December 5, 2013

Betwixt and Between

I did not post in the whole month of November. I had good intentions, but of course we all know where they lead, so that doesn't count for much.  However, I seem to have just spent the last year on a plane, on a bus, on a train, in some rambling old place or in among gorse-covered crags.  Motion, motion, motion!  I practically need a vacation to recover from my vacation.  That said -

folks, I went to SCOTLAND.

Little-bitty me, who has never been anywhere much, has sat on a plane (six, actually) and crossed the Pond and trekked around in a foreign country for ten days.  It is not, admittedly, comparable to Jenny's three months, but it is still a world beyond anything I have ever done before and it was absolutely fantastic.  Except the bit where I caught a cold.  But never mind about that.

We made our headquarters in Glasgow for this trip: a big city, by my reckoning, which is not much of a reckoning at all.  From here we took various modes of transportation to a smattering of sites, or just rambled through Glasgow itself when we wanted a more leisurely day.  We didn't get to see everything we had planned, of course, but our handpicked few were topnotch: Stirling Castle first, then Edinburgh Castle and Arthur's Seat, then Linlithgow Palace.  

It was almost unfortunate that we went to Stirling first: it spoiled us for the rest of the trip.  The castle seems to rise naturally out of the old volcanic rock, and perches splendidly over the town that lies in the valley below.  The day we went was cold, and foggy at first, so that when we stood on the wall in Queen Anne's Garden, we were looking out over a white sea that stretched all the way to the hills on the horizon; William Wallace's monument rose up out of it like an island.  Later on, though, the sun came up and the fog burned off, and then everything was frosty and glorious.  

The castle itself was amazing.  It has been mostly left alone, which is the way my family likes things.  There were very few roped-off places, only a few careless signs informing us that there were "sheer drop offs" ahead and depicting stick people falling off them.  For the Scots, I guess not killing yourself through stupidity is a matter of common sense.  Anyhow, while some of the interior was a bit made-up and stilted, the ramparts and grounds were raw and old.

After Stirling, Edinburgh Castle was a bit of a let-down.  It has been far more commercialized, being in the capital city as it is; there were also a lot more screaming children whose interest was, I suspect, extremely small.  More areas were roped off and the setting itself was less magnificent; tellingly, I was looking for a photo to post and found none of particular interest from the Castle.  We did get to see the Honours of Scotland and the Stone of Scone (we then went home and watched "Stone of Destiny" to get the highly accurate and not at all embellished story of its recovery), but they draw and quarter you if you bring a camera in.

We then scootched four miles or so through the city in a roundabout manner to reach Holyrood Park.  This was the spectacular part of the Edinburgh excursion: the Salisbury Crags and Arthur's Seat. 

The daylight was fading - it gets dark around 3:30 at this time of year - and we aren't athletic, so we didn't make it to the top.  The view we had, though, was spectacular.

That night I dreamed about hiding in the gorse.  Combination of Arthur's Seat and Kidnapped, I daresay.

Linlithgow was a world apart from both Stirling and Edinburgh, partially because it was built as a palace and not so much as a fortress, partially because it was pretty thoroughly burned after The Forty-Five.  The floors and the roof are gone, though you can still climb the spiral staircases in the corner towers and walk through the chapel and the royal apartments. 

There seemed to be little of the palace worth seeing when we first entered the courtyard: a fountain, four burnt walls, four burnt towers.  As we moved further in, though, the rooms began to unfold.  Every time we started up a new tower, we had no idea where it would take us; I got completely turned around, and it was dizzying to suddenly find that I had come back down another staircase and was reentering the courtyard from some new angle.  As to that, the staircases themselves were dizzying.  I don't have a very good head for heights (I found that out with greater clarity on this trip), and as all but perhaps two stairways lacked handrails, I practically crawled up with my hand on the outer wall at all times.  I didn't make it to the top; I left it to others to get photos.

See the greenish-blue figure on the bench toward the right?  That's yours truly.  ("I'd stay on firm ground and let them dare away!")

They say the palace is haunted by the ghost of Mary of Guise.  Well, I don't know about that, but if it isn't haunted, then it ought to be.  A ghost would find a very pleasant, if somewhat noisy, home in Linlithgow.

Of course there is more to the trip than these four places.  We did a deal of walking through Glasgow itself, shopping or visiting the Necropolis, and we also ate extremely well.  (If you ever get the chance to go, I strongly advise you to visit Burger Meats Bun: best. hamburgers. ever.)  We packed the vacation full, since ten days is really not long at all when you factor in twenty-four hours for travel to and from, but they were also oddly leisurely.  We saw the sites and still had time for a round game of whist come evening.  Hearts, Mr. Collins - hearts.

I must admit one complaint, however.  We saw a great deal of history and a great deal of scenery, but though I looked, I never did see Alan Breck. 

Well, phooey.


  1. Ahhh!!! That is so cool! You went to Scotland! I forgot that you were going; I think you mentioned it before? But it looks like just the trip I would have pictured you taking based on what I know of you from your writing. I'm glad you had a lovely time. Thank you for sharing it with us! It was so good to hear from you. If I ever make it to Scotland, I will look these places up ....

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  3. Oh my goodness, how exciting! The pictures are GORGEOUS!! Sure you had a wonderful time. :D



meet the authoress
I am a writer of historical fiction and fantasy, scribbling from my home in the United States. More importantly, I am a Christian, which flavors everything I write. My debut novel, "The Soldier's Cross," was published by Ambassador Intl. in 2010.
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published writings

The Soldier's Cross: Set in the early 15th Century, this is the story of an English girl's journey to find her brother's cross pendant, lost at the Battle of Agincourt, and of her search for peace in the chaotic world of the Middle Ages.
finished writings

Tempus Regina:Hurled back in time and caught in the worlds of ages past, a Victorian woman finds herself called out with the title of the time queen. The death of one legend and the birth of another rest on her shoulders - but far weightier than both is her duty to the brother she left alone in her own era. Querying.
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Wordcrafter: "One man in a thousand, Solomon says / will stick more close than a brother. / And it's worthwhile seeking him half your days / if you find him before the other." Justin King unwittingly plunges into one such friendship the day he lets a stranger come in from the cold. Wordcount: 124,000 words

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