When the allotted time came our bags were checked, and we filed into the church. It is not ornate but does have some plain if beautiful wooden ceiling panels, a fancy carved wooden rood at the altar, and a stone bust of a young Queen Victoria in a lighted niche. The service was nice, and the preacher good, although we were not impressed by either the organ or the organist. At the end of worship, while we were all standing, the minister came to the front of the chancel and announced, “God save the Queen!” And they all sang the anthem. I had seen it listed in the bulletin and figured it was in recognition of the massacre. It was a very moving display of national patriotism against the background of Scottish discontent about Brexit. Then there was a flurry of motion ahead on the right, in the cross arm of church. I briefly glimpsed a little figure in a bright red dress with a big hat. “Oh shoot!” I exclaimed. She was there after all! By the time we had filed out of church again, two official-looking SUVs with tinted windows were driving away.
DH had noticed some “open on bank holiday Monday” signs while out and about in Aberdeen, but we weren’t sure which Monday they meant. The UK observes Remembrance Day on November 11 not the last Monday in May as in the US. However, it turns out that the UK does have a “May Holiday” the last Monday of May. Thankfully none of our planned excursions was closed—which would be odd, because many Scots were traveling for the three-day weekend, including Her Majesty. That explained the queuing and the searching. Unfortunately, because of the precautions, I did not feel comfortable taking any pictures at the church, even with my camera (cell phones had to be off for worship).
At this point we were ready for some lunch. Next on the agenda: walk over the River Dee (above) to Balmoral Castle. How kind of the Queen to invite us over after the service! We picked up our audio tour, ate large lunches at the café, and then proceeded to tour the estate. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had rented and then purchase the estate in the late 1840s. (The previous owner, a British diplomat to Vienna, had choked on a fish bone and expired.) Albert in particular had taken the lead on designing a newer, larger castle with a better view of the valley. Actually, Albert seems to have taken the lead in everything the couple did, which is why his death in 1861 was so devastating for Victoria. She spent large amounts of time there as a widow, and it is where her (in)famous servant John Brown entered her service. (I wrote a whole separate post on death and Victorian mourning, which you can read here.)
One of several large wooden Corgi dogs, DH and an
example of "Balmoral tweed," and some bagpiping kit.
Flowers in the greenhouse.
The intrepid explorers before the the sunken garden.