Sunday, August 25, 2013

Perthshire and Gleneagles, Scotland - Day 4

I slept like a baby! Snoozebox was terrific and I probably had the best night sleep of the entire trip so far. Since we didn't get back last night until after 1:00 am we got up a little later than planned. I finally popped down from the top bunk around 8:15 am. The bathroom is very small but it did the trick and we were soon ready to head out. I checked my Fitbit tracker and even with taking several taxis yesterday, we walked over 10 miles! Exploring Edinburgh took a lot out of us and we are definitely both moving a bit more slowly today.

Although I had selected a cute place for us to have breakfast (Hula Cafe) we went directly to Waverley station to catch our 9:10 am train to Perth.

Waverley Station on Sunday Morning
We checked out of Snoozebox and walked the 8 minutes to the station. We purchased our train tickets yesterday so we found a place to sit until the track was posted. The various festivals are all ending this weekend and there are lots of people at the station heading home.

We got a little snack but found no place to dispose of the empty containers when we were finished. One thing we noticed about Edinburgh is a shortage of trash receptacles. Perhaps this is due to security?

The track # posted and we boarded another almost empty train for our 1 hour ride north to Perth. The weather today is nicer with temps in the 60's, clear skies and hopefully some sun by the afternoon. The train passed by a few towns and then we had a view of the sea before transversing across several fields.

Passing a little town and church
Next we had a view of the sea...

North Sea
I was too lazy to get up to take the photo on the right side of the train. There is a bicycle blocking part of the view from the window.

and then fields...

Fife Fields 
Today we are headed to Perth where will tour Scone Palace.  The Palace is just 7 minutes by car from the Perth train station or a 30 minute walk. We definitely will not be walking! I am hoping there are taxis available on Sunday morning. The journey went by pretty quickly with only about 8 stops until we arrived in Perth. We were in luck as there were several taxis out front. Our driver Graham was very nice and not only took us to Scone Palace but agreed to pick us up in 75 minutes and drive us to the Gleneagles Hotel. If this were a weekday we could have taken the train which only takes 17 minutes, but the schedule on Sunday is very limited.

Scone Palace

Scone Palace is a Gothic Georgian mansion that was completed in 1812 for the Earl of Mansfield. It is located east of the River Tay (Tee) and holds significance as the crowning place of the Kings of Scots and is the origin of the Stone of Destiny.  The Stone of Destiny was moved (some may say stolen) to Westminster Abbey and was then returned to Scotland in 1996 where it can be seen at Edinburgh Castle. However, there is some controversy over the Stone and whether it was switched at some point during its relocation.

We bought our tickets at the gate (adult 10.00, senior 9.40) plus a few postcards before taking the commanding walk up to the Palace.

Walking up to the Scone Palace entrance
It is a really nice day but still not sunny yet. The exterior of the Palace is gorgeous and it is surrounded by a lush lawn. You can tell it is well cared for. When we arrived at the entry we were told we needed to wait because there was a private tour inside and they didn't want us to disturb them. This usually would not be a bother but as Graham was picking us up in an hour we needed to get a move on. I snapped a photo of the chandelier in the entry with an interesting skylight, decorative ceiling and arched doorways. I was subsequently told no interiors photos are allowed. There is a sign stating this and I am bit ashamed to say I feigned ignorance!

Chandelier at Scone Palace Entry
After waiting 20 minutes we tried to gain entry but were again rebuffed by one of the ladies in charge. We really didn't feel like racing through the place so a few minutes later we tried again with a different person. Fortunately, she was much more receptive. Without complaining we told her our predicament about only having a limited amount of time here and that we might not be able to stay. In the manner of Dame Judi Dench as M giving orders to James Bond said "no YOU are going too see it" and swiftly removed the red velvet rope and let us proceed into the next room. Hooray!

Postcard of Scone Palace Dining Room
The room we entered was the opulent Dining Room. With large leaden windows, a marvelous table and enough space to do cartwheels behind the Chippendale chairs, it looked like a splendid place to enjoy dinner. In fact, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert dined here in September 1843.

