Sasha’s friend from the UW joined us the previous night, so we were now a group of four. We had to make it our to the castle at Glenapp today, so we tried to get everyone up fairly early so we would beat the traffic. We also wanted to make a couple of tourism stops for fun. It took some coordination to get us out of our apartment since there’s no street parking except for a wide bit across the street. I grabbed the heaviest suitcase and walked the half-mile to the car park. It took some wrangling to get the car out of the tight spaces, then into the tight streets, but I managed. I had to make a wide loop around the town center to approach our road the right way, and it took nearly a half hour just to crawl through the traffic.
I pulled up right as Yulia and the girls were waiting at the side of the street. They managed to come down at just the right time. We threw all the bags in and were headed out of town. That was all much smoother than I expected. We didn’t even get honked at. We were even pointed the right direction to get our of town, so I didn’t have to loop around. Traffic was reasonable, and we were out of town and on the highway in short order. So we were getting lucky so far.
Our first minor detour was to visit the Kelpies – the big horse head statues that we passed on our tour. They were fairly nearby, and only created about a 5 minute detour (plus whatever stopping time we chose). Once we got there, we paid a couple Pounds to park, got out and were immediately caught in a huge downpour. We ran into the shop there, as it was too far to get back to the car. We were already used to the Scottish rain, so we waited five minutes, got a coffee, and the rain stopped. We went back out and the statues were amazing. They are absolutely huge close up, and interestingly they straddle a small lock that is part of a connecting canal here. There were boats lined up on the canal waiting to use the locks (they only take one boat at a time typically). I love checking out boats, so we walked back to the car along the canal to see the boats and found a second lock further up. It would be a fun trip to take up these canals, but as each lock is small, and manual (the boat captain has to manage it themselves) it probably takes a long time to navigate.
We headed to our second stop, which was the Falkirk Wheel. This is another Boat lock, but the only of it’s kind in the world. It is a boat lift that is 35 meters tall, and replaces an old set of 11 locks to get between two canals. It’s massive and really not to be missed if you are an engineering or boating nerd. I’m both. Naturally, we got there and it started pouring as soon as we got out of the car. We ran into the building and looked up at the lift from below. It has two opposing lifts, essentially giant bathtubs for the boats to sit in, then once ready, the wheel turns and one goes up and the other does down. It’s simple, but amazing.
The girls are a lot less nerdy than I am, so we headed out once the rain stopped, and started the drive out to the Castle. The highway was fast, we looped around Glasgow, adn even recognized the exit where we stayed on our last trip. It’s surprising how much you can remember after so long. After we left Glasgow the roads went through smaller and smaller towns, and got narrower and slower as we went. Finally, we took a turn up into a private road, and came to a gate to the castle. I called at the gate, and it slowly swung open and we drove in. It was a few minutes drive from the gate until we actually reached the castle.
This was some real Downton Abbey shit.
The castle only dates back to around 1870, but it was amazing, and frankly a bit imposing. We were met at the car and had our bags taken in right away. We were informed that our rooms were ready, and immediately given a tour of the Drawing room upstairs. the Dining room was adjacent to that, and the Library was down the hall. This evening we would be meeting at the Drawing room for coctails, then we would be guided to the Glass House for our dinner. It was like we were staying inside a giant game of CLUE.
Our rooms were old and eclectic, each one a little different. Yulia and I had one room, Sasha and her friend stayed in another. Once we cleaned up, we met the rest of our group in the Dining room for tea and scones. They were mostly finished as we were a bit late, but we were happy to see everyone, and it was good to get a little snack. We took a short walk around the grounds to stretch our legs, which was also nice after driving. After that we unpacked back in our rooms, and had just enough time to get ready for cocktails.
Every day, Cocktails were at 6:30 sharp in the drawing room. Dinner would be afterwards, and today dinner was in the Glass House, a converted Greenhouse. The rain was starting again, and the greenhouse was out in the gardens. We waited in the drawing room all together, cocktails in hand, until the rain broke and it was our time to head over. It was about 18 of us in total, so our crew grabbed our drinks and did our best to stay dry on the way over. The rain stopped just as we stepped out, so we got lucky, The Glass House was beautiful, plants hanging down over the old leaded glass panels. The back of the building was converted into the prep kitchen. We had a long table, and we all grabbed fairly random seats 0 it wasn’t officially a formal dinner, and for us we hadn’t seen many of our crew here in a while, and a couple were new friends.
We started with a nice lobster salad, and paired White and Red wines. Dinner itself was a Beef Wellington, and was spectacular. After the first round of beef, the chef brought out another Beef Wellington. So we just kept eating. After two and a half servings of beef, and red wine to match, we had an excellent dessert that I can’t remember because of colossal Meat Overload, so we had more red wine.
Sometimes you are with a group of people, and they are so different from each other, that things just don’t click. But this group was different folks from different backgrounds, and everyone fell together like jigsaw pieces. Henry has a good way to pull friends together. And being here for his Birthday brought all the right folks. There was a lot of toasting, a lot of laughing, and even a few tears of joy by the end.
After dinner was finished, we moved back to drawing room and drank whiskey and joked until we all passed out. It was a good day.