Friday, August 22, 2014

Day 6: Falkirk and Stirling

June 26, 2014

The next morning we checked out of our hotel and boarded a train for the next stop on our journey.  We alighted at Falkirk, and after a certain amount of navigation by dead reckoning and directions from a friendly passerby, we found the canal walking path we were looking for:

From there we found our way straight to our destination, the Falkirk wheel. The Falkirk wheel is a boat lift, raising boats from on canal to another, 79 feet higher in elevation.  Due to the clever balancing, the wheel takes remarkably little power to operate.  There's a video here that shows how it operates.

They have a small visitor center and a 'water park', which we were amused to find was an area that demonstrated various types of hand-powered pumps filling miniature canals.   While it may have been designed for children, we had to try it out while we were waiting to see the boat lift in operation.
Engineers- not so different from children.
Finally they sailed a boat into the wheel and it started rotating. Amazing.  The pictures just don't give you a good feel for how big it is.

After that, we strolled back down the canal towpath to the train station and proceeded to Stirling, home of Stirling Castle.

Looking out from the castle walls, we could see the landscape over which was fought the battle of Bannockburn (think Braveheart- though every single guide we met first mentioned it, and then told us that the movie was wildly inaccurate).    As with many castles, it had fabulous views of the surrounding countryside.

And here's the view facing Bannockburn (a burn is a river) where the battle is believed to be fought. (Certainly where the historical reenactment was planned to occur.)

The interior was also spectacular- the Great Hall, which was added by a Scottish king to please his French wife (apparently the older parts of the castle were cold and drafty).

After seeing the castle we toured the 17th century townhouse of the Earls of Argyll.

After exploring Stirling, we hiked back down the hill to the train and finished out the day in Glasgow,

where we were checked into our hotel near the river Clyde.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Day 5: Engines of History

June 25, 2014

Museums don't open until 10:00 am, or at the very earliest 9:30, so we started off the day with a stroll down to the new town, where we found the Conan Doyle pub across the street from the writer's former residence.

In front of the house, there was a statue of the great detective himself, no doubt contemplating some interesting clue.  

After strolling and admiring the Georgian architecture, we headed for the National Museum of Scotland.  The building was fabulous:

We wandered around for some time.  We'd especially wanted to see a special exhibition on the invention of logarithms, which turned out to be off the main gallery.  Although the museum has some splendid general interest areas, we concentrated on the parts to do with Scotland.  We fell into conversation with one of the museum demonstrators and in addition to seeing a mill steam engine demonstrated, he also started up their Newcomen atmospheric engine for us.  (They don't actually run steam in the museum, they cycle the machinery using a modern system- I'm sure the museum's insurance company insists!)

From there we did some additional walking, strolling out past the University of Edinburgh and through The Meadows.  

As it got later, we turned back and found more music, this time in The Captain's Bar, which someone had told us about in the pub the night before.  We found ourselves singing along with some humorous Canadian songs, played by a fellow who turned out to be Grant Simpson, fiddler for the Scottish group North Sea Gas.  We had another delightful musical evening to finish our last day in Edinburgh. And now I really want to see North Sea Gas play as a group on their next American tour!  

Monday, August 11, 2014

Day 4: Edinburgh

June 24, 2014

The next morning, there was a slight drizzle on the streets, and the air was cool and damp.

We weren't about to let that discourage us, however, so we set out with umbrellas for Edinburgh Castle. We took the tour, then walked around the various buildings, taking the indoor areas first to get out of the wet.  The Great Hall was fabulous.  As were the Scottish crown jewels, but we weren't allowed to take pictures in there.

As the morning went on, the weather began to clear in fits and starts.  There were originally a lot more photos, but later in the afternoon I discovered that my camera was malfunctioning- the light meter had died and I had taken a number of photos of blank white rectangles.  Nearly all the photos you'll see from here on were taken by my husband with his cellphone.  But we didn't figure that out until after we left the castle, so there aren't as many of the castle as I would have liked.

As the weather cleared, the views from the castle were spectacular.

After lunch, with the weather clearing considerably, we set out for Arthur's Seat in Holyrood Park, a promontory overlooking the city.  As we climbed higher, the views got ever more striking.

We took a different route down, sensibly taking a longer path rather than a straight scramble down the rocks.  We observed other, less cautious hikers, having some difficulty descending.

After strolling back into the city, we found some dinner and headed up to Sandy Bell's, a pub with reputation as a music venue,  to hear a music session.  We love Scottish music, and really enjoyed the evening.  We walked back to the hotel relaxed and with fiddle music playing in our heads.