The weather is changing.

It’s going to happen when you’re on vacation, you will have the best days and then the others. The best meals and then the worst.

We had a rainy cold day yesterday, but we have been prepared for cold rainy days, in fact, I watched the Scotland weather forecast for weeks before leaving Australia, it showed snow more times than not but we have not seen a single flake. Maybe we have a different method of forecasting in another hemisphere. Maybe we say Scotland……cold, freezing, wet; Bahamas………blue skies, blue water, hot days, balmy nights, bikini weather. Here’s what the north say about Australia….. hot, dry, dusty roads and kangaroos. Oh come on please!! But today, the day of our departure the skies are as blue as any summers day in Australia but the cold is biting, the forecast is for 6 degrees at 4pm today.

Aberdeen is a city built of granite, a young Norwegian women who served us in a men’s store yesterday said the city glistens in the sun and she was so disappointed we wouldn’t get to see it, but even if only briefly I can attest to the truth of her statement, it does indeed sparkle in the sunlight.

Our movements have been very much hampered by Peter’s injury, we would have explored every nook and cranny had we been able. I was adamant to search for a magnificent monument of Robert the Bruce King of the Scots before leaving Aberdeen, last night was our final opportunity. Braving the cold and wet we ventured just a couple of streets in the direction where we knew it to be, it was worth it. The Robert the Bruce wearing his crown, sits gloriously on his mount in front of a majestic building once a University Marischal College now the Aberdeen Council offices but still known as Marischal College. Peter in his inimitable style engaged the young security guard in conversation who pointed us in the direction of an even more impressive monument of William Wallace and opposite the beautiful Aberdeen Gardens. These three landmarks are an absolute ‘must see’ should you travel to Aberdeen, (see photos on Facebook).

As much as we are foodies, food does not dominate our time and movements when we travel, but I must tell you we stumbled across ‘Tony Macaroni’ restaurant last night. We had the best Parmigiana di Melanzane (aubergine parmi) ever, piping hot generous serves with a side dish of buttery spinach. It was opening night for this site last night but we’ve seen TM elsewhere and not surprisingly with 17 other restaurants all owned by the one man. It was actually a re-launch last night the manager told us, the official opening was two months ago, kitchen issues closed down the restaurant for five weeks. They must have been serious issues to close for such a significant period, but last night it was the place to be.

If you’ve travelled to the UK, anywhere in the UK you will have seen Costa cafés. There are 2500 cafés all around the UK (not Orkney) and we learnt from one of the Pastors, who moved to England to plant a church recently who is in the interim currently managing Costa cafés, Coca Cola recently paid £4+billion for a region of Costa Cafés. I thought after the conversation GBP£4billion is AUD$8billion give or take a dollar or two, I could buy the whole of Australia for that and all it’s bought in UK is a number of Costa Cafés.  

Things aren’t always as they seem. As you may have read on the day of our arrival we were confronted with the less appreciated side of Aberdeen and the circumstances of a significant number of people. Today however as we leave Aberdeen we are able to see, shall we say, more attractive parts of the city. It’s never too late to appreciate a cities better offerings and where we might have once decided that once is enough I think we could be encouraged to return even for a brief visit.

Our conference (Equip) finished yesterday it has been a week of input and enrichment and every conversation was significant and had purpose. We have met people from all over the UK but also South Africa and Europe. I think it is not usual that someone from Australia would attend a UK Equip but it was right for us, every session spoke into our lives and encouraged us in our ministry going forward. 

We will soon be landing in London Heathrow as we begin to make our way home, a brief stay in Hong Kong where I had hoped to see my brother but I might be lucky enough to cross paths with him at the airport as we go to catch the flight to Australia that he will have arrived on, but we will see my nephew Andrew (living in Asia) and Michael and our sister in law Nola (on buying trip to China). How global is our family that we travel to HK to see family living in Adelaide? Hahaha!

Thank you again for following us on our madcap journey, my scribblings, and all your encouragement to me to consider trying to earn a living doing what I love, writing. 

See you all again in Adelaide very soon. 

Tina (& Peter)

God is speaking, are you listening?

Leaving Orkney was somewhat sad, I, we, felt connected to the green isle. There is such a serenity to be found there. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Do you know the history of Orkney?

We arrived in Aberdeen on Saturday, a 35 minute flight in a 36 seater plane and it wasn’t even full. At check in we were offered the exit row, God bless the guest service assistant, Peter is still struggling with his sprained ankle after his fall in the middle of the never, never.

We heard that Orcadians love Aberdeen and some come twice a year. There’s a ferry leaving Shetland then picks up passengers in Orkney at midnight arriving in Aberdeen at around 5am in the morning and it’s less than £20. But I’m not seeing what they do. Aberdeen is dirty, filthy actually, more people smoke than not (there’s that ugly reformed smoker in me coming out again), high ethnic population, African, Indian and Middle Easterners that I can recognise immediately. In the short distance from alighting the bus to our accommodation there’s evidence of the complete inebriation the night before and I step around it. It’s the clubbing district we’ve discovered as well as the poor area of Aberdeen.

But what I really want to tell you about is Christ Central the church, just across from Union Square which is a shopping mall. It took us awhile on Saturday to find the church. We knew the church had moved to a new location in the zone, it’s not a traditional building in fact it used to be the location of a herring processing operation if I understood correctly. The renovations are not yet complete, it’s being staged and they have plenty of hurdles to jump before it will be finished

I want to tell you about everyone we met, they are an amazing faith-filled group of people but maybe some stories are better told face to face. Amy Brookes wife of the lead Pastor Rick Brookes gave us a condensed history of the journey to the purchase of the building and it’s definitely worth the telling.

Eight years ago or probably longer the building they now occupy came up for sale, two offers were made, one party offering £1.3mill approx and then Tesco (UK supermarket giant) offered £1.6 mill then having heard there was a generator in the basement withdrew their offer. This left an opening for Christ Central to make an offer for the building, being £800k.

Now for all intents and purposes one would say that was a gift, only half of the Tesco offer but all is not as it would seem. Firstly, they offered because they felt The Lord lead them to do so, the building was not a walk-in walkout it was almost derelict and had significant value to the developers of Union Square but would require a great deal of money to get it to a point of being fit for purpose.

Of greatest significance was that the bank required £400k within 28 days before they would release funding and to add to that, the congregation numbered only 34 people. If that was not enough of a challenge Rick felt God saying not to preach and ask for money from the congregation. Amy recounts the story how each day they would look at the bank balance and refresh the screen. As the 28th day was coming to a close and they looked at the bank balance again refreshing the screen a number of times and on the last time an amount of £412k appeared in the bank. I’m moved to tears by this story even as I write it. The solicitors acting for the church were so astonished by this immeasurable act of faith and trust that they gave a further £10,000 to cover all fees.

