Monthly Archives: May 2006

Day 42 – Wednesday, 31st May, 2006

Today is a fairly long journey, and we do not have a lot of time for stops. The weather is absolutely beautiful – sunny with a cool breeze. Today, I feel really miserable, and I think Russ is about one day behind me in symptoms. Mum is on about the same wavelength as I am.

We stopped for morning tea at the Cliffs of Moher. These are accessed along a steep path, and the view was worth a visit. However, I do think that both the Australian Bight and the Great Ocean Road is more spectacular.

We then went via the Limestone plateau of the Burren along to Galway Bay. Now, this section is amazing. How they manage to farm anything in this region is fascinating. One Englishman (name forgotten) during the time of displacement of the Irish by the English, told the king to send all the Irish to this area as there is not enough water to drown in, not enough trees to hang on, and not enough ground to grow a thing. The photos of this area are worth a second look.

Galway is very definitely a tourist town. It was quaint but not our cup of tea. This is the town of the Lynch Stone, commemorating the day Mayor James Lynch Fitzstephen hanged his own son for murder. This area has been featured in the movie “The Quiet Man”.

Finally we came to Knock, which is a village that attracts millions of pilgrims annually from all over the world. The Apparition at Knock took place in 1879. This visitation took place in the evening and only lasted for three hours or so, and no words were spoken.

“On the evening of Thursday, 21 August 1879, two women from the small village of Knock, Mary McLoughlin and Mary Beirne, were walking near the local church when they noticed luminous figures at the gable end. As they got closer they realized there were three moving figures and that one of them looked like the Blessed Virgin.

They surmised that the others were St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist, and as it got darker Mary Beirne went off to alert her family, and so, soon other neighbours joined them in the pouring rain. As the crowd gathered they could also see an altar, with a young lamb on it, in front of a cross, while one boy saw angels over the altar, but they heard no sounds and no verbal message was given.

The apparition lasted for several hours, and was witnessed independently, as a globe of light, by a farmer who lived about a half mile away.

The happening at Knock was thoroughly investigated and it was proved that it could not have been produced by luminous paint or a “magic lantern.” A commission of enquiry was set up by the aged Archbishop of Tuam, Dr. McHale, but although it considered the witnesses reliable and trustworthy, the Archbishop made no definitive statement for or against the apparition.

However, over time Knock gradually gained official support from the Church, culminating in the Papal visit of 1979. The symbolism of the lamb, cross and altar has been seen as pointing to the sacrificial death of Christ and the Mass, and yet these were behind Mary in the apparition at Knock, suggesting that the focus was on her and her role as a mediator.”

The church has since erected statues and an altar, as apparently seen in the vision, at the end of the church, and built a structure around it. This allows people who do not wish to attend Mass, but who wish to see something of the apparition, to visit and/or pray in an area separate from the church building proper.

We then got back on the bus and headed for our overnight stay at Sligo. We had managed to find a pharmacy and get some cold and flu tablets, and some expectorant, but I was now thoroughly miserable. Ian, our tour director, was most kind. He suggested that we order our tea as room service, and facilitated this for us.

Hopefully, tomorrow I will be a bit better, but I am afraid that Russ will then feel truly miserable. Mum said she was fine to go down for tea. It turned out that Dad has an upset stomach and he did not make it through the meal. Once again, Ian was of great assistance to Mum in getting things settled.

Day 41 – Tuesday, 30th May, 2006

Today is a big day of sightseeing. We actually don’t move much forward on the map, but take a 100 mile drive around the Ring of Kerry before going on to Limerick. The weather is beautiful. Admittedly there is a bit of a breeze, but we get a good look at the scenery, a fact which was repeatedly emphasised throughout the day. Most of the tours of this area are accompanied by lots of misty rain and very poor visibility. The photos are superb.

This area of Ireland was the hardest hit when the potato famine struck in the early 1800’s. Many of the farmers had to simply walk away from their tiny patches of land in order to find food and work for their families. Thousands of people left the country at this time on what was termed as Death Ships because 3 out of 4 people died whilst on their voyage to the new land – be it USA, Canada or Australia.

We went past the ruins of one village which was decimated in this fashion. No-one has re-built on this land and so the bare stone walls are left in the fields to be slowly covered and eroded by nature over time. Potatoes now come from Scotland.

This trip drives around the south western tip of Ireland. We had many an opportunity to take photos which are spectacular. We also stopped for a photo shoot at the Lakes of Killarney. We returned to Killarney in time for lunch and a short respite from travel, before we again boarded the coach to continue our trip to Limerick.

We had some time to freshen up at the Clarion Hotel before all but one couple again boarded the coach and we went off to make our acquaintance with Medieval Ireland at Bunratty Castle.

