16 Nov Scotland, my ancestral home
We just returned from a fabulous two week sojourn through Scotland and England! As always, editing the photos is quite challenging – there are just so many phenomenal sights to share: today, Scotland – next, England.
Our departure from Newark Airport on October 28th was miraculously smooth, considering the next day a freak snowstorm blew through the Northeast and the airport was closed! We arrived in Edinburgh with a rental car awaiting us: stick shift Jetta diesel with the steering wheel on the right side. I left the driving on the left side of the road to my intrepid husband Richard who did a valiant job negotiating the many roundabouts we encountered on our 2 hour journey to our hotel in the Trossachs region (northwest of Edinburgh). As we got closer and closer to our hotel, the roads got narrower and narrower until they were almost one lane, with moss-covered stone walls and hedgerows defining the edges, no shoulders! I still consider it a miracle that we made it safely that day considering the lack of sleep traveling overnight!
Our hotel, The MacDonald Forest Hills Hotel overlooking Loch Ard, was originally a château which had been added onto over the years and “modern” 60’s time share units added somewhere down the line. Not much to look at from the outside, but once we opened the doors, the two bedroom, two bathroom unit was lovely with a big roomy living room, kitchen and dining room. It was a great base of operation for our week of exploration in Scotland!
We started our first morning in the elegant hotel restaurant with a full Scottish breakfast of eggs, haggis, black pudding, mushrooms, baked beans, sausage, tomato, and fried bread! Richard took on haggis as one of his culinary challenges for the first few days and ate it in many different forms at breakfast and as an appetizer at dinner. The name sounds revolting, and the description is sketchy too (here from Wikipedia):
“Haggis is a dish containing sheep’s ‘pluck’ (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally simmered in the animal’s stomach for approximately three hours.”
I must say I tried it with trepidation and was quite surprised at how tasty it was!!
Black pudding? Here’s another mystery food to me that was actually quite tasty, as well (sourced from Wikipedia.):
“Black pudding, blood pudding or blood sausage is a type of sausage made by cooking blood or dried blood with a filler until it is thick enough to congeal when cooled. The dish exists in various cultures from Asia to Europe. Pig, cattle, sheep, duck and goat blood can be used depending on different countries.”
Baked beans for breakfast? I must admit, I’m a simple yogurt and granola girl, so I watched the guys (oh yes, we had the distinct pleasure of our son Chris joining us for our first few days in Scotland!) chow down at breakfast and I had wee tastes of the mystery foods!
The greatest pleasure we had was exploring The Queen Elizabeth National Forest in the Trossachs – the experience of being immersed in vast, stunning landscapes that awaited us just up the road and around a few precarious bends from our hotel: Loch Katrine (pronounced Kaatrin), Loch Lomand, and the epic views of the mountains that have been carved out by the glaciers. I hope you enjoy the pictures, which of course can never truly share the sense of grandeur, but attempt to do so.
Chris had to take an early flight Monday morning back to London, so we decided to spend a night in the heart of Edinburgh and explore the city as well. Fodors recommended the Scotsman Hotel, so I booked a Sunday night special that included a bottle of champagne and a bouquet of flowers, plus dinner and breakfast for two! Such a deal! And it was a spectacular room with a stunning view of the city, great food in the restaurant – the only drawback being getting to the hotel through the maze of streets in Edinburgh! And the next morning, despite our best efforts getting OUT of town was equally challenging (1 1/2 hours of driving in circles we finally escaped!)
The next leg of the journey was really at the heart of the trip for me: visiting the home at the heart of my Turnbull family bloodline called “Hassendeanbank” near the beautiful village of Melrose, one hour southeast of Edinburgh. We had arranged to meet a potentially distant cousin named Alan Turnbull who generously offered to drive us around to the important family sites. We found Hassendeanbank, which has been documented as our family home all the way back to my great great great great great grandfather Adam Turnbull who was born there in 1969! We then visited the family gravestone in Bowden Kirk Church yard (on Halloween day – crawling around cemeteries was perfect!) which lists my great great grandfather Thomas Turnbull and all his siblings, as well as his parents – thrilling!
The next morning offered an even more amazing experience of connecting with another distant cousin, still alive at 92 in her home that also has been part of the family tapestry since the 1700’s when her ancestors built the home, along with many other important homes including one for Sir Walter Scott!
We made a pilgrimage even further south into the rolling hills of the Borders Region to the town of Hawick (pronounced Hoik) to view the Turn-e-Bull statue, erected to honor the man who is responsible for the name Turnbull. Here is an excerpt from a page written by Wally Turnbull explaining the origin:
“On a day that began like any other, William Rule saved Scotland’s beloved King Robert Bruce from death by wrestling a charging bull to the ground in the Caledon woods on the borderlands of Scotland and England. As a reward for his feat, William was given lands in Bedrule and dubbed Sir TURN-E-BULL (Turnbull). Centuries of persecution drove countless members of the Turnbull Clan out of their beloved homeland and forced many more to change their names in an often-futile effort to escape execution. The Turnbulls became Trimbles, Trumbulls, Turnballs, and Trumbles. The names may have changed, but the legacy has remained as strong as the man who turned the bull.”
Another highlight that day was lunching at Turnbull’s Delicatessen, founded in 1855 by James Turnbull – almost positive he is part of my same blood clan – more research to follow on this! Purchased a bottle of 8 year old Turnbull scotch to bring home, just because – not a scotch drinker, but when one of our clan comes for a visit, we’ll break out the bottle for sentimental reasons! Driving back north that day, we stopped at a mill where they sold tartans and I was able to pick up two swatches of my Turnbull clan tartans: one for dress and one for the hunt! Now I’m official!
The next few days held divine adventures hiking through the moors, experiencing the marshy earth covered with heather and peat! remarking on being in a vast landscape where there were no other humans, vehicles, or homes in sight! taking in the sweep of clouds running down mountains, rainstorms blowing through to reveal bright blue patches of sky and then the descent of clouds and mist again! An ever-changing landscape to delight the eye of the beholder. Scotland is a land of enchantment that I hope to return to again and again.