Meh.

 

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happy new year from ‘F minus’

 

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Year Ends and Odds

Just some random photos from the past month…

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Some cyclamens

 

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A strawberry shrimp plant

 

 

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Outside Christmas Decorations

 

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Christmas Goose and the Trimmings

 

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Fannie and Mabel in Stairway Prison

 

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A Doggone Merry Christmas!

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This is Willow – she’s my drinking buddy at the Draught House.  Well, I have the IPA and she has water and the occasional jerky treat.  She came to my friend, her human companion, from the South Texas Aussie Rescue.

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Greetings from Scotland! (Part the Last -Glasgow and the South)

So the first stop on the last day of the Scotland sojourn was a boat trip on Loch Katrine, beginning and ending at Stronachlachar.  It was supposed to be aboard a famous steamship, ‘Sir Walter Scott,’ but the propeller fell off and we had to go on another boat. It was two hours roundtrip on the Loch; a clear day, but windy and freezing cold.   The most interesting part of the boat ride was watching a group of day trippers from Glasgow.  A fun, motley crew who I intellectually knew were speaking English, but it sure didn’t sound like it.

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Stronachlachar Pier

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Loch Katrine Scotland – 23 September 2016

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Loch Katrine Scotland – 23 September 2016

After Loch Katrine, it was on to Rosslyn Chapel, in Roslin, Midlothian.  I’d been looking forward to this visit.  The chapel was featured in ‘The Da Vinci Code‘ and is famous for its connection to the Knights Templar, the Masons, and possibly the resting place of the Holy Grail.  I found the medieval architecture and decorations stunning.  There is so much to see it’s almost overwhelming.

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Rosslyn Chapel, Roslin, Midlothian Scotland – 23 September 2016

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Gargoyle – Rosslyn Chapel, Roslin, Midlothian Scotland – 23 September 2016

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Rosslyn Chapel, Roslin, Midlothian Scotland – 23 September 2016

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Architectural Urn – Rosslyn Chapel, Roslin, Midlothian Scotland – 23 September 2016

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Doorway – Rosslyn Chapel, Roslin, Midlothian Scotland – 23 September 2016

After Rosslyn, it was on to Melrose Abbey, the final destination of our trip.  Melrose Abbey was the first Cistercian abbey in Scotland and is famous as the resting place of the heart of Robert the Bruce.  Another medieval architectural masterpiece.

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Melrose Abbey, Scotland – 23 September 2016

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Melrose Abbey, Scotland – 23 September 2016

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Water Spout – Melrose Abbey, Scotland – 23 September 2016

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Graveyard – Melrose Abbey, Scotland – 23 September 2016

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Melrose Abbey, Scotland – 23 September 2016

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Gargoyle – Melrose Abbey, Scotland – 23 September 2016

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Melrose Abbey, Scotland – 23 September 2016

After Melrose, it was on to Glasgow and our last Scottish hotel, Blythswood Square.  I don’t have any photos of Glasgow; we arrive after dark and it’s not really the most picturesque place in the world.

The following day, we started our trip home – Glasgow to Dublin, Dublin to Dulles, and Dulles to Austin.  The transatlantic flight was on Aer Lingus, so it was kind of like a little trip to Ireland thrown in!

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Christmas in a Can

metal-deer

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Greetings from Scotland (Part 3 – Isle of Skye and Glencoe)

So after Inverness, the next destination was the über-tourist mecca in Scotland, Loch Ness.  We started the day at Urquhart Castle, which is about as picturesque as it gets. The entrance/visitors center is extremely well situated into the landscape; when you get to the castle, the buildings and the parking lot are completely camouflaged.

