Oh My Goodness it’s Oban – with a visit to the Isle of Iona!

When I left Rowardennan Lodge on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond, I didn’t drive very far to my next destination, Crianlarich, which is just past the north end of Loch Lomond.

It was a dreiky day, as the Scottish would say when describing blustery, cold weather, so I just cozied up in the hostel lodge (which had great internet connectivity), made a fresh pot of coffee in my French press that travels with me, and spent the day uploading photos to WordPress and writing another blog post.

While I did so, a couple of brothers, Peter and Bill, from New Zealand started chatting with me and it turned out to be a delightful day despite the weather. Those two guys were quite the characters and kept me in stitches as the photos went round and round loading.

The following morning I headed west another relatively short distance to the lovely seaside harbor town of Oban for a 3-day stay.  Not much of particular note along the route except for this bridge and the interesting falls, which appear under it when the tide is out, just before arriving in Oban.

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Once I arrived in Oban, and before descending down to the harbor, I headed to the iconic crown at the top of the hill to get a birdseye view of this lovely town I would be spending a bit of time in.

And oh what a view the crown offered!

Soon after I was making my way down the hill to the right side of the bay to the next hostel I would call home. As luck would have it, it which was situated right on the waters edge! Check out the view I had from my dorm bed on the second floor bay window below. Quite simply – Glorious!

I explored around the winding,  one-way streets in town, found the local Tesco grocery store, did a bit of shopping, and settled in just dandy.

Another very interesting guest at the hostel, Jonathan Bishop, struck up a conversation with me over a discussion about a can opener in the self-catering kitchen that neither of us could figure how to operate.  He was from Lancaster, England, but had spent many a summer’s holiday with his parents as a lad and was a wealth of information about places to visit and intriguing sights to see.

I told him about my plans to take a ferry the following day to Iona.  He had, of course, been there once before and was providing a treasure trove of great tips.  As he explained it’s various virtues he expressed a desire to return himself one day.  I asked him if he would like to come along with me the following day.  After considering my offer for a minute or two (and mentally sizing me up, determining if I was reputable or something) much to my delight, he replied, ‘What the heck, why not? Thanks for the invite!’ We eagerly caught the 9:20 ferry the following morning and the adventure began!

He was very nice company and quite the conversationalist as it turned out.  I loved listening to his stories and the wealth of interesting facts he consistently offered with ease and confidence.

As we headed out of the harbor the views of the town from that ferry heading west out into the bay were great too.  We passed DunOllie castle and Dogstack rock on the right, not far from the hostel (and which I also explored the following day).  As we ventured further west we also sailed past the Isle of Kerrerra on the left.

Our ferry ride took us to the Isle of Mull where we would then have to drive a few miles to the other end of the Isle to take yet another ferry at Fiahnnport a short distance further to Iona.

Just before we landed on the Isle of Mull yet another castle came into view out on a point.  Absolutely stunning, don’t you think?

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Before we headed across the Isle I just had to get a bit closer to that castle and check it out, although I didn’t have time to tour inside.

I discovered it was a Maclean castle!  Then we drove about 45 minutes or so through this gorgeous glen complete with little tiny wild orchids and other miniature alpine type wildflowers dotted across the landscape.

Soon we arrived at the next ferry landing where we had to park the car and hoof it the rest of the way.

We also had to wait for the ferry just long enough to sample (and devour) a small cup of freshly caught crabmeat from a small roadside seafood shack while we enjoyed the colorful rock formations and the contented free range sheep.  Oh doo!

Before we knew it we were aboard the small ferry and rapidly approaching the small & quaint harbor landing just a hop, skip and jump away on Iona.

We were blessed with blue skies and the promise of a wonderful day of exploring its treasures of abbeys and sacred graveyards where the ancient kings of Scotland are buried in their final resting places.

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After strolling past a few houses and local businesses the first Old ruins we encountered was the Nunnery.

A bit further and the ancient and beautifully restored and lovingly maintained Abbey came into view front and center stage!

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The cloister adjacent to the church had beautiful carvings on every pillar.  Many were painstakingly carved anew with all the fine masonry details replicated for many that had deteriorated over the centuries.  The workmanship was absolutely amazing, intricate and perfect in their execution.

Also, along the walls of the walkways surrounding the cloister stood upright gravestones of Crusader Knights, clergymen and saints.  Very impressive headstones, each telling a story of their own. In addition small, but no less signify the finds in every nook and cranny.

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I can can only imagine how many buried headstones there must be hidden here and which could be revealed in this iconic and ancient graveyard!  So many must be hiding under the grassy mounds of wildflowers!

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To allow all of the beauty and reverence we had just witnessed at the Abbey, Jonathan and I decided to take a stroll to the northern tip of the Isle to see if we could find a hostel we heard was situated out on the point.

There it was, nestled in a wildflower pasture, overlooking the ocean and some incredible white sand beaches with turquoise water lapping at its edges.

We sat and enjoyed the view for quite awhile before deciding it was probably time we started walking back to catch the ferry to the mainland.

I think I found another hostel I definitely need to return to once or twice more in the future sometime in order to really experience its tranquility and ponder spiritual matters while I do so.  Seems such an appropriate place to do so.

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We returned to the landing, stopping at the Low Door for a latte and a bit of chocolate for refreshment, enjoying once again the isle’s crystal clear waters while we waited for the ferry to take us back to the reality of the mainland.

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We arrived back in Oban just in time for a nice dinner on the pier at a simply divine restaurant called E.E. Usk and enjoyed some deliciously divine freshly caught hake with mussel sauce and a Caol Isla whisky,  finished off with a melt in your mouth piece of lemon cheesecake.  (Sorry, but I forgot to take pictures of the food; as I was totally emersed in the moment.)

As we finished our meal we were entertained by the ever changing masterpiece of a sunset.  The perfect ending to a perfect day visiting a perfectly wonderful sacred site….

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Then we casually strolled back to the hostel, enjoying the lights of town, reveling in the experiences, sights and sensations we had both enjoyed that fine day on the Isle of Iona.

