The Best for Last?

It was a sad morning as we packed up and had to say goodbye to our lovely little Scottish farm cabin. It was much cooler this morning, but Meg came to greet us at the door again. No walk this morning, but she did get several biscuits just for being so darn cute.

Helen picked us up and we set out for a southern trek to Elcho Castle. I had never heard of it before but it’s a true hidden gem and an out-of-the-way spot that’s worth the trip. 

Elcho Castle one of Scotland’s best preserved 16th-century tower houses, was built around 1560 by a member of the Wemyss family. There is little history attached to the castle other than it simply served as a fine country residence for the family and servants. This was very evident as we toured room after room with its own fireplace and latrine – something we haven’t seen even in royal residences. They truly did live the high life but were also able to design the building to be both comfortable and easily defensible. 

Dave and I loved this little jewel. It’s very out of the way and you have to literally drive through a farm to get to it. But it is so worth it. 

Then we drove to Dumfermline Abbey and Palace. Charles the 1st, King of England and Ireland was born here in November 1600. He was the last King to be born in Scotland. The old 12th century abbey is very dramatic and striking in its dark, heavy beauty and the stone work. The more modern church isn’t nearly as impressive but in 1329 AD: Robert the Bruce was buried at Dunfermline and he was re-interred in 1818 sans his heart which is buried at Melrose Abbey. 

We stopped for lunch here at the brilliantly pink-painted Abbots House. We sat outside in a beautiful setting surrounded by an herb garden with the Abbey stretching out behind it. The service and the meal weren’t great, but the setting sure was. 

It was later in the day now and we were running out of time, so Helen continued to drive south towards Edinburgh. We stopped at the coast and the Forth of Firth to get a close–up view of the two large bridges. Both are pretty impressive structures, but the older railroad bridge is of particular interest. 

The rail bridge was begun in 1883, took 7 years to complete, cost the lives of 63 men and nearly 3.5 million pounds of metal and used 10 times as much steel as the Eiffel Tower. It was deliberately chosen to look strong, due to the collapse 4 years earlier of the first Tay Bridge. Until 1917, when the Quebec Bridge was completed, the Forth Bridge had the longest single cantilever bridge span in the world. 

We stopped for some photos then Helen actually took us to her home in Cramond. It’s a beautiful neighborhood and we can see how raising her girls in this area had a lovely community entity. Dave and I got to see Afternoon Tea Tours’ International Headquarters and she invited us for tea, which we started outside in the sun, then soon moved inside due to being too warm in the sun. Helen generously shared her life with us and now her home. So much more than just a tour guide. She has a beautiful garden and I was not surprised to see a large ceramic sheep stature standing guard in her garden. Loved it! 

Now we reluctantly left this lovely local, struggled through traffic going in to Edinburgh, and Helen dropped us off at the Hilton. Since my brain aneurysm, I don’t cry as easily as I used to, but I was most definitely crying internally when Dave and I hugged Helen not once, but twice, each. It was very hard to say goodbye. I enjoyed traveling with a girlfriend for several days and she was much more than just a tour guide for Dave and I. 

Dave and I checked into the hotel, had a great dinner in their hotel restaurant and tried to get to sleep for an early morning tomorrow as we put an end to our first Scottish journey.

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