It is inevitable that the enemy will test faith even after all is said and done. As soon as the church had possession of the building thieves stripped the building of its valuable copper piping gaining access through the gaping holes in the walls. The thieves did not turn off the boiler first so the building was also flooded. They have continually been harassed by Tesco, M&S and others, one party even ordering the cutting down of trees on the church property before the church brought it to a halt.

But the hand of God is so evident in so many ways including acquiring at no cost a vast amount of carpet which was used just the once for a music concert, a member of the church was there to accept the carpet that was being dumped and it has carpeted at least two floors of the building. What colour do you think it is? The colour of royalty, purple no less! It looks fabulous!!

The council wants to tax them as a business which would be 1000s of pounds each year, but because the building was used for prayer meetings for a period and the church is a charity, they can’t. The church cannot use its front doors because of some issue raised by the developers of Union Square, they have installed CCTV on the front door to ensure there is no breach by the church, but it is security for the church. How fantastic is that!

As I say there are still many challenges but their faith is strong and they are meeting these challenges head on as they arise.

Christ Central have a community arm TLC, we had the privilege of hearing Tim Olsen preach on Sunday, Tim also heads up TLC, Rick said Tim left a much better paying job to do so but we could see his heart as he told a number of stories involving members of the community who are able to access help through the food bank, counselling and other support.

To give you some form of perspective regarding Aberdeen as it did for us, the population is around 230,000. Aberdeen is on the coast of the North Sea which is an oil basin and has brought significant wealth and employment to the economy of Aberdeen however when the oil prices dropped a few years ago 120,000 people lost their jobs. Tim said pointing “if you walk 90 seconds in that direction, you will be amongst the poorest 5% of the population”. And all of a sudden it answered all the questions we had upon our arrival.

It is a poor and needy zone in which we have landed. Begging on the streets, though we know not all people begging are truly destitute, the state of the streets, the high disability needs, the look of desperation only the blind can not see it but it’s almost in your nostrils.

The church does an incredible job meeting human need, Tim could hardly contain the emotion in his voice and again we are moved by his authenticity. TLC has three food banks, they see it all, people of faith and no faith, loss and grieving for a number reasons, suicide and so on.

Many of us quote that famous line from the movie Field of Dreams, “if you build it, they will come”. It was prophesied some time ago to the church and they are believing it and building it.

Someone up front I can’t remember who said of those in the church, “if you need prayer why aren’t you at the prayer meeting, if God has answered your prayer why aren’t you at the prayer meeting”.

God is speaking to us so many thousands of miles from home, but He is also speaking to the ‘whole’ church not just Aberdeen. Where is our faith, where is our faith in action, who are we waiting for to do the work, if we need prayer why do we wait for someone else to pray we should be front and centre crying out for ourselves and for others. If we have had prayer answered, again I ask, why are we not front and centre crying out our praise and thanks to God.

God is most definitely speaking, are you listening, am I listening, who is listening? If God’s hand and favour should depart from us it bears not thinking.

In Genesis 13:4 Abraham built an altar and called on the name of the Lord and he worshipped God.

Cheers from Aberdeen

C’mon face your fears!

Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink, i remember those two lines from my schooldays. It’s from the “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail if water…..if Jack was the only one who fell it would be ok but Jill came tumbling after.

So here’s my greatest fear…’s the fear of falling. I constantly visualise myself falling, falling down the stairs, falling in the street, falling off a ladder, down the steps of a stadium, wherever there’s a potential hazard to fall I see myself doing a face plant or sinking into the depths of some mysterious abyss. My other great fear is drowning, so combine falling into water and not being able to get out equals drowning. 

Oh dear, when I started to tell you about my fear a couple of days ago there was a point to the confession but I’ve lost the thread or maybe not? Stay with me on this………

We’re in Kirkwall, Orkney ……..

Stevie was standing on the corner of Bridge & Shore Streets as we were making our way to our hotel. I’m not sure who said the first hello but it didn’t matter. An engaging Irishman standing on the street corner “rolling his own” cigarette who was able to casually give us a detailed itinerary of places to visit, including clustering the activities to maximise our days. At the end of our conversation Stevie recommended we go to The Reel, there’s a folk music festival in town which finishes Saturday and tonight the Orkney Accordion & Fiddle Club are playing.

The Reel is cosy some would say cramped, approximately twenty musician are playing and twenty enjoying listening to them.  It’s actually practice night so musos have come and gone as they need to, it’s a 3 hour session and as well as accordians and fiddles, there’s a pianist, a guy who doubles up playing a tin whistle, a guitarist and drummer who also plays the spoons or something that sounds close to that. My brother and I had mandatory accordion lessons when we were children I have to tell you it was totally wasted on me and my brother can probably play the same three tunes if he works at it. 

We are on our third day and I apologise if I tell you stories out of order. There is just so much to see and do on this bucolic isle. We could get in a rented car and drive and see it all in a day but what is the point of that, how could we really appreciate everything around us. The people, kind and generous, who are happy with their lot in life, who don’t seem fussed about travel so much, young people who are studying and have no plans to go to the big cities and enter into the fast life, the Viking history, the war history, the working life and culture. No, there’s no point in rushing.

We met two Geordies (from Newcastle, England that is) on day one who told us about mega rider bus tickets, we’ve taken their suggestion on board (if you’ll pardon the pun), the buses will take us all over Orkney, cheaper than car hire and we can appreciate uninterrupted views of the rolling hills and pastures. 

Some of you would know we chose Orkney for more than just the beauty of the island, this is also the land of Peter’s ancestors. His great grandmother (GGM) was Margaret Shearer whose parents emigrated in 1852 sailing to Australia on the Omega with their four children. Peter’s GGM was born in Australia in 1856. His distant cousin Richard and his wife Audrey Shearer (neé Shearer, I know ?) live  here in Kirkwall, Orkney, are the most delightful people, it was such a pleasure to meet them (see photo on Facebook). Richard is, he told us, descended from the Vikings, he’s Norse, so Peter must also be part Norse. Richard and Audrey run a general store that is so much more than just a humble general store, he is the fourth generation owner and he will eventually proudly hand it to his sons the fifth generation. The whole family is working in the business all valuably contributing to and growing this well established business.

Richard is a magnet for members of the Shearer members visiting from Australia and contributes to the information we have all individually gathered adding more flesh to bones of the history of the family. He directed us well to the family and historical society where we spent a significant amount of time with the family historians generously giving us time yesterday and who also told us that Richard was a presenter at a recent meeting of the society. 