Wales – Part Three ~ Off to Snowdonia National Park in Northern Wales

The 5th of September was another rainy and dreary day in Pembrokeshire Wales when I packed up my car and started driving north for about 150 miles toward my next stop, Snowdonia National Park.map

IMG_6607I drove along the coast for quite a while at the beginning of the drive, and then I ran into some heavy traffic I had to pull over and wait for…

21640583_1680793351945355_1876317576_oAlthough it rained most of the early part of the day I did manage to sneak in a couple of rain-free stops in some cute little coastal fishing villages along the route…

…First at a very small place called Abercastle…

A bigger place called Fishguard…

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IMG_6636…and a relaxing place called Newport Town.IMG_6646

So far I had only driven less than one-third of the miles I needed to drive that day so I continued on up the road. I had gone only 2 miles further when I noticed a sign for the small village of Nevern. I had heard of this place before and remembered what my host in Haverfordwest had told me about the church there. Evidently, it’s a very old church and inside the churchyard is a very unusual Yew tree; one that purportedly bleeds red! Now I just had to go see this for myself!

Sure enough, there was the Yew tree, just like they said, and it’s sap does bleed red! Amazing!

IMG_6663There were quite a few interesting things about this small, quaint, and off-the-beaten-track church; for instance, this ornately carved Celtic cross…

The Great Cross at St. Brynach’s church in Nevern is one of the most perfect examples of ancient Celtic Stone in all of Wales. The total height is 13 feet and two feet wide. Experts date the Cross as late 10th or early 11th century. All four sides of the column are carved with interlacing celtic and key patterns.

Inside, this small church held even more interesting things…

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For instance, along one windowsill were some interesting carvings in the stone…

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Back outside, I still had some exploring to do around the grounds…

IMG_6656…the first interesting thing to see was the Mounting Block; the stone steps were used by gentry to mount and dismount their horses in a dignified manner when attending church services. They were once common in this country in the 18th century.IMG_6658I made my way around the outside of the church…

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Afterwards, I climbed back in the car, drove over the bridge,  through the colorful village and got back on the main road heading north.

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IMG_6719Although the traffic was extremely slow at times when following farm vehicles, I remained vigilant and covered the next 60-some miles along the coastline until the road turned inland and dove into forested mountains on the edge of the National Park boundaries. What a beautiful sight appeared when I reached Coedy Brenin Forest Park.IMG_6723

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I followed the road further to a beautiful lake, Llyn Gwynant, with its beautiful array of waterfalls at its head.IMG_6732

IMG_6733With only about 10 miles left to drive I turned left onto the A4086 and went over the steep Pen-y-Pass with Snowdonia Mountain still on my left. It was a beautiful drive through the gorge with its rivers, waterfalls, giant rocks and towering peaks.

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IMG_6745At the base of Snowdonia, in the small village of Llanberis, I found my way up the back streets to the YHA Snowdonia Hostel nestled against the hillside where I would spend the next 3 days while I explored the environs around me! What a great location! I had no idea Snowdonia would be so scenic and quite so breathtaking!

IMG_7570There’s a lot to see and do in this area. In the next blog post, we will visit nearby Caernarfon, where there is a fantastic, historic castle where the Prince of Wales is crowned. We’ll also start exploring the many lines of the Welsh Steam Railways! It’ll be fun; you won’t want to miss it!

Until then…happy trails!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wales – Part Two ~ Saint David’s Cathedral

Wales – Part Two ~ Saint David’s Cathedral

To read my most recent blog post, click on the link below:
http://globetrekkergrandma.com/2017/11/12/wales-part-two-saint-davids-cathedral

mapOn the first of September, I left Cardiff and headed toward the most westerly portion of Wales. Since there weren’t any hostels available around there, I rented a room for 3 days from a very nice woman in a private home in the town of Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire for 3 days. What a ‘comfy-cozy’ place that was!

A friend of mine, Meinir, who also loves to travel and who I first met at the Eiffel Tower a couple of years ago, lives nearby. This was the perfect opportunity for the two of us to reconnect and to get to go exploring together in her neck of the woods. She took me to St. David’s where we saw the beautiful and ornate cathedral and the ruins of the Bishops’ Palace. She travels all over the place but hadn’t visited this place since she was a young school girl and was excited to see it again after all these years.

We travelled to the tip of Wales, seeing coves and small harbours along the way,

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until we arrived at the center of town where all sorts of delightful tastes are to be found!

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We enjoyed a really yummy sandwich and salad combination for lunch at an outdoor cafe. Afterward, we were fueled up and ready for some exploring within the confines of the cathedral grounds.

Since the 6th century, there has been a church on this site.  For the past 1500 years, prayer and worship have been offered here and continues to this day. The monastic community was founded by Saint David, Abbot of Menevia, who died in 589.  This cathedral is quite large and the grounds surrounding these enormous buildings are also quite extensive!IMG_6327

IMG_6298From the car park, we started out with a bit of a stroll down to the backside of the cathedral working our way around to the front of the building…

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Quite a piece of construction; very impressive! From the view above, I turned to the left, and on the other side, I saw the ruins of the Bishop’s Palace as shown below…IMG_6254

IMG_6246We headed toward the entrance admiring the soaring tower and the many turrets and ancient windows.  IMG_6245

IMG_6357Once inside, the cathedral begins to reveal its many treasures starting with the Nave.

 

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The nave is the oldest surviving part of the cathedral and built in a Transitional Norman style. Originally it didn’t have seats and was used for indoor processions. Each of the rounded arches is carved with a different pattern.

The stone screen, or ‘pulpitum,’ which divides the nave from the choir is quite unique. The stone carvings were beautiful.IMG_6369

 

IMG_6365As luck would have it, a wedding had just taken place and we were lucky enough to get a picture of the lovely bride and her attendants.

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Skeleton vaulting with murals inside the ‘pulpitum’

Inside the ‘pulpitum’ is skeleton vaulting decorated with murals, it is thought that these are remnants of an earlier screen absorbed by the present one.

 

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As we wandered around the vast interior, around a corner we discovered the cathedrals’ Treasury! “There ought to be some very interesting things to look at within its confines,” I thought.

Sure enough! I was right.  According to the Cathedrals’ very well-written interpretive signs and brochures:

“Treasures of the Bishops
A variety of objects, reflecting the power and status of the Bishops of St Davids, were discovered in the Cathedral graves of four early Bishops. Amongst these were rings which are now on display in the Treasury – rings decorated with amethysts which belonged to Bishop Beck and Bishop Carew and a plain gold ring with five notches on it, perhaps intended to remind the wearer of the five wounds of Christ.  Silver Chalices on
show were also buried with Bishops Beck and Carew and date back to the 13th century.”

