
Bernie aka Mystic Meg reading Tarot cards at the local Holistic Fair.

Bernie aka Mystic Meg reading Tarot cards at the local Holistic Fair.

We had also been invited to use their house as a base, while we considered doing some package trips to different parts of Europe. We went to see the local travel agent, who suggested the cruise on the Nile, which sounded just right. So, no Europe - but lovely hot Egypt instead. We wasted no time in booking the trip for 2 weeks later. We also looked at a 4 day trip to Rome, but eventually decided it would have to keep for next year.

Bernie took us into Edinburgh for the day and we wandered in and out of shops, ate good food, and had lots of fun before heading home again. The architecture in the centre of the city is so interesting!
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Looking up towards the castle from Prince's Street.


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While the girls trawled through M&S, David went up inside the Scott Monument. It was built 170 years ago to commemorate Sir Walter Scott, the Scottish novelist and poet, who wrote Ivanhoe and Rob Roy, amongst others. David climbed the 287 spiral steps to the top; the passage became so narrow in places that both shoulders touched the sides!
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Close-up of the stone-work showing where it has been restored in perfect detail.

The views of the city from the top were spectacular!
IMG_3649.jpgIMG_3651.jpgTowards the Calton Hill, with its unfinished "Acropolis" memorial to those who had died in the Napoleonic Wars, and the sea beyond.

Towards the Calton Hill, with its unfinished "Acropolis" memorial to those who had died in the Napoleonic Wars, and the sea beyond.


Towards the castle.

Towards the castle.

The nearest point at which we could join the Thomson tour to Egypt was Manchester airport, which was 5 hours away by road. We decided to go via Newcastle-on-Tyne so that we could visit the Bracchis again. This also meant that we would only have a 2 hour drive in the morning, to be at the airport by 07:00. When we were close to the Bracchis, our satnav, Molly, decided that the shortest way to cover the last stretch was to take a walking track through the woods! We bumped along, with Mr Stubby getting scratched and dented by branches on either side, unable to turn around. Finally, after about 2 miles, we emerged on the other side, rather bruised and worse for wear! Sue, Kev and the lads were astonished that we made it through the narrow lane, which they considered a physical impossibility for any vehicle - let alone a hulking great LDV van!
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On our last weekend, Bernie had to attend a workshop in the Lake District, in the pretty town of Keswick. The rest of us decided to go along and make the most of it. We booked into the very nice Highfield Hotel, and enjoyed a superb 4-course dinner that evening. We were having such fun and laughing so much, that the other diners must have thought we were bonkers! We had stunning views over Derwentwater from our room.
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We enjoyed browsing through a lovely street market on the Saturday, and discovered a unique jewellery shop called Expressions, from which we did not emerge empty-handed! Sandi dragged Estrelita back to the shop, and we are happy to report that a birthday present for Bernie left with her too!

We strolled along the edge of Derwentwater, admiring the beautiful scenery.
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Some trees along the edge of the lake had amazing root systems.


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Autumn chill was really in the air and the leaves were changing colours.
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The time in Scotland flew by, and all too soon it was time to leave our dear, kind friends and head back to Stranraer, bound for Ireland.
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Posted by davidsandi 09:00 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

SCOTLAND AND TRAVEL PLANS REVISITED

rain

We spent a blissful 2 weeks at Bernie and Estrelita's, in Livingston, chilling out and informally house-sitting their lovely home while they were in the USA.

Bernie and Estrelita's house in Livingston

Bernie and Estrelita's house in Livingston


View from their front door

View from their front door


These 2 weeks simply flew by, with us not doing very much other than catch up with ourselves and enjoying a spacious, peaceful, fab-u-loos, non-moving home.

This reflective time allowed us to review how we were doing on our walkabout and we decided that prolonged periods of camper-vanning, with short overnight stops wasn’t ideal for us. We decided we need to spend longer in an area, and occasionally we need to have our feet on the ground, with a clean toilet at hand [hence the fab-u-loos reference]!

Out of this review grew the idea of formal house-sitting. So all systems go, we planned to line up a few sequential house-sits in France, Portugal, Spain and Italy, our intentions being [if we got such assignments], to spend a few weeks in each place, and to fill in the gaps between assignments in the van. So we subscribed to 2 online websites and started creating a website of our own, as a forum to advertise our services. Other than the text, we needed pictures to illustrate our abilities and credentials, so that Speedy-Jamie-the-Webman could get creating. Selecting pictures and writing words was quite fun, as can be seen below.
Gardener Sandi says: "What a lot I got."

