Some YouTube videos we made:
Jedburgh Ruins - is a ruined 12th century Augustinian abbey. It was a frequent target for invading Border armies. Jedburgh Abbey is one of the four great abbeys built in Scotland’s border country during the Middle Ages. It was established as a priory of Augustinian canons around 1138. The brethren possibly came here from St Quentin Abbey, near Beauvais, France. The priory was raised to abbey status around 1154. It is situated in the town of Jedburgh, in the Scottish Borders 10 miles north of the border with England at Carter Bar. Jedburgh lies on the Jed Water, a tributary of the River Teviot. Please click here to see our YouTube video of Jedburgh Abbey, the Royal Mile and Floors Castle.
Kelso Abbey - is a ruined Scottish abbey founded in the 12th century by a community of monks first brought to Scotland in the reign of Alexander 1. It occupies ground overlooking the confluence of the Tweed and Teviot waters, the site of what was once the Royal Burgh of Roxburgh and the intended southern centre for the developing Scottish kingdom at that time. Kelso thus became the seat of a pre-eminently powerful abbacy in the heart of the Scottish Borders.
In the 14th century, Roxburgh became a focus for periodic attack and occupation by English forces and Kelso's monastic community survived a number of fluctuations in control over the area, restoring the abbey infrastructure after episodes of destruction and ultimately retaining Scottish identity. From 1460 onwards, life for the abbey probably grew more settled, but came once again under attack in the early sixteenth century. By the mid-century, through a turbulent combination of events, the abbey effectively ceased to function and the building fell into ruin.
In Kelso, we had a nice quick lunch at the Cross Keys Hotel. Since this is Scotland, they had an extensive Scotch bar. I asked for something of a local flavor and was recommended a Glenkinchie 12 Year Old. It was light and smooth. Now, back on the road.
Floors Castle - is the largest inhabited castle in Scotland and is home to the Duke and Duchess of Roxburghe and their family. This castle is situated in the heart of the Scottish Borders overlooking the River Tweed and Cheviot Hills. Designed by William Adam, who was both master-builder and architect for the first Duke of Roxburghe, the building started in 1721. In addition to touring the castle, we had an opportunity to do a short exploration of the beautiful, wooded castle grounds.
Melrose Abbey - was founded in 1136 by Cistercian monks. It is known for its many carved decorative details, including likenesses of saints, dragons, gargoyles and plants. On one of the abbey's stairways is an inscription by John Morow, a master mason, that says: "Be halde to ye hende" (Keep in mind, the end, your salvation), which has become the motto of the town of Melrose. The abbey was built in the form of St. John's cross, of the Gothic style of architecture, and is 258 feet in length; 137.5 feet in width; and 943 feet in circumference.
A considerable part of the principal tower is now in ruins; its present height is 84 feet. There are many very superb windows; the principal one at the east end (which is the top nave of the cross,) appears to have been more recently built than the others, and is 57 feet in height, and 28 feet wide. It has been ornamented with statues. The abbey is profusely decorated with exquisite carved work.
Edinburgh Castle - Resting upon the basalt core of an extinct volcano, Edinburgh Castle dominates the capital city from its great rock perch at Castlehill. The castle is a collection of buildings dating from the 12th to 20th centuries. The original fortress was built by the 6th century Northumbrian King Edwin, from whom the city takes its name. Its story has helped shape the nation's story. Battles and sieges were fought over it, royalty lived and died within its walls, and countless generations have been and are inspired by it. The Scots and English struggled for control of the castle during the Wars of Independence. It is a great site to visit and the view from the Argyle Battery is spectacular. For some pictures of the Edinburgh area in general, please click here.
Holyroodhouse Palace is the official residence of the Monarch of the United Kingdom in Scotland.
Please click here to see our YouTube video of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh Castle, The Royal Mile and the Royal Yacht.
Located at the bottom of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, at the opposite end to Edinburgh Castle. At the end of the 15th century, James IV had ordered a palace at Holyrood to replace an existing royal guesthouse by the Abbey. Mary’s father, James V, built a massive tower and had rooms within the palace lavishly furnished for his French wives. Holyrood Palace has served as the principal residence of the Kings and Queens of Scots since the 16th century, and is a setting for state occasions and official entertaining. The Queen is in residence at the Palace of Holyroodhouse during Holyrood week, which usually takes place from the end of June to the beginning of July. Then the Scottish variant of the Royal Standard of the United Kingdom is flown, and the Royal Company of Archers forms Her Majesty's ceremonial bodyguard.
