The King's Old Building or The King's House at Stirling Castle

The King’s Old Building At Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle.

When I traveled to Scotland with my mom and aunt at the beginning of June, one of the day trips on our list was traveling to Stirling Castle. I’ve written a little about that day trip in this post.

Stirling Castle is maintained by Historic Environment Scotland, which preserves historic properties across Scotland. They care for over 300 properties whose histories span 5,000 years.

One of the buildings at Stirling Castle is the King’s House. We had seen the King’s House, now known as the King’s Old Building, perched upon Castle Rock while we were walking along the Ladies’ Lookout. If you’d like to have some bearings as to the layout, I’ve linked the castle map here.

Cliffside of Stirling Castle - Stirling Scotland

The King’s House or King’s Old Building.

The King’s House, or King’s Old Building, was built upon Castle Rock for James IV around 1496.

It is believed that a 12th-century timber castle probably once stood here. It is also likely there were even earlier fortifications.

Inner Close.

Coming in to the Inner Close, you can see the front of the King’s Old Building.

Housed inside the building is the Regimental Museum, which traces the history of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders from 1794. Among the many artifacts and exhibits are uniforms, weapons, soldier’s personal items, and even a drum belonging to Drummer Kennedy which saved his life by deflecting a bullet during the Boer War.

Entrance to the museum is free, after having paid for entry to Stirling Castle. However, the museum is maintained through public donations and some funding from the Ministry of Defence, so do consider donating what you can.



Douglas Gardens.

Towards the end of our visit there we meandered toward the Douglas Gardens.

In the map, it is in the walled area below the photo of the Chapel Royal (whose arched windows you see in the photo of the Inner Close).

Tradition holds that after the 8th Earl of Douglas was murdered by James II in 1452, his body was flung out of a window near here.


North End of The King’s Old Building.

This end of the King’s Old Building was rebuilt after a fire in 1857.

Robert William Billings, the Victorian architect who restored St. Margaret’s Chapel at Edinburgh Castle, was enlisted to complete the restoration.

Not everyone was happy with the baronial style that he chose.

In fact, in 1893, Sir Robert Rowan Anderson, the architect of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery described it as a ‘very pretentious building… utterly out of harmony with all the surroundings, and a great disfigurement to the castle.’ (source: signage on the castle grounds).

Not to be disenchanted, I climbed the stairs for a closer look at the architecture.

I am enchanted by symmetry in architecture and felt this segment of the building held plenty of symmetry.

…and the door! I knew that I had to share this door that was hidden in the Douglas Gardens with all the Thursday Door folks.

Castle Wall.

Located on this north end of the building is also a stairwell that leads up to a section of the castle wall.

The wall walk leads beside the roof of the Magazine, which was built in the Douglas Gardens and dates back to 1681.

From the wall, there is a view of the Nether Bailey and the surrounding countryside.

From these heights, with views spanning as far as the eye can see, you can certainly see why Stirling Castle was built upon Castle Rock.

Given its location between the Highlands and the Lowlands, it’s easy to imagine how it came to be such an important stronghold.

Know before you go:

  • The castle opens daily at 9:30 a.m. Closing times vary. Be sure to check their website before visiting.
  • Ticket prices through March 2018 are £15 (ages 16-59), £9 (ages 5-15), concessions (a word I learned the meaning of while in Scotland) £12, and under 5 (free when accompanied by an adult).
  • Last admission is 45 minutes before closing.
  • Castle admission tickets also include a tour of Argyll’s Lodging, a 17th Century townhouse. (at the time of writing, it’s closed for maintenance, but if it’s open, I highly recommend taking a tour. I enjoyed the furnishings and architecture).
  • It is recommended that you purchase your tickets in advance. We purchased ours at the tourist information center in Stirling. You can’t get a discount on the tickets this way, but you get fast-track admission. The line to get inside Stirling Castle wasn’t long when we visited, but I’ve heard as the summer progresses, the lines get lengthier.
  • Be prepared for all types of weather. It rained for most of the time we were in Stirling.
  • If you take the train, be sure to know what time the last train leaves.
  • Also if you are walking from the train station, bear in mind that the walk is steep.

