Grandma’s Grand Tour Part 3: Grandma in Scotland


Days 10 and 11 of my grandmother’s 1936 trip to Europe, covering the time she spent in Scotland.  The combination of my grandmother’s handwriting being difficult, her spelling being frequently eccentric, and my own unfamiliarity with the proper nouns made these entries hard to transcribe.  I think I managed to figure out all the places she went.  I suspect that this is a problem that will persist for the rest of the journal.  (Previously: Introduction, Part 1, Part 2.)

Friday, July 3 [1936]

At about 9 o’clock after the immigration officials O.K.ed our passports we were put on the tender and taken ashore to Greenock.  Here the custom inspectors went thru our luggage, and then we were allowed to start on our way by train to Glasgow where we transferred our luggage and ourselves to to a private bus (40 in our party).  Then we started on our ride to Edinburgh.  At 1:30 we stopped at Balloch Inn which is on Loch Lomond.  Here we had luncheon, which wasn’t very good and then took a boat ride all around the lake.  It was just lovely and is surrounded with rolling hills.  From here we continued by bus thru the Trossachs which is simply gorgeous country full of hills or what I would call mountains covered with bright green & greenish yellow grass and fern and dotted with grey spots of scraggly rock edges; and lovely delicate patches of heather which in spots made complete patches of orchid color.  And among all of this lovely color we could see spots of pure white which we found to be mountain goats, on closer inspection.  Our next stop was for just a few minutes to get a glimpse of Loch Katrine, which was a very quiet secluded spot surrounded by hills & woods.  From here we went quite fast thru many small villages and some very lovely country.  (As we had had only 3 hours of sleep last night & having been on the go continually since 6 this morning I slept during part of this.)  Our next stop was in Linlithgow where the Castle of Mary Queen of Scots is.  This is supposed to be the place she lived in during her reign.  From here we continued on to Edinburgh.  We were assigned to a small sized ball room for the night at least it seemed that way to us after our small cabin on the boat.  This evening Bert & I went for a walk along the business streets.  It was quite amusing to notice the unattractive window displays and to look at the prices of things and try to translate them into U.S. pricing.  I believe the people attracted our attention more than the other things because of their dress.  They seem to have no style to them.  Their clothes just hang and have no color or cut and their shoes just don’t fit.  We walked along for a while just looking at people’s feet & we could pick out every tourist just by shoes and stockings.  After this walk we went back & went to bed at about 11 o’clock and it was still broad day light.  The land of the midnight sun!

I get kind of a kick out of Doris’s reflections on style here.  In those sentences I can see a bit of the grandmother I actually knew, who devoted a lot of mental energy to issues of social propriety.  More information on the places she visited: Greenock, Glasgow, Balloch Inn (might be the same place, might not), Loch Lomond, the Trossachs, Loch Katrine, Linlithgow, Edinburgh.

Saturday, July 4th [1936]

We were up bright and early this morning and started on quite an extensive sight seeing tour at 9:30.  Our guide was quite a humorous fellow (English in no.) and his only worry was that we wouldn’t see all of Edinburgh before we left.  But I’m sure that didn’t happen because by the time we reached the train at 1:30 we were simply exhausted.

Our first stop on this train was the home of John Knox which was a very interesting place with very small rooms which had beautifully carved paneled walls and very low doors thru which we walked quite stooped.  This was done as a sort of defense measure for in the olden days they would stop the speed of the enemy.  We were told of the origin of burning the candle at both ends & of the saying dead as a door nail.  From here we went to Holyrood Palace, which was the palace of Mary Queen of Scots.  We were taken thru the private rooms once occupied by Queen Mary, the room of Charles Darnley thru the large banquet halls and thru the court rooms now used by the king when he is residing there.  The most interesting of these rooms was the presentations hall which is quite beautiful in its simplicity.  It is quite large with no chairs except a throne on a slightly raised platform & on the floor a beautiful oriental rug.  There are some beautiful oil paintings here of all the important royalty.  The most beautiful I think is a fairly new painting of the Present Queen Mary.  In front of the palace is a guard in kilts that patrols up and back in front of the entrance.  From here we went to St. Giles Cathedral which was the parish of John Knox.  It was quite a beautiful place with a very interesting history.  It has been the church of 4 different religions.  From here we were taken to the Supreme Court building where we saw a beautiful stained glass window depicting the king and all of the courtiers  We were very fortunate to find the courts were not in session this gave us an opportunity to see the barristers and advocates in their morning suits and long black robes and wigs.  We then were shown the center spot of Edinburgh which is marked by a large heart in the center of the street.  Our next stop was Edinburgh Castle which is on a high hill over looking Princess street which is said to be the most beautiful street in the world.  This castle was once a fortress but is now war memorial.  Where the chapel once was now stands a building dedicated to the dead war heroes.

Before going to the station we stopped at the park just below the castle and saw the large floral clock.  At 1:30 our train left for London where we arrived at 10 P.M. and went directly to the Kingsley hotel.  Bertha & I have a room (105) together just over looking the the city.  This was a very tiring day but a very happy one for us all.

There’s too much in here for me to go through and link to all of it.  There are some things that jumped out at me while reading that I want to note though.  Doris’s trip to the U.K. happened to fall during the less than one year reign of King Edward VIII, who ascended the throne on 21 January 1936 and would go on to abdicate it on December 10 so he could marry his American mistress, Wallis Simpson.  The “present Queen Mary” my grandmother admires a painting of seems likely to be the King’s mother, Mary Von Teck.  I was sure I was reading a “heart in the center of the street” wrong, but a search reveals that Edinburgh does in fact have a cobblestone heart near St. Giles Cathedral.

Picture from the RampantScotland website

Picture from the RampantScotland website

The text at the website where I found the picture tells a fairly different story of the heart than the one my grandmother relates.  Rather than being the center of Edinburgh, it was the location of a building where tolls were collected and, later, prisoners executed.  It was apparently for a time customary for passersby to spit upon the heart.

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  1. Just a slight correction; Doris’ “Princess” street is actually Princes (as in plural of ‘prince’). Here’s the map showing it. I thought it was Princess to when I first went. Fairly common I should imagine:

    Also, here is a link to St. Margaret’s chapel in the castle which is generally believed to be the oldest buliding surviving in Edinburgh. So I looked it up and the building she says was relaced by “a building dedicated to dead war heroes” would be the second link below and refers to the former site of St. Mary’s church which was a medieval structure and turned into a munitions house after the Dissolution.

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