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Scottish Holiday

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  • Scottish Holiday

    This is more a blog than a post, but I hope you’ll forgive me and please read and enjoy. It’s not earth-shattering, just a family holiday full of love for my family, my ancestors and my country.

    This year, having turned 60, I had a strong desire to visit Scotland as our family holiday. In the past we’ve gone to Thailand, Philippines, elsewhere in Asia or stayed in Oman. However, since late last year I felt a strong urge to return to Scotland, like a migrating bird. Perhaps the thought of 60 made me feel my mortality a bit and not being sure if I would ever see Scotland again in the future, I had to come now. For me it was part personal pilgrimage, part great pride in showing my family round the country I love and part nostalgia for places which have been close to me and have family memories and ties. I wanted it to be fun as well as everything else whilst I didn’t want it organized into a dizzying check list of things we must do against the clock etc. I did make an error though, we had planned a fortnight and I should have planned longer to allow more time in Edinburgh. I started planning and booking about February based on a self-drive tour of the parts I wanted them to see. This also helped later as back-up for obtaining a UK visa for my wife. The only holiday event I paid in advance for was the Tattoo 10.30pm show on Saturday 17th August (with fireworks !).

    We flew on KLM from Muscat via Doha, Qatar to Schipol, then to Edinburgh. We picked up our hire mini-van at the airport and drove to our hotel, Masson House, in the grounds of the university’s Pollock Halls. First order of the day – fish supper !! Not sure about Edinburgh parking at lunch-time and being too early to book into our hotel, we drove down to Musselburgh and had a sit-in at a local chippie. Everything drizzled in chip-shop sauce – brilliant ! We had all been fantasizing for weeks about our first chip supper ! Later we booked into the hotel, had a rest, then in the evening went to a nearby Philippine restaurant (Rice Terraces) I’d seen on the internet (just in case my wife had an urge for Filipino food). The next couple of days were dominated by shopping around Princes St, my son jogging near Arthur’s Seat, full Scottish breakfasts at the Pollock Halls and eating out ! Running out of time, we missed intended visits to the street festival, the zoo, Bar Roma, Valvona E Crolla and Saigon Saigon Chinese restaurant. Those Scottish breakfasts were more filling than I’d imagined and it reduced our desire to eat out more often. However, we did go to a Spanish tapas restaurant, The Edinburgh Dungeon and the Tattoo.

    Here’s some of our Edinburgh snaps:-

    Outside Masson House Hotel waiting for our taxi to take us to Princes St.

    At Rice Terraces – it seems unusual to have a Filipino resto in Edinburgh, but this one is opposite uni buildings in St Leonards St and seems to get constant trade. The food was good and their lumpiang sariwa (fresh lumpia – like a large crepe lined with lettuce leaf and filled with minced pork and prawn, crunchy veg -bean sprouts, water chestnuts, carrots etc and coming with a pour-over soy/stock gravy with chopped roast peanuts) was the best I can remember, even in the Philippines.

  • #2
    At the Tattoo –

    Offering the Quaich for the Royal toast

    Anticipating the start of the show ! We could have done with torches like those to keep warm !

    “That” moment the pipe bands first appear !

    Magical lighting for the Korean performers.

    Amazing special lighting effects on the castle walls.

    More to follow......


    • #3

      The castle walls lit up for the Mexican mariachi band and dancers.

      Aztec warriors’ dance.

      Mexicans performing (note the women in death masks) – some of the performers stayed at the Pollock Halls.

      The very entertaining New Zealand army band.

      The Kiwis do it Gangnam style !

      It was bitterly cold up on the Esplanade, but I wasn’t expecting snow ! These Mongolians must have brought it with them !

      It’s the man – Genghis Khan ! Or according to a Billy Connolly story, a Glasgow couple called their son Genghis – Genghis McCann !

      The two drum-majors from both pipe-bands of the Royal Guard of Oman. One wears the specially designed Sultan Qaboos tartan on his plaid, while the other wears Douglas tartan as a tribute to the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) who helped the Sultan’s father keep his throne in the late 1950’s. The present Sultan also served in the 1st Cameronians in 1963/64 after he graduated from Sandhurst.

      During the finale.

      Awwww – it’s Cruachan IV, regimental mascot of the Royal Regiment of Scotland (and a Lance-Corporal). This new tradition from 2006 has been inherited from the Argylls who have had a pony mascot called Cruachan (I, II, III and now IV) since the late 1920’s. Sadly, it’s really the only Argylls tradition remaining in the RRS, with the battalion now being reduced to a public duties company.

      The road Noth - More to follow......


      • #4
        Great photies, Lachlan!

