Our last full day in Scotland… 🙁 So sad. After we checked out of the hotel and packing our suitcases so we thought they were of reasonably equal weight, and as few packages as possible once we dropped off the rental car, we struck out.
I knew we’d forfeit some diesel but we’d be between a quarter tank and empty if we took the most direct route. With our experiences with rental cars on this trip, I didn’t want to run out and be stuck waiting for roadside assistance to come with a jerry can to give us a drop.
I remember seeing this tower on the cliff on my first trip to Scotland in 1993 when I took the bus from Glasgow to Aberdeen. Back then I was petrified to drive so close to a big city on my own.
I stopped at many laybys (parking areas) along the A90 between Dundee and Perth where we switched onto the A9 after a brief stint on the M90.
We were both to the point where we needed toilets so when we saw the signs for Dunblane (which were clearly posted WC – aka water closet) along with the Historic Scotland signage for Dunblane Cathedral, we decided to make that our ‘port of call’.
Following the signs for the “WC” we drove into the village. Said signs became more and more obscure. A public car park was located off a narrow street near the cathedral – still used as a working church. No matter how bad I need the loo, I couldn’t pass up this photo op.
We walked back to where the signs for the public toilets pointed. The council office which was closed on Sundays. ACK! I spotted an older woman across the street so approached her and asked where the public bathrooms were. “There are no public toilets in Dunblane anymore,” she replied.
Panic! We both needed a toilet badly.
“But, go up the street to the cathedral and off to the left. Use the toilets there.”
If I didn’t have to go so bad, I would have hugged and kissed her. We strode up to the hall but chose the wrong entrance so had to navigate through the church crowd who had gathered after Sunday service. We didn’t make the same error when we left.
We dropped Monty off at the convenient Europcar rental return (across the road from the hotel) with his proper paperwork. A bit more complicated than on previous car rental returns but we got through and sent on our way. The collision damage waiver (CDW) and roadside assistance looked after our woes from earlier.
We arrived back at the airport hotel before the 2:00 pm check-in time but our room was ready and off we went. 8th floor and a view of the planes landing on one side and the M8 motorway on the other.
Before we both crashed and burned, we went for a walk around the airport complex past the Holiday Inn Express, the Europcar rental return (no sign of Monty) and back to the hotel.
We had a meal in the bar at the hotel where we’ve had excellent service in the past. This time not so much but the food was good.
After returning to our room, I took advantage of the twilight and got some more photos.
Leaving tomorrow would be hard. Since leaving Broughty Ferry I tried to come up with every excuse I could think of to stay.
We double-checked the weight of our bags so come morning when we had to put our last night/morning things away we knew, what suitcase to put them in.
Breakfast tomorrow at Beardmore (hopefully, still in business) then people and plane watch while we wait to board.
Since we weren’t meeting the family until 7:30, we had the entire day to get to the distillery and back and have some time to freshen up before catching the bus over to Carnoustie. Responsible thing to do. And this way we could both drink and not have to worry about driving afterwards.
I wanted to avoid driving through Aberdeen so we headed cross-country at Stonehaven. Once I got up into familiar territory, I no longer needed Satnav Sally. I followed my heart – after a stop at the public toilets in Alford.
We encountered roadworks after we left Craigellachie, near the junction of the A941 and B9102. Another side road comes in just south of the junction so the traffic lights controlling things were odd to say the least. We sat there for quite some time before getting a green light.
Two bottles of 18 year-old Cardhu purchased (£69.00 each), we used their toilets and started back towards Broughty Ferry.
Curious to know if anything else had been done with Wardhouse Mansion since our last visit, we came home by way of Keith and Huntly so I could go through Kennethmont for a look.
We stopped at a petrol station in Keith to get a bottle of water (I know it sounds strange when we’re having to look for toilets all of the time) because we were thirsty. While I waited in the car, I shut the engine off. No need to idle. Well, Monty decided not to recognize the keyfob! He wouldn’t start! So here we are stuck in Keith with a car that won’t start and we have to be back in time to get to Carnoustie for 7:30! Would the vacation end on a downer (more than usual) like it started?
Eventually, Monty saw things our way and he started. Phew! After 27 hours for a flat tyre, I shuddered to think how long it would be for this before we got help.