Richard has not lost his Norse (called Norm) accent. Intertwined in a generational Scottish accent one can clearly hear the Norm accent, it’s rich, it’s melodic and now we know it’s authentically Richard. He has offered to drive us today to the area of Holm (not sure how but it’s pronounced Ham) where Peter, Richard and Audrey’s ancestors lived from the 1700s but actually further back to the time of the landing of the Vikings. There are still gravestone markers there and it is those markers that we will see today there is something about standing on the very same soil and place where their ancestors lived, worked, starved and died. Yes some did starve for lack of food, the families had great numbers of children and it was that difficult living that caused sons down the line to up and seek out a better life where they could feed and raise their families without the fear of starvation. 

As Richard drove us all over areas we could never have reached by bus, he spoke of subsistence living, the movement of families every six months. The whole concept is foreign to move a family every six months, Richard explained people worked for 6 months receiving basic supplies i.e. eggs and milk and oats and a place to sleep, the workers were paid at the end of six months and then they up and left to find something to better their existence.

It’s been a superb day, my head is spinning for all I have seen and heard and thankfully I’ve recorded much of what Richard has shared so that I can transcribe it for future generations of our children who will one day ask the question “where did we come from”? I’m pleased that Peter has been moved and perhaps overwhelmed by what he has learned and feels at home here amongst distant family. Been blessed? An understatement!

Now back to water, falling and facing fears. We visited Skara Brae yesterday, we had a packed agenda; Skara Brae, Ring of Brodgar, Stones of Stenness then catch a bus back to Kirkwall to meet with the family historian I told you about earlier, then jump on another bus and head to Deerness, the area where Peter’s GGGM was born. 

I just want to tell you first that a bus will drop you off wherever you want along a bus route and anyone can hail a bus anywhere along the route and the bus will stop to pick up passengers. Peter watched for the arrival of the bus at Skara Brae and we bolted for it as soon as it came into view, we told the driver when he dropped us off we would be back to go to our next place, it was working like clockwork.

Skara Brae a neolithic village is something mentally too large to comprehend estimated to be 5000 year old. The standing stones of the Ring of Brodgar was phenomenal, people can only speculate what and why they exist and many have interesting views. We took advantage of the photo opportunities before moving on to the Stones of Stenness, we were on a mission………

You’ll never believe that Peter, although he couldn’t see the channel of water and the flooded area, was walking me across another waterlogged field in an effort to reach a gate to the roadway. It was a shortcut that didn’t pay off as his foot sunk into the sodden soil, we made a hasty turnabout to higher ground. What followed though could not be predicted. Back onto the roadway we headed toward the next stone circle. 

He went down like a ton of bricks… moment he’s pacing it out in front on me on the narrow roadway, the next he’s in agony on the ground. I could see his foot in the culvert, one of many spaced out at regular intervals along the edge of the roadway which draws the water off the road. Oh dear!

He’s been hobbling, poor love, a sprained ankle, he is wearing a compression sock but it’s bruised and very painful. He’s good at making jokes at his own expense and it has not damped his enthusiasm. He’s a real trooper! If it was going to be anyone it was going to be me but unfortunately for him it was Peter. I doubt it will slow him down too much 

Tomorrow we fly to Aberdeen, so we’ll see you next In Aberdeenshire.

PS: Have you heard there’s another “mad cow” case it’s putting everyone on high alert. ? 

How many questions are too many?

Tonight we’ll find ourselves in John O’Groats, travelling through countryside that is a sight for sore eyes. Without studying a map it’s difficult to put it into context as water is constantly to our right. Oil rig platforms have been dotted on Comarty Firth, I know there are many who consider these structures elegant in their own way but all I can think is, “who would permit such travesty to create such a blight on the landscape in such a small body of water”?

This train carrying us to Wick its a four and half hour journey, two carriages, and less than 15 passengers including us. We thought ourselves very clever yesterday procuring two of the last eight seats available at £17.00 and couldn’t understand why only six of us were in the carriage when we departed from the station at Inverness. The conductor and the young woman serving refreshments on the train enlightened us, there is rarely more than 5-10 people on this train to Wick which actually travels through Thurso before changing direction towards its final destination of Wick and our tickets were not the last seats on the train just at that price. 

Scotland is a wonderland, no matter where we go or what we see, castles, hiking, lochs and locks, pastureland, mountains and moors, my mind is bursting with delight at every scene. 

Before I go on I truly must tell you I had words with Peter on the day we arrived in Inverness. It was on our way towards the town centre, you know after my envy button had been activated. Peter had activated another of my buttons the “stop asking people so many personal questions”. We had encountered a lady at the mid point of our discovery walk, she going the opposite way. By the time we got to the High Street, she was right behind us and I suppose she initiated the conversation. The most interesting aspect is that she was a Fijian woman, quite a stunning lady I thought, of course Peter was curious enough to ask about her origins, how she came to be in Scotland etc etc, but it went on and on. At what point does one stop asking questions? I promptly chastised him. You may think me harsh, but did it deter him from further interrogating peoples lives? Not one jot!

We have had some great conversations with wide and varied groups of people. At Culloden Battlefield we encountered a lady at the bus stop, waiting like us for the bus running very late. Julie and her husband Charles who in the 45minutes of being in each other’s company uttered only a handful of words, but Julie a delightful conversationalist would give Peter a good run for his verbal currency and I’m sure would be a neck and neck finish.

Julie and Charles were up from Edinburgh. The media had reported that a housing estate was to be built adjacent the battlefield, a “sacred site”, and she wanted to  confirm or dispel the accuracy of the media report. They had journeyed to Inverness and visited Culloden to enquire at the National Trust desk in the visitors centre/museum whether in fact the media report was accurate.

I have to take break from my story of a Julie momentarily to look out of the train window as I write this for you, to look at the ever changing landscape; a burn, a mountainside green with patches of browned bracken almost creating a map of the world like you see on a globe, houses at the bottom and then looking forward narrow tracts of paddocks fenced off, I can imagine they are separately owned or is it in fact paddocks used to rotate the stock feeding. Further ahead still, black sheep herded together with white sheep running away from the train track as the driver sounds his horn. It’s just like a movie. If you’re a Great British Train Journey fan with Michael Portillo I think it’s more than just the Bradshaw’s guide that is attractive but the constantly changing landscape that holds the greatest attraction surely.

We are miles ahead and the landscape has turned quite rugged from the forests we saw now that far back and then a green valley floor between the brown mountains. A true feast for the senses.