The large private tour of about 40 people was right before us. While it would have been interesting to hear the guide's commentary, this wasn't our tour and we didn't have time to spare. We carefully skirted around them and saw what we could of this room before moving on to the next area.

Although there were lots of people enjoying the Palace, the building is so vast that it did not feel crowded. The next room we came to was the marvelous Drawing Room.

Postcard of Drawing Room
The Drawing Room was wonderful with its beautiful blue carpet, imposing family portraits and a marble fireplace. The huge brass chandelier and decorative ceiling are a wonderful touch. Although large, the room actually seemed quite cozy. This room displays about 70 finely crafted pieces of ivory dating from the 17th century. While this is very sad for the elephants the carvings were remarkable.

Moving on we next looked at the Library where instead of books they have beautiful porcelain, much of it is from Germany creatively displayed.

Postcard of Scone Palace Library
This is quite an unusual use of a library. With all the porcelain in the open cabinets it looks more like a kitchen pantry. We enjoyed seeing all the porcelain, with many pieces from Dresden. I wish I could have taken photos of some of the dishes. One of the prized processions at Scone Palace is a writing table that used to belong to Marie Antoinette. It is on the right side of the desk above.

After seeing the Library we passed a couple more rooms, including the bedroom for Queen Victoria's visit, before reaching the Long Gallery. That is the perfect name for it, as it is 150 feet and the longest room of any home in Scotland. It was here that Queen Victoria and Prince Albert witnessed a Curling demonstration on the then polished wooden floor. Subsequently, Prince Albert accepted an invitation to become the first President of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club.

Postcard of Scone Palace Long Gallery
The Gallery feels quite regal with its deep red carpet with gold border. In addition to all the family portraits on display they also had a replica of the Stone of Destiny and a stuffed peacocks with its beautiful plumage. There was a group of Japanese women in front of the peacock and they seemed quite enamored by it.

I was happy that it did not take us long to see the interior of the palace. Now we could enjoy grounds and not need to rush.

Once outside we walked up to the Chapel and Moot Hill.  The small Presbyterian chapel was restored around 1804. Moot Hill is the original home of the Stone of Scone (Destiny) where the Kings of Scotland were crowned. Robert the Bruce was crowned here on March 25, 1306. The last coronation was of Charles II in 1651. Moot Hill is also where Scottish noblemen swore their allegiance to the new King.

Chapel and Moot Hill original location of Stone of Destiny
We entered the Chapel which dates from 1807 and is more like a mausoleum with crypts of the Murray family. The Murray family is known by the Peerage as the Earls of Mansfield. The Murray's have resided at Scone for over 400 years. As they still live here the upstairs area of the Palace is off limits.

Tomb of William Earl of Mansfield
The tomb of Sir David Murray, 3rd Earl of Mansfield, has a prominent position in the mausoleum.  In 1600 Sir David was instrumental in saving the life of his royal master King James VI from an attacker. He soon became a favorite of the King. Beautiful carvings and Sir David's likenesses adorn the mantle.

Tomb of Sir David Murray
On the opposite wall is another crypt with more family members.

Murray Family Crypt
After exiting the Chapel we still had some extra time to explore the grounds. My mother decided to rest while I roamed admiring the twig deer and the beautiful Fir trees.

Chapel with twig deer
I took a brief walk toward the Archway and Mercat (Market) Cross. It was built in the 16th century and was originally the entrance to the "City of Scone". Past this is a Butterfly Garden and an Ancient Burial Ground. Time was against me as I did not continue on to the see the Pinetum, a giant Douglas Fir raised from a seedling from North America. David Douglas sent the seedling to Scone in 1826. The Douglas Fir is named after David Douglas who was born in Scone in 1799. He worked as a gardener at the Palace before moving on to the Botanical Garden in Glasgow and later North America.

Archway and Mercat Cross
On my way back to the Palace to see the shop and make a "happy stop" I noticed a couple walking their beautiful dog. I found out his name is Bismarck and he is a Eurasian. It is a rare breed and the first one I have seen in person.

