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Scotland: Queensferry

Three Bridges Over Forth Firth

For anyone who doesn't like cities, Queensferry is the perfect place to stay. A tiny coastal village on the edge of Edinburgh, Queensferry boasts of three lovely bridges that pass over the Forth Firth. I have no idea why they need three bridges; there's not that much traffic. The oldest is a red suspension bridge that resembles the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The newest, also a suspension bridge, is a marvel of steel that sparkles over the water. Known as the Queensferry Crossing, this collection of pipes and strings opened in 2017 and runs 1.7 miles (2.7km). It is the longest three-tower, cable-stayed bridge in the world. Scotland, a country of around 5 million people, invested of over £1.3 billion in the new bridge that is not only functional, the structure looks like a sculpture.

Queensferry is also a place where walkers can pick up the John Muir trail that leads from coast to coast. It is only one of a number of lengthy walking trails in Scotland. I passed through this postcard-perfect town on the beginning of a five-day adventure to the Highlands. Although it wasn't raining, the moody skies foretold the dreadful weather that was yet to come.


Posted by teethetrav 06:44 Archived in Scotland Tagged scotland edinburgh queensferry forth_firth queensferry_crossing three_bridges Comments (0)

Scotland: Outside Edinburgh

Rosslyn Chapel

Anyone who read or saw The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown remembers Rosslyn Chapel. Brown's fictionalized account of the quest for the Holy Grail comes to a dramatic end at Rosslyn--the Rose Line. In fact, William St. Clair's family began building the Chapel in the mid 1400s and its intricate mason carvings of Christian symbols, Jewish stars, pagan faces, animals, an uncracked symbolic code, plants, vegetables, roses, and more have intrigued people ever since. No wonder mystical stories about the Chapel abound. The carvings suggest, as Brown noted, that the masons left a shrine to all faiths as well as to nature. So much here is inexplicable. For example, there are carvings of corn and of elephants, neither of which had ever been seen in Scotland in the 1400s. How did they know what they looked like? But the most fascinating fact is that there is a subterranean chamber underneath the Chapel. This is where, supposedly, the Holy Grail is, or was. It would be impossible to excavate the chamber without the Chapel crumbling. I love a good mystery.

Less than ten miles outside of Edinburgh, William St. Clair set the Chapel high on a hill near his home. If you take the public bus #37 from Princes Street in Edinburgh, you can easily get there without a car. There are mystical stories about how the Chapel was used as an astrological observatory as well as a direct line to aliens. How can you resist a place that has aliens, the Holy Grail, and a relationship to the secretive Knights Templar? Even if you are a skeptic, there is still a murder that is well-documented. A master mason left an apprentice in charge of one of the columns while he went off to a workshop to improve his craft. The apprentice had a vision and carved an intricate, spiraling masterpiece. When the master returned, he was infuriated and killed the apprentice. Their heads are memorialized in carvings in the Chapel, as is the head of the grieving mother of the dead apprentice. The Apprentice's Pillar is amazing.

None of the masons names are known, but their work is stunning. It is possible to spend hours inside this small Chapel and you will never see all of the hundreds of carvings. Unfortunately, no indoor photography is permitted. It is only due to Dan Brown's book and the subsequent movie, that the Chapel is going to survive. Since the book was published in 2003, the publicity has brought hundreds of thousands of tourists and the money has been used for continual conservation of this tiny treasure that still belongs to the Sinclair family. Find more at www.rosslynchapel.com

Posted by teethetrav 07:39 Archived in Scotland Tagged scotland edinburgh rosslyn_chapel masons knights_templar dan_brown the_da_vinci_code william_st._clair Comments (1)


Lochs, Castles, Mean Fairies, & Rain

In 2017, readers of The Rough Guides voted Scotland number one most beautiful country. It is. With its 38,000 lochs (otherwise known as lakes), its lowlands, highlands, islands, beaches--both sandy and rocky--, its green hills and barren mountains, Scotland is stunning. And that is just the scenery. There is so much else to do and see. There are beautiful cities, castles, great restaurants, and the funny, friendly people. There are also countless stories about mythical creatures, especially fairies. Not cute ones who want to be your wee friends. Scottish fairies are mean and exist to trick humans.

And, oh yes. There is rain. In some places, you know how they say if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes. In Scotland, if you wait five minutes, you'll just get another sort of rain. Or fog. Or both. I counted seven distinct kinds of rain, most of which I had never seen before. There's misty rain which doesn't actually fall to the ground, it just surrounds you in a delicate veil. There's a rain which falls in droplets that are spaced apart, float around you, and somehow defy gravity. There is soaking, freezing rain, and there's wind-driven rain that flies mostly sideways and hurts when it touches your skin. There's more, but you get the idea. Rain is sometimes briefly interrupted by sun, a temporary condition that lasts a few minutes and is widely celebrated with a wee dram of whiskey. Contrary to rumor, sunshine does exist in Scotland. I saw it twice, once in Edinburgh and once in the seaside town of Portree.

After doing some research, I chose to go in May which is supposed to have fairly good weather. In the winter months, Scotland is quite cold and has little daylight whereas May has very long days. The sun is up at around 5 a.m. and doesn't set until around 9:30 p.m. Another benefit is that in May the midges haven't appeared yet to torment you. The midges, also known as no-see-ums, are the price you pay for warm weather and no rain in Scotland, apparently. May is usually a good month, but this year, winter did not want to let go. It was rainy, windy, and cold. I thought I came prepared for bad weather, but I was not ready for the rugged weather up in the highlands or even for the wind and cold in Edinburgh.

I began my journey in Edinburgh. I had been there before so I did not do some of the things that you would want to do on your first visit, such as visit the Castle and some of the historic places along the Royal Mile. Before I set off on a five day journey to the Highlands and out to the Isle of Skye, I stayed in the old part of the city. A few good places to eat there are the White Hart Inn, the oldest known tavern. The food was good pub food. And there is the ever-popular Kick Ass Cafe. Another good place to eat is Prezzo's on the North Bridge, a reliably good chain with great flat bread pizza. It is reasonably priced and tempts you to come back by offering you a free bottle of prosecco. Who could say no to that? Edinburgh is a photogenic old city and a wee wander here and there is a great way to begin a visit to Scotland. Although the weather was chilly, the sun was out and everything was just beginning to bloom!

Posted by teethetrav 11:07 Archived in Scotland Tagged rain scotland edinburgh lochs highlands lowlands fairies scottish_isles Comments (0)

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