Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Falkirk Wheel

The last stop on our tour with Dave was in Falkirk to see the impressive Falkirk Wheel.    When the decision was made to reconnect two canals so to connect Glasgow and Edinburgh by waterway, there was the not-so-small issue that the canals were separated by a level of almost 80 feet!  Compound that with the fact that the area of connection is right next to the historic Roman times Antonine Wall. 

So this cool looking mechanism was invented.  It is the world’s only rotating boat lift.

You can tour it by taking part of a boat ride to see how it works.  This is the boat we were on… right up in the front seat! 

There were two operators who told us about The Wheel and then actually drove the boat for the tour.  They were great fun with stories, jokes, and information as we puttered slowly along. 

The boat moves into this ‘trough’ that has a twin on the other end of the rotating arm.  Water is displaced in proportion to the weight of the boat entering; so it is always the exact same weight as its twin. 

Then it starts to rotate! 

Up to the top of the aqueduct.

The trip to the top takes only 5 and a half minutes and is so incredibly energy efficient it uses the same amount of power it would take to boil 8 pots of water in 4 minutes.  Once at the top, two gates open to bring the aqueduct water into the trough and the boat motors out into the canal to continue its journey.  
For the tour, it goes down a bit thru a tunnel before turning around to come back down via The Wheel to where we started from. 

It looks a wee bit scary as you approach on the return and look off into… nothing!  Boating thru an infinity pool can make one pause.

Especially as the boat pulls all the way forward!  That is a long way down!

And just a few minutes later we were at the bottom and our ride was over.   
I definitely recommend visiting here if you have any interest in cool engineering feats!   Below is a time-lapse video so you can see how it works. 


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

On The Road: Stirling town

After our good breakfast, we were once again on the road.  Though this time we were only going a short distance to the town of Stirling. 

First stop was Stirling Castle.  This is one of the largest castles in Scotland.  It’s made even more imposing as it sits on top of a high ‘crag’ (rocky hill left from glaciations). 

The buildings within the castle walls are very ornate. 

The carvings are gothic in form and represent both Biblical figures and Greek myths. 

At one time they were brightly painted… not natural stone as they are today.

The lion is the symbol of Scottish royalty.  The Scottish flag you see that has a lion rampant on it is signifying royalty.  The blue and white flag is the national flag.

Canons on the battery. 

Some areas had hands-on displays about castle life.  Really nice for the kids (and not so little kids) to have a bit of fun.  

There was so much to see, we could have spent all day in this one location.  But there was a special tour we broke away to see. 

This is “Argyll’s Lodging”, a 17 th century townhouse that was occupied by nobleman who served the castle.

A model of the building.

Detail of the entryway area.

This is Frank, our guide on the tour.  He was a hoot!  I’d have to say he was my favorite off all the places we visited on the trip.

One of the dining rooms. 

The bedchamber.  Somebody really, really liked purple…

View of Stirling town from one of the windows. 

After our tour was over, we drove to the William Wallace Monument.  (He of the movie “Braveheart”.)

It was built in the 1860s and the lines are very Victorian.   

By this point I had a very achy knee from the uneven walking in the castle, so Himself climbed the crag (hill) to the monument… then up the spiral stairway to the top.  I stayed below in the coffee shop, enjoying a hot chocolate and pastry with Dave.

Remember the huge 2 handed broadsword from the movie “Braveheart”?  The real one is even bigger than the one ol’ Mel was swinging about. 

The real sword of Wallace is 66 inches (5’6”) in length… Mel is 5’8” tall!  They figure William Wallace was at least 6’6” tall to be able to handle this sword in battle.

246 spiraling steps to the top! 

But the view was impressive.  The first photo (of Stirling Castle) was taken from up here.  

Soon enough Himself was back down and after he had his cup of coffee, we were on our way to our next adventure…

Monday, December 26, 2011

Encyclopedia of Moi: Z

Zurura – In planning our Kenya trip in 2006, I discovered the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.  This group rescues and rehabilitates orphan elephants and an occasional rhino.  To help with the tremendous cost they have set up a program where one can “sponsor” a baby elephant.  We did – and his name is Zurura.  We even got to visit with him while we were there.  Zurura is a success story and is now living free in Tsavo National Park.  This is a recent photo of him (we are still “sponsoring” him so we can keep getting his updates).  

Zoo (St Louis) – A favorite place to go as a child… and as an adult.  They have great programs and are very active in conservation and breeding programs.  Little Bird and Little Hoss love going there too!

