Trip To Scotland
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
My plans changed several times today. They first changed last night. After posting yesterday, if you'll remember, I was headed out with a woman named Lois Cameron and her family. Her husband is John, but his last name is different...Kape, I think. Anyway, I was invited to tea and then to the Taize service.
I am slowly learning that "tea" means "supper." This was made abundantly clear last night when I arrived for "tea" and was served lasagna, garlic bread, and salad. And no tea!
We headed to St. Mary's Catholic Church in Stirling for the service. It was locked, but some people had gathered outside. St. Mary's is just up the street from the Methodist Church, so we went down there and had the service in the sanctuary. Again I will say that it was nice to be able to pull the chairs around in an intimate circle. There were only about 7 of us, but it was a lovely evening, led by an elderly Anglican gentleman. There were two Anglicans, four Methodists and a Catholic.
At Lois's home, the table was full of people as well as food. They have three children. The oldest boy, Joe, was there with his girlfriend, who is from Manassas Virginia. Get this. She is returning to the states on my exact flight on Aug. 31! So we'll spend our four hour layover in Iceland together. Rumor has it that during the layover the airline takes us out to the hot springs. That would be cool. I've been there...seems to me that might be near the statue of Snorri Sturluson.
I had an interesting exchange as we were waiting for the meal to be ready. I commented on the conga drum in the living room (and then learned that Lois was raised in Kenya). I then saw a guitar and asked who played. The answer was that Joe played quite well...had learned in the US. Joe was there. I said to him..."Gee, how about playing in church?" I told about the band at our church. Lois jumped in quickly, "Joe doesn't go to church." Joe responded just as quickly, "I would to play in a band." John, if you are reading this, take note. A band in church is an outreach opportunity.
While driving home with Lois last night, I told her my plans to head to Loch Ness today. "Are you going to stay overnight?" she asked. "It's a long way up." I told her no, but after I got home, I began to think about it. It's about a four hour drive up to Inverness, and the more I thought about it and saw that there were other things up that way to see, the more I thought I might do just that. So I've put that trip off until after my last Sunday at Stirling, so I can feel more free to be away overnight.
Today I set out for Loch Lomond instead. After a harrowing exit from Stirling on the A811, I was on my way. The house where I am staying is on the north side of the city. The A811, which I wanted, is in the south. So I had my first real test of city driving. I escaped with my life. Back out in the country, I was zipping along when I passed a sign for Inchmahome Priory. Something told me I should stop, but I had already gone by. I pulled over at the next place that I could to turn around. It was at that point that I discovered that I had left my camera back at the house. I was about an hour out, but I turned around and went back. I was afraid to return through the city, so I took a longer detour through Callander.
Then back I went. This time I turned down the road toward Inchmahome Priory. The road went on and on. At last I arrived at the car park. The Priory is on an island. There was an empty stone pier and a signboard on a post that was black on one side and white on the other. Instructions said to turn the white part of the sign toward the island to call the ferry. So I did. These kept me company as I waited.
At last the ferry, the "Mary Queen Of Scots" arrived.
We headed for Inchmahome.
As you can see, bright and sunny were not amongst the weather options.
At last we arrived on the island. Here Robert the Bruce had come (places here bear his name much as the "George Washington slept here" placards in the US.) and also Mary Queen of Scots had been taken here for safety. Here is the entrance to what was the church.
And inside the church...
Here are other parts of the priory.
This card tells you more.
Supposedly this guy Walter is a relative. Here's the tomb itself.
By the time I left the island, it was beginning to rain. I decided that a visit to Loch Lomond, which is supposed to have some of the finest scenery in all Scotland, should wait for a day when I could actually see it. So I redid my plans again and headed north toward the Robertson territory around the loch and river Tay. I came to the town of Killin.