Gardener Sandi says: "What a lot I got."


Gardener Dave, fondling the produce!

Gardener Dave, fondling the produce!

With Jamie and Lis's Bali trip imminent, there was no time to waste.
Lis and Jamie

Lis and Jamie


Jamie secured us a domain, and in record time, voila, www.goodhousesitter.com was up and running, and we were ready for offers!

By now our B and E had arrived back from the States and we were enjoying some great friend-time with them.
For the next few days we engaged mainly in some excellent astrological consulting with Bernie, checking to see whether the stars and planets would provide clarity for us on several issues about which we had to make decisions.
Astro-Bern

Astro-Bern

In between we did a bit of gardening, helping Bernie put in some berry bushes and harvesting some fresh vittals!
Bernie working up an appetite!

Bernie working up an appetite!


Sometimes we just watched Estrelita take advantage of a sunny spell, while we sipped something fine, and she worked up a thirst!
Estrelita hard at work

Estrelita hard at work


Berry-nice gardening

Berry-nice gardening


Working 9 to 5, what a way to make a living!

Working 9 to 5, what a way to make a living!


Sandi and Bernie foraging for food

Sandi and Bernie foraging for food


A Livingston Lovely lurking in B and E's garden

A Livingston Lovely lurking in B and E's garden

At night we had wonderful chats around the kitchen table, gorging on the delicious suppers Sandi cooked:
the old stand-by, Roman lamb, seafood chowder, Nye veg and ribbetjies bake, honey-glazed chicken wings etc. These feasts were declared so good that B and E declared they did not want to let us leave! What a way to make friends feel good!!
Bernie and the breakfast bib

Bernie and the breakfast bib


Rude boy! Why do boys always play with their food?

Rude boy! Why do boys always play with their food?


Before leaving we visited Queen’s Ferry for brunch with Bernie.
Queen's Ferry is a cute village on the river Forth situated between two impressive bridges.
Queen's Ferry quaint high street

Queen's Ferry quaint high street


The road bridge over the River Forth

The road bridge over the River Forth


The River Forth rail bridge

The River Forth rail bridge

At brunch we tried haggis for the first time! It is like a spicy, nutty mincemeat [made from sheep’s heart, lungs and liver with oatmeal and suet, all cooked up in a sheep’s stomach] - sounds a bit vile, but is actually rather delicious.
The much-maligned HAGGIS!

The much-maligned HAGGIS!

Wandering down the street we came across a little bookshop overflowing with used books.
The caretaker said to take as many books as possible, and to leave a small donation only if we felt like it.
What a dream! We staggered out there, laden with masses of reading material for the months ahead.
Who needs to pay a quid+ per book at the charity shops?!
The Bookshop-beamers

The Bookshop-beamers

We finally tore ourselves away from our South African pals on the Sunday, but not before being treated to a splendid traditional Scottish breakfast prepared by Estrelita - haggis and all, nog al!

Our first stop en route to Newcastle-on Tyne, for a few more days with our Bracchi pals, was the now famous Rosslyn Chapel, not far from Edinburgh.

In the past 2 years since Dan Brown included the chapel in his book [The Da Vinci Code] the number of tourists visiting has multiplied ten-fold.
The whole chapel has been covered with a “roof” for the past 10 years, while they work on restoration and drying it out.
Rosslyn Chapel with preservation works in situ

Rosslyn Chapel with preservation works in situ


Rosslyn Chapel as it could be without the scaffolding!

Rosslyn Chapel as it could be without the scaffolding!

Inside, it is small and as there were lots of people, it was not easy to move about freely.
The carvings and details are quite exquisite, inside and outside, and well worth the visit.
Rosslyn Chapel details of stonework

Rosslyn Chapel details of stonework


Rosslyn Chapel - part of the exquisitely carved interior

Rosslyn Chapel - part of the exquisitely carved interior

The Apprentice Pillar is so-named, according to an 18th century legend involving the jealousy of the master mason in charge of the stonework in the chapel, and the skill of his young apprentice. The apprentice carved this beautiful column in his master's absence, and on seeing it the master was so enraged with envy that he whacked him on the head with a masonry mallet and killed him. As punishment for his crime, the master mason's face was carved into the opposite corner to forever gaze upon his apprentice's pillar.
Apprentice Pillar inside Chapel

Apprentice Pillar inside Chapel

Posted by davidsandi 08:05 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

UP NORTH AND BACK AGAIN

The drive from Wincanton to Newcastle-on-Tyne was in driving rain the whole way. With many large trucks on the roads, we soon discovered how hazardous it could be overtaking them! The curtain of spray thrown up by their many wheels reduced visibility to zero for a few seconds while on the wrong side of the road!

