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In the first two parts of "City of Stone", Duncan, while not yet King, often acts as though he already had royal authority. He appoints Gillecomgain to the post of High Steward of Moray, with no sign of having consulted his grandfather Maol Chalvim first. He also has the power to force a marriage between Gruoch and Gillecomgain, with Bodhe saying that it would be high treason to deny Duncan's wishes on the matter. In fact, he appears in the first two parts of "City of Stone" to be king in all but name, despite the fact that he doesn't become King of Scotland until two years after the events in "City of Stone Part Two". Do you have any thoughts on this?
Thought one... we were simplifying our storytelling by not including Maol Chalvim.
Thought two... I think Maol may have invested considerable authority into his grandson.
Thought three... I wouldn't be surprised to find out Duncan had "incapacitated" Maol to some degree...
In "Avalon Part One", Maol Chalvim displays strong suspicions towards Constantine in his conversation with Kenneth. While Constantine's subsequent actions (murdering Kenneth and seizing the throne) show Maol Chalvim's suspicions to be justified, I can't help also remembering what you said about how Maol Chalvim would himself usurp the throne from Kenneth III ten years later. Was Maol Chalvim's attitude towards Constantine intended, in part, to be one based on "I suspect him of plotting treachery, because that's what I'd do in his place?" (a la Elisa's remark in "Protection" about how the corrupt are always readiest to believe that others can be corrupted)?
To some degree, we were planting seeds for what we knew was to come -- and for what we had already revealed. Maol Chalvim's grandchildren were Duncan and Macbeth (and Thorfinn). Maol favored Duncan. What does that tell you?
I don't want to get all gushy, but Gargoyles changed my life and you can't even begin to imagine how much I appreciate the work you've done. That being said, I have a small question. Well, a series of questions.
Is Duncan a descendant of Constantine or Calvin? I guess what I'm asking is: Did Calvin reclaim the throne from Constantine after he murdered Kenneth? When Duncan first appears, he's the prince, but it was never specified who the King was. I'd guess that Duncan was of Constantine's blood, only because they sort of look similar, and also had common virtues of treachery and deceit.
Or am I just totally off base and are we even talking about the same throne? I don't really know much about Scotland, and when I think about it, it's remotely concievable that we could be talking about two different provinces or kingdoms or houses or whatever they call it.
I apologize for all the circumlocution. Thanks again for everything.
Keep in mind, you COULD look this stuff up for yourself, but...
Duncan is the grandson of Maol Chalvim II (i.e. the Maol Chalvim we saw in "Avalon, Part One").
Constantine III (again from "Avalon") would eventually be overthrown by Maol's older cousin Kenneth III (NOT to be confused with Maol's dad, Kenneth II from Avalon).
Maol himself would then overthrow his cousin Kenneth III and rule for years.
Maol had no sons and three daughters. So he made the son of his eldest daughter, Prince Duncan (of City of Stone), his heir. (Note: Macbeth is the son of Maol's middle daughter.)
Hope that clears it up.
I just thought that I'd mention that I enjoyed your account of your visit to Scotland, particularly your getting to visit the Stone of Scone/Stone of Destiny and your reading "Shakespeare's Kings" (I've got a copy of the book myself, and very much enjoyed it). Thanks for sharing it with us.
You're welcome. You know it's been a bit of a while since the trip. But my father celebrated his 70th birthday recently and we all pulled out old photo albums and the like, and I just reread the Scotland journal. What a great time!
Hi, I wanted to ask a couple of questions related to Scottish royal genealogy and Gargoyles.
First, I was wondering about the identity of Prince Malcolm. Having read "Once upon a time, there were three brothers," I see that you make him the youngest son of King Malcolm I. But the sources I have note only two sons - Duff and Kenneth II. Is Prince Malcolm, then, made up? (Duff, I'd note, had a younger son Malcolm who died in 990...)
Second, in "City of Stone", Lulach/Luach is depicted as Macbeth's son, but in actual history, he was Gruoch's son by Gillecomgain (who is the first Hunter, in Gargoyles). Was this change made on purpose, to simplify things, or was it a mistake?
