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Ready, Willis and Able – Caste tour 'racks' up excitement (Oct. 21, 2015 issue)

My sister Sue and I were in Edinburgh, Scotland’s Old Town district, trying to find our way back to Edinburgh Castle, which our tour bus had driven by the day before. Sue lives near Washington D.C. and considers it unsafe to ask strangers where the local castle is. Not me. I asked a kind-looking woman for directions. She pointed to a nearby hillside, and sure enough, there was the castle within reasonable walking distance from where we were.
All I had remembered from our bus tour the day before was the huge stone wall that encircled it. I didn’t know that Edinburgh Castle, built in 1130, had been a fortress and that much of its history revolved around warfare. I also didn’t know about the War Museum inside the castle, which honors the history of Scotland’s soldiers and military leaders. And I hadn’t expected to see so many canons and other military equipment from Scotland’s past.
“I think Leo would have liked this,” I said to Sue as we were leaving. Leo had informed me when I asked him to go on this tour, called “Edinburgh and the Castles of Scotland,” that he was NOT interested in seeing castles.
After leaving Edinburgh, our tour group headed to Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. Our first stop was at a whiskey distillery, the only legal distillery I’ve ever seen. The facility was located in a sort of hollow with a clear tinkling stream running through it, and the air was a bit nippy in spite of the sun. So I’m not going to say that when the personnel there gave each of us a small shot of their finest 30-year-old Scotch, it wasn’t appreciated.
Then we moved on to another castle. This was Atholl Blair Castle where a guide gave us the usual fine furniture and pedigree spiel that Leo wanted to avoid. Then we were allowed to wander through selected areas on our own. I wandered into a huge room with what looked like hundreds of hunting rifles covering the walls above the wainscoting. I’ve never seen this many guns in my entire life and I grew up around gun collectors.
The next room I entered was even larger and the walls were covered in deer antlers. I started laughing. This wasn’t just a better castles and gardens tour after all. I tried to count the points on some of the antlers so I could tell Leo what he had missed, but it was impossible. There were about as many red stag antlers in that room as guns in the other.
I spotted an attendant and asked if he knew which rack had the most points and he pointed to it. It was the largest deer rack I will probably ever see. I counted all 43 of its points three times, and this was the first thing I told Leo after returning home. Well, after giving him a hug.