I’ve joined 2 Rick Steves tours and will be traveling throughout England, Wales and Scotland. Join me on my new adventures!
  • Day31

    Edinburgh

    May 29 in Scotland ⋅ ⛅ 54 °F

    I tested NEGATIVE !! We lost 2 more today to Covid. There were 7 “survivors” at our farewell dinner. Rebecca and I were very lucky.

    Today was our last tour day, and we met up with a local guide to explore the Gothic streets of the old town of Edinburgh that are filled with narrow lanes, shops, historic buildings, castles, gardens, and monuments. And yes, I think I saw them all! I can see how the Old Town provided inspiration for Harry Potter books. We did a little last minute shopping and then returned to our favorite “fairytale village” to walk along the river and enjoy our last day in the quiet and beauty of the area.

    I fell in love with the people of Great Britain, the culture, and the land. I had a wonderful experience over the last month and will need to rest up before my next adventure!
    Now, I have the monumental task of packing. I’m tempted to sleep in my clothes on top of the bed since I need to wake up by 4:30! We have a flight to London, then London to Charlotte, and finally to Cleveland.

    Wee bit of info:
    Did you know that Queen Elizabeth doesn’t need or have a driver’s license or a passport!

    The Prime Minister meets with the Queen once a week to let her know what is going on with Parliament. If one is not in her favor, they aren’t offered a seat, but must stand the whole time. Tony Blair and Boris Johnson stand! Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill were offered a seat!

    Not many pictures today. I just wanted to soak in the city one last time. But I did find some places that were an inspiration for JK Rowling’s books (for my granddaughter).
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    Traveler

    So happy you and Rebecca tested negative and are on your way home tomorrow. Your journal has opened my eyes to interesting and beautiful Scotland.

    5/29/22Reply
     
  • Day30

    St Andrews and Edinburgh

    May 28 in Scotland ⋅ ⛅ 57 °F

    We’re down again today with two more having tested positive. Need to make it to 4:10 tomorrow for “good to fly” test. Need good thoughts coming my way!

    We took off to St Andrews. What a cool town with St Andrews Golf Course, St Andrew’s University, ruins of a castle, ruins of a cathedral and the beach all close to each other. St. Andrews dates to the Middle Ages when St. Andrew (patron saint of Scotland) made the town cathedral one of the most important pilgrimage sites for Christians. After the Reformation the mayor started introducing a popular game called golf.

    St Andrew’s, considered the mecca of golf, was first played here in the early 15 century. It’s nicknamed “Old Grand Lady”. The St Andrew’s Golf Club is one of the oldest clubs in the world and is celebrating its 150 anniversary this year. There are 7 courses with the Oldest Course the most popular. The Swilcan Bridge on the 18th hole of the Old Course was built 700 yrs ago for shepherds. The course is not private but owned by the town. It’s a beautiful setting at the edge of the bay. I learned what a links golf course is, too. Basically links are built on sandy soil on coastal land that is buffeted by the wind. There are few if any trees but it has tall thick grasses (some several feet) and there are many bunkers of which some are quite deep. Tiger Woods hates it here…to hard with the grasses and wind, I guess.

    We’re back in Edinburgh for the last two nights and Nigel took us on an orientation walk of the neighborhood. It is quite close to where Rebecca and I stayed at the Airbnb. This hotel is probably my favorite. I have a view of the castle, cathedral, and it is beautiful. Rebecca has a view of what we call a fairy tale village. The two of us explored and wandered until we found the place. It’s my favorite area of everywhere we’ve been…so peaceful, beautiful, and just magical. We had such a large lunch and dessert that we skipped dinner and enjoyed conversation in the lobby with an employee, Ronnie. This whole afternoon and evening here has made a wonderful memory for me.

