April 2015

Powis House, Stirling, Scotland

Stirlingshire is an area of Scotland I’ve passed through many times on journeys further north. This is the northern edge of Scotland’s populated Central Belt, and the gentle landscape turns into rolling hills before rising up into the highlands beyond’s Stirling’s watchful gaze. I’ve spent hardly more than a handful of nights here, and, unfortunately, that didn’t change on my last trip to Scotland. I had only a single night in charming Stirling to hit the town’s high points, and I chose to stay at Powis House which stands just a few miles northeast of the city center.

Powis House’s location was perfect for me…

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Hailes Castle, East Lothian, Scotland

During my brief stint in East Lothian I received a tip from the proprietor of Traprain Cottage B&B that would prove to be priceless. Tantallon Castle has a high level of notoriety and even Dirleton Castle possesses some celebrity among locals and those in know, but there’s another castle that only the sagest of East Lothian’s denizens champion: Hailes Castle. It is hidden along the River Tyne in a cleft in the pastoral East Lothian countryside, as if the land sought to swallow it whole, and the castle possesses quite the historical pedigree.

The day was gray and rainy when I parked my car on the side of a narrow farm road beneath Traprain Law… Read more...

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Thistly Cross Cider, East Lothian, Scotland

In recent years I’ve become a hobbyist cidermaker back home in Wisconsin. It’s not too fancy. I purchase fresh apple juice from local orchards, pitch it into a big glass carboy with some yeast, and let the magic of fermentation take over. I may not truly understand what I’m doing, but the end product usually tastes pretty good.

Part of my pre-trip planning process involves seeking out producers of Scottish beverages. I’ve been to countless distilleries and a handful of breweries in my travels around Scotland, but never a ciderworks. When I learned that Thistly Cross Cider was in East Lothian, I knew that would change. Read more...

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Dirleton Castle, East Lothian, Scotland

When the topic of East Lothian castles arises, Tantallon Castle justifiably receives the lion’s share of the attention. Less than six miles to the west, however, not far from the Firth of Forth coast stands Dirleton Castle, one of the most surprising and beautiful castle ruins in Scotland. I had never heard of Dirleton Castle before I began researching my visit to East Lothian, and I probably never would have found it had I not scoured maps and scores of Web sites in my customary pre-trip planning. There is an upside to being detail obsessed.

I came to Dirleton Castle straight from Tantallon Castle… Read more...

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King Loth's burial stone, East Lothian, Scotland

Just across the street from Traprain Cottage B&B, in the private backyard of another house hardly a stone’s throw from Traprain Law, stands a great stone menhir. The setting is incongruous for this stone, hidden, as it is, among trees, buildings, and the detritus of modern living, for it is believed to be the burial stone of King Loth, for whom the Lothians are named.

Loth has many legends attached to his name, but the most famous of them is his connection to King Arthur, where he is variously the father of Sir Gawain and the husband of Arthur’s sister. Of course he is also known to have been a Pictish king of the 6th century AD who ruled from Traprain Law. A man of such power and legend, and all that remains is stone devoid of marking. Read more...

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