ROBERT THE BRUCE

So sad. Our time in Scotland was quickly coming to an end.

The Robert the Bruce Memorial was the last stop of our tour.

Robert the Bruce is considered one of Scotland’s greatest kings. He led Scotland to its freedom during the Wars of Independence and saw Scotland finally become an independent country.  Robert the Bruce is a national hero and has the same distinction in Scotland as George Washington does in the States.

BRAVEHEART

You don’t need me to tell the story of Braveheart. (‘m William Wallace, and the rest of you will be spared. Go back to England and tell them… Scotland is free!)

William Wallace ( a Scottish knight) led a resistence during the Wars of Scottish Independence.  He defeated the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge and was deemed the Guardian of Scotland – instantly becoming a national hero. A few years later, the English captured him near Glasgow and he was executed by King Edward I of England for treason.  But as we all know, what’s important is FREEDOM!

The Tower overlooks the Forth Valley and includes different floors of memorabilia. One of the floors is the Hall of Heroes which has busts of famous Scots including the three writers, James Watt (inventor of the steam engine); David Livingstone and John Knox among others. The entrance also has a Braveheart DVD continually running.

246 steps get you to the top – the steps weren’t bad, but the narrow spiral stairway could get you kind of dizzy both coming and going.

IONA

Yes, suddenly the sun was shining as we headed into Iona or at least sort of shining.

Iona is mostly known for it’s abbey, first built in 563 by St. Columba. (The modern Gaelic name for Iona is Icolmkill (phoneticlly) which means Iona of Columba.)

When Columba and his twelve friends landed here in 563, they were retreating from the Battle of Cul Dreimhne in Ireland. At that time Iona was part of the Irish kingdom.  The abby/monastery flourished and they used it as a base to convert people to Christianity.  Researchers have spent years defining what these original inhabitants believed and the conclusion is no one knows for sure.  One of their tenets seems to have been not recognizing the authority of the Pope and also establishing their own practices and traditions such as determining the date of an Easter celebration. Iona quickly became the center of Celtic Christianity and a known center for learning for Great Britain and Ireland.  It is said the Book of Kells  was at least partially (if not all) written on Iona.

Throughout history, Iona was often destroyed by the Vikings. Each time, the island once again flourished. After the Viking raid in 794, Iona lost prominence among the Irish, but now became a center of both spiritual and royal importance in Scotland. In fact, for a time, the Scottish kings were buried on the island.

We (in 2010)  didn’t have a lot of time on the island, so immediately we headed over to the abbey.

A man began giving us a tour, but I quickly became disappointed. Instead of giving us a good sense of the history, he emphasized that  today the abbey is ecumenical – that seemed to be the key factor. In fact, there are still regular services held weekly (or maybe it’s daily). Hymnbooks are in the pews (though a quick glance through did not yield any hymns I knew) and a bookcase included every version of “religious” book you could think of so everyone could worship as they wish.  Not being overly familiar with Iona, I wish we could’ve heard a clearer story of the background.

So we wandered away from the tour and headed back outside. RM and DG headed to a shore cafe and FG and I decided to look at some of the shops with unique Iona handiwork.  We both bought silver necklaces depicting symbols from the abbey.  We then wandered around some and stopped in a small grocery store to buy some crackers, cheese and fruit and went down to the shore to munch as we waited for the others to gather to catch the ferry back across the water.  Beautiful place and if I had had more time, I would’ve taken 1,000 pictures!  Alas… we were once again on a schedule.

KILT ROCK

In every place, where there is any thing worthy of observation, there should be a short printed directory for strangers.
James Boswell in The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides 1773 (The Isle of Skye is in the north most Inner Hebrides)

I thought this sign was quite succinct.

Up the road from the Old Man of Storr is Kilt Rock. (Many people say that Skye is the most beautiful area in a beautiful country. I agree!) The Rock is named Kilt Rock because (drumroll!) it looks like the pleats of a kilt.  The observation point is also quite windy – in fact I have a picture of Me and Two of the Other Three looking like we are being blown off the observation point. They warned me against posting it – but not to worry – I don’t want it posted either. 🙂 The rock stands 200 feet above the sea (and during these past couple ninety degree plus days, I wish I were once again standing there!)  Notice that the sun was out and the sky at least somewhat blue at this point in the day.

This is a popular tourist spot and the observation area was crowded when we were there – so I did not get the clear picture of the waterfall (in the foreground) that I would’ve liked – but you can still see it.

ENJOY SOME SCOTTISH MUSIC

As we drove through Skye, Anne played us some Scottish music!

That was fun.

If you’d like to hear some of it, I found these three artists/groups on iTunes.

Karen Matheson.

Runrig (If you want to get just one of their songs, I would suggest the Hampden remix of Loch Lomand)

Red Hot Chilli Pipers. (Funny, hunh?) I would get their Flower of Scotland and Auld Lang Syne.

(SCOTLAND FACT: Scotland doesn’t really have a National Anthem, but Flower of Scotland is the song you hear played at sporting events, etc.)

(SCOTLAND FACT: You might wonder what they don’t adopt God Save the Queen. Hmmm … it might be that second verse which people DON’T sing anymore, but still … people remember it.

Lord grant that Marshal Wade

May by thy mighty aid

Victory bring.

May he sedition hush,

And like a torrent rush,

Rebellious Scots to crush.

God save the Queen!)