Tuesday April 30, 2024


It was just a few days before we were scheduled to leave when Carol said, 'I haven't even started to pack yet!'  That's just not like her . . . she usually starts weeks in advance.


Out came the suitcases and before I knew it she was done.  Everything we would need was packed into two medium suitcases and one carry-on.  The lightest packing she's ever done!


Tuesday morning we hit the road and headed west toward Toronto.  After a quick lunch stop in Whitby where we met our friend Margaret, we carried on to Pearson International Airport where we caught British Airways Flight #0092 to London Heathrow.

Our chariot - an Airbus A350

It really was a 'red-eye flight'

Wednesday May 1, 2024


We touched down in London at about 6:00 a.m. and after a 2 1/2 hour layover caught British Airways flight #1438 to Edinburgh.


The Adventures By Disney representative was waiting for us at the arrivals gate and quickly loaded us into a limo which whisked us to the Waldorf Astoria - Caledonian Hotel which would be our home for the next few days.


Our room was ready (thankfully) so we quickly settled in and then enjoyed a 90 minute nap to help adjust to our lack of sleep and the 5 hour time change.


The Waldorf Astoria - Caledonian

It was drizzling and hazy but the view of Edinburgh Castle from our window was spectacular!


After our nap it was time to do some quick exploring.  The hotel concierge suggested that we look on nearby Rose Street for a quick lunch.

A few blocks away, on Rose Street, was Dirty Dick's

Dick has been slinging ale and pub grub here since 1859.

Castle Street with Edinburgh Castle in the background.

We walked through the Princes Street Gardens near our hotel.

The Ross Fountain in Princes Street Gardens.

After a couple of hours poking around in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle we were both worn out and it was time to crash.


After a late lunch we skipped dinner and surrendered to jet lag.  We were both in bed before 7:00 p.m. local time. 

Thursday May 2, 2024


Then it was time to take a spin through the historic areas of Edinburgh on a hop-on hop-off bus.


In the morning we were fully refreshed and after breakfast we met our Adventures By Disney guides in the lobby for some pre-adventure instructions.


St. Giles Cathedral - founded in 1124

John Knox was the pastor at St. Giles during 'the reformation'

St. Giles is considered 'the mother church' by Presbyterians around the world.

The sun peeks through the 'crown spire' at St. Giles.

We had lunch at Huxley, a restaurant directly beside our hotel.

After a relaxing afternoon we joined our fellow adventurers for dinner in the hotel.  A piper, James, led our group of 19 adventurers and 2 guides into our private dining room.


Our guides. Michael and Di, outlined what we could expect over the next week and we spent a few pleasant hours getting to know the rest of our group.

Friday May 3, 2024


The first two days of our adventure were a bit 'jumbled' as our guides worked around a conflicting booking for our Royal Yacht Britannia visit.  So they explained that Day 2 was to become Day 1 and Day 1 was Day 2.  We boarded our coach Friday morning and headed south toward 'the borders' where we visited Floors Castle, home of the Duke and Duchess of Roxburghe.

The castle was magnificent - but it's a private home so no pictures were allowed inside.

After our lunch in the Courtyard Cafe the Duke and Duchess' private chef

taught us how to make shortbread.  His recipe is very similar to Carol's,

but he adds a pinch of salt.

Carol say's I contributed . . . but I don't remember how??

It was raining heavily after our shortbread lesson so our garden tour was cut very short.

Too bad, the gardens were magnificent!


Rapeseed, used to make canola oil, was blossoming everywhere.

Gorse was blooming on many of the hillsides!


After a quick break our coach dropped us off close to St. Giles Cathedral where we met

our guide for a spooky tour of the haunted tunnels beneath Edinburgh.

It was eerily dark . . .

. . . and it was spooky!

We all survived the haunted journey and our coach whisked our jet-lagged cadavers back to our hotel by 10:00 p.m.

Saturday May 4, 2024



This was truly a 'Royal Day'!  We walked the halls and grounds of two castles and the decks of the Royal Yacht Britannia.  WOW!


At The Palace of Holyroodhouse our Blue Badge Guide, Janice, led us on a tour of the royal palace, which is King Charles' official residence in Edinburgh. Over the centuries, great events at Holyroodhouse have shaped the fates of England, Scotland and France.


Once again, it is a private home so interior pictures were not permitted.

A replica of Queen Elizabeth's desk in the Visitor's Centre.

The ruins of Holyrood Abbey, dating back to 1128, abut the palace.

