Grabbing the Bull by the Horns

Our timing on this trip has been weird. I remember in Ireland we actually never really turned our body clocks all the way over to the local time and let R stay up until like 10 or 11 every night. This didn’t matter because it stayed light late so we could all kind of fool ourselves. That was when R was tiny and just rode in the car seat and stroller.

On this trip it’s been the same for Erin and L, but R is totally turned over and is waking up every morning at like 7, chipper as can be, while everyone else just wants to keep sleeping. L is not turned around at all. I’m typing this at 1150PM on a Monday night and she is still wide awake, so not only is she not turned around she is basically playing roulette with the clock. At least R can entertain himself for a while. The overlapping child time schedule thing has made our timing a little difficult, especially with things like, you know, showers. It seems like by the time one of us is in the position to actually get a shower, it’s either time to go to bed or it’s time to leave the house.

Anyhow, Friday morning we hung out until everyone was so fresh and so clean which put our departure time later in the morning than normal. Erin was also jonesing for a scone (see my last post) at the Arriba Cafe, we sauntered down to town to knock that out first. On tap today was a spiced apple scone and a banana walnut scone. We walked back up to our car (stopping at the Coop of course on the way, we have literally never walked past that place with getting some kind of grocery), piled in and headed off on the hour or so journey to Dunvegan Castle, home of Clan MacLeod. If you thought my Queen recitals were done, you were wrong.

Here we are! Born to be kings, we’re the princes of the universe…

Yesterday we had been in the car a while as well and had decided to dig deep into our arsenal and get out the howitzer of long-car-ride-with-kids pacification devices: The iPad. This was a decision made with some trepidation…like a special attack, we only have one of these and its reward is balanced by the risk of the other child freaking out to high hell about NOT having it. This is exactly what happened yesterday, but Erin had devised a “switch every 20 minutes” scheme that was working for us, so we employed it again today. Mind you, “20 minutes” was defined by whenever mommy and daddy felt like it and/or whenever the annoying-whiny-voice-o-meter cracked the can-you-please-just-be-happy threshold, but…you know…its amazing how quickly kids can learn things like, oh, telling time when iPad time is on the line.

So when we started today, the “we are totes getting that iPad” expectation had been set and both R and L started demanding that they get the first turn. Not so fast you little boogers…Erin was prepared for this one and laid out the premise of the ol’ “pick a number between 1 and 10 and the closest to the number that I pick goes first”. Both children indicated that they understood how this worked, so R…going for broke…guessed his number: 1. “Buddy!” we said, “One isn’t close to a lot of numbers are you sure you don’t to pick another number? Like 5 or something?”. Nope. He was sticking with 1. Okay fine…L time for you to pick a number. Now, literally all she needs to do here is guess something bigger than 1, any other number that she is aware of will do (our secret number is 7). The girl can’t even really count higher than 10 yet so she should have this in the bag. She winds up, and gives it to us. Her number, delivered in the most confident and cutest of voices is: Circle.

Once again. That was: Circle.

So we are driving towards Dunvegan Castle and R is playing the iPad (because circle is NOT a number, even if that is what L calls zero). We arrived and parked and began the walk up towards the castle, which at this point is more of a manor, but these are not technical terms (at least in the way that I yield them. We ditched the stroller in the room where the guards used to sit waiting to stab people or whatever, and began a self-guided walking tour through the place. To keep the kids engaged throughout the trip, they have a little game to play. Hidden in every room is at least 1 key and if the kids can find them all, they get a prize at the end. This subtlety brilliant trick kept R into the trip so we could take it in a bit more.

can you spot the key?…also, pretty legit dining room..

A few things stuck out on the tour. First, the slogan or motto of the clan is “Hold Fast” which is enshrined above a taxidermied bulls head front and center on the wall at the top of the main entry way stair case. This slogan, and supposedly that bull, go together as, supposedly, the phase was first uttered by a chief of the clan who, supposedly, grabbed a charged bull by the horns and subdued it. This is also where “Grab The Bull By The Horns” comes from, supposedly.

Be A Bronze Wall

Second and third, were a few artifacts from the clans past. The Fairy Flag, which is this old ratty flag framed on the wall (since like a long time ago) which is said to have powers in battle, and in fact is credited to a victory for the can against the MacDonalds across the island. There are three separate legends about the flag (at least) ranging from actual Fairies, to it being brought back from the Crusades. Finally, the a claymore sword wielded by the clans chief is on display in the basement by the dungeon. Made of iron instead of steel, this sword is heavy and is used to bludgeon people in a big giant GTFO swing. The sword and the flag have been around for hundreds of years and you have not. Seeing these things, whatever you think about them in particular, puts a few things in perspective.


into the gardens

We finished the walking tour in about 45 minutes after finding 15 of the 16 keys. As a reward Reid got a puzzle to do…which is perfect. Our entry fee also included access to the extensive gardens around the castle which we strolled through, and honestly, they may have been better than the castle. There was a walled garden, a circular garden, a forest garden and a water garden.


In the water garden we took pictures in front of one of the two water falls; in the walled garden we explored the green house, took pictures of the beautiful lily flowers in the pond, and snapped photos in an old stage looking thing. I didn’t get to go through the forest garden because it I was shoving the stroller through loose gravel and getting bit by little mosquitos while L snoozed, but in the circular garden we saw a crazy looking tree called the Monkey’s Puzzle. Apparently monkey’s cant climb this tree because of its spiky, super close together, artichoke like leaves.

We left the castle and drove down into the town of Dunvegan and had an awesome lunch at a place called The Old School Restaurant. Erin had Cullen Skink, which I know sounds like roadkill soup, but was actually a delicious seafood soup with potatoes and what nots. I had a langoustine sandwich, which is good because we hadn’t yet had any of this local-ish shellfish. A Langoustine is basically a crawfish the size of a jumbo shrimp, so they are perfect for cooking up with some sauce and putting on a bun (which baked across the street at a bakery that has been in operation for like 300 years or something bonkers). The kids ate peas.

Their credit card machine wasn’t working so I had to pay cash and was a little short. I offered to wash a few dishes to make up for it, but they let us on our way. Couple this with the fact that they agreed to sit us about 5 minutes before they were set to close, and the great food, and this places gets my full recommendation for anyone who might be reading this and be in that area.

We ended the day back at our “cozy little cottage” with a few Scottish beers our in the garden while the kids ran around and I got bit by more “midgies” (sp?)…seriously I have a constellation of bites on my legs right now. For dinner we just got fish and chips again. Tomorrow is a travel day to Edinburgh with a planned stop over in Inverness.

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