Nothing new on the mansion restoration at Wardhouse. Wanting to avoid Aberdeen again, we got off the A96 at Kintore and went across country and found ourselves on the B974 Cairn O’Mount. Narrow road, lots of potholes along the edge. A wonderful viewpoint that we didn’t have time to stop to enjoy. Besides the weather wasn’t conducive to stopping.
This archway in Fettercairn is amazing! It’s plenty wide on its own, but the road is narrow and the curbs twist and turn making it extremely difficult to navigate.
We made it back to the hotel about 5:30 – plenty of time to freshen up and get ready to go meet the kin. So, since we were taking advantage of public transit, we stopped in the bar downstairs for a drink before heading out to catch the bus.
Our reservation was for 7:30 at The Aboukir Hotel. Don and I arrived first followed about half a large glass of red wine later by the rest of the gang.
It was hilarious how the Canadians all sat on one side of the table and the Scots on the other. It wasn’t planned. It was just the way we sat down. I wanted to be on the end because I’m left-handed and we were the first to get there.
It’s really hard to get good photos of everyone all at once.
Lorraine was the first to go to the ladies. When she came back, she wasted no time telling Lise and me about the heated toilet seat! That brought on peels of laughter.
I went next and she was right. It was warm! It also had bidet functions built in. Now how’s that for up-market?
Lise went last and took her phone in with her. She came back with a photograph of the control panel for it. More laughs!
After a wonderful night catching up with everyone, the time came to call it a day.
We parted company outside the hotel – some of us on foot, some of us via public transit.
When we returned to the hotel in Broughty Ferry, we put our things in our room and went to the bar for a nightcap.
Our wonderful holiday quickly coming to an end – our last full day would be tomorrow – driving back to Glasgow, returning the rental car and getting ready for our flight home on Monday.
I booked our return train tickets long before we went to Scotland. When I knew the train and our seats, I immediately contacted my friend, Chris Longmuir, with the carriage and seat numbers so she could book a seat with us.
The bus stop was close to the hotel, so we walked there and boarded the #5 and told the driver we were going to the Dundee Railway Station. Two return tickets in hand, we settled in for the ride.
When we reached the Nethergate (Stop 1), the driver exited his driving compartment and told us this was the best stop for the train station. We were both impressed that he remembered us and our destination.
A short walk to the train station and we redeemed our tickets at one of the self-serve kiosks before heading to the platform to await our Virgin East Coast train to Edinburgh.
Anxious and excited to spend the day in the city with Chris, it was hard to settle on the train. We chatted about publishing print books and ebooks and changes that needed to be made or which version of the document to use. I’d done it before and had no problems but the current (I’ll call it WIP) gave me grief… hence the request for advice.
The Edinburgh train crossed over the Forth Bridge. This has been on my bucket list for a long time. The bridge looks like it was constructed from a Meccano set.
The train windows were dirty so that didn’t help the picture. In the background, you can see the current Forth Road Bridge and the new, still under construction, crossing.
Before we left the station, we stopped at the bathrooms. 30p to use the toilets but they were clean and the attendant made sure the lines of patiently waiting customers moved smoothly.
I had booked us on a tour of “The Real Mary King’s Close” for about an hour after we arrived in Edinburgh. The printed ticket confirmation said we needed to be there about 30 minutes before the tour started.
Having taken the train into Edinburgh Waverley on more than one occasion, I didn’t realize there was a way from there to the Royal Mile that didn’t require walking up a steep hill. Chris took us on an alternate route, although a bit longer and out of the way, required less effort and on reasonably level ground.
After we checked in at the ticket office and were told we had plenty of time, we decided to look in the nearby whisky shop to see if they stocked 18 year-old Cardhu. They did stock a 21 year-old. For a mere £350.00 we could buy it. On this day, the Bank of Canada exchange rate from UK pounds to CAN dollars was $1.7059 so a bottle of whisky would have cost us $597.00!!! Yikes!!! We knew we could get the age we wanted from the distillery and we had free time on the next day (not meeting my cousins until 7:30 for dinner) so decided rather than traipse around Edinburgh all day looking for what we wanted, we’d wait and make a distillery run on Saturday.
While Chris picked up a few Christmas presents in the shop, I went out and took a few pictures.
How appropriate… Writers’ Court. Chris and I are both writers – just different genres.
