Yes, I wrote up Edinburgh Castle last November, and yes, that was the end of the tours to the Celtic Isles. But we still had to get home; and I found some notes about that trip in my travel diary that I’ve decided to share. First, I didn’t realize I had noted my pedometer reading for the day in Edinburgh – I walked 3.84 miles that day, over 10,000 steps! And did my feet feel it!
I also noted that we were scheduled to head for the airport very early – my initial notes say we had to get up at 4:30 AM to get our luggage ready for pickup! My notes after we got home said it wasn’t quite that bad – our bags had to be ready to go by 6 AM, and our bus left maybe 40 minutes later, giving us just time to gulp down some breakfast. And Jim thought we’d have to go through customs at Amsterdam; I note that he was wrong but I don’t have any other indication. I don’t really remember going through customs in Edinburgh but I guess we must have.
Our flight from Edinburgh to Amsterdam left at 9:10 AM and took 1 hour 35 minutes, about what it takes to fly from Oakland to Las Vegas; Amsterdam is a little closer to Edinburgh than Las Vegas to Oakland. But there’s a time change in there – British summer time is 1 hour behind the continent! We thought we’d arrive at 10:45, we landed at 11:45, and our flight to SFO was scheduled at 12:35! Fortunately, the Edinburgh flight came in early, at 11:25. Unfortunately, we landed to find that Amsterdam hadn’t assigned the SFO flight a gate yet, and didn’t announce it for some time! When they did announce a gate, it was a long brisk walk away.
We made the SFO plane. Business class makes long non-stop flights much more endurable but I still can’t sleep on planes. I figure the whole day ran to 22 hours. And then, when we went to get our checked luggage in SFO, it wasn’t there! The baggage desk said it was “delayed.” It was delivered to the house in a day or so, I recall, I didn’t write that down; but I was very glad I had a carry-on with all my meds in it.
As I promised in the last post, this one is dedicated to Edinburgh Castle. The photos are all in the Edinburgh gallery; I won’t be posting all of them, so feel free to go look. Here is the first photo of the Castle, the entrance (a little fuzzy, sorry – my phone doesn’t handle auto-focus as well as I’d like). As you can see, there was a pretty fair crowd waiting to get in.
Edinburgh Castle entrance
Here’s a better look at the entrance gate:
Entrance gate to Edinburgh Castle
The Wikipedia article I linked above gives a pretty complete history of the site, including the fact that the hill it’s on (called Castle Rock) is the plug of an extinct (very extinct) volcano, a form of basalt called dolerite. The site has been used at least since the Iron Age (1200 – 600 BC), and its use by the rulers of Scotland goes back to King David I of Scotland, in the 12th century. Because the sides of the basalt rock are pretty much vertical except to the east, where softer land was deposited by glaciers passing over, the Castle Rock could only be approached from the east, which simplified defense. The rest of Edinburgh is all to the east of Castle Rock, including the approach area called the Esplanade.
Having spent much of yesterday on a bus traveling from our last port to Glasgow, and then on to Edinburgh, we now spent this day riding around Edinburgh and vicinity on a bus.
I took some photos of Edinburgh streets as we drove around in the bus. You’ll find all the photos from this day in the gallery Edinburgh, feel free to look through it. Here is a street view, they all look pretty much like this. The land around Edinburgh is gorgeous (you’ll see some photos). The town is built very much like this – talk about dense housing, much of which was built in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is not friendly to the mobility impaired, but then, neither is most of old Europe.
Edinburgh street, from the bus.
I don’t know what this building is, but it has the lion and the unicorn on the front, in gold relief. Since this is the official Royal Crest of the United Kingdom, it must be a government something, but I was on the bus and never found out.
Architectural detail, Edinburgh, from the bus
The trouble with photogaphy from a bus is that you can never get the whole thing, especially if the “thing” is Edinburgh Cathedral. Sorry about the bus seat.
Edinburgh Cathedral, from the bus
The day after we toured Glencoe and Glenfinnan (see The Scottish Highlands post), those of us who paid for the tour extension left the boat, with luggage, and were bused to Glasgow, for the first part of the extension. The photos are in the gallery Glasgow.
When we got out of the bus, the first thing we passed was the oldest house in Glasgow – called Provand’s Lordship. It is a 14th century house, originally built as part of a hospital. It’s one of 4 surviving medieval buildings in Glasgow and is currently a house museum. I didn’t go in and probably should have, but our time in Glasgow was limited. Here it is:
Provand’s Lordship, 14th century house
We were too close to the house to get a shot of the whole width, this is about half of it. There’s a photo of the other half in the Glasgow gallery. The other reason I didn’t go there is that the main attraction in this district is the Glasgow Cathedral – which is now a Presbyterian church. It is the oldest cathedral in mainland Scotland and the oldest building in Glasgow. Here it is:
Glasgow Cathedral, aka St. Mungo’s Cathedral
Yes, I couldn’t get all of the spire. St. Mungo is the patron saint of Glasgow, he is reported to have built his church on this site, and his tomb is in the lower crypt. With the lenses I had, and the time I had, I never got far enough away from the cathedral to get a full photo of it. This is probably the best picture I got:
There are several other external photos of the cathedral in the gallery. We did tour the inside of the cathedral, and I took a number of photos, of which these are probably the best. Do look at the gallery for the rest of them.
