Firth of Forth, Then Forth to Scone/Stone!

Friday, June 19: I’m writing this sitting at Waves Grill, the outside burger and sandwich cafe on Nautica, after a great repast of a delicious grilled hot dog and fries, washed down with a Fuller London’s Pride ale. I haven’t been fond of beer in recent years, but decided to try an occasional one at lunch and they have been great!

We are docked in Rosyth, on the Firth of Forth (Firth: Scottish for estuary; Forth: the river name) just upstream from Edinburgh, Scotland. Construction is the name of the game in this small town, with crews working on a new cable-stayed highway bridge across the Firth to replace the older suspension bridge (the cantilevered railway bridge will apparently stay in place). Stacked right next to our ship are huge structural sections that will put in place on the bridge and supported by cables. Just behind our dock, more crews are working on two new aircraft carriers, the HMS Queen Elizabeth II and the HMS Prince of Wales; I wonder what crazy, tree-hugging, peacenik billionaire Prince Charles feels about that? I sure wish the aging monarch would elect to bypass dour Charles for Prince William when the time comes. Of course, I really don’t care about the monarchy here or anywhere, having grown up in a country that told George III to pound sand, doing away with the nonsense of royalty altogether (yay, Founding Fathers!).

We arrived very early this morning and had a half-day excursion to Scone Palace, an hour drive’s north near Perth. The Palace is the residence of Lord and Lady Mansfield and family and has extensive grounds and lower-level rooms open to the public. Scone Palace (at least the same location) used to be an abbey and was the site of the crowning of several Scottish kings. Queen Victoria spent one night in the Palace and the family probably drained the treasury to provide her with porcelain china, a beautiful bedroom, a special new road, and other accoutrements. Our guide, Mike, was terrific, full of historical anecdotes that were done with a lot of humor. On the way to the Palace, he told us about Mary, Queen of Scots and her son, James VI of Scotland, who later became James I of the United Kingdom in the early 1600s. Our bus made its way through the small city of Perth to the Palace, where we had lots of time to explore on our own. The inside of the Palace was a bit “meh” and no photographs were allowed, but there were beautiful porcelain and ivory collections and lots of pictures of the very real Mansfield family (apparently, a rite of initiation for all children is their first salmon catch).

We wandered around the grounds for a while, taking pictures of each other sitting on a replica of the Stone of Scone, also known as the Stone of Destiny. This piece of sandstone was placed under the throne for many ancient Scottish king coronations, but was confiscated by Edward I in the 1200’s and brought to England, with the subsequent English, British and UK kings and queens (including the Stuarts) coronated with it in place beneath a throne at Westminster Abbey. QEII actually sat on this throne with this very stone beneath the seat at her coronation in 1953. Bizarrely, the stone was stolen in Westminster Abbey by four Scottish loyalist students in 1950, was broken into two pieces, and was eventually recovered and repaired for QEII’s coronation, although rumors flew that the repaired stone is a replica. To appease the people of Scotland in 1996 (angry over constitutional issues), the stone was returned to Edinburgh castle on St. Andrew’s day. As you may know from recent news, the Scottish anger at the government in London did not ultimately carry over into a winning “yes” vote for independence earlier this year.

So, the name of the Palace is actually pronounced “Scoon”, not to be confused with the baked goods of a similar name (Scone, with a long O) or with the Stone. The grounds at the palace were gorgeous, with huge gardens filled with rhododendrons, peacocks and huge trees. The grounds also had some specimens of charming Highlands Cattle, both cows and bulls have long horns and a long, shaggy pelt covering their bodies and hanging down over their eyes like a bovine sheepdog. We bought an inexpensive recycled wool throw in the gift shop for the kitty cats to wreck and enjoyed the fresh, cool air (mostly cloudy, with no rain and about 60°F).

On the way back, we heard more interesting historical stories, although many on the bus nodded off, including dear hubby (a given on a bus trip). We re boarded Nautica and enjoyed our lunch, planning a short nap soon before trivia.

Oh, that reminds me of a couple of things - yesterday we formed our trivia team and had the worst showing EVER on one of these cruises. Hopefully our team will improve, but the questions from our Cruise Director Ray were really tough and we agreed as a group on too many wrong answers, even though one person in the group had the right answer in many cases. Both of us missed the evening trivia because we didn’t read the fine print that they had moved it from Martini’s to Horizons, so we have to catch up there, too. We also had our Cruise Critic Roll Call Meet and Greet last night and had a nice conversation with some of the folks that are doing a lot of tour sharing. Dinner last night was in the Terrace; we both had a delicious small plate of Fettucine with Veal Ragu and a salad.

More from the Shetland Islands tomorrow! I bought hay, oats, a water bucket and a tarp today just in case they change their minds about bringing onboard a pony ;-0.

Comments are closed.