Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Dunblane to Aberdeen

The best intentions...

Here it is, over a week since I promised to do better with my blog on this trip, and I've written nothing.  We are now at the end of our third day in Shetland, which should have been our 4th day, but more about that later.

We thoroughly enjoyed our week at Windyhill Cottage in Dunblane, and We were sorry to leave that lovely spot and charming cottage.  On the Saturday after our arrival, we left the car parked at the cottage, and walked along the River Allan from Dunblane to the town Bridge of Allan.  It was a warm,sunny day, with many families out walking.  The most amazing sights were the carpets of bluebells that spread beneath the trees, the rushing river itself, and the cave believed to have inspired R.L. Stevenson's Ben Gunn's cave in Treasure Island. I seem to always be following in the steps of Stevenson in journeys ranging from Edinburgh to the South of France to Tahiti and California.

On Sunday morning I attended Pentecost service at the lovely and ancient Dunblane Cathedral, and that afternoon we explored Doune Castle, where Monty Python and Outlander scenes were filmed, then returned home by way of Callander and Loch Earn,   through some rugged Highland scenery.  On Monday we visited Stirling Castle, then drove to Kinross where we took a boat across Loch Leven to the ruined castle from which Mary Queen of Scots had once escaped.  We also returned to the area where some of Kent's ancestors had lived, and explored the Fossoway church and graveyard, finding one relevant tombstone.

Dunblane Cathedral

On Tuesday we took the train to Edinburgh where we met Colin Rodgers, who helped us with research at Scotland's People in the National Archives.  We did make a few discoveries with Colin's help, tracing some of Kent's family back another two generations and finally finding a record for his second great grandfather in Scotland -- although we couldn't get beyond that one record.  We really needed another day to work, as the first one was partly spent learning how best to use the system.  We had a lovely pub lunch with Colin, and then when we were kicked out of the archives at 4 p.m., we bid Colin goodbye and raced up the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle, where we quickly visited the major sights in the hour and a half before closing. We followed a Lonely Planet suggested walking tour down into Grassmarket before returning home to Dunblane where we were greeted by a downpour that would continue all the next day, which we spent mostly at the cottage, preparing for our departure on Thursday.

With Colin at the National Archives


On Thursday morning we made our circuitous way along many small roads to the historic library of Innerpeffray, where we were the only visitors, greeted by an enthusiastic staff and shown treasures of the collection that not only contained many old books, and historic Scottish books, but the complete handwritten borrowers' records dating from the early 1700s to 1968, enabling one to study the reading habits of individuals and the community over many years.  We searched the database for Kent's Taylor family, and found a Lilias Taylor who had borrowed books in the 1880s, a time long after Kent's ancestor had left for New York, but it is possible that this Lilias Taylor was .connected with Kent's family.  We walked in a light drizzle to view the church, the Roman road, an overlook of the ruined Drummond castle along the River Earn, and sheep with lambs in an adjacent pasture.

Our next stop (aside from eating sandwiches at a roadside pullover) was at the Edradour Distillery near Pitlochry, Scotland's smallest whisky distillery, where we had an excellent tour with a kilted guide.  Then it was up over a fog-shrouded pass at Glenshee and down through Braemar to Tomidhu Steading, a comfortable lodging where we were warmly greeted by our host, Alistair Skakles who had pictures of himself guiding Prince Charles through the local distillery.  

On Friday morning we walked from the Steading on a track to the Crathie church, where the royal family worships while at Balmoral, then crossed the bridge over the sparking River Dee to Balmoral Castle, where we spent an enjoyable two hours wandering the grounds and gardens and looking at exhibits about the history of the estate from the time that Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had purchased it in 1848 up to the present.

Having had our fill of an occupied castle, we headed to the spectacular ruin of Dunnottar on the coast south of Aberdeen, and then to Aberdeen, where despite my inept handling, the gps took us practically to the door of our B and B, where we eventually connected with Dwight and Carol Eggers, with whom we were to share the next segment of our Scottish adventures -- a week on the Shetland Islands.

