Saturday, July 10, 2010
Travels In Time: Savoring Scotland
I had barely opened my suitcase when someone appeared to take my clothes to be brushed and steamed and returned in time for dinner. We dined on cold salmon before dancing to piano music in the drawing room. It was dreamlike, that sense of occasion that a great hotel fosters, an evening to be savored then and in memory.
Next day it rained but a tee time at Gleneagles is a tee time, rain or shine, and golfers turned out in force on the famous courses. Non-golfers among us visited nearby Stirling Castle where Robert the Bruce rallied Highlanders against “the auld enemy, the English” in the 14th century. His great stone statue stands watch today. Mary, Queen of Scots, was crowned there 200 years later, and another 200 years later Bonnie Prince Charlie was smuggled out to the Isle of Skye.
That was our destination, too, but we went in comfort, by train through the Highlands, with side trips to Loch Ness and Inverness. Then it was on to the Kyle of Lochalsh on Scotland’s west coast, and by ferry to Skye. There’s a land bridge there now, which keeps traffic moving, but arrival by sea has a timeless charm and Old World mystique.
My favorite spot on Skye was Donvegan Castle, ancestral home of Clan MacLeod since the 9th century. Moated and massive, with walls 10 feet thick in places, it’s open to the public, as well as a gathering place for the clan. Even as we speak, MacLeods from around the world are packing for the 2010 Clan MacLeod Parliament/World Gathering in Dunvegan July 24-31.
Our travel group stayed in a private home that had been converted to an inn of sorts. The sleeping quarters were dreadful and the lone bathroom was in a hall closet, but Scottish hospitality more than made up for it.
We dragged in from an afternoon of tramping around in the rain to find fireplace logs ablaze in the parlor. Our hostess appeared with a steaming pot of tea and a tray of scones. Later, a substantial supper was topped off by a magnificent lemon meringue pie. When we were ready for bed, hot water bottles were brought around to warm our feet.
And then there’s the British Open golf tournament at St. Andrews, not far from Gleneagles, July 12 through 18. I’ll be watching, not only for the game but for a glimpse of Scotland.
Photos from the Internet. Photo of Dunvegan Castle from commons.wikimedia.org/