Category Archives: 2013 Baltic and Britain

2013 Summer (Baltic and Britain – Northern Ireland – July 29 – Day 5 – Part 3)

The Giant’s Causeway is an area of approximately 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic fissure eruption. In a 2005 poll, the Giant’s Causeway was named as the fourth greatest natural wonder in the United Kingdom.  Our children were 9 and 11 when we were first here and they loved clambering around on the columns.

The tops of the columns form stepping stones that lead from the foot of the cliff and disappear into the sea.  Most of the columns are hexagonal, although there are also some with four, five, seven or eight sides. The tallest are about 12 meters (39 ft) high, and the solidified lava in the cliffs is 28 meters (92 ft) thick in places.

Much of the Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast World Heritage Site is today owned and managed by the National Trust and it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Northern Ireland. Access to the Giant’s Causeway is free of charge: it is not necessary to go via the visitors center, which charges a fee.The design of the Visitor’s Center obviously mimics the columns of the Causeway.  This  building  was  not  here  in  1986. I couldn’t remember the details of the legend we had been told on our first visit so I looked it up on the internet.  You just have to love Google!  “According to legend, the columns are the remains of a causeway built by a giant. The story goes that the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool), from the Fenian Cycle of Gaelic mythology, was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner.  Fionn accepted the challenge and built the causeway across the North Channel so that the two giants could meet. In one version of the story, Fionn defeats Benandonner.  In another, Fionn hides from Benandonner when he realizes that his foe is much bigger than he is. Fionn’s wife, Oonagh, disguises Fionn as a baby and tucks him in a cradle. When Benandonner sees the size of the ‘baby’, he reckons that its father, Fionn, must be a giant among giants. He flees back to Scotland in fright, destroying the causeway behind him so that Fionn would be unable to chase him down. Across the sea, there are identical basalt columns (a part of the same ancient lava flow) at Fingal’s Cave on the Scottish isle of Staffa, and it is possible that the story was influenced by this.” The pathway goes around the cove and over to the cliff side columns.  This big set is called the Pipe Organ. There was a bit of Irish mist, but the rain wasn’t too bad so we still enjoyed our walk around. It was really nice to be back at this amazing place. The causeway disappears into the North Sea. It was getting late by the time we were ready to leave and the sun was beginning to set.  It  cast  such  a pretty  yellow  shade. We arrived back at Clenahagn’s at 7 pm, had some supper and went to bed satisfied with our wonderful day in Northern Ireland.

The next day, July 30 was our last day.  Colin came over in the morning and we went into the town of Markethill and did some window shopping .  We returned to our apartment mid-afternoon. and had dinner in Clenaghan’s pub.  We checked out the next morning and drove to Belfast International Airport to catch our plane home, only to find were at the wrong airport!  By then we had returned our rental car and were stranded.  One of the Customer Service Volunteers hailed a taxi driven by a friend of his and told him our problem.  We were assured we would arrive at the Belfast City Airport in time to make our flight.  We did – just – and only because he drove like a mad fool to get us there.  Whew.

So, finally our trip to Scotland to attend our son’s July 22 wedding had ended.  We left home May 31; took a 17-day Baltic cruise, spent a week in London, and then toured around Scotland for over three weeks.  We attended the wedding and then spent a week in Northern Ireland before returning home July 30.  Now that was a great way to “go to a wedding!”

This is my final catch-up blog.  I have now written a blog series about all of the long trips, either by cruise ship or by road, that we have taken since we retired in 2007.  Hopefully, there will be some new journeys to write about in the future. Thanks for coming along.

2013 Summer (Baltic and Britain – Northern Ireland – July 29 – Day 5 – Part 2)

Our first main stop on the drive up the Antrim coast was at Torr Head which was a lovely viewpoint.