We made our way through the sample village in the grounds of the Castle and took plenty of photos. These small cottages have been set up as they would have appeared in the Middle Ages, with the peat fires and four poster beds (thatched roofs) and small windows and doors.

Then we wandered up to the castle to be welcomed by the staff in medieval costumes and invited to enter for the night’s entertainment and meal. We were given a glass (clay, hand made mug) of mead, which is a mixture of wine and honey. It will never replace Irish coffee as a traditional drink.

We were entertained to singing, and a madrigal, by the costumed staff, plus music played by a violinist and harpist, while we were encouraged to view the period furniture and structure of the greeting hall of the castle. We were able to look through the Perspex at the Castle chapel, the castle kitchen and the solar room, and then invited to go down a level (small winding staircase with a metal rail (I’m not sure the rail was there during the period the castle itself was fully inhabited) and enter the Banquet Hall.

They introduced us to the honorary Earl and Countess of Bunratty for the night, who just happened to be Dudley and Heather from Hervey Bay, and a couple on our tour. They were presented with their crowns and they were asked to lead the way for the rest of us.

All the staff descended with us and we were seated at the long trestle tables and benches. It was explained to us that the wooden board in front of each person was their plate for the evening. We also had a knife and a finger bowl.

The first part of the meal was a broth – heavy on the pepper and herbs – and we drank it from the bowls. Then we were served pork spare ribs (interrupted by the claiming of a prisoner from the crowd who was summarily sent to the dungeons. This was commuted to singing for his supper by the mercy of the Earl and his good lady, which meant he ended up singing Happy Birthday to the person celebrating his birthday today.)

The bones were placed into a wooden bowl specifically for this purpose, and then fed to the prisoners when the meal had concluded. The main course was chicken and vegetables, and then dessert was a small individual cheesecake.

During the interval between these courses Lady Colleen was invited to raise a toast to the Earl and Countess. This had been organised by Colleen earlier who had readied the Australian contingent on our coach. She did the original Aussie, Aussie, Aussie to which there was an amazing response of Oi, Oi, Oi. This included the Americans with us who asked if anyone could join in the reply. We were quite surprised at the number of Australians who were on the other coaches present.

Once the meal had been completed we were entertained to more singing and tom-foolery by the staff. The singing was very good, and their traditional rendition of Danny Boy was lovely to hear.

After this was over the Earl and his Countess were presented with a scroll commemorating the occasion, they were de-crowned, and we were invited to leave the Banquet Hall for the Lower Assembly area where we were served tea and coffee. In the meantime, the staff took a break and made ready for the late show.

Once back at the Hotel we went off to bed and waited for the next development of the bug. At the moment we have a sore throat and a dry cough. It is not pleasant.

Day 40 – Monday, 29th May, 2006

This morning we left on time and made our way to the Irish National Stud at Kildare. Russ and I had no interest in seeing the horses (the weather was bitterly cold and overcast) so we took the opportunity to see the Japanese Gardens laid out in another part of the Stud farm. This is truly beautiful, and tells a story of life as you wander through the various by-ways – the hills of learning, the tunnel of enlightenment etc.

We took lots of photos and then retired to the obligatory shop for scones with jam and a cup of tea. The souvenir shop did not open until 10:00am, and was very expensive in comparison to prices for the same thing at other places.

We then left the stud farm and continued on our way to the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle. Coincidentally, this is also the place to find the largest Blarney Woollen Mills complex, where you can purchase Waterford crystal, Aran sweaters, cashmere shawls and heaps more.

Russ wanted to go up the stairs to kiss the stone – I didn’t think my back would handle lying down on a stone slab, – employee holding legs to weight you in place whilst you leaned back over a drop (amazing spectacle), and kissed the stone. They take your photo in this ridiculous position and then charge you €10 (Euros – Republic of Ireland is part of the European Union) to see yourself. This is after you have paid €8 per person to get into the grounds of the Castle itself.

However, Russ enjoyed the experience, did not pay for the photo of himself, and I got to take lots more photos of the surrounds which were beautiful. If you were out of the wind it actually felt warm.

Because it took so long to do this first I thought that Russ and I would have to go without lunch. The line of waiting was very long, the soup was very hot, and time was at a premium. We made it with two minutes to spare.

We then made our way through very pretty countryside and finally arrived in Killarney where we stayed at the Riverside Hotel on Muckross Road. Quite a few of us had signed to go where Ian had organised for a couple of Irish singers to entertain us at a local pub. They were not up to the standard of the singers at Jury’s Cabaret, but sang more traditional folk songs and it was good.

Dinner was put back to accommodate this visit, so we went straight to the dining room when we got back to the hotel. The rooms are very good, clean and spacey, and it is the luck of the draw whether you get a big or little bathroom.

