Geo: 55.9503, -3.18761
I complimented the proprietor of Wellpark when we left today. My room, the lobby, the breakfast room — all were absolutely spotless. My room in particular had the feeling of being truly clean, instead of just superficially clean. He got all puffed up with the compliment and smiled proudly.
It was mostly a bus day, as we returned to Edinburgh. We had a quick "technical stop" at Luss, where we had the opportunity to step out onto the beach of Loch Lomond. It was, indeed, bonnie (as was the resident multitude of ducks), but it was again very, very windy and arctic cold.
Martin told us what the lyrics to the song "Loch Lomond" mean. The song arose from the '45 campaigns, when it was pretty easy for a Highlander to die in battle in England. In Scottish myth, the soul returns to the place of a person's birth. It does not go through the air, it travels underground via "the low road," the path for the soul. The "high road," therefore, is on the earth. So, "You take the high road and I'll take the low road, and I'll be in Scotland afore ye" means that the singer is (or
will be) dead and his soul will swiftly return to his homeland, while the other person is still living and must travel back to Scotland by foot or horseback. "Where me and my true love will never meet again" … because he's dead. "On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond" just means that the loch is a beautiful place. It's really a sad song, but we so often sing it as a jaunty little tune. (And we sing "Happy Birthday" like it's a dirge!)
Both Martin and James talked about Scottish politics while we descended from the Highlands back to the Lowlands. Every Scottish person has three members of Parliament: one for the Scottish Parliament, one for the Parliament at Westminster in London, and one for the European Parliament. Currently, there is talk of the "Brexit" (British exit), whereby Britain would exit the European Union. Scotland very much wants to stay in the EU because it gets all sorts of support from there to build roads and whatnot. There is also an upcoming vote in Scotland, in which it is expected that the Scottish National Party will win by a landslide.
The party has already informed the Prime Minister that if the Brexit happens, the SNP will immediately call for a referendum re becoming a republic and effectively seceding from the Union. There was a vote on this two years ago, before talk of a Brexit, and Scots narrowly voted to remain with the Union. James said that was the first time he ever voted because he finally felt like his vote would count. Younger people, 18- to 55-year-olds, voted to become a republic, and 56- to 75-year-olds voted to remain with the Union. James said he saw for the first time that young people really cared about Scotland and wanted to direct their future. If another referendum comes up in the next couple of years, he's sure Scotland will leave the Union.
Around 11:30 we arrived at Stirling Castle, which structurally is a lot like Edinburgh Castle on a smaller scale. Martin gave us a quick whiz around the grounds and then set us free. In the Great Hall, some school kids were about to put on a production of … well, we were standing on the "stage" and Martin actually said "Macbeth." Shock! Horror! Sharp intakes of breath! (One does
not speak the name of "the Scottish play" in a theatre. It's bad luck.)
(Quick diversion: Typing it's just now reminded me that the other day we passed a sign that said 'Tis the time for something or other, only 'tis was rendered as ti's. Shock! Horror! Sharp intake of breath!)
James told us that most Scots would prefer to visit Stirling Castle than Edinburgh Castle. I suppose they think of Stirling as being more Scottish than Edinburgh.
For lunch I walked down to The Portcullis pub just outside the castle walls. Of course, nearly half the group was there. It was so nice and warm in there, and my panini was very tasty, and I don't think any of us wanted to go back to the bus. (Have I mentioned how windy and cold it's been?)
At the request of some tour members, we stopped at The Kelpies, a huuuuge sculpture of horses rising from water. Kelpies in Scottish lore are malevolent spirits that come in the form of a horse (or cow or bull or woman) and entice people to pet and sit on them. Their backs are sticky so a person can't dismount, and then the kelpies take the human
down into the sea. James said the sculptures aren't really kelpies even though they're called that (though he didn't say what they actually are) and cost £5 million. They're 30 meters high and have colored lights that shine through them at night. They are definitely impressive, and we had our group photo in front of them.
Driving into Edinburgh, Martin showed us a gift he had bought for Roddy. At the Famous Grouse distillery, you could purchase a bottle and personalize it for something like £100. So the label of this bottle says "The Famous Roddy," and on the back it says, "To the best coach driver on this trip." Roddy was very appreciative.
We arrived back at The Bonham; my room is in the basement this time and looks into the car park. It's a nice room though: I have a little entry hall, and the bathroom is through there, then the room is slightly separate and quite spacious. I started to drive myself crazy trying to repack my suitcase, so I went for a walk. It started to rain fairly hard, and that's the first time since London that I've been caught in rain. It did hail for about 30
View from the ramparts of Stirling Castle
The sticky-up thing mid-left is the Wallace Monument.
seconds when we were at the kelpies but it was a dry hail, if that makes sense.
For our Last Supper, we took the tram to Harvey Nichols and dined on the fourth floor at the Forth Floor Restaurant. I had a courgette and basil soup with olives to start (yes, I know courgette means zucchini, but it didn't taste at all zucchini-ish), chicken with yellow curry and jasmine rice, and a truly wonderful berry tart for dessert. It was all delicious.
But now it is very late and I want to be out the door by 9:00 a.m. so I can go visit the Royal Yacht Britannia before flying back to London tomorrow afternoon. (And the large glass of wine I had at dinner isn't helping me stay awake!)
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