Me and my parents grabbing a bite at the Clamshell on The Mile
For some reason it was close to impossible to rent a car in Edinburgh. We've had problems every time. This time around, Hertz made my parents taxi all the way out to the airport to pick up our rental car. When Erlend, the owner of the B&B where they loved to stay in Edinburgh, heard about this nonsense, he couldn't help but poke fun at the situation. He insisted that since my parents were already running errands all over the city that were part of the services they were paying for, that they should just go ahead and make their own breakfast too.
Driving through the Highlands
My Dad dominated the back roads and single-track roads. This was not his first time behind the wheel (on the right-hand side of a car). He drove like a pro. Our first stop was in Kirriemuir, the birthplace of J. M. Barrie. Everything in the town was named after something Barrie wrote, or one of his characters. My favorite was the Hook's Hotel. They even had a replica of the Peter Pan statue that's in Hyde Park in London.
My dad and I checking out the Peter Pan statue
We actually got to go inside the wee cottage where Jamie grew up with his nine brothers and sisters. There was only room enough for two beds... I'm still trying to figure out where they all slept. Upstairs. there was a bolster for kids to lie across on their bellies. It was positioned in front of a screen that showed moving pictures of London, complete with a fan that blew your hair back so that you felt as if you were flying over London with Peter. Of course I did it. Unfortunately there was no documented proof because there were no photos allowed inside his house. You'll just have to imagine me squirming on the bolster, swimming my arms and legs through the air as if I were flying. Outside, there was a separate wash house that Barrie used as his own little playhouse where he staged his own plays. He'd charge his friends buttons and sweets for admission. Again, it was so tiny, I have no idea how you could act out a play inside. Barrie must have been a very small child.
Barrie's childhood home
After lunch at the Thrumb's Hotel in Kirriemuir, we got back in the car and headed north. We passed by Glammis Castle. My parents had already visited and seen inside, so we just drove around for me to see the exterior. The castle's main attraction, the ghost of the Grey Lady, is no longer there anyway. It followed my parents back from Europe three years ago and now resides in our attic in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. My brothers were not pleased...
My mother found a ruined church that housed stones with Pictish carvings for us to stop at along our journey. There was a cute little corral with two beautiful horses right next to the ruins. One of them came over to say hello. He was super friendly and kept nuzzling me. The horse was also really sad when we left. He stood at the gate resting his chin on the top rung watching us drive away with his sad horsey eyes.
My new horse friend
What was next on our itinerary... the world's tallest and longest hedge. See, you'd think I was joking, but in fact I am quite serious. First planted in 1745, the Meikleour Beech Hedge is 580 yards long and, on average, is 100 feet tall. It is located about 10 miles north of Perth on the A93. It basically just looks like a long line of giant trees, but when you stop to think that they are just shrubs - well shrubs on steroids, it kinda blows your mind.
The world's largest hedge
Through the Cairngorm National Park, past its ski resorts, we arrived at Balmoral Castle in just enough time to see inside. It's one of the royal family's favorite summer spots, when they aren't hanging out at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh.
That night we stayed in Aboyne at a Bed & Breakfast called Tigh Na Geald. My parents had stayed here before, and we were welcomed back by the owner Julia with many hugs and smiles. I had a beautiful room all to myself where I was able to get a little bit of writing done. We finished off our first day with a fabulous meal at the Boat Inn in Aboyne.