Every man dies. Not every man really lives. -William Wallace

Let your light shine!



wpc: ascend

Photography and History of Telephone Boxes in Scotland

Telephone Boxes In Scotland

Telephone Boxes (or Booths, as I call them).

I am a lover of things reminiscent of the past. Especially when it comes to telephones. When I was young, I dreamed of owning a Victorian style phone. Later in life, I perused thrift stores because I want to find an old rotary dial phone for Miss Sunshine’s playtime. I was never that lucky, but I did find push button corded ones.

I’m old enough to remember phone boxes (booths)… and old enough to have kept a stash of quarters in my car in case I needed to use the payphone. I rarely see a phone booth around anymore. Sure, there’s the one over by Target…with no phone book. I’m not even sure it has a phone. I just know that it’s surrounded in yellow caution tape with a sign saying that bees live there.

However, the phone booths around the United States that I’ve traveled about, are nothing like the spectacular beauties found in the United Kingdom.

The red telephone box was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, following a competition in 1924.

From 1926 and onward, the exterior of the telephone boxes had a crown, representing the British government.

Bubble blowing on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh Scotland

Of course with the advent of further technologies (aka…cell phones), the telephone boxes became less necessary.

Due to their popularity, some of these telephone boxes are being given a new life by entrepreneurs and communities.  You can see that evidenced in the background of the photo above (taken on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh) where the telephone box says “Cash”.



You can imagine my excitement when my mother and I stumbled upon the telephone boxes actually housing telephones. I don’t have the location of this phone booth since the photo was taken by my mother. I suspect that it is in Glasgow as my aunt wasn’t out with us on this walk and my mother and I did some touring around Glasgow on our own.

If you’ve missed that walk around Glasgow, we walked to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, and then made our way up to the University of Glasgow and into The Cloisters, which are located there.


There is an iconic sense to this telephone box set amongst the crowds that walked along the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.

Its red color standing prominently in the sea of stone buildings.

According to this BBC article, there are 8,000 traditional red kiosks.


While I fell in love with the phone boxes from an aesthetic standpoint, I am also happy that I have witnessed a piece of history.

A history that is being steadily preserved.

To see more preservation, be sure to check out Norm’s Thursday Doors where you can see photos of doors captured from around the world.

And then there is the most dangerous risk of all - the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself freedom to do it later - Randy Komisar

Let your light shine!


The Queen's Hamlet at the Palace of Versailles

The Queen’s Hamlet

The Queen’s Hamlet.

Place d’Armes, 78000, Versailles, France.

Also known as Hameau de la Reine, the Queen’s Hamlet was the place I most wanted to see when we toured the Palace of Versailles.

We purchased the Passport ticket which included admission to the entire estate at the Palace of Versailles. While the gardens are free to visit (except on days with there are musical fountain shows or musical gardens), the Passport ticket allows you to visit the Palace, the gardens on musical days, and the estate of Trianon (which includes the Queen’s Hamlet).

One thing that I appreciated while traveling in Europe is that many museums and places of interest (such as the Palace of Versailles) have free entry for visitors under 18 (under 26 if you reside in the EU). This saved us quite a bit as we were traveling with three teenagers. I would recommend that if your teenage looks questionable as to whether they are under 18, that you make sure they have I.D. This only happened at the Louvre in Paris. My seventeen year old is 6’6″ and at one checkpoint they asked his age and at another they asked for proof. I did assume that we’d come upon this at some point. I used to carry his birth certificate in case we were ever questioned when we’d travel to Disney World (we never were).

I’ve shared some of my photos of the exterior of Versailles and from the inside of the Palace. In yesterday’s post, I shared a serene view across the lake found in the hamlet

Today, I thought we’d walk around some of the cottages found at the Queen’s Hamlet.

