This was truly a grand day. We had some absolutely gorgeous weather as we bade farewell to Aberdeen and left to visit the town of Scone, specifically the Scone Palace.
Scone Palace is the home of the Murray family whose head is now the hereditary Earl of Mansfield. Historically, Moot Hill on the palace grounds is where the kings of Scotland were crowned. While not a royal palace, the building was an abbey before the Murrays gained ownership and being an abbey is the other way for a building to be called a palace. Fun fact: there is a difference between palaces and castles. Castles are fortified. Palaces are not.
We stopped into the coffee shop on the grounds for some tea and shortbread before having a formal tour. Our tour guide was fantastic! He made history come alive before our eyes as he talked about Scone Palace’s history as well as the history of the Murray family. The Murrays still live on the property so photography was forbidden inside the palace to respect their privacy.
When the tour was ended, we were given a little free time to explore the grounds at our leisure. I explored the mausoleum on Moot Hill, saw the original Douglas Fir (yes, Christmas trees began in Scotland before being spread around the world), saw the Old Cross, and even solved a hedge maze.
After getting our history on, it was now time to get our game on. We headed off to St Andrews to visit their world-famous golf course.
Golf was practically invented at St Andrews and it was impressive to see the old course. I also took a little amble through a nearby neighborhood where I admired the North Sea and stepped into St James’ Catholic Church for a lookaround and a prayer.
At 2:10 we headed over to St Andrews’ practice center where we were allowed to knock out a bucket of balls at the practice range. Some of the fellow tour members were obviously golfers while most were, shall we say, not. It made for an amusing time. For myself, all of my shots were surprisingly straight and true and I managed to hit several balls 75 to 100 yards. However, if I’m going to learn the game, I need some lessons as I also completely whiffed the ball on several occasions.
From St Andrews, it was off to our final city of the tour: Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital.
In terms of view, this was the best hotel (Mercure Royal) as I had a room on the top floor with a panoramic view of the city. We had several hours to ourselves which I used to bathe and shave for tonight’s optional excursion: a visit to the Jam House for the Spirit of Scotland show with the Ceremony of the Haggis.
Ach aye!!! (Oh, yes!!!) This was the best event of the tour yet. We had a sumptuous meal consisting of an appetizer of smoked salmon which was superb. I can see why salmon is considered one of the hallmarks of Scottish dining after tasting theirs. Then we had a taster’s course consisting of haggis with potato and turnip while our host, singer Bruce Davis, led us in The Ceremony of the Haggis with a humorous interpretation of Robert Burns’ poem, Ode to a Haggis. The main course was Braised Spear of Scottish Beef with horseradish mashed potatoes and root vegetables. The beef was the tenderest I have ever tasted and I wished I could have had a second helping of those amazing potatoes. For dessert was a cup of fruit, cream, and oatmeal.
After diner we got to see the Spirit of Scotland show which was an amazing night of songs, music, and dancing by the talented troupe of the Jam House. There was even a bit of audience participation as we were encouraged to sing along on the refrain of “Loch Lomond”, the first verse of “Amazing Grace”, and we all stood up and joined hands as the show closed with “Auld Lang Syne”.
I was disappointed to see such a delightful show end, but it was time to return to the hotel where I wrestled with a dodgy internet connection to get pictures posted. Mercifully, I was looking forward to a bit of sleeping in as breakfast would not be until 7:30 with our first event of the final day not beginning until 8:30.