Scotland 7: Day 30

03.31.19 | Edinburgh, Scotland | 21:54

I don’t have a whole lot to report today. Since it’s Sunday today, I wanted to have a day of relaxing. I was able to make it out to church. I was planning on walking, but as I set out to start the walk, I noticed my phone had stopped working. It was on but wasn’t responding to my touch. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get it to respond. I ran back inside and up to my room, hooked it up to my laptop and reinstalled the software. This worked like a charm but made it to where I would have been late for church. I decided to summon an Uber and made it just in time.

After church, I walked back to the hostel, took a nap, and worked on some postcards to send back to the states. I listened to some podcasts for a bit and ended up getting my dinner at Mum’s. Later, I walked over to Greyfriar’s and walked around the cemetery, finding family names. I did a live stream from the sight, nothing too exciting, just something to show the friends back home what I was up to. For those of you who like to watch the live streams, I’m occasionally on Periscope with the nickname @DavTravels.

Scotland 7: Day 29

03.30.19 | Edinburgh, Scotland | 21:00

The bad news: I spent a good part of the morning talking with a very rude employee at He first told me his name was Steve. I could tell, however, that he was sitting in a call center somewhere in India. Yes, there is a chance his name is Steve, but when I asked him he confessed that his name wasn’t Steve after all. It was Mohinder (I think that’s how it’s spelled).

So the situation is this- Wow Air has ceased its operations due to bankruptcy. Since I was planning on taking three flights home, and that was simply my middle flight, I can’t take either of the flights. The only refund coming to me is the portion for the second flight, I think I’ll be getting around $130 back. wanted me to pay the €20 to pursue getting my money back from the other two airlines (easyJet and JetBlue) and even though I want those refunds,’s website wasn’t taking my payment online.

I spoke with their customer service agent, hoping they could take my payment over the phone, but there was no way they could do that. They told me that the problem was on the side of my bank, not their system. So I requested to speak with a supervisor and he told me he’d have one call me back.

Next, I called my bank to see if it was indeed them stopping the payment. As I suspected, it wasn’t. About three hours later, I got the call back from the supervisor. By then, I was so frustrated and mad that I didn’t want to deal with them anymore. Buyer beware: is a great site for looking for cheap flights, but they really don’t care if you get to your destination.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing. I needed to calm down, and I didn’t feel as though I had the mental capacity to explore Edinburgh Castle just yet. Instead, I read from my book, went for a couple of walks and even went to Oink for lunch. If you recall, Oink is the restaurant where they have a whole, dead hog in the window. I first had a sandwich there last year, and it was amazing!

The hostel is full this weekend because there is some big rugby game happening today. All the guys in my room are here from all over the U.K. with tickets to the game. They’re pretty stoked and they can’t believe that I didn’t know about it. Rugby is life, after all- or it should be according to the guy who is in the next bed over. I guess the right team won, and there is happy, drunk singing in the streets tonight.

Scotland 7: Day 28

03.29.19 | Edinburgh, Scotland | 23:35 sent me an email last night. They wanted me to know that the airline Wow Air was no longer in business. I had read this in the news, and I feel bad that all those employees will lose their jobs, but sometimes this happens with airlines. Why were they letting me know this? Because they are one of the flights that I’d planned to fly home on.

I called Kiwi’s customer service line, and they told me that they would get back to me within 48 hours with a new plan. She told me that I can cancel the flight altogether, and they would try to get a refund from all three airlines, but the only guaranteed refund would be the leg I had booked on Wow Air.

One part of me just wants to book a whole new flight home and hopefully get a refund for the original flights (the agent told me that it could take up to 30 days to get that refund). Still, another part of me wants to take advantage of the situation and run off to some undisclosed location in Europe.

