Category Archives: Travel

No, We Didn’t Get Tattoos!

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle

Photos from the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.  It was a little challenging photographically because, even though we had great seats, there weren’t many different compositions to be made.  I had to rely on the changing of performers, lighting and special effects to get interesting photos.  But what a background for a very spectacular performance!

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is an annual series of military tattoos performed by British Armed Forces, Commonwealth and international military bands and artistic performance teams on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle in the capital of Scotland. The event is held each August as part of the Edinburgh Festival.

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle

The term “tattoo” derives from a 17th-century Dutch phrase doe den tap toe (“turn off the tap”) a signal to tavern owners each night, played by a regiment’s Corps of Drums, to turn off the taps of their ale kegs so that the soldiers would retire to their billeted lodgings at a reasonable hour. With the establishment of modern barracks and full military bands later in the 18th century, the term “tattoo” was used to describe the last duty call of the day, as well as a ceremonial form of evening entertainment performed by military musicians.

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle

The first public military tattoo in Edinburgh was entitled “Something About a Soldier” and took place at the Ross Bandstand, Princes Street Gardens, in 1949. The first official Edinburgh Military Tattoo was held in 1950 with eight items in the programme. It drew some 6,000 spectators seated in simple bench and scaffold structures around the north, south, and east sides of the Edinburgh Castle esplanade. In 1952, the capacity of the stands was increased to accommodate a nightly audience of 7,700, allowing 160,000 to watch the multiple live performances.

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle

Since the 1970s on average, just over 217,000 people see the Tattoo live on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle each year, and it has sold out in advance for the last decade. 30% of the audience are from Scotland and 35% from the rest of the United Kingdom. The remaining 35% of the audience consists of 70,000 visitors from overseas.

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle

The temporary grandstands on the castle esplanade, used between 1975 and 2010, had a capacity of 8,600.[2] New £16 million spectator stands and corporate hospitality boxes came into use in 2011. The new temporary stands reduced the time taken to erect and dismantle them from the original two months to one month, allowing the esplanade to host events at other times of the year.

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle

(Text from Wikipedia)

The One O’Clock Gun

The One O’Clock Gun at Edinburgh Castle

The firing of the One o’clock Gun dates back to 1861 when it allowed ships in the Firth of Forth to set the maritime clocks they needed to navigate the world’s oceans.  The idea was brought to Edinburgh from Paris by businessman John Hewitt.  The gun is fired at 1pm every day except Sundays, Christmas Day or Good Friday, with crowds gathering to enjoy the spectacle.  The first gun was a 64-pounder, but since 2001 a 105mm field gun has been fired from the Mills Mount Battery.

The One O’Clock Gun (at 2:30 – see the clock!)

When I took these photos my intention was to turn them into a GIF.  It took me a little figuring out in Photoshop but I was able to put 16 frames together into the little video below.  Hopefully it isn’t too annoying, which is why I made it loop only 3 times and buried it down in my post to reward those few people who actually read my drivel. 🙂

The One O’Clock Gun at Edinburgh Castle

More from Around Edinburgh

“Giant Wheel” ferris wheel along Princes Street in Edinburgh

Catching up on my photo processing, here are a few more random photos from around Edinburgh.

Scene from around Edinburgh
Scene from around Edinburgh
Scene from around Edinburgh
The World’s End Close or alleyway
The World’s End
Street performers at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh
Waverly Train Station in downtown Edinburgh
Greyfriar’s Kirk and Greyfriar’s Kirkyard church and graveyard in Edinburgh
Scene from around Edinburgh

Driving in Scotland

Edradour Distillery in Pitlochry, Scotland

Kathy & I seem to enjoy planning vacations almost as much as we enjoy going on them.  There is something about doing the research and learning about a new place that gets us excited for the journey itself.  I know we drive our travel agent crazy (sorry, Robin!) because while she is an expert on all the places we go and has lots of good recommendations, we almost always end up telling her what we want to do instead of relying on her expert advice.  What happens is that by the time we have done our research we have ended with our own preferences, so even though her recommendations might be as good as, or probably better than, our own choices, our confirmation bias gets in the way of her good advice.  That sort of happened to us with Scotland.