The estates of Trianon and hamlet are a somewhat lengthy walk from the gardens at Versailles. There are trains available for a fee that leave near the Palace and bikes available to rent farther into the gardens.

Things tend to add up quickly for a family of 5, so we decided to walk.

When we visited Versailles in April, the Queen’s home was under restoration. They cover the buildings while work is in progress (something I witnessed throughout my European travels). The restoration is being sponsored by the fashion house Dior, hence the covering. According to the website, restoration will be complete in 2018.

The Queen’s Hamlet was built for Marie-Antionette between 1783 and 1787. It was a model village built around an artificial lake.



The cottages are set in a crescent formation along the eastern side of the lake.

Contrary to popular belief, Marie-Antoinette did not “play at being farmer”. The model village was a working farm at her insistence and served as an educational place for the royal children.



She hosted small gatherings of her friends at the village.

She took relaxing walks through the gardens.

Marie-Antoinette used the village to escape from the rigors of court life.

The Hamlet was designed by the French architect, Richard Mique. The cottages combine Norman, Flemish, and French styles.

Marlborough Tower stands overlooking the lake and adding to the fairytale ambience of the Hamlet.


The Moulin was a watermill. The wheel was driven by a stream from the Grand Lake, but was used for decorative purposes only.


Not only was the architecture intriguing, but cottages meant a plethora of doors.

To see more doors around the world be sure to check out Norm’s blog where he hosts Thursday Doors.


It was easy to feel at peace while strolling along.

The area is spread out and there were not throngs of crowds (unlike the Palace and Gardens) as we walked at a leisurely pace.

While I don’t live in the stressful world of being scrutinized for being royalty, I do live in a world that rushes along at a frantic pace.

It’s nice to slow down sometimes.

I can see why the Queen loved it so much.

The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it. - Henry David Thoreau

Let your light shine!



Photo Tour Royal Yacht Britannia

Photo Tour Royal Yacht Britannia

Royal Yacht Britannia.

A few weeks ago I shared photos of some of the doors to be found on the Royal Yacht Britannia. If you missed that post, you can find it here.

I found the views from the yacht to be beautiful. The yacht itself with its wood accents and attention to architectural details drew me in as well. Today I’m sharing a few more photos of the beauty that I took in as I toured the boat.

That morning it had been raining in that gray, drizzly way that Scotland has a way of doing. The clouds still covered the sky as we arrived at the Port of Leith Cruise Terminal, the home to the Royal Yacht Britannia. A little wetness wasn’t going to dampen my spirits. I was in Scotland after all! This ancestral voyage with my mother and aunt…imagining the views that those from whom we descended had peered across.

If you’ve been following the blog for some time the you know that the majority of the Scottish line that we’ve traced is from the region around Glasgow. Many coal miners and weavers, the first surnames being Scott and McLachlan.

I also have a strong lineage traced back to England, although I’ve not been to visit there yet. My maternal grandfather was half Scottish and half English, his mother being a Simpson from Wigan, England. Amongst the tracings from the lineage of numerous Englishmen, one line that my father traces back to is one of the four Spencer brothers who came to America in the 1600’s. There is various research that shows a probable distant relation to the late Princess Diana.

While I did not follow much of the royal family’s comings and goings while growing up, I was enamored with Princess Diana as much as the next person. She married when I was almost 4 and passed away right before I turned 20. I remember reading a story about her childhood and I was the type of girl who dreamed about being a princess.

I grew out of that when I realized that I wouldn’t want the daily dose of public scrutiny.

One of the things that I found fascinating about the Royal Yacht Britannia was how history was preserved. It felt like walking back through time.

Have you ever visited the Carousel of Progress at Walt Disney World?

It takes you through the past and into a perceived future. Growing up in Florida, I went to Disney World some as a child and more as an adult. I loved being taken to places of nostalgia…places I’d only heard about in tales from my grandparents.