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“The croziers or Bishops’ staffs of office are perhaps the greatest of the treasures on display. They are made of copper and gilded and would have been carried by bishops during services 800 years ago. One found in the grave of Bishop Gower is much plainer than the others on display, made of latten, an alloy of copper, zinc, lead and tin, and was specifically made to be buried with the bishop. Medieval coins were found in the grave of Bishop Beck.  They date from the reign of King Edward III (1327-1377).”

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Once again, according to the cathedrals’ sources:

“David was born in the year 500, the son of St Non and a prince of Ceredigion. Legend states that Non gave birth to him on a cliff top during a violent storm. The present cathedral stands on the site of the monastery he founded in the inhospitable area known as ‘Glyn Rhosyn.’ David and his followers lived a simple life; they refrained from eating meat or drinking beer. David’s symbol, now a national symbol of Wales, is the leek.

David rose to become a bishop in the church and made several pilgrimages including one to Jerusalem during which, tradition states, he brought back with him a stone which now sits in an altar in the south transept of the cathedral.

The best-known miracle associated with David is said to have taken place when he was preaching in the middle of a large crowd at the Synod of Llanddewi Brefi. When those at the back complained that they could not hear him, the ground on which he stood is reputed to have risen up to form a small hill so that everyone had a good view. A white dove settled on his shoulder, a sign of God’s grace and blessing.

David died in the year 589.”

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Right next to St. David’s Shrine and in the middle of the room, is another famous grave, that of Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond (father of King Henry VII) who died in 1456 at the young age of 26.

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Nearby was yet another really old stone effigy of Rhys Ap Gruffydd, one of the most successful and powerful Welsh princes.

We wandered around all the nooks and crannies of that multi-faceted building. The ceilings above in each chapel were amazingly intricate. I especially enjoyed the fan-vaulting.

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So many interesting carvings and stonework to admire along with heraldic symbols.

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IMG_6261After that interesting tour inside the cathedral, we headed back outside and proceeded to cross a very old footbridge as we made our way over to the Bishop’s Palace.IMG_6259

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The Bishop’s Palace is as big, if not bigger, than the cathedral! With all it’s many floors and stairwells to follow, it took a lot longer to tour!

According to CADW (the historic environment service of the Welsh Government);

“The whole site sends shivers down the spine. It evokes a period when religion was the order of the day and bishops were powerbrokers par excellence. Lavish decorations, corbels carved as human heads and striking chequerboard stonework are all testament to the wealth and status of these medieval men of religion.

Bishop Thomas Bek undertook significant new building work on the site but it was Bishop Henry de Gower who was responsible for virtually the entire palace we see today. His legacy consists of two great ranges. The east range – the simpler of the two – was the first to be built. This was his private domain. The second, the south range, was much grander and built for stylish entertaining. The great hall, the most impressive chamber in the palace, created the perfect backdrop for banquets.”

I headed into the east range first.

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After exploring the lowest levels of the east range, I then turned my concentration to the newer and more opulent south range where all the stylish entertainment occurred.

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When I went back downstairs below the Great Hall, there was a very interesting wooden model of the Palace with intricately carved figures and cute little scenes depicting life at the time that you could walk all the way around and look into each room.

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Elsewhere on the bottom level were huge rooms where a lot of activity used to take place.

What a fantastic tour of both places. Rich with history, outstanding architecture, art and historical figures burial sites.

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We headed up the hill to the Gatehouse above to exit the grounds to start making our way back to Meinir’s house about 40 minutes away.IMG_6244

IMG_6488When we got to her house, her father had prepared a wonderful typical Welsh supper for us and we really enjoyed our last bit of time together in the comfort of their home. What hospitality!

It was a great day spent with Meinir and I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to explore with her, learn about her home, meet her family. It’s so much fun to be with a “local” and get the feel a place through their experience. Thank you Meinir!

I stayed in the quaint town of Haverfordwest for a couple more days, but it began raining so I took the opportunity to take care of some domestic chores that were much needed. Things like watching my clothes after travelling constantly for 2 weeks was a good start, also went grocery shopping to restock my stores, and sat inside with the fireplace warming me while I got caught up with blog posts.

When it cleared my host took me around her town while she shopped pointing our many of its charms as we went. We also enjoyed a nice lunch and a yummy coffee at a cafe on the river’s edge in centre of town.

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The town had all kinds of interesting shops with unique Welsh ware…

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To the top of the town we went to visit the ruins of a small castle.

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Inside the main building within the castle walls was the museum, so we ducked in just before closing and were able to see old pictures and relics from days long ago.

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It was a fun day and an interesting little town and I really enjoyed getting to know some of the local people and how and where they live. The next morning, however, I gathered up my clean clothes,  packed my groceries neatly before stashing them in the car, and started heading north. In my next entry, we’ll be visiting scenic Northern Wales, exploring a couple of more castles, traipsing in the mountains and taking a ride or two on the Welsh Steam Train Railways!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sherwood Forest – Land of the Legendary Robin Hood

I woke up peacefully on the morning of August 25th in York. Because I didn’t have a long distance to drive to my next destination, I was able to leisurely eat my breakfast, help a fellow traveller from the hostel get to the train station on time and then head south in the trusty rental car to the town of Edwinstowe near Sherwood Forest.

Ever since I was 9 years old, I’ve been fascinated with old castles and legends from medieval times, particularly Robin Hood. Why the age of 9? Well, one day when I was 9, I had been riding my bicycle around a parking lot across the street from my house pretending I was a race car driver. I had been going just a wee bit too fast as I rounded one of the debris-filled corners. The wheels of my bike went out from underneath me and I ended up sprawled out all over the pavement having rolled a few times, scrapeing my legs and arms. Ouch! That hurt and it hurt really bad.

Still, I managed to get myself up, walk across the street, leaving my bicycle where it lay, and walked into the house calling, “MOM!” I was scraped up pretty bad as I recall; both sides of both legs & arms as a matter of fact. She promptly put me in a tepid bath and then gingerly and ever-so-carefully, picked out the small rocks and goat-head stickers and other small pieces of debris the Mojave desert is famous for, from the scraped up raw flesh of my limbs. Afterward she put me in bed and kept me home from school for about a week until my open scrapes healed over.

