A Regency Ball in Dublin. At Christmas!  

Posted by Heidi

(For maximum viewing pleasure, stop video at 2.51 minutes)

Mr. Niall Doherty and his lovely wife, Caroline, are celebrating their first Christmas together by hosting a ball at their home, Teach Swan, in Dublin. Every mirror, portrait, and door lintel had been draped with ivy or holly and there were enough kissing balls hung throughout the house to keep even Niall happy. Now it was nearly time for their guests to arrive, and Caroline could hardly contain her excitement.

With the ringing of the front bell, Caroline nearly deserted her post at the bottom of the grand staircase and ran to open the door. With a gentle squeeze, Niall quelled her impulse. Looping her arm through his, she craned her neck and stood on tip-toe in order to spot their first guests of the season. To her surprise, a large knot of people crowded into the hall at once. They all spoke in tones of excitement or laughed in delight as they brushed at the light dusting of snow that had stolen into the house on their brightly-hued cloaks.

Her heart pounding, she felt a tug at her hand. Surprised, she looked up into her husband's adoring face. Without warning, he whirled her away to a shadowy nook under the stairs to stand beneath a conveniently-placed kissing ball. "Just one more before the party begins," he murmured as he lowered his mouth to hers and took her lips in a kiss of surpassing sweetness. Just when Caroline wondered if perhaps their guests needs must entertain themselves, Niall released her with a sigh. "We must attend to our duties. However," he added with a twinkle in his eye, "I intend to keep you at my side the entire evening."

Caroline laughed. "There are too many kissing balls to comfortably do otherwise," she teased. Niall took her hand and, with another whirl, returned her to her place at the bottom of the stairs. Caroline smiled as she greeted each party guest in hopes that those who detected the blush that stole into her cheeks would suppose it to be on account of the festivities. The flutter in her stomach, however, was wholly on account of the handsome man who stood at her side. How had she ever been so fortunate as to catch his eye?

Niall's and Caroline's grand romance plays out in O'er the River Liffey, by Heidi Ashworth, available to buy or borrow for free on Amazon.com.

The Town of St. Andrews Scotland Where Will (iam Wales) and Kate (Middleton Wales) Met and Attended School  

Posted by Heidi

St. Andrews is a beautiful place! I am not a golf fan, but even I have always known that it is the cradle of the modern game of golf and that it sports one of the most difficult courses on the planet. In fact, we swept into town just a few days after the Open (did I get that right? Is that what it is called? I am so clueless about these things) in July 2015. I suppose this is what accounted for its listless air, rather like a Christmas tree after the presents have all been opened. However, I was not in the least prepared for the gorgeous views of the coast (even though I DID know that you can see the ocean from the golf course) or the architectural beauty (Duh! Because, Scotland.)

In fact, architectural beauty and the ocean go very well together, indeed. We saw this combination in Scotland over and over again.

When we arrived in town, we headed toward the first visible ruin which happened to be St. Andrews Castle (I think that's what it is called. I had a map emailed to me from a friend that gave all the info I could possibly need and I ran across it in my inbox the other day and deleted it because I thought "Hey, I already blogged about St Andrews", and, in fact, I had, but about the other side of town, and then I was too embarrassed to ask her for it again but she is reading about my foolishness this very moment and all I can say is "Hi Nancy!")

I love taking photos through these old stone windows. Looking at it now, I can see a metal railing which tells me that we probably could have gone inside and climbed up them. (We didn't. In fact, our trips abroad are chock-full of things we didn't do.)

We then headed toward the other part of town (as previously mentioned) and I was smitten with the architecture at every turn.

We passed by the way (causeway? Roadway? I think I am going to go with "path") to the beach and it was so beautiful!

And then we got to the world-famous and widely believed BEST golf course in the WORLD. THE WORLD. And I was like, WHAT? As I have confessed, I know little about golf. In fact, the main of my knowledge was garnered during a summer spent at the miniature golf course where my brother-in-law worked when I was 14. However, I live a few blocks from a golf course and have almost everywhere I have set up a residence, including in Colorado which seemed to me to be the Land of Golf Courses. So, I can say with some authority that golf courses are curvy, at least in parts. (Am I right?) This looked to me like the field at my elementary school. It is most likely no secret that I was not impressed.

This is the St. Andrews bandstand. (I thought you should know that.)

And here we are headed to the burial ground at St Andrews Cathedral.

You can see many more photos of this hauntingly beautiful place in my previous post. (Scroll down or click HERE.) (Your choice.) (Because I am nothing if not generous.)

White on white on white. I can't get enough of it.

The four chimney pots, the sun sparkling on the leaves, the red door--oh my!

I love churches of all shapes and sizes.

And the ocean--blue, white, silver gray or green--it's all beautiful to me!

I loved this building, too. Don't quote me but it might (I said might) be one of the school buildings.

They look a bunch of gray elves all lined up. And the bike-it's rider was nowhere to be found.

Just like Ireland and England, there were far fewer roses than I expected to find. But the flower gardens were still very lovely.

I love mountains that are smudges against the sky. And those clouds! It's like they were painted on.

I really wanted to knock on the door of this house (wait, did I? It was nearly 18 months ago, how should I remember? But I took it's picture, so I know that I loved it and I still do) and see what it was like inside.

Gray and green, gray and green, gray and green, if you say it fast enough, it sounds like gangrene. However, it doesn't look like anything of the sort. To me, it looks heavenly.

A lovely garden along the side of a church. In St Andrews. (Have you already forgotten? Keep up!)