And, no the Tattoo Office has nothing to do with marking your skin (permanently or temporarily with henna).
Because Mary King’s Close is under the City Chambers, you’re not permitted to take photographs. *sigh*
Our guide, Paula, was a hoot! Knowledgeable, friendly, and funny. Even though I don’t have photographs of my own to remember the tour, I do have a guidebook and a few other mementos.
Back on Princes Street, we waited at the bus for the #22 that would take us to Ocean Terminal (a waterfront mall and ticket office for the Royal Yacht Britannia).
There’s the #29 headed in the opposite direction.
When our bus arrived, we bought two day passes which would also get us on the trams.
The tour of the Royal Yacht Britanniais completely self-guided. You’re provided with an audio guide (looks like an overgrown cellphone) which is available in a number of languages. They also have a guide in Braille for visually impaired visitors.
We had a late lunch/snack in the Royal Deck Tea Room. I had coffee and fruit scones, Don had chocolate cake, and Chris had a bowl of Carrot and something soup.
Here in the Verge Inn, you have the chance to take “Corgi selfies” (see the wee guy on the left of the photo) or take selfies wearing these hats. No, the beer isn’t real. It’s resin coloured to look like beer with a light foam head on top.
After departing the yacht and Ocean Terminal, we boarded the #22 and returned to Princes St where our next adventure began… a ride on the Edinburgh trams!
We had to walk to one of the stations in the middle of Princes St so that Chris could buy a ticket. Her Angus council bus pass didn’t count for nowt here. Now that we were all legal, we boarded the next tram and rode it to Murrayfield Stadium. Out here the main railway line and the tram line aren’t too far apart.
On our way back to the city centre, Don struck up a conversation with a guy stood near where Chris and I sat. Said guy was reading a Stephen Booth novel. Don told him that Chris also wrote crime fiction (embarrassing her) but she pulled our her stash of book postcards and gave them to him.
The tram ride was another thing crossed off a bucket list (not mine). My next thing was a pint at the Oxford Bar, Ian Rankin’s local. Seeing how Chris was with us I hoped he wouldn’t think I was a pyscho Canadian stalker… LOL!
By now, it was getting later in the day. The next train back to Dundee that stopped in the town Chris lives in departed from Edinburgh Waverley at 7:30. We still needed to get a bite to eat to get us through until tomorrow.
I settled for a photo so I could say, “I’ve been there” but I’ll definitely be back again and have an IPA or something before leaving.
Over supper, still thinking we had to be back at Waverley for the 7:30 train, I checked our tickets. We were locked in to a Virgin East Coast return or pay a fee to change it.
Chris checked her train schedule that she carries with her and luckily for us, that happened to be the 8:30 train. We could have stopped for a quick drink before stopping in at TGI Fridays on Castle Street. Oh well. It did give us some more time for evening photo ops.
When I visited with my cousin, Eric, a few days ago, he mentioned climbing to the top of the Scott Monument with his father back in the day. He claims they carved their initials in the wall at the top level. Must climb up sometime (oh my aching knees) and see if they’re still visible.
When we arrived back at the railway station, we still had some time before we needed to be at the platform. Where else does a writer go but a bookstore?
And look who I found! Fellow loveahappyending author, Sheryl Browne, and her novel The Rest of My Life. She’s in some pretty good company there with Stuart MacBride and Kathy Reichs.
All too soon, our wonderful day came to an end. We were getting off the train in Dundee and Chris was carrying on up the line to her stop. At least the turnstiles in Dundee were open so I got to keep our tickets as souvenirs.
It finally started to rain and drizzled as we made our way back up to Nethergate and a bus stop to catch our return bus to Broughty Ferry.
After we returned to the hotel and deposited our things in the room, we went to the bar for a drink. Whilst chatting with the young barman, we found out that he’d come to Canada on a hockey scholarship. Then we narrowed it down to Ontario (most people wouldn’t have a clue where our city is in the grand scheme of things). Come to find out, he stayed in Cornwall! That’s only a little over an hour away from us. And he played some hockey in Brockville, too.
Tomorrow, in addition to supper with the clan, we have a “side trip” to the distillery. Another adventure.
Jeff, our host at Duncan House, and his black lab joined the group of folks in the dining room. He apologized profusely for not remembering me (actually, putting the name with the face). With the number of people who stay in his wonderful Georgian B&B, I’m not surprised, nor was I offended.