    Wee bit of info: There’s a good chance that Scotland will break away from England because the Scottish people were against the Brexit exit and have completely lost trust in Westminster and Parliament. Ninety two percent of the people voted in Scotland compared to about 61% in our election.They are not against the monarchy. They want to keep the Queen, but if they do she will be known as Queen Elizabeth I here in Scotland. There’s never been an Elizabeth on the throne in Scotland. She would still be Queen Elizabeth II in England. These names are so confusing on how they change.
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    Praying for good health and negative Covid tests! [Genae]

    5/28/22Reply
    Traveler

    So glad you’ve had such an amazing trip. Good luck with your test! Hope you get home safe and sound with no problems!! 💕

    5/29/22Reply

    Wow what an amazing and memorable trip. You would be a fantastic toyr guide yourself Yvonne! Have a safe and healthy trip home. I've loved your stories and pictures. Thank you for sharing. Hope to see you soon. 💗 [Marcia]

    5/29/22Reply
     
  • Day29

    Dunkeld and Aberfeldy

    May 27 in Scotland ⋅ ⛅ 57 °F

    Sad news today…April and her mom, Susan, have left the tour after testing positive this morning. We’re down to 14 with 3 days left on the tour.

    We took a quiet woodland walk to the Black Linn Falls in Dunkeld. Redwoods and sequoyas have been introduced here and are doing great. First time seeing either of them. Probably my favorite activity today.

    Then, we were off to Kenmore to visit the Scottish Crannog Centre this morning. Crannogs are circular houses on stilts and there is evidence of them back to 500 years before Christ. During the time of the Iron Age people lived on little round islands. Scientists have found evidence of 18 crannogs on Loch Tay. The tour at the center took us back in time as guides dressed in prehistoric clothes showed us life during the Iron Age. Very interesting tour, but the replica crannog had burned down recently.

    Interesting thing about Kenmore. There is a castle there that George Clooney has purchased and plans to turn into an luxury hotel for the rich. There’s a golf course next to it, too. He has also bought all the buildings except for 1 private building in the town of Kenmore. The residents aren’t very happy because their way of life is being destroyed. The community center is closed and so is the post office.

    Our last visit today was at Dewar’s Aberfeldy Distillery founded by John Dewar in 1898. We had a tour and a dram of Dewar’s blended whiskey and Dewar’s Aberfeldy Single Malt whiskey. If you don’t like whiskey, they suggest trying the Aberfeldy. If you don’t like it, then you will never like any whiskey. Well, I disliked both so I’ll stick with Coca-cola! Dewar’s is now owned by Bacardi, who makes rum.

    We had fine dining at the hotel again with the added treat of a wedding reception happening right outside the window. It was such fun seeing how all the guests were dressed…very classy!
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    Dewar’s is my go to scotch! Love it! [David]

    5/27/22Reply
     
  • Day28

    On the way to Dunkeld

    May 26 in Scotland ⋅ ⛅ 57 °F

    Our day started at a sheep farm. Neil Ross (a shepherd) and his family work on part of a 11,000 acres estate for a laird (lord). Since the laird owns the land, the farmers are not allowed to hunt or shoot anything. However, the laird never goes out on Sunday mornings! It was such fun watching the dogs herding the sheep…quite mesmerizing. There were 4 week old puppies and a few baby lambs, too. We also learned a little about Scotland’s wool industry. The majority of sheep in Scotland are raised for meat not the wool. The wool is not the best and the market for it no longer profitable. In fact, no wool is produced in Scotland at this time.

    We shared a lunch together at Rowan Tree and had Scotch broth with mutton in it. Ok, I opted for the vegetarian version! We also had wee lesson on how to make scones. They were delicious, and we were given the recipe.

    Funny story with the next stop at Killiecrankie. Donald McBane, a Scottish government soldier, was running away from the Jacobites after a battle in 1689. He turned back and saw a lot of kilt-dressed Jacobites chasing him. Kilts are 8 yards of material and most of the men tripped on their kilts and ended up running naked. Poor Donald McBane was so afraid that he made a spectacular jump 18 ft across the gorge of the River Garry to freedom to escape.

