It’s been quite a few months since my last blog post. (I thank my avid and devoted readers and followers for their patience.)
In my previous blog post, I shared the plans I made for this year’s exciting adventures in Scotland, Holland, Germany, and France. Usually, I travel solo. Doing so allows me to make time to write as many blog posts as possible as I go from place to place. On this trip, however, I’ve been traveling with my daughter, Errin, and my youngest granddaughter, Grace, since the middle of July. Doing so created a whole different traveling dynamic so I must first apologize for not posting any stories until now. Errin and Grace have now returned home after 6 weeks of adventures. I am still in Scotland enjoying the company of my cousin Lindsay for yet another month. But boy-oh-boy do I have some stories to share about what the girls and I have been up to! So let’s get started…
You know what they say about ‘best-laid plans.’ I am here to admit that although I pride myself in planning as much as possible sometimes problems just can’t be foreseen.
Errin, Grace and I had our bags packed, and we were already at the airport in Portland ready to check-in, check our baggage, and board our planes. Unfortunately, I hadn’t been able to get all of our flights together. I booked mine using my award miles with United but couldn’t get seats for them. I began searching for flights for them on other airlines that would enable us to arrive at the same place at approximately the same time.
I ended up booking their flights through Orbitz and got what I thought was a reasonable price. Each of us would fly from Portland to Dublin on different airlines, but arriving in Dublin within a couple of hours of one another. We would meet up in Dublin, and then all of us would take the same plane to Aberdeen, Scotland, arriving at our final destination together.
I had arranged for them to board first so I could be sure they were safely on their way after which I would follow on my flight an hour or two later. That was the plan.
In the meantime, a couple of legs of the flights had been changed, which isn’t uncommon. Even with the changes, it appeared to still be quite close to what we had initially planned, so we weren’t concerned. However, we should have been concerned as it turned out. When we arrived at their check-in desk, the attendant informed us that the flight they were scheduled to board was not scheduled to fly that day!
I immediately got on the phone with Orbitz to try to figure out what was going on. They told me that they were supposed to be on the flight that they were initially scheduled on. They never informed me of the final changes! Drat! The flight that they were actually supposed to be on had already departed minutes before; there wasn’t anything we could do about it. The attendant at the desk desperately tried to fix things for us, and she also offered us some valuable advice. She told us to never, ever book your flights through third-parties, like Orbitz. Evidently, they are notorious for screwing things up. The airlines can’t do anything about the mistakes they make and fix the problems like the ones we were experiencing. The airlines can fix their own errors, but don’t have the authority to fix other’s mistakes. I will definitely remember that piece of advice in the future, and I hope you will benefit from it as well!
At any rate, she assured us that she would get the girls on a different flight to Seattle where they could make the connection to the flight from Seattle to Dublin, and it would work just fine.
Because of all of the time we spent trying to sort it all out, I realized I needed to go and get on my own plane. The desk attendant assured me it would be all figured out and not to worry, so I proceeded to my boarding gate and climbed aboard my scheduled flight.
Soon afterward I was in the air and leaving Portland but earnestly praying it would all work out for the girls as promised.
To make a long story much shorter, Errin and Grace did get on a flight to Seattle as the attendant had promised. However, when they went to get their boarding passes in Seattle for the flight from Seattle to Dublin, the airlines wouldn’t issue them boarding passes. Instead, they were informed that the reservation had been automatically canceled because they had not checked into the original flight from Portland to Seattle! Therefore, they didn’t get on the plane after all. OMG!
Luckily, Seattle is not very far from Portland. A friend of Errin’s was able to drive to Seattle to retrieve them from the airport; they returned back home once again late that same night very disappointed! Although they weren’t allowed to board their flight, their luggage did, and it went on its way to Aberdeen as scheduled (or so we thought).
For the next couple of days, Errin spoke on the phone to numerous people at Orbitz trying to get to the bottom of the problem. Her efforts were ultimately denied and told there was nothing they could do. Very frustrating indeed and oh-so-disappointing for all of us as well.
Since Orbitz wouldn’t do anything to make up for their mistake, I decided to just book another flight for them on a United flight and get them to Scotland. Yes, it was an additional expense (and quite a large one that I hadn’t budgeted for), but we had 6 weeks of reservations for three people. I wasn’t about to go on the trip by myself after all of our planning and excitement! To complicate matters further, although their baggage was scheduled to arrive in Aberdeen on their original flights where I could retrieve them, they were now lost! Great!
