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.
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.
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.