Scotland’s best travelled Queen: Mary 1548-1587

If you search this website for Queen Mary of the Scot’s sightseeing tours you find her under the header of film locations, which really does not do her any justice, especially as it only refers to the newest movie about her life.

Mary Queen of Scots

Mary Queen of Scots is a 2018 historical drama film directed by Josie Rourke (in her feature directorial debut) and with a screenplay by Beau Willimon based on John Guy‘s 2004 biography Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart.

Linlithgow Palace

Mary was born on December 7th or 8th 1542 at Linlithgow Palace. Her father died within a week of her birth at Falkland Palace and I am pretty convinced that the cause of his death was not the fact that Mary was a woman.

Falkland Palace

She was crowned queen and her mother, Mary of Guise, ruled on her behalf. Mary of Guise was afraid that Henry VIII may attempt to seize Mary forcibly marry her to his son Edward VI. For her safety Mary, who was brought up at Stirling Castle until then, was moved to France where she grew up as catholic and was promised to the future king of France, Francis, whom she married in 1558 and became Queen Consort of France. She also had a legitimate claim to the English throne through her grandmother, Magret Tudor (sister of Henry VIII).

Stirling Castle

In 1560 Mary lost her mum, her father in law, King Henry II and her husband, which forced her to return to Scotland in 1561. A country she hardly knew, which had become protestant in her absence.

She ruled successfully for five years until she married Henry Stuart/Lord Darnley, who himself had a claim to the English throne, but was otherwise anything but a suitable husband to her, though she had James VI/I with him who was born in 1566.

In February Lord Darnley was murdered and Mary may have been involved.

James Hepburn, 4th Lord of Bothwell was accused of Darnley’s murder but was acquitted in April 1567. He kidnapped and raped Mary, which forced her to marry him. On July 24th 1567.

This caused her to fall out of favour, especially with her half brother, James, Earl of Moray (an ilegitimate child of Mary’s father James V).

Mary was forced to abdicate while held prisoner at Loch Leven Castle.

Loch Leven Castle

She fled and turned to her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, for help, which led to her almost 20 years of house arrest. In 1586 Mary was found guilty of plotting to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I. On 8th February 1587 Mary was beheaded at Fotheringhay Castle.

This is extremely brief outline of Queen Mary’s life already provides sufficient evidence why people 500 years later are still fascinated by her.

The years follwoing Mary’s death polarised people into supporters or enemies- or catholics and protestants? George Buchanan (1506-1582) and John Leslie (1527-1596) both were influentual in promoting Mary’s life, look them up.

Two hundred years later Mary’s story was re-employed in the aftermath of 1745 Culloden to romanticise the story of the Stuarts. There is a famous painting kept at the Huntarian in Glasgow: Gavin Hamilton, The Abdication of Mary Queen of Scots, 1765 – 1773, oil painting, well worth visiting.

Between numerous images being created which did not even look like the real Queen as well as coinage in the 20th century filmaking took over:

Next to films numerous modern books are available too, such as: Lady Antonia Fraser’s 1969 book “Mary Queen of Scots”, Jenny Wormald, ” Mary Queen of Scots: A study in Failure”, John Guy’s, “My heart is my own: The life of Mary Queen of Scots” and many, many more.

If you wish to gain more insight into Mary’s life and legacy I suggest you take up Glasgow University Course on Furture Learn: The Life and Afterlife of Mary Queen of Scots, which is part of the Mary Queen of Scots Project of the University of Glasgow.

Mary was also closely linked to Holyrood Palace (where her secretary was mudered in front of her eyes). There is a Mary Queen of Scots Trail you can visit, the story of her Holyrood bed, the National Museums of Scotland also cover her story. Futhermore there are still many objects relating to her or which were in her possession, here is a Scotsman article.on the subject If her execution fascinates you check out the National Library.

Last but not least if you like a little Braveheart freedom the sisters Fee and Ellen Compton (their brother co-founded the SNP) played in a silent Mary Queen of Scots movie which has just been rescued, though I am not sure when it will be screned again.

If it takes you fancy you can even buy a Mary Queen of Scots dug.

Dreaming of visiting Scotland 2023?