Back to Julie – she is incredibly well read, knows all about the toppling of Malcom Turnbull, at the same time enquiring after our new Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, the progress and establishment of the New RAH. They have visited Australia quite a number of times, and were in Adelaide whilst it was still under construction, also recalling the SAMHRI. I’m seriously impressed and the reality that I’m happy to comment on what I like and what I don’t without too much foundation makes me realise that I should be more diligent about what is happening in my own city and country and of course I shouldn’t believe what the media says but go get the facts for myself from the source.

Towards the end of our encounter as the bus was arriving into Inverness our conversation sped up a fraction, there still so much ground to be covered. Where do we live, will they come back and visit Adelaide, come and stay with us (though the silent Charles might be a challenge) but he knew where Norwood is because he knew where Don Bradman lived and now we know he is a cricket tragic and we are back on terra firma. A hasty exchange of email addresses and I’ll be sure to contact Julie soon. 

Just one more story and the answer to a question I left you with in the last blog post.

On our way home from a sensational dinner at the award winning gastropub The Waterfront last night, we met a woman in the street of our b’n’b. We were looking at the houses and of course I was snapping away with my phone when we spotted a car whose wheel had been clamped. Peter and I were speculating why the car had been disabled; a parking infringement? A street resident approached asking if we needed help, I can’t imagine why except that maybe taking photos of people’s homes is not the done thing? So we struck up a conversation, she has seven children, three living abroad, one marrying soon etc etc. she suggested that most likely the owner of the car who lived within the house where the car was parked has not paid the Road Tax. Its the equivalent of our motor registration fees.

What a great idea! Yes Australia, clamp the wheels of defaulters and disable vehicles that are illegally on the road. What are we so afraid of? I’ll have to get Julie on to this one!

Our conversation continued on a little until Peter’s reply began with “God-willing……. our neighbour perked up her ears in reply and said, “you said God-willing, does that mean you are a Christian.” We replied in the affirmative and it went on from there, which church her family attends, what does a “Free church” means, which church we attend, etc etc? We had found a kindred Spirit. I think this means she no longer thought we were casing the place across the road ?

When we arrived home, and I’ll call it home because that’s were our belongs are and where we sleep, we met Mhairi (don’t you just love that Gaelic spelling), it was our first meeting, her husband had met us the day before when we checked in. Mhairi was hiding Christmas presents she had wrapped for some of her grandchildren. After doing the usual 20 questions I had it in mind to find the answer to the bed and breakfast phenomenon in the district. She told us we were in “The Breakfast Triangle”. Large Victorian houses where families had grown up and subsequently moved away and parents who were left with large empty houses. One by one they became b’n’bs generating an income which would help defray the cost of keeping a house so large.

Mhairi and her husband Fred don’t own the house where we are staying they rent it from the landowner and have done so for the last five years. “It was a dump” she said, they have fitted it out with new bathrooms, kitchen, laundry, decorated and furnished the bedrooms, six as far as I could tell, she went on to say they will give back a property much better than they leased. They have a five year lease and we imagine they aim to renew. Mhairi said if they don’t renew they will be out of work and homeless and that’s where our conversation ended.

Answer: The Breakfast Triangle.

We will see you at the top of Scotland. Almost there!

The beginning and End of The Great Glen Way

We’re on the move again our final leg today to Inverness, the warnings, mud slides and road closures continue.  It has momentarily stopped raining and now the cold has set in. It’s the first time I’ve felt the cold since we were back in Fife days ago. 

We’ve had a gorgeous 24 hours in Drumnadrochit and I have to attribute it to the amazing scenery, the mountains and rural setting combined with Loch Ness in the background and of course the highland cattle but most of all the amazing people. 

In case you’ve forgotten or never heard it said, “we were born to be in relationship” and though I find peace and solace in the quote of the landscape the true beauty is in the people and their stories. We grow through what we hear whether good or bad we then can make decisions either good or bad. With stories we have heard and the topics of independence that currently surrounds this country at the heart of it, unity and peace is what people crave.

We have encountered generous hospitality, heard personal stories of love and loss and grief and my heart goes out to the story teller. 

There is always fun and laughter, this morning it was a young calf who with its still young sounding call trotted in haste to meet us. Adamant to reach us as we stood atop a wall I had to find a way to stroke his longing face. Isla our host, told us it was rejected by his mum and they’ve been hand feeding it large quantities of powdered milk. He had made friends with another calf Panda, named because of the black rings around his white face, Panda’s mum lets our little orphan calf steal milk from her which happens only rarely. 

We walked around to the fence where I could reach him, I could see him run to meet me and he quickly sought out my hand tugging on my fingers, his tongue so tough but unfortunately for him there was no sustenance and he’s roughened up the skin on my fingers. 

We’ve been to plenty of cafes as you can well imagine, the interesting point of difference has been twofold. Firstly many of the cafes offer table service, classy, the second is the style of music, its background music to start with not the loud and  pounding thump, thump, thump playing in many Adelaide cafes but almost all the songs are from the 60s and 70s such a pleasant change.

Inverness is the beginning and end of the Great Glen Way but it is so much more. The buildings remind me a lot of Edinburgh though no comparisons should be made, every place has its own history. If you’re an Outlander fan then this is one of places you would probably choose to do a walking tour. I’m a fan but I’ll do my own tour. If you haven’t been to Inverness you will find a monument to Flora McDonald in the forecourt of Inverness Castle. Flora assisted Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) to escape to America after the Battle of Culloden. This momentous battle between the English and the Jacobites (Scottish freedom fighters) is the reason for us being here, apart from the fact that it’s the end of the GGW. We’re going to the Culloden battlefield tomorrow so more about that and the history lesson another time.

However as we circled around the castle which incidentally is a functioning sheriffs office and justice court we could hear a fiddle and whistle playing, we just couldn’t  resist and followed the sound across from the castle to the pub on the corner where we found six young musicians; three fiddlers, accordion player, guitarist and young girl playing the tin whistle. It wasn’t long before the pub was full of people like us.

The more we wander around Inverness the more there is to like. From the pub we continued to walk on and away from the town centre, which incidentally is not large, attracted by the grey stone buildings finding ourselves in.a tree lined suburb of large jaw dropping estates, and gardens that pushed my envy button. Wow what a find!

We are in a b’n’b on the other side of the River Ness in a quaint suburb where there are rows and rows and streets and streets of house that are in the main established guesthouses and bed and breakfasts. It’s surprising to us, we are trying to work out the how and why of it and I’m dying to find someone in the street who can give us the history of this phenomenon. I’m inclined to think that many of the guests are people who work here and longer term tenants. Perhaps this is the Inverness answer to flats but how did it begin. If you have the answer please leave a comment and let us know, otherwise stay tuned Peter will find someone to talk to before we leave tomorrow who will give up the secret of Inverness guesthouses.