Bismarck and a Peacock
Scone has several delightful peacocks (at least six) roaming the property. The males ones with the beautiful feathers were lovely. They didn't seem shy at all. Bismarck the Eurasian, was pretty interested but his owner kept a tight hold on him. However, I was dismayed to see 2 little boys chasing one of the peacocks while their father looked on in amusement.

The Scone Palace shop was very nice and located in the former servants quarters. I bought more postcards but nothing else. When I went outside one of the peacocks was outside and seemed to have recovered from being chased but it appears the trauma has caused him to lose a feather.

Beautiful Peacock
Mother enjoyed her rest but we were both getting hungry. At certain times of the year Scone Palace makes fresh Scones but they didn't offer that today.  It is a bit of head scratcher that Scone Palace is pronounced "Skoon", like spoon. The Scone that you eat can be pronounced differently depending on where you are from. In the USA the preferred cadence is to rhyme with 'cone" but it is the exact opposite in the UK where it is pronounced "con", Got that?

So while we couldn't have our scone at Scone, we walked down the driveway to meet Graham for our drive to Gleneagles for lunch. As soon as we reached the bottom he was just pulling up. Perfect timing! We noticed that what we thought was a light tan car, was now white. Looks like someone got a little bath!

Graham couldn't have been nicer and shared some personal info of where he has traveled and his interests. He told us a funny story about eating at a Southern restaurant in the US and not understanding anything that was said. We told him the same thing happened to us one time in mountains of North Carolina. The waiter rattled off a choice of 11 sides and the only one I could make out was Hushpuppies. Everything else with like he was speaking another language!

The Perthshire scenery was gorgeous during the drive to Gleneagles.

Perthshire Landscape
We will be having Afternoon Tea at the Gleneagles Hotel which I reserved in advance. Our reservation is for 1:30 pm and I think we might even be a few minutes early.

It was a pretty drive up to the Gleneagles Hotel which is actually in the town of Auchterarder. There is also a town named Gleneagles which is just a couple minutes away.

2013 Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles
Today there are more people than usual as they are holding the Johnnie Walker Championship here. There are 3 separate golf courses at Gleneagles and I expect it to be busy. As we approached the hotel we could see the golfers and spectators in the distance.

Arriving at Gleneagles
I was surprised that there was absolutely no problem driving up to the hotel. However, that may not be the case next year when the Ryder Cup celebrates its 40th anniversary here in September 2014.

The exterior of the hotel is outstanding but it does not feel imposing. Gleneagles is touted as having the some of the best golf courses in the World and even tops the Old Course at St. Andrews in several rankings.

Exterior Front of Gleneagles Hotel
I went immediately to the concierge desk to let them know that we have a reservation for tea and are not just traipsing through the lobby. I also asked then to call the car service we reserved and reconfirm our pickup for 2:30 pm. I sent an email from Edinburgh asking to move the pickup time up but now the current time will actually work fine.

They kindly attended to these requests and then showed us to the bar area for our tea. The bar area is a large room and very much on the masculine side. It seem a bit incongruous to have a "dainty" tea in these surroundings.but with all the golfers it probably works better. We were given menus and I  selected the Classic tea while my mother opted with my prompting, for the special Champagne Tea.

Bar area for Afternoon Tea
While we waited for our order, we enjoyed the room with its large windows that were open today to the outside. It was sort of like having an indoor picnic!

We were famished and looking forward to our first real meal of the day. Our server Fiona, first brought a small plate of poached salmon. It went wonderfully with my Hibiscus tea and my mother's, Earl Grey.

Smoked Salmon and Hibiscus Tea
The salmon was succulent with a delicious lemony sauce. The tea was very good too.

The first course arrived with tea sandwiches, biscuits and other savories.  I took a quick photos before we devoured it. About halfway through I realized by looking at the other tables there is a decant dessert tray that comes after this one. Oh my!

