Americans in Scotland Part # 16 May 5, 2007 7:41:05 GMT
Post by mary ailean on May 5, 2007 7:41:05 GMT
Thursday July 6
We woke bright and early on our last day on the Ardverikie Estate, and didn’t linger over breakfast. After cleaning the Gate Lodge for our departure the next day, Friday morning, we were ready to go out. I held our afternoon plans as a carrot out in front to get me through my difficult packing. We hoped to get everything done in a few hours, and then the rest of our last day could be spent looking around Ardverikie, the jetty and garden. It was windy but the sun was out, and I planned to take a lot of pictures that afternoon.
This time packing was hard because we didn't have a scale for weighing our 3 suitcases. I'd carefully spaced things out at home, and weighed and reweighed each travel case so that none of the three would weigh more than 55-58 lbs. 60 lbs was the maximum allowed without paying additional (it's 50 lbs for U.S. domestic flights). We brought an extra case for things we’d be taking home with us.
Our heaviest items were the paperback pictorial guidebooks we'd purchased along the way. I decided to put some of them in the cases, and I packed the others in my carry-on backpack. The time went by quickly and, when we were finished packing, I started to relax. We were tight in coming back from London on another trip, and Bruce decided to lighten the load by throwing most of his dirty clothes away in the wastebasket in the hotel room! I laugh at the memory. The little Guest Lodge was easy to clean, and we dressed and headed over to the 'Big House' right after lunch.
It was very quiet at Ardverikie that afternoon. We didn’t see anyone, even in the side driveway where the caretaker might have been found, so I took quick digital photos all around. I don't want us to be a bad example by telling you about our trespassing, but we had been told the house was empty, and so we looked around.
There was a feeling of familiarity, of course. Ardverikie seemed to belong to us! I've heard that during the first two years of the show, tourists were haunting all of the filming sites! After that the numbers were said to have dwindled. The enthusiasts may have been missed later. From everything I've read, the 'Monarch of the Glen' "happening" had actually been a positive experience for the locals.
We were walking slowly along the paths, absorbing the place so that we'd remember it always. Bruce has teased me during the six years that I've been a MOTG lover, but Ardverikie and the finished product, the 64 MOTG episodes, have made a Monarch fan out of him, as well.
We were there to see all that we could since this would possibly be our only time on the estate. Bruce and I went around the side and observed the two bedrooms on the ground level. One is in the back right corner to the right of the triple arches. It has a canopied bed and bright rose interior. I don't remember having seen the room on the program. The other was a smaller room with a single bed. I was surprised to see that both the billiard room and the dining room looked so different from the rooms I'd seen on film.
The large billiard (snookers) table was there and the high mounted stag heads, but the room wasn't in use and things were lying all over. The dining room did not have the long lovely dark wood table, but instead there were 3 small tables placed in a row. It looked like a bridge party had been planned.
We spoke of our observations to each other, took some more pictures, and then walked past the Ramsden stone marker to the jetty. On the loch side the inscription on the stone says: ‘Presented to Sir John and Lady Ramsden’. The marker is in the center of the graveled walk that leads from the marbled stone arches down to the loch's shore. We took pictures on the jetty, and looked across to the islands.
My feeling, at the time, was that they were too small to be the islands used in Series Six, when Lady Dorothy had her tai chi group over there. Bruce, however, thinks they did film there, and maybe used another place for some shots. The island names appear on the map as Eilean an Righ, the one with the remains of a castle, and possible burial place of King Fergus, (he is thought to be buried on one of the islands), and Eilean nan Con, which is the one nearest Ardverikie’s jetty.
We enjoyed "Molly's Garden" for the second time, though there is little evidence of a full time gardener. The plants seemed to be in a state of hibernation. The fountain wasn't running, and it looked a bit forgotten. Still there is a little potting shed in the back that must belong to the gardener. We went back to the back wall where the bench is situated, and saw the garden from that side. It is the spot where Molly and Bonnie MacDonald met. The original layout of the garden is quite nicely done.
In the pictures below note that the photo of the fountain was taken from the entrance to the garden, and you can see the back wall from that spot. Jamie's stone was placed directly behind and across the path from the spot I was standing to take the picture. The back wall isn't usually shown from this angle on the show. The garden hasn’t been someone’s major project for a while. By the time of the open garden day at the end of this month things may be blooming again. Those who are meeting there could find things much improved.
We went inside the little cottage where Molly moved during her time of exasperation in Series Six. The little building is used entirely for garden storage now. There is a cut scene that appears, on the U.K DVD, in the cabin. The roof is leaking and Molly is trying to paint while holding an umbrella. I do think the little cabin would leak in the rain. When we walked out we saw two large brown toads in the grass. They were camouflaged on the lawn, and I was thankful that I didn't step on one of them.
Right after our 'lark' in the garden, we saw 2 gentlemen walking around the winding back path, at the exact place that 'Lord Kilwillie' and 'Archie' were strolling together. This was the time Kilwillie was talking about how he could quickly liquidate his Zurich bank accounts. We kept on walking forward toward the two. When we met on the garden path one of the two men, the one with the lighter complexion, asked us politely who we were.
