Time for the Black & Whites
So up until now you've endured this blog without complaint but now we have to do the black and whites. Scotland certainly was not stingy with the opportunities. Plenty of dramatic brooding skies to go with the hills and castles. I put all of them into one slide show. Hope you like them! With that I'll sign off on the Scotland trip. The scenery was superb but seeing our friends in England and Scotland was the best part. Thanks to everyone for watching!
Uphall and West Lothian
Monday Sept 19 was the day we planned to spend with Pam and Al. They were looking forward to showing us the sights around Uphall which is just ten miles or so west of Edinburgh. It was also the day of Queen Elizabeth's funeral so a lot was happening. The morning was pretty much dominated by the funeral. We left the hotel a little after 10. It was a Monday morning. The streets should have been bustling but they looked like this.
As we walked to the train station every church bell in Edinburgh began to ring. We knew this was for the Queen but it was a peel I had not heard before, neither joyful nor was it a funeral dirge. Presently they stopped for several seconds and then started again, same melody. This pattern continued until we got on the train to Uphall. We learned later that it was repeated 96 times, once for every year of her life. Al and Pam picked us up at the train station and we went to their house to watch the last 30 minutes of the funeral. At the very end was the two minutes of silence. The station we were watching had cameras all over the UK and the Commonwealth. This was a very moving thing to see. Large crowds of people all over the world, standing in silent tribute to a great woman.
We then watched several segments of a documentary about the building of the Forth Road bridge in the early 60s. It is quite an engineering triumph and is the fourth longest suspension bridge in the world. That's why they call it the Forth Bridge. I think. Not sure about that. It makes sense though, doesn't it? So when we were planning the day Al mentioned that we would be seeing this bridge and that his older brother Hector "had worked on it". When we watched the documentary though it became clear that he worked on it as in "built it". Hector was one of two engineers who were on the site throughout, directing the construction. He was extensively featured in the documentary. The link below is either a shortened version of the film we saw or they used the same archival footage. It all looks familiar. No Hector interviews though. And they also left out the snafus and near disasters. Still quite interesting.
We were observing this from the village of Queensferry which was the site of the main ferry crossing for many centuries. Also here is the iconic Firth of Forth railroad bridge which was built in the 1890s. It also was an engineering marvel when it was built.
As I took this picture of the bridge, right behind me is the Hawes Inn. It is featured in Robert Louis Stephenson's book, "Kidnapped". In the book this is where the protagonist, David Balfour is actually abducted.
We scouted around the area and checked out the old canal that connected the river Forth to the Clyde which flows to Glasgow on the west side of the island. These canal boats are now pleasure craft.
Another place we visited was Houstoun House and Gardens, just a short walk from their house. Going back to the early 1600s, it is now a guesthouse, restaurant, and event space.
Everything is kept original including the bar.
And Al. He's definitely an original.
Sometime driving around we got this great view of the three Forth bridges. Not the three fourths bridge. That wouldn't be a whole bridge. You would fall in the water.
We then had a great lunch at The Bridge Inn in Linlithgow.
After lunch we headed over to Linlithgow Palace, birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots. The palace was built by Mary's grandfather, James the IV, at the time that royal residences were morphing from fortresses into palaces. Still, it has very strong walls and originally, a drawbridge; however it is not really sited for defense but more for enjoyment of the countryside. Mary loved staying here. Leading up to the main gate there is a plaque on the wall for each Scottish monarch starting with Mary. Here is Pam with her favorite.
The little town of Linlithgow, Scotland pays its respects to the late Queen.
On the palace grounds was this impressive church.
The palace itself had scaffolding up and a metal barrier all around it so it didn't exactly scream, "Photograph me!" and everything was closed due to the funeral. Still all quite interesting. I had read a couple of biographies of Mary so seeing the place where so much of her story played out was very cool.
We then walked back down to the town. Still full from lunch but maybe room for a wee dram. For once I didn't have to worry about driving. And look at what we found.
And these four Marys do not include the Queen herself!!
Then back to Pam and Al's for another wee dram, hey it's Scotland and again, I'm not driving! Then back to the train station. The day had been so full and yet too short. The train was coming as we pulled up so we had to rush our goodbyes. We sure hope to see them again in way less than 23 years!!