Our visit to The Falkirk Wheel in Falkirk, Scotland
Our visit to The Kelpies at The Helix Park in Falkirk

When we decided to visit Scotland, we were torn between taking a group tour or doing the planning and driving ourselves.  There were a number of group tours, but our impression was that the big groups were way too big on huge busses, the small groups were really expensive, and that none of them went where we wanted to go.  We always prefer to set our own agenda when possible, so none of those sounded like viable options.  Some people might suggest that it’s a control thing and I suppose that’s true to a degree, but I think that we just like to do things our way.  I guess that’s the same thing, isn’t it?  We did learn later on that there were probably some ways to do smaller group tours that might have been more to our liking, but we had already made up our minds and didn’t want to be confused with facts!  So we relied on our travel agent to make the air, Edinburgh hotel and rental car arrangements, and we did the rest.  I think it turned out to be a good solution for us, even though there were many other solutions that might have been just as suitable.

Urquart Castle from our cruise on Loch Ness about the Jacobite Queen
View along the A87 between Kyle of Localsh and Sligachan, Scotland
Talisker Distillery in Carbost, Isle of Skye, Scotland

A lot of the places we visited are places that tours often visit, such as distilleries and castles.  A few of the places are not going to be on a tour bus agenda, however.  Quite a number of places were along or at the end of a long single track road, certainly not suitable for large busses.  We spent a lot of time on those narrow roads and got pretty good at knowing when to stop and wait or to tell when the other guy was waiting.  That system worked pretty well over there, but the drivers in Scotland have a lot more patience and courtesy than we see over here!  Also, we drove past some beautiful countryside where there simply wasn’t a safe place to stop, regardless of vehicle.  So in those cases we just have to picture the scenes in our memories, as we weren’t able to make photographs.

The Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh
Greyfriar’s Kirk and Greyfriar’s Kirkyard church and graveyard in Edinburgh

Driving in Scotland wasn’t too hard for me.  I’m ambidextrous, and when I thought about it ahead of time, I was pretty sure that driving on the left side of the road in a right-hand drive car would be like “driving in the mirror.” For the most part that was correct.  The roundabouts were sometimes tricky, especially at first, and they have a lot of roundabouts in Scotland.  The ones with multiple lanes could be especially vexing, and some of the towns could be a little tricky to navigate.  But Kathy is a good and experienced navigator, and with the help of Google Maps we drove over 1000 miles and only took a few wrong turns.  I will admit that having all of the signs in a language I can read helped a lot, so for any future trips to non-English speaking countries I’m inclined to let someone else drive!

Our cruise on Loch Katrine aboard the steamship Sir Walter Scott
Our cruise on Loch Lomond aboard the Lomond Princess

Around Edinburgh

Street performers at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh

Some of the sights from the streets of Edinburgh.

Street performers at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh
Spectators enjoying Guitarist “Adam Kadabara” performing during the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh
Spectators enjoying Guitarist “Adam Kadabara” performing during the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh
The Royal Mile in Edinburgh during the Fringe Festival
Street performers at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh
Street performers at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh
Street performers at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh
Street performers at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh
Street performers at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh
Scene from around Edinburgh
Apple Store in Edinburgh
Scene from around Edinburgh
Scene from around Edinburgh
Waverly Train Station in downtown Edinburgh

Bagpipes, Castles, Whisky and Lochs (Oh, My!)

Royal Cottage on the shore of Loch Katrine from aboard the steamship Sir Walter Scott

Here is a short summary of our recent Scotland adventure for anyone who may be interested in a synopsis of our trip.

Eilean Donan Castle, Dornie, Kyle of Lochalsh, Scotland

We flew to Edinburgh from Charlotte via Heathrow, then spent 4 nights in Edinburgh, exploring the city and attending the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.  The Tattoo was the main reason we went to Scotland in the first place, and it completely lived up to our expectations.  During the time we were in Edinburgh, the International Festival and the Fringe Festival were taking place, which made for a lot of crowds, but some interesting sights and sounds.  We did our best to participate!  Besides spending lots of time walking around, we did a bus tour of the city, toured the Royal Yacht Britannia and Edinburgh Castle, ate (and drank) in a number of pubs and restaurants, and generally absorbed the atmosphere of the place.  It was quite the spectacle!

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle

After our 4 nights in Edinburgh, we rented a car (yes, I drove!) and set off into the countryside in search of sights and experiences.  We stayed at inns in Pitlochry, Inverness, Portree and Luss.  We visited The Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies, toured 4 distilleries and a cooperage, drank some whisky, drank some beer, toured castles, drove some narrow single-track roads and saw some incredible scenery.  A lot of the scenery was in places where it wasn’t safe to stop the car, so I had to make do with making the best photos I could where I was able to stop!  We took boat cruises on Loch Ness, Loch Lomond and Loch Katrine and visited a couple of lighthouses.  Once it was all done we were back in Edinburgh for one last night before returning to Charlotte via New York JFK.  Flights were all on time, the trip was comfortable and the airline food was surprisingly good.  I must say that 8 hours is a long time to be on an airplane!

