November 2000
Do the boys look a bit cold?  We weren't sure what a November trip to Scotland would be like.  We were staying in Aviemore near Inverness in the Scottish Highlands.  The latitude is 57 degrees which is similar to Juneau, Alaska. 
It turned out that the timeshare we traded for was also a ski resort.  Unfortunately, it had just started to snow and the slopes weren't going to open for two weeks.  For the most part this area looked like any other small ski resort in the U.S.A.  The A-frames and cabins were sprinkled throughout the woods surrounding a Hilton Lodge.
Here are the ruins of the castle Urquhart on the famous Loc Ness.  There has been a castle here since the 12th century, and before that there was a prehistoric fortification.  Records show that Urquhart may also have been the stronghold of Brude, King of the Picts, whom St. Columba visited in the 6th century AD.  It is from the story of his visit that the first accounts of the "Loch Ness monster" were found.  This castle was an active and bloody part of Scotland's history but has been abandoned since the 1700's.  
So, like all good American tourists, we visited Loc Ness. How could we come to Scotland and miss it?  We stopped by the "Official Loc Ness Tourist Center" (which describes all of the research that's been done and concludes that there's nothing down there,) and then headed down the loch to the Urquhart Castle ruins.  If we're not going to see Nessy we might as well get some more castle pictures.
We also enjoyed watching a crane lift and dump large buckets of concrete for a new visitor center near the castle.  It was pretty quiet in Scotland.  During the summer this is a popular mountain and tour bike destination and in the winter there are a few ski slopes.
With the cool, wet fall weather we had an opportunity to enjoy the pool and relax in the condo for a week.  The Hilton that we stayed at was known for catering to families, (you could even bring your dog.) We had access to two great pools, restaurants, arcade and a large lounge overlooking the pool.  Across the street was a kid's fun house, like the Discovery Zone.  Every evening we enjoyed live traditional Scottish music, with a mix of English and American hits.  The boys thought it was all American but we explained that many rock bands are from England. 
Max was determined to get onto of this floating tube, but he never managed to stay topside for very long.  One of the nice things about Europe and Canada is that the pools are not restricted by insurance companies and lawyers.  You can find pool toys, slides, diving boards and we've even seen a high rope swing.
The "Turbuchet", used to hurl large stones at castle walls.  King Edward I brought many turbuchets with him during his siege of Scotland.  We saw several of these throughout Europe.
This replica is based on the work of 13th century architect Villard de Honnecourt.  It has a counterweight of 6 tons and a throwing arm of 36 feet.  It can hurl a 200 pound stone over 400 feet.  Larger turbuchets could fire up to 1200 feet.
O.K., so I pasted this model of Nessy into the Urquhart Castle picture.
This breed is called a Scottish Highland and I've always enjoyed seeing them county fairs, but this Scottish was enormous.  They usually have an mean disposition so I wasn't going to get anywhere near him.
Mitch and Max also enjoyed watching this artist melt glass to make small glass animals.  We bought them a torch for Christmas and after we read a little more about working with glass we'll give it a try ourselves.

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