Thanks. (And just wanted to say that these aren't criticisms. I remember when I first watched Gargoyles how impressed I was by the effort that was made to actually depict a recognizable version of Scottish early Medieval history - "City of Stone" was what really drew me in to the show in the first place. I'd seen it a few times before that, and then I remember coming home from school and saying "a cartoon show with a revisionist version of the story of Macbeth? What's going on?" And after that I was hooked.)
1. Yes, Malcolm and his daughter Katharine are fictional characters that we added to the Gargoyles' Universe.
2. It wasn't a mistake. Our research indicated that Macbeth adopted Lulach/Luach. I have posited that perhaps the reason he did that was because he was in fact the boy's father... conceived before Macbeth & Gruoch were actually married.
Glad you liked it.
how far is Wyvern, Scotland from Loch Ness, Scotland?
more like ten miles? twenty miles? fifty miles? or more?
I can't answer this question easily. For starters, Wyvern is a fictional location on the West Coast of Scotland. So where exactly are we measuring from? Secondly, Loch Ness is about thirty miles long. So where exactly are we measuring to? And are we measuring as the crow flies or along practical routes that a car or horseman might have to take?
Nevertheless, I'll give it a shot. As long as you understand I'm not being held to this. In particular, I've done no research to back up this stab at Wyvern's location.
I'm taking out my map and I'm measuring (roughly) the distance as the Gargoyle glides between the Point of Ardnamurchan (at the western end of a western Scotish Peninsula) and Castle Urquhart (which I believe is the model for the fictional castle where Sevarius set up his operation) on Loch Ness.
I come up with approximately 83 miles.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2003
When last we left our intrepid hero (i.e. me), he was spending his last night in Scotland at the Edinburgh Airport Hilton Hotel. This is his story:
I maybe got two hours sleep. I had called downstairs for a wake-up call, and they told me they didn't do wake-up calls and that I'd have to set the alarm in my room. I looked around and told them the only clock was the digital readout on the t.v. They said that the alarm was one of the television's functions. (This is progress, I suppose.) So I attempted to set the t.v. to wake me up. But I had little confidence in it or me, so I barely slept.
Sure enough, the t.v. went off as scheduled. I showered (probably the best shower of the trip, if you're keeping track). Dressed and ate my last Loch Torridon apple and Hilton cookie.
My dad and I took a shuttle to the airport. There we waited in line with a bunch of Rugby fans in kilts, all headed to Germany.
I went through security and was stopped. They had spotted the two hand-painted rocks in my duffle, which I had purchased on Skye. The lady was very nice as I unpacked them for her. I told her what they were before she saw them. She pointed out that rocks could be used as weapons and that I might have to put them in my checked luggage. I told her that I hadn't checked any luggage. She told me that I might have to check my duffle then. But when she saw the cute little cottages painted on the rocks, I could tell she felt that I was hardly likely to use them as a weapon. Still I would have obviously done whatever they felt was necessary. She showed the rocks to her superior, who waved them off. I put them back and wondered whether I'd have as much luck in Germany.
Boarded the plane to Frankfurt. Biz class aisle seat. Tomato Juice, Eggs, "Bacon", mushroom, spinach, cheese, apple, grapefruit and mango slices. A croissant.
Arrived in Frankfurt (having picked up another hour).
I said goodbye to my dad, who was going into Frankfurt for his day of meetings (which had been the financial justification for the whole trip). I don't think I've talked much about my dad here, but Scotland aside, I really just enjoyed spending all this time with him. We talked for hours and didn't come close to running out of topics until somewhere around day five or six, and even then we managed. It's nice when even the silences aren't awkward. We took pictures, which largely came out great despite the fact that on the first day in LAX he put all his film through the X-ray machine. (A tech genius he ain't.) We drove for hours and hours and hours and enjoyed every minute. We saw some gorgeous scenery and a few other interesting tidbits. We followed a couple of my obsesssions, had a bunch of great meals, listened to a terrific murder mystery and talked about that. Truly, though I'll try, I can't thank him enough for the trip and the camradery.
Anyway, after he had gone, I took a long walk to a different terminal. There I changed my remaining pounds to Euros and bought some snacks for later: Pringles, a Snickers, an Evian and some Peanut M&M's.