If your world has just turned into winter wonderland (like mine has, see below) you may want to start dreaming about Scotland and if you do I have a few suggestions.

My drive this morning in Fife, Scotland

I love whisky and walking if that is you too try this book for entertainment and ideas. There are some very common routes, such as Ardbeg, Lagavulin, Laphroiag (if you sample enough whisky on route you may never leave it either), but there is much more.

Personally, I have fallen in love with Morven penisula and NcNean which can easily include Mull and Tobemory. Since we should not drink and drive walking seem a real option.

There is also the option to visit the Hebridean distilleries by boat. Get in touch for more ideas:

Contact

Whisky Walks by Maria Manzanti

Starfish Travel is based in Fife so I know most of the attractions mentioned in the next book but thoroughly enjoyed reading it as there were of course things I did not know:

111 Place in Fife you should not miss by Gillian Tait

I have always been intrigued by the Picts and their rather unknown history this next book sheds light on a number of mis-interpretations but also truly new insights to what we know about the Picts.

Picts by Gordon Noble and Nicholas Evans

Green, greener or maybe not yet?

As previously stated I would love Starfish Travel to become more sustainable and less poluting. Currently I operate a Mecedes Viano with a traditional combustion engine carrying up to seven guests.

When providing day tours in summer I often exceed the 400 miles a day mark. I do encourage slower travelling and offer tours up to ten days but this is not possible for everyone.

Outside the EV Show
Revamping your oldtimer?

I attended last month’s London’s EV show which was very interesting indeed. We expected to see a variety of electric vehicles but actually there was more on chargers, infrastructure and research, which was both surprising and fascinating.

The event was intended to encourage networking and that indeed happened.

So I am now lined up with both University research as well as training on electric vehicles. We also spoke extensively to Maxus who offer a standard van which is bigger than practical for our small Scottish raods. Ford had a big stand and their developments do sound exiting but their nine seater is not yet available.

We tried the Mustang Mach-e which had a range of 315 miles which is almost what I require.

If I take a group into the highlands at some point they require lunch, coffees, a comfort break or indeed a visit to an attraction. If chargers are available and charging indeed only takes 30 mins to an hour driving electric should work, shouldn’t it?

Tesla had a stand and we tried the Model 3 (again) and loved it. While waiting for the car to become available we bumped into a lovely London cab driver who was running a Mercedes V-class electric or the past three months and provided us with some detailed insights as to how to. It certainly worked for him. The range was roughly 200 miles.

Upon my return I arranged a meeting with the Energy Trust once again and that provided to be helpful. There are obviously more electric vehicles available so I ventured out and test drove the MG5, learned about the Kia Nero and also tested the I-Buzz of VW. All of which do not have the range or number of seats I would like. The I-Buzz provides five seats but an amazingly big boot space.

VW I-Buzz

I finally got a good look at an used Tesla X seven seater. The two seats in the back hardly allow you to sightsee as there is next to no view,. Also the seating is not really for tall persons and you loose all the boot space. It may work for a day tour but as soon as an overnight stay is added there is not sufficient space for luggage.

Seven seater Tesla X
Tesla X
Tesla Y

With all this in mind I am at the point when I am comtemplating to keep the Viano and add an electric vehicle to learn how to run it. However, will this be more suitainable? Paying insurance, servicing, repairs, “fuel”/electricity for two vehicles?

What about Hydrogen? S[potted this in London’s streets

To all of you out there running electric vehicles in similar circumstances do get in touch and tell me how it works for you.

How to fall in love with Glasgow. Here is your guide.

I moved to Scotland in 1993 and we had a Glaswegian friend who introduced us immediately to Glasgow’s party scene around Sauchiehall. We had tremendous fun, though -back then- female toilets were not a standard in Glasgow’s pubs. Returning in daylight hours to this powerhouse of the industrial revolution was somewhat less magic. I still utterly disagree with a motorway running right through the city centre. In those days Glasgow was a little rougher though her people then and now are a particularily nice bunch of Scots.

Glasgow had been named City of Culture in 1990 which certainly enhanced the city self esteem and had a a profound effect (read” What impact has the 1990 City of Culture had on Glasgow – 30 years on?“)

The Burrell Collection” was originally opened by Queen Elizabeth in 1983 and after expansive refurbishment with re-opened in October 2023 by King Charles.