        Glad you had such a great time and looking forward to seeing more. I bet you got a gliff at some of the changes in wur ferr city?


        • #5
          some epic pics of the castle there mate

          love the flowery one


          • #6
            Thanks ! More coming ....


            • #7
              North to Pitlochry

              After leaving Edinburgh, we went North up the A9 to our next stop, Pitlochry.

              This part of Scotland is “Gow Central” to me, as it’s where my paternal ancestors come from. Though my Dad was born in Argyll, my Granddad came from Dalnaspidal, my Great-Granddad came from Blair Atholl (Glen Tilt) as did his father etc. They were all gamekeepers and deerstalkers. Their respective wives were local (including Kirkmichael nr Pitlochry) except for my Gran Gow (nee Weir) who came from Glendaruel, Argyll. So this trip was a homage and a trip down memory lane for me too, as my Granddad /Gran Gow and my Dad all moved from Kintyre, Argyll in late 1941 to Kirkmichael, my Granddad having retired from gamekeeping through ill-health and having to vacate the tied-house in Kintyre. When Granddad died in 1946, my Gran kept on the house in Kirkmichael as a B&B until the early 1960’s. We used to spend some summer holidays in Kirkmichael when I was a boy. So, nostalgia was on the cards, as was visit to Blair Castle, to show my family who my Great-Granddad worked for (The Duke of Atholl) as well as being a member of the Duke’s private army, The Atholl Highlanders.

              It was also a chance to do more “tartan” shopping and for my kids to let off some steam in the country. I had told my son and daughter about the bungee jump at Killiekrankie and they made it a priority “to do” ! They could also do canoeing and rafting if there was time ! I wanted to buy whisky as souvenirs at least near the source, so I bought a bottle each of Edradour, Blair Atholl and Dalwhinnie malts.

              We stayed at the Old Mill Inn, in the middle of Pitlochry. Just behind the main street on a pedestrianised lane, it is a really nice B&B/hotel. We’d booked a family room and it was newly decorated and furnished. It was spacious and luxurious. The food in the Inn was very good and yes, the Scottish breakfasts were superb. This was the first time we’d ever tried Charles MacLeod’s Stornoway black pudding and it was excellent ! Shopping was of course a main pursuit and more souvenirs, silver jewellery and clothing were bought. I bought a nice lambswool v-neck in James Pringle. We had to buy a new case for the stuff we were gathering.

              One day, we headed off to Kirkmichael along the picturesque winding road past the equally picturesque Edradour Distillery. Once in the village, we did the national lottery in the village shop (as you do, just in case !) and wandered around. The village shop has moved to the opposite side of the road at the village garage. The building where the shop used to be is now built up to become part of a house. When my Great Granddad died in 1896 in Dalnaspidal, his widow, Helen (my GGM of course) moved with her children (including my young Granddad) back to her home village where she ran the village shop. My Granddad’s childhood was spent in the flat above. Also in Kirkmichael, at the Enochdhu end of the village, was the house my Granddad and Gran moved into when he was forced to retire in 1941. Known as “Alpine Cottage”, it became a popular stop-off for cycling tourists after WW2. My Gran made the best sherry cream trifle in the World !!

              Alpine Cottage has a bit of the exotic East nearby. After the end of WW2, my Dad came home on leave from Burma/India. He had a chunk of the Taj Mahal in his kit ! When he visited the famous memorial, some local workers were doing renovations to the stonework. There were bits of discarded stone around and my Dad asked if he could take a bit as a souvenir. It was no problem and he came home with it to Scotland. Funny enough, there’s a tale attached to the Taj Mahal – if anyone steals from it, they will be cursed and die a horrible death etc. Luckily for him, he asked and got permission. So he told my Gran and, being Highland and deeply superstitious, she nearly had kittens and begged him to get rid of it. So he went out the back, up the hill and threw it into a field !

              The winters could be severe and a photo we have during the winter of 1942 shows the snow level above the top of the door and Ground Floor windows ! On another occasion, during a winter, my Dad went to the shed to get some logs of firewood and in the darkness of the shed “something stirred” and suddenly flew right over his shoulder. He quickly turned round to see a wildcat bounding away in the deep snow.

              My wife loved Pitlochry. A city girl (Manila) who usually needs noise and bustle even to sleep, she found the tranquility of Pitlochry really made her feel at peace. If I’d had a pile of cash to buy a place, I think she would have said yes !

