Monthly Archives: September 2018

Cloudless. . . Glorious. . .


When you awake to a clear blue sky, crisp air, and a flawless weather forecast, you eat a quick breakfast, put on your shoes, and head for the coastal path toward St. Abbs because it’s.. . . . . .

The temps were chilly when we started out but we soon began shedding layers as both the walking and the SUNSHINE warmed us. The coastal path led us up on the cliffs with the usual spectacular views.

“We looked at the situation, assessed the risks. . . And went on anyhow.” We persisted.

The path was quite safe, quite walkable. Was this the Scottish version of Fake News??

We soon found ourselves in St. Abbs.

The Ebba Center where the market was held is the community center, as evidenced by the announcements of the many activities held there throughout the week. With only 85 permanent residents, I’m curious how many show up. Today, however, there was a nice crowd for the market, and there were even “outlanders” like us.

St. Abbs sort of has a high town and a low town, and after exploring the high part we walked below for lunch, which we were able to eat outside in the SUNSHINE.

The walk home was just as wonderful and we all felt that our five days in the Scottish Borders area has been perfect. Full of memorable moments, laughs, good soup, multiple cups of tea.

Bags packed, leftovers eaten, final sunset viewed.

As we were making plans on what time to leave in the AM we made a discovery. . . . We are all taking the same flight from Edinburgh to Dublin. We had made our flight plans separately and were saying, “Oh, I think we leave EDI sometime around 9:30.” Finally one of us checked and laughed when we realized we were on the same flight. But then we go on to EWR and Betty and Lee to PHL.

Checking out until we return home and will write our usual recap.


Fast Castle


We awoke today to Don reading warnings about cliffs, danger, and all manner of warnings about walking to Fast Castle. Nevertheless, we persisted.

Driving through fields of sheep with a wind farm as backdrop, we parked and began following the trail.

We were soon scrambling over barriers, laughing ourselves silly, and taking pictures of each other.

“We’re not in Quakertown anymore. . .”

Blue skies, fresh Scottish air, the absence of rain, and plenty of sunshine made walking pure enjoyment. Although the heather fields were long past their prime, we imagined their purple beauty of months past.

And then it happened. . . .we thought we could see some piles of stones. “Is that IT??”

Seeing this castle was on Lee’s to-do list, but the walk down looked steep. And then there’s that issue. . .”What goes down must come up.”

Two of us walked onward. Two of us stayed behind. . .to go for help if we needed it?? To worry about us?? Yep, both of those and more.

And so, Lee and I walked, sometimes disappearing over hills, sometimes reappearing as specks.

And as we later declared, “We looked at the situation, assessed the risks. . . And went on anyhow!!”

Yes, there were sheer cliffs. Yes, the wind was howling. And YES. . .the ruggedness, and sheer magnificence of the natural coastline was too much to be captured in photos. It just had to be experienced.

When we finally got close, we found a crumbling but useable concrete bridge and an ancient iron chain to guide us “safely” onto the promontory.

Meanwhile, our two watchers from up above waited, straining to see us. . .

Honestly, it was glorious! This is the stuff that my most memorable moments are made of. I loved the walk down, the uncertainty, the novelty, and even, eventually, the walk back up. I loved being in that ancient place wondering HOW and WHY ANYONE would live there. Were there women. . .babies. . .children??

Betty, I made Lee take a rest!! (No, honestly he just stretched right out and we regretted not bringing lunch with us. A picnic there would have been amazing.)

Is this what pilgrims feel like? Giddy gratefulness overtook me: 1)no sprained ankles, 2) no falls, 3) no rain, 4) strength to walk back up the hills.

Lee and I got the giggles when we decided to do a selfie. Somehow it just seemed ridiculous. . .a 21st century selfie at a crumbling, dangerous promontory 88 feet wide, 150 feet above the sea, wind howling. . .

Don and Betty breathed a sigh of relief when we climbed back up the hill to join them.

We were all ready for a lunch back at St. Margaret’s cottage. . .

And just about then, the Scottish showers began.

Check that one off your list, Lee, and thanks for taking me along on your adventure!

The Holy Island of Lindisfarne


Did you ever have a preconceived idea of what a place would be like and then be totally wrong? That was me, today. Online photos of Holy Island of a castle, a priory in ruins,. . .that’s what I was expecting. What we got was a bustling car park, craft shops, lots of eateries, a wine tasting shop. What we also got and DID expect was that our trip was book-ended by tides. The island is only available via causeway when the tides are low. So we forded at low tide.

According to Wikipedia, about one vehicle per month gets stuck on the causeway due to high tides. A sea rescue costs about£2300 and an air rescue about £4000, neither of which were in our travel budget!!

Once there and parked, we were quite amazed to discover the beautifully refurbished sixteenth century Lindisfarne Castle. It’s beautifully done, and in the future will include period furniture. We climbed up, reminiscent of walking to the town of Civita di Bagnoregio in Italy.

Civita di Bagnoregio

Future of Lindisfarne in previous (stock) photos(see below)). Furniture is currently in storage because the lime walls are curing and emit moisture.

Blessed with yet another dry day, we were also “blessed” with high, nearly gale force winds. No need for any fancy hair style today. We just felt lucky to remain upright.

Traveling north along the coast we stopped to walk around the walled city of Berwick upon Tweed. . .

The wall has been beautifully embellished with walking paths, a rose garden, and playgrounds. It’s truly a treasure.

Then a bit onward we explored Eyemouth, where we had eaten dinner the night before.

Loved the pub atmosphere but the food. . .not so much. What is it about everything fried?