Bruce spoke first and told him our names. I then informed them that we were staying in the Gate Lodge. We learned that the dark haired man was the estate factor and manager, R. N., and the man who was so interested in us was A.F., a grandson of Lord Ramsden, who built the estate. Mr. F. told us that it was indeed a private home and, though no one was in residence at the time, it still was off limits to those staying in rentals on the estate. He explained that it was more of a liability problem, and we told him that we fully understood. We thought that the gardens were open, and we tried to at least 'appear' repentant for making ourselves at home! We were told that the grounds were only open to the public on the special open garden days each year.
Mr. F was polite throughout, and he kept apologizing. They were both kind, and we talked of our family at home, our week on the estate, and the midges! The estate manager was especially bothered by them.
Then all of a sudden the conversation shifted, and we were having an invitation extended to us. To say that we were surprised was an understatement. Mr. F. asked when we were leaving, and when we told him that we'd be heading for Edinburgh the next morning, he said that we must join he and his wife for 'cocktails and whisky' that evening. We accepted and Mr. F. gave us directions to his house, saying, "it's not far from the highway, around the loch". Bruce and I said goodbye to the two men and walked across to our car that was parked where the road in front of the house forks. We were openly laughing by the time we got to the car.
As we drove back, we talked about how our last evening was going to be a bit different than we'd planned. I was happy to know that I'd have someone to answer a few of my questions, and we were ready for any surprises the evening would bring. Bruce decided that he'd better make a 'dry run' to the house to see if he could find it. He didn't locate it, but soon after he got back, A.F., and his son, came by the Gate Lodge. When Bruce saw them about to cross the bridge, with a wagon on the back of their car, he ran out to get better instructions. A.F. told Bruce that they were going to try to put their jet ski in the water, and he asked if we could we make our meeting time about ½ hour later.
We did indeed meet A.F., his wife, and their ‘20 something’ son at the home they use whenever they visit Ardverikie, a home that had belonged to A.F's mother, who was named Mary. On the way up the hill to their place, I made Bruce promise not to mention that I post on a ‘Monarch of the Glen’ Forum. I told him that it would sound like I was a ‘groupey’! During the two hour visit we came to understand that A.F. had extended the invitation because he felt that he'd been abrupt with us when we met him on the path behind the Big House. He had not been rude, but whatever caused him to invite American strangers over when he was only to be there for the weekend was okay with us!
We enjoyed the evening with Mr. F., his wife, their grown son, and their 2 dogs. I won't give details of the evening except to say that A.F. is very proud of their turbine. He told us that it is a moneymaker for the family corporation. A.F. asked if we'd seen it, and we told him that we had during our drives around on the estate. It’s not far from the loch on the West side of Ardverikie House. A.F. told us they are producing more electricity than they can use.
They also recounted small bits about the times they entertained the cast members, and both Richard Briers and Hamish Clark were favorites. We had a nice time and then returned to finish a bit of packing, and to head down to the loch's 'Sandy Beach' for the last time.
We stayed until it was almost dark, walking out on the sand bars into the loch. The edge is not straight across as it usually appears on film. We took our new quaich down to loch side in a zippered case. It has since been engraved with our names on one side: 'Bruce & Mary Scotland 2006', and on the reverse side ‘40 years’ (this was our wedding anniversary trip). I filmed Bruce, with the camcorder, as he filled the quaich with Lake Laggan water and 'pretended' to drink. Like 'Paul Bowman', he was unsure of the loch water!
We realized that this might be the last time we’d spend together on the beach because we didn't know if we'd ever be back. For so many reasons Laggan Sands will always be important to me. It was absolutely grand to have it all to ourselves most of the week. I hadn’t expected that. I thought that at least the guests in the other rental houses on the estate would put in an appearance at night. I passed one man on the road the night before, but he was just leaving the beach. It was the sheer beauty of the spot, too, that made it seem to become our own for a short time. The water almost seems to sigh as it laps-the sound is a whispering of water. Since the tide doesn't come in and out, of course, it isn't the same sound that ocean waves make. These waves just roll softly in.
If I stay in a spot in nature for even a short time, it seems to be my own. I want you to make the trip over to discover the area for yourself. If you don't stay on the estate while you are there, you can just march on foot across the bridge and down the road to see the Sandy Beach. You could also make your plans to be there on the open garden day held each May and you won't feel sneaky! The welcome mat will be out then!
We were packed and so we could stay as long as we wanted. We just roamed the beach soaking in the sound, and I felt the sand under my bare feet. We marveled at how very lovely the place is, and I tried to capture it on film, but you know you just can't take it home with you that way. What I do have ‘for always’ is up there on the big screen. It is the beginning airplane fly-over footage as Series Six and Seven begin. It goes by too fast for me and now I do a freeze frame pause on it right at the point where you can see the main bridge and the Gate Lodge. At the top of the screen you see the field where ‘The Stags’ team practiced, and then the mound of rock on the sandy beach below the trees and to the right. It gives me a good feeling when I remember our times on that beach, and the little girl in me who loved it enough to hide her small treasure there in the sand near the rocks. Since I didn't fly over the Ardverikie estate myself I'm glad that the film company did that so that I can revisit it anytime I want.