Then I went to McDonalds. I bought a Quarter-Pounder, which they called a "Hamburger Royal", fries and a FRIED apple pie. (In the States, they only have baked pies now. I hadn't had one of McDonald's fried pies in years and years.) Now on this trip I had eaten McDonalds three times in three different countries. Once at LAX, once in Edinburgh and now once in Frankfurt. I love McDonalds.
I then went through another security check (putting my burger and fries and pie through the x-ray machine). I was sure they were going to make me take out my rocks again, and it seemed to me like the guy on the machine studied the screen with extra attention. But they let the bag go through. Me on the other hand... They didn't have a metal detector for me to walk through. So I got thoroughly searched. Shoes off. Belt. Wallet. Watch. Tube of blistex. Coins of course. It was very touchy-feely too. I don't begrudge it of course, but that doesn't make it fun.
Grabbed up my stuff and went to the Biz Class Lounge, where I ate my Mickey D's with a free coke that they had there. Also ate a free cookie and my snickers.
I left the lounge to wait for my plane and finished Faulkner's "Sanctuary", which I had been nursing the entire trip.
Boarded the plane. I was in Biz Class near the very front (3H). (First class was upstairs.) Boy, that landing gear makes a lot of noise when you're right on top of it.
I started reading "Shakespeare's Kings", a non-fiction book which compares Shakespeare's treatment of the monarchs (from Edward III through Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI to Richard III) to the actual history. I got through Henry V on the flight. It was fascinating.
I also watched "Bruce Almighty", which was considerably less fascinating. (Largely shallow and annoying, but it killed some time.) There were other movies too, but I decided my book was much more interesting.
I think I slept for about an hour.
Ate Venison & Cheese, Tortelline, a chocolate bar, Berry Pudding, cake, tomato juice and a concotion called "Multi-Fruit Juice" which at first taste I hated and then decided I liked it so much I had glass after glass after glass. Water too, sparkling and still. (I like to keep hydrated). A couple of ham & cheese sandwiches and another apple. (Not all this at once.)
4pm (Los Angeles time)
We landed. Went through the long lines at Immigration and customs.
A car was waiting for me and took me home.
Reunited with Beth, Erin and Benny. Which was great. I gave Beth her sweater, which she loved -- and which she felt was the exact right size. So I was vindicated there. I'm not sure the kids new what to make of the two rocks with the cottages on them. But they like getting stuff, so they were happy too.
I ate my German-bought Pringles and M&Ms that night.
And so ends my Odyssey.
Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 6, 2003
When last we left our intrepid hero (i.e. me), he was spending his last night at the posh Loch Torridon Country House Hotel and had gone to bed at 11:30pm. This is his story:
Woke up. Went back to sleep.
Just before 7am, I woke again.
We loaded up the car and had breakfast: Apple, Tomato AND Orange Juice. Corn AND Bran Flakes. Croissants w/Apricot Puree AND Strawberry Jam. A big AND morning.
We hit the road for the final leg of our trip, largely making good time, listening to Tup's mix tape again.
From the hotel and Annat we headed northeast on the A896 to Kinlochewe. There we turned southeast on the A832 through Achnasheen. Somewhere along here (I think overlooking Loch Luichart) we stopped at a "Passing Place" to take photos of one of the ubiquitous "Passing Place" signs. We maintained our south-easterly heading past Garve on the A835 and made our way past Tore and onto the A9.
We crossed the bridge that separated the Beauly Firth from the MORAY FIRTH. Seeing the word Moray was the first sign that we were in Macbeth territory. And generally, in Gargoyle territory.
We headed into Inverness. I ate one of the apples I had copped from the Loch Torridon hotel room. Someday, I'd like to spend some time there, but this wasn't going to be the day. We took a few minutes to walk down to a bridge across the River Ness (which leads eventually to Loch Ness). We walked up to Inverness Castle, but we didn't really have the time to do much more than take a quick glance around.
We soon were back on the road. We got caught here and there behind some slow drivers (who didn't pull over as the signs instructed), but generally we made good time. We passed a town called Killiecrankie. And I thought, "I know a lot of people who get Killiecrankie sometimes."
