Scottish Adventures: St. Andrews and the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh (a final travel post)

peony and geraniumBefore the summer is over, I thought I might post a few more photos and tid-bits from our June family trip to Scotland. I’m not going to be setting the world on fire with this post, but then again, I’m pretty sure that if you wanted that kind of excitement, you wouldn’t be hanging around my blog. So here we go…

First stop: St. Andrews, Scotland, where the lucky tourist may visit a castle, a university, a catherdral, and historic golf course, all in one day. And that, my friends, is precisely what we did.

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Though technically a ruin, the castle was possibly my children’s favorite castle of our trip. While they always enjoy learning about battles between the Scots and the English (and the visitors center was amazing), they liked getting free reign in the castle itself. They clambered over all available surfaces, and they still haven’t stopped talking about the 16th century mine shaft that runs under the street, which they happily climbed through, while I did not.

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My favorite spot in St.Andrews was the University, where the landscape was groomed and ready for their graduation ceremonies, some of which were happening the very day we visited. I will not go into any history or detail we learned about the university because (a) I would embarrass myself, and (b) you’d be better off just googling it. Suffice it to say that to the American eye, it was an assemblage of picturesque courtyards, impossibly historic buildings, and there was even a bit of pomp and circumstance present to add gravitiy to our visit.

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We also visited the golf course, because my late father-in-law was an excellent golfer, and former member of the USGA who spent much time there. I can say that and not be bragging because (1) he was my husband’s father, not mine, and (2) I know next-to nothing about golf.

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Next Stop: the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh

You knew there would be a garden in here somewhere, right? We spent most of a day at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, and I consider myself lucky that my family tolerates, and in fact, even enjoys visting gardens wherever we go. (Hat tip to Catherine at Knotted Cotton for advising me that it was not to be missed!)

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My children probably loved the glasshouses best. There were so many varied climates represented, and so many separate houses and spaces. We spent well over an hour exploring them all, and the Amazon water lilies (pictured above) did not fail to impress.

greenhouse orchid at royal botanic garden

We also really loved visiting the Queen Mother’s memorial garden, with a (still growing) labyrinth in the center, and the plants of different continents on in the four corners. It felt like there was something new to discover around every corner, and so, I failed to take photos because we were just having too much fun.

rock garden royal botanic garden

Likewise, the rock gardens were filled with unexpected delight – beautiful plants nestled on rocky outcrops, sloping hills and in hidden corners. It was quite inspiration!

All in all it was a wonderful trip, though, there is no photographic record of me driving on the left side of the road, an omission which I most defnitely regret, as driving on the left felt like quite an accomplishment. I’ll just have to cross the Atlantic and get behind the wheel again soon. Consider yourself warned, my UK friends.

Scottish Adventures: Falkland Palace and Garden

view through window at falkland palace

One thing I noticed on my trip to Scotland was that Mary Queen of Scots seems to have visited/lived in/spent some amount of time at many historic sites. (A little like hearing “George Washington slept here” up and down the U.S. east coast.) In the case of Falkland Palace, it was quite true, as Falkland Palace was a favorite spot for hunting for nobility of all types from the 12th until the 17th century, and Mary was no exception.

falkland house scotland

In the early 16th century, the old castle was tranformed into a renaissance palace by James IV and James V (Mary’s father) who added a royal tennis court, which I know is called “court tennis” in the USA and apparently called “real tennis” on the internet. (Looks like a lot of fun to play!)

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The palace later fell into ruin, but in the late 19th century, the property was partially restored by John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute.  These days, Falkland Palace is maintained by the National Trust for Scotland, and is a delight to visit.

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The Royal tennis court is still there, and still in use, though I did not take any photos. I was too distracted by the sparrows dipping in and out and all around, and by all the beautiful gardens outside.

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I also missed a photo of the giant outdoor chess set, which kept my children busy, enabling me to take all these photos, and making it a great place to visit for all ages.

Scottish Adventures: Stirling

 

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Roses growing wild near Stirling castle, Scotland

When I started this blog, my plan was to stick with a narrow focus – creative projects and inspiration. But now, a few years later, things are different.

I’ve started a small business and a lot of my creative energy is going into that – keeping my online shop fresh, coming up with new cards and prints, and best of all, keeping interesting plants in my garden so I always have fresh botanical inspiration. Aside from my garden, those other creative endeavours don’t lend themselves to thoughtful blog posts, and besides, they have their own little space on the internet.

So, I’ve decided to open up this space a little, and post about other topics, and today, I’d like to share a little about my recent family trip to Scotland. I’d be honored if you’d stick around – there are landscapes, castles, and, of course, gardens and plants.

landscape around sterling scotland

With a home base in Stirling, we were in the thick of some of big moments in Scottish history, including the Battle of Bannockburn where Robert Bruce defeated King Edward II of England in 1314, and the Battle of Stirling Bridge, which was woefully misrepresented in the movie Braveheart as we learned more than once.  With boys in tow, we visited both sites, of course!

We also regularly enjoyed the dramatic views of Stirling castle and the highland cows grazing beneath it. Sadly, I did not get a good photo of the castle which is quite dramatic in the landscape, perched high up on a crags. (Its easy to find one online.)

view from Stirling Castle
One view from Stirling castle

Dating mostly from the 15th and 16th centuries, Stirling castle served at royal residence to James IV, V, VI of Scotland. Mary, Queen of Scots, was crowned there and Bonnie Prince Charlie beseiged it. (Not exactly in that order, of course!) So I’ll stop there – having me try to recount Scottish history will do none of us any good. Suffice it to say that Stiring castle played a key role in much of Scottish history, and it was a delight to explore; my boys spent a lot of time discussing paraphets, keeps and murder holes.

We also visited the museum of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders within Stirling castle. They could have easily landed one new recruit, but for the barrier of his being only ten years old, and a US citizen.

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We also took several day trips, visiting St. Andrews, Falkland Palace and Garden, and the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, among other places. Stay tuned, if you want to hear more … I’ll be posting those later in the week.  In the meantime, here was my favorite personal discovery in our adventures in and around Stirling: wild woodland foxgloves growing along the path to the Wallace monument.

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