We departed from Orlando and arrived in Dublin the morning of the 17th. Then our first adventure began. It seems you can't take a car from Ireland off the island. Whoops! So after checking in at the Skylon hotel the phone calls started. After 60 to 80 dollars of phone futility and half the afternoon wasted I threw in the towel and arranged to rent another car when we got to Scotland. ( More on that later. ) Of course this helped us keep awake that day as we tried to get used to the time shift. That night we went to see Harry Potter. I vaguely remember dreaming my way through it. The following day was Saturday and time for our adventures in the big city. It turned out easy to adjust to the time change. It wasn't so easy coming home!

So on Saturday we played real tourist for the first time. By the way, in the big cities we either walked or rode the bus. Downtown traffic is horrible and the buses do make pretty good time. All you need is exact change. We first went to visit Trinity College and see the book of Kells. This is the Gospel story in a beautifully illustrated manuscript written by monks who took refuge in Kells about 806 AD from the isle of Iona when they were escaping Viking raids on the island. Unfortunately their language of choice was Latin. Go figure!

We wandered around town for a while and got to the the temple square part of town where things are hopping. I do like the pubs when they have music and the jam session got better as the night wore on. Unfortunately my droopy eyelids caused us to head back to the hotel and to bed.

During our trips downtown we saw a Presbyterian church and worshiped there in the morning. They even had a baptism and invited all worshipers to join at the font. That was pretty cool. Huge old church with quite a few young people, but not a real large congregation. When the service was over we got back to the hotel and picked up the car to head to Belfast to get the ferry the next day. I might add that Belfast was merely a stopover for us. We visited Belfast five years ago and I was not really impressed with the place. I probably should have taken a second look, but we didn't, so we even skipped it on our return.

Here is Mary at our jumping off spot at the ferry terminal. We had to leave the car and travel on “foot” to Scotland on the ferry. It was a two hour ride across the Irish sea to Stranraer ( stran roar ). I clocked our speed with my GPS and we were moving about 42 mph. Once we got ashore we loaded up the second car and headed for Inveraray, the home of the clan Campbell chief. It was at this point when my Magellan GPS earned the real title of Naggie Maggie. Once or twice I skipped a round about entry and once I counted one I shouldn't have which was accompanied by many a “recalculating” As for the turn I did count I tried a U-turn and went into the shoulder and sunk the car in mud. In trying to get out I sunk myself in mud! The wrong turn was an entrance to an agricultural facility and someone leaving work took pity on us, went back and got a friend with a tractor who pulled us back on to the road. Folks were really nice to us over there.

One part of our Holiday coincided with Homecoming Scotland. This was a chance for Scots all over the world to return to their “roots”. Coinciding with this was the clan Campbell homecoming. With Mary's Campbell family connections we wound up participating in that as well the highland games in Edinburgh the following weekend.. I'm pretty sure I have a strong Scottish heritage, I just haven't figured it out yet. In any event that brought us to Scotland and on Tuesday where we enjoyed a buffet lunch with the Duke and Duchess of Argyll and later a mid afternoon tea. They were a most gracious host and hostess. Things started with a “family” parade through Inveraray followed by fun and games near the castle with piper bands, the usual caber toss, foot races, and bicycle races.

I guess we should have had more kids. Somehow some one we all know and love seems to always try to collect them. Mary is holding the Duchesses youngest in her arms. I can't tell if the Duchess is throwing her hands up in horror or is trying to take a picture!

I just love those pipes. They had several local bands play during the games next to Argyll castle, the Campbell family home.

They had people here from all over the world. note the Canadian flag. There was also a group of six from Norway, if I remember correctly. This is where the buffet lunch was held. Later there was an afternoon tea in the castle.

Argyll castle. Home of the Duke and Duchess. This is also a tourist visit. they actually live here on a regular basis. Obviously the private quarters are closed to the public. I asked the Duke what it was like living in a tourist attraction. He informed me that he grew up there so was used to it and it was just plain home to him.

Afternoon tea. The Duchess with a few of the attendees.

Looking up the main street of Inveraray. This is not a large town. It is located on the west side of Loch Fyne near the northern end. I think “loch” means lake in Gaelic. This is not really a lake since if you look at the maps it eventually opens on the Irish sea!