That was how the interiors of the yacht felt. Classic, yet from a place in the past.

I’ve only included the interior of the bridge in this tour, but be on the lookout for more from the inside in a future post.

As a Native Floridian (transplanted these past four years in the mountains of Virginia), I have a love for water.

The views from the port were stunning.

Prior to entering the Sun Lounge and State Apartment tour of the yacht, you can see the bell and the binnacle. The binnacle, housing the ships compass is carved from a solid piece of mahogany. Two of these were originally on the Royal George. They were subsequently fitted on each Royal Yacht, although only one was fitted onto the Britannia.

Of course, I had to capture the Rolls-Royce Phantom V that travels aboard the Britannia. 

One of the fascinating facts that I learned while in Scotland is that all of the swans in the United Kingdom belong to the Queen.

When I checked this fact upon returning home, I found that she owns any unmarked mute swan.

But still!

That must be a lot of swans.

I thought it so appropriate that there should be swans swimming around the Royal Yacht Britannia.

This pair caught my eye as I finished up my tour of the yacht.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this photo walk about the the yacht along with my ramblings.

She loved the sea. She liked the sharp salty smell of the air, and the vastness of the horizons bounded only by a vault of azure sky above. It made her feel small, but free as well. - George R.R. Martin

Let your light shine!



Shakespeare and Company

Shakespeare and Company

Shakespeare and Company.

37 rue de la Bûcherie. Paris, France.

Shakespeare and Company is an Independent Bookstore in Paris. From the moment that Helen commented that I should visit there while in Paris, I knew that this was one of the destinations on my “must see” list.

As I mentioned, after our visit to Sacré Cœur, we decided to head to Shakespeare and Company. Somehow I managed to navigate us getting off at the wrong Metro Station. I’m still not sure how that happened as Google and Apple maps were very reliable during our travels. Since I would need a few minutes to gather our bearings and somebody needed to use the bathroom (this is an inevitable, frequent occurrence when traveling in a party of 5), we decided to head into a nearby restaurant for lunch.

We were somewhat surprised by the service, or lack thereof. This is also the restaurant where I obviously did not understand what they meant on the sauce description. When it said egg, it wasn’t part of the sauce. It was actual raw egg, placed on top of the pasta. I ate around it the best I could and ate whatever leftovers the teens still had on their plates.

As we began our journey toward Shakespeare and Company, we discovered that while we had felt confused by where we exited the Metro, we were in fact very close to the Louvre.

It occurred to us at that point that we were probably eating at a touristy restaurant, which would explain the high prices combined with lack of service.  Next time I visit Paris I will actually look at Yelp reviews and try to find restaurants loved by Parisians. I’ve specifically not shared certain names of the places in which we ate because I don’t like to add to negativity, but they were ranked in the lower third of reviews.

Since we were passing by the Louvre, I decided to experiment with capturing a panorama. Of course that would be the moment that vehicles would pass through!

A second try was much more successful and we then continued on our way toward Shakespeare and Company.

If I had been a person with a pre-planned itinerary, we would have visited the bookstore on the day that we visited Notre-Dame. It is located on the Left Bank opposite Notre-Dame.

Shakespeare and Company was founded in 1951 by the American, George Whitman.

The building it’s housed in was constructed in the 17th Century and was originally a monastery.

When the bookstore first opened it was called Le Mistral. Whitman changed it to its present name in April of 1964, on the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth.


He did this in honor of a bookseller he admired, Sylvia Beach, who’d founded the original Shakespeare and Company in 1919. Her bookstore had been a gathering place for expat writers at that time…such as Hemingway and Eliot.

He endeavored to carry on that spirit. Allen Ginsberg and Anaïs Nin are just a few of the literary expats who gathered here.



Shakespeare and Company is considered one of the most famous independent bookstores in the world.

An estimated 30,000 aspiring writers have bunked at Shakespeare and Company.

I knew that I had to walk along the floors, smell the scent of old paper, and touch the worn bindings of the old books.