There were just enough clouds and blue sky to make all the lovely greens of Ireland show beautifully. Heather grows and blooms in the most rugged places. I love the gloomy clouds on the horizon in this shot. This mule was very curious as we drove past. When we drove this coast with our friend Colin in 1986 we stopped at Carrick-a-Rede Bridge, which was traditionally a rope bridge strung across the rocks during salmon fishing season.  It became a popular jaunt for people to cross and was made ‘permanent’ for tourists to use.  Since we were there in ’86 the pathway, stairway, and bridge have been upgraded from the dirt path, rugged rocks, single slat base and plain ropes for handholds that we had used to make the crossing.   Now the access and the bridge are much more stable.

Fishermen still use the area during salmon season and the boats are brought up onto the rocks during the off-season. There is a large sign that says “No more than six people on the bridge at one time.”  This was ignored by most people.  When I was crossing a large family group just tromped onto the bridge after me. There is not much left Dunseverick Castle. Our next stop was the Giant’s Causeway, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site since our last visit.

2013 Summer (Baltic and Britain – Northern Ireland – July 29 – Day 5 – Part 1)

I was woken at 6:30 am by water pouring out of the ceiling light fixture onto my legs and the bed.  Apparently it was coming from the upstairs shower.  By the time we got things mopped up we decided to just stay up. We left at 10:30 to go north up the Antrim Coast – a very scenic drive. We remembered this section of the road.  The kids had a great time climbing on all the huge white rocks. One must marvel at the width of some of the roads. This is a main coastal road and yet it is just barely two lanes wide.  I don’t believe I would ever tire of the myriad shades of green in Ireland!  I love this country.

Northern Ireland  also  has  its  share  of  castle  and  abbey  ruins.

2013 Summer (Baltic and Britain – Northern Ireland – July 26-28 – Day 2-4)

We went to Northern Ireland after our son’s wedding to visit our good friend Colin and his family.  The majority of our time was spent doing just that.

On the 26th we lazed around our apartment and uploaded wedding photos for the folks at home to see.  On the 27th, Colin took some time off work and came to visit for a few hours.  After he left in the afternoon. we took a drive to locate his church where we would be attending service the next day.  We had been there before, but we were staying in a different part of the country from the last time, so we needed to find the route and note the driving time. The  church  hall  is  located  across  the  street  and  had  been  built  since  our  last  visit.July 28 was Sunday so we attended church, then went home with Colin’s wife while he went to his second church to do the service.  When Colin go home we all had lunch and then went to visit Cathy’s parents, after which we went to visit Coin’s parents whom we had stayed with when we came over in 1994 for Colin and Cathy’s wedding. Colin and Cathy’s little dog liked John.  Once again it was after 10 PM by the time we got back to our apartment. The next day was our only touring day.  We took a drive up the Antrim Coast.  A trip we had taken with Colin in 1986 on our first visit to Northern Ireland.  It was grand to see all the sights again.

2013 Summer (Baltic and Britain – Scotland – July 24 – Day 31 and Northern Ireland – July 25 – Day 1)

Our last day in Edinburgh (July 24) was spent lazily.  We met with our daughter and her husband for lunch, checked the trains to Glasgow for them as they were flying home from there, checked out of our spacious apartment and drove to the airport for our short flight to Belfast, Northern Ireland.

We have a dear friend in Northern Ireland.  We met him in 1980 when he came to our town as a student minister to help our church with their summer youth programs.  He stayed at our house for four months and returned to BC for a visit in 1982.  Our family visited him in 1986 and we were back again in 1994 when John was Best Man at Colin’s wedding.  Since we were in Scotland for Joseph’s wedding we decided we were much too close to Northern Ireland to not go visit him and his family.