We passed BIRNAM WOOD too. And signs for Glamis Castle. Someday I want to come back for the full-on Macbeth tour of Scotland.
Then we drove into Perth, looking longily at the fast food places. But by this time, I was on a mission: STONEQUEST. Last time I was in Britain the Stone of Destiny was still in Westminster Abbey. I've been to the Abbey at least a half-dozen times over the years, but I didn't (back then) know the Stone's significance. I certainly didn't know it could talk like Frank Welker. So I never took any notice of it. Now, I really wanted to see it.
For those of you who don't know or don't remember, the Stone is theoretically "Jacob's Pillow". The stone that Jacob rested his head on the night he saw the ladder leading up to heaven for the angels to climb. The stone found it's way to Ireland and thence to Scotland, where Kenneth MacAlpin was crowned upon it as the first King of Scotland. After that, all the Scottish Kings, including Kenneth, Constantine, Maol Chalvim, Duncan, Macbeth, Luach and Canmore, were crowned upon the Stone of Destiny on Moot Hill in Scone. Later, the stone was taken to London by the English. And used to crown English/British monarchs. It was briefly stolen in the fifties, but returned to Westminster Abbey in time for Elizabeth II's coronation. (Although some believe that the real stone is still in hiding.) GARGOYLES, of course, posited that this was also the famous "Sword in the Stone" from which Arthur drew Excalibur. In the episode "Pendragon", we showed Arthur and Griff communicating with the Stone at Westminster. But in 1997, the English returned the Stone to Scotland. But not to Scone. Rather it was taken to Edinburgh, so that it could be kept with the Honors of Scotland and the Crown Jewels in Edinburgh Castle. So today, I was determined to drag my dad to Scone Palace to see Moot Hill and the replica Stone they kept there and then later to Edinburgh Castle to see the real thing.
So anyway, we got a little bit lost in Perth. But got directions to Scone Palace from a very nice tourist info lady on West Mill Street. We made our way to Old High Street, Atholl Street and Charlotte Street to the Perth Bridge. We crossed the River Tay and then headed north on A93 to the Palace.
Now Scone Palacce was definitely a place I would love to spend a half day exploring in and out. The Grounds were just lovely, and the Palace itself looked very cool with some cool things inside. And there's a maze! But we really didn't have time if we were going to get to Edinburgh Castle before it closed. So a few minutes later, I was standing on Moot Hill leaning over the faux Stone of Destiny in my Gargoyles sweatshirt (half-hoping someone would come up and make the connection). It was cool. We took some pictures and left.
Back on the A93 (south now) to the A90 to the M90. Down to exit 4, where we pulled off in Kelty. Now most of this trip was planned by my father's assistant Anita Kelty Nitta. So in tribute to her, we stopped at her ancestral home and took pictures near the "Welcome to Kelty/Drive safely" sign. Then it was back on the road until we took the Forth Bridge across the Firth of Forth to Edinburgh. We found, with amazingly little trouble, the Edinburgh Airport Hilton and checked in. Compared to the Classy, Cozy and Posh places we had been staying, the room at the Hilton seemed quite the unpleasant little box. But it did offer a pre-packaged shortbread cookie, which I was happy to eat. It was servicable. It would do.
We drove across the street and returned the Beetle. We walked back to the hotel and called a cab to take us to Edinburgh Castle.
This cab ride took a ridiculously long time and a very circuitous route only to run smack into a huge crowd emerging from the Rugby finals. Hundreds of people wearing shirts celebrating "The Famous Grouse" blocked our path. Our cab driver then explained that he had intentionally taken a circuitous route in order to avoid this very traffic... and that if the game had gotten out five minutes later, we'd have thought he was brilliant. As it is, we were stuck. It took forever to finally get us to the Castle.
Now, I've been to Edinburgh Castle twice before, so I've seen the sights. And yet I still wish we had more time, because it's truly worth exploring over and over. But we had arrived close to closing, and we still hadn't eaten anything since breakfast (cookies and apples aside), so time was short. We took a few pictures. Another couple shots by a cannon (a running photographic theme on the trip), a picture of me in my Garg Sweatshirt by a lion gargoyle that definitely reminded me of Leo. Then we headed in to see the actual Stone of Destiny. It was cool to see it. But no pictures allowed in there. And I waited to hear if it would talk to me, but I guess there were too many people around. No one commented on my sweatshirt either, but I was still very glad to have seen it.