Then I overheard some people talking about the whole Brexit thing. Since they haven’t reached an agreement on the plan, this is likely to weaken the British Pound. If that happens, If it gets closer to the U.S. dollar, I could take advantage of this and get a killer deal somewhere within the U.K. Maybe I could jump down to London for a few days or something like that. For now, I think I’ll wait to hear back from Kiwi and then make the decision when it’s time. If I was a “normal” person, this would probably stress me out a bit- and even though it did at first, I’ll just count this whole thing as part of the adventure.

It’s been a relaxed day- I didn’t visit any castles but read and rested. I sometimes have to remind myself that I’m on vacation and it’s ok to take some downtime. I got some reading done and have been listening to the Serial Killers podcasts while walking around.

Scotland 7: Day 27

03.28.19 | Edinburgh, Scotland | 23:55

One thing I failed to mention about yesterday’s visit to Aberdour Castle: When the girl sold me that ticket to get into the castle, she actually talked me into buying a five-day pass. This means that even though you may be sick of learning about castles or seeing pictures of castles, I chose to take a quick trip up to Stirling so that I could see that castle as well. Yes, I did see it three years ago, but it was time for another visit.

I happen to be enjoying learning about all these old kings and queens at the moment. I am finally at a place in my life where I am starting to remember historical facts. It’s not by any means a photographic memory or anything like that, but at least I have a desire to figure all this stuff out. It’s fascinating to learn about the rise and fall of these people!

Stirling is one of the towns that I feel like I could totally be happy living in. There are a few places like this- I visit and it just has an “at-home” feel. How cool would it be to relocate to Scotland? I probably shouldn’t hold my breath while waiting for my airline to start flying here. Still- a guy can dream, can’t he?

It is now time for you daily history lesson! If it’s too much to bear, feel free to just skip down to the castle picture.

The rock of Stirling was the key to medieval Scotland. Sitting astride the narrow waist of the Central Belt, it commanded the upper reaches of the Forth as well as guarding access to the Central Highlands. In medieval times, Stirling Bridge was the lowest practical crossing point over the Forth. All invading armies had to come to the rock of Stirling if they wanted to enter Scotland’s hinterlands; Stirling Castle was rightly described as ‘a huge brooch that clasps Highlands and Lowlands together’. It suffered sixteen major sieges as a result. Legends link a citadel it’s Stirling with King Arthur but the first records of a castle there date from the reign of Alexander I who died there in 1124. Control of Stirling Castle was also demanded by Henry II before he would release the captive William the Lion in 1174.

William regained the castle before his death there in 1214, but Stirling fell into English hands again in 1295-96 when Edward I tried to annex Scotland. William Wallace briefly liberated the castle following his decisive victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297 but an English governor, Sir John Simpson, was back in command in 1298. Simpson found himself besieged in turn the following year and called on Edward to send reinforcements. When these failed to arrive, the castle was surrendered and its Scots constable, Sir William Oliphant, raised the lion rampart over its battlements once again. Edward finally arrived in force in July 1304 having crossed the Forth downstream using a fleet of pontoons. At this point in the Wars for Scottish Independence, Stirling was the last major stronghold in Scotland still under patriot control. After three months of siege, Oliphant and his starving men marched out. Edward accepted their surrender but ordered the garrison back into the castle while he bombarded it with stones from his siege engine, the War Wolf. 

Stirling was still in English hands in 1314, when it was among the few fortresses not under Bruce control. Failing to take the castle by siege, the King’s younger brother, Edward Bruce, parleyed with the English castellan Sir Phillip Mowbray. They  agreed that the castle would be handed over to the Scots if it had not been relieved by Mid Summer Day. This committed both Robert the Bruce and Edward II to the climactic battle that was fought on the plain below the castle along the Bannockburn that summer. Once back in Scottish hands, Bruce damaged Stirling severely so it could not be held up by future invaders. Despite this, after Bruce’s death in 1329, the forces of the puppet King Edward Balliol and his sponsor Edward III captured and rebuilt Stirling on 1333, and held it until 1342. 

