Day 7–June 23–Bus Tour of the Highlands

I got breakfast early and walked across the street to the Rabbie’s bus tour office for an all-day tour of the Highlands. It turned out that I was the only native English speaker on the tour and the only lone traveler; the bus driver asked me to sit in the jump seat. It has a great view, but is uncomfortable. It was worth it.

Along the way, the driver pointed out the valley where portions of Skyfall were filmed, the castle where Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed, the mountainside where the Buckbeak execution was filmed in Harry Potter and the Sourcerer’s Stone, and the house used for the Monarch of the Glen TV series. I do not know if anyone else understood the cultural references.

The Highlands are quite beautiful. I have seen a lot of glacial geology, but none that was so green.

We had dinner at an Italian place in a district recommended by the Toastmasters pub group. It was one of the better Italian meals I have had.

The first rest stop on the trip was at a loch where two women were doing an open water training swim. The air temperature was quite cold; I can only imagine the water temperature.
Loch Ness and Highlands Tour--Whose Shoes?
The Scottish Highlands are beautiful and have a great deal of history. This stop was at the location of the Massacre of Glencoe.
Loch Ness and Highlands Tour--Site of Glencoe Massacre
There are three bridges across the Firth of Fourth at Edinburgh; the old bridge constructed in the Victorian era, the new bridge constructed in the 1960s, and the newest bridge which is largely finished but which will not take traffic for another few months.
Loch Ness and Highlands Tour--Old Firth Bridge

Day 6–June 22–Laundry and Scotland’s People at the Archive

I went back to the laundromat to do laundry at 9:00 and was glad to get there early; I had to wait about 10 minutes for a washer, and by the time my load was started, the attendant was quoting people an hour and a half wait. When I arrived, there was a lively discussion going on between the attendant and a customer as to whether President Trump would be assassinated in office or whether he would quit because it was too hard.

After doing laundry, I met Kristin for lunch at the archive cafe, and then did some more work on Scotland’s People. It was largely unfocused, and mainly looking at the actual document images. I stumbled across a marriage record and the death records of several children that listed a weaver of the right name, but nothing that corresponded to my best candidate from the day before. Although I did not know it at the time, this may be a new best candidate, as my sister later found a will that listed a loom.

We did take-away baguette sandwiches for dinner and then I went to a meeting for the Waverly Communicators Toastmasters club and subsequent after-meeting pub talk. I really like the idea of having a meeting in the same building as a pub.

Day 4–June 20–Trains, Buses,and Ruins

The plan for today was to see the castle and cathedral ruins in St. Andrews, along with the coastline of the Fife. I ended up taking the train from Waverly Station to Kirkcaldy for 9.50 pounds (round trip) and then a bus (X60) from Kirkcaldy to St. Andrews for 8.60 pounds (day pass). I chose the train for the first segment because it promised (and delivered) the best views of the coast and the bridges over the Firth of Forth. I chose the bus for the second segment for the same reason. While in Kirkcaldy, I stopped at the museum, it is worth 20 minutes if you are in town but not a special trip. The bus stops in numerous small coastal towns and is quite interesting if a little long. All totaled, it took 3.5 hours to get to St. Andrews, including the museum visit in Kirkcaldy.

The view of the firth was spectacular, and interesting for the idle offshore drilling rigs.

St. Andrews is worth the trip, but the castle and cathedral ruins are, well, ruins, so it is important to understand that. The interpretative displays are in many ways the key. The town is a fun college town where all of the buildings are quite old.

While waiting for the bus back to Edinburgh or Kirkcaldy, wait at the St. Andrews University Student Union; the food is inexpensive and good, and the Wi-Fi is free with no intrusive registration. The Wi-Fi registration at the Costa Coffee shop is quite intrusive.

