Friday, January 30, 2015

J and K's Excellent Adventure: Day 6

What a wonderful Wednesday! We woke up, ate some breakfast ( I assume), and then drove to a magical place---Puck's Glen. Puck's Glen is a beautiful hiking area. When Kate first researched this area, she sent me an e-mail about a "fairyland" in which we should go on a hike. Totally worth it! I often dream about living in a more hike friendly area, because I quite enjoy morning hikes. Anyway....turns out that we hiked the trail loop backwards, but that's alright. It was a longer hike than usual, because we stopped frequently to take pictures. It was such a gorgeous area, you HAD to take pictures as often as possible. It would have been a tragedy had we not.

After leaving Puck's Glen, we had to take a ferry in order to get on the route which would take us to Glasgow. Whilst on the ferry, we decided it would be a good idea to go to the top deck and have a dance party. *Our original plan for Europe was that we would dance at random times, or in front of iconic places. There was a lot of roadside dancing, which was awesome. After we returned home, we were going to compile all of the videos of us dancing and make a silly "Dancing Through Europe" montage. Unfortunately, the majority of the clips were lost, and so there is no evidence of said dance parties. ....which is too bad for all of you, because you're missing out on some epic moments. Such as me slipping and almost falling on some rocks in a pond area during the hike in Puck's Glen.*
Back to the ferry----we went to the top to get some great footage of us dancing. There were some men up there smoking. To avoid them thinking we were complete fools, we explained our "project" to them. They thought it was great, and asked if one of them could join in. So John (a random guy from Florida) and I rocked out, while his friend ( I cannot remember his name) played music for us on his phone. Eventually Cheryl joined in on the dance party as well, while Kate filmed it all. As this was going on, the wife of the man playing the music came up to the top deck. She probably looked confused, but he immediately stated, "They're dancing through Europe." in a tone that indicated that he thought it was a normal thing for people to do. Cracked us up. However, we feel badly that we never were able to put a video on YouTube, because they told us they would definitely look for it. They seemed excited to see how our "project" turned out. I mean they were going to be in it....why wouldn't they want to see it? :)

Well that afternoon we arrived in Glasgow. We didn't have a ton of time, so we just went to the main shopping centre, and wandered around. Cheryl introduced Kate and I to what basically became our favorite European store (some of our friends had told us about it prior to our trip)----PRIMARK! The two of us seriously ended up going to Primark almost every day the rest of the time we were in the United Kingdom. Purchases weren't made every time, but it was definitely visited most days. But I digress. Glasgow is a super cool city. I wish we had ended up with more time to explore. Since we were in a hurry, we just looked around, grabbed something from a "bakery" to eat, and headed on our way.

Our next destination was Sanquhar, where Kate's ancestors once lived. The drive there was gorgeous. We went to a cemetery at a beautiful old Church, where we're pretty sure her family was buried. Like in Thurso, we never quite found the headstone we were searching for, but we're still pretty sure it was the right place. Actually we did find a headstone with the correct name from Kate's ancestry, there was just a bit of discrepancy with the year. *Kate, if I am remembering this incorrectly, feel free to clarify. Sadly, I don't remember all of the details as well as I would if I had just typed this all up earlier.* I don't know why this made me laugh, but it did----the groundskeeper who was there had his dog with him, and it was a Scottish Terrier. A "Scottie" dog in Scotland. I'm sure that isn't an uncommon thing, but for whatever reason it just made me smile.

Sanquhar was our last stop before driving back to Cheryl's home in England. Something that is so beautiful about the countryside in Scotland is the heather everywhere. It is really lovely. ....the thoughts about heather was random, but I felt like sharing those thoughts.

I love Scotland. It is amazing. If ever you are given the opportunity to visit Scotland, do not pass it up.

You can't really see us, but that's alright. We stopped to take pictures on Loch Lomond on our way to Puck's Glen. 

The start of our hike. 

Just posing. 

We're cool. 

Puck's Glen is just so beautiful. 

A view from the ferry. 


Part of the shopping centre in Glasgow. 

Church and cemetery in Sanquhar. 

Ruins from an old church in Sanquhar that Kate's family could have attended.

