A trip to Scotland is not complete without visiting a castle ruin.  A short drive away from Banchory is Dunnottar Castle, which sits on a hill above the sea near the village of Stonehaven.  The steep steps lead down the trail on one side of the cliffs, then up the other to the main castle.  The children used their imaginations running around the ruins as though they were princesses or knights, looking out for enemy ships approaching.  Exploring every room we found the bakery, brewery, kitchen, bunks etc.  It must have been quite miserable living in such a cold, dark and damp place.  One of the rooms was the Whigs Vault,  the sign states " In 1685, 167 covenanters (122) men and (45) women were imprisoned in this room, suffering deprivation, hardship and torture for Christ's Crown and Covenant."  
Scotland and England, August 2008
Having a good appetite after walking around the castle we stopped in the village of Stonehaven for a picnic on the beach.  Scotland style in the summer, with our jackets on.  This however did not stop the children from swimming in the ocean.  The harbor was full of small boats and lobster pots.  My uncle Martin and I noticed a solo sailor trying to tie up to the sea wall, we promptly assisted.  Martin is an accomplished sailor as they spent many years in the Isle of Wight. 
Out the living room window of Kate and Martin's house you can see Sculty Tower on the hill.  Tessa, her daughter Emily and son Angus, Phoebe, Drake  and I hiked to the top one day.  Her eldest, Toby  mountain biked.  At the top the children all climbed the winding stairs to the top for a great view of Banchory.  Under the purple heather blue berries grew.  The first time we have ever picked berries in the wild, what a treat.  A great way to get children to try them, our fingers and lips were purple from the juice.  After our picnic lunch it was time to head back down the hill, where we found wild rasberries growing. 
Emily and Tessa kiss at the kissing gate, a gate that allows people to pass through but not livestock.  After our hike we drove to the River Feugh to watch the samlon leaping up the falls as it thunders over the rocks.  The water was so powerful we did not see one make it to the top.
Back at Tessa and Tim's house we washed the berries and made a delicious pie for desert.  The main course was leg of lamb cooked on the barbeque, a great way to finish the day.  The child in the photo Phoebe is holding is her great-grandmother Phoebe (my grandmother) and other woman is her great-great grandmother Phoebe.
It was this evening I received a phone call from Jim that a woman fell off a boat on the hard stand.  A 20 foot drop landing on concrete.   He was the first to respond and they rushed her on the ferry to the hospital.  Thankfully she is fine, however, it just reassures us that we never want the children around when the boat is on the hard.

All good things must come to an end, and so we said our good-byes to our relatives in Scotland and flew back to London.
Flying into Gatewick we hired a car and drove to my father's cousin's house, William and Gill Smith.  When I lived in London, I would always stop by for a cup of tea, so it was wonderful to receive their hospitality again.  Two of their children, Penny and Sam, came over one night for dinner. The last time we saw them was seven years ago, before they had children.  Above is Penny's husband, Martin with their daughter and Penny with their son.  Sam is pictured with his wife and son.
One of my favorite castles in England is Hever Castle, the home where Anne Boleyn grew up.  The grounds are spectacular, with a Roman garden lined with ancient statues.  The rose garden and other flowers were in full bloom.  There is a hedge maze, however, it was closed for maintenance.  A new addittion was a water maze, if you step on the wrong tile water will spray you.  I was prepared and brought the children a change of clothes.  At first they made it through the maze without getting wet, then they decided it was more fun to see how soaked they could get. My mom, Willie, Gill and my dad relax while watching Phoebe and Drake.

The next day, we drove to a Maize Maze.  It was in the shape of an Indian head and huge.  There were stations you had find  and get a stamp.  After an hour of wandering around the children grew tired and found the exit. Plus there were jumping castles and tractor rides on the outside.  Their minds were obviously else where.  Willie perservered and found all the stations before coming out.  Phoebe stands in front of a Chief Blue Sky sign.
My father and Willie's cousin Libby and John Brittain had a party to celebrate their 70th birthday.  They did not expect to see us, and were surprised.  When Blue Sky was in Sydney, Libby and John and Katherine and Robert were there and we had the opportunity to spend time together.  The party was a success and we enjoyed seeing more of our relatives. They were all cousins from my Grandmother, Christine's side, my Dad's mom. When it was time to fly back to Malaysia, Phoebe and Drake were overwhelmed by how many relatives they have.  
Gill, cousin Mary, my dad Edward, Willie and Tiffer Haldron.
Libby and John celebrating
Sally and Katherine
After six weeks it was time for us to fly back to our home, Blue Sky, and Jim. We had a fantastic time away and would like to thank everyone for their generosity and making our visit so memorable.