We started walking down the Royal Mile, but we were sorta past sight-seeing and so we headed down to Princes Street to look for a nice non-touristy place to eat dinner. We passed the Train Station (with it's killer staircase) and Scott's Monument. But nothing presented itself dinner-wise. So we decided to eat dinner back at the hotel and had a VERY late lunch at McDonalds (1/4-Pounder, fries & coke).
We had passed a taxi stand earlier with literally a dozen taxis waiting in line. After McDonald's there were NONE there. But we found one a few minutes later and took it back to the Airport Hilton.
Dinner was Tortelline, Steak (which barely compared favorably to a Sizzler), fries, Mushrooms and an Apple/Blackberry Crumble, all of which might have been better if we hadn't just had McDonalds about a half hour earlier.
We were back in our rooms by 8pm. I talked briefly to Beth. I was tired, but I just couldn't go to sleep until after midnight.
TUNE IN TOMMOROW (or possibly Wednesday) for the conclusion of our adventure. *Here's a preview: "We don't do wake up calls" "The Trouble with Rocks" "Frankfurt, Germany" "McDonalds in three countries" "Shakespeare's Kings"*
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 5, 2003
When last we left our intrepid hero (i.e. me), he was staying in the posh Loch Torridon Country House Hotel and had gone to bed after a dinner of Sea Trout at 10:30pm. This is his story:
Woke up. Just flat out couldn't sleep.
Called Beth, Erin & Benny. It was 7:30pm (the previous day) their time, so I finally got a chance to talk to the kids, who had just finished their first day back at school. (Erin in 4th grade, Benny in 1st.) After that, I tried the TV and reading. Finally slept again, on and off.
Woke up, very tired. Showered. This shower was okay, but still not great. The nozzle was difficult to adjust.
Breakfast at the Hotel. Orange & Tomato Juice. Toast, Cornflakes, Oatmeal Porridge with Brown Sugar & Cream.
After taking a few pictures around the gorgeous and gorgeously situated hotel -- and once again putting up with the car alarm -- we were back on the road. This was the first day we weren't simultaneously en route to our next hotel. We were staying a second night in Annat at the Loch Torridon.
We drove from Annat to (the southern) Shieldaig to take a loop from Tornapress to Applecross to Fearnmore to Kenmore and back to Shieldag. That was the plan anyway. But we wound up making a wrong turn. We were still on the loop, but we wound up going in the opposite direction from our original intent. It wound up working out well, if not better. We passed by Kenmore and Fearnmore, driving the high coastal cliffs of the peninsula overlooking the Inner Sound and the Isles of Rona and Raasay. We stopped to take some pictures, and an older couple in a mobile home (coming from the opposite direction, as we had originally planned) pulled over beside us. The man got out and took one of the few pictures we got of the two of us together. He was incredibly nice, with great stories about his distant relatives in America. But the thing that struck me the most was his voice. He had great timber, and an even greater accent. A real Scottish brogue, but perfectly understandable. Very rich. (He was, incidentally, from just outside Edinburgh.) The voice director in me wanted to get him into a recording booth immediately. He warned us that the road ahead was steep quite steep with a number of sharp turns. He said had he known, he'd have never had taken his mobile home there. It didn't have the engine to carry the weight and there were moments when the wind felt like it was going to carry him over the side. He also recommended that we stop in Applecross for fresh baked bread. It sounded really appealing, but the truth was we had just had breakfast. I would like to go back though and have lunch there sometime.
The views on route to and coming out of Applecross were just spectacular. And he hadn't been kidding about the steep winding and very windy roads of the Bealach-na-Ba which rises to 2,053 feet with many hairpin turns. Bealach-na-Ba means "Pass of the Cattle" in Gaelic, and it is an old drover's trail for taking cattle to market. It was a little intimidating even in our little round Beetle. But man... gorgeous. Generally, on the whole trip we had extremely cooperative weather. And today was no exception. We never really got rained on. But the day was a touch misty over the ocean, and from an altitude standpoint, we were pretty high up. It might have been nice to really have a clear day to see forever, but still and all, I have nothing to complain about. And there's something right about the mist and the wind, the sharp, grey day. We stopped a couple times for more pictures.