On the last day of the actual tour we made two stops, at Glen Coe and Glenfinnan. The photos for this day are all in the gallery Scottish Highlands.
We came ashore in the morning at Fort William, after breakfast on the boat. Fort William is in the Lochaber district, on the southwestern coast of Scotland. A look at the small map on the linked Wikipedia article for Fort William shows you that it’s actually quite far inland, on a long but very narrow sea loch. This is someone’s boat, anchored in the loch off the town. I took the photo from the ship.
Boat on the sea loch by Fort William, Scotland
The first thing we did ashore, of course, was to climb into the buses for the drive to Glen Coe. Out on the road leaving town, I was charmed to find us following the local bookmobile, or one of them:
Bookmobile, leaving Fort William
Full disclosure: in the first half of my career, I was a librarian. That’s why bookmobiles attract me.
As I said in my last post, our trip to Iona ended with a ferry ride to the Isle of Mull, where the tour company had taken the bus we didn’t use on Iona. In fact, the cruise instructions say that we anchored off the Isle of Mull while we were touring Iona. The photos for this article are in the gallery Isle of Mull.
Here’s the Isle of Mull. This isn’t the harbor where the ferry delivered us, which is no more complicated than the one on Iona. This is a beach next to the harbor.
Isle of Mull, near the harbor
I do want to share the first thing I saw as we looked around Fionnphort (pronounced fin-a-fort; I will never understand Gaelic pronunciation!), the town where the ferry from Iona lands. It was this stout fellow:
Sheep, watching us on the Isle of Mull
Yes, we were still in Fionnphort, and so was the sheep. We all loaded into the buses (I think we had 3 buses) and drove off across the Isle of Mull, heading for Duart Castle, our reason for coming to this place.
Leaving Wales, we approached one of the spots that made me decide to take the cruise: Iona. Iona is a tiny island (about 1 mile wide by 4 miles long) off the west coast of Scotland, with a resident population of about 200 people, according to our guide. Here it is as we approached it. The photo gallery for this post is Iona.
Iona doesn’t have a port in the normal sense. Its landing facility is a concrete ramp slanting up out of the water, used for the inter-island ferry, and for tenders from cruise ships like Le Boréal. Here are some of us in the tender, heading for shore.
Le Boréal tender heading for Iona
The gallery with photos of this day is Touring Wales. There are many more photos of Bodnant Garden than I’ve included here.
The sky was reasonably clear when the ship pulled into Holyhead harbor in Wales, but that was very early, and it didn’t last.
Breakwater, Holyhead harbor, Wales
For most of the day our bus drove under overcast skies, although I don’t recall any rain. Our initial destination was Bodnant Garden, a National Trust property. We drove through some very rugged and rocky hills, although some areas were clearly used for farming. I saw a similar field full of sheep but couldn’t get a clear photo from the bus – they came out as little white blurs.
Farming in the Welsh mountains
In a “Celtic lands” tour, it’s no surprise that we went to Dublin, although we only spent one day. The photo gallery for this day is Dublin, feel free to check it out for photos I didn’t include here.
The tour’s obvious target was to take us to Trinity College to show us the Old Library and the Book of Kells exhibition. From the bus on our way to Trinity College we did see one amazing thing: the Samuel Beckett Bridge, which is built in the shape of an Irish harp! I took a photo of it from the bus, below, but the reflections are confusing; the photo at the link above is much better.
Samuel Beckett Bridge, or Harp Bridge
The photos for this trip are all in the gallery Tresco Gardens. I encourage you to look through the photos, I’m going to post a relatively small number of plant photos here. My husband, a gardener, has identified all the plants he can, but you’ll see a number of plants labeled only, “Tresco Gardens.” If you recognize any of these plants, please leave a comment on this post, identifying the photo number (P followed by 7 numerals, below the image), and tell me what it is!
We’ve now left Normandy, and France, and Central European Summer Time. I forgot to complain about this in an earlier post but it annoyed me at the time – France is on Central European Summer Time, an hour ahead of British Summer Time. So the night before we sailed to France, we had to set all our clocks ahead another hour (having set them ahead two days earlier to British Summer Time). After our tour through Normandy, we’re now truly beginning the Celtic Lands cruise, with a stop I didn’t realize was Celtic.
Tresco Abbey Gardens are in the Scilly Isles (more accurately, Isles of Scilly), and yes, it really is pronounced “silly.” Don’t ask me, I don’t live there. To find the Scilly Isles, you start at the extreme west end of Cornwall, also known as Land’s End. Ask Google Maps for “Cornwall” and it will show you that; and a bit to the west and a little south, you may see a tiny speck labeled “Hugh Town.” That is the Scilly Isles; enlarge the map and you’ll see several small islands. The Scilly Isles are part of the Duchy of Cornwall, which is part of the landed estates of the Prince of Wales. One of the larger islands is Tresco, the site of the Tresco Abbey Gardens. I can’t speak for the other islands, but Tresco has nothing resembling a dock that will accept a ship the size of Le Boréal; here’s a picture of the ship, against the fields on St. Mary’s Island:
Le Boréal, near St. Mary’s Island, Isles of Scilly