Zebra – One of my favorite wild creatures.  I had a blast in Kenya photographing them… I have so many zebra photos (like this one!).  

Zero – If I must drink a diet soda, this is the one I would pick.  But I’d rather have water…

Zen gardens – I’ve always enjoyed the order and peaceful of Zen gardens.  I’m trying to use a modified version this style in the landscaping of our yard.  

Zucchini – While I do enjoy zucchini and have found many ways to prepare it, I discovered one year that 3 zucchini plants can produce enough zucchini to feed a small army…

Zinnia - I love these bright little flowers.  They are so nice in a garden with all their color and make great cutting flowers too.  I plan on having a flower garden for cutting and they are on the top of my list for planting. 

Zipper purse - I received one of these as a gift from someone who went on a mission trip to Brazil.  The whole thing is made from one zipper.  As you unzip it, it goes from purse to a 9’ long zipper.  What fun!

Zorro – This was the name of our pet iguana.  He was so named because of the way he’d slash his whip-like tail when he was displeased.  He was an interesting pet.  (This photo is not Zorro.  I took this in Costa Rica.)  

Zealous – I am zealous about the things I love and care about.  My Lord, my family, my friends, my home.   

And this is Z-end!!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

On The Road: Anstruther to Dunblane

After leaving the Spindrift B&B, we went back into Anstruther to visit the Fisheries Museum.  It was an excellent stop!  Especially since Himself works in the fishing industry. 

After passing through the gift shop/ticket office, you step into a courtyard full of old anchors, ropes, and other such things. 

Then you go inside the maze of buildings…

Some are full of boats and even small ships!

This figurehead has been restored. 

There are displays on all aspects of fishing.  This is showing the ‘herring girls’ who gutted and salted the herring catch.

This beautiful quilt was near the memorial chapel. 

The details are fantastic!

In one area they are restoring a boat.  You can watch from the area above the workshop.

One of the craftsmen at work.

After we finished in the Fisheries Museum, we went over to the Lifeboat Museum across the street.  There is a small gift shop that benefits the Lifeboat crews.  Lifeboat crews are near and dear to my heart...

These food trailers are everywhere (even in the middle of “nowhere”) and they are GOOD!  I had some of the best hamburgers ever at various ones. 

There were more beautiful views as we drove along.

Some of the towns we went through had cobblestone streets.

Really narrow cobblestone streets…

One of our stops was at the beautiful Dunfermline Abbey.  The top of the church reads “King Robert The Bruce”.  

Here’s a bit from their website:  “Having only around 200 hundred years of history of their own, Americans and Australians find it particularly hard to grasp that just by going through the door of the Church into the Nave, they are travelling back from 1818 when the new Church was begun to 1072 when Queen Margaret`s Church was begun.”
Close up.

Also from the website:  Visitors who are especially interested in stained glass also come to admire the magnificent windows, each by a different artist and from different dates. Each window has a story or a little secret hidden in it, remember to look for the tiny Bruce spider and try to find the Crown of Scotland hidden in a half open cupboard. Should you come to look at them remember to bring binoculars and you will be amazed at what you see.”

The grave of King Robert I (Robert the Bruce).  Not only was he king of Scotland in the early 1300s, he led in the Scottish war of independence from England.

This doesn’t have anything to do with the abbey or Scotland… but it’s the most beautiful rose I’m ever seen!  It was on the altar of the church. 

Next to the abbey is Dunfermline Palace ruins. 

They are incredible.

On the other side of the abbey is a small graveyard.  Some of the stones had markings that indicated what the person had done in their life.  This one might be a carpenter. 

Many of the stones had moss growing on them. 

Amazing how you can still somewhat see the form of the letters.  

As we continued our drive, the conversation somehow turned to the subject of “high tea”.  Dave started to explain how it isn’t the fussy affair we have in the US… then he decided we needed to have a proper high tea dinner. 

There is of course, tea…

But it is really an early evening meal.  This is (I think) steak and ale pie. 

Then it is finished with the cakes and other pastries we associate with “tea”.   


Sated with this nice meal, Dave dropped us at our B&B for the evening.  It had a very comfy lounge area and a fire glowing in the fireplace. 

The huge windows looked out on this stream (burn) that had salmon running up it.  On the other side was a park that is popular with dog walkers.

This caught my eye.  Wouldn’t Little Bird and Little Hoss love riding on it?