Scotland - Castles and Lochs

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May 30th 2010
Published: June 4th 2010
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It didn't take us long to leave the country again. Just over 5 months. We had picked a few places that were 'must visit places' while we were away and the Guinness Store House was one, the other was Scotland. With the Guinness tour well and truly behind us, it was time to tick Scotland off the box. A couple of months ago my hand slipped and I accidently booked flights to Scotland. I was only checking would it work without money in my account and well.... it did! The flights were cheap anyway (around €80 for the two of us return) so why not go?!

Our flight out was an early one, flying at 6:30am. The only problem was it was out of Dublin. I'm writing this now a few days since we flew and gladly so, as if it was the morning of the flight my words for Dublin airport would have been very harsh. It's easily the biggest answer on how to stress a traveller. Embarrasing, Chaotic & Infuriating all spring to mind. The departure gate is laughable. It took me 10 minutes to find an ATM and I wouldnt call myself stupid or anything. Turns out it was probably one of the only ones as it had a queue a mile long. Once behind the gates though things return to some normality and you would think you were in a different airport altogether. Our flight was delayed and I secretely enjoyed this as Ryanair now blast a big fan fare trumpet through their speakers to announce 'another on time arrival'. It's strangley annoying and I now pray my flights will be even just a few minutes late. Unluckily the wind was with us and we arrived on time. Ryanair, I get the message. I'll pass it on to all I know. YOU ARRIVE ON TIME, 90% OF THE TIME!

Getting our car at the airport was easy and I probably said yes to too many add on's without thinking. We were excited. Luckily I got my senses when he offered us the baby chair! The fear of getting a car in any strange place is a bit nerve wrecking. Luckily we had Shelia, our trusty GPS (kindly borrowed from the Creaven household) to guide us out of the airport to safety. Soon we were on our way and our first port of call was Bannockburn Heritage Centre. I had read it was worth the visit and we weren't disappointed. The centre is interesting and tells about battles with the English in the late 1200's or so. The best part though is that you can try on all the different army gear from that time. Needless to say my boy like behaviour came to the front and I tried on just about every piece I could. The weight of some of the armour was incredilbe and the helmets provided very little sight. Mind you if a guy was coming at me with an axe or sword I'd take my chances on carrying the heavy armour around. There was also a big statue of Robert the Bruce (King of Scots) outside the centre, right where one of the greatest battles in Scottish histroy took place. Before leaving the small town we bought some ham, bread, butter and got our thermos filled (they charged me £3 to fill it!!!!). Our day was to be actioned packed to we hadn't much time to waste.

We hit the road in search of the Wallace Monument. This is a large castle like monument erected in memory of a great hero and warrior, William Wallace. Braveheart for those who don't know who I'm on about. The climb to the base of the monument takes about 10 minutes before you then have to climb 246 steps to the top. There are floors along the way with different artefacts, the most impressive being Wallace's six foot sword. The view from the top is amazing as well, but it looks out over mainly flat land, and I'm sorry but nobody comes back from traveling saying, "wow, we saw loads of cool falt land, it was spectacular". Luckily though Scotland has mountain views to rival anywhere in the world but I'll get to that in a later blog.

Our adventures continued 10 minutes down the road where we paid a visit to Stirling castle. It is said that "he who holds the castle, holds Scotland". We joined in with a guided tour of the castle so that we could get a small bit of the history of the place. It had changed hands and changed layouts many times. Different kings wanted to put their own mark on the place. I half caught something that the guide said so don't take what I'm saying as historical fact. Apparently some king died after getting a tiny piece of water from the river Thames in his mouth. He picked up some disease and died. It could have being at his christening that this happened(I think that's what I heard!). Anyway a new King was crowned who later in life was some way responsible for letting Oliver Cromwell loose on the world. The guy's point was that if the first king didn't die, Cromwell wouldn't have came to power. His point though was that Cromwell turned the castle into a barracks and destroyed a lot of its structure. My point is, well google Cromwell and Ireland and see what you get! Our very own little Hitler.

After fleeing the castle, or lives still in tact, we made our way along the beautiful Scottish country side to Loch Lomond. We made plenty of stops along the way (to take photos) and marvelled at the amazing beauty of the Scottish landscape. When people say it looks like New Zealand they are bang on. Its no surprise really that so many Scot's made New Zealand their home. Loch Lomond is the biggest Loch in Scotland. Loch Ness has more water though! After a spin around the lake we headed for our hotel which was situated in the stop-off town of Tyndrum. Our hotel was a bit like Fawlty towers except with out the faults. We had spotted a sign down the road of "award winning fish & chips" and decided to check out if it was in fact true. Needlees to say it was and we spent an hour or so outside in the evening sunshine enjoying our traditional British meal. They even served pints of tea, which helped when the sun disappeared every now and again behind the passing clouds. Back at our hotel we saw a sign for Guinness and decided again that we needed to test it. Everyone says that it is impossible to get a good pint of the 'black stuff' outside Ireland. Well, that's a lie. Michelle had wished that they wouldnt be so good as we had been up since 4am and the last excuse we needed was some fine pints of Guinness. She was disappointed, kind of. The Guinness was good and also very cheap. I had 5 pints and Michelle had 3 glasses, all for the price of £13.95!! Just like the cheap Ryanair tickets, it would be an insult not to take up the offer! Two pints were on the house, but still it was cheap.

Tomorrow we head for the Scottish highlands in search of the Loch Ness Monster. A cheesey thought really but apparently the scenery if out of this world.

In a bit. DH

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