Subject: : Scotland Travelogue, Part 4
On Sunday, we planned to go looking for some standing stones, visit an open garden or two, look for a sheepdog exhibition, & maybe have time for yet another Beatrix Potter exhibit.

Oops. Car battery was absolutely dead. Besides being an incredible gas guzzler (it cost about $80 US to fill the silly thing & it seemed we were always filling it), this Ford model doesn't have a ding-dong kind of reminder when you lock the car with the parking lights on. It sat in the carpark for 48 hours with the parking lights on, & of course it refused to start. So, we called the RAC who promised to show up for our rescue as soon as possible & settled down to wait in the lovely morning sunshine. Mark fixed us up in a jiffy, & only the battery got charged. Thank you, Auto Europe.

Donna enjoyed shopping at Pitlochry, a Victorian town. We could even sit outside for lunch. I again expected tons of shoppers & motorcoach passengers, but the town was just barely busy.

We roared down to Drummund Castle, the gardens of which are Scotland's best formal gardens. Too late; we couldn't even peer in the gates to catch a glimpse of the gardens. So we thought we'd catch one of the private gardens open for the Garden Society benefit & headed toward Crieff. The garden in question was just closing, but we had a quick walk through. The garden is perched on a fellside overlooking the Braan River, lovingly tended & traditional. Oh, to have all that native limestone & granite to use for the bones of a garden!

We came back to the Taybank for a quiet beer on the front porch; we were the only overnight guests & watching the sun slip behind Birnam Woods on our last night in Scotland was more than ok. Bev, our amiable B & B hostess, promised to leave out makings for our breakfast since we wanted to be out long before the usual 9am start time for the meal.

We were scheduled for an afternoon flight from Edinburgh to London, so we had choices for the day: Rosslyn Chapel, southwest of Edinburgh, or Sterling Castle. Hard choice, but Stirling got the nod. I'd want a whole day at Rosslyn; every time I've been there, I've been rushed & just didn't want to do that again. The chapel & the Sinclair family are just too fascinating to stint on.

It was a nasty cold day, & Stirling Castle looked quite grim high on its hill. What's with the signage? Out on the ring road, the sign for the castle is as big as the side of my house, but once you're in town, the little sign pointing up the castle is about 7" by 11" at best! The tour buses had not yet arrived, so we had time to wander the castle without any pressure. We'd saved money all over England & Scotland using the pensioners' discounts at historic sites & castles since we're both over 60. I love the display in the Sterling kitchen, with the paper mache models of scullery maids, cooks & helpers. You can wander amongst them as if you were there too. The views from the ramparts are amazing & you can see why this castle figures in so much of the history of the Highlands.

The castle is undergoing massive refurbishment & one of the most interesting is the recreation of the tapestries from the main hall, commissioned by James VI on the birth of his son. The originals are at The Cloisters in New York, but the recreations will be enchanting. The series depicts one of the favorite medieval themes, the hunt for the unicorn; it is at once a Christian story & a courtly love story. One of the series of seven is completed & hanging temporarily in the chapel, although so high up on the wall that binoculars would be nice to see it in more detail.

The tapestry artists' studio is onsite, so you can watch as they painstakingly reproduce the huge hangings, using dyes & yarns as would have been used so long ago. The tapestries are actually woven up from the long side, not top to bottom as I would have expected.

We had plenty of time to check in for our afternoon departure & it's a good thing. There was a bit of discussion about that little scratch on the rearview mirror. I was not keen on having to buy a new mirror, & with patience, all was resolved without that extreme. A little silver nail polish would have done the job. For car hire prepayment, I use a Diner's card because it covers the CDW on rentals & I knew it would have paid for the damage. But it's still a hassle & I maintain there isn't a hire car in all of Scotland that doesn't have a scratch on one of both of the exterior rearview mirrors!

Our British Midland flight to London / Heathrow was only half full, but we had to check the rollaboard bags: the weight limit is 7kg! On our inbound flight to Manchester, those same bags were ok to carry on for another British Midland flight. Since we were overnighting in London, this wasn't a problem. But for those connecting passengers who wish to take their carryon with them, it's a challenge. My bag is quite small, 20" x 8" x 12" even when totally full, but it was overweight at 9kg. Although Donna's bag is legally within carryon size limits, its weight at almost 16kg put it in the hippo category & it was banished to the cargo hold.

My favorite hostel in Windsor, actually quite close to Heathrow, had closed, so I had searched for a reasonable B & B. It was clean enough, close to Heathrow too, but smack in the middle of Little Delhi. Arriving at about 6pm, our cab threaded its way amongst throngs of shoppers & diners in all manner of native dress; thick traffic slowed us to a 45-minute trip.

Off for the final leg of the journey the next morning, however, it was a 15-minute trip through quiet streets to Heathrow. It was sensible to break the return in London overnight, but somehow the adrenaline rush of an early-morning dash from Loch Lomond to Glasgow is much more exciting. And I love getting on the plane with my ears still tingling from the brisk Scottish morning air.

And San Francisco customs didn't even take away my half-used packet of Scottish oats, mostly eaten oaties, or remaining Typhoo tea, although I honestly declared them.

More time; I needed more time in Scotland. That's my only complaint ever.

Accommodations details

Holly Row House 58 Burton Rd, Ashby, Leicestershire LE65 2LN Tel 44 + 153 041 2005

Winderemere Hostel Bridge Lane, Troutbeck, Windermere Cumbria LA23 1LA Tel 44-1539-443543

Loch Lomond Hostel Arden, Alexandria Dumbartonshire, G83 8RB Tel 44-1389-850226

Tobermory Hostel Main St, Tobermory Isle of Mull PA75 6NU Tel 44+870 004 115

Seaview Bed & Breakfast, Isle of Mull, Argyll PA66 6BL Tel No: +44(0)1681 700235 Mobile No: (07708) 556311

Taybank Hotel, Tay Terrace, Dunkeld, Perthshire Tel 44- 1350-727340

Links for planning a Scotland itinerary:

Caledonian MacBrayne Ferry

Ashby de la Zouche

Brockhole Gardens & Lake District

Scottish Youth Hostels

Duart Castle, Mull


Interisland Cruises, Mull

Seaview B & B, Mull & Iona

Isle of Ulva

Taymouth Castle

Taybank Hotel, Dougie MacLean & Dunkeld

Pitlochry & Perthshire

Stirling Castle

Rosslyn Chapel