              We also visited Blair Castle, partly to show my family this famous Scottish landmark and partly to check out more Gows. The fiddler Niel Gow was closely associated with the castle (the Duke was his patron) and I was almost duty-bound to visit his portrait and fiddle in the Great Hall. I was also introduced to the archivist who kindly tracked down information on my Great Grandfather, James Gow. “He was a gamekeeper at Gilberts Bridge (Glen Tilt) when he joined the Atholl Highlanders in 1871 aged 18 (height 6 feet). He retired from the Highlanders when he became footman to Dowager Duchess Anne at Dunkeld at the end of 1876. (wage £30 per annum)He rejoined the Highlanders in 1884 when he became keeper at Dalnaspidal aged 31, height 6 foot 2. He was still there when he died in 1896”. The archivist also showed me his signature used to sign for his wages. I was gobsmacked. His signature looked just like my Dad’s !

              We had tried to book a bungee jump for my 2 kids but they were only free on the day we were leaving to go over to the West, so we booked it. So, after packing up in Pitlochry, we were off to Highland Fling at the Killiekrankie Visitor’s Centre. We then piled into their van to take us to the Tummel Bridge where the jump was situated. It’s all very safety conscious but still looks scary from way below on the river bank. You can apparently choose your rope length and our daughter chose a shorter one (less ‘boing’ and stretch) and son chose the ‘wet your hair’ option. It only took seconds but they loved it ! Our daughter screamed as she fell into the abyss ! Then, back into the van, transferred to our bus and off we went, peeling off at Dalwhinnie and heading West.


              • #8
                North To Pitlochry

                The Old Mill Inn, Pitlochry. Great stay with its own pub just down the hall ! I forgot to ask if the pub did room service !

                The road from Pitlochry to Kirkmichael

                View from the bridge at Kirkmichael

                The left half (as you look it at) used to be the village shop. You can see the newer blocked up area where the window was. The shop and house above was home to Great Gran Helen Gow, Anne McCraw Gow, Jamesina Gow, John Gow, Donald Gow, James Gow (my Granddad) and William Gow. I hope they were all wee !

                Alpine Cottage, Kirkmichael. My Gran’s house where we used to go on some holidays. I wonder if the chewed white pudding I found on the hill behind the house about 1960 is still there ? The one thing missing from when I was wee was the smell of wood-smoke which was very noticeable back then.

                The llama, that well-known native of Kirkmichael. I also saw one imported from Tibet which was crazy, acting really weird – it was the Doolally Llama !

                Blair Castle – our new house don’t ye know ?

                Niel Gow’s portrait by Sir Henry Raeburn (who I think also invented the cooking range !). I remember a book by Sir Iain Moncrieffe of That Ilk on the Highland Clans which mentioned something like “many an English country house toilet boasted a copy of Raeburn’s famous portrait of Niel Gow, fiddling briskly in his tartan trews”. Yes, I think most male Gows have fiddled briskly in the toilet at some time or other !

                The Great Hall at Blair Castle – great for stag nights – boomboom !

                Bungee jumping at Killiekrankie – Our daughter looking in a “what have I just signed up for ?” moment !

                No turning back !

                How do it get back ?

                Who’s next for shaving ? – our son - let’s see what you’re made of (not literally of course) !

                Cowabungaaaaaaa !!!!

                Maybe guddle for a fish while you’re doon there son ?

                Next - over the hills to Oban.....
                Last edited by Lachlan09; 12 September 2013, 07:12.


                • #9
                  It sounds like you had an amazing holiday and I just love your pictures! I especially like the ones of the Castle and tattoo. I have seen snippets of it on YouTube and what a great show this year. Lucky you to have been there.

                  I must say I was very impressed with the New Zealand Army band. They looked like they were having the time of their life. Very well done. Made me proud to be a Kiwi.
                  Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
                  MLK Jr.


                  • #10
                    I'm really enjoying your Scottish Oddesy, Lachlan.


                    • #11
                      so wheres the pics of you doing the bunji?


                      • #12
                        Great holiday snaps Lachlan ,
                        and made fun to follow by your interesting commentary ,
                        cheers .

                        PS. Stop hogging the camera


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by tig View Post
                          so wheres the pics of you doing the bunji?
                          I'm too old and wise to put myself down for that !


                          • #14

                            The weather took a wee turn for the worse on the road to Roy Bridge etc and the traffic was at a snail’s pace as it followed a police-escorted heavy/wide low-loader transporting big heavy earth-shifting/moving equipment. Eventually we were allowed past and reached Fort William. We drove on until we reached God’s Country - Argyll, briefly stopping to take a photo or two at Castle Stalker. Then onto Oban.

