The rest of us headed for Pitlochry. A town whose name which we had a lot of fun trying to pronounce. It was a good destination to hunt for woolen goods. And some of us got hooked. We wandered in and out of a number of shops. Vincent found a classic Royal Stewart tartan kilt for Sarah, with blouse and tam. Then we stumbled upon a second-hand clothing shop that had several kilts for gents in the window. I thought of Paul and said, "If Paul were to get a kilt, this is the type of shop at which we should be shopping." The next moment, I noticed Vincent asking the shopkeeper for waist sizes that would fit him, not Paul. Oh oh. Before I knew it, Vincent was trying on a kilt and asking me if he should buy it. I responded that I thought he should "sleep on it"; maybe good sense would prevail. I added that we should mention this kilt opportunity to Paul; if Paul and Vincent decided they just had to have a kilt, they could return the next day together.
|To my knowledge, Vincent doesn't have a drop of Scottish blood. He's part Irish though so I wonder if there's another kilt in his future if we get to Ireland?|
|Sarah in her new tartan outfit. Too cute.|
|Entrance to Blair Castle Caravan Park: The sun broke through the clouds at the end of the day, casting a lovely glowing light through the mist.|
After Vincent and Paul returned, we decided to try a round of golf at the 9-hole Blair Atholl Golf Club. We of course had to play golf in Scotland. It was tough convincing Sarah and Paul that they shouldn't wear their kilts playing golf, but we succeeded. The Blair Atholl Golf Course is a good course, challenging and long (for a 9-hole course) but with very few water hazards. It was apparently designed by James Braid who is viewed as one of one of golf's greatest course designers, having designed the Gleneagles and Angus Courses, to name but a few.
Our kids, who have not yet had any proper instruction on the technique or rules of golf, made it pretty distracting (good practice however for honing in on "focus" skills). I did manage to par one hole (a par 3) but by the 7th hole my ability to block out external chaos was dwindling. That, together with the rain (probably just defined as a "mist" by the locals), made my shaky game go south. Nevertheless, it was a treat to (a) be out on the golf course again in (b) Scotland, of all places.
|Sarah giving golf a go. She didn't hit very far but her form looks good; so does the tam.|
|Paul and James both enjoyed playing golf. Note to self: I need to register them for lessons when we return home.|
|Paul and Sarah fishing out Mom's golf ball on the 8th hole.|
|9th hole: Vince, now wearing Sarah's tam, catching rain drops. Paul's off on the first hole looking for balls.|
After lunch at a very good French restaurant (Restaurant Breizh, Bretagne cuisine) and some tasty galettes, we headed for Scone Palace (pronounced more like "Skuwwnne"). Scone Palace was once the crowning place of the Kings of Scots, including Macbeth and Robert The Bruce. Situated above the River Tay, Scone Palace had a very strategic location overlooking the routes north to the Highlands and east through Strathmore to the coast. It was also the original home of the celebrated Stone of Scone - also known as the Stone of Destiny or the Coronation Stone (in England) - until it was taken by Edward I of England to Westminster in 1296.
|The family walking towards Scone Palace.|
|There were a number of peacocks milling about.|
|On the Palace property is Scone Abbey. In the bottom right-hand corner of the photo is a replica of the Stone of Scone.|
|Vincent overlooking the Murray Star Maze. The kids were all lost somewhere down there.|
|This photo was taken having just arrived in Pitlochry. Sarah, Vince and Paul all look great in their kilts.|
|Walking towards the games. Apparently someone from Kansas approached Paul and Vincent and asked them how they keep their kilts so nice. (Well, it helps when you've only owned them for 48 hours!)|
The Highland Games started about 10:30 with the shot put, hammer throwing, caber tossing and dancing competitions, as well as some relay races.
