Scotland in general terms is large in stature and the beauty here is new to me. Rolling hills, greenest pastures and yes, it can rain at anytime, on any day. As the clouds roll by in eery fashion, you look out at this landscape and you feel like life is larger here. Highlands seem larger, castles and manors are larger than Ireland's, and even their tales of monsters in the Loch are huge.
Edinburg was the first stop on our Azamara Club Cruise. Half our group headed to St. Andrews and the golf Mecca. It is a beautiful ride through the Scotish countryside where fertile farmland abounds with a single hector producing over 20 different crops, all green. As we descend on the small town of St. Andrews, it is vibrant and numerous quaint shops line the streets and alleys. A quick circle of the town brought us to the University of St. Andrews. You may know this one as the meeting place of two students, WIlliam and Kate of British royalty. We stopped by the pub they met, of course. Then onto St. Andrews, Old Course where golf began and the links style courses gave another life to the village. "Links" style is when the golf course lies between the township and the sea. A great use of marsh and hills that evolved and grew over from sand piles. All I know is the fairways here are cut like our greens and the traps are really, really deep. The public clubhouse on the 16th hole is a great stop and many of us thought we found the best fish and chips of the trip, right here.
Others in Shangri-La Travel Club toured Edinburgh from Edinburgh Castle to Parliament, to Old Town and New Town. It was not my day to castle crawl, but I heard the old castle is very grand and well kept. The shopping was stellar in Old Town but the highlite was a public appearance of Princess Anne of England. The royal family tries to spend their Summer Holidays is Scotland each year and Anne likes to tour the castle and be available to visitors.
Next day, onto Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands. Those of us that golf set out early to open the members course at Kirkwall Golf Club. (It seems more polite to hit their barn and perhaps a windmill before the locals arrive.) The course, while short, was very challenging and we enjoyed the lunch, beers and boasting inside the 19th hole. Others, took the scenic route to Skara Brae, a settlement from 3180BC. A Unesco World Heritage Site that takes some imagination to understand, but quite amazing with stone furniture and whole that have preserved themselves in the countryside.
Many of us met up in the Town of Kirkwall with pubs, distillery (Highland Park) and, of course, old churches. We did fairly well at taking over the town pub, Helgis, but alas, our concurring fell short when they brought out the haggis (a pudding of sheep organs and spices that are stuffed again inside the stomach). We tried some to say we did, then drank up and moved on.
Our final stop in Ireland is for the Isle of Skye. The photo above is of the most picturesque and photographed castle in Scotland, Eilean Donan Castle. Great tour and photo stop. The day was complete with lunch and some local brews in Portree, the largest, small town on the Isle. Goodbye Scotland ... for now.