    A quick stop at Pitlochry where we did a little shopping and an ice cream cone. Then off to Dunkeld for the next two nights. It’s a charming village on River Tay with a cathedral in ruins that was built from 1260 to 1501. The village had been destroyed in 1689 in a battle between the Jacobites and government troops. Most of the original village was rebuilt in the 18th century.
    We are staying at the beautiful Dunkeld House Hotel which is a former hunting lodge for the Duke of Atholl and was built in 1900. It’s like stepping back in time. We were greeted with a dram of sherry or whisky. Rebecca and I took a riverside walk and admired the beauty of the grounds and hotel. Dinner here was exceptional tonight.

    Oh, our evening ended with Gillie, a delightful woman who has been playing the bagpipes for 50 years.
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    I love the sheep! [Genae]

    5/26/22Reply

    Yum! [Jayne]

    5/26/22Reply
     
  • Day27

    Speyside

    May 25 in Scotland ⋅ ☁️ 54 °F

    Today our bus took us through Speyside which is famous for malt whisky. It’s Scotland’s favorite drink and more than half of the distilleries lie near this valley of the River Spey. It is in a beautiful valley of rivers and glens and it’s where over half of Scotland’s distilleries are located. We toured Speyside Cooperage. A cooperage is where one produces casks from American Oak. It takes 4 years of apprenticeship to become a cooper and there are only 14 at this distillery. It’s a very specialized career. We learned of the traditional method and tools. I don’t like whisky at all, but I had a dram of Stag’s Breath Comb Honey Liqueur. I could taste the honey in it and thought that it was pretty decent.

    Next we visited Rothiemurchus which is a family run Highland estate in the middle of Cairngorms National Park near Aviemore. A ranger gave a presentation about the land and animal conservation efforts. We were able to see lots of Highland cows and also red deer. What a beautiful area. We saw lots of Highland Hairy “coos” and red deer along the way and even got to feed them through the fences.

    We’re only here for tonight and are having a group dinner where we had to select a starter, entree, and dessert. My choice was trout, mushroom/leek filo, or leg of duck…not happening for me. I’m having the starter which is tomato soup and a dessert of chocolate mousse. Group dinners have not been all that great for a picky eater!
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    Traveler

    They could’ve given you two bowls of soup since you didn’t have an entrée!

    5/25/22Reply

    So cute! [Debbie Rouzzo]

    5/30/22Reply
     
  • Day26

    Inverness

    May 24 in Scotland ⋅ 🌧 54 °F

    Today we toured the Culloden Battlefield which is a little like a “Scottish Alamo”. April 16, 1746 Prince Charlie and the Jacobites were defeated here by the supporters of King George II, and it marked the beginning of the end of the Highland clan system and the hope of restoring a Stuart monarchy to the throne in England. It was the last battle on British soil and in less than an hour over 1000 Jacobites were killed and 500 supporters of the Hanover monarchy of King George II. People in the area still bring flowers here as they remember the horrendous battle that took place 276 years ago. After the battle the Highlanders were forbidden to have clans, wear kilts, speak the Gaelic language, own weapons (only small knife for cutting food), and forbidden to play bagpipes. This battle was featured in the TV series “Outlander” and I am so caught up in the history of Great Britain…even more so since these tours.

    After a quick lunch at a cafe we enjoyed walking around the small pedestrian shopping area. One never goes out without an umbrella as we learned today. A quick shower and the sun is once again out and the birds are chirping! Our hotel is right on the River Ness and there’s a nice walk along the river.

    Rebecca and I went to Blackfriars Pub for dinner, and I had a Scottish steak and ale pie that was delicious. Susan and her daughter April met us to go to a pub for live Scottish music but there were no seats. We finished off the evening with a drink and good conversation at a rooftop secret garden above the Black Isle Bar. It was still light outside at 10:00.