Scottish evening with Ceremony of the Haggis - We had a fun filled night at Jamie's Scottish Evening at The King James Hotel by Thistle in Edinburgh. The evening included a 4 course meal with freely flowing white and red wine. The MC, Bill Torrance, entertained as he kept things merry and lively. The array of jigs and reels on the accordion by the band leader, Gordon Pattullo, was a musical delight. Gemma Donald, the winner of Scotland's most prestigious award, The Glenfiddich Fiddle Championships, delivered lively fiddle playing at its best. Jamie's Pipe Major enchanted with favorites including bagpipe classics such as Highland Cathedral, Scotland the Brave and Amazing Grace. Traditional Scottish dances by Jamie's Dancers had my toes tapping. The grand finale was The Ceremony of the Haggis ceremonially presented with the traditional piping in, address and toast to the haggis set to the 'Address to a Haggis' by Robert Burns. A sensational Scottish evening!
Royal Yacht Britannia - The Royal Yacht Britannia was home to Her Majesty The Queen and the Royal Family for over 40 years, sailing over 1,000,000 miles around the world. It played host to some of the world's most famous people. It is now berthed in Leith, Edinburgh. This is the second royal yacht to bear the name, the first being the famous racing cutter built for the Prince of Wales in 1893. As you walk through the Britannia, you see many historical photos of Britannia's facinating past. We started at the bridge, visited the Royal Apartments, the formal dining area, the Crew's Quarters and finished at the Engine Room.
Forth Road Bridge - As we crossed The Forth Road Bridge, we got this shot of the historic Forth Rail Bridge, which runs pretty much parallel to it. The Forth Road Bridge opened in 1964 and spans the Firth of Forth, connecting the capital city Edinburgh, at South Queensferry, to Fife at North Queensferry. We crossed it as we left Edinburgh on our way to Inverness.
The Cathedral of St Andrew is a ruined Roman Catholic cathedral in St Andrews, Fife, Scotland. It was built in 1158 and became the center of the Medieval Catholic Church in Scotland as the seat of the Archdiocese of St Andrews and the Bishops and Archbishops of St Andrews. It fell into disuse and ruin during the 16th century Scottish Reformation, after which Catholic mass was outlawed. It is currently a monument in the custody of Historic Scotland. The ruins indicate that the building was approximately 391 feet long, and is the largest church to have been built in Scotland. The museum houses an outstanding collection of early and later medieval sculptures and other relics found on the site, including the magnificent St Andrews Sarcophagus of Pictish date. To see our YouTube video of our visit to St. Andrews and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, please click here.
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club - The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews is one of the oldest and most prestigious golf clubs in the world (the oldest possibly being The Royal Burgess Golfing Society of Edinburgh at Barnton, Edinburgh, instituted 1735). It is based in St. Andrews, Fiffe, Scotland, and is regarded as the worldwide "Home of Golf". Formerly, it was also one of the governing authorities of the game, but in 2004 this role was handed over to a newly formed group of companies, collectively known as "The R&A". The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews was founded on May 14, 1754 with the first Challenge for the Silver Club. Evolving over 250 colorful years of British history, it has grown from a small society of no fixed abode into a club whose membership of around 2,500 extends worldwide.
Balmoral Castle - is a large estate house in Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. It is located near the village of Crathie, 6.2 miles west of Ballaterand 6.8 miles east of Braemar. Balmoral has been one of the residences of the British Royal Family since 1852, when it was purchased by Queen Victoria and her consort, Prince Albert. It remains the private property of the monarch, and is not part of the Crown Estate. Soon after the estate was purchased the existing house was found to be too small. It was demolished, and the current Balmoral Castle was completed in 1856. The Balmoral Estate has been added to by successive members of the Royal Family, and now covers an area of about 49,000 acres It is a working estate, including grouse moors, forestry and farmland, as well as managed herds of deer, Highland cattle and ponies. Please click here to see our YouTube video of Balmoral Castle, Clava Cairns and Cawdor Tavern.
Clava Cairns - Clava Cairns is the site of an exceptionally well preserved group of prehistoric burial cairns that were built about 4,000 years ago. The Bronze Age cemetery complex is comprised of passage graves, ring cairns, kerb cairn, and standing stones in a beautiful setting. It also has the remains of a chapel of unknown date. The cemetery was used in two periods.Around 2000 BC, a row of large cairns was built, three of which can be seen today. A thousand years later the cemetery was reused. New burials were placed in some of the existing cairns and three smaller monuments were built including a 'kerb cairn'.
We enjoyed a Scottish night out at Cawdor Tavern. Please click here to see a fun slideshow from that evening.
Inverness, meaning "Mouth of the River Ness" is the capital city of the Scotish Highlands.
It is the administrative center for the Highland council area, and is regarded as the capital of the Highlands of Scotland. It is the northernmost city in the United Kingdom and lies within the Great Glen (Gleann Mòr) at its north-eastern extremity where the River Ness enters the Moray Firth.