Day 39 – Sunday, 28th May, 2006

Okay, the day dawned and it was overcast but no rain. The wind is a bit nippy, but it is much better than some previous days. I did not find my ear-ring. Ray has lost his watch, one of the ladies left a new pair of shoes in her hotel room, but another lady has recovered her lost bracelet.

The ferry was running 45 minutes late by the time it left the wharf. The crossing was uneventful. We all made it safely to the lounge area and either went to sleep in our chairs (Russ), played cards or filled in the diary or post cards. By the time we docked in Dublin we were well behind schedule as Dinner before the Cabaret was due to begin at 7:30pm. Ian had advised us to dress up as much as possible because it is an International show and people make it a good night out – especially as it was Saturday.

The meal was very good – standard fare of either salmon or beef after the soup course, and cheesecake for desert. This is followed by Irish Coffee whilst the show is being performed.

The Cabaret was absolutely top notch. The Fury’s played Irish songs whilst we ate. These guys have performed all over the world, and are now getting older. The actual Cabaret is made up of singers (really good voices), dancers – in the style of Riverdance, and awesome in their enthusiasm and skill – a violinist and a comedian (Joe Cuddy).

The show started with an Introduction – a very good place to start – and moved along at a cracking pace from there. The routine mixed song with dance with jokes and all were very entertaining. Joe Cuddy would have had people rolling in the aisles except that there was not enough room in the aisles. Instead the audience spent the time wiping tears from their eyes, and holding their aching sides.

It all came to a close at 10:30pm and we had been entertained for a majority of that time. The cast of the show made themselves available to talk with the audience and to have photos taken if the audience desired to that they do so.

The audience was made up of several coach loads from Globus, Brendan, Insight and Cosmos. The tables sat 50 – 60 people and there were ten tables across the room. Not a bad size crowd for a cabaret. Also take into account that this cabaret performs 7 nights a week.

After breakfast (a late one, thank heavens!) we made our way to the coach for our tour of the sights of Dublin. Ireland has joined the European Market and as such, it is the fastest growing economy in the EU at 9% per annum. Old Georgian houses that you couldn’t sell for love nor money before the joining now retail at 2 and 3 million euros.

As one of the poorest nations in the EU the richer nations like Britain and Germany fund most of these improvements. Ian commented that there had been parts of Dublin that you would not have ventured to in a coach just 12 months ago. All these places are in the process of refurbishment now.

Dublin is the home of Trinity College, and many of the successful authors and playwrights from past years – people like James Joyce and George Bernard Shaw, to name but two.

It is also the home of the Book of Kells. Over 1000 years ago, when the book of Kells was written, Ireland had a population of less than a half a million people living in fortified homesteads along its coasts and inland waterways.

The Book of Kells contains a lavishly decorated copy, in Latin, of the four gospels. It has long since been associated with St Colum Cille (c 521 -597 AD) who founded his principal monastery on the island of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland in about 561. The Book of Kells was probably produced early in the 9th century by the monks of Iona, working wholly or partially at Iona itself or at Kells, county Meath, where they moved after Iona was attacked by the Vikings in 806 AD in a raid which left 68 monks dead.

The Book of Kells had the bejewelled, gold front and back covers stolen by the Vikings thinking it was the treasure being protected, and the actual book was thrown away into a muddy field where it was later retrieved.

It was sent to Dublin around 1653 for reasons of security during the Cromwellian period and came to Trinity College through the agency of Henry Jones, after he became bishop of Meath in 1661.

The book is made up of pages of vellum, painstakingly stretched over a frame until is has been prepared and dried, and then one page (both sides) has been illuminated and the next page (both sides) is written upon. The inks used were made from a variety of substances with many differing properties so some are in better condition than others.

The book was separated into its four different gospels for safety as it is totally irreplaceable, even in this day and age. Two of the books are displayed in a very tightly controlled environment within the Library at Trinity whilst the other books are available to travel to exhibitions around the world. (The cost of insurance must be prohibitive.)

After that Russ and I got lost – his error for a change – but finally found ourselves at Insomnia (because of the coffee served) which coincidentally was a BT Openzone. We downloaded our messages and then updated the diary to late yesterday afternoon, grabbed some lunch whilst we were doing this, checked the scores (Go Pies!!) and then wandered back to the hotel and collapsed.

We found dinner at an Italian restaurant just up the road from the Hotel. Russ enjoyed his seafood linguine, and I enjoyed my chicken and spinach cannelloni.

Whilst on the coach tour Ian mentioned the windows in the old building which were covered in by stone. The government of the time decided that if you were wealthy enough to have more than 5 windows, then you had enough money to pay a tax for each of those extra windows. The people bricked their windows in so they would not be subject to a tax, hence the term ‘daylight robbery’. It is no wonder that conditions were rife for such diseases as tuberculosis.