 

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Loch Ness, Scotland – 21 September 2016

 

 

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Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness, Scotland – 21 September 2016

 

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Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness, Scotland – 21 September 2016

After Urquhart Castle, we drove counterclockwise around the loch – most people go the other way – until we ended up on the Isle of Skye for our Fairy Pools hike.  This was another nail-biting drive on what amounted to a cart track going up the side of a mountain.  And while the weather started out fine in Inverness and around Lock Ness, the moment we pulled into the Fairy Pools hike parking lot, the rain started.  Coupled with the 30 mile-per-hour gale, it was like straight-line freezing rain right in your face. Most people were fleeing, but we were among the foolhardy (insane) souls that kept trudging on.  (We passed a girl in a wedding dress and a couple who were skinny dipping; such is the apparent allure of the Fairy Pools…)

 

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Isle of Skye, Scotland – 21 September 2016

 

 

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Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye, Scotland – 21 September 2016

After the hike, we were completely soaked.  There is absolutely nothing worse than cold, soaking wet jeans.

After the Fairy Pools, it was on to Dun Scaith Castle.  Another nail-biter, this time on a sheep path.  And once you got there, you were greeted by a pile of rocks.

 

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A sheep by the ‘road’ – Isle of Skye, Scotland – 21 September 2016

 

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Some cows – Isle of Skye, Scotland – 21 September 2016.

After the drive through the pasture, we went to our hotel, Kinloch Lodge.  Greeted with champagne by the fire in the drawing room, it was a nice way to end the afternoon.  (I had a whiskey here – the very definition of ‘fire water.’  My throat’s still burning.)  Dinner was fantastic; a Michelin-starred restaurant essentially in the middle of nowhere.

 

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Loch na Dal, Kinloch Lodge, Isle of Skye, Scotland – 22 September 2016

 

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Kinloch Lodge, Isle of Skye, Scotland – 22 September 2016

After leaving Kinloch, the next stop was Eilean Donan Castle.  It’s supposed to be one of the finest castles of its type in Scotland, but quite honestly, it was way too touristy for my taste.  We had to wait 3o minutes past opening time while a commercial was being filmed.  By that time, the tourist hordes had descended. Too many people…

 

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Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland – 22 September 2016

 

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Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland – 22 September 2016

After the castle was one of the unexpected highlights of the trip – the Glenfinnan Railway Viaduct.  It was a nice little hike to one of the quintessential scenes from the ‘Harry Potter’ films.

 

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Waiting for the ‘Hogwarts Express’ – Glenfinnan Viaduct, Scotland – 22 September 2016

Next, it was on to hiking on Ben Nevis, the highest mountain on the British Isles, but there had been a landslide on the route we were taking, so that got scrapped.  We regrouped and did some hiking in the Glencoe region, near our hotel for the evening.

 

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Glencoe Scotland – 22 September 2016

 

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Waterfall – Glencoe, Scotland – 22 September 2016

 

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Glencoe, Scotland – 22 September 2016

And then we arrived at Glencoe House.  This was a manor house built in the last quarter of the 19th century.  In the 1930s, the house was given to the National Health Service and converted into a hospital.  In the last few years, it was purchased and repurposed into an hotel.  This was the best place we stayed – right out of ‘Downton Abbey.’  (I highly recommend Suite 1 – it has one of the few working fire places.  Apparently, the when it was a hospital, they poured concrete down most of the chimneys.  Criminal.)  In total, the suite was three rooms – a huge dining room/drawing room; a very large bedroom; and a fantastic bath.  Suite 1 also has a private terrace with a hot tub.  There were even deer on the lawn!

There is no dining room at the hotel so all the meals are served in the suite’s private dining room.  Probably one of the best meals we had – created by Brian and Fionna Gunn who run ‘Bayleaf Catering.’  Brian was clearly passionate about what he does and it really showed.  A coursed meal – five or six, I think – in the dining room by a roaring fire.  It was decadent off the charts.

 

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Glencoe House (Suite 1 w/terrace on lower right), Glencoe, Scotland – 22 September 2016

 

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Loch Leven from Glencoe House – Glencoe, Scotland – 22 September 2016

We had to leave very early the next day – and I had to be practically dragged out of the place, but it was on to a boat ride, a potential resting place for the Holy Grail, and another ruined abbey.