With is the stability of the Stewart Age, Stirling flourished. Money was lavished upon the castle, to turn it into a symbol of royal authority. The Great Hall of 1500 and Gatehouse of 1510 built by James IV, and the Royal Palace of James V of 1540, were designed to protect the dynastic identity of the Stewart kings. The exterior of the Great Hall Who is even painted in a bright golden wash so that it could be seen for miles around. Stirling was the effective capital of Stewart Scotland, where the family preferred to hold court and carry out their business. The infant monarchs James V and Mary were both crowned in the Chapel Royal. The baptism of Prince Henry Stewart in 1594 was celebrated by a banquet of gargantuan proportions, even by Renaissance standards. The highlight of the feast was procession into the Great Hall of an eighteen foot galleon with masts forty feet high from which servants dispensed seafood to the guests.  Darker deeds were done at Stirling too. In 1452 James II took the first step towards bringing the power of the house of Black Douglas whose wealth and privileges rivalled those of the Crown. Negotiations between James II and the Earl of Douglas came to a sudden end when the king plunged his dagger into the throat of the magnate. Douglas had been promised a safe conduct but his corpse ended up being thrown out of a castle window onto the rocks below. The Scottish Parliament exonerated the king and put the entire blame for the incident upon the dead noble who had some clearly been guilty of treason.

Stirling was little used by royalty after 1603 but it witnessed blood again in 1651 during a siege by Monck’s Roundheads which badly damaged the castle. Its continuing strategic value was highlighted by the devastating Jacobite victory at Killiecrankie less than sixty miles to the north in 1689. Stirling became an important base for the Hanoverian army and its defenses were stiffened by modern artillery platforms. More was done to strengthen Stirling after the aborted invasion of 1708 when the Old Pretender sailed into the Forth with a French Fleet. In 1745, Jacobite forces bypassed the castle and only fired a few desultory shots at in on their way back north. The castle suffered badly in its years as an army base; the Great Hall was converted into a barracks and the Chapel Royal was used as a store. The army finally left in 1964 and after over thirty years of conservation work, Stirling Castle has now been restored to its Renaissance grandeur and magnificence.

Scottish Castles & Fortifications – Richard Dargie

When I got back to Edinburgh, I went to the cinema to see Mary, Queen of Scots and it was quite fascinating, especially because she is one of the people that I’ve been learning about on these castle visits.

Scotland 7: Day 26

03.27.19 | Edinburgh, Scotland | 16:40

I woke up this morning and was in the mood for another castle to visit. I checked my guide book and saw that I could get a relatively inexpensive round-trip train ticket to Aberdour station, which is only a 5-minute walk from Aberdour Castle. I stopped for a quick bite to eat and then headed down the hill to Edinburgh Waverly Station. 15 minutes later, I was stepping off the train in Aberdour.

Before we get to the castle, here is your Aberdour Castle history lesson:

Aberdour has a good claim to be considered one of the oldest fortified residences in Scotland. The first castle was a wooden motte erected in the twelfth century by the de Mortimer. They were typical of the mercenary Anglo-Norman knights invited to Scotland by David I to stiffen his military capability. The first motte had been replaced by a high stone keep by 1240. The castle dominated a key stretch of the Firth of Forth and the waters beneath the tower are still known as ‘Mortimer’s Deep’. The remains of a Mortimer baron, famed for his wickedness, we’re being carried by boat for burial with in the abbey on Inch Colm Island, till the Abbot called upon God for help. The bones of the impious baron ended up in the stormy Forth. 

In the years after Bannockburn, Arberdour Castle and its richest states were given by Robert the Bruce into the safekeeping of Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray. Thomas was Bruce’s closest friend and had played a key part in the war for Scottish Independence. Bruce gave things for his victory in 1314 sitting in the ‘leper’s squint’ within the chapel of St. Fillan that nestles next to the castle. By 1342 however, the castle had fallen into the grasp of the powerful Douglases, unambitious noble house even by the rapacious standards of the fourteenth century in Europe. 

