When Bonnie Prince Charlie arrived in Scotland from France, he came to the area of Glenfinnan. Here he rallied the troops for the Jacobite uprising of 1745. Later, when his defeat at Culloden, he came back to Glenfinnan to leave the country. The memorial marks the spot where he left.

The Glenfinnan viaduct can be seen from the back of the visitor’s center – the viaduct that was used in the Harry Potter movie for the Hogwart Express.


We continued up the rainy highway to Glenfinnan where I saw three very different sites.

1. The Glenfinnan Memorial

2. The Hogwart Express Bridge

3. An European Robin

I’ll start with the robin. Could I just say that the European Robin is one of the cutest birds I’ve ever seen.  (I don’t think “cute” is a professional way to describe a bird, but this bird was CUTE!) Tinier than our robins, he was the size of a chickadee. His red breast is also more orangy/red and therefore brighter than the robins we’re used to.

Actually, according to my brother and to something I’ve read, the two birds aren’t related. The only similarity is the red breast.  When Europeans came to the New World and saw a bird with a red breast, they named it “robin.”  Actually our robin is a type of thrush and the European robin is a flycatcher.

A moment I wished I had my telephoto lens, but alas … (He’s a little blurry because I took the picture from a distance and then cropped it to get him as big as I could.)


Scotland has a blue and white flag – a white X on a blue background.  One article I read said the background was Pantone 300 which I thought was interesting since we deal with Pantone colors at work. (Pantone is the international color coding system.)

Make that one of two flags. The blue flag is called St. Andrews flag or the Saltire. This is the national flag and the one flown from government buildings. (I would think it is also the easiest one to draw if you’re doing a kids’ craft about Scottish flags.)  If you look at the Union Jack – you will see that it is made up of the Scottish and English flags.

According to legend, St. Andrew (as in disciple) was crucified on an x-shaped cross and since St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, their flag honors him.  I read at least three background legends which are too detailed and too similar to explain – but if you’re interested, they’re out there.

Scotland also has a red and yellow flag. This is called The Royal Flag and is used by kings and queens and other sundry royalty. This is also the flag waved at sporting events.


“Nothing of which we have any knowledge or record has ever been done by
mortal men which surpasses the splendor and daring of their feats of arms.”
(Winston Churchill in regard to the Commandos)

On down the rainy road we drove to the village of Spean Bridge.

In the summer of 1940, the British forces were at their lowest point and threats of unparalleled attacks caused even greater anxiety.  Seeing that, Winston Churchill initiated the development of an elite force which British servicemen, the Royal Marines and members of the Allied forces joined on a volunteer basis. Churchill felt that by initiating a group of elite soldiers, he could boost the country’s morale.

Only those completing the strenuous course could wear the coveted Green Beret. But within weeks, the soldiers were fighting in every area of battle and with such skill, that enemies were intimidated and their fellow soldiers felt protected. By the end of the war, the Commandos had won many honors, but they also lost 1,700 members in death.

The memorial was built in 1952 and is a popular tourist spot not only because of what it stands for, but because the statue is facing Ben Nevis – the highest mountain in the British Isles. However, anytime we were near it, the peak was lost in the clouds. (And as you can see, the day wasn’t getting any brighter.)

(SCOTLAND FACT: Scotland was used for military training during World War II because it was remote and had a lot of land on which to practice manuevers.)

Oh, and a small-world fact  (for readers who live near me) – the man (with the white hair) walking up to the statue designed the swimming pool at Mooseheart.


Somewhere in my rainy, Fourth of July pictures, I believe we passed The Five Sisters of Kintail. And since there are mountains in this picture, I am guessing this is the five-sister picture.

However,  I don’t know for sure, because suddenly (according to my notes) I found myself multi-tasking. See, Anne got us singing patriotic songs in honor of the Fourth (July, not the Firth).  Alas, this was not a bus that seemed to enjoy singing all that much and when we did finally get going on a song, seemed that the back of the bus was singing a different song than the front of the bus (that’s the people on the bus, not the bus itself) – so at one time there was an interesting medley of America the Beautiful and This Land Is Your Land.