Tomorrow we journey to Killarney. It is definitely time to repack my suitcase – two days in the one place tends to do this to you – and then prepare for bed. Russ, Mum and I are still fighting scratchy throats and dry coughs. It is leaving us just a bit more tired than usual.

Day 38 – Saturday, 27th May, 2006

Well, I was wrong. We did not get to go on the ferry until later in the afternoon.

Breakfast was not until 7:30am and we had out bags out, as requested, ten minutes before this. We were directed back to the same table we had sat at for dinner last night, and the restaurant was well managed and ready to serve all who arrived for their food.

Once on the coach we headed off to Betws-y-Coed (don’t ask me to pronounce this one, either) for morning tea. It is a very pretty little place, and as usual, we did not get to spend enough time there.

Back on the bus we then headed through Snowdonia – National Park of Wales – which is spectacular. It is a combination of the Highlands and the Lakes land, and with the low cloud moving over the tops of the hills, an amazing sight.

I should take the time to mention at this point in time that rhododendrons here are often regarded as a weed. They grow everywhere, look terrific – both in size of flower and in colour – and I have as yet to get a photo of them that does them justice.

We stopped for lunch at Caernarvon where the largest and oldest castle walls are still standing. The town is not particularly set up for tourists and therefore, it was a gem. Russ and I went to one of the local eateries, and Russ had steak and kidney pie, whilst I had a chicken and mushroom pie (one of the best I have ever eaten, and it had no vegetables!!

After a walk around the old part of the town we returned to the bus and set off for Anglesey – not named after the anglo in anglo-saxons, but because it is an island of many corners on the coastline so called after the angles.

Whilst on the way we had a quick stop at Llanfair……. (58 letters in it and the longest named town in the world). This place was created to take advantage of the newly tried holiday periods during the reign of Queen Victoria – the advent of steam and train – and the locals got together to make the most of the Welsh language. Ian remarked that it was with great sorrow that he had to report how successful these Welsh people were in luring the English to the place and spending money.

In the large tourist shop which is part of the railway station, they have a post under the clock tower where the stationmaster will stamp your passport. It is not a necessity, but another way of luring tourists, and it still works.

Once we left Llanfair…. we drove through Anglesey proper to the wharf and waited for an hour in the coach for our drive onto the ferry. This ship was built in Fremantle and is a catamaran.

We were the last vehicle to board and all passengers must disembark onto the ship proper. This is as a result of the ferry disaster in this part of the world where the bow ramp opened to the sea and sunk the ferry. The people who lost their lives were still in their vehicles and were unable to escape in time.

Tonight we are attending the Jury’s Cabaret Show. Happily this is to take place in our hotel which is called the Jury Ballsbridge Hotel in Dublin. I kid you not!! Tomorrow we will have a coach tour of Dublin in the morning, and the rest of the day will be at our leisure.

I am hoping, when the bus disembarks at the hotel, to have a successful hunt for my ear-ring. I bought a pair of Celtic ear-rings yesterday, and have lost one of them today whilst either putting on or taking off my yellow peril – yes, it is raining, and fairly cold.

Most times it would not worry me, but just for once, I actually paid a fair amount for them.

Day 37 – Friday, 26th May, 2006

Last night we went on our tour of the Royal Yacht Britannia, which is now docked at Leith. It was marvellous! You actually leave the dock via a gangway – with an audio set – and you input the number displayed on the wall in the ship, and it describes to you what feature you are viewing. In this way you are able to wander at your own pace, and if you so desire, you can miss any number that you don’t find of particular interest.

The décor is very comforting – nothing over the top – but of the very best quality. It has a homely atmosphere where you could imagine yourself enjoying a holiday. It is filled with memorabilia from the royal family over the years.

Ian mentioned in the coach before our arrival that the boat was now looked after by a Trust, a group of people who are dedicated to making sure the history of the yacht is never lost. He warned that if you were inclined to ask any questions, be prepared for a full answer. As he put it, “If you ask the time, be prepared to hear the history on how the watch was made.”

Dinner was at Malmaison – a French restaurant on the water front area. The food was very good, but the presentation was pretentious. Some people like it like this, although I don’t enjoy it. The staff was friendly and cheerful so that is the main thing.

This morning is cold and wet – what’s new?? The entire group made it down to breakfast by 7:00am only to find that the restaurant was not yet open. The girl who was setting up the tables apparently had no idea that she would be faced with the first tour group so early. We ended up waiting for everything so a lot of us went without things like our toast.

Needless to say, we were all aboard the coach by 8:00am and on our way. This day is the reverse journey of our previous one from Chester to Edinburgh. However, it turned out that Ian and Danny had plans to go a different way after Gretna Green.

