The Pheasant Incident, Alloway, Ruined Castles, and Falconry

The Pheasant Incident, Alloway, Ruined Castles, and Falconry

When we woke up this morning it was a little rainy, but not too bad. We took to the car and drove North to Alloway to visit the birthplace of Scottish poet Robert Burns. About a mile from town, we decided to hunt some Pheasant…with our car! (Accidental hunting Mom, don’t worry. We didn’t do it on purpose.) The poor guy ran across the road like a roadrunner, took flight way too late and ended up hitting our bumper on the driver’s (right) side of the car, flying up into the side-view mirror (thud!) and ending up somewhere in the bushes. These birds weigh about 3 pounds so it was quite the ordeal. We felt really bad, but there wasn’t really anything we could do about it. We were driving on a two-lane undivided highway with no shoulder and there was no place to go but straight into Mr. Pheasant. Apparently this is pretty common as we saw a few dead Pheasants on the road today and witnessed a truck get really close to hitting another one. When we finally got in town, we parked near the Burns Museum to check things out.

The whole town of Alloway is chock full of monuments dedicated to Robert Burns. All the sights were beautiful, but the Doon River was my favorite part. The stone bridges provide stark contrast to the lush green banks and gushing water. It was so incredibly peaceful. The museum and cottage Burns grew up in were nice as was the monument erected in his honor. By the time we finished wandering around it was about Noon. We headed back along the road and ate at a little inn we found off the road. It had pretty good food for being in a town with a population of about 25. And another great bonus…the inn was a quick walk from a ruined seaside castle. After taking some pictures at the castle we hurried back to our hotel so we could make it to falconry in time.

I’m not really sure how to set up the description of falconry for you to do it justice. All I can say us that is in the top 10 things I have ever experienced. The falconry expert Jamie was amazing. He explained to us what it takes to raise these birds and what motivates them to fly to your arm instead of just flying away. We practiced feeding them in the barn and then it was off to see the real stuff. We met falcons, owls big and small, 2 kinds of hawks, and a raven-type bird that I can’t remember the name of right now. Jamie let us handle almost all of them. They flew from the perch to our arms and back again. It was such a personal experience as we were the only ones there for the lesson. We even laid down so one of the owls could fly within inches of us. One of the most exciting parts was when Jamie let the Peregrin Falcon take flight. These birds are the fastest on earth, flying 200 mph plus all while darting through trees and trying to catch some chicken tied to a tether that Jamie was swinging. Even though it was cold, it was totally worth it. An amazing experience. I think the pictures help tell the story better than I can.

For dinner we had some great Scottish food at one of the hotel restaurants. We split small portions of lamb pot roast, beef carpaccio, chicken pie with bacon, and mushroom risotto. To close the night out we did some stargazing. The night sky here is really beautiful. Since we are kind of in the middle of nowhere, we can see tons of stars and many constellations. I even saw a shooting star, although Andrew missed it. Tomorrow we are heading back to London, but it’s a 5 hour train ride, not including the 2-1/2 hour drive to the train station so I may not do a posting unless something exciting happens. Cheers, Chelsie and Andrew

At the cottage where Robert Burns was born in, 1759.

Doon River

Daffodils are blooming everywhere here.

Castle ruins in Dunure, population 25. You can see Ailsa Craig in the background, the island where they dig up blue hone granate to make curling stones.

Our splendid hotel.

We promised to email Jamie some of these photos. I know he will enjoy them. I have such a talented husband!

Andrew feeding the raven-type bird. For those who are squeamish, don’t zoom into the picture as he is eating a baby chick. The bird, not Andrew.

Sky the Eagle Owl was stunning.

Sky and me hanging out.

Jamie said he doesn’t think of these birds as pets, but I can see a little twinkle in his eye when he looks at Sky. He is really passionate about birds of prey.

Tell me how you really feel.

Check out that wingspan!

Whisper shows off her beautiful eyes.

Silver the falcon zooming past Jamie.

The cutest bird of prey on the planet, Rhiannan is only about 8 inches tall.

Read More

Good Coffee, Arthur’s Seat, The Scottish Countryside, and Turnberry

Good Coffee, Arthur’s Seat, The Scottish Countryside, and Turnberry

We woke up this morning ready to say goodbye to Edinburgh and move onto Turnberry. Andrew and Mickey started the day by visiting a highly-rated coffee shop called Artisan Roast. They brought me back some really good hot chocolate. We packed our things and walked to the train station to pick up our rental car. On a whim we decided to go check out Arthur’s Seat on the way out of own. Arthur’s seat is a dormant volcano and a wild piece of highland landscape in the center of Edinburgh. We decided to hike up it and we were really glad we did. The views were amazing. It really gave us a great perspective of the whole city from Edinburgh Castle and beyond to Holyrood House. I included a map below so you can kind of get an idea of the layout. Andrew took lots of pictures, but he needs to stitch them together into a panorama. Hopefully he can do that as soon as we get back so everyone can see.

After the hike we hit the road and took our time through the Scottish countryside. The scenery was diverse and breathtaking. Snowy hills, large sheep farms, groves of pine trees, and rivers dotted the landscape. We stopped for a quick lunch and took the longer, but scenic route down the coast to Turnberry. I can’t say enough about the views. They were stunning. Lighthouses, ruined castles on the beach, and sheep farms were prominent in the area. At one point we even stopped by the side of the road where a beautiful cemetery overlooked the ocean. If England is the country of comfortable high-end castles, Scotland is the country of desolate forgotten and ruined castles. It makes the feel of this place incredibly majestic. At one point along the road we even saw a pheasant. I was very excited.

Our hotel is perched atop a large hill overlooking the ocean. It is world-famous for its Alisa golf course although we won’t be doing any golfing while we are here. Just relaxing and enjoying the scenery. There are 800 acres of land to explore on the estate so we look forward to that tomorrow. For dinner we drove 30 minutes back to Ayr and ate at an Italian restaurant that was recommended to us by Yelp. The drive back to the hotel was a little hairy full of two-lane undivided highways, countless roundabouts, and the usual driving on the left. Am I forgetting something? Oh yeah…it was pitch dark too! Andrew did a great job negotiating the roads and our rental car continues to remain unscathed. We hope everyone is having a great week. Cheers, Chelsie and Andrew

UPDATE: Panorama added at bottom. (5 photo stitch)

Inside Artisan Coffee

A flat white from Artisan Coffee

A map of the layout of Edinburgh. Note Edinburgh Castle on the left and Arthur's Seat in the lower right-hand corner.

Arthur's Seat from below.

On the path to the top of Arthur's Seat

On the road overlooking the ocean near Ayr

The view from our hotel.

Check out that pheasant!

Panorama from Arthur's Seat

Full size available here

Read More