We completed our loop, again passing Tornapress without ever actually seeing Tornapress. Passed Shieldaig again, stopped for gas and then returned briefly to the hotel. I had another apple in my room. Then we drove northeast on the A896 along Glen Torridon, passing as usual the ubiquitous sheep that move with impugnity around the country. I also spotted a raptor of some sort, almost literally hovering in one place in the strong wind. My dad commented that considering how many sheep were all around, there was surprisingly little lamb on the menus. I don't like lamb, but I tried to come up with some explanation. My favorite was that all the sheep we were passing were pets.
But we also considered the possibility that lamb on the plate ONLY comes from literal lambs, i.e. baby sheep. Maybe these sheep were all too old at this point.
Anyway, we drove along the Glen to Kinlochewe (a town I could never figure out how to pronounce). There we took the A832 north. It wound around the coast of Wester Ross passing near Loch Maree, the more northerly Shieldaig and Loch Gairloch. We passed through Charlestown, Gairloch and Poolewe. Drove along Loch Ewe to Aultbea and Laide. Drove around Gruinard Bay and crossed over to Little Loch Broom, before turning south through the stunning Dundonnell Forest.
We took the A835 north, planning to stop at Corrieshalloch Gorge and the Falls of Measach, but we passed the pull off before we could react. And since we were coming back the same way later, we decided to press on.
We stopped at Ullapool on Loch Broom. We had lunch at the Calley Inn. Tomato Soup and Mussels (again). The food was good. It started to rain a bit, while we were inside. (It had rained some nights, both while we slept or while we dined, and we had driven few small showers here and there along our route, but we had literally never been rained on. My dad never used his umbrella the whole trip.) Walking back through Ullapool, I put on my hat due to the very light rain, but it ended soon enough.
I stopped at a local knitting store that didn't look too touristy and bought Beth a sweater. (I should say, it was really amazing of her not to balk or squalk about this trip. It was not a great time for me to be going. She's a teacher, and she had to spend the week prepping her classrom for this week's start of school. The kids, on the other hand, were off until Thursday. My mom pitched in. But it was still a lot for Beth to cover.) Anyway, I picked out a wool sweater in colors I knew Beth would like. There was no medium available, so I chose a large, knowing that Beth liked loose-fitting clothes over tight. The saleslady, however, really tried to talk me into the small, saying that she thought the large was too big. I was pretty confident I was right, but she really started to make me paranoid about my choice. I stuck to my guns, and the woman surrendered reluctantly, telling me I could come back and exchange the sweater if Beth didn't like it. I thought that would be a nice trick. Though a tad expensive.
We had had some vague thoughts of heading further north, perhaps to Achiltibuie or even Lochinver. But it was already getting late, and we didn't want to push our luck. So we headed "home".
We backtracked to the Corrieschalloch Gorge and the Measach falls. The midges were out in force. Though we had been warned about them, they hadn't been a problem before now. So although I had bug repellant, I had left it at the hotel -- along with our other rolls of film. We got one picture of the Gorge from the swaying suspension bridge that spanned it. But that was it for the day, as the roll was used up. (This hadn't been an issue before, as every other day we were driving from one hotel to another, so we always had ALL of our stuff with us in the car. But today we were returning to the same hotel, so we had brought almost nothing with us.) Anyway, as with everything, the Gorge and falls were truly beautiful. But the back of my neck was getting eaten alive, so we beat a hasty retreat back to the car.
We headed south now, staying on the A835 past the Loch Glascarnoch Dam, the Black Water River and the Strathgrave Forest. Somewhere around here we finished "The Zebra-Striped Hearse". We had both enjoyed it immensely. Ed Asner's last scene as Colonel Blackwell had really been great.