After the first day or so, and when the pain and shock subsided, I got pretty bored just lying there in bed, so she brought me a big old thick book to read, Walter Scott’s “Ivanhoe.” I got so enthralled in that story – the rest of the week just flew by!

It was the first novel I had ever read; the first real genuine adult-type book without a bunch of pictures filling up the pages! I was impressed that I actually read the whole thing and found that it inspired me to want to read more. It also piqued my interest in all things really, really old and my very first “hero” appeared on the scene – the legendary Robin Hood!

ClaudiaLouiseage9When I was planning the itinerary for this 4 1/2 month trip, my route was originally planned to go from York directly to Cambridge. I noticed, however, that Sherwood Forest was right along the path I was intending to follow.

How could I NOT stop and indulge the freckle-faced, hair-in-braids, 9-year-old little girl within? I just had to go!

Upon arrival at the YHA Sherwood Forest Hostel, I was pleasantly surprised to find a brand new building which was very cozy, and particularly handy, because it sits, literally, right on the edge of the park! It couldn’t be more convenient! I could just park my car (for free!) and walk to everything I wanted to see and experience.

I spent the afternoon following most of the trails traversing through Sherwood Forest, taking in the beautiful sights, imagining the antics of outlaws around the woods, and let that youthful 9-year-old imagination run wild all the while. It was fun!

Upon my return to the hostel, I enjoyed a very nice home-cooked meal, Bangers & Mash, followed up by a scrumptious cake thingy dessert with custard pudding! Even ended up having the whole female 4-bed dorm room to myself for the night!

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Walking through the forest was a special treat. This 450-acre park is the last remaining part of the old Sherwood Forest of medieval times. It has one of the best examples of oak and birch woodland in the country and has an important and unique wildlife habitat.

The name ‘Sherwood’ was first recorded in 958AD when it was called Sciryuda, meaning ‘the woodland belonging to the shire.’ It became a Royal hunting forest after the Norman invasion of 1066 and was popular with many Norman kings, particularly King John and Edward I. The ruins of King John’s hunting lodge can still be seen near the Nottinghamshire village of Kings Clipstone.

‘Forest’ was a legal term, meaning an area subject to special Royal laws designed to protect the valuable resources of timber and game. Laws were strictly and severely imposed by agisters, foresters, wardens and rangers, who were all were employed by the Crown.

In the 1200s, popularly thought to be the time of Robin Hood, Sherwood covered about 100,000 acres, which was a fifth of the entire county of Nottinghamshire. The main London to York road, the Great North Way, ran straight through Sherwood and travellers were often at the mercy of robbers living outside of the law. Hence the name ‘outlaw.’

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The largest oak tree in England, perhaps in the world, this famous tree – the Major Oak – has withstood lightning, the drying out of its roots and even a fire. The hollow tree has a circumference of 10 meters and the spread of its branches makes a ring 85 meters around.

The cavity in the trunk is 2 meters in diameter and it is said that Robin Hood, and some of his men, used to hide here. Because many thousands of visitors were compacting the soil around it, the tree had to be fenced off to preserve it in order that water could still penetrate its roots and keep it alive and well. Branches have become so heavy they are also propped up to keep them from breaking off.

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What a beautiful and scenic forest to walk through. It’s just the way I imagined it would be. Funny how that works!

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There’s even a 105-mile walking path which meanders through the nearby countryside following the footsteps of Robin that one can take if one so desires. I didn’t walk it; it was a bit more than I had allowed time for. Sounds like a great walk, however. You can check it out at the following link: Robin Hood Way
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After that wonderful woodland walk, I headed toward the village of Edwinstowe in the other direction from the hostel passing St. Mary’s Church along the way.

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As I walked around the church and amongst its many headstones, I kept an eye out for any bearing the name of Sherwood. I didn’t find any but was hoping I might. One of my ancestors, Thomas Sherwood, emigrated from this town to Connecticut in 1634. He was a 9th great grandfather.

The town of Edwinstowe, which is just outside of the forest boundaries, gets its name from King Edwin. The Anglo-Saxon word ‘stowe’ means special, or holy place. King Edwin was the first Christian King of Northumbria; a kingdom which stretched from Edinburgh as far south as the River Trent.

His reign ended when he was killed at the nearby Battle of Heathfield in 633. His body was buried (temporarily) here at the church and later, the site was deemed to be holy by the people because Edwin was a Saint. A wooden chapel was built and it became known as the place of Edwin, or Edwinstowe. They still celebrate St Edwin’s day each year on October 12th.

Edwinstowe has all kinds of interesting buildings to behold and lovely little shops and pubs to wander in and out of. Here are a few examples of what lies on either side of the main drag, High Street, as I walked down into the small village.

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Robin Hood Holiday Cottage

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Lots of beautiful floral displays graced the colorful shop fronts…

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And of course, artistic statutes of Robin Hood and Maid Marion grace the centerpiece of this delightful village at Robin Hood Plaice.

I was so pleased I had included this stop. Such a pleasant and easy-to-get-around location and a real treat for the child within.

The park is beginning construction of a new visitor’s center directly across the lane from the hostel. It should make a big improvement over the existing facilities within the park that are a bit out-dated and seen better days. I didn’t include any photos of the shops and facilities because, quite frankly, they weren’t much to look at.

Just the same, I was amazed at how many people, especially families with children, visit this place. There was a plethora of little boys with bows and arrows donning Robin Hood hats throughout the grounds and young girls with conical Maid Marion hats as well. With newer, more modern facilities in the near future, I have a feeling they will be attracting many, many more visitors! Earlier in the summer, around mid-July they also host a Robin Hood Festival with parades, games, archery events, etc., which I am sure is quite a popular and fun event to attend.

Just next door to the hostel is a medieval craft centre, artisan shops, and great eateries too, including a big favourite, the Chocolate Factory. There’s something here for everyone!

I had a very restful sleep in this cozy respite amongst the trees. I woke feeling grateful that I had the opportunity to indulge the child within exploring the magical and mythical forest with her. A rare opportunity indeed!