So after capturing some of the doors for my Thursday Door friends, I entered.

The hubby and teens decided to rest their weary feet and sit outside while I perused the bookstore.

Inside, there are new books as well as old.

They request that no photos be taken inside to respect the privacy of the patrons. As much as there were places inside that I would have loved to photograph, I chose to respect their request.

A google image search of the staircase will show you one such photo that I was tempted to take.

It spoke to me because upon it was written so much of what I believe to be true.

I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being. -Hafiz

The red stairs are well worn. I wonder how many feet have walked up that stairwell. I pause and look at things pinned here and there… and words…everywhere are words.I ponder the magnitude of how many written words are contained in this space.

As I meander about the rooms at the tops of the stairs, my mind travels to the writers who sat here pouring out their thoughts. I run my hand along the spaces. If there is any magic here, I want it travel through my fingertips. I want it to take residence in my brain and then find its way back out and through my fingertips into written words.

I am conscientious of the fact that I have left my family waiting for me. I know they are tired and we still want to see the Eiffel Tower from its base.

I want to stay here and soak up this magic.

To breathe in the creativity.

But I must go.


I leave, but I know that I will return again someday.

Once again, I slowly ascend those stairs, and this time I will sit upon the chairs.

I will breathe deeply in that creative space.

And I will think on those whose written words have made it from their fingertips and on those whose words are still waiting to be written.

One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple. - Jack Kerouac

Let your light shine!







Doors of the Royal Yacht Britannia

Doors of the Royal Yacht Britannia

Royal Yacht Brittania.

When I shared some photographs from my time at Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh in this post, I also mentioned that we had purchased the 48-hour Royal Edinburgh ticket for the hop-on hop-off bus tours.

We went that route because it included fast track admission into Edinburgh Castle, The Palace Of Holroodhouse, and The Royal Yacht Britannia.

The first two places were already on our itinerary to visit so the Royal Yacht Britannia was a bonus that we were squeezing in to the day.

We decided that meant that we would catch the first bus there. We were staying at Princes Street Suites, which is located at 16 Waterloo Place, so it was walkable to the bus tour which departs from Waverley Bridge. We grabbed a breakfast sandwich to go from Rabbie’s Cafe Bar (many tours of Scotland depart from here) which was just down the street at 6 Waterloo Place. It was a gray, drizzly morning in Scotland as we made our way to Waverly Bridge.

The Majestic Tour line is the bus that will take you to Leith where the Royal Yacht Britannia is berthed. Along the way you will see parts of the city that you might not have if you were just walking around the Royal Mile area of Edinburgh. The glimpse that I had of the Royal Botanic Garden as we passed looked like it would have been a beautiful place to visit.

The entrance to the Royal Yacht Britannia tour is housed inside the Ocean Terminal on the second floor.

There is an audio tour which is offered in 30 languages. My mother and aunt had a good laugh when the gentleman handing out the listening devices asked me “German?”. My DNA is 79% British…plus I can only speak English and bits of Spanish. I’m pretty sure he heard the German family behind us talking and was just trying to be proactive. I felt bad that he was embarrassed by his mistake. I thought it was sweet that he was being helpful.

While the Royal Yacht Britannia wasn’t originally on our list due to our limited time in Scotland, its impressiveness did not disappoint.

Today, let’s see some of the doors I passed through while walking along the tour

Because who doesn’t love a wooden door and porthole windows!

The recommended time is 2-3 hours to do the tour. We may have done it in less as we had a very full day planned.

The Britannia was launched on April 16, 1953. It served the Royal Family for over 44 years and traveled over a million miles.

The tour covers the Britannia’s five main decks.

It begins at the Bridge, meanders through the State Apartments, then on to the Crew’s Quarters, and finishes at the Engine Room.

The Royal Yacht Britannia was decommissioned in 1997. Its decommissioning also marked the end of a long tradition of British Royal Yachts, dating back to 1660 and the reign of Charles I.