The flight is only about an hour. We had a bit of a problem at the airport when we went to check in.  Our travel agent had booked all our flights for the trip and we did not know that the airline we were to fly on was a quick commuter that only allowed one carry-on bag.  John and I each had three – me with my purse, my camera bag and my carry-on and John with his carry-on, camera bag and laptop.  We were told we had to consolidate everything into one bag before we could board; which really doesn’t make a lot of sense because the combined weight of the items is the same whether they are in one place or three, but whatever.  Well, of course there was not room in our carry-on bags for our other items.  I eventually just told the staff to take our checked bags off the plane and we would make new arrangements to fly on another airline.  They didn’t want to do that either.  The upshot was that the plane was fully boarded and waiting for us before the check-in lady called the captain and received permission for us to get on with all our extra pieces.  If we had know about the carry-on restriction in advance we would have packed differently, but we didn’t know.  It would have been no problem for us to get a different flight another time, but, even though they wouldn’t let us on board because we had too many carry-on items, they also wouldn’t take our checked bags off so we could take a different airline.  Sometimes traveling can be quite interesting.

We had rented a place with a full-kitchen for the week we would be in Northern Ireland, so once we had  deplaned we picked up our rental car and set off to find the place.Clenaghan’s is not in a town. It is in farm country and used to be a farm. All the buildings are made of stone.  The building on the corner is the local pub.  We were located around the back in a very quiet corner unit. The doorway in the corner near the red flowers is the entrance to our place.  The two  doors  below  also  access  rental  units,  but  we  didn’t  see  anyone  in  them  while  we  were  there. We settled in and called our friend to let him know we had arrived.  He and his wife and two children came over the next day and we all took the train to Belfast and had an enjoyable time at The Titanic Experience.  The ship had been built in Northern Ireland.  By the time we arrived back at  Clenaghan’s and our friends left it was 10 pm. It was wonderful to see Colin and Cathy again and to meet the children.  We had a great first day in Northern Ireland.


2013 Summer (Baltic and Britain – Scotland – July 23 – Day 30 – Part 2)

After we finished walking around Jedburgh we headed back toward Edinburgh, making a couple of stops.  The first was at the Rhymer’s Stone,  which  is  just  outside  the  town  of  Melrose.Rhymer’s Stone is a combination memorial stone and viewpoint.  It was erected in 1929 by the Melrose Literary Society and marks the spot on which the fabled Eildon Tree once grew. It was under this tree that Thomas the Rhymer took a fateful nap while hunting on the estate of Melrose Abbey. He was awakened by the Queen of Elfland, who he kissed. He then spent seven years with her in the Land of the Elves before returning to his home in Earlston for seven years, then disappearing for good: presumably back to the Land of the Elves. Thomas Rhymer was also known as “True Thomas.”  He was born in 1220 and had a reputation for making accurate predictions; including the death of Alexander III falling from a horse in 1286.  He was also said to have several supernatural powers to rival the great magician Merlin.

Next, we drove into Melrose and visited the Abbey.St Mary’s Abbey, Melrose is a partialy ruined monastery of the Cistercian order in the Scottish Borders. It was founded in 1136 by Cistercian monks at the request of King David I of Scotland, and was the chief house of that order in the country until the Reformation. The east end of the abbey was completed in 1146. Other buildings in the complex were added over the next 50 years. The abbey was built in the Gothic manner, and in the form of a St. John’s Cross. It never ceases to boggle my mind that these enormous and beautiful structures were all built with hand tools and simple wooded scaffolding!  Absolutely astounding. Alexander II and other Scottish kings and nobles are buried at the abbey.  A lead container believed to hold the embalmed heart of Robert the Bruce was found in 1921 below the Chapter House site; it was found again in a 1998 excavation. This was documented in records of his death. The rest of his body is buried in Dunfermline Abbey. We headed back to Edinburgh, arriving just after 6 pm and checked into our unit at the Playhouse Apartments.  We were staying for just the one night but the place was outfitted for a crowd to live in for weeks.  There were 4 bedrooms containing one king-size bed, 7 single beds, two sets of bunk beds and three hide-a-bed sofas in the living room.  The place was equipped with two refrigerators, one freezer,  and three full bathrooms.  Our daughter and her husband had another unit in the same complex and they too had several rooms.  Nothing in the information indicated the size of these places when we booked them and the price was that of a regular hotel room.  We could have housed half the wedding guests between the two apartments.  You encounter the strangest things sometimes when you travel.