At our morning stop at Gretna Mum and Dad picked up their souvenirs, and Russ collected the Ferguson (my family side) and Millar shields (his family side) as well as his coffee mug from Scotland amongst other things. This is the least expensive souvenir shop we have come across, hence our determination to pick up our last minute Scottish things here. Now all we have to do is work out how to pack them in rapidly expanding suitcases. Mum has already left behind a shirt (she insists it took up more room than you would think) and we have plans for other things to be left behind before we go home.

After Gretna Green Danny turned off the main road and we went cross country. Ian informed us that later in the season this trip would have been impassable because of the holiday traffic, and we travelled the back roads of the Lakes District to Windermere in time for lunch.

It is a day of very low clouds, totally different to the weather when we first travelled this part of the country. It softens the high peaks and the many stone fences, and leaves one with an old world impression. Danny is a marvellous judge of space, and we only had clearances of a few inches on either side of the coach on many occasions, with high eaves on both sides scraping past the coach roof.

Ian is a font of diverse information. He was talking about thatched roofs during part of the journey. The walls of these old cottages were made from wattle and daub, and as such, were very thin. However, the thatch roof is extremely thick, and overhangs the sides of the buildings. In inclement weather people outside the cottages would take shelter under the overhang – the eaves. This meant that unless you spoke very softly inside the cottage, you could be heard quite clearly by those on the other side – hence the coining of the term “eavesdropping”.

Another interesting bit of information came about also from the discussion on thatched roofs. The roof would become the home of many small creatures (4 letters, starts with m, ends in e) and so people invented the four poster bed and hung it with a roof and curtains so they would not be surprised by any droppings during their periods of snoring in the night. (Amazing what you learn)!

He also told the story from several years ago about one of his tourists. He makes it a habit to check with reception when we all arrive at a new destination to ensure that there are no problems. Apparently this day he had stopped at reception to check when the phone rang. The receptionist in his hearing said,” Are you sure? One moment please, I’ll hand you over to your tour director.”

The lady had rung to say that she could not get out of her room. As there were only two other doors in the room beside the entrance door, he checked to make sure she had the right one. (Stranger things have been known to happen!!) Further investigation revealed that the lady was talking about the main entrance into/out of her room, but she couldn’t open the door because it had a sign on it that said (wait for it!!) – “Do not Disturb”.

The last gem dealt with another tourist when they were about to begin the sea journey across to the Isle of Skye. She wandered over to Ian and asked, “How far above sea level are we?” Ian went over to the rails and replied, “About 6 feet.” The lady (realizing what she had asked) then went across to him, stood on her tippy toes to reach his ear, and said in a hushed whisper, “Tell anyone about this and I will have to kill you”.

The drive from Windermere to Chester was mainly on the motorway and fairly ordinary as you would expect. Lots of people chose to fall asleep during this part of the trip, whilst others engaged in group discussions. I read the PDA.

When we got to Chester we had 1 ½ hours to spend wandering about the city before the bus was due to pick us up and deposit us at St David’s Park in Ewloe in Wales – don’t ask for a pronunciation.

As we had made sure to take all the photos we wanted last time we were here, Russ and I were able to saunter along The Rows (shops built on the roof of the lowest ones with their own entrances and verandas – Historical listings all – and enjoy the wares on display. As I had misplaced my Fitovers (sunglasses that fit over my glasses – called Overglasses here in Chester) somewhere along the road over the last two days, I decided that it would probably be a good idea to replace them now if I was able to do so. I finally located some at an Optometrist shop and left £18 poorer. (Did I mention that the sun was shining and it was even somewhat warm when we got to Chester?)

Anyway, the hotel is splendid, and it is hosting a wedding as we arrived. The restaurant is top notch, and we spent a rather lively evening in the company of Mum and Dad and Sherry and Lori. These ladies are American, and went to school together many years ago. They met up again at the school re-union last year and decided that as they both wanted to see Ireland, they might as well journey together.

Tomorrow they get their wish. We cross on the ferry in the morning.

Day 36 – Thursday, 25th May, 2006

Well, the best laid plans of mice and men, as they say, go astray. We have just found out that the trip to the Royal Yacht Britannia starts at 4:30pm so we will not have time to visit Rosslyn Chapel after the morning’s sightseeing and then get back to the hotel in time.

Breakfast was very nice, and I had porridge – what else when you are in Scotland?? The coach left for the sightseeing tour of Edinburgh on time with Richard as our guide for the morning. He appears to be a friend of both Ian and Danny, and I’m betting that at some stage of his career he has kissed the blarney stone. More to the point, he is very knowledgeable and was more than happy to impart some history to those of us who were willing to listen – most on the bus.

We first went around Edinburgh new – that is to say, anything built after the 1800’s – before going to see the older parts – pre 1800’s. We did not get to see Holyrood Palace, as yet the reason is unknown. However, we did get taken around the Queen’s Gardens and saw the newly hatched cygnets with the momma and pappa swans. Apparently, these two swans are so aggressive they have battled all other contenders for the upper lake way. All the other swans can be found co-existing on the lower lake.