A cute sign that Cheryl's kids made for us. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

J and K's Excellent Adventure: SCOTLAND, Day 5

Wow. I have slacked in the updating of this blog. There is a TON to catch up on from the Europe trip. I was wise and made bullet points each day of things we did, so that is good. However, I definitely don't remember all of the details anymore. Tragedy of all tragedies----the summary of each day will not be quite as good. Oh well. 

On Tuesday morning (Day 5), our first adventure was seeing a Castle located by Loch Ness---Urquhart Castle. We had gotten up relatively early to go there, since going there prior to breakfast was what worked best with the rest of our busy schedule. Due to the fact that it was quite early, the gate down to the castle was closed. So we just parked in the parking lot, and started climbing on walls in order to see it/take some pictures. We probably broke some laws by doing such. In fact I know we did, since there were signs telling us to stay off of the walls. Kate and I had already broken the law by trespassing in Ireland, so really were just staying consistent. :) Anyway, Urquhart is a beautiful castle. The sun was hitting the lake directly by the castle though, so it made for some interesting pictures.

After visiting the castle, we went back to our hotel for a traditional Scottish breakfast. That meant haggis. You didn't necessarily have to eat haggis (it was just an option)....but  "when in Rome", right? It was very interesting. I didn't really know exactly what to expect. All I had heard was that it takes getting used to. Well, I didn't love it. It was fine (the taste was somewhat like spiced sausage), but I don't feel an overwhelming need to ever eat it again. However, if my new dream of one day randomly ending up in Scotland to live, I might give haggis another go.

Once we had everything packed up, we headed to the most northern point of Scotland you can get to by train or car. The land of my McKay {MacKay} heritage---Thurso. Thurso is located in the very, very, very, VERY, northwest part of Scotland. It is quite the drive to get there, but absolutely fascinating. I honestly don't know if I have ever been anywhere as lovely as Scotland. It has beaches, it has mountains, it has trees for days, and it is just lovely. I know logically that there are other places like that, but Scotland just has a special feeling to it. Anyway, I digress. On my mom's side, I have McKay ancestry, and my great-great grandpa McKay was born in Thurso, and lived there until his family immigrated to the United States. We have some family friends who were serving in the Ireland/Scotland mission, who happen to also have McKay heritage, who had met a lady who kindly showed them where all of the McKay sites pertain to David McKay's family were located. However, I did not have enough foresight to ask them in advance where those sites would be. So finding the house where David McKay was born did not seem possible. We knew of a great-great-great (probably one more great) grandma who had been buried in Thurso in 1863, so our goal was to find her grave site.

When we pulled into Thurso, we saw a sign for a cemetery and headed that direction. After probably an hour looking around, we were having no success. Finally we found a groundskeeper and he told us that we were not at the right cemetery. Our best bet of finding Isabel Sutherland would be at an old Church graveyard.We went to that cemetery, but we couldn't find her headstone. Most headstones were quite worn down, and hard to read. But even though we didn't find her headstone, we're 99% positive we were at the right cemetery. The old graveyard was located near a harbor, and it was just beautiful. Thurso is a very lovely town.

Once we were finished with our family history adventure, we headed south (that was the only direction to go), to see the Eilean Donan Castle. We got there past it's closing time, but we were still able to go walk around the grounds. Also, there is a webcam there, which is cool. ....So some of our family in the States, and Cheryl's family in England, got to watch us on the webcam for a bit. Eilean Donan Castle is super cool, and we had a lot of fun walking (and dancing) around the grounds there.

Then we headed to our hotel for the night----I believe the town was called Dumbarton. It was a nice drive down. On our way from Thurso to the Eilean Donan Castle, we had some super scary roads. Thankfully the drive after the castle was not as stressful. As we drove into Dumbarton, we started seeing the beautiful Loch Lomond. However, it was getting dark and so we didn't get to fully appreciate it. ....that wouldn't happen until Day 6. Spoiler alert.

 Urquhart Castle

Cheryl climbing on the wall to get a better picture of the castle. We all did this, but it was too good of a picture to pass up since the sign was right there. 

A lovely castle we passed on our way to Thurso. We regretted our choice to not stop at it. It looked amazing. 

Driving into Thurso. 

Thurso from the harbor. 

Eilean Donan Castle.