I’LL TAKE THE HIGH ROAD AND YOU TAKE THE LOW ROAD

Continuing the story of my trip to Scotland……

Our coach driver Eddie told us the origin of the famous song ‘Loch Lomond’ which was pretty sad.  It was written by a Jacobite highlander in the Invararey gaol at the time of the 1745 uprising when Bonnie Prince Charlie was fighting James II of England’s grandson. The Jacobites were part of the political movement that aimed to restore the Roman Catholic Stuart King James II of England and his heirs to the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland. The Jacobite Rebellion was an important time in Scotland; this ended at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 the final confrontation which was primarily a religious civil war.  These Jacobite highlanders were taken prisoner and were systematically being killed; ten hung per day. One son in each family was allowed to be spared. There were two brothers in the Invararey gaol, one brother said to the other, “you must go home to the family, and I will stay to be killed and buried. I am taking the high road and will be in Scotland before you.” His meaning was his soul would be in Scotland. This song is sung when a person gets very melancholy at the end of Hogmanay and reminisces over the past. Listening to the words of Loch Lomond will never be the same for me after hearing that story of familial sacrifice.

Industries

We passed the forestry region of Dumfries as we drove along the M74 towards Glasgow.  BLTR6Pine Trees The hillsides were clad in native Scots Pine, a tree that adapted to climate change over the previous centuries; it has a natural range confined to the Highlands, covering about 17,000 hectares, mainly growing on north-facing slopes. Forestry is a big industry in the area. Thirty five years after the trees are planted they are cut down and two more planted in their place. There is an enormous demand for trees worldwide and Scotland is the third largest producer of wood in Europe. Running under the A73 is the Longannet Coal Mine, now closed. This was the deepest coalmine in Scotland. – The mine shafts run for 9 miles in all directions, the area is now landscaped where it was built over and beautified by  roadside sculptures; the ghostly Andy Scott’s ‘Arria’ metal mermaid sculpture, overlooking the M80 motorway near Cumbernauld and the Clydesdale Horse, facing Glasgow with its backside towards Edinburgh on the M8.

Another major industry is whiskey, manufactured from the abundant supplies of barley and the pure, clear spring water from the peaty burns, an environment rich in the highest quality ingredients which have made this liquor magic and a top export. Each distillery has its own distinctive handcrafted characteristics with £8billion of whiskey sold per annum.

Scottish Terms

The boundary between the highlands and the lowlands of Scotland is at the town of Comrie which sits on the Highland Boundary Fault where the tectonic plates butt against each other. To the north are the mountains which are called benns or tors, Ben Nevis is the highest at 4409 ft above sea level. A loch is a stretch of water, a glen is a narrow valley, and a strath is a wider valley.  A munro is a mountain over 3000 feet named after Sir Hugh Munro, (1856–1919) who listed all the mountains. ‘Bagging a munro’ is a mountain climber’s ambition, and each year people die trying to achieve this. There are 282 munros in Scotland.  Clans are tribes or children and Mac means ‘son of’.

Spikes of purple wild flowers poked through the white daisies and Queen Anne Lace as we bypassed Glasgow onto the Stirling Road, we skirted Bannock Burn where Robert theBLTR6 Callendar Bruce won the battle against the English 700 years ago.  We past Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument, and turned off to Callendar.  This area was quite flat and was at one time under the ocean, where the Oceana Germanica or North Sea covered the area.

Sheep stood watching us showing off their newly clipped fat bellies as we past the lake near Monreith. The game of Curling was a very popular game similar to Ice Hockey which was played on this frozen lake, although health and safety do not approve of it these days as the ice has to reach a certain thickness before you are allowed to play.

Eddie asked us all to disembark and go to the loo at Aberfoyle to make sure we had empty bladders before we drove down the winding narrow road to the hotel at BLTR6Inversnaid HighwayInversnaid. This road is called the ‘Inversnaid Highway’ and wound its way alongside Loch Ardon on the one side and lovely stone houses lining the way on the other and inbetween were clumps of purple heather on the open hillsides. We drove along the valley floor on a very narrow road with few squeeze places for cars to pass each other.  It took an hour to drive the 15 miles as we had to stop at times to let other vehicles pass. At one stage Eddie tried to pass a wide bodied truck and it took several backwards and forwarding and holding of breaths to pass with a hairsbreadth between us.

