It astounds me to think it has been a year and a half since I've added anything to my travel journal blog. That also means it’s been almost 2 ½ years since the actual trip. What a time it has been! Definitely not all bad for me (read my Now Blog) but the most surreal time of my life for sure. The truly great thing is our tour with CIE International through Scotland and Ireland was so outstanding in every aspect, my memories are as intense as if it was last month.
I have often thought about our Driver and Irish Guide, Pat, our Scottish Guide, Kevin, (Glasgow, Highlands and beginning Edinburgh), Irish guide, Niamh (Dublin) and Irish guide, Connor (Galway), to say nothing of all the others we interacted with in both countries. I have prayed that they and their families/loved ones are all safe and well. So, back on the journey, Tuesday, October 8, 2019!
Leaving St. Andrews about 4:30 p.m., we headed back out the same way we came in. A few miles out, Kevin pointed out that if we looked to the right we would see a control tower in the distance on the oldest air base in Scotland, Leuchars. As a lover of vintage aircraft that was a highlight for me even though we couldn't see any airplanes. I did know I would be looking up information on it when we got home.
We drove directly to Edinburgh as we were scheduled for dinner and some entertainment at The Jam House. Arriving a little after 6 p.m. (hit some traffic delays), we drove around a wee bit getting our first taste of Edinburgh. In the twilight up on a hill we could see what looked like tenements. It was after we returned I discovered it was a side of The Castle opposite the entry and the round area.
The Tour was soon due at our destination on Queen Street. Our hotel for the next two nights, The Dalmahoy, was located outside Edinburgh proper, so no check-in before our evening began. At The Jam House, it was also time to say our goodbyes to Kevin as his part of our tour was finished. He already felt like part of the gang, so we were disappointed he was not going to be with us as we toured Edinburgh the next day.
The Jam House location, #5 Queen Street has quite a history which I will briefly share. It was one of four 3 story classical houses built in 1784 by (for?) John Brough. For a number of years the homes were utilized as BBC studios and offices. They vacated in 2004 and a year later #5 opened as The Jam House. The venue not only hosted shows celebrating Scotland, like the one we attended, but also many concerts, club nights and even wrestling events. I discovered a notice in August 2020 The Jam House had closed “forever.” In searching now, it’s not clear if it has indeed remained closed.
It was quite impressive inside. There was an entry hallway which spilled into the Great Hall, a large room with a tall two story ceiling. There were a number of long tables lined up perpendicular to the stage which was positioned opposite the entry. The stage was similar to what we see in old auditoriums and some movie theaters in the United States. Multiple openings on both sides of the hall led to access to the balcony area, restrooms, kitchen etc. We had time before everything began, so I was able to take in our surroundings.
Appetizers were served before the show, The Scotland Experience, started. In keeping with the theme, appetizers were also a “Scotland Experience,” with an option to try Haggis. That item alone (I read about before the trip) made both my sister and I anxious about the food we would encounter. Our concerns dissolved because haggis was always only one option among many others. The food was outstanding in both countries and that night at The Jam House no exception. Near the end of our meal before desserts (we opted for a Scottish favorite, Cranachan-lovely) were served, the show began.
The emcee was an engaging Scottish man who sang, played various instruments and was generally witty. He was joined by the bagpiper we encountered outside The Jam House as well as other musicians, singers and dancers of all ages and sizes. Of course a Scottish experience must include Rabbie Burns and in particular his Ode to the Haggis. It was done with much fanfare including a procession bringing in a large haggis surrounded by antlers on a silver tray. A number of the folks in our group did try the haggis which met with mixed reviews. We were happy just to observe.
It was a really enjoyable evening all round and like everything else we were experiencing went very quickly. Exiting the hall the performers were lined up to greet us as we left. The emcee had copies of a CD for sale and so we learned his name was Bruce Davies. I commented to him Davies is a Welsh name. He smiled and said, “Yes my father was Welsh, my mother Scottish.” Another little point of connection for us with our Welsh heritage. I’ve since discovered Bruce on Facebook where he's posted a number of videos and done Facebook Live. I enjoy seeing him again and doing well.
It was after nine, very dark when we left The Jam House, so I had no sense of direction or distance. Even at that time on a Wednesday evening there was still lots of traffic in Edinburgh. At last we arrived at Dalmahoy Hotel and Country Club in Kirknewton which is west of Edinburgh not far from the airport. Even though we were pretty tired by the time we got there we still did a little sightseeing of what we could in the dark while we waited for our room assignment. Key in hand, no time was wasted getting to our room and to bed as we knew the next day would be a full one in Edinburgh! I guess I will add no time wasted except for finding our way to it. Kind of a maze, including different levels. It was the only place we stayed that we were challenged every time the two nights we were there to make our way around!
Here are a few clips of the entertainment at The Jam House. Far from a professional presentation as the lighting was quite a challenge and I was also very caught up in what was happening!