    Interesting tidbit: Great Britain switched over to metric back in 1965, but they kept only one part of the Customary System…miles! All road signs are in miles.
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    Love all these pictures! I’m living the dream thru your posts! [Debbie Rouzzo]

    5/24/22Reply
     
  • Day25

    Glencoe, Loch Ness, Inverness

    May 23 in Scotland ⋅ 🌧 50 °F

    Two more had to leave our tour group today because of Covid. We’re down to 16.

    I can’t believe how packed today was with activities! We headed north today up into the rugged Highlands. We stopped the the “weeping glen” town of Glencoe. It is the site of the infamous massacre between the Campbells and the MacDonalds. The cliffs seem to be weeping (cascading waterfalls) when it rains. The intense feeling still runs deep today hundreds of years later between the two clans. There are some pubs that won’t serve the Campbells. Glencoe was a location site for Monty Python, Harry Potter, Outlander, and Skyfall.

    On our travels today we stopped at a ski lift and took a ride to the top..about 4000 ft. Nigel, our guide, warmed us up with a dram of whisky when we reached the frigid top. I drank it and didn’t like it!

    We also visited the ruins of Urquhart Castle on the Loch Ness which was the largest medieval castle in Scotland. The ruins of Urquhart Castle are said to be over 1,000 years old and dates back to the 13th century. The castle played a pivotal role as a defensive position for both the Scots and the English.

    We continued north and took a cruise on Loch (lake) Ness where there were no sightings of the Loch Ness (Nessie) Monster! Interesting fact: All the lakes and rivers in England and Wales would not fill up Loch Ness!

    The day continued with a drive to the capital of the Highlands, Inverness. We took a short orientation walk along the River Ness before enjoying a group dinner at The Mustard Seed. To finish off the night Becky and I went with April and her mom Susan to the oldest pub in Inverness, The Gellions. It’s a local pub with nightly live Scottish music. It was lively, loud, and a fun way to end the night.

    Oh, a little extra. The Queen loves swans, and they are under the Royal Protection of the Queen. They can’t be killed.

    Also, how many English have been on the throne throughout history? None! There was a joke going around after Brexit that perhaps the Queen should be given a German passport!
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    Oh My God!! Look how happy you both look. Seeing this picture reminds me how very much I miss you both. But that’s so selfish of me. I don’t want time to rush away from you and this amazing trip. Keep the pictures and stories coming. Is that an egg yolk in Becky’s beer?!?!? [Elizabeth Wilson]

    5/23/22Reply

    Absolutely not an egg yolk! We are missing you, too. [Rebecca Kuzmik]

    5/24/22Reply
    Traveler

    You are becoming more adventurous every day! So happy you are having a great time!!

    5/23/22Reply

    Loving the stories, history and specular pictures. What a beautiful country!💓 [Marcia]

    5/24/22Reply
     
  • Day24

    Oban and Kilmartin

    May 22 in Scotland ⋅ ☁️ 54 °F

    Nigel, our guide, took us to Kilmartin Glen, a small village where over 5000 years of human history can be traced. The area has chambered cairns or cists which are man-made piles of stones raised and used as a burial mound or marker. The linear cemetery has five burial cairns that line up with the winter solstice and extends for more than 2 1/2 miles. They were the burial place of the elite. We didn’t see all of them. We saw standing stones and stone circles. Some of the stones are decorated with cup and ring marks. Stone circles connected people with the heavens and maybe marked special moments of the sun and moon. I found this site fascinating.

    We have surrendered to the Scottish rains. There have been no downpours, just drizzles and light rain and the weather can change in a moment’s notice. By 3:30 the sun came out, but I am exhausted so I’m at the hotel to relax and perhaps sit in the veranda.

    Rebecca and I did eat a late lunch at an old pub, The Oban Inn, where we had our first steak and ale pie. It was delicious, and I didn’t have to eat fish!
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    Traveler

    Temperatures seem to range between 52 and 54 degrees!

