CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: Horsing Around From Edinburgh To Killin
Day Seventeen: Decision, Shut Out Again, Horsing Around, The Big Wheel, Callander Girls, We’re Killin It, Is Anybody Home?, My Kind Of Falls, Kim Nearly Gets Run Over and the Busboy Playlist
It was only 20 minutes until our first stop, Lauriston Castle, which claims to have “one of the most remarkable Edwardian interiors in Scotland.” We would not have the opportunity to see it, however, as it was closed for repairs, which had been a reoccurring nightmare throughout this trip.
The castle is set in 30+ acres of parkland and gardens, so at least we got to tour part of it. A Tower House was constructed in the late 1500s and the house was finished by the early 1800s.
We then took a quick spin through the grounds.
I had a chance to play croquet, but the wickets looked pretty small. The castle has three croquet lawns.
We only spent about half an hour as it was time to move on. We had hoped to visit Hopetoun House or Linlithgow Palace, but alas both of those properties were closed, one for repairs and the other for Covid protocols.
In another half an hour, we made a stop at a place I had not heard of until shortly before we left. Starting our walk from the parking area we made our way alongside a small waterway.
Then, in a Godfather flashback, in the distance we saw two huge horse heads. We were at The Kelpies, who are in a place called The Helix. These twin horse heads are each about 100 feet tall and weigh about 300 tons apiece. Needless to say, they are the largest equine structures in the world. I asked my companions if they were happy with just that distant view, but Tracy responded, “Neigh, let’s go see them close-up.”
As we walked along the waterway, the horses heads loomed larger and larger as we approached Helix Park.
What are Kelpies? According to what I read, “In Scottish folklore, a kelpie is a dangerous shape-shifting water creature that can appear on land as a horse. The kelpie appears to their human victims as a grey or white horse, entices them to ride on their back, then carries them down to a watery grave.” Now that’s one way to get off your high horse.
They were created and erected in 2013 from more than two miles of individual metal plates. Mary and I attempted to feed the horse, with Mary having much more success than I unless this horse eats out of its nose.
They were mesmerizing to look at from any angle.
I also found out belatedly that if you make reservations, you’re able to go inside the Kelpies, so you can get information straight from the horses’ mouths.
On a much smaller scale, as we walked back to the car we saw a unicorn named “Spirit of Scotland.” Like Judy Collins, Tracy caught the unicorns from both sides now. It’s made of metal armature and woven with white willow.
A short jaunt down the road and we were at the only rotating boat lift in the world, the Falkirk Wheel.
It’s been open for more than 20 years …
… and can transport eight or more boats at a time from one canal to the other in about 45 minutes. It replaced eight locks.
If you have time, you can take a 60-minute trip where you’re transported either up or down to another canal. A view from above (like this one stolen off the internet) gives you a better idea how the whole thing works.
We made our way back to a town where we had stayed for an evening in 2017, the little village of Callander, where I serenaded our wives with a little retro Neil Sedaka until the locals started looking at me in strange ways. This time we just made a quick stop for lunch. I think a vodka dispenser wold be perfect for the home.
We arrived at 3:30 p.m. in the small town of Killin, known mostly for The River and Falls of Dochart that runs through the center of the village. We drove over a narrow bridge (which Kim would find out how narrow later) and pulled into the small lot of our lodging for the evening, the Courie Inn.
We knocked and rang the bell, but no one answered. After about ten minutes, we gave up and walked back to the Falls Of Dochart Inn, which we had passed as we headed into town. Like the sign said, we stayed “calm.” When the going gets rough, it’s time for a beer.
With Covid being so tough on hotels and inns, we wondered if perhaps the Courie Inn was no longer in business. The bartender at the Falls Of Dochert (where we had dinner reservations that evening) said she thought it was still open, and she texted a message to confirm.
Kim decided he’d go on the bridge to take a few photos. Unbeknownst to our “Mark Focus” companion, a large tour bus was barreling down in his direction, and that bridge was only big enough for one of them.
Luckily, Kim deftly plopped himself on the wall of the bridge without falling into the River Dochert. He then calmly pointed his camera at us to take a photo like he had planned the entire event. Kim asked whether I was going to use these photos in the report, and I have to admit that I told him I’d have to throw him under the bus.
Back at the Inn, the bartender said she had talked with the Courie Inn, and they said they were open and waiting for us. They also told her that I had said we wouldn’t be showing up until after 4 p.m. I need to learn to write notes to myself.
The Courie Inn is a charming B&B complete with spacious rooms. It’s also supposed to have a wonderful dinner, but the restaurant was closed on the evening we were there.
Walking back to the Falls Of Dochert Inn for dinner, we took more photos of the area.
Clouds were threatening, but the photo ops were too good to pass up.
There are hiking opportunities in the area as well. I had read about something called the Heritage Trail before leaving, but no one in town seemed to know what I was talking about, making Scotland like every other country that has to deal with my ramblings.
I had reserved the table in the room with the large fireplace at the Falls Of Dochart Inn, which was formerly a blacksmiths in the late 1800s before being converted to a hotel. The restaurant had a nice feel to it, and dinner was quite good from the chicken with tarragon sauce to a linguine with smoked salmon. Oh, and my sticky toffee pudding was consumed in record time.
In addition, the playlist of mostly modern Scottish music (which we learned was created by the busboy) was a perfect accompaniment to our evening.
Having dodged intermittent showers throughout the afternoon, we were able to get some more photos on the way back to the Courie Inn.
We turned in early because the following day our drive would be the most scenic of the trip. We would head through the Highlands, look for some elusive red deer, visit a famous massacre site, along with a couple of idyllic kirks.
Eventually we’d zip down the Argyll Coastal Route to Oban, via a Monty Python & The Holy Grail castle, a picturesque priory and garden and end up at an Oban B&B with a million dollar view from our room. In true Mai Tai Four fashion, thanks to some confusing signage and not listening to Tracy, we’d nearly have have to spend the night in a castle parking lot.
Next: Day Eighteen: It’s A Loch, Where’s The Red Deer?, Three Sisters, Massacre Monument, Kirks Galore, A Monty Python Moment, Wicked Burgers/Tuna Time, Picking The Right Day To Visit, Could You Check That Parking Lot Time Again?, A Tower Of Terror Drive, A Great View, In The Attic and Kebab At Baab