The sun was shining brightly the following morning, coaxing me out for yet another adventure and a drive further down the road to a famous, and most-beloved, academic center – Cambridge!  We’ll explore that wondrous place in the next post.  Until then… hope you’ve enjoyed a glimpse of the land of the legendary Robin Hood!

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Robert the Bruce’s Grave at Dunfermline Abbey & Queensbury crossing

IMG_4288It’s been quite awhile, about 3 weeks, since I wrote the last blog post about when I attended the Perth Tatoo, visited Scone Palace and drove through the beautiful glens of Perthshire with my tour guide Karen.

In addition, an entire month has passed since I left Perth to go to my next stop in Scotland where I visited my dear friends, Keith & Helen Mitchell. My, my how time flies when you’re having a whole lot of fun!

After visiting with Keith & Helen, I traveled the rest of the way through Scotland down to the borders at Berwick-upon-Tweed. Then I made my way south through England to its southern coast where I turned west and followed the coastline westward to finish up the tour of the United Kingdom with a couple of weeks in Wales on the last leg of my 3n month journey. I continuously moved every day or so and didn’t actually stay in any one spot long enough to have time to devote to blog post entries to describe what I had been seeing and experiencing.

I have since returned home again, just the night before last, am doing my laundry now and finally have time to sit down and be still for a while, allowing me to reflect upon where I’ve been, what I’ve seen and what I’m dying to share with you.

There were so many wonderfully delightful sights and sensational vistas to behold along the travel route I followed fervently.

So, let’s see, where were we? Oh, yes – my last post – being in Perth and attending that wonderful Tattoo in the park with all those men in kilts!

After that entertaining stop, I headed just a short distance south to Livingston near Edinburgh. Upon my arrival, Keith & Helen asked if I would like to visit the Dunfermline Abbey while I was in town. I replied, “Sure! Sounds great!”

Off we went one wonderful afternoon. As luck would have it, I was to experience a very BIG ancestral surprise! Neither Keith nor Helen knew it would be a surprise either. After we arrived, found a handy spot in the car park on the grounds to park the car, and were approaching the stunning ancient architecture on foot, they brought to my attention the stone letters at the top of the cathedral’s tower, ‘King Robert.’

That’s when I exclaimed, “Wow! This place is in honour of Robert the Bruce?!? Thee Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland? He is my 20th great grandfather! This is fantastic! Thank you!”

Robert Bruce King of Scotland I (1274 – 1329)
20th great-grandfather
Marjorie Bruce (1297 – 1316)
daughter of Robert Bruce King of Scotland I
King Robert II Stewart (1316 – 1390)
son of Marjorie Bruce
Robert III King of Scotland Stewart (1337 – 1406)
son of King Robert II Stewart
James I King of Scotland Stewart (1394 – 1437)
son of Robert III King of Scotland Stewart
Lady Annabella Stewart Scotland Countess (1432 – 1509)
daughter of James I King of Scotland Stewart
Alexander Huntly Gordon (1460 – 1523)
son of Lady Annabella Stewart Scotland Countess
Lady Janet Gordon Countess Argyll (1489 – 1530)
daughter of Alexander Huntly Gordon
Archibald 4th Earl of Argyll “Gillespie Roy” Campbell (1508 – 1558)
son of Lady Janet Gordon Countess Argyll
LORD COLIN ARGYLL CAMPBELL (1542 – 1584)
son of Archibald 4th Earl of Argyll “Gillespie Roy” Campbell
Archibald 7th Earl of Argyll “Gruamach” Campbell (1575 – 1638)
son of LORD COLIN ARGYLL CAMPBELL
Lord Archibald Campbell Marquis of Argyll Earl of Argyll (1606 – 1661)
son of Archibald 7th Earl of Argyll “Gruamach” Campbell
Archibald “9th Earl of Argyll” Campbell (1629 – 1685)
son of Lord Archibald Campbell Marquis of Argyll Earl of Argyll
David Daniel Campbell (1675 – 1753)
son of Archibald “9th Earl of Argyll” Campbell
Charles Campbell (1699 – 1767)
son of David Daniel Campbell
William Campbell (1728 – 1803)
son of Charles Campbell
Jeanette Campbell (1770 – 1851)
daughter of William Campbell
John Holliday (1803 – 1872)
son of Jeanette Campbell
Elizabeth “Lizzie” Holiday (1842 – 1872)
daughter of John Holliday
Nancy Anne Brundage (1867 – 1948)
daughter of Elizabeth “Lizzie” Holiday
William Rose Frew II (1885 – 1976)
son of Nancy Anne Brundage
William Kenneth Frew (1917 – 1997)
son of William Rose Frew II
Claudia Louise Frew
You are the daughter of William Kenneth Frew
Each piece of the ancestral puzzle keeps fitting together delightfully one by one as I find them. This piece ties a lot of the loose ends together of other places I have visited previously on this trip. For instance, it brings in the Stewarts and Gordons from my visit to Huntly Castle up in northern Aberdeenshire earlier in the month and also the Campbells from Inverary Castle in Argyll on the west coast which I visited back in June! It also demonstrates how they each relate to one another and down the line to me. That’s so cool!
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Well, we’ve got a lot of exploring to do. Let’s walk around the grounds, look at the outside of this cathedral and the nearby ruined Refectory and then head inside to see what interesting treasures are to be discovered.
It’s quite old, and like many churches I have visited during my travels, it has gone through some changes over the centuries. The Abbey church is the centerpiece of Dunfermline, one of the oldest settlements in Scotland and once its proud capital. The history is entwined with that of Scotland itself, as it was the burial site of the Scottish monarchs before the adoption of the island of Iona which I also had the pleasure to visit earlier this summer in July.
The Abbey and the ruins around it are all that remains of a Benedictine order founded by Queen Margaret in the 11th century. The foundations of her church are under the present nave (or Old Church), built in the twelfth century in the Romanesque style by David I (son of Margaret and Malcolm Canmore).
David I, King of Scotland, is also one of my great grandfathers, 24th to be exact. His relation to me comes from a different lineage than the previous relationship of Robert I who came through my dad’s paternal side of the family. This time the relationship comes down through the Clapp family line, on my dad’s maternal side. Interesting that it ties those two separate lineages over the centuries together to culminate at the generation of my paternal grandparents!
This Clapp lineage includes other previous ancestral discoveries I made when I visited Tolquhon Castle and its’ Forbes ancestral connection earlier in August.
Just gotta love the way the pieces of the puzzle keep fitting together so nicely creating a landscape of interlocking memories of places I’ve been visiting up and down in this blessed land of Scotland and how they each offer something to learn about myself and who I come from bit by bit.
David I King of Scotland (1080 – 1153)
24th great-grandfather
Henry Northumberland Scotland (1114 – 1152)
son of David I King of Scotland
David Etherington Huntingdon Scotland (1144 – 1219)
son of Henry Northumberland Scotland
Lady Isobel “Isabel” MacCrinan of Huntingdon (1190 – 1256)
daughter of David Etherington Huntingdon Scotland
Sir Robert 5th Lord Annandale & Constable to England and Scotland DeBruce (1210 – 1295)
son of Lady Isobel “Isabel” MacCrinan of Huntingdon
Sir Robert VI Lord Annandale DeBruce (1243 – 1304)
son of Sir Robert 5th Lord Annandale & Constable to England and Scotland DeBruce
Maud Matilda deBruce (1275 – 1323)
daughter of Sir Robert VI Lord Annandale DeBruce
Lillias Ross (1329 – 1366)
daughter of Maud Matilda deBruce
Matilda Urquhart Heiress de Troupe (1363 – 1413)
daughter of Lillias Ross
William “Earl Marischal of Scotland” Keith (1389 – 1463)
son of Matilda Urquhart Heiress de Troupe
Gille Egidia Lady Keith (1424 – 1473)
daughter of William “Earl Marischal of Scotland” Keith
Patrick Forbes (1446 – 1476)
son of Gille Egidia Lady Keith
David Forbes (1478 – 1509)
son of Patrick Forbes
Patrick Forbes (1516 – 1554)
son of David Forbes
Sir William, 7th Lord of Tolquhon Forbes (1530 – 1596)
son of Patrick Forbes
John Forbes (1568 – 1635)
son of Sir William, 7th Lord of Tolquhon Forbes
John Fobes (1608 – 1661)
son of John Forbes
Lieut William Fobes (1649 – 1712)
son of John Fobes
Phebe Fobes (1679 – 1715)
daughter of Lieut William Fobes
Mary Seabury (1715 – 1755)
daughter of Phebe Fobes
Pvt John Southworth (1743 – 1832)
son of Mary Seabury
Hannah Southworth (1796 – 1842)
daughter of Pvt John Southworth
Hannah Mae Case (1828 – 1898)
daughter of Hannah Southworth
Daniel A Clapp (1853 – 1913)
son of Hannah Mae Case
Hannah Elizabeth Clapp (1897 – 1977)
daughter of Daniel A Clapp
William Kenneth Frew (1917 – 1997)
son of Hannah Elizabeth Clapp
Claudia Louise Frew
You are the daughter of William Kenneth Frew
Alrighty, let’s get back to a little more history… After the Reformation, Dunfermline ceased to be an Abbey, but since the nave of the church continued to be used as the local parish church, much of the Abbey has survived to this day. The present parish church, to the east of the Old Church, was added in the nineteenth century.