    5/22/22Reply

    No fish…lol [Dave]

    5/23/22Reply

    Enjoying your pictures and you sure have a beautiful way of describing everything! I read your posts to J & D but they have a hard time with the pics not being big enough on my phone. Can’t wait to hear more once you get back-I know they will love seeing you and hearing of your adventures too! [Debbie Rouzzo]

    5/23/22Reply
     
  • Day23

    Island of Mull and Iona

    May 21 in Scotland ⋅ 🌧 52 °F

    Today we took the huge Caledonian MacBrayne ferry from Oban to the town of Craignure on Mull. Then, we rode a bus 2 hours across Mull to catch another ferry to Iona. The drive across Mull was very serene with incredible landscapes of unending fields of bluebells, mountains, countless hills, glenns (deep valley in the Highlands), lochs, cairns (piles of rock), jagged coastlines, Castle of Duart, hairy Highland cows, sheep, gannet (bird), black guillemot (bird), sea lion, red stag deer…just stunning.

    The island of Iona is only 3 miles by 1 1/2 miles and is very remote and quiet with a tiny community. Iona is the most sacred site of Scotland. It is here in the 6th century that Saint Columba introduced Christianity, and there is a 13 century abbey built on the site where he built his 1st Celtic church. The Book of Kells, said to be the “work of angels” was created here around 800. I saw The Book of Kells in Dublin.

    I’m quite disappointed that I’m missing the puffins on Staffa Island which is just a tiny uninhabited volcanic rock island of hexagonal basalt columns. But, in order to possibly see them, I would have a very rough ride on a small boat. Our guide advised against it because of the ride, predicted rains, and possibility of them not being there. I would have missed today’s adventure, too.

    It was a full day adventure so Rebecca and I stopped at a place like Steak and Shake…bless her heart! I am going to have fish and chips with her tomorrow!

    Most pictures were taken from the bus or ferry, and the weather wasn’t great…foggy and light rain.
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    Traveler

    Wow this is breathtaking

    5/21/22Reply
    Traveler

    Love the photos and your narrative!

    5/21/22Reply
    Traveler

    Gorgeous scenery!

    5/22/22Reply
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  • Day22

    Oban

    May 20 in Scotland ⋅ 🌧 54 °F

    This is our second day on the Scotland tour and this morning we were told that two are off the tour because the husband tested positive. Crossing my fingers that I make it to the end of the tour. Becky and I sat at back of bus away from everyone and are wearing our masks more.
    We had a busy day on the bus as we headed up to the Highlands. We stopped at Stirling Castle. Rick Steves book compares it to Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, and the Alamo, all rolled into one. The castle sits high on a volcanic ridge by the River Forth which divides the Lowlands from the Highlands which made it the prime location. “He who holds Stirling, holds Scotland” and it was the home of many kings and queens including Mary Queen of Scots and Stuart monarchs. I thoroughly enjoyed touring the king and queen quarters where there were guides in costumes. Oh, it’s also featured in “Braveheart” but we learned that the film got pretty much everything wrong historically.

    We drove along the “bonnie, bonnie banks” of the Loch (lake) Lomond and Trossachs National Park. Loch Lomond is Great Britain’s biggest lake by surface area. There are 60 private islands in the loch. Cool fact to its fame is the folk song: “Ye’ll take the high road, and I’ll take the low road, and I’ll be in Scotland afore ye..For me and my tru love will never meet again, on the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond”. I won’t explain it here, but it’s a very sad story behind the song.

    After lunch in the cute village of Fyne, we continued our way to the scenic coastal town of Oban which is the “Gateway to the Isles.” Rebecca and I took a nice walk along the coast by our hotel and stopped at Bar Rio for a quick dinner of pizza! I love this hotel because of a beautiful glassed-in veranda where we both relaxed and had a beautiful view of the bay called Firth of Lorn in front of us.
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