We contacted the airlines to try to figure out where the luggage had gone. Luckily, they told us that the bags had made it as far as Dublin after all. They also said that the girls would be able to retrieve them from Lost & Found in the Baggage Claim department. However, when they arrived in Dublin on the United flights, the bags were nowhere to be found as promised!
Instead of arriving in Aberdeen on July 18th along with me, Errin and Grace did not get to Aberdeen until three days later on the 21st. Naturally, we had to adjust our itinerary accordingly. The only clothes they had were in their carry-on bags. Their carry-on bags had at least a few days worth of clothing and their toothbrushes. We weren’t going to let that stifle us. We began our adventures straight-way with our fingers crossed that the bags would show up eventually; hopefully, before we took off for Amsterdam at the end of the week.
Luckily, Errin’s luggage appeared a couple of days later (via London of all places) but still no sign of Grace’s suitcase yet. So we visited a couple of Charity shops to get Grace some additional pieces of clothing. We were thinking optimistically, however, that her luggage would also show up as we were making our way to our first destination – Dingwall.
I wanted to show the girls the most essential part of Scotland first. Dingwall is the town where our ancestor, William Rose Frew, left his family and the life he knew to immigrate to America in the 1880s.
My cousin Lindsay was so gracious to have us all stay at his house while we traveled about Scotland, and he was an integral part of our adventures. The day after the girls’ arrival, the four of us climbed into our rental car and started making our way to Dingwall, which is about 175 miles from Aberdeen and about a four-hour drive.
The town of Keith is located about halfway along the route we followed. When we needed a stretch break from the driving, I decided to stop at the churchyard in Keith. Lindsay and I have volunteered in the past with the Moray Burial Ground Research Group (MBGRG) to record all of the headstones in the Keith churchyard. We also probed the grounds to locate buried headstones which were hiding beneath layers of sod that has grown over them over time. The girls have heard many stories about our work with MBGRG. I thought it would be an informative spot to share with them and to have the much-needed stretch break out of the car.
As we wandered about the churchyard, Lindsay explained the process of finding buried headstones to Errin and Grace. Also, the three of them were enjoying the process of getting to know one another better.
Errin and Grace also enjoyed riding along in the car and seeing first-hand the landscapes pass by that I have often talked about. They were also becoming accustomed to riding along on the other side of the road as well.
Not too long after we got back on the road, we decided to stop again to get a cup of coffee or tea. We stopped at another place that Lindsay and I like called ‘Brodie Countryfare‘ about halfway between Keith and Dingwall near Brodie Castle and the town of Forres. The girls were delighted to find the vast array of delicious-looking food selections offered. Grace was doubly delighted to see so many gluten-free options available for her to eat as well! Sometimes we find it quite challenging to find places that include items she can eat. Come to find out, Scotland has quite a bit available, much more so than what we usually see in the US.
They also enjoyed the creative items for sale in the gift shop. Errin even found a cute little bow tie for her dog, Murphy, that she couldn’t resist buying for him.
We eventually made it to Dingwall. We quickly found our B&B, The Weaver’s Cottage, and happily settled in for the evening after enjoying a delicious dinner with our friends from the Dingwall Museum, Pat & Ian MacLeod. The meal was delicious, as usual, but Grace especially enjoyed the tea cozy keeping her tea nice & warm!
In the warm sunshine the following morning, we walked down the High Street from our lodging. Lindsay and I began showing the girls various places where our ancestors had lived once upon a time until we reached the Dingwall museum in the center of town.
We went inside and started touring the museum and to enjoy its varied and informative displays.
In the upstairs Council Chamber room, we were able to draw the girls’ attention to the painting of Lindsay’s great grandfather, John Rose Frew, the brother of my great grandfather, William Rose.
John Rose Frew served as the honorable Provost of the Royal Burgh of Dingwall for many years at the beginning of the 20th century.
After touring the museum, the museum Curator, Ian, took us up into the clock tower. Ian let us see the workings of the clock and the bell. He also encouraged us to add our signatures to the clock’s wooden housing as a testament that we had been there!
After we finished touring every inch of the museum, we headed down Church Street alongside the museum to St. Clements’ Church.
William & John Frew’s parents (my great-great-grandparents) Thomas MacNaughten and Christina Rose Frew are buried in the churchyard around the back of the church.
