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Entries in scotland (4)

Tuesday
Dec062011

Tombstone Tuesday: A Trip to Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh, Scotland

I can't believe it's been almost a month since I last posted! Things get so crazy around the holidays. But don't worry, I'm still desperate to learn and share with lots of stories and adventures!

Last year I watched a 2 hour special on the History Channel, Afraid of the Dark. I really enjoyed the scary stories and history of our innate fear of the dark. Several areas of the world are covered and one of my favorites  was about Edinburgh, Scotland. Not only was I obsessed with the accent of the Scottish guide, but the the creepy scarey stories of the haunted Greyfriars Kirkyard and the underground moors fascinated me. I can be big baby and get scared easy, but for whatever reason I love creepy cemeteries!

When I had the amazing opportunity to visit Scotland this past September I just had to get to Edinburgh to see these sights for myself. I visited Greyfriars during the day, it was beautiful! The crypts and tombstones were very elaborate. This graveyard is supposedly haunted, but since I visited during the day I don't have any spooky stories to share of my own. They have nighttime tours, but there were just too many to chose from and I read that some people felt that the tours were not always respectful of the graveyard. They left garbage and disrupted the area. Not wanting to take part I decided not to take a nighttime tour. 

  

The ornate tombstones in on the western side of the graveyard sit right up against the back of the buildings. Can you imagine having this veiw literally right outside your window? You could almost touch the stones from the windows! I don't know if I could do it...

 

I just couldn't stop taking pictures of all the intricate details in stone...lots of skulls and cross bones!

 

To the right is a picture of the Covenanter's Prison, where thousands of Presbyterian's supporting the National Covenant were imprisoned. Hundreds died and were buried here. This area is behind a locked gate so I couldn't walk down the land to view to areas, but from what I could see, you wouldn't want to stay there.

 

 

Edinburgh is a great city for sightseeing, eating, and shopping. After the graveyard we had wee pint of local Scottish ale at the Greyfriars Bobby's Bar just around the corner. Another spot I recommend is Lebowskis Bar. We are huge fans of "The Dude" from the movie The Big Lebowski and this bar is an ode to all things dude, most importantly to his favorite drink, the white russian. They have many different variations of white russians, we loved them.

I really enjoyed my visit and recommend you take a trip to Greyfriars next time you're in Edinburgh, Scotland. If you have gone on a haunted tour I'd LOVE to hear about your experience!

Tuesday
Sep272011

Desperate Genie Travels to Scotland: Day Five on the Isle of Skye

We woke up early and made our way northwest- the Isle of Sky being our main destination. According to the Isle of Sky website, National Geographic named this destination the "4th best island in the world"! And really, who doesn't love a beautiful island? It was a hike from our accommodations in Aviemore, about a 3 hour drive, but there was much to see along the way! The scenic drive brought us pass Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle,  and the Eilean Donan Castle. Click on the map below for a larger image of our travels!

We just briefly stopped at Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness, the entrance fees were a little steep (I don't remember the exact amount but I'm thinking it was around £10 for adults). We had so much we wanted to see that day we had to keep going. It was beautiful though! We continued our trip up and around Loch Ness until we arrived at the Eilean Donan Castle- the most photographed castle in Scotland!

The admission price for a self guided tour of this restored castle is £6 for adults and was definitely worth it. There are many historical and family pieces, a great way to experience the history of the castle and family. The have guides located on each floor and they were more than happy to share their expertise with us. Again, no photography is allowed indoors.  

We were on a fish and chips kick and on the recommendation of a guide we enjoyed a delicious lunch at Hector's Bothy. This friendly local spot was located just a 5 minute drive from the castle in Kyle Lochalsh, right before the Isle of Skye Bridge. After lunch we headed to Skye via the Skye Bridge. We then found a small road and decided to explore. It turned out to be a very narrow road with only room for one car. It twisted and turned through the hillsides of the island, complete with steep cliffs and amazing views. This was by far one of the craziest drives ever!

 

As the 20 or so minute drive brought us closer to the water, we realized the final (and ONLY) destination at the end of this road was the Skye Ferry, transporting cars to and from the mainland. Upon our arrival to the end of the road/ferry line, we learned the ferry information from chatting with passengers from the 2 other cars waiting. There wasn't anyone who worked for the ferry on our side and we had no cell phone service, so we took a chance. We could see the ferry on the Glenelg side and waited about 20 minutes for the ferry to make the trip over to us on the island.  

