We spent the next two days recuperating and didn't really do all that much. I made dinner for us on the 7th, gnocchi with vegetables and sundried tomato sauce. On the 8th, we walked around Edinburgh a bit and had tea at the Balmoral.
After the reconciliation, we went to tourist information and they told us the right bus to take to get the Scone Palace and where to catch it. The also told us that there was no official bus stop, so we'd have to just flag down the bus to get a ride back. Paul has a theory that some of the people you see in Britain are really trolls, and after waiting at the bus stop in Perth, I think he may be right. A woman got in the queue right behind me, but something didn't feel right. The hair stood up on the back of my neck. The woman looked old and not very handsome and something about her face made me think of a troll. I think some of them have stopped living in the forest and have integrated into society. But you can spot them if you look really hard. We got off the bus at the side entrance to Scone Palace, which our bus driver told us was the shortest walk in to the Palace. We were even more grateful to him after we saw that then main driveway is over a mile long.
Scone (pronounced skoon) Palace is a beautiful building in its own right, but it also has a huge amount of cool Scottish history associated with it. Kenneth McAlpin was king of the Scots form 843-58. He was the first to unite the Pictish and Celtic clans of scotland under one rule. He also brought the "Stone of Destiny", the crowning stone of the Kings of Dalriada to Scone, from which he ruled Scotland. The stone had been used since the 500s as the sacred stone over which Dalriadan kings were crowned. Queen Elizabeth is a descendant of Kenneth (for her family is Scottish) and the 57th successor. There are many stories surrounding the Stone of Scone. It was supposed to have come to Scotland with the Celts when they migrated from Spain, and some say it came originally from Egypt or even Jerusalem.
In 1296, after the death of William Wallace and the defeat of Robert the Bruce, Edward I of England took the stone back to his country. And it was only returned to Scotland last year, as a sort of peace offering associated with Scotland having gotten a partial separation from Britain. Scotland now has the right to its own Parliament, but there is speculation that the country could decide to secede altogether, since economically they are in a position to be able to do so, because Scotland has both oil and whiskey.
However, no one really believes that the stone that came back from England is really the Stone of Destiny. Not that there is any suspicion of wrongdoing on the part of England. You see, the Scots are known for being incredibly skilled at hiding things that they don't want to be taken away. The Templars are said to have hidden many of their important documents in a Church in Edinburgh. (On one of the pillars of this Church, there are apparently instructions about where the documents are, if you are able to read them. X-rays have been done, and there is something there, but they can't just tear down the Church, so the mystery remains...) The French government also houses its important government documents in Scotland, because it's known to be a safe place. So, the commonly-held belief is that when Edward demanded the stone, one was cut to look like the original and it was given to Edward, while the original was hidden away somewhere. Edward, who was a fop and a fool, and not known for his strategic talents, as we all know from "Braveheart", announced his intention to come and take the Stone in twelve days time. Plenty of time during which the cunning Scots could have made a good copy and found an excellent hiding place for the original. This theory is born out by the fact that tests done on the Stone show it to be made of a red sandstone that is very similar to the one that the Scone Palace is made out of, and not some stone found in the East.
So where is the original, if this theory is true? No one knows. It was hidden too well and was never found. Sir Walter Scott easily found the Crown Jewels after they had been hidden for years in the Edinburgh Palace. Maybe the Stone will turn up someday as well.
We were told at Scone that the first King to be actually crowned was Alexander III. During the ceremony, the following blessing would be given: "Benach de Re Albann, Alexander, MacAlexander, MacWilliam..." which meant God bless the King of Scotland, Alexander, son of Alexander, son of William..." and all of the King's lineage would be recited at least back to the 500s. (An interesting point for me was that Alexander (1249-1286) was King some 200 years after poor Edgar (brother of St. Margaret) didn't get to be King because he had been born in Hungary not England. It doesn't seem so terrible to me that Edgar wasn't crowned, since none of the other Kings were at that time either. Or maybe "crowned" is just a euphemism for being sworn in, or whatever it's called for Royalty.)