Also, at this point in my detailed notes, I discovered that one of the fellow tour members was a curriculum specialist for the Dallas School System and I started interviewing her. So there is an interesting mix of Sisters-of-Kintail-biggest-challenge-for-sixth-grader facts – all to the tune of Yankee Doodle.

So, you’ll have to trust me about those mountains.

The Five Sisters of Kintail are Munro Mountain Peaks. (A Munro is a Scottish mountain over 3,000 feet high.)

See, once upon a time (so it’s said), there were seven Kintail sisters.  Two brothers sailed into Loch Duich from some faraway land and fell madly in love with the younger two sisters. Dad Kintail was a little upset that they chose the youngest daughters instead of the older ones and refused to allow the brothers to marry. But the brothers solemnly promised that they had five other brothers at home. They would take their new wives to their own country and send back the other five brothers. The father agreed. The two brothers married the sisters and left town … and were never heard from again. The five sisters waited and waited and waited … and finally turned into stone.  Their feet ended up in the loch and their heads in the clouds.

OK. Back to Yankee Doodle.


After a long and busy (but fun) day, we were back at MacKinnon’s Country House in time for dinner.

I had Highland Beef (how could I not have Highland Beef in Scotland) and an interesting conversation with a fellow tour member who works with organ transplants – often being the one who travels to retrieve and deliver the organs. (Her airport stories were intriguing.)

After dinner, Ian (the owner) gave a rather fascinating demonstration of turning water into wine, recounting the miracle at Cana in the process. (He used to be a missionary.)

Outside was cold and windy, but I asked G from Boston if she wanted to do another walk down to the pier and she was up to the challenge. Our overwhelming enthusiasm encouraged some others to come with us and we all started out full of energy. Besides, I needed to get Flat Sparky’s picture for an upcoming staff meeting at work. (HQ was closed for a week and we were all supposed to take Flat Sparky with us and get his picture taken. For some unexplainable reason, I was enjoying Scotland so much, I kept forgetting about poor Sparky.)

We once again walked down to the pier – and brave G from Boston went out with me to take the picture – the wind almost knocked me off the pier – but Sparky continued to smile and wave.                                  

(I was standing out on the end of the pier.) Behind me is Lock Alsh and you can see the Castle Moil on the right side of the picture – well, the ruins of the the Castle Moil.

Castle Moil was build in the late 15th century for a Norwegian princess known as “Saucy Mary.” Her main claim to fame was charging a toll to those boats passing through the channel.

“How did she do this?” you might ask.

Well – simple.  She hung a chain from her castle to the mainland.

Now, that she’s been dead for many years, the big controversy is which mountain she’s buried on. Which I’m sure is not something you really care about and neither do I. Wherever she’s buried, supposedly she’s facing Norway.

The castle is mostly a ruin having been hit by storms in 1949 and 1989 – so now the ruins are reinforced so they can forevermore be ruins – but not disappear all together.  So that’s good.


Two classic Scottish candies.

Scottish Tablet – sort of tastes like toffee – sort of tastes like fudge.

I actually found an interesting recipe for tablet on the Web which I’ve linked to.

Making tablet was actually listed in the Sunday Herald as one of the 100 Things to do in Scotland Before You Die.

I haven’t made it, but I ate it and I liked it. Actually it sort of reminded me of maple sugar candy.

Edinburgh Rock looks like a piece of chalk. (Again I have linked to a recipe.)

But it tastes sort of like Sweet Tarts.

Both candies were fun to eat.


We traveled south on the Trotternish Penninsula back to Kyleakin.

(SCOTLAND FACT: The Sea of the Hebrides is the part of the north Atlantic Ocean which is located off of western Scotland, separating mainland Scotland from the Inner Hebrides.)

(SCOTLAND FACT: The Minch is a strait separating northwest Scotland and the northern Inner Hebrides. The Minch flows into the Sea of the Hebrides.)

(SCOTLAND FACT – Hand fasting was when couples would live together for a year to see if it worked or if the women was capable of producing an heir. Even though this practice was discouraged way back in the 1700s, some were still practicing it until 1939.)

(SCOTLAND FACT – One thing surprising about Scotland – there are palm trees because of the temperate weather – the most common is the New Zealand Cabbage Palm)