The working harbor at Eyemouth is a busy place with fishing vessels. We found one we liked. . .the name, that is.

The Widows and Bairns sculpture. . .

After a day of wind-battering, wall-walking, coast-exploring there was only one thing to do. . .

Coldingham, Scotland


About an hour southeast of Edinburgh in the area known as Scottish Borders is the TINY village of Coldingham–blue dot above. Known for an outstanding bay, and now known for housing us for 5 nights (!), the village is a wee bit of Scotland that if you blink, you’ll miss it.

Two pubs, a butcher, a priory and cemetery, a small Spar grocer, the bus stop, post office. . .that’s about it. Oh, and a school so I guess there are children somewhere.

It’s an easy five minute walk from our cottage to the village,then another fifteen or so on to the bay. Walk we did. . .

Coldingham Bay is a popular summer destination with its sandy beach, a rarity in these parts. The sands are lined with a ring of colorful beach huts, reminiscent to us of the bungalows in Capitola, CA. We were lucky to get to peek inside one and found the basics. . .beach gear, a tea kettle, tea pot, wetsuits. All the necessities for a Scottish summertime beach trip!!

We are extraordinarily excited about the exceptionally fine weather. . .chilly but DRY. We walked the beach and tickled the cold North Sea water.

In conclusion, I must now divulge that I may be the purveyor of FAKE NEWS. My journalistic research and observational skills have been significantly tested when even the two Shoemakers could not exactly determine WHO between them found St. Margaret’s cottage on Air BnB. But lest we have divisive rhetoric, let me simply give credit to the collaborative efforts of the Shoemaker team in finding this little piece of heaven.


St. Margaret’s Cottage


When Lee presented us with the idea of renting a small cottage on the coast, one he had found all by himself on AirBnB, we couldn’t resist its charm and location.

Not to mention that the price was about $100/night total, so divided in half. . . Wow. . .as good as our apartment in BA with Mike and Marty. Traveling does NOT have to be expensive!!

So we taxied to the airport to pick up the car, a Skoda, and as usual have 0 deductible on it. The clerk even mentioned to Don and Lee, “We don’t care how you bring the car back.” Meaning scraped, dented, etc. Good thing, too, because as we were pulling into the driveway we had an altercation with two wheelie trash bins!

Anyhow, the cottage is delightful and we set about making it our own. Betty, being Betty, perused the garden for possibilities of fresh flowers, which we now enjoy in unexpected spots.

Linda, being Linda, started laundry which we hung outside on yet another glorious day of dry and sunny weather.

Don and Lee, being Don and Lee, explored and walked and like Samantha Brown of the Travel Channel declared, “Look at the view! Just LOOK at the view!”

We overlook the North Sea and will be exploring the beaches. We can walk to the village of Coldingham with pubs, butcher, and small grocery.

Lee, you done good!!

Train, Tango, and Tartans


Time to leave Inverness for our trip back to Edinburgh. We were on a different line this morning, with a train that traveled all the way to Paris. I was momentarily tempted. . . .

All aboard for a long ride. Gotta have the right provisions. And a porter who kept us laughing by poking fun at our attempts to pay him with fistfuls of change.

Passing over the Firth of Forth cantilever red railroad bridge . . .what an engineering marvel

With a few hours of free time on our hands, it was back to St. Andrews church for the end of the Nortena Tango Weekend sponsored by Ricardo and Jenny. We donned our tango duds, grabbed our shoes, and off we went.

Incorporating new techniques from our lesson with Riccardo as well as embedding figures we’ve learned with Pierre, we managed quite well and even did one passable enrosque, a complicated step for two beginners

Actually this is Pierre and me some months ago. But now Don and I are “sometimes” making progress.

Back at the hotel we were instructed to be in the lobby no later than 7:20 when we were led into the Scottish dinner by our own piper, dressed in his Royal Engineer Tartan.

He piped in to present the haggis, followed by a traditional Scottish dinner. And then we proceeded to laugh ourselves silly at his Scottish humor including three answers to the question, “What’s worn under a kilt?” Answer One: Everything is in working order. Answer number two: Nessie. Answer number three I won’t write here because WordPress might have to censor it. But I will tell anyone who asks!

A Scottish highland dancer, an inside look at the workings of a bagpipe, a rendition of Auld Lang Syne, an imitation of why you don’t wear underwear under a kilt, and the evening came to an end, as did our Great Rail Journey. It was a tremendous week, well-paced, with friendly traveling partners, lots to see, and memorable moments.

Eilean Donan


This title nearly became “Eileen Donna” and I had to fight with auto-correct!! But here it is, our destination on the Kyle line, an iconic railway journey past lochs and into the highlands.

Along the way I knitted, finishing one shoulder of a piece with a much more interesting back than front.

The castle was built in the 13th century and refurbished in the 1930’s. The home of the MacRae clan, family members still live there. It is the site of many films, including one of my favorites, “Made of Honor.” I kept an eye out for that cute Patrick Dempsey, but he’s long gone. . .

A most picturesque setting. . .

And time for a few selfies and posed photos. . .

With Sandra, our tour guide.

The day was restful with a 2.5 hour train ride and a 2 hour coach back to Inverness.

We arrived at the hotel with two discoveries: 1) My credit card had been compromised, and 2) Don was brewing a head cold. Let me just say that the number that Capital One lists on the back of its credit card is useless, but an hour’s worth of poking around online yielded the US number you can dial from the UK. All is well. As for the cold. . .Advil Cold and Sinus to the rescue!

Journeying onward. . .