Photo Essay: The Coastal Walk to Dunnottar Castle

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 The path to Dunnottar begins in Stonehaven harbor and traverses mostly pastureland to the castle.  Round trip distance is approximately 3.25 beautiful miles .  As you can see, the cattle were enjoying some mighty fine views of the North Sea.  I fell in love with Scotland walking this trail…

An Edinburgh Treat

treat  – (noun) an event or item that is out of the ordinary and gives great pleasure

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 [ A hog roast roll from Oink, a little shop on Victoria Street in Grassmarket, Edinburgh – especially delicious with onion and sage stuffing and applesauce ]

Find more treats of all sorts at the Weekly Photo Challenge: Treat.

A Day in St. Andrews

We arrived in Scotland the way many east coast Americans do, on an overnight flight with an early morning arrival in Edinburgh airport.  To stave off exhaustion, we grabbed our rental car and headed north to St. Andrews for a day of sight-seeing and mini-golf.  The conditions were perfect for outdoor exploration and we took full advantage of them. Had we known it would be our best weather of the trip, we would have spent more time exploring the town and beach.

St. Andrews is a lovely old seaside town that also boasts some hefty credentials.  It’s home to the ruins of St. Andrews cathedral and castle which were the center of ecclesiastical rule in Scotland from the 12th century until the Protestant Reformation in 1560 AD.  St. Andrews University, also located here, is the oldest university in Scotland and the third oldest in Europe.  The town’s biggest claim to fame, though?  St. Andrews is credited for being the “home of golf” because the game was first played here in the early 1400’s.  The Old Course, the name of the St. Andrews Links, is home to the annual  Scottish Open and had the honor of hosting the British Open this past July.  Preparations for the tournament were well underway during our visit.

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[ Mitchell’s Deli for breakfast ]

Our first stop of the day was the restaurant at Mitchell’s Deli for breakfast – a happy accident that provided me with a delicious scone topped with butter, raspberry preserves and whipped cream. Feeling refreshed by good food and caffeine, we set out to see the sights.  We spent time walking around the cathedral and its accompanying small museum.  The highlight was climbing St. Rule’s Tower – a vigorous and slightly scary exercise that provided fantastic views of the town and St. Andrews Bay.

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[ Ruins of St. Andrews Cathedral and St. Rules Tower ]

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[ View of St. Andrews from St. Rules Tower.  Access is free with a Historic Scotland pass. ]

A short scenic walk from the cathedral brought us to St. Andrews castle.  The castle was the home of the bishops and archbishops of the cathedral and I believe also hid the honors of Scotland for a very short period of time.  Some serious ugliness took place here around the Scottish Reformation with hangings and murders and such.  Our favorite part of the site was the defensive tunnel under the castle meant to thwart attackers during a clash in the mid 1500’s between protestant rebels within the castle and the 2nd Earl of Arran.  (This is a thorough explanation of the mine’s existence.)

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[ View of St. Andrews Castle and St. Andrews Bay ]

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[ St. Andrews Castle ]

[ Inside the castle grounds ]

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[ Exploring the countermine under the castle, dug by defenders in 1546 ]

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[ St. Andrews Castle ]

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[ Homes in St. Andrews ]

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We finished up our day at The Himalayas putting green which is owned by The St. Andrews Ladies’ Putting Club but open to the public.  Generally I stink at miniature golf but I cleaned house at The Himalayas; I almost bested Jay, who is a far better golfer than I am.  Maybe the spirit of the Old Course was rubbing off on me?  The putting green lies adjacent to the Old Course and provides exceptional views of the fairways.   After our game, we wandered around the area, watching the preparations for the British Open and the golf games in progress on the Old Course.

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[ The Himalayas putting green ]

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[ Looking toward the hallowed grounds of The Old Course ]

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[ The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews ]

[ Holes 1 and 18 of the Old Course ]

We only skimmed the surface of St. Andrews’ offerings.  We had limited time and energy so we picked a few things we really wanted to see and still wore ourselves out.  There are enough shops, restaurants, sights and experiences to keep a person engaged for far longer than a day.  And if golf is an important or just fun part of your life, the town should be a must on your Scotland itinerary.  I don’t care about golf at all and was still moved by the historical relevance of The  Old Course.

There really is something for everyone  in St. Andrews.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Under My Feet

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[ Hiking Corrie Fee, Glen Doll, Angus, Scotland ]

To celebrate a few big events happening in my family this spring, we took a little trip to Scotland in June.  Actually, it was a fabulous, pinch-me-I-must-be-dreaming, once in a lifetime adventure filled with castles, one lane roads, and sheep.  Lots and lots of sheep.  Oh, and scenery.  Rugged, spare and breath-taking.  Bucolic and provincial.  Sophisticated and saturated with history.  It was twelve days of wonderfulness.  Seriously, I dreamt about it for days after returning home.  Since it’s time to get back to blogging about my travels now that I’m finished with that graduate program that ruled my life for almost two years, writing about Scotland seems like the perfect place to start.  I’ve chosen the rocky path of Corrie Fee for this week’s Photo Challenge to get the ball rolling.

