Friday, April 3, 2015

Scotland: From Inverness (down to Loch Ness and back) to Glamis Castle and Dundee

After so many hours on the road yesterday, I was exhausted last night and slept like the dead in my tiny room from 10-4:30am. Then I woke up for an hour or so and back to sleep until 9. It was great. A true holiday.

It was raining this morning, but not heavily. The drive down to Loch Ness (to buy my "Nessy" t-shirt) was along the same windy road I'd enjoyed so much yesterday. It's not as much fun in the rain and mud, but it wasn't that long on the road. 16 miles each way.

Then off to Glamis Castle (pronounced Gla-ms, like Glahms). The drive today wasn't as fun as yesterday for the 1st hour because I was in traffic on a fairly main road. We were traveling at 40 or 50 in a 60 or 70 zone - so we were moving, but slower than we all wanted. But then for the next hour or hour and a half, the rain cleared up and I felt like I was on my very own private road to the middle of nowhere. It was great. I got to drive through some snowy mountains (or, more likely, hills), saw lots of sheep, a few highland cows, beautiful birds, new windy roads and a great big castle!

Feel free to read up on Glamis castle here. It was the first day of the season for tours; they'd been closed for the winter. Good timing on my part. Also good timing was that when I showed up, a tour was starting in 5 minutes!

I wasn't allowed to take pictures on the tour, which is a bummer because there was some cool stuff inside. The best was the chapel. It was a fairly small room, which could hold maybe 45 people tops. There were 90 (or so) paintings in the room. Mostly painted directly on the ceiling. I did manage a sneaky photo of it, though it didn't turn out that great. After the tour, I ate a delicious (I mean D-licious!) meal of sea bass, new potatoes and a salad from the castle garden. Overall, the castle (and the meal) was pretty brilliant.

I am sure I didn't learn much about the history because I'm not up on my Kings and Queens but I can tell you that the Queen Mum (that's the current queen's mother, who died in 2002) spent her childhood here. Her sister was actually born in the castle. Here are the sparse facts I managed to remember:
  • Mary Queen of Scots' father (James V) was banned from the castle for having Lady Glamis burned alive. He couldn't charge her with anything legit, so he said she was a witch.
  • One of the Earl's was good friends with William Shakespeare - apparently this is the castle from Macbeth.
  • 130 Years ago, the family (Bowes-Lyon) had a pet bear who got out one day into the garden and was killed by a Highland Cow. 
  • This castle is haunted. The story goes that the Queen Mum's sister was going to go into the chapel to practice on the piano. She peered through the window in the door and saw a woman standing at the pulpit. She waited an hour for her to finish up, only to find that there was no one in the chapel.
  • Most of the original artifacts from the castle were burned or stolen due to the many raids, wars, etc.
  • During WWI, the castle was used by the army as a hospital...and the boys really screwed up the place, putting cigarette burns in the HUGE billiards table, etc.
  • The Powder Room was the smallest room in the house and it was manned by a servant. After a long night of drinking by the fire, a man's make-up would harden and his head would be itchy because of the wig (and the lice). Men wore thick make up to hid their small pox scars, but then make-up became fashionable. Anyway, the man would head into the powder room - squeezing in there with all his attire, take off his wig and hand it to the servant. The servant would shake out the wig (and step on any bugs that fell out), refresh the man's make-up, powder the wig with any color so chosen and out would step the man...fresh and fancy.
  • Any finally, I learned that the phrase "top drawer" meaning "of the best quality" comes from a literal set of drawers. The king's chest of drawers had 7 drawers. One for each day of the week. Sunday Best was on top. 
Oh and you know the movie "The King's Speech", I got to see the desk that the actual king used to write out the speech. Neat.

Now I'm in a town called Dundee. If I thought Glasgow roads were hard to figure out, Dundee showed me a whole new level of confusing.

It is at this point that I want to say THANK GOD for the invention of the GPS. Without it I'd never have gotten out of Glasgow, let alone gone all over Scotland!


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