There are more Edinburgh and Uphall photos in the slide show at the end of the post.
Next day, Tuesday, we had the long drive back to London. Jeanne Marie had found us the perfect hotel for a short stay like we had.
This is the look of a man who has cheated death again. Two weeks of driving all over England and Scotland on the wrong side of the road and is headed home in one piece.
Next morning, Sunday Sept 18th, we walked down to St. Mary's Cathedral for Mass. It was a lovely church and service.
The church has a foundation of Sisters of Charity, Mother Tereasa's order.
After Mass, being still Sunday morning and little traffic, we took the car out and tooled around to some of the sites. Unfortunately I didn't get very appealing light for pictures. Very flat. Below is the great view from Calton Hill.
Many of the usual tourist spots were closed until after the Queen's funeral. Reminders of her passing were in every shop window.
Below is Edinburgh Castle.
Our hotel was strategically located within walking distance of everything of interest and just two doors from the Scotch Malt Whiskey Society.
This is the Walter Scott Monument. I sure wish I could have had a little more definition to the light. It has great potential.
After the long week of marching through the Highlands we were looking for an easy low key day. We had an early dinner and a pint at a cozy pub.
Tomorrow we march through West Lothian.
Plockton and more Eilean Donan
Saturday September 17th, for the first morning since we left Bath, we did not get up at the crack of dawn. We didn't exactly sleep in either though. We were driving to Edinburgh and hoped to be there by mid afternoon. But I had not yet managed to get a picture of any Scottish Highland cattle so we wanted to scout a little before we left the Highlands. There were rumors that a small herd hung out in the village of Plockton, just across the Skye bridge on the mainland. We rolled into Plockton and found no cows. What we did find was a delightful little seaside village with a lovely little coffee shop looking out on the harbor. Pictures were taken and coffee and cake were promptly ordered.
We were also able to procure some information about the cows. Precisely where they hang out when they are not in town. Armed with new information we found them easily.
It had been a drizzly morning since we left Skye and as we drove past Eilean Donan the mist was hugging the hillsides.
I couldn't resist stopping. A castle in the Scottish Highlands, the gloom hanging on the hilltops. I could almost see Macbeth pacing the battlements. Besides, the tide was right at its peak so the castle was fully surrounded by water. It only took a few minutes to get a couple of shots.
We would see Al and Pam again on Monday. Then we drove into Edinburgh and found our hotel.
Isle of Skye Day 2
Friday, Sept 16th we again were hoping to catch a sunrise shot on the east coast of Skye. Our objective was the Quiraing on the north end of the island. Where Storr was rated as moderate, this was rated "challenging". That sounds harder doesn't it? It was on the same ridge of mountains as Storr but the road took you up much higher so the challenge was not in the climbing. The problem was that the trail was much more treacherous to traverse as it went along steep hillsides. So we decided to go as far as we could and see what we could. The sky was fully overcast so I was not excited about the light anyway. Off to the east the sun was playing peek a boo through the clouds and giving us a little light show.
We promptly came to a ravine that JM knew she shouldn't try to cross so I went ahead and staked out the first promising location I came to, and waited for the light.
Finally a break in the clouds passed over my scene and I got this.
With Jeanne Marie waiting and the sky still mostly overcast I decided to take my winnings and head back. It took longer that I expected because there was a lady stuck in the same ravine that JM had declined to attempt. The lady had to be pushed and pulled out. Jeanne Marie had chosen wisely.
We drove back down on the west side of the Quiraing to a nice little waterfall.
We rested awhile and I wanted to run up to photograph the old bridge at Sligachan. We had passed along side it several times and hadn't stopped yet so I needed to grab my chance. The sky was overcast and foggy when I left the B&B so I was preparing for that kind of shoot.
But I no sooner got started than the clouds blew away and it was clear blue. I still got this though.
So the sunset location would be the village of Elgol on the southwest corner of Skye. Another single track road but quite scenic.
We arrived at the car park at Elgol and as we climbed out of the car were greeted with this.
The photo opportunities were mainly along a very rocky beach, shooting across the water towards the mountains on the other side. JM, again choosing wisely, opted to stay off the rocks. They were quite treacherous.
Another day in Skye, another great photo opp. More day two in the slide show below.
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