A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of lovingly restoring this headstone. I cleaned it thoroughly and then repainted all of the places where the paint had severely eroded. My good friend, Pat MacLeod, had asked me one day after I completed the restoration, “Where are you going to be buried when you die?” I told her that I plan on being cremated like my parents and won’t have a headstone. She replied, “Well, that is interesting! Because you enjoy finding headstones of your ancestors, I’m really surprised by your answer. What if your descendants have the same desire as you to find your headstone many years from now if you don’t have one?” I hadn’t thought of that and she made a good point! After much consideration, this past winter I had my name inscribed at the bottom of the stone along with my ancestors. When I saw it firsthand, I felt so proud to see my name listed with my ancestors on the headstone! Thank you, Pat, for the inspiration!
The girls’ heads were swimming with new information and I figured they needed a bit of a break and time to process all the new data they had been exposed to the last couple of hours. Since we were already halfway across Scotland at this point, I also wanted to take the girls to the west coast of Scotland as this would probably be the only opportunity to do so. We all piled in the car after lunch, went for a drive and headed for the fishing village of Ullapool only 45 minutes away.
Along the way, about 15 miles west of Dingwall, we stopped at a favorite fishing spot that our ancestors used to visit many moons ago called Rogie Falls. We were extremely fortunate because while we were there admiring the falls, we also got to see salmon jumping up the falls!
After enjoying the falls, we walked back to the car and continued on down the road toward Ullapool enjoying the scenic views along the route such as Loch Glascarnoch and the mountain, Beinn Dearg, in the background below.
Once we arrived in Ullapool, we enjoyed walking around the town, and the girls enjoyed going in and out of various shops along the waterfront.
Before leaving town to return to Dingwall, we found a lovely little cafe called the West Coast Delicatessen. Grace particularly enjoyed a bowl of gluten-free homemade soup with a yummy roll! She was one happy camper!
When we got back to Dingwall late in the afternoon, Lindsay and I had two more stops to share with the girls which sit up on a hill overlooking the town of Dingwall below.
The first place is a Memorial for Scotlands’ beloved author Neil Miller Gunn and his wife, Jessie “Daisy” Frew (one of John Rose Frew’s daughters, and therefore, one of our cousins!).
“This monument was erected, not just to Neil Gunn, the man, and the writer, but also to acknowledge the two great themes running through all of his writings like two golden strands – the pre-eminence of the individual and the significance of the community.”
Neil was born in Caithness in 1891. His father was a crofter and a skipper of a fishing boat. His mother was related to Hugh Miller, the famous geologist from Cromarty. Neil and his wife, Daisy, moved to Brae Farmhouse down in the Strath to the south of this monument where they lived for twelve years. It is in that house that Neil wrote eleven of his twenty novels including ‘The Silver Darlings,’ ‘The Drinking Well,’ and the ‘The Green Isle of the Great Deep.’
The monument consists of a large central stone of mica schist, like a standing stone of old. The stone was found in a quarry adjacent to Rogie Falls. Around the base are Caithness slabs, every alternate one incised with some of the symbols that appear over and over again in Neil Gunn’s writings, reminding us of our Pictish and Celtic forbears.
The Salmon of Wisdom swims beneath the Hazelnuts of Knowledge;
The strong hand on the Tiller as the fishermen set off on the search for “The Silver Darlings;” (‘Silver Darlings’ refer to the Herring the fishermen caught)
The Harvest scene so movingly described in “The Shadow;”
The Old Man is the wise Elder of the tribe appearing in several novels;
After we enjoyed the monument and reflected upon the relationship that he and our cousin Daisy shared we headed down the hill toward town stopping off at Tulloch Castle along the way,
and where Grace and Errin were able to experience what it might have felt like being locked up in the stocks in days long gone – thank goodness they weren’t really being punished and forced to stay in that contraption for very long!
It was the perfect ending to a perfect day of following ancestral trails and sharing them with my daughter and granddaughter! Their heads were swimming with new information about people, places, and history. They were trying to incorporate all of the latest information they had learned throughout the day into memory as they laid their weary heads on their pillows that night.
That brings me to end of the very first day, July 23rd, of our 6-week adventure together. I hope you have enjoyed reading about our experiences and will return for many more adventures to follow soon.
Until then… ~ Claudia.