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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

WHAT I DID ON MY SPRING BREAK - THIRD POST


GROUNDS AT URQUHART

A DIFFERENT VIEW OF URQUHART CASTLE RUINS

URQUHART CASTLE RUIN ON LOCH NESS

A CRANNOG

HOLLY TRYING TO MAKE FIRE (AND NOT DOING TOO WELL)

HERMATIGE WATERFALL


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This is the last post of our Scotland trip. Please comment, if you like, and let me know what you thought.

We parked at the base of Craigphadrig Wood and CLIMBED UP THE HILL. Holly, bless her, sprinted gaily ahead of me. (I was beginning to hate Holly). The earthen, vitrified walls still exist, though rounded by passing ages and covered with grass. Vitrified walls, made by imbedding wood into the earthen bank and burning it, strengthened the defenses. Historians today cannot duplicate this technique completely.

Craigphadrig Rock was probably the best "ruin" for Holly's research. She lingered and walked all around the top or "rock" of Craigphadrig envisioning the fort's location and how supplies and food were transported. I enjoyed the sun, bird song, and peacefulness of the area, inhaling the strong scent of the tall pines swaying in the wind.

As we ascended to the Rock, we came upon a tree with bits of cloth and rags and even a police officer's uniform tie bound to its bare branches. We discovered this is a clootie or rag well, one of the few still actively venerated by locals seeking cures. The "rags," tied onto a tree as part of a healing ritual, struck us as strange in our modern age, but somehow belonged to the misty and mystical Craigphadrig Rock.

In Pitlochry we stayed in a Victorian house, nicely decorated, with stained glass doors and windows. Our host there, Paul, who has two daughters near Holly's age, let her borrow 2 books overnight that helped with her research. He also gave us directions and suggestions for our trip. All of the people we met were friendly and tried to help us. Scots are most hospitable when not behind the wheel.

On Saturday, we went to see Dunfallandy Stone -- an example of Pictish artwork. The family cemetery containing this stone sits on top of a hill, and this was the only time our Weather Angel failed us. We scrambled up to see Dunfallandy Stone in a chilling, blowing rain -- no pleasant "Scottish Mist" this time!

Our last touring day was busy. We visited a crannog --an artificial island with wooden palisades and buildings built in the loch on stilts. A high, peaked roof crowned the round wooden house. Our guide, Amanda, took us inside and we sat on skin-covered benches as she told us what is known and speculated about crannogs and their builders. These crannogs date from the Iron Age but were still in use in Scotland's Dark Ages.

Amanda told us the houses were built in the loch for defense reasons. In the Iron Age, an iron axe was a "treasure to be protected from thieves." Adolescent daughters were apparently routinely "stolen", so they and the livestock were kept in the crannogs overnight and when danger threatened, as well.

On a sad note, I must report that the "NeverLost" lost its mind at the airport, where we had to return it and the rental car. We raced frantically all around the Edinburgh airport, needing to turn in the car by 7:00 p.m. I suppose the proximity of the airport electronics confused our "lady" who calculated our route again and again without ever guiding us to the Hertz parking lot. We arrived (only after telephoning the return point for directions) within seconds of the closing time. And without a scratch on the car, I'm proud to say. All that steely-eyed, white-knuckled determination paid off.

It was a wonderful Spring Break and I greatly enjoyed being with Holly. Who knows whether we will ever get a chance to be together like this again?

As to the trip home, that is another long, sad story. Delta and British Airways apparently do not communicate with each other and between this and a delayed take off from Edinburgh; we missed our connection in London.

"Where are our tickets?" we asked the British Airways agent in Edinburgh.

"Oh, we cannot issue a ticket for your Delta flight from London," she replied airily. "You will not need a paper ticket. It's all done electronically. No problem."

Oh, really? Tell that to the security person who would not let us go from the 5th to the 4th terminal of Heathrow once we got to London.

"You need documentation," she explained sternly. "Don't you have a ticket or some sort of paperwork? Of course, you MUST have some documentation to go through Security."

Alas.

Well, after all, it was April Fools' Day. Enough to say that we arrived home a day late and MANY dollars short. But we did arrive and so did our luggage -- albeit a few days later.

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