This week I am publishing my travel journal from our trip to Edinburgh which took place this past week, June 1-8, 2015. I am posting my journal entry and pictures from each day in chronological order.
While Wendy slept I found my way to Starbucks on the Royal Mile to journal and have some coffee. I stopped by the La Barantine patisserie on Victoria Street to grab Wendy a chocolate croissant on my way back to the hotel. Upon my return Taylor texted to ask if I wanted to have coffee with her. We met me back at the patisserie for a cup of tea while Wendy got ready and we enjoyed a little father-daughter time together. It was nice to just sit and chat. We’re blessed to have enjoyed Skype and FaceTime calls this year, but there’s nothing like talking in person (especially when you’re in a quaint French patisserie in Scotland)!
Today was the day Taylor and planned a little adventure for us outside of Edinburgh. It was cloudy with light rain as we headed to the Waverly transport station to get tickets to Stirling, a medeival town and hour’s train ride west of Edinburgh. Stirling was an important gateway town to the highlands marked with a castle atop its prominent castle hill. It was about a 45 minute train ride and it was still raining when we arrived. We immediately walked to the bus station that was next to the train station and grabbed a bus for a 20 minute ride outside Stirling to the small town of Doune, home to Doune Castle where Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed.
The Stirling bus station reminded me a lot of the Greyhound station in Des Moines growing up. Unlike the major metropolitan transport stations we’d gotten used to, there was no doubt that we were in small town Scotland. There was a tiny corner news stand and very little cafe. The station was filled with locals. There was one gentleman who was mostly deaf (you could tell by the huge hearing aid behind each ear) who was conversing in his thick Scottish accent with such ear splitting volume that I think you’d soon join him in deafness if you stood to near for too long.
The bus to Doune was not going to arrive for about 20 minutes so we took our leave of our loud Scottish friend in the terminal and waited by the stop, under the awning. The bus ride to Doune was another 30 minutes and I think both Wendy and I were wondering, “where in the world are we going?” Taylor had never actually been to Doune Castle, so we were kind of flying blind. When we got off the bus Taylor asked the driver about where to get to the castle. An older local gentleman who was departing the bus gave us instructions though I’m not exactly sure what he said given his thick Scottish brogue. Nevertheless, he pointed down the street and mentioned something about signs.
We walked in the rain through the picturesque little town, following the somewhat cryptic signs pointing us towards the castle. We found ourselves at a small gate that opened onto a field. We were laughing so hard at this point because we didn’t have the slightest idea where we were going and the idea that we would have to walk through an unmarked field continued to fuel our fears that we would end up completely lost in an on-going downpour (with only one umbrella). To make matters worse, there were two paths in the field with no markings as to which of the two led to the castle! We chose the left path which turned out to be the correct path which led to another gate though the path continued past it and we weren’t sure if the gate led out of the field toward the castle of if we should continue on through the field. We could kind of see the castle through the trees, so made our way out the gate and down a steep embankment to the road which led to the castle.
It was cold and rainy as we made our way up to the castle. Seemed apropos for some reason. We paid for tickets and our audio tour. The small personal players with headphones included narration by Terry Gilliam of Monty Python. It was actually quite entertaining and he described where different scenes were filmed. We did a lot of laughing and when the audio players cut to some of our favorite parts of the movie I’m sure that the three of us were quite a site laughing and mouthing along with the timeless lines.
The castle was a lot of fun and we enjoyed the relative freedom you had to explore. I was surprised by how big it was and how much of the castle was open to explore. This included long winding stone staircases that led up to the battlements. We agreed that they would never have had so much of the castle open to tourists in the States for fear of a turned ankle and a lawsuit. The castle, despite the difficulty in getting to it (and perhaps, in part, because of it), ended up being one of our favorite experiences of the trip. By the time we finished our audio walking tour the sun was trying to come out and the rain finally subsided, allowing us to walk around the exterior of the castle and enjoy the breathtaking view of the Scottish countryside.
“My dad introduced Monty Python and the Holy Grail to Madison and I at a very young age and it has been quoted in our household for years. Therefore, its no surprise that I particularly loved the day trip we took to Doune Castle just outside of Stirling where most of Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed. The audio tour was equally historic and hilarious. Plus, it completely made my day that they had coconut halves available so you could gallop around and re-enact scenes.” – Taylor (from her blog: Love, Taylor)
We retraced our steps back to town and Taylor said she was hungry. We just happened, however, to catch our bus coming up to the bus stop and so ran to grab it while we could and headed back to Stirling. Upon arrival we hiked up the quaint medeival streets towards the castle, stopping at Holy Rude (derived from an old word meaning “cross”) church. The church has been there since the early middle ages and the roof is made of hewn oak timbers held by oak pins. The stained glass windows were gorgeous.
We enjoyed a stroll through the ancient graveyard and made our way to a “high place” with a commanding view of the surrounding region. It was so beautiful. We then started making our way back down the hill. There was an art center we were going to visit, but time was slipping by, Taylor was hungry, and a quick view of the art center’s website revealed that it wasn’t something we were really interested in seeing. So, Taylor stopped by the shopping mall to grab a quick bite to eat on the train, we used the loo, and caught the 4:07 back to Edinburgh.
We hiked back to the hotel room for a little breather and enjoyed a glass of wine in the room as we watched Serena Williams play in the French Open for a bit. We then made our way up to the top of Victoria Street to Pizza Express for dinner. Despite the name sounding like a fast food joint, Pizza Express is kind of an upscale pizza place where Taylor could get gluten free pizza. We were all hungry from our day’s adventure and enjoyed a leisurely meal together. We each ordered a pizza along with a bottle of wine and an appetizer of “dough balls.” We treated ourselves to a yummy dessert to cap off our adventurous day.
It has been enjoyable to catch up with Taylor. It’s been such a transitional year for all of us. For Taylor, it’s been a year of post-divorce searching, grad school, and blazing a new path in life with all the excitement, anxiety, and fear that goes with it. For Wendy and me it has been a stressful year of building, work challenges, and new directions. So, amidst the sightseeing we have really enjoyed just catching up and talking about our respective life journeys.
By the time we were finished with dinner we were all beat. We made plans for climbing Aurthur’s Seat on Friday morning. Taylor hugged us good night and caught the bus back to her flat while Wendy and I walked back to our hotel. I wrote a few postcards, but it wasn’t long before we were both sound asleep.