First Course with sandwiches and sausage rolls
Everything was yummy and it is a close contest if I prefer this one or the Afternoon Tea at Cliveden more. It is tough act to follow. While the first tray would have been enough for lunch, the dessert tray was lurking in the distance as Fiona made her way to our table. All I can say is WOW!

Dessert Selection for Afternoon Tea
This one gets an A+ for presentation. I loved the vibrant colors of the Raspberry jelly cups,  the strawberry custards and orange flaky pastry. Everything including the custard chocolate eclairs was scrumptious and we miraculously managed to clear most of the plates. The only fault I found was that the meringue swans were pretty but they didn't have much taste.

While I was savoring my sense of accomplishment in finishing most of the lovely pastries, a plate of scones arrived with the usual accompaniments. I had completely forgotten about this part!

Fruit Scones
The fruit scones were warm and flaky like they just came out of the oven. The clotted cream, butter and jam helped it go down like velvet. The bill was presented and it was £29 for each tea plus £16 for one glass of champagne. In my opinion, for the amount of food we had the cost is very reasonable.

Bill for Gleneagles Afternoon Tea
Now that we are officially stuffed we decided to take a walk (or waddle) around the property.  As we have found to be typical during our time in Glasgow, the afternoon sun was out and it was quite balmy. The flower beds and fountain were lovely. As the hotel is elevated we had a great view of the grounds below. The hotel is located on 850 acres. They certainly make the most of it! With activities that include, Shooting, an Equestrian School, Fishing, Falconry, a Gundog School and Off Road Driving, plus an elegant spa there is plenty besides golf to keep one occupied.

Lovely Gleneagles grounds

Gorgeous gardens and grounds
The hotel grounds are gorgeous. As we walked a little further we could see what looked like three generations of golfers in the distance.

Golfers and magnificent scenery 
The grounds are indeed massive and it looks like more than a short walk to get to most of the places on the property.

Gleneagles Hotel Map
The scenery was breathtaking with the glens and lush foliage in the background. We had a great vantage point from the large fountain near the front of the hotel and could see for miles.

Grand fountain and view
As we walked back to the hotel we noticed one of the staff bringing a pony to the front door. That is what I call door-to-door service!

Pony Delivery with the Bar area in the background
The rear of the hotel is impressive too. The hotel has 232 rooms and suites and looks much bigger from this angle.

Rear of Glenealges Hotel
We still had a few minutes before our scheduled pickup so we walked back to the entrance to checkout the specialty shops.

Gleneagles Entrance
Back in the lobby we found a sign saying "Retail Therapy" with an arrow indicating the location of the shops. I was looking for a sweater or something with the Gleneagles insignia. However, the shops were nice but there were too many people and I came away empty handed.

We went back outside and our driver David, from SM Taxi was there to greet us. I found this car service on the Internet when searching for Gleneagles transportation. However, although the company is called Gleneagles Taxi on the Internet, they are not located here but in Stirling. This fact came up when the concierge called to reconfirm our ride. I must say she wasn't too happy about them using the Gleneagles name. Perhaps they are gearing up for the Ryders Cup.

In any event, David was very nice, a great driver and told us about his dog and how he used to breed German Shepherds. He confirmed it would take about 40-45 minutes to reach Rosyth. A car service was the only option here as the train takes too long and on a Sunday definitely didn't work. The cost for the transfer is £80 which sounds like a lot. However, the Gleneagles Hotel quoted me £100 so while not a bargain, David is still less.

We enjoyed the scenery in this area. I kept the window open for a bit to take some photos.

Gorgeous Scenery
Beautiful landscape!

Heading from Gleneagles to Rosyth
The landscape during out journey was gorgeous! It was lush and the glens were blanketed in a multitude of colors.

Lovely Glens
We had allocated plenty of time to return to Rosyth. We left Gleneagles at 2:30 and planed to be back at the port by 3:15 pm. Ocean Princess will depart at 4:00 pm. Leaving a cushion of 45 minutes made the trip less worrisome.

