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Today, we focused on a walking tour of Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital and a city well endowed with history and heritage. Weather was tolerable, being dry but overcast.

First we called at the famous Castle which dominates the city sitting atop an ancient volcanic plug. Here we visited the key aspects including One o’Clock Gun, Mons Meg Cannon,St Margaret’s Chapel, Crown Jewels, Great Hall and prison.

Inside Great Hall at Edinburgh Castle

Crown Square, Edinburgh Castle

Firth of Forth from Edinburgh Castle

Inside prison at Edinburgh Castle

One O’Clock Gun.

Next, we walked down the Royal Mile calling first at the Old Parliament building where the Scottish Parliament met until merger with England in 1707. A fine interior which is now occupied by the Scottish legal profession. No photographs, however.

Royal Mile, Edinburgh, Scotland

Next, a brief visit to St Giles’ Cathedral where choral practice was in process.

Inside St Giles’ Cathedral

Inside St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh

Next, on down the Royal Mile past World’s End which was the old, medieval city boundary, to Palace of Holyroodhouse and the Scottish Parliament, both of which sit at the foot of  the famous street.

After a light lunch we walked up to Calton Hill on which sits many old and important buildings and which offers superb views of Edinburgh city and the Firth of Forth.

View of Firth of Forth from Calton Hill

View of city from Calton Hill

View of city from Calton Hill

Finally, we returned to the Royal Mile where guests visited the attraction known as Mary King’s Close.

This morning, we departed our lodgings in Dunkeld, central Scotland and drove east with first stop at Abernethy, Perth & Kinross. Here we viewed the historic Abernethy Round Tower information in which is provided below.

Abernethy Round Tower

Information on Abernethy Round Tower

Historically, Abernethy was an important Christian site with the primacy of the Church transferring to Abernethy from Dunkeld around AD 865-908 before switching again to modern-day St. Andrews. A church (or monastery or nunnery) at Abernethy was founded about AD 460 and dedicated to St. Bridget, perhaps in AD 525.
Although the date of the tower’s construction is not known with certainty, it is of great antiquity, dating from around 9th-11th centuries,  The architecture and differing building materials may indicate that the tower is an 11th century rebuild of earlier 9th century construction.
Abernethy is representative of a type of tower which is only found in the Isle of Man, Ireland and Scotland. These towers may have been influenced by similar buildings in northern Italy. Local people had a long tradition of constructing circular buildings such as brochs and hence the architecture style was not radical. Abernethy is one of only two such round towers in Scotland, the other is at Brechin, between Dundee and Aberdeen.
All round towers of this type were free-standing and usually situated a short distance from, and with their doors facing towards, the nearby monastic church which in this case would place the church north of the tower.
Ranked against its peers, Abernethy is of average  height ( 22 metres or 72 ft.). The wall is 1.07m thick (3ft 7″) at bottom and 88cm (2′ 11″) at the top. The interior diameter is a constant 2.515m (8’3″). The walls consist of outer and inner dressed stone layers with rubble in-filling.
The purpose of this type of tower is not known for certain. Speculation includes:
  • Watch Towers
  • Belfries
  • Penitentiary Towers
  • Defensive Structures (c.f. Vikings)
  • Bell Towers (The Irish name for the towers is ‘cloigtheach’ or ‘house of the bell’.)
  • An aesthetic tribute to God.

Next to St Andrews where we called in at St Andrews Links to visit the club house and the famous golf courses including Old Course.

Golf at St Andrews Links

Information on St Andrews Links Golf.

St. Andrews Links, is home of the famous Old Course where golf is alleged to have originated around 600 yeas ago.

The Old Course is one of six links courses. The others are: New Course,  Jubilee Course, Eden Course, Strathtyrum Course and Balgove Course.  The latter extends to nine holes and caters for families, children and beginners. Additionally, there is the Castle Course which is located on a cliff top site and benefits from stunning views.

Next to the eastern end of St Andrews and the Cathedral which is now a ruin, albeit one of impressive proportions.

St Andrews Cathedral, Scotland

Information on St Andrews Cathedral

History

This university town was the focal point of the Scottish church during the Middle Ages and as such  the city and its associated religious community has played an important role on the history of Scotland. St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland probably because a cult grew up around the relics of the saint during the 8th century AD which were, allegedly, interred in a shrine in what is now St. Andrews.

Cathedral Site

The Cathedral site, in fact, comprises two religious ruins. The first building (from around AD 1123) was St Rule’s Church of which only the tall tower remains  This may have served as a  beacon for pilgrims heading to the shrine of St Andrew.

The Cathedral was begun around AD 1160 and grew to become the pre-eminent church in Scotland.It was originally home to a community of Augustinian canons who had outgrown the facilities at St Rule’s Church. The site extends to 30 acres contained within a substantial medieval wall which remains largely intact today. The completed cathedral was consecrated in 1318. However, the Reformation in 1560  proved a  catalyst for wilful damage and structural decline.The roofs were stripped off and subsequently the building became an effective stone quarry for local building projects with the vacant space being used as a burial ground for local people. Hence we are left with the ruins evident today.

The Cathedral was laid out using a variant of the standard cross plan for such a major ecclesiastical structure whilst from a  style perspective it represented a transition from Romanesque to Gothic.

Next, round the Fife Coast villages commencing with a brief stop at Crail and then on to Anstruther where we stopped for lunch at the famous Anstruther Fish Bar.