                            We reached Oban about 6pm and checked into Glenburnie House, a large family-run B&B on the Dunollie Castle end of Corran Esplanade. It’s like a big Victorian country house, complete with homely creaky staircase, yet the rooms etc are all modern and spacious. We had two rooms, my wife and I having the top-floor front bay-window room. Amazing view – I could have spent all the time just looking out of the window across the bay toward Kerrera and Mull. But this was Oban and seafood beckoned ! We ate dinner next door at the Queen’s Hotel and delicious it was too.

                            Next day, Thursday, we unfortunately slept in and missed the march of the competing pipers up to Mossfield Park for the start of the Argyllshire Gathering aka Oban Highland Games. We had our full Scottish breakfast (with more Stornoway black pudding !) and headed off to the Games. It was a lovely day and yup, my wife found the silver craft stands ! I managed to find a rare Oor Wullie tee-shirt ! We watched the solo-piping and some dancing, races and such-like. Mid afternoon we headed off back to town and pottered around the shore. There were a lot of jellyfish in the bay, mainly the harmless clear “purple clover-leaf type” but also some of these nasty, reddy-brown ones with their guts hanging out. They’re the stuff of nightmares !

                            But it was time for food, this time another hotel along the Esplanade. My daughter was really getting the hang of mass-mussel eating ! I had some venison. Next day, we went on a boat trip across the bay and over to Mull, then back via Lismore. I hoped for more wildlife on the way, but we did see seals (of course), seabirds, deer and even a rare sea-eagle. But no dolphins or baskings ! Of course, we were on the less-bouncy sea-trip. The “hold on to your seat” Corryvrechan trips leave from Easdale. But that evening, seafood ! I confess, I had a dozen fresh oysters and would have had more but controlled myself. My daughter – she had mussels, my wife langoustines and various seafoods. Also more delicious local food. Our son hates seafood so he went off to Norries and got a saveloy supper till we met up.

                            Next day we tried our luck at Segway riding at Tralee Bay. I was amazed how quickly you can pick it up. You lean your body slightly forward to move forward, lean a little back to stop, further back to reverse and lean the control column and bar left to turn left and right to turn right. You can flex your knees on rough ground to take the bumps (like skiing) and lean over a little when going left and right (again like skiing). These were off-road Segways apparently and our teacher tried us on various slopes, bumps, mud-pools and sand tracks, plus obstacles before taking us into the sloping paths of the woods and lochan. It’s great fun and you think you’re going faster than you are – 13 mph max.

                            We also went to the Sealife Sanctuary at Benderloch. Of course, all this time we did shopping too and I bought a bottle of Oban plus a wee bottle of Tobermory for my collection. Then all too soon it was time to go. Farewell Oban !


                            • #15

                              Castle Stalker, Appin, Argyll

                              CalMac ferry arriving from Mull

                              A lovely sight to wake up to every morning !

                              At the games ! Is that my wife toting a machine gun on her shoulder ?

                              A nice day for the races !

                              This was only one of the piping competitions being held at the same time.

                              Oban High School Pipe Band in front of the clan tent.

                              McCaig’s Tower (or Folly)

                              Corran Esplanade looking toward Lismore etc.

                              Busy bay

                              “Just a wee deoch and dorus…..” I used to have a squeezy toy just like this, press down his red-cheeked tartan tam wearing ginger head and springy tartan body and he springs back up, making a loud squealy sound and raising his whisky glass. The reason why I don’t appear in front of the camera often !

                              Duart Castle, “Entrapment” film’s hideaway Big Sean Connery and Catherine Smith & Jones

                              Lachlan and Hazel on the tour boat – Lach looking cool !

                              The Gow clan passing Duart Castle.

                              “I like a tidy ship Cap’n Baines !” The Onedin Line sails again !

                              Disturbing their peace and quiet – sorry !

                              Lismore Lighthouse – soon ‘A Fagail Liosmor’ for us !

                              Dunollie Castle wearing camo (temperate pattern) !

                              A warming sight !

                              Cap’n Jack Sparrow and Barbossa had already gone to splice the mainbrace aaarrr !

                              Yup – you guessed – more mussels for Hazel ! Plus the first plate of my oyster binge ! The Tabasco wasn’t mine – honest !

                              Segways in formation – I wanted mirrors and lamps on mine. “We are the Mods, We are the Mods, We are, we are, we are the Mods” I know this photo looks boring but later we got taken into a woody hillside with lots of slippery slopes, muddy holes, tree roots and various other obstacles !

                              Awwwww cute otter at Benderloch Sealife Sanctuary.

                              The bridge crossing over the Atlantic at Clachan-Seil. Is this what Rod Stewart meant when he made that LP ?

                              Hazel and the Heilan’ Coo ! To capture the cow’s outraged expression, I asked Hazel to make me a cup of coffee !