It was great to spend some time with dear friends, Sue and Kev and their fine lads, Michael and Matthew who were both busy with final exams.
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We had fun browsing through charity shops in the city centre, stocked up for the basic kitchen equipment van at Ikea, visited a car boot sale, and a Sunday market on the Newcastle quayside. We had quite a giggle en route to Ikea in Newcastle. To get to the store we keyed the name into Molly, our GPS, and set off in faith that she knew the way. We were soon heading south, which got Dave a bit worried. We checked Molly's destination again and found that she was leading us to Ikea, Holland! Motto of the story: never trust your GPS completely.

Sue is very proud of the magnificent poppies she grows in her front garden!
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We spent an afternoon visiting Hadrian's Wall, a colossal feat of engineering, extending 80 miles across North England.
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It was built in 122AD by 3 legions of Hadrian's soldiers, in 6 years, to keep the Barbarians out of Roman England. There were 30 forts and a mini fort every mile along the wall, with a great ditch to the north. We visited one of the best preserved forts called Housesteads. It was amazing to see the intricate layout of the facilities, including elevated, ventilated flooring. Standing in the ruins you can see the wall running over the beautiful rural hills to the horizons on either side.
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After a week in Newcastle we drove to Livingston [1/2 hour the other side of Edinburgh] to spend a few cozy days with our friends Bernie and Estrelita. Livingston is a very spread out town with wide roads, appearing to have more trees than houses. We spent the next day meandering up and down the old part of Edinburgh City. looking at some touristy things.
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This board related the interesting tale of the origin of Jeckyll and Hyde
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At the one end of High street is Edinburgh Castle, high on its rock; down the other end is the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which is the Queen's official residence.
St Giles Church in the city centre is a beautiful church with a very ornate ceiling,
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but the tiny Thistle Chapel tucked away in the corner is spectacular. Although built only 100 years ago, it is bedecked in the most ornate wood carving in the style of the 15thC. There is a seat for each of the 16 Knights of the Thistle, with a different creature carved onto each of the armrests, and a throne for the Queen when she visits to induct a new knight.
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On the Sunday Estrelita drove us up into the Highlands, promising us an excellent cream tea at a place she knew on Loch Tay. After a long, but beautiful drive, we arrived at the isolated Ardeonaig Hotel, in the rain.
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To our surprise, the staff were all South African [the hotel is owned by a SA man], and we could place our orders in Afrikaans! We had pots of tea and warm scones with clotted cream, but at a very fancy price: £7 pp! Not only did it bruise my pocket, but I nearly knocked myself out on a low beam as well!

On the way back we stopped to admire banks of bluebells
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and a very fine specimen of a hairy Highland cow [pronounced koo]. He was but one of many of these gorgeous, ginger-coloured beasts, with long floppy fringes over their eyes, spotted in the lush fields along the way.
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The next day saw us start on the long drive back to London, stopping overnight with Sue and Kev, en route to picking up the campervan. Marty, its previous owner, was nearly 2 hours late, as he could not get away from work, so by the time we had got through a whistle-stop lowdown on how the van works, we hit the peak rush hour of London traffic. It was no fun for each of us now driving unfamiliar vehicles, surrounded by impatient drivers. Again we were glad to put London behind us, as we headed down towards Wincanton in the rapidly fading light.

After a overnight stopover with Ebu and Jeremy in Holton [near Wincanton] we drove the van down to cousin Judy and Rob's where we left it for the 5 days that we spent in Bulgaria.
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On our return from Bulgaria we spent the week making new curtains [luvvvverly brown flecked with orange, very 60s, to go with our even more stunning rose-pink velour seating/upholstery], cleaning, sorting and packing the van. 7 of the 9 curtains work perfectly, but unfortunately "someone" was too economical with measurements, so the ones over the back doors cover only half the windows!
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Bit of a privacy issue there, considering there's no ablution cubicle on board - so we have to buy more material and redo!

Posted by davidsandi 04:48 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

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