From the time that Kenneth MacAlpin brought the Stone to Scone, all Scottish Kings and Queens were crowned at the Palace. There is a little hill on the grounds called Boot Hill, which was apparently built by men who wished to show their loyalty to the new King or Queen; to do this, they brought with them soil from their homes in their boots and emptied it out on the hill. What I want to know is, did they wear the boots while they were filled with soil?
The inside of the Palace is beautiful, filled with original furniture, paintings, and tapestries. There are tapestries that Mary Queen of Scots (reigned 1542-67) made while she was in exile at Scone. Mary had a hard time of it. She was only six days old when she became Queen, and was crowned at nine months. She married at 16, became Queen of France as well as Scotland at 17, and was widowed by 18. She made a disastrous marriage to Lord Darnley. In 1567, he was found dead, and the circumstances were highly suspicious. Then, just three months later, Mary married the Earl of Bothwick. Whether it was true or not, everyone believed that Mary and the Earl had schemed to get rid of poor Lord Darnley, and Mary's career as Queen came to an end. She had to go into exile at Scone. Another interesting tidbit about Mary is that there is a rumor that her son, James, who became the next King, is not really her son. During excavations of the Edinburgh castle, a baby's skeleton was found near Mary's chambers. It is suspected that Mary's own son died at birth, that this was kept very quiet, and the newborn child of another woman in the castle, a servant, perhaps, was taken as Mary's own child.
Queen Victoria once stayed at Scone Palace, for one night only. Luckily, she gave the family plenty of warning, two years in fact, so that they could get ready. The table and chairs, dishes and silver- and glassware that are in the dining room were all purchased for the occasion, and the suite of rooms where she stayed are exactly as they were the morning that she left them. The bedroom's a bit fussy for me, but the boudoir is nice and full of strong, primary colors that she apparently adored. It is rented out now for teas and luncheons. It's tough to be a royal family fallen on hard times. Actually, I think the Earl and his family may have donated the Palace to the National Trust. It's a sweet deal, because you and your family are allowed to live there until your name dies out, but you don't have to pay for any of the upkeep. The Trust does that, which is why they rent out rooms and charge an admission fee to get in. My favorite place in the Palace is the library. (Anyone out there surprised?) There aren't any books on the shelves anymore; instead, one of the Earl's pottery collections is housed there. Apparently, he didn't like for his guests to have to eat off the same plate twice. But the best part of the library was the two turrets at either end of the outside wall, one with French books and the other with English. Each had little benches to sit on, a fireplace, and windows all the way around. And shelves of books of course. They were darling. There was also a music room with a pipe organ and a hall of family photographs. Outside there are peacocks running around on the expansive lawn, both the traditional colored ones and a few albinos. We ate sandwiches out on the lawn. The peacocks seemed to have a routine where they bullied guests into giving up part of their lunch. They were very bold.
We went exploring the grounds after that, and saw the family graveyard and a spectacular pinetum, which is an arboretum which contains only pine trees. This one was started in 1848, and contains some 150 year old giant sequoias from California, along with about 50 other pines from around the world. The gardens are vast, huge places, divided up into huge "rooms" separated by hedges and fences. Each "room" contains a different thing. The pinetum is one, the rose garden another, and in another a terrific maze built our of red and green hedges. We also found a field with a few families of Highland Kyes (Highland Cows). The youngsters were quite friendly.
We had planned to go to Dunkeld after Scone, but we ended up spending the whole day there, and that evening we got a train back to Edinburgh.