Queen Elizabeth openeing the Burrell Collection in 1983
King Charles III visiting the Burrell Collection in October 2023

Pollok House is situated within easy walking distance meandering through a beautiful park which lets you forget you are in a city at all.

Pollok House Gardens

Visiting both venues can may well take an entire day, whether you are an art, history or garden lover.

Following the art theme you could spend the next day in the west end starting with the cute Astone Lane followed by a visit to the amzing Kelvingrove Museum and or the the Huntarian, meander over the Glasgow University and conclude with the Hidden Lane. All of this can be done walking .

LIVE MAP

Obviously no visit to Glasgow could be complete without visiting the City Centre. You might want to start with a tour of the City Chambers perhabs followed by some browsing at Walker Slater. Have a nice tea and cake or a light lunch at the Willow Teamroom enjoying Rennie MacIntosh’s work. Visit George Square and have a laugh at the Duke of Wellington who usually sports a traffic cone and conclude with the Gallery of Modern Art or perhabs venture on for some shopping or a dinner?

LIVE MAP

Glasgow with its 1.6 million people you might need a little more time to find all of Glasgow’s gems but it is certainly an effort which will be well rewarded.

You can spend days exploring Glasgow but you can also just visit for a day or maybe even a few hours. There is plenty to see and do and it is very easy to fall in love with the place.

Get in touch!

Contact

Corano in Glasgow (not the virus of course)
Glasglow is proud of its industrial hisotry
Glasow’s Science Centre
River Clyde
Mercant building in Glasgow
Kelvingrove Museum
Found Mercury in Glasgow?
Duke of Wellington and his horse sporting a road cone
Botanic Gardens
Inside Kelvingrove
Kelvingrove Museum
The Willow Tearoom

The book for Christmas -Innerpeffray Library

“The First Light” The Story of Inverpeffray Library by George Chamier

I recently published a post on visiting Innerpeffray Library and have since than given myself a lovely, early Christmas present by buying the exquisitely published book telling the story of Britain’s first lending library spiced with a good bit of Scottish history as well.

If you, like me, love books or know someone who does this would be a fabulous xmas present. Just take a look how carefully this has been produced:

The book itself is only 130 something pages long but every one a little piece of art in its own right.

You could obviously rush over to Innerpeffray Library (Wednesday to Saturday 10am – 5pm and Sundays 2pm – 5pm) purchase your own copy (or one for a hughly valued acquaintance) should that fail, however, you can also order one online.

This is certainly not the cheapest book you ever bought, but you are supporting the library and apart from that it is truly addictive. ENJOY!!!

2022 Favourite Whisky Distillery?

Thanks to my wonderful customers I had many opportunities to visit a variety of whisky distilleries this season. Scotland may be a small country but it boosts five distinct whisky regions: Speyside, Highland, Lowland, Islay and Campbeltown. My personal favourite has been Islay and still is. Over recent years the number of whisky distilleries have considerably increased, either by re-opening a formerly mothballed place (Rosebank for example) or creating something new.

The Lowlands have quite a number of new ventures. In my own region, Fife, we have Daftmill, who have just a released a stunning 15 year old, Lindores Abbey, Edenmill, Kingsbarns to just name a few.

The Highlands also contributed considerably with Adelphi in Ardnachmurchan, Torabhaig, Glenwyvis and NcNean. The latter being my personal favourite of the newcomers, though I admire Daftmill and hold great respects for Lindores too. In the end this is obviously down to personal taste nothing less nothing more.

NcNean Whisky Distillery officially holds B-corb status

Despite taste the distillery experience is very important to me so that my customers can enjoy themselves while visiting.

Most of the distilleries really do make an effort to make you feel welcome and some provide additional services such as pairing your whisky with chocolate, like Glendronach, or food pairing (Lindores). Others add on their beautifully maintained gardens such as GlenGrant.