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Once inside, we find ourselves inside the Old Church it’s carved columns and arched ceilings frame some absolutely beautiful stained glass windows on either side the length of the time-tested structure spread out before us.

IMG_4315IMG_4534Standing amongst the soaring carved pillars one can get the feeling of how ancient it is and the spirit of the people who’ve been here is in the air like a comforting warm wrapping.

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The windows continue to amaze me with their vivid colors and scenes.

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Well, that just about covers the Old Church, now we’ll go into the newer portion of the old, old, church and where we’ll find the tomb on Robert I, King of Scotland!  Here’s a video I took as I crossed the threshold and began looking around inside…

Now, for the moment I’ve been waiting for, the tomb of Robert I, King of Scotland, my 20th great grandfather!

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It’s a pretty incredible feeling to be standing beside the tomb of such a famous and significant Scottish ancestor. It’s difficult to describe; pride & honor come to mind for starters and the knowledge that this person, who represents one piece, one part, of what I come from is coursing through my being at this very moment.

He’s part of who I am and if just one person anywhere in my varied lineages, such as this person, didn’t exist in that golden ancestral chain, I simply would not exist at all.

Feelings and thoughts such as these serve to remind me that each of us plays our own little tiny little part and that we are connected for an eternity through time and space in this universe through our shared DNA and spirits of life.  IMG_4338

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Nearby in a closed case, there is even a plaster cast of his skull!

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On display near the exit of the church were these very informative interpretive panels set up with the history of his tomb, the church and the restorative work completed. I’ve included them here in case you might like to read and learn about it. Quite interesting…

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The banners hanging from the columns were quite spectacular and I was so pleased to find this handy sign explaining what each one represented – quite an array of nobility and positions!

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Of course, I can’t forget to get a picture of that wonderful organ that has been serenading us in the videos! In fact, the man that was playing the organ that day was a retired pastor of this church. He really played well and enjoyed himself tremendously while doing so.

After we had seen everything there was to see inside, we headed back outside to the churchyard. We had also worked up a bit of an appetite so we worked our way through the sculpture garden located in the corners of the grounds and went upstairs to the abbey cafe overlooking the majestic surroundings as we enjoyed our freshly baked soup and scones.

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IMG_4388IMG_4387IMG_4367After the replenishing meal, we made our way back across the churchyard toward the ruins of the Refectory and the Royal Palace, in the opposite corner of the grounds. The Royal Palace was rebuilt from the guest house of the monastery during the sixteenth century for James VI and his Queen. IMG_4369On our way to the Palace, we passed the east gable of the church which contains the tomb and shrine of St. Margaret. It’s been a place of pilgrimage since medieval times.

The tomb of Saint Margaret and Malcolm Canmore, within the ruined walls of the Lady chapel, was restored and enclosed by command of Queen Victoria.

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This place goes on and on!  It’s incredibly interesting and so full of significant history.

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We will start with what used to be the Royal Palace; three stories high and adjacent to the monks’ refectory.

