Sunday, May 30, 2010

Scotland Part One - Stirling

Hard to believe this trip has actually happened and I'm back already! What a whirlwind trip it was.

We'd all be here forever if I summed up in my usual writing style. So instead I'm going to make a sort of list of activities and events and let the images speak for themselves. I'm breaking this up into four parts so y'all aren't too overwhelmed. Or as they say in Scotland, "nay bother."

I came there to spend time with my friend Dan from NY and his Scottish girlfriend, Yvonne, who had painstakingly planned an amazing itinerary of sights, excursions, appointments with distilleries and noteworthy dinner reservations for the next eight days. Sadly, not even an hour into my trip as we were on our way to a decadent late lunch, Yvonne got word that her gran had died suddenly of a stroke. Dan and I were awkwardly wondering how to proceed. What now? Luckily, Yvonne's family are so lovely, gracious and understanding. Yvonne would come with them while Dan and I proceeded mostly as planned with their blessing. We could end some trips earlier so Dan could spend time with them. And he was constantly in touch. I just felt so bad for Yvonne and family, as they were clearly shocked and bereaved.

I have no pics of the first night after this sad turn of events. But Dan and I made it to Leith and the Scotch Malt Whisky Society for a couple of drams, then a fab meal at Fisher's seafood restaurant, a cab back to town and some cocktails at Bramble, then, ugh, tequila at Garibaldis. Dan had purchased a rare bottle of Littleton scotch at the SWS that got left either there or in the next cab home. Either way, when trying to reclaim it next day, nowhere to be found. We think most likely Garibaldis had quite the Dram of the Night special as a result. Despite having been up for more than 24 hrs due to the time change and travel, I managed to stay up till 11:30 to be on Scottish time. Well, at that point, I could have been anywhere. So didn't need that tequila.

Next day, despite fatigue and hellacious hangovers, we took at train to Stirling so I could see the Castle and Dan could spend time with Yvonne and family, who happened to live there. A dream come true for me. Finally get to see the very place where Mary Queen of Scots resided!

Dan on the wall before we met Yvonne for lunch.

Robert the Bruce.

Dan spent time with Yvonne while I toured the castle. This is the back garden. 

 Walking up into the court, that's the back of the main palace.

The sandstone Great Hall, where all the lavish banquets and ceremonies were held.

Would you fucking believe? I come all the way to Scotland after longing since I was a teenager to see this palace, and it's closed for renovations through the summer! Here's what was on the scaffolding in front:

Sigh. But I had a good look around and even got one of those cheesy headset things. There were a lot of intricate statues, carvings and reliefs on the buildings.

That's a statue of King James VI on the corner of the palace, over the gate connecting it to the Great Hall.

I love these little reliefs of a mermaid and lion on the side of the Great Hall.

Cool stone walkway alongside the building with the main kitchen, leading to outer buildings and fortresses.

There are many little glassless windows at the front of the castle in the area where the cannons were set up. Here's one looking out into the garden.

Down the street is the Argyll House, where I believe one can stay the night.

This is just a couple of blocks from the Church of the Holy Rude, where Mary's son James was crowned James VI. My camera couldn't capture the wonderful stained glass inside for some reason. But you get the idea.

Loved the adjacent cemetery. But I had to rush off to meet Dan, so didn't get to spend much time. I really dug this cross over one of the headstones.

This is also right down the street from the historic jail. Again, my timing is perfect. The exhibit opens a week later, the day I leave the country.

I met up with Dan again and we took a short drive across the hills to the William Wallace monument. There we parked the car at the bottom of a very steep hill and walked all the way up. Killer, breath-crushing, knee-whooping incline. But worth it. Here's what you see when you finally crest:

A statue of Wallace at the front. Don't look much like Mel Gibson, does he?

So you have some perspective, here's the view from the monument, with Stirling Castle in the distance.

Not much went on that night as we had to get up early. To drink whisky at Auchentoshan.

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