All I have to say is that Bill McCall has been pulling all of our legs. The weather in June over here in Scotland is 60s and sunny with blue skies and green hills and history to take in galore.
Seriously, our trip to Scotland so far has been such a special family time away. Lindsey (Jen’s sister) being here with us, along with all the special time with the McCalls has made it even sweeter. By early next week, you will be able to view a picture of this brother in a kilt. I have to wear it for a Ceilidh (a Scottish party) this coming Saturday night. Ain’t no shame in this game though. I am actually excited about it. And I am even more excited about the amazing experiences my family and I are having with Bill and Sheena and Cameron and Fiona McCall and their church family here in Scotland.
The McCalls are also a part of the @WestpointChurch family in back home. They live in the Winter Garden area about 16 weeks per year. That’s how we met them, when they visited with us in one of Sunday worship gatherings after seeing the sign that hung in front of the elementary school. I am so thankful they did. Our friendship with them has been very special, and this trip only makes it more so.
We hit the Orlando airport the evening of June 1st, Jen’s sister Lindsey along with us. The flight over was not easy, but we made it. We flew British Airways into London Gatwick, connecting on to Edinburgh (pronounced Ed-in-bur-oh). Bill and his friend Douglas were there to pick us all up. The ride from the airport in Edinburgh to their home in the country near Stirling was a phenomenal introduction to the beauty of this historic country.
Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Stirling form a triangle belt that is the epicenter of the culture in more than just geographic ways. Most of the population lives here, and most of the business is conducted from and to here. It is a significant corridor, much like the I-4 corridor of Central Florida.
Freshly blossomed wildflowers, rolling green hills, green energy windmills, historic sites, and quaint villages welcomed us to the McCall’s home country. Our first full day here on the British island was made up mostly of travel. Once we arrived at the McCall’s home, we spent the rest of our day making ourselves acquainted with their historically-rich home and surrounding properties. It is a castle, by all accounts, and it is surrounded by sheep and cows on lush farmland with colorful hills in the distance. Two cottages, one formerly a horse stable and the other workers’ quarters (from back in the day) sit behind their home.
Newly renovated, we have resided there during our time here. It has been wonderful. Sheena stocked the pantry and fridge. Cameron and Fiona gave up certain toys. Bill provided free wifi and verbal support. Thankful.
That first night, we enjoyed lasagna and Scottish coleslaw and great hospitality.
The next day (Thursday), Abby woke up sick. A short virus bug plagued her the rest of the day and kept us at bay on the premises. Probably a good thing. We were able to lay low, rest, and recover from the hard travels. The backyard playground, exploration in the surrounding woods, and walks along the pastures made the day its own adventure. That night, Caleb got a special treat when he was able to attend “Boys Brigade” with Cameron.
Friday, Abby came back to life, and we ventured out to see a few sites. First stop was Lake Menteith – the only lake in all of Scotland. Before you read back over the last sentence and skeptically pronounce me a liar, it technically is the only lake in Scotland, because the rest are called “Lochs.” On this lake is an island which houses the Inchmahome Priory – a famous respite for many retreating protestant leaders. The pictures below do not do it justice. It was a truly peaceful place, even though now in ruins. When Bill and Sheena and the kids returned back to Scotland after two weeks in Florida back in April, they returned home to snow and a thickly frozen Lake Menteith. So, they proceeded to walk across the lake to the island priory, normally a 7 minute boat ride (about a mile and a half).
We ate lunch at the restaurant in the hotel beside the lake. Then, we drove up into the tourist town of Callander, and returned home to nap in the late afternoon.
We had to get some rest before we headed out to party that night!!! Lindsey celebrated her birthday (June 4th) with us all in an Italian cafe in Stirling, Scotland called Corrieri’s Cafe. Bill and Sheena were well known there. The food was spectacular. The cake was really good, too. All the kids helped her blow out the candles. They swallowed first.
The next morning, we loaded up and headed to the town of Dollar. Cameron was playing the drum in his schools bagpipe band, which marched in a parade through the town center. He did so well. It was a sunny day. The breeze kept us cool, and the music kept us moving.
That afternoon, we headed back to the house for the kids to nap. That evening, we ate in a very family-friendly, uniquely decorated restaurant called the Birds and the Bees. No. Sex education was not on the menu. But haggis was. And Lindsey and I tried it. It did taste good. Just not mentally. Click here to read about haggis on wikipedia. You really should try it if you ever come here. Just forget what you read.
After supper, we headed to Bridge of Allan to a local ice cream shop. I had a chocolate covered nougat wafer with chocolate ice cream, another taste of local flavor, and it was much more appetizing than haggis. We all enjoyed our ice cream while enjoying the actual bridge in the Bridge of Allan which was built in the mid 1500s.
Before bed, we watched the sunset from the front of the McCall home. It was stunning. The view of the hills to the north and west has been different everyday. One evening clear with grassy greens and sky blues, the next cloudy with misty oranges and purples that rest on top of the hills. Peaceful and refreshing. Somewhat like Alaska, the sun does not set here during this time of the year until around 10pm. It rises around 4am. That’s taken some getting used to, but has allowed us to take in some amazing views.
Sunday morning, we worshipped on our way to worship gathering and then worshipped there, as well. The drive from their house to the church building where St. David’s gathers was curvy and picturesque. An amazing prep for worship, full of view after view of tall hills and deep valleys and winding roads and wandering sheep and beautiful blossoms. We arrived to friendly faces, some familiar who have actually traveled to the states and worshipped with us back home. Bryce, the pastor here, taught with anointing and passion. The kids enjoyed their various classes. And the fellowship after gathering was sweet.