Glendronach whisky/chocolate pairing
GlenGrant Gardens
GlenGrant Distilleries

Like everything else Covid changed the way distillery tours needed to be booked and reduced the numbers of people who could attend. Over the 2022 season gradually things did return to almost normal. Some distilleries remain difficult to access, MacAllan was certainly one of those. Smaller ones such as Aberlour it simply took a little longer to book. Others, such as Edradour, Glencadam and Fettercairn did not open to the public. The latter two are open to visitors again.

MacAllan
MacAllan’s new purpose-built distillery
Glenfarclas famous tasting room

Glenfarclas, GlenAllachie and Glenfiddich have made great efforts to accommodate my customers. GlenAllachie is highly recommended for Billy Walker’s special releases.

Aberlour Whisky Distillery
Glenfiddich Shop
Glenfiddich famous female rest room
GlenAllachie Distillery

Islay’s most welcoming distilleries for me were in this order Bunnhabhain, Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Kilchoman, Bowmore, Ardbeg. Bruichladdich tours were a bit dissappointing.

Bunnahabhain Whisky Distillery
Laphroaig Whisky Distillery
Ardbeg Distillery

Caol Ila was being renovated, Port Ellen not yet open and I failed to visit Ardnahoe.

I always love to come to Campbeltown as all three whisky distilleries are extremely welcoming. Springbank, Kilkerran and the Cadenhead Warehouse Tour are all in the same location and if you can book a manager’s tour with Iain McAlister at GlenScotia I very highly recommend.

Iain McAlister at GlenScotia
Springbank Tasting Room

The Diageo distilleries generally provide good experiences and I have been enjoying Dalwhinnie in particular. One evening I pulled up to provide my clients with a wee dram at a nice location as the place was closed. The distillery manager happened to walk by with his dog and made it an unforgetable experience for my guests.

The Isle of Skye’s two distilleries: Talisker, Torabhaig and next door Rassaay are fabulous places and produce gorgeous whisky but I never made it there this season.

There is one distillery, Dallas Dhu, which is only a museum.

There are roughly 150 distilleries in Scotland, so clearly too many to mention them all.

Other experiences are available. There are a number of really enjoyable whisky shops, bars and whisky experiences:

The Snug

Johnnie Walkers in Prince’s Street Edinburgh provides avery American experience:

Johnne Walker Prince’s Street

I hope this little indiv idual overview is something you have enjoyed. Let me know what you think.

Aberlour
GlenScotia Warehouse
Starfish Travel’ s whisky tour pack

2022 Season Highlights: Innerpeffray Library

2022 was a busy season for Starfish Travel and I was blessed with so many lovely customers who took me all over the country. In winter I focus more on teaching yoga and finally find the time to share someof the 2022 highlights with you.

Inverpeffray Library lies just outside Crieff

I would like to introduce you to Britain’s first lending library: Inverpeffray just outside Crieff. Nowadays you would think it is situated very remotely but back in Roman times a strategic road passed right through here. Below you can view the history of the Innerpeffray Library

When we visited we had a passionate book lover as our guide and he was so knowlegdable. He invited my customers to handle an old bible and found the village they were from on an old map

Handling old books
Studying old maps
Finding where you are from

The library started in the nearby church but quickly outgrew the space. Robert Hay Drummond had the current building purposefully constructed in 1762.

Robert Hay Drummond did create an amazing space
If you love books Innerpeffray library is a must

The space of the library in its own right makes it well worth a visit. If you add on the knowledge our guide possessed you never want to leave again.

Beautiful view from Innerpeffray Library

He showed us a selection of miniature books which were almost as fascinating as all the many old books.

How small can a book be?
It can be even smaller

Our guide almost drew our attention to an early book on what we would nowadays call depression:

If you require some exercise after spending hours inside because there is so much to see you can enjoy the heritage trail outside:

Enjoy the Heritage Trail

If you wisj to visit the library you can make it part of a tour with myself:

Contact

You can certainly also just go there yourself. The Library is open for visits Wednesday to Saturday 10am – 5pm and Sundays 2pm – 5pm.

You can finf more information HERE

If you are unable to visit in person perhabs yoiu would enjoy browsing their shop.