We were all relieved to arrive at the hotel at Inversnaid and settle into our cosy rooms and enjoy a very welcome cup of tea.

To be continued Loch Lomond………

BLTR6 Inversnaid Hotel

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Right Royal Adventures

RIGHT ROYAL ADVENTURES WITH DAVID

David an avid follower of Her Majesty, subscribes to the Daily Mail, gets the latest Royal gossip, news and checks the Court Calendar.  He can tell you anything you might want to know about Balmoral, Sandringham,
Windsor and Buckingham Palace.
Every year he books tickets in January to attend the Ride into Ascot in June.

David has a heart of gold, using these tickets to give elderly folk from Bedford the opportunity to see the Queen. I was thrilled when he invited me to attend the event this year as well.

bl3queens-ticketWe set off early on Thursday 18th June 2015, an appropriate day, as it would have been my Mother’s 100th birthday had she lived another 7 months. It was also the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.

On arrival we stopped at the Windsor Farm shop for a cup of coffee and comfort break. The security officer at the gate into Windsor Estate remembered David from his visit on Tuesday. We drove along Dukes Road watching the Queens Derbyshire cattle grazing in the open fields on either side of the road.

We found the designated fenced off area and bagged our picnic spot opposite a specific oak tree where David said we would get a good view of the Queen getting into her carriage about six meters away.

Security officers walked up and down talking to the small crowd of about a hundred people. While we were waiting David interrogated the police officers regarding their equipment and the sniffer dogs.   They told him they spoke to the crowds, wore bullet proof vests and wore equipment on their webbing belts. They showed us a pepper spray, whistle and heavy fold up truncheon which we were allowed to hold. I think they also wear a small camera these days that can transmit pictures whilst they are chatting to the crowds. David asked a policeman whether there was a special unit to guard the Queen. He said they could apply to be on the Queens Guard duty and security but it had no more monetary value than regular policing.

bl3footment-2Once the scarlet decked footmen arrived in their vehicle David chatted to them. He asked the tall one what job he did and was told he walked the corgis. He stood right behind the Queen on the coach. We chatted to another group of footmen, one was a girl, another a young man from Switzerland. The third one recognised David from previous years so they chatted about his duties, he said it was just like any regular job he did not have very much spare time. They have special livery for Windsor and other colours for Balmoral and Sandringham. Their uniforms are quite old and refurbished. Their black hats are quite heavy; some of them have had a number of owners whose names could be seen on the inside lining.  David was not shy to ask the security officer about risk, he was told it was not the crowd, but rather the open areas. A helicopter circled overhead searching the surrounding areas with infra-red heat to detect anyone hiding in the bushes. Several private carriages with people dressed to the hilt drove by before the Queens procession; apparently you can get a package deal which includes all the frills, champagne and carriage, if you can afford it at about £1000.00 per ticket!

bl3carraige-2The Queen’s cousin arrived dressed in mauve to supervise the order of the horses and carriages. Magnificent grey horses pulled the Queens’s carriage, the other two coaches were drawn by brown horses. Eventually the car containing the Royals arrived and the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen wearing an aquamarine outfit, Edward and Eugenie alighted and climbed into their carriage. Princess Anne, Sophie and Beatrice followed in the other two carriages. Thebl3carraige-1 two front outriders faced the Queen’s carriage while she transferred from the motor, once she was in the carriage they turned around and the procession was off.   We had an excellent view from our vantage point.

bl3queen-getting-into-carraigebl3the-queens-grey-horsesOnce the procession had gone, we headed back down the road past the Lodge where Prince Edward lives. David drove up to a gate that leads into the Estate; it suddenly opened. David said he had never been there before so decided to explore and we drove through. The road wound up to the Bronze Horse where we stopped to take photos. From this vantage point we looked at Windsor Castle which stood in all its glory at the end of a very long ride. We returned to the Windsor Farm Store for a cup of tea on the way back and had a meander around the Store where we could have bought meat and produce from the Estate before heading home.

18th June 2015

Deryn van der Tang©

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