After a hearty breakfast, including porridge, we set out. Shortly before we left home for Scotland, we received an email telling us that Craigmillar Castle would be closed until Sept 20th. The picture of the property included in the Historic Scotland email intrigued me and it being after the 20th, and the castle being close to (if not in the ‘burbs of Edinburgh) so en route to Broughty Ferry, the satnav was programmed to take us there.
I ended up driving Monty further into the city than I wanted thanks to roadworks (as in a humungous hole) in Craigmillar Castle Road. So I had to drive by that end of the road, follow the diversion signs … AND ignore Satnav Sally.
Two school buses (not like our North American ones) parked back to back on opposite sides of the car park. No way on earth Monty would fit between their snouts.
I parked sort of on the edge of the road and we strode to the ticket office/gift shop. “One concession (aka senior), one adult and toilets,” was the buzz phrase of the day. He stamped our “zero charge” receipt with the combination we needed to gain access to the facilities and off we went.
My favourite place! I’ll even do the spiral stairs to get there… 😉
Years later, the windows have been filled in but the fireplace remains.
The school children were amazed that in two different towers of the castle there were bathrooms. One group called over to the other, “we’ve got a loo!” and the other replied “So do we! We have a loo, too!”
The view from the castle ramparts is amazing. The clear weather made it easy to see and recognize North Berwick Law (we’d seen it last year on our way to Dunbar and on the train to Edinburgh).
Driving towards Craigmillar Castle, we had spectacular views of Edinburgh Castle and Arthur’s Seat but no place to pull over for a photo op. I was chuffed to bits to get this view from Craigmillar’s ramparts.
As we approached the Forth Road Bridge, the first of many signs for Scotland’s Secret Bunker popped up. It had been a possibility on previous trips and we happened to have the time, so decided to make it a reality this trip. Canada has the Diefenbunker (which we’ve visited) so we needed to compare the two locations.
Imagine a Cold War Shelter capable of running the country from under an innocuous farm house? Now that the cold war threat is over (or is it) things aren’t so secret anymore.
Unfortunately, the roads leading to it aren’t so smooth, so again the buzz phrase when we bought our tickets was “One concession, one adult and toilets” but this time I added “and not necessarily in that order”.
Finally, we reached our destination for the night. When I booked, I thought we’d get the same room as last year but this time we got one on the ground floor at the front of the hotel (corner of Queen Street and Claypotts/Westfield Road). Finally, a place where we didn’t have to lug everything up at least one flight of stairs!
Tomorrow morning, we’re catching the train in Dundee to Edinburgh where we’ll spend the day with our good friend (fellow author and crime writer), Chris Longmuir.
While we were disappointed to be leaving Broughty Ferry, we were excited to be moving on to our next destination. At least this morning the sun was shining. We had hoped to be after the rush hour but no such luck. I think we were smack in the middle of it.
After being held up at a stop for petrol (the place was a zoo) because the person at the pumps ahead of us had left her car there (she was already nowhere to be seen when we pulled up) and we waited for ages for her to return and get a less than sincere ‘sorry’. But at least she pulled her car away from the pumps before going back in to get whatever else it was she was after.
Finally, we were out of heavy traffic and onto single carriageways. The scenery through here was pretty but unfortunately, the laybys with the best views were filled with lorries and and other cars already. I finally did find one but had to walk back a bit because the trees blocked the view.
After getting some photographs, we moved on again but not far. We both thought the boot hadn’t closed properly so at the first opportunity, we pulled into a carpark for a church. And never being one to pass up the opportunity to wander through a graveyard, we took a brief time out for a look. I went around by the front of the church (more photo ops that direction) and Don had a look around the back.
When we reached the area near our destination, “Satnav Sally” turned us in to the carpark at the Falkirk Football Stadium. Come to find out, it was overflow parking for The Kelpies. Don’t think that would happen if there was a match taking place.
We got back onto the road and the turn we wanted was at the next set of traffic lights. It cost £2.00 to park which was more than reasonable because you could spend the entire day there. If you wanted to take the tour inside one of the two giant Clydesdale heads, there was an additional fee but we only wanted to see them from the outside.
We did look inside the one that was used for the tours (head down) and it looked like you stayed on the ground level. There were no stairs visible from our vantage point. Can you imagine being able to climb up and look out one of the eyes?