The ruins of the St. Andrews Cathedral are quite impressive, especially considering that they date to about 1450, with much worship occuring on the site from about 700.
St. Andrews--the Abbey
The St. Andrews Cathedral ruins are a popular subject for artists.
St. Andrews--the Castle
Today was commencement for some of the St. Andrews University colleges; there were many students walking around in academic regalia, with beaming parents in tow.
St. Andrews--Graduation Day

Day 5–Scotland’s People at the Archive

After several days of lots of walking, I was ready for an easy day, so I took the morning to collect the research that my sister had done and formulate a plan for an afternoon accessing the Scotland’s People website at the Archive. You can get to this from the US, but it is much more expensive to browse. At the centers in Scotland, you can view an unlimited number of images for £15 per day.

Initially, there was very little to go on–a birth year and a name. It turns out there were a dozen or so men born with that name listed in the Old Parish Registers during the decade of birth, but only one with the birth year I was after. The Old Parish Registers may only contain about half of the births that occurred. I was able to figure out that I would need a lot more information from the American side to make any progress. I was also able to figure out that a find-a-grave entry for this individual is probably fanciful.

When the library closed, we took a nap and then I went off to do laundry but got there too late; last wash was at 6:00 even though they closed at 8:00. I hiked back up the hill and we went to a convenient Italian place for dinner and crashed.

Day 3–June 19–Hiking to Arthur‘s Seat

We started the day with breakfast at the hotel and realized that they really were not staffed for the volume of people that they had, so we plan to get there much earlier tomorrow. After breakfast, I started off to find a notebook for Kristin, an additional UK power adapter, and a copy of Rick Steves’ Scotland book to replace the one I left on my desk at home. Shortly after I started off, Kristin texted that the library sold notebooks, so I could crossthat off. I stopped at the Travel Information center near Waverly and got some good information on running down my errands.

I made the walk down Prince’s Street to WaterStone’s and found that they have notebooks, but not Rick Steves’ books. They have a very good selection of maps, so we will probably make a trip back later in the weekt to get some maps for Glasgow. I found the power adapter at a computer store a couple of doors down.

I now started in on my main plan for the day–a hike to the top of Arthur’s Seat, a 275 meter hill that offers a great view of Edinburgh. I headed up to the Royal Mile and turned left to go down to Hollyrude Palace. I stopped for tea about 3/4 of the way down to the palace, and made good progress in planning out my week while I watched the passers by on the Royal Mile. I continued on to Hollyrude Palace, where I picked up the trail to the summit. This is a moderately strenuous hike and you will want decent shoes or boots, though there were women doing it in flip-flops, at least near the bottom. I don't think I saw any flip-flops at the top.

The hike is about the same difficulty as the Enchanted Rock hike in Texas. The counter clockwise route is analogous to a 1/3 scale sea-level version of the Pinnacles trail in Big Bend National Park, with steps for the majority of the vertical gain. The clockwise version is longer but easier and is just a steep walking path until the last 50 meters of elevation gain, where it turns into steps and rubble.

There were a bunch of French school children on a trip with two chaperones, though effectively one since one of the chaperones was working exclusively with a child who had vertigo (or perhaps fear of heights). I was impressed with how well behaved the children were, after seeing a similarly aged group at Enchanted Rock a few weeks earlier.
Edinburgh-The Walk Down from Arthur's Seat
The view from the top of Arthur’s Seat is breathtaking and worth the time, though it was quite crowded at the summit.
Edinburgh-The View from Arthur's Seat

For dinner, we went to a run-down pub close to the hotel and had forgetable fish and chips. I had a half-pint of Strong Bow cider while Kristin had a half-pint of McEwan’s; we both liked our respective choices.

After dinner, we went for a walk to find an ATM, and ended up walking through the Princes Street Gardens, where we found a community Scottish dance group meeting. For 5 pounds, you could get into the stands and join in the dancing. It reminded me of the Friday night crowd in Rennes.

The Scottish dance group meeting in Prince’s Street park was fun to watch.
Edinburgh--Dancing in Prince's Street Park
The thistles in Scotland are much bigger than the thistles I have seen in the states. This example in Prince’s Street Park is probably about five feet tall.
Edinburgh--A Real Thistle
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