Richard explained that Edinburgh was built on basalt and in the mouth of an extinct volcano crater. The Queen’s Gardens are around the upper rims of the crater, and on the other side of the crater is Edinburgh Castle. You can see all entrances to Edinburgh from up there, both by land and by water – river or sea.

We passed many places of interest, including the drinking clubs that the university students belonged to whilst apparently studying. The stupid things one had to do in order to be allowed membership simply boggles the mind – like writing your full name upside down after imbibing four pints of ale. This is one of the more reasonable ideas.

If you wished to join the Dirty Laundry Club you had to wear dirty clothes under your outer wear and be smelly. Anyone who washed was not allowed admittance!!

Also we passed the pub where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle drank whilst at uni in Edinburgh. It probably will pain the English to have to admit it, but Sir Arthur was born in Edinburgh. He did not publish his writings until he had left the place however, as he had fashioned Sherlock Holmes on one of university professors.

Also Ian Fleming – author of James Bond – was from Edinburgh, as is Sean Connery who played 007. There are many other famous people who originate from Edinburgh but they have yet to percolate to the front of the brain from all the rest of the information I imbibed.

After the visit around the environs we went up to Edinburgh Castle. They are in the process of setting up the seating for the Military Tattoo, even though it is not to be held until August. It is also fully booked out already. When you see the area that is actually used for the display it is really quite small – and filled in by cobblestones.

The area of road is called the French Road because it was actually built by French Convicts whilst the Scots were away at war. The Scots were seemingly often at war!! We were able to view the Memorial Room which is dedicated to all those people who helped save democracy in the United Kingdom. After that we entered the part of the Castle where Mary, Queen of Scots was born and proclaimed Queen whilst just 9 months old. Henry VIII had plans to marry her to his son who was also born around the same time. The Scots sent her to live in France so that he could not have her kidnapped. She was Catholic and Henry, of course, was Protestant (now called Episcopalian).

We did not have enough time to see much else (another reason to return says the guides) before it was time to catch the coach back to the hotel for lunch. Russ and I dined in the Rugby Union Bar – no smoking, great food at a reasonable price – and now I am about to finish this part of the diary so Russ can download the update on the website.

Day 35 – Wednesday, 24th May, 2006

Morning came far too early, but at least I had managed a good night’s sleep. However, when I went to turn the hot water off from my shower, I thought that I too would have to call for help from reception. Not knowing at this point how Mum and Dad had fared I called out for assistance from Russ, but as he arrived in the bathroom I managed to turn the tap off. Blimey, you almost need a university degree to work out some of these systems.

Breakfast was an absolute shemozzle!! We were supposed to start at 7:00am before the other two coach loads. Needless to say, they arrived early for their breakfasts, pushed in front of everyone else, and there was insufficient staff to cope with the overload.

Anyway, we were all aboard at the requested time and we headed off to Edinburgh. Our first stop of the morning was at the Glen Livet Whisky Distillery where we were taken, in groups of 15 or so, on a guided tour of the place. It was very interesting with lots of peculiar smells, and different temperatures depending on the process you were viewing at the time. Needless to say, I will never become a whisky drinker. It is the most revolting taste – worse even than wine!

From here we continued on our way with amazing scenery, bitter cold, snow on the tops of the hills, and winding roads. We arrived at Balmoral Castle – the residence of the Queen when holidaying in Scotland, and owned by her (not England) – in time for lunch. We had soup – Scotch Broth with Balmoral bread (a rip-off, but hot) – and then continued on our tour of the grounds.

The only part of the Castle that is opened to the public – at a cost – is the Balmoral Ballroom which has been set up as an Exhibition Centre. This was most interesting, and it even had some of the costumes worn by royalty through the years at significant events, even Her Majesty’s costumes.

It also had a number of paintings of the royal pets, and of royalty as youngsters, including Queen Victoria as a child. There is a cottage garden opened to display for the public but is was so cold walking there that most of us did not take advantage of it. However, after the tour of the Castle grounds Russ and I took the Riverwalk. This is very pretty, and many a photo has been taken of the royal family on holidays at Balmoral. This walk is usually where the horses are exercised during the day.

The area surrounding the castle is picturesque, and the place is fairly quiet. It is very understandable why the royal family enjoys coming here away from the crowds and the media.

They also have a display about the Royal Yacht Britannia which is fascinating. Although the government moaned about the cost of keeping this ship going, it actually made more money than was spent on it – especially when used to promote Britain and her interests. It is even more fascinating in that tomorrow night we will be doing the tour of the ship where she is now docked in Edinburgh, before going out to dinner.