Friday, May 13, 2016

A Good Night's Sleep Does Wonders

Friday, May 13, 2016
A good night's sleep does wonders

I was still sleeping soundly this morning when Kent returned from the local grocery store with a turnover he heated in the oven.  A good cup of coffee, a little map study, and off we went.  Yesterday's balmy sunshine had turned to chill and gloom, but I enjoyed the green hills dotted with new lambs, yellow broom, and occasional bluebells when I wasn't "helping" Kent drive and figuring out how to use the GPS.

Had we remembered this morning that the date was Friday the thirteenth, we might have been even more jittery when we set off in our fancy rental car, up our narrow twisting street, past parked cars jutting out at odd angles, easing onto the motorway through confusing roundabouts, remembering always to keep to the left and searching for the right slot in the six-speed shift.  Kent did a good job, with a little help from the driver seated to his left, and we managed to get to Perth and back again with only a few wrong turns and scary moments.

We spent 3 hours in the genealogy and historical Iibrary in Perth, but even with the help of a very kind librarian, found no new information about Kent's ancestors, and only a little about the area from which they came.  About 4:30 we headed out, punching "Fossoway," the birthplace of Kent's 3rd great-grandmother, Lilias Taylor, into the GPS.  "You have arrived" the voice announced on a country road without a house in sight.  So, we continued on.  We never did find Fossoway, although I'm sure it is there somewhere, but we did arrive at Rumbling Bridge, where we went for a walk.  Lilias's brother David Taylor had traveled from Andes, New York to visit his birthplace in the 1830s, and in a poem about his journey mentioned Rumbling Bridge -- a scenic spot the librarian had told us -- where the River Devon rushing through the rocks below makes the bridge rumble.

Rumbling BridgeWikipedia 

We also stopped in the town of Dollar, a pretty place with a castle on a hill behind the town.  While trying to get a better view of the castle, we encountered the Dollar Academy, founded in 1818, a time when Kent's Burns and Taylor ancestors would have been living in the area.  When we got home we discovered that Craiglaw Farm, where Lilias was born in 1797 is still in existence and very near the end of our walk along the Devon.

A Marks & Spencer Food Hall near the entrance to Dunblane provided easy makings for dinner, and we enjoyed a peaceful evening in our little cottage after the challenges of the day.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Scotland: Jessie the Flower of Dunblane

Thursday, 12 May
Windyhill Cottage, Dunblane, Scotland

Tonight we sleep in the cosy cottage of Windyhill in the charming historic village of Dunblane near Stirling, Scotland, where we will stay for one week.  After an overnight on Jet Blue from Albuquerque to New York yesterday, we had enough time and energy to go to into Manhattan. While purchasing our subway tickets we were surprised to encounter Milena Milenkovic from San Francisco on her way to her Smith College Reunion.  We hugged, took pictures, and went our separate ways.  

Our Manhattan visit included  spying a woodpecker in Washington Square, eating breakfast at the Gray Dog (disappointingly weak coffee), walking the entire Highline trail (marveling at all the new construction), lunching at the South Porch in Bryant Park, viewing exhibits in the Public Library and strolling up Fifth Avenue, with quick looks at Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick's Cathedral before grabbing the E train back to JFK.  I stretched out on the floor near the Icelandair gate, only mildly concerned about what others might think (while Kent pretended not to know me).  I must have dozed a bit before boarding the flight to Reykjavik.  

I was disappointed to have only one hour in Iceland.  I loved the small airport where we were not required to go through immigration or security before boarding the flight to Glasgow, and where people got on the plane in any order.  Because Iceland was covered in fog, my most memorable sight was the faucets in the restrooms that both washed and dried one's hands. No complaints about Icelandair, and next time I will do a stopover.

Wedged into a middle seat again, with a generously sized woman on one side, and Kent on the other, I did manage to sleep a bit before our arrival in Glasgow.  Kent did a great job getting us here in our rental car, a rather nerve-wracking drive mostly along motorways punctuated by signs uncannily reminding us, "Do not drive when tired."  

Cottage owner Alastair McDonald welcomed us and showed us the ropes.  Scottish bluebells are blooming in the garden of the historic cottage on a site that was the home of  "Jessie, The Flower of Dunblane." 

A brief nap, dinner down the street at the Churches House Hotel, a walk about town and on the riverside footpath, a wee dram of whisky, and we call it a day (or two).