Information on Anstruther

Anstruther, Fife

Attractions at Anstruther include:

  • Shops and eateries including the famous Anstruther Fish Bar (Fish and Chip restaurant).
  • Harbour with marina and base for fishing boats.
  • Scottish Fisheries Museum
  • Nine hole, links golf course.
  • Small sandy beach.
  • Boat trips to Isle of May.
  • Lifeboat Station.

Other facts and information:

  • Population is about 3,500.
  • Parish Church dates from 1634.
  • Name is derived from the Old English term for marshy piece of land.

Anstruther, Fife

Next to St Monans and its famous church.

Information on St Monans

St Monans Church

  • May be named after an Irish missionary Monanus or Monans who may have visited the area around AD 832 and is reported to have been slain by Danish invaders about AD 875.
  • The church was commissioned by King David II ( 1329-1371) on site of a previous church. Building took place between 1362 and 1370 and cost 750 Scots pounds.
  • Prior to 1477 the building was granted to Dominican Friars.
  • Burned by English invaders in 1544.
  • Became Parish Church in 1646.
  • From 1646-1848 the choir alone was used for worship.
  • Major restoration work undertaken in 1955.
  • The interior now contains various piscinas, a vaulted stone roof over the choir with heraldic shields,a  fully rigged ship of 1800 and a plaque showing the arms of St Monans dating from 1792.
  • Part of the Church of Scotland and used for Presbyterian worship.
  • The surrounding burial ground is of interest being the last resting place of many local families.
  • Closest church to the sea in Scotland.
  • Close to the route of the Fife Coastal Path.

Final call on the Fife Coast was Lower Largo where was born one Alexander Selkirk, the real world role model for Robinson Crusoe.

Information on Alexander Selkirk

Statue of Alexander Selkirk

Alexander Selkirk was Scottish and spent his early boyhood at Lower Largo on the Fife Coast. He had a fierce temper and following family disputes he went to sea. In 1704 he was sailing master of the vessel Cinque Ports. After elapse of 8 months Selkirk had a violent quarrel with the ship’s captain and was put ashore on the uninhabited Juan Fernandez island off the coast of Chile. Archaeologists have recently located his camp on the island. After 4 years and 4 months he was rescued and later returned to Lower Largo with considerable wealth gained from piracy.

Daniel Defoe met Selkirk in a London coffee-house in 1715 and learned of his (Selkirk’s) exploits which he used a base for the fictional Robinson Crusoe.

Finally, we drove to Edinburgh where guests checked into their hotel on the Royal Mile.

This morning, we departed our lodgings in Inverness and drove south with first stop at House of Bruar near Blair Atholl in Perthshire. House of Bruar is a high end shopping experience where we availed of refreshments.

House of Bruar

Next, past Blair Castle and Killiecrankie to the viewpoint known as Queen’s View.

Information on Queen’s View

Queen’s View

Although Queen Victoria visited in 1866 there is an argument that the name relates to Queen Isabella of Mar (1277-1296), the first wife of King Robert the Bruce.

The vista features Loch Tummel (lake) and Schiehallion (mountain).  The Loch is 11 km long and about 1 km wide. In 1950 the Loch was incorporated into a hydro-electric scheme as a consequence of which the water level rose by some 4.5m (about 13 feet). Access is via a minor road leading off the main A9 North-South route.

The site forms part of the Tay Forest Park within which can be found a variety of wildlife including Ospreys, Chaffinches, Wild Geese,  Red Squirrels, Buzzards, Eagles, Red Deer, Pine Marten and Capercaillie (grouse).

Next, we drove into Pitlochry and then to nearby Edradour Distillery where we joined a tour.

Information on Edradour Distillery

Edradour Distillery

Edradour has a history dating back to 1825 since when it has undergone many ownership changes. The distillery is now under private ownership of Andrew Symington. More information:-

  • Capacity is small at 130, 000 litres p.a. (Glenlivet’s capacity is 10.5m litres p.a.). An expansion programme is underway which will increase capacity to 400,000 litres p.a.
  • Location is attractive to visitor groups. Approximately 100,000 people visit the distillery each year.
  • Production is split 26,000 litres peated and 104,000 litres non-peated.
  • The peated brand is named Ballechin. This name was resurrected by Edradour in 2002 in recognition of a central Scotland distillery of the same name which operated between 1810 and 1927.
  • Standard unpeated brand is Edradour ten-year old single malt although a wide range of other finishes and ages are available.
  • The distillery tours are well organised and take visitors through the entire process of malting, mashing, fermentation, distillation and maturation commencing with tasting and a film. In-depth, connoisseur, tours are also available.
  • Edradour has an on-site bottling plant used by sister company, Signatory, an independent bottler of whisky. At the on-site shop a wide range of single malts can be purchased, across the whole Scotch whisky spectrum, but carrying the Signatory brand.

Next, we drove to Kenmore near Loch Tay where visited the Crannog Centre which is focused on a reconstructed loch dwelling from about 2500 years ago.

Whisky making at Edradour Distillery

Information on the Crannog Centre

Crannog, Loch Tay, Scotland

Crannogs were timber buildings built on wooden stilts or man-made islands and were high status homes for extended families and their (valuable) animals for some 2000 years, from prehistory through to the Iron Age and even into medieval times. Crannogs are widespread in Scotland and Ireland. There are over six hundred recognised crannogs in Scotland alone.

The Crannog featured here is a reconstruction based on diligent underwater archaeology at Oakbank on the opposite side of Loch Tay. Tours are available at regular intervals which allow participants to join in some experimental archaeology, such as wool spinning, fire lighting and wood-turning.

Wood turning at Crannog Centre.