“What were your three favorite things of the trip?” I asked granddaughter Lilli as she, BJ, and I were eating dinner in Glasgow on their last night in Scotland.
“Castles – I liked them all, meeting relatives in Elgin, and riding the Jacobite Train,” she responded without hesitation.
The seeds for the trip began early in 2018. After her other grandmother had received her DNA results and was excited to learn things about her ancestry she hadn’t realized, Lilli had requested a DNA kit for Christmas in 2017. Since our family has all of our family tree information in Ancestry, I sent her one of their testing kits. I had previously given one to BJ. When her birthday rolled around in March 2018, she also wanted a 23 and Me DNA kit so it could be matched to family members on her mother’s side.
When I visited them in December 2018, I took a brochure of the Brodie Castle to Lilli so she could see that the Brodie Clan had a castle. Her eyes widened when she took the folder – she, of course, was impressed.
I talked about the trip with BJ, and suggested that I would like to take all three of them. When they came to visit me in February 2019, I told Lilli that I would like to take them to Scotland and we spent time looking through the scrapbook I had put together in 2000 (later captured in a blog story – Trip to UK Kindles Interest in Family History). I also gave her my Brodie tartan skirt and extra fabric since I hadn’t wore it in a long time.
When it came to tying down dates, they weren’t able to come up with dates that both BJ and Cori could go, so Cori graciously suggested that BJ and Lilli make the trip. While the trip would focus on Scottish history, culture and meeting cousins, we would also make opportunities to embrace Harry Potter’s Scottish connection.
After a delightful day and a half in Iceland, my flight from Reykjavik arrived in Glasgow a few hours before their flight from Dublin. I was looking forward to starting our Scottish and Brodie ancestral journey. Their Aer Lingus flight required a plane change where they had go through customs and board their next flight – in one hour. They made it, but their luggage didn’t.
I had booked a tour of Edinburgh Castle starting around noon on our first full day in Edinburgh. When the luggage hadn’t been delivered to our Airbnb apartment by late morning and there was no ‘front desk’ to accept their luggage, I suggested that I stay at the apartment since I had visited the Castle on a previous trip.
“It was a great tour,” BJ reported when they returned. “Having an interesting guide made the historical facts come alive.”
“The tour, an overview, was primarily on the exterior of the castle buildings and gave us some good views of Edinburgh.”
“The tour also gave some unique views inside the walls,” BJ continued.
“Afterwards, we got to explore the inside rooms,” Lilli chimed in, “and we got to see the crown jewels!”
Both BJ and Lilli were fascinated with the dungeon – essentially the prison cells. Thus began Lilli’s quest to locate potential dungeons at other castles we visited.
That evening we explored the neighborhood around our apartment, and were enchanted with a canal running alongside a park.
By time our train arrived in Stirling, we rolled our suitcases to the Left Luggage facility at a youth hostel and walked back to the train station to get a taxi, it was mid-morning by time our taxi wound its way up Castle Hill. When Chris and Bill and I visited in 2000, there were very few visitors and restoration was just beginning by Historic Environment Scotland. It is now a bustling, educational attraction. Since I know much more about Scottish History, this visit was much more meaningful.
While there have been gardens at the Castle for a long time, the bountiful Queen Anne Gardens had been restored since my prior visit.
We explored the Great Hall, with its intricately beamed ceiling
and large dais where the king and queen sat at banquets,
and then made our way through the Royal Palace that was the childhood home of Mary Queen of Scots.
In one of the displays we learned that King James V had his likeness sculpted on one of the pillars. While searching for it, we admired some of the gilded roof ornaments.
BJ was able to locate the King James V image.
“I want to visit the Royal Kitchens,” Lilli, an avid cook herself, announced after we had finished eating lunch on the Unicorn Café’s rooftop patio where we had a stunning view of the Wallace Monument.
After walking through the kitchens with their life-sized models showing how food was prepared for King James,
we wandered down a path to see some other exhibits. As I looked back, the view showed the striking contrast between the exterior of the Great Hall restored to its original color, and the stone of the other buildings.