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In the photo above, the interpretive panel explains how the Palace may have looked in its heydey.  I took a before and after picture of each section on each floor and have arranged them below so you can compare what each portion of the castle may have looked yourself, like the one just below shows the upper right-hand portion of the Palace that would have held the Royal Bed in the bedroom: four embroiderers adorned a special bed for the royal birth with gold and silver threads, green silk and velvet. It was a gift from James to Anna.

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On the 2nd floor below: a Grand window, Anna added this in her 1589 renovations. It gave her a view down over the Tower Burn. Also note the #5 denoting a perilous spiral staircase, in 1602 Roger Aston ‘fell over a pair of high stairs at the Queen’s chamber door where he was taken up dead and so remained for 3 hours.’ A nobleman had already fallen here and ‘dashed out all his brains!’

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The Gallery at number 3: Residents and guests could play music and games here, and exercise in comfort on wet days.

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#4 The Hall: Guests and residents would dine here, and wait to enter the Queen’s presence-chamber next door.

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The kitchens, storage and servants’ quarters were all below ground level.IMG_4464IMG_4465

IMG_4466Now for the other side of these complex and massive ruins – the Refectory…IMG_4298

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It’s been extremely interesting, informative and emotional for me to visit this spectacular iconic treasure.  One more shot before I get back to the car park… I will long remember this place.IMG_4537IMG_4538Our next stop is the Queensferry bridges spanning the wide divide of the Forth estuary from Dunfermline to Edinburgh with particular attention being paid to the red railway bridge, an engineering feat in its own right and had the world’s longest spans (541 m) when it opened in 1890. It remains one of the greatest cantilever trussed bridges and continues to carry passengers and freight.

Its distinctive industrial aesthetic appeal is the result of a forthright and unadorned display of its structural components. Innovative in style, materials and scale, the Forth Bridge marks an important milestone in bridge design and construction during the period when railways came to dominate long-distance land travel. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Two other bridges nearby carry the trucks and cars across the Forth. When the photo below was taken the crews were finishing up the last remaining touches on the newest third bridge as it was due to open in just one week’s time!  The newest bridge is the one furthest away and appears slightly lower in the photo than the older one in the foreground.

IMG_4562We viewed the bridges from Queensferry and then walked through the adjoining neighbourhood surrounding the waterfront, enjoying an ice cream along the way.  What a pretty spot with some very intriguing sights!IMG_4546IMG_4547IMG_4548IMG_4549IMG_4550IMG_4552IMG_4553IMG_4554

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It certainly turned out to be one heck of an ancestral surprise kind of a day and was filled with many beautiful, historical sights with a sweet ending at an old-fashioned Sweet Shop.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Keith and Helen but the next day I packed up my belongings once again and to continue on down the road a little further to my next destination, Tantallon Castle & Dewar, making my way to the Scottish Borders on the east coast.  That’s another story, however, for another time in another blog post. Until then…

 

 

 

 

Perth Tattoo and a Stunning Sunday Drive Hither & Yon in Perthshire near Loch Tay

Sunday, August 20th was another fun-filled day. Karen had planned a whole host of wonderful sights for me to see and experience. We left her home in Scone and traveled a few short miles to the nearby city of Perth, which was once the capital of Scotland many, many years ago around the 12th century.

IMG_4055We parked the car and she took me on a bit of a walking tour in the core of the old part of the city.

One of the first buildings we came to was this quaint stone building where a certain young lady, Catherine Glover, once lived.  She was known as The Fair Maid of Perth because she was the main character in a novel written by Sir Walter Scott. Inspired by the strange, but historically true, story of the Battle of the North Inch, it is set in Perth (then called ‘Saint Johnstone’) and other parts of Scotland around 1400.

 

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IMG_4074Nearby in the High Street (now a pedestrian shopping zone), there was this statue of Catherine Glover, the Fair Maid of Perth.

 

Makes me want to read the book now.  Catharine Glover, the daughter of a glovemaker in Perth, kisses Henry Gow, the armorer, while he is sleeping, on Valentine’s Day, and declares him her love. However, Catharine had also caught the eye of the Duke of Rothesay who also wanted her so much that he tried to abduct her by putting a ladder up to her window to steal her away. When Henry Gow interrupts this attempted abduction by the Duke, the armorer is drawn simultaneously into a royal intrigue and a Highland feud. Sounds intriguing!  Anyway, back to the tour…

Anyway, back to the tour…

Next, we came upon the only remaining part of the old wall of the city…

A bit further down a city lane called The Skinnergate, she brought me to the oldest establishment in Perth, The Ship Inn, which has been here and functioning since medieval times and is one of Perth’s oldest licensed premises!  Famous for its trading in leather goods, the Skinnergate is one of Perth’s oldest streets!

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We walked along for a bit longer in the old town, taking in the sights, when we realized what time it was.  We needed to get back up to the North Insch (a park) along the banks of the River Tay because there was something very special taking place there in a little while!

We arrived at the park and found two other long time friends of Karen’s, Lynne and her brother David from the Dundee area who were saving us seats in the grandstands for the Perth Tattoo!!!

Before the Tattoo began, however, there would be a parade along the street that borders the river and leads into the park.  The parade consisted mostly of the performers that would be entertaining us at the Tattoo!  I always just love a parade, so while Karen, Lynne, and David got caught up with each other, I headed down to the parade route and enjoyed what it had to offer.

 

The parade began with an escort led by the local motorcycle enthusiasts!

Then my favorite, a pipe band with men in kilts!

Followed by a whole host of other organizations and characters.

 

 

 

 

 

Even the Japanese were there!  Wow.  What is so cool about this is that a lot of the bands from nearby and famous Edinburgh Tattoo come over to Perth afterward to perform for this event.

After the parade, I headed back to the grandstands where Karen, Lynne, and David were, got settled into my seat and thoroughly enjoyed the various performances that were set out for us to enjoy for free!  Talk about a concert in the park!  Wow!

 

 

We had Highland dancers from a ballet company too!

As a super added bonus, we were entertained by the Red Hot Chili Pipers!  They are so good and sure add a different twist to bagpipes! So much fun!

 

We were a bit hungry after that varied and lengthy plethora of entertainment so our next stop was to get a bite to eat at the Black Watch Castle!  How fun!

