Just a Smalltown Girl....

Published on 5 June 2023 at 17:16

     As we headed towards our last two days of our trip, we started our Thursday morning for the beginning of Castle Day! Castle number one was Doune Castle - which is supposedly the most visited castle in Scotland. Not only was Outlander filmed there (it is Castle Leoch for those who are fans), but it was also used in the filming of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. In preparation of our visit, we made Cody watch the movie while we were at the Cottage. I think we created a monster by doing so, as he has been quoting the movie ever since. It's official - he has received his man card! 

     The castle was beautiful. While parts of it are a shell, there are parts that are still enclosed providing you with the ability to envision the lords and ladies gliding down the stairs in their magnificent finery. We all wandered the grounds, trying to comprehend how these enormous structures could be built so many hundreds of years ago, and still be standing strong. It really is mind-blowing. 

     From there we drove to Linlithgow Palace (which was the fictional Wentworth Prison in Outlander). This castle is currently under renovation work and not open, but we were able to walk around outside the castle to take a few photos. The grounds again are absolutely gorgeous, and the town is quaint and historical. 

    Today was the day of my own 'Holy Grail' of our trip. A visit to 'Mid-Hope Castle' which is 'Lallybroch' in the Outlander series. We chose a perfect day to visit, as it was not overly busy. This was great for me as it allowed me to get a lot of photos. The location was everything I hoped it would be. It was absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately, this particular castle's interior is in disrepair and so not available to tour, but you can walk all around the grounds. We had a long chat with the gate keeper who shared a lot of stories about how they do hope to eventually renovate it so it can be used for a variety of purposes. I am hopeful with the interest in Outlander, perhaps they will raise enough money to bring life back to it. 

     After we left MidHope, we still had plenty of time to take in one more castle. So we drove to Blackness Castle. This castle is located right on the water. Although we had perfect weather everyday, with the wind blowing in from the water, it was a bit chilly there, so we bundled up and headed in. This castle was used in Outlander as Fort William where 'Black Jack Randall' was in charge, and Jamie was flogged. The castle itself is also beautiful, but the ground there is filled with bed rock, was very uneven and you had to use immense caution while walking through it. It also contained a lot of very small stairs, and was used as a prison many years ago. 

     As we wrapped up our Castle tour, we began to head towards Edinburgh - but first we made a stop to see the Kelpies. The Kelpie is a shape-shifting spirit inhabiting lochs in Scottish folklore. Usually described as a black horse-like creature, able to adopt human form. The Kelpie sculptures are 30 metre high horse head sculptures, surrounded by water, and made of steel. They were glorious. They also light up at night, unfortunately we were not going to be able to see them then. They are definitely worth a stop to see if you find yourself in Scotland. 

      With this last official stop before Edinburgh, this would wrap up our time having the rental car and our driving adventures. We gassed up the car, organized our luggage and headed into the city. Edinburgh driving - not fun!! We had a terrible time finding the location for the rental car drop off, the streets are a bit challenging, and the amount of people there - was absolutely crazy. I think it was busier in Edinburgh than London. And I will also say that, although the majority of the people we encountered during our entire trip were absolutely wonderful and friendly, the drivers in Scotland tended to be rather impatient and angry towards anyone who was clearly not a local. That added a lot of stress to an already stressful situation. This was the point of our trip when we knew our exhaustion was coming to a head, and we were glad things were winding down. After we finally found the rental drop-off, we were directed to the street where we should be able to catch a cab.    Of course it involved a rather long walk and elevator ride lugging 4 pieces of luggage, and our backpacks. And cabs? Nowhere to be found. We then took a look at our map and discovered our VRBO was only .3 miles away... so we decided we'd try to walk.  In the meantime, the words of our friend from Midhope castle kept ringing in the way back of my brain (Oh... Edinburgh - it's a really hilly place!). Little did we know... not only is it hilly, but filled with the steepest of stairs you have ever seen, and no way of avoiding them without going dramatically out of your way. So far, as beautiful of a city as Edinburgh is ... we were not loving it at the moment. As the 'News Steps' loomed above us, the time to make a decision was upon us. Would we go for it, when we were so close, or surrender. Our pride and determination took control and up we climbed, like it was Everest. And it felt like it, trust me. It was brutal, not going to lie. We trudged and dragged our luggage one step at a time. I was two steps from the top when my exhaustion took over and my luggage pulled me off balance - making me reach for the handrail before I toppled backwards. Luckily, there were loads of people there, as two very polite Scottish gentlemen reached out to catch me quickly saying "Oh, are you okay Sweetheart? Do you need some help" Oh good grief... I felt like I was 90 years old. I was hot, exhausted, crabby, and definitely D O N E! I strongly told them I was fine, as my pride took over... and then we trudged on towards our flat. As we finally arrived, got the door open, and realized - it's on the second floor and basically 4 more flights of stairs ahead. Yep - this was definitely the beginning of the end of our trip. The Reitan's were toast! 

     The good news was - the place was lovely, and we basically collapsed for a bit trying desperately to regain some sanity, energy, and final bit of enthusiasm for what was a glorious and beautiful city awaiting us outside the windows. After resting awhile, we finally ventured back out into the world, found a pizza place just down the block and each inhaled our personal pizzas along with some adult beverages, much needed after the day we had. Upon feeding our bodies, and realizing that 'Victoria Street' was literally outside the door of the pizza place, we did venture down the road and take in a bit of the beautiful city. Once back in the room, however, we were definitely ready to close our eyes and put an end to this day. 

     One more day before we head home...and the one thing today has made me realize is that I really am just a small town girl.

***Post-Script: in doing research online about the "News Steps" we tackled in Edinburgh - here is the description: The steps run from St. Giles' Street east and north to Market Street. They take you from the vicinity of the historic Royal Mile to the Grassmarket area. There are a total of 124 steps.



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