The Tarbat Ness Lighthouse on the Dornock Firth near Wilkhaven, Scotland

I’ll continue to post photos and narratives to detail some of the individual highlights of our trip.  Overall it was an incredible vacation, but it was also a lot of work for both of us. Our next vacation, someone else may need to do the driving and navigating!

Our visit to the Glenmorangie Distillery in Tain, Scotland
Scene from around Edinburgh

A Little International Flavor

Ogon’ki Ensemble from Russia performing at the Mountain Street Dance in downtown Waynesville NC

An annual event in Waynesville, NC is the Folkmoot Festival that takes place at the end of July.  We typically get to Waynesville during the month of July, but for all our trips there we had never made it to the Folkmoot Festival or anything that had to do with it.  This year, while planning our July visit I happened to notice that some of the performers would be participating in the annual Street Dance in downtown on Friday night, and that the Parade of Nations on Saturday would be right down Main Street  That was too easy to pass up, so we went.

Ogon’ki Ensemble from Russia performing at the Mountain Street Dance in downtown Waynesville NC
Ogon’ki Ensemble from Russia performing at the Mountain Street Dance in downtown Waynesville NC

At Friday’s Street Dance, the Ogon’ki Ensemble from Russia (Siberia) were featured.  They put on a great show with several groups of performers.  These photos are from that performance.  I also got some photos from the parade the following day, but those will need to wait for another post!

Ogon’ki Ensemble from Russia performing at the Mountain Street Dance in downtown Waynesville NC
Ogon’ki Ensemble from Russia performing at the Mountain Street Dance in downtown Waynesville NC
Ogon’ki Ensemble from Russia performing at the Mountain Street Dance in downtown Waynesville NC
Ogon’ki Ensemble from Russia performing at the Mountain Street Dance in downtown Waynesville NC

A Folder Full of Phone Photos

Aboard the ferry from Swan Quarter to Ocracoke, North Carolina

Got a bit behind (again) but catching up.

Kathy & I spent some time at the NC coast in early July, visiting Belhaven, Washington and Ocracoke.  While I took my camera with me, it seemed like whenever I saw something interesting all I had with me was my phone.  Out of a total of 93 photos, 77 were taken with my phone and only 16 with my camera.  These are all from my phone.

Aboard the ferry from Swan Quarter to Ocracoke, North Carolina
Aboard the ferry from Swan Quarter to Ocracoke, North Carolina
Aboard the ferry from Swan Quarter to Ocracoke, North Carolina
Coiled rope on the dock in Washington, North Carolina
New wood on the dock in Washington, North Carolina
Shadows along Water Street in Belhaven, North Carolina
Shadows along Water Street in Belhaven, North Carolina

A Visit to Jamaica – Ya, Mon!

Sunset at the Sunset Gazebo. Half Moon Resort, Montego Bay, Jamaica

I haven’t been terribly motivated to process photos lately but forced myself to get a few done for this post.  It’s a tough job and no one is going to do it but me! 🙂

Open air bar at Half Moon Resort, Montego Bay, Jamaica

Kathy & I spent the Memorial Day weekend at Half Moon, a resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica.  Quiet and laid back, Half Moon was just the answer to a hectic spring and early summer.  I went with  only my lowly Olympus point & shoot, but still managed to come home with a few photos.

Not a bad view to wake up to. View from our villa at Half Moon Resort, Montego Bay, Jamaica
You almost don’t need coffee in the morning with a view like this! View from our villa at Half Moon Resort, Montego Bay, Jamaica
Shadows on the patio of our villa at Half Moon Resort, Montego Bay, Jamaica
Front of our relatively modest villa (compared to some!). Half Moon Resort, Montego Bay, Jamaica
Low Beam – as in Watch Your Head! Half Moon Resort, Montego Bay, Jamaica
Path to the beach and villas. Half Moon Resort, Montego Bay, Jamaica
Not our villa, but typical of many of the residences at Half Moon Resort, Montego Bay, Jamaica
Not our villa, but typical of many of the residences at Half Moon Resort, Montego Bay, Jamaica