Well, this was just outside the town. In the visitor center at Killin I discovered the healing stones of St. Fillan. There were slips of paper to take away which read, "The healing stones were blessed by the patron saint of this district, Saint Fillan, towards the end of the 7th century. They are consequently 12 centuries old. They are the last relic of Saint Fillan to be preserved on the site of his labours. The stones were used for the purpose of healing ailments of the body. By tradition, the layer of river wrack, straws and twigs on which the stones are bedded, is changed every Christmas Eve. The 20th of January each year is observed as St. Fillan's Day and on that day no work is carried out in the mill building." The stones were under glass. Here they are.
If there are any MacNab's reading this blog, here is your ancestral burial site. You can get keys down into it from the visitor's center.
This is a bird. I have no idea what kind.
This was a day of birds. There were of course the swans, and some very friendly ducks on the island. There were several herons, and as I went up into the Highlands, hawks. The drive into the Highlands...my first real foray into that area, was lovely, even in the mist. I'm sure I went through places that are spectacular in sunlight and full view, but somehow it seemed right that today they should be veiled, like a bride before she is truly known.
The beginning part of the drive reminded me somwhat of the Great Smokies...espcially the smoky part. Take the Smokies, replace all the wooden structures with stone, stick in a lot of rocks, and cover the place with sheep.
"There are some who call me...Tim."
I have toyed with the idea of a "sheep of the day" picture. Here is the cow of the day. This one is not a tourist attraction, like Hamish. I suppose that means you could feed him cakes and pull on his horns.
Through the mists, here is Loch Tay.
On the north side of the River Tay lies the sleepy village of Fortingall.
It's a single track road, about 6-7 homes.
In the field to the right above is this marker...on a mound where lie buried the plague victims from the 1400's.
And just a bit further up the road is the oldest living thing in all of Europe, perhaps in the world. A 5,000 year-old yew tree...the Fortingall Yew.
It sits in the village church yard. A fence has been built around it to protect it. The trunk used to have a circumference of 56 feet. It is now less than a quarter of that, thanks to souvenir hunters before the tree was walled in. Here is a look behind the wall.
The small upright stones in the back mark where the circumference of the trunk used to be. The ones on this side are further out than the picture. Here is another angle. Here, pedestals have been built to support the branches.
One more look at trunk and markers.
While we're doing ancient, step into the Fortingall church. Here is a handbell used by St. Cedd, a disciple of St. Aidan...650 AD. It is said to possess curative powers. Between this and St. Fillan's stones, I should be just fine!
After leaving Fortingall, I headed around to the south side of the River Tay, looking for an ancient stone circle that was supposed to be there. I ended up at the Crannog Centre. What's a crannog, you say? This is a crannog.
I missed the last tour of the day (you can see the weather never improved), which would tell me more, but as I remember, this was the way some ancient Celts on the river lived. The walkway could be cut out, making it safe from intruders. I knew the Crannog Centre was after the stone circles, so I asked in the gift shop where they were. The woman was kind enough to draw me a detailed map. I had driven right by. This is what it looks like from the road.
There are no signs...nothing. It's in someone's yard. A closer look.
Here is a placard about the stones. Hope it's legible.
The dark brown and blue stones on the map are still standing. The brown and blue outlined stones are fallen.
Thanks to the timing feature on my camera and a handy stone to set it on...
Some stones were quite large.
While there, I visited with four people from Holland and helped them figure out the words they didn't understand on the placard. The man's English was the best, and we talked about talking to trees while two of the women lay down in the center of the circle and meditated.
About 6 pm I headed for home, which was about an hour and a half away in good weather. It wasn't good weather. The rain started to come down much harder...very effective as I drove through my first moor. Bleak indeed! One word about stone walls. Almost all the stone walls here are much more finely done than ours at home. The rocks are small and long, as opposed to ours that are typically big and round. Here's an example.
The tops are generaly finished off some way...some like this, others with rocks sticking up like spikes. They line many roads and are often twice or more the height of ours at home. It can feel like driving through a tunnel at times, although the wall is usually only on one side. But the road can run quite a bit below the ground level on the other side...or sometimes there are tall hedges.
Well, it is 10:17 pm and it looks like I will be doing my first night driving, since I am over at the University. I won't hazard a guess at what I will be doing tomorrow, except that I will be joining some church members for coffee about 10 am.