As I mentioned in my last post from Edinburgh, I decided that this trip would be a true adventure so to ‘up my game’ I decided that I would drive part of our journeys ...Scotland roads here we come! It honestly did not take me long to get used to driving ‘on the wrong side of the road’ (sorry Liz) and by now even feeling comfortable with the roundabouts. Thank goodness for that because there are A LOT of roundabouts. So by 10am on the 15th we on the road and headed north, first stop Perth.
While not really big into all things military, kind of crazy to think since I have been working in DoD for almost two decades, but the Blackwatch Castle and Museum just outside of Perth looked interesting. The castle is actually Balhousie Castle with origins dating back as far as the 12th century. The origin of the regiment dates from 1725 when Highlanders loyal to the British crown were formed into six independent companies to help restore order after the First Jacobite Rebellion of 1715. The senior Highland regiment went on to fight in nearly all the British Army's campaigns and is now part of the Royal Regiment of Scotland. The museum is housed in the castle itself, so it made seeing both quite convenient. It was interesting to see the history of their participation in so many campaigns but also to see the museum highlight soldiers of all ranks that were members of the Royal Highlander regiment. The museum was arranged by era so seeing the progression of uniforms and campaigns kept even me interested. I found the achievements of Field Marshal Archibald Wavell, his picture, uniform, and campaign metals (to the left) amazing. He joined the Black Watch in 1901 and fought in every major conflict up to and including WWII. Another interesting item in the museum was a wall of circles of bronze; these commemorative coins from WWI, were known as the “Dead Man’s Penny.” Each is engraved with the name of the fallen and were given to the families of the lost.
After our visit to the museum it was time for a wonderful lunch at the little café at the museum. While my grandson struggled a bit with the menu, he finally settled on a fancy sandwich; ham and cheese on a fancy roll! My salad and his sandwich were wonderful but nothing in comparison to the super moist and delicious gluten free brownies. Even my grandson remarked how good they were. Now with a museum and lunch under our belt (let out a bit), it is time to find our accommodations for the next two nights. Since our stay was walking distance from the museum, even with the one-way streets, it took us only about 4 minutes to drive there.
We were greeted at Almond Villa by the loveliest of ladies and our host, Shauna. She showed us to our room, gave us the ‘lay of the land’ and left us to our own devices. As the day was already halfway through, it was time for me to work. Shauna was nice enough to let me move the breakfast setting for the morning of ‘our’ table and work in the dining room. The quiet and light of the room made a pleasant working environment for the evening. After a long day of driving, sightseeing, and working, it is off to bed for me in what the next morning I realized was in the most comfortable bed I have slept in so far on this trip.
One of the things that Shauna pointed out to us on her introduction to our accommodations was the breakfast menu that we needed to complete that evening and leave in the dining room. Her options were great even for me and my, sometimes difficult, gluten free diet. The breakfast, we will say to any that will listen, was outstanding! my grandson had French toast and bacon, while I enjoyed eggs, toast, sausage, and beans1 That, of course, was after the fresh berries, coffee (for me), yogurt, and juice (for my grandson)! I was not sure if I wanted to start sightseeing or take a nap after all the wonderful food. But on with our day we went. First order of the day was laundry which was literally right down the road. Since I wasn’t in the mood to waste the morning watching machines do circles, we left the laundry with the lovely lady at Fair City Laundry and for £16 she washed, dried, and folded it for me…..money well spent I’d say!
Next to the laundry happens to stand an Episcopalian church, St. Ninian’s Cathedral; the cathedral is named after Scotland’s first saint. I am a sucker for beautiful churches, so in we go. We entered the church, walked through a hallway that looked like the back of the church, turned and began walking down another hallway before we saw another person. My grandson missed the other person as he was too excited about seeing two dogs following an older man around just on the other side of the doors we were about to go through. The dogs we found out a little later from the church secretary belong to the Provost, The Very Reverend Hunter Farquharson. Only because the Provost and the dogs had other places to be, did I get my grandson into the Nave. And what a Nave it is. Opened in 1850 and built in Gothic Revival style, St. Ninian’s Cathedral was worth our short visit. We saw a beautiful church, my grandson petted dogs (one of his favorite things to do), and we even got pens in the process. The secretary handed each of us a pen at the request of the Provost for us to remember our visit. I placed £5 in the donation box at the front hoping other visitors would have our luck and get a pen.
Off with pen in hand, we drive the short distance to Scone Palace. We were corrected on our pronunciation of the name; it is pronounced “Scoon” like spoon. The palace was first built in the 12th century on the site of an early church that dates to the 9th century. Kings of Scotland have been crowned on the grounds at least since 843 with the coronation of Kenneth I. It has also been the home of the Stone of Scone or the Stone of Destiny. There is a legend around the stone which is quite interesting, I suggest you look it up. But I will tell you that if you want to be a king or queen of Scotland, make sure the stone is under your throne. Heading inside, our tour guide, Marie, gave us a wonderful pointing out a vast amount of information about the palace which is still the ancestral home of the Alexander David Mango Murray, the 9th Earl of Mansfield.
As the palace is still used as a private home, we were unable to talk pictures inside but I am sure the internet has many. We didn’t walk the entire grounds as I needed to get to work in a couple of hours, but we were able to tour the inside of the palace with Marie and walk the grounds between the ruins of the abbey where the kings were crowned, the palace and the car park. I couldn’t convince my grandson to do the maze that is on the estate, maybe next time. I want to believe that my grandson’ only hesitation was his larger desire to feed the peacocks of the estate. While one was quite elusive, the other was more than happy to eat the grain my grandson was offering. It only got better for my grandson as a lovely lady, her toddler, and yes, her dog came walking by. As we had plenty of food we had purchased for the peacocks, we offered some to the little boy. While he didn’t get close enough for the peacock to see the food the boy threw, it did give my grandson another opportunity with a dog….Are you hearing the angels sing? I think my grandson did! I could be wrong, but I think the activities AFTER the tour were the best part for him. Palace seen, peacocks fed, dogs petted and kissed, it’s time for lunch and work. Against my better judgement my grandson talked me into McDonalds for lunch, an establishment I haven’t eaten in for more than a decade. All I will say about lunch is, that surprisingly the burger actually did taste like beef! Won’t do it again but glad he was happy we did. Our night ended like the night before with delivery for dinner and working in Shauna’s dining room. Packed and ready to head to Aberdeen in the morning it was bed and up early to hit the road. Shauna, our lovely host, outdid herself again with breakfast, a quick goodbye as other guests had just arrived for their breakfast, and in the car we go. We wish Shauna well in retirement but will miss her next we visit Perth. Aberdeen and more castles, here we come!