So when does the Travel Bug Bite?
It was here that I had the opportunity to live in a castle, visit seven European countries and begin to appreciate how much I love to travel. I left Scotland on Dec 6, 2000. I knew that day I would return though it wasn't to happen for 11 and a half years.
|Dalkeith House - The place I called home during the Fall of 2000.|
Our Norway cruise ended in Dover where we picked up a rental car that took us through much of the UK over the next ten days. Driving on the "other" side of the road is very tricky. Not only are you on what seems like the "wrong" side of the road, but also all of your driving instincts are backwards, as well. In the UK you cannot drive a manual transmission unless you have passed your driver's test using one and hold such a license. Why they allow us to drive a car with the wheel on the right when my drivers's license is issued in country where they test you on the left is beyond me. The good news... we managed to return the car at the conclusion of the rental period with no dents, scratches or tickets. The bad news, I believe we both had dangerously elevated blood pressures the entire time. We're still not sure which is more scary: driving with everything backwards or being the frightened passenger with no control.
|The first moments in the car on the "wrong" side of the road.|
On our way there we stopped in Stratford Upon Avon to visit Shakespeare's birthplace.
|Not certain what was happening, |
but there were larpers all over the place
|Shakespeare's birthplace. No photography permitted inside.|
|And there it goes!|
|We couldn't leave Bromsgrove without a picture with Brandon's family.|
After Bromsgrove we headed northwest to Snowdonia National Park in Wales. We picked this spot because it, was sort of, in the general direction of, on the way toward Scotland. Our intention was to be lazy, and take the tourist route to the top of Snowden, the mountain in the middle of the park. Unfortunately, the weather was not the best for a viewing landscapes. So we took a walk in Coed y Brenin, a small section of Snowdonia.
|Smile, I'm framing your picture!|
The bunkhouse Brandon found for us in Snowdonia...
|Albert dock in Liverpool.|
I'm not a huge museum person, but the variety of displays this place had to offer could entertain me for hours.
|Waiting for our leisurely late lunch, in Liverpool, |
still unaware of how many hours we have left in the car this evening
|And I'm finally back in Scotland!|
Michelle took this picture of me on our way out of a gas station in Scotland. Dinner in hand, mission accomplished. Last fall, on our trip to Patagonia, we attempted "three meals in three countries (Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay) in one day." It is a challenge easier made than met -until now when we had breakfast in Wales, lunch in England and dinner in Scotland. Though the border crossings between countries are about as exciting as crossing from one state to another in the USA, we were still pretty happy to have done it.
|Driving past Scotland's famous Loch Lomond just before it got dark,|
and a couple hours before we arrived in Oban.
While in Oban we set out on a boat trip with Bowman's tours to visit Isle of Mull, Staffa and Iona (in that order.) These are islands of the Inner Hebrides Islands. While I was living in Scotland, the Isle of Staffa found itself on the list of top five places visited. Geologically, it's fascinating and oddly beautiful, very similar to the famed Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland.
|The city of Oban from the ferry to Mull|
Isle of Staffa...
I took over 100 pictures in the 65 minutes we had to wander the small island.
Here are just a few too many of my favorites.
|Look closely, that's Michelle out there|
|She took this picture while standing there|
Basalt columns of Staffa...
Isle of Iona...
|The historic Iona Abbey|
|Enjoying some cider with our lunch on Iona|
We tried to go out and celebrate Fourth Of July that evening.
There was not a whole lot of excitement that evening
The next morning we set out to take in the beauty of Scotland's highlands: 250 miles from Oban to Elgol, on Isle of Skye to Inverness. We started the day with the sun trying hard to peak through the clouds and soon found ourselves in bright sunshine only to be followed by more clouds on the way to Skye. Then, a sunshine capable of burning while in Elgol followed by a bit more rain on the way to Inverness.
|Early on our way out of Oban|
|Ben Nevis - Great Britain's highest peak|
|We're getting better at driving at this point, but sometimes it's still pretty frightening!|
If you look carefully, this lake appears to be in the shape of Scotland. I stopped here with my class 12 years ago. The trees were a bit shorter.
Trying to capture Scotland's beauty from the passenger seat, these pictures are nice, but are nothing compared to what it really looks like.
After visiting Eilean Donan we continued North and then west over to the Isle of Skye. Scotland's highlands are among some of the most beautiful places to be found on our planet. Ask anyone who has visited, "What is the most beautiful part of the Highlands?" The answer is often Skye. I agree.
After hours of clear skies and sunshine, thick fog rolled in as we approached the most beautiful spot in Scotland...
|Approaching the bridge|
|crossing the bridge|
|Michelle not liking the foggy crossing|
|single track roads|
|Small church ruin along the way to Elgol|
|View from the cafe where were enjoyed the scenery|
We spent the evening in Inverness. Inverness does not have a whole lot going for it other than it is the biggest town near two popular tourist destinations, Urquhart Castle and The Nessie Exhibition center. I'm pretty sure Urquhart is my favorite castle. It was when I lived there, anyway, and very little about it has changed. The beautiful ruin, which has been built and destroyed several times throughout Scotland's past, sits on the shores of Loch Ness - Great Britain's largest and deepest body of water and home to the infamous Loch Ness Monster.
|The castle, as viewed from the visitor center|
|Michelle, having a little too much fun at the site|
After wandering around the ruins and learning that Loch Ness monster is all in our heads, we headed toward the place I called home 12 years ago, Dalkeith Palace.
|It's just down this road|
|And I'm back!|
Our first full day in Dalkeith was also our first full day of crummy weather. So we stayed at the house and watched movies all day. The following day we finally ventured out to one of my favorite cities in the world, Edinburgh...
|Waverly station - The main train station|
(viewed from Scott Monument)
|Edinburgh Castle (viewed from Scott Monument)|
|High Street Edinburgh, The Royal Mile|
|Edinburgh Castle as viewed from the Esplanade|
Instead of paying 20-some US dollars to go inside Edinburgh Castle,
we opted for the whiskey tour instead, and we paid the reduced student rate!
|The world's largest whiskey collection|
We finished our day in Edinburgh at my favorite spot, Calton Hill
The main road in Dalkeith is still a rather familiar place.
|You only get to take a picture with Gavin on your last night in Dalkeith .|
And the house...
Some parts of it have not changed a bit, while others are not quite the same.
Inside the front door, the floor has not changed, but that desk is new, probably has something to do with the frequent use of the front door.
The room with the grand stairway:
Same marble, same statue, new paint on the walls, new carpet and new piano.
The servery: Nothing has changed here, not even a little bit.
The dining room: Nothing new here either.
And the ballroom has not changed a bit.
Wille's cafe: Same furniture, new television
And the same goes for the movie room downstairs...
My room: The door now has a lock on it, and the beds looks a little more comfortable.
The computer lab used to have 12 computers for 80 people. Now there are two computers, used primarily to print things. Now everybody brings a laptop and uses the house wide wi-fi.
Nobody uses the pay phone anymore. Students now receive pre-paid cell phones when they arrive. I can remember when there would a line to use this phone. I also remember that whenever it rang if the recipient of the call was not within an earshot, they likely did not receive their call.
I noted this photograph on the wall at Dalkeith. I can only assume it has been in the same place, quite undisturbed for nearly 12 years. While the picture has not changed, I'm uncertain whether the same can be said of everyone in it. I have changed - for the better I hope and believe. The place means a lot to me. This brief return to Dalkeith taught me it means more than I may have previously thought. The visit was one of the most important highlights of our trip.
|Dalkeith - Class of Fall 2000.|