Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Scotland Fall 2018, Part Two -- Do They Allow Photography?

Castles like Duone, an Outlander venue, are photogenic inside and out.
Scotland is a photographer’s paradise with castles, ancient stones, heathered highlands, and interesting photogenic tourist sites galore, but often it is those very same tourist attractions that provide the most frustration. The cause of this consternation is the arbitrary rule that says “No Photography.” The winds of change are rising, though. On this trip I found that a number of sites that used to block camera use have now opened the shutters. Why the change in policy? I don’t really know, although I suspect the cell phone camera may be a prime factor. Professional golf tournaments have allowed picture taking with phones—but still restrict the use of cameras probably because of shutter noise (although most modern digital cameras now have “silent shutter” programs). It could also be that the proliferation of tourists with cameras has simply overwhelmed enforcement of restrictions. Perhaps also a factor in lifting restrictions may be the realization that the spread of digital photos on the internet may actually increase interest in the attraction. Whatever the reasoning, I’m glad for the change. In this post I’ll explore a few of the attractions that still have restrictions on photography, some which now allow it, and a couple that may have led the way to enlightenment.
  First, let’s visit an attraction which still clings to the old policy of “No Photography” inside, Falkland Palace, Falkland, Fife. With a history which goes back to the 12th century, the original hunting lodge was significantly expanded by King James IV and King James V. The palace (“palace” being a residence of royalty or high-ranking dignitary) self-guided tour is quite interesting with information in every room and docents in several. The palace was turned over to the National Trust for Scotland in 1952. 
Waiting for the Palace to open for touring.

ILLEGAL! I did take one photo in the Palace, but it doesn't show much of the interior just the Falkland village.

Even though I couldn't take photos inside, the exterior of the Palace still makes a nice picture.

One category of attraction which used to be very restrictive in their camera policy is the distillery. In many, photos outside were okay, but forbidden inside the operation. On this trip we toured the smallest commercial distillery in Scotland, Edradour Distillery, and the largest, Glenfiddich. Both had "no photos" policies the last time we toured, but now allowed non-flash non-video photography (except in special locations with high concentrations of alcohol fumes such as in barrel warehouse—the Angels Share).

Edradour is a very picturesque distillery.

The smallest distillery has quite small pot stills.

Edradour did allow photos (no flash) in the barrel rooms.
After our tour the group gathers in the shop--we had our tasting earlier in the tour.

The tours become much more memorable when I can document the experience. Edradour Distillery near Pitlochry at the edge of the Highlands was licensed in 1825 and produces about 18 casks of Highland whisky in a week. The much larger Glenfiddich Distillery in the Speyside area of the Whisky Trail near Granton-on-Spey started production in 1886. As the world’s best selling whisky, Glenfiddich makes in a week what Edradour produces in a year. 
The setting for Glenfiddich is lovely--Glenfiddich means the Valley of the Deer.

The wash back is made of Oregon pine. Everyone thanked us for our contribution.

The number of pot stills at Glenfiddich positively dwarfs those at Edradour. With the new tour policy I can show that in photos.

At Glenfiddich we got to watch part of the bottling process.

Our tasting at the end of the Glenfiddich tour was three drams--generous.

Blair Castle, home of Clan Murray in Blair Atholl, has also opened its tour to photography. The Scotland home of the 11th Duke of Atholl, John Murray of South Africa, Blair Castle is the also home to the only private army in Europe, the Atholl Highlanders, having been granted that right by decree of Queen Victoria. The castle has about 30 rooms available for view and photos whereas most other castles open only six to eight rooms.
Blair Castle

During the tour at Blair Castle we saw rooms filled with china.

The impressive dining room.

Enough weaponry for an army...oh, that's right, they have an army.

A grand coat room.

One new tour we took this trip was of Skaill House on the main island of Orkney. Since this was the first time we’d toured the house, I can’t say if they had a “No Photo” policy previously or not. It was nice, though, to tour and take pictures of the house of William Watt, the Laird of Skaill, who in 1850 was the one who after an October storm discovered the 5000 year old Neolithic village of Skara Brae just meters away from the house.
Skill House seen from the 5000 year old Skara Brae Neolithic village.

Skill House has a cozy dinning area.

Books make a great still life photo.

Anne examining some early needle work on display at Skaill House.

Love this desk.
One of the spots where we thought allowing photography was unusual was at the Sheila Fleet Showroom outside of Kirkwall on Orkney. Sheila Fleet OBE is a leading gold and silver Celtic inspired jewelry designer/maker. A graduate of Edinburgh College of Art (1967), Sheila started her Orkney shop in 1993 and now has six galleries in Scotland. It was fun photographing Anne as she shopped—expensive, but fun.
Shiela Fleet's showroom and cafe is housed in a former church.

Anne is looking!

Anne is buying!

Nice art in the gallery beside the jewelry.

Finally, a place where you wouldn’t think photography would be allowed, but it has been since we first visited in 2000, is Innerpeffray Library about four miles out of Crieff in central Scotland. Innerpeffray was the first lending library in Scotland, opening to borrowers in 1694. The collection was moved into part of St Mary’s Chapel in 1739. Although Innerpeffray ceased lending books in 1968, the library remains open to visitors and researchers—it’s a recognized facility for genealogical research. It’s also a lovely atmospheric spot to photograph.
We got a tour of the library by Lara Haggerty, Library Manager and Keeper of the Books.