The Russell Hotel. I had to take this photo for my sister who married a Russell, and very rightly so, I might add.

This building, as proclaimed by both the clever flower containers and the plaque on the wall is the Ladies' Golf Union. (I doubt the Mens' Golf Union had such adorable flower planters. I don't remember seeing it, but that is most assuredly why not--no clever planters.)

I think this must have been a restaurant. I just really like the thistle pattern. I first met a purple thistle when living in San Diego. (True story). They tend to pop up here and there in California and are treated like a weed, but they are quite, quite lovely.

Hard to believe any of the shops in town had any stock left after the Open, but here is evidence. Teddy bears galore. (I like the golf cart the best, though. I think it's smashing!)

Another architectural delight in town.

And here is the same delightful building from the coach as we drove away. It was sad to leave St Andrews after 1.5 hours (maybe it was more but it probably wasn't) but we were headed for a real treat--Glamis (pronounced GLAMS) Castle, the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth's (the second's) mum. Lilybet and her sister Margaret spent many a happy hour in the castle and so did we (er, that is to say ONE hour, but it was a happy one to be sure). But that will have to wait until Next Time . . .

St. Andrews, Scotland: A Visit to the Graveyard on the Coast of Fife  

Posted by Heidi

A view of the graveyard at St Andrews

There are a number of reasons why one blogs about their travels. A huge factor for me is simply documenting the trip for myself. I enjoy reliving the trip as I recreate it and knowing that it will be here for reference at a future date. I am nothing if not forgetful so I try to blog about my trips as soon as is do-able.  However, I had two book deadlines coming up when I returned home from Scotland in July 2015 and I did not get to blog as much as I would have liked. As such, I made an error in the timeline. It is one that should hardly concern you, gentle reader, but for my own sake, I need to fix it. So, let it be known that the first day of the Scotland tour, I was sick and stayed in my room with my daughter as company. The second day she went off to see Holyrood Palace, (pictures of which I am yet to see), while I stayed again in my room. The third day, I rose from my sickbed and we boarded the bus bound first for St. Andrews (some of which will appear in this blog post) and on to Glamis Castle (scheduled for another post in the future) and on the fourth day (the fourth!) I stayed in the hotel again while my daughter went to Clava Cairns and Culloden Moor (to have missed that being one of the greatest tragedies of my life).  So, now that things are all squared away in my head, I can return to our driving out of Edinburgh and heading towards the highlands.

These photos taken through the coach window as we drove through Edinburgh turned out really quite well.  I am surprised.

Downtown Edinburgh, somewhere near Princes St. (I am guessing).

It was still quite early in the (misty) morning when we passed by the shadowed Forth Bridge built over the Firth of Forth; it is actually red.  You can read about it HERE. For those who are disinclined to click on links, it is the second-largest single cantilevered span in the world and was opened in 1890 by Prince Albert of Queen Victoria fame. (What makes me think he would not cherish that designation?)

 We entered the city through the West Port, one of the few ports (or town gates) that still exist in Scotland. Per Wikipedia: The central archway which displays semi-octagonal "rownds" and "battling" is supported by corbelling and neatly moulded passageways.  Side arches and relief panels were added to the port, during hte reconstruction between 1843-1845.

St. Andrews is not large but there is a lot to see. It houses a university (the very one attended by Prince William where he met Kate Middleton), a world-famous golf course (we were there just a few days after the big tournament in July) and lots of ruins. I have so many photos that I am splitting St. Andrews into two posts. In honor of Halloween, I am sticking to photos of the burial grounds at the Cathedral of St. Andrew.  This 100 foot wall is most of what is left of the cathedral built in 1158. (1158!!!)

It does rather dominate the landscape.  It's also so very Scottish.

This amazing structure is St. Rule's tower.  It predates the cathedral and served as the church of the priory. It was retained as a place of worship while the cathedral was constructed. The tower originally was part of the church built in the 11th century to house the relics of St. Andrew.

Not sure what the blue netting draping the building in the background is for but it might have had something to do with the golf "open". (I do not play or watch golf. Does it show?) This tower has stood for over 1000 years.

I was tickled when I finally saw my photos on the large computer screen and spotted these two stone cottages, neighbors to the cathedral grounds.  They are so beautiful.

 The blue door is stunning, isn't it?

We went around on a different path and again spotted the second cottage through the gated entrance in a stone wall.

I never got close enough to tell if these flowers are roses or peonies or something different, but they showed up in a lot of my photos. Beautiful!

Another view of this beautiful building.

Another view of St. Rule's tower. It was one of those partly cloudy days during which sometimes it was beautifully sunny and sometimes it was gorgeously gray.

I love the seagull wheeling around in the sky.  St. Andrews is on the east coast of Fife and the ocean is just a stone's throw away, including more of Mr. Seagull's friends.

There are a number of famous people buried here, including a clan chief of the Clan McLeod, known as The Wicked Man and Andrew Kirkaldy, golfer. (The tombstone with the golfer on it belongs to someone else though I don't know who.)

See the wee young lass in the bottom right-hand corner?  This is one very tall wall.

I love cemeteries and graveyards, especially in the U.K with the weathered gray tombstones against the brilliant green grass.  I had to laugh at the tombstone on the right, however.  I make out the surname at the top to be "Erect". I doubt there is a totally erect tombstone in the entire place.

Next time: The town of St. Andrew's and the famous golf course that looks out over the sea. Go to "older posts" to see my other natterings about my travels to Ireland and England.