Whatever you do Innerpeffray Library is certainly worth supporting

An Audience with Diana Gabaldon

15th October 2022 at Eden Court Theatre organised by Inverness Outlanders

Poster from Inverness Outlanders

I was lucky enough to get tickets for this event. Work took me to Glasgow that day and on the way there I managed to catch up with a dear friend of mine to break up the journey at least a little. When I arrived I bought Diana Gabaldon’s newest book “Go tell the bees that I am gone” with the intention of having it signed by her. As I had a day of work ahead the next day and about 2 1/2 hrs of driving to reach I home I never did get it signed.

Diana Gabaldon’s newest book
My personal “effort’ to attend

Upon arrival I immediately noticed quite a number of people dressed up in contemporary dresses and learned later the the Eden Court staff all kindly dressed up in 18th century clothes.

I found my seat and instantly got to talk to my lovely neighbours: On the right a true fan who had read all the books starting in 1993 and on the left hand a tourguide originating from Russia.

The event itself could not have been any more enjoyable. It began with reciting the first sentence in the first book in Scots, followed by the TV series song in English, Gaelic and Scots before Sarah Fraser fittingly introduced and interviewed Diana Gabaldon.

Diana was entertaining, funny and really humble. The conversation between her and Sarah was truly engaging and I think even entertaining to anyone who had never heard of Outlander before. Diana provided a deep inside into her writing process and showed so much respect for each and everyone who was brave enough to ask her a question at the Q&A which followed the interview.

Diana also read from her 10th book which was very exiting. The crowd -obviuosly- adored her and I can only fullheartedly agree.

The evening finished in style with City of Inverness Pipe Band taking over every molecule of air in the theatre.

Despite the epic drive this really was an event I would not have wanted to miss. My only regret has been that my friend could not join me.

Read more in the Rosshire Journal

Taking pictures and videos was not permitted during the event so please follow the various links for imagenary! Also, massive thanks to Nancy encouraging me to attend this event!

Before it all began
Dressed up and ready the lovely staff of Eden Court

COME & FIND YOUR BALANCE

Arm balance fun & restorative & Nidra session

27th November 2022 1.30 pm at Realm Chiropractic, 52 Crossgate, Cupar with Gwen Joubert & Kirstin Uhlenbrock

Join us for a few hours of joyfully exploring our mental and physical capabilities followed by a soothing session of restorative and Nidra yoga conducted by Gwen.

We are privileged to be able to host this session in the wonderful studio at Realm Chiropratic.

Costs: £25 per person

Get in touch to book 07446112672 or email Kirstin@starfishtravel.scot

Click HERE for nore information

Join the fun

Scottish Field Whisky Challenge Results

I reported earlier on the tremendous fun to be had when participating in the 2022 Scottish Field Whisky Challenge. The panel of ten was allowed to sample 34 whiskies in total.

In the morning we had a knock out round and after a gorgeous (and much needed) lunch we re-tasted the remaining contenders again to create appropriate tasting notes.

Not only was a fabulous day being so previleged to blind taste all these amazing whiskies but also to meet everyone else on the panel and share our experience with each other.

The challenge can begin!

This month’s Scottish Field Magazine (November 2022) announced the winners, which is always very exiting to the panel as we are not aware what we were tasting on the day. I am happy to annouce that I am quite content with the results, though I have to admit that I knew nothing of the Silver Angel’s Nectar till I found an article in “The Scots Magazine” a few days ago (I added it to the very bottom if you are interested).

On a personal note John Boyle kindly let us try the first bottle of a new Scottish Field Whisky Series, which I bought and shared with my clients who agreed with me that this is a lovely bottling of a Dailuaine distillery which is quite hard to get your hands on.

As most of my clients know I am a bit of a peat head and my natural home for whisky is Islay especially Bunnabhain (Moine!!!!) but I love to try all the Scottish Whisky Industry has to offer.

Curiostity might kill the cat but only if you consume too much at any one tasting. Drink responsibly and enjoy!

Last but not least I obviously offer whisky tasting tours all over Scotland for more click below:

Contact

I was fortunate enough to be part of the panel in 2019’s Scottish Field Whisky Challenge as well, click the link to read that article. You can apply for 2023 if you like the idea!

Please find below also the full article taken from the online edition of the Scottish Field Magazine

Scottish Field Magazine November 2022
The Scots Magazine” November 2022
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