 

 

They had a lovely Tea Room attached to the castle and soon we were enjoying some of their delicious choices of fare.IMG_4184

 

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Feeling totally satiated after that wonderful meal, we all piled into Karen’s car and drove north out of town into the countryside to take in some more sights. This is basically the route we followed.mapWe drove north out of Perth toward Dunkeld and then turned west and then north again to climb way up high over one track roads to the hills and Heather filled moors near Loch Fruechile with vistas that just gave me goose bumps!IMG_4202IMG_4201IMG_4195IMG_4194

 

 

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Over the top and heading down the other side of the pass we came to these outstanding views of  Ben Schiehallion in the distance.IMG_4227

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After descending back down into the valleys beyond we arrived in a lovely village called Kenmore.  On the banks of Loch Tay, there were these very interesting ancient Iron Age type of dwellings called a crannog at the Scottish Crannog Centre.

According to their website, Oakbank Crannog is one of 18 crannogs in Loch Tay, Perthshire located off the village of Fearnan on the north shore. Dating to the early Iron Age some 2500 years ago, it was originally built of timber, utilizing piles (stilts) driven into the loch bed to create a platform above the water supporting a settlement. Incredibly well-preserved structural remains include the remains of the house floor covered with bracken and ferns; stakes and piles that supported the woven hazel walls and roof of the house; and 40 elm and oak stumps marking the remains of a walkway which led to the shore. Incredible dwellings, aren’t they?

 

Then we drove to the nearby village of Kenmore with their row houses near Taymouth Castle.P1000701We parked the car and went to visit the church in the village, the Kirk of Kenmore.

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P1000707Then we piled back in the car and traveled a bit further to another distinctive village, Fortingall. Karen explained its history to us as we drove through and past these delightful and unique houses.  Instead of trying to relate all of the wonderful information she bestowed upon us as we admired the architecture, I am just going to let Wikipedia explain it for me:

“The attractive village of Fortingall, with its large hotel adjoining the churchyard, was built 1890-91 by the shipowner and Unionist MP, Sir Donald Currie (1825–1909), who bought the Glenlyon Estate, including the village, in 1885.

It was designed by the architect James M MacLaren (1853–90) and built by John McNaughton. The thatched cottages are notable examples of a planned village built in vernacular style (here combining both Lowland Scottish and English influences, notably from Devon) and are increasingly appreciated as one of the most important examples of ‘arts and crafts’ vernacular style in Scotland.

The Fortingall Hotel, recently (2006–07) restored to its original appearance, is an important example of Scottish vernacular revival. Based on the tower-houses and burgh architecture of the 16th and 17th centuries, but in a modern idiom which anticipates the buildings of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, whose work MacLaren influenced.

Glenlyon House, and its adjoining Farm and steading, west of the village, were also designed, or largely rebuilt, to MacLaren’s designs.

 

At the church, we got out of the car to explore and stretch our legs.

One of the main attractions for me in this kirkyard is the ancient Yew tree below.P1000717The Fortingall Yew is an ancient tree in its own walled enclosure within the village churchyard. Its age is estimated to be between 3000 and 9000 years, and it may be the oldest living tree – perhaps even the oldest living thing – in Europe. Place-name and archaeological evidence hint at an Iron Age cult center at Fortingall, which may have had this tree as its focus. The site was Christianised during the Dark Ages, perhaps because it was already a sacred place.

In the two photos below, the first picture shows what remains of the trunk of the tree. In the second picture, you can see little wooden posts inserted in the ground in a circular fashion.  These posts show where the whole trunk of the tree stood and how big around it was.  It is amazing that after such a long time, that there is still a rather large segment remaining! I wanted so badly to snatch a small twig of this tree to bring home with me, but that’s a no-no!  Dang!

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Again, according to Wikipedia: The parish church is on an early Christian site, dedicated to Coeddi, Bishop of Iona (died 712), probably founded about 700 AD from Iona itself as a daughter monastery. Though undocumented, crop-marks of surrounding ditched enclosures have been identified from the air, and the church’s unusual dedication and fragments of several finely carved cross-slabs preserved in the church all point to an early origin as a major church site. Also preserved in an alcove in the church is an early hand-bell in Irish style (iron with bronze coating), dating from the 7th or 8th century, one of several to have survived in Highland Perthshire. Several slabs with simple incised crosses (best paralleled at Iona and other west of Scotland sites) and a massive early font are to be seen in the churchyard. The attractive white-harled parish church (built 1901-02), notable for its fine woodwork, is open in summer. Its Arts and Crafts style was designed to harmonize with the rest of the village. A permanent display on the cross-slabs and the early church was recently installed in the building. Fortingall has one of the largest collections of early medieval sculpture in Scotland.

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P1000743We continued our journey passing this wonderful little waterfall.

 

We began our journey back toward Scone over another remote pass near Ben Lawers, passing Lochan Na Lainge with the Ben Lawers Dam along the way and then traveled through Aberfeldy following the River Tay along the way back to the A9 to head south back to Scone.

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By the time we arrived in Scone the sun had gone down and it was dark. We managed, however, to get back to town just below 11 p.m. and in time to go to Karen’s favorite chip shop for a fish dinner which we ate in the car at the top of a hill at an overlook where we could see the city lights of Perth below as we devoured our food. It was such a fun adventure.  I still can’t believe how much we did in one day!  For a change, I didn’t have to do all the driving either!  Thank

It was such a fun adventure.  I still can’t believe how much we did in one day!  For a change, I didn’t have to do all the driving either!  Thank you, Karen, you are the hostess with the mostess!  Wow!

The following day, I was due to head just a bit further south to visit more friends near Edinburgh, but before I took off down the road, Karen and I squeezed in one more very special sight I couldn’t miss while in Scone, the Scone Abbey where the ancient Kings of Scotland were crowned and only just a mile or so from where Karen lives!

 

 

Below, in this little ancient building, so much history has been made.  Also, do you see the bell hanging off the tree branch in the photo on the right?  The Scottish Parliament used to meet here and whenever they passed a new law, that bell would be rung so everyone would know a new law had been put into effect.

 

Below is a replica of the Stone of Scone or Stone of Destiny.  The original now resides in Edinburgh, but, this is the spot where the Kings of Scots would have sat upon the Stone of Scone to become crowned as Kings.  A very historic, albeit humble, spot indeed!

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Inside Scone Abbey…