When we got in Monday night the only place serving dinner was the tavern in the George hotel. The tavern was nice, but we were not sure what the rooms were like. The ceiling beams looked very old so who knows.

Guess who in Loch Lomond? Someone's toes can now count the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Gulf of Mexico, the Irish sea and now Loch Lomond as dipping points.

On our way to Edinburgh we visited Stiling castle. This is a view from Stirling castle towards Stirling. The battle of Bannockburn took place just a little behind me to the other side of the castle.

Ah, the kitchen staff working hard to prepare the evening meal.

Overlooking the Firth of Forth from Prestonpans. This was originally settled about 1000-1100 AD by the Preston family. They got their start by evaporating water to produce salt in pans filled with water from the Firth of Forth. I think “Firth” is from the Norwegian for Fjord or inlet. Later about 1400 they built a castle about 16 kilometers west nearer Edinburgh. The remains of the castle exist today though the interior is missing a few floors. Somewhere around 1650 they sold it. It curently goes by the name of Craig Millar castle. The history after this point is sketchy except some settled in Virginia and possibly Texas. One descendant is Mary Preston Gray Black, my very favorite girl!

Wall mural on store in Pretonpans. This was common in this town. There was also a battle of Prestonpans in 1745 during the Jacobite rebellion.

After the week in Scotland we headed back to Ireland and took the ferry back to Belfast. Another adventure was in hand as when I went to start the car the battery was dead. A few frantic attempts to reach Hertz went by the way as some of the ferry line people came along with an emergency battery and helped us get the car started. After a few wrong turns and a lot of comments from Naggie Maggie we finally hit the road and headed for the Ulster-American folk park. This was an interesting stop as it offers quite a view of our own history.

The Ulster-American folk park is a rather extensive exhibit in Northern Ireland about halfway between Belfast and Derry. The signs say Londonderry but it is obvious that this does not sit well with the locals since in many cases the signs have the “London” part scratched out. At one time a lot of people from London were encouraged to settle here. It was part of the effort to pacify the Catholic Irish while the English crown was trying to run things.

A lot of the money for this project was contributed by the Mellon family who were early immigrants to the U.S. The picture is an 18th Century Pennsylvania farm house. It is a copy of the Mellon homestead in the new world.

Later as the family propered they built a newer more substantial home. This is an interior copy of second Mellon homestead,

Late 18th century postmasters office. (USA)

Ya gotta love it! Also subways and Burger Kings. The worst of American culture. On the other hand you could get sufficient ice for your drink!

The walled city of Derry. ( Londonderry ) The original wall still surrounds the downtown area. This shot is just outside the wall. Notice the cannons used to defend the city.

Donegal. We had lunch here and toured the local castle. The car was parked to the left side of this picture along the street. Finding parking was always an adventure, but we did get lucky. Parking in these towns is always a big deal with spaces too small and not enough of them, though there are car parks. I just never see the signs soon enough.

Donegal castle. After we got inside I realized we had been here before in 2004.

From here we headed to Galway spending the night in Boyle. This proved to be one of the highlights of our trip. Boyle was celebrating their summer arts festival. Here the proprietor of the B&B we stayed in asked if we were going to the concert that night. We discovered that they were hosting a concert by “The Three Irish Sopranos” so we decided to go. It was held in the local Church of Ireland (Episcopal). All I can say is wow! Those ladies could really sing and their only accompaniment was by a piano with no sound reinforcement. I wish more singers did that! It turns out they had also just returned from a 7 year tour of the U.S. Mary thinks they may also have passed through Largo as part of their tour.

Roscommon castle. This is an Anglo-Norman castle built in 1269. It was rebuilt 11 years later after being destroyed by Hugh O'Coner, King of Connaught. Even though it is a ruin it is interesting to see how they built these things. I guess that is the engineer in me.

This is the inside pf Dunguire castle in Kinvarra. We got here on Saturday and this was a fun stop for the night. We saw the castle in the afternoon and then went into Kinvarra and located a B&B for the night. We later returned to the castle for the early seating for a Medieval dinner. Since it was two seatings for dinner we were through early and checked out the local pub. It was a jam night of traditional Irish music which we both enjoyed> The Guinness may have helped a little. Mary just had coffee.

