Castles, War, and Scotch

Trip Start Jan 26, 2007
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Trip End Jul 23, 2007


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Flag of United Kingdom  , Scotland,
Sunday, February 25, 2007

The past three days have flown by!  I learned a lot about Scotland and saw some amazing vistas. 
First, here are two great stories:

1. The symbol of Scotland is the thistle and they say this is so because of an event that took place back in the day.  An army was creeping up on a scottish castle in preperation for an attack, in order to be more quiet, they took their armour off so they wouldn't make any noise.  When they were walking up the hill towards the fortress, they walked through a field of thistle, which made them yelp, and warned the scottish soldiers of the oncoming army.  As such, the thorned purple flower protected and maybe even saved the country. 

2. The Scottish national flag is blue with a white 'X'.  I was told this is because St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland.  St. Andrew was crucefied on a cross that looks like an X instead of a T, called a Saltire, not a crucifix.  In folk history, one day just before a big battle, where the Scottish were far out-numbered to their enemy, one of the generals prayed to St. Andrew and before going into battle looked up into the sky and saw two white cloud lines, unusally arranged in the blue sky, in the shape of a cross.  Also, Scotland won this battle.

These two tales were told to me by guides at the Edinburgh Castle, which I visited Saturday morning.  The castle is extrememly interesting and well worth the 11 admission (even though I went for free with a Historic Scotland member). There are a few museums inside the castle, like a musuem of prisoners, a museum of war, museum of the crown jewels.  Did you know that the jewels were hidden during a major battle and then lost when everyone who knew their whereabouts was killed?  After about one hundred years, Sir Walter Scott found them behind a brick wall when he noticed the stone to be a slightly different shade from the rest of the room.  Also, it was in the Edinburgh castle where James the First was born.  He went on to become King of England as well, and so he held the title of James I and James VI.  I'm really glad I went to learn about the history of Edinburgh royals and get an amazing view of the city. 

On Sunday, three friends and I hired a car.  For the most part it was a great idea but me being the only one of us old enough to qualify for cheaper insurance, I was nominated as the driver.  Nevermind my driving to begin with, remembering I had to keep on the wrong side of the road AND manuver a standard stick shift was insane! This was crazy and scary but we all had a good laugh, er, at me.  The drive was lovely though, I really didn't mind the countryside but the towns put us all in a panic with the roundabouts and pedestrians everywhere.  We visited the site of the Battle of Bannockburn, where William Wallace proclaimed 'they can take our lives but never our freedom', one of the most proud and passionate statements I've ever heard.  We ate a little breakfast a distance from the Wallace monument and in front of Sterling Castle.  The view of the tower monument looked so mysterious and beautiful standing tall and backdropped with slow low clouds and bluegreen hills.  Continuing on, we walked around the grounds of Duone Castle. 

Early afternoon we did a distillery tour of Glenturret (established in 1775, it is the oldest scotch distillery in the world). This single malt once used water from the nearby brook but now has to gather from the loch (lake) because the brooke is not very clean anymore.  They still use traditional wood vats to ferment the barley sugars, which is not common these days.  The benefit of a wood vat is the natural insulation from exterior weather.  Steel vats are used these days but requires constant room temperature control.  Glenturret is one of six scotches used to make Famous Grouse Scotch Wisky.  There are grouse (grouses?) in the fields and trees around but we didn't see any.  We did see a statue of a cat though, marking the memory of the world record mouser.  I could go on about this place but after an hour long tour, at a very good price of 5, our little Peugeot journeyed onward towards St. Andrews.

This is a town positioned on the beautiful coast of the Firth of Tay.  There was an amazing ruined cathedral, bombed in the war, which I really enjoyed walking around. Of course, we saw 'the home of golf', clubhouse and 18th green anyways.  Coudln't get a game in so we continued down the road again, for about an hour, to a little fishing town called Ansthruther.  We had fish and chips for dinner at a place that won the World Chippie award two years in a row. Food was amazing and we tried some Scottish wine, because it was such a novelty.  Who knew the Scots made wine?  It was a very sweet fruity press, made with elderberry flowers I think, and reccomended with our meal. Who knew wine went with fried fish and chips?  Almost went for a deep fried Mars bar but the two of us girls decided on icecream instead.  The day and weekend had already been completely full of new expereinces, so we decided that we'd pace ourselves and save that for next time!
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