The Gaelic king Mac Bethad Mac Findláich (MacBeth) whose 11th Century murder of King Duncan was immortalized in Shakespeare's play, held a castle within the city where he ruled as Mormaer of Moray and Ross. We enjoyed an evening in a Scottish Pub, the Cawdor Tavern. Cawdor Tavern is situated in the beautiful conservation village of Cawdor.
Culloden, just east of Inverness, is where the crushing Hanoverian victory over Bonnie Prince Charlie's Scottish Clans took place. With over 1,200 dead in just one hour Culloden was a short but bloody battle - the last to be fought on British soil. (Following wars were fought, but none on British soil.)
The visitor's center displays information about the events leading up to, during and after the battle. There are photos and depictions of characters who were actually involved in the battle as well as an interactive exhibition. A film captures the horror of battle. We walked about the battlefield where headstones and monuments to decimated clans bear witness to the carnage that took place here on April 16, 1745. To see a YouTube video of our visit to Culloden, Gretna Green Wedding Chapel and Loch Ness, please click here.
Invermoriston Scotland Stone Bridge - When Thomas Telford built his road up the Great Glen at the beginning of the 19th Century, he was starting from scratch along the shores of Loch Ness. The only previous road through the Glen was General Wade's Road on the opposite side of the loch, now the B862 and B852. Wade had chosen the east shore to avoid so many river crossings, Telford chose the west shore to connect the communities. Invermoriston Bridge was initially started in 1805, but it took eight years to complete, the delay caused by 'idle workers' and a 'languid and inattentive contractor'! It consists of two stone arches, straddling the two channels either side of a large rock 'island' in the middle of the channel.
Loch Ness - is a large, deep, freshwater loch in the Scottish Highlands extending for about 23 miles southwest of Inverness. Its surface is 52 feet above sea level. Loch Ness is best known for alleged sightings of the cryptozoological Loch Ness Monster, also known affectionately as "Nessie". The infamous Loch Ness monster often appears, according to legend, accompanied by Earth tremors and swirling bubbles from the Scottish lake of the same name. Many believe that the shaking ground and bubbles aren't signs of a monster but rather an active fault underlying Loch Ness and other nearby lakes. Many credit the Great Glen fault system for reported sightings of the legendary beast. It’s been noted that alleged Loch Ness monster sightings have coincided with periods of seismic activity. From 1920 to 1930, there were more sightings that coincided with increased activity of the fault. In reality, it is believed, that people have seen the effects of the earthquakes on the water. The Great Glen fault is more than 62 miles long and cuts the Scottish Highlands into northern and southern halves. The strike-slip fault, where rocks slide past one another with no vertical movement, is largely responsible for creating Loch Ness, the deepest freshwater lake in Britain. The Loch Ness monster first leaped into international fame in the 1930s, when a photo taken by a London surgeon named Kenneth Wilson showing a serpentine head and neck was widely published. Decades later, however, that image was revealed to be a hoax. Despite many years of searching for the creature using everything from cameras strapped on dolphins to miniature submarines no real evidence of "Nessie" has ever surfaced. For instance, after scouring the lake with sonar beams and satellite imaging, researchers with the BBC found no evidence of such a large beast. Though no scientific evidence of a Loch Ness monster exists, that hasn't diminished interest in the beast (one of the biggest tourist attractions in Scotland). In 2012, boatman George Edwards claimed he saw and photographed the monster. Skeptics, however, dismissed his photo as that of a floating log or a large fish. We didn’t see Nessie but we did spot these two odd fellows.
Fort William - Fort William lies near the head of Loch Linnhe, one of Scotland's longest sea lochs, beside the mouth of the rivers Nevis and Lochy. They join in the intertidal zone to briefly become one river before discharging to the sea. The town and its suburbs are surrounded by picturesque mountains.
The town is centered on High Street. Fort William is a major tourist center with Glen Coe just to the south, Aonach Mòr to the north and Glenfinnan to the west, on the Road to the Isles. It is a center for hill walking and climbing due to its proximity to Ben Nevis and many other Munro (a mountain in Scotland with a height over 3,000 ft) mountains.
Ben Nevis - Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the British Isles. Standing at 4,409 ft above sea level, it is located at the western end of the Grampian Mountains in the Lochaber area of the Scotitish Highlands, close to the town of Fort William. The 2,300 ft cliffs of the north face are among the highest in the United Kingdom. . Ben Nevis, although not as high as Alpine mountains, is positioned on a more northerly latitude and the climate can be considered similar to Arctic regions. While there may be a welcoming sea breeze on the shores of Loch Linnhe, 20-30 knots of chilling wind may be evident on the summit of the Ben.
The summit, which is the collapsed dome of an ancient volcano, features the ruins of an observatory which was continuously staffed between 1883 and 1904. The meteorological data collected during this period are still important for understanding Scottish mountain weather. C.T.R. Wilson was inspired to invent the cloud chamber after a period spent working at the observatory.