We spent our last night upstairs in the Gate Lodge on Thursday night, and I slept so soundly that Bruce had to say my name several times to wake me the next morning. When I rose, we ate breakfast together, and cleaned a bit more before packing things into the rented Vauxhall. It was goodbye to the lodge on the bridge with the last swing of that heavy white door. I joined Bruce in the car, and he got us back onto the A889 to drive across Glen Trium again, and by Glen Gary with a wave to Blair Castle and on from there.
On paper at home we’d listed the formal gardens at Drummond Castle on our 'to-do' list, but to make the day easier I told Bruce that I thought we should skip that castle. Drummond is two miles south of Crieff, where the Glenturret Distillery is located. To the west of town, the distillery dates from 1775 and claims to be Scotland's oldest.
Crieff has a new legacy. It is actor Ewan MacGregor's home town! You can read his entry in the Andy Hall's series, "Celebrity View" in Scotland magazine, if you've saved your issues. It is found in Issue # 13 from May 2004. Ewan went to school in Crieff, and several of his family members still live in the area. He's been the proud Chieftain of the Crieff Highland Games, and I quote from the article: "...resplendent in the McGregor tartan and fulfilling a lifetime ambition to be the Chieftain in the games of his own home town”.
So we waved over in Crieff's direction and thought of Ewan. I'll leave the discovery of Crieff to you when you get to Perthshire! See below for a look at Andy Hall's two books of celebrity’s favorite places in Scotland. The first, "A Sense of Belonging to Scotland: The Favourite Places of Scottish Personalities" by Andy Hall was published by Mercat Press.
Bruce was happy that I suggested shortening his driving day! We decided that we'd rather have more leisure at Scone Palace, and so we made that our only sight seeing stop between Ardverikie and Edinburgh.
Scone is just North of Perth and we arrived there before lunch.
( Tomorrow we will leave for a two week vacation to California and Nevada, and I will wait until we get back to tell you about our visit to Scone, and the wonderful Falconry Demonstration on the grounds of the palace. You can see the picture of the Falconer and his Eagle Owl below (one just like Fergal and Duncan cared for). The Falconer looks like Russell Crowe with black hair, I think. The man demonstrated his European Kestrel, the Owl shown here, and many other birds such as a Peregrine Falcon.
I will write the last section of the journal, and put it up when we return home. Look for it to be titled:
Americans in Scotland: Our last day! Scone Palace
Then it was south to Edinburgh to take the rental car back to Enterprise Auto Rental, and to check into our airport hotel. We had a nice dinner and listened to a very talkative East Indian maitre 'd tell us about his visit to the U.S. After paying for dinner, we were left with a remaining 2 pounds! We went back to our very warm hotel room to relax, watch TV, and read a bit. We were scrunched into a room the size of a dorm room, but that was okay since we weren't taking much out of our suitcases. We were eager to get back home now that we’d said our goodbyes to Scotland.
We had packed the pewter quaich after drying off the loch water, and it will always be our reminder of this very special Anniversary week at Ardverikie, and Loch Laggan. Our first week was an added bonus. We'd met Karen and Jenni in Edinburgh, and then traveled across Central Scotland with a stop at Balmoral. We'd castled ourselves to death, walked our legs off, and it really was time to get back to our quieter life!
We had an uneventful flight home, on Friday, July 8, and we'll live on the memories of this trip to Scotland for quite some time! I didn’t realize how long this account was getting until I printed it out to check over. Oh, my gosh, if you read it all you are a good friend! It has been like returning in my mind when reading the notes I took. The camcorder film refreshed my memory, too. When I tried to summon the feel of the places for you, I was there again.
I want you to be able to see that it was possible to get to Ardverikie yourself, if that is your dream. Its May now and you could have a good selection in the summer of 2008. It doesn’t hurt to inquire. If you have any questions about staying on the estate, you can contact the very friendly Desiree. She was so helpful to us. Desiree is easy to reach by e-mail. Remember the time difference. Scotland is ahead of us by eight hours.
You can also look at the Ardverikie Site. ArdverikieEstate.co.uk will get your there.
This is another opportunity for me to thank both Nancy and Kim for their help. They stayed on the estate before we did, and answered my many e-mails with helpful answers. You made our trip so very much easier, Kim and Nancy! Karen, thank you again for all you did for us in Edinburgh! You could easily run your own tour business!
Mrs. Desiree Bruce
The Estate Office
"Sarnian" Paul...You are being very nice to put the pictures on for me since I don't know how to do that yet! I've really enjoyed seeing them this way, and they have helped to tell the story of our vacation to Scotland. Thanks, you are quite a capable fellow. I am very impressed with this forum, and with all you do!