The Very Gorgeous Mountains: A Scottish Holiday, Day 12

I just can’t stop gushing about the Cairngorms. They’re really quite incredible. So picturesque, so beautiful, so lovely. Driving through them is such a treat. The roads wind in and out, up and down, left and right. It can be very dizzying indeed. Frequently the road ahead of you looks more like a long ribbon of tar winding its way through this green, brown, and purple landscape of tall, tall summits and deep, deep valleys. It’s a sight to behold.

And alas, today was the last day we saw the gorgeous, gorgeous Cairngorms as we made our way back south towards the vicinity of Glasgow. We’re heading back to Minnesota this Friday, you see, departing from Glasgow, but we’re staying at a bed and breakfast in a small, coastal town called Prestwick. It’s only a 40 minute drive to the airport from here, so it’ll be a nice place to spend our last two nights in this incredible country.

We decided to stop by Dundonald Castle on the way to Prestwick. It was a three hour drive from Braemar to the castle. The castle is located right outside a small town called, er, Dundonald, and you can view the town from the top of the hill that the castle stands.

We opted for a more “ruins style” castle a la Linlithgow Palace rather than a “museum style” castle a la Edinburgh Castle. I sometimes quite prefer seeing castle ruins over the more preserved sites, as there’s something intriguingly haunting about seeing once dignified architecture in such a state of decay. Parts of Dundonald don’t exist anymore, but the main section of the castle that housed the laigh hall and the great hall is mostly still around for us to enjoy. It was built in 1371 by Robert Stewart to mark his accession to the throne as Robert II.

We happened to arrive when a lady was in the great hall training her 12-week-old owl, Starlight. He was a classic barn owl, white and brown feathers, and he was so, so cute! We all got a turn to let him perch on our outstretched arm. His owner was training him to deliver wedding rings in the space, as lots of people get married in the castle ruins.

After we adored young Starlight, we were the only guests to the castle at the time, so we also happened to get, essentially, our own private tour of the space. This is another perk to touring the less popular sites: fewer tourists and greater likelihoods of inadvertently receiving private tours.

Our tour guide really was quite wonderful. He took us through the great hall, then downstairs to a tiny prison (the dark, tiny prison, incidentally, was housing a number of giant spiders perched on the stone walls and ceiling and all protecting their own white sacks containing the eggs of their young), then upstairs to what would have been the king’s main living space where his office would have been as well as his bed.

Following Dundonald, we made one final trek for the day, this trek a mere 20 minutes long to Prestwick. We’re staying at a bed and breakfast called the Dormie House by Mr. Peter Brown. Peter has been very warm and gracious, and the accommodations are absolutely splendid. I’m looking forward to breakfast tomorrow!

Prestwick itself isn’t nearly as idyllic and beautiful as Braemar, nor was the food at the Golf Inn (a nearby pub where we had dinner) as delicious and delectable as the food at Old Blackfriars in Aberdeen, nor is the landscape as scenic and sightly as the Cairngorms, but Prestwick is merely a place to stay in the meantime.

Tomorrow we make our way to Culzean Castle, our final tourist destination on this incredible journey. It’s going to be wonderful, even in spite of the twinges of sadness I’m feeling as the end of our time in Scotland rounds the corner…

Stray Observation:

1. All over Scotland there are these food cooperatives, sometimes even in the tiniest of villages. There motto is, “supermarket with an ethical focus.” They’ve been a nice resource to have as we made our way around the country.

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