Aberdour remained in the hands of the Douglases, Earls of Morton, until the family tripped up in the complex political intrigues of the sixteenth century. James Douglas held the highest office of state under Queen Mary serving as herLord High Chancellor and then as Regent of Scotland during her imprisonment in England. He was however implicated in the brutal murder of Mary’s secretary Rizzio in 1566. Others suspected that he had a hand in the dramatic death of her second husband Lord Darnley, blown to smithereens at Kirk o’ Field the following year. Her son James VI signaled his coming to power in 1581 by trying and beheading James Douglas for these unsolved crimes committed more than a decade before.

Aberdour and its lands were naturally forfeit to the Crown. Although the Douglases won their way back into James’ favour, the long decline of Aberdour Castle had begun. The building was burned in 1688 and again during the 1715 Rising when dragoons were billeted there. This fine house was in turn, a barracks, a school room and a piggery before its rescue from ruin in the 1920s.

Scottish Castles & Fortifications – Richard Dargie

Scotland 7: Day 25

03.26.19 | Edinburgh, Scotland | 18:34

Today was another incredible day in Edinburgh! I walked so much this morning that my knees felt old. I was able to rest for a bit, however, and now my body is reset and I am feeling 100%, once again. The reason for this- I decided to take a walk to the south and east to go take a look at Craigmillar Castle.

When you first get to the castle grounds, you are greeted by a gift shop (of course). Here is where you can purchase the entry fee for the castle, which I’m glad was only £6. I did get to meet Amber, who is “The Castle Cat”. And even though she’s often cranky, she did let me pet her, even though the store clerk told me that she usually doesn’t like to be pet. She is quite possibly the reincarnation of one of my Scottish ancestors.

And now it’s time to learn about Craigmillar Castle (it’s true- is fun AND informative):

Craigmillar Castle in Edinburgh has a dark past, linked to plague, murder and at least one horrible death. Less than three miles from Edinburgh yet perched high on a hill in a rural setting, Craigmillar’s air was considered very healthy in the late Middle Ages. Several monarchs used the castle as a convenient retreat when pestilence was raging through the narrow wynds of the city. James III also used Craigmillar in 1477 to imprison his brother John, Earl of Mar, who later died mysteriously within the castle’s walls. The discovery of a skeleton walled into the castle vaults during restoration work in 1813 added to Craigmillar’s notorious reputation.

In 1566, Mary Queen of Scots ordered a refurbishment of Craigmillar after the murder of her secretary Rizzio at Holyrood Palace. Craigmillar Castle was much more secure than Holyrood and was just far enough away from the plotting and intrigue that spilled out of the taverns along the High Street and Canongate to calm Mary’s nerves. She remained there during the winter of 1566-67, refusing to follow the advice of her half-brother Regent Moray that she should divorce her husband Lord Darnley. Mary’s refusal sealed Darnley’s fate however, for several of her nobles then met at Craigmillar to plan the murder of the Queen’s Consort. Darnley was ‘blawn up wi gunpooder’ at Kirk o’Fields the following March. The neighborhood below the castle is still called ‘Little France’, a memory of the winter in which the castle village was crammed with French courtiers and servants waiting upon the Queen.

Craigmillar was an important link in the chain of fortifications that defended Edinburgh from invastion. Overlooking Arthur’s Seat and one of the main routes into the capital, Craigmillar was within sight of Edinuburgh Castle which allowed for the passing of messages by flashing mirrors and beacon braziers. The castle that is currently on the site was begun by Sir Simon Preston in 1374, probably replacing a wooden fort held by John de Capella. A particularly find machiolated curtain wall and circular angle towers were added after 1427. The bailey, which held supply buildings, a chapel and gardens, survives today in excellent condition, despite being burned badly by the Earl of Hertford in 1544 during the ‘Rough Wooing’. The gun loops in the castle doocot or dovecot are a reminder that the residents of Craigmillar had to remain vigilant even in the course of their daily domestic routines. The Prestons eventually sold the castle to John Gilmour in 1660 but it was ruined by 1800.

