On the first day, we went to visit two old castles, Chrichton Castle and Dirleton Castle, with Richard and his partner, Alan. They were great guides and taught us a few things about how they were built.
Chrichton Castle was built in the 16th century and Dirleton Castle was built in the 13th century, so they were both very different. First of all, Chrichton Castle was one of the only ones with a straight staircase. Almost all other castles had spiral staircases because that made it hard for attackers to fight with a sword when the staircase was narrow and constantly winding around. Castles were also built up on hills so that they could get a good view of everything around them and know if an enemy was coming their way. People living in castles always had to be worried about being attacked. Underneath all the windows they even had holes cut out called "gun" loops, which helped them fire at invaders from inside the castle (before guns, they would have used arrows).
One thing you should know about Scotland is that it has a lot of sheep and we were there in the middle of calving season, so as we drove around, we seemed to be constantly surrounded by sheep and their baby lambs. When we left Richard's to drive to Loch Ness, we kept ourselves quite entertained looking out the car windows at all the animals.
From there we headed for Loch Ness, and it seemed appropriate that it was a foggy and rainy day, since this is very typical Scottish weather. We thought it was good monster weather too.
We went to visit the Loch Ness Monster Exhibition Center where we saw a movie and displays on the different monster sightings throughout time and some research that's been done to try and find it. About 20 years ago they had a big effort to find clues about Nessie with a fleet of boats that scanned a large area of the lake with sonar to try to identify anything unusual below the surface of Loch Ness. They didn't find anything conclusive, but did have some unexplained signals, so people still debate whether Nessie exists.
From there we headed to Gleneagles resort, where we spent a few nights. They had all kinds of cool stuff there, like a big swimming pool, a falconry center, and stables. But what it is really famous for, is golf. We played a lot of golf on their pitch 'n putt course and swam in the pool. We also checked out the hawks and falcons and other birds of prey they housed there. It was really cool seeing them because a couple of them we had seen on safari in Africa. But that was at a distance. Here we could get very close to them. They even had a couple of Peregrine Falcons, which are the fastest animals on earth (even faster than a cheetah!).
Since Scotland is really famous for golf, we also went to St. Andrews Old Course, which hosts the British Open every five years. My dad played one day and when he got back he said it was the most unique course he had ever been on. Another thing about the Old Course is that it is a public golf course and they are closed on Sundays, so people can walk around on it like a park, even with their dogs!
But St. Andrews isn't all about golf. The town also had cool ruins of a castle and St. Andrews Cathedral, which has a big tower that we climbed to get a great view of the whole old city.
We ended our time in Scotland in Edinburgh. We only had a day there and we spent it visiting the famous Edinburgh Castle. We took a tour and learned about its history. Then, we visited a big war memorial. At 1:00 pm we watched the guards set off a canon, which is a tradition that started hundreds of years ago. Back in the day, people on boats would listen for these canons to verify what time it was, which was really important for them so that they knew how much time they had until the tides changed. We also visited the dungeon in the castle, which is where they held prisoners of war. Seeing how people had to live in there was really interesting, just like the rest of the place.
Now we're off to Greece, so that's all for this blog.