Our big trip for 2023 is dramatically different from our trips of the previous two years – rather than being on the road with the camper trailer, our arrangements favour a long flight and staying with relatives, friends and in Bed & Breakfasts. Our arrival into Edinburgh airport after a journey that extended over about 30 hours, including 21 in the air, was a thankful outcome after a last minute potential major hiccup.
This was the Covid thwarted visit back to Scotland that I had planned to undertake back in 2020 to meet my new granddaughter and catch up with other family members and friends.
K had previously visited Scotland on a number of previous occasions and was keen to accompany me. As this was to be my first visit since my mother died in 2019, I felt that I could take time to make a couple of mini breaks. This extended somewhat after we discussed and decided to take in a couple of weeks in Europe visiting cities that I have long since had on my list. The result is a six week overseas trip taking in Scotland, Prague, Salzburg and Barcelona.
Our 6.30 arrival on Thursday 25 May was met by very overcast and cool conditions that cleared up by the middle of the day into a lovely warm sunny summer’s day.
Our first stop was to pick up a couple of local ‘pay as you go’ SIM cards and some basic provisions for our first self-contained accommodation, followed by a quick visit to see my daughter before heading about 27 miles along the M9 to Stirling to our accommodation.
By 12:30, we had settled into a one bedroom cottage (formerly the stables) situated on a farm outside Stirling. Featuring wide open views of Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument it was a welcome change from the enclosed space of the aircraft.
Located on a farm our neighbours front and back are flocks of sheep and a herd of cattle – our morning alarm call is the sheep bleating!
After lunch, we decided to get some exercise by driving a short distance to walk round the nearby village of Cambuskenneth. The main feature of the village is the remains of the abbey that was originally built in 1140.
This photo shows the only standing structure with the Wallace Monument on the hill in the distance.
There is also a footbridge across the River Forth leading to the centre of Stirling at the end of which was a notice about the pizza van every Thursday evening – dinner solved!
Jet lag does not seem to have affected us much – a short afternoon nap on the afternoon of our arrival and a good night’s sleep made up for my almost total lack of sleep on the plane.
On Friday morning we walked round a few paddocks to Cambuskenneth, across the footbridge and on to the railway station in Stirling to ‘download’ our train tickets for our first trip. We took the opportunity to buy some provisions. After a quick coffee break back at the cottage, we drove to the base of Abbey Craig from where we climbed the track to the Wallace Monument. Built in 1861, this tower celebrates the life of William Wallace (1270 – 1305), a key figure in various battles against the English.
After lunch and at the invitation of my son, we headed into Edinburgh for dinner and to meet my granddaughter. The evening was very enjoyable and all to soon it was time to go home.
On Saturday, we walked back into Stirling for more provisions to last us until our departure on Monday, before driving in to Edinburgh to catch up with a couple of friends for lunch – before too long it felt as if I had not been away! The highlight of the afternoon was watching my older grandson play football in his leagues final – unfortunately his team lost, 2-1.
Our first ‘bushwalk’ took us to Dollar, a small town on the edge of the Scottish Lowlands. I had tackled this walk many years ago and clearly had forgotten how steep the tracks are to the final destination – Castle Campbell. The Glen offers a circular route up to and beyond the castle. We started off in the anti-clockwise direction only to find after a bit of a climb that the track was closed. So, it was back down and up the other side. The track took us to a point higher than the castle from where we could look down on it and fully understood the strategic positioning, with views across the valley beyond.
Castle Campbell was once the home of the powerful Campbell earls of Argyll, and has connections with historical figures such as John Knox and Mary Queen of Scots.
We were aware before we started that the castle was closed, but it was disappointing that we could not even enter the grounds. The track back down was relatively easy and quick, which was as well as we were running tight to meet my daughter to walk round Linlithgow Loch.
One point of interest was a group of canyoners making their way down the waterway that has shaped the glen over the eons – looked great fun, but rather them than me!
The town of Linlithgow is located to the west of Edinburgh and very close to where I used to live before migrating. It features a large recreational loch overlooked by the ruins of Linlithgow Palace.
Linlithgow Palace was the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots and one of the principal residences of the 15th and 16th century Scottish Monarchs. Unfortunately, it is currently closed to the public while undergoing safety masonry inspections. However, it is an impressive structure to visit.
On meeting my daughter and her dog, Bailey, we set off on the 3.5 km walk around the loch.
I must say at this point that the weather since we arrived in Scotland has been exceptional – I had worn shorts every day since arriving, however the long daylight hours (4 am to 10 pm) is taking a bit of getting used to.
After picking up a few provisions, we parted company with my daughter and headed back to the Stables Cottage to pack up ready for an early start.
I was planning to publish this on Sunday, but I was struggling with a throat infection (not Covid) and just wanted to fall into bed. The last two days were without my laptop on our first adventure which I will describe in the next post.