After everyone else on our tour group departed for home, Connie and I stayed on for three days to explore more of Scotland.
Crieff, Pitlochry and Dunkeld
On our first day we did a loop around the lower hills of the Scottish Highlands, with stops in Crieff, Pitlochry, and Dunkeld, before heading for our AirBnB in the village of Stanley. At the visitors’ center in Crieff we found a large array of beautiful, intricately colored glassware made in the adjacent Caithness Glass Works (which unfortunately was closed to tours that day). Pitlochry on the hills adjacent to the River Tummel is a quaint holiday village with a rich Victorian heritage. We walked the main street and explored several of the souvenir shops featuring local woolen goods. Dunkeld sits on the banks of the River Tay, Scotland’s longest river. It is believed to have been founded by Caustantin, king of the Picts, around 800 AD.
The next day we set off on an all-day drive through the highlands to Loch Ness, with rain on and off all day broken up by occasional bright sunshine. Although relatively narrow, at 750 feet deep Loch Ness is the largest lake by volume in the British Isles. We drove the entire 23-mile length of the loch on its western shore, and didn’t see anything unusual swimming around. We did stop at the Loch Ness Exhibition Center in Drumnadrochit for an extensive multi-media history of reported sightings, investigations and explorations related to the legendary monster. [The earliest recorded sighting dates from the sixth century, but the monster gained fame with a reported sighting by the wife of the local hotel owner in the 1930s. Various blurry photos that followed have been explained away or discredited, and the many scientific explorations over the decades have found no evidence of the monster.]
Stanley Mills, Scone Palace and Stirling Castle
On the last day of our trip we found several fascinating places in our immediate area. Stanley Mills is a museum in the buildings of a cotton mill powered by the River Tay that operated from 1786 until 1989. With various equipment, models and multimedia presentations it tells the story of the mills and its owners and workers.
Scone Palace was the highlight of our Scottish adventure, with a fascinating history and beautiful buildings, furnishings, and grounds. Built on the site of a 12th century Augustinian Abbey, the Palace has been the home of the Earls of Mansfield for over 400 years. Scottish kings were crowned here for over 600 years including Robert the Bruce in 1306 and Charles II in 1651.
Scone Palace was the home of the Stone of Scone, also known as the Stone of Destiny, from around 840 until Edward I took it to to London in 1292. There it was fitted under a chair in Westminster Abbey to be used for all future coronations (including Elizabeth II in 1953) as a sign that the English monarch is also the king or queen of Scotland. The original Stone was repatriated from London to Edinburgh Castle in 1996 and a replica remains on display at Scone Palace.
Our last stop for the day was at Stirling Castle, which dates from the 14th century. Like Edinburgh Castle it is surrounded on three sides by cliffs, giving it a strong defensive advantage. Stirling has been home to many Scottish monarchs, including Mary Queen of Scots who was crowned here in 1542. The Queen’s Chamber of the castle features replicas of The Hunt of the Unicorn tapestries from the 16th century.
From Stirling Castle we headed to Edinburgh Airport where we stayed overnight before a very early flight home the next morning. Definitely a trip to remember.
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