We then continued on towards Edinburgh via Braemar, which is home of the Royal Highland Games for over 900 years, and Perth, travelling over the mighty Forth Road Bridge and along side the cantilever bridge used by the rail over the Firth of Forth.

Tonight we are staying at the Menzies Belford Hotel, as we will be tomorrow also. This hotel is built into a hill and so the road level and reception area is actually the 5th floor of the hotel. We are being housed on the 3rd floor and therefore have to take the lift down from the street. Our room overlooks the river Dee and is next to Mum and Dad’s room.

Tomorrow we will be visiting Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood in the morning, before going out to see Rosslyn Chapel (Da Vinci Code) tomorrow afternoon.

Day 34 – Tuesday, 23rd May, 2006

We woke to rainy skies and a cold, blustery wind. I did not sleep as well as I had hoped because my adjustment had stirred my back up no end. It’s all those bloody cobblestones in Europe that have caused the trouble.

We had our bags outside our door for pickup at 7:00 and then went down to breakfast. There was no porridge, and we are in Scotland! Anyway, we grabbed our breakfast and then made ready to be on the coach in time to leave at 8:15am.

Russ and I started our tour sitting not too far from the front behind the driver. Mum and Dad decided to begin their tour further down the coach towards the back, and sitting behind Ian’s seat. The group does not appear to be as noisy as the last group -at least not so far, but it’s early days yet. Most on the tour are couples, however, there are four ladies touring by themselves who have hooked up with each other – two Americans and two Australians.

We left Glasgow on time and headed out to the Highlands of Scotland. On the way we passed by Loch Lamond, wild Rannoch Moor, Glen Coe, where the MacDonalds were treacherously massacred by the Campbells, lovely Loch Linnhe, and Fort William beneath Ben Nevis – the highest mountain in the United Kingdom.

And yes, I am wearing my thermals; and yes, there is snow on the tops of the peaks not far from where we are driving; and yes, it is bloody cold. Most of the people on the coach have decided that they are well underdressed, and one gentleman has already admired my Yellow Peril with the comment that I appear to be the only person who has come prepared for this type of weather. Ha! Ha!! Needless to say we stopped regularly for photo opportunities and everyone shivered as they made their way back on board.

During the afternoon part of the drive we followed the Caledonian Canal with vistas of the Great Glen, Loch Lochy, and (ta-da!!!) Loch Ness. However, the romance and mystery was lowered by the comment that recent research had proven there was insufficient fish in the loch to be able to feed a monster. Some people spoil all the fun!

We wended our way through mountains and glens on our way to our first night stop at Inverness. Just outside of Inverness is the area where the Battle of Culloden took place. This is the war between the Jacobites (Bonnie Prince Charlie) and the British troops, who were made up of Scottish Regiments not supporting the rebel prince.

Unfortunately, we did not have as much time here as I would have liked. We could not walk around the battlefield, and there was insufficient time to check out the positions of the relevant groups in the battle. The Prince was supported by 5000 men, whilst the British troops numbered 4000 men. The Prince ordered his men to charge – across a boggy field in the midst of sleet and snow. However, the British were supported by cannon that fired grapeshot – metal balls about the size of a large grape that acted similar to the pellets fired from a shotgun, only the results were much bloodier and more fatal. The Prince escaped back to France later with the help of Flora McDonald.

The commander of the British left the Scots who were wounded and dead lying where they fell until the battle was over. He then ordered that all the wounded were to be bayoneted where they lay. All these bodies were then bundled into one massive grave for burial. The men who were not wounded were gathered together, put into the hold of a ship just off the coast, and left to starve to death.

It is only in recent times that the Scottish Trust has gathered all the information from historical records and put markers around the battlefield to show where the various elements of this battle were stationed. A large memorial cairn has been raised to remember all the men who lost their lives in this battle. The trust is also working to find the final resting place of both the British and Scottish soldiers.

Although there is a shop it is placed a fair distance from the actual battlefield so as not to detract from the drama and history of the place. Also, the money raised at this shop goes back into the coffers to make improvements to the displays.

Inverness is a pretty town, sorry – city, and our hotel – the Columba Hotel on Ness Walk – is really quite nice. We overlook a river whose name escapes my memory at this point in time, and the rooms are larger than we had been led to believe. Ian had mentioned that Scotland was just now discovering that if they want the tourists they have to update their accommodation. Obviously, this hotel is one that has already reaped the rewards of improvements. Still no fridge though.

Across the river from us is Inverness Castle, which is actually a fairly recent building in comparison to some we have seen, but is where the Town Council houses its headquarters.

The weather is about 11 degrees and is expected to get down to 4 degrees overnight. The rooms have heaters in them, but the insulation must be okay because even I don’t need to turn it on as yet.

However, about 9:00pm the phone rang. It was Mum. They had already had one adventure for the day. When we arrived at the hotel Ian had been displeased because he had requested that we be placed near mum and Dad’s room. This had not happened. More to the point, when they got to their room a previous occupant had been smoking in it and Dad was off on a coughing jag.