The castle dates back to 1520 and has been remodeled several times over the years and occupied up into the 1970s. The last remodel was in 1954 by Christobel Lady Amprhill who lived here for a time. This was a room on the top floor. A bedchamber was a floor down. A little backwards by today's standards, but it all looked kinda cozy.

Another shot of the living area. Note the stone fireplace.

The roof was accessible with a narrow parapet all around. It was scary walking and squeezing through was fun. I didn't make the full trip and just doubled back to avoid the second squeeze.

The road is where we came down from the main highway after leaving Galway. The inlet is from a southern extension of Galway bay and Kinvarra had a few boats in a quaint harbor just over from the castle. A couple of the boats were fair sized sailing yachts. That brought back a few memories from my own sailing days.


The medieval dinner was fun. This was the reception area where we were offered Mead for a starter and let's not forget the music.

We had a Medieval dinner at Castle Dunguire. After we explored it earlier in the day. We had the first seating so afterwards we went the local pub I poped a Guinness and Mary had coffee while the locals came in and started jamming. What a way to end the day. By the way a Guinness loses a lot between here and there. That is probably why I am not a beer drinker except overseas or at Hops!

Of course there was more entertainment after the dinner was over. There are a lot talented people running around over there. While waiting for the ferry back to Ireland one of the passengers broke out in song. He was about eighty and had been to Homecoming Scotland. Pretty good voice too and he attracted quite a crowd.

I love these old castle ruins! This is the rock of Cashel. We are in the area of the crossing. This was the seat of the Kings of Munster starting about 300 to 400 AD. In 1101 it was turned over to the church and flourished until 1647 when the Cromwellian army massacred the 3000 inhabitants that lived there. The site was finally abandoned in the late 18th century.

A view from the “Rock” overlooking the town of Cashel.

This is inside the 12th century chapel of Cormac. This is part of the Rock of Cashel also. At one time the inside ceiling contained a large fresco. What is left of that fresco can be see here and is about 900 years old! There is a preservation effort going on, but to me it looks a little late in the game! Still those early artist did amazing work.

They next day was Friday and our last weekend in Ireland was almost here. So when we got up we headed to Galway planning to be in Waterford on Monday for, you guessed it, shopping. When we got near Galway it took over an hour in creeping traffic to get to the downtown area where we spent the night in a very expensive hotel. I won't make that mistake again. (Reminder, plan better)

Little did we know that it was race weekend. The streets were crowded and most folks were dressed in their finest for the races. As for Mary and I we found a launder mat and did a wash. It is nice to haver clean clothes again. Saturday we crawled out of bed and it only took a little over half an hour to get out of the city.

Waterford glass recipe. The factory closed down in January and the glass is now made in Poland or in the Czech Republic. To me it just isn't Waterford glass any more. Maybe I can blow the picture up and start my own glass works.

Kilkenny Castle which is a 19th century castle. The wing to the right is an open glass roofed picture gallery. They had portraits of James the 1st. There was one of an Elizabeth Preston from about the same time and I couldn't help but whether she may have been a distant relative of you know who!

Really couldn't get those stained glass windows very well! Obviously we have the same fascination for old churches as we do for castles. About a year ago I read two historical novels by Ken Follet. One was “Pillars of The Earth” and the other was “World Without End” One took place in the 1200 hundreds and the other about a 100 years later during the time of the plagues. It was a sequel to the first. Both appeared to be loosely based on history which made it interesting reading. I think these old structures kinda flesh out those stories.

The National Stud Farm I tried to apply, but they wouldn't have me. I wonder why? Horse racing is a big thing in Ireland.

Stud Houses. People should have it so good!

Could you believe this guy is limited to 192 mares per year and makes 60,000 Euros per foal. That is about $84,000 at todays exchange rate. That is a little over 16 million dollars a year, but then he is insured for 60 million Euros!

These guys are retired. What a life! I wonder if they get paid to be stared at?

We arrived back in Dublin a day earlier that we planned. By the last day we were about as tired as we could get. We spent the day stuffing suitcases and then went into town for a movie and dinner. When we got out of the movie we walked around some looking for a place to eat and wound up going back to the place across from the hotel and had dinner there as on the previous night. We probably could have eaten in town, but I just didn't feel like walking over to Temple Bar where all the interesting downtown eating places were. That would have been my last chance for a Guinness.

The following day we headed for the airport, hopped on the plane about noon and arrived four hours later in Orlando. Yeah sure!