Carol loves rhododendrons!

Foundations of the old Abbey ruins.

Our trusty Adventure Guide Di was waiting at the exit.

Our coach took us up The Royal Mile and on our way to Edinburgh Castle we made a stop at the Statue of Greyfriars Bobby, the renowned Skye Terrier. According to legend, this adorable pooch spent 14 years until his death guarding the grave of his owner. The story of Greyfriars Bobby was so remarkable that Walt Disney Productions turned it into a movie in 1961.

This statue is on Candlemaker Row, but the real Greyfriars Bobby story took place

behind the Greyfriars Bobby Bar which is over Gary's right shoulder.

This is the Greyfriars Kirkyard (churchyard) where that remarkable

Skye Terrier sat his lonely vigil for 14 years.

Do you see the pile of sticks in the bottom left of the picture?

Local people drop off sticks to honour Bobby . . . because all dogs like sticks!

Our shy and retiring Blue Badge Guide Janice!

JK Rowling lived just a few blocks away from Greyfriars Kirk while she wrote the

Harry Potter series of books.  If you look around the headstones in the kirkyard

you will see surnames from the books, like McGonagle and Dumbledore.

We had lunch at the Dunedin Bistro Kitchen in Edinburgh's Grassmarket neighbourhood.


This is Victoria Street, in the Grassmarket area, beside the Dunedin Bistro Kitchen. 

It is also pictured on the left and is said to be JK Rowling's inspiration for Diagon Alley!

After lunch the coach took us further up the Royal Mile where we began our tour of Edinburgh Castle.

The fortifications here date back to the 11th century; it's over 1,000 years old!

The Scottish Royal Jewels are displayed here.

Di and Janice

Then it was time to visit the Royal Yacht Britannia.

They rolled out the red carpet for us!

It's a big ship . . . 412 feet long, with a 55 foot beam.


Today's visit to the Britannia was especially poignant for Carol.  During Queen Elizabeth's 1959 visit to Canada the Britannia sailed up the St. Lawrence River past her home town of Kingston Ontario. Carol and here parents were out on Lake Ontario in their small outboard boat when the Britannia moored on the lake, just off shore from the city.  It was quite choppy on Lake Ontario that day so they moved young Carol to a friend's cabin cruiser where she would be safer and more comfortable.  As they sailed past the moored Royal Yacht, 8-year-old Carol was sitting on the front deck with the friend's little dog Zippy on her lap.  Queen Elizabeth and Philip were leaning on the rail.  The Queen tapped Philip on the shoulder, pointed directly at Carol and Zippy, then both she and Philip waved.  This Britannia visit allowed Carol to relive some warm memories from 65 years ago!

Prince Philip's naval uniform.

Queen Elizabeth's sitting room and study.

The dining room was set up for a wedding dinner later that evening.

A Royal Family portrait.

The Drawing Room.

The captain's office.


Carol is sitting in the Queen's favourite chair!

There used to be a garage on the top deck for the Queen's Rolls Royce.

In later years it became a pub for the Royal Navy crew members.

Prince Philip rescued this binnacle from Queen Victoria's yacht.


The forward deck.

Queen Elizabeth's bedroom.

Prince Philip's bedroom.

Before leaving we enjoyed champagne in the Officer's Lounge.

The Royal Barge is moored next to the Britannia.

At the end of our 'Very Royal Day' we joined fellow adventurers Margaret and

her mother MaryAgnes for dinner at Ask Italian, near our hotel.

Sunday May 5, 2024






Before we left Edinburgh for the Highlands we stopped in at The Scotch Whisky Experience for a tour and some tasting.

The 5 whisky regions.

Our guide walked us through the entire distilling process, from barley in the fields

to fermenting, distilling and then aging the whisky in barrels before bottling it.

Those 5 whisky regions displayed on a map.

Every bottle in these pictures is part of one man's private whisky collection.

That guy owns a lot of booze!

We had lunch in the Amber Restaurant and Whisky Bar.

Our Whisky Centre souvenirs, Glencairn glasses.

The best way to appreciate a wee bit of highland nectar!

Our first taste of the highlands!

On our way to Inverness we stopped to visit Blair Castle and enjoyed over 700 years of history as we walked the hallowed halls of this Scottish highland castle.  It's located at the gateway to Cairngorms National Park and we had access to over 30 rooms which house centuries of Scottish cultural history in architectural design, period furnishings, family portraits, landscape paintings and a colourful military history.  The collection of antique weaponry is truly amazing!

