Robert Burns’ Hometown (Alloway) – Part 1

Alloway is a sweet village on the southwestern side of the Scottish Mainland. Its principal attractions are the birthplace of Robert Burns (Burns Cottage), The Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, the Robert Burns Monument, and the Bridge of Doon (aka Brig O’ Doon). It is now considered a suburb of Ayr, but it still holds a great deal of charm, as a small village will do.

First up: Burns Cottage



The cottage is worth seeing at the least from the outside, as it is very well restored, and let’s face it, you can’t see too many thatched roofs. The inside is interesting, but not very revealing. Still, it IS the birthplace of Robert Burns, so if you get the chance, you should take the opportunity.

This is true Robert Burns Territory.

The Robert Burns Birthplace Museum is a great museum, but also the only place in Ayrshire to buy good Robert Burns souvenirs. And let’s face it: we all need bookmarks, glassware, scarves, books, and other great stuff with Robert Burns’ name, visage, and/or quotes on them. Shops in Ayr, and other locations in the surrounding area will have plenty of Scottish things, just not Robert Burns things, in particular.

Next up….
Part II: Bridge of Doon
Part III: Robert Burns Monument

Threave Castle

We have had the great luck to visit many, many castles over the years. Threave Castle is easily one of the most unusual. Built on a small island, it is only accessible by boat.

After parking in the designated car park, it is about a mile walk to the bronze bell, which calls Scot, the ferryman. Scot then takes you across to the castle via outboard motor.



The castle itself, though built in the 14th century and inhabited only until the mid-1600s, is in wonderful condition, with a Great tower with rounded ceiling, many fireplaces, and the stairs still access the Great Hall.




As it was a rainy day, we had the whole place to ourselves, which we enjoyed immensely.


You can easily see old doorways and fireplace openings.



Travel Buddy stands 5’2″. So that gives you an idea of the size of this opening.


The Tower, and looking up through it.



This was one of the more unusual castles we’ve visited, because of its unique setting. A definite recommendation if you’re in the area, which is near the town of Castle Douglas, in Dumfries & Galloway.



The Cemetery in Lockerbie, Scotland

On the 21st of December 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was destroyed in the air by a terrorist bomb. All 243 passengers and 16 crew members were killed, and 11 more people were killed by falling wreckage on the ground.

It has long been on my mind to visit the final resting place of these victims, who were randomly and horribly murdered through no fault of their own.

I finally got that opportunity last fall.

There was a small museum on the cemetery grounds that kept memorability from the tragedy, along with correspondence, maps, and photos sent in from the families and friends of the victims.

After seeing this very tasteful memorial, we were directed to where the remains were permanently interred.








I had the honor of seeing a play based on this tragedy, The Women of Lockerbie, by Deborah Brevoort, performed by The Actor’s Gang at the Ivy Substation in Culver City, California, 2007.

The play focused on the American side of the tragedy, the families of the victims, left with nothing to represent their lost loved ones, and also on the Scottish side, with the local women who mourned their own victims, who died on the ground. These local women methodically collected every scrap of clothing, every item that had fallen from Flight 103. They cleaned up the items, washed the clothing, and replaced it within the remains of the luggage wherever possible. These fragments were then saved in case the families ever came searching. Inevitably, some did.

It made all of the horror and tragedy not any less terrible, but additionally reached out to a level of acceptance and sadness and love.

Finally visiting the cemetery in Lockerbie kind of brought things full circle for me. We can never undo this sort of horrible circumstance. We can only remember, and vow never to forget, so that these poor souls will not have died in vain.

Dalemain Estate, Lake District, England

How do I describe Dalemain? For us, it was one of those serendipitous moments that we will never forget. We were still in England, though headed back to Scotland, and we were still in the Lake District. Travel Buddy mentioned that she would love to stop for some tea. Great idea, I said, except we are clearly way out in the country, and won’t be near a town of any size for quite some time. We’ll find a place, she said. Followed the road around the bend, and there it was: a sign advertising tea and scones!

We pulled off, and discovered Dalemain Estate, an incredible place that has been in the same family for eleven generations! Despite a few vehicles in the carpark, we were startled to discover we were the only visitors at that time, and so settled in the Medieval Hall for our tea and scones. Before long, they arranged for Our Bob to come in and light a fire in the massive old fireplace for us, which we thoroughly enjoyed all to ourselves!

Inside the Medieval Hall Tearoom:




Outside, views of the stables, shop, and outbuildings:






Looking back at the estate, as we were leaving:


What an amazing treat, and completely random. Such a great find.

Conwy Castle, Wales

The chief difference between Conwy Castle and Caernarfon Castle, is that while Caernarfon Castle is a free-standing structure, Conwy Castle is literally built into the city walls around Conwy. This makes for some very different views.

This is a view of the very prominent bridge leading from one part of Conwy to the castle, itself. However. In a bizarre twist that I could not get a clear answer for, there is no access to the castle from the bridge. Not now, not ever. Talk about a bridge to nowhere, this one leads to a wall. Utterly confusing.


This is a picture of the village just outside the Conwy Castle gate:


The castle walls as they connect to the walled city:


A view from inside the castle:


Current castle resident:


A couple views of the castle, itself:



Conwy Castle is neither as grand or as historically relevant as Caernarfon Castle, but I would definitely recommend a visit if you can. Just the walled structure alone makes for an interesting visit.

Random Pic of the Month (September)


This snowy egret picture evokes both happiness and sadness for me.

Happiness in that it’s a pretty decent picture of a beautiful bird that called our neighborhood home for part of the year, every year.

Sadness, because this bird was killed by a couple of young boys, just because they could.

I like looking at this picture because it reminds me of the wonder that was. But I don’t look at it often, due to what happened afterward.

Humanity is so hard to understand, sometimes.

Caernarfon Castle, Wales

Caernarfon Castle is located in northwest Wales. It is in a beautiful setting, right on the water. Not only extremely picturesque, this is the traditional home of the original Prince of Wales. Everyone crowned prince in this capacity since the first (back in Edward I’s time) through today’s current placeholder, Prince Charles, has been crowned here.

It has amazing views.




Sorry about the angle of the 2nd picture, above. I wanted to show the view from that side, but my shoulders wouldn’t fit through the opening well enough for me to get the right shot. Oh, well.

Here’s a look at the castle from its proper front.


And here’s some pictures from inside.








It is a beautiful castle, reflecting an impressive history. If you get one chance to see a Welsh castle, I strongly suggest this one.