Bonnie Scotland - Inverness to London and home (June 18 & June 19, 2012)

Monday, June 18, 2012
Kris and I decided to get a leisurely start to the morning. We had a relaxed breakfast, then packed up. We needed to pack well enough that we could return the car later in the day and head straight to the airport for our flight from Edinburgh to London.

I'd planned a scenic drive through the Cairngorms National Park. I thought the detour was a worthwhile one. It was a pretty drive and didn't add much time to our journey - plus it ensured we saw something different than we'd seen on the way out of Edinburgh.

View from the expressway

Our first stop was to the Old Packhorse Bridge in Carrbridge. It dates back to 1717. (I have a thing for pretty bridges I guess.) In order to find the bridge, you actually have to drive over another unsubstantial bridge and look to the side. Kris didn't see the correct bridge at first...he was ready to tell me that he'd seen nicer bridges on the drive to Aviemore. Then he saw the Old Packhorse at the intersections of A938 and B9153.

Our next stop was in Rothiemurchus in the Cairngorms. There is a loch called Loch an Eilein that has the remains of an old castle sitting in the lake. The lake, the small walks the lake offers, and the view of the castle make this a great picnic spot. We just stayed a while for photographs and fresh air. It was a great break from the car. Be have to pay 1.5 pounds per person to park in the carpark.

A bit of a drive later had us at the Ruthven Barracks from 1715. Part of it was under scaffolding for repair, but the part we could see was pretty neat (and free). We left the official barracks section to go out a gate into what would have been the stables and run into a baby cow and its protective mom.

It took me aback. Kris and I walked away from these really shaggy and cute cows (mom fully equipped with scary horns), but I hung around to take photos.

As the baby kept getting closer and closer to the gate, mom would follow. A family (grandmother, grandfather, pregnant mother, father, and young child) was wandering around the area not necessarily cognizant of the fact that they could potentially be heading into an aggressive situation with mother cow. Grandma was over by Kris and me (away from the cow's notice but within viewing range) with the little boy. All of the other party started going through the gate back to the barracks at a pretty close distance to the baby cow. The little boy wanted to catch up and started darting across the grass toward his mom. Mama cow didn't like this one bit. She started charging toward pregnant mom who started freaking and running into the gate completely ignoring the fact that her child was darting right into danger.

Mom was ready to cause problems for anyone entering that gate.

Luckily everyone made it through.

See the hands of people starting to tempt fate again?

This didn't stop the crazy family from trying to pet the baby cow. The baby seemed receptive. Mama wasn't having it.  Check out the video (which didn't catch the worst of it.)

Kris and I got a good show. We went around the barracks to get back to the car.

View from the barracks

We stopped for lunch in another cute town that reminded me a lot of England last year before heading to the Scone Palace near Perth.

Neither Kris nor I could remember what the Scone Palace was, and we considered skipping it. I'm glad that we didn't. This was the best stop of the day.

Scone Palace

The Scone Palace is a situated on a massive plat of land. When you go, you can pay for admission to the palace grounds (outside) or the palace or both. It was a gorgeous day, so Kris and I opted to just see the outside.

Naturally, you can visit the actual Scone Palace, but, in addition, there is a Chapel (1804) and Moot Hill. Moot Hill is the traditional home of the Stone of Scone where Kings of Scotland were crowned and medieval parliaments were held. They coronated Robert the Bruce in March of 1306 here.

Skitler on Moot Hill

There is a butterfly and bee garden that was filled with butterflies that I could see.

There is an ancient burial ground of Scone with some impressive tombstones. Scone apparently developed from an early medieval royal settlement into an Augustinian abbey in the 12th century before the Palace was created in 1600. Because of this, we were witnessing a lot of cemetery plots being taken back by nature. Love that!

Here be pirates...Arr! (actually don't know who was buried here)

As Marlene said, "Wow.  This must be someone special!"  No Photoshop here - right out of the camera.

At the Scone Palace, you could spend hours wandering through the huge gardens. I've read many a flighty historical romance novel. They always seem to have a stroll through the garden where kisses would be stolen...until I saw this garden, I couldn't fathom how these garden strolls could have taken so long. I get it completely now.

The Pinetum portion of the palace grounds contained gigantic trees. There is actually a giant Douglas Fir planted in 1826 that is still thriving. It was sent from the good ol' USA.

Peacocks wander freely around the grounds of the palace and include a white peacock. I thought it was albino, but it isn't. There are apparently white peacock breeds.

Our last stop was the Murray Star Maze - Perthshire's only maze. It was a really unique maze deliberately created with trees of varying colors to create a Scottish tartan look. There was a fountain in the maze too.

We spent a lot of time at the Scone Palace, so we had to forgo looking about Edinburgh this time (except to drive through). We returned our car to Europcar at the Edinburgh Waverly train station without issue, and we found out how to take the local airport bus for 3.5 GBP each.

A 30 minute bus ride later (which allowed us to view a bit more of Edinburgh), and we were at the Edinburgh airport. I definitely would like to return to Edinburgh again in the future. It looks like a great city. It also looks like you'd need two days to do it justice.

Getting checked in at the airport was super simple and security was a breeze. Our flight from Edinburgh to LHR was only an hour long, and we got an exit row so we had a massive amount of room.

One last look at Scotland

After arriving at LHR, we thought we could walk to our hotel. I'd booked the Radisson Blu Heathrow on Bath Road to take advantage of the Club Carlson Buy 1, Get 1 promo I'd learned about from The Points Guy blog.

Turns out that you can't walk out of the LHR airport. You can, however, take almost any local bus for free to Bath road. Just ask the driver if they stop on Bath road before getting on. Then stop at the stop after you see the Renaissance hotel (to get to the Radisson Blu). You can also take it directly to the Park Inn or the Renaissance hotel. It's a total of three or four stops. Super simple - once you know how. We took an hour figuring out how.

The Radisson Blu Heathrow was a nice hotel, but it wasn't like the one we stayed in at Zurich. Our room was upgraded...which I imagine means we got the seating area. I'm not sure what the regular room would have looked like. You do get free bottled water and free wifi.

The bed and pillows were very comfortable and the extra room was nice for packing up. might be a tad early.

Kris washed his undershirt in the sink.  Here is his rig to dry it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Happy Birthday to my beautiful sister Jenny!

Today is travel day supreme. After a later check-in than normal (for us), we walked across the street to the nearest bus station to catch a free bus to the airport. We got on the bus to Heathrow Central bus terminal and were quickly at the airport.

I'm really glad that the taxis wouldn't take our credit card the night before or we'd have never known about the free public transport option.

At London security, we got behind this family of three who must have never flown before. Led by a BIG father, the two daughters and father were completely oblivious to the rules of travel: no metal, electronics out of the bag, jackets off, and the liquids rule. They probably spent 10 minutes trying to get this family to adhere to the rules and still the dad was not unloading his pockets, removing his belt, removing his liquids. Then the girls had some liquids in a baggie and some just loose in the purse. They kept finding more and more items through the scanner that they had to remove from the bag then rescan. Meanwhile we're having to wait forever. I have never thought people could be that dumb and inconsiderate. Golly!

Luckily for us we wound up getting to sit in an exit row due to a necessary reassignment of a lady who was placed there but didn't understand English and didn't look fit enough to help in an emergency.

So much extra leg room!

We also got some strange chips. Loved the branding...the chips were pretty bland though (and it's bad when I say that).

Global Entry was bloody awesome again. I love it!!! Skipping the queue for customs and customs baggage is amazing! Fantastic investment!

Kilt count = 4
Bagpipe count = 1 (we heard a lot of bagpipe music - just only once live)

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