|Highland dancing competitions, for various age groups, went on throughout the day. Each girl was lovely with hair arranged in a perfect bun on the back of her head.|
|These bands were all fabulous.|
|I wish I could have included a picture of each band.|
|Vince surmised that the kilts one finds in second hand shops are from people who were once in a pipe band.|
|The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, Pipe Band.|
|This man had just thrown the shot (red sphere in flight). The event was sponsored by the local whiskey distillery, Edradour.|
|Individual pipers were assessed during the day.|
|This dancer won award at the end of the day. Here you can see preparation for a caber toss in the background.|
|Tug of war: Both sides could be in the above static position, without either side moving, for 10 minutes or longer. The announcer would often report on other events and then check back in on the tug of war to update if there had been any progress.|
|Fun to see so many men in full Scottish dress. Beautiful tartans. A men's kilt will either have 5 or 8 yards of fabric. Kilts with 5 yards are obviously lighter so I expect those competing in their kilts were wearing the lighter version.|
|The Scottish know how to raise money for their high school and other local causes; buy 5 raffle tickets for £1 and you could win a bottle of whiskey, wine or vodka. If you're not so lucky, you may go home with a bottle of mustard or HP Sauce.|
|There were kids games, like the bean bag toss, with Scottish themes and promises of "free Haggis if you lose".|
|Paul, lining up with the other 10 to 14 year old boys. What a cool kid to run, in a kilt no less. A few other lads (not pictured) also ran in kilts.|
|And they're off! Paul didn't win but he got full credit from me for participating.|
|Paul, Vince and Molly in the stands enjoying the games.|
|At the close of the games, all 23 pipe bands joined together for a finale. This snap shows about a third of them. It was really something to see and hear.|
|Wear the kilt over the soft bathrobe and the problem of itchy wool is solved! (By the way, that gas heater at Paul's feet was our most appreciated piece of equipment.)|
Vince fired up his laptop for some ideas on how to troubleshoot the latest problem. He also started calling around to find someone that would sell RainX (window treatment that makes water slide off windows) which hopefully would help visibility if the wipers stopped when driving (assuming he actually got them started). While searching the internet he found some wiper advice which made no sense but since we had nothing to lose, Vince tried it: Turn the steering wheel hard left, then hard right and then back to a neutral position and the wipers should/could work. He tried it and it did. Go figure. So we were off.
We had two stops along the way. The first to get the RainX and the second to fill up our propane gas tank at the only propane dealer north of Inverness. (We needed to keep our gas heater fed.) The propane refill turned out to be more problematic than expected. The fitting didn't connect well with our tank and, if it hadn't been for another customer coming along who also needed propane, we might not have been successful.
|Arriving at John O'Groats Caravan and Camping Site. A rainbow had just formed below the rain cloud.|
|Finally parked at John O'Groats Caravan and Camping Site, overlooking the North Sea.|
|During gale-like gusts of wind, a kind passerby offered to take a photo of James and me. The Castle of Mey is in the background.|
|A view of the shore from the Castle of Mey. The sky was filled with dark rain clouds but there was a small break with sun shining through lighting the surf.|
|Another photo of the shoreline from the Castle of Mey grounds.|
|In one of the Castle of Mey barns, they held a farm animal exhibit. They had live birds, rabbits and various chickens, and lots of information about the British woolen industry. Here, James is figuring out how to milk a cow.|
On September 17th, we woke up to an inside temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit with the day's weather predicted to be much like yesterday. Cold, rain and high winds. We decided to pass on the Orkney Islands and head south. We aimed to go as far as Lairg and stop along the way at the Dunrobin Castle near Golspie, recommended by a friend with the surname Sutherland.
We arrived at Dunrobin Castle just in time to catch most of the falconry demonstration. It was certainly worth stopping for this, particularly with the kids along.
|The Peregrine Falcon was fast and fun to watch. It had a bell so one could follow where it was flying. It responded to the handler's calls and apparently wouldn't fly away because it knew it was better off with the handler than without him.|
|At the end of the demonstration, each of the kids got their picture taken with the owl.|
|The Dunrobin Castle itself has many richly decorated rooms and beautiful grounds. Sarah is dwarfed by the majestic view behind her.|
|A view of the gardens, and sea beyond, from Dunrobin Castle. I'm reminded of what inspired my boxwood-edged gardens at home. Maybe a few more of these estates will motivate me to complete the vision (on a much smaller scale) when I return.|
|It didn't take long for the boys to find the minimalist playground.|
|No one was happier than Molly with this spot, allowed to run free. This dog was at home in Scotland and loved pursuing her favorite pastime, chasing a tennis ball.|