We headed west on the A832 past Lochluichart, Achnasheen and Glenn Docherty, where we ran into a bit of construction on the one-lane road that caused some extremely minor delays. We rejoined the A896 at Kinlochewe and drove back through Glen Torridon to Loch Torridon, Annat and our hotel. I had another Shortbread cookie in my room.
Dinner brought Cheese souffle appetizers, like the little cheese crumpets in "The Great Mouse Detective". Another little teacup of soup, this time Mulagawtany. I ordered Mushroom Soup and Roast Beef with potatos and broccoli. Desert was Apple Pie and berries.
Later in my room, I returned a couple of business calls and talked for awhile with Duane Capizzi (my friend and the writing producer/story editor of such shows as "Men In Black" and "Jackie Chan"). He has a new series at Warner Brothers and was offering me some freelance scripts. I said yes. I don't know whether the project is confidential or not, so I won't say anymore about it at this point.
I talked to Beth and went to bed around 11:30pm.
TUNE IN MONDAY for more adventure. *Here's a preview: "The River Ness" "StoneQuest" "Birnam Wood" "The Famous Grouse" "McDonalds"*
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 4, 2003
When last we left our intrepid hero (i.e. me), he was staying in the homey Greshornish House Hotel and had been summoned to dinner by bagpipes. He's about to begin his day on the Isle of Skye. This is his story:
Wake up and lounge in bed. Got 6 & 1/2 hours sleep which is good for me.
Showered. Sort of. There really was no shower in my room. Just a bathtub with a hose that you could hold over your head. Seriously, how hard is it to install a hook or something so that you can open a bottle of shampoo and keep the water on you at the same time.
This is one of the two things that demonstrates America's ultimate ascendancy over the U.K. THE SHOWER. The U.K. has just (largely) not mastered the concept or the essential nature of a decent shower. Baths? Bah!! America is superior because it showers. I may be a Britophile (as opposed to a mere Anglophile), but I am not blind! The showerhead. The combination valve. These are not difficult high-tech concepts. Get with the program!!!!! *end of first rant*
Breakfast at the Hotel. Toast w/butter, strawberry jam & honey, Cornflakes, Orange Juice, Scrambled eggs on toast and that darn vaguely-undercooked English Bacon. (I could easily label their bacon a third proof of American superiority, but I think that's more a matter of taste.)
My dad and I took pictures by the cannon, overlooking the Loch. We talked briefly to Claire from Guernsey, who has a VW Beetle at home. We were trying to figure out why the car alarm kept going off. She confirmed that it was overly sensitive, but that seemed an inadequate explanation. Overly sensitive to what? How does this thing work? It continues to go off randomly. Plus the radio is haunted and the air conditioner sucks too. And yet, we really like the car.
We hit the road, touring Skye.
We head back down A850 to A87. Head north at Portree to begin our loop of the coast of Skye's Trotternish Peninsula. We stopped multiple times to soak in the scenery and take pictures.
The Old Man of Storr is 49m pinnacle adrift from its parent cliff.
Kilt Rock is a cliffside formation that looks like the pleats of a kilt. Mealt Falls is stunning.
At Kilt Rock, I bought a couple of souvenirs for the kids. Rocks actually, handpainted to look like quaint Scottish cottages. The guy hand-painted Erin & Benny's names over the doors of the cottages. He was so sure-handed, I found it very impressive. He told me that I could now say I had bought my kids a cottage on Skye. I've been using variations on that line ever since.
We continued around the Trotternish to the ruins of Duntulm Castle. There's not much there. A few walls, a window. A cellar of some sort that's been gated off so that no one dies down there. But I love this kind of thing. Of course, the stunning cliffside location reminds me of Wyvern (or Tintagel) though this site isn't big enough to be a model for Wyvern, which in any case is theoretically on the mainland. But I just love climbing around these places.
We made our way back down the Peninsula, taking the B8036 back to the A850 to make a loop of the Waternish Peninsula. We passed Greshornish again, but our first stop was Dunvegan Castle. In contrast to Duntulm, this is no ruin. It's still inhabited by the Chiefs of the Clan Macleod. It was the single most touristy place we visited until the last day of our trip. It was also the most disappointing. Although it's location is unsurprisingly (at this point) stunning, the castle itself is unimpressive. The gardens are nice enough, and there was one truly bizarre tree that one could easily expect to see on an alien planet. But touring this kind of place just wasn't the point of this particular place.
