On the way to Fort William we stopped at the engineering wonder of Falkirk Wheel and walked back in time to what was briefly considered the boundary separating the civilized Roman Empire from the uncivilized heathen Picts further north. I’m not sure how much has changed, but we can’t wait to eat more smoked salmon, oatcakes, seafood and hopefully something green. I secretly hope to get Kurt in a kilt, but I don’t think he is very adventurous when it comes to fashion.
The genius of the Falkirk Wheel can be seen by clicking here. I still can’t get over the efficiency of this amazing engineering feat–it only takes the amount of energy required to boil 8 kettles of water. The children were mesmerized until they found the nearby water park that not only was great fun but also taught a few engineering lessons in the process of playing. AND, no one got wet! Phew.
We walked up to the Antonine Wall and thought the kids were going to have an apoplectic seizure with all the whinging on the way there and back. My theory is that allowing electronic devices in the car has them anxious to return to their dopamine fix. Why else would my kids be begging to return to another 3 hours bottled up in a car packed with luggage? Just doesn’t make any sense after watching them frolic around the old Roman fort like wood nymphs.
Anna the tree hugger.
Like a true dryad, Kurti cuddling up with his oak tree branch.
Kurti leaping over ditches that were used as a line of defense. The Romans would fill them with sharp stakes protruding upwards and hide them with ground cover for their unsuspecting attackers to fall into. Makes my hair stand on end.
After the ‘strenuous’ walk, all 4 kids were rewarded with a go in the four available water walking balls. Unbeknownst to them they expended more kilocalories trying to stand up in these PVC bubbles than on their little hike, but that just meant that they were going to be subdued in the family wagon as we made our way up to Onich.
The balancing act.
We did stop off for dinner in Balquhidder at Mhor 84. If Kurt and I didn’t have children with us I would have insisted we take time time to eat and stay for a respite at Monachyle Mhor, but alas, we are 6 and our behemoth of a self-catering house on Loch Linnhe awaited our brood. Maybe someday we’ll be able to return to Monachyle Mhor without children to have some venison neck, nettle crust, skirlie and wild sorrel for dinner and lazily sleep in on a dreich Scottish morning with a fire roaring…. someday. maybe.
On a day trip, we visited Cairnpapple Hill and took in the amazing view with the 5,000 years of history. I did share the fact that the henges, cairns and standing stones we would visit throughout Scotland were locations where bodies had been buried and sacrifices and cremations had taken place over the course of thousands of years, but that did not keep my little monkeys from leaping over the plots of the Christian family who had been lain to rest, or from joyfully rolling down the banks of the Cairnpapple henge. There was not a somber member of our party as the wind carried our locks playfully into the backdrop of a gorgeous blue Lothian sky.
View from the Mound
Later Christian Graves
At Linlithgow Palace, rolling down hills continued until we acquired some more grass stains and the swans captivated our attention. The children didn’t care that this was the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots, but were enraptured when Emma told us that the reigning Queen owns all mute swans and if you harm one there may be a hefty £5,000 fine levied by the Crown. This left me wondering what the punishment was 100 years ago. We made our way up to the courtyard and I took a photo of Kurti in his knight costume in front of the very fountain that flowed with red wine during Bonny Prince Charlie’s visit back in 1745. The kids thought it was a stupid idea to waste so much wine and before I knew it they had run off to play hide-and-seek. Dare I admit they were hiding primarily from me and all my history factoids?
Making our way to Blackness Castle on the Firth of Forth, we found quite the formidable fortress. Known as the ship that never sailed, we walked the lush lawn and looked out across the water while I silently cringed thinking of all the prisoners who had been housed here over the centuries. I will say to any Outlander fans that the episode with Black Jack’s knife pointed at Claire’s exposed breast did invoke a bit of the sinister imagery that danced around in my head.
Anna exploring the outer walls of Blackness
The girls teasing Kurti
Everyone at the well inside the fortress walls of Blackness
Kurti near the entrance of Blackness
Another day we went to a favorite refuge of Mary, Queen of Scots, Craigmillar Castle. After visiting the chamber at Edinburg Castle where David Rizzio, was stabbed 56 times before the pregnant Mary, we were now at the very location where it is said she plotted the murder of the main assailant–her husband, Lord Darnley. Darnley had apparently ordered Rizzio’s execution out of jealousy as it was rumored the child she was carrying was Rizzio’s. I didn’t share this little tidbit with the children but rather used more castle hide-and-seek to entice them into exploring. Then everyone had the opportunity to practice a bit of archery with a smartly dressed professional archer, and then climbed a fanciful twisting yew tree, which is consequently the type of tree believed to have provided wood for bows and arrows.
Anna at Craigmillar
Yew tree at Craigmillar
Inside Craigmillar Castle
Again we were blessed with cooperative weather, and began packing up for our journey to the the Scottish Highlands…..