I wanted to stop at two castles on the way to our hotel – The Royal Mackintosh – in Dunbar so we had to get a move on.
The further away from the kelpies we got, the cloudier and gloomier it became and before we reached the first of the two castles I wanted to visit (Dirleton), it was raining. Not super hard but hard enough to be miserable and have to keep the cameras under cover.
These two trees in the gardens at the castle remind me of the ones in the Haunted Forest in The Wizard of Oz. What do you think? They’re definitely spooky looking. And maybe being there on an overcast, rainy day made them look even spookier.
Coming in the direction we did from the gardens, this was the entrance to the castle we took. By the time we reached the top step, my knees were burning but I didn’t let it stop me from enjoying the views in and around the castle – upstairs and downstairs.
I love the stone seats in the window alcoves of this room. Even on a cool, damp day, this room didn’t feel it. But then that could have been the sweat we’d worked up with all the step climbing and walking.
This section of the castle was the Haliburton’s construction. The intricate stone buffet was in the end wall of the Great Hall.
North Berwick Law is a massive mound visible from almost everywhere in the area because the ground is so flat… well except for it.
By the time we reached Tantallon Castle, it was raining harder and the wind had come up. There were times when I thought my umbrella and I were going to do our best Mary Poppins impression.
Bass Rock is home to a huge colony of gannets. From every vantage point looking out to see here at the castle, this formation is visible.
Despite the rain, wind and slippery, wet stones we climbed up to the top and walked on the ramparts of the castle. Mind you, this would have been so much more pleasant on a sunny, dry and less windy day but, hey, it was all part of the experience.
And remember North Berwick Law? Well, here it is again… kind of like the Price Building in Quebec City.
By now we really had to get a move on and to our hotel but we decided that on the day we left Dunbar for Kelso, if it was nice, we would come back to the castle and see it in a different light.
After checking in and getting our goods and chattels into our room, we walked down to the train station to get an idea how long a walk it was. I knew where it was from google maps and the hotel’s website said it was a short walk but a body still has to measure it themselves.
When we returned from our timing of the train station walk, we had a meal in the hotel bar – a Bigger Mack. I swear the hamburg patty was two inches thick! OMG! It was delicious, juicy and cooked all the way through… but way too much. Should we have one of these on a future trip, we won’t each order one. We’ll order one and cut it in two and get an extra order of chips.
Now that we’d stuffed ourselves, we went upstairs got the cameras and went out for a walk along the high street then down to the water where we watched the tide come in before walking back up the hill to our hotel.
Other than when we first arrived in Scotland on 12th September, this was the first day we had rain – heavy rain. After breakfast, we grabbed our umbrellas and walked to Broughty Castle Museum which was closed for the day when we arrived here on the 19th from Kennethmont.
There were a number of interesting artifacts and displays housed in the museum over the three floors that were open to the public and we were able to leave our dripping umbrellas downstairs inside the door to the castle.
After our tour we went for a walk along the Esplanade for a short distance before turning around and walking back to Fisher Street and eventually, our hotel room.
I mean, there’s only so much you can do on a rainy day. Our original plan was to spend part of today with nearby family, but that fell through so we were left at odds as to what to do. We’d done the planes, trains and automobiles thing so decided to add bus to our modes of transport used and hopped one to where we could purchase a golf hat for the guy who administers hubby’s cancer treatments (after all, you have to keep him sweet so he’s good to you). I had only ever used a ‘transit’ bus once in Scotland and that was back in 1993 to go from the Guild Street station in Aberdeen out to the airport at Dyce. For that trip, I had to have the exact change.
This trip, shortly after we sat down, a ‘clippie’ was there to collect our fare. Exact fare wasn’t needed but no doubt appreciated. It cost £4.30 each way for both of us, which was very reasonable, we thought.
Our shopping trip completed, we caught the next bus back to Broughty Ferry. On the way, the rain started again and at one point, it teemed so hard and the windows steamed so much that we could hardly see. At least the driver could and he was the one who mattered.
When we returned to Broughty Ferry, the rain had stopped but it was still quite overcast. We got off the bus at the Post Office Bar stop and walked back in the direction of the railway station. I thought I had seen a bank with a cashpoint but I hadn’t. Looking down Gray Street, I spied the familiar Clydesdale Bank logo so we went there so we could get some cash. Of course, after we stopped here we saw all kinds of banks along Brook Street.