2013 Summer (Baltic and Britain – Scotland – July 23 – Day 30 – Part 1)

My mother was born in Scotland and her maiden name was Young Her parents emigrated to Canada in 1930, when my mother was only 8 1/2 months old.

According to the internet: “The name Young in Scotland is synonymous with Younger, which was used to describe the heir to a feudal title.  Earliest records of the name in Scotland include Malmor and Ade Young who appear at Dumbarton in 1271.  In 1439 Alexander Young was chaplain to the House of the Holy Trinity in Aberdeen.  Peter Young became assistant preceptor to the three-year-old James VI of Scotland, upon the recommendation of the Regent Moray in 1569.   He was knighted at Whitehall in 1605. Sir Peter Young had a large family and many of them rose to enjoy royal patronage.”

Clan Young no longer has a hereditary chief so it is considered an armigerous clan. Wikipedia defines an armigerous clan as: “A Scottish clan, family or name which is registered with the Court of the Lord Lyon and once had a chief who bore undifferenced arms, but does not have a chief currently recognized as such by Lyon Court. Before 1745 all chiefs had arms; however, not all of these are recorded in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland, which was only established in 1672.

In Scottish heraldry only chiefs or heads of clans, families, or names bear undifferenced arms. A clan is considered a “noble incorporation” because a clan chief is a title of honour in Scotland and the chief confers his or her noble status onto the clan. Because armigerous clans do not have such chiefs, they are not recognised as noble communities and have no legal standing under Scots law.Jedburgh lies on the Jed Water, a tributary of the River Teviot, 16 km (10 miles) from the border with England, and is dominated by the substantial ruins of Jedburgh Abbey.   The abbey was founded in 1147, but border wars with England in the 16th century left it a ruin. David I built a  castle at Jedburgh, and in 1174 it was one of five fortresses ceded to England. It was an occasional royal residence for the Scots but was demolished in 1409. The proximity to England made it subject to raids and skirmishes by both Scottish and English forces but its strategic position also brought the town valuable trade. At various times and at various locations the town supported a horse market, a cattle market, a corn market and a butcher market. Farm workers and servants also attended hiring fairs seeking employment

Jedburgh Castle is located not far from the Abbey ruins.

2013 Summer (Baltic and Britain – Scotland – July 22 – Day 29)

July 22 was my father’s birthday, so I found it very special that my son chose to be married on that day.  We had thoroughly enjoyed our trip since leaving home on May 31.   Now, at last, we had arrived at the day that was the reason for this incredible journey.  Our son’s wedding day!

The day dawned beautifully sunny and hot (by Scottish standards). Temperatures reached about 27° C (almost 81 °F).  We were in the midst of the most notable heat wave in the UK since 2006.  The country experienced over 250 hours of sunshine that summer, which is about 145% above average.  It was the third sunniest July since 1929.  We loved it, but the groom and his attendants were cooking in their wool jackets and vests!

The entire wedding event was organized by Lorna of OXOX Design and Events via email and Skype between Dubai and Inverness;  and there was not a hitch all day – at least there were none that any of us was aware of.  It was an awesome day and one of the most fun, and definitely the most unique wedding I have ever attended.

Everything took place at beautiful Dalhousie Castle.  In the morning the bride, her sister  Anne, who was her matron of honour, her niece Christina, who was bridesmaid, her mother Jill,  my daughter Trish, and I settled in Carrie’s room and had our hair and make-up professionally done by two talented ladies. We were even brought a light lunch!

The wedding was to take place in the castle chapel at 3 pm.  Our son and his two friends, Perry his Best Man, and Andrew his Groomsman were in Joseph’s room figuring out how to put on all the pieces of a traditional Scots dress kilt.   They  were wearing  the Black Watch  Tartan.Perry’s wife Becca took some nice photos of the fellows when they were ready. Meanwhile, in the bride’s bedroom, final preparations were being made.