They immediately requested that they be changed to a room where smoking had not happened. Mum said that Ian was great, and he had told the people at reception that we had already been on one Globus tour and were not complainers. He said that if we were concerned about something, then there was something to be concerned about. In short time they had a new room allocated to them and things appeared to be going well.

Back to the phone call – Mum asked if we knew how to contact reception as there was no information supplied in the room. I asked what they needed, and she replied that they needed reception to send someone up to their room to turn off the hot water. They themselves were unable to do it.

I told them we had nothing in print to say what we should ring either, but told her to try either 0 or 9. To cut a long story short (and to jump just a bit ahead) reception finally sent someone up to their room – but not before they had the bathroom door and all the windows open to let the steam escape – and they managed to turn the damn tap off. Mum said it had stuck and neither she nor Dad had the strength to move it. Also, as it is a strange system, they did not want to make matters worse. All she could imagine was that they would end up having to change rooms once more!

Day 33 – Monday, 22nd May, 2006

Okay, we are just a bit toey this morning. We had breakfast very early (getting ready for all those early starts once the tour begins again) and requested a taxi at reception that could hold four adults with four suitcases plus miscellaneous luggage. It took about 15 minutes for the taxi to arrive, and it turned out to be a VW Passat. The driver looked a trifle concerned when he saw the luggage, but thank heavens for tiger perches – drop down seats – we were finally comfortable settled and on our way to Euston Station.

When we got there a very nice man driving one of those beep, beep carts asked Mum and Dad if they would like a lift to the platform as it was a considerable distance from the taxi drop off zone. Mum said she and Dad had only recently in Melbourne commented that it wouldn’t be long before they might have to make use of this type of service. So, it was with a great deal of hilarity that we loaded our luggage and 3 of 4 persons onto the cart and started off. As you will have already guessed, Russ walked rapidly behind us and tried not to loose us on the way.

Janelle had already sent us a text message asking us to ring her when we arrived as she was already there at Starbucks picking up a coffee. She shortly made her way to the Departures board where we were waiting for our platform to be advised.

We had a great chat for about 40 minutes (yes, we were early) when they finally posted our platform on the board. There were a few watery eyes by the time all the goodbyes had been said, and Janelle headed for home and sleep whilst we made our way to the train.

When we got there we remembered that we were supposed to go to the front to the train and get our luggage boarded. Russ went one way and I headed the other to see if we could ask someone. It turned out that the lady I spoke with organised for our luggage. By this time Mum and Dad were on the train and Russ and I had a fair way to walk with all four suitcases (he had off loaded the small stuff onto our seats).

Finally we were able to enter our carriage and sit down, knowing that the luggage would be waiting for us in Glasgow at the back of the train when we got there. Yes, the back of the train – we were sitting facing where we had come from. It was a weird experience. The train is a Virgin service and is a tilt train and was travelling at 125 miles per hour – very smooth.

It was still raining when we got to Glasgow. The scenery had been beautiful as we journeyed along, but I was not able to take any notice unless we had stopped. This only happened on three occasions during the journey so I managed to read quite a lot of my book.

We had a snack for lunch whilst travelling, and wandered how long it would take us to get a taxi to our hotel. As it turned out, it did not take too much time to get the taxi, and very little time to travel to our hotel – the Novotel Glasgow Centre. The hotel is very nice, and the tour director had already left out signs with times and places for the pre-dinner drink and meeting dinner.

In the meantime, Russ and I off loaded our luggage, grabbed a cup of tea, and then headed to the reception desk to find out how to get to the Glasgow Chiropractic Centre where we had appointments at 4:15pm with Pat McPhie – yes, Sharith, Pat sends his regards and thanks you for his first international patients. He also told us that the CEO of the Glasgow Chiropractic Group is from Townsville, and he wouldn’t let us pay for our visits. Needless to say, the treatment was great.

Russ and I had walked the nine blocks to get there, and we chose to walk the nine blocks back to the hotel. It had stopped raining, and although the sun was peeking through the clouds, the wind was bitterly cold. However, the exercise did us both a great deal of good, and it was almost time to get ready to go down and meet our tour group by the time we made it back to the Novotel. Did I tell you Glasgow is very hilly – as in steep hills and lots of them!!!!

The Tour Director is called Ian McLeod Walker, and the coach driver is called Danny McGarry. We are a mixture of American, Canadian and Australian people, but this time there are 41 of us doing the tour. Finola had already warned Ian about the noisy Australians, and the Coxes in particular.

Dinner was very nice and the company was pleasant. We sat with a mixture of people and spent the time during the meal in catching up with the main points about each.

As I have not slept very well last night, I hope I sleep better than last night.