Some visitors were doing actual research.

We got shown this 18th century tome--the dark edges are the smallest explications I've ever seen.

In the 1520s when this book was written they thought unicorns really existed.

This photo is of the "new book" section...all written after 1850.

The castles, great houses, distilleries, and other Scottish attractions are well worth visiting whether they allow photography or not. But it is oh so nice when they do.
The Hielan' Coos (highland cows or hairy cows) are always ready to be photographed.

NEXT: Some of the best photos from our fall trip.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Scotland Fall 2018 #1

It may be trite to call this "a Scottish traffic jam," but that what it is.

The AMS Toilet Adventure

In the men’s toilet at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam I was at one urinal and there was a lady cleaning the urinal next to me. We both agreed it was no big deal.
Anne, Dave, Charleen, and the docent at St Serf's Church in Dunning. The cross is  a Pictish carved cross from the 9th century, the Dupplin Cross.

Being Tour Guides
The group heads in to tour Duone Castle, an Outlander site.

We didn't get to tour Tullibardine Distillery, but we still had a taste.

We did tour Edradour Distillery, the smallest commercial distillery in Scotland.

We’ve been talking to Anne’s younger sister Charleen and her husband Dave for years about coming to Scotland with us—both have Scottish heritage. After both finally retired, we got the opportunity to be tour guides to family travelers. Charleen and Dave joined us for nine days of our month long fall Scotland trip.

Anne, Charleen, and Dave ready to visit Drummond Gardens, one of the best formal gardens in Britain.

The drive into Drummond Castle and Gardens is stunning.

Dave examines Earthquake House in Comrie village, home to the most seismic activity in the UK.

The trip actually started long before any of us got to Scotland. Charleen and Dave had research to do to determine what kind of things they wanted to see—distilleries, gardens, ruined castles, lived-in castles, ancient sites, big cities, small villages, etc. Anne and I had major and sometimes lively discussions about what they must see or ought to see or need to avoid considering where we were going to stay (self catering in central Scotland and timeshare in the Highlands). A couple of dinner meetings and numerous emails confirmed our itinerary, always with flexibility.
After nine successful days as tour guide here are some of my observations:
Our group (minus the photographer) assembled outside one of the reconstructed early dwellings in the Highland Folk Village in Newtonmore.

First, much of the success of the trip owes to the fact that Charleen and Dave did their homework both before the trip and nightly while in Scotland. They had good ideas of what they were seeing and thus could really enjoy the experience. Even when we threw in some last minute site, they were knowledgeable enough to understand what they were seeing or to ask the right questions. 
Charleen and Dave's first dinner in Scotland at the Tower Hotel Gastro Pub just across the road from our self-catering Thistle Cottage in Crieff. Notice, I managed to get in the picture, too.

Visiting a Crannog, a family dwelling build out into a loch, on Loch Tay.

Second, for me, the pressure was intense. I much better appreciate those tour guides who take on the responsibility for someone else’s good holiday. I think I checked too much on whether Charleen and Dave were enjoying what we were doing, but they were always positive.
Dave hand feeding a member of the Cairngorm Reindeer herd.


Third, I felt like I was controlling too much of the time and needed to let go more. We did separate as couples in St Andrews and met up later and we did tour Urquhart Castle independently. I probably should have planned in more of that kind of experience (Or is planning free time an oxymoron?).
We gather in front of Anderson's in Boat of Garden before going in for Pie Night--meat or fish pies.

The Packhorse Bridge at Carr-bridge not far from Boat of Garden.

Fourth, for Anne and I it was the most intense touring we’ve done for quite a while, but it was great fun. We wore them out each day which is what they wanted, but it wore us out too. In nine days we put more than 1100 miles on our rental car with me doing all the driving. As tiring as it was, the driving was never too much for me, and for Charleen and Dave it was sort of break time. Anne was stuck with her same old job, Grand Wizard of Navigation, which she did admirably.
Dave discovers the Scot's love of sweets as he tries a butterscotch sunday at the Cairngorm Hotel in Aviemore.

Lastly, Charleen and Dave’s enthusiasm and excitement energized us as we saw things through their eyes. For instance, Anne and I have toured almost forty distilleries (many more than once), but Dave’s interest in learning about the process and tasting infected us all. And though we’d been to Innerpeffray Library (the oldest lending library in Scotland) four times before, we got a new appreciation for the facility through Charleen’s experience as a school librarian. 
We got a personal tour of the Innerpeffray Library from the curator.

The massive ruins of Elgin Cathedral.

For Anne and me it is always a joy to share our Scotland with our friends, especially those who visit Scotland with us. This was even more special. And even if we still need work to be accomplished tour guides, at least we can say we had a perfect time.
At the largest commercial distillery in Scotland, Glenfiddich, we got to watch part of the bottling process.

NEXT: Part 2 -- Photos Allowed plus more