 The guests gathered in a reception room and sipped a beverage until the piper arrived and escorted us to the chapel. And, finally, all was ready.   The men arrived and took their places.   (A slightly  out-of-focus  photo  taken  by  the  excited  mom.  Haha.)The bride and her attendants were piped into the chapel. And the ceremony began…The  eight  photos  below  are the under the copyright of Charné  Hawkes  of  Captivating  Photography,  Inverness,  Scotland.Bonnie, the little white owl, brought in  the wedding rings. She liked the nice tall tree branch that was Joseph’s arm and refused to fly back to the handler.  Joseph had to launch her off.  Everyone had a good laugh. The proud and happy mom and dad of the groom.And  the  bride. (Image above is copyrighted to Charné Hawkes of Captivating Photography, Inverness, Scotland)Time for photos of the bride and groom with  their families and attendants before spiriting the wedding party away for a photo shoot on the castle grounds.  (The  images  above  and  below  are  the  copyright  of  Charné  Hawkes  of  Captivating  Photography,  Inverness, Scotland) Below are a few of the gorgeous photos Charné took on her photo shoot between the wedding and reception.  (All seven images are under the copyright of Charné Hawkes of Captivating Photography, Inverness, Scotland)  She took many, many beautiful photos that day.

They had brought the umbrellas to be prepared for some Scottish mist (otherwise known as rain) but, instead, were happy to have them for some shade.


While the photos were being taken, the guests enjoyed the sunshine on the patio.When the time arrived for the reception the piper piped us all into the banquet hall – and what a lovely room it was.

The ‘cake’ was cut with the piper’s dirk.  He was ex-British military and an excellent piper.

We were piped back to the reception room when it was time for the dancing to begin. Father and daughter, mother and son.

A fun aspect of the evening was the photo booth set up in the next room.  There were lots of items to use for props to take some fun photos.  All the guests had a blast being silly.

The guys (Joseph, John and Ben) did the four poses above and then we ladies (Carrie, Janet and Trish) followed suit and mirrored their poses.
A  couple  of  Becca’s  photos  of  the  guys  fooling  around  outside.It was a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful day.

But, believe it or not, our traveling was not yet done!  The next day we checked out of the castle and drove south to the area of my mother’s family clan – the Young’s.

2013 Summer (Baltic and Britain – Scotland – July 21 – Day 28)

All of the guests invited to Joseph and Carrie’s wedding had to travel to attend.  No one lived in Scotland, including the bride and groom.  Our son and his fiancé lived and worked in Dubai before they married.  The groom’s family came from British Columbia, Canada, the bride’s family from North Carolina and Michigan, USA.  And their friends came from several different countries, making it  a very international event.

The bride and groom had requested no gifts, as they have each had their own household for several years, and they would also have to transport items with them on their honeymoon around Scotland and then ship them back to Dubai.  They sincerely appreciated the fact that all of the guests had traveled long distances to attend their wedding, so as a thank you, they arranged for everyone who was able to go on a private walking tour in Edinburgh.

A few of the guests before we entered the underground warren of alleyways.

Due to the lack of light in the underground alleyways, none of my photos turned out.  Boo hoo.  It was a really good tour with live actors portraying various residents of the tenement.  To show you what we saw I have inserted information and photos from the brochure or website.  All images belong to the credited photographer and Mary Kings Close.

“Closes, the Scots term for ancient alleyways, form a labyrinth of frightfully narrow streets punctuating Edinburgh’s High Street and Royal Mile. The close in question is comprised of a cluster of underground passageways named after Mary King, an affluent merchant burgess and widow residing in the buildings from around 1635 onwards.

Mary King’s Close housed numerous towering tenement buildings regarded by many as the world’s first skyscrapers. These lodgings served as home to all manner of social classes.Due to the exceedingly unsanitary living conditions common to the era and influx of flea-infested rodents, Edinburgh became overrun with bubonic plague, with the worst hitting in 1645.  An incalculable number of black rats riddled with fleas carrying the Yersinia pestis bacterium were to blame for countless human deaths, including those in Mary King’s Close.