They obviously bagged a lot of stags over the years!

Old weapons on display!

Generation after generation of fine china.

We arrived at Kingsmills Hotel in Inverness in time to freshen up before enjoying dinner in a private dining room.. While we enjoyed our meal a local Scottish storyteller regaled us with tales of Scottish lore and traditions.

Knock your enemy down then chop, chop, chop!

After a few lessons in Highland Battle Strategy we were able to test a few weapons.


Don't we look fierce?

Monday May 6, 2024  

The next morning was dedicated to Scotland's most popular tourist trap . . . Loch Ness and that famous monster!


The Loch Ness Centre was filled with artful presentations of both facts and lore about the loch and the monster. They even disclosed the deathbed confession by London physician Colonel Robert Kenneth Wilson that the original 1934 photograph of 'Nessie' was a complete hoax.


Does that prove that Nessie doesn't exist?  'Oh no!' say the purists, 'Sightings of Nessie go all the way back to August 22 in the year 565 when Saint Columba, an Irish abbot, missionary and scholar, drove the monster away from a swimming monk.'


So . . . it must be true . . . it came from the mouth of a holy man! 

Waiting for the coach to take us to Loch Ness.

♪♫ . . . We all live in a . . . ♫♪

(Did you sing that with Ringo's voice?)

Our first 'Nessie' sighting of the day.

The Loch Ness Centre tells the Nessie story with very effective pictures and movie vignettes.

Some of the scenes are quite amusing!

Carol met a life-sized version of the monster in the gift shop!

We boarded a research boat to get a first-hand look at the splendour of the surrounding Scottish landscape,

including the majestic ruins of Urquhart Castle.  All the while we kept a close eye on the waters of

the loch to see what may or may not lurk in its depths.

Our captain has sailed the loch his entire life and explained more about the history,

geography and geology of the area.

Urquhart Castle

Loch Ness is 22 miles long, 1 1/2 miles wide and an average of 433 feet deep.  It's the

largest lake in Scotland based on water volume.  That's a lot of room for a monster to hide!

A local historian entertained us over lunch in The Loch Ness Café before we left for Fort Augustus.

After lunch we split into two groups.  One went canoeing and one went walking.

We joined the walkers and headed to the Caledonian Canal with guides Di and Mike.

The canal looks almost identical to the Rideau Canal in our hometown

of Kingston Ontario.

There's a very good reason for that!

The Caledonian Canal is 60 miles long  with 29 locks.  It was built for the British Navy and opened in 1822.  The Rideau Canal is 125 miles long with 49 locks.  It was built for the British Navy and opened in 1832.  Today the two canals are 'twinned' to recognize their historical significance.  Both canals are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

This sign sits beside the blockhouse at the Merrickville Locks on the Rideau Canal.

St. Benedict's Abbey at Fort Augustus was active from the 19th century until 1998 and also

housed a boy's school which operated until 1993.  Today it's a very luxurious private resort.

A pleasure boat is about to enter the Caledonian Canal.

Our dinner was a traditional Scottish Ceilidh at Bogbain Farm outside Inverness.

Of course there was a piper!

A Ceilidh involves whisky, food, song and dance.  We started here with whisky!

Our hostess welcomed us.

A gifted tenor sang traditional Scottish songs for us.

This talented lady sang in Gaelic.

A 7-year-old highland dancer performed and gave a few lessons!

And the dancing carried on after dinner!

Tuesday May 7, 2024  

After breakfast at our hotel we took a coach ride to the historic Culloden Battlefield.  A local guide led us to the site of one of the most harrowing battles in British history - the 1745 Jacobite Uprising. We stood on the windswept moor where Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites made their final stand.  If you watched the TV series Outlander or read Diana Gabaldon's series of books, you will know the historical significance of this place.

A local historian, Jim, walked us across the battlefield as he explained where the opposing

armies stood and how their strategies and battle plans unfolded.  We heard the historically

correct version of the tale, not the historical fantasy from the Outlander variation.

On April 16, 1746 an estimated 1,500 Jacobites and 50 British soldiers died on this field.

The mass grave of Clan Stewart of Appin

The mass grave of Clan MacIntosh

The Mustard Seed Restaurant in Inverness.

Back at our Inverness hotel a pair of expert falconers introduced us to some birds of prey!

We were able to get 'up close and personal' with the birds!

Does Carol look happy?  The eagle - not so much!