On the way home, we stopped at a rural, countryside cafe, obviously popular by the number of cars parked. The Courtyard Cafe lived up to the hype, too. Bill had highly recommended it. We pulled away after delicious soups and sandwiches and lattes, past the chicken coupe next to the farmhouse, and Jen said, “That’s the best meal by far so far.”
That evening, I returned with Bill to an outdoor worship gathering. The rain did not keep people from three different church families from gathering together as one church in a city. It was a special time. On the way home, Bill showed me where he grew up, went to high school, met Sheena and remet Sheena, where his mom and dad were from, and more. Fish and Chips were yummy before we got home for bed.
Rain limited our outdoor time Monday. The drive to Loch Katrine was again breathtaking. We even got to cross “Dukes Pass” on the way to the loch. The rain cleared briefly, so we took a short walk along the loch before a quick lunch in the Katrine Cafe. Naps back at the house, again, were followed by an excursion out to eat at the Kirk House restaurant. We then drove back home and got the kids to bed.
Tuesday morning, rain again limited our activity. So, we changed plans from a visit to the Wallace monument and headed to Loch Lomond. This popular hiking spot is home to a large loch nestled among tall peaks, including Ben Lomond (a peak visible from Bill and Sheena’s front yard). Even with the rainy mist, the views and experiences were spectacular. We even got a close-up interview with a “Highland Cow” – a long-haired bovine unique to these parts. Jen was especially fond of him, as well as his oreo counterpart down the road. That’s right. Cows black on each end with a huge white stripe in the middle.
The Loch Lomond outing was made even more special with another great restaurant for lunch. The Oak Tree Inn. Mushroom soup and dynamite gourmet pizza made the Oak Tree our 2nd favorite climb for lunch. If the weather allows, I may return to the Loch Lomond area with the older 2, because there was an amazing nature trail the ranger highlighted for me that Caleb and KG would really dig. We will see.
That afternoon, before supper, after the rain had cleared a bit, Caleb and KG found a zip line tucked back in the woods behind the McCalls’ home. They laughed with glee down it each time, while I waited at the end of the line to catch them before a sure fatal collision with the tree that held the end of the line. The kids loved it. That night, Caleb and Cameron and Ella and I hung out, while all the girls enjoyed Fiona’s ballet show.
Wednesday (yesterday), we took the train into Edinburgh (Ed-in-bur-oh). It was a grand adventure, one all the kids were thrilled about. We met Bill at the Waverly station in downtown Edinburgh. He walked us up to the “Royal Mile” – a stretch of road from the Edinburgh Castle down past John Knox’s house all the way to Holyrood Palace, which houses the Scottish Parliament.
First, we toured the Edinburgh Castle, noting specifically the royal crown, sword, jewels, and scepter. The sheer history of the place was astounding, full of rich heritage that has impacted culture far beyond the borders of Scotland. Abby particularly liked the dresses. And she really wanted to see the Queen. She was disappointed that she was not there.
We then walked down the road to John Knox’s old place, which has been turned into a book store and cafe. The food was quite lovely, as they would say here, and the homemade cake was even lovelier. We met up with one of Bill’s friends, Sandy, who has also gathered with our Westpoint Church family back home on a visit with his family to Florida. It was great to hang out with Sandy. He highlighted three particular sights for us.
Sandy was an “advocate,” walking back and forth discussing civil disputes and leading out in court proceedings. That past allowed us the present privilege to see the courts and the famous hallway where they pace for private conversation and deal-making. Even Bill had not been there before. It was very, very uncommon and special to be there.
Sandy also showed us St. Giles Cathedral on the way to our third stop. It is a “national cathedral” of sorts. Very high church. Formal with its masses attended mostly by the elite of Edinburgh.
Sandy is now a pastor, finishing up his Masters and about to begin his PhD at the New College, the Divinity School of the University of Edinburgh. Made most famous probably because of John Knox, the school was impressive due to its historic facility as well as its rich history of students. I was very, very appreciative of Sandy showing us the school. Knox is a hero, and I value Sandy’s friendship, so the time was sweet.
We walked back down to the Waverly Station and rode the ScotRail back to Stirling. Some yummy lentel soup before a delicious chicken and leeks and puff pastry, homemade by Sheena, and then the kids went off to bed.
This morning, we toured the William Wallace monument. Rather than trying to tell you all the story of Wallace here, I have attached many photos below of the history of Wallace and the independence of Scotland. He is legendary here. You have most likely seen the movie “Braveheart,” which is about William Wallace as played by Mel Gibson. The monument towers over the town of Stirling from the former site of Abbey Craig. It is a powerful site, well befitting the hero she stands for, with breath-taking views of the surrounding Scottish cities and countryside. We conquered its 246 steps to the top and enjoyed the three story chambers along the way up.
Lunch and ice cream in the Bridge of Allan followed. And now I am finishing a much anticipated blog.
Please pray for me tonight (Thursday) and Sunday morning. Tonight, there will be a conversational Q and A in the town of Kirkintilloch for those in the area who have read LIVE SENT. Sunday morning, I will be teaching at the gathering for St. David’s (the McCall’s Scotland church family). I am really looking forward to the chance to speak at both of these, as well as the many conversations that have already happened since we have been here.
We can’t thank Bill and Sheena enough for inviting us. It has been an unforgettable getaway for our family.
Most importantly, Ella really likes the sheep and the cows. Riding down the road or walking by the fields, we simply mention the words “sheep” and “cows” to her, and she immediately responds with “bahh” and “moo.”
Ai, tis a priceless thing, this is.
Later tonight, I will post a lot more amazing pics. Look for the rest of the story and the picture of me in a kilt early next week.
Much love from Scotland.