Episode 29k – Bonnie Scotland Tour Day 12: Glencoe, Coos, and a Castle

Our trip is into its final 3 days, and there is still so much of Scotland waiting for us. It’s becoming clear that this trip is just a teaser, and we’re going to need to come back at some point for a longer stay.

Leaving our inn in Oban, we travelled through historically Dougall lands, through the royal Stewart region called Appin, past Ballahulish where much of the slate in Ontario’s government buildings was quarried, and on to a stop in Glencoe.

The breathtaking combinations of bens and glens (mountains and valleys) here was caused by volcanic action 4 million years ago, and the topographical displays in the visitor centre really helped us to understand the vast expanses we were seeing.

Glencoe is also historically significant as the site of the 1692 Glencoe Massacre; the MacDonald clan inhabitants of this area were slaughtered by the Argyll soldiers of William III to whom they had extended hospitality and billeting. Nearby waterfalls are called “the tears of Glencoe”.

We passed the site where Hagrid’s house was filmed for the Harry Potter movies, and a little further down the road at Glen Etive we drove along the same stretch of A82 that Daniel Craig raced along as James Bond in Skyfall. This area is part of Rannoch Moor, which has both peat bogs and hidden lochins (deep little lakes), yet is a favourite spot for experienced hikers to trek the 96 miles (155 km) long walking trail stretching from Glasgow to Fort William.

After a lunch of chili-spiced squash soup and deep-fried haggis balls in whisky cream sauce at the Lade Inn in Kilmahog (yes, really) we continued into the lowlands, passing through: Killan at Lix Toll (where the 59th Roman legion once mined lead and silver), Rob Roy’s stomping grounds, and Trossachs (“the spiny place”) National Park, which supplies most of the water used in the Glasgow area. We also made a quick stop to photograph some of the iconic Highland cattle (“hairy coos”).

Our afternoon destination was Stirling Castle, historic gateway between southern and northern Scotland. The castle, much of which was built between 1490 and 1600, on the same site as a chapel built in 1110 by King Alexander I, was home to many Scottish kings and queens. In the 1800’s it became an army garrison, which it remained until Historic Scotland assumed it as a tourist attraction. The most recent restorations took place just this year. We were impressed with its sheer size, and the opulence of the interiors that have been largely restored to James V time period.

Castle exterior views. Top: Residence wall. L: Great Hall. R: entrance gate
STIRLING CASTLE CEILING DETAILS left to right: The Queen’s Inner Hall, The King’s Bedchamber, The King’s Inner Hall with the carved Stirling Heads, The Queen’s Bedchamber, The Queen’s Outer Hall
STIRLING CASTLE FIREPLACES left to right: The Queen’s Inner Hall, The King’s Bedchamber, The Queen’s Bedchamber, The Queen’s Outer Hall

We ended our afternoon with a panoramic tour of Glasgow, seeing the harbour, The Hydro arena, the cathedrals, Royal Infirmary, huge murals depicting modern versions of St. Mungo, the “merchant city” area, the Glasgow Cross, Gallow Agate, Nelson monument, and glasshouse. We briefly got out of the bus at the Glasgow Green city park to take photos of the Queen Victoria fountain, the largest surviving ROYAL DOULTON terra cotta fountain!

L: The Queen Victoria fountain. Below the Queen in the second tier are her ladies in waiting. In the third tier are representatives for each of her 4 regiments. On the bottom layer are the 4 dominions over which she ruled: India, South Africa, Australia and Canada. R: Detail of the Canada section. Note the moose, beaver, wheat, fur and wood.

We get to sleep in tomorrow for the first time in 15 days….. but there is another full day planned for us once we all get going.