Scottish Castles & Fortifications – Richard Dargie

I enjoyed learning about this so much but I just wish I had a sound remember historical facts like my dad can. At any rate, this has inspired me to add a new bucket list item and that is to visit 60 castles in Scotland. Even though I’ve seen Edinburgh Castle a few times, and even Stirling Castle as well, I have decided to start from scratch, Craigmillar Castle being the first one visited. Let the games begin!

Scotland 7: Day 24

03.25.19 | Edinburgh, Scotland | 21:58

It is so good to be back in Edinburgh! What a wonderful city this is! Even though this will be my last stop of Scotland 7, this is far from over. There are tons that I want to do here, and I’m hoping to even get some day trips out of the city- but you’ll have to check back to see what happens.

I first need to give a shout-out to my friend Robyn. I said something in the last video that seemed to have shaken her to her very core. I believe it was, “…and I don’t even like Harry Potter.” I guess I should explain myself if I am going to make such bold statements.

When I watch any kind of fantasy film, I need structure. I need rules and some sort of discipline. Every time the characters in the Harry Potter series are in a bind, they come up with a new power or a new spell. Here’s my point: If you had a quidditch broomstick, why on earth would you not carry that with you everywhere you went? There are so many problems that you could avoid if you kept that handy.

If you had an invisibility cloak, why on earth wouldn’t you carry the thing everywhere with you? How often would that have come in handy throughout the series? A flying car? It might be a good idea to keep that ready, especially because for some odd reason, YOU DECIDED TO NOT BRING YOUR FLYING BROOMSTICK WITH YOU.

And then Hermione gets that locket that allows her to go back in time? Are you freakin’ kidding me? That was probably the last straw for me. Yes, I saw the rest of the movies, and recently I even added them to my movie collection, but still!

I know I should just accept it for what it is- entertainment. I mean, how cool would it be to have magical powers? I should stop being so picky, but every single time I watch it, I’m always saying things like, “Oh- too bad you didn’t bring your $#@& flying broomstick with you!” Then I get mad and look for a pillow to throw at the screen.

Ok, now that my rant is over, we can return to your regularly scheduled blog entry. And in this portion, I just want to give a shoutout to Colee, Zuka, Dave, Dominoe, Julie, and Makaylee. I was with you guys the first time I ever came to the United Kingdom! See what you did? Here’s another video:

032519 Back to Edinburgh

Scotland 7: Day 23

03.24.19 | Glasgow, Scotland | 19:53

I woke up this morning with plenty of time to walk to church. According to Google Maps, it would have taken me about an hour and a half. I was up for the challenge. I guess I got started later than I thought because all of a sudden, the G.P.S. told me that I was going to be 24 minutes late.

Add the fact that the rain started, plus the wind kept turning my umbrella inside-out. This meant that I wussed out and decided I’d better summon an Uber. I’m so thankful for modern convenience, especially when it’s raining outside.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing, listening to podcasts, and just hanging out at the flat. I wish I had something better to report to you today, but I don’t. It’s time to pick out a movie and snuggle in bed. I’m sad that tomorrow I will have to leave this city.

Scotland 7: Day 22

03.23.19 | Glasgow, Scotland | 22:34

Today turned out to be another great day! I decided to go for a walk and explore the west side of Glasgow. I’m already staying further west than I normally do, but I walked all the way over to the University of Glasgow. What a beautiful campus! While I was there, I manage to make this little video.

Scotland 7: Day 21

03.22.19 | Glasgow, Scotland | 22:32

Today I took the opportunity to check something else off my bucket list. I walked to Queen Street Station and hopped on to a train that took me to Falkirk. From there, I walked 2 1/2 to 3 miles one way, all so that I could go and see The Kelpies.

I would lie to you and say that this has been a life-long dream of mine, but since the sculpture was built in 2013, still it is quite a sight to behold since these horses are over 30 meters high! [To learn more about The Kelpies, check out the entry at]