We have another blue sky day hope your is too.

When the Chips are hot just eat them!

It really doesn’t matter where I’ve been the menu has been pretty much the same. Deep fried fish, burgers, mac’n cheese, pizza and chips with every dish. How many chips can you really eat? I’ve decided I prefer cod to haddock in fact I love cod. Tonight though we are at the Lock Inn in Fort Augustus looking back towards Loch Ness and we are having homemade steak pie and veggies and of course the mandatory potatoes but mine are not chips Peter’s having those.

It has rained all day and there’s not really much to Fort Augustus though it is such a quaint village. It’s a location where there are five canal locks for the boats to pass through, it takes an hour and a half to pass through the five, and depending which way you approach the locks are uphill or downhill and one size definitely does not fit all.

The water is really high, it’s momentarily stopped raining and the water is like glass. After my experience yesterday I’m very guarded about the water levels so I’m happy to look from a distance.

We haven’t had a road report today as we’ve been ensconced out of the rain, yesterday however we heard multiple reports of lochs bursting banks, road closures, people being stranded in their cars and having to be rescued. Storm Callum struck Laggan Locks at 4.30am where we were sleeping on a yacht almost as old as Peter (but looking a bit more worn than him at 68), the wind was howling around us, the rain pelting down and the yacht’s mast and ropes created its own orchestra but the boat didn’t rock once.

We had struck up a conversation with a fellow on the Eagle Barge Inn, (yep it’s a barge boat converted into a pub), who owns the boat behind the Lady Andorina, our floating accommodation. Over the course of the evening he told us that two years ago or so soon after the new owner purchased the yacht, the Lady A broke its moorings in the middle of the night and in the midst of a storm it floated down the canal careening into several boats as it headed for Loch Lochy. Yikes, this was a fine time to be telling us that!

Since arriving in Scotland I’ve come to the conclusion that many a person likes to tell yarns and the bigger the story the more we should keep them talking so that eventually we hear the real story or at least sift out the truth. I’m not certain whether it’s boredom that makes them do it or that perhaps the volume of tourists that they have tired of, but people tell some doozies. Regardless of the tale tellers though there have been no threatening characters and some incredibly nice people.

The guest houses here are employing out-of-towners, well more like out-of-Country-er. So far we’ve had Romanian hosts, Taiwanese, Australian, and a fair number of Americans serving behind counters as well as Dutch and German if my hearing is en pointe. In some cases there have been people on working holidays like the couple working on the Eagle Barge, who work from Monday to Thursday and travel on weekends buying cheap flights to Denmark, Belgium etc or drive to different parts of Scotland. This weekend they are off to Orkney. On a ferry! In the storm?! ??

The Taiwanese lass, Phoebe in Fort William, had only been working there two weeks and interestingly the breakfast room was full of Asians. In Edinburgh where we had Romanians hosts, guests were mainly Eastern European with the odd Aussie Peter met from Kerang. Kerang?!! Where the dickens is Kerang?

I’ve come to the conclusion now that we have moved on to Drumnadrochit where we will spend the night, that locals are friendlier than the out-of-towners, they are more likely to engage in conversation, to earnestly lend assistance particularly if you are a hiker without a vehicle. Besides that, when I visit a country I want to be engaging with its people at the frontline. When I go to Hong Kong I don’t want an Aussie host I want a Chinese, local to Hong Kong and so on. 

No matter how you choose to journey from Fort William to Inverness it is a high tourist zone and even those who look like locals are visitors. In Fort William I asked four people directions before finding one who was local, all were exceptionally kind but none had the answer to my query.

We’re staying in a b’n’b on a farm, I hope we don’t have to get up to milk the cows though two things are in my favour, I’m still awake in the early hours and I am not feeling the cold at the moment. Have I assimilated to the climate or is it I’ve not been here long enough for the cold to seep into my bones?

Two young 30 something year old sister Quita and Isla, run the family b’n’b Drumbuie Farm not to be confused with Drambuie the whisky based liqueur. Gorgeous girls friendly, warm and chatty. Their surname is Urquhart and we are only two miles from Urquhart Castle so there must be a link somewhere. Surprisingly I found as I did a quick Google search that the Urquhart’s this far into the highlands were not Jacobite supporters, and following the wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century, the castle was given over to Clan Grant who were supporters of William Wallace and subsequently the medieval castle became a royal castle.

We’re dining out tonight again, Loch Ness Inn has been highly recommended by the Urquhart girls, the Inn has a pick-up service which makes it a no-brainer since it hasn’t stopped raining today and the Inn is one kilometre away. An option was to dine at The Fiddler’s cafe/restaurant where everything on the menu contains whisky or is whisky smoked but you’d have to wring us out before we could sit down to eat.

For the second time in 4 1/2 weeks I’m dressing up which simply means not wearing hiking pants. I’ve taken the opportunity to wash them and I can’t believe what came out of them…..half a Loch, a tree stump, a barrow of decaying moss, a stag antler and I thought a pair of pliers but it was the wire from the deer fence. 

Tonight we drink a toast to clean hiking gear. 

Cheers all!

Some days are good and then there are other days!

I don’t really know where to start telling you about this day, there were good parts at the beginning and a good part at the end and then there was a middle section.

Maybe I should try dot points

  • We found Peter’s lost beanie, that’s good, actually it’s great because it’s only going to get colder the further on we go and he’s going to need it. He lost it somewhere along our discovery walk shortly after we arrived in Fort William yesterday and this morning we located it in the only place left on our list as we retraced our steps.
  • We managed to catch the bus that was taking us to our starting point with only seconds to spare, that was good.
  • Though rain was forecast the temperature was very mild, I wore short sleeves all day, that was good.
  • We saw some very spectacular scenery today, each time we think “it can’t get better than this” and then it does, thats very good.
  • We found the Great Glen Way our walking track, we even found the GGW marker, that was good too.
  • Our accommodation is a ketch rigged motor yacht, its cosy, warm and secured well to the dock, that is extremely good.

So just before I tell you about some beautiful people we met I’ll tell you the middle of this story.

Yes indeed we found the hiking path it took us through a forest wonderland, it was so beautiful, if you believe in fairies you would expect to see them in this forest. We were walking along Loch Lochy, I told you in my last post about hikers wading through flooded areas, the further into the forest we went the higher the level of the loch. I kept my anxiety levels well in check but my eyes on the water level the whole time.