As we were reviving ourselves with tea and scones in the yard of the Outer Defences, BJ pointed to an adjacent wall. “You can see where there are indentations from cannon fire,” he explained.
“I want to find a dungeon,” Lilli stated, and she and BJ took off in hopes of finding one before we left.
“I’ll wait here,” I stated. My knees were tired from climbing all of the castle stairways.
After their unsuccessful dungeon quest, my knees had recovered, and we headed down the hill to the town center, despite Lilli’s pleas to find a taxi. It was mid-afternoon and we decided we were too bushed to visit the Wallace Monument.
The European heat wave began creeping north into Scotland as we boarded the train the next morning on our three-hour journey to Inverness. It was standing-room only
and I had a flash-back to a similar experience in 2000. There are benefits to being a senior citizen, and I was fortunate that someone quickly offered me a seat. We had only traveled about half an hour when all of a sudden the air conditioning stopped working in our car. BJ and Lilli stood for about an hour before enough people got off the train and they were able to sit – interestingly, sharing a table with a couple from Elgin!
On our first afternoon in Inverness we took a bus to Culloden Moor, winding our way through a large shopping centre, suburbs of Inverness, and tract upon tract of housing estates that had sprung up since 2000. I was getting worried that Culloden Moor would no longer be ‘in the middle of nowhere,’ and was relieved that the last mile was through farmland.
While we knew that the Brodies resisted involvement in the Jacobite uprisings, the Battle of Culloden Moor is an important part of Scottish History and I wanted BJ and Lilli to add this to their Scottish history lessons.
Iconic Highland Cows were grazing in a field
next to the new Visitor Center that opened in 2008.
We started our visit in the museum where exhibits on one side of the narrow room portrayed the British army’s role leading up to the 1745 Jacobite uprising, while the other side of the room detailed the Jacobite actions as they attempted to restore the Stuart monarchy. Next we went into a room where the essence of the one-hour battle played out on all four walls around us. After viewing artifacts, we walked out onto the battlefield. A slight breeze blew the grasses of the moor, providing an air of authenticity.
Our first stop was the Leanach Cottage, used as an infirmary after the battle. It has been restored and there is no longer sod growing up around the walls.
Periodically, small stone clan stones marked clan burial locations along the path into the stark battlefield,
and a stone memorial cairn stood out prominently.
As we stepped off the train the following morning in Elgin, our cousin Susan McAllister was waiting, and when she saw me she broke into a big smile. I had met her mother, Marie, in 2001 and when Chris and I visited Elgin in 2008, we spent a day with Susan and her mum. After introducing BJ and Lilli, we headed to her car.
“Are you planning to drive?” Susan laughed as I headed for the driver’s side of the car – still not used to having vehicles drive on the left side of the road! “Judi (her sister) is picking up Ian (her husband) from the dentist and will join us at home,” she continued.
Back at her house, she began placing out a wonderful morning tea spread, and shortly Ian and Judi arrived.
“I finally get to meet my namesake,” I told Judi whose name is Judy Brodie Smillie! Looking at photos afterwards, I was startled to notice that we even have similar a facial bone structure!
After visiting and getting to know each other,
we headed out for the day. Our first stop was Elgin Cathedral where I wanted BJ and Lilli to see the grave of William Brodie and Anne Gunn, my gr-gr-gr grandparents.
“Judi and I will wait for you in the garden next to the Cathedral,” Susan told us. “Ian will help you.”
I paused briefly to gaze on the Cathedral’s ruins – sometimes referred to as “Lantern of the North”
and the still impressive façade of the original entrance.
While the locals talk about the fire at the cathedral being the responsibility of the Wolf of Badenoch, we know that Alexander Brodie, the 14th Laird of Brodie, a devout coventer (Presbyterian) attached Elgin Cathedral in 1640 destroying the carvings and paintings of the Crucifixion and Last Judgement that he considered idolatrous to his religion.
As we bought our tickets and explained the reason for our visit, I brought out the photocopy of the picture I had taken in 2001.
The docent took out a book, looked up the location of the grave and then walked outside with us to show us where it should be located.
We started out into the graveyard.