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Greetings from Scotland! (Part 2 -Aberdeen and Inverness)

To backtrack a bit, I didn’t get any pictures of the Queen Mary 2 from the crossing, but Brian did.

 

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Queen Mary 2 – Docked in Halifax, Nova Scotia – 10 September 2016

Here’s a photo of the boat from our New England and Canadian trip in 2013.

 

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Queen Mary 2 – Bar Harbor, Maine, October 2013

Back to Scotland.  After leaving Edinburgh, our first stop was Stirling Castle and the site of the Battle of Bannockburn (June 1314).  Stirling is probably the grandest medieval castle in Scotland.  It was restored by King James V for his wife, Marie de Guise – parents of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots.

 

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Stirling Castle – 19 September 2016

 

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Stirling Castle – 19 September 2016

 

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Stirling Castle – 19 September 2016

 

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View of Stirling Castle from the Bannockburn Battle Field

Adjacent to Stirling Castle is the site of the Battle of Bannockburn. The first real victory for the Scots – lead by Robert the Bruce – over England and King Edward II.

 

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Site of the Battle of Bannockburn (June 1314) – 19 September 2016

 

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Statue of Robert the Bruce, King of Scots – Battle of Bannockburn – 19 September 2016

After Stirling and Bannockburn, we drove to Dunnottar Castle.  This was probably the most picturesque castle we saw on the entire trip.  Again, it was a medieval ruin, but it was situated on a cliff overlooking the sea, like something straight out of Macbeth or Lucia di Lammermoor.

 

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Wild Rose on the hike to Dunnottar Castle – 19 September 2016

 

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Haymaking – Hike to Dunnottar Castle – 19 September 2016

 

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Dunnottar Castle, Scotland – 19 September 2016

 

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View from Dunnottar Castle – 19 September 2016

 

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Dunnottar Castle – 19 September 2016

 

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Dunnottar Castle – 19 September 2016

 

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View from Dunnottar Castle – 19 September 2016

From Dunnottar, we drove to Aberdeen and stayed overnight at the Marcliffe Hotel, and as coincidence would have it, we were in the ‘Dunnottar Suite.’

The following day was the drive to Inverness.  First stop was Craigievar Castle.  My hands still hurt from clutching the steering wheel on this drive.  A one-lane winding road with hairpin curves and zero visibility of on-coming vehicles.  I seriously considered abandoning the vehicle and seeing if there was an Uber driver somewhere in rural Scotland.

So while this is supposed to be the finest example of ‘Scottish Baronial-Style’ architecture, all I could think was ‘It’s an ugly pink building.’ (It really wasn’t leaning like this; I was still recovering from the drive.)

 

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Craigievar Castle – 20 September 2016

After Craigievar, we drove to Loch an Eilein and the Rothimurchus Forest for hiking.  This area was gorgeous and really what one thinks about regarding Scottish lochs.

 

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Castle on the Island – Loch and Eilein – 20 September 2016

 

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Loch and Eilein – 20 September 2016

 

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Loch and Eilein – 20 September 2016

 

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Mossy Tree – Loch and Eilein – 20 September 2016

 

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Loch and Eilein – 20 September 2016

From here, we drove to the Battlefield of Culloden – the bitter defeat of the last Scottish Jacobite uprising against the English in 1746.

 

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19th Century marker for the Battle of Culloden – 20 September 2016

 

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Restored peasant cottage on Culloden Moor – 20 September 2016

From Culloden, we drove to our hotel in Inverness – the Rocpool Reserve Hotel.   The hotel was very nice – and the restaurant was great – but the best part about this hotel was the hot tub on our balcony; a godsend after the morning’s drive from hell.

Next up:  the Isle of Skye, Glencoe, and a brief stop en route to Hogworts.

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