Further along the path a cyclist approached us from behind, I greeted him and he me, and as he rode past me he called out “are you ready for Storm Callum”? I didn’t hear him well enough to respond but Peter was up ahead, the fellow stopped and repeated “are you ready for Storm Callum?” He then went on to tell us about the coming storm, “expect 80 mile per hour winds”, we should think about our plans tomorrow etc etc. he also told us about the rains of a couple of days ago and how hikers were wading through water knee deep on the path where we were standing. The Loch had burst its banks and then he pointed to the trees still submerged. My anxiety levels were rising.

We chatted a while and then he went on his way and we kept on along the path, skirting around the puddles and moving to higher ground as the water was close to lapping at our feet. Not good.

To shorten this story we reached an impassable point and I know Peter was probably more concerned about me than the level of the water ahead. Too late! Panic had set in and I could not contain it. I could not go any further and we were too far into the hike to go all the way back. The B road was visible from where we were standing, Peter’s concern was to stop me hyperventilating and give me some assurance that all would be well. Moving without obstruction was impossible, water ahead, distance behind and two deer fences between us and the road. Peter managed to separate the first of the fences and I was going to fit through it, I was determined. Crossing the sodden terrain to the next fence was not a simple walk. Decaying tree trunks and branches, carpets of moss and heather, sharp fir saplings, and wild grasses all covering water we could not see. 

My darling Peter is my hero! Keeping feet dry was impossible, first his then mine, my fear caused me to lose my footing and overbalancing bottom first onto a sodden patch. Now wet feet and backside! 

The second deer fence was not as easy to separate, we were also visible to vehicles driving past therefore we had to be careful creating the gap in the fence. He did it, we slithered through, even the high ground was saturated. He kept saying “it’s an adventure, it’s part of the adventure”, but this was not the type that I cope well with.

The road ahead of us was the B road we initially followed, calibrating our route on Google maps we were off again. The road changed some distance ahead and not in a good way. It was isolated, the route was not clear, it was uphill which was not really an issue, we were probably only 5 miles from our destination, it was just too far, we were on an unknown path headed for another forest, it was too much for me to cope with. 

We turned back and as we did, the sun broke through the thick black clouds, this had to be a sign. Peter said we would find transport to take us onward, I’m not sure how because we were in a remote area where even the forestry department post notices to say just that. We walked back about 1 1/2 miles to the solid tarmac road, on the approach Peter noticed a couple looking at one the many war stories dotted along the route. Teresa and Billy are from Liverpool, they were indeed a gift to us today. They could see that I had been in an emotional state and it didn’t take them long to offer to drive us. Billy offered me his coffee, I tried to refused but he insisted “take it, it has sugar in it”. God bless him, though it’s months since I’ve drunk coffee Billy knew it’s the sugar I needed to settle me down. 

Billy stopped at Gairlochy to drop Teresa off first, their two sons were waiting for them at the holiday house, she would have liked for us to “stop for a bit” so she could make me a sandwich and a cup of tea but we wanted to get to where we had to go, the storm was starting to come in and I think Billy wanted to get back home as well.

It’s been an adventure for certain, I’ve now met my limits and I don’t want to experience that again nor would Peter like to witness me in a full blown panic. Tomorrow is another day but too many people have warned us about the storm, we won’t be seeing any hikers out there tomorrow, all the tour boat operators have been called back to Inverness it’s too dangerous to be on the water, so we move forward on the bus to Fort Augustus.

We thank God for his gift of Teresa and Billy. For Teresa who told Billy to stop the car when we offered payment for petrol telling us we move forward only if we accept their help and insisted if we are ever in Liverpool we must go and see them ensuring I have all of their contact details.

How blessed are we! 

Stay safe my friends, stay away from the water’s edge, keep you feet dry and some pliers in your pocket in case of deer fences.

God bless all of you.

If you want to know the country, then get to know it’s people.

We have just spent two fantastic days with Tony and Irene from Tayport in Fife. I know 99.9% of you won’t know where Tayport is so I’ll tell you. It’s on the coast on the River Tay, next door to St Andrews. The Coastal path which is part of the North Sea Trail also runs along the coastline of Tayport. 

We’ve known Tony and Irene for just for just one cup of coffee and two days, we feel like we’ve known them forever. They are the parents of one of Emilie’s friends and when their daughter Lorraine heard we were going to Scotland she was adamant that we should stay with her parents and we are so glad to have spent the time with them. They picked us up from our hotel and Irene’s warm hug and Tony’s “hello you” was all we needed to feel at home.

I have no doubt we’ve seen more of Fifeshire than anyone else we know. Starting at Falkland Castle, the location of the opening scene of the Outlander TV series we have seen the most beautiful coastline, constantly changing with the tides, crossing  over the Tay Bridge to the V & A, (the new Victoria and Albert Museum) in Dundee.

Tony & Irene live right on the water in Tayport. Stepping out their back garden gate a path will lead to the marina on one side where Tony moors his yacht or turn to the right and the path will lead to the Tentsmuir forest. Along the way Tony told us about the Dragon’s teeth we could see along the path. They are massive ribbed concrete bollards that were designed and placed to keep the German tanks from coming up onto the beach during WWII. The tides have had an effect on them, some have sunk and some have been dislodged, goodness knows how. Concrete machine gun turrets are also still in place. (I’ve posted some photos on Facebook).

We were sad to leave them today having threatened to stay until Christmas we thought the better of it and continued on our journey north.

We’ve been on the train today from Leuchars near St Andrews making our way to Fort William. 

Mountains coated in yellowing grasses, patches of green pastures, miles of fir trees, lochs and other waterways. Sometimes we are above the trees stunned by the beauty of the Scottish Highlands, sometimes the trees obscure the view and we are forced to look across to the other side only to be wowed by another unbelievable view. This is mountainous country I knew it would be beyond our capability to hike any of this section of our trip and it has been confirmed in a conversation I had with a couple of mature hikers on this third of our four trains taking us to our destination. 

A Pennsylvanian who was confused about the trains on the station platform told me he had been hiking for several days, he had at some point been hiking alongside a couple of young German fellows much younger than himself who he found impossible to keep up with. In the last 24 hours he had been hiking with an Asian woman who had been also trying to keep up with some Scottish fellows who are true hardcore hikers.

As they tell their story, they had planned to hike 12 miles each day but there is no path or signs they said. Everyone uses GPS apps on their phones, the American fellow goes on to say there is no use for hiking poles the terrain is so rugged they were literally climbing over rocks using their hands. Rather than covering the 12 miles they have been covering 2-3miles each day. The young bucks though have been completing a 6 hour section in 3 hours and will continue into the dark hours if necessary.