“We suspect that William Brodie, a gardener, might have been the gardener for what became Grant Lodge and Cooper’s Park,” I explained.
As I headed to the location that I thought I remembered, I noticed the grass encroaching over some of the grave stones and remembered what I had learned visiting Greyfriar’s Kirkyard n Edinburgh – that untended graves often disappear as the grass overtakes them, and I hoped that our family’s grave had not suffered that fate in the past nineteen years.
“We need to be looking for a grave with an adjacent curb,” BJ stated after looking at the picture again.
Thank goodness Ian was with us. After we had not found it, he went back inside and was able to get a map and we were able to immediately locate it.
Additional moss had grown over the inscription, but we could still see the name Brodie.
William’s gr-grandfather James was the original occupant of the grave. As was the custom at the time, multiple people are often interred in a single grave. While the inscription was not even readable in 2000, we had obtained a copy of the inscription in the Family History Centre: “here lies James Brodie, merchant, who die in the 16 of ____ (illegible). Sacred to the memory of William Brodie, gardener who died 1 May 1897, age 87, and his wife Ann Gunn who died 11 November 1862, age 66, and their daughter Margaret, widow of John Wilson who died 27 September, age 85.”
Ian took a picture of three generations of Brodie descendants by the grave stone,
and then we walked to the Biblical Garden to find Susan and Judi.
It wasn’t until later that Chris reminded us that Susan and Judi were also descended from William and Ann. Hopefully, Ian will remember the location and they want to go back and see it.
As we walked over to the High Street, we passed the now-closed Grant Lodge and library which housed the Family History Centre where Chris and I did research on our prior visits.
“That’s where your aunt Daphne came to meet us in 2001,” I told Susan.
“Is Walkers Shortbread made in Elgin?” I inquired as we passed a shop on the High Street selling shortbread products, and I recalled seeing a factory-looking building with the name Walkers on the side as we drove to Susan’s home.
“Yes!” Susan responded.
I was going to buy some shortbread at Heathrow to take back, but definitely had to buy it in Elgin instead – as did BJ.
We walked around the High Street and Town Centre with its mix of modern shops and Georgian-style brick buildings
We spent the afternoon touring areas along the Moray Firth from Lossiemouth to Findhorn beach and eco-village, and had the opportunity to stop at Judi’s horse farm.
It was really hard to say good-bye when we boarded the train in Forres to return to Inverness.
“That was really a wonderful day,” BJ stated that evening. “It was so meaningful to get to know relatives – and they were so welcoming.”
The following day we took the bus to the town of Brodie,
found the sign leading to Brodie Castle,
and walked down the road until it came into view.
While I was struggling to capture the full view, Lilli showed me how to take a panorama shot with my phone. It’s handy to travel with a tech-savvy tween!
While our Brodie family is far out on the family tree, it was still thrilling to visit the Castle, former home to the Brodie Clan Chief and his family, “for over 400 years, although their family seat has been here since the 12th century,” according to the Brodie Castle website. It is now owned and managed by the National Trust of Scotland.
Our Dad was so proud of his Scottish heritage, and always wanted to visit the Brodie Castle. In 1966 he and our mom were able to fulfill his dream. Since the Castle was not sold to the National Trust until 1978, it was the home of Ninian Brodie, 25th Brodie of Brodie. He was probably surprised that an American turned up on his doorstep – at 6 pm as it was getting dark!
We arrived shortly after it opened at 10 am, so it wasn’t crowded. Each area of the Castle had a different guide that explained not only the historical aspects of the room and family, but provided information on the extensive art collection. BJ was especially interested in the art hanging in the downstairs library. Unfortunately, we were not able to take pictures of the interior.
After we emerged through the gift shop, we exited the castle area from a long path that led by some ponds and then a road that led to Brodie Country Faire where we had lunch. It has become a major shopping hub and has a large food court and eating area.
“I would like to find the Pictish Stone,” I told BJ and Lilli who were also interested. The Brodie Clan, it is believed was descended from early Picts. BJ found the Rodney Stone on Google Maps and we walked back to find it – initially without success. Our trip was not in vain. When we arrived at the Castle a wedding party was forming and a bagpiper was playing. While the wedding party horse-drawn carriage was making its way to the road leading to the wedding venue, I caught the bagpiper leaning against a fence chatting with the minister – coincidentally along the entrance road we needed to take to reach the Rodney Stone.
