The day will come when I will die. So the only matter of consequence before me is what I will do with my allotted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar in the breeze.--Richard Bode

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Scottish Highlands

Hi from Bonnie Scotland:

I like Scotland, but I would like it a lot more if only it would stop raining. Every day it is very cold, and people walk around bundled up in long sleeves and jackets and carrying umbrellas.  Sometimes I try to camp, just to save some money, but it seems like at least every other night I have to stay in a hotel. Here is a picture of one of them I stayed in on a rainy night near Edinburgh. Can you say the name of the hotel? I can’t. But I was glad to have the nice warm, dry room that night I can tell you, even though $120 per night kind of stretches the old wallet.

There are fine country homes all over the place up here. I think only rich people can afford to live in this one.

In fact, this home is called Floors Castle, and it is possible you have heard of it. It is very famous. It belongs to a Duke, but kings and queens have stayed here.

Here is a picture of two handsome guys in front of the castle – well, Odysseus is pretty good looking, but I don’t know about myself. Actually, I guess I am embarrassing him because he is hiding a little.

I spent a couple of days at Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. The weather was so nice when I got there that I decided to camp. Ha! Ha! During the night it started raining, and that kept up the entire time I was there. Because it was raining, I decided to take the bus from the campground into town instead of riding Odysseus. The first thing I wanted to see was the Queen’s yacht, Britannia.

This yacht was built about the same year I went into 8th grade. From then until it was finally retired a few years ago it has been around the world many times, and it has played host not only to the British Royal Family, but also to Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton and many other dignitaries. Here is a picture of Queen Elizabeth’s bedroom.

Notice that the queen’s bed is a single bed. When Prince Andrew and Sarah honeymooned on the yacht they were not having any of that single bed nonsense. Here is a picture of their bedroom.

This is the dining room, all set up for a formal dinner. The queen and her family did not usually dine in such style, I think.

I looked for my place card but I couldn’t find it. I guess the Queen’s Royal Secretary misplaced my invitation. Oh well. It’s their loss. Besides, I probably would not have known which glass or which fork to use.

This is the lounge. I can just picture the Queen sitting in there and playing dominos with her grand kids. When the ship was being built, she wanted a real wood burning fireplace, but that got vetoed. Not even the Queen can break the rule of no real fireplaces on a British ship.

The crew had it pretty nice too. There were three dining rooms for them. They also had their own lounges. Which they got to use depended on their rank. Here is one of the dining rooms; this one for the chief officers.

Do you recognize the sailor pouring a beer for the captain?

This is the boat for playing in. Many a member of the Royal Family learned to sail in this boat. 

Later on, after my yacht tour, I went up to the castle in Edinburgh. I have been inside that thing before, so I just looked around. They have a place up there called the ‘Camera Obscura’ which I thought looked like fun. I went in and had fun there for a couple of hours. It was a good chance to get out of the rain, and also to play with scientific stuff. I didn’t take many pictures there, but I did ask a lady to take a picture of my head on a platter.

Today, I woke up to a relatively dry tent. After a quick shower and shave, I packed up and rode over the Firth of Forth into Dundee, and then up into the Scottish Highlands. The roads got progressively narrower and steeper.

There are some really pretty rivers in the Highlands.

And eventually, the trees gave way to heather. These are the Grampian Mountains. They are not all that high, but I am pretty far North. I am not sure if that is why there are no trees on the mountains here, but I think not. I think it is because the thousands of sheep keep chewing up any trees that try to grow.

It started to rain again not long after I took that last picture. Soon I dropped back down into the trees and found myself in a pretty village named Braemar. This place has several places to stay overnight out of the rain. I picked out the Ivercauld Arms Hotel.  It was built in 1645 so I guess I can be safe tonight – I don’t think it will fall down while I am sleeping.

I am in the area where they first started distilling Scotch whisky years ago. Most of the distilleries here will give you a free sample, so if it is still raining tomorrow, and if I get cold, I might just have to stop in one and have a tour and warm up.

I will let you know how that goes.