He’s disappointed I can tell, that he’s not able to keep up but as a mature person he is sensible and not above catching a train after walking knee deep in water following three solid days of rain, traversing flooded streams. The Asian lady is suffering with either  a rash or blistering feet she can’t quite tell. There is nothing worse than walking in wet socks and boots but until now she has had little option and expects to find a store in Tyndrum where she can take care of her feet before going on to finish the West Highland Way in Fort William.

Since our final change at Crainlarich I’ve noticed that many of those getting on board the train have backpacks a fair indication of the attraction along this train route.

For the last few miles it seems that even the fir trees have abandoned this route replaced by the ever resilient birch trees and another variety of evergreen tree that I cannot identify at this distance and then even those have disappeared leaving only the brown hilly and mountainous landscape, a lone stone building can be seen in the distance. Other than rain I have no idea what we will find ahead of us in the next four days. I know that we will have tow paths but I’ve read that there are also some challenging sections that we will face as well. The young Scottish hikers I mentioned previously refuse to do the Great Glen Way my American friend tells me, they consider it too boring. ?

It’s been a warm day today. Adelaide wouldn’t be so warm at only 18 degrees but it’s not the same as Scotland. The sun has been shining, the sky is clear and blue and I can see as the train climbs up across the mountain backs that the clouds are beginning to appear in the distance and then the sun breaks through again. 

We’ve just stopped at a station called Corours and there is nothing here except a platform and a small building advertising accommodation Peter asks why even have the station but there has to be something. 

As the train continues on the scenery leaves you speechless. We have seen small waterfalls along the way and narrow streams of water flowing from the top of the mountain to the left of us running all the way down to the loch and water pools amongst the trees the evidence of the heavy rains. We’ve seen stunning rushing water cascading and crashing into one body of water making the whole train carriage gasp, leaving us all wanting to see more. More rain is forecast for the next three days! Yikes!

The train is creating its own rhythm as it curves around the mountain. We are just one stop away from today’s destination, sitting in the shadow of the monster mountain, Ben Nevis.

Fort William has a quaintness about it. Only a small portion of the old fort wall remains, perhaps after Diana Galbaldon’s Outlander I’m not sorry that it’s reduced to rubble, but history is history. 

We’ve checked into our bed and breakfast for the night, washing is on the line and you’re not going to believe it but we have found another Wetherspoons ‘The Great Glen’, so appropriately named. Half a pint of Thatchers Gold cider for me and a pint of something for him.

We’ll see you on t

Which era are you living in?

In the medieval period a knight had a squire to shine his armour, oil his chain mail and care for his horse. In the Georgian, Victorian, Regency periods the Lord of he Manor had a valet, a footman and a coachman.

In the modern period, Peter has a wife!  

In a room of 16 square meters reduced down to a personal possession occupied area of less than 1 square meter I’m answering to where are my jocks, where is my toothbrush……he’s just taking history too far!

We have loved being in Edinburgh and truly two days is just not long enough to see all that the city has to offer. One event is an all day one and we haven’t had a chance to go to see the Falkirk wheel, which high on our must see list, another days excursion, we just have to say that some things we will experience though the eyes of others or a TV documentary, and that’s ok.

I’ve discovered that much of Scottish architectural heritage was built using sandstone and at one time, 1500 sandstone quarries were operating in the country, however these beautiful buildings been been blackened and stained by the soot created during the time of the industrial revolution. It is said that Edinburgh furnaces belched smoke and soot into the air constantly.  Coupled with haze from the chimneys of tightly packed tenements, the pollution gave the city the name Auld Reekie (Old Smokie). I remember reading about that and The Clean Air Act of the mid 50s in history classes when I was at school.

I had wondered why the buildings have not been cleaned, no evidence of cleaning was visible anywhere? Apparently Glasgow having the same issues underwent a stone cleaning campaign in the mid 1960s, the cleaning appeared to cause damage to the fragile porous sandstone which will overtime weather and deteriorate naturally. Edinburgh opted not to go down the same line of cleaning which pleased the locals and the classic and gothic buildings remain blackened lending to the gothic imagery. 

If ever you have the opportunity visit beautiful Edinburgh but allow more time than we have and see it all.

We certainly made an impression when we walked into swank Rufflets Country House at St Andrews today. They’ve never seen anything like us! Arriving at Leuchars Train Station 6 1/2 miles (10.5kms) from St Andrews town centre we transferred by bus to the bus station near the town. The bus was overfilled with bodies, at least 20 people standing and I had to wonder if the driver would at some point put up his hand and say “enough, next bus”. I had read that there are lockers at the bus station where I thought we would store our bags, wander around the town and then retrieveing our bags walk the 30 minutes to the hotel, as we discovered there were only six lockers which a group of just four friends hastily occupied leaving us with no option but to change plan and carry our packs.

The weather put paid to ‘looking around’, what do you see when rain is coming at you and the wipers on your specs don’t work? Better idea, we opted to go directly to the hotel and then decide what we would do with the rest of the day. We arrived chilled, probably red nosed and cheeks, me in my glamorous olive green coloured poncho, hair frizzed by the rain and both of us of in our very fashionable hiking clothes, back packs and boots. I know the dumbstruck receptionist/concierge did a double take. I announced us as early arriving guests, the poor flustered receptionist Peter thought lacked generosity in her attitude however under the circumstances I thought she did well. 

She offered to store our bags and we could go and play golf. ???? She has no idea! We thanked her and suggested we will have tea in the “drawing room” (that’s what they call it) and wait for our room to be prepared. 

We continued to raise eyebrows when guests watched us heave our backpacks onto our backs as we left an hour and half later to go to our now ready room.

You have to remember dear friends that we have been slumming it in all sorts of accommodation for the last few weeks. I’ve seen and done it all short of wanting but unable to relocate in the middle of the night, leaving a hovel where I previously mentioned the indiscretion of my host. This 24 hours of luxury is going to wipe it all away and bring back the balance to our vacation and no raised eyebrows or offers to play golf 2 miles away is going to make a scrap of difference to me, to us!

The same receptionist/concierge showed us to our room, explained all the finer details and was now settled and I think exceptionally hospitable and it has been perfect.

I know that some of you will be scratching your heads wondering how we are going to fare over this next week with the weather on the turn and rain forecast everyday. We are prepared (I think!).  John, the fellow who help me look for gravestones back in Cornwall said “in Scotland there is no such thing as cold or wet weather it’s whether you are dressed right!” There is so much truth in that statement. So people stop making excuses, if it’s wet put on a rain jacket and grab your umbrella, if it’s cold dress warm, if it’s hot dress cool and get out there and go for a walk.