Symptoms included swollen glands, unsightly bulbous puss-infused boils on the groin area and under the arm and severe bouts of intestine-rupturing vomiting. In no time, the residents, like the rest of the city, were dropping like flies.

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Dr George Rae, Edinburgh’s official plague doctor during that period, responded to the plague victims of Mary King’s Close clothed in alarming demonic looking attire — a thick leather cloak to prevent fleas from biting and a ghastly bird-like mask stuffed with sweet-smelling herbs to conceal the repugnant stench and germs. He saved lives by using a scorching hot poker on the buboes. White rags hung outside the houses of plague victims as an indicator that they needed supplies like food and coal brought to their doorsteps.”

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After the tour everyone went back to their various hotels and packed.  The members of the wedding party and both sets of parents, plus the bride and groom’s siblings left the city and drove the 8 or so miles south to Bonnyrigg and checked into their rooms at Dalhousie Castle or the Dower House.  The back of the castle and the path to the Dower House.This  is  the  Dower  House.  Joseph’s  groomsman,  Andrew,  and  our  daughter  and  her  husband  stayed  in  the Dower  House.  Andrew’s  room  was  the  one  on  the  corner  and  it  had  a lovely  sitting  area in the sun porch.  The castle itself was ‘not too shabby’.

Our room.    Once we settled in we took a walk around the grounds.  The castle has a falconry where they train eagles, hawks, and owls. In the evening we attended the Rehearsal Dinner in the Dungeon Dining Room.  Joseph and Carrie didn’t have a rehearsal; just a rehearsal dinner.                       Pre-dinner drinks in the library. Gifts  of  thanks,  for  being  a part  of  their  special day,  were  given  by Joseph and Carrie to  the  members of the wedding  party,  the parents, and siblings. The big day was the next day.  And what a wonderful day it was!

2013 Summer (Baltic and Britain – Scotland – July 20 – Day 27)

I don’t know if you have noticed in the previous blogs how much sunshine we had been having.  Summers in south-central British Columbia have temperatures averaging 27-32° C  ( up to 34° or more for a few days).  (That’s about 80-95° F) The temperatures in Scotland had been 25-26° for the last week or so.  This was a nice normal temperature for us.  We were busy enjoying the sights and the sunny weather and didn’t think anything of it until we walked past this newspaper headline in front of a corner store.26° was NOT a normal summer temperature in Scotland.  The average in July and August is about 15-17°  (45-49° F).  People were being seriously impacted by the heat and there was great concern for the elderly.

The cafe where J.K. Rowling often sat writing the first Harry Potter book.  Somehow I think the alley on the right took you to a red light district.  Any place called Fleshmarket Close could not be too virtuous.

We walked to the other end of the Royal Mile from Edinburgh Castle to go see Holyrood Palace,  official  residence  of  the  Queen when  she  is  in  Scotland.  She  spends  one   week  here  every  summer while  she  carries  out  a range  of  official  engagements  and  ceremonies. The palace as it stands today was built between 1671–1678 in a quadrangle layout, approximately 230 feet (70 m) from north to south and 230 feet (70 m) from east to west, After we finished touring the grounds of Holyrood Palace we walked back up the Royal Mile and stopped at a few places along the way. We headed back to our room so I could get ready for the first pre-wedding activity; a bridal shower – High Tea at the Museum of Scotland Tower.

By this day all members of the wedding party had arrived in Edinburgh, and most of the guests.  The few remaining guests would arrive the next day.   There was a pub crawl in the evening for anyone who wished to come along.  There were four pubs on the list.  Everyone  was  enjoying  the  beverages  at  the  second  pub.  I don’t  think  very  many  people  made  it  to  the  third  one.  We  bailed about  11:30  and  went  to  our  hotel.