Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Exploring Scotland - Along the East Coast

In my last few posts, I've been telling the tale of my travels through Scotland with my parents. In my first post, we toured my university's city and current home, Dundee. Next, we headed north to Aberdeen, Inverness, and Loch Ness. This time, we'll be exploring the area in between - the little town of Kirriemuir and the castles Glamis and Dunnottar.


When I was young, my favourite story was Peter Pan. For whatever reason, I was fascinated by this fun-loving boy who refused to grow up, and to this day have a soft spot in my heart for the story. It's no surprise then that I found Kirriemuir an intriguing little town, as it was the birthplace of the author of Peter Pan. Not surprisingly, the town has lots of Peter Pan themed sights, including a statue of Peter Pan and a run-down looking "Hook's Hotel".

Mom and Dad pose in front of the Peter Pan statue, near the run-down Hook's Hotel

While the Peter Pan themed landmarks were fun, the main reason for our visit to Kirriemuir (or Kirrie as it is often called by locals) was for family. Not only does Roy's mother work in the little town as a minister, Roy's brother and his new little family recently moved there. We had a great time visiting and playing some jams together - check out little Sebastian on the bongos!

Dinner at Alan and Zara's house was full of music and laughter.

Glamis Castle

View of Glamis from the front approach
Glamis was the first castle I saw in Scotland - Roy's mother Linda took me there shortly after we started dating. It was also the first castle we took my parents too (before we went up to Loch Ness). Compared to Urquhart and, as you will soon see, Dunnottar, Glamis is a much newer and more modern castle. It is, in fact, still used occasionally by the Queen Mother, who grew up there in her youth. Thankfully, it was a beautiful day and the castle looked absolutely stunning. We had a wonderful tour guide who showed us around and was very knowledgeable.

The family poses in front of the castle
We weren't allowed any pictures inside Glamis, but it was mostly extravagantly furnished rooms that, while interesting, weren't really what I have in mind when I think of castles - I guess it's just the D&D player in me that expects dank and ancient ruins. One neat feature of the tour was that several rooms were set up as they were centuries before the Queen Mother was in residence at the castle, so we got to see several different time periods as we moved through the castle. 

We also had an absolutely lovely time exploring the castle gardens, and found some truly beautiful areas there - as well as a few surprises from back home, including a douglas fir and other trees specially transplanted from the Pacific Northwest.
The castle gardens were actually my favourite part of my trip to Glamis.

Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar is my favourite castle so far in Scotland. Dunnottar's claim to fame is that the Honours of Scotland were once smuggled out of this castle during a siege, and were safely hidden for many years thereafter. (We'll revisit the Honours in the next post, about Edinburgh and the castle where they now reside). Dunnottar is a cliffside castle, on the coast a short distance from the town of Stonehaven.

On the approach from the road, the castle cuts an imposing silhouette, fading in and out of the ocean mist like something out of a fantasy novel. Previously I had been too intimidated by the extremely steep climb down the cliff and back up to the castle, but this time around we were going to brave it to see inside.

First, we climbed down to the beach to explore. Turns out Scotland beaches are pretty similar to Oregon beaches - rocky, cold, and not much to see. But it was still fun!

I'm not the most fit of people, and many times on the way cursed myself for attempting the trek, thought of going back, and generally felt awful about the situation. However, that all faded away the moment I got inside and saw the mossy, water-worn, mist-dampened stones of this ancient ruin. I felt I had stepped into a story, or a particularly good session of D&D. A grin plastered to my face, I charged all around the grounds, taking pictures of everything I saw (and making Roy pose in as many silly ways as he could think of).

I took a ton of pictures on this visit, so I'll leave you with just my favourites.

When we first reached the castle grounds, it was shrouded in mist

 The light shining into the ruined underground halls was ethereal

Later, the sun came out, and we got to see the castle in the beautiful, clear air.

We found the remains of an ancient forge. Roy demonstrates it's use.

The family poses together with Dunnottar in the background.

Afterwards, we went to a small country farm cafe for smoothies and lunch

That's about it for Dunnottar Castle. Next time I'll talk about our last two big locations - Broughty Ferry and Edinburgh!

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