Loch Linnhe - is about 31 miles long. It opens onto the Firth of Lorne at its south-western end. The part of the loch upstream of Corran is 10 miles long and only about an average of 1.2 miles wide. The southern part of the loch is wider, and its branch which lies to the south-east of the island of Lismore is known as the Lynn of Lorne. Loch Eil feeds into Loch Linnhe at the latter's northernmost point, while from the east Loch Leven feeds in the loch just downstream of Corran and Loch Creran feeds into the Lynn of Lorne. The town of Fort William lies at the northeast end of the loch, at the mouth of the River Lochy. During the summer months, Loch Linnhe is perpendicular with the setting sun, making it a popular location for photographers. On the shores of Loch Linnhe is the charming little village of Onich, to the north of Ballachulish Bridge, 8 miles southwest of Fort William. It's a good center if you're taking the western route to Inverness.
Glen Coe It is often considered one of the most spectacular and beautiful places in Scotland, and is a part of the designated National Scenic Area of Ben Nevis and Glen Coe
The narrow glen is surrounded by wild and precipitous mountains. At Invercoe, the landscape has a softer beauty before the main entrance to the glen. The main settlement is the nearby village of Glencoe located in Carnoch.
The name Glen Coe is often said to mean "Glen of Weeping", perhaps with some reference to the infamous Massacre of Glencoe which took place there in 1692. However, "Gleann Comhann" does not translate as "Glen of Weeping". In fact the Glen is named after the River Coe which runs through it, and bore this name long before the 1692 incident.
The name of the river is believed to predate the Gaelic language and its meaning is not known. One possibility is that it was named after a tribe once living in the area, however, this remains speculation.
Rannoch Moor - is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation. It is notable for its wildlife, particularly famous for the sole British location for the Rannoch-rush, named after the moor. It was frequently visited by Horace Donisthorpe, who collected many unusual species of ants on the moor and surrounding hilly ground.
Today it is still one of the few remaining habitats for Formica exsecta, the narrow-headed ant, although recent surveys have failed to produce any sign of Formica pratensis, which Donisthorpe recorded in the area in the early part of the 20th century. A wealth of plant, insect, bird and animal life can be found on the moor and, in places, where the peat has dried out, the roots of old pine trees from the ancient Caledonian forest are exposed, some of which are thousands of years old.
The Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond, or simply "Loch Lomond" for short, is a well-known traditional Scottish song) first published in 1841 in Vocal Melodies of Scotland.
In Scotland, the song is often the final piece of music played during an evening of revelry (a dance parry or dinner, etc.) The song has been recorded by many performers over the years.
Loch Lomond is the largest Scottish loch or lake, located between the counties of Dunbartonshire and Stirlingshire. We enjoyed a cruise on Loch Lomond as we glided on its tranquil waters amidst a beautiful, peaceful setting.
Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland. It's situated on the River Clyde in the country's West Central Lowlands. Glasgow grew from a small rural settlement on the River Clyde to become one of the largest seaports in the world. Expanding from the medieval bishopric and royal burgh, and the later establishment of the University of Glasgow in the 15th century, it became a major center of the Scottish Enlightenment in the 18th century. From the 18th century the city also grew as one of Great Britain's main hubs of transatlantic trade with North America and the West Indies. With the onset of the Industrial Revolution, the population and economy of Glasgow and the surrounding region expanded rapidly to become one of the world's pre-eminent centers of chemicals, textiles and engineering; most notably in the shipbuilding and marine engineering industry.
To see our You Tube Video of a bagpiper on Gretna Green please click here.
Gretna Green is one of the world's most popular wedding destinations, hosting over 5,000 weddings each year in the Gretna/Gretna Green area, and one of every six Scottish weddings.
It has usually been assumed that Gretna's very famous "runaway marriages" began in 1754 when Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act came into force in England. Under the Act, if a parent of a minor (i.e., a person under the age of 21) objected, they could prevent the marriage. The Act tightened up the requirements for marrying in England and Wales but did not apply in Scotland, where it was possible for boys to marry at 14 and girls at 12, with or without parental consent. It was, however, only in the 1770s, with the construction of a toll road passing through the hitherto obscure village of Graitney, that Gretna Green became the first easily reachable village over the Scottish border.
The Old Blacksmith's Shop, built around 1712, and Gretna Hall Blacksmith's Shop (1710) became, in popular folklore at least, the focal tourist points for the marriage trade. The Old Blacksmith's opened to the public as a visitor attraction as early as 1887. The local blacksmith and his anvil have become the lasting symbols of Gretna Green weddings. Scottish law allowed for "irregular marriages", meaning that if a declaration was made before two witnesses, almost anybody had the authority to conduct the marriage ceremony. The blacksmiths in Gretna became known as "anvil priests", culminating with Richard Rennison, who performed 5,147 ceremonies.