Nearby, at one end of the George IV bridge is a statue of Greyfriar's Bobby. He was a Skye Terrier, which is a breed particularly noted for its loyalty. In 1858, when Bobby was 2 years old, his master, a policeman, died. Bobby stayed with the body through the funeral, and afterward, every day, Bobby would go out to the cemetary at Greyfriar's Kirk and lie on his master's grave. The towns people tried to drive him away, but he was persistent. Finally, Bobby was allowed to live in the cemetary and stay with his master, which he did until his own death in 1872, at 16 years of age. The Greyfriar's cemetary is very old, with a lot of tombstones in Latin. Many of the tombstones are quite large and are situated right up against the rear walls of the houses which run along the edge of the cemetary. Some of these stones even cover their windows! I'd have been a little upset if that was my house. There is also a little grave stone for Bobby, with a brief synopsis of his story. There's a little shop there next to the graveyard devoted to dog lovers. The two women who run it are very knowledgeable about all things canine. The first question they asked was whether we had a dog, and what breed. Then the recited all the information they knew about Skye Terriers, the Disney Film about Greyfriar's Bobby, etc, etc. There were also newspaper clippings pasted on the walls about the making of that film. Wacky, but sweet.
We walked out to the road in the direction of the William Wallace Monument. When Irene and I came two years ago, we took a bus, so I may not have noticed then, but it seemed like every house on the road, easily 90%, were B&Bs. I suppose its become a profitable summer business here since "Braveheart" came out. It really wasn't as long a walk as I thought it would be. I found the Wm. Wallace Pub easily enough and remembered the shortcut up to the foot of the monument path. It looks as if its been paved since I was there last. Minivans were running people up to the top. I guess that's great for all the people who wouldn't otherwise have been able to get up one of the three paths (they have straight stairs, a rough path, and a winding slower path), but if you couldn't make it up the path, I don't know how you would make it up the 294 steps to the top of the monument. We took the slow, winding route to go easy on Paul's knee. Once inside, the tower is divided into landings, where there are exhibitions about Wallace's life. They have his Claymore, a huge two-handed Scottish broadsword, which is over 6ft. long. At some point on the way up, the stairs are open to the outside through window slits in the stone. The wind up there sings through them quite nicely. Sometimes it sounds like voices. At the top is a 4-sided lookout tower, open to all the elements. If it would ever stop raining, it would be a great place to come up at night. Paul and i figure that the staff probably do that (we would if we worked there).
We had to race back down because the tower was closing. I should have mentioned before what the tower looks like. It was build in the latter half of the 1800s, so its really a large folly. It was quite the fashion at that time noblemen and men with wealth to construct monuments to themselves. These monuments were called "follies". The Wallace monument was built during a time of romantic re-interest in all things ancient, of Sir Walter Scott and Ivanhoe. The monument is a huge, narrow tower built on the top of a wooded hill. It is covered with sculpture on the outside in a neo-romantic style. The stone is dark sandstone, and kind of gloomy. You can tell just by looking at the monument that William Wallace didn't meet with a good end.
We walked in the rain down to the William Wallace Pub and took a table in side up in the corner where we could see the rest of the bar. The pub is all dark wood with plaid-covered benches, chairs and stools and various William Wallace pictures, documents and quotations covering the walls. William Wallace is the national hero of Scotland, and this used to be just a pub for the locals until "Braveheart" came out. Now the place is regularly inundated with tourists, the prices have gone up, and the locals are starting to shift to another less popular pub down the street. Some locals sitting across from us asked us how the weather was outside, much to my surprise (It's raining! It's always raining!). Apparently one of the group, the drunkest I suppose, was proposing to walk to the next pub. We managed to convince him that it was much nicer to stay inside. There was also an appallingly drunk man at the bar, who Paul encountered when he went up to get us a couple of pints. He was reeling into people at the bar, waving his cigarette about dangerously and then alternately befriending and cursing out whoever came near to him. Paul was one of the lucky ones who got to be his friend for a moment. The waitress told us that this guy was not a regular, but his friend, the one with his arm around his neck trying to restrain him, he was a regular. She said they'd already called a cab, and were hoping that they be able to coax the man into it. While we watched the spectacle, the waitress brought us hot apple pie with vanilla sauce. Nothing else could have been so wonderful on a miserable rainy day. When we were done, we walked back to the train station and caught the last train back. We got in around 9:30 and I expected Gordon to be back from spending the weekend in Chippenham with Irene, but he didn't get in until well after midnight. He's a wild man.