Once we started loading the entire trip from lasted 15 minutes max. On our trip there were a total of 3 cars, 2 ferrymen, and their boat loving dog. A single trip was £12 per car for up to 4 car passengers. This ferry is known as "the last manually operated turntable ferry in Scotland"...what that means exactly, I'm not really sure. But after the unique experience, I do suggest their services and encourage you to invest in similar "historic" achievements found in your communities!

There was MUCH to see when we exited the ferry in the small town of Glenelg. I'm thinking the rest of our afternoon in Glenelg deserve an entire post.  It was a mix of small town seaside culture, neolithic landmarks, and war memorials which made for a very interesting tourist experience.

If you have any questions about these locations or want to know more, please leave a comment or send me an email! I'm more than happy to help, happy travels!

Sunday
Sep252011

Desperate Genie Travels to Scotland: Days Three and Four

So it's been a few days since I visited these locations, didn't reach my goal of blogging everyday. But when you don't have WIFI in your hotel accommodations (GRRRR) it makes blogging on the reg a little difficult. We have been having a BLAST in Scotland. The highlands are absolutely gorgeous, vistas like I've never seen.

Scotland is home to many historic castles and we really enjoyed our trip to Cawdor Castle. Located in Nairn, this "fairytale" castle is beautiful and well maintained (probably from the £9 adult entrance fee!). The estate is inhabited by the late wife of Hugh Campbell, 6th Earl and 25th Thane of Cawdor, during the months of Oct.-Apr. Can you even imagine what it's like for someone to actually live in a medieval castle!? Photography isn't allowed inside, but the place is full of beautiful antiques and extraordinary family memorabilia dating back 700 years! In my opinion the entrance fee is a little high, but I would definitely suggest checking it out! We ate at their cafe and were very satisfied with our meal.  

Next on our sightseeing route was a visit to the prehistoric Clava Cairns. These burial cairns are over 4,000 years old (very hard to comprehend!). Stones are piled in circles with narrow pathways leading to their center.

The 2 cairns are surrounded by tall standing stones in a very specific circular pattern. Studies have discovered that the entrance pathways to the center are positioned so that during the winter solstice the sun would shine brightly into the center. This place was surreal and a little creepy! And as you can see from the picture it was a very chilly/windy day.


In the next edition of Desperate Genie Travels to Scotland: Days Five and Six...Eilean Donan Castle, Isle of Sky, and the Glenelg Brochs.

Cheers!

Tuesday
Sep202011

Desperate Genie Travels to Scotland: Days One and Two

Hello from Scotland! I've been traveling a lot lately, my current position is the Highlands of Scotland! This is my first trip to the UK and so far it's been great. Normally when I travel I find blogging impossible and I'm trying to break that pattern. I spent the past month in sunny southern California and the transition to northern Scotland has my body shocked from the time zone and temperature changes. The weather here is a constant mix of cloudy/rainy/windy with intermittent sunshine with an average temperature somewhere in the 50's.

We first visited the William Wallace Monument in Stirling, Scotland. I have to admit- I've never seen the movie Braveheart, but I now know the main character is based off the actions of William Wallace. I was still a little jet lagged and awake for the 20 something hour in a row so I didn't take any pictures. But it was a beautiful spot with amazing views of Stirling.

A scenic drive through the rural roads of the highlands followed. We saw Highland Cows, "eeland coos" as pronounced by the locals. We've had fun saying their name. They are so cute with their long shaggy hair!

"eeland coo"

We made our way to the picturesque town of Elgin to visit the magnificent ruins of Elgin Cathedral. The remains of this church and the cemetery that surrounds are just beautiful.

To avoid most tourist routes, we have been taking many small back roads to get a feel for the real Scottish Highlands. While driving down a small road near Dulsie we spotted a sign for an ancient Scottish landmark, the Ardclach Bell Tower. I am SO happy we made the stop. This might be one of the coolest off the map places I've ever experienced. It's located off a very remote road and even when you get to the primitive staircase leading up a tall hill- you still have no idea what you are about to to see!

The Ardclach Bell Tower, circa 1655, is an open landmark and it seemed like we were the only people for miles! Located on top of a small hill, this tiny small building is a relic bell tower and rumored prison with sprawling views of the country hillside. It was beautiful and breathtaking. You can even ring the bell!

 

 

Stay tuned for more travel updates! If you have an ancestor or relative from Northern Scotland and you'd like to request a picture of a place like a house, cemetery, or headstone- please contact me! I'll be here for another week.

In the next edition of Desperate Genie Travels to Scotland: Days Three and Four...Cawdor Castle and The Clava Cairns.