We did get to see the Fairy Flag. There are a number of legends connected to the flag. Some say that it was a gift to the 4th clan chief from his Fairy wife. Others that a nurse who was supposed to be looking after a long ago heir, left the boy alone to attend a party. When she returned, he was wrapped in the fairy cloak. Science tells us that the silk was made in Rhodes or somewhere around there. So it may be a prize from a crusade or something. All things are true though.
We headed around Waternish on the A863. Got back on the A87 at Sligachan.
Back in Broadford, we stopped for lunch. The "chips" were good with salt and vinegar. And I had this amazing Peach Ice Cream Sundae for dessert. Plus a coke and some still (but not tap) water. But the hamburger....
The WORST HAMBURGER ever. We saw someone else enjoying one from a distance and both of us ordered burgers. But I had forgotten that the U.K. makes lousy hamburgers. When I was living in Oxford in 1984, the only place where you could get a decent burger (until the first McDonalds opened there right before I returned to the States) was a mini-chain called Bretts. There was a Bretts by the Train station and one just on the edge of town near where we lived at 65 High Street. I think us Yanks kept that latter Bretts in business. Even in London in those days, there were only two places besides American fast food chains like Burger King and McD's where you could get a good burger. One was Wolfs or Wolfies. The other was the Hard Rock Cafe.
Now you need to understand, I love hamburgers. And I'm not picky. I love everything from big thick restaurant burgers to crappy fast food burgers and everything in between. But what we were served in Broadford was inedible. I literally couldn't finish it. My dad says it's because they press the meat instead of grinding it. Maybe he's right.
But unlike the bacon, this can't possibly be a matter of taste. I'm now convinced that America is the world's lone super-power because we shower and know how to make a decent burger. *end of final rant*
Back on the road, we crossed over the bridge to the Mainland at Kyle of Lochalsh. We drove north-east up the coast of Loch Carron. And we got lost in Plockton. We missed a sign and found ourselves driving up a residential road that dead-ended. (Thank God. If it had been open-ended, we might never have figured out we were headed the wrong way.) We doubled-back and thought we got on the right road, only to find that this one literally dead-ended in a parking lot. We double-backed again, and finally admitted defeat, stopping at the train station. A very nice couple eating in the cafeteria set us back on course.
We took the A890 to the A896 past Lochcarron and Tornapress (though I never actually saw Tornapress). Another little bit of confusion was caused by the fact that there are two small villages named Shieldaig (one off Loch Torridon and one off Loch Gairloch). But we managed to find our way to Annat and our second-to-last hotel. This was the extremely POSH Loch Torridon Country House Hotel. If our first hotel (Castle Inverlochy) was classy, this one was Posh. Less elegant, friendlier, but WOW!
Again, my room and bathroom was huge. Their was a lovely Waterhouse print of Echo and Narcissus hanging over the bathtub. (You can see it at http://www.artmagick.com/paintings/painting1399.aspx) Echo just seems so lovely and forlorn. I really liked it.
And there was a separate shower, thank god. The grounds, which included a pasture for castle, looked over the Loch with the Moutains of Wester Ross rising abruptly above it. They had fresh apples and shortbread in the room, so I partook of both.
Dinner was formal, but no coat and tie required. I had sparkling water and a free appetizer: a little teacup of Pea Soup. I also had Potato Leak Vichyssoise. Then I took a chance and ordered the Sea Trout. As I've mentioned, I like trout, but I don't like other (non-shell) fish. I didn't know whether SEA trout would taste more like trout or more like fish. But I loved it. Trout rules. Sea or river or whatever. It came with potatos and green beans. Dessert was Apple Cider Sorbet w/a few berries.
Talked to Beth.
Went to bed. Just nothing on television, you see.
TUNE IN TOMORROW for more adventure. *Here's a preview: "Oatmeal Porridge" "Raining in Ullapool" "Midges in the Gorge" "Bealach-na-ba" "I want to get that guy in a recording studio."*