Have you toured the Britannia?

It’s listed as Scotland’s Best Visitor Attraction.

I’d love to hear what you thought.

If you enjoy doors, hop over to Norm’s (host of Thursday Doors) blog and be sure to check back as I share more photos from my tour of the Royal Yacht Britannia.

Let your light shine!


In the Shadow of Sacre Coeur

In The Shadow Of Sacre Coeur

Sacré Cœur.

35 rue du Chevalier de la Barre.

After a morning spent making our way to some shops on rue d’Hauteville in Paris, we realized that if we had traveled all this way that we should continue on to see Sacré Cœur.

We had already covered 2.2 km (1.37 miles) making our way from the hotel to the area where we shopped, so while the hubby knew how far we needed to walk, I left it nebulous to the teenagers. They are more action-oriented than sight-seeing oriented and I knew the basilica wouldn’t be high on the list if they knew that there was still 2.0 km (1.24 miles) or around 30 minutes more walking on top of the 30+ minutes they’d already done.

After some “how much farther” and “are we there yet” questions (yes, even teenagers still ask that question. To be fair…so do some adults), we finally arrived at Boulevard de Rouchechouart and got a peek of Sacré Cœur rising up on the Butte Montmartre located in the 18th arrondissement.

Sacré Cœur is a Roman Catholic Church and minor basilica.

The basilica was designed by architect Paul Abadie and six other architects succeeded him to complete the building. The architectural style is Romano-Byzantine.

The first stone was laid in 1875 and although the basilica was ready to be consecrated in 1914, World War I put that on hold and it was consecrated on October 16, 1919.


The exterior travertine stone is known as Château-Landon. It exudes calcite upon contact with rainwater, which is how the basilica stays so white.

Sacre Couer in Montmartre with carousel in foreground

Be forewarned that if you decide to walk along the area in front of Sacré Cœur, you will likely be harassed by scam artists known as “string men”. We were familiar with many of the talked about scams in Paris, but had not heard of this one. It is very obvious that there must be an underlying scam and we were very direct in saying “no thank you”. However, these men were especially keen to try to prey on my 15 and 17 year old sons by appealing to the fact that my boys are friendly. One tried to fist bump the 15 year old and as he went to oblige, the man opened his hand as if to handshake instead and began to place the string. I turned and pulled my son away, again saying “no thank you”.

It left a sour taste in your mouth that it did not end. Others would continue to come up and tried to talk to my sons when they weren’t standing right beside us. Originally, I wasn’t the least bit worried about harassment of my sons since they stand at 6’6″ and over 6′, and while the men were not aggressive (in a hostile way), they were unrelenting.

There were no police around to create a presence that would perhaps eliminate the harassment.

But I wasn’t going to let that stop me from enjoying the beauty of Sacré Cœur.

Even though everyone was tired, I coerced them into climbing the stairs and getting a closer view of the basilica.

We did not go inside the basilica. We climbed to the balcony above the crowds picnicking on the lawn.

The views of the city were breathtaking.

At one point while the hubby and I were taking selfies and Miss Sunshine was capturing the city views, the boys sat down near the lawn below and listened to a gentleman playing his guitar.

It was a resplendent spring afternoon in Paris.

The beauty of the basilica more than made up for our tired feet.

I can still remember that day so clearly.

Walking along the streets of Paris, hunting a little boutique for Mr. D to buy his girlfriend a present.

Deciding that I,too, must have a present and finding a bangle bracelet in a little shop along rue d’Hauteville.

Watching my teens stroll along drinking their sugar laden Starbucks fraps.

Holding my husband’s hand in Paris.

Climbing the stairs of Montmartre.

Taking in all its beauty.

From here we would make our way to my one requested stop… Shakespeare and Company, a bookstore in the heart of Paris

… but not before getting off at the wrong stop along the way.

Each moment a memory.

Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you'll look back and realize they were the big things- Kurt Vonnegut quote with daisies in the background

Let your light shine!