Vacationing in Scotland and Ireland!

We enjoyed a week and a half in northern Europe in early August!  Bethany spent July in Copenhagen taking classes with the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design to prepare to teach some new courses at Urban School this fall.  Another teacher there, Kristjiana, was at Cambridge University taking a class to prepare her to teach something new this fall as well.  We met them in Glasgow on Saturday afternoon.  They rented a car so we could get around the country over the few days we were in Scotland.

Saturday, August 4:  Flew from Seattle to Dallas-Fort Worth to London Heathrow to Glasgow, a total of almost 14 hours, a long, but uneventful series of flights.  Beth and Kristjiana met us at the airport, with a rented car, and took us to the Hershill Guest House outside Glasgow, near Wishaw, for our 4 nights in the area.  It’s in a beautiful rural setting with very comfortable rooms and delicious breakfasts!  The family owners are very friendly and helpful.  

We began our visit to Glasgow by going to the Butterfly and Pig Tea Room downtown for Afternoon Tea…such a wonderful tradition!  Glasgow is abuzz due to the European Championships being held here, and in nearby cities in Scotland this month (aquatics, cycling, golf , gymnastics, rowing, and triathlon.)  Some sports are being held in Berlin, too (athletics.)

Sunday, August 5:  Drove to Edinburgh, about 40 miles east of Glasgow.   Since 1947, the city has hosted the Fringe Festival each August…music, drama, many performances of all kinds…something for everyone!   There were many people from all over there, but the crowds were manageable. We first went to visit the Royal Britannia Yacht,  now docked on Edinburgh’s east side in Leith.  Enjoyed afternoon tea on board.  We visited the Edinburgh Castle high above the city after that, and strolled the Royal Mile.

Monday:  Drove to Inverness, 3.5 hours north of Glasgow.  Carolyn’s family history has been traced back to the year 1620 when Robert MacKemey (McKemy) was born in the Inverness area.  What an absolutely beautiful city!!!  Climbing to the top of the Inverness Castle gave us a beautiful panoramic view of the whole city!  The legend of the Loch Ness Monster begins here, the river is The Ness.  Wish we had more time to stay there and explore.

Tuesday:  Today, we traveled to Loch Lemond and the National Park…beautiful lake, adorable ducklings along the beach.  We then enjoyed a tour of the Glengoyne Distillery, one of the many whiskey distilleries in the country.  The free samples were delicious!

Wednesday:  Checked out of the Herdshill Guest House after a delicious traditional Scottish breakfast of eggs, sausage, ham, potato, blood pudding, and beans.  We recommend this wonderful place to anyone traveling in the area and needing a comfortable place to stay.  After stopping to visit the Glasgow Cathedral, complete with a Lego artistic display, we headed for the airport and a 45 minute flight to Belfast, Northern Ireland.  After landing in Belfast, we took a taxi to our Airbnb apartment on Castlereagh in east Belfast.  Another great place to stay!  After walking downtown to Auntie Granny’s for dinner, we slept well after another very eventful day!

Thursday:  Spent the day walking all over Belfast, visiting the CS Lewis square and museum, St. Anne’s Cathedral (Anglican)…talked to the priest there and he told us about some of the things we should look for as we toured the sanctuary…then to City Hall which includes an amazing chronicle of the history of the city, and of Northern Ireland.  For dinner, we had fish and chips from “Bethany’ Restaurant.

Friday:  Got up, packed up, left the Airbnb in Belfast for Letterkenny.  But first, we stopped in downtown Belfast to visit the St. George’s Market, an old building taking up one square block filled with booths of all kinds:  clothes, food, jewelry, produce, EVERYTHING!  Then, we left Belfast for the Giant’s Causeway on the north coast.  It’s a very unique landform of basalt columns sticking up out of the ground, created by hot lava and cold ocean water.  Then, we headed west and on to Letterkenny, where we stayed at the Dillon’s Hotel.

Saturday:  Traveled to Ramelton, where Carolyn’s ancestors moved form Inverness, Scotland.  We visited graveyards, churches, ruins…Still nothing about the McKemy family name anywhere…then again, it WAS back in the 17th century.  We then stopped in Donegal at “Studio Donegal, Spinners and Handweavers.”  We saw very intricate looms that are still used today.  After dinner in Sligo, we stopped by the Drumcliffe Church and cemetery, where the poet William Butler Yeats is buried.

But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

We spent Saturday evening at Armadillo Bed and Breakfast in Grange.

Sunday:  After a delicious breakfast at the Armadillo, we headed to the Sligo Abbey in Sligo, a Dominical Priory built in 1252.    Then, we visited the Parkes Castle situated on the banks of Lough Gill, in County Leitrim, Ireland.  So many castles, abbeys, and churches yet so little time!  Hard to imagine what life was really like so long ago.  Wish we could read some of the inscriptions on the tombstones.  We then headed for the Abbeyglen Castle in the coastal city of Clifden, west of Galway.  Spending the night in an old castle was a rare treat!

Monday:  Woke up to an unusually sunny morning at the Abbeyglen, and took a walk around the area.  Always more churches to see!  After an amazing buffet breakfast, we headed for Galway.  Lunch in Galway was delicious, of course, so much fun finding those out-of-the-way pubs and restaurants.  Galway is a harbor city with a huge shopping district called the Latin Quarter that’s made up of street after street of shops, pubs, and entertainment.  Along the way, we enjoyed dulcimer music, a river dancer, singers, and a bagpiper!  Very touristy, but fun to walk through.  We then headed for Leixlip in the western suburbs of Dublin.  We checked in to the Court Yard Hotel, built on the site of the original Guinness brewery.  Arthur Guinness started brewing stout here in 1755.  The “Guinness Storehouse” is now located in downtown Dublin, but his descendants now live in the Leixlip Castle…of course.

Tuesday:  After breakfast, we headed by car for downtown Dublin.  We had planned to take the bus to avoid finding a parking place, but we didn’t know the busses only take coins.  Oh well, all was fine.  After parking in a garage, we first walked to the Christ Church Cathedral (Anglican)  and took a tour of the beautiful church, and built in the 12th century.  We got to walk up into the bell tower and each person got to ring the bells.  Also saw where the heart of St. Laurence O’Toole, patron saint of Dublin, WAS.  Yes, it was stolen in 2012 and recovered earlier this year.  It’s now in a more secure location in the cathedral.  Then, it was on to the Guinness Storehouse,  a tour through the brewery process used since Arthur Guinness moved the brewery to St. James Place from Leixlip.  Very interesting!  After lunch, we took a bus to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells display.  These are the four gospels written in the year 800 AD by monks in a monastery.  It’s very colorful, and absolutely beautiful…well, the books themselves are dark and dull looking, but microscopes and technology have created vibrant reproductions!   Amazing!  Then, you walk upstairs and through the College Library’s Long Room, with zillions of old books and busts of lots of important dead people.  We then walked to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and on to the parking garage to get the car and head back to Leixlip and the Court Yard Hotel,  while Bethany and Kristijana stayed in town to experience the night life a bit!  Our last day was a busy, and very interesting one!

Wednesday, August 15:  Time to head home…we traveled from Dublin, to Philadelphia, to Seattle, then drove home getting here around 10pm.  Bethany and Kristjiana flew from Dublin, to Reykjavik, Iceland, and on to San Francisco.  A great time was had by all!

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