From there we walked out to the A 96 to catch the bus back to Inverness, passing farm lands and a striking stand of thistle next to the road.
My step app registered over 15,000 steps that day!
The following morning we caught the bus south to Fort William, a delightful ride along Loch Ness and Loch Lochy.
After checking into our hotel, we visited the West Highland Museum that chronicles the history and importance of the area.
“Are any of you Outlander fans?? The docent asked.
“I am,” I replied, and he handed me a special brochure A taste of the world of Claire and Jamie Fraser, that drew our attention to specific rooms of the museum that had items depicting life in 1743.
When we finished touring the museum, it was time to head to the train station and catch the Jacobite steam train to Mallaig.
I had never traveled to this part of Scotland and was enchanted by the scenery as we traveled.
Mallaig was a delightful fishing village.
When we returned to Fort William around 8:30 pm, the pedestrian High Street that was bustling midday, now was almost empty.
On our last day in Scotland, we took the train to Glasgow, passing through areas of high moors where there was heather growing along the side of the tracks.
Legend has it that if you leave Scotland with a sprig of heather that you will return. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get out and pick some.
The next morning BJ and Lilli started their journey back home, and I rolled my suitcase down to Central Station and caught a train heading south into England to visit more cousins.
The first stop was Whitchurch in Shropshire, right on the border with Wales. I had a two hour visit with cousin Daphne and her daughter Morag (Mo).
They took me to a delightful restaurant on Alderford Lake. I took one look at the menu and decided to order Welsh Rarebit. It is a dish I remember both my mother and grandmother making, but when I located the recipe on the Internet after returning home, I know my mother omitted the porter! When the waitress came to take our order, all 3 of us had decided to order the same thing.
As we talked about my visit to Elgin with BJ and Lilli, Mo seemed intrigued.
On our way back to the railway station, Mo drove us briefly into Wales, near Wrexham, so I could now say I had visited Wales. Since our Jones relatives were originally from Wrexham, I wished I had more time to explore that area.
The visit went too quickly. When we arrived at the railway station, Daphne gave me a hug and said “Next time stay for a whole day.”
After spending two days with Stage cousins, I continued my journey south to spend some time in Exeter with another Brodie cousin –Kam van den Berg-Cameron.
I had the opportunity to meet Kam’s mum, June, who recently celebrated her 93rd birthday. While not a blood relative, she led a remarkable life. As they shared a photo book of her life, I paused on a wedding picture.
“Were any of your husband’s Brodie relatives from London at the wedding?” I asked June. Two of William Brodie’s children had ended up in London. Chris and I had met two descendants on our prior trip.
She didn’t remember and Kam said there were no people with the last name of Brodie in her Dad’s address book.
After my visit to Elgin, Chris had sent both Susan and Kam information to show that we were all 3rd cousins descended from William Brodie’s children.
We spent the next three days touring the seaside areas near Exeter.
On two of the days, Kam was easily able to transport her mum in her wheelchair on the bus with us. The British bus system is very accommodating to the elderly and people with disabilities.
One day we visited Topsham on the River Exe. After walking along a paved path
the locals refer to as the Goat Walk, we stopped for tea and scones. I later told June that she reminded me of my English grandmother.
On my last day in Exeter we went to the historic Quay where we had lunch and listened to a local group of musicians play Dixieland Jazz.
As we hugged outside of the B&B before I got in the taxi to take me to the train station on my last morning, Kam said, “We sure laughed a lot together – come back soon.” It was a wonderful visit.
I am grateful that genealogy and family history research enabled Chris and I to discover, meet, and get to know cousins in the UK – and that they have been enduring relationships held together with family ties. This is a sentiment that BJ echoed when we reminisced after the trip.
As I sat on the train traveling to London, I realized that my visit had not only shared Brodie family history with BJ and Lilli, it had perhaps shared it with the next generations in the other parts of the Brodie family as well.