This guy liked to roost oh heads so we all had o wear a hat.

Glad I had the hat!

Wednesday May 8, 2024


On the last day of our Scotland adventure our coach took us to Rothiemurchus Estate, a magnificent, privately owned 25,000-acre Highland estate situated at the heart of the Cairngorms National Park.  It's one of the greatest tracts of natural forest remaining in Britain.

We were split into 2 clans for our Highland Games competition.

These are our clan captains!

Archery was the first event in our rotation.

Next was 'chicken chuckin'

Mike explains the rules of 'chicken chuckin'

I'm not sure this is an officially sanctioned highland game!

Teams score 1 point for a chicken in the closest trash can, 2 points for the middle and 3

points for the furthest.  These three ladies toss the rubber birds back to the firing line.

Here's another highly suspect highland game . . . 'Welly Wangin'

You toss 3 Wellington boots over your head.  Points are awarded for distance

and closest to the centre line.  Carol is demonstrating excellent form!

Margaret competes in the Hammer toss.

Here am I, tossing a caber.

A tug of war broke the tie between the 2 clans.

Carol was part of the winning clan, Clan MacLean

After the games were complete we enjoyed a nice lunch in the tepee.

Then we boarded the coach again for a short, scenic drive through the estate.  The property was absolutely stunning as we drove toward the highland pastures.

We passed these very young calves on our way to the pastures.

Tourists mean food . . . so these ladies hurried to join us!

These are purebred Highland Cattle . . . but the Scots never call them that!

They're 'hairy coos'

Aren't they pretty?

Then it was time to move to a higher pasture to meet some Scottish red deer.

These girls were very friendly!

So were the boys!

Hey, come back!  I'm still hungry.

MaryAgnes and Carol

Loch an Eilein

A limestone kiln.

The gift shop!

Back in Inverness, it was time for our last dinner together.  Another

piper helped us bid Soraidh (goodbye, farewell) to the Highlands.

The tables were elegantly set!

I carried the haggis into the dining room as the piper marched and played .

Then the piper recited the classic "Address to a Haggis" - a famous poem by Robbie Burns.

The toast to the haggis! (my favourite part of the ceremony).

The haggis was OK . . . but it's never going to be our favourite side dish!

Our last highland entertainer danced while the piper played.

Our Disney Guides Michael and Di were fantastic.

Thanks so much for all you did for us!

Thursday May 9, 2024  

After breakfast at our hotel we said 'guid cheerio the nou' (goodbye or see you later) to our Disney guides, hopped into the waiting cab and were on our way to the Inverness Train Station.


We relaxed and enjoyed some more highland scenery as we clickedy-clacked through the countryside on our way back to Edinburgh.

The Moxy Hotel at Edinburgh International Airport was our home for the night.

Friday & Saturday May 10 & 11, 2024


Things didn't go well on Friday.  Our flight to London Heathrow was on time and our connecting flight to Toronto was supposed to leave at 1:20 p.m.  and was scheduled to land in Toronto at about 4:00 p.m. Friday.  As soon as we arrived at Heathrow we saw that our departure was delayed until 2:30 p.m.  We boarded the aircraft at 2:00 p.m. and sat on the tarmac, connected to the loading bridge, for five hours while they tried to figure out why an indicator light on the dash was showing some sort of problem with one of the surface controllers in a wing.  We waited over five hours while they fiddled with a 'check-engine' light on an Airbus A350 jumbo jet.  They even talked to the engineering gurus at Airbus who suggested that they turn the airplane off then turn it back on again!  They rebooted the plane about a half-dozen times to no avail.  Then MacGyver came in to fix it with some paper clips . . . Nope.  That didn't work either.


Very frustrating!


They unloaded us at 7:30 p.m. and Carol and I took a long golf cart ride through the airport to the Sofitel Hotel, connected to Heathrow Terminal 5.  The hotel was nice and we had a comfortable evening.


The same golf cart picked us up the next morning and then zig-zagged around the terminal several times as they searched frantically for the correct gate for our 11:00 a.m. replacement flight.  We finally screeched to a halt at gate C56.  We took off on time and landed in Toronto just a few minutes late.  We were home to some very happy dogs by 7:00 p.m. on Saturday.


Aside from the drama of the final two days, it was an amazing trip.  We cannot say enough good things about Adventures By Disney.  They really know how to entertain guests and the treatment is first class from start to finish!

An Airbus A320 took us to London Heathrow.