I had picked up a City Centre Walk brochure earlier at the museum so took a good look at it when we went back to our room. While we were there, it cleared up and the sun came back out. We picked up the cameras and out we went again – this time to capture images of some of the locations in the brochure.
As much as we both like old graveyards, we never did find this one, although towards the end of the day we got close. By now we knew that you had to get the key from the Ship Inn but we’d not seen this sign along the street before.
There were other people milling about in the area and when an older woman came along and unlocked the high gate, we thought all our Christmases had come at once. Unfortunately, this only led to her garden but if you look in the Google street view below, you can see a stone wall in behind there and another one behind it. Sure as anything, that’s where the old burial ground is.
We had already determined that we would stay in Broughty Ferry again and at the same hotel. So between now and then, I’ll be doing some more digging and printing directions and other pertinent information for us to have with us. I’d say sending it to our phones, but that only works when you have data on your phone, or can find a wi-fi hotspot.
Over breakfast we decided to visit a few more Pictish Stones and Stone Circles on our way south to Broughty Ferry, stopping first at The Maiden Stone.
After we said our goodbyes and got on the road, I remembered when we were over in 2013 David asking if we had driven all the way up to Wardhouse Mansion. We hadn’t but when I drove by the road this morning, I made the turn. It was posted as 15 mph. You would have to be nuts to even think of going that fast! Two gravel tire tracks and grass growing up in the middle – not to mention ruts and potholes. Still the drive was worth every jostled body part.
We wandered around the mansion and I took pictures from every angle but from inside its walls. The chapel is nestled into the back of the mansion (extreme left in the top photo).
I am so SO glad I drove up here. I’ve been in love with this place since I first set eyes on it in 1993. After spending about an hour at Wardhouse – getting our feet wet in the process from the heavy overnight dew – we got back on the road to what was going to be our initial stop, the Maiden Stone.
Folklore says that the notch in the stone is from where the devil grabbed the maiden’s arm. You can read the full story here.
The other side of the stone has carvings on it as well. Unfortunately, the sun was in the wrong place so they didn’t show up well.
From here, we went to another place we’d been before – the Easter Aquorthies Stone Circle. When we arrived there was a woman a young boy (presumably her son) there and she was letting him climb on the stones and were oblivious to the fact that others were about. I hoped they would soon clear off so I could get some good photos but, alas, they were still there when we left. Grrr…
Our next stop was the Cullerlie Stone Circle near Garlogie. Another couple came at almost the same time and the dog from the farm next door but they held back and let us have our time around the stones to take photos and watch the sheep in the field behind the circle.
After we left here, we tried to find the Clune Hill Stone Circle to no avail so decided with the time we might as well make tracks for the Hotel Broughty Ferry where we would spend three nights.
We stopped at the Aberlemno stones which we had seen before but this time we also drove down the single track road to the church to see the cross slab in the churchyard.
One more diversion before we reached our final destination. We were driving straight by the sign posting for Restenneth Priory near Forfar so I had to go there.
Wow! We were speechless when we walked into our room. It was huge! And the fixtures in the bathroom were gold plated! Talk about luxury!
I’d ordered the champagne in our room on arrival and although it wasn’t there when we walked in, it was there straight away. We enjoyed our bottle of Moet and Chandon then walked over to the railway station to get an idea how long it would take us to get there since we would be taking the 10:34 from Broughty Ferry to Dundee the next morning. It was about a 10 minute walk at the most so now we could set out to explore.
From the railway station we walked to the Firth of Tay to Broughty Castle. It was too late to visit the museum located there but we had time before we moved on to our next destination so could work it in.
After a short pitstop at the hotel to use the toilet, we walked up Claypotts Road to take our time and see the castle there without cars running us over.
I knew the hotel was in between these two castles and within walking distance but I’m really glad we took advantage of a nice evening to visit both.
We had supper in the hotel’s bar (the restaurant upstairs was full) and sat at a table next to a couple from Montrose. When we mentioned that we were meeting up with my crime-writer friend, Chris Longmuir, the next day for a tour of Dundee focusing on locations she used in her books, they knew her – well, at least knew of her.
My Scottish roots and writing by Melanie Robertson-King