On the road to Rosyth
We would soon approach the town of Dunfermline where I considered making a brief pit stop to see their magnificent Abbey. David told us the town is holding a road race today and said it would be best to avoid all the traffic. Better safe than sorry. I certainly don't want to miss the ship.

We soon could see water and it appeared we would be back in Rosyth very soon.

Approaching Rosyth
We approached the port and were soon pulling into the Rosyth Ferry Terminal. With only a handful of visits over the summer months, they don't have a dedicated Cruise terminal. The port area is quite small which is nice. I hardly remember it from yesterday morning. We paid David in cash and were soon boarding the Ocean Princess.

Port of Rosyth
We were very happy to be back home! We passed through security and there was no wait for an elevator up to Deck 7. Around 4:00 pm I went out on the balcony to take some photos as we departed the port and once again went under the bridge.

Leaving Rosyth
We have 2+ hours to rest until dinner. After our ginormous tea time treats, I cannot quite fathom another meal. I checked email and updated my notes on our last 2 port days. After showering and resting a bit I almost felt like a new person.

Tonight we are eating in Sabatini's, the Italian specialty restaurant. We loved Sabatini's on the Ruby Princess, and it was probably along with the Sanctuary, the highlight of that cruise.

On the Ocean Princess the two specialty restaurants, Sabatini's and the Sterling Steakhouse are open on alternate nights. They don't have the passenger demand nor the staff to keep them open on the same nights.

Our dining time is at 6:00 pm tonight but it is still very bright outside. It sort of throws you off as it looks like it is early afternoon. We took the elevator to Sabatini's on Deck 9 aft. They seated us at a table for 4, which was set for 2 and facing a large window. So far so good.

Lovely Table and View
We perused the menu but I was disappointed to not find any Langoustines. I had so much enjoyed these before. They were lightly sauteed and grilled and this was by far the best item they served on the Ruby Princess. We made alternate choices and savored the bread and breadsticks until the starters arrived.

Poached Shrimp with white beans
The starters were just average. I had shrimps with white beans and my mother had the soft shell crab.

Soft Shell Crab
While we waited for the main courses to be served we overheard (some people might say eavesdropped) on the table next door. It was a table of 2 couples with one of the ladies speaking much louder than anyone else. You would have to wear earplugs if you didn't want to hear her. In fact, I think the whole dining room could hear everything she said!  She was explaining to her tablemates in a sharp New York accent that she is related to Donatella Versace (we didn't understand how) and spoke glowingly of Donatella's and her family. This woman didn't seem Italian so it was a little confusing to us. Donatella's ex is American so perhaps that is the connection. I tried really hard not to listen to her. My mother who has "bionic" hearing seemed to enjoy it though.

Mercifully, the main dishes soon arrived.  My mother had the Pasta and I had the Lobster three ways.

Mother's Pasta Dish
The lobster was not good. I have had this dish on Princess before and really enjoyed it. However this time the lobster was salty and chewy. I have never had salty lobster before. I was thinking of sending it back but there was nothing else on the menu I wanted. Some sauce may have helped but I ate a little of it "as is". I will unlikely ever order this dish prepared this way again on Princess. Good thing I had a big lunch!

Disappointing Lobster 3 Ways
The New York lady was still yakking away about another topic when our waiter came to inquire about dessert. We selected two different ones and I was hoping they would be good. Often times dessert turns out to be the best part of the meal.

That was certainly true in this case as I was very happy with the Napoleon with hazelnut, almond and praline.

Hazelnut Napoleon
It was yummy and very light. My mother had the Semifredo white chocolate mouse with limoncello and raspberries. She said it was excellent.

White Chocolate Semifredo
We finished every bite of our desserts. We signed the slip for the $25 per person cover charge for dinner + the wine, We debated going to the theater but decided to just take a walk around the the shops. It was very quiet!

We went back to the room early and went right to bed! Tomorrow we have a sea day to recover from the last 48 hours. The ship is headed north around the coast of Scotland near the Orkney Islands. I am hoping for decent weather and beautiful scenery.

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