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    Posted August 7, 2014 by
    thomrw
    Location
    Lambertville, New Jersey
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    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Bonny Scotland

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    High & Low Roads to Scotland

     
    Robert and I have just returned from Scotland after our 8 day vacation. The weather was most unusual (a heat wave for Scotland) with temperatures reaching over 80 and only a day and a half of rain and coolness. Beautiful blue skies over vast landscapes of marvelous highlands and seashores. We started in Edinburgh with a delightful 2 night stay in a beautiful suite (The Braemor) at the Balmoral Hotel. We attended a Scottish Evening Dinner nearby where we were entertained by a Bagpiper, Scottish dancers, a Scottish band and a riotous standup host. Dinner included a tasting of the official Scottish treat: HAGGIS, which is ground up lungs and hearts of sheep!!! Yes, we did sample it (euck!) and honestly, it tasted somewhat interesting.

    We toured the famous Edinburgh Castle, Holyroodhouse and then the town itself (including a quick stop at The Elephant House, where JK Rowling penned the first Harry Potter book back in 1997). From Edinburgh we traveled (along with our private chauffeur/guide) north to Stirling Castle. After that we drove to Drummond Castle which had one of the most beautiful gardens we have seen since Versailles. Robert was in flower-pig heaven. We then spent an overnight at the Atholl Palace Hotel. Our best description of this rat trap is that it was the most vile experience of all my years (68+). Not only at reception did they claim they had no reservation, but finally relenting after I produced a prepaid voucher, they dumped us in a servant's broom closet they claimed to be a "standard double" room. The bed was the size of my bed in my college dorm. The only other furniture was a child's desk and chair. Nothing on the walls, and a bathroom with turn-of-the-century plumbing (that's last century not this one) that had separate hot and cold faucets! Luckily, this was the only hiccup on our trip.

    The next morning, after a disgustingly lousy breakfast of a stale roll and tepid coffee, we journeyed to Balmoral Castle and Gardens, where I was able to tour about in a battery scooter (thank goodness as the place was vast!!) We then went on to Cawdor Castle and Gardens (another real treat) and ended up in Inverness, where we overnighted at a ultra modern boutique hotel, the Rocpool Reserve in a "HIP room". We had dinner in their Chez Roux restaurant (the owner also has a 3 Star Michelin restaurant of the same name in London).

    The following morning (Sunday) our guide drove us to Saint Andrew's Cathedral (Scottish Episcopal) for morning service. It was spectacular with a wonderful choir and "very high style" liturgy. The choir responses during the service were really impressive (I must have a talk with my choirmaster about this). At this time I also discovered that the Church of Scotland (unlike England) is Presbyterian not Anglican. Our guide gave us the whole lowdown on it's history which I found fascinating.

    After church, we drove down the cost of Loch Ness (caught a great picture of Nessie - see photo album) and drove over the new bridge to the Isle of Skye. Here we discovered over the next two days the most dramatic and beautiful scenery of Scotland. We checked into our charming deluxe B&B, The Toravaig House Skye for our two night stay. The following day we toured the entire Island (the Isle of Skye is the largest [639 Sq Miles] and most northerly large island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland). We visited a local pottery store, fishing village and their very fascinating series of locks connecting inner rivers and the North Sea. At the very north edge by the Kilt Rock, we stopped at a cemetery where the famous fashion designer, Alexander McQueen is interred.

    We left Skye via a large ferry to Mallaig on the mainland. From there we drove to Glenfinnan at the base of Loch Shiel. This beautiful location was used as the backdrop to the Harry Potter movies as the home of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Across from the Loch was the impressive railroad viaduct which also was featured in the films as the Hogwarts Express Train travelled over it. Over the next 3 hours to return to Edinburgh we viewed vast landscapes of the highland hills and glens (valleys).

    We spent one last night at our beloved Balmoral Hotel and had a special dinner event......a big mac at McDonalds!
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