Is it any wonder we fell in love with Scotland?

Dreamy: Dusk on Eluethera

I promise I won’t use the Weekly Photo Challenge prompt for every Eleuthera post.  But the theme this week, Dreamy, was simply too tempting.  The images below are of the beach behind our rental home, Blue Palms, which was located in the Palmetto Point area of the island.  I took them on the first night of our trip after a very long and occasionally stressful day of travel.  The sand was soft, the water was warm, and the air was still…

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Signs of Eleuthera

Back in late July, my family and I spent a lazy week in Eleuthera, a beautiful and relatively undeveloped island belonging to the Bahamas archipelago.  It’s a long (110 miles) and skinny island that’s bordered by pink sand beaches and the azure Atlantic on the east and the turquoise and mint-colored waters of the Great Bahama Bank on the west.  Although it’s only 50 miles from Nassau and 225 miles from Miami, Eleuthera’s relaxed atmosphere gave us the feeling that we were worlds away from our hectic American life.

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I’ve been wanting to tell you about this special place but life keeps getting in the way.  When I saw that “Signs” was the WordPress Photo Challenge for this week, I thought the theme would be a great way to introduce you to this wonderfully quirky island and to push me to start posting again.

Signs of Eleuthera

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Garden of the Gods

Colorado Springs, Colorado is situated about 70 miles south of Denver – an hour’s easy drive on I-25.  It’s a drive worth taking to experience Garden of the Gods, a world class park located smack in the middle of Colorado Springs-style suburbia.  Garden of the Gods is a Registered National Landmark covering approximately 1376 acres of rugged grassland landscape and striking red rock formations.  Considering the fact that 14,115 ft. Pike’s Peak creates the backdrop for the park, the vistas are quite dramatic, too.

The land for the park was donated to the city of Colorado Springs by the Charles Perkins family in 1907 with the stipulation that it remain free to the entire world.  Today, there is still no entrance fee and visitors can enjoy climbing the rocks, walking, running or biking the 15 miles of trails that criss-cross the park or sharing a meal at one of the numerous scenic picnic areas.

We stopped by on a perfect weather day: warm sunshine, high blue skies, 72° F.  It must have been one of the first really nice days of spring because the park was packed with people.  Besides the full parking lots, though, it didn’t feel crowded at all.  Garden of the Gods is spectacular.  Thank you Perkins family and Colorado Springs for being so generous and sharing it with us.

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By the way, Tripadvisor recently named Garden of the Gods the #1 park in the U.S. and the #2 park in the world.  It seems that word is getting around about this special place.

Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ and Taphouse

For the past nine years, Budget Travel magazine has conducted an annual contest to determine America’s top ten coolest small towns.  The May/June 2014 issue of the magazine is highlighting the winners for this year.  I was tickled to see that Estes Park, Colorado – the gateway to the eastern side of Rocky Mountain National Park – was number eight on the list.  Even though we saw a bit of Estes Park on the way to the National Park, we didn’t do any real exploring or experiencing.  There is one place in town, however, that we can say with confidence is definitely worth a stop: Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ and Taphouse. 

Smokin’ Dave’s is a local Estes Park restaurant that serves up great BBQ with a hearty helping of quirky pig decor.  Only a hop, skip, and jump from one of the entrances to Rocky Mountain National Park on Moraine Avenue, it’s location makes for easy access from the park and great views from the west-facing windows and the outside dining.  In addition to all the normal BBQ fare – pulled pork, ribs, beef brisket and chicken – the menu has some surprises like catfish tenders and pecan-crusted trout.  We chose to stick with our favorite tradition BBQ picks of beef brisket and ribs.  Everything was lip smackin’, finger lickin’ good!  The baked beans, in particular, were delicious.

We dined in the late afternoon so the restaurant was almost empty.  It created a very relaxing environment for eating.  The food, atmosphere, and view combined to deliver a memorable experience after a long day of touring and sightseeing.  I do think that Smokin’ Dave’s might not be so relaxing when it’s busy.  By the time we left, it was already starting to fill up with hungry patrons and was losing that chill vibe.  Regardless of when you visit, though, I’m pretty sure your taste buds will thank you.

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If you would like to see the entire list of Top Ten Coolest Small Towns in America, check out the May/June 2104 edition of Budget Travel or take a look here at the budgettravel.com website.

If your interested in Smokin’ Dave’s, check this out.