I went on another bus tour today, but this time, Jackie came with me! Our first stop on the tour was the town of Stirling to see the National Wallace Monument. It is situated on top of a very high hill and can be seen from Stirling Castle. (Below is a photo from July 12th, when I went to Stirling Castle.)
The National Wallace Monument is in honor of William Wallace, the Scottish war hero. He is very popular for his Battle of Stirling Bridge where he and his troops defeated the largest and most successful army in Europe, the English Army. You may have heard of him from the movie Braveheart. Apparently, Hollywood was extremely inaccurate when making the movie, but it is still good for the sake of entertainment. Below is a photo of me standing next to his 66 inch long sword!
To get to the top of the monument you need to climb 246 steps. Once at the top, there are some beautiful views of Stirling. It was exceedingly windy and cold at the top; I will post a video where you can hear and see the effects of the wind. I was holding my camera with a death grip- I was scared that it would fly away!
Even in my jumping picture below, I could feel my body moving in the wind; scary!
I really liked the detailing of the monument. There was a carved stone ‘rope’ that acted as a trim to the windows and entryways. It looked very realistic; it even had knots and at points ‘went into’ the stone walls (look towards the center of the photo).
On the way to our next location, the group stopped for a quick lunch. Jackie and I ate at this little café called Spill the Beans Café. They had delicious food and even better dessert! Jackie bought a mint chocolate cake and gave me a few bites; it was made with actual mint leaves. It is the second cake from the top left corner.
Before we left the town, we checked out Dunkeld Cathedral, which is partially in ruins (getting repaired) and partially still in use.
We then hopped back on the bus and headed to the Blair Athol Whiskey Distillery. Blair Athol Whiskey is sold single malt, but it is also the heart of the Bell’s Blend and can be found in other popular whiskeys such as J&B.
We weren’t allowed to take photos during our tour of the distillery because if any sort of spark ignites, the entire place could blow (that is what happens when you have tons, literally, of alcohol lying around). When we walked through the room where the whiskey was fermenting, I was one of the few who actually enjoyed the smell. I thought it smelled really sweet like maple syrup, while many people on the tour were disgusted by it. We learned that all of the trees in the area are black from the distilling process… apparently officials used to tell if there was illegal distilling going on if the surrounding trees of a property were black. Thankfully, the residue on the trees is not harmful to them. I particularly enjoyed the sign outside of the Viewing Warehouse…
At the end of the tour, we all got to try the single malt Blair Athol Whiskey! The way most Scottish people drink their (single malt is the most popular) Scotch is by first warming it with their hands, then adding a splash of water before leisurely enjoying, which is exactly what Jackie and I did to get the most authentic experience. I’m not much of a whiskey fan, but it was fun to guess the aromas and tastes correctly (Blair Athol has fresh fruit and spices).
Our next stop was Loch Tay, which was very beautiful. It is the sixth largest loch in Scotland. I put my foot in the freezing water for good measure.
Before we got back on the bus, we used the restrooms in The Kenmore Hotel, which boasts that it is Scotland’s oldest Inn. Then we stopped at some waterfalls/rapids. There were a lot of huge rocks in the river, so Jackie and I walked out into the middle to get the best views and photos.
It was raining out so all of the rocks were slick, and in only the way Jackie can, at one point she slipped and basically face planted on a rock. Again, I almost had a heart attack (like the time she almost fell off a cliff when we climbed Arthur’s Seat yesterday). But after I knew she was okay, we both thought the situation was pretty funny. I’ve decided that we can no longer do anything athletic because Jackie is just asking for a death warrant.
Our last stop of the day was Loch Lomond, which is gigantic! The water seemed to stretch out forever and there were a lot of islands and boats scattered along the surface.
Jackie and I took photos from a dock where we could see, in my opinion, one of the most striking views of the lake. It was an unobstructed panoramic view of Loch Lomond with dark storm clouds on the left side and a bright sky with white fluffy clouds on the right. The panoramic shot below barely does the scene justice.
One our way back to the bus, we walked through the quaint town where there were no sidewalks, the road was a car wide and the houses were built two feet from the road and right next to each other. All of the houses were made of stone and had stunning gardens (surprisingly with the little space provided). All of the flowers were in bloom and it was a joy to explore.
When we got back to Glasgow (where the bus tour left from) we were both starving, so we went on a hunt for a good place to eat. We literally found the most awesome restaurant called Waxy O’Connor’s. It was a huge pub with staggering levels, probably five in all. The interior reminded me of both a tree house (with lots of branches) and an underground burrow (with lots of roots). This is a kind of place that I would love to design, where my imagination can run wild. Everything was made of carved wood. Here is my best quality shot of the interior, but certainly not the best view (from our table we could see four different levels).
Waxy O’Connor’s was the restaurant of choice for my first Haggas meal experience. For those of you who did not look it up, like I told you to, this is Wikipedia’s definition: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haggis
So, needless to say, I was not thrilled with what goes into Haggas, but “While in Rome, do as the Romans do.” I tried it- and I actually kind of liked it. It came out hot with potatoes and wheat wafer crackers. I could eat it until it got cold, in which case it was quite disgusting. Below is a photo of my meal!!
After my very long post, I will leave you with a dramatic view of the sunset we saw on the train ride back to the house (it’s hard to see, but there are tiny wind turbines on the top of the hill!).