Our family has many ancestors that hail from Scotland so we decided to visit the ‘motherland’ a few years ago. Driving north from England, we passed Hadrian’s Wall, which the Romans built to keep out the the barbarians (AKA the Scots) early in the second century. In contrast to the Great Wall of China, this wall was only shoulder high (at most) for most of the parts that we saw. Maybe the barbarians were short?
Another view of Hadrian’s wall
The next stop was Jedburgh, a town about 10 miles north of the English border.
Jedburgh’s most famous landmark is the ruins of an abbey that was built early in the 12th century.
We continued driving north to Edinburgh,the capital of Scotland. We went for a self guided walking tour of the Royal Mile and other points of interest.
The Scottish parliament building is not as historic as may of the building in Edinburgh and it features some very unconventional and interesting architecture.
Detail of the windows of the Scottish parliament. We weren’t sure what they were going for here. Pac-man with bamboo accents?
Venturing on from Edinburgh, we got a taste of Scotland’s most famous liquid export at the Edradour distillery in Perthshire.
During the tour we learned all about the labor-intensive whisky making process, one that has not changed much over time. At the end we got to try a few samples 🙂
Our next stop was Ruthven Barracks, which was built by the English in 1721 to house soldiers that were in Scotland to quell the Jacobite uprising.
Next we visited Loch Ness, where sightings of a mysterious monster (affectionately named “Nessie”) have been reported throughout history.
In fact, we had our own ‘sighting’!
Ok, it turns out our Loch Ness Monster was only a stick floating in the water after a rainstorm.
Next we traveled through Inverness and headed north to Golspie. In Golspie we visited Dunrobin Castle.
In the castle gardens we were treated to a falconry demonstration. In addition to falcons, we got to see owls go after their simulated prey.
The gardens at Dunrobin castle with the north sea in the distance.
Venturing even further north, we boarded a ferry to catch a ride to the Orkney islands. The first site we visited there was the Italian Chapel that was built by Italian POWs during World War II.
After spending a night in Kirkwall, we visited the Ring of Brodgar, a stone circle that is thousands of years old and a UNESCO world heritage site.
There is no consensus on what the exact purpose of the monument was, but it is an enchanting place with spectacular views.
The stones have been inscribed with graffiti over the ages, including this inscription from a Viking named ‘Bjorn’.
Just down the road we proceeded to Skara Brae, which was occupied over 5,000 years ago. It was hard to imagine inhabitants living there so long ago.
Later, at the Standing Stones of Stenness, Walt did his best standing stone pose.
Beautiful day at the Standing Stones of Stenness.
Later, in Kirkwall, we visited the Highland Park Distillery. There we learned about the labor intensive process that goes into the spirit, including smoking the malt with hand-dug peat.
After taking the ferry back to the Scottish mainland, we took in a few castles including Eilean Donan…
… and we got to see some Highland Cattle up close.
Scotland is on our list of places to visit during our sabbatical and we look forward to returning!