On Friday we drove to the little town of Drymen near Loch Lomond. We started by having a good look at the shops in Hawkshead – the shopping capital for outdoor gear in England. They had some excellent gear including the same Tilley Hats that I once bought in Banff on our trip to Canada.
It was a another dismal day so we didn’t stop to see much for most of the trip as we headed north. It was just too wet and cold. We made it to Carlisle by late morning and to Gretna Green for lunch. I can reassure you that the Scots know how to create tacky tourist stops with the best of them! Apart from a café and a toilet, there wasn’t one redeeming feature of the tourist stop of Gretna Green. Its days of romance have certainly dissapeared long ago.
After passing the village of Lockerbie (famous for the crash of the PanAm flight after a Libyan terrorist attack), we detoured for a few miles off the road to a little mining village of Wanlockhead. There we found a lead mining museum, an old beam engine and a little village of miners cottages that looked as bleak as the windy, rainy and treeless country surrounding them. This was also the highest village (in elevation) in Scotland. So whilst we won’t get to the highlands, we have been to the ‘top of the country’.
We continued on to Drymen – 18 miles north of Galsgow in drizzling rain and increasing peakhour traffic along he M74. Our destination tonight was the Best Western Inn. Because this is a long weekend Bank Holiday, we thought that it would be prudent to book some accommodation ahead. Whilst we are perhaps missing out on the charm of a B&B, we are instead certain of having somewhere to stay over this busy weekend period. The hotel was an old coaching inn and bult in 1702. We had what at first appeared to a great room diretly over the front doo,r but as it turned out, there was a birthday function at the hotel and people were stnding underneath our room until the early hours of the morning talking loudly and smoking. We didn’t get a whole lot of sleep on Friday night.
On Saturday, we drove around the western side of Loch Lomond to Crainleigh, then to Lochearnhead and on to Perth where we stopped for lunch. The countryside was scenic and just like I imagined from the picturers that I have seen (in between the rain showers). I kept looking at the hill sides hoping to get a glimpse of that every famous Scotish girl, but I think that her mother must have kept her indoors to keep dry. (Heather on the Hill)
The weather had mostly cleared up by early afternnon and by then we were at St Andrews, the home of golf. We walked around for an hour taking in the sights. We watched a few parties tee off and also came a cross a wedding party with all the men in kilts and highland regalia.
Last night we rerached our second lot of pre-booked accommodation at Edinburgh. We crossed the very impressive Firth iof Forth bridge and stoped at the little historic town of Queensferry for the obligatory photo of the bridges.
Our hotel is about 6km from the centre of town and we have a large room with a king size bed and flatscreen LCD TV on the wall. This feels like the very opposite of the B&Bs in which we have stayed.
This morning, we took our time – sleeping in and having a late breakfast. We had Ken (our Aussie voice on our GPS direct us into the centre of Edinburgh for a look around town.
In many ways we sruck it very lucky today. We found a parking spot in the street outside the museum and we didn’t need to pay any parking fees because it was Sunday. We were also right next to the hop-on-hop-off bus stop.
We began our exploration by walking up to the castle along part of the Royal Mile and spent about three hours looking around the castle. The castle was the place where the Scottish Royalty lived up to 1707 and still is the home of the Scottish crown jewels.
More than a royal residence, the castle is a military fortress and the home of the Nationaol War Museum. There are museums for the Scots Royal Guards with some very interesting displays. They certainly are a unit that has a lot iof history and tradition – from fighting in wars against the English in the 1300’s to being in Iraq today.
Afteer the castle we jumped on the hop-on-hop-off bus and did a couple of circuits around the city streets. The guide’s explanation filled in some gaps and helped us make some sense of some of the things that we could see (Nelson Memorial and Walter Scott Memorial, for example). Finally we got off the bus at the museum, walked 30 metres to our car and headed back to the hotel via the docks where the old Royal Yacht Brittania is now kept as a tourist site.
Today’s lack of travelling was very welcome after a lot of travelling. It’s now a few minutes after 6.00 pm and perhaps it’s time for a beer, or maybe a scotch before dinner.