The country house or hotel we are staying in has an interesting history having been purchased in the mid 50s for £8,000 by a family who cleverly converted it to an hotel. It has undergone renovations and restoration, was once a drawcard for world renown golfers, we’ve seen images of Jack Nicklaus on the walls and other famous people. Today the professional golfers we’ve been told prefer to stay adjacent the golf course or rent a large house for the entire team and entourage. However the hotel is also an award winning venue for weddings and functions providing a number of external suites on the property and the beautiful formal and informal gardens surrounding it building provide the perfect backdrop for weddings. 

I’ve been wondering where the name Rufflets came from and though I have no idea I have thought that the two large bay windows overlooking the gardens give an appearance of ruffles, it’s just my imagination I’m sure.

Monday 6.00 a.m.

We are spending the next two days in Tayport in Fife with some new friends Tony and Irene who are parents one of Emilie’s friends.

I’ll catch you up in my next blog.

Cheers to you.

We raise a glass to all our friends!

It’s 7.34pm and really I just want to curl up in bed and go to sleep but we have found ourselves at Hectors. I’m not sure if it’s a wine bar that does food as well, but beer, cold beer on tap is all we were looking for and we found it. Hector’s in Stockbridge has plenty of atmosphere, in fact it’s buzzing with people who are drinking, eating and not one person has a mobile device in their hands other than me. But I’m excused right?  A Peroni for me and a Camden Hells lager for himself. Peter is “just chilling” as he puts it, there’s plenty to observe.

There’s just so much to tell you but I feel so tongue tied or is fingers twisted?

We arrived in Berwick yesterday later than intended having spent several hours at Vindolanda, Hadrian’s Wall and the Roman Army Museum, it was all so captivating but I won’t bore you with details I’ll let whatever photos I post to Facebook tell the story except to say that if you joined the Roman army it was for life, or as good as. Soldiers were indentured for 25 years which means death was more than possible in that period of time, and in which time the men were not permitted to marry though I wonder if that rule stuck.

We covered the best of every opportunity to do the best sections of the wall and if you’ve never seen it, it’s not just a wall it was an impenetrable barrier of solid stone construction approximately 2 meters wide and 6 meters high with patrolled forts at regular intervals. We then drove through as many of the borderland villages and settlements that I have read about in historical novels over the last few years. As I said to Peter as we drove through, I see not what has become of them today but in my mind I see these places as they were hundreds of years ago. I have a very fertile mind and I suppose I see what I have read and want to see rather than what is. 

We crossed the River Tweed a couple of times which may mean nothing to you but Berwick Upon Tweed is still part of England  which means we ended up on the English side in Berwick. Just as an aside North Berwick is quite a distance away from Berwick Upon Tweed and buried well into Scotland. 

Neither of us slept particularly well, rising early we set off for Edinburgh. Just an hour drive from Berwick. I want to tell you how magnificent the landscape has been but I just don’t have the words to describe the beauty of the surrounds.  We have seen the richest autumn colours, the most vivid green grass almost luminescent, the tallest trees we have ever seen that makes me wish I was a wood nymph to dance and frolic in the leaves around the trees’ base, adorning myself in them. We have seen the fattest livestock, which makes me sad for our farmers and their starving animals.

I fail to find the words that will paint the pictures that will describe what we have been blessed to see. The roads are excellent and cars are fast there’s no “Sunday drivers” here, everyone seems in a hurry to get to where they’re going and we’ve been caught in their slipstream so to speak.

Edinburgh is an amazing place, history just oozes from his place everywhere we look. We are fortunate to be staying in Stockbridge, the location of our room is akin the The Circus or Royal Crescent in Bath but our room is very modest. Whilst there are people who pass us by striding with purpose we stroll along the streets with no particular place to be other than on the street looking here and there admiring the solid stone construction of these long ago built houses. Who was it’s architect that dreamt up such grandeur? Who lived in theses streets 200 years ago? 

Saturday morning 3.00a.m.

Peter saw his first castle yesterday, Holyrood House Palace. It’s the queen’s residence (or one of her many) when in Edinburgh. Of course there are only select rooms available for public viewing but they are magnificent; furnishings, tapestries, paintings, china. The audio guide gave us the history of the palace and though I was familiar with the history of its residents I left there feeling sad for Mary Queen of Scots. There is no romantic history in her story. Crowned queen at nine months old, she was sent to France to live in someone else’s household an infant child of five years, until she was married to the Dauphine at age 15. She was married and widowed by 18 and sent back to England. 

Mary’s second husband Lord Darnley had his sights on being king, but as we well know a man may marry a queen but that doesn’t make him king, didn’t Lord Mountbatten have that same idea for his nephew, Prince Phillip? So Lord Darnley plotted against his own wife with his drunken disposition, jealousy and ambition with supporters who cared more about elevating themselves once Darnley ruled as king. Mary escaped only to be imprisoned in England until her death at age 46. It’s a sad story and all the riches and extravagant lifestyle in the world will not change ones circumstances. 

Now, we have been told that in Edinburgh we had to have haggis, some shortbread and a wee dram of whisky. We stopped at an eatery close by the palace selling pork in a bread roll. We could choose from a “piglet” a small bun, an “oink” 120 gms of meat, or a “grunt” 250gms of meat. We both had an “oink” topped with haggis and I had super smokey BBQ sauce, Peter had the apple sauce. They are served wrapped in foil and delicious!

We shared a table with a fellow who by the time I was armed with rolls and drinks Peter was already far into a conversation with this gent called …….wait for it…….Donald McSporran! We must have sat together talking for 20 to 30 minutes and I have to tell you we came away knowing definitively only one word that Donald McSporran said……f^#@!

Now we had been told that we would have to learn another language coming to Scotland and I thought I was pretty good picking up accents but this was. …. RIDICULOUS! It seems we made the right comments and laughed at the right times but neither Peter nor I have any idea what this Donald McSporran was saying. I do know that he suggested we stay a night in Wick with a Mrs McDonald for £25, but how many Mrs McDonalds will we find there? He didn’t have her phone number but he gave us a description of where she lived “up the street and the first house on the left”. Oh come on now! 

Thanks Donald McSporran, we’ll think about that one a bit!

The streets of Edinburgh were crammed with people everywhere we looked up and down the Royal Mile, a couple of pipers could be heard in the background, such a lovely sound. We headed for Edinburgh Castle though we planned to visit the castle today it’s was just a sea of people. 

Navigating our way back to the accommodation or anywhere is not so straightforward, the streets are not laid out like Adelaide but streets here curl around themselves, we eventually wend our way home and even a wrong turn gave us something else to look at. 

There’s still so much more to see and 2 days could never be enough but it will have to be, time is marching on and we still have far to go.

We’ll see you